Monthly Archives: November 2011

I’ve never been on strike.

It’s true, I’ve never been on strike.

That will change on Wednesday (debarring a last-minute change of heart by my union).

I have always said that a strike is a failure.  A failure on both sides.

This strike is a little different however.

This strike on November 30th is a day of action in protest about an ideological smash and grab by George Osborne.

Pension sustainability is vital and the 2007 deal delivered that.  The baby-boomer impact had been dealt with.

Why then, have we come to such an impasse?

The desire to eliminate the structural deficit within a parliament means that all options for savings should be looked at.  Hence, a surplus generating pension fund or two are attractive places to look.

Personally I’d look at getting the taxes in that are being evaded by the wealthiest in our society (Tax Gap is wholly unacceptable almost £100bn not collected.)  But then again I am an accountant.

However, the Global financial crisis wasn’t caused by too many teachers, policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, dinner ladies, gardeners.  It was caused by a greedy, risk ridden coterie of Bankers, bond traders, speculators and spivs.

This i think is at the nub of the resistance to the pension proposals.  Affordable pensions we already have and now millions of public sector workers are being asked to pay again.  The inherent unfairness of this goes to the heart of the matter.

When Executive pay is rampant, tax evasion & avoidance rife and cuts hurting the poorest and weakest, the attack on pensions was a setting fire to a blue touch-paper.  And the rocket truly went up.

‘Life isn’t fair, so suck it up’, ‘Better than a private sector pension’, ‘not real jobs’, ‘subsidised by real tax payers’ – I have had all of these in the last few weeks and many worse.  None of which is the point.

A deal is a deal, agreement had already been made to offset the impact of living longer and pensions costing more.  So the lie that they weren’t sustainable was debunked.  When that failed the race to the bottom in terms of worker pensions was started.  We should be raising pensions for all workers.

The misinformation spouted and now the coercion begins with Maude, Alexander and their little gang.

‘Deal off the table’, ‘Changes to union ballots’, ‘treasury figures say £500m lost to the economy’ showing that negotiation in good faith is unlikely.  Negotiation by divisive soundbite and right-wing reporting.

And tonight on Radio 4, John Pienaar, brought into question the legitimacy of the strikes based out the 30 – 60% turnout.  The democratic deficiency occurs across the whole electoral set of events, a by-election in Glasgow returned a councillor with a 13.65% turnout.

Radio 4 has become an apologist for the Government and not an impartial reporter of news.  Turnout is not a required parameter, if it becomes one then the same charge will need to be leveled at all elections.

So, on November 30th, Britain will experience a day of action.  There will be disruption by many unions (many of whom like me a striking for the first time in decades).

Live with it.

This strike is the ultimate response, withdrawal of labour is the final weapon workers have and one which none do lightly.  What would happen if there was no union?  I shudder to think how much workers rights would be eroded…..Oh wait, there’s a slew of changes coming.

Will it make Dave & the Gang listen?  Probably not.



Democratic deficiencies

Having gone on record on Twitter calling for a OMOV system as the most democratic system available for elections within my party, I may be being a little touchy on this post.

A few things have begun to irk me over the last few weeks (I am a slow burn – aye right).

There is nothing new in this as I am a dyed-in-the-wool grumpy.

No the things that are griping my lemons are all in the one area – democracy.

High minded stuff to rant about on a saturday night before the consumption of Alcohol, but I feel we need to be aware of threats to democracy from wherever they come.

It all started with the bond markets (not an economics lecture, honest) and the changing of Greece’s democratically elected government, followed swiftly with the removal of Silvio Berlusconi and his replacement by a bevy of technocrats (read bankers and stooges) and not an election in sight.

Now neither of these Governments were doing a good job and their removal may be expedient in terms of saving the Euro and a collapse of the European banking system.  Ends justifying the means and all that.  But that is hardly the point.

Bond markets (or any other market for that matter) do not get to decide who the government should be.  The invisible hand of government changing is not acceptable it has to be the visible and accountable hands that put X’s in the boxes that choose the government.  Spain is next BTW.

Anyway railing at the Bond markets is like howling at the moon.  And on my way to work this morning I was,indeed, howling at the moon (Radio 4 coverage of Pension strike ballots).

The snotty commentator was through snide insinuation saying that the strikes overwhelmingly voted for by the members who bothered to vote weren’t a mandate because the turnout was between 30 and 40%.  Almost gleefully the same commentator warned Brendan Barber that Francis Maude (yes the 15min walkout, chuck constituency mail in a park bin idiot) cabinet minister would be looking seriously at changing legislation to get a 50% threshold.  Unbiassed reporting my foot.

Now after a bout of sulphurous swearing I thought that there may be a point to be answered here.  I will lay aside the hypocrisy of a coalition Govt that was constructed under false pretenses (many LibDems did not vote to put a Tory into number 10) and has no majority of the electors.

Why shouldn’t there be a minimum turnout for any action?  Members of unions should make their support or opposition known.

If this were to be enforced on union memberships it would need to be applied to all elections.  A minimum turnout or no result?

Seems fair enough to me.  A turnout of 13.65% in a Glasgow council by-election returned an SNP councillor with just over 1000 votes.  Is this really democracy in action or is a symptom of democratic disengagement with the process.  If voters are that disengaged then we have a problem (oh wait weren’t there riots in the summer and occupy movement going on right now).  Choosing not to vote is everyone’s right.  Right? (Not in Australia where they have compulsory voting – not advocating this but there are alternatives)

Who gains with this level of disinterest and apathy?  Pressure groups and those for whom power not service is the main motive.

The Scottish Parliament with a mixed selection system was supposed to generate a collaborative working parliament that reflected the views of the people in relative proportions.  Due to a number of factors the arithmetic resulted in a large majority last time for the SNP.

Pissed about that, yes.

Consider that with a similar level of support 2 parliaments ago Labour had no majority (as it was designed) but the nationalists this time with the utter collapse of LD vote and an insipid Labour campaign have bucked the system.  It isn’t their fault.

Better design of the system and we would have had a system that ensured collaboration by the parties in the interests of Scotland.  (after all that’s what the constitutional convention’s aim was).

Now I ramble a bit but..

In many places and on many fronts Democracy and its workings are being squeezed to generate a set of outcomes that the majority do not want or do not expect.  We are sleep-walking into territory that leaves the many groups of vulnerable people open to abuse and exploitation.

I am not even going to go near Boundary changes / LD gerrymandering/ ECHR / EU legislation / European Commission / Libya / Syria or many other places.

Democracy is worth fighting for, so lets not be like Lear and stripped piecemeal of our knights until all we are left with is the fool.

(electoral colleges for electing leaders – whats that all about?)


Hackgate keeps on going

It’s surprising that this scandal has kept on going.

The NOTW is no more, bribes (sorry compensations) have been paid to Milly Dowler’s family and many others.  Murdoch junior looks unlikely to follow Rupert into the big seat at News Corp / News International.

Coulson has been forced out of Number 10.

All good stuff and yet here we are waiting in anticipation for this week’s installment of Culture Media and sport committee.

Who would have thought a committee in parliament would be such compelling viewing.

The custard pie in Murdoch’s face wont happen again.

The squirming of James under questioning while saying I know nothing, isn’t the main draw.

The main draw is the ghoulish pleasure we get from watching the NOTW getting its come uppance.

For me I keep expecting a smoking gun to point at Dave-call-me-dave and show him for the liar we all think he is.  How he things we will swallow the ‘I didn’t ask’ ‘Gave him a second chance’ crap about Coulson I do not know.  The summer recess took the heat off of Dave but I expect after another couple of rounds it will start to come back on to him.

However, that said, I doubt Dave would go.  At one point I thought his demise was imminent but alas not.

And so to this week.

Video surveillance is common stuff.  The use of it to smear a lawyer who is involved in a case against them is a step too far.

Don’t give a toss that they spied on Wills et al.  Much more concerned by their attempts to smear a lawyer representing clients whom, it has been proven, had a case against them.  Attack on justice is an attack on us all.

What bothers me is the continued use of surveillance to get material for smears / scoops continued till they closed.

Proving effectively, once and for all just how corrupt and law disregarding the NOTW was.

And these same people had their man at the heart of Government.  And he had no idea it was going on?

One rogue reporter?  Credible?  Is it credible that Dave never asked?

The smelly stuff is about to spray everywhere and I hope that those besmirched do the honorable thing and go.