Friday, 29 October 2010

Murdoch and the Tories

Not really a surprise this one... but something that people should be aware of, especially considering the recent BBC licence fee 'deal'.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

More jobs for the boys (and girls)

You'd think, what with all the problems that William Hague brought on himself when he undertook a bit of nepotism, that the Tories would learn.

But, for those well-versed in a jobs for the boys culture, old habits die hard. So, news today that Michael Gove's department has lobbed half a million pounds in the direction of a 25-year old former advisor of his, without it being advertised or other groups being asked to tender for it, shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

Same old, same old...

Top CEOs now earn 200 times the average wage - and soar 55% in a year

As the Civil Service juggles with a 34% cut in income, universities across the country stare into the abyss, the news has come that the pay of top company directors rose a staggering 55% in 12 months.

It's worth noting that over the last year, the minimum wage rose 2%. And even that will look generous after 5 more years of this government.

Monday, 25 October 2010

The risk of Lansley's reforms

The NHS Confederation has attacked the pace and nature of the government's health reforms, arguing that they create the "real danger of failures in quality of care or finances" in the NHS. Meanwhile, a poll of doctors has revealed these fears are shared by the vast majority of doctors working in the system.

As independent studies have demonstrated, the NHS in its current form does deliver efficient health care by international standards - yet, in his ruthless pursuit of his free-market ideal, Andrew Lansley is potentially putting the whole system at risk.

In all of this, it's worth remembering who the Secretary of State's key backers were in the run-up to the election, and the company he keeps.  

Brooker on Clegg

Charlie Brooker's witty take on the Deputy PM is worth a read.

Whatever the reasons, it is the Lib Dems, and not the Tories, that have suffered damage in the polls since the election, falling to just 10% in the latest YouGov polls.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Boris screws outer-London public transport users

Ironic really that a Mayor elected in the most part by voters in the outer regions of the capital should then hit them with the highest travel cost increases, but that's exactly what he's done.

Hardest hits will be those that buy daily, weekly and monthly travel cards that exclude Zone 1.

But then, Boris has (no kidding) declared next year the "year of walking". For some, that might be the only option...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Coalition threatens BBC with 26% reduction in income

Indications are that in the Spending Review Osborne may force the cost of providing TV licences for the over-75s onto the BBC,thus depriving it of more than half a billion pounds annually.

Tomorrow, we'll see if Murdoch will gets his payback that soon...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Senior Tories accused of tax dodging

Whether or not Channel 4 will have cold feet (in the same manner as the BBC's Panorama programme did recently) remains to be seen, but tomorrow Dispatches is scheduled to make allegations regarding the tax affairs of Transport Minister Philip Hammond, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and George Osborne.

There would be a rich irony (if you'll excuse the pun) that the week Gideon announces a crack down on benefit cheats, he and his colleagues are being accused of being complicit in forms of tax avoidance - something that a senior tax expert recently estimated costs the UK a staggering £120bn per year, which is significantly more than the planning reductions in public spending.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Daily Mail, Telegraph and Guardian agree on something...

... following on from the BBC's concerns about the proposed full takeover of Sky by News Corporation, the owners of the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Guardian, Mirror and broadcasters including Channel 4 and BT have written to Vince Cable to lobby against what one commentator has described as Britain's 'Berlusconi moment'.

The Times, Murdoch's daily UK broadsheet, has taken the extraordinary step of coming out with this, a nakedly partisan leading article.

Still, on the plus side, thanks to the paywall, no-one reads it anymore... no doubt something Murdoch is trying to rectify with his takeover plans.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Quango cull: Big business 2, Public 0

The Coalition is continuing on its noble drive to ensure that competition rules and consumer protection rights are pushed by the wayside, furthered today with the announced closures of Consumer Focus and the Office of Fair Trading.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Free Schools (part III)


Coalition Minister: "Hooray! Somehow we've managed to get a massive mandate to dismantle just about everything without even winning the General Election. Right, first up, Free Schools... who wants to start one?"

Senior civil servant: "I have a few submissions of interest here".

Submission 1
"I really, genuinely respect and admire the... erm, diversity of my local state school. I know it's got good facilities, teaching has been ranked very highly, results are above average but it's, erm... you know... not the, erm.... right environment for my children. That's why I would like to set a school up myself, which I promise to put my heart and soul into... until my children go off to university, after which I won't give a toss".

Minister: "Great. Approved!"

Senior civil servant: "And here is another one".

Submission 2
"I realy wont to set up a free School. I am fed up of goverments like NuLieBore and the EUSSR telling us what too do in this Great Country. We need a return of Christian Values, the cane and no Political Correctness and immigration. I am going to set up a school to teach this and also to help with making sure that Our Children learn proper subjects like Grammer and not islam and homosexuality".

Minster: "Fantastic. No more lefty wishy-washy feminazi, BBC-loving rubbish in that one. Approved!"


Minister: "Sir Humphrey, how are my Free Schools getting on? Please tell me it's not just that objectionable pillock Toby Young that's opening one?"

Disillusioned senior civil servant: "Um.... yeah, about that...."

Meanwhile, on planet Banknote...

Language is a funny old thing. The way in which words are used - and their meanings to different people - can tell you a huge amount.

Take this quote by a representative from a City law firm, made in response to the idea being floated of capping bonuses to a certain multiplier of base salary - the way he uses the word "acceptable" is startling, and points yet again to the bubble of unreality that many of these individuals live in:

"Whether this would achieve the desired risk-aware behaviour from traders is doubtful, as there would be more pressure to put up salaries so that proposed bonuses fall within acceptable levels"

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Another day, another (massive load of) dollars

When, many years from now, historians write about the latter years of the 20th century and the early decades of the 21st, one narrative (apart from the 'war on terror') will dominate - the overbearing influence that a tiny banking elite has over the levers of power throughout the developed world.

First, a massive and unprecedented bail-out and accompanying recession left a generation of people saddled with debt and a huge range of countries with a future of declining investment in public services and infrastructure.

Then, the very same elite -  rich from billions of taxpayer pounds and, for others, from the ability to borrow money at hysterically low rates of interest as a result of the guarantee that they are 'too big to fail' - resisted any attempts to reform or regulate them

And now, well, they are just taking the p*ss. You could write a blog entirely composed of examples to give credence to this statement - but, for today, let's give three examples:

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

How NOT to manage a party conference...

It's only the end of Tuesday, but it's been a great conference for the Tories so far... if you count 'great' as meaning totally rubbish.

Whilst Gove has been spending his time announcing new policies that already exist, Dave and Gideon are now making up policies as they go along.

Now, to be fair to the Tories (and this blog is nothing but fair... hence the balanced and impartial name of site) they are tackling a difficult subject - welfare is a thorny, multi-faceted issue. But, looking at the hash that has been made of this so far it doesn't take one to be wildly cynical to conclude that a number of these policies have been announced without much background work, and quite possibly for the purposes of a few headlines and an early attempt to wrong-foot Miliband.

Mind you, at least Andy Coulson is out of the news for a day or two...

Top banker: Please regulate us

As the banks prepare to shell out silly money in bonuses for the umpteenth year running, ensuring at the same time that London retains its valued spot at the top of the 'stupidly expensive property league', the Chairman of RBS has, startlingly, suggested many bankers aren't worth the lorry-loads of money they get handed twice a year and can't be trusted to regulate themselves.

It's over to Slasher now to see if his threat to 'do' something about all this will materialise into something practical or will end up yet another vacuous piece of PR to fill space in the comment pages of the Sunday papers.  

When even the Daily Mail is backing some kind of action, then surely some kind of action must be on the cards...

Monday, 4 October 2010

Andy Coulson is the story. Again.

It took Alastair Campbell a full 9 years in the job before he became the story... Coulson managed to become the story before he even took up the post. No doubt another one to add to Dave's 'list'.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Baronss Warsi outed as Labour mole

... ok, she wasn't ACTUALLY outed as a double-agent for Labour, although she is doing her utmost to make her own party look bad.

However, she did - in a pretty catastrophic interview with the BBC this morning - clearly demonstrate the following:

  • that she hasn't visited planet Earth for a fair few years;
  • she is a terrible interviewee under pressure;
  • she now resides somewhere near the top of Cameron's "to fire" list (no doubt along with Liam Fox)

Friday, 1 October 2010

BMA attacks NHS reforms

The blog has highlighted before the fallacy promoted by many commentators here that the NHS is particularly inefficient by international standards... in fact, the independent Commonwealth Fund has undertaken significant amounts of research and concluded it is among the more efficient systems in the developed world.

This actually makes sense: the NHS has economies of scale and, relatively speaking, similar standards and procedures in the way it treats its staff and patients. Insurance-based models of health care delivery and those that routinely deal with paying patients require far more localised bureaucracy (to deal with financial transactions, for example) and can become hugely complex to administer.

There is a significant danger that an ideological desire to seek the privatisation and localisation of the health service in the UK will undermine it significantly - and the BMA today expressed a similar concern.

Now, the BMA doesn't necessarily have the greatest track record of putting patients first - like many other trade unions, it in effect lobbies to protect the pay and conditions of its members - but many of the points it makes are of genuine concern to those that value the UK's fair, equitable (and relatively efficient) health system.