My Granddad

October 31, 2010

My granddad died on Friday. He was 85. Both he and my grandma were in hospital very ill. They have been married for 54 years and together for 63. Whenever she was ill, he would get incredibly stressed. When you have been with one person for so long, I guess they become a part of you to such a degree that their well being becomes your well being. The absolute definition of love.
Half a century together, is an entire life time. You become a part of that person, and their relationship then becomes the stability for the family that is created from it. It becomes more than a simple husband and wife relationship, more than just your parents parents. They become an anchor, and a source of timeless memories and inspiration.
In the end he seems to have succumb to worry and stress over how unwell my grandma was. It is as if he died from love.
She is still just as ill. As horrible as it sounds, I hope she goes soon too, because I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to lose someone you have spent at least 54 years waking up next to every morning.

It is easy to say cliched things like “he’s gone to a better place” and “he’s looking down on us now“. It’s easy because it’s a nice little story. But I don’t believe any of it. I prefer to accept that death is the end; that nothing else exists. That way, we focus on the life. And he had a pretty amazing life. By the time he was my age (24), he had seen the World. He had been in the British Navy, and had sailed everywhere. He had medals to show for it. That has to be cause for celebration rather than sombre reflection. I do not tend to get madly upset by death. It shocks me, and I feel the initial hurt, but I prefer to think positively about the life, and the positive impact they had on the direction of my life, and be so grateful for that, rather that get myself upset.

Our grand parents leave such a wonderful legacy. They cannot have known, in their 20s, when they were nervously flirting with each other, that in over half a century, they will have been responsible for creating such a tapestry of new life and memories and influences. The memory of their lives live in everything we say, and everything we do, and that’s remarkable. I often wonder if my granddad realised that, whilst handing me an out of date can of Coke whenever i’d go to visit.

He used to work in a shoe factory, where PC World at Fosse Park stands today. It was an ugly yellow factory and the smell of leather was overwhelming. I was a toddler at that time, and would shoot up and down the aisles on my Thomas the Tank Engine kids car.

What amazes me, is he was born in the 1920s. A time of flat caps. Calvin Cooledge was the US President, born seven years after the end the Civil War. A time before anyone had heard of Elvis, or The Beatles (in fact, The Beatles wouldn’t be born for another 20 years). The Victorian era had been over for just twenty years. In Leicester, horse and cart were still widely used. A time before anyone had really heard the name Adolf Hitler or knew what was to come. The Russian Revolution was in its infancy, and TV had only just been made commercially available. The advances since those days have been immense. The social changes they have lived through, have been indescribable. It is no wonder that neither of my grandparents really understood what a DVD player was.

The photo above is my granddad with my dad, and my uncles, in what must have been around 1961, in Devon. This area of Devon is where I like to get to whenever I have the chance. It has a remarkably calming affect on me. I reflect on the three generations of my family that have spent a lot of their time together on that small stretch of the English coast.

They are there when you are born, and you grow up with them and they are as much a part of life, as breathing. And then they go and die. And suddenly their is a void. It is never filled, but you learn to work with it.

He always said he wanted to be alive just long enough to see Leicester City win the Premiership. This would mean though, and i’m sure he was fully aware of it, he’d have to make it into the history books as the oldest man ever, because that’s not going to happen any time soon. If we do it in my lifetime, I will have a drink for him.

He will be missed.

We’re all in this together!!

October 28, 2010

“The Coalition’s extreme austerity policy is the biggest economic gamble I have seen a British Chancellor take in my lifetime. With my heart, I hope for the sake of the country the wager pays off, but in my head I fear that this unjust, unjustified and unnecessary programme will cost us dearly as a nation.”
– Professor John van Reenen, London school of economics

Today I spoke on the phone to our Liberal Democrat candidate for MP. He came 2nd in the May 2010 election, losing out to the Tory, but he is still a candidate and still campaigning for the Lib Dems. I sent him an email, and he very kindly rang me back. I asked him questions regarding the Coalition rhetoric on the economy. I specifically asked him what had changed economically, to make the Lib Dems think their committment and pledge to abolish tuition fees was suddenly not feasible? He didn’t offer me a good enough reason. I pointed out that when Vince Cable said at the beginning of October, that the economic situation was worse now and so they had to abandon the tuition fee pledge; that the situation was actually better, than when they were running for the student vote, in May. So, he blatantly lied. Our local candidate said “yeah”. He also told me that the Lib Dems wanted coalition with Labour, not the Tories. So it amazes me when they spend every moment that they are awake, insisting everything is Labour’s fault. It is following the line of Tory discourse. I massively appreciated him giving up some of his time to allow me the chance to question him, and he answered very honestly; annoyed at much of what has happened and the direction the Lib Dems seem to be going. I get the feeling this Coalition isn’t going to last very long.

When the Chancellor announced the spending review in Parliament last week, he specifically made the point that Britain was the ‘brink of bankruptcy’, and that it was all Labour’s fault. On Tuesday this week, it was announced that the British economy is growing faster than expected. Obviously George Osborne claimed all the credit for this, essentially missing out the fact that none of his economic policies have actually been implemented or had any time to settle in whatsoever. We went from the brink of bankruptcy, to growing pretty well, in the space of 6 days. Impressive. Osborne claimed it was all due to confidence in the proposals by the government. Which is an absolutely ludicrous claim to make. I cannot imagine in the space of three months, markets have decided to suddenly start growing in unison, whilst banks start lending, all because there’s a new Chancellor in town. That just doesn’t happen. I hope though, it will make the Tories step back from the rather amusing claim that we are about to become the next Greece. What the rise actually shows, is the strong construction sector, due to public sector contracts, has provided much of the growth. This is likely to slow right down, after the axe actually hits its target. Improvement and maintenance to schools for instance, which was part of Labour’s stimulus package, is set to fall by 40% because of the cuts.

Osborne taking credit for the growth is eerily reminiscent of when Republican Congressmen in the States angrily complain about the stimulus package, but happily stand in front of cameras holding the cheques for projects that it paid for in their district, despite their fierce opposition to it. Osborne is doing the same. The stimulus created this growth, the Tories angrily opposed the stimulus, and now they are taking credit for its benefits. And a dumbed down British public, too obsessed with X Factor, will believe it. I’m pretty sure a further 500,000 unemployed in the public sector, which will obviously hit the private sector too, might mean that growth figure drops quite harshly over the next twelve months; I wonder who Osborne will put the blame for that on.

The stronger than expected growth figures, mirror those of this past July, in which GDP grew 1.1%, when the forecasts were just 0.6%. In April – June, the Construction Sector grew by 6.6%, it’s highest rise since the 1960s. In the second and third quarters of 2010 – still, without any Tory policy implemented – the UK economy saw the fastest consecutive growth in over ten years, suggesting that Labour might have got it right after all. Surely Osbourne can’t take credit for that too? The Party line seems to be; when it’s bad, blame Labour. When it’s good, take all the credit.

The Tories announced that we have secured our Triple A credit rating; despite the fact that it was never actually at risk. It was always secure. In five months in office, they are claiming to have secured a credit rating on the back of the worst financial crises (caused entirely by the Private sector, nonetheless) in decades, and are apparently solely responsible for the growth figures. It’s beyond moronic.

Nobel Prize for Economics winner, Joseph Stiglitz recently criticised the way the Coalition is dealing with the economy (in direct conflict with the 35 business leaders, but then Stiglitz doesn’t fund the Tory Party), by saying:

“I feel sorry for the Irish people who have to suffer from this policy… but it doesn’t have global or European consequences. If the UK, Germany or other countries do it, then it is going to have systemic consequences for Europe and the whole world. If that (austerity) happens I think it is likely that the economic downturn will last far longer and human suffering will be all the greater,””

Tough cuts to the Irish public sector, lead to huge unemployment and declining output, and certainly not a bustling, wondrous, all encompassing private sector as promised to us by the Big Society brigade.

Today, Lord Turnbull, the former head of the Civil Service told a Treasury Select Committee that Britain was not on the brink of bankruptcy. He’s right. The idea that a Triple A rated economy, which happens to be the fifth largest in the World, and the second largest Financial centre in the World, is on the brink of bankruptcy is an amazing thing to suggest. It is simply a backdrop for these horrific cuts the Government announced last week. But one has to ask the question, if growth is far better than expected, and we have ‘secured’ our credit rating, and we are no longer on the ‘brink of bankruptcy’, there is no economic reason for such harsh cuts any more. The only possible reason to push forward the cuts, would be for the sake of ideology? What the Tories actually inherited was an economy coming out of troubled times (so, growing) and falling unemployment figures, which is actually astonishing given the extent of the crises we have just been through.

But this isn’t the best bit of Tory bullshit to grab my attention today. Remember, we are all in this together, that includes the people on disability allowance who will get it drastically cut after a year; the people who will be purged from London because of the housing benefit cut; and of course the poor FTSE 100 bosses, who it was announced today, have awarded themselves greater pay rises and bonuses than at any time over the past few decades. The average FTSE 100 boss, now earns over 200 times the average worker wage. Bonuses to bosses increased by 34% on top of a 4% average pay increase. J Sainsbury gave its CEO a 60% pay increase. The boss of Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Gaviscon, is the most highly paid on the FTSE 100 list of top paid execs, taking home £90m. This comes a couple of days after the BBC reported that Reckitt Benckiser had agreed to pay a £10m fine for essentially, ripping off the NHS by “restricting competition in the supply of heartburn medicines to the NHS”. Good to see he’s earning his £90m.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, quite rightly told the Guardian:

“Let us not forget that these are the same people urging the Government to make deep cuts in jobs and services and in the welfare on which the poorest in our society rely”

This all of course, comes a few days after a Channel 4 investigation, suggested that certain Tory millionaires, including George Osbourne himself, have been making money from tax loopholes. The investigation claims that Osbourne will benefit from a £4m offshore trust fund, which in turn will save him £1.6m in inheritance tax. He did nothing to earn that trust fund. He didn’t ‘work hard’ for it. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond apparently avoided the new 50p top rate of tax, by moving all of his shares from his family property business, into his wife’s name, who pays less tax. These people are really taking the piss at the minute.

Instead of taking to the streets like the French are doing, we tend to praise these bosses and attack Unions. Whenever there is a strike, our media convince us beautifully that the workers are trying to destroy the company and ruin our lives. It couldn’t possibly be the bosses fault, they couldn’t possibly be to blame. How fucking dare people demand to be treated better? We see their striking simply as something that inconveniences our neat little consumer obsessed World. We don’t see them as people fighting for their jobs, against a class of people who simply want to enrich themselves further, despite the fact that they take home millions already. We should all be hand in hand with every striker in the Country, because the majority of us have far more in common with the ordinary worker being pissed on, than we ever will with the bastards who sip champagne on their boats. We have become massively Thatcherite in our thought process. I hope this changes soon.

England idealised

October 26, 2010

I don’t really have a great deal of Nationalism built into me. I feel privileged to have been born in a Country that still takes care of it’s sick and injured, that doesn’t just throw its most vulnerable and poor onto the scrap heap to rot, and that has such a plethora of cultural differences from North to South; and I feel privileged to have been born into a Country with such a rich history.

Sometimes I need reminding of what it is I expressively love about England. Our southern coast is perhaps top of my list of what I love. It feels entirely different to any other coast I’ve visited. It has, almost a nostalgic heritage about it. I am reminded of the old Hovis adverts we used to get on TV years ago. The idealistic small villages with the cobblestone roads and small streams. The kid on the bike with the basket at the front. The old Georgian style cottages with broken autumn leaves covering them. Everyone knowing each other. Everyone having a Yorkshire accent, or perhaps a Somerset accent. They’re very similar accents, at entirely opposite ends of the country. We should move Somerset up by Yorkshire. That is my idealistic view of England. The reality is obviously far different; and whilst villages like that idealistic model do certainly exist across the country; we have spent the past fifty years being shoved into high rise flats so that the very wealthy can buy the beautiful Georgian cottages, price everyone else out the market, and slowly destroy the villages (see Beadnell in Northumberland).

Anyway, before this turns into a rant, I thought I would play you the song that evokes such a strong sense of nostalgia and English heritage, in me. I have this song on my iPod in my car. It is a nice relaxing way to drive home from work, and it manages to take me away from the miserable work I just left, and puts me briefly in a kind of time warp; an utterly different time and a completely different place. It sparks memories of my childhood, when I actually had no worries whatsoever, despite thinking I had every worry in the World at the time. It captures 20th Century middle class England beautifully. The song is Symphony No 9, 2nd movement, from The New World’ by Antonin Dvorák.

To be good

October 25, 2010

“It is unfortunate when people say ‘this is the only way’. That’s the only thing I’ve got against anybody, if they are saying ‘this is the only answer’. I don’t want to hear about that. There isn’t just one answer to anything.”
– John Lennon

You will have to excuse this blog. It is merely me trying to reason out a philosophical issue in my mind. I find it far easier to reason out a problem, if I am writing it down. That is the purpose of this blog. You may disagree with me, and you may think i’m talking nonsense. That is fine. It is your prerogative to do so.

I often hear the Western World referred to as the ‘civilised World’. I’d have to disagree profoundly with that statement, because there are so many contradictions between the way we live, and the idea of a civilised World; Education, to create a workforce rather than inquisitive minds. Laws to punish crime rather than extensive research and investment into the reasons that create the criminals and the solutions for that. Enough food to throw in a bin because we didn’t finish it, yet still not enough to give to the starving. Nation States that need huge aircraft carriers, and nuclear bombs, just incase. People considered “Illegal” because they fled their Country and came here for a better life. When we get past all of that, we become civilised.

What, then, does it mean to be ‘good’? Can we truly consider ourselves ‘good’ morally? I don’t think so. I think we can kid ourselves into believing we are good people. But below the surface, are any of us truly good? I would argue no.

To be ‘good’ is not to follow the law or to conform for the sake of society. That isn’t being good. You are simply living the life created and enforced by someone else. Conforming to a religious ideal, or Patriotism, or a class, or a race, or a certain way of life is simply creating social barriers between you and the ‘other’ which means, creating or perpetuating conflict. If you accept the meaningless barriers, you are part of that conflict. I am part of that conflict. We all know that being part of a Country is to be part of an endless conflict for superiority. As is being part of a religion. It is absurd to call yourself peaceful if you are part of a social barrier. I consider myself British, which I recognise comes with its wall of absurd superiority. Because to recognise myself as British, means I recognise someone else, who in essence is absolutely no different from me, as being ‘other’ simply because he or she is part of a great absurdity that actually doesn’t exist and is just an abstraction. That pointless and empty abstraction has always lead to a state of continual competition and conflict.

I’d argue that by considering yourself part of a great abstraction, you are creating a mass of dividing lines; not just between yourself and the rest of humanity, but between you and what society expects of you. Sixty years ago, the vast majority of the population of the United States would have told you that interracial marriage was a great evil. This is a curious thing, because in 2010, the vast majority would say the exact opposite. Society has its own brain apparently. It would seem that we look to others to tell us what to believe, within the confines of the four walls of our particular society, and then we conform accordingly. It is immensely absurd at all levels. We don’t tend to question this, because we want to be included in this exclusive club that forbids entry to those considered ‘other’. So essentially, ‘good’ is largely, a social construct. We mould our conduct and our way of thinking to suit that construct. We become robots. If we sat down, and observed the thoughts in our mind, as if we were watching through a one way mirror; did not try to suppress the thoughts and ideas that run contrary to societal expectations, only then would we start to recognise who we are, and act accordingly.

We are taught from a very early age to constantly be in conflict. Be like your older brother. Be like the ridiculously intelligent kid in school. Look as attractive as the most attractive kid in school by wearing expensive shoes or branded jeans. Be like the businessman, if you’re not, you’re a failure, and need a boss, because you’re inferior. We are taught not to question the old adage that life is cruel and that we should apparently just ‘get on with it’. By constantly comparing yourself to others, you are ignoring who you actually are, because you are being conditioned to aspire to be like someone else; someone who is not you, in any way. This also cannot be described as ‘good’.

Now, if you believe you are doing ‘good’ because you are religious, or because you are performing an act based on the expectations of society; you are actually just performing a superficial act of goodness, based on the idea that others may think it is virtuous of you. It is not truly ‘good’. You are not acting according to your own individual, subjective view of the word ‘good’.

One of the issues I have, is with education. It teaches kids not to be wrong. Because to be wrong, is to be punished throughout life. If you are wrong in business, and you lose out, you REALLY lose out. Too much is at stake to be able to afford to be wrong. Which in itself, is a problem. Sir Ken Robinson, a lecturer on education, says that by stigmatising mistakes, and scaring children into trying to always be right, we are educating them out of their creative capacity. They will be scared to be wrong, which means they will be less likely to be innovative and the problem is that it is financially insecure, to dare to be wrong. Robinson points to Picasso, who once commented that all children are born artists, the problem is remaining so as we grow up. We are educated out of creativity, a resource within us that we all have, for purely financial reasons. Forget your creativity, and your longing for an artistic outlet, and focus on being a data administrator for a Company that doesn’t know your name, or pouring drinks for rich people, and a boss who verbally pisses on you every time he opens his vomit-inducing mouth. Robinson states that the problem is that every education system in the World, puts a hierarchy of subjects at it’s very core. Maths is considered more important than music. And so the natural musicians are less likely to discover their creative talent, because they are too busy focusing on a subject they don’t care much for. If they want to learn this craft, they better be rich enough to afford a private tutor. Robinson says that we are teaching kids to be their heads, their equation solving selves, their computer analysing, data processing selves and nothing more; we are teaching children that their bodies are just a form of transport for their heads… a way of getting their heads to meetings. The hierarchy is set up, on the grounds that you’ll never get a job if music and art were at the top of the list. And so highly talented, brilliant people will steer away from higher education, because they think they simply aren’t good enough, because they were awful at maths and didn’t care much for science. It is a system created and moulded by industry and commerce, for economic reasons. And so, creativity and innovation crumble away.

A business is no different to a Nation. It isn’t the height of human freedom. If I were to make 10 shirts, at £5 each, I have made £50 for the business. If I know I am paid £25 per shift, is half of the money i’ve made, being taken away from me? I have essentially made the last 5 shirts, for free. Why does my boss get a bit of the money that i’ve made? Why is that different from condemning the tax man? The businessman taxes every employee he has, and instead of it going to improving schools or hospitals, roads or fire service, it goes to buying him a lovely new Porsche. I’m sure the Libertarians among us will attempt to justify this and why it is wondrous. It isn’t. It is manipulative. We are encouraged to be entirely in conflict with other businesses, as well as our colleagues. Back stabbing is rife. Competition breeds violence. It is written inevitable.

True freedom is still considered monetary based. Wages, scarcity, succeed or starve. I’d suggest that is a manipulation of human thought. As is the idea that without monetary incentives, humanity would crumble. I disagree. Human creativity and the desire for self realisation, can drive humanity. But so does compassion. We do not all think like Libertarians. We believe in social structures, and the benefit of a social fund. But if we insist on instilling into the minds of every generation, that a World without money and trade is some great ‘evil’ without it ever actually being tried on any level; then all we get is greed and a weak attempt to justify it. This in turn means that every aspect from life, from school onwards is presented as a competition for survival. And so naturally, the human trait of greed and selfishness is amplified. This isn’t ‘good’ and by not recognising this problem, we perpetuate it by throwing our children onto that very same framework that we all don’t particularly like. So how are we possibly doing ‘good’ by our children? We just accept that ‘such is life’. Why? We are deluded.

And so the conclusion is quite unnerving, and perhaps a little too farfetched for most people, but I would suggest that it is far fetched because we’d prefer to choose not to believe it. I would conclude, similar to the conclusions of the great philosopher Krishnamurti, that to consider yourself to be part of a society, or a religion, or a Nation, or a race; you and I are inherently violent. And that is the great problem of mankind. We segregate ourselves. We might not be violent directly. We might consider ourselves charitable and loving. But through the vicious competitive system that we live in, built on rugged individualism conflicting with each other, and the products we buy, and the abstract unreal associations we put upon ourselves, we are one in a vast World of socially created and perpetuated, vicious conflictions that will never cease until we realise we are part of it and try to change it. Our boys go to war, for what? The average Western citizen will tell you they are fighting for our freedom. What an horrendous miscalculation on their part. How manipulatable can an entire populace be? To be anti-American or anti-religious, or anti-British is not necessarily a bad thing. It is portrayed as a bad thing, because it is damaging to certain interests. There is nothing pro-American or pro-British or pro-Islam or pro-Christianity about the major institutions and businesses that act in their name. We are currently the robotic, unquestioning mouth pieces of those major institutions and businesses. And they fucking love it. These societal barriers can never create a ‘good’. We are part of  system that is institutionally violent. But it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. It is a creation. It can be broken. We let it happen. I let it happen. Therefore, I am inherently violent.

‘Good’ is what you perceive to be so, without any outside influence and social barriers.

A Tory England

October 21, 2010

Quote of the cuts day has to go to Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson, to Nick Clegg in the Commons directly after the Chancellor’s cuts package was announced:

Somewhere between the ballot box and your ministerial car door opening, you changed your mind on everything.

This particular brand of Conservatism is interesting. It is of course very Thatcherite. It is no different to what it was in the 1980s. Actually it is different because it is far more severe. It can easily be dressed up in lovely new inclusive phrases like ‘The Big Society’ and ‘Progressive Conservatism’ despite the fact that in less than ten seconds, the Chancellor can announce 490,000 expected job losses in the public sector, whilst his backbenches cheer gleefully. It’s easy to call it fair and necessary. But when, along with half a million job losses, we hear the Chancellor say:

“The Employment and Support Allowance, given to people unable to work due to sickness or disability, will be restricted to one year”

… it is virtually impossible for anyone who has even a fundamental understanding of the word ‘fair’ to be able to justify the madness.

Yesterday’s spending review was ideological. It does not matter how many times Cameron says it isn’t, it is. It will devastate lives. £1bn is being saved by 2013 by cutting Child Benefit, yet £2bn is being given away to companies earning £350,000 a year, also by 2013. Most Conservatives are in politics for this very reason; to role back the Welfare State for the poorer and instead enlarge the Welfare State for their friends in business. When 490,000 people are instantly made unemployed, and the entire Conservative benches in Parliament stand up smiling and screaming, their faces beaming uncontrollably, waving their Parliamentary papers in the air with overwhelming joy; one finds it difficult to accept their rhetoric that this is ‘tough’ on them. It seems this is their moment in the spotlight. They were supremely happy yesterday. They have spent years hoping this moment would come.

It has been a successful attack by the Tories and they have, I will admit, been amazing at getting their side of events across and gaining mass support for their plans. They have achieved this, as far as I can tell, in four ways:

1) Absolutely 100% blame Labour for everything.
It is clear that the Coalition has been told to mention the debt left by Labour as much as possible. It is perfect justification. Every Minister interviewed will refer to Labour’s legacy within about five seconds of being questioned. It is largely illogical because the debt left by Labour was firstly, very much needed, and secondly, is not actually dire.
The problem with this view is that up until recession hit, the Tories pledged to back Labour’s spending pound for pound. So, by suggesting that Labour spent thirteen years on a spending spree, the Tories backed it fully. Then when the banks collapsed, and people’s homes and lives were put at risk, spending rose to keep people safe. This had to happen to offset the problems suddenly caused by huge unemployment. This isn’t the State’s fault. It isn’t the Government’s fault. Spending had to rise. What use is it cutting unemployment benefit during a time when unemployment is at an all time high? That is Tory logic. Allow the recession to run its course. Allow people to lose their homes and their jobs and to worry about how they are going to feed their kids. So next time when you complain about Labour’s debt, actually consider why we are in debt.

2) Make sure the faults of the Private Sector are ignored.
It was the financial sector that failed miserably. They risked everyone’s savings to enrich themselves further. But it isn’t just the banks that messed up. Since the early 1980s wages for workers have stagnated. They have hardly risen at all on average. Yet, the wages of the very wealthy; the owners, have increased ten fold. Take Sir Philip Green, the new Tory Party investigator of Civil Service pay; he owns a company called Taveta investments, which is registered in his wife’s name who happens to live in a tax haven. He has successfully avoided paying tax worth up to £285mn. At the same time, he awarded himself £1.2bn in a single year personally, whilst telling his work force (the people who actually make that money for him) that they must now increase contributions to their final pension scheme by half and work up to five years longer to receive it. He also uses sweatshops in India. BUT WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Now, you can only sustain unjustifiably large wages, like that of Mr Green if profit remains high. If your workers are being squeezed as much as possible, and have less disposable income to spend consuming and so enriching the very few, how do you do that? The solution was easy. You offer them easy credit, like a Topman Store Card. They then pay more than they usually would but over a longer period of time. Thus, the little man is squeezed further, but the guy at the top makes more. But apparently this is perfectly fine. The Public Sector, the sector that bailed out the Financial sector, is apparently entirely to blame.

The problem as I see it, is that surplus profit was not being recapitalised in beneficial causes. Instead of expanding and looking into new forms of production, the owners of capital were buying up assets on the stock market. When this is amplified by million and millions of people, we suddenly have a problem. You buy assets on the stock market, hoping you will get a pretty handsome return in the future. But you understand that might not happen. You are gambling. The City of London and New York recklessly gambled our money away, they are entirely to blame.

Whilst David Cameron likes to suggest that National debt is like household debt; he’s wrong. Not only is household debt nothing like National debt (I can’t suddenly raise taxes, if i go into the red, nor can I print my own money), but this neoliberal experiment, that the Tories kick started in the 1980s, actively encouraged us all to get into debt. This is why the banking sector collapsed. Because debt was encouraged. Secondly, personal debt is not always a bad thing if it helps improve the future. I am in debt, to pay for my education, which I hope will allow me to get a better job and be able to provide a better life for my future family, than I would had I gone straight into a job I did not want to do. This debt is an investment. Public debt is also an investment, especially if it keeps as many people in their homes and jobs as possible; which Labour understood (bare in mind, I am not a Labour voter), and which the Lib Dems understood before they were offered a bit of power. Public debt is not always a bad thing. It is often needed. It provides investment and a safety net.

The Tories, with help from their friends in the Media (Conservative Director of Communications: Andy Coulson, used to be editor of News of the World) have shaped political discourse in this country to an apathetic and largely moronic population, beautifully. The Sun (owned by Murdoch, who also owns News of the World) ran a double page spread last Monday entitled “Britain’s benefit blackspots”. A guide to the worst areas of Britain for benefit fraud. Altogether, they noted that Benefit cheating costs the UK taxpayer £900mn. You may think that is a lot. But according to research by the TUC and Tax Research UK, Corporate Tax avoidance, and personal tax evasion (i.e – Lord Ashcroft and his non-dom status) costs the UK taxpayer close to £25bn. That’s about 30 times more in lost revenue. Enough to wipe out the deficit in about eight years, without the need for a mass of public service cuts.

It is also suggested that public service workers are over paid. Now, given that wages have stagnated for most workers in the Private sector, i’d suggest that this is the fault of the Private sector. These bastards should pay more, not attack the public sector.

The Tories ran the 2010 campaign on the idea that a rise in National Insurance was an evil ‘tax on jobs’. Today, they just killed off 50,000 jobs in 20 seconds. But, it’s the public sector, so apparently it’s okay. The massive consequences on communities and small private businesses, will become apparent very soon. The Tories will try to claim it is all Labour’s fault. It isn’t.

The public sector, furthermore, is not inflated. Public spending during the 1960s was far higher than at any time during the 00s. Wages were rising beautifully during the 1960s too.

3) Make sure the public believes, whether true or not, that this is the only way.
The cuts that have been made, did not have to be so severe. They are overly harsh. We are a Triple A credit Country. 80% of our debt matures in 14 years, not a couple of years. We have the 5th largest economy in the World still. And we have the 3rd largest currency reserve in the World. And a very strong currency actually. So whilst you may believe everything the Tories tell you about how awful Labour were; it suggests to me that if the Tories were in power when recession struck, they’d have offered no help, spent absolutely no extra to keep people in homes and jobs, and then most probably blamed Unions.

The current debt in the UK stands at 64% of GDP. After World War II, it was 180%. More than double now. Japan has a debt of 194%. The USA has a debt close to 73% of GDP. In fact, between 1920 and 1960, for that forty or so year period, UK government debt did not fall below 100%.

4) Gain support from sources that apparently are credible.
George Osbourne yesterday listed the people who agreed with him. We’ll take them one by one now. Firstly, he listed the IMF. The IMF is a neoliberal organisation that only ever proscribes harsh economic treatment to solve problems. They destroyed Ghana beyond recognition. Malaysia refused to accept anything the IMF demanded, and now Malaysia is doing just great. The IMF can also be blamed for half fucking up Ireland. Last week the IMF said that bank regulations were failing – We all fucking knew that two years ago. Nice of them to join us. Great source George. Secondly, he mentioned the CBI – the Confederation of British Industry. The business owners union. The same people who told us all that introducing minimum wage would destroy business in Britain. The same people who suggested that students are a drain on society, and yet they all went to university when it was free. They are businesses, looking to enrich themselves further, they have no sense of social responsibility, nor do they care if you cannot afford to eat. They would like to see no Welfare State and the NHS privatised. The CBI attempted to justify a huge amount of Corporate tax avoidance (discussed earlier) with….

Legitimate tax planning – undertaken by companies that operate globally – should not be confused with so-called tax avoidance

Thirdly, he mentioned the Bank of England. The institution responsible for the welfare of the economy. The institution that failed to see the biggest financial crises ever from taking place, even though that is its specific job. The same institution whose Deputy Governor Sir John Gieve admitted that they knew that the financial sector was out of control, and had no idea what to do about it. Another great choice for a source.
And lastly, he mentioned the 35 businessmen who signed a letter and sent it to the press advocating everything they are doing. These businessmen are not economists. They do not know how to run an economy. They are under the impression that a business haven is ideal for all of us. Contrary to that opinion, i’d say otherwise. Nevertheless, they signed the letter. Who are these businesses? Well, one of them is Paul Walsh of Diageo, who I shall mention shortly. He has been given a role as an advisor to David Cameron. Vested interest number 1. Another is Nick Prest, Chairman of AVEVA. AVEVA has just been awarded a contract to supply Babcocks, who are to build the two new aircraft carriers unveiled by the Tories. Vested interest 2. Another, is John Nelson of Hammerson Investors. Massive tax avoiders, and are quite happy to even tell us that’s what they do, on their website. Perhaps I will refuse to pay any tax ever again and refer to it as ‘tax efficient’. Vested interest 3. Another is Moni Varma, Chairman of Veetee who admitted that Conservative HQ asked him to sign the letter. Not a vested interest, but an idiot nonetheless. Another is Philip Dilley, Chairman of Arup, who has just been given a place as an advisor to David Cameron. Vested interest 4
The letter itself was drawn up by Next Chief Exec. Lord Wolfson. Wolfson has donated close to £300,000 to the Tory Party and is now a Tory Lord. Vested interest 5. Another is Sir Christopher Gent, non-executive chairman of GlaxoSmithKline. Gent has donated around £113,000 to the Tory Party. Vested interest 5. Isn’t it amazing? Why are we taking them seriously? Why aren’t their vested interests mentioned? I think I will email my logic Tory MP and let you know what his response is.
Next, David Cameron has created a sort of business council. This includes Paul Walsh; the CEO of Diageo PLC, who has moved ownership of British alcohol brands offshore to avoid tax. Martin Sorrell, whose company WPP has moved entirely offshore to avoid tax. And CEO of Glaxosmithkline, Andrew Witty who avoids paying million in tax due to offshore accounting.
None of these sources are credible. None have the Country’s best interest at heart. None care if a few hundred thousand lose their jobs, and their homes. This is Tory bullshit.

It has been a very clever four pronged attack to win support for a program that would usually take months and years to thrash out the details of. The proposal yesterday was horrific. It is not Progressive or fair in any way. The Liberal Democrats should be utterly ashamed. They are finished. Out of protest, I will not vote in favour of AV, even though I once would.

At the moment, the public is suffering from political apathy. They assume this is all necessary. It isn’t. It is dangerous and it is a complete attack on a decent, caring Nation in an attempt to turn us all into bitches of the business World. Labour are not all that much difference, hence the lack of credible opposition. They are not progressives. By moving to the centre, and even the centre-right, they have backed themselves into a corner. They no longer represent the Progressives. Their needs to be vast civil action. Unions need to step up, students need to step up, everyone needs to step up and let these people know that we should no longer be controlled or live in a society entirely shaped by a very select few old grey rich businessmen. I hold out hope and I have faith in this generation of anti-Tory opposition.

The Presentation

October 19, 2010

Yesterday at University I had my first presentation of the year. I had under a week to prepare it. It went pretty well though. I quite like being the first to present, and I have no problem talking in front of people. I get quite passionate when I talk too. Which must be a good thing. I get my grade back next week. I thought i’d publish my guidelines on here, for what I wanted to present. The presentation follows the question.

Presentation 1 – Debate and discuss: ‘Increasing concentration of media ownership into fewer hands means news will become less reliable as a source of information and public scrutiny’. Explain why you agree or disagree.

The corporate media is a business; enshrined by law to protect shareholders.
A media corporation is not unusual, it is a corporation. It has to play by the very same rules as every other corporation. This presents institutionalised problems right at the very fundamental making of a media corporation.
Joel Bakan, author of The Corporation, writes:

The law forbids any motivation for their actions, if it is to assist workers, improve the environment, or help consumers save money. As corporate officials; stewards of other peoples money, they have no legal authority to pursue such goals as ends in themselves – only as means to serve the corporation’s own interests, which generally means to maximise the wealth of its shareholders. Corporate social responsibility is thus illegal – at least when it is genuine.

Corporate media is no different. Its only concern and its only legal requirement, is to make money. It is not concerned with preserving and progressing democracy through what it likes to call an open and free press. It merely wants to make money, become dominant, and have influence. Wealth and power centralized within the State are considered great evils; wealth and power concentrated in very very few hands within a wealthy private elite, who remember are unelected and who are not in any way concerned with the public good, is strangely considered free.
When Jefferson stated that “The only security of all is in a free press” he was writing at a time when Corporations, including the press, had social responsibility enshrined in law. Corporations in those days were not allowed to attempt to influence elections, nor could they fund campaigns and if they were seen to be committing a public harm, they would be dismantled. The free press in Jefferson’s time, were not media conglomarates ruled by very wealthy elites.

Justice Hugo Black asserted that “The first amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public”. When corporate media attempts to consolidate its power, we don’t particularly receive diverse and antagonistic sources.

I wont try to suggest that all media outlets in the UK have the same agenda. It’s obvious to anyone that the Daily Mail has a far more right winged approach to the society and Nationhood and economics, than the Guardian. But, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t similar in other ways. The media is generally conservative, because it exists as a result of the economic and social structure that is in place and that it benefits from, and so anything that might threaten the power of business (for example; a working class or left wing version of events) is only ever going to be published in a negative light. For example, the top story on Sky News this morning was that 35 business leaders have backed George Osbourne’s plans for spending cuts. It was reported as if this is some sort of proof that the Conservatives are doing the exact right thing. The Sky News report said the document of support was signed by Stuart Rose, the M&S Chairman. What it doesn’t say, is that Stuart Rose is set to be made a Lord, by the Conservative Party and is a life long supporter of them. It also says that a group called Diageo signed the letter. It doesn’t go into any detail. Diageo is the parent company of Guiness and Johnny Walker and other big alcohol names. However, what the report doesn’t say is that over the past couple of years Diageo has restructured itself so as to avoid as much tax as possible, despite making most of its money in the UK. Another businessman to sign the statement in support of the Conservative Party, is Justin King, chief executive of J Sainsbury. What the report doesn’t say is that The President of J Sainsbury, is John Sainsbury, Baron of Preston Candover, with a net worth of £1.3bn, he is a Conservative Party donor, and member of the Conservative Party. Another businessman to sign the statement in support of the Conservative Party is Simon Wolfson, chief executive of Next. What Sky or any other broadcaster or newspaper doesn’t say, is that Wolfson is a member of the Conservative Party and donated to David Cameron’s 2005 campaign, and named by the Telegraph as the “37th-most important British conservative.” None of the British press or media in general today, have published this side of the story. And so information, it could be argued, has been withheld.

To own and run a successful newspaper in the UK, you have to have money. To have money, it is fairly unlikely that you are a pro-union left winger with socialist ideals. To enhance your wealth, you need to be somewhat dedicated to neoliberal ideals. This is one of the main reasons we do not have working class publications any more. And so one side of the argument is very much presented. Reliable sources of information, as well as two sides of the argument are almost never presented.

For example, during the election campaign, every party ran on the notion that spending needed cutting drastically, and that Gordon Brown referring to Gillian Duffy as a bigot was awful. None of them challenged the consensus. None of them bothered to point out that Gillian Duffy had actually asked Brown before hand “What are you going to do about all the Eastern Europeans”. To me, that stinks of bigotry and ignorance. On the economy, the Sun printed last Monday, a double page spread about benefit cheating, entitled “Benefit Ghettos: Worst welfare blackspots finally revealed”. It began the story with “Britain’s benefit black spots where up to eight out of ten people live on State handouts are exposed in shocking new figures released today”. This struck me as particularly over dramatic. Words like ‘exposed’ and ‘shocking’ add to the idea that we should all be intensely angry at a few people on benefits. This isn’t new, or exposing, or shocking, most Papers have ran stories on benefits over their life time. The suggestion is, during time of economic hardship, those living on benefits; if they aren’t the biggest problem, then it’s immigrants. Always the same story, time and time again. Now, what wont get published much, is the fact that according to statistics, in 2007 to 2008. Benefit cheating cost us around £800mn, whilst Corporate tax avoidance cost us £18.5bn. It would seem that when men in expensive suits do it, the papers aren’t too bothered by it. When a single mum in a council house in Liverpool does it and about 300% less, it’s a National scandal. The papers stay clear of it. I’d suggest this is simply because half of the companies who owe a fortune in lost revenue due to elaborate tax avoidance schemes, are key advertisers. Andy Coulson, the Tory party communications Director, and ex editor of the News of the World, must have had a say in the fact that both the Sun and the News Of The World tend to stay entirely clear of the Lord Ashcroft tax avoidance affair.
During the Summer of 2008, Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law paid (around £34,000 in total) for the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, to fly Santorini (a Greek Island) for private talks on a yacht, with Rupert Murdoch. Also in Santorini for the talks was a lady named Rebekah Wade……………. Editor of The Sun.
It is no coincidence, that a couple of days after Murdoch spoke in the Sun, stating of David Cameron:
“What does he really feel in his stomach? Is he going to be a new Thatcher, which is what the country needs? The UK desperately needs less government and freer markets“
Cameron then made a speech, in which he said of Ofcom:
“So with a Conservative Government, OFCOM as we know it will cease to exist.“
Surely that’s no coincidence. I pick on Murdoch because he’s the current king of the media. He really pushed for a Conservative government and not just with the Sun. After every leaders debate, Sky News awarded victory to Cameron. Even the first, in which Clegg mania took off and the entire Country was pretty certain Clegg won; Sky News said 45% of people polled said Cameron won and only 23% said Clegg won. I don’t think 45% of Conservative HQ would have said that Cameron won.

To conclude, the concentration of media into fewer private hands, is no different to concentration of media in government hands; it provides only a certain side of a story, which is to say to side of the story which least affects its advertisers negatively, or the business community in general. Profit comes before responsibility much of the time.

Student protest

October 18, 2010

Demo 2010 – Fund Our FutureI will hopefully be attending the Student march on London on November 10th, as a reaction the the news that the Coalition intends to increase tuition fees from a cap of £3,290, to £7,000. The Liberal Democrats, and Nick Clegg and Vince Cable specifically pledged to never support a tuition fee rise, and in fact wanted tuition fees scrapped entirely. They secured a mass of Student votes because of this one policy. Last week, both went back on that promise and decided to support the raising of tuition fees to a cap of £7,000 a year, whilst some courses could cost £12,000 a year.

Obviously, the Lib Dems pathetic excuse for absolutely pissing all over their votes, is that the situation left by Labour is worse than previously though. Except it isn’t. They had the same information back in May as they do now. In fact, the economy has improved over those past few months.

If tuition fees were as high as £7,000 when I started university last year, I would not have gone. I would have gotten a job I disliked, had a mediocre eduction, and whilst it would please Tories because employment numbers suit their cause, it actually would do absolutely nothing for me and my aspirations. But a few rich people would be fine with the cost rise, so it’s okay.

What strikes me as ridiculous, is that we have just come out of an horrendous economic crises, based entirely on debt. Wages of workers across the board have stagnated for years, whilst wages in the boardroom have increased beyond recognition. Which in turn, meant that ordinary workers were struggling, and were very insecure. So an easy credit market shot into life, offering the chance to borrow huge amounts quickly and easily. We soon racked up debts, the housing market collapsed, and banks suddenly struggled to pull back the huge amounts they’d wrecklessly loaned out. Debt caused it. Now, to get out of the problems, the Coalition is suggesting we get ourselves; the next generation – into a huge amount of debt if we want a half decent chance at life. The very same politicians, who went to university, when it was entirely free. How ironic.

Do know what is more annoying than the quite obvious elite-ism that runs through the veins of Tories and now Lib Dems? The fact that the man they have put in charge of finding instances of what a man worth £4bn and has never had to worry about struggling to pay for food, thinks is ‘wasteful spending’, actually owes billions in elaborate tax avoidance schemes whilst he himself told his employees they’d have to work longer if they want a decent pension pay off, than first thought. Oh and he’s often been criticised for using sweatshops abroad, in which workers are paid less than £4 a day, to work up to 22 hours six days a week, whilst he lazes his life on a beach in Monaco. What a lovely man. So students have to get ourselves into greater debt, because people like Sir Philip Green (Sir? Really?) need to save some money for a new yacht.

So I will be going on the march, not just in protest of the planned Student Tuition fee rise and the obvious lack of balls the Lib Dems have; but also because the appointment of Philip Green and the love affair with businessmen who actively tax avoid is one of the main issues I see in the UK at the moment. Plus, political cynicism and apathy is far too wide spread. I don’t want my entire life controlled by business, and its bitches in Westminster. It isn’t the height of human freedom. It is the opposite. That is why I will be marching.

I hope to see as many students there as possible.