Tag Archives: politicians

What About Us?

As the SNP prepare for a non-binding vote on leaving the UK next year – they have also put in a demand for another £98,000 million from the UK Treasury to fund regional business recovery.

Before going any further lets just have a basic fact check to put things in context.

Man3Scotland has a population of 5.4 million – exactly the same as Yorkshire. So that extra £98,000 million equates to £18,148 more for every adult and child in Scotland. A huge amount that has to be paid by us all out of UK-wide taxation. Note that this is in addition to a range of other benefits, some unique to Scotland, that are paid out of UK-wide contributions.

For those Grandads with grandchildren hoping to get to university – it is only those families resident in Scotland that will get their tertiary education for free. The tens of thousands paid out or borrowed by students in England will – in Scotland – be funded by … UK-wide taxation.

And for anyone who currently has to pay for prescription medicines the fact that Scotland uses tax income from the UK to give them out for free does not go down well.

This generosity is sometimes claimed to be justified because Scotland’s tax payers pay more than in the rest of the UK. But this claim is clearly shown to be false because the scale of the benefits received is far higher than any marginal tax variations.

Take the example of the BBC. The 2.5 million households in Scotland are able to receive not just additional national programs but also have a dedicated channel – BBC Alba. The fact that BBC Alba often has tiny audiences does not matter since the TV Licence payments that fund it are UK wide. So no need to live within their income limits.

Meanwhile in England the regional content for our same-sized example – Yorkshire – is being cutback from a level that was already well below that of the Scottish services. A situation repeated in local government. With Scotland having a very expensive modern parliament building and a full house of MSPs plus their support staff while poor relation Yorkshire has to make do with a few elected mayors, no building and minimal funding.

Just to add icing to the cake it was announced yesterday that Scotland has become the only country in the world to provide free and universal access to period products. It is estimated to cost about £8.7m a year and will not be means-tested. Not a big cost – if accurate – but then it’s just one more little extra for the tax-payers to fund.

The budget estimates for any newly independent Scotland are going to need to be very creative to cover all of this expenditure with no more than 2.5 million households to tax ..

Update 30-Nov-2020 Untroubled by having to worry where the money will come from the SNP have agreed to fund free breakfasts and lunches for all primary school children – all year round. [Who needs parents?] And because the UK Government intends to reduce overseas aid the SNP have increased theirs by £2 million – despite still not having overseas aid as a devolved power. But their big idea for a golden future is for everyone in Scotland to move to a four-day working week while keeping their full five-day pay. So that’s 100% pay for 80% work … An interesting approach that has its advocates and lobby groups – to quote one of them One day in the future, hopefully soon, when the full-time working week is four days or less we’re going to look back on this period and think what on earth were we doing. Too true – but for quite a different reason…

When To Go?

With Prince Philip standing down from official engagements at the age of 96 and rumours of a plan for Charles to take over as Prince Regent when the Queen reaches 95, the wider retirement age question is back on the social agenda.

Young_Mr_GraceCertainly the issue of retirement age needs to be addressed for both MPs and the noble Lords. With no apparent restrictions, the average age of our lawmakers in Westminster seems to be drifting ever upwards.

That young militant Dennis Skinner took his seat in 1970 is still sitting there 47 years later. He will be 90 at the end of the current parliament. And no matter how good a job he has done for the voters of Bolsover there must have been someone else in the local party that would have welcomed a chance to represent the constituency. With Ken Clarke also taking his seat in 1970 and scheduled to stay on until 2022 clearly there seems little to discourage MPs staying on well past the national retirement age.

But the geriatric make-up of the House of Lords is quite amazing – with the official figures stating that their average age is currently 69! Meaning that – on average – the entire house could retire with immediate effect .. A dream scenario that would speed up the procedures of government no end. And certainly something that would make Dennis Skinner happy for the rest of his days.

You Cannot Be Serious!

It’s supposed to be just one day each year – but not that you would know that by reading the media reports and political statements surrounding the attempts by the UK to have a new relationship with the EU.

EU_Fool_200
Fool in April or all the time?

Instead we are suffering from a range of demands and pronouncements that even the most cynical must be surprised by. Which of them are jokes and which are genuine? Which are serious plans and which are simply said to stir up dissent? Are any of them worth even repeating?

No trade deal negotiations before Article 50. No trade deals after Article 50 unless the UK pays 60,000 million euro. No exit agreement unless Gibraltar accepts control by Spain. No exit agreement unless the UK breaks links with the Commonwealth. UK to keep paying into EU for three years after leaving. Assets owned by the EU will not be shared with UK on leaving. EU citizens will retain free movement in / out of UK after leaving. UK will still need to subject to European court decisions after leaving. EU will continue to have access to UK intelligence resources after leaving for free. UK military resources will still be assigned to defending EU borders even if the EU countries do not pay their contractual contributions to NATO. Social security benefits will still be paid to EU citizens even if they are not UK tax payers or residents.

The list goes on and on … And with various political factions in each of the 27 EU members having their own demands perhaps they hope that the UK will be overwhelmed, give up and comply. However that’s a dangerous strategy since an increasingly likely outcome is that the EU will only benefit from a polite UK goodbye. Either way we will see little in the way of thanks or reward for the forty-four years of contributions paid by you and me – the typical UK tax payers – into the EU money pit. But only time will tell who has been the biggest fool.

Quotes for Today

Alex Salmond MSP in the official independence referendum prospectus for the September 2014 vote stated –

The debate we are engaged in as a nation is about the future of
all of us lucky enough to live in this diverse and vibrant country.
It is a rare and precious moment in the history of Scotland – a
once in a generation opportunity to chart a better way.

And this definitive document then went on to state –

The Edinburgh Agreement states that a referendum must be
held by the end of 2014. There is no arrangement in place for
another referendum on independence.
It is the view of the current Scottish Government that a
referendum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. This means
that only a majority vote for Yes in 2014 would give certainty
that Scotland will be independent.

If we vote No, Scotland stands still. A once in a generation
opportunity to follow a different path, and choose a new
and better direction for our nation, is lost. Decisions about
Scotland would remain in the hands of others.

Strange how the same politicians puff and blow that it’s now time for a second vote. Yet we are just three years on from the last one…

Time for the people to make their political representatives honour their threats/ promises by blocking another vote until at least twenty five years have past.

Feedback

Go Fast .. Go Slow We’ve had plans to make our motorways to go faster, then to go slower and now to go neither faster nor slower. Today press reports lead with – Controversial ‘green’ plans to lower motorway speed limits to 96km/h [our conversion from mph] in a bid to cut pollution levels from cars are to be scrapped by ministers. Grandad’s previous comment that our civil servants and politicians don’t know what they are doing almost all of the time still applies.

Juncker To Lead The Euroreich No Matter What? Grandad was wrong. The EU does not have two presidents – it has three. We missed out the lower-profile President of the European Parliament. A post that was held by Germany’s Martin Schulz up to last month. But as a result of the recent EU protest vote the newly appointed president for the next term is .. Martin Schulz. And it almost goes without saying that J-C Junker did get the top job after a nominal vote.

Smart Meters It is now a year since British Gas launched its advertising campaign to convince customers that their new smart meters were a big consumer benefit. And today the BBC were giving air time to the MD of the organisation promoting their national rollout. Another We know what’s best for you scheme that is due to be pushed out by the government this week. This time the cost is quoted as being £200 per household – rather than the estimated £390 before. But somehow the national total is still around £11,000 million.

Looking beyond the headlines you find that the meters will be at least £200 per household. For anyone with both gas and electricity and with existing meters in separate cabinets then they will clearly need two smart meters – even if one is only a slave to the main unit. So then the cost may well double up. Also the new meters need electrical power to operate, unlike current gas meters, so will need a water-proofed mains supply to be installed.

A former electricity company director was quoted today as saying: the smart meter rollout bears all the hallmarks of the next great government IT crash. But the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change [snappy job title] gave the view that smart meters will give consumers control over their energy use and help them reduce their bills. Which is the key justification for this mad scheme to go ahead.

Civil servants claim that there will be £17,100 million in benefits for consumers and suppliers. Clearly there are savings for the suppliers when they make their meter reading staff redundant. But the soft savings from getting consumers to use less energy are totally wishful thinking. And so far out of the 19 countries that have done gas meter trials 12 have failed to make any overall savings. So shooting are rather large hole in the scheme’s economic case.

However smart meters could become more acceptable now that Sir Bob Give-Us-Your-Money Geldof has been hired to push the scheme. And his fee should certainly pay all his energy bills for years to come – so that’s at least one satisfied customer. Only another 30 million households to go …

Juncker To Lead The Euroreich No Matter What?

Despite a solid shift away from the idea of a single European state – and the UK Prime Minister’s objections – the chances are that J-C Juncker (not Junkers – that was a German bomber) will take over from Manuel (J M Barrosso) as President of the European Commission on 1-Nov-2014.

EU_Head-1wHe will join our man Herman (aka Gollum) for a just short time – since the handsome, charismatic H Van Rompuy ends his term as President of the European Council on 30-Nov-2014.

Now there seem to be a range of views on the first of the two pending appointments. And the most common one seems to be – Who cares about any of these European political appointments anyway? They have no relevance to our lives. This is closely followed by views along the lines of – Let’s just leave these EU politicians behind and go back to just being a Common Market.

Very few express any support for Juncker – or anyone else. And even fewer know why there needs to be two EU Presidents anyway. No, the main interest comes from professional politicians – and even then it’s those whose own career may be affected.

So what next? J-C Junker will get the job, probably after a face-saving vote. He will then set about ensuring that the UK comes off worse in all future policies and decisions; as payback for the UK not supporting him. But that will just be fuel to the fire for the anti-EU protest parties.

Counting Down For Europe

In just ten days time we will all have our chance to vote for the candidates hoping to gain useful employment as MEPs – members of the European parliament. Not that we can actually assess any of these candidates personally – except in a few, exceptional circumstances. Normally we have to just vote for a political party and hope that they have nominated the best people that they have available.

EU_Barroso_160BWNow looking at today’s YouGov poll results it seems that UKIP are going need the largest number of effective candidates for MEP posts – with the UKIP protest vote gaining 31% support against Labour’s 25%, the Conservative’s 23% and the struggling Lib-Dem’s 9%. As a result the politically-aligned media will be looking for damaging stories to try to dampen the growing dissent.

But this not just a UK issue as many other countries expect to see successes for what were minority or protest parties before. With around 70% of Germans saying that they do not trust politicians – almost as many as in Britain – the mainstream parties are likely to be punished. And if distrust is running at 70%+ here then just imagine how much it must be in countries like Greece. So a big vote against the powers that be is likely. But then with our Euro version of democracy few senior politicians will actually loose their well-paid EU roles. So they can keep smiling all the way to a golden retirement …

Charity Begins At Home

Experience shows that the British press don’t always give out the right story. But today’s reports that our Chancellor of the Exchequer has jumped into the Ukrainian turmoil with “’We should be there with a chequebook to help the people of Ukraine rebuild their country” beggars belief – even if the reports were sensationalised.

Heckerslyke_160Now the ideal Chancellor would be someone who combined financial acumen with geopolitical awareness and a tight grip on all forms of public spending. But in this case Mr Osborne seems to have failed on all counts.

The fact that the UK has huge debts, cannot produce enough to stop the debt spiral deepening, already gives away excessive amounts to undeserving nations and spends billions on vanity projects are not indicators of a well managed economy. The Bank of England’s continued all-time low for interest rates shows that the UK is still in a dire financial situation.  And the fact that those of us not in Australia for a G20 meeting are facing wrecked homes and farms, broken rail links, pot-hole filled roads plus financial cutbacks causing closures of care homes, sports halls, libraries, etc just makes ill-considered offers of overseas handouts even more grotesque. It certainly hit a nerve on the comments sections with thousands supporting every critical message posted.

The gap between what the Chancellor allows to be spent and what he can actually afford is already too great. And this is despite the fact that even after retirement Grandads continue to pay so much in tax from their modest pensions. Add up the 20% VAT, 50% fuel duty and the multitude of taxes on our gas, electricity, telephone, TV viewing and even holiday flights to see how high everyone’s tax burden – on top of income tax and NI – has become.

But even if the UK was in a healthy financial position then offering an open chequebook to the Ukraine would still be bad economics. The country already has huge debts and a zero credit rating. Any money we send will never be seen again – and not help the country recover. Plus the prospect of a national breakup on ethnic, linguistic or east-west political lines is a real possibility. In an extreme scenario a NATO versus Russia military conflict could result.

So not the best time to be providing fuel for the fire bombs George. In fact there is never going to be a best time while the country whose economy you are charged with managing so badly needs some better management …

ps That country is the UK in case you forgot