Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tony Speaks

As the 100th British soldier dies in Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Blair expresses his regret but insists that the people of the region are crying out to be rid of extremists and embrace democracy. That'll be the election of Hamas then.....

Thursday, January 26, 2006

So Simon Comes Out

So Simon Hughes has finally admitted to having gay affairs. Normally I would say, so what? It makes no difference at all etc. However, I remember the role of the Liberal Party in the disgraceful homophobic campaign against Peter Tatchell in the Bermondsey by-election, where Hughes was victorious. Male Liberals with "I have Kissed Peter Tatchell" badges, females with "I have not Kissed Peter Tatchell". And all the time, their candidate was hidden in the closet.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Who Benefits?

The Government has announced changes to Invalidity Benefit. I am surprised that there seems to be little comment on the obvious fact that the standard rate of IB (after 28 weeks) is £68.20 rising to £76.45 after 52 weeks. The standard rate for Job Seekers Allowance is £56.20. So it is no surprise that the Government want to kick the sick off IB and onto JSA and save at least £12 per week - some 15%.

Anyone who has been through the system knows it is not as easy as many claim to be classed as unable to perform any work. I was kicked off IB shortly after being retired on medical grounds despite having a report from a Harley Street psychiatrist specialising in Occupational Health stating I was currently unfit for any form of work and permanently unfit for my job. The assessors thought I could probably manage a job such as stacking in a supermarket. I have represently people whose only ability was that they could stand and lost their cases on the grounds that they "could be a lift operator".

It is very difficult to get a job when you have physical and mental disabilities. The Job Centre is worse than useless. Al they have done for me is give me a reading, writing and arithmatic test - helpful to assess someone who has held a responsible post involving many writing skills etc. for many years. They then decided I must have undertaken office administration tasks in the past (I used to type (two fingered) my own letters....) so sent me for a stream of office administrators posts. Funnily, never got past the application stage.

Now, to a degree I don't care about my personal problems with the system. I only claim NI credit, no actual money at all. But if I did not have an decent pension, I could be in a system that would pay me an amount that would be totally inadequate for normal life or force me into a job that may well bring about a total mental collapse. And that is clearly what will happen to many people.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I know nothing...

It seems pretty clear that the Yanks have been flying people around the world to be tortured. Of course, the US Government denies it, but admits they carry out rendition.

Now our leaders have claimed they've never heard of it. But now it appears that The Foreign Secretary's Office and the Prime Minister's Office were well aware of the issue, but didn't tell their political masters.

So what are we to make of it all? People are flown around for questioning, despite there being a quite adequate facility at Guantanamo Bay- why? British politicians say they know even when their offices do. And anyway, at the end of the day Condoleezza Rice says its OK. So that's that then. Probably not!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Respect - what?

Going into the Big Brother House may seem like a pretty stupid idea for anyone, other than a Z-list has been who needs the money. For the leader of a political party (and a serving MP), it is pathetic. Gorgeous George has often shown poor judgement - grovelling to Saddam was a pretty daft thing to do - but pretending to be a cat removes any semblance of respect anyone could have for him.

Oddly, neither Respect or their bedfellows The SWP seem to have much to say about it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Over to you Voltaire

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council, is under police investigation. He has denounced homosexuality as harmful, he said: "It is not acceptable. Each of our faiths tells us that it is harmful and, I think, if you look into the scientific evidence that has been available in terms of the various forms of other illnesses and diseases that are there, surely it points out that where homosexuality is practised there is a greater concern in that area."

He is being investigated under either the telecommunications laws or the 1986 Public Order Act, which forbids the use of "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress or thereby".

Firstly, I must say I deplore Sir Iqbal's views. But should he be allowed to express such opinions? Part of me says of course he should or freedom of speech and views means nothing. However, what if it had been the BNP saying this? I object to giving them the "oxygen of publicity" and would prefer to see them silenced. Sounds like I'm in danger of being a bit hypocritical here! It will be interesting to see the left's response to this.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Compass Points to Money For????

2005 was apparently the "most difficult" year in the history of Compass, the largest catering company in the world. There were three profit warnings and a potential fraud scandal. So how was Chief Executive, Mike Bailey, held to account for this state of affairs? He was awarded more than £1 million in shares or options and his total pay packet was more than £1 million year to year. To add insult to injury for the shareholders, who have seen shares go from 550p in 2001 to under 250p now, he also received a boost of £1.4 million on his pension.

The Chairman, Sir Francis Mackay, got shares worth £730,000 on top of his "salary" of £546,000 and a pension top-up of £1 million.

A number of other board members also made huge sums of money. Source - The Guardian

Apparently, the payments were there as an incentive for managers.

Wonder what the workers got as an incentive. Ahh, here it is It has drawn up plans to cut benefits to pension scheme members.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What IS she talking about?

Following on with the theme of profound words from our polititions, thesed words of wisdom come from Radio 5 interview with Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, quoted in The Times:-

RUTH KELLY ON 5 LIVE YESTERDAY

Ruth Kelly: In 1998 we outlawed in primary legislation the ability to elect by academic ability.

Nicky Campbell: Yes, so schools will never be able to admit on academic ability . . . just on sporting ability and musical ability and other abilities? That makes no sense.

RK: If you say that 10 per cent, one in ten of . . . er . . . pupils at a school have some talent in sport of music or art . . . er . . . and then that the school builds up an expertise which it then shares and has to be able to share by sharing teachers and facilities and so forth with other neighbouring schools. I think people think that that is just sensible . . .

NC: What if 10 per cent have a particular ability in Latin and French and history — what is the difference?

RK: Well you know we’re talking about an 11 plus system . . .

NC: I didn’t mention the 11 plus at all.

RK: Well academic . . . er . . . selection by academic ability . . . er . . . generally is on a system that you either pass . . . er . . . or fail, that you are either seen as a success or written off as a failure. I think that is totally divisive, I would never want to go back to that sort of system, completely different to the Conservatives, who now say . . . er . . . that the main difference between them and us is that they want to see a . . . er . . . school able to select by academic ability. Instead what we are doing is saying that schools ought to play to their strengths . . .

Errr, right, that's all clear then.....

Friday, January 06, 2006

Value of Words

Listening to "Symphony of the Air" by Aaron Copland, I was struck by the timelessness of words of Abraham Lincoln that were being quoted. I thought to compare three quotes:-

  1. Abraham Lincoln - Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is; the tree is the real thing.

  2. George Bush - When Iraq is liberated, you will be treated, tried, and persecuted as a war criminal.

  3. Tony Blair - I never know, although I use the term myself occasionally, quite what people mean when they talk about multiculturalism.
And Lincoln didn't have a University education!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Here We Go Again?

There is something familiar about the large splash in the press about Iran's nuclear ambitions. Clearly, a country like Iran possessing a long-range nuclear capability is a worrying situation - although that is not to say that the USA, Israel, Russia, India, Pakistan having the same capability is not worrying! However, how will we know? The debacle over intelligence in Iraq casts a long shadow over my trust of the intelligence services.

What will be interesting to see is whether there will be a drip feed of nuclear/WMD stories about Iran. It is hard to see that public opinion is going to be swayed towards taking action against Iran. But a significant number of us did not support action against Iraq, even when presented with the "incontrovertable" evidence of WMDs, so whether public support means much remains to be seen.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Welcome to 2006

I suppose it will be an interesting year politically, but whether the people will benefit from it is another matter.

It appears that all the major party leaders are at odds with their own parties. Blair's worshipping of the market is alienating his backbenches. The boy Dave seems to have kept his backbenches together but his core support does not seem to sure. Melanie Phillips in The Daily Mail bemoans "This leaves millions of natural conservatives effectively disenfranchised...." And poor Charlie seems to have every Lib-Dem trying to put a knife in his back.

Where that leaves us (us being what is usually called the "loony left" i.e. the people who kept the hope of socialism alive during Thatcher's reign of terror) I am not sure - the bizarre coalition of the SWP and George Galloway? And... well that's about it!