Monday, 29 June 2009

YOU WHAT?



You couldn't make it up

I mean really you couldn't make it up.

For the first time ever the government pays out more in benefits than it receives in income tax

Thursday, 25 June 2009

FLUFFY

"The Observer On Sunday Magazine Section

Lost. Will to live. Answers to the name of Fluffy."

Juliette sets out why she hates the left, here

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

PENSIONS APARTHEID

Are you in your 30s?
Do you have a final salary pension?

Well you must be in a public sector job then.

The pensions apartheid continues to grow as the gap between public and private sector continues apace and the sums are frankly astonishing. As reported in the Telegraph:

"If a 25-year-old worker joined a defined contribution scheme — the kind used by most workers in the private sector — this year and paid in 2.7 per cent of a lifetime average salary of £50,000 a year, while their employer paid in 6.5 per cent, they would receive an annual pension of £16,023 from the age of 65.

"A 25 year-old on the same pay joining a final salary scheme — most typically found in the public sector — could expect to receive £57,714"

That's over £41k a year more.

Now I am not going to fall into the trap of saying public sector workers aren't tax payers but there are some things to consider-

1) Final salary schemes, good benefits etc were originally there to supplement rather poor wages in the public sector. However, this is no longer the case. In fact as recession bites, public sector pay is outstripping private pay for the first time. The Pensions Policy Institute puts average public sector salaries at £25,600 and those in the private sector at £25,300,

Between 1997 and 2006 we saw a 13% increase in public sector pay alone representing 12.4% of national income.

2) With one-in-five in public sector pay, this represents an annual bill of £16bn a year according to the PPI and £45bn a year according to the Policy Exchange - the MOD is given £35m a year to run the army!

Why an annual bill? Well one of the problems with the public sector pension schemes is that most are unfunded - that is the government, me and you pay the bill. Which leads us to the really scary figure

3) Public liability

In 2005 the liability stood at £600bn rising to £725bn in 2006.
Even on the Government’s own figures, in 2005-6, the interest paid on the unfunded liabilities
exceeded the interest paid on the National Debt for the first time.

According to the Policy Exchange, using the Government’s own calculations, the accumulated liability of unfunded public sector pensions schemes is estimated to be greater than the national debt. If proper financial methods are applied, the true figure is vast - £1.1 trillion, or equivalent to 78% of GDP.

These are truly frightening figures.

So as the private sector final salary pension goes to the wall, public sector pensions carry on going in their merry unfunded way.

But why?

I mean why should 76% of public sector workers get a gold plated pension compared with 17% - and shrinking - of private sector workers?

At least there was a funding requirement for most of the private sector pension schemes.

If companies that earnt the country billions of pounds of income cannot cope with the pressure of final salary schemes why can a sector, which by its nature spends the country's capital rather than generates, think it can carry on with high wages and high pensions?

That is where the pension apartheid comes from and for the sake of our wallets, this will have to be addressed.

One final word: What do you call a pension scheme with a few planes?

British Airways

UPDATE:
Must be a meme going on- John Redwood is examining the death of private sector final salary schemes

Monday, 22 June 2009

MINISTRY OF TRUTH



With all the troughing etc going on, a private members bill that would make it illegal for MPs to deliberately deceive the public has been given a fresh breath of life

"The bill was originally presented by Adam Price MP to the House of Commons in October 2007, but ran out of time on second hearing.

After the expense scandal, the coalition want to re-introduce the Bill because the expense fraud is just a small part of a much bigger problem. Currently MPs police themselves for deception. They can’t be held to account by anyone other than themselves." Ministry of Truth

Headed up by Dom Joly, the site can be found here and the blog here


QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES?


Fitwatch is an organisation that turns the table on the forwards intelligence teams of the police - those are the plod that video protestors and activists at demos.

Two of their members were arrested by West Yorkshire Police in 2008 for trying to get officer numbers which, as we have seen in London, have a habit of being covered up thus avoiding responsibility for their actions.

Ignore the climate protestors, Fitwatch are doing an admirable job in highlighting the surveillance and actions of police that appear to have gotten worse in the last few years and watch this video from the Guardian.

Hat Tip: The Ranting Penguin

tories amok prt 2

So Hague and Clark are at loggerheads over the Lisbon Treaty according to Peter Osborne.

Europe is a fault line that has blighted the Tories since the mid-80s.

Since the putsch of Margaret, Europe has become the rallying call for those who misremember Thatcher and how closely she put the UK within the EC. So an eeiry sight of a dogmatic Tory appeared.

To be honest this lot are chasing some kind of ideological purity in the way that the left pursued in the Labour party post-79. A purity that has never existed. These people would rather see a Labour victory than see a pragmatic Conservative party in power and it is those people that are betraying party traditions not the other way round.

Let me explain, since its creation the Conservative Party has had one ideology - power. That's it, nothing more. If being a one-nation Tory got them power, then that's what the party became. If it was Friedman and economic liberalism then that would do to.

I like pragmatic governments, those that are generally use any means to help the country, (and of course in turn help their party win elections). Blair was pragmatic, hell, Thatcher was one of the most pragmatic leaders the country ever had. Although in my opinion Thatcher would never run away from Parliament to argue what she thought was right (even when she was wrong).

Some would say that parties need to identify with their supporters. Well no not really. They need to identify with the 20% of floating voters that decide our elections. I think it's fair to say that this 20% were disgusted with the left ideology of the likes of Foot and the right ideology that infected Hague, the two Ians and Howard's campaigns.

That is why Cameron is consistently ahead in the polls, the latest Comres gives a Conservative majority of 104. People like the pragmatic young communicator, again much like they liked what they heard and saw with Blair.

Blair knew the importance of kicking the ideologues into touch, so does Cameron. Indeed, if bedblockers become a problem (see below) then it could give him that decisive Clause 4 moment to finally break perceptions of the Nasty-Europe-obsessed party and place the Tories back in the pragmatic bracket that led them to be called the "natural party of government".

And if they want to be true to their roots, some tories had better remember that.

tories amok

Well not really but since that letter complaining of Cameron's treatment of some in the party compared to his inner circle that old beast has started rumbling.

There is nothing such as loyalty as the Tory party - they do discontent so well!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Within two years Cameron will be a deeply unpopular PM says Tory peer

Well that got your attention.



I was at the Cartoon Museum last night to hear Lord Baker speak about the Maggie in cartoons exhibition he and Steve Bell are curating.

As Kenneth Baker, he was in Thatcher's government from 1980 and was her last Party chairman as PM.

Talking about the lowest point in Thatcher's first term of 1980, he added that "make no mistake, David Cameron will be deeply unpopular as prime minister within two years". Baker was comparing the similarities between 1980 and what will be 2012.

Cameron will have to make "some hard and deeply unpopular decisions" said Baker, as he seeks to "clear up the mess that Labour will leave...once again it is up to a Conservative government to do so."

Interestingly he said the situation now is not as bad as '79, still bad but not as bad.

Other nuggets included that he was an Obama-mite having signed up as a follower. Baker was being asked what he thought of blogging and replied that they were changing politics. Indeed, citing the Obama emails that he still gets from the Pres once a week, he said that the internet was a vital tool in campaigning and connecting with voters.

He also noted that Gordon Brown does not get blogging nor internet campaigning, noting that Gordo apparently reads all the comments on the No. 10 website at night, "No wonder he's so unhappy," the Lord quipped.

Baker is still a firm believer that Thatcher should have called the Cabinet in as one rather than individually in 1990. He commented that "if Brown had done the same as Mrs Thatcher, he would not be Prime Minister today".

All-in-all a highly enjoyable evening. Next Tuesday (unfortunately I cannot be there) is an art and music performance by caricaturist John Minnon.

On 1 July the inimitable Steve Bell will be having his take on three decades of drawing Thatcher. *I was told last night that there are very few tickets left for this*.

Final advert for the Cartoon Museum, if you're in town, go anyway. It's round the corner from the British Musuem and is well worth a vist!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

bloggers anonymous - not

So the excellent Nightjack is no longer to be anonymous. And the ruling will allow any other blogger's identity to be revealed if it is in the public interest. That hits soldiers, doctors, nurses, quite frankly anyone who is shining a light into the murky world of politics, public sector or business.

Leave aside that Nightjack is now closed, indeed his blog has completely been taken down and isn't archived.

Leave aside that he won the Orwell Prize

Leave aside that what seems to be a decent police officer will be in severe trouble for this.

Concentrate on what this means to bloggers...

Now you know who I am. I don't post anonymously, my website and contact details are on the right. This blog is for my opinions, not whistle-blowing. I do not indulge in such energetic postings like Leg Iron, Old Holborn or The Devil's Kitchen.

But there are valid reasons for anonymity. Public servants know what to expect if they whistleblow so decide to tell the world via blogging. Someone in the know, such as Paul Staines, want to publish the best gossip in Westminster and his original anonymity allowed this to happen (interestingly since his outing it has continued but I suspect this is because he had managed to build up his support under the guise of Guido Fawkes).

What this ruling will do is drive bloggers away. I suggest those that want to continue, should get themselves hosted in a foreign territory, preferably the US, since it is objecting to libel tourism in the UK battering free speech and is setting up counter-legislation.

Ironic isn't it that Mr Justice Eady made the Nightjack ruling. He is the judge that made a ruling in favour of Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker, who had sued Rachel Ehrenfeld, an American academic. That ruling "almost single- handedly launched the American freedom of speech backlash against UK libel laws"

Hat tip: Old Holborn



Sunday, 14 June 2009

why lie no 10 spokesman?

I mean it why? It seems absolutely pointless. I blogged below about No 10 denying that Michelle Obama had been in 10 Downing Street, denied that she had met Sarah Brown, so why has Reuters got this photo of er...Brown and Obama in the Number 10 garden on Monday?

It just seems such a pointless thing to wrongly brief on


Friday, 12 June 2009

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Smoking

Here's a tricky subject - smoking.

The anti-smoking brigade have continued apace in the years of NewLab. With their own work being paid for by the government - in effect being paid to lobby the government with its own money - they have gained the upper hand with bans in the workplace (not too bothered about that one tbh) to the pub smoking ban (I'll get back to that) and have no intention of stopping there.

Currently the Health Bill is being read in the House of Commons (2nd reading) after it passed the House of Lords. In this bill there is a section that bans display advertising in newsagents. I worked with the National Federation of Retailers and Newsagents about this subject and I have no doubt that this will be the death knell on the traditional corner shop, no doubt in favour of supermarkets. The fact this was sneaked in under a Health bill was dubious enough but why shouldn't retailers be able to sell a legal product openly? Why place more power in supermarkets' hands? Even Lord Mandy understands this and according to sources was urging his health colleagues to drop this clause right up to the 2nd reading in the House of Lords as he understands the cost to communities of losing this vital lifeline.

The anti brigade crowed when the smoking ban came in for pubs. Now, I quite like a smoke-free atmosphere - going to Madrid 8 months after the ban gave me a sore throat and a half with the smokey bars - but pubs are reporting trade down substantially and reportedly one pub shuts a week. Anecdotally there's yet to be hoards of non-smokers piling in for food as promised. Why didn't the government offer a choice? Say 25% of the population smoke, offer 25% of pubs in a licensing area smoking licences dependant on proper ventilation. Unfortunately, it seems yet another fine British tradition is going to fall unless something changes.

It is the bare faced cheek of anti-smokers that manages to put these messages out and continues to put them out. They tell us "Businesses won't suffer"? Tell that to working men's clubs or to pubs. Oh and the Germans think their ban is unconstitutional as well. They said at the time of the work-place ban: "We only want enclosed areas where people's health is an issue to be smoke-free." Really? Not in Birmingham.

Also there is the latest "fact" that smoking costs the NHS £5bn a year. Really? I'll leave it to better bloggers such as Leg Iron and Mark Wadsworth to fisk this bit of news but I will leave this topic with some stats from the the NHS; ONS and HRMC's own figures and ask a question -

At what point does taking away the freedoms of one person become aceptable and at what point does the taking away of the freedoms of an individual become the subjugation of an entire populus?

Interesting stats:

  • Treating illnesses and disease associated with smoking costs the NHS between £1.4bn and £1.5bn a year
  • Make your money through patches - Cost of Stop Smoking Services: £61m
  • £3bn is lost in revenue through tobacco smuggling
  • Since 1996 (just) duty on cigarettes has risen 70% around 93p a packet
  • Taking inflation into account and the rise in household income the cost of tobacco products has gone up by 143% making it 17% less affordable
  • Household expenditure on tobacco has more than trebled to £16.6bn despite volumes dropping since 1980

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

hmmm

So the No10 spokesman said that Michelle Obama did not meet Gordo or Sarah in Downing Street... so the US secret service just decided to use Downing Street as a rat run did they?

If this continues, they're gonna have put speed bumps in as my local council does.

Speaking of the Obamas - Do you get the feeling she would have been safer in a black cab, rather than the left-hand drive, lights ablazing calvacade?

getting a wiki-d education

So the Governator is to push Californian children online instead of traditional text books.

Welcome to the world where educational knowledge is dependent on who is editing wikipedia ; ) Actually you could make all politicians and military go on twitter and build an e-database that would rule out the need for pesky academics.

I don't think computers are the be-all-and-end-all that many think. The tech creep that says everything e-based is wonderful, is wrong. It is a tool, and like any tool is open for abuse. Just as Panorama managed to fool people into thinking spagetti grows on trees (TV was still fairly new, authorative, trustworthy) so people think wiki is first-base research resource, it is not.

Also if you have a library with internet, just look at what the kids are looking at - it aint academia.

Now, I love books, grew up with books but there is a tech way that does have the potential to reduce costs - don't doubt that this is primarily about cost...

Kindle or other e-readers could be the solution. Latest versions of textbooks can be uploaded with significant memory to have an entire academic library for a course.

As a result, costs come down and pupils get academic knowledge which is (hopefully) more fact-based than something on a website, or blog like this!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Pants

The Stoop saw 146 fat boys and slim turn up in their underpants to highlight male cancer and break the Guiness world record in the process.

Well done lads


I of course would have been there except for the banning order on my displaying my svelte body ;)

Crash

Most bloggers will be indulging in either shadenfraude, sheer glee or self-flagellation today over the euro-election results but there was news over the weekend which should concern sports followers

It seems that Setanta is more than likely to go into adminstration in the next ten days and the knock-on effects could be highly worrying indeed.

Football has morphed into a bloated entity with huge amounts of money being spent on players and clubs. With massive debts in top clubs, all monies being bought in are welcome. However, in eight days time, Sentanta is due to pay the remaining £35m to the Premiership League for telly rights. With only 1.2m subscribers it is clear that the £550mgamble hasn't worked.

The 54 in TW2 will be concerned at the latest turn of events as well. In December, the RFU sold the rights to nearly two-thirds of premiership games to Setanta. However, if there's no Setanta, rugby coverage will be severly reduced and the additional money that was promised to clubs will be gone.

In both cases rights will probably revert to the the two Premiership, however, in football the resell rights will probably be significantly less than the original price for 23 games. With Sky Sports probably restricted by competition rules, it means there are few players out there. ITV is stumbling along, painfully hit by the advertising recession and Channels 4&5 are unlikely to bid in their financial states either.

So who will bid for football rights? Well, I suspect that American firm ESPN will make a bid. The broadcaster is known to want football and this could be a bargain bucket way of getting its foot in the door. The implications for Sky could be large as ESPN has bigger pockets then Murdoch and the Premier league could look favourably on future bids.

In Rugby's case, this could not have come at a more difficult time. With clubs and the RFU finally, or should that be seemingly (?), calling a truce, a lot depended on the extra cash available to fund England prospects. So rugby faces the double hit of less coverage and less money - not a good place to be in a recession.

Will Sky pick up the rest of the package? Unlikely. It is refocussing its rugby coverage to the new Anglo-Welsh cup, Autumn internationals and European cups. Will anyone else bother? ITV is not renewing its higlights package and the BBC appears to hate Rugby Union (outside of BBC Wales) so the rights are up for grabs and as usual the supporter will lose out as well as the clubs.

And that is without mentioning the Celtic League!

hello world

I have an art blog but with all that is going on in the world I thought it maybe time to put down a few musings.

Hopefully I will cover finance, politics, rugby, whatever comes to mind really.

There maybe the occasional essay, or just a pithy line, let's see what happens...