Monday, 27 February 2012


When David Cameron made Emma Harrison a 'Tsar' (I wish they wouldn't use that word; it is the name for a supreme ruler in Slavic Europe, not someone who does some work in England in return for an eventual seat in the Lords), he knew nothing about the fact that her company had been, and was still being, investigated for various frauds from the public purse.

So he appointed her to a high level advisory role, where she, in her own words, 'popped in and out of number 10', without checking on her at all. But that's not surprising. He took on Andy Coulson as a paid member of staff without checking on his background either.

The Department of Work and Pensions did know about her fraud cases, and yet, despite her expertise being in the realms of the DWP's remit, Cameron seems not to have asked Iain Duncan Smith for his input.

However, it probably wouldn't have made any difference, because despite knowing about the alleged fraud, the DWP awarded yet another contract, worth nearly half a billion pounds to A4E.

Does anyone do any background checks on anyone in the London government? And if they do, do they ever pay any attention to them?

Sunday, 26 February 2012


We've heard a lot recently about how much fiddling goes on in the benefits system. 

Since the days of Peter Lilley and his song and dance routine about having a little list, like Gilbert and Sullivan's KoKo, and how he was going to get all these people off said list, we have been demonizing people who claim benefits, without stopping to think about why some of them are claiming.

Politicians from the Tory camp to the Labour camp and now the Liberals have taken pleasure in carping about scroungers. And that's fair enough, because there are scroungers out there. Some of us will know someone who should be working but isn't trying, but that doesn't mean that all or even most of the people who are claiming unemployment benefits of some sort are scrounging.

And it's surprising how many people immediately assume that if you're on the dole you must be swinging the lead, until they, or their son, or niece or grandson is thrown out of work. Then of course, it's a different story and there are, suddenly and mysteriously, no jobs.

Horribly now there is evidence that disabled people, some even in wheelchairs and on sticks are being taunted with the "scrounger" label as they struggle to get on buses or do their shopping. And yes, once again there are people who are fiddling the country, but they are damned few.

A report by the Department of Work and Pensions which looks at overpayments and fraud in the benefits system shows that a very small amount of the benefit that is claimed is actually fraudulent.

The report is for 2010-11 and shows the following:
  • 0.8% of benefit spending is overpaid due to fraud, amounting to £1.2 billion;
  • This proportion is the same as in 2009/10.
Estimates for different benefits are:
  • Retirement Pension 0.0%;
  • Incapacity Benefit 0.3%;
  • Disability Living Allowance 0.5%;
  • Council Tax Benefit 1.3%;
  • Housing Benefit 1.4%;
  • Pension Credit 1.6%;
  • Income Support 2.8%;
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance 3.4%;
  • Carer’s Allowance 3.9%.
Of all the benefits, retirement pension has virtually no fraud, simply because you have to be over 65 to get it if you are a man, and over 61 if you are a woman. (Incidentally, so much for equality. Can you just imagine the hoo haa if it were the other way round?)

After that you have tiny amounts of Incapacity and DLA which are misclaimed. I'll lay money that the Incapacity Benefit fraud is almost always someone who HAS been ill but is now better, not volunteering that information immediately to DWP, and that the DLA fraud is almost all in the free cars given to the most disabled people on the highest level of help, and which are frequently used by other members of the family for their own use.
I'm happy that the government is looking into that fraud, but these figures (remember they are DWP, or government figures) show that 99.7% of Incapacity Benefit claims are genuine, and 99.5% of DLA are genuine. It seems a pity to be encouraging the nurses at ATOS to take genuinely ill people off these benefits, does it not, and it also seems rather unreasonable to tar everyone with a disability as a scrounger when such a great proportion of them are clearly not...(and all to save money because the bankers and the politicians made, and continue to make, a cock up of running the country).

It might be worth remembering too that most of the people in receipt of benefits have paid into National Insurance all their working lives in order to get benefits when something goes wrong in their lives...unlike MPs and Lords who simply fiddled their expenses because they thought they were worth more, and they were sure they would never be found out.

Saturday, 25 February 2012


According to The Sun (on Friday) mr Rupert Murdoch went on Twitter personally (gasp) to announce that the Sun on Saturday will sell for 50p, as will the fantastic new news of the World, no what am I thinking of, Sun on Sunday.

So there. Two pieces of the finest journalism you'll see, and not a single mobile tapped either, all for a quid!

According to the newspaper, it's readers are almost going out of their minds with excitement. Reader Joseph2011 went on the website to say, "Absolutely great value weekends as well as weekdays", just as if he worked for a publicity company. And reader Gavin Dowdall observed, "50p, that's cheap!" Not to mention c73 who said, "Fantastic, and worth every penny; cannot wait", just as if somehow, mysteriously, he knew what was going to be in it. 

There are new columnists in the character of Terry Venables, for English football lovers, Lorraine Kelly for all us Scots Fowks, Alex James, for people who like cheese, and for those that like that sort of thing there is that sort of thing in abundance in the form of Jeremy Clarkson.

Alex James
Who could ask for more?

It remains to be seen whether the Sun will be coming out for independence. 

I was inclined to disagree with the Scottish Liberal leader when he said that Murdoch's endorsement was the last thing that any politician wants. 

Whether papers' opinions have any great sway with the public, I really don't know. There's the example of my home town  going back many many years, with The Courier, The Evening Telegraph, The Sunday Post and The Weekly News, (and the now defunct The People's Journal), all staunchly Tory, and heavily read in the Dundee area. And yet Dundonians virtually always returned a Labour council and Labour MPs. It's only in the recent past that that has changed, and even then, not to our newspapers' beloved Tories, but to the SNP!

The truth of the matter is, I think, that Murdoch likes to back winners. He sees independence as a winner and doesn't want to be on the wrong side. If his support doesn't do us any good, it certainly won't do us any harm.

As for Willie Rennie, I suspect that had The Scottish Sun on Sunday indicated that it was going to come out for him, he'd have been doing cartwheels all the way to wherever it is that Liberals cartwheel!

Thursday, 23 February 2012


"British Gas would do better to focus more on being energy experts not experts in making a quick buck at the expense of the British people. We get gigantic gas and electric bills, they get gigantic profits, this has got to stop. We urgently need the Government to intervene and impose a levy on the big six energy firms to help people with their bills, coupled with an independent public inquiry into energy just like we've had for banking and the media." Gavin Hayes, General Secretary, Compass.  He's not really wrong, is he?

Mr Cameron has said Britain will find another £51m for aid to refugees fleeing from Somalia to Kenya and Ethiopia. Clearly he has become a great expert on Somalia (which is a relief as he seems to be expert at nothing else), because he is claiming that Somalia is 'within reach" of a new political process. Unlike some, I have no problem with us being generous to those who have it far harder than we can even begin to understand, but I wish the government were a little more understanding of the plight of some Britons. The trouble is that the world's press isn't showing any interest when we are talking about some of the welfare reforms. As for his analysis of the Somali situation? Any takers?

Oh dear, oh dear. Another of Cameron's close aids, Emma Harrison, has had to resign from her Tzar post, as her company, A4e, is being investigated for "systematically" defrauding the government (yes, the same government she was advising about family). And only a few weeks ago she happily boasted that she was "in and out" of Downing Street. Only 'out' now I'd think Emma sweetie. Pity. That seat in the HoL was only weeks away.
In yet more embarrassment for Cameron, the Royal College of Paediatricians and Health Care, one of the Royal Colleges that was in favour of his privatisation plans for the NHS in England, and as a result was invited to the "nodding heads" summit at Downing Street this week, has changed its mind partly as a result of that very summit. Cameron apparently made it clear to the attendees (all his buddies), that he will push ahead with the changes regardless of the opposition. The college's chairman, Professor Terence Stephenson, has explained that this is impracticable. For the changes to work, the government must take the clinicians along with them. That's not Cameron's style though. Another example of bully boy Flashman tactics when he thought he was among friends.
"Put a young person into college for a month's learning, unpaid – and it's hailed as a good thing. Put a young person into a supermarket for a month's learning, unpaid – and it's slammed as slave labour." So says Cameron. But you see, Mr Cameron, there is a difference. In a college there is a real chance they will learn something; whereas in Tesco's they will provide the company with cheap labour so that they can make more profit by not employing someone. Simples! And as Tesco are now offering paid placements in the same way as they were previously offering unpaid placements, I think we can call it "job done". Cameron says he is sick of the anti-business culture. I say, who the hell cares what he's sick of?
The Royal Bank has lost a fearsome £2 billion this year. It's staff are getting almost half of that (785 million) in bonuses. On the same day, the English have announced that there will be a pay freeze in council wages, for the third year running. Now, I can understand that there's no money for pay rises for council staff, but when your wage has been frozen for three years and inflation has been running at 3-6% according to official figures, then you have got seriously poorer in that time. Imagine then, if you will, that a company, almost entirely owned by the tax payer, which made £2 billion of a loss, is paying out getting on for a billion in bonuses, never mind the pay rises... well!!!! Add that to an international sporting competition costing £25 billion going down in the middle of the summer, and I'd say you were begging for BIG trouble.
Talking of Olympics, have you seen the stamps? There is just no way on Earth I will pay whatever it is to put an advertisement for this festival of wealth on my letters. I trust Scottish stamps will continue to be available for the duration.


The Hon Eric Joyce MP has proved to be rather dis honourable.

Last night, in a Commons bar, in front of a delegation from the Canadian parliament, led by its Speaker, he (allegedly) got into a drunken rage, and started head-butting and hitting his fellow MPs, Tory and Labour alike. Among his victims were a Tory MP, Stuart Andrew, and a whip from his own party.

It appears that he was disconcerted that, when he stotted* in to the bar, he found it full of Tories! Poor thug, I mean, thing.

Given that there are more Tories than any other party in London's parliament, it’s not entirely surprising that a bar in that parliament would have a fair number of them (also given that they serve cheap booze, subsidised by us).

Actually I've never quite understood why the House of Commons (or Lords for that matter) has a bar, never mind several bars, never mind several subsidised bars. 

Most places of work don't.

If ever there was a good reason to stop this needless expense (seeing as we are all in it together) it is now. When a tiny minority of football fans proved that they couldn't behave responsibly with drink at matches, it was banned. Now is the perfect time to take it away from MPs, who clearly aren't able to behave with it.

As for Mr Joyce, he has been suspended by the Labour party (well done to them for acting quickly on this) and Mr Andrew is going to press charges (well done to him.

Not much of a future then, Eric?

*Scots for "staggered".

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


The Daily Record has a none too flattering thumbnail of Michael Forsyth which goes as follows:

"MICHAEL Forsyth was the Tory government’s enforcer at the Scotland Office during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
"The MP for Stirling was Thatcher’s under-secretary of state before being made secretary of state by John Major.
"During his reign, the right-winger grabbed every chance to offend the natural instincts of Scots by bashing the public sector and attacking the most vulnerable in society.
"He left the Scottish Office in 1992 – and when he returned three years later, the Record portrayed him as Freddy Krueger in a nightmare comeback.
"He campaigned against the Scottish Parliament and lost every single Tory seat north of the border in 1997. He was knighted in 1997 and appointed to the Lords in 1999."
Just when people were managing to erase his image from their memories, Forsyth has recently re-emerged from the dusty recesses of the upper chamber in London, to do his inadequate best to frustrate discussions on further devolution or independence, despite the penultimate sentence in the profile, and against all the trends shown in opinion polls, including the Scottish general election.
And now, just to show how good for the independence cause Cameron's visit to Scotland last week was, he has come out with all guns blazing at his leader. Mr Cameron has "lit the touch paper for devolution-max". He says, probably quite rightly (Tris shakes head and pinches self...did I use 'Forsyth' and 'quite rightly' in the same article?), that he has given the First Minister the opportunity to push for more clarity about what he means.
It struck me, as soon as Cameron said it, that it was what all his followers must have dreaded. Unionists have been demanding that the SNP explain more about a wide range of situations after independence, not least defence, division of the horrific debt that the UK has stoked up, embassies, currency... Fair enough too. People need to know what they are voting FOR. 
Until now, they knew what they would get if they voted "no". Simply, more of the unpalatable same. Now, having said something along the lines of "If you vote no, we'll give you a little something extra; we're not going to tell you what. It could be fiscal independence, or it could be the right to increase the fines for late-back library books", Cameron has put the boot on the other foot. 
Forsyth also pointed out that Cameron's "promise" of some jam tomorrow (even without the indication of how much jam) had left their Scottish leader on the back foot. She campaigned for the leadership of the Tory's Scottish branch, and won, on a ticket that after the passage of the Scotland Bill, there was to be a line in the sand. No more devolution, ever. Cameron in his Flashman at his best way, has driven a coach and six through her leadership pledge. She either has to go back on that, or disagree with her London boss.
But why would Cameron care?
Incidentally, it's a thought that, if Scotland became independent, Forsyth would lose his seat in the House of lords. He might or might not be able to retain his many titles "RT Hon", "Sir", "Lord", but how utterly meaningless would they be if he was unable to take part in his beloved London debates? And a further though, having backed all the wrong horses, failed at being Scottish Secretary, lost every single Scottish Tory seat, why in the name of goodness was this man knighted and then ennobled? 
And politicians object to industry rewarding failure?!?!?
I'm obliged (as I so often am) to CH bringing Murdoch's tweet to my attention. It seems the Dirty Digger (as Private Eye calls him) says that  Scotland and England would be better off apart. He also thinks that Salmond is the best politician in the UK. Now in the normal run of things no one would be in the least interested what an octogenarian Aussi-American thinks about this, but the fact that he owns and controls (even more now) the best selling Scottish newspaper, makes for an altogether different box of chocolates. 
Willie Rennie is wrong to say that an endorsement from Murdoch is the last thing a politician wants right now. The Scottish Sun still sells more copies than any other newspaper (314,000 to the Record's 275,000) and the Times, (another 20,000). Only a fool would think that The Scottish Sun had ceased to have huge influence, whatever its problems with phone hacking. And with a new Sunday Sun, that influence is set to stretch itself over 7 days.  I suspect that if Rupert Murdoch had come out for the Scottish Liberals, Mr Rennie would have been Waltzing Matilda!

Monday, 20 February 2012


For some strange reason an English Energy minister blokey called Charles Hendry, who is a Sussex MP, made a speech in Edinburgh, telling us that we are too wee, too stupid and too poor to manage to develop our own renewable energy business. We will need English investment to get it up and running, and English customers to buy the electricity. So he's yet another minister who thinks that, when Scotland becomes independent no one will want to invest in it. Idiot. Has he heard that his own prime minister has just signed up with the French to build nuclear power stations in England? That will be the FRENCH... Does he know anything about cross border co-operation? Our own Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, has dismissed his claims. Quite right too. I hope we're not going to get a succession of these people coming up to visit porridge factories and telling us how useless we are. No, upon reflection I hope we are.

Lansley, the English health minister was heckled as he made his way into Downing Street for the summit on England's NHS...well, the summit with the few parts of the organisation that are actually not against his proposals. He was called a liar and the words "shame" and "traitor" could be heard. I hope poor old Lansley has set up himself something for the future, because I can't see cabinet minister being a long term career for him. That said, the way that Cameron has made it clear he will push the health bill through, no matter what, it could be that it will be the end of both of them. Oh well, any number of cheesy PR men around. They will be easily replaced.

Talking of health, it seems that Mark Simmonds MP has been obliged to apologising for forgetting, when making a speech in favour of the health reforms, that he is paid £50,000 a year as an advisor to Circle Healthcare, one of the companies that may bid for contracts in the wake of said reforms. It's easily done; £50,000 is such a piddling little sum that one is unlikely to recall it, just like maybe someone on JSA would forget that they got £10 for cutting the neighbour's lawn...only different clearly, in that Mr Simmonds is an important person who will get away with this, whereas...

The government in London is calling up reservists to help police the Olympic games in July, August of this year. They have doubled the security budget to over half a billion of our money...well, of money borrowed from some place and now more than 13,000 military staff will be involved in protecting the games. Good use of money at a time when we are penniless, don't you think?


Sunday, 19 February 2012


Winnie Ewing is now 83 and looking forward to the referendum in 2014 but has  in the wake of Mr Cameron's speech in Edinburgh, warned against empty Tory promises.
She said:

"When I heard David Cameron say last week that if people voted No to independence in the referendum, then he would deliver more powers for Scotland, my mind went back immediately to the scandal of 1979 when Scotland was cheated out of a parliament.

"In February 1979, just days before the devolution referendum, former Conservative Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home told Scots that if they voted against the assembly then on offer, a future Tory Government would deliver a better scheme.  And we know fine what happened. 
“Scotland actually did vote Yes - though not in sufficient numbers because of the infamous 40 per cent rule - but we didn't get a parliament.  Instead, we got Margaret Thatcher - and 18 long years of a Tory government Scotland didn't vote for.
"I was a very good friend of Alec Douglas-Home. I would meet him when we were both MPs, on the Terrace of the House of Commons in the morning, where we would both draft our speeches to be made later in the day. We would often exchange jokes that we would include in Burns Supper speeches. 
“It was on one of these informal occasions that he once said to me: 'Winnie, I am a nationalist in my heart but not my head'. I remember that I replied to him quoting Burns: 'The herts aye the pert that aye maks us richt or wrang'. So we got on very well. And, therefore, I am sure that he himself was sincere at the time when he made this promise to Scotland, to deliver a better Bill. But of course the promise was never fulfilled by the Tories, and unfortunately Alec's name will forever be associated with this breach of faith by his party.
"So let's not have a repeat of history, and not be gulled by empty promises from David Cameron.

"When Alex Salmond comes forward with the referendum in autumn 2014, grab with both hands the opportunity for Scotland to become an equal and independent nation.  Alec Douglas-Home offered Scotland "jam tomorrow" in 1979 - and we got 18 wasted years.

"Scotland has another opportunity to take a step forward - and I'd advise the people of Scotland to trust themselves, not Mr Cameron."

Saturday, 18 February 2012



A few weeks ago the UK government warned that if Scotland were to break away from the UK, Spain would veto its membership of the European Union.  It provoked a furious rebuttal from the Spanish foreign ministry. (The argument about whether Scotland would want to join the EU, or indeed would NEED to join the EU aside.)

And now the UK government has managed to leave Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, off the list of invitees to be part of a delegation to the Vatican, whilst inviting the senior Cardinal in England, Vincent Nichols. 

When asked about what was a slight, both to Cardinal O'Brien and Scotland, the response of the UK government was to blame the Vatican, which was, they said, responsible for the invitations. 

The response from the Vatican was that this was untrue; it was the UK responsibility to decide upon the members of their delegation. Sayeeda Warsi who led the British, English group clearly forgot to tell Michael Moore, our man in England, that it was a British delegation. 

Warsi might not have known that there was a separate management structure for the Church  in Scotland, but the FCO, under whose auspices the trip to a foreign state comes, should have known.

Why do they lie about these things?

So much for all that sob story sentimental twaddle from the prime minister about Scotland being sooooo important to the UK.

Talking of which, Cameron came up to Edinburgh, and after his visit to a porridge factory... (I mean, talk about patronising. You can just see his English audience in the Home Counties laughing at that one; "It's all they make, darling, that and whisky. It's their staple diet, don't you know"...) he went to  a room with a view of the Castle... which was also a bit twee, and made a speech, during which he stood behind a lectern (presumably his), which sported the coat of arms of the Queen: The Queen of England that is. The Queen of Scots maybe the same person, but the coat of arms is different, as it would have to be, and as a PM or as an ex-PR, he should have known.

Sloppy, innit?

There are some great articles analysing the visit of his prime ministerness to our shores. If you want a cleverer analysis that you can hope to get from me, can I suggest James's article at Scot Goes Pop, Stephens's at SNmr, and for a good laugh and some serious stuff, Auldaquaintance.

Friday, 17 February 2012


The BBC seems to have nailed its colours to the mast by affording Alex Salmond a mere mention and David Cameron a line by line analysis of their pro and anti independence speeches on its radio coverage yesterday. 
So, as I don’t have any of Alex’s thoughts, I’ll have to continue where Auntie left off by commenting on the wise words of the great leader from London.

Lack of space allows no in depth or breadth analysis, only some brief thoughts. So... vacuous, insulting, patronising, and assemblage of pap, sums it up. Deigned to impress the shallower thinkers in the Downing Street village which he inhabits as prince, but surely unfit for anyone who understands Scottish politics, unionist or independence.  I can imagine the “that’ll make the Jock blighters sit up and take notice” brigade, patting him on the back in a genuine admiration, redolent of all that is wrong with the union, in that most of all that doesn’t matter to us.

The “better off together... stronger, count for more, permanent seat on UN Security Council, clout in NATO, Europe, unique influence with allies all over the world” bit was typical. Apart from the fact that it wasn’t true (we only have influence when we agree with America and ‘clot’ rather than ‘clout’ would be more appropriate in relation to Europe), there would have been a lot of “so whats?” heard in Scotland.   

“Safer, because we have the fourth-largest defence budget on the planet”... but we also have, for example, more people die of the cold in the winter than any other country in Europe. Fur coat and no knickers is an unfortunate analogy. “Anti-terrorist and security capabilities across the globe; feared by our enemies, admired by our friends.” But at what cost, and in any case do we, are we...really?

“It matters head, heart and soul; shared home under threat.”  Well Dave, it’s not our shared home when we contribute a few billions to your Olympics and you don’t contribute to our Commonwealth Games.

And of course, as if we were all morons, he couldn’t help getting in the bit that he really cares about: “there are arguments that can be made about the volatility of dependence on oil, or the problems of debt and a big banking system. But that’s not the point.” he warbled. Well, if it’s not the point, why mention it?

“The best case for the United Kingdom is entirely positive. We are better off together. Why? Well, first of all, let’s be practical (oh yes, let's). Inside the United Kingdom, Scotland is stronger, safer, richer and fairer.” OK, we have heard why Scotland is stronger. An unhealthy amount on spent on defence. But I’m betting that that probably makes us less safe, on the basis that we are a target.

But the best adjectives are “richer and fairer”. Say them fast then they sound comforting and warm. If you say them slow...well... they don’t stand up to any kind of analysis.

Let’s just take a few words from earlier in the speech. ‘The fourth largest defence budget in the world’ ...that would be just behind America, China and Russia. Just where you would expect us to fit, given that we are a small island off the coast of Europe.

So, let’s just suppose for a minute that we spent that massive budget on something that would actually help people, an amount appropriate to our size and wealth on defence? Let’s just suppose that we didn't let, for example, our pensioners live on less than half of the poverty threshold, or make cancer sufferers, on chemotherapy, go through the stress of job search interviews... etc, etc. That might be a bit fairer. 

Petty? Maybe, but, you see, to millions of Scots that's what matters. Not Dave's imagined clout, or the fact that our army could invade Mars (if only it had some equipment that worked and when the wounded came back they didn't depend on charity to help them recover). 

What matters in Westminster, isn't necessarily what matters here.

Know thine enemy, Dave, might be a maxim you could ponder. Not that we are, of course, your enemy, unless you make us one; but for now we are your opponents. 

I wonder how many more members joined the SNP today...             

Thursday, 16 February 2012


It seems that our clever London government has found a way to improve the youth unemployment figures.

That nice Mr Grayling  came up with this little wrinkle last year, without giving it much publicity. Why so little fuss around a clever government initiative to get people back to work, you might ask. 

Well the answer is that this is actually a way of getting people to work for virtually nothing*. As the Jobcentre advertisement shows this permanent job on night shift is paid at JSA plus expenses.

And this work without pay is compulsory. If you are sent for an interview, and the company is prepared to accept you, you must work for Tesco (or any of the other companies participating in this project**) for your Job Seekers' Allowance, plus expenses, alongside other members of staff, who are being paid. If you refuse to do that, you lose your benefits for 13 weeks.

Now I, of all people, am keen to get people into work, and I'm not averse to people gaining experience and gathering new skills. Volunteering, or taking some sort of low paid job with training in new skills is a good way of beefing out a cv and making yourself more appealing to an employer.

But if Tesco has vacancies for night shift workers, or any other vacancies, why do they not advertise them normally, and pay people at the normal rate to do them?

Because, you might reply, this is aimed at people who have no experience in work and need to be given that experience before they deserve to be paid? 

No. I don't think so. Many of the night shift jobs involve filling shelves. Just how much work experience do you need to do that? And once you have gained some experience in the shopyou can easily be moved onto a customer facing job.

Sixteen years ago, when I was starting out working with unemployed people, politicians were arguing about the evils of a minimum wage and how it would ruin business in the UK, and a more experienced colleague foresaw that the one day a government would come up with a system of forcing the unemployed into working for nothing as a way of ridding themselves of this embarrassment.

Trust this government to be the one.

* JSA is not 'nothing'. In fact it is around £67 a week. I don't know exactly what night shift workers at Tesco are paid, but it is over the minimum wage, plus a premium (1.5x) after 10pm. I image that if this job is filled by someone over 21 (there is a limitation of night shift work under 18), they could only work around 7 hours before they were operating at a loss.

** Companies participating in this free labour scheme include:
Tesco, Sainsbury's, Argos, Asda, Maplin, TK Maxx,
Matalan, Primark, Holland & Barrett, Boots, McDonald's, Burger
King, Poundland and the Arcadia group which includes Miss
Sellfridge, Topshop, Burton, Dorothy Perkins. BHS, Evans, Topman,
Wallis and Outfit there's a surprise!!!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


The message today from Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of Britain England is that he can do nothing to help savers, who are receiving interest at far less than the rate of inflation, and effectively losing money at around 3 or 4% per year. 
Nor can he help people who have saved all their lives for a pension and now find that their savings buy a derisory annuity; just enough to put them beyond the levels at which the state will help them. In short just above the level at which the state believes that you would starve or freeze to death without help.

He says that he understands the plight of people approaching retirement age who will get their pittance after a life of saving, but you have to ask yourself in what way Mr King can begin to understand or feel the pain. After all he won't have to buy himself an annuity. His salary is over £300,000 per annum and, although I cannot find any details of his pension, I have discovered that the deputy governors have funds between £2 and 3 million. 

“All groups in society are suffering from the financial crisis,” Mervyn said, insisting that there can be no special help for particular groups. “Difficult though it is, we have to make a difficult judgement about the right course of action for the economy as a whole”, says Mr King.

Well, I don't see Mr King suffering much from the financial crisis, for which the banks are largely responsible, and I can't imagine how he can put himself in the place of a 65 year old with a pension pot of £70,000 and a future of financial insecurity. 
So his difficult decisions won't be hurting him. And chucking another £50 billion at the banks won't make a great deal of difference to the economy as a whole, anyway. It will probably remain in their vaults, helping to pay for bonuses and salaries way beyond anything that is reasonable.

If the Bank of Britain England can create that much money, why not pump it in to the REAL economy, and create jobs putting in place an infrastructure that will be there for the happy day when the economy turns the corner?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Monday, 13 February 2012


The First Minister and the Secretary of State have agreed to meet again once the respective consultations have been completed. Scotland has already had thousands of responses to its consultation. I image that the SoS has to his.

It's not often, away from election time, that people in government are much interested in anything we think. If these two are seriously going to listen to what we have to say, then I think it is even more important to get something in to them as quickly as we can. 

If they do not know how the people feel they are won't be able to respond to it.

It's up to us to play our part.

Oldies but goldies....

A man was walking in the streets of London one night. All of a sudden a mugger sticks a gun in his ribs and says. Give me all your money.

He replied, "Do you realize I am an important member of parliament?" The robber said, "In that case give me all my money!"
A man and a friend are playing golf one day at their local golf course. One of the guys is about to chip onto the green when he sees a long funeral procession on the road next to the course. He stops in mid-swing, takes off his golf cap, closes his eyes, and bows down in prayer. 
His friend says: “Wow, that is the most thoughtful and touching thing I have ever seen. You truly are a kind man.” 
The man then replies: “Yeah, well we were married 35 years.”  
This woman rushed to see her doctor, looking very much worried and all strung out. She rattles off: “Doctor, take a look at me. When I woke up this morning, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw my hair all wiry and frazzled up, my skin was all wrinkled and pasty, my eyes were bloodshot and bugging out, and I had this corpse-like look on my face! What's WRONG with me, Doctor!?
The doctor looks her over for a couple of minutes, and then calmly says: “Well, I can tell you that there’s nothing wrong with your eyesight....”  
Why do ducks have webbed feet?

To stamp out fires.
Why do elephants have flat feet?

To stamp out burning ducks
A little boy goes to his dad and asks: "What is politics?"

Dad says, "Well son, let me try to explain it this way: I'm the breadwinner of the family, so let's call me capitalism. Your Mom, she's the administrator of the money, so we'll call her the Government. We're here to take care of your needs, so we'll call you the people. The nanny, we'll consider her the Working Class. And your baby brother, we'll call him the Future. Now, think about that and see if that makes sense,"

So the little boy goes off to bed thinking about what dad had said. Later that night, he hears his baby brother crying, so he gets up to check on him. He finds that the baby has severely soiled his diaper. So the little boy goes to his parents' room and finds his mother sound asleep. Not wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny's room. Finding the door locked, he peeks in the keyhole and sees his father in bed with the nanny. 

He gives up and goes back to bed. 

The next morning, the little boy says to his father, "Dad, I think I Understand the concept of politics now." The father says, "Good son, tell me in your own words what you think politics is all about." The little boy replies, "Well, while Capitalism is screwing the Working Class, the Government is sound asleep, the People are being ignored and the Future is in deep shit."

Sunday, 12 February 2012


The ramifications of the situation at Bideford have started to be felt all over England, as councils and other organisations reflect on the ruling of the High Court that it is illegal to include prayers in the official business of the meetings of local councils.

In this case, the first item on the agenda was a CofE Christian prayer. If you were not a Christian, or didn’t want to take part for any other reason (there are lots of different kinds of Christians, some pretty much at war with others) then you had a choice: put up with it, or turn up late for the meeting.

Now it is reported that in the Commons, where the chaplain (presumably a functionary paid for out of taxes) says prayers before the start of each session, Speaker Bercow (both left), has said that the ruling will not affect them, as they are covered by the English Bill of Rights.

However, some parliamentarians are questioning this. They say that although they are not obliged to attend for the prayers... in short they, unlike the councillors, are not marked “late” if they are not in place at the session’s start, if they want a seat, they have to turn up early to guarantee that they will be able to sit. (This is one of the problems of having a chamber which is too small for the number of MPs sent to it: a problem that I for one would be happy to solve for them, by stopping sending any MPs from Scotland!)

Some MPs make a protest by taking their seats and remaining seated during the prayers when the Christians stand to pray. They urge that prayers be moved to somewhere they think more appropriate, like for example the parliamentary Chapel: not an unreasonable place given that that is what it is for, and it might as well get some use, seeing as we pay for it out of tax money.

Somewhat surprisingly one of the champions of Church of England prayers is Nadine Dorries (right).  That’s the Nadine with the dubious record on expenses, and who fiddled her money on a tvprogramme about living on the dole, and who later ran off with a married man... her friend's husband, actually.

I suspect that the good lord might have been just as happy if Mad Nad were on the other side of this particular argument.

It seems only sensible to me that no one should be expected, on a regular basis, to take part in religious observances with which they have no sympathy. It should not be a part of their job.  Christians themselves have taken strong stands on this very matter. Was not James McKay (below left) expelled from the Free Church of Scotland, after attending the Roman Catholic funerals of two colleagues? And did not the Rev Iain Paisley not scream “Antichrist” as the Pope was saying a few words of prayer in the European parliament?

Religion has for too long been a part of the state. It should not be. States cannot have religion. Religion is an intensely personal thing. It is a faith; a belief. It has to be interpreted by the individual.  By what it says to him or her, how it informs and directs his or her life. And it can only ever be respected if it is not forced upon people.

The UK state religion is Church of England, with a concession that in Scotland it is the Church of Scotland.  What nonsense that is. How can the Queen and her family be members of both? And why do politicians like Jim Murphy feel that before they even start, they have no chance of prime ministership because they are Catholic?  Why can’t any of the royals marry a catholic?

This is the 21st century. Religion should now be put back where it belongs: in the personal life of the individual. To do otherwise is to mock religion; to use god as a tool of the state.