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Archive for November, 2021

Is the Amazon ban on Credit Cards running Visa a sign that the online ‘marketplace’ we all love is now beginning to abuse the privilege and responsibility of having so much retail power?

November 18, 2021 Leave a comment

I’ve literally just clicked ‘Order’ on a number of different items from my Amazon Account. It’s easy to use, the Prime service feels like ridiculous value with all the TV options as well as the FREE next day delivery service thrown in. And I can get many repeat items at prices that make shopping for them elsewhere seem like madness when I can make all of these purchases by using my Credit Card too.

Or rather it did. That is until I had a very matter-of-fact e-mail from Amazon yesterday morning, that explained I will no longer be able to use my Credit Card that operates under the VISA system on the Amazon website from January 19th.

Like many others I’m sure, it was very easy to immediately start thinking about how reasonable Amazon must have been and how equally unreasonable VISA must have been about rising handling fees if Amazon had felt it necessary to bring to an end to anyone paying for goods with a Credit Card that operates as a VISA Card in this way. Were you wondering if you were going to have to get a new Credit Card or contact your Bank to see if your Credit card could be issued another way?

Hands up. The story that Amazon is telling the world could be true. But what if there is more to this story and it is not all that it would seem?

Perhaps we should begin by recognising that the love we have for the convenience and apparent cost effectiveness that Amazon provides us means that as consumers in a (currently) globalised, touch-of-the-button retail marketplace, where we have culturally reached a place where we expect everything right now, we may well have become blind to the working practices and ruthless strategies that underpin the growth of a company that has a market share and influence over a growing number of other retailers that is colossal not only in the UK, but right across the World.

Next, we might consider that Visa is the largest card issuer in the UK and Ireland with a current market share given by www.statista.com of some 80%. Yes, that is a combination of both Credit AND Debit cards. But it gives a very good idea of the situation where we are.

The transaction fee that Amazon pays VISA back from every purchase made with a VISA is likely to be no more than a few pence already – and potentially less. But if it goes up by 1p for VISA, think about how much additional money they will turn over or add to their margin in terms of the number of transactions or purchases we make through Amazon, and therefore how much money in turn Amazon will then be potentially losing from its own bottom line.

However, with the level of business that these two monolithic businesses do together basically as partners, it is very difficult to imagine that a unique business arrangement has not been and would not still be possible where both parties continue to do very well out of what should be for them both a genuinely win-win and VERY lucrative cause.

With this all in mind, this step doesn’t really make that much sense. That is, if Amazon really is the Company that is all about the customer and putting the interests of the customer first as it tells us it is.

Regrettably, I’m inclined to believe it more likely that Amazon are taking this rather momentous step because they have demanded further concessions from VISA – which have been rejected. And that because of the market share they have, and the confidence they have in our loyalty as committed (or addicted) consumers, they believe that they can use us as to force VISA to give in, or that the alternative will be that we will just go elsewhere to find the tools to achieve our easy retail hit in some other way.

Whatever the motivation and cause behind this move, it marks a very ominous moment in time.

Irrespective of what Amazon has previously been doing or has done to secure the market share that it already has and uses to determine its ongoing meteoric growth, never before has a you will do as we tell you approach come into the open and been made in such a very public way.

Admittedly, many Amazon customers will not see anything concerning in the words that I have written above. But any company that is prepared to take a step like this and remain confident that its business will not be affected in any way may have already reached a point where it has attained a level of power and a position within the marketplace that should be of general public concern.

Will the closure of the bridge linking Brookfield Road in Churchdown with Badgeworth only be 12 months? Shouldn’t local life be the priority over keeping the M5 open day and night?

November 17, 2021 Leave a comment

If you’ve ever wanted to witness the consequences of having a public sector that operates without joined up thinking or consideration for the impacts on real life that its actions will have, you won’t need to look much further than the structural work that Highways England are undertaking on bridges around the Junction 11 area of the M5.

As a regular user of the road between the B4063 near Gloucestershire Airport (what many will remember the lights at The Plough), and The Gallagher Retail Park or Crosshands on The A4019 Tewkesbury Road in Cheltenham passing the House in the Tree, I’ve been experiencing the impact of one of the associated road closures for over a year now.

When Staverton Bridge was closed in the summer of 2020 – for what everyone was told would be a period of some 13 months (the signs said July 2020 – August 2021), it was very quickly clear that very little thought had been given to the project in terms of how drivers would respond and how they would then find their way around.

With many drivers choosing to reach their destination by diverting through Staverton Village and Boddington, local residents have already had over a year of speeding torture and dangerously broken up roads. Those problems have only been made worse by the apparent rescheduling of the works which took place this Summer, meaning that the work to Staverton Bridge and the road closure will not end until at least next spring.

Although I have often thought about publishing a picture of the great plywood back door of a speed camera van that the Villagers in Staverton have created to encourage passing motorists to slow down, it was the news I have seen today published in the My Churchdown Magazine recently about the upcoming closure of the bridge between Churchdown and Badgeworth on Brookfield Road that made me feel it was really the right time to write.

As a Borough Councillor, I experienced how the different agencies of Government interacted and worked – or rather didn’t work together over projects like these, and how the truth about small matters like consultations and handling bad news to the public would be spun and manipulated so that people would react in the most favourable way possible, rather than creating problems for decision makers which were in the majority of cases based upon very reasonable thinking rather than over the top demands.

With the experience that I have, I do not believe that it was ever the intention that Staverton Bridge would be finished within 13 months as initially suggested, and that the arrival of scaffolding over the Bridge in only the past couple of weeks for the reconstructive phases of the project demonstrates that planners will have almost certainly known just how long it would take to carefully complete such a specialist task.

The reality is that those responsible know that if they had gone straight in with a two-year time frame for Staverton Bridge to be closed, there would have been a public outcry of a level that would have been too much politically for them to withstand. Instead, it appears that they have cynically and deliberately strategically moved the goalposts, right at the time when people had got used to the change and were least likely to open up publicly to make a stand.

I believe this view relevant, as the work that will close one of the two direct routes to Cheltenham from Churchdown is likely to be closed for much longer than the 12-month time frame suggests, and with the chaos to commuters, bus routes, school journeys and all other forms of travel that depend on this link every day of the year, this is a project that has a cost to the local area that under these plans is simply too high just to be imposed upon us by a public sector organisation which is under no direct political control.

Yes, the bridge work needs to be done. But why does it have to be done in this way?

Whichever way Highways England complete this work, it will be expensive. But the real, expense needs to be calculated in terms of what the cost will be not just to their own budget, but to everyone else too.

Many of you will have seen the video on social media where a railway bridge in Germany is closed, demolished and completely replaced and open again within 4 days. It begs the question why the authorities and the powers that be cannot think like this and use holidays and night times to minimise disruption and the time that key local roads have to be closed – rather than maintaining this obsession that the roads (motorways) under their supervision must at all costs remain open, unless it is for a purpose that they should choose.

No, MPs should NOT have second jobs. After all, being an MP is NOT a job anyway

November 17, 2021 Leave a comment

The ongoing row over second jobs for MPs has certainly proven to be an interesting one. Yet it has also become increasingly concerning to follow as it has become ever more obvious that so very few of the journalists, commentators and people working around the political sphere have any real consideration or respect for what the role of an MP and public representative should really be all about.

The comments and arguments for second jobs range from the suggestion that MPs with second jobs enrich links with and understanding of the real world, to additional money being the only way to make the job worthwhile. Whilst those against include suggesting that it would be fine to ban second jobs for MPs, but only if they were given a ‘realistic’ salary’.

Nobody seems to have mentioned that being an MP or public representative is not a job.

Being an MP is a responsibility to others. It’s not one that should be taken if the individual concerned cannot guarantee that their responsibility to others will not be compromised by prioritising income, career opportunities, fears, influences of any kind, or any other motivations that put their own needs before anyone else at any time, at any level or in any way.

It is part of the human condition that we can only be loyal to one master. MPs are no different to anyone else. If an MPs priority is income or career at any level, it will not be focused on anyone else.

There are simply no grey areas with this. It really is very black and white.

If an MP can be swayed in their decision making by any factor which will reflect on them personally at any level and in absolutely any way before anything or anyone else, they can be bought. As such, they cannot be relied upon to represent the general public and the voters within the constituency who elected them.

Being an MP or elected politician of any kind requires people who have the life experience, understanding of others and are at a stage within their own lives where they can willingly and unswervingly put the needs of others before themselves in every meaningful way.

It is because we have for so long had a Parliament full of MPs on all sides of the political divides that are ruled by self interest at some level and in some way, that the British Political system – and as a result the whole of the UK – is in the mess that it is in today.

Public service can be the only master of any politician who wants to fulfil the obligations of the role with which they have publicly been entrusted. There simply is no other way.

For as long as we keep electing politicians in this Country and allow them to frame their own roles as careers and jobs, their attitude will continue to focus their attention on nothing other than what the impact and consequences of their actions will be for their future and for themselves before anything else.

There will be many who suggest that this is the way that the system works and that you can only change the system from within. The regrettable truth is that this is a myth perpetrated only for the benefit and furtherance of the interests of those already within that system. People who have a massive investment in ensuring that nothing happens which could bring about the comprehensive systemic change that would serve to help and benefit us all.

Sadly, until we all come together and accept that the people leading this country in government, the establishment and the wider public sector are not working to put our collective best interests, we are doomed to live the same experience. Public policy is today created in all areas of life where the decisions have been made not with us as the priority, but with what is important to the people we elected being always put first.

We only have ourselves to blame for each and every day that this sordid and perverse idea of democracy continues to rule, impinge and inflict avoidable pain and chaos in our lives.

None of the Political Parties that we have on offer to us today are focused on all of us in the way that they should be.

It is we who must make the decision to elect MPs and politicians of all kinds who will make promises and then keep them. Because they are there in our Parliament because politics is a calling or a vocation for them, rather than just an interpretation of a career or a job. One that to them is nothing more than getting the maximum return for themselves for the least amount of work.

We need a real choice in politics. We need MPs who understand and genuinely care. We need #ANewPartyForAll for the next General Election.

To achieve this, we need to start thinking differently and begin to build the alternative to the madness we have got right now.

If you really want all this to change, please visit www.anewpartyforall.org and think about the power that you have to input and help to bring about change.

Why the Tory sleaze crisis is important for us all

November 13, 2021 Leave a comment

Whichever direction you face today you are likely to end up reading a story about Tory sleaze.

Whether it’s the Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself, Geoffrey Cox or anyone of a number of not so well-known MPs such as Laurence Robertson who represents the constituency where I live, it’s looking more and more like each and every one of the Conservative Members of Parliament have got their heads buried up to the neck in the trough.

As we observe what appears to be a quickly changing political environment with the Labour Party now leading the Tories by six points in the polls, it would be very easy to believe that sleaze and corruption is a problem which only affects this Government.

But it’s not. In fact, this whole sorry tale is an horrific indictment of just how rotten and sick the British political system and the people masquerading as public representatives within it have become.

If you’ve been following the development of this story since the vote in Parliament, Johnson’s epic U-Turn and the subsequent resignation of Owen Paterson, the MP for North Shropshire, you will no doubt have heard many MPs making the argument that having second jobs enriches the experience and therefore the ability of MPs to do their job.

The problem is, being a Member of Parliament is not a job.

Being a Member of Parliament is a responsibility. It is a vocation. A calling.

Becoming a Member of Parliament is an opportunity for public spirited leaders to do something selfless and important on behalf of others. People who either cannot represent themselves publicly or choose not to do so themselves.

Man can only have one master. And in a world where we have become obsessed with money and material wealth to the point where it is now treated like it is a God, it has never been so important that our public representatives have not been elected or taken the responsibility of public office simply to prioritise benefits or opportunities for themselves.

Contrary to what Labour Members of Parliament would like us to believe, they are no better themselves. The point being made only too clearly by the additional earnings that Labour leader Keir Starmer has accumulated in his secondary role as a Barrister since he was first elected to Parliament.

We simply have the wrong people sitting in Parliament. We have the wrong people sitting in Parliament because the system is skewed in such a way that it prevents other more publicly minded people from taking up seats at Westminster where they could actually do some good for us all.

It will not matter which of the existing Political Parties achieve a majority or take part in a coalition government following the next General Election. All of our MPs are fundamentally the same.

Until such time as we create a new political movement with MPs, Councillors, Mayors, Police & Crime Commissioners and politicians of all kinds that do everything they tell us they will do, rather than making promises that they never keep, we will continue to be condemned as a Country with all tiers of government filled up with politicians who are simply unfit to lead.

Motivation will never be an issue for politicians who get elected to their public roles for the right reasons with the intent to only do the right things.

£82,000 a year Plus expenses and the opportunity to live in London for most of the time represents a standard of living and life experience that many normal people in the UK would not even dare to dream of. Yet our MPs believe that they should be entitled to even more. All at a time when it is becoming ever clearer that our political class is simply not fulfilling the responsibilities and requirements of their roles.

If we want change, we have to create it.

If we want change, we have to be that change ourselves.

If we want change, we have to change the way that we think and accept that the way we get our public representatives to behave differently is to begin by changing the way that we behave ourselves.

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