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Rethinking the Railways: no Public Service should be in private hands, nor should it be under union influence either

January 3, 2019 Leave a comment

It’s January and once again, we are witnessing inflation-busting rises in Rail Fares with the same old media coverage, the same old political responses from all sides and the same old reality that it is the same people being financially worked-over as a result of the ineptitude of the Politicians who were Elected to help them.

As usual, the blame game is well and truly afoot, providing ever useful cover for those choosing not to be responsible as we focus on the beneficial myths which are privatisation of public services, public ownership, building completely new railways and the inherent suggestion that people can always afford to pay more.

Whilst championed by the various sides as Westminster takes a momentary breath from Brexit, the reality is that none of these approaches can solve the fundamental problems that exist within the railways, public transport or wider public sector services.

Switching from one of these methods to another to solve just one problem, will simply create many more.

As with most issues that now surround the ineptitude and incompetency of Government, the real solutions to these problems – that’s the one that tackle the actual causes – are simply too unpalatable for the spin doctors and marketing whizzes to contemplate on behalf of the Politicians who would have us believe that they are in control.

The Politicians themselves do not have the foresight to see that by taking the tough and difficult decisions that they are supposed to, the results and impact of that action will soon speak much louder than any sound bite, as the reality of doing things properly becomes manifest and finds a very loud voice of its own.

The problem with the options that we are told are available

It’s very important to understand that one of the key principles of the Public Sector and the way that it operates is involuntarily and often deliberately overlooked:

Public Services are not and never will be a commercial business.

The purpose of Public Services is to provide uniformity of service and/or access to the wider community, which is simply contradictory to the motivation for running private business.

The simple reason being that the universal nature of the requirement for Public Services necessitates that unless you cherry pick and introduce different levels or tiers of service or remove the provision of that service from some areas altogether, the guarantee of profitability from all those parts operated, if not all of the service itself would always be denied.

This is why even in private hands, the Railways are heavily subsidised by the Government.

The Railways today

Today the Railways are effectively operated by profit-making private sector contractors or operating companies. Contractors who are often large PLC’s that make substantial sums of money by operating large-scale services and employing the economies of scale to reduce costs, usually on an ongoing basis.

Operating under the auspices of being a regulated public service as the nature of the public ownership of the railway infrastructure itself dictates, the contractors do not have the flexibility to raise prices and change service structures at will.

This effectively means that to increase profits, the contractors have to reverse engineer the profit-making-process by reducing overheads and making more money from the cost centres which have been accounted for in their Contract with the Government.

In effect, they are adhering to the terms of their agreement with the Government in principle rather than spirit. The outcome being the shitty end of the stick that we all experience each and every time we get on a sweaty train and realise that we have to stand for at least significant chunks of a very long journey, unless we want to get out and run.

Because the margins the operating companies accept to gain a contract or franchise are often very tight, expectation versus the ability to back engineer those all-important profit margins can easily prove impossible to align. And when they do, this is when we experience ‘franchises’ being passed back to public hands.

No private company will pay for the privilege of operating a Public Service, and nor should  the Government expect them to do so. But on the same count, neither should they be able to milk profit by taking all the value out.

The only thing that literally keeps the train wheels spinning is the RPI linked rise in Rail Fares which comes into operation each January.

It’s a dubious way of calculating an annual rise to say the least. But without it, the current operating model simply wouldn’t work.

Return to Public Ownership

Jeremy Corbyn and his shotgun John McDonnell advocate a wholesale return of Public Services to Public Ownership. For obvious reasons which only a fool would overlook or dismiss, this is a principle that the Public would all too easily embrace.

What it doesn’t do is answer the big questions surrounding why the idea of privatisation gained momentum in the first place. Perhaps the biggest reason being one of the left’s own making; the power of the Unions and Employment Rights too.

The simple question for anyone who understands the reasons why Public Services are put out to contract and therefore placed in profit-making hands is this: ‘Why is it more cost effective to employ a profit making company to run an identical service to the one we could or have provided ourselves?

The answer isn’t one that the left likes.

But it is also the reason that wholesale return of public services to public ownership without reform would cripple this Country in no uncertain terms: The Public Sector wage and benefits bill is out of control, as are the regulations and rights that support them, and the Union’s will bring everything to a standstill under the guidance of their barons who will employ the very same self-interest employed by big bankers and pension funds who milk public services today, simply served up in a different and even more malevolent form.

Building new Railways

Building new Railways will not solve the problems of franchising to profit-led contractors or operating them in unreformed Public hands.

It will cost money that the Country doesn’t have and would be unnecessary for us to spend too, if the Government was prepared to make the decisions that it should do.

The existing Infrastructure

One of the biggest errors of Government in ‘recent’ times, was the dismantling of the Railways undertaken by Dr Beeching in the 1960’s.

There was a complete lack of foresight and understanding by yet another Government which was reacting to the effects of problems it was facing, rather than getting on and tackling the causes as any good government should.

The result was that much of the indirect capacity which had until that time existed, was removed and with it, a ticking time bomb created for the effectiveness of the reformed railway network which would soon be as restricted as the diminished number of lines.

Today, there are simply not enough platforms at key and terminus or hub stations to increase capacity on the network in the most simple and effective way:

Increase the number of trains.

Using the Public as a cash cow

Whilst the Government heads off a simmering crisis each year by putting up the Rail Fares in what can only be argued as an unrealistic form, it relies on what is in effect taxing the same people over and over again for using a substandard service. One that only appears sustainable because over many commuters the Rail Operators hold a monopoly – something public services were NEVER created for.

Solving the problem and not creating others instead

It occurred to me as I was thinking about writing this blog, that the whole idea of public-private sector partnerships is actually oxymoronic.

Man can only have one master, and if that master is money, the service will not be about providing a good experience to the public.

Whilst I like the idea of public services being fully in public hands, this idea itself is no longer possible.

The standing influence that institutional and regulatory bias towards employees and unions has, has already priced out this operating model in many ways. It is itself the elephant in the room that it remains dangerous to identify when the collapse of public services – particularly at local level – is ever discussed.

In respect of these two options alone, the complexity of solving the Rail Fare crisis is identified and as part of the wider cost-of-public-services is concerned, certainly comes into its own.

The only way that railways and all forms of public transport can be returned to a format of universal, uniform quality and experience is to do away with the current and previous forms of operation and accept that there has to be a new operating model, focused on public service but adapted to deliver for all against the flow of self-interested times.

We need more platforms and if necessary stations in key locations, but we don’t need to build completely new lines.

The technology now exists to run and manage many more Trains on the same lines at the same times and we should be both embracing and furthering this massive opportunity for the benefits to the public, rather than just the profitability that it was developed for.

Existing line-beds and heritage Railways should be put back into commercial use and we should be making the very best of the infrastructure that we already have.

The cost of doing so and the time it will take to deliver will be substantially less and with much less disruption than any white elephant project like HS2 would ever have.

 

image thanks to unknown

 

 

 

 

Whilst there is no justification for Parliamentary bullying, a career politics culture at Westminster may hold the real key

November 6, 2018 Leave a comment

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Right now, we are all feeling the fallout from an indefinite bout of issue fatigue. The cause being the endless blame game which has taken over news channels at every turn, making us question and in many cases overlook so much of what we now hear.

In amongst the continual barrage of Brexit-esque mischief making currently absorbing everything and highlighted with the ever-present shout-out for Remain, there lies a developing story about another abuse of political power, which yet again should be deeply concerning for us all.

Right at the heart of British Politics, stories of bullying, poor people management and abuse of responsibility are growing, as is yet another tale of the Parliamentary Establishment failing us all by failing to act.

Horrible as it is, bullying can exist within any workplace.

But whether bullying is deliberate and enacted through malevolent intent, is unconscious and reflective more of poor management and social skills on the part of the bully themselves, or more a reflection of how direct management instruction can now be misinterpreted by people who want to brush the realities and requirements of a job description to one side, its presence or the perception of it being so should never go unquestioned. And particularly so when it is our legislators themselves who are intimately involved.

Events that have taken place already are one thing, and there is no doubt that The Speaker should facilitate proper scrutiny of all that has taken place immediately and ensure appropriate responses and transparency throughout.

But work must also be carried out to address the potential for bullying in the future, and to do this it really is important that the impact of the career politics gravy train is made clear openly and the dark realities which influence behaviour in Parliament spelled out.

Regrettably, the evolution of the Political Party System to what it is today has not only made, but actively encourages politics to be an aggressively ambitious place.

However, before running away with the immediate impression that I am focusing just on the behaviour of MP’s and Politicians themselves, it is also important to recognise the roles that they will have played before their own election. Roles which are often subordinate to MP’s, which form the basis and lifeblood of Parliamentary Staff, Jobs that are filled with a plethora of political aspirants who are just as focused on the end game and what is in it for them, albeit at a much earlier developmental stage.

Politics has become all about the job and not about the responsibility. In such an environment, it is inevitable that the aggressiveness which accompanies people on this pathway will win-out, no matter what the stage.

What is not inevitable however, and what is just a sign of the times, is the reliance which has fallen into place, on there being some kind of quasi-dependence on there being a career pathway to a job being an MP at all.

And whilst for the various reasons and for the interpretations of bullying outlined above which make it likely that it will always in some form in the workplace always continue to exist, the return of politicians to the Parliamentary Estate who see their role as a gifted responsibility from and on behalf of the Electorate, rather than a job, a career and therefore a right, will go a considerable way to heading off even the chance of behaviour which has little to do with the impact of decisions and of actions in sight.

 

 

 

 

Belief that cannot stand up to scrutiny or ridicule is a problem for the believer, not those who question it

November 3, 2018 Leave a comment

BeliefLike many people, most of whom remain very quiet and even tight lipped about it, I have a growing difficulty getting my head around the growing fashion for attacks on anyone who questions or ridicules any of a certain set of ideas and beliefs of others, whilst people exercising those same beliefs appear free to inflict them on everyone else, even though they are doing exactly the same thing.

Ask anyone how they would feel about having to keep their own views quiet for fear of being intimidated, ostracised, attacked, having their career destroyed or perhaps a lot worse, and very few will argue the benefits of being in such a perilous situation.

Yet turn that position on its head. Question people with a fixed set of beliefs about how those who don’t share their views should be treated and few of the responses will come out through a mirror which should unquestionably leave the outcome looking exactly the same, albeit in a projected form.

Belief, or what we as individuals voluntarily perceive as the world around us, how it works and the systems we have been conditioned to view as the bedrock that underpins it, is to all intents and purposes, the lifeblood of how the human world operates and functions.

Whether it be the extreme of a religious calling, the fashion trends that we follow, the eating plan that we have adopted or even what forms the basis of our basic road sense as we look to cross in traffic. Our whole experience is underpinned by a series of different beliefs.

Many of these beliefs, such as what happens if we place our hand in a fire are shared.

Others, such as Leaving or Remaining in Europe, what constitutes cruelty in terms of animal welfare, or who is the best film star to have ever lived are very much our own, even though we may appear to share them with others.

The former group, that’s the ‘what happens if we run in front of a car’ type of belief, is a practical, accepted or universally accepted basic truth. One which we will rarely question, and when it is, we would not feel a sense of being put on the spot ourselves or that our own experience is being called into question, because we know it to be true.

We simply have no reason to feel that our views or our integrity are being questioned when it comes to universally accepted basic truths, because we know that to question them is itself based either on ignorance, stupidity, or a reason which once investigated would make sense and never be deserving of a disproportional response.

To be in the latter group however, is to be in possession of beliefs based on our own truths, the sum of our own experiences, and could only ever be arrived at by someone who had walked exactly the same path, had the same conversations, seen the same events, been in the same places at the same times, and interpreted the words, teachings and views of others in precisely the same way as we have ourselves.

Oddly, the reality of the latter set of beliefs in others and what the differences present actually mean are increasingly being overlooked, and considered by a growing number to be of the same value as a universally accepted truth.

They see their own views as being above scrutiny, and of such legitimacy that they must not be questioned by others or ‘non-believers’ on any account.

Reading that back, it sounds more likely that I am writing about the Spanish Inquisition or the logic of the Albigensian Crusade, than I am about the behaviour of the Social Justice brigade or a frightened 21st Century Western Establishment bowing to their every demand, because the prospect of doing otherwise makes them too afraid.

But the transfer of unqualified personal, private belief into the realms of legitimised, common accepted truth is now our dangerous reality. One that we must put in check, before the lack of understanding that underpins it begins to dictate everything in the world around us, how we all behave and everything that we do.

This week we have seen a British Magazine Editor step down for making thoughtless comments in an email about Vegans. Yet another incident which overlooks questions about the role of the accused, the accuser and the ‘court of public opinion’ which has subsequently become involved.

You can be sure there has, is and will be a whole lot more incidents of this kind.

Underlying such events is a commonality of errors. A vein of social misdemeanours and blunders which I am afraid to say have, are and will be at some point committed by us all – often without even a hint of deliberate intent. And none of which we would ourselves be likely to find warranting of any form of punishment or unnecessary trial-by-media of it were just a universally accepted basic truth which was involved.

That some can react so very badly to the direct or indirect questioning of their own beliefs is not itself wrong. But such a level of response to that question, whether it was posed in the form of ridicule, analysis or any other form of scrutiny, does itself ask fundamental questions about how strong or indeed comfortable that individual’s own belief in the subject under question might actually be.

Anything perfect, which cannot be disputed, doesn’t need the protection of any form of belief for it to exist or for it to be maintained.

Belief is what you make it.

The Welfare covenant is broken and Universal Credit is not the answer when it already creates victims

October 12, 2018 Leave a comment

Basic Standard of Living Q

It is regrettably all too easy for some to overlook the realities of life for others when  everything is going well and there is no need to look to anyone else for help.

Sadly, this is not the case for many. At one time or another during our lifetimes, there is every chance that we will need a safety net in place for when plans don’t work out quite as we thought they might, and we find ourselves in need of money, food, clothing, transport, warmth and maybe even a home.

State provision of such a safety net within a civilised society is not only right. It is also necessary when government is convened, managed and operated with the greater good, benefits and consequences for all are firmly in mind.

However, our Welfare and Benefits system has and is being continually abused.

It is being misused by those seeking help. But it is also being mis-purposed by those who have been given the responsibility in Government for providing that help on behalf of us all.

The Welfare covenant between those helping and those seeking help has been broken. And for the benefits system to work beneficially again for all, there must now be a new way of thinking.

No form of Government provision can truly be beneficial to all if victims have been created of any kind.

Universal Credit has therefore proven itself flawed before it has even began operating fully.

With many struggling recipients identified already, we should all be asking questions about the many more who are yet to come and the consequences that will surely follow.

This doesn’t mean that the system we have had until now is good. That it is working. Or that we should just stay tied to the same old thing.

We shouldn’t, because the current DWP Benefits regime really isn’t working for anybody, and we are all in desperate need of a solution which really can be seen and experienced as a ‘win-win’.

Now before we get lost completely with how Politicians are getting Benefits and Welfare wrong, there must also be an acceptance on the part of us all of what it is fair to expect to receive, how we receive it, and under what circumstances that help will actually come from the State if we should ever find ourselves in the position where we genuinely need it.

As we look at what is really wrong with the system as it is, we must also understand and accept that if the Law allows certain types of behaviours to exist, it is inevitable that there will be people who will employ them.

It doesn’t make their behaviour right. Their actions are not inevitable. Everyone has free will and can choose how to behave, even when a rule covering that action or behaviour may appear to be absent.

If the system doesn’t accommodate for the misuse of Beneficiaries and those affected, it is the people who are responsible for its design and implementation who are equally responsible for identifying what is wrong, putting it right and ensuring that either good or bad, nobody who should be receiving help gets missed or is able to slip in between.

Why the benefits system isn’t working, isn’t simply about something structural, the technology used or the people who administer or receive Benefits of any kind.

Like most policy failures today, it is a combination of factors which are not being considered. Many of them overlooked for the cause of political expediency, or because their place and influences sit outside of the specific or central theme – in this case the Benefits regime.

The real cost of a Basic Standard of Living is not understood by Government

The greatest injustice visited upon the unemployed, is the Government and DWP assertion that in 2018, one person can live on a basic income of £73.10 per week.

They can’t.

And when the Government itself has set the Minimum Wage at £7.83 per hour, which at a 40 hour week would be the same as £313.20, who exactly do they think is going to step in and replace what for some will be the destitution-busting £240.10 per week which sits so ominously in between?

Yes, there are many other Benefits other than and beyond the scope of Jobseekers Allowance.

But Universal Credit is being sold as a method of simplification by rolling everything into one, when the true aim of saving money will not stop a similar way of allocating money to the very same things from then existing, just under the umbrella of being just one application.

Government must provide a Basic Standard of Living income to those who qualify and need it.

If it is too expensive to do so, those in Government would do well by beginning to ask themselves the question ‘why?’

Government has surrendered responsibility for setting the prices of goods and services essential to a Basic Standard of Living to the private sector

Sadly, little attention is paid to the elephant in the Benefits room. That being the escalating prices of goods and services which provide for everyone’s basic needs in life.

That’s food, clothing, accommodation, transport and utilities.

Not First Class or on the upper side of ‘Taste the Difference’.

Just the stuff that anyone would need to be kept fed, clothed, warm, able to get themselves to a job and home again, and knowing that at night they will have a roof over their head.

Control of all of these goods and services is now completely under the infuence of commercial interests which have money as their one and only god.

Free Marketeers and Neo-Liberals will tell you that the Markets will look after everything when they are completely free to do as they choose. They don’t, they won’t and they will continue to do everything to make profit from every opportunity, for as long as they are gifted with the freedom to choose by gutless Government. Government filled with Politicians who see ethical intervention in the Markets and Financial Sector as a problem because they believe that they have too much to lose by doing so.

No service which is essential to the public good should be placed in private hands or under the undue influence of any self-serving cause.

No food supply essential to basic, healthy survival should be subject to the whimsy of the Markets where multiple traders, agents and handlers are seeking to add one profit margin on top of another, just on one item supplied within any one producer-to-plate supply chain alone.

If the Government genuinely wants the Benefits system to work, it has to find an effective way of controlling these two essential areas of daily life so that once a system that does work has been identified and implemented, it is then not rendered useless by private interest, based on nothing but profit.

We are culturally conditioned to assume that all Benefits Claimants are in some way bad

Mud sticks, as anyone who spends any time on social media or reading the news will know.

But the phenomenon of people assuming the worst of others based on the first story they are told is nothing new. And when it comes to the unemployed, being work shy is basically the accepted view.

The truth is not as straightforward and anyone at any stage of their career can find themselves out of work and having to ‘sign on’ in order to get help.

The problem with the ‘accepted truth’, is that the system itself, both mechanically and culturally treats everyone who comes through the Jobcentre door as if they don’t want to work, cannot be trusted in any way and that they all fit into the same mould as each other.

This approach overlooks the fact that people find themselves knocking on the door of the Jobcentre and the administrative centres of the DWP for very different reasons.

Some are poorly educated. Others have grown up in conditions that reinforce a world view that this is all they are worth. But there are others too who have landed themselves with significant debt to gain degrees that have proven to be of no use. People suffering illness and mental health problems which restrict the work that they can do. And even highly experienced and very well-educated professionals who cannot provide anything like as simple an explanation for what life has put them through.

Sit in a Jobcentre for long enough and you will hear claimants complain about having to wait for the money they are entitled to. You will see others lose their rag because they have not conformed to the regulations that they are supposed to. You will also witness the presence of so many security guards, it clearly suggests that behaviour of this kind is not only possible, but actually the expected constantly and all of the time.

But not all Benefits Claimants are a burden. Many want to work. But they are branded as ‘no-hopers’, instead of gaining the help and support which reflects them individually.

It is little wonder that those outside of the expereince of having a ‘down period’ in their lives take what they have for granted. Then look on and see all these people as being worthless and occupants of society’s bin.

Taking this approach is little more than deliberately setting up Benefit Claimants to fail.

It is not the action of a Government which respects and fully fulfils its role as the representative body of a civilised society. Nor is it illustrative of a Civil Service which is fully considerate of its role.

We can hardly expect the general population to think differently when the system so demeans.

A significant element of Claimants consider themselves entitled to what they receive

Because the system has been so poorly thought through and has not evolved positively in a way that sees its role strategically and as a way to raise expectation from the ground level upwards, it encourages the belief that it can be used as a substitute for real life. For not taking part. For resenting the success of others and as such seeing Benefits as an entitlement or a worthy redistribution of wealth from others.

The Benefits system only works for those who surrender themselves completely to it, leaving no incentive to escape and provide us all with that so far mythical ‘win-win’

Because the Benefits system has been so poorly thought through and has not evolved positively in a way that sees its role strategically as a way to raise expectation from the ground level upwards, it encourages the belief that it can be used as a substitute for real life. For not taking part. For resenting the success of others and as such seeing Benefits as an entitlement or a worthy redistribution of wealth from others.

The Benefits system only works for those who surrender themselves completely to it. It  leaves no incentive for Beneficiaries to escape and benefit anyone but themselves.

With restrictions placed upon how many hours a Claimant can work without losing Benefits, and the process of reinstatement being long and arduous – even before Universal Credit begins, there is zero in terms of incentive for people to take on more hours and work towards self-sufficiency.

Because the 6 Benefits together are so very complicated for one person to qualify for already, the further any Claimant journeys into this portfolio of direct and indirect income streams the less and less likely they are then to leave.

We can only ask ourselves the question if we were to find ourselves in the very same position. When everything is taken care of already, what serious advantage is there to be gained by going out and working for a wage which might never come to anything near the total that becoming subservient to the system and therefore being a Benefits slave can achieve?

Again, we cannot blame people for responding this way when the system itself not only allows but facilitates behaviour of this kind.

Help should always be given to those that need it.

For those who currently choose to be beholden to the system, there must be a process of incentives which doesn’t leave them without all the basic essentials.

It must also encourage them and accept and appreciate that they have responsibility for themselves as well as the wider community. A community which is ready to help, but is itself entitled to see those who voluntarily choose a life on Benefits as a drain on resources that we desperately need focused to provide other Public Services and that they are as such disadvantaging others on little more than a whim.

As taxpayers, we are effectively subsidising the employers of low paid workers by providing the in work benefits which allow them to survive

I have already mentioned what it costs to live and the need for a basic standard of living above.

Yet the conversation and discussion needs to go even further than the power of commercial interests over the essential goods and services for life.

The debate and the action that follows also needs to recognise the role which our Government is playing in keeping wages low and propagating a system where profit margins for large companies are exploding, whilst the millions of people on low incomes are now being farmed for the debt they have to carry, just to survive.

The money that lower income workers receive is in many cases too much to allow them to be on additional Benefits, yet not enough to allow them to be self sufficient. It keeps them ‘functioning’ at the behest of others, somewhere within the ‘in between’.

If we could freeze the prices of goods and services right now, so that they no longer rise, and we could focus in on what it actually costs a normal person on their own to live, self sufficiently, to feed, clothe and take care of themselves, put something by, have a holiday, a realistic pension and have a life which reason would tell us would make a normal person happy, we can soon begin to see the disparity between where wages sit and where right now, in these ‘static’ circumstances they would need to be.

At £10.20 per hour in London and £8.75 per hour outside, without the help of Government with Housing Benefit and Tax Credits too, even the Living Wage Foundations advisory level for a basic income doesn’t come close to what self sufficiency – that’s what complete independence from Government support –  would actually require.

Such a reality where Government support for the growth of small business is concerned alone would probably make the whole thing more palatable.

But the real beneficiaries of this State-sponsored in-work poverty are the big Companies making significant levels of profit that would in reality only dip slightly if they were to pay wages to front-line staff which would allow those employees to function within the overpriced society which their Employers have helped to create.

That this situation has been allowed to exist is beyond questionable.

That successive Governments of all kinds have allowed a situation to exist where the Taxpayer is paying over the odds for products in services in their face value alone is simply wrong.

That customers are then paying again to subsidise the wages of the staff serving them would be funny, if its implications and the reality which surrounds it not so very serious indeed.

This whole process has only been possible because Government has either borrowed incredible amounts of money, or has cut other and arguably more essential Public Services in order to allow them to provide this massive giveaway. A free-for-all that has broken the Country financially and is one of the key reasons why unfettered immigration of low skilled workers from Europe has been possible. Itself an issue which is seen by many Remainers as key to the majority vote for the UK to leave the European Union and the one which they are still obsessively attempting to resolve.

There would be some sweet irony in this if this financial mismanagement had really been helping people and UK communities, rather than being overtly beneficial to commercial interests, private profit and yes, the EU all along.

But there hasn’t, and in terms of management of expectation, this and previous Governments would appear to have hamstrung any future Government which wants to take a stand and do the right thing.

Be that as it may. Doing the right thing, is the only way that all of this is going to end up working right for everyone involved.

The solution

Like almost everything that Government and Politics touches, the key to delivering change in the Benefits and Welfare system is thinking differently.

And it’s the thinking and ideas at the top of British Politics which needs to change first before it can change anywhere else.

The responsibility of Government

Before the Benefits problem can be fixed, the understanding of what the problem actually is, must be broadened to include the wide range of factors which feed and influence the issues which those claiming Benefits experience.

Right now, there is an obsession on the part of decision makers. One which leads them only to attempt to address the effects of any problem, rather than to tackle each and every one of the causes.

Until all of the causes of problems are addressed, the Benefits system will only ever work temporarily at best, until those factors which are outside of the scope of that consideration inevitably change and then exert their negative influence once again.

A Basic Standard of Living level or the real Living Wage will only be achieved and maintained when all contributing factors fall within the reasoned influence of non-idealistic Government that considers the consequences of policy making upon ALL.

Politicians simply do not understand the power they have to change things. They do not see the scope of their roles and they have no appreciation of the influence that they could really have if they were to put the interests of ALL the people who have elected them first, rather than themselves, their Political Parties and whatever ideas or interests sit around that self-serving mix.

It will not matter how simple or complicated existing of new systems like Universal Credit might be. If they fail to consider and be considered as part of the bigger picture, they will always fail – and our Politicians have both the ability and responsibility to ensure that this is no longer the case.

It is their choice to now decide and it is their choice which must come first.

The responsibility – and acceptance of Claimants and Beneficiaries

For any solution to gain traction, it is also vital that ‘being down in your luck’ is accepted as a normal part of life, rather than being a condition which renders any of us as being sub-standard to it – the position under which Benefit Claimants are often perceived.

Those claiming Benefits fall into two predominant groups. Those who are or should be  temporary claimants and are able and willing to work. And those who are longer-term or permanent claimants who are unable or unlikely to be able to consider working again because of disability, illness, or other genuine debilitating circumstances.

All of us as beneficiaries must accept that there is and never has been a magic money tree of any kind. That the support that is given can only be provided through the act of others contributing through taxation on earnings, whether they themselves earn little or some extraordinary figure that might blow our minds.

Whilst it may currently behave as if it is, and some Politicians continue to seek election on the basis of perpetuating this myth, Government and the Public Sector is not a separate and ‘benevolent’ entity which doles out cash to Welfare recipients on the basis of being kind.

Government exists to represent the best interests of ALL British people. Government is there to help us all to succeed in whatever way that might be possible for us as individuals. And on  behalf of us all, it is there to help and provide support to those of us who cannot do so, in such ways that we may never feel like an after thought or something that others have in some way been left behind.

Government is the formal community power which represents and is therefore ‘for all of us’.

Those of us receiving help should therefore be mindful that the help we receive comes from the people next door, up the street and across our Cities and Towns.

As recipients, we are not ‘entitled’ to anything. It is simply that looking after those in genuine need is the basis upon which our civilised society can be found.

 

 

 

 

 

Trashing distasteful parts of history puts us at risk of repeating the same mistakes in the future, which only the same level of hypocrisy would allow us to then deny

January 12, 2018 Leave a comment

download (14)The debate over Virgin removing copies of the Daily Mail from sale on its Trains in the past week highlighted the worrying trend for people to attempt to remove anything from their sphere of influence which they find in some way unpalatable – doing so without any level of regard for the real cost or consequences of doing so.

Whilst this vogue appears new to many, it has been within our awareness for a good period of time. It hinges on blame culture and the overindulgence of the personal slight. It takes the self-righteous influence of the myopic ever nearer the creation and manifestation of a very twisted and unrealistic worldview.

One of the reasons why it is so unrealistic is because it is built upon the foundation of idealism; that of denying that which cannot be denied.

Even in politics now, we have reached a point where apparently well-educated people with significant responsibility placed upon them by many others, believe and apply the fallacious principle that “if I say it is so, then it will actually be so”.

An eye on the future is however one thing, but looking back turns the same coin on to its other side.

History is planned, created and experienced in the present moment by us all. Yet it is an infinite chain of perspectives or opinions, based upon what are almost always a very small number of facts – some of which even the very people who were present and involved may not themselves have actually known.

That we live in a world where opinion has a level of power which just tolerates the occasional fact should really be far more alarming to us all that it really has become.

That individuals have the power to blight the lives of others, simply because they hold a conflicting view, should be something that concerns everyone.

That others are now trying to rewrite history and remove our heritage is a risk and threat to the future of us all and once completed may never be undone.

Culturally, we indulge the notion that only bad news sells, in almost everything we do – almost to the point where is becomes only the bad news about anything itself that we remember, overlooking many more good-news-stories that are available to us as we do.

The most dangerous of steps now being taken – usually by people who believe that they have been in some way slighted by the actions of people that not one of us has or will ever know – is to apply this approach to history, focusing only upon the bad parts of his story, so that the good which may have come will automatically be overlooked and quietly denied.

The politically correct form of censorship manifesting itself through the attempted removal of historic names from buildings and even trusts, like those of Rhodes in Oxford and Colston in Bristol may look like the delivery of justice to the shallow depths of the egocentric. But in terms of what this action overlooks, it is to all of us as a culture and society – in no way any such thing.

Nobody can realistically refute the pain and suffering that colonialism and slavery visited upon many millions of innocent and powerless people over tens and hundreds of years.

Yet the industry and commerce that both were part of also brought prosperity, wealth and yes – learning to all corners of the globe.

It supercharged the path towards a more enlightened and civilised way of being which itself allows the same individuals the freedom and platform to influence the world around them – for better or worse today.

There is no escaping the dark parts of this Country’s historic chapters. But there are also many beneficial lessons to learn by looking them in the eye – not least of all for the purpose of ensuring that we have enough awareness of what can happen when the conditions for oppression and exploitation are right.

The irony of the drive to trash these parts of history, is that they are being repeated all around us in many ways, albeit wrapped differently today. They may not look the same, but they have very much the same effect emotionally on the oppressed within the quiet of their own minds.

Indeed it is a great shame that the energy and passion focused on the drive for political correctness is not itself redirected to help others who are alive and need real help – but in ways that this same lack of human awareness on the part of social justice warriors leaves them unable or unwittingly unable to define.

People are increasingly being enslaved and oppressed by the world around them, financially, by rights, quixotic ideas and by the bureaucratic systems that political correctness is slowly ratcheting around all of us, like a slow pull on a closing cable-tie.

To try to destroy the lessons of history, whilst overlooking live-time oppression is one of the most hideous forms of hypocrisy in action today.

Focusing on events to learn lessons and use them to help others going forward would be much better for us all than playing a disingenuous game of out of sight, out of mind.

image thanks to unknown

Followed to its ultimate conclusion, the only satisfactory outcome in the Under-representation in Democracy debate would be for everyone to become an MP

December 29, 2017 Leave a comment

download (12)Whilst ‘minority’ groups have increasingly found their long overdue voice and platform in recent times, we must be aware of the danger that seeking to control and impose a membership of the House of Commons which reflects all members of society and is distilled down into 650 Parliamentary Seats to do so, will neither reflect the true nature of our society at National level, nor give a truly reflective representation of the voters of each Constituency which elects each of those representatives or MP’s alone.

We feel let down. We feel misunderstood. We feel that our needs are not being fully considered. We feel that other people’s needs are being prioritised before our own. We do not feel that anyone without our experience of life could represent us as well as one of our own.

But this is not the experience, perception or outlook of just a member of a minority. It is an experience which is shared by and common to us all.

It doesn’t matter if we are English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish or from someplace else. Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Jew. Straight, Gay, LGBT. ‘Able bodied’, disabled or suffering from a condition or disease. Young, old. Married, single. Rich, poor, employed, unemployed and much, much more. We all feel the same about the way that Government and politics is failing us.

Yes, lack of effective representation is a real issue. There is a tangible disconnect between us as voters and the people who lead us. But that will not be fixed by positively discriminating to deliberately place individuals into positions of power who are qualified only by being labelled as different to the rest of us. After all, it is the very fact that politicians are already behaving and making decisions differently to what we already expect, which is causing the problem now. Why would we want to encourage this problem by promoting focused thinking even more?

All women shortlists have been in existence for the selection of parliamentary candidates for some time now, but even when we look at the issue of representation of women in parliament today, we are still embracing positive discrimination which whilst it looks good to some, will continue to be prejudicial – perhaps to us all – in some other way.

There is no question that the role of becoming a Parliamentarian should be open to anyone. But it is not gender, colour, race, sexual orientation, religion or any other ‘definable’ difference between us that qualifies any one of us to be better as a representative of all.

Seen or unseen, each and every one of us is in some way different. So the only way we could genuinely ensure that every viewpoint is accurately represented politically, would be for each and every one of us to be elected as an MP.

It is having the ability, ethics and motivation to provide a genuine voice for all which counts most in a democracy. But it is the state of politics which has created a lack of this and makes a lack of good representation for all a real problem.

 

image thanks to standard.co.uk

Let’s break the bubble of political perception, join-up policy making and see ideas like Universal Basic Income for what they really are

December 26, 2017 Leave a comment

As a culture, we are obsessed with the value we apportion to everything big. Big gestures, big careers, big houses, big bank balances and of course big impact.

Perception is everything – even when it is often wrong, and the absence of objective reality – the ‘real’ truth, rather than just our own, is the ultimate power behind every form of decision making that effects each and every one of us in our daily lives.

img_3014The rich irony is that it is the small things – the details, ingredients or constituent parts of everything, that inevitably become the building blocks of anything we perceive to be big.

In an instant, we see or imagine big end results, seldom giving any real thought to the creative process which will get us there. We overlook the need for a precise mix of elements to be ready and in place. We then forget that the absence of just one domino could abruptly break up a falling chain and render a shot at glory useless before we have even journeyed part of the distance there.

Against this backdrop, it is too easy to perceive others with ‘big’ roles as having the ability to see the world differently. To think that they have a different, more objective view. To conclude that they must possess knowledge that will enable only they themselves to make decisions at a level that will affect us all.

What we most often miss however, is that those making big decisions are usually very much like us. We perceive them to be different, but they are human all the same.

Many years of a self-serving political climate have created an inter-generational range of active politicians making and influencing decisions on the basis of a very limited scope of perception which barely reaches beyond that of their own.

As we watch, read and listen to the mainstream media, we can quickly attune ourselves to a snapshot of current political thinking. Yet that gap we can detect and feel between how we ourselves perceive things and where they appear to be is not present because we are in some way wrong. It is there because our decision makers and influencers are dangerously overconfident in their own perceptions of the world and everything around them. They have literally bought in to their own beliefs, whilst losing touch with both the perceptions and the realities of the very people whom they have been entrusted to represent.

If the perception of a politician such as the Prime Minister mattered only in so much as how it would affect their own future, the decisions which are now being made would impact upon nobody but themselves.

Regrettably, this is far from the case and decision after decision has been made by those in power over a series of generations and under the auspices of governments of all kinds that are made in the absence of any consideration for the reach, width and breadth of consequence or what can simply be summarised as the law of cause and effect.

All of us normally operate within perceptory bubbles where reality stretches only as far as the people and experiences which present themselves within. Everything else presents itself like a giant video where images can be observed and sounds can be heard, not unlike like going to see a film at the cinema, with the same absence of touch, taste, smell and everything else in anyway sensual, leaving any emotional response to run riot within.

With the evolution of e-living, this developing concept of life will only continue to grow, leaving the dehumanisation of relationships and communication to become all the more pronounced, as we lose more and more touch with the reality of the world outside and around.

Decision making at the highest level being conducted without the emotional intelligence and behavioural understanding necessary, and without the genuine motivation to deliver balanced policy provision for all.

It is little wonder then, that we have a conservative government which equates poverty with unemployment. A labour opposition set on a Marxist agenda which overlooks the natural capitalist which resides within us all. And a looming exit from the European Union which was delivered as the result of many millions of personal responses to life experience which extends way beyond our Nation’s membership of just one thing.

The obsession with big ‘wins’ leaves real suffering running rife within society. It’s overlooked for what it really is because the understanding of what life is really like and what it will really take to resolve our problems is absent from the minds of those whom have been trusted to protect us.

For example, on one side, Food Banks are viewed as little more than an unnecessary indulgence. Whist the other makes no mention of how so many more would be needed if they were in power, using them as an excuse to face down the Government in an attempt to win votes that would inadvertently increase this travesty whilst they do little more than pour scorn and deride.

images (7)Policy made in isolation and without regard to the effects of its implementation is now commonplace. This is sticking plaster politics where layer upon layer of quick fixes have become necessary. Each one laid upon the other to tackle the fallout from the last myopic policy, itself only created for expedience without due regard for what might lie beyond.

We are in a mess. A profound one at that. And we have at no time needed politicians to up their game and focus on what is important for everyone more than we do right now.

The good news, is that if the law of cause and effect and the age of consequence were really to be considered and embraced, the possibility and potential reach of the subsequent change would soon become apparent. Things have the potential to change in ways which could have many positive consequences for everyone, as well as the decision making politicians themselves.

How we support our poorest and most deprived members of society would be the very best place to begin. It is therefore perhaps no accident that we hear much talk of big policies aimed at people like the ‘just about managings’ and any one of a number of media friendly terms besides.

Universal Basic Income would provide an ideal start. Not because it is the free giveaway which Conservatives fear and Labour and left-leaning political parties might unwittingly embrace as a quixotic dream without further thought. But because getting it right would uncover and require intelligent communication about so many different policy stones which need to be turned over and addressed, whilst also dealing with the need for updating and change which has become overdue and very necessary in terms of the Government’s policy on Welfare for all our citizens in the 21st Century and beyond.

To begin with, the fact that peripheral chat about a Universal Basic Income has progressed beyond discussion in peripheral forums to open consideration by The SNP and governments beyond our borders suggests that a problem exists which such a model could address. Easy to dismiss as a left-wing giveaway of the kind which could easily break our fragile economy – because it certainly could if delivered without real thought, full consideration of the need for such a measure is nonetheless warranted.

A Universal Basic Income could ensure that everyone has sufficient income to live a basic lifestyle, free of the worry of debt and able to survive in times of hardship without having to become dependent upon others or government agencies of any kind – should they choose to do so. Its success would however be much dependent upon the restrictions and controls over the pricing of goods and services which are essential to basic living, and this is where the escalation of impact and consequential policy making would become most defined.

Housing, utilities, basic food and drink, clothing and appropriate transport provide the key cost areas essential to living a basic lifestyle. The problem today is that in the case of most essential services which were once publicly owned, they have been privatised. The others have too many parties adding themselves to ever complicated supply chains, making profit or ‘rent’ from little more than placing themselves in a mix which really should be kept quite simple.

Ethics simply don’t exist here and the impact of free-market profiteering within these sectors is visiting the same level of chaos and breakdown at a personal level for many of the kind which was visited upon us all by the same kind of gaming that created the 2008 financial crisis, in a very relative way.

These few facts alone give measure to the complexity and reach of just one policy alone. They also illuminate the work and communication which would be required to create a change which would ultimately only be the enemy of self-interest, if created with the care and consideration that each and every government policy truly deserves.

That politicians, influencers and decision makers would be required to work intelligently and beyond the scope of their tried and tested political philosophies of today, would be no excuse for them not to do so. The potential and existence of good and bad policy is present across all the Seats represented at Westminster and none of those representatives of our political parties have any kind of exclusive right or indeed the evidence supporting them which would suggest that they alone can deliver anything that is fundamentally right.

The noise which is populism has been created by the evolution of an unbridled public disconnect. It is a case of simple cause and effect.

Cure the causes. Quiet the noises.

 

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