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Single issue Parties or Movements (Covid Related) don’t win General Elections (All-issue), especially in a climate when there are so many other issues that people face

September 8, 2021 Leave a comment

What’s the number one issue of our time?

Covid? Education? Lockdowns? Social Care? Vaccine Passports? Black Lives Matter? The Driver Shortage? Afghanistan & The West’s Relationship with Islam? Labour failing as the Opposition? Brexit? Freedom of Speech? The ‘Great Reset’? Cross-Channel Immigration? Social Mobility? Cancel Culture? The Cost-of-Living Crisis? The Housing Crisis? Inflation? China? Knife Crime? A Conservative Government?

The chances are that for you the answer could be any one of the above, or none of them at all. And of those, the way that you see that issue could itself be different than any number of other people, who could again think differently about the same issue as everyone else.

Yet the most difficult and challenging thing to get your head around when you think about issues affecting the public in this way, is that nobody is wrong. Different people just see the same things in different ways because their experiences of them and of life up to that point have been different. And it is important to recognise and accept that in this broadest sense, no matter how many different views of the same situation exist, none of them are wrong.

With all that is going on in the world around us, it may seem like a strange time to be discussing the mechanics of how different people think. But with Government and therefore the Public Sector which it runs effectively out of control, a moment in time like this one may never have previously existed where the importance of recognising the mechanics of the differences between us has been so important for us all to absorb.

My motivation for writing this blog – like a number of them before, is the situation that we collectively face going forward, where a so-called Conservative Government has been making and implementing decision after decision both in response to Covid and also before, based not on what’s best for the Public, but based on what’s good for the politicians and what’s best for all of ‘them’.

Regrettably, we are walking through an age or chapter of our history where experience doesn’t matter, but the platform and profile you have most certainly counts. So, irrespective of how the voice or speaker got there, if that voice has something to say about the issues that we relate to in the way that we relate to them too, they become the voice of reason and the one that we choose to follow – no matter what the real nuts and bolts of these or the wider issues might well involve.

You may listen to one or more of those voices yourself. People who speak passionately and knowingly about one, or perhaps several of the different issues that I listed above. Yet the problem that we all face, often without even knowing it, is that the outcomes that we want in respect of the issues that we want addressed can only be achieved if we apply the same approach to all the different issues that are important to everyone.

People want change. Yet at the same time that they see so many people saying the same things that they think, feel and believe, nothing seems to be changing. Instead, it all just seems to be getting worse and worse.

The things that you feel are the ones that need to be changed, can be changed. But those things important to you will only be changed if you can see, feel and embrace the importance of all the other issues that everyone else is facing too.

Those lined up or lining up against the Johnson Government today appear to be great in number. But when the next General Election comes, which is planned for 2024 but is likely to be a lot sooner, there will no alternative available on the ballot papers right across the Country for anyone or anything political that is doing the work necessary to connect all of us and all of our issues – no matter how different – with policies and an approach that is as effective as it needs to be, whilst doing all that is necessary to reach across.

There will be The Reclaims, The Reforms, and many others who are selling change and a difference to what we already have in the way that they see it. Yet the elephant in the room for all of them is and will continue to be that they are behaving as if the problems we collectively face are just one issue, overlooking the reality that the only reason UKIP, The Brexit Party and Vote Leave won EU Elections and the EU Referendum was that people saw those votes as being purely about just one issue or thing.

I have no interest in doing any of the voices who speak on behalf of these or many other organisations down. In fact, I would like all those who oppose this tyrannical and self-serving form of government come together and do all the things necessary so that we can collectively succeed as one.

But coming ‘together’ in the way that it will need to happen in order for us to succeed will simply not happen whilst all of them look at our political system and continue to think that this situation or any of the problems we face can be solved by rattling on about only one thing.

Furthermore, it is not enough simply to pay lip service to all the other issues and think that by publishing manifestos or any other kind of marketing-based ‘promise’ that enough people will suddenly see and share the same point of view, and then propel you into government as the political option of choice.

To succeed now, you must connect. We must ALL connect.

People want to be treated and respected as adults again. Yet this is something that the political parties in parliament and our councils have long since forgotten to do. In fact, they are so drunk on the perception they have that voters have no choice but to vote for them, they no longer believe that connecting with the people is something they need to do.

They will not change whilst they retain or have any hope of obtaining power. And once they have been removed and have lost that, these are not the people we will want to give the same chances to hurt us all as they have been doing all over again.

Covid and everything related to it IS a single issue in electoral terms and so it is necessary for those who want freedom to return and embrace the conversation, debate and need to address all of the issues that are facing our society today, so that the electorate no longer believe that the only way the issue important to them have a chance of being solved is to see the existing mainstream Political Parties as the only option or choice.

Politics is a game and there is no way to escape this reality if you genuinely want to see us all embrace and facilitate change.

Single issue politics in a multi-issue political world will not solve any problem and it is only by becoming a multi-issue political movement that the single political issues for us all will ultimately be solved.

Refusing pay rises for Police Officers whilst printing money to firehose at every problem they cannot control tells us as much about the Government grip on reality as its obsession with power

Probably the greatest unspoken injustice facing society today is the cost-of-living crisis that affects the lives of so many, that government doesn’t even acknowledge to exist.

In an age when MPs and politicians are getting elected to be somebody rather than seeking public office so that they can represent somebody else, it is regrettably a fact that you have to have lived with the pressures that pretty much everyone without a stake in Westminster life has to deal with daily if you really want to even try and understand what is going on.

With so much reliance placed upon statistics, textbooks and the words of philosophers who have long since gone, we really do live in times where decision makers are creating public policy on the basis of ideals rather than any understanding of how real life, the real economy and the real world actually works.

When our MPs run the Country under the misapprehension that an adult can function and support themselves on £74.70 a week claiming Jobseekers Allowance, it is no wonder that they think anyone earning more couldn’t possibly have it worse.

As I argued in a recent blog, even a figure around the 12.5% that the nursing unions had wanted for NHS staff wouldn’t make any great difference to quality of life for many, when you place this in the context of how the prices and real cost of everything is today being manipulated at will, for the purposes of profit and for greed and no more.

Yet the real travesty of the Home Secretary’s refusal to give Police Officers a financial uplift, isn’t some lucid moment where Priti Patel has realised that a pay rise won’t make any difference in time, it is the outrageous fact that Rishi Sunak and the rest of this ridiculous Government have spent the past 17 months printing money and running up a tab so big that it is literally about to break the bank

Ah, I hear you say. With all the money spent on the Covid Pandemic, we are going to have to tighten our belts and pay it back in some other way. But the problem with what might at another time be otherwise very worthy sentiments is the bill is already too big to ever be paid back. What is more, the Government and Priti Patel in particular are still blowing massive amounts of imaginary cash to solve the problems that they themselves created. They are literally creating money to buy themselves more time in the hope that they can put off the impact of the problems they have caused for another day.

Blowing £54 Million on a negotiation with the French that clearly failed to stop illegal immigration, whilst at the same time trusting that our greatest antagonist over Brexit would shut up and let the UK control the narrative is ignorantly naïve. But that really sums up just how inept and incompetent the people running this Country are.

We are now on course for an economic crash when whoever has been left in charge will have to lead a revaluation of our currency, of prices, how businesses operate, how the public sector provides and how society functions and works.

It will be coming before long. And in the meantime, this reticence to pay out money that their actions have told us has no value, would do better rewarding the people who ARE doing what they can to keep this Country together, rather than pretending that valuing the efforts of public servants is something that we can ill afford

Everyday businesses cannot afford the pay rises that will make life affordable for all. But Government COULD change things so that everyone could afford to live on their wages and lead debt-free lives

No matter how you might feel about the role of the NHS during the Covid Pandemic, the ongoing calls for a pay rise by as much as 12% for employees has certainly brought the cost-of-living question into clearer focus. Especially as the Government is telling us all that 1% is all that it can afford.

The cost-of-living crisis surrounding all of us isn’t new. But like many of the problems that those on low pay, those living in the wrong places, those coming from the wrong backgrounds or those simply not having a story that the mainstream media can glam up negatively to sell, the harsh realities that a significant portion of society face each day are neither relevant nor understood by the people who should be thinking about them. Because the lives of those facing such difficulties are out of sight, out of mind.

We are living through an age where many cannot afford to live comfortably either without additional support or without getting themselves into debt. So, whilst a 12% uplift for an NHS worker might sound outrageous to those who should know better, for many with homes to run and pay for with spiralling credit card or loan repayment bills to pay, even an additional 12p earned on top of every Pound they earn today is unlikely to feel anything like enough.

Sadly, many of the MPs and policy makers that we have are not the thinkers that leaders they should be. Real life and what happens in the real economy is something that they neither understand, nor have the desire or motivation to do so either.

Over a period of five decades, politicians have bought into a range of misleading and dangerous monetary policies. They have actively encouraged what is little more than playing games with money with no consideration for the consequences of doing so. Indeed, the current Chancellor has driven a public spending bonanza by printing money in quantities and at a level that should only be considered normal in a time of war.

The Johnson Government response to the Covid pandemic and specifically their approach to what is in effect magicking money out of thin air to solve every problem rather than engaging anything near rational thought, has exacerbated an already serious problem. One that is making life increasingly difficult for the same people we are told all these fiscal measures are designed to help.

Not everyone is a financial geek or anorak – and neither should they need to be. Yet our MPs are elected to represent ALL of the electorate – whether people voted for them or not. And in the position of power and responsibility that they actively sought, the least that we can expect from ALL MPs is that they have a coherent and practical understanding of how everything that they collectively have responsibility for will actually work without causing more problems than they solve.

It simply doesn’t matter whether they are on Government or Opposition benches or somewhere in between. Representative responsibility for everyone is shared by them all.

Each and every MP should understand the real impact of printing money to solve problems, and the effect it has of devaluing the money that people like you and I have in our pockets. It means that the prices of the things we buy daily or each month that are necessary to survive, are quietly shooting up, whilst the media says very little or absolutely nothing about the struggles that even the so-called ‘middle classes’ are facing. MPs should not be playing any part – knowingly or otherwise – in this national travesty and the financial ineptitude of politicians is negatively impacting us all.

The other significant part of the problem we face, i.e., the key cause of the cost-of-living crisis, is the way that business and the banking and financial sectors have simply been allowed – often through deregulation – to inflate the prices of goods and services, often many times over as goods pass through the supply chain. These speculators calling themselves names like dealers and agents rarely add any value by what they are doing. But they have the effect of catapulting the value of end user prices, for no better reason than that they want more.

Common sense tells us that the way to counter the problem of rising prices is for workers to receive wage rises. But this is not how solving a massive problem like this works.

The financial problems that we face have quite literally been created by little more than greed. People in positions to play with prices, move manufacturing overseas and use many other clever, profit-focused devices that we are outwardly told will enhance UK business in some way. They are able to do so completely unhindered and do what they do, not because they have to, but simply because they can.

The reality underpinning this situation and the way money is being manipulated at every turn means that every wage rise given to the low and average wage earner is simply swallowed up by little more than profit-making of some kind. Meanwhile, the companies that directly provide the goods and services we buy put prices up, telling is that it is ‘market forces’ at work and that they have no choice to do so, whilst shareholder pay-outs and executive bonuses go on being paid handsomely. Not because its illegal, but because they can.

The instigators and people driving these inflated prices that are creating financial misery share one very clear thing in common with the Government and our politicians. They either have no idea what impact and consequences their actions and choices are having on the lives of others, or they do and simply do not care.

Either way, the misuse of such power either in the hands of business leaders or politicians is simply unacceptable. It cannot continue to go on.

The economic philosophy, ideas or textbooks that are being followed by politicians today have facilitated all of the money printing and financial wrongdoing over a significant period of time. Yet these really are just ideas that do not stand up to scrutiny over the long term, even if they appear to have worked over what has been multiple decades in time.

They do not work and are not working, because they neither exist nor operate for the benefit all. Here lies the biggest problem with how the financial and banking system, and our current system of government works.

Government DO have the power to change all of this no matter what MPs might say. But we are imperilled with the possibility of a very dark future for all of us, simply because the current ‘mainstream’ Political Parties have got the whole political system stitched up to the point that it seems impossible for any of this to work in any other way.

Politicians really do have the power to fix the way that money works and how prices are applied to essential goods and services. They can ensure that those on the lowest or average wages are earning enough each week or month so that food, clothing, transport, housing and the basic necessities of life are something that each and everyone of us can afford, without seeking help or going into any kind of debt.

They don’t, either because MPs and Politicians don’t understand the reach of their own powers, or because they have an interest in ensuring that the system continues to operate in exactly the same way.

If we want this to change. If we want prices and wages to work equally well for everyone. If we want everything to work equally well for everyone and in a mutually beneficial way for all, we must elect an entire Parliament filled with politicians who will represent us all properly, put everyone beyond themselves first, and most importantly not be afraid to do what is necessary or be open to any kind of influence that will have any kind of effect upon what they do.

The list of issues that need to be addressed is very long. It has been growing since long before the Covid Pandemic arrived, but that it was the public focus is currently all about.

There is no grand conspiracy at work. We just have politicians in power who are completely inept and very easily led, rather than being the leaders that they constantly work to try and convince us that they are.

People who have gained responsibility using the methods and the hand-ups that they have will not listen to or accommodate the needs, feelings and thoughts of others, especially when they perceive that doing so could risk the longevity of their position or role.

We can and will only achieve the very far-reaching changes in public policy that are now essential for everyone by changing our MPs and removing the Politicians and Political Parties that currently control almost every part of government.

This and the comprehensive reform of every part of government, NGOs and the Public Sector that we need so that they work for us all, has to begin with the change of the Westminster Government first.

The only way to do this democratically is to provide an alternative at the next General Election, because nothing else will democratically work.

Government should be ensuring that people can afford to live on a basic income, not make cheap headlines from a non enforceable wage

October 1, 2019 Leave a comment

Our MPs are so busy getting drunk on their own power and glory, they really have lost sense of reality with the policies that they continue to propose.

The problem is that without looking at the detail more deeply – as the people we have trusted to run this Country really should – the soundbites that they keep pumping out in isolation sound all so very good.

In quick succession, we have had the Liberal Democrats. the Labour Party and now the Conservatives throwing out policies from their Conference platforms that have been designed as nothing more than cheap tricks to buy voters off.

Promising the earth and then failing to deliver has very little cost for the unscrupulous politicians involved.

But policies like simply cancelling Brexit, reducing the working week for everyone to 32 hours and raising the ideal hourly rate for the Living Wage has a real impact that will not deliver the beneficial experience that these politicians are suggesting they can control.

Pretending that Brexit and the vote that led to it can simply be cancelled as if it never happened would be beyond stupid and would have very serious consequences for everyone – no matter what fairytales those obsessed with Remaining in the EU would like us to be told.

But what we earn and how we earn it not only has an everyday effect on how we live our lives, it is also all about what we can afford.

Politicians on all sides are completely out of touch with what it actually costs us to live. The reality is that even on a 40-hour-week paid at £10.50 per hour in 5 years time, thats only £420 per week or £21,840 per annum. It’s not enough today for a single adult without children to be self sufficient, let alone tread water or basically survive.

The cost of living in this Country is stupidly out of control.

The way that we measure the health and success of our economy should not be wage rates and rises, GDP or statistics in any other form. But whether the poorest amongst us can look after and completely fend for themselves on the basic minimum wage without going into debt, claiming benefits or having to look to charities to someway get involved.

The way that a more enlightened government or MPs who actually know and have respect for what they are doing would achieve this is to actually use the power and responsibility that they have been given to make changes the the framework that business and finance operates within. Not to tinker on the edges by applying sticking plasters that will have already lost their ability to heal anything by the time that they come into use.

Too many businesses, financiers and property owners are taking too much value out of every product and every service that is provided in this Country, without putting like-for-like benefits back in.

The system is complex and complicated and few of us really understands how finance, markets and supply chains work. But the benefit is all going one way right now and continuing to take the most from the people who can least afford it. All so the people at the top of the chain can keep adding to a cash pile they have no genuine need to use, whilst looking at the ease with which they can work the system and concluding that they can take even more.

Politicians should not only know, but be acting proactively to address this. Not to eliminate the financiers, business people and economists like Labour might like to do so. But to introduce a considered set of ethics and regulation in every aspect of business in this Country, so that end users are only ever paying whats fair for the basic products and services that are essential to live and survive. But above all, is no more than what they can actually afford.

Until we have politicians prepared to take the steps necessary to address the real cause of the cost of living problem, the way that economics work means that the people who are now having to go into debt, look to the government or charities just to get by and stay alive will continue to see life as something that they simply cannot afford.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Change is what we need; not revolution. And it’s all about getting the basics right…

November 13, 2014 2 comments

images-13For all politicians, the opportunity genuinely exists to revise and create new polices which will work for the benefit of all. It’s not an option which is restricted to Ed Milliband and Nigel Farage who both hope to have very different roles in power from May; but one which even the Coalition Government could begin to embrace right now.

Sounds quite a stretch when you think about it though. Tribal politics and the media chasing political circus that Westminster has become, has, after all created a cynical and disenfranchised electorate; one which in the majority experiences little each day, to make it feel that the system actually relates to any of us in any way.

Perhaps without even knowing they do it much of the time, even the most modest members of the political classes somehow succeed in exploiting this very real perception to their benefit, using the media and disingenuous rhetoric they employ to leave individuals and families feeling as if they are themselves alone in going through what for many has become a very trying experience.

It wouldn’t be so bad. But being left feeling guilty because you cannot afford to buy food; to pay bills; to buy clothes; to pay for transport or because you are having some other form of negative experience of life which you really shouldn’t be have in 21st Century democratic Britain is certainly in no way fair.

It is certainly not what you would call right in an age when equality has for a long time been sold to us as a given.

Its not what you expect when successive political generations have told us all that they, and only they, possess the holy grail to putting everyone first.

When you have Government after Government run by people whose only true priority is to gain or retain power, it stands to reason that many people do not see or feel that the electoral system is working for them.

Ignoring elections, or throwing support in the direction of a new Party which is at the very least attempting to sound like it is in touch with the issues that people are facing, then for many becomes an attractive proposition indeed.

Regrettably, such a political environment like the one we are experiencing today provides a wholly fertile seedbed for popular voices advocating seismic change of a kind that would be more akin to opening the Pandora’s box which accompanies public unrest, rather than heralding the arrival of some new and golden age. However well intended, Russell Brand’s recent political outbursts and the publication of his book Revolution are in reality little more than an aspirational touch paper of anarchy – based on the views and interpretations of many other Writers – promoting the release of one terrible genie that any sensible person – however frustrated with the system they might be – really does not want to see let out of it’s bottle.

images-12Overnight change – which is essentially what revolution is, doesn’t usually end well. It is more likely to lead to a situation far worse than most will have experienced before, and one which will probably be a lot harder to change.

We have to work to make what we have better, rather than breaking up the workable framework that already exists; throwing it all in the air and then leaving it all to pure chance to see – and then experience where the unconnected pieces will then all fall.

It is top to bottom reform and change that are essential across public services and all areas of Government Policy, before people are in any way likely to feel they are being treated fairly.

This will not come about by continuing to base arguments and disquiet on wealth or demographic class, and whilst advocates of wealth redistribution may find an audience which is very receptive to the idea that either taxing or simply stripping wealth from the rich, and sharing it out equally amongst the poor may give them all a much better life; this idea is indeed as illusory as the money is itself.

Non-earned wealth will in most cases disappear just as quickly as it arrives – if not through private spending, then through the exponential and inflationary economic changes which would almost certainly accompany the instantaneous arrival of so much personal wealth.

The aim of solving the problems of breadline Britain or the cost of living crisis will no better be served by penalising the potential of high earnings, than it will be by enacting an unsustainable rate for the Minimum or Living Wage.

Such solutions may provide a temporary fix, and give a moment of perceived justice to many. But those with money will soon move away or lose the incentive to keep earning – whether they are companies or individuals; whilst those who have found themselves with more money in the bank at the end of one month, will soon lose it the next when employers and the suppliers of all the goods and services that they think they can now afford put their prices up to support the rises in wages that they have themselves had to pay.

No. Dealing with problems in isolation simply does not and will not work, because by attempting to solve one problem in this way, the process soon leads to the creation of many more – if it doesn’t just make the original one a whole lot worse for those who are experiencing it.

To build a better life for all, getting the basics right is the very first step. It is about reviving, living and promoting a sense of ethical balance and consideration for all.

This will most likely be achieved by ensuring that at the most fundamental level, adults can afford to feed, clothe, and house themselves – and any dependents that they may have – to a minimum and workable standard. A benchmark level which cannot be subjected to the influence of any third party.

Working to address the many issues that require policy changes will not be simple. But Politicians are elected with the expectation that they can deal with complexities on behalf of the people they represent, and if they have taken their election that seriously, this is exactly what they should now do.

The possibilities for solutions are probably endless. But solutions are indeed possible if the needs, benefits and consequences for everyone are considered properly.

If politicians genuinely want to help and provide a level-playing field where there is opportunity for all, why are they not looking at policy areas that have the potential to make an immediate difference. Examples might be:

Releasing the restrictions placed on employers AND employees through Legislation such as the European Working Time Directive: The days when legitimate business thrived on the unbridled exploitation of the working classes have long since passed and we today have some of the most restrictive working practices on the planet. If everyone in the workplace was completely happy, furthering and maintaining the cause of such horrific levels of bureaucracy would make sense. But many people want the opportunity to work beyond the requirements of their contracts of employment, whilst employers would benefit greatly from increased input and flexibility from existing – and often more experienced staff. The real key to ensuring fairness is simply allow workers to do additional work when THEY want to, or just as they have formally agreed. Employers have to be trusted not to embrace unsafe working practices and the nanny state has gone too far in basing industry-wide restrictions on the behaviour of the unscrupulous few, or upon idealistic views of bureaucrats of how business actually works. Imposing business-breaking fines – and being seen to do so, would be a far more effective way of encouraging good working practices and management, rather than allowing officials with no business experience to attempt to direct industry professionals on how they can staff their business.

Stopping the escalation of property prices:The UK is culturally obsessed with property and its financial value in a way that few other Countries are. Prices have continued to inflate at dangerous levels which keeps borrowing artificially high, and makes rental prices equally excessive for entrants to the markets who have to rent, but desperately want the opportunity to own. Government could and arguably should step in to regulate the property industry and introduce policies which keep prices as they realistically can. The potential need for a resetting of property values is very real, and whilst Government behaves as if the answer to all problems is to build, build, build, while prices keep on going up (When do you ever see new developments come on to the market with prices that are lower than the local comparative market?), Politicians are never going to solve the housing problem or the massive drain that property prices has become for young people entering the market. Putting this problem off until tomorrow has long been the way; but tomorrow may already be here!

Working with Utility companies to keep prices manageable: The term ‘utility company’ has been a misnomer since privatisation, when the priority switched from the supply of services that are essentially supposed to be for the public good, to shareholders who will almost always be looking for a profit. No man can serve two masters, and the monopolistic strength of these companies has equipped them with the ability to write their own ticket, whilst ensuring their profits are secure. In the absence of Government regaining ownership, it should nonetheless step in to cap profits, or at the very least buy supplies direct for those who qualify at rates which reflect the wholesale purchasing power that the Government could and arguably should have on our behalf.

Buying services and goods direct from suppliers for those on benefits and low incomes or using smart card technology to deliver just the same: A massive opportunity exists for Government to step in and buy products and services on behalf of those on low-incomes and on benefits. Without the need to provide subsidies, Government could easily realise all the benefits of procuring food, fuel and essential goods as a significant bulk-buyer, just as big companies like supermarkets already do. The immediate concern that would be raised by the implementation processes such as administration, distribution and monitoring could be easily overcome through the use of IT, and whilst we hear horror stories about the stupendous cost of government-wide software implementation projects, the technology already exists to provide such a system through the use of personal smart cards, without big business profiteering, or the end user having to collect goods from anywhere other than the stores that they already use.

Creating a ‘retail’ arm to the Bank of England: Provide full current account services and not-for-profit based lending for pay-day-loans and to support small business – just seeking to return the operating costs for the benefit of everyone.

Lining up what are just a handful of suggestions makes it sound simple. But nobody would have unrealistic expectations for delivery from a Government that communicates with the public using openness, honesty and respect.

People do know that they deserve something better than what they currently have, and the time has come for a kind of Government which actually gets the basics right, rather than just talking about it before the usual grandstanding begins.

Whether income for those on low incomes comes from earnings or in-kind from benefits, there exists a cultural expectation for British Government to ensure a Basic Standard of Living.

Whatever the Political Party in Government might be, it is time for the philosophies, protectionist policies and ideas which benefit only the few to be binned and replaced with delivering something better as the priority for all.

When Government has these basics right, the many dominoes which stand beyond will very quickly begin to fall.

 

 top image – imgarcade.com

The Energy Rip-Off: Profit for most businesses is a benefit and neither a right nor the result of monopolistic guarantee. Energy Companies should be no different to other businesses and fixing prices or imposing a windfall tax is not the first step to help those where help is needed most

October 22, 2013 Leave a comment

images (42)John Major’s intervention on energy price rises certainly shows just how much of an issue the Political Parties now realise it is. But a windfall tax won’t help the people who really need that help the most and could in fact make things a whole lot worse if politicians don’t start to become a little more imaginative and thoughtful about what they now do.

N-Power were the latest of the Energy giants to announce their next jaw-dropping price hike yesterday and at 10.4%, it’s the biggest one of this season so far. But such price rises aren’t new and whilst its perfectly feasible that prices will now be loaded at every opportunity over the next 18 months to counter Ed Milliband’s very plausible threat of an anachronistic reemergence of socialist Government, the real problem is that the Energy giants collaboratively control a monopoly which politicians either fail to understand or otherwise have no desire to address.

These are after all Companies who have grown used to using excuses such as green levies, wholesale energy prices and the costs of infrastructure replacement to justify these continually upward and exponential rises, whilst their profits remain strangely, yet comfortably in tact – a situation that almost any business which offers a product which is bought only by choice could simply never hope to achieve as their market simply wouldn’t sustain it.

It really should come as no great surprise for politicians at any level that imposing a windfall tax will do little more than supply yet another opportunity for these unharnessed Companies to raise prices and inadvertently maintain profit levels in a situation that no privately owned company with this kind of responsibility to the public should ever be able or allowed to guarantee for private shareholders.

The lack of real-world understanding within the political classes is most evident when they repeatedly fail to address the lack of empathy and social responsibility that such parts of the corporate and financial worlds possess and which is increasingly manifesting itself through the price rises and blatant profiteering they undertake. Let’s make no mistake; it cries out for a level of intervention that Government seems strangely unwilling to take – or in Labour’s case, seems completely devoid of any reality when it comes to reigning in the activities of operational and service providing businesses.

Further taxation will not help people who are struggling to make ends meet in any way. People on increasingly squeezed incomes actually need prices to fall if wages are not going to go up and whilst a freeze in prices might sound good, these very same people really don’t need to experience the drop in temperature that will come if the energy supplies are turned off as a result of Red Ed seeing this quixotic plan through to fruition.

Before anything, the Energy companies need to be given the opportunity to change their approach and stop treating the UK Energy Market as a cash cow. It isn’t, and they will struggle to find anyone amongst us who believes that repetitive price rises of around 8-10% are both genuine and also peculiar to services which people simply must have when in today’s economic climate every other area of business basically has to justify each and every penny of a notable price rise.

If the Energy Companies won’t respond to such an opportunity, Government must then seek to regulate the profit margins which these Companies can achieve, whilst ensuring that every ‘hidden’ route to obtaining profit through re-routing costs and finance by such methods as creative accounting, overseas holdings and charges to ‘other businesses’ are stopped. It might take a lot of work, but this is what politicians have been elected to do on our behalf and what we have every right to expect of them.

There is of course an argument made by some for re-nationalisation of previously privatised industry too. But this also has to be put in context with an acceptance that the UK purse has already been stretched way beyond irresponsible terms and that the dream of a return to an age of unionised control and stagnation within vital services would be little more than the replacement of one small set of people benefitting from one form of misery for the masses with another.

Competition in its truest form is however another thing and with an emphasis on social enterprise as a way of tackling the Energy price problem, there is absolutely no reason why the Government or even the more Localised forms of it couldn’t set up, run or sponsor the development of non-profit making energy companies which are run on commercial lines and open up the market in a much more diverse and genuinely free-market-based way. The results could be quite surprising.

Whatever the politicians come up with it must work for the public and industry at large; not just for the Energy companies and shareholders, and certainly not just for the politicians themselves as they look for their next result in 2015.

We now need a new and gutsy kind of politics which addresses all the needs that we have by tackling them all head on and with proper regard of the implications for all along with all other areas of Policy.

It’s time that politicians started to think about changing the rules, rather than continually romanticising over possible poll results. Throwing sound bites at the media that will never really deliver for people who need help the most is not the place to start.

image thanks to http://www.telegraph.co.uk

The Cost of Living crisis: – It’s those money men, stupid

August 15, 2013 Leave a comment

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Hypocrisy has become an artform for many of today’s Political class, and talking up politically expedient issues, spinning away inconvenient truths or criticising others for doing no more than they would do themselves has become the apparent norm.

After a media splurge targeting their inactivity in the sun whilst Cameron has been busy making hay under his, Labour have returned to the stage this week focussing their less than lacklustre performance on the ‘cost of living crisis’, giving every indication that this is the ‘issue’ that will steward their return to majority Government in 2015.

If tackling every issue were seen to be as simple as giving it its own branding or strap-line like this and waiting for it to go viral, we would have a marketing man in Number 10 already – which of course we actually do.

Sadly, the ‘cost of living crisis’ is probably the most dangerous issue that any of our Politicians could ‘play’ with, in the run up to the 2015 General Election, and we should perhaps all be concerned by its apparent adoption by the political left in order for it to be manipulated as a vote-winner. After all, the future of most of us is tied up with it, and its genesis reaches far deeper into the fabric of our society than any of our leading Politicians seem willing to contemplate or have the moral capacity and determination to deal with – even if they have apparently now acknowledged it for their own political ends.

The reality for most of us outside Westminster is that we don’t need posturing Politicians and media hype to remind us of the fact that wages are effectively standing still whilst the cost of paying our bills just seems to keep on going up and up, month after month, year after year without any sign that it will ever relent. Many hard working people simply struggle to keep themselves afloat even before they start to consider some of the luxuries that those very same politicians and newsmen probably take for granted.

Real people living in the real world already know firsthand what it is they are experiencing when the letters hit the mat; the e-mails arrive, the phone rings and when they go and shop. When the pay rises, tax breaks and bonuses that they desperately need aren’t coming to middle England and those hovering either above or below Britains poverty line– simply because the Government’s Pot is already exhausted and the Nation simply cannot afford it – these same people need politicians to drop talking up the effects of the problem and start tackling the cause head on.

This task is not one that will lend great comfort to any politician who values their place in history more than they do the lives of the people who elected them and this is problem enough with British Politics today in itself.

Facing the reality that the free market has surpassed its point of balance and therefore the good for which it was intended is not a thought that many in power will want even to contemplate. Therefore accepting that increasing freedom within the markets to pursue infinite profit, whilst that very same action is effectively enslaving great swathes of the normal population within fiscal misery is not a pill that many of today’s Politicians will swallow willingly. But it is there in front of all of them just the same.

Through the creation of the virtual monopolies which are the utility and energy companies; private businessmen, shareholders and pension funds have been given seemingly insurmountable power over the lives of everyone by being able to dictate their own paydays, whilst they go unhindered by Government and Regulators – who have nothing really but the interests of their Industry at heart.

Likewise, ever growing convoluted supply chains, often reaching the length and breadth of the Country or even across Continents allow many different traders, dealers and agents to add their cut to the margins which you would normally expect to see only from producers and retailers, then inflating prices way beyond what they should realistically be.

Further still, those businesses without control or a sizable share of their markets are also having their margins forcefully squeezed by the companies and organisations who do and many of these businesses are the same ones that cannot afford to recruit or pay more than negligible wage rises to the very same people who are now being affected financially from almost every angle you could imagine.

Whilst no reasonable person would argue that businesses exist to make a profit, it is simply beyond logic to add layer after layer of profit onto the most basic and essential of items or services and then expect end users to keep picking up and meeting these overinflated bills without any real additional income of their own to cover these exponential and wholly unrealistic rises.

Companies, traders, financiers and all manner of individuals and entities are in effect ‘vacuum profiteering’, making money ex nihilo or basically creating something from nothing in a manner which could be akin to having the midas touch, were it not for the misery that it is increasingly inflicting upon those who are wrongly being expected to pay for it.

Without those who hold this power over our economy taking steps to regulate and restrict the way that they make profit, they are through their very actions writing an agenda for Government over many years to come – whatever its Political make-up may be, that has the potential to create social and financial problems of a size and scale across our Nation that Government itself won’t be able to afford to put right – simply because the Taxpayer has no money left to fund it.

Such levels of responsibility over the health and wealth of a Nation should never have been placed in the hands of money men in the first place without sufficient safeguards in place to protect the many who could be affected by the unscrupulous profiteering of a few. But it has.

No Political Party should be seeking to take the moral or politically philosophical high ground on this issue as it is a problem which can only be tackled one way. That is by Government stepping back into the free market and taking an actively pro-market or even interventionist approach to regulating market behaviour – should it be so required. The UK needs to retain capitalism but it must also maintain it in a responsible and considerate way that doesn’t destroy the ability of consumers to consume in the process.

By taking just the key players such as the utility, energy and finance companies to task, Government could go a considerable way to putting safeguards in place that would ensure a basic standard of living can be maintained against the minimum wage, and that the minimum wage would then itself reflect a living wage and one that should keep many more people safe from harm and therefore from being a potential burden to the State.

Regrettably, action of this kind does not reflect the creed of contemporary Politicians and the point continues to be missed that wealth creation only works effectively when there are benefits – in whatever form they may be – for all.

Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour don’t want to embrace the answer and neither does UKIP, which is riding high on the tide of discontentment and disenfranchisement that the lack of connection with reality amongst the other Political monoliths has created within the Electorate itself.

It’s time for Politicians to wake up and smell our overpriced coffee before it’s all too late.

image thanks to http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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