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Posts Tagged ‘Reform’

Still not voting…

November 27, 2019 Leave a comment

GE2019

At the beginning of the Month, I wrote ‘No, I will not vote in an Election where there isn’t an option for change. Why would I?

With three weeks gone and two more to go until the Election on Thursday 12th December, I have to say that I feel very much the same.

It’s not that there hasn’t been any change. There has.

But the change that has happened has been peripheral or aesthetic at best.

The good that might come from the adjustments within the political landscape that have taken place within this Campaign will not have come about not by design or intention, but rather by default.

With 15 days to go, the biggest issue on everyone’s mind today, is the Interview that Jeremy Corbyn gave to Andrew Neil last night. It followed a day where Labour’s choreographed plan for a day focused on their ‘ambitious Race and Faith Manifesto’ was utterly destroyed by the article written by the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and published in yesterday’s Times, explaining exactly why people should redirect their vote.

The Interview itself simply evolved a terrible day into a complete nightmare for the Labour Leader as he effectively refused to apologise for the anti-Semitism within the Labour Party and what the Party has done in response.

The Tories are riding high. And with the latest polls now suggesting that the gap between the Conservatives and Labour is closing, the fall out from this debacle is almost certain to ensure that the polling will quickly start to go the other way.

Or at least that is until Boris sits in front of AF Neil himself whenever that might be agreed and then be.

The big problem is that the Conservatives are riding a wave that doesn’t have defining Public Policy as its root cause.

Labour’s downward trajectory and overkill with its great electoral giveaway of 2019 aside, the biggest boon to Boris Johnson’s position has been the decision from Nigel Farage to remove so many of the Brexit Party’s Candidates from competing against Tory Candidates in Seats where the Conservatives won in the 2017 Campaign.

On the face of it, Farage did this to avoid the risk of Jeremy Corbyn walking into No10.

Yet his hybrid approach of standing Brexit Party Candidates pretty much everywhere else does have the distinctive whiff of the whole effort the Brexit Party is making being not about Brexit itself, but about gaining at least a foothold of control.

The lie itself is given by Farage’s suggestion during the Press Conference at the time that Boris had done enough with the pledges he had made about Brexit in the video that had been released the day before.

To some, it will come as little surprise that recent days have brought stories to the fore, that Farage has no plans to go anywhere. That his next mission will be to rebrand the Brexit Party and transform it into a political vehicle that will drive political reform.

The problem for Farage with this is that apart from the reality he has to now face that as a figurehead and leader he is no longer likely to be trusted, any Party that can be identified as being about nothing else other than Leaving the EU itself is likely to be as divisive as Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats have been by rejecting the need to find a pathway that will bring all sides together and committing themselves to cancel Brexit and promise that under their influence the UK will categorically Remain.

To its credit, the Brexit Party has demonstrated that it is possible to bring people, politicians and pubic figures from all political backgrounds together to work as one.

But the ‘Contract’ that they have published instead of a manifesto for this General Election tells us that the leadership of the Party is still thinking about politics in exactly the same way as the leadership of all of the other Political Parties who have contributed to the political crisis that we are experiencing and not least of all the Brexit Divide.

We now look two weeks ahead to an Election Result where Boris is still likely one-way-or-another to be our PM.

But being PM with a majority that is likely to lead to a clean, no deal Brexit by default within 12 months is a lot different to the situation that Boris will face if he is returned as Prime Minister with similar numbers of MPs in Parliament to what we have experienced since 2017 – where the majority present is most likely to still be pushing for further delays, obfuscation and what they will only accept as being a very open form of Remain.

The chaos that follows any of the scenarios that appear to be likely and unfolding from this vantage point in time will not improve things. It is likely to only make things a whole lot worse.

Whilst I and many others would like to see reason for hope that any of the Political Parties we have today and running in this Election could become the catalyst for wide-ranging change, once we have brought everyone back together again by really getting Brexit done, I’m afraid that paying lip service to the change that the UK desperately now needs simply isn’t enough for me to vote for any Candidate or Political Party that is involved.

Leaving the EU is now vital to secure the future of the UK and will positively impact the long term of everything that we do

October 8, 2019 Leave a comment

Today has been signifiant. Boris has already achieved significantly more than his predecessor Theresa May, and the chronology of events when we look back on the whole of the Brexit saga is likely to be seen to have pivoted on events that have happened today.

With Merkel saying her piece to Boris, followed by outbursts by Tusk and then Coveney on Twitter too, few of the objective people who are observing this saga unfold will have been left with any doubt about the content of the message that we have collectively been told.

The EU is and never was interested in compromise upon anything meaningful with the UK over Brexit, unless it resulted in a permanent state of Remain.

That they and the Irish Government thought that leaving Northern Ireland behind would ever be acceptable to the UK in order to secure mutually acceptable terms with the EU before Leaving is simply breathtaking in the extreme.

But the EU is an organisation that has form. And if our MPs had been fulfilling their roles as our representatives better – and arguably as they should – we would never have got to the place that we are, where the behaviour of the EU has had to be pushed to become so open and obvious, that many People across the Country are today wondering exactly what it was that we elected these MPs for.

What should now be clear to everyone, is the UK cannot thrive as it should, could and would do in the future, if we are tied to the EU and any of its Member States by even the most trivial policy devices – if they resemble anything that looks like Remain.

We must be able to set our own agenda in our relationships with the World outside. Set our own tariffs and border requirements. And most significantly write and implement all of the laws under which we are governed and required to observed as people and as businesses within.

We must do this because we the British People and the people from amongst us that we ask to represent us are the only people capable of knowing how to serve the interests of this Country best.

Only British People have the understanding of what our communities, businesses and public services need. And we need to have genuine localism working in our Cities, Towns, Parishes and Neighbourhoods in a way that centralising everything towards unelected bureaucrats in a European City never could deliver.

It is only if we do this, and are brave with the decisions that we make along the way and as we do so, that we can begin to address the real problems that are affecting our society. Knife crime, poverty, disenfranchisement, the housing shortage, the climate crisis and a whole lot more besides.

People have been suspicious of it, but might have never realised that many of the problems that we have in this Country have been created because of the way our law making has been exported to the EU. Rules have been changed and the responsibility for doing so given away to people with neither the interest nor understanding of what we all really need in this Country – the same basic responsibilities that UK politicians and MPs MUST be equipped with as a basic step in future, if their UK Lawmaking is to really do any good.

We cannot achieve anything genuinely good in and for this Country or indeed any of the other Countries and their Peoples around the World that we care for, if we Remain tied into the EU monolith in any way at all.

The EU has today proven that they are not interested in facilitating democracy. That they have no respect for it and that they are prepared to do anything and everything possible to keep what they clearly see as the UK cash cow, tied into the EU Project for good.

Its time that we all not only see but also accept that the UK’s best interests and the best interests of the EU are not, have never and will never be legitimately aligned or in any way the same.

We must Leave the EU as soon as possible and then reform our political system too so that neither Foreign Governments, the bureaucrats that represent them, or sell-out politicians of our own can prioritise outside interests.

The British People and our Industries are too important to be left to the whims of anyone who is on their own agenda and drunk on their sense of self importance and control.

 

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

 

 

 

 

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