The SKWAWKBOX

Here’s a petition SKWAWKBOX readers will probably want to know about and support. The image of the leave campaign’s bus with its huge NHS slogan is, of course, now as infamous as the pathetic speed with which Tories and others were rowing back, the morning after the referendum result, from its promise to save £350m a week on EU costs and spend it on the NHS.

eu bus.pngA petition has been raised to demand that this promise be kept – or to re-run the referendum to see whether people still support Brexit in its absence. It has 38,000 signatures but must reach 100,000 to pass the bar for parliamentary discussion.

Whatever your feelings about Brexit, the fact is that this NHS promise played a huge and prominent role in the campaign – yet when challenged about it in the House of Commons, the Tories simply laughed:

tories 350m.pngBoris Johnson’s amusement at…

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Figure 3: Public Sector net debt, financial year Source: Office for National Statistics http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/psa/public-sector-finances/september-2014/stb-sept-2014.html#tab-6–Public-sector-net-debt

The Oxford Online Dictionary defines ‘austerity‘ as, “Difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure”. The purpose is to eliminate the current budget deficit by reducing public expenditure. The graph on the right reveals precisely how well that is going.

So either the government is dramatically failing or they are misleading the public about their real agenda.

The cynical use of language by Da’ish to support its propaganda campaigns may not be new but its power is undiminished. And just as they hope that the west will name them as ‘Islamic State’ so they can push their flawed narrative that a conflict exists between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds, the Tories hope that their opponents and the media will continue to adopt their ‘austerity’ narrative.

Their slick communications strategy following the global financial crash in 2008 was designed to portray Britain in crisis. A crisis caused by the Labour government and one which only the toughest of remedies would cure. This remedy, they proclaimed, was an austerity program that necessity demanded must continue for several years. By ‘austerity’ they meant ‘cuts’ in public spending.

The British public have always risen to a challenge, it’s in our nature. So when told we must take unpleasant medicine to ‘cure’ our nation of its ills, we can be relied upon to sign up and take it. By ‘we’ I mean of course the collective ‘we’. We’re more than happy to sign up as long as someone else is actually taking the medicine, and the austerity program has been designed to target those in society who are the least likely to resist. The rationale is that the welfare state is too soft on those most in need and we can no longer afford to carry them. They need to look after themselves and stop relying upon a ‘nanny’ state; they need a dose of ‘tough love’.

imagesUnfortunately for Britain, nobody was alert enough, articulate enough or popular enough to effectively challenge these assertions. The Labour party decided it was incapable of persuading the public and quietly conceded that their former colleagues had, in fact, caused the recession. When confronted with the enormous size of the UK’s post bank bailout debt, they concluded the Tories were probably right about the need for cuts. Equally unfortunately, our right-wing press, especially the most influential TBC (Tory Broadcast Corporation), were delighted to help their former public school chums and run with their narrative. That’s what chums from the same club do, isn’t it? And then of course there are the chief beneficiaries of this program, because there are always beneficiaries, the wealthiest in our society. Whilst welfare cuts were a necessity, a reduction in the top rate of tax for those earning in excess of £150k was not only affordable, it was necessary to ‘get Britain going on the road to recovery’ as was and is a multi-billion pounds high-speed rail link.

The execution of this program was not without challenges. Millions of pounds wasted on the poorly managed west coast rail tender, hopelessly incompetent city centre and business start-up initiatives, huge amounts of money paid to ‘support’ industry, and disastrous privatisations of prisons, prisoner transfers, academies and free schools without qualified teachers, public utilities and of course the NHS. David Cameron’s pre-election pledges that the NHS would be safe in their hands and there would be no reduction in tax credits were about as sincere as Nick Clegg’s infamous student loans promise. Fortunately for the Tories, good old aunty (the TBC), remained on message and described the increased hospital waiting times as management failures and rather than restore the NHS budgets, hospitals were fined for their failures to meet the new ‘targets’. We’re still waiting for the TBC to explain where the money for our Syrian bombing expedition is coming from, how a Tory MP could get away with falsely accusing a constituent of issuing a death threat, or the U-turn and true opposition to fracking in our National Parks and how this along with their cuts to alternative energy reneges on the deal they signed in Paris just a few days ago. Even the continued support of Saudi Arabia seems to elude their ‘cutting edge’ reporting.

The net result is that after two terms in office, the Tories have increased the national debt but like most political parties, they selectively present statistics to demonstrate their success as, for example, they did by supporting zero hours contracts and part-time work in order to describe unemployment as falling.

Could all this have come about because of a ‘narrative’ or clever PR?

If, instead of describing their manifesto as an austerity program, they had described it as an ideological Tory ambition to claw back the role of the state, a more open debate would have ensued. If, the Tories had been honest and explained to the public that the debate was still the same old argument between Keynesian and free market economics, the public may have taken a different view. At the very least they would have known what they were voting for or against. If the TBC had taken a lead as a truly impartial purveyor of news or the Labour party hadn’t been too afraid to stand up for its traditional values, the debate might have been better informed. A lot of ‘ifs’ and they are meaningless unless we learn from them.

The facts now speak for themselves, even if nobody is speaking for them. Labour did not cause the last recession, it was a global crisis and their stewardship of the economy was more successful than any other government before or since. Britain is economically worse off now than when this ‘austerity’ program started. We have not witnessed an austerity program, we have witnessed the re-engineering of our society. The failures of the left are as responsible as the successes of the right and there is only one way to divert from further destruction of the society our forbears fought hard to create, the left must unite behind their common cause and become an effective opposition. The TBC can no longer be relied upon to convey a balanced debate, they can’t even bring themselves to cease naming Da’ish the ‘so called Islamic State’, despite knowing that they are playing into the terrorists’ agenda, but the left can change the narrative.

Labour, stop your destructive and distracting in-fighting; Britain can’t afford for you to be off your game any longer.  Talk to the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP, and find a strategy on which you can all agree. There is so much that you have in common, even more than some of your own members, so identify the common cause and fight for it. You may have to accept that some policies are not yet acceptable to the electorate and rather than making these ‘show stoppers’, offer a referendum with sufficient time to argue your case. You may or may not win, that’s democracy, but you won’t be sacrificing everything else you stand for by remaining out of government. But first of all articulate a new and better narrative, so that the whole of Britain understands what you stand for and why you aren’t fighting something called ‘austerity’, you are fighting the re-engineering of our society.

 

Posted by: Pete | August 1, 2015

A Beautiful Day Sailing in the Sound

Plymouth is an amazing city, parts of it are in dire need of some TLC but when you know how devastated it was in WW2 that somehow sits more comfortably. It was on the front line as a naval base and was badly wounded. But the regeneration is finally transforming the city to its former glory.

I never imagined myself returning to city life all those years after leaving London but then this is no ordinary city. The marketeers call it the ‘Ocean City’ and when you look out over the Sound, it is truly spectacular.2015-07-31 13.07.50

Dolphins and seals are regular visitors and even a whale was seen nearby the other day. Mount Edgcumbe Country Park provides a splendid green contrast to the waters edge and with anchorages at Kingsand and Newton Ferrers less than an hours sail, we’re spoiled for choice.

2015-07-31 14.09.34I took this shot of the ‘other side’ of the Mewstone yesterday. Note the tiny stone hut – I wonder what its story is!

Sitara and I were a little late back for dinner because, frankly, I couldn’t tear myself away from such a beautiful days sail. Although I did try to blame a temporary drop in the wind. 🙂

This soon picked up and she steamed back through the Sound reaching an impressive 6+ knots at one point where the tide flows near Drake’s Island.

2015-07-31 13.08.10

It’s very tempting to just keep going out to sea and visit Guernsey and the islands again or turn the helm a bit to starboard and head across the Atlantic.

But this will do me fine!

Posted by: Pete | October 3, 2014

Why shouldn’t Prisoners have a vote?

David Cameron states that part of his justification for Britain withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights is the right for prisoners to have a vote.

This is a perfect example of why we should stay in. His individual judgement is highly subjective and we would do better to listen the wisdom of others.

The purpose of prison is to protect society from offenders and punish inmates for their wrong doing. But the former is surely the greater goal, our aim should be to prevent re-offending, unless we intend to keep all prisoners locked up for life.

Part of the process to reduce re-offending is to try to integrate prisoners back into society, not alienate them further from it. By withholding their right to vote, we’re simply pushing them further away and making it more likely they will continue to re-offend on release.

Posted by: Pete | July 27, 2014

Pensions Guidance an Expensive Farce

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63482

via Pensions Guidance an Expensive Farce.

Posted by: Pete | March 4, 2014

If the Regulator lost your money, read on…!

The best chance for any of us to get our money back is to raise public awareness about the inadequacies of regulation in the financial services industry, whilst pursuing or supporting the separate campaigns that relate to our individual circumstances. 

The number of failures clearly demonstrates that reform is needed but it won’t happen unless there is seen to be public demand.

For this reason, I intend to start an e-Petition that will require 100,000 signatures to be considered for a debate in the UK House of Commons.

I believe the public as a whole will share our concerns about the safety of savings and the importance of a regulatory regime that is professional, works on behalf of all savers, and is answerable through an independent complaints organisation.

In preparation for the petition, it is important to raise awareness as much as possible and that is why I have created a campaign on 38 Degrees. In order for the campaign to go viral it will need a lot of support. If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to vote for this campaign and ask as many of your friends and colleagues as possible to do the same. The e-petition will be worded more specifically about reform of the regulator in order to embrace the widest possible group but it will mention the impact of the regulators actions in November 2011 as one example of their failure. The outstanding requests for information from the FCA should be dealt with in the next few weeks and the responses will trigger the e-petition, as well as a further media campaign and lobbying of MPs; let’s not forget that next year is an election year in the UK!

If we all tweet, blog, facebook post, google +1, email or even talk (!) to as many people as possible, we might just get enough support to persuade 38 Degrees to run this as a campaign and they have a great track record of success when they do.  For all our sakes, please do your best! 

http://38degrees.uservoice.com/forums/78585-campaign-suggestions/suggestions/5570078-reform-of-uk-financial-services-regulation-to-prot

 

 

Posted by: Pete | January 27, 2014

Londoners Outraged at Proposals to Develop Hyde Park

Londoners Outraged at Proposals to Develop Hyde Park

Suggestions from a right wing think tank that London’s famous parks could be sold off to pay the National Debt have been strenuously denied although sources close to David Cameron hint that he may favour the idea.

hpUnder the proposals, the sale of Hyde Park to foreign developers could raise enough money to pay off the £1.7 trillion pounds National Debt and if St James’s Park were also developed into offices, the surplus would add billions to the profits of the construction industry.

The think tank also floated the idea that Buckingham Palace might be developed and the historical buildings in Downing Street and Parliament Square should be considered as sources of potential profit for industry. Think tank ‘Right for Britain’ spokesperson Faisal Aziz commented on the proposals.

“It’s time for Londoners to do their bit to help reduce the deficit. For too long, London and the South East have been immune to the most severe impacts of the recession whilst the rest of the country has accepted the needs of industry, often at the cost of historic landscapes and buildings. These proposals demonstrate that the PM is not only prepared to ‘dump’ on everyone else’s doorstep, he’s also prepared to give up the prestigious offices at Number 10 Downing Street and move to a more practical and secure location, muted potentially as Slough or Milton downing streetKeynes.”

Critics point out that profits in the construction industry would almost certainly go overseas and that once you have dug up and built upon our national heritage, you can’t simply put it back. However, the evidence that the PM supports the initiative is compelling as a leaked conversation from the cabinet office revealed.

“Oh, come off it George, nobody will care about a few ducks and swans once they get some money in their pockets and if we tell them it’s a necessary austerity measure, they’ll believe anything.”

Posted by: Pete | November 6, 2013

Ignore the Politicians, Vote for Democracy

Pete Lihou's Blog

The right to vote is precious and was hard won by many brave individuals. But it is being undermined by politicians.

The credibility of democracy rests upon the idea that a person, or party, sets out a manifesto and the public vote for, or against it. But the system requires honour. What value has democracy if promises made in the manifesto are broken or a string of polices that weren’t included are implemented?

Over the years, politicians have come to realise that the public will just ‘grin and bear it’ if, once elected, they ignore the mandate given to them. Can anyone say the NHS is safe in Tory hands? What value can be placed on anything Clegg promises after he broke a solemn pledge on Tuition Fees? Were the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya democratically agreed by the electorate?

Of course, politicians want you to vote because by…

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Posted by: Pete | November 1, 2013

Public decides to privatise government

After years of failure and missed targets, the public has decided to put government out to tender.

Sealed bids from private, especially overseas, companies will be welcomed along with proposed candidates for the roles of prime minister and chancellor. Remuneration for these posts will be based upon performance targets which will be changed annually without prior consultation.

It is expected that the successful bidder will have no expertise or experience in the requirements and will use their instincts in addition to input from the ‘old boys network’ to inform decision making.

Key contracts for the nations health service, education, defence, energy provision, welfare and social care will be awarded on the basis of the potential to deliver rewards to shareholders and those failing to meet profitability targets will be scrapped.

Outgoing ministers will receive termination and pension settlements to the value of half a million pounds per year for every manifesto promise they avoided fulfilling.

The requirements specification set out in this invitation to tender may be altered post contract without altering the payments agreed upon application, nor will the brown paper bags containing incentives to ministers be returnable.

 

The next general election is years away but vital services in the UK are failing now.

Far from being ‘safe in his hands’, the NHS has been brought to the brink by David Cameron. His government has placed, already overworked, GPs in charge of hospital budgets, despite their lack of experience in the task. At the same time as reducing their availability as doctors, the government introduced a new 111 helpline that’s manned by unqualified staff, resulting in more patients being referred to hospital A&E departments. NHS Direct, which worked, has been dismantled and A&E departments have ambulances queuing around the country because there are insufficient beds to meet the demand. Staff shortages are becoming critical and GPs are now refusing to shore up the system. The ratio of nurses to patients has breached the professional standard and patient care is in free-fall. Forcing privatisation on the NHS and implementing changes against the advice of all the major health professionals, is far from keeping the NHS in safe hands. This is a broken manifesto promise.

Government borrowing hasn’t decreased in line with manifesto promises either. The government has failed to meet each if its targets and the lack of growth has left record numbers out of work. Claims that overall unemployment has decreased are deceitful when many have been forced to accept part time work leaving them with an income below the poverty line.

The so called austerity measures have been nothing more than a cloak for ideologically driven policies. Tax reductions for those earning in excess of £150,000 were unnecessary and provocative at a time when families in social housing were forced to vacate their homes or find extra money to stay. Miraculously finding billions of pounds for the unnecessary HS2 rail link and to shore up the aerospace industry, demonstrates that money could be spent on the NHS or welfare but this government is choosing to spend it on other things. Similarly, the millions being wasted on attempting to rejuvenate city centres is as flawed a concept as the millions they gave to start up businesses.

The government has also failed to execute existing privatisation policy. Further millions of tax payers money was wasted on the bungled West Coast Rail tender. Yet they seem hell bent on sacrificing more national assets. You can longer ring up a tax inspector. If you have an income tax query, you are connected to a call centre manned by polite operators who are completely untrained in tax matters. Even their managers are untrained and you can no longer call a tax inspector for help. The operators leave a message for an inspector to ring you back within 3 days. Presumably you are expected to wait by your phone for that to happen.

They are about to privatise Royal Mail, now that it’s finally in profit. Does anyone believe this will make it easier or less expensive to send a letter? Does anyone believe the introduction of multiple organisations will improve the reliability of the service?

Education is our investment in future generations and the outright lies told to the electorate about student tuition fees prior to the election should be sufficient for any right minded individual to lose faith in the coalition. Since then, we have seen the imposition of Academy Schools across the land and policy being pushed through by an Education Minister widely regarded by professionals as having lost the plot.

The list of failed initiatives and broken manifesto promises should be sufficient reason to call for a general election, but it’s the damage about to be reaped in the years ahead that should concern even the blue rinse brigade.

Once again Europe is at the heart of the debate and the right wing are determined to stem the loss of supporters to UKIP by insisting we leave the community. Whether or not they are right, the protracted debate on the UK membership of Club Europe will harm this country’s prospects for economic recovery. Inward investment will stall if foreign manufacturers believe the UK may no longer give them access to European markets.

Similarly, this government’s opposition to the financial services transaction tax, at a time when we are hosting the G8 with a ‘clean up the financial sector’ theme, is unsustainable and in the long term will isolate and reduce the credibility the City of London financial services sector. If we don’t play ball we could could be regarded as one of those uncooperative tax havens against which Cameron is currently waging war.

For the sake of our social infrastructure and the things that make our unique country what it is, and for the sake of our ailing economy and those who will be deeply affected by it, we need a change in Government now. 2015 is too late and too high a price to pay.

Of course, the big problem is what would replace this lot?

The opposition may be on its back, but one outcome could be another coalition, this time between three or even four parties. What is needed is a government where the destructive right wing agenda is reigned back. Such governments have worked well in Europe and it’s clear the LibDem partners to the present coalition lack either the bottle or the will to control the Tories.

Perhaps the time is now with us to implement proportional representation? Perhaps we have wasted enough time and money building, then tearing down, political and ideological infrastructures every time there is a change of government. However, uncertain the outcome may be, we have reached the point where almost anything is better than continuing with the present coalition. It is time to ring the changes.

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