Thursday, 26 February 2009

A Privatisation Too Far...

One of the jibe’s levelled at Blair years ago was that he was the best leader the Tories never had. I took it to mean that Blair was showing the kind of pragmatism which used to be the hallmark of the old one nation Conservative Prime Ministers. That and he did rather shamelessly steal an awful lot of Tory ideas.

I mention this because Peter Mandelson has shown those New Labour colours again today, by signalling his intention to part-privatise the Royal Mail. This is off the back of Mandelson’s supposed preference for key employment rights to be shelved “apparently” to help businesses through the recession. His defence for this part-privatisation is because there has been a shortfall of £5 billion, according to the BBC, in the pension fund. This is a hole which apparently would be filled by private money. Yeah right. What will happen if this goes ahead is that the new Royal Mail management would insist on smaller benefits for those due to retire.

I am somewhat staggered at the distinct lack of questions asked of the Royal Mail management, these people are earning millionare wages, and for what? Adam Crozier, the Chief Executive supposedly earns £4 million a year, while his chairman Alan Leighton is reputedly on £2.5 million a year. Crozier in a previous life couldn’t run the FA properly, his failure in the developing power struggle with the English Premier League cost him his job. Leighton on the other hand couldn’t run a football club, he has to take some of the blame for where Leeds United find themselves now. These two have overseen spiralling debts and two hatchet jobs on the post office counter service network, whilst helping themselves to £39 million in wages since 2002.

I am wary about the reasons for this, it seems like an awful coincidence that this has happened less than 6 months after the last of the Post Office closures (in Scotland), and less than 3 months after the scrapping of the Post Office watchdog, Postwatch. Postcomm’s own recommendation to (fully) privatise the Royal Mail wasn’t exactly dismissed not that long ago. This feels like something of a stated aim for New Labour, going back to their decision in 2002 to appoint these clowns, with the aim to make Post Office Ltd profitable, regardless of quality of service.

Once again, our government has decided to break up a part of the glue which binds our communities together. With the Royal Mail part of the Post Office set to be sold, Mandleson has made a mistake, one which for many may well be the final straw for New Labour.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Half Measures

The SNP/Lib Dem led council revealed their budget last week, which contained the kind of making a bad situation truly horrendous measures which are steadily becoming the hallmark of this administration. One figure did stand out though, Renfrewshire Council have spent £230million in renovating and rebuilding our schools, which is strange considering the capital value of this project according to the UK Partnerships website is £194.6 million. You can, I’m sure draw your own conclusions.

This entry however is about something which our council leaders have not announced anything about. It seems that our council has taken it upon themselves to ban “private hire” taxis from the centre of Paisley. These Taxis’s have been told to drop off people at the back of Wetherspoons, the top and bottom of New Street and the bottom of Causeyside Street. Any cab’s breaking this ban faces 3 points added to their licences. This curfew however doesn’t apply to the white hack’s who are still allowed up New Street and around Gauze Street/Smithhills Street and the rank at Gilmour Street.

This is a strange measure, and there is no reasoning behind it. It is creating a monopoly for taxi’s at the centre of Paisley’s nightlife, with the hacks able to hoover up business here as people come out of pub’s and clubs at closing time. The Hacks are easily the more expensive of the taxi operations in Paisley. A Private hire cab costs about £5 from the town centre to the top end of Glenburn. A Hack costs about £7.20 for the same journey. The SNP/Lib Dem council are possibly trying to stop the Paisley Cab’s empire, but this measure only hurts the cabbies, not Paisley Cab’s owner Stephen Malcolm (who has put up the rent for their radio’s, again). It is the honest cab drivers here who will feel the pain more.

There is a significant walking distance from the middle of New Street to either end. This makes the centre of Paisley less safe for our young adults, and in particular our young women. If a woman is attacked, or worse in this area, this measure will have helped any potential crime take place. Overall, this is a measure which makes no sense at all, and is a potentially dangerous one. I hope the Council explain themselves and soon.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Annual Brits Blog

It is the time of year where I get to moan about that “national institution” known as the Brits, and the frankly appalling choice of nominees which… well whoever votes for these awards make’s.

Yet this year, the Brits have got it right on a number of fronts. 2008 was the worst year in British music since 1992, and the list of nominees reflects exactly how formulaic British Pop, Rock and Dance has become. Conversely there is more invention and interesting music coming from overseas, and this is reflected in the nominations for the overseas awards.

So ladies and gentlemen, the nominations are…

Best international album AC/DC - Black Ice, Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes, Killers - Day & Age, Kings of Leon - Only By The Night & MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
A fascinating list, with arguably Metallica’s Death Magnetic missing from the list. The winner will be King’s of Leon, to cap a fantastic 2008 for them.

Best international male
Beck, Neil Diamond, Jay-Z, Kanye West & Seasick Steve
Another strong list, with both Neil Diamond and Jay-Z making stellar performances at Glastonbury. I have a sneaking suspicion that Jay-Z will win here though

Best international female Beyonce, Gabriella Cilmi, Katy Perry. Pink, Santogold
While Beyonce, Gabriella Cilmi, Katy Perry and Pink have sold the records, Santogold has garnered the critical acclaim and I suspect this prize.

Best International Group AC/DC, Fleet Foxes, Killers, Kings of Leon & MGMT
Can’t really see beyond King’s of Leon making it a double here.

Best British breakthrough act
Adele, Duffy, Last Shadow Puppets, Scouting For Girls & The Ting Tings
Should The Ting Ting’s, but will either be Duffy (even if she sound’s like a chipmonk) or Scouting for Girls…

Best British male Ian Brown, James Morrison, The Streets, Paul Weller & Will Young
Bit of a strange list, with the exception of James Morrison, all the nominees have had better years and I’m sure there are better candidates. James Morrison will win here.

Best British female
Adele, Beth Rowley, Duffy, Estelle & MIA
A very strong list here. I’d love to see either Estelle or MIA win, as their records are inventive and great, but I suspect that Duffy will win because she seams to be something of a media darling just now.

Best British group Coldplay, Elbow, Girls Aloud, Radiohead, Take That
Given a list like this, ideally Elbow should walk away with this award. However it will probably go to Coldplay or GirlsR2skinny…

Best British live act
Coldplay, Elbow, Iron Maiden, Scouting For Girls, The Verve
Best British Live act – Scouting For Girls??!!!??? Again one that Coldplay will win, even if Elbow deserve it.

Best British single Adele - Chasing Pavements, Alexandra Burke – Hallelujah, Coldplay - Viva La Vida,Dizzee Rascal/Calvin Harris/Chrome - Dance Wiv Me, Duffy – Mercy, Estelle Ft Kanye West - American Boy, Girls Aloud - The Promise, Leona Lewis - Better in Time, Scouting for Girls – Heartbeat & X Factor Finalists – Hero
Bit mystified at the exclusion of “Great DJ” by the Ting Ting’s, or “Grounds For Divorce” by Elbow. Ideally either Dizzee Rascal/Calvin Harris or Estelle with Kanye West should walk away with this. Both “Dance Wiv Me” and “American Boy” are by some distance the best records on this list. However the Brit’s has form in choosing the rank outsider. Best British single of 2004 was not “Dry Your Eyes” or “Take Me Out” but a Will Young record that wasn’t “Leave Right Now”. It’ll be the track Charlie Brooker described as a record “that will be played at thick people’s funeral’s” – Hallelujah. Let's hope it isn't Girls Aloud's cover of the Blankety Blank theme tune.

Best British Album
Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends, Duffy – Rockferry, Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid, Radiohead - In Rainbows
& The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing

Ideally this should be won by Elbow, but it will either be Coldplay or Duffy

Critics' Choice: Florence and the Machine

Outstanding Contribution To Music: Pet Shop Boys
The best decision the Brits organisers have made in years, and considering that the likes of Oasis and the Spice Girls have picked up this gong, long overdue too. Best described, by Gary Mullholland in his “This is Uncool: The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk and Disco” as having the ability to “… be part of the pop parade and somehow separate, some kind of midway point between the differing ambitions of The Smiths, New Order and Duran Duran”
They brought an intelligence to the normal humdrum I love you you love me kind of songs, yet they remain kind of first person. It’s long overdue that the BPI should choose the right band, and in particular this band for this award.

Oh and Neil Tennent is so spot on about X-Factor.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Four Horsemen Appear before Paralament

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse appeared before a parliamentary committee today to apologise for laying wasted to many countries economies and destroying many thousands of jobs.

One of the horsemen, named only "The Shred" said sorry, and that he was only following his orders which was to make as much money as possible, no matter the consequences.

The trial continues...

Or something like that!
In the only opportunity to find out the why and wherewith all of how our two financial institutions nearly collapsed, the former Chairmen and Chief Executive's of Halifax/Bank of Scotland (Dennis Stevenson and Andy Hornby) and The Royal Bank of Scotland (Tom McKillop and Fred Goodwin) appeared in front of the House of Commons Treasury select committee. Essentially, these are some of the people to blame for the current recession.

From what I gather, the edited highlights are thus, they are all really sorry, but did not foresee the credit crunch, until the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September (a year after Northern Rock first fell into trouble in this country). The ABN Amro deal was described as a "bad decision" by Fred Goodwin, which was a bit of a no Sh** Einstein moment. When Barclay's felt that they had lost ABN Amro, they probably thought that if they were not going to get it then RBS would have to really pay to get their hands on ABN. Though I do know people who think that Barclays weren't really interested in ABN Amro, but more interested in the possibility of hurting one of their competitors. If that is the case boy had they succeeded.

I do suspect however that the four bankers did get off lightly, the questions put by the committee were not difficult ones, and the bankers easily evaded giving too much away of what happened. They did point out that they have been punished, as they have lost out when the value's of their shares declined, Goodwin mentioned that he alone has lost £5 million. Sorry, but I'm sure that they can afford it (Andy Hornby is still being paid £60000 a month), there are pension funds, and small scale savers who have comparatively lost out on a larger scale than they ever could. These people should try and say that to the 2300 people who Goodwin and McKillop's former employers are going to make redundant.

The four bankers were allowed to make their false apologies, and then not answer the really controversial questions. I'd like to see how they fare against someone of the callibre of Paxman, who would get the much sought after answers, rather than the preening parlamentarian's.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Racism Revival

Its funny how thing’s pan out. Who’d have though that the use of an old BNP slogan by our dear leader, would have blown up in his face the same week as the offspring of one of our former leaders used a racist phrase. Would you adam and eve it! This on the back of Harry Windsor’s use of the P-word, though I was more offended by various Royal a*se-lickers sorry, Correspondents continued use of the P word on television.

Firstly, British jobs for British workers and all that. When Brown, as I understand it, misquoted his own speech at the Labour conference in 2007, he must have known that the phrase would come back to bite him in the posterior. The finest politician of our age, according to our subservient press, using BNP slogans which UKIP would happily use, is such a crushing blow to Brown’s credibility.

What is surprising is how this has come back to the fore. Workers at the Linsey Oil Refinery walked out when sub sub contractors of the French Oil company Total brought in Spanish and Portuguese workers, over the heads of local workers. The local workers have reacted with dignity, resisting calls from the BNP, and correcting the media at every turn over what the dispute is about. This is in spite of the opposition from the government, with Peter Mandleson warning against protectionism, and as I have pointed out, a media keen to peddle the angle thatthis is about generic “British jobs”. Well surely IREM (the Italian company who’s contract stipulated that their own workers rather than local workers should be used) are propagating a king of protectionism. Pot… Kettle anyone.

Mandleson’s handling of the whole affair has been completely unsatisfactory, preferring to blame the workers for walking out than think about the bigger picture. This is something that no Labour politician should think about doing, especially at a time when New Labour are tanking in the polls. But then again, having spent the last 12 years shunning their former core constituency, what really do these workers expect. Brown, Mandleson and Blair should have been brought back to core Labour values a long time ago, rather than let them get to peddling BNP slogans.

Whether the BNP, or more pertinently UKIP gain some electorial dividend over this (and it is hard to think that they wouldn’t, the BNP are experts in the black art’s of spin), New Labour have scored a massive own goal by misrepresenting their own supporters.

This is something which Thatch wouldn’t have done, and the daughter of Thatch (left) stuck her size 8’s right in it this week. She is reported, backstage at the BBC’s “The One Show” (where she is a contributor), to have referred to a tennis player as a “gollywog”. If she referred to the tennis player I think that she did, not only was it racist, but mind-numbingly disrespectful of arguably one of the best Tennis players of this decade, and one of the leading sportswomen of this decade to boot.

One of the things that supporters of Thatcher seem to have missed is that workplaces up and down the country are duty-bound to be sensitive to their co-workers. Where I work, we have diversity training, which this kind of situation is not seen in a positive sight. The BBC, despite what some of their detractors say, has done the right thing.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Clarkson Is A Twat...

The BBC's motormouth motoring maverick strikes again. Promoting Top Gear in Australia, Jeremy Clarkson said...

"He (Kevin Rudd, Australias PM) genuinely looked terrified. The poor man, he's actually seen the books.
"(In the UK)we've got this one-eyed Scottish idiot.
"He keeps telling us everything's fine and he's saved the world and we know he's lying, but he's smooth at telling us."
Now Clarkson IS a twat, and deserves a lot of the brickbats he is going to get for the one-eyed Scottish part - jeez he is perceptive. But to call for his head, its really a but passe. We seem to have lost any perspective on anything contriversial that is uttered by any employee of the BBC. I wonder if there are so many sensitive souls out there, why the torches are not out for Guido Fawkes, who's insults for our dear leader range from "One-Eyed son of the manse" to just simply "Prime Mentalist".
Completely agree with him over the last part though.
UPDATE: 22:20 - Just seen the full quote, strangely he retracts the "idiot" part but not the one -eyed Scottish part. Bit of a brain fade there.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Wanted... For Undermining Democracy

Now, let me get this right. The country is going down the tubes, we are becoming more and more of a laughing stock with every passing day, while our dear leader fiddles about in his deckchair rearranging exercise, while not doing anything to really help things. Like give the bankers the dressing down that they soooo richly deserve.

Then news appears about these jokers, and they are. But then maybe we are for putting up with an antiquated second chamber for so long. Whatever, these people, that is (clockwise from top left) Thomas Taylor (Former leader of Blackburn Council), Lewis Mooney (former Kirkaldy MP), Peter Snape (former midlands MP) and Peter Truscott (another former MP), deserve to be expelled from our democratic processes.

We need people to stand up for our interests, not the interests of the highest bidder. It feels apt that this is one of the key themes of late on this blog, and here we are again on my 100th DFP post. I feel that the next 100 are not going to be happy ones either.