Thursday, 31 March 2011

A Good One to Miss?

Tuesday night, ah just pottered about a bit, made dinner, watched a bit of the England friendly and headed up to my beloved's after her choir rehearsals had finished. Leader's debate? Ah… what leaders debate?

The first indication I had that a televised Leaders hustings had taken place was listening to "Good Morning Scotland" heading into work the next morning. From what I gather, Salmond kinda coasted it, Gray was like a nippy dog that probably lost votes because of his aggression and his faux pas over Council Tax. While the other two were… well the other two. All in all, and with no policies to attack, much ado about nothing. If there is a way of seeing some of it (as it does not appear to be available "On-Demand") I'd like to know where it is available.

Which brings us to the curious question of why? Last year's "Leaders" debates were well publicised, were scheduled at peak time viewing and were scheduled during the Westminster Election campaign – the first one was just before the mid point of the General Election campaign. So why was the first debate scheduled for a Tuesday night, up against an England friendly, will little advanced warning and at a time when campaigning is barely luke warm? STV surely should have done a better job of promoting the programme and they should have done a better job of scheduling the debate.

Surely this far out, the broadcasters aren't a little embarrassed at the quality of the candidates.  If the Scottish based media are embarrased, what will the London-centric one's be thinking?  Apart from Salmond, and Tavish Scott's beard (which sadly has disappeared), none of them really portray a sense of identity or personality. As for a vision on how the next four years are going to pan out for Scotland, forget it. It does bear thinking about, that an election as crucial as this one, and already the Glasgow based broadcasters are showing a slight disinterest. Still, the campaign proper hasn't started yet, plenty of time to get the campaign up to luke warm.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Day Boy George Turned Into Bob Flemming

You may remember when Saint Vince (when he still had his halo) inadvertently pricked the image of Gordon Brown with his "Stalin to Mr Bean" quip, well Wednesday's budget sounded as if it was read by the Fast Show character Bob Fleming. You know, the gardening presenter that finished every sentence with a cough that got steadily worse as the skit went on. Well Boy George was that man on Wednesday.

The general rule of thumb is that when you are in a hole, you stop digging. Osborne signaled that he intended to continue digging by carrying on with his "Scorched Earth" policy of destroying public services in the UK. The cuts will continue despite the growing evidence that continuing to take of money out of the economy to plug the gap exacerbates the dire economic situation in this country.

Services are not the only thing Osborne cut. He cut Corporation tax by 2% - taking effect at the start of the 2011/12 tax year, and in an act which must have been influenced by Gordon Brown, announced a whopping 1p cut in fuel duty (the other thing Brown used to do was have very short budget speeches, Osborne's lasted just over an hour). The other tax cuts will not have helped the ire felt by many, and may well put an end to the little untruth propagated by the soap-dodgers alliance. There is to be a 5.75% tax rate on "the treasury functions" of companies based in tax havens, while there is to be tax cuts for businesses with foreign operations. A quick read of the Tax Research UK post will reveal the scale of Osborne's treachery towards the British people. A quick look at the successive post is also required reading, as it outlines the estimated amount lost in Tax Avoidance/Evasion schemes (like the ones perpetrated by Vodaphone, Tesco & Alliance Boots to name but three).

Osborne has a plan though, and he is determined to follow it. Unfortunately it is a plan that has already been adopted by another EU country. You remember at the 2009 budget, when right wing commentators were imploring the UK to follow the lead of Ireland in slashing public expenditure. Well lets look at Ireland now, with it's mountain of debt that can't be paid because no one has any money, and those people with money are just sitting on it. Ireland, like Iceland and the other countries quoted in Salmond's "Arc of Prosperity" quote all believed in aggressive corporation taxes to entice companies to come to their countries. Did stuff all for their public finances, but hey Ireland did have a Dell factory, till they buggered off to the Czech Republic. The announcement this morning that WPP are to return to the UK is good news to Osborne's ears, but it's the only good news at the moment.

Milliband the Younger taunted Osborne by calling him "Lamont with an I-Pod" and calling the budget "Del-boy economics". It is unfortunately a lot more serious than name calling. At the moment, it is just scrabbling about for money. When the cuts come (all in the wrong places protecting management positions, of course), we will then see anger. This budget has not put liquidity into the economy, it does not help those at risk to cuts (like OAP's – who have seen their winter fuel payments cut), and it will not promote the growth required to offset the fallout from Osborne's Scorched earth policy. It may be treble's all round in the boardrooms and corporate offices up and down the country, but don't be surprised by the reaction to come from further down the food chain.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Now Where Was I…

So the last time I posted, it was about the situation developing in North Africa, particularly the situation surrounding Tunisia and Egypt.  Since my hard drive threw a hissy fit, what have we seen?


Tunisia, having got rid of a president has now seen a Prime Minister leave his post while elections are expected…  at some point.  Egypt has seen Mubarak deposed, only to be replaced by the same anonymous military types who initially installed Mubarak as Egyptian President 30 years ago.  Elections are promised…  at some point…  probably in September.  Anyone see a trend here.

Thankfully along has come Libya.  I say thankfully because at least the facade of change is something that is not going to happen.  If the Gadaffi regime falls, then change is a going to come.  Unfortunately we are going to have the sight of an incredibly bloody, bitter and violent civil war before we get to the end of Gadaffi’s reign.  We have already seen the beginings of that war, as it dominated the news cycle up until the tectonic plates violently jolted just off the coast of Japan.

The most distressing sight though is not the humanitarian crisis, as the aging dictator turns on his own people, but the view expressed by the USA, the UK and France that they can stick their oar where it is not wanted.  It’s as if Iraq and Afghanistan never happened.  Those countries would not be interested, were Libya not oil rich and run by the American’s favourite pantomime dictator.  The sight of Cameron floating the idea of “no-fly zones” at a time of economic hardship warrant's another asking of the question.  Exactly what planet are these people on.

Any intervention in Libya must be strictly confined to aid.  We have no right to any military involvement there.  After all, after Iraq our name is still various shade’s of mud in parts of the World.  Our, and the American’s, rehabilitation has barely started.