Sunday, 30 July 2017

BBC in need of a new pay policy

One does not have to be a Tory politician or a reader of the right-wing press to disagree with the BBC`s sexist and profligate pay policy, and conclude that the corporation "cannot be trusted with the public`s money" (After the pay furore, the BBC now has a chance to be a beacon for fairness, 23.07.17). As Will Hutton says, "dozens of broadcasters would jump into their shoes" given half the chance, and in some cases, a fraction of the pay. To assume hugely popular programmes like Match of the Day, or Wimbledon, would not be watched if there were no "star" presenters or pundits borders on the absurd. It is not difficult, therefore, to disagree also with Peter Preston`s opinion that "constructing any sort of pay structure that makes the remotest sense...can`t be done" (Female channel bosses who have earned top billing,23.07.17).
 A government which apparently accepts a reason for the Brexit vote being "too little being done" to help the "just about managing" should now be capping pay at all public workplaces, including the BBC. Fairness would be ensured with a pay limit for all management and broadcasters set at £250,000, almost ten times the average figure, a figure incidentally inflated by obscene levels at the top. This would have the additional benefit of freeing up revenue to fund a pay rise for production staff, without whom there would be no programmes whatsoever. The new pay policy should be introduced as soon as possible, with the names of those unwilling to agree new contracts immediately made public. Let them risk their careers with their own greed; they will have little sympathy or support!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Only one place for Northern Powerhouse

Andy Burnham should have realised by now, if not when Osborne first mooted it, that the Northern Powerhouse is not becoming "ever more distant", because it was simply an election wheeze dreamed up by the then chancellor to win votes for a Tory party that never expected to win the 2015 election Morning Star,25/07/17). At least, spending a mere £1bn on rail infrastructure in the north compared to over £100bn in the south should place that Powerhouse where it obviously belongs, in history`s bin! How long can the Tories continue to treat the voters as mugs? Are we expected to be grateful that although they cannot afford to electrify the Transpennine line between Leeds and Manchester, they will provide "bi-modes" which essentially use fossil fuels generally, but which can be electrified where the wires are in place. The biggest insult of all is that money can be found for London`s Crossrail 2 but none to improve the NHS`s efficiency, to fund properly our state education and care service, to increase the depleted pay of public sector workers, to provide safe housing for all, to improve the prison service etc etc.
   The whole affair should be another "open goal" for Labour so let`s hope the whole party wastes no time in attacking this duplicitous government. Expose them for their typical political chicanery. Why wasn`t the expensive Crossrail 2 in the Tory manifesto? It would be interesting to see how spending another £33bn on London transport would help the "just about managing"!

How dare Grayling attempt to con us with his claim that Crossrail 2 is both "affordable" and "fair to the UK taxpayer" (Fury as Crossrail 2 is backed after Northern plan ditched, 25/07/17)? Are we expected to be pleased that the government can afford yet another vanity project after committing to spend an unbelievable £55bn on the London to Birmingham HS2 line, when it says there is no money for the things that really matter? Why not fund properly the health and care service, state schools, the prison service and a social housing programme instead?

Saturday, 22 July 2017

BBC`s extravagant pay policy:

The broadcasting union, Bectu, is absolutely correct to say that it`s time "the BBC gave its low-paid production staff a pay rise", just as it is gratifying to read that a Labour government would limit public sector pay ratios to 20:1 (Morning Star, 20/07/17).
   What is absolutely clear from the corporation`s pay revelations is that the BBC has been, and still is, guilty on three accounts: profligacy, sexism and idiocy.
  The fact that it has been profligate with the licence-payers` money is obvious; rather than having a pay policy based on fairness, with no-one earning less than £20k a year, the BBC chooses to pay obscene amounts of money to its so-called "stars", who clearly should be allowed to go elsewhere, if their only objective in life is to acquire wealth. If the market really rules, why pay John Humphrys so much, when his only radio alternative employer is commercial, with limited audience and influence?
 The pay policy is sexist: twice as many men appear in the list of top earners as women; paying women less when they clearly do the same job is simply not on in any century, let alone this one!
 The idiocy comes with the pay for the sports presenters and experts. People tune in to watch the sport. Will they not watch Wimbledon if John McEnroe isn`t on? Do we watch Match of the Day in our millions to listen to the presenter tell us which match we will watch next, or is it because we really want to learn from the "expert" comments from men who played the game years ago? Of course not.

    In fact, would people stop watching "Match of the Day",  if there was no presenter or punditry, and instead, the highlights of each match simply followed one another, without the "expert" opinion? At least, that way would provide more football action, and the millions saved by the BBC could be spent on new programmes, new talent,  and increasing the pay for those at the bottom struggling to makje a living, and without whom, there would be no programmes at all!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Match of the Day

BBC salaries

The director general of the BBC insists that the corporation needs to “be competitive, but not foolishly”, but it would be very interesting to see how many people actually watch sports programmes to see and hear the presenters and so-called experts, usually long retired from the sport (Alan Shearer earns £450,000 a year for BBC punditry and Match of the Day).
In fact, would people stop watching Match of the Day, for instance, if there was no presenter or punditry, and instead the highlights of each match simply followed one another, without the "expert" opinion? At least that would provide more football action, and the millions saved by the BBC could be spent on new programmes and new talent.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Disgraceful pay award for teachers!

The news that the School Teachers Review Body has recommended a below-inflation 1% pay rise for the profession is unsurprising in view of a number of factors (May under fire as teacher pay rise held at 1%, 11/07/17). As Dan Poulter said, the government`s instruction to the so-called "independent" review panel was "to ensure that increases in teaching pay are capped" at that same level. A government which refuses to contemplate taxing wealthy individuals and corporations fairly, to contribute to the needs of society, was never going to consider alternatives, despite the typical posturing by the likes of Johnson and Gove.
   Similarly, this government lacks the economic nous to understand the benefit of paying public servants more when it leads to increased tax revenue and help for the local economy. Lacking, too, is the imagination to spread the pay rise proportionally, so that those on the lowest pay scales get more than 1% and those earning over £50,000 awarded less. It is at the starter level where most recruitment and retention problems lie, but the fact that most schools are either using agencies to recruit from abroad, reducing staff numbers and subjects taught, or using unqualified staff to fill gaps, clearly does not bother this prime minister. 
     This award, correctly described by Layla Moran as "an insult", will inevitably lead to yet more young teachers leaving the profession, and to thousands more rejecting the idea of entering it. The bottom line is that the UK currently has a government which simply does not care about state education.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Government`s refugee policy a disgrace

It is extremely sad when the British government`s policy towards refugees can be accurately summed up as "out of sight, out of mind" (Refugee policy is wrong and short-sighted, 09/07/17). Cameron failed to "see the bigger picture", and ignorantly blamed the UK`s "pull factor" for the crisis (Stop our shameful retreat from the world and share the refugee problem, 23/08/15), rather than the obvious "push factors" existing in Eritrea, Syria, Yemen and Libya, where crimes against humanity are committed every day, and there has clearly been no improvement under May`s administration. One of the first acts by this so-called "compassionate Conservative" was to stress to the UN refugee summit last September that people forced to flee their home countries "should seek asylum in the first safe country reached". May`s "humanitarian" policy also includes encouraging Somalis to return home to a country where thousands of al-Shabab terrorists are based, and which is under severe threat of famine, with an estimated five million people already suffering because of acute food shortages.
 Britain is not alone in the "immoral neglect of its international responsibilities", as your editorial rightly says, with most of Europe, "one of the world`s richest regions", also to blame. It does seem, however, that it is in this country where there is least cause for optimism, especially judging by the "stirring choices of artwork" currently adorning the offices of Fox, Davis and Johnson (Three leading Brexit ministers chase the spirit of empire in their choice of art, 02/07/17). Harking back to the UK`s so-called "glorious past", awash as it was with slavery, piracy, looting and atrocities, does not augur well for a change in what is clearly a "shameful" attitude towards fellow human beings,and a policy of which we should all be ashamed.

Understanding Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton frequently has expressed his desire to connect with his fans, but his failure to attend Formula One`s London parade displays a strange way of going about it, and one with which few will sympathise (Lewis Hamilton unrepentant for missing Formula 1 event days before home Grand Prix at Silverstone, 13/07/17). Opting to take a "two-day break" in Greece rather than reciprocate what he has called the  "incredible love" he gets from fans, he also chooses to live in Monaco, and actually calls "home" a ranch in Colorado 

    Hamilton says he wants to be "understood", and Wednesday`s booing might suggest that the understanding is increasing. When a multi-millionaire like him makes the decision to avoid paying tax in the country where he grew up, and which provided him the opportunities to develop his skills, he rejects the right to expect any support whatsoever!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Letter in Beatlesongs

Don`t ask me why but reading the review yesterday of "In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs" told me that there`s a place always, as Anthony Quinn says, " for something more " about the Beatles (Review, 08/07/17). For no one to notice that this book was simply written for money is unlikely, and it won`t be long before the taxman needs to act. Naturally, because every little thing about the boys in the end is analysed in detail, any time at all letters with song titles will be, too. As if!
  I fell in love with Beatles songs in 1963 so tell me why I`m not a paperback writer. I want to tell you my favourites, too!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Tories dig holes deeper

Personally, I love it when Tories are in a hole; I like it even more when they insist on digging it deeper!  Most recently, Michael Gove, best known for backstabbing colleagues and reforming school examination systems to favour middle-class children, announced that the Conservative party could use Momentum-style tactics to to get young people "involved in politics" (Morning Star,26/06/17). He appears to think that Tory policies, such as adopting fiscal policies to benefit the wealthy, doing nothing about the trillions squirrelled away in tax havens, and running down the NHS and state school sector, will appeal to younger voters. He is so out of touch, he probably assumes all young people aspire to join the local hunt, and would flock in their thousands to hear him speak at Glastonbury!
      Tories like him simply don`t get it! Corbyn`s popularity with younger voters stems from a party leader who is genuinely different from the politicians young people usually see. He connects with people, hugs ordinary people in distress rather than shuns them, and has policies based on fairness, aimed at reducing inequality and making the rich pay their fair share. Corbyn demonstrates that politics is for everyone, not something imposed on the populace by the government. He wants to see young people engaged in politics; Tories don`t, and Gove clearly doesn`t understand why - they won`t vote for a party which throughout history has been anti-worker and anti-poor.
       Just in case there is anyone in the country who still doesn`t think most Tory politicians are out of touch with the ordinary people, Lord Patten appeared on television last Sunday. Naturally, he was there to promote his book, but couldn`t resist the opportunity to demonstrate how people like him clearly reside on another planet! By stating that there is a danger that the Tories, in making a deal with the DUP, could make it look "as if the Conservatives have become nasty again", Patten ignored the fact that for seven years they have supported an austerity policy, which has hurt those least able to withstand benefit cuts, cut jobs, frozen pay for state sector workers, thereby reducing real wages, and introduced cost-cutting, threatening safety and lives. At the same time, hospitals and schools have had their funding massively reduced. Does it come any nastier than that? 
    Failing to vote for a Labour amendment to the 2016 Housing and Planning Bill, which would have ensured all landlords were bound by law to provide accommodation "fit for human habitation" adds to a long list of Tory action and legislation which cannot be considered as anything other than extremely "nasty". Promising to help the "just about managing", and then ignoring them in two budgets, and pledging instead to take away school meals from 600,000 children from working families; bedroom tax; benefit cuts for the disabled; etc.etc.
      It has taken a tragedy of immense proportions to get this government even to think about "health and safety", something which previously was seen as burdensome, EU-imposed, "red tape".
     And Tories fear they might be called "nasty" if they do a deal with the DUP to stay in power! Give me strength!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

"Feeble" Taylor Report

Despite the head of the review into the employment rights of workers, Matthew Taylor, stating that the low-paid "should not be stuck on the minimum wage or face insecurity", his report changes little (Official review "does little to help gig economy workers", 11/07/17). Rather than banning zero-hour contracts, Taylor simply says workers on such contracts should be able to "request fixed hours", with no compulsion for the employer to agree. Gig economy firms are not even required to pay the minimum wage for every hour worked!
    Theresa May might well call it "overbearing regulation", but without it, the exploitation of workers will continue.

Osborne in line for award

Yet again, you couldn`t make this up. Manchester University, an institution which is "currently planning to axe 171 jobs", has offered an influential position to a multi-millionaire whose arrogance knows no bounds, and who has so many jobs not one of them can possibly be done efficiently or conscientiously (Morning Star, 30/06/17).
  Even worse, this is the same man who masterminded the Tories` austerity programme from 2010 to 2016 with the aim of shrinking the state back to 1930s` levels, with all the reduced responsibility of government which that entails, to which the Grenfell Tower residents can sadly attest. Osborne should certainly be in line for one of  the University`s "Making a Difference" Awards, presented annually to staff and students who have made an "impact on the social well-being" of the community and wider society. There isn`t room here to list all those whose "social well-being" has been affected by the ex-chancellor`s actions, but a few include:
       the school pupils whose attendance at sixth form, and future hopes for A-level success were prevented by the ending of the Education Maintenance Allowance;
       those claiming benefit, including the thousands with disabilities, whose lives were damaged, and sometimes ended, by the then-chancellor`s severe cuts;
       state sector workers who endured repeated pay freezes, which led to recruitment crises, particularly in the teaching and nursing professions, and to huge reductions in their real wages;
       HMRC workers and inspectors who lost their jobs, but whose absence helped insure tax evasion and avoidance carried on enriching the wealthy, and depriving the Treasury of billions every year.
       local authority workers and inspectors who lost their jobs when councils, particularly Labour-run ones, had their budgets slashed by 40%;
       the millions of us whose health and safety have been put at risk because of the inevitable cost-cutting local authorities are still having to make;
       the rich, whose wealth Osborne allowed to increase hugely,and who refused to tax either efficiently or fairly;
       the people in the north of England who were fooled by Osborne`s 2015 election wheeze of creating a "Northern Powerhouse" at a time when polls were predicting electoral Labour success.
         Manchester University`s newest economics professor, someone incidentally whose degree was in History, certainly has impacted on the "social well-being" of millions of people in this country. One would have thought no institution, with any respect for the feelings of its staff, "consumers", or neighbouring locality, would even contemplate offering Osborne any position, especially one for which he has no obvious qualification, and to which he is so evidently unsuited. It`s little wonder that news of this broke when all the students had started summer vacation! 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Accepting history`s truth

The "stirring choices of artwork" which now adorn the offices of Fox, Davis and Johnson, suggest that their views on British history are as distorted as the ones they hold on the EU (Three leading Brexit ministers chase the spirit of empire in their choice of art, 02.07.17). Leaving the EU cannot take the UK back to its "glorious past", as they insisted in the Referendum campaign, because it does not have one. It actually refers to a time when the country`s wealth was created by the slave trade, piracy and looting, whilst native populations existed in a state of servitude, with atrocities and extreme acts of barbarity committed by British troops ensuring little or no resistance. Isolation was never a reality nor "splendid"; the truth, as Ben Quinn says, is "more complicated"!
    If ever we are to accept the veracity of our past, and if Germany can, it should be possible here, three changes have to be made: journalists like Quinn must stop referring to "Britain`s imperial glories", and her "buccaneering spirit" as they engender unhelpful images, and can contribute to ridiculous ideas about racial superiority; the vast archive of over 1.2 million files, which governments keep hidden from the prying eyes of historians at Hanslope Park must be handed over to the National Archives at Kew; the department of education has to insist on the teaching of accuracy whenever British imperial history is delivered, with less reliance on so-called "facts", and more on analysis and evaluation of evidence, when the students` use of "lacking completeness" can be highly rewarded. 
   The trouble is that most politicians appear content to perpetuate the mythology around Britain`s past, with the reason presumably being that knowledge of the truth is too dangerous? What could they be afraid of?

Friday, 7 July 2017

Labour and young voters

Despite admitting that "nearly two-thirds of voters below the age of 40" voted Labour, Felix Martin is strangely "sceptical" that any party is "anywhere close to an agenda" that can satisfy the concerns of the young (The young and the left, 30th June, 2017). He even says that discovering what young people want from their representatives "requires a bit of educated guesswork", when he actually provides ample evidence himself in later paragraphs. It is quite obvious that Labour`s proposals to increase taxation on corporations and the "richest 5 per cent" appealed more than the Tories` wealth tax on grounds of fairness, as the rich are rightly perceived as avoiding paying their fair share for far too long.
   That the "current alignment to the left" will dominate UK politics for the next twenty years is hardly the "worrying development" which Martin makes it out to be. The party which fails to have "fairness" at its policies` core will flounder; the one which promises selection at the age of eleven, and grammar schools, rather than the level playing field of equality of opportunity, will lose out, as will one which ignores the increasing gaps between the rungs in the social mobility ladder. Top jobs cannot be the preserve of the privately educated; unpaid internships cannot be allowed any longer. Obscene pay levels at the top, the provision of affordable housing and the ridiculous burden of student loans have been ignored by all parties for too long. The unfairness of Tory austerity policies, and the obvious failure to act on May`s rhetoric have not gone unnoticed.

  Labour has most definitely "devised a solution" to "intergenerational inequality", and the right ignore it at their peril! 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Not only the Lions "poking the bear": Gove

Again the question of Michael Gove`s planetary habitation has to be asked.
         Not only does he think and publicly state on television that May`s administration is ensuring "secure and stable government", obviously missing altogether the fact that the Tory party is embroiled in divisive debate over state sector pay, he also ignores the point that Britain`s provocative decision to withdraw from European fishing agreements will inevitably lead to international disputes, and even "a rerun of the Cod Wars of the 1970s" (UK plan to withdraw from EU fishing deal "endangers fish stocks", 03/07/17).
 It`s not only the Lions who are"poking the bear"!

An excellent editorial but what a shame it was seventy six days late (At last, Gove gets the right job, 16/06/17). It would have been more appropriate for April Fool`s Day! Still, political satire clearly is not dead. I especially liked the idea that Gove has "experience with boisterous unions", omitting to point out that his ludicrous decisions, always against the advice of experts, were the cause of the unions` annoyance in the first place!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Labour unity needed

"Faux battles", as Emily Thornberry says, are indeed the "last thing" Labour needs, and one has to question, yet again, Chuka Umunna`s motives (Labour urged to focus on toppling Tories rather than the "faux battles" over Brexit, 01/07/17). Why can`t he, like the rest of us, enjoy the fact that the Tories are in a huge mess, lacking direction and leadership, and under fire for the massive damage their failed austerity policies have caused?
 The "botched response" by the government has not been confined to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, with their opening Brexit salvos being ridiculed in Brussels, and their confusion over the public sector wage freeze simply adding to their anguish. Labour tactics until the summer recess should focus on displaying a united front, and capitalising on the government`s disunited one; plenty of opportunities for political gain will come, especially if Labour concentrates on the manifesto`s "there is an alternative to this" message, publicises the need for fairness to be introduced into the government`s proposal to continue to subsidise wealthy landowners, and waits for the inevitable car-crashes whenever Conservative politicians are asked remotely challenging questions in interviews! 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Report into Southern Rail flawed

It is little wonder that the author of the government-commissioned report "into the crisis on Britain`s worst-performing rail network", Chris Gibb, finds union action at Southern Rail "difficult to comprehend" (Southern tried to run too many trains with few staff, 23/06/17). Although he managed to meet with Southern owners Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Keolis 28 times, and with government agencies 48 times, an appendix to the report shows that he did not have one single meeting with the unions!
     It seems that cost-cutting, which clearly played a part in the Grenfell tragedy, also was the primary factor in the Department of Transport`s decision to award the franchise to GTR, because they made "the cheapest offer", with rivals having "too many drivers". Now the trend is to cut costs further by getting rid of guards on all trains, against which unions are rightly opposed. Do we have to experience a train disaster before the government comes to its senses, and insists, on passenger safety grounds, that all trains must have guards?