Friday, April 27, 2012
Thank Heavens for The Guardian
"He had no knowledge that police were obstructed while trying to investigate phone hacking at one of his papers. No one told him about the 2008 Gordon Taylor settlement until it was in the Guardian – and even then he didn't believe the implications. He didn't follow the culture, media and sport select committee proceedings. He was ignorant that his company paid £800,000 in damages over a bullying claim against Andy Coulson's News of the World. He didn't read the judgment by Mr Justice Eady in the Max Mosley case alleging blackmail by one of his reporters. He didn't read a New York Times expose of the NotW in September 2010. He was "entirely unaware" until recently of the allegations – repeatedly reported in the UK – about a NotW private detective accused of murder. He was only recently told that in 2006 the information commissioner published a report listing his UK titles and their use of private detectives. Any half-attentive newspaper reader or TV viewer in the UK would – until recently – have been better informed on most of these matters."Finally, we should rejoice that The Guardian's investigative flair and perseverance saved us from a Britain in which Cameron, Osborne, Hunt et al would have allowed Murdoch media primacy in exchange for political support. This is not to say Labour was in any way innocent of kneeling at the Dirty Digger's throne or being in his thrall. But even Labour was not willing to sell its soul as Cameron's Tories were. It is to be hoped that the next stage of Leveson will allow the wonderful Mr Jay to direct his fire at the UK organ-grinders of this near tragedy; Cameron and Osborne.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Hunt must SURELY be Toast?
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Sarko Still in With a Shout
Friday, April 20, 2012
Tribunal Blasts NHS Reforms
"From the evidence it is clear that the NHS reforms were introduced in an exceptional way. There was no indication prior to the White Paper that such wide-ranging reforms were being considered. The White Paper was published without prior consultation. It was published within a very short period after the Coalition Government came into power. It was unexpected. Consultation took place afterwards over what appears to us a very short period considering the extent of the proposed reforms. The consultation hardly changed policy but dealt largely with implementation. Even more significantly the Government decided to press ahead with some of the policies even before laying a Bill before Parliament. The whole process had to be paused because of the general alarm at what was happening”
This rling suggests the whole enterprise of reforming the NHS was possibly illegitimate and certainly adds to the imoression of a government which is incompetent and bungling beyond even the standards set by Gordon Brown's final undistinguished period in Number 10. For more on this see here.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Sarko On Way Out?
Europe offers some strange kinds of ideas right now. In the wake of the world financial crisis we saw a swing to the right in Spain, the UK, plus Italy and Greece. The September 2011 election in Denmark registered a solitary victory for the left, but in Scandinavia, Finland and elsewhere, the far right seems to have enjoyed a substantial surge.
All these tendencies are discernible to a degree in the French presidential elections, the first round of which takes place 22.nd April, with the second round between the resultant two leading candidates the 6th May. Nicholas Sarkozy defeated Segolene Royale in 2007, 53%-47%, a comfortable win but scarcely a landslide. Born of a Hungarian aristocrat and a Greek-Jewish- French mother, the diminutive ‘Sarko’ has proved an unusual president, being derided as publicity seeking (he married a former model, Carla Bruni), excessively populist (especially on racial issues) and of questionable judgement (for example on economic policy). He has nevertheless sought to champion France’s role in the world, leading the NATO action to help topple Gadaffi in Libya. Having won some respect from this action, he has subsequently slipped badly in the polls.
His opponent on 22nd April include the socialist Francois Hollande, plus the far left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon and the far right’s Marine Le Pen. Hollande, who proposes a 75% tax rate for incomes over £1m and 45% on those over £150,000 plus a 20-1 ratio for bosses in relation to average pay, is level pegging with Sarkozy for the first round but once the minor candidates are eliminated he enjoys a 10% lead over the incumbent for the second round. Most betting people would consider it a shoo-in for the left this time, but Sarko is a resourceful and energetic campaigner, assuring Obama in a broadcast conversation: ‘We will will win Mr Obama, you and me together" The final week of the campaign is likely to see the gloves come off, certainly regarding the far left and far right candidates (Melenchon has called le Pen ‘a filthy beast, spitting hatred’) as well as the main players.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Which Set of ideas Will help Form the Future?
Martin Kettle writes an an interesting piece todayabout the political fringe. Are our monolthic partiesbeginning to fragment as they are in Germany? Certainly support for them is in sharp decline. Is 'Respect' the shape of things to come? I still hope Caroline Lucas will be that shape but I fear, despite the excellence of the Green party's message, the crisis of the environment will only be recognised once it's far too late. If the SDP, a party for which ivoted in 1983, could not make a breakthrough, with its huge initial support, then Respect, with its eccentric, flawed though charismatic one man band, has no chance.
Perhaps, as in Germany the radical
Pirate Party, born in Sweden, will help shape our future. What do Pirtae parties stand for? Well, they believe in civil rights, free sharing of online data and freepublic services. Maybe this sounds a bit thin for a party of the future, but it seems like a good start.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Shock Horrow- Rich people Fiddle Their Taxes
It always worries me sometimes how long it takes for widely known information to filter through to decision-makers. We've read all about fat-cat tax dodgers in the Eye, the Guaardian, even the Mail and the ST, yet our Chancellor was 'shocked' to discover so many of our wealthiest citizens paid little or in some cases no tax at all. Frankly I am shocked at his ignorance but glad that the awful truth has now hit home: wherever they live- USA, Far East, UK-rich people are very mean. Actually they are especially mean in UK where charitable giving by the richest 1% was exceeded by the same group in the USA ninefold. Osborne told the Tories daily broadsheet:
“I was shocked to see that some of the very wealthiest people in the country have organised their tax affairs, and to be fair it’s within the tax laws, so that they were regularly paying virtually no income tax. And I don’t think that’s right.
“I’m talking about people right at the top. I’m talking about people with incomes of many millions of pounds a year. The general principle is that people should pay income tax and that includes people with the highest incomes."
The Telegraph continued:
The report[by HMRC] found that Britain’s 20 biggest tax avoiders have used three main loopholes to legally reduce their their income tax bills by a total of £145 million in a year.
Two thirds of them wrote off business losses in one of their companies against their income tax bill, reducing it by as much as half .
Several of them offset the cost of business mortgages or borrowing on buy-to-let properties against their income tax bill, while others took advantage of relief on donations to charity.
Interestingly, the Torygraph's editorial found difficulty with swallowing George's determination to swat tax cheats down. While just about supporting a crackdown it warned the Chancellor, with i thought crocodile tears, that he would end up deterring philanthropists and urgiung that he 'should think again'. Oh dear, the Tories do so find it hard to admit they are so greedy and prepared to cheat to retain their unjustified swag like portions of the nation's wealth.
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Our Irresponsible 'Feral Elite'More Dangerous than our Underclass
It would be foolish to deny such analyses have some veracity and that benefits cheating is a genuine problem. But it is only one aspect and, arguably more serious deviant group is to be found in the form of the very rich, a 'feral elite' as Ruth Lister called them last year. Writing today in the Guardian Peter Beresford elaborates the argument.
We have now entered an age when it is the divisive and damaging effects of those who are very rich and powerful that we need to fear, rather than poor and powerless.
And yet, this elite has emerged from the destructive world crisis, with its financial power enhanced, in absolute terms and politically too as the City now provides half of all the funding to the Conservative Party. This pampered elite, cut off from the rest of society yet connected those who decide how its wealth is distributed, is not hard to identify:
Key representatives of this amoral and isolated overclass are to be found among the leadership of tax avoiding corporations; unaccountable, asset stripping private equity companies; profiteers from the inordinately costly private finance initiative; corporate landlords imposing inflated rents funded by housing benefit; and outsourcing companies delivering poor value for money.
Monday, April 02, 2012
Extraordinary turn around in Burma
I can hardly believe the volte face by Burma's murderous and reactionary regime.It seems only a short time ago that In May 2010 the military backed Union Solidarity and Developmnt Party declared it had won 80% of the votes in the general election on a 77% turnout; international bodies condemned a fraudulent election. Given the Generals' apparent determination to stay in power, it seemed An Sang Sui Chi's house arrent would never be rescinded. But, suddenly, it was. The long imprisoned leader was released together with 200 others and a series of liberal reforms apparently passed.
Why did a ruling elite, one of the most reactionary, btutal and insensitive of all such rogue regimes,suddenly decide to turn 'good guys' and join the liberal democratic majority? An Sang Sui Chi herself has praised president Thein Sein for engineering such a turnaround. Her party won a huge victory in yesterday's elections and I for one am delighted that the fight of a leader who has spent over two decades in internal exile, can now maybe lead her country to a peaceful and more prosperous future.
But I'm still astonished that a ruling elite, so deeply entrenched and with a big stake in the way economic rewards are distributed, should voluntarily abandon its power. I just wonder if the story is not yet over and a few nasty surprises are in store...? As long aas one quarter of the parliament is reserved for the military the danger of thekind of coup that has characterised Burma's modern history, remains.