Monday, 30 March 2009

Home Secretaries

The Home Secretary is responsible for the ordering of the lives of us ordinary mortals in a way that benefits society & keeps us on the straight & narrow. At least that is how it is supposed to work. Some Home Secretaries take it upon themselves to interpret that brief as requiring intrusion & control to a massive level. Is it therefore unreasonable for us to expect such a holder of that high office NOT to make silly mistakes in their own personal behaviour? Why should WE be forgiving? Anyone who can even spell 'integrity' let alone have any concept of what it means would resign.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Bankers contracts & common justice -4

There were lots of stories & comments in last Saturdays FT about the US politicians proposal for a 90% rate of tax on excessive earnings. I have argued in earlier posts that this is the kind of measure that should be applied. It can be cut back after a few years once it is clear that the message has been absorbed. The message is a simple one. Why on earth should financial services people be exempt from the pain that everyone else is suffering as a direct result of financial services actions? There is, as yet, very little sign that the financial industry is even prepared to recognise that it screwed up. Most of the comment is about 'global', 'couldn't be foreseen', 'not my fault mate - was the other guy' etc. Personally I am hugely encouraged by the shrieks of pain now emerging from the sector in response to this proposal. The counter argument is that we need the talents of those that got us into this mess to get us out of it. What rot. The people who are grafting away to salvage & recover what they can from the wreckage are not getting paid these obscene amounts of mony anyway. When I was working as a professional engineer, if I had been responsible for constructing something that fell to bits I'd never have been asked to supervise its' reconstruction, even if I was best placed to know what had gone wrong. Why is money so different?

Bankers contracts & common justice -3

One cannot condone the vandalising of Sir Fred Goodwin's property, despite ongoing frustration about the rewards for failure & the 'vandalism' he & his kind have inflicted upon the lives of ordinary people. However it was reported on the news that the RBS is still picking up the tab for the cost of his security. If true this really is pushing things beyond any kind of acceptability & it is something that could, & should, be stopped forthwith if not sooner. It is not as if he can't afford to pay for it himself. What next I wonder? Is RBS paying for his cleaning lady & his toilet paper?

Monday, 23 March 2009

BNP Policeman

No doubt the Association of Chief Police Officers had good 'policing' reasons for, in 2004, banning serving officers from being members of the BNP. No doubt also this decision was promulgated throughout the police service nationwide. The sacking of a BNP member from Merseyside police is thus a simple matter of industrial misconduct. The BNP is, however, a legal, legitimate political party. Despite its' abhorrent views, as Liberals we should be very careful about banning its' members from employment & other public functions. The voters are not fools. The more the BNP is allowed to open its' mouth the more it will condemn itself. We do not further the cause of opposition to its' views by creating martyrs or by driving its' membership underground. On the contrary we should attack it in public & at the polls at every possible opportunity & with the utmost vigour.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Social workers must be accountable

I doubt if social workers would deny the truth of the headline to this posting but what is completely UNACCEPTABLE is that such accountability is applied to poorly paid, poorly trained & overworked people & not universally, - especially not to politicians, media, financial types & all the others who see personal accountability for the misery & damage they inflict as an excellent requirement on everybody but themselves.

About 25yrs ago I was at a conference attended largely by publishers, journalists & media types. There had recently been a big engineering disaster with loss of life - the Piper Alpha platform probably. Anyway the media frenzy was all about engineers accepting personal liability for their mistakes. That proposition received much support from the floor until eventually my flapping hand was noticed. I had the opportunity to say that, as a professional engineer, I would accept the proposition provided that all the other professions in the room did the same. It is once in a lifetime that you get the chance to be a real show stopper. The debate was concluded forthwith. Nothing changes

Cabinet Government

Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer of 15th March reports a meeting between the new Tory 'stars' & veteran former heads of the Civil Service Lords Butler, Wilson & Turnbull to be advised of the virtues of Cabinet Government. We know that under Blair & Brown Cabinet meetings were & are considered an irritating waste of leaders valuable time but different under the Tories? Older folk will recall a sketch from the fabulous 'Spitting Image' in which Thatcher had taken the Cabinet out to dinner. When asked what she would have she replied steak. 'And the vegetables?' asked the waiter. 'They'll have steak too' replied Thatcher.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Scottish Independence

Fascinating to hear Alex Salmond on the Andrew Marr show arguing just now that if Scotland had been independent for the last 10yrs it would have built up a reserve from RBS & HBOS taxes which would have been retained in Scotland over that time rather than being remitted to London. This reserve would have allowed Scotland to rescue its' own banks. Since there is not a shred of evidence that these taxes would have been so retained one must admire Mr Salmonds capacity for spin. Indeed , given that most of the leaders of the failed banks were Scots, & that Gordon Brown, whose policies enabled those bank leaders to bust the economy, is a Scot, & that many of the leading Westminster Labour politicians who supported their Government are Scots, such evidence as there is suggests that those taxes would have been most unlikely to have been retained for the purpose Alex Salmond suggests.

I lived & worked in Scotland for almost ten very pleasant years. I have children who still live there & grandchildren who were born there. But I have to say that Mr Salmonds relentless 'victimhood' at the hands of the wicked English, & the support that he is gathering for that view, is now getting to me. I find myself wishing that he had got his wretched independent Scotland ten years ago. Then I wouldn't have had to put up with his snivellings nor have to cough up huge taxes to bail out his arrogant greedy compatriots.

I also hear that Scottish LibDems are prepared to collaborate with the ScotsNats. I don't know what that means but if it means some form of pact beyond that which already exists then it's the straw that breaks this camels back.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Data (non) Protection

Is it really too much to expect that some miniscule vestige of sanity might be allowed to penetrate our Laws?
A certain Bank has convinced itself that in order to prevent identity theft it is better to go on sending sensitive information to an old address rather than recognise a simple but obvious change of said address. In order to remove this blockage 'verification' documents are required. Of course if these should go astray in transit an identity thief has all that is needed for instant success. Never mind. Rules is rules - clearly drafted by imbeciles.

But I know you want worse. A person 'phones from a Bank and asks for my wife. This person, apparently on pain of dismissal, and allegedly because of the Data Protection Act [Given the amount of data that has been lost by Officialdom what a damn fool title that is], is not allowed to tell me WHICH Bank. My wife goes on the 'phone & a conversation ensues. She might, of course, NOT have been my wife. In fact no effort was made to check. She could have been any female hauled in off the street. In any case if we had been setting up an identity fraud does anyone seriously think that we would not have been aware of all this rubbish & been word perfect had 'verification' questions been asked?

The fact that identity theft is growing at a massive rate demonstrates that all this nonsense, apparently enshrined in these Acts, is simply an exercise in window dressing designed to give the illusion that these issues are being taken seriously whilst achieving absolutely zilch except irritation & raised blood pressure. Nothing new there then. Most of the deluge of legislation over the last decade or so has been to placate rather than achieve.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Bankers contracts & common justice -2

Ooops. Should have been Sir Fred

Bankers contracts & common justice

On the 28th Feb the FT carried a letter defending Sir Ron Goodwin's pension & pointing out that Governments should be defending contact law and accusing Vince of stirring up mob hatred. I sent in a reply as follows which has not been published.

" Firstly I agree that the Government must indeed defend contract law no matter how morally disreputable a specific contract might be. However it is not the Government (or Vince Cable) that is "fomenting as much social
unrest as possible". Sir Fred Goodwin & his ilk, unaided by anyone else, are doing such a superb job of it.

The "mob" has seen tens of thousands of ordinary people, for whom a pension of even one tenth of Sir Fred's is beyond their wildest dreams (3.8 million pensioners have savings of less than £1500), lose their jobs, their homes,
their savings income, their pensions & the value of their shareholding in RBS et al all thanks to the likes of Sir Fred. There needs to be some shame from, & retribution upon, these people. What we get from them instead is the equivalent of an obscene gesture. No wonder the "mob" is incandescent.

The Government does have some legal levers to extract some retribution but it chooses not to use them.The original letter's author is also right when he thus accuses politicians of being part of the cause & "currying favour". We should remember that as recently as the summer of 2007 both Brown & Cameron were making speeches to, & about, City bigwigs telling them, & everybody else, what utterly fantastic folk they were & what a huge contribution they have made to the economy. Brown & Cameron were unusually right about the last bit - except it is a contribution the country could very well have done without."

Monday, 2 March 2009

Civil Liberties

On page 21 of the Observer of 1st March the story is of police going over the top (sadly an all too common event nowadays) in searching & confiscating personal belongings at a Kingsnorth protest. The facts uncovered by LibDem David Howarth. Congratulations to him.

But on P 6 & 7 of the same paper there is the much bigger story of the 'Liberty Group' conference in London. As the headline says 'Liberty groups unite to defend UK rights'. The paper writes ' Yesterdays gathering was by far the largest civil liberties convention ever held in Britain' . No mention of the Liberal Democrats. Were we there? If not why the hell not? This has been OUR cause for many years & we should be on the front bench & on the platform as a speaker at these events. How on earth did we let David Davies be the 'winding up' speaker?