conversation

We are beset on all sides by groups suffering because of “Government Cutbacks”. Much media hype abounds. Oh, how they do love to get “stuck-in” when it comes to this sort of story. It helps sell their rags after all, enabling them to occupy what they see as the moral high ground. Bless ‘em, they become momentarily the conscience of us all with such sensational headlines…

But, of course, that’s nonsense. On the one hand they bemoan the devastations inflicted on local authority budgets, but then in the very next breath print a headline stating:

“Hands off our pensions – George Osborne should keep his hands off our pensions…”

Apparently Mr Osborne wishes to reinvent himself as Robin Hood – feared by the bad, but loved by the good – stealing from the rich (in this case from the retirement investments of young professionals), and distributing it to the poor, or rather the not so well off. This would be accomplished by replacement of the current tax relief system with a new “flat rate” which it’s been suggested could mean “a 25-year-old who pays the higher rate of tax and invests £250 a month could lose up to £161,263 between now and reaching state pension age”.

Oh, Lor, my heart bleeds for ‘em…

The Daily Telegraph for one, feels they “understand the Government’s desire to make the system equitable and affordable, but these punitive changes would be doubly unfair to those who are already investing” in their own future.

And herein lies the problem. We would like to see libraries properly funded, those with disabilities adequately accommodated, NHS waiting times reduced, the elderly cared for, homes for everyone, smaller classroom sizes – only no bastard wants to pay for it!

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The EU, too, is much in the news. Emma Thompson, for one, feels it’d be “madness” for the UK to leave the EU. She lives, apparently, in “a tiny little cloud-bolted, rainy corner of sort-of Europe … a cake-filled misery-laden grey old island” (she’s spent half her life living in Scotland, but I’m very partial myself to Dundee cake, so don’t knock it!).

Financially the UK contributes nineteen billion pounds to the EU coffers. It receives back around nine billion pounds of that in subsides and aid. The biggest beneficiaries are the Welsh, the Cornish and the Scots. Most of the recent road building / improvements in Cornwall have been at least partly funded by EU cash. Would we be better off financially if we came out of this particular club? No one knows…and those who say otherwise are idiots or liars. The question is simply one that cannot be answered, yet. But I’d suggest the Welsh, the Cornish and the Scots would be worse off, at least as far as infrastructure investment goes.

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It strikes me that many documentaries on the EU (on most subjects in point of fact), are not “evidenced” based, but more a reflection of the natural bias of the film maker, politically, ethically, economically, with the “facts” then organised accordingly for presentation to the viewer, which is us, of course.

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Saw the latest Labour Party political broadcast (recorded off the Beeb), all weeping single mums and young couples bewailing their need for “a bigger house” before they can have more children. Their problem, the problem most of us have had to face starting out, is not having sufficient money to cover our aspirations and expectations. It’s tough, of course it is. But in an overpopulated world why would anyone want to subsidize a couple to have more children…?

The programme content was poor, naïve in a most painful way, and the presentation came over as amateurish (maybe it was meant to be like that, I don’t know?). Poor, poor Labour…if this is the best they can manage, they have bigger problems than anyone ever realised!

The furor attending Jeremy Corbyn’s election as head of the Labour party had me slightly bemused at the time of his unexpected ascension. On all sides the media (explaining to us yet again what we MUST think and feel to be truly functioning, useful members of society), made (and continues to make) so much fuss – almost as if Beelzebub himself had been elected to the exalted heights of “Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition”! Lefties in Central Office spoke of a return to “Core Values”, to “Traditional Roots”, all nonsense, of course. While newspaper articles hinted of a “red menace” that would undermine our tottering society. Equally absurd!

Corbyn tries to present problems as pure black and white. No grays. No inbetweens. All or nothing: a sort of throw the baby out with the bathwater politics. He appeals to the revolutionary streak in the very young, or the insipid nostalgia of the elderly. Those who believe he’s saving the Party from the ‘initially successful, but ultimately shallow, “modernity”’ of Blarite reform, are sadly mistaken. The most interesting thing I’ve heard about him to date, is from Sky News: one of his brothers, a weather forecaster, is “a climate change denier” (They mean the human element within climate change, I think).

Yeah, high five…!

I suspect ultimately Corbynism will lead to a dead end, and probably a terrible defeat in the 2020 general election. Which will be bad for UK socialism, yes; but even worse for UK democracy if, as I suspect, the Labour party experiences an electoral massacre on the same scale as the US cavalry at the Little Big Horn. Obviously, Corbyn, like general Custer before him, will not survive such a debacle. But a Labour party with very few members of Parliament will leave the ruling (Conservative) party with a vast parliamentary majority. There will be no one to challenge them; no one to hold them to account. They will be able to do whatever they desire…!

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The government and those on the right of UK politics push for continued austerity – not, primarily, because of the “deficit”, but for the more obvious reason it shrinks the state! The “deficit” provides a first class excuse for axing public finances. A smaller state will support smaller tax levels, diminishing overheads and can be “sold” to the majority of people on the back of “job creation”, “business growth” and “greater prosperity”. Ultimately, it appeals to the greedy little bugger living inside most of us, and this is magnificently supported by the media with headlines such as these:

PREPARE TO PAY see HERE

A NATION OF LAZY SCROUNGERS see HERE

Which reinforces the basic message: Benefits are bad! Our taxes are being wasted on scoundrels!

Such selectivity denies the many thousands of genuinely needy and deserving people on benefits a voice. They are reduced to the state of candles blowing in the wind.

In these articles (purporting to be “news”) there is no mention of the ninety people per month dying after being declared “fit for work” (a statistic released by the Department for Work and Pensions last year). No mention of the DWP’s issuing of written guidance on suicide for its “frontline staff”; a euphemism for workers hired to call people and break the news to them they’ve been rejected for benefits.

One section of this guidance – that must be reported immediately to managers to alert them of “a suicidal intention” – instructs jobcentre staff to find out what the person plans, when it is planned for, and whether “the customer has the means to hand”!!

Death truly has become part of the UK benefits system…

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The novelist and intellectual Umberto Eco has died aged 84. Eco was perhaps best known for his 1980 work, The Name of the Rose. He was one of the world’s most revered literary figures.

The author, who had been suffering from cancer, sadly died on Friday night.

Eco was the 1992-1993 Norton professor at Harvard and taught semiotics at Bologna University. He once suggested that writing novels was a mere part-time occupation, saying: “I am a philosopher; I write novels only on the weekends.”

A brilliant man, he will be sorely missed…