Friday, 23 December 2011

Letter 49: Look sweetheart, tax is for poor people

This week, a letter about the stink surrounding some big business tax affairs, allegations of the deals done with HMRC and cuts to some of most vulnerable children in society. Hats off to UK Uncut and Private Eye, who doggedly pursued the HMRC to produce the truth. I shall be nominating them for a Big Society Award, but more of that another time...  

" Dear Dave,
Christmas or not, the pressure just doesn't stop does it? You must have seen the news on Tuesday? Full of the Public Accounts Committee report and suggestions of sweetheart deals between HMRC and big businesses. I was shocked to read that HMRC is currently seeking to resolve more than 2,700 issues with the biggest companies. And could you explain to me in these times of austerity (when we are all in this together) that Goldman Sachs should be let off £20 million in tax? I already knew about Vodafone settling their tax bill dispute by paying £1.25 billion when they allegedly should have paid £6 billion(!).
Actually I took part in protests, but I am genuinely surprised at how much money seems to have gone uncollected. Thank goodness for whistleblowers, UK Uncut, Private Eye and transparency, eh? It will be interesting to see what happens following UK Uncut issuing legal proceedings against HMRC today,
requesting disclosure of all internal documents relating to the Goldman Sachs deal. Now for that, I'd personally nominate UK Uncut for one of your Big Society Awards!
Do you agree that if ordinary people have to pay tax, so should big corporations and their owners? I know that your official spokesman has reported you are confident that all taxpayers are treated evenhandedly, but not everyone agrees especially when sweetheart deals with big businesses are denied to hardworking families, shopkeepers and small families. It's starting to look like the poor are being bullied into work (Workfare), while the rich are let off tax and bribed into staying in the UK through lowering Corporation Tax. Am I the only one thinking about what a difference uncollected taxes could make to austerity cuts and reforms you say are unavoidable? Take Universal Credit - once introduced, about 100,000 disabled children will be roughly £1,400 a year (£20,000 in a childhood) through 'reforms' to their allowances. Quite callous, that all but the most profoundly disabled children will get 1/2 the support they do now. IF only there was some money that could be found...
                                                     Yours, etc"

Many thanks to Rich at for the heart template.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Letter 48: Rioters and Lobbyists: where does Dave's moral compass point?

There is no need to say anything today other than watch last night's Newsnight and read The Independent : 

"Dear Dave,
There has been such a lot to think about since watching Newsnight yesterday. Did you see it? The Guardian and LSE made a film, having researched the riots that took hold this summer. A really excellent piece of work, but very troubling. I do hope you have a copy - it would be so useful to inform so many of your policies.
It made me think about money and power. As did the article in The Independent, titled:

"Caught on camera: top lobbyists boasting how they influence the PM."

Did you see it? That had a short film too, equally interesting. Gosh, it looked quite bad, Dave. And it made me think of that funny little phrase: "MONEY TALKS".
Both stories are about money and power, but from different ends of the social and political spectrum, or the "haves" and "have nots" as some call them.
And it made me wonder... Are you not concerned that your own moral compass runs the risk of appearing compromised by allowing lobbyists (and those that fund them) unregulated access to you, thereby undermining our democratic process?
                                   Yours, etc"

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Letter 47: The Autumn Statement, more pain less gain.

Post Autumn Statement, the papers provide grim reading. The Coalition's austerity measures seem to have secured us the position of having the highest national debt of any of the AAA nations, apart that is from the USA. Thanks lads, not quite what you promised us 18 months ago. No wonder George pre leaked what little good news there was before he faced the House. It was said on the BBC that rarely has a budget been so prematurely or intentionally leaked - as if our Chancellor was trying to sweeten the bitter pill that was to come:
Wouldn't you agree it's time for the Coalition to find the real solution to our economic woes within the banking sector and tax loopholes?

As requested, here is the contents of the letter for those who are finding it difficult to read the writing:
Dear Dave,
Here we are, autumn, the second budget of the year and your timetable for getting the deficit down is blown off course - it's pretty dire, isn't it? Growth down, unemployment and food prices up, more pay freezes for the public sector. The UK seems to be in a much bigger economic hole than you had envisaged. It looks like things are going to be pretty grim for some of us, way into the next parliament. 
How can you think your plan is working? With growth downgraded (once more) to 0.9% for this year and 0.7% in 2012? And the borrowing figures are shocking! I can't believe that compared to figures predicted in March, over the life of the parliament, George will now borrow £111 billion!! Simply staggering. Is it true that the Coalition is set to borrow £19 billion more than Labour had originally projected? And is Labour's claim true, that while you are borrowing to meet the cost of unemployment, they would have borrowed to fund growth?
Because we so need growth. How will you pay for your plans to boost growth? Spending on infrastructure through freezing tax credits seems so wrong, when the people receiving them are so poor. And what if the private investors that you are relying on don't want to risk being involved? Remember how you were hoping that the private sector would create jobs to replace all the ones you cut through austerity measures and how they failed to materialise?
It is so distressing Dave that ordinary hard up people face YEARS of hardship because of failures of the banking system. Surely you can help George to come up with a fairer plan to get us out of this mess? 
Yours, etc

Friday, 25 November 2011

Letter 46: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Attempts to deal with youth unemployment are to be encouraged as long as someone else is not disadvantaged as a result. The system we have rewards failure at the top, privatises gain and nationalises risk. Perks for those in power also seem to be untouched by the plans to cut the deficit. Until that is addressed, the Coalition is only tinkering round the edges:

Friday, 18 November 2011

Letter 45: Unemployment, the human consequence of Plan A

I wonder if any ministers in the Coalition cabinet have children aged between 16 and 24. Think any of them will be included in the youth unemployment figures released this week? No, I didn't think so either... 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Letter 44: OccupyLSX leads the way, Dave should follow


Seems there are quite a few of us who want change from the current climate of greed and self-interest. The final straw for me last week was the news that the total earnings for directors of FTSE 100 companies increased by 49% in 2010. Just on this issue, this is what David Cameron said on the day the report came out:

"I think that everyone, whether they are in public, whether they are in private enterprise, they've got to be able to justify the decisions they make about pay. So I welcome the debate about this. I welcome the transparency, I want to see proper accountability and I believe in a responsible society and that is responsibility exercised by everyone including the boardroom"

Well said Dave, but OccupyLSX actions speak louder than a politicians words:

If you want to think about alternatives to the ones we keep being offered by the current political system, find out about the OccupyLSX. And if you want to get involved but can't camp, I suggest you do what I did; visit your nearest protest camp, donate something and offer practical help. They're protesting for you and me and every little helps.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Letter 43: Nick should have gone to Specsavers

Yes I know that we've all been thinking about the Euro and the resignation of Giles Fraser and St Paul's feeble excuses about Health and Safety regarding Occupylsx, but Phil Hammond and I have also been thinking about this:

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Letter 42: Lobbying and revolving doors impoverishes democracy

I wrote to Dave today because this lobbying issue reminded me so much of the phone hacking scandal. All I could think of was, here we go again... rich people buying favours in the political arena and a Prime Minister promising absolute clarity whilst distancing himself from something he is part of.. And they wonder why we don't trust them...

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Letter 41: Have we been stuffed by Government and the Lords?

Here's the list of Peers with a vested interest
Though we didn't overturn the Bill yesterday, don't give up - the fight goes on to save our NHS. For more ideas checkout Tim Hardy on: Now, if only Dave and George would get the right policies to get a grip on this ...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Letter 40: Is it time for Dave to address lobbygate?

By the time letter 40 arrives at No 10, Liam Fox might well have resigned. Less than an hour ago, backers came forward to explain it was they who put up the money to support Adam Werritty in his role of advisor. Trouble is, this makes things worse for Dave and Liam, not better...


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Letter 39: Do as I say, not as I do

Now I wouldn't begrudge a man a holiday or two, especially if he had a stressful job, but seven seems a little, well, out of touch with how the rest of us are coping in these hard economic times....

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Letter 38 Economic Crisis? Look, a sweetie!

Two down, one to go. Party Political Conferences remind me of horse tablets: unpalatable, hard to swallow and often the cause of indigestion...

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Letter 37: "Women's" disaffection with the Coalition is not rocket science Dave

The leaked memo that was circulating the media yesterday showed that though the  Government is starting to see the impact of their economic plans, they don't understand why this should be so. The unpalatable truth for the Coalition is that women's (and men's) disaffection with the Coalition has less to do with gender and more to do with the impact of Plan A. No amount of blue sky thinking or spin is going to make a silk purse out of the current economic problems - it's insulting to everyone to suggest otherwise. 
You can read the IFS report mentioned in yesterdays letter here

"Dear Dave,
It was fun to see the leaked memo from No 10 wooing women voters today. I had thought we'd moved on a teensy bit more than the email suggests. Don't get me wrong all that stuff is important, but I wonder if you understand equality? Or female psychology and women's differences to each other? Can we expect another email describing policies that you have to highlight in order to increase men's vote, or does their gender not make them a demographic group like women?
It's a little surprising that the logic in the email is so - if you'll forgive me - simplistic. Some have described it as a plan for a charm offensive and others, simply offensive. Could this be because planning to target women purely in order to garner votes - not because their needs and concerns are significant for the good of society is considered cynical and self serving? Whatever it's called, surely you cannot think women so naive they are unable to recognise crude spin? Co-incidentally as you are interested in the views of young people, here are my 20 year-old daughter's thoughts on the memo...
Basically, her perception is that you intend to do whatever you like, but need to put the correct spin on it to get the maximum number of votes required. She also used the word "shifty" a couple of times, I'm afraid.
You're obviously worried and I do feel some sympathy for you. Things are going to get a whole lot tougher too: today Unison, Unite, GMB and the Fire Brigade Union announced their intention to ballot their members for industrial action, on pensions. Apparently, two thirds of Unison that's ONE MILLION members - are female.
Anyway, here's some information that might be of use...
Where to begin is tricky, because you've highlighted so many areas of concern. For what it's worth, talking to female friends from a variety of backgrounds, the consensus is that you've got an uphill struggle to convince us (and the majority of our male partners) that it is acceptable to balance the deficit on the backs of the poor. After all, they didn't cause the financial crisis, the bankers did. And when you extol swift justice to the recent public disorder, yet not one banker has been prosecuted for their part in the financial crisis, people question your understanding and implementation of fairness. Though the Coalition has accepted Sir John Vickers recommendations on banking reform, choosing such a slow timespan to bring them into action, continues to leave us exposed to risk and further financial instability. Till 2019 the gravy rain of subsidies and annual bonuses will chug on.

2. Basically, IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. We could talk about the 50p tax another time, but I reckon you'l find real food for thought if you go to this month's report form the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It warns that George's austerity  measures will affect the poorest disproportionately, concluding that the Chancellor's current financial strategies will result in greater inequality, a rise in child poverty and a reversal of progress made in the final years of the last Labour government.
Hope this is useful. I reckon, if you dealt with properly, rather did a spin on all the above, the votes you desire would come thick and fast.
Yours, etc"

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Letter 36:Andrew, Dave and Nick - no thanks, I don't want your McNHS

If ever there was a day when Parliament let us down it was today, when the Health Bill cleared it's Commons stages. Selling the NHS for private profit is wrong. Tomorrow, the fight continues to save the NHS. Let's hope there's more people with a conscience in the House of Lords to join it.



Monday, 5 September 2011

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Letter 34: Money's still talking, and sounding worried

What a busy week in the courts. All those examples to be made, only for some of them to be overturned at a later date - at considerable cost. Much has been made by our Prime Minister of the need to send an unequivocal message to both rioters and the tabloid press that such antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated. Of course violence on the streets is not acceptable, but then neither is ignoring the real issues surrounding such civil unrest nor abusing power when dealing with it...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Letter 33: Money Talks...

What will they talk about tomorrow in the House of Commons, all those concerned politicians? Here's a few things that might be more useful to debate than rhetoric and calls for National Service...

Letter 32: Public disorder - let's not miss the point.

A subject close to my heart, having spent a chunk of the 80s and early 90s working in Juvenile Justice in London under the last Tory government. We underinvest at our peril. Word to the wise, working in Juvenile Justice has taught me that teenagers are the thermometer of a family, often the truth tellers. Think of society as one big family and you'll see that people at the top are being told some uncomfortable truths about the values we hold. 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Friday, 29 July 2011

Letter 30: Public Service Reform, rich pickings for a carpetbagger

As I said in the letter, I have concerns about opening up public services to the level of reform that Mr Cameron aspires to, not least because it has been championed by Steve Hilton. And I see that Castlebeck is in the news again...

Carpetbagger: an outsider who seeks power or success presumptuously, "after the Civil War the carpetbaggers from the North tried to take over the South."
Opportunist, self-seeker - a person who places expediency over principle. 
Cherry-pick: to choose or take the best or most profitable of(a number of things), especially for one's own benefit or gain.
(Collins English Dictionary)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Letter 29: Alongside Hackgate, can you hear the homeless timebomb ticking?

Here's another one that seems to have been sidelined due to the News International story: homelessness. Many people will have cheered on Friday afternoon when it was (quietly) announced that due to time constraints and concerns of Peers, the Welfare Reform Bill wil have its second hearing in the Lords postponed until the autumn. This followed division at the heart of Government: a leaked letter from the office of Eric Pickles outlining concerns about welfare reforms earlier on this month. Though a delay and legal challenges are welcome, the most vulnerable can't wait till the autumn to address the homelessness issue. We need to do something NOW. The recklessness and false economy of the Coalition's short term financial strategy has caused one frustrated charity chief to speak out. In practical terms that even the most heartless can accept, he makes a very good point that as consequence of cuts, the financial burden to the tax payer is likely to increase: the problem is simply pushed on from the charities to expensive crisis provision in hospitals and the criminal justice system. If this happens and the Local Government Ombudsman is as good as her word, Dave and Nick will wish they'd also paid more attention.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Letter 28: Beyond Hackgate, bad news still needs to be unearthed

Have you seen this before? Selective attention has been at play these past two weeks as the grubby NI/Met/politician expose has writhed before us. Fascinating though it is, other important issues are passing us by. Just two of these are fuel poverty and a tax grab u turn. Call me cynical but I think both British Gas and George took the opportunity to share this information while our eyes were on the power ball...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Letter 27: Wriggling with a can of worms

Dave nailed it for me at Friday's press conference when he said: 
"When (cough) the scandal hits and the truth is plain to see, there are two choices: you can downplay it and not accept the problem is deep, or you can accept the seriousness of the situation and deal with it. I want to deal with it. These inquiries, I believe, give us a chance for a fresh start and I want to take it.... For people watching this scandal unfold, there is something very disturbing about what they see. Just think of who they put their trust in: the police to protect them, the politicians to represent them and the press to inform them. And all of them have been let down. So when the inquiries are over and the questions asked and the truth found out, I want a Police that's proved itself beyond reproach, a political system that people think is on their side and a press that is, yes, free and vigorous, that investigates and entertains, that holds those in power to account..."
Good-o. That means you think it's time for transparency from everyone then, Prime Minister?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Letter 26: NHS, redundancies and ramifications

Let's not forget that even though we are all revolted by the News of the World story at the moment (as is right and proper) and glued to the television or radio, the Coalition is carrying on with its reforms and big social experiment. So, yesterday Earl Howe received a birthday card to celebrate the 63rd birthday of the NHS and Dave will receive this tomorrow:

If you are also interested in finding out the answers to these questions, Dave's address is 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Happy Birthday NHS - 63 today!!

I'm sure I wasn't the only one to get an email from the TUC about this last week. Having read a few articles that made it clear the NHS still faces privatisation by the back door and the consultation period failed to address some very important issues I was inspired to make and post a birthday card last night to Earl Howe, who is Government spokesperson on health for the Lords. If we all contact them, the Lords and Ladies will have to listen too....

It's our NHS, let's all fight to save it.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Letter 25: MONEY talks

Ah, those heroic single mothers, feckless, fecund single parents and runaway dads who should feel the full force of shame as we all glare at them over the fence. So reassuring that we can think of Dave manfully holding down a job and looking after his children - lovely to see that one rolled out for distraction on Father's Day. How simple life is when people can be labelled.

But hey, The Coalition need to shrink the state and are worried about negative reaction of the voters... Here's a plan: distract, divide and rule! By constantly referring to (inaccurate) stereotyping of one of the more disadvantaged groups in society and lumping them all together unattractively for others who are feeling the pinch to have a pop at, it is possible to change the benefit system, impose ideological change under the guise of financial necessity, sit back and let things take care of themselves. Before you know it (ie in time for the next election) those scroungers and workshy wasters will get out of bed, pull their socks up, pick up any one of those secure and well paid jobs the public sector has provided thereby becoming self reliant, responsible and someone else's problem. Job done, pats all round, off to the Headmaster for a merit. The Treasury books will be balanced, the feckless will see it always pays to work, our country will be saved from a fate worse than Greece and Tories will bask in the glow of applause from the grateful voters. Only it's not that simple....

Monday, 13 June 2011

Letter 24: Still not listening to his aides, Dave's insults at PMQs cause him injury.

Watching PMQs is a bit of a curate's egg, so it was interesting to look at it through the eyes of my eldest daughter, who voted for the first time last year. She was underwhelmed by the performance on both sides. 
As it happens, so was Rowan Williams...  Judging by the reaction to his criticism of Coalition policies and reforms by in particular the Conservative Cabinet members and some of the more right leaning media, the Archbishop seems to have touched a nerve. Well done Rowan - I'm inclined to agree with Victoria Coren on this one - keep it up!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Letter 23: How the Coalition will limit access to the "National Health Service of the legal system

A deep injustice is to be unveiled this month: the Government plans to reduce the legal aid budget by £350m and according to Des Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society of England and Wales, the cuts will leave half a million people without proper representation, often struggling to deal inadequately with legal issues alone .
Yet there is a fully costed and practical alternative which would preserve the rights to legal aid for those who need it most.  It does seem as if the Coalition has made some extremely cynical calculations by choosing such financial 'efficiencies' - but at what cost? Des Hudson nailed it when he said: "In our view, leaving fellow citizens to fight their own cause on their own, by denying them proper professional advice represents a gross injustice. It is inconsistent with a civilised society, which has always prided itself on living under the rule of law - and access to justice - and legal representation. The rule of law means little without true access to law. As currently conceived, the cuts will mean that the poorest and most vulnerable members of society may be unable to assert their rights under the law." 
Shame on us all if we sit by and allow it to happen.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Letter 22: Is Dave's Flagship Policy Seaworthy?

Ah, this Big Society mission, so hard for Dave to let go of. Could it be it's the only thing that stands between him and his conscience? Matt Baker went up in my estimation a while back when he put to Dave the question that we'll all be asking as cuts kick in. Right now, my concern and frustration is that though economic clouds gather, thunder rumbles, crew jump ship and wiser heads point to possible hazards, Dave keeps trying to sell us something we already have. It feels like a con and always has done. Back in February  The Independent printed an interesting article on the failure to launch BS(2). Now at it's FOURTH relaunch, the scheme still appears to be a fig leaf for ideological spending cuts intended to shrink the state. But small state will not produce Big Society; it will cause deep distress for the most vulnerable people in our community and that's why we want nothing to do with it, however many times Dave S-L-O-W-L-Y spell's it out or re-wraps it.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Letter No 21: Fear of Flashman and Selective Hearing

Like many a canny politician, David Cameron is aware of his image. Dare I suggest he might even be a little self important at times? It's reassuring that so many can see through why "call me Dave" likes to keep it real. Where political damage limitation is concerned, speed is of the essence and Dave's stint in PR has taught him when to make a sacrifice or two and when to use other people's tragedy to his own end. For a very well thought out piece on this last point, I suggest you read this article on the itsmotherswork site.
But of late it seems that Dave might have been juggling too much. He and Nick have promised a great deal of reform in this first term of the Coalition, maybe the 'big experiment'  distracts him from thinking about his performance and the mask slips from time to time. Thank goodness for his aides - they can always be relied on set him back on course.

We are still left however, with the issue of his selective hearing. When so many more are opposed to his NHS reform than for and the media presents us with article after video after article . We all need to get involved in making Dave listen, if only to remind him of the time when he thought of the NHS as "one of the 20th Centuries greatest achievements". 

My feeling is, as I watch the truth being revealed bit by unpalatable bit, if we want to save our NHS we'll ALL have to join in the fight for it. 

12/05/11 Here is something you might want to get involved with and pass on too:

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Letter No 20: Nick's aboutface charge to save the NHS

Did you see Newsnight yesterday? 

Want to make your voice heard? Do you remember the Coalition's aborted attempt to privatise the forests? If you do, you'll remember how effective speaking out against the idea was. Now would be a very good time to send a hand written letter to your M.P. telling him/her what you think of the Coalition NHS reforms. And if you feel like signing a petition that will get noticed, that marvelous group 38 Degrees have come up with another chance to show your support. Pass it on...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Letter No 19: AV and the disappointing performance of the No Campaign

So tomorrow we vote... Are you for or against AV? Despite the predicted defeat, I am 'for' because as I say in my letter to Dave, I believe FPTP serves two party politics best and I'm all for making the system even a tiny bit fairer for all of us. The No Campaign has been ugly and depressing to witness; the self interested (mostly Conservative) bankrolled by the rich and powerful, losing sight of the fact that good politics and persuasion are the best way forward for the country, however you vote.  Their conduct has diminished them in the eyes the electorate at a time when respect for politicians is already low.    

Monday, 11 April 2011

Replies from The Bank of England and Brian Hartzer, CEO UK Retail, Wealth & Ulster of RBS Retail Banking

 As the Vickers Report on reform to Britain's banking sector was published today, it seemed like a good time to share two letters that were waiting for me this weekend when I managed to get into the studio...
For context, you might want to scroll back to see the letters I sent to Mervyn King and Brian Hartzer on 18th March. This is the web page mentioned in the reply from the Bank of England - well worth a look and if you feel like offering your opinions on any of the proposals, you have till 14th April to do so.
The Vickers Report is an interim one and Paul Mason has an interesting take on it. The final report, due in September, will be considered by a cabinet committee chaired by George Osborne and any changes are unlikely to take place until 2012. Some Lib Dems say that without complete separation, history will repeat itself and Alistair Darling thinks it is a good first step but hasn't yet gone far enough; before I know what I think, I'll have to go away and read it. It's telling that having just switched on Newsnight, none of the high street banks are able/willing/prepared to attend to defend themselves and discuss the report.

I was disappointed by Brian Hartzer's letter; the suggestion that because other banks award extortionate bonuses and shareholders say it's OK, RBS will carry on doing so does not strike me as a good enough defence for greed. To see the how RBS works out the remuneration of it's Directors, don't go to the link in the letter - it doesn't work. For starters try this instead and I'll see what else I can find before I write back to him about moving my account.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Letter No 18: Blood money

There are many reasons why the Coalitions reform plans are bad for the NHS, which I touched on in late January with a crossword letter. This time I wanted to question Dave Nick and Andrew about one specific proposal which particularly bothers me, namely the repellant idea of privatisation of blood donations. To me (and many of the people with whom I've talked) it feels very wrong for a private company to profit from such an amazing act of altruism as giving blood. Do you believe you can put a price on giving blood to save lives? 

Or maybe you are starting to see the impact of pressure to 'save' money, which amounts to cuts to the NHS, which wasn't what we were promised. Remember when Dave said "I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS"? 
If you feel as I do why not add your name to any or all of the following and ask your friends and families to join in the fight to keep our NHS public :

Added 06.04.11: Apologies to JIM Dobbin MP for calling him Frank in the letter to Dave and Nick (I assume that as he has probably talked with Health Minister Anne Milton about Jim's concerns, Andrew will know whom I meant). Here's a link to the Daily Mail article on the debate at Westminster Hall that Jim Dobbin and Anne Milton took part in.