Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Letter 88: Do Tory politicians serve themselves before serving the electorate?


Dear Dave,
In our house we have a couple of clear rules:
1. F.H.B. (Family. Hold. Back.)
2. No double dipping.

It looks like the Conservative Party has very different rules. How else would you explain the news that 
a) Retail sales stalled last month and we might now experience a TRIPLE DIP RECESSION (I'd love to see George explain that on a personal Newsnight appearance).
Or b) That the following Tory MPS have got business interests that will profit  from a privatised NHS:
Your good self, George Osborne, Ian Duncan Smith, Andrew Lansley, William Hague, Philip Hammond, Francis Maude, Liam Fox, Maria Miller, Michael Fallon, Andrew Mitchell, Harriet Baldwin, Mike Freer, Gregory Barker, Jake Berry, Simon Burns, Nick de Bois, Andrew Bridgen, Aiden Burley, David Davies, Jonathan Djanogly, Philip Dunne, Mark Field, George Freeman, Richard Fuller, Dominic Grieve, Margot James, Mark Lancaster, Oliver Letwin, Peter Lilley, Tim Loughton, Mary MacLeod, Priti Patel, Patrick Mercer, Penny Morduant, Brooks Newmark, Jesse Norman, Stephen O'Brien, Richard Ottaway, Jacob Rees-Mogg, John Redwood, Malcolm Rifkind, David Ruffley, Mark Simmonds, Chris Skidmore, Nicholas Soames, Andrew Tyrie, David Willets, Rob Wilson, Nadim Zahawi.

Why not ask Nadine to bring you all one of these 'nad pouches in which to keep the wonga you've made? That is, if it's true. And if it is, shame on you all. You should be in the business of public office rather than self service. Nadine's not the only one that should have the Whip taken from her.
With best wishes, etc

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Letter 87: Is the NHS a cash cow for Conservatives AND private health providers?


"Dear Dave,
Wow! I am seriously amazed by this... Is it true that  more than £10,200,000 has been donated to the Conservative Party from people/organisations who have since gained contracts, or are benefitting in other ways from privatising/outsourcing NHS services? Does that include £2,000,000 in donations  from shareholders in Serco and Circle? I've heard they've been lucky enough to gain contracts in the NHS worth billions. All I can add is..."MOO!!"

With best wishes, etc "


(Many thanks to Mike Sivier at Vox Political for the questions and link Dr Eoin Clark's data.)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Letter 86: Tax cuts: How many of the Cabinet are "all in it together"?


"Dear Dave,
Is what Ed Miliband said yesterday in his speech to the Labour Party Conference true? I know he's asked you about this before (at the last PMQs in fact, but you chose then not to give an answer).
So, is it true that you will be £40,000 better off each year as a result of your Coalition Government's decision to reduce the top rate tax from 50p to 45p?
How about George Osborne? Philip Hammond? Andrew Mitchell? Anyone else in the Cabinet?

Yours, with best wishes etc"

Friday, 28 September 2012

Letter 85: It's the Mitchell and pleb show....


"Dear Dave,
How long before being the bad news story is too much for a minister? To my reckoning, Andrew Mitchell and "plebgate" have been your bad news for NINE days now. That's bad. No wonder he wants to draw a line under the whole unpleasant affair. But, blaming the media for the story not going away seems very shortsighted. While his apology is welcome, surely he must be able to see that until he is absolutely clear about what he did say, the media must do their job and keep asking for the truth?
It is getting boring though. And you yourself must be worried about that unpleasant impression that your party is being "led by arrogant, rich poncey men with an acute sense of entitlement" sticking, (or so Benedict Brogan said in the Telegraph on 21.09.12). Here's a suggestion that might help to dispel that view; I read it in the Letters page of the Evening Standard on 25.09.12.

"It is extraordinary that Andrew Mitchell has apparently drawn more sustained anger from the Police Federation than Manchester police murder suspect Dale Cregan. Mitchell and the officers should swear an oath on what they said and heard in front of a magistrate, to settle this matter once and for all."

Unless of course there's something to hide?

With best wishes, etc"

(Thanks to Stephen Deane who penned the letter in the Evening Standard)


Friday, 21 September 2012

Letter 84: Tuition fees and apologies; timing is everything...


Dear Nick, 
There's no easy way to say this, but...I saw your party political broadcast apologising for something round tuition fees and the first thing that struck me was: timing is everything. Your battered grassroots might well respond favourably to some careful handling at conference this weekend, but the electorate, they have moved on. Neither forgiving, nor forgetting. After all, two years is a long time to wait for an apology, especially when it appears that both Vince and yourself knew before the election that the pledge with which you garnered students votes was unattainable and therefore dishonest.
The second thing I noticed was you might have a bit of a problem on learning from your mistakes. At the end of your broadcast you said: "...I know we are fighting for the right things, day in, day out too. Rebuilding the Economy to make it strong; changing the tax system to make it fair, defending the vulnerable in these tough times. That's what my party believes in. That's what I believe in. And if we've lost your trust, I hope that's how we can start to win it back" I would think this to be unlikely. You need to wake up and smell the coffee, because this is what your "fighting for the right things" looks like: 

an increase in government borrowing...
ESA slashed, you embracing EBacc...
David Laws pushing for more benefit cuts...
Quantitative Easing benefitting the top 5%...
Cuts to benefits and access to legal aid
Appalling treatment of the disabled by ATOS
Top rate tax cut to 45p...
Rationing of nhs services
Paying down deficit on the backs of the poor...
Child poverty increasing...

Might I ask - can we look forward to another broadcast around conference time next year, apologising for these things as well?
Best wishes, etc"

Monday, 17 September 2012

Letter 83: Breakfast Club versus "old boy's club"

"Dear Dave
Bless us and save us, guv! Has history taught you nothing? Do you not remember "Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher"? A terrible moniker, wouldn't you say? But even she wasn't accused of taking the cereal, spoon, bowl, toast and juice to go with it from poorer hungry schoolchildren. Breakfast clubs are vital.
Napoleon Bonaparte famously said that an army marches on it's stomach. If you are the hands on dad that "Webcam" promoted, you'd know that children do too.
You have to make your mind up Dave, either you want to improve education standards or you don't. Have a heart. And if you can't engage your conscience, at least think practically; no-one can concentrate if they're hungry and listless.
With best wishes, etc

P.S. By the way, are MPs still getting that taxpayer meal subsidy we heard about here:
www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/15/taxpayers-subsidise-commons-meals ???

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Letter 82: Nick Clegg and his mansion tax - "Man for All Seasons" or just Conference season?


"Dear Nick,
I saw an article in the Guardian today reporting in preparation for the return to Parliament this autumn, you are calling for the redistribution of wealth. I wonder...does this show that you are"a man for all seasons" ie: prepared to stand up for your beliefs, or really just a man for Conference season? Though I'd like to believe your fine words, it's so hard because we've been caught out before. And we all know that whilst you call for a "mansion tax" today, just a few months ago you gave a tax cut of over £40,000 to many thousands of millionaires. Very hard to square in these tough economic times.

While I have your attention, I'd like to also request that if you SERIOUSLY intend bringing David Laws back into the Cabinet (and might I stress here that I am not suggesting Mr Laws has broken any criminal law) might you also consider offering some work to ***** I*****? Ms I***** (name withheld) is a single mother of four, who whilst unemployed failed to declare living with a partner and claimed something like £40,000 in Housing Benefit. She received 6 months imprisonment for doing so. I'm sure she had her reasons and all credit to her, is now paying back the money she owes. She might appreciate some fairness and equality. After all, didn't you yourself say when writing about MP's expenses in The Telegraph, 2009: "If we want to rebuild faith in politics, there can be no half measures." 

Best wishes, etc

PS The parsnips? Painted because I'm wondering about your fine words."






Friday, 24 August 2012

Letter 81: Schemes to sell social housing and NHS abroad? Duh! It's the economy, stupid!


"Dear Dave,
You're not serious are you? All that talk on Monday suggesting the sale of council houses in more affluent areas so people who are poor can live over there somewhere (at this point I shall control the urge to flick my nosegay about in a dismissive, Marie Antoinette manner) with the other, less wealthy people. I know it's one of those inspired, "blindingly obvious" ideas from one of your favourite right wing think tanks, but really? Surely if you were going to address the issues of homelessness, lack of social housing or even affordable housing come to that you would have:
a) Already given George the nod to borrow money to build some council houses. (Without waiting for stagnation, of course).
b) Encouraged councils to invest in their current housing stock.
c) Dealt with all those landlords making a killing, which the taxpayer frequently gets to pay for(Why do you blame people on benefits for the inflated rents charged by landlords, by the way?)

Just think, if you had done these things, the nation would see you providing a boost for the building industry, meeting the needs of those on lower incomes, stopping exploitation and decreasing the bill to the taxpayer. How good would that be for you in the polls? More importantly, you wouldn't be accused of favouring the rich, creating possible ghettos, nor failing to see the importance of a mixed community for social cohesion. 
(Coughs quietly, remembering August LAST year).

Ok, lets leave that for a while... How about the other news story of the week, that your government is thinking of selling NHS services abroad to generate revenue? Sorry to repeat myself, but really? I don't even understand why you want to raise the international profile of our health service - you've been telling us for the past two years that it's a shocking mess and need to be overhauled. Who'd want to buy into it if it's such a disappointment? Isn't there enough going on to worry about a new money spinner? It's surprising you are not concerned that you might appear more interested in commercialisation than patients. Especially when people realise that private healthcare companies seem to be registering in the Cayman Islands - aren't all those millions of pounds of uncollected UK tax a legitimate revenue stream for HMRC to pursue? Significantly more would be brought in that way and the NHS would then be allowed to focus on patients, not profits. I was stumped - why would you even contemplate such ideas, unless of course there was something else on your mind, distracting you... And as Wednesday's one o' clock news rolled in dragging behind it those (much) worse than expected borrowing figures, the penny dropped. 
Duh! It's the economy, stupid!


Best wishes, etc"



Saturday, 11 August 2012

Letter 80: An Economy without a pulse and life-threatening cuts to ambulance cover

"Dear Dave,
Just another quick question...
I tore myself away from the Olympics earlier this week to watch Mervyn King announce that the Economy currently has no pulse. He also suggested that though there will be jam tomorrow, he doesn't know when exactly it will arrive and warned us not to expect too much of it. Reading that the UK trade deficit had hit a new record, I wondered how much worse it has to get before you cut back on cutting back.
"Good job" I thought to myself, "that George doesn't need to call out an ambulance to revive our financial fortunes. Reason being, he might be as shocked as I was to learn that NHS medical staff with only EIGHT WEEKS TRAINING are doing the jobs of qualified paramedics because of cuts to budgets. The Daily Mail reported that Emergency Care Assistants are being put in charge of ambulances attending life-threatening incidents such as heart attacks, chest pains and breathing difficulties. Is that true? And is it also true that these ECAs cannot administer life-saving drugs because they haven't had the three years of training given to paramedics? Surely this is all putting people's lives at risk?
Best wishes, etc"

Friday, 10 August 2012

Letter 79: "Bottling the Volunteering Spirit" v Advice from the Olympians



"Dear Dave,
In a week that marks a year since the riots, it seems that everyone is talking not just about how well Team GB has done, but also about how we can nurture all the enthusiasm and goodwill brought by the Games. Things would not have run so smoothly had so many people not offered their time for free and today I heard that you, so impressed by their generosity, want to "bottle the volunteering spirit" and carry it forward. However, before you begin yet another relaunch of the Big Society (sixth, if I'm correct) might we stop and look at your own government's "Olympic Legacy"? These are the bald facts: having permitted Michael Gove to scrap the £160m School Sport Partnership Scheme, approved the sale of more than 20 schools playing-fields, removed the targets requiring all schoolchildren to take part in at least two hours of sport per week, you yourself then blamed state school teachers for a reduction in the number of hours dedicated to school sport. All your talk of keeping that Olympic spirit alive appears to be empty rhetoric. Your legacy currently appears to be a series of misjudged policies which will effectively squander the hopes of future athletes and benefits to schoolchildren in general. Why are you wasting the perfect opportunity to build on the fantastic achievements of people like Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford, Andy Murray, Bradley Wiggins, Helen Glover and Victoria Pendleton - the athletes from state schools and role models to us all. Though it's commendable to want to inspire people, why do you talk of the Olympic spirit and competitiveness and yet offer no government funding? If you really seek a healthy, motivated, inclusive society where people live tolerantly and peaceably together, surely government funding and policy has to properly underpin it? And there is no point inspiring young people if you do not give them the resources to fullfil that ambition

That bottling of the volunteering spirit concerns me... wouldn't it be awful if, in your enthusiasm to save money and relaunch the Big Society, you failed to heed the very clear messages sent by the experts in the (sports) field?
Because I'd hate for you to go off on the wrong track, I'll repeat them for you : 

Laura Trott, (TWO cycling golds on her Olympics debut) :
“Funding is very important - it is the key to our sport, really. We would be lost without it.”
Chris Hoy : 
"Me and Jason Quealy, and some of the others, remember when it was run on a shoestring budget. It was very different, and we weren't anywhere near as successful."
Lord Moynihan, British Olympic Association Chairman : 
"It is right some (teachers) would not choose to stay on after school to teach sport but there are a lot that would...We need to give them the tools to do the job - the time and the facilities."
Darryl Seibel, spokesman for The British Olympic Association : 
“You have to have the funding to attract the best coaches, the best technology and the best team. So the money is not everything but it is an absolutely critical element."
Dame Kelly Holmes :
"my view for what it's worth: PE compulsory min 2 hours, Designated Primary school PE teachers and make stronger links between schools, communities & sport clubs."

With best wishes, etc"

Friday, 3 August 2012

Letter 78: Dave serves Nick a Cleggie on Lords Reform


"Dear Nick
How upsetting... It would appear that you have after all, been 
strung along 
by Dave on Lords Reform.
Can you remind us again just what the Liberal Democrats are getting out of Coalition?
With best wishes, etc"

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Letter 77: "I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS"

"Dear Dave,
 Is it true?
That Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust is spending £30 million of NHS money on reorganising our health service while nurses in the Trust clean wards, as due to cost cutting measures, cleaners are not available?
Nurses are trained to NURSE. Cleaners are trained to CLEAN. Compromising cleaning puts patients at risk. And cost cutting makes us all ask: What happened to "I'LL CUT THE DEFICIT, NOT THE NHS"?
With best wishes, etc"
                                                                   


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Letter 76: Anonymous commanding officer writes to Phil Hammond about G4S and Armed Forces strategy.

'Dear Dave, 
Three days to go and it was good to hear Jeremy Hunt says that the standard of the G4S security operation has improved markedly over the last week - though not so much that he feels he can leave them without the support of a further 1200 of our Armed Forces. He's right when he says it's important not to take any chances with security, but I wonder how it makes those soldiers and parents feel holding protests today against your cuts to the Army. They were staging small, dignified protests in Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff and Southampton, I heard. I couldn't begin to imagine how they feel, but I bet the officer who wrote this anonymously to Phillip Hammond (read out on The World This Weekend 14.07.12) probably does:


"Dear Secretary of State,
As a commanding officer, one week ago I had to explain to my people the cuts introduced by the Army 2020 and a future with 30,000 reservists that everyone knows will not work. In my tenure as commander, I have also had to explain redundancy tranches and an accelerated drawdown from Afghanistan that everyone thinks is a recipe for disaster. 
This week my people will learn that they must give up leave to cover the Olympics. They all know they won't get it back regardless of what you may tell the press. They will be living on camp beds without proper washing facilities, because wholly predictably G4S didn't get it's act together. So my question is this: will we ever see real strategy for the Armed Forces, rather than continuous cost cutting dressed up for the press as strategy? Our people deserve more than hollow platitudes."

What do you think?


With best wishes, etc'




Thursday, 19 July 2012

Letter 75: On the wrong track about rail, employment & infrastructure

"Dear Dave,
Yippee!" I thought. Listening to the news has been such hard going recently, I was relieved hear about your plans for our transport system. How brilliant - a £9 billion package of spending, involving extensive electrification, creating a world class rail network. Nearly enough to distract me from the IMF downgrading the forecast for UK growth. Nearly - but not quite. To be fair, it was quite hard to feel upbeat when I realised that we've been downgraded more than any other developed nation. What does it mean exactly, the IMF forecasting growth at just 0.2%? That Ed Balls is telling the truth? Your economic plan has failed and the cuts are too much, too fast? Or that he's right when he says the recession means that borrowing is now going up? 
I consoled myself with the promise of the "electric spine" you unveiled on Monday, but began to feel quite shortchanged when it became obvious that:
a) Half the package is new schemes, many of which will not start until at least 2014.
b) Passengers get to pay for the overhaul. 
Have you thought it through? By increasing ticket costs won't you be pricing poorer people off the railways and shouldn't you really be making the shareholders pay for infrastructure? 


I decided to keep on looking till I found a good news story and then, along it came: the announcement that this morning employment has risen by one hundred and eighty one thousand - marvellous! But hold on, I spoke too soon; by noon I'd read an article in The Telegraph which leads me to believe that those figures are skewed. They include people on Government supported training schemes, newly (desperately) self-employed and those doing unpaid work. No boom, just figures massaged and I'm left feeling cross and shortchanged all over again. So, I've decided to give George and Danny's launch of their infrastructure plan a miss, as I'm not sure I can cope with the disappointment.
Yours, with best wishes, etc"

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Letter 74: G4S and A4e, private sector profit over professionalism?

"Dear Dave,
When a story is in the news every day it's got to be mentioned, however much Jeremy Hunt thinks we should move on, don't you think? I'm sorry there's no picture, but I was concerned that were I to draw anything relating to the biggest sporting event in the UK, (nay the world!) this year, L---- might come after me and have my hamstrings for garters.
So, cutting corners it is. And isn't that exactly why this story exists in the first place? A classic example of profit over professionalism. You might have missed Channel 4 News on Monday, but the copy of a G4S memo to managers dated 29 June talking of "just in time phasing of recruitment" is pretty damning. Remember when we were told market disciplines would make public services better? Firstly A4e and now G4S, seem to have put a lie to that, wouldn't you say? Did see William Waldegrave's opinion in The Times? Here's just a snippet: "Quite a lot of people who believe it is a given that private companies are always more efficient than the public services have never worked in real private enterprise. .... Private good, public bad just is not true. It is at best, a draw. What matters is the way that organisation is run"


With best wishes, etc


P.S. Just before you go, check out the G4S website. I kid you not, in May, G4S won the most coveted corporate employer award at this year's Recruiter's Awards for Excellence!"







Thursday, 5 July 2012

Letter 73: LIBOR 2012: Casino Banking 1 Treasury Select Committee 0 (1-0)


"Dear Dave,
So. Rigging LIBOR, what a mess, hey? I'm shocked that you are still resisting the best way to investigate. Do you really understand the depth of public concern and anger? This isn't about one man, chairman or bank. I've heard this scandal described as a global issue, so how can a parliamentary inquiry be satisfactory? There's a widely held feeling, not just amongst Labour politicians and the public but also within financial services sector, that any inquiry has to be beyond reproach, so it seems better to expose matters to proper scrutiny in a judge led inquiry. Just watching George's partisan behaviour over the past few days has been enough to undermine any confidence in the ability of MPs to rise above the Chancellor's playing politics. It was bizarre to see him attempting to spin that Labour has more than you to lose by a public inquiry. I had no idea he cared about the Opposition so much! Maybe he should be more concerned about voters realising how much the Tory party regularly receives in donations from the City, or that people may have seen the story in the Independent on Sunday about top Tories being dragged into the scandal? Surely you both understand that it's become even more important to have absolute transparency, now we see that all political parties and many banks (including the Bank of England) might be implicated


I understand. It's hard for you that Ed Miliband could be right, but his request for a two part inquiry seems really sensible. After all, when Mr Diamond came before the Treasury Select committee today, what did we learn? That unless politicians are able to work as a team, very little. The MPs arrived with their own agendas and nothing seemed to touch Bob; despite a thin apology, he accepted neither complicity nor incompetence. And what of Barclay's Board? You need to hold them to better account than we witnessed this afternoon, or Ed's words at PMQs today might come to haunt you. Voters might well think that you are more interested in Party rather than National interests.And for the second time Ed will be remembered as the politician most willing to challenge corruption in an industry we all need to trust.
With best wishes, etc"

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Letter 72: Tax Avoidance. Look out kettle, here comes the pot


"Dear Dave,
Do you think sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander? Do you believe there should be one set of rules for the rich and one for the poor?

Of course you don't, otherwise you'd not have made your comments about Jimmy Carr using the K2 tax dodge. And you're right, there are lots of people who believe that the morality and ethics of avoiding tax, rather than it's legality is the issue.

So, can I ask you, how do you feel about tax havens, hedge fund investments and people benefitting either directly or through inheritance from such schemes? What do you think about the morality is on those? And do they need to be dealt with retrospectively too?
Best wishes, etc" 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Letter 71: This is not poverty! Pull your socks up!


"Dear Dave,
May I distract you from Argentina and the G20 for a few moments to talk about IDS trying to sell poverty as a morality tale? It's mystifying that his current stance should be in such sharp contrast to how he felt at Easterhouse. Do you remember, he wept at the hardship he saw in Glasgow and decided there and then to tackle social breakdown? What can have moved him so far from his compassionate response in 2002 to now suggesting being poor is the fault OF the poor? IDEOLOGY? Pressure from the Chancellor? 


Whilst I'm all for looking at a problem with a fresh perspective, announcing a plan to reframe child poverty (or promising to deliver "a better set of indicators" as he puts it) as the answer shows a lack of humanity and compassion to me, and a fair few others. When he said "We remain committed to the targets set out in the Child Poverty Act, but it is increasingly clear that poverty is not about income alone", why would he think that gives him the right to go on to blame the poor for not trying hard enough, relying heavily on crude examples and stereotyping in such an inaccurate way, whilst ignoring in-work poverty? It would have been more truthful to cite poor housing, lack of opportunity and access social support and full time, well paid jobs as the chief issues, rather than blame them for their circumstances.


If I thought there was any point in sending a copy of this letter to IDS I would, but let's be honest, if he won't listen to Church leaders, he's not going to listen to me. Maybe YOU could tell him that he's coming across as shockingly mean, more like workhouse proprietor in a Victorian novella than the man who wants the Conservatives to be the "party of the poor". How does it sit with you anyway, another comfortably off middle-class father, moving the goalposts to reframe the miserable quality of life for those poor kids? I ask because I've heard that in opposition, you yourself said relative poverty did matter.
Maybe you'll think of that when you get back home form Mexico. When it's your turn to you tuck your lovely, well-fed children into bed (and I'm sure they are rather lovely), you'll spare a thought for those equally lovely poor children, whose needs you've allowed Iain to sweep tidily from your sight.


With best wishes, etc"





Thursday, 14 June 2012

Letter 70: TOTAL Recall, Minister?

"Dear Dave
I've been watching you today at LevesonI've heard politicians say that outside the Westminster bubble, there isn't much interest in the Leveson Inquiry. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but ordinary voters without business interests or block votes, nor hope of donating large sums to party coffers, are VERY interested in the extraordinary lengths some people seem have gone to either attempt to secure favour, self interest or public backing. In fact, when visiting family and friends in the half-term break last week, it was striking just how many people it does matter to. Alongside the general chit-chat and catch-up, often the conversations turned to an opinion on Leveson, Murdoch and politicians. Surprisingly at least two, if not three of those I spoke to are serious Daily Mail readers and they expressed strong concerns about just where power lies. No doubt they'll be watching your attendance today and will have noted with interest how Jeremy Hunt was called a liar in the House of Commons yesterday, whilst escaping investigation. (He might well be the first MP to be called a liar without it having to be withdrawn). 
Pundits have talked about how yourself and other ministers have been coached. Some say you appear well rehearsed - which causes me concern. After all, it's not an exam you are sitting, is it? You are being asked to tell the truth under oath. It seems bizarre to many of us that you should the need to be coached to tell the truth. It's because we all know Leveson matters, misleading the House matters, "selective memory" under oath matters, lying under oath matters, having cosy deals with media moguls, their operators and lobbyists matters. And because we value our individual votes and want a political system based on fairness and democracy, run by politicians FOR the electorate, we want it to matter to you in the same way.

Best wishes , etc "   

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Letter 69: Jubilee, workfare; a tale of two cities

"Dear Dave,
Wednesday, post Jubilee and those of us with jobs are back at work. There will be much to remember from the past three days, but the over-riding memory for me will be this:
While you celebrated, unemployed young people were exploited. Sadly it would appear that one of your policies is at the heart of the story. Quite an achievement to be in the public eye at a time of pomp and circumstance. I hear that Close Protection UK also have an Olympic contract. May we expect further upstaging at the Games, too? 
By the way, Nick - you're not in the clear either. Your party manifesto speaks of "fair future, fair chance, fair deal". After reading about those kids, duped into being bussed into London to sleep under a bridge in the cold before stewarding for fourteen hours for no pay, I'd say "Fat chance".
With best wishes,"

Friday, 1 June 2012

Letter 68: Does Dave need some help distracting us from Leveson?


"Dear Dave,
Hope you don't mind but following the big! splash! news! flash! regarding your Charity Tax U turn (cripes, that's a fourth u turn on this Budget, yes?) in the middle of Jeremy Hunt's evidence to Leveson yesterday, I guessed you might need some help distracting people. I mean, have you seen the papers today? There seems to be pretty damning evidence of bias from your Culture Secretary, despite your vote of confidence.
I'm putting my pasty down and looking around. Let's see... no let's not talk about Strathclyde. And probably not spending either - that story by Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph didn't do you any favours. Oh, here's something: what about Hollande? Have you seen how quickly those socialistes are getting on with making sure the French are all in it together? President Hollande gets my vote, walking the talk with his cost cutting train trips and deciding to stay in his current apartment. More interesting though, is how he has fulfilled his election promise of cutting his government's salary by almost a third in his first cabinet meeting. And - he seems determined to do something very quickly about fat cat pay. Did you know, he has promised to cap the salaries of chief executives at state-owned companies which means that top pay-packages could be slashed or halved? I suppose he believes in setting an example - good for him, he'll be seen as principled, a man of his word.
It makes me wonder if you could do something to show voters in the UK that our politicians "are all in it together" with us. You could even rebuild some trust. After all, the phone hacking/lobbying/BSkyB/too cosy affair really isn't showing UK politics or democracy at it's


                                                               Page 2
 best. Thinking, thinking, thinking... how about this:
 Why not increase credibility by testing out your policies on MPs? Better still, have a Cabinet pilot group! Want to get doctors to toe the line on pensions? Then undo your platinum protection for your own pensions and increase contributions till you squeak. I know you've found it difficult to sell regional pay to those pesky civil servants, so get MPs to try the system out for the rest of this Parliament and get Nick to feed back if there's a difference to his disposable income (you could even work in that strap line "we cut because we care" somewhere). Want to make housing benefit caps more palatable? Then slash the £174 per night that politicians can claim. Even better, cut back the amount MPs claim for dinner to half the price of a lukewarm pasty and we might be more willing to accept the increasingly reduced eligibility to free school dinners for hungry children in poorer families. 
Finally, as we do need to think a little about ways of promoting growth, if you wanted to make Beecroft's suggestion of relaxing employment laws more palatable, how about you yourself begin to "let people go" a little closer to home, say if it appears blindingly obvious that they have broken the Ministerial Code or claimed for rent they've not paid? 
Best wishes, etc


(P.S Wondering about the bananas? Just go to: 
www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financevideo/8608360/Tom-Watson-BSkyB-takeover-is-seedy-deal.html
and all will be clear). "


  

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Letter 67 Tory Rightwingers Serve a Red Herring for Growth



"Dear Dave,
Do you like fish? I like fish. In fact I had a lovely piece of sea bass for tea last night. It looked much healthier than that silly red herring your rightwingers tried to pass off as a credible plan for growth. It did make me laugh!
 red herring
 noun.
1. a dried smoked herring which is turned red by the smoke.
2. a clue or piece of information which is or is intended to be misleading or distracting.
( So named  from the practice of using the scent of red herring in training hounds) 
 Oxford English Dictionary
As if, hey? I'm glad someone's being sensible. Vince Cable and Lord Oakeshott were impressive in their haste to condemn the no-fault dismissal scheme in the Beecroft Report.         
Many think that making it easier for businesses to fire workers would be disastrous for the economy. Listen to Vince who said your government should avoid causing "more fear and apprehension in workers".
What happened to your promise to get the banks lending properly to small businesses? That's the real issue for business isn't it? Do you think Christine Lagarde might have a word for you while you have another look at your fiscal policy?
Best wishes... "

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Letter 66: Lack of growth and the effects of seeing austerity as "efficiency"




"Dear Dave and Nick,
I'm so sorry I've not been in touch recently. I've been glued to the news; local elections results (and their implications), Leveson, phone hacking, appeals to the common man in Essex, it's all been too fascinating to tear myself away. But though I'm back writing to you, in truth so much has happened in May, I hardly know where to begin. Hey.. how about growth and austerity? If you think about it, apart from Leveson that's really what most things come down to - or to be accurate, not enough growth and too much austerity. 

It's agreed: UK growth or lack of it is VERY worrying. Combined with spending cuts, it's no surprise both your parties did so badly in the local elections and Labour cleaned up. And yes, you're right Dave, it wasn't just mid term blues - broken promises (such as George saying in 2010 that the economy would grow by 4.3%) have really messed with your economic credibility. I'm sure you're aware that today Mervyn King has once more downgraded the UK growth forcast. Again. 

So who, or what's to blame? Surely not Labour; we've had Coalition for two years now. Or consumers, in employment but dealing with pay freezes that equal a reduction to their incomes in real terms, on top of increased prices in the shops? Are you really so surprised they're being so careful with their money? Maybe like me, hearing that GDP might not recover its 2007-8 level till 2018, they've decided to freeze their spending too. Yesterday George blamed the Eurocrisis, but I don't believe him. It feels like a convenient scapegoat and WE are in recession, not they.

                                                          (Page 2)
William Hague (secretly green I hear) and Eric Pickles, seem to think it's the fault of business leaders and they should just work harder, but surely they're already working as hard as they can and are waiting on a credible growth strategy from you? Maybe they'd appreciate you doing more on infrastructure? Say, investing in building more social housing? Winners all round there: not only would it get the building trade moving and unemployment down (with more full-time jobs), there'd be less need to move to Stoke or rent sheds from rip off landlords to live in.

I have to ask: could the problem be....austerity and Plan A? Though you said they'd get us out of our economic mess, here we are, limping along in a double-dip recession. What IS the magic answer for growth? You said that you "get it", but how's a voter to know it, when you turn up in Essex, renewing your commitment  to the same old same old? The success of Hollande, sworn in as French President yesterday, is in part about the growing belief that austerity is discredited as the solution.

I'm sorry, this is starting to sound academic and European - let's get closer to home. Take a look here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/may/10/perfect-storm-cuts-woman-life You'll find out about Rose Fernandez and the impact your austerity measures are having on her family. She struggles to support an elderly mother living with dementia and her adult autistic daughter. She's a "striver", so how is it you don't seem to be working for her? If you "got it", you'd realise that she saves the State a fortune by caring for her family in such a responsible manner -  shame then that your austerity measures make it increasingly difficult to do so. It does make me wonder - how many people like Rose or empathising with her situation, think either of you "get it"?

Yours, etc"

Monday, 30 April 2012

Letter 65: The Chase for Hunt closes in on the Prime Minister.



"DearDave,
So instead of  being out on the campaign trail for local elections today, you've been called back to the House of Commons to answer Ed Miliband's urgent question on Jeremy Hunt. Ah well, Milton Keynes' loss is transparency's gain...
Just in case you don't manage to answer on the following in the House this afternoon, could you tell me...
HOW CAN THE LEVESON INQUIRY BE SEEN TO RULE ON JEREMY HUNT WHEN LEVESON REPORTS TO JEREMY HUNT??
I ask this having seen an article in The Guardian which shows the emails between Jeremy Hunt and NewsCorps - evidence provided by Rupert Murdoch to the Leveson Inquiry itself. Look online at Tuesday 24th April and you'll see what is so concerning.


With best wishes"

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Letter 64. Human Shields and Double Dipping

"Dear Dave and Nick,
What a day yesterday was! It was all Leveson, Murdoch, Hunt, spads as human shields and firefighting interviews by Gove wherever you looked! Summing it up, the whole day was about economic credibility and political integrity. Because, though who was or wasn't telling the truth about BSkyB is obviously important, the bigger story remains the awful news (double dip) about the economy.
So, leaving, Leveson aside for another time, there are a few things I would like to ask... Such as, how can we be both a "safe haven" and in recession? Secondly, what does it feel like to be the first government to reside over the only double dip since the 1970's? Actually, things are a bit worse than that: we seem to be experiencing the longest period of low or no growth for 100 years. What will you do? Yesterday on the Daily Politics show, Andrew Neil suggested in order to keep to your deficit target, you'll have to either increase taxes or make further cuts. Seriously - don't tell us that you're going to consider further cuts. We've only had 6% of this round so far and here we are in recession, low consumer confidence or people struggling to feed their families and pay their bills. Some might say to cut even more now would show just how out of touch you REALLY are."

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Letter 63: What is Society, Big or British coming to?

"Dear Dave,
What is society, Big or British, coming to? What have we come to in the UK when people living with disability are reduced to chaining themselves up in public to protest at Welfare cuts? Not scroungers or work shy as they are increasingly called, but disabled people deserving our help, respect and support. Did you know, Mencap believes that Coalition cuts planned for Disability Living allowance could see 500,000 people lose money? You must see how stark the disparity is between rich and poor? And there is no doubt that money and privilege can be a real buffer against some of the financial aspects of disability. A callous lot we must seem to people outside this country: a rich nation allowing our wealthiest to remain in a disconnected bubble, rewarded in the Budget with a reduction to the top rate of income tax, whilst the disabled and their families see benefits and services withdrawn. Is this what you mean in your Coalition agreement by " freedom, fairness and responsibility", gentlemen? There are other ways to reduce the deficit,than treating the vulnerable in this way.
What is Society, Big and British coming to? Heartless and shameful I would say.
With best wishes..."