Monday, September 19, 2011

Executive Pay- More Smoke and Mirrors from the LibDems

Vince Cable wants ‘unearned’ fat-cat director fees to be controlled by allowing a veto by shareholders.

This sounds like another great idea from the LibDems; until one analyses the proposition and realises it may not only be ineffective but also iniquitous.

How will this work if the director is a majority shareholder or holds enough shares to only need one or two other shareholders on board to pass a huge pay rise? How will it work if the director(s) decide to pay themselves through share dividends; surely the other shareholders will not vote down such a payment? And I fail to see how he will convince the Tories to introduce more red tape by ’…requiring companies to set out the criteria used to determine pay and perks.’

And how does this help ordinary workers whose wages have been effectively reduced over the last 30 years? Should the criteria be ‘earned’; or should these massive payments be subject to restriction across the board, as the pay of the workforce so often is?

The idea that anybody should receive a massive pay increase when the economy, as we are so often told, is in difficulty? Why shouldn’t these pay increases by taken in tax, before being paid to directors, whose P.A. is often the driving force behind their efficiency, rather than use a system where shareholders, whose agenda is similar to that of directors, decide and that is open to abuse? If they can afford huge pay increases, they can afford to pay their share- we are in it together… aren’t we?

Mr Cable also says he doesn’t want state control of pay; this is misdirection; more smoke and mirrors; either Vince Cable is very naive or thinks we are! You cannot say ‘we want legislation to curb [anybodies] pay’ while also saying ‘we don’t want state control of pay’.

If you really want a fair system of director pay restriction, let the whole workforce, not just employee representatives (who will be open to ‘persuasion’, bullying and self-interest) on remuneration committees vote on proposals; perhaps then directors will be more inclined to fairer pay negotiations; this would be a real change, a fairer change. It would also put some power removed by biased and unfair anti-union legislation back into the hands of the workforce.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

How Long Will Free Schools be Free?

Is Nick Clegg na├»ve or just plain deliberately misleading under the ‘it’s not us; it’s the Tories’ umbrella? While he is saying the new free schools must be inclusive and not divisive, I can only think of the student fees fiasco and the broken promises made there.

Has he answered the question of why the first round of free schools is more or less in more affluent areas? No. Has he explained how he intends to force his issue if the Tories manipulate free schools to favour the wealthier parent? No. Should the Tories win the next election outright, how does he intend stopping them from allowing free schools to be profit motivated?  

The way the free schools legislation has been written facilitates this or a future government’s ability to make free schools elitist, based not on academic ability or need but on ability to pay. The way is paved to allow a future government to not just allow, but to insist they are profit motivated; education at a premium; and that could leave local authorities, who currently fund the free schools out of pocket. It is, as this administration is only too aware, almost impossible to reverse such actions.

Is that the plan? Fund free schools with tax payer’s money, then hand them over to their rich supporters to profit from them with little or no cost? And to put another nail in the coffin of local authorities, further weakening their financial position because they have funded the free schools?

Mr Clegg can wax lyrical all he wants about how he sees free schools working. But his party, which is itself divided on the issue, is a junior member of the coalition,  and I have to say once again that the student fees issue show us how much sway the LibDems really have in the coalition. Or if you want to be cynical, it shows us how the LibDems can espouse a cause, only to renege on it later, blaming the impositions of the coalition.

When the next round of free schools begins, in the less affluent areas, what happens if or when the poorer local authorities cannot afford to fund them? Does the coalition bring in private industry, with a profit motive? Or just leave them to decay, physically and intellectually.

Michael Gove has already said that the free school system did not need profit motive “at the moment”. Anybody who doesn’t believe that is political-speak for “its coming” is kidding themselves.

When asked on the Andrew Marr show about the future Michael Gove said "Well we're in a coalition now, and we're working to ensure that we get more free schools."  That avoided the question completely. It also suggests that while in the coalition, they will for now play the coalition game; but that plans are in place for a post coalition administration to change the rules.

At the moment, free schools are paid a premium for taking pupils from disadvantaged areas and backgrounds. When the inevitable private and profit motivated money comes in, that will change. The funders, shareholders, call them what you will are sure to demand the right to fund where and how they see fit and to run the ‘free’ schools to their (the shareholders) best advantage. And they will win, because if they don’t, the private money will dry up; no government could allow that to happen, and as I have already postulated, it will be very difficult for a future government to allow this to happen and reverse the free schools experiment. It is and will be a fait accompli.

But there is a more fundamental issue here. It is the issue of publicly funded industries being sold off, at frankly peppercorn prices to private industry. It is something the Tories have always done. Yet suggesting a privately owned utility, such as water should be returned to the public domain is met with cries of outrage; that it is unfair to investors and shareholders. Well stealing tax-funded public services to hand over to wealthy businessmen is, in my view at least equally abhorrent; and the more so for playing the shady game with education.

But my greatest fear, the thing that becomes more apparent by the week to me is the ultimate aim of government policy that subverts the will of the people; the intention to ensure that the working class, and to some extent the lower middle class receive poorer education and poorer health care, thus making them impotent in the face of authoritarian government; the idea of ensuring the jobs that retain the power to change the system stays with the rich elite from public schools, the mere mention of whose name opens doors.

It isn’t just in education and health care. It is in every aspect of government policy if considered as a whole, rather than considering each area of policy in isolation. It can be seen in the inaction of the police in the recent riots enabling government to promote draconian legislation that will affect us all, not just rioters. It can be seen in genetically modified food, the consumption of which could have effects of which we are not and cannot be aware. It is in the enforced fluoridisation of water, with industrial waste, not the supposedly beneficial, clean fluoride government pronouncements would have us believe are used. It is in the dumbing down of planning legislation from 1,000 to 52 pages, with the possibility of ancient woodland and green belt land being exploited by wealthy developers; and who enjoys this land? Yes, you and me, the ordinary folk. What will be the long term affects on health when trips to the countryside are no longer possible? And what is the point of the right to roam if there is nowhere to go?

Of course, the rich will still have their large homes and adjoining land to enjoy.

As Joni Mitchell sang- “They paved paradise, to put up a parking lot”

Maybe we’ll be lucky. Perhaps they’ll take “all the trees and put ‘em in a tree museum”.  Wonder how much they’ll charge us to get in?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Sirte: Loyalist Last Stronghold; Can the Rebels Win the Moral Victory?

Oh, my! Who wrote this? Who gave the quotes? Surely not a serious journalist; surely the source wasn’t a member of the interim government; or a freedom fighter who knows what the hell he’s fighting for?

It is so full of holes and contradictions words fail me. “Shamsiddin Ben-Ali, a spokesman in the rebel city of Benghazi, said 800 people had been killed in the past three days.”Many of the people of Sirte are on our side now and want to be part of the revolution," he said. "The people with guns though are still resisting.”" How does he know this; because the ones without guns aren’t shooting at them?  No resistance (because of nothing to resist with) means they are on the rebel’s side?

And the suggestion “Rebel leaders know that Sirte's long association with Gaddafi – he was born just outside and went to primary school in the Mediterranean town – make it difficult to win over.” Are you kidding? The rebels have consistently refused to talk, and they think it will be difficult to win over the people of Sirte. What is the plan for winning them over, then? To kill everybody who doesn’t come over to the rebel cause?

“At a meeting close to the front line on Thursday, rebel commanders besieging the city agreed to extend a Saturday deadline for negotiations by a week. “ Are these the same negotiations the rebels have consistently refused to enter into? Or are they negotiations at gunpoint, real or threatened gunpoint?

“In the meantime, said Mr [Shamsiddin ] Ben-Ali, the RAF will continue to soften up Sirte's defences…
…And the longer the siege continues, the more he [Shamsiddin Ben-Ali] believes the city will look to surrender.“ this doesn’t seem to me to be the actions or comments of a man who really wants to negotiate; they are the actions and comments of a man who wishes to crush resistance, forcing not negotiation but provocation.

“"The population know the way to end these conditions [without electricity, cooking gas or petrol.]  is to join the revolution," said Hasan Droy, Sirte representative on the National Transitional Council.
"The problem is that many people in the city don't have TV or radio and don't understand what has happened to the rest of the country."”

So, stop the conflict by agreeing to the causes of the conflict- the reason you are resisting rebellion? But they, by the rebels own admission don’t know what’s on offer, anyway. So how do they agree?

Are we expected to swallow all this? The rebels may well have a just cause; in that case they should take the moral high ground and negotiate!

Syrian Oil Sanctions Agreed: Just in Time for Lybian Oil.

Oh the idiosyncrasy of British foreign policy; if only it were merely idiosyncrasy and not government policy (whose government- ours, the EU or USA I’ll leave to you to decide. I go with ‘a little from column A, a little from column b…’

Libya has a no-fly zone to aid the ‘rebels’ against a allegedly violent, unjust and unwanted dictatorship; this no-fly zones quickly becomes a Biggles paradise with ‘targeted’ bombing; then we discover both American and British forces have been in the country aiding the ‘rebels’. Now are we sure it was just aiding? How long were they there? Couldn’t be they were there before the uprising spreading discontent and questionable propaganda, could it?

Then there is the pronouncement of William Hague, Foreign Secretary (anybody noticed the irony of his surname?) that ““Very significant” sanctions on the sale of Syrian oil to the EU have been agreed”

And just in time for the Libyan oil bonanza!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Troop Numbers to be Cut; Ghurhas Treated Differently (Again)

Someday I hope somebody can explain this government to me. We have troops in Afghanistan and Libya, yet they want to cut numbers? There were mooted threats to use troops in the recent riots, yet they want to cut numbers?

Though the MoD says that the troops in these geographical areas will not be affected, who will replace them if the conflicts and peacekeeping duties continue for an extended period of time? Saying they will not be affected is misleading.

And what about troops to aid in violent civil unrest; one thought during the riots was that troops would need to be used because of the reduction in police numbers due to cuts (something we were told would not happen). But now the MoD is to reduce the number of our armed forces as well. Where is the logic? Where is the sense?

One could take a cynical view and consider that with an increasingly disillusioned police force and armed force (though in my view the distinction between the two is becoming blurred somewhat) they might be willing to support a violent rebellion, much as happened in Russia in 1917. Is that the government’s real fear?

And the government’s view that the cuts are necessary because of a £38 million ‘black hole’ left by the previous government also has me questioning the logic of these cuts. When did our armed forces become a profit making concern? Any money spent on defence goes into a so-called ‘black hole’. Once again, the choices are cuts or taxes. We all know which side of the fence the Tories fall on.

But the most heinous aspect to these cuts is the disproportionate cuts the Ghurkhas will bear. Defence officials claim this greater burden is necessary because of the changes to the Ghurkhas terms of service fought for and won in 2008. This gave them similar terms as the rest of the army. Except, it appears, when it comes to cuts.

They go on to say it is more expensive to employ them. Sorry, misrepresentation; it is more expensive to employ them that it was when their terms of service were unjust; it is now no more expensive than to employ any other soldier in the British army.

This just oozes ‘revenge’; it screams payback; it is as unjust and unfair as treating our bravest, most loyal troops as second class ‘Johnny Foreigners’.