Monday, 30 April 2012

Ed Miliband is an Imbecile

Ed Miliband takes his position as Leader of the Opposition far too literally. In such a role you are not just meant to oppose everything that the incumbent government does, you have to come up with alternatives - otherwise why would anyone vote for you if they have no idea what you stand for? It has taken a while but Ed has finally come up with Labour's Five Priorities. Let's have a look at them:

• A Fair Deal on tax. Alongside implementing Labour’s five point plan for jobs and growth, Labour’s Finance Bill would reverse tax cuts for people earning over £150,000 a year. We would use that money to help pensioners on fixed incomes hit by the “granny tax” and we would restore cuts in tax credits which have hit families.

And he's failed at the first hurdle by proving my initial point.

• A Fair Deal on Energy. Labour’s Energy Bill would break up the dominance of the Big Six power companies and require them by law to offer 4 million elderly people the lowest rate available.

Sounds great in principle but then again elderly doesn't necessarily equal poor. In fact the richest people I know are old. Of course, this plan won't help any one else who is poor, who will undoubtedly see an increase in their energy bills to pay for this.

• A Fair Deal on Transport. Labour’s Transport Bill would stop train operators raising fares by more than one per cent above inflation, stop them exploiting commuters with unadvertised rates and give local authorities more control over bus firms.

Fair enough, the latter is rather topical around my way.

• A Fair Deal for Consumers. Labour’s Consumer Bill would give new powers to the Financial Conduct Authority and Competition and Markets Authority to stop rip-off surcharges by banks, low-cost airlines and pension firms.

Banks will start charging for regular banking facilities, airlines will just up the basic cost of a ticket making any surcharge impossible to avoid, and pension firms will just add the fees into the unit price of the funds bought and sold.

• A Fair Deal on Jobs. Labour’s Jobs Bill would ensure some of the money raised from a tax on bank bonuses is used to provide real jobs, with real wages and responsibilities, to more than 100,000 young people aged 18 – 24.

Oh dear. "Real" jobs and "real" wages. That's Labour speak for "we're going to expand the bloated public sector even further". According to the Grand Plan, the tax is supposed to raise £2B and will also be used to build 25,000 affordable homes. However, pay the 100,000 at the minimum wage of £6.08 for a 35 hour week gives £11k per annum. There are a whole host of other costs when employing someone including pension contributions, training, and recruiting amongst other things. Call the total cost of this and wages to be a conservative £15k. That's £1.5B which leaves £0.5B for the 25,000 houses which works out at £20k per home - land, materials, and building costs - so unless he's building them in Bulgaria, he's blatantly talking bollocks.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Let it go

Most people have had cause to complain about something at some point in their lives.  Be it a dispute in the workplace, poor service, or unprofessional behaviour, we quite rightly want a resolution and to see justice being done. Sometimes, for whatever reason, this doesn't happen which can leave us angry and upset that there was no closure to the issue. We may decide to take matters further in an attempt to resolve and get that closure  we want or need. There may come a point though where things are not going to be sorted in the way that you want them or that any victory is likely to be pyrrhic, and the trick is to know when that point is and to move on. Some people don't though and pursue the battle until it becomes all-consuming and at all costs.  By then, the person is beyond reason or logic and is not going to be persuaded by anyone to let it go.

My inspiration for this blog entry are two websites that I found by chance when searching for other things. Both relate, coincidently, to complaints about banks and both document the lengths that a person has gone to try and get that resolution and closure.  The first of these is Ian Taplin the "Lloyds Bank Whistleblower" and what I have deduced from his blog is thus; whilst working in the Private and Wealth division of Lloyds, a colleague he disliked made a sale that he perceived should have gone to him. Mr. Taplin then bitterly complained to management about this and eventually his behaviour led to him being dismissed from the bank for gross misconduct.  What exactly he did is not made clear but I suspect that the relationship between employer and employee had irretrievably broken down and as such, his position was untenable.  There is also a separate allegation relating to what he believes to be mis-selling of investment products to his parents. This, he believes demonstrates systemic fraud and corruption in the bank which is being covered up by senior management, all the way up to board level. He also states that he has support from his MP Theresa May and has evidence to back up all allegations made. None of this has of course been published.

I struggled to work my way through Mr. Taplin's blog; it is repetitive, rambles, is oddly written in the third person, and doesn't reach any obvious conclusions. It is not clear what a satisfactory resolution would look like for him, although I suspect that his blog is more letting off steam than anything else. Involving MPs and getting the attention of the police due to his actions have moved him into crusade territory and show that his obsession has moved up a step though. According to his latest blog entry, he was involved in a reasonably serious road traffic accident and I wish him a speedy recovery from that.

Mr. Taplin's obsessiveness pales into insignificance when compared to that of disgruntled Natwest customer Ruby Cooper.  Ms. Cooper's website is a collection of emails, transcripts, statements, and court documents, almost entirely in Comic Sans and peppered with random highlights, underlining, and ALL CAPS. It isn't particularly well ordered but I think that I've got the main points now and I believe that the story goes something like this; a misdirected phone call to Natwest by Ms. Cooper led to a person, who was perhaps or perhaps not trying to be helpful, dealing with a complaint regarding her mortgage application when he shouldn't have done. They spoke several times on the phone and at one point, the Natwest worker Mr. Mileham referred to Ms. Cooper as sounding "gorgeous". It was after then that they arranged to meet.  I'm sensing that Ms. Cooper was hoping for some kind of romantic encounter but when he turned up at her house, Mr. Mileham was not the handsome, dashing thing she expected and all bets were off. When she eventually found out that he shouldn't have been dealing with her complaint she hit the roof and accusations of stalking were made to the bank and the police. These were accompanied with a demand for compensation from the bank as the stress from the alleged stalking had delayed the launch of a new business venture. No action was taken by the police and no compensation was forthcoming from the bank. It is unclear what happened to Mr. Mileham. What has transpired since is truly extraordinary, particular highlights being:

  • She has sent literally hundreds of letters, emails, and faxes making complaints, demands, and accusations of conspiracy to senior bank staff, newspaper editors, the Met and City police, the CPS, and all levels of government up to and including the Prime Minister. Oh, and Jeremy Paxman.
  • Her behaviour has got her arrested six times and convicted for three of those offences.
  • She alleges that the police, the CPS, Natwest, Financial Ombudsman, and the "Nu Labour" government all conspired against her to ruin her good name.
  • Spectacular fall-outs with her legal team, accusing them of being part of the conspiracy against her, at one point firing none other than Cherie Booth (Blair) as her barrister.
  • Claims she was driven to exile in France due to threats from Natwest.
  • Is now demanding that the son of a former, now deceased chairman of Natwest tell her what he knows about the conspiracy.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this is that the whole sorry saga has been going on for over 18 years meaning that more than one third of Ms. Cooper's life has been dedicated to this crusade. These are not the actions of someone acting reasonably or logically and I fully expect that I'll be in for a bit of stick from her should she by some chance discover this blog. I initially had a good laugh at some of the documents that she had posted but the more that I read, the more I built up a picture of someone slowly descending into the hell that they created for themselves out of an obsession.  It's actually quite tragic and I hope that she gets the help that she clearly needs, although I doubt that she will go voluntarily.

The Internet is for Porn

Ministers are ready to reject tough proposals to protect children from online pornography, claiming strict curbs would breach web users’ civil liberties.

Damn right, but probably the most frightening sentence in this article is "But MPs and charities say this will not adequately safeguard children because it will rely on their parents being responsible and proactive enough to ask for access to be blocked."

Ah, parental responsibility. Sure, there are some useless fuckwit sprog farmers out there but they are in the minority. As for the original proposals, I'm still trying to work out what problem this is the solution to. If this is about stopping curious youngsters from viewing porn then this isn't going to work. In my day we had porn in hedgerows and older friends to buy magazines for us. The modern equivalent is using a proxy like HideMyAss to circumvent any blocks. You can't prevent a teenager from getting hold of porn if they really want it...after all, I was one once ;-)

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Occupy is Dead

I'm not a fan of Occupy.  There was a fantastic opportunity back in October to get a powerful message across when they had the attention of the UK's media, but instead they came up with this.  Ten, mainly nonsensical, points not even of a sixth form debating society standard.  Other people have taken it apart elsewhere so I won't repeat the exercise here.  What a waste - opportunity squandered.

It was shortly after that occupying became the end rather than the means of the protest with the occupiers breaking into various buildings with their newly acquired bolt cutters and battling evictions in the courts.  Whatever message they were trying to convey was lost in all of this with little attempt at outreach, so no one outside of Occupy (and even many inside) knew what they were up to.  An insular group of squatters with not much to say does not endear itself to the public.

Two months on from the eviction of Occupy LSX and they've gone a bit quiet with few updates in terms of general assembly and no spending published since the beginning of March.  Unbelievably, some of the more recent GA minutes show that the usual attendees (it seems to be pretty much the same five or six people doing the talking) are still discussing the initial statement and what Occupy is about.  Good grief.

Most of the other Occupy sites around the country have either been evicted or have fizzled out quietly, although there now appears to be a roving Occupy group in London that has been going around pissing off the communities it squats in.  The only high profile Occupy still going is that of Finsbury Square, which is majority addicts/homeless now and was in dispute with the ex-St. Paul's lot over people, money, and if it actually still  wanted to be an Occupy site.  The minute and pathetic Occupy Southend, situated out of the way on a disused car dealership, hosted the 4th UK and Ireland national Occupy conference recently with a stated turn-out of 50, although the reality was probably around half of that.  Pretty poor for a movement that appeared to have some fairly decent support at the very start.

Overall, perhaps calling Occupy dead is an exaggeration; moribund may be a better word but apparently they have big plans for May to "meet the 1%" implying some sort direct action in the City.  The major flaw I see in this is that the planned date of 12th May is a Saturday and therefore the City will be practically empty.  In the meantime, I suspect that the legal teams for councils and property management companies are working overtime sorting out updates to by-laws and injunctions in likely protest spots - this is my biggest problem with Occupy, that their form of protest has very likely made it harder for future protests of any sort to take place as no one wants to spend time and money trying to remove a shanty town, prevention being better than cure.

If Occupy is good for one thing though, it did inspire the name of this blog (scroll down to the Economics section).