Bankers’ payments could mean bonuses for burglars

Did Theresa May just declare open season on highly-paid bankers? I think she did. It’s very pleasant that Stephen Hester of the Royal Bank of Scotland has turned down his bonus of around £1 million, after the Labour Party called for a Parliamentary debate about the subject. But more bankers’ bonuses have yet to be declared, and could total hundreds of millions of pounds, if not billions. At the same time, Home Secretary Theresa May has announced pay cuts for the police. Big boost for the rich; big let-down for…

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Domestic violence helpline could save lives

Anti-violence campaigner Joyce Watson AM has voiced her support for the launch of the All Wales Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Helpline. The Helpline provides a 24 hour, bilingual information signposting service, to help and guide people with experience of domestic abuse or sexual violence, who are in need of access to services such as advice, emergency support, safety, and knowledge of their rights and options. Joyce has campaigned for many years against violence, and set up candlelit services, first in Llandaff Cathedral some years ago, then last November in…

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Whatever happened to free speech?

The Tory propoganda machine has been at it again – hushing up dissent to the, by now, pretty much universally-hated Health and Social Care Bill. It seems Health Minister Andrew Lansley and his departmental colleagues have been on the blower to members of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. One presumes from the outcome that this was to assure them that releasing a statement opposing the Bill in its current form would be bad for their health. The statement read as follows: “The medical royal colleges and faculties of the…

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The only economy this government can manage is with the truth

So have you seen the latest about Andrew Lansley and his health reforms? It seems the Commons Health Select Committee, chaired by his forerunner as Health Minister, Stephen Dorrell, has released a report saying that hospitals have been “salami slicing” their services as they try to find £20 billion in efficiency savings while Mr Lansley busily refoces the NHS towards privatisation around them. It said the process “continues to complicate the push for efficiency gains”, it was far from certain whether the targets will be met, and there was a “marked disconnect…

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The bare minimum – and what it gets you

COMMUNICATING with people who have opposing points of view can be very valuable and I advise everybody to try it. I mention this because I have been chatting with some of the folk on the Conservatives’ Facebook page, about this week’s big subject – work and working conditions. It follows my article, Benefits v bonuses – everybody’s a loser, to which some of them took offence, and I wanted to draw your attention to our dialogue about the minimum wage. They want it dropped. One of them claimed it has devalued…

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‘Lies, damned lies’, the IMF and government borrowing

We interrupt our series on how to get the UK back to work for a few words about the economy: Out of the frying pan, into the fire! The IMF has downgraded its growth expectations for the UK economy this year by a whole one per cent, from 1.6 per cent to 0.6 per cent. In other words, the downward spiral that’s been going on – ever since David Cameron and George Osborne decided to halt the promising recovery we were enjoying before they came to office in 2010 –…

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Benefits v bonuses – everybody’s a loser!

As I type these words, this has been a day of defeat for the government. Its bid to cap benefits at £26,000 – forcing some families to face the prospect of losing their homes – has been defeated by the Lords, while in the Commons, MPs totally failed to cap the spectacularly high amounts paid to (for example) bankers. The link between the two is the average amount of pay earned by workers in the UK today. The government says this is £26,000, which Tory MP Margot James seems to…

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Welfare? Rebels are right to fight these well-UNfair changes

It looks as though (as I write this, early on January 23) the UK Coalition government is about to lose yet another vote on changes to welfare benefits, in the House of Lords. Quelle surprise. The changes (I refuse to call them reforms), dreamed up by Iain Duncan Smith, have been pilloried by the public as attacks on the poor, and it’s easy to see why. The Guardian, for example, compares two families. “One is an Islington couple who have never worked. The other is an Oldham family with four…

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But is it art?

‘Herr Gunter Ground [not his real name], aged 41, mislaid the keys to his house and attempted to crawl in through the catflap. Unfortunately he got stuck halfway, and couldn’t get out again. A passing group of students then spotted him and decided to take advantage of the poor man. So they removed his trousers, painted his buttocks bright blue and stuck a daffodil in his bum, and erected a sign saying, “Germany resurgent, an essay in street art – please give generously.” ‘Passers-by were assured that Herr Ground’s screams…

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Something for the weekend: A festive cheerio

I think we’re far enough away from the Festive Season, now, that I can get away with posting this and not offend anybody’s sensibilities. It sums up my feelings about a certain element of that part of year, and I don’t think I’m the only one. (The clip is taken from I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Christmas Clue, which is available on CD from BBC Audio/AudioGO and is used for review purposes – in other words, to have a laugh. Also to encourage you to go out and discover Clue…

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