Category Archives: Business

Is it time for governments to guard against the collapse of social media – and other online – firms?


The takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk has created a huge upheaval in the corporation, with many financial supporters and users either leaving it or planning to do so.

There are widespread fears that it may collapse.

Other large firms, that similarly dominate our online lives, are at similar risk of takeover and destruction – calamities that would threaten our current way of life.

What is to be done about it?

I copy below a thread by economist Richard Murphy, who believes that governments should act to create similar systems that are publicly funded and free from commercial interference.

Before you read that, consider this: way back in 2020, I published an article quoting an Australian (I think) magazine that said the UK’s mass media had been complicit in lying to the nation about the Boris Johnson government’s efforts to deal with Covid-19.

It stated that the only people questioning the then-government’s behaviour were independent, social media sites (like Vox Political) and called for them to be supported.

Instead, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have squeezed us hard. This Site’s Facebook page has more than 42,000 followers – but only around 350 ever get to see any single post.

I am shown adverts calling for me to spend £14 to send them to a couple of hundred more readers, but there is no guarantee that they are followers of the page, or even interested in UK politics at all.

On Twitter, I have more than 10,000 followers currently – but, again, only a few of them ever see my tweets.

This is clear interference in the performance of my business, that takes advantage of the need to promote my site via the social media.

So my question is this: is it time to set up publicly-funded alternatives to Twitter, Google and so on, simply to re-establish a level playing field for businesses?

Here’s the Richard Murphy thread:

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The status quo – that Liz Truss said was ‘not an option’ – funded her Tory leadership campaign

Money: Liz Truss had half a million pounds in funding for her Tory leadership campaign – almost twice the permitted amount. It came from hedge fund bosses, bankers and business leaders – the “status quo” that she warned against in her two-faced Conservative Party conference speech.

Remember this, from Liz Truss’s keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference, only yesterday?

Today we discover that, not only is it an option for her, but it was her first option when seeking funding for her campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party – and prime minister by default:

These are people who will now consider it their right to make demands of the UK’s prime minister, ensuring that she does what they tell her – because she owes them her job.

Crucially:

The prime minister, who has made a virtue of being pro-business and cutting taxes, saw a further round of donations declared on the register of MPs’ interests on Wednesday.

The second tranche of donations takes the amount she has received to more than £500,000 – way above the campaign spending limit of £300,000.

So she broke the campaign’s rules.

Doesn’t that make her candidacy invalid? Shouldn’t she be resigning right about now, rather than jetsetting around the world on a prime ministerial jolly?

Source: Liz Truss raised £500,000 for bid to be leader, register of interests reveals | Politics | The Guardian

Government outlines plans to postpone energy bills for businesses

Energy bills for UK businesses will be cut to around half their expected level this winter under a government support package that, together with help for domestic energy bills, could be worth £150 billion.

The whole shemozzle seems to be funded by borrowing – meaning that we will have to pay it back in the future, while the energy production companies will get to pocket the £170 billion in profits they have been making while we all struggle to pay.

That’s not very good.

But for the moment, we all have a bit of relief.

Here are the details, from the government’s website:

This support will be equivalent to the Energy Price Guarantee put in place for households.

It will apply to fixed contracts agreed on or after 1 April 2022, as well as to deemed, variable and flexible tariffs and contracts. It will apply to energy usage from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023, running for an initial 6 month period for all non-domestic energy users. The savings will be first seen in October bills, which are typically received in November.

As with the Energy Price Guarantee for households, customers do not need to take action or apply to the scheme to access the support. Support (in the form of a p/kWh discount) will automatically be applied to bills.

To administer support, the government has set a Supported Wholesale Price – expected to be £211 per MWh for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas, less than half the wholesale prices anticipated this winter – which is a discounted price per unit of gas and electricity. This is equivalent to the wholesale element of the Energy Price Guarantee for households. It includes the removal of green levies paid by non-domestic customers who receive support under the scheme.

The level of price reduction for each business will vary depending on their contract type and circumstances:

  • non-domestic customers on existing fixed price contracts will be eligible for support as long as the contract was agreed on or after 1 April 2022. Provided that the wholesale element of the price the customer is paying is above the Government Supported Price, their per unit energy costs will automatically be reduced by the relevant p/kWh for the duration of the Scheme. Customers entering new fixed price contracts after 1 October will receive support on the same basis
  • those on default, deemed or variable tariffs will receive a per-unit discount on energy costs, up to a maximum of the difference between the Supported Price and the average expected wholesale price over the period of the Scheme. The amount of this Maximum Discount is likely to be around £405/MWh for electricity and £115/MWh for gas, subject to wholesale market developments. Non-domestic customers on default or variable tariffs will therefore pay reduced bills, but these will still change over time and may still be subject to price increases. This is why the government is working with suppliers to ensure all their customers in England, Scotland and Wales are given the opportunity to switch to a fixed contract/tariff for the duration of the scheme if they wish, underpinned by the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme support
  • for businesses on flexible purchase contracts, typically some of the largest energy-using businesses, the level of reduction offered will be calculated by suppliers according to the specifics of that company’s contract and will also be subject to the Maximum Discount

A parallel scheme, based on the same criteria and offering comparable support, but recognising the different market fundamentals, will be established in Northern Ireland.

If you are not connected to either the gas or electricity grid, equivalent support will also be provided for non-domestic consumers who use heating oil or alternative fuels instead of gas. Further detail on this will be announced shortly.

We will publish a review into the operation of the scheme in three months to inform decisions on future support after March 2023. The review will focus in particular on identifying the most vulnerable non-domestic customers and how the government will continue assisting them with energy costs.

So it’s pretty much what we were told before, with a few knobs and whistles, and the government still hasn’t come clean on everything.

It doesn’t inspire trust, does it?

Source: Government outlines plans to help cut energy bills for businesses – GOV.UK

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The price of oil is back at January levels. Why have fuel costs not fallen back too?

Here’s an infuriating piece of information from a Facebook friend of This Writer:

“The crude oil price has for four weeks been the same as in January before the war when petrol was £1.46/ltr, diesel £1.49/ltr. Same companies who are ripping you off at the pumps are ripping you off with electricity and gas. Capitalism supported by Conservatives.”

Can anybody provide the rationale for the cost of fuel not having fallen back to a more affordable level?

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Is this the sinister truth behind Liz Truss’s energy price cap plan? [VIDEOS]

I’ll cut to the core: Liz Truss’s energy price cap plan preserves commercial profits at the expense of the public.

She’s putting you in debt so the shareholders of firms like Shell can profit.

That’s the gist of this clip:

But is this what follows the reason?

So, Truss worked for Shell and has received a donation from a wife of a BP executive, and now she is giving money to them and charging us in order to do it.

And did you notice the claim in the top video that Truss is now in thrall to the European Research Group MPs? Watch this:

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Economist explains why Truss’s early choices have all been bad

Liz Truss: bad choices already mean we have another rotten prime minister.

This Site has a lot of time for Richard Murphy. As an economist, he seems to be on the side of the people, rather than selfish commercial interests, and he also seems to know the right way to run an economy.

That’s why I was very interested to read his thoughts on the early decisions of Liz Truss as Tory leader and prime minister.

He’s horrified:

That’s a prediction, right there: Truss will seek to dismantle the state.

So: Truss intends to bring in more pollution as part of a policy of climate change denial.

So: Truss is determined to worsen your money woes, not ease them.

This is fascism, by the way.

To survive, we have to do better than this. He’s saying that if Truss sees through her agenda, we won’t.

Mr Murphy also had this to say about Truss’s immediate spending plans with regard to the current cost of living crisis:

So now you know.

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Why is this think tank so influential on Tory policy – and who pays for it?

The puppet PM-to-be? Liz Truss appears to be nothing more than a figurehead for shadowy business concerns. Are her strings being pulled by think tanks like Policy Exchange?

Remember the report the Tories pushed into both Houses of Parliament three years ago, attempting to claim that Extinction Rebellion is a terrorist organisation and its protests should be stopped?

A few months later it was revealed that ER had been listed as an “extremist ideology”, to be referred to the Prevent programme – which aims to safeguard vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism.

There was a row, and then the reference was described as an error and removed.

But it is widely agreed that the report played a large role in the drafting of Priti Patel’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act which heavily restricts protest, criminalises many peaceful actions, disproportionately targets minority groups including  people of colour and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

The report had been published by Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank that is part of the Tufton Street Brexit Nexus which

ties together fossil fuel interests, climate denial groups and a whole array of Brexit campaigns, pushing for a deregulated low-tax playing field pushing profit and growth over people and planet. As well as close ties to most of the current Conservative right politicians, they reach deep into the media, influencing the output of the Telegraph and Spectator, as well as the Times, Mail, Express and Sun.

We don’t know the names of everybody who funds this organisation, but information that is available shows that its work – and therefore Conservative Party policy – is being driven by private business interests:

As well as receiving around £3million per year from undisclosed donors, it has received ‘sponsorship’ money from many UK energy companies for arranging meetings with government ministers, and these included Drax, E.On, Centrica, and lobbyist Energy UK. It also receives money from ‘American Friends of Policy Exchange’, a US non-profit organisation supporting Policy Exchange UK and backed by mainly anonymous donors. They were listed in a 2017 ExxonMobil worldwide-giving report  as receiving a $30,000 donation from the giant fossil fuel corporation. ExxonMobil has spent vast sums over decades on promoting climate denial.

And think about this:

Policy Exchange also funds something called the Judicial Power Project which seeks to limit the rights of our justice system to rein in the power of government ministers or question unfair or draconian legislation. Under the guise of concern over “how and by whom public power is exercised”, it’s basically pushing for more power for heavily-lobbied ministers along with less accountability to a judicial system that may be more resistant to corporate influence.

Other changes suggested by Policy Exchange include calls for amendments to the Overseas Operations Bill, giving soldiers impunity for war crimes, and for government control over appointments of judges; and it has published a major study on “judicial interference” over the government’s Rwanda deal and other anti-asylum proposals. The project strongly influenced the tabling of the Judicial Review Act, which limits citizens’ ability to challenge government decisions in court.

And now, as RealMedia points out,

we are about to face a leader elected by a tiny unrepresentative club, advised by secretly-funded policy units, and cheered on by a media owned by its rich friends and donors.

This will get messy and you will probably be badly harmed by what these people will do. The big question is: how long are you going to let them do it?

Source: The hidden forces pushing change in our democracy and rights – Real Media – The View From Below

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How many small businesses will die because of the energy price crisis?

What better time than a bank holiday to get business-owners thinking about the effect of the 80 per cent rise in the energy price cap on their viability?

Take a look at these:

So the (award-winning) Rose and Crown pub in Bebbington will see its unit charge rise from 15 pence to 97.05 pence, while its standing charge is rising to 40p per day.

(Standing charges seem to be a swindle, too. Apparently they cover the cost of keeping businesses connected to the grid, meter readings and government schemes. But wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that they cover not disconnecting firms? And aren’t smart meters ending the need for meter readings? Is there any need for standing charges at all, when several firms already offer a service without them?)

It faces an energy bill of nearly £62,000 per year. A chip shop will apparently pay £32,000.

And businesses will receive no help from the government. How will they survive – especially when pubs and chippies rely on disposable income that so many people no longer have?

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson reckons households will get support – but not all of them – next month:

That’s nice – but someone else will be prime minister by then. Liz Truss, maybe – and she is dragging her feet:

Tax cuts will only help people who pay tax – and not by very much, This Writer suspects.

It seems the energy firms aren’t the only organisations ripping off the public; the Tory government is at it too.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Firm connected to Rishi Sunak’s wife is closing Russia office. Lucky escape, Chancellor!

Rishi Sunak: his government has sanctioned firms that operate in, and profit from, connections with Russia, but he had continued to benefit indirectly from his wife’s shares in Infosys, which has an office in Russia. Now that office is to close.

Technology firm Infosys, in which Rishi Sunak’s wife owns shares worth an alleged £400 million, is closing its office in Russia after the Tory Chancellor suffered sustained criticism.

Sunak had tried to claim that it was his wife Akshata Murthy who had been attacked for having a connection with the firm and compared himself to Hollywood actor Will Smith, who slapped comedian Chris Rock for a joke at his own wife’s expense during the Academy Awards ceremony a few days ago.

But it seems nobody was convinced. They were angry with Sunak because, as a member of a government that has sanctioned firms that operate in, and profit from, connections with Russia, he should not have anything to do with such firms.

Because his wife had shares in Infosys, Sunak was indirectly profiting from a connection he should not have.

His decision to hide behind Ms Murthy was disgraceful.

But now, after refusing to take any action to resolve the issue, it seems he has been saved by Infosys itself.

What a lucky escape for him.

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P&O boss calls Shapps’s bluff; what consequences will the firm face?

Grounded: P&O Ferries are being held in dock after failing government safety checks. What other penalties, can Grant Shapps devise for the firm until it delivers an equitable deal for its wrongly-sacked workers.

P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite has refused to rehire 800 UK staff after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned him to take them back or face “consequences”.

Shapps’s bluff has been called. What is he going to do?

Shapps has already said the government is reviewing all its contracts with P&O Ferries and its parent firm, ports operator DP World. It’s hard to see how he could justify continuing any of those contracts in the face of this continuing defiance of the law.

And it has already grounded several ships after they failed safety checks.

Hebblethwaite knew before he embarked on the mass sacking that he had not informed the government of his intention to carry it out in the legally necessary time period.

But he has insisted that his decisions – and the illegal way he has carried them out – were the only way to save the firm, as it was losing £100 million per year.

If he were to reverse the sackings, he has said, then the whole company would have to be dissolved, with the loss of a further 2,200 jobs.

It’s a test of character for the Tory government.

Boris Johnson’s cronies have had no problem with hitting down at society’s most vulnerable people.

But now they are faced with a large employer, defiantly saying it is going to do whatever it wants.

Will the government have the courage to treat Hebblethwaite the same as any other lawbreaker? Or will it cave in to Big Money, as usual?

Source: P&O boss refuses to reinstate 800 sacked staff as row with Government escalates

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