Tag Archives: consultant

Nice – an ‘above inflation’ pay rise for public sector workers. But is it enough?

Forgive me if I’m underwhelmed by the pay rise that has been announced for people in the public sector.

Their pay was frozen for two years in 2010, and capped at a one per cent increase every year since. That’s well below inflation.

How much would this rise need to have been, to make up all the increases these people have lost, just to be paid in line with inflation?

It seems to me that the Tories are trying to look generous in giving this increase now.

In fact, it should highlight their cruelty.

In the nine years since they imposed their ridiculous austerity, shrinking the state by starving it of cash, while giving huge tax cuts to the very rich, the 100 richest people in the UK have become £55 billion richer, we’re told.

And what has happened to MPs’ pay in the same period?

The rest of us have suffered – and will continue to do so. Remember that.

Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are reportedly set to get a pay rise.

The Treasury will unveil the biggest public sector pay rise in six years as one of Theresa May’s final acts as prime minister, The Times reported.

Soldiers are set to get a 2.9% rise, teachers and school staff 2.75%, police officers, dentists and consultants 2.5% and senior civil servants 2%.

It is thought the money will come from existing budgets.

Incidentally, this is a pay rise for police and soldiers, among others.

Considering current developments over Brexit, are the Tories planning to face widespread public unrest – possibly even violence?

Source: Public sector workers ‘to get above-inflation pay rise’ – BBC News

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Have Grayling’s failings finally caught up with him in row over no-ferry ferry firm’s costs?

Chris Grayling: Perhaps it’s finally time he came out of the cabinet.

Calamity-prone Chris Grayling has lied directly to Parliament, it seems, over the small fortune he spent on consultants in connection with Seaborne Freight, the ferry firm that had no ships.

We all know the story by now: Grayling authorised a contract for post “no deal” Brexit freight ferry work with Seaborne, a company that had no ships, no trading history, and no previous experience running such a service.

Not only that, but the firm’s internet page cut-and-pasted its terms and conditions from a takeaway website, its log-in portal was found to redirect directly to Google’s home page; and neither of the listed phone numbers appeared to be manned, with both stating ‘there is no one available to take your call’ and offering no chance to leave a message.

Other features, such as language settings, were only for show and could not be clicked; and despite Mr Grayling saying Seaborne was on track to run services from April, the firm’s recruitment page was empty when it was checked last month.

Last week it was revealed that the deal was being secretly supported by an Irish firm – Arklow Shipping – but this company had now backed out and for this reason, Mr Grayling was cancelling the £13.8 million deal.

All of that would normally be enough to cancel anybody’s contract of employment – but Mr Grayling is an MP, and we have already seen that they can get away with almost anything.

One thing they can’t avoid, though, is retribution for intentionally misleading Parliament, and it seems Mr Grayling may come unstuck on this point.

Responding to an urgent question on Seaborne in Parliament on February 11, Mr Grayling claimed that no taxpayers’ money had been wasted on it. He said: “We have spent no money on this contract.”

But a report by the National Audit Office from earlier this month contradicts the claim, stating that his department had “spent approximately £800,000 on its external consultants: Slaughter & May; Deloitte; and Mott MacDonald” in the procurement process.

Worse, the report states that Mott MacDonald had found “significant execution risks” in the bid from Seaborne Freight – and Deloitte claimed they could not complete the review of the firm because of “a lack of existing financial information due to [Seaborne Freight] only being incorporated in April 2017″.

Is that enough rope with which to hang him?

It depends.

Some say Mr Grayling is kept in the Cabinet because he makes everyone else look competent.

Some might disagree with that. Let’s see what Theresa May has to say about it – if she even dares poke her ever-lengthening nose above the parapet.


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NHS blows £21 million on consultants telling them how to cut costs

If they want to save money, why not dispense with the consultants and think for themselves? Who are the experts, after all?

Health and social care bosses across England have spent £21m on management consultants to help draw up plans to overhaul regional NHS services.

A Pulse investigation, based on Freedom of Information request to all 44 ‘Sustainability and Transformation Partnership’ (STP) regions, found that some areas have spent millions of pounds on external consultants to help them draw up the plans, which in many cases involve cutting frontline services.

Local GP leaders said these sums were ‘difficult to justify’ when money was being removed from frontline services.

The plans were first announced in December 2015, with the aim of making £22bn worth of cuts to the health services by 2020/21.


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Are Labour’s work capability assessment changes really ‘crucial’?

WCAcartoon

This cartoon was created to highlight the difficulties created by the Conservatives for people attending a work capability assessment. But would Labour’s proposed changes make any difference?

According to Benefits and Work, the Labour Party has been emailing people with proposals for three “crucial changes” it is proposing for the way the work capability assessment works for disability/incapacity benefit claimants.

The three problems are:

  • That the WCA is ‘not integrated with employment support’ and so is not helping claimants back into work;
  • That the WCA ‘lacks credibility with disabled people, causing anxiety and stress’; and
  • That the system is ‘riven with poor decision making’, leading to a ‘staggering 45 per cent of appeals against the test’ being upheld last year.

The Benefits and Work report addes that “critics may point out that not only did Labour devise and introduce the WCA, but also that the level of appeal success under Labour was very similar to what it is now” – all valid criticisms, as long as it is also noted that Labour has accepted those criticisms and is trying to do something about them.

Unfortunately – well, see for yourself. Here are the “crucial changes” being proposed:

“Labour will ‘start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work’.” Benefits and Work says “there are no details of what this transformation will involve, except that ‘disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor’s report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them’.”

What about disabled people with progressive degenerative conditions, who cannot, under any circumstances, be put back to work? This “change” makes no allowance for them whatsoever – it is as if they do not exist.

“Labour will also ‘continue to produce an independent review of the WCA’. In addition, they will ‘ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way’.” Benefits and Work tells us “Labour says it will only ‘commit to responding to the recommendations of this report’; there is no undertaking to actually act on them.”

How is the promise of a paper exercise with no commitment to act at the end supposed to reassure anybody?

“Labour will introduce ‘penalties for poor performance by assessors, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.’” Benefits and Work suggests that these penalties “undoubtedly” would be “hidden behind a cloak of ‘commercial confidentiality’” and “will offer no reassurance whatsoever” – but this is unfair, in the light of Labour’s promise to make commercial firms working in the public sector subject to public sector Freedom of Information laws. Any punishment meted out to these firms would be a matter of public knowledge under a Labour government.

If the information provided to Benefits and Work is correct, then this plan is, at best, weak. At worst, it’s catastrophic.

This blog has been arguing that the work capability assessment should be abolished altogether – and Vox Political stands by that.

Decisions about whether a patient should be granted disability or incapacity benefits should be made by their doctor, in conjunction with the specialists who would naturally be consulted to confirm the nature and extent of the patient’s medical condition.

What – you think doctors are going to be unduly influenced by the fact that they know the patient? That is precisely why their opinion is the most important.

It seems strange. We know some people believe doctors need to be bribed by the government into sending sick people back to work before they are better. They don’t get any extra financial reward for signing patients off-work, though.

Doesn’t this suggest that they are more likely to be honest when signing the sicknote?

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Labour will ban MPs from having second jobs – hooray!

 

Corporate 'partners': These are just some of the companies that 'work with' your representatives in Parliament. Wouldn't it be better if the relationship was kept at arms-length and your MP wasn't their employee?

Corporate ‘partners’: These are just some of the companies that ‘work with’ your representatives in Parliament. Wouldn’t it be better if the relationship was kept at arms-length and your MP wasn’t their employee?

 

This is an important step on the way towards winning a personal crusade of Vox Political – to clear corruption out of the House of Commons.

The Labour Party will change the law to ban MPs from having second jobs including corporate directorships, employment or consultancy work.

Think about it; this means MPs will no longer be allowed to have dangerous conflicts of interest between their positions as representatives of the electorate and any responsibilities to other employers.

It would go a long way towards meeting the terms of the Vox Political e-petition from last year, which called on Parliament to ban MPs from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest.

It would not help when MPs have shares in particular companies – but those should be declared in the register of members’ interests in any case, and neglect to mention such interests should lead to strict penalties.

I know. The Maria Miller case (to quote a recent example) isn’t going to fill anybody with hope, is it?

A Daily Mail report has stated that the move will infuriate many MPs on both sides of the House, and some Facebook commenters have already trotted out the now-tired line that they’ll believe it when they see it, or Labour won’t be able to push the measure through as MPs would oppose it.

That’s a mistake – a whipped vote in a House of Commons with a Labour majority means an automatic victory – in exactly the same way the Coalition government has continually won controversial votes in the current Parliament (against ardent Labour opposition that has subsequently gone unnoticed by the public – or at least, by many commenters on this site).

The Mail‘s article affected shock at Labour’s temerity in wanting to force this measure on members of other political parties, claiming it is likely to fuel claims that the party is anti-business.

This is, of course, poppycock. How is it anti-business to make sure serving members of Parliament concentrate on their jobs as public representatives, rather than trying to serve two masters at once? It seems more likely that business will revive without their over-rated expertise.

After all, look how well they’ve managed the nation’s finances!

The Mail also quoted some goon who said it meant the electorate would be lumbered with more career politicians who have worked as researchers and special advisors, when there need to be MPs in every party who have had “real world” professional experience.

This too is poppycock. There is no reason a person in any career cannot stand for election and, if returned to Parliament, take a sabbatical from their day job until they are voted out again or choose to return to their vocation.

Ah. I’ve just looked up the name of the goon who made this claim: Tory MP Andrew Bridgen. Need I say more?

Finally, the Mail turned to the Institute of Directors for support. It’s as if the paper really wanted to hammer home how corrupt the system has become, and will remain, if left as it is. Of course, the director general, Simon Walker, said MPs could better serve the public if they have “active links” with the business community.

Well, of course!

How could he influence Parliamentary decisions without a few directors in the Cabinet?

This is a policy that we should all support to the hilt.

I strongly advise you to contact your MP and seek their support for it.

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Free speech is under threat as our unelected back-door government bids to rig future elections

130902freespeech1

You can tell the priorities of any administration by its programme for government.

Look at the Coalition: Practically the first thing on its agenda is an attempt to ‘fix’ the next election by ensuring that anyone supporting opposing parties (or attacking the parties in power) is gagged.

The ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’, if passed, would end free speech in the United Kingdom and usher in an era of propaganda-led “do as we say, not as we do” totalitarianism.

It will not stop corporate control of the political agenda – the threat to consultant lobbyists means Big Money will take them in-house, where they won’t have to be registered, and then it will be business as usual. This government works hand-in-glove with big business; that’s one reason it has been so easy to compare the Coalition’s UK with Nazi Germany.

(I make no apologies to Michael Gove for repeating this terrible accusation. If he wants to come and thump me, let him. Then we’ll find out how well he can work from a hospital bed.)

It will, as Owen Jones put it in his Independent column, “stifle the voices of charities, campaigners, trade unions and even blogs [yes, Vox Political would be under threat, despite the fact that it has no budget]; … shut down rallies and demonstrations; … prevent groups such as Hope Not Hate from taking on the poison of organised racism.

“Trustees of charities will fear anything that invites criminal investigation, shutting down scrutiny of government or campaigns for changes in policy. It will entangle organisations in a bureaucratic nightmare, forcing them to account for all of their spending… The TUC suggests that it could make organising its 2014 annual congress a criminal offence, as well as prevent it from holding a national demonstration in election year.

“Political blogs… could be included too, since they are campaigning entities that attempt to impact the outcome of an election.”

He went on to quote the TUC’s assessment that this is “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship”, which this writer has taken as implying that an “authoritarian dictatorship” is exactly what we have now.

The campaigning organisation 38Degrees is also threatened by this proposed legislation. The government would consider its loss to be an enormous victory, as it has been a thorn in the sides of Cameron and his cronies (both in government and big business) ever since the Coalition came into office by the back door in 2010.

An email to members states: “From May 2014, draconian new rules would prevent non-politicians from speaking up on the big issues of the day. A huge range of campaign groups and charities – everyone from The Royal British Legion, to Oxfam, to the RSPB – are warning about the threat this poses.

“It’s telling that so many groups who wouldn’t normally agree with each other have united to oppose the gagging law. Groups that speak out in favour of hunting, windfarms, HS2 or building more houses are joining together with groups who say exactly the opposite.

130902freespeech2

“That’s because there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on: in a healthy democracy, everyone should able to express their views. And everyone should be allowed to get organised to highlight what politicians are saying and doing on the issues that matter to them.”

The email contains a link to a form letter that you can send to your MP, to make sure your feelings are known before they go into the debate. Then they won’t have an excuse to support the government and, if they do, you’ll have a reason (probably another reason, in the case of Tory MPs) to vote them out, come May 2015.

The link is https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-bill-MPs

“There is no question that British democracy is at the mercy of wealth and corporate interests,” wrote Mr Jones [Nazism again].

But 38Degrees tells us that more than 55,000 people have already emailed their MP, and every new email adds pressure.

Again, the link is https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-bill-MPs

Make your voice count – while you still can.

Who will (unofficially) sponsor David Cameron’s next Prime Ministerial statements?

130819lobbying

Tobacco, fracking or private health companies seem the most likely choices.

The Conservative-led Coalition has become an excellent practitioner of bait-and-switch fraud, it seems. First it ‘baits’ the general public by promising a new law, reforming part of society that is seen to have fallen below the standards expected here in the UK. Then it ‘switches’ the legislation into something else entirely.

So it is with plans for a new law to end lobbying scandals. It won’t do anything of the sort. In fact, it is likely to lessen the legal burdens on lobbyists.

However, it will impose onerous new burdens on trade unions and charities, in what the Trade Union Congress has described as “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship”.

(This is not to say that the TUC believes the UK government is similar to an authoritarian dictatorship. View it instead as the TUC saying this is what the UK government has become under the Coalition)

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill apparently features a new, looser definition of ‘campaigning’ that risks including all activities that could be seen as critical of the government of the day – and if any government was likely to crack down on such activities, on any day, it’s this one!

Mr Cameron’s spokesman said this was not the aim, and that the plan was to ensure lobbyists’ allegiances are known, ascertain how much money is spent on third-party political campaigning and ensure trade unions know who their members are. His words may have been sponsored by CTF Partners (look them up).

The proposals are likely to introduce a statutory register of consultant lobbyists, but only firms which say it is their main business need register, only firms which meet ministers and senior civil servants need declare whom they represent, and in-house lobbyists are also exempt – so, from 988 meetings between the Department for Business and lobbyists in 2012, only two were with consultant lobbyists who would have had to declare the meetings under the new law.

An Independent article stated that the plans lack credibility and are regarded as “a bad joke” inside the UK’s £2 billion lobbying industry – so much so that the chairman of Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee recalled its members before the end of the summer recess, to hold evidence sessions on what he has described as a “dog’s breakfast”.

Graham Allen MP (Labour) told the paper, “This flawed legislation will mean we’ll all be back in a year facing another scandal.”

And lobbyists themselves said the industry could gain nothing from flawed legislation. Iain Anderson, chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and director of the lobbying company Cicero, said: “This law will only undermine public confidence.”

The planned legislation would also set a cap on the amount any organisation other than political parties could spend during elections, and would end self-certification of union membership numbers for all but the smallest unions, with records checked by an independent officer.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said in the BBC article that “this rushed Bill has nothing to do with cleaning up lobbying or getting big money out of politics. Instead it is a crude and politically partisan attack on trade unions, particularly those who affiliate to the Labour Party”. Bait-and-switch, see?

But she said the plan was much worse than that: “Its chilling effect will be to shut down dissent for the year before an election. No organisation that criticises a government policy will be able to overdraw their limited ration of dissent without fearing a visit from the police.”

Mr Cameron, now revealed as a corporate mouthpiece after his U-turn on plans for plain packaging on cigarettes (his election strategist Lynton Crosby also works for a major tobacco corporation), his support for fracking (several leading Tories stand to benefit if the process becomes widespread) and his government’s privatisation of the National Health Service, amazingly promised to crack down on lobbying in the Coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats after he, himself, described it as the “next big political scandal”.

If fears are borne out, the new law would have a direct effect on Vox Political and blogs like it. Rest assured that VP will continue criticising government policy and demanding better from the opposition.

They can’t say we overspend – we don’t have any budget at all.

My e-petition calling for MPs to be banned from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest is here, and is nearly at the point where a reply will be required from the relevant government department. Please support it with your signature, if you haven’t already done so.

Former Tory’s full-page rebuke ad fails to hit the mark

Not worried: This comedy double-act won't be worried about 'Martin' and his full-page advert attacking them in The Times - his criticisms are so wide of the mark that they make his look more stupid than they do.

Not worried: This comedy double-act won’t be worried about ‘Martin’ and his full-page advert attacking them in The Times – his criticism is so wide of the mark that it makes him look more stupid than them!

We need to have a few words about Martin.

It probably did us all a lot of good to learn that a disillusioned Conservative voter calling himself by that name has coughed up around £16,000 to publicise his opinion about David Cameron and George Osborne’s leadership of the UK.

He made his points in a full-page advert in The Times newspaper yesterday, taking the form of a letter to the comedy Tory double-act. It’s just a shame that most of it is an unrelenting flow of bilge.

But then, he is a Tory.

Most of his bile is reserved for the web of regulations which he seems to believe is stifling the economy, and the civil servants who run it. Health and Safety regulations, in particular, come in for a battering.

Martin wants the Coalition to eliminate “whole departments of government whose sole function seems to be to ensure that our children never learn that fires burn you and who, never having climbed a ladder for a living themselves, instruct everyone else on how to both place a ladder, operate a hand tool and wear a harness when cleaning windows. They do all this at great cost to the economy and for no real benefit.”

It’s very easy to mock Health and Safety regulations when it comes to the small stuff, but the simple fact is that ‘light touch’ enforcement of these rules has inflated the numbers of people on sickness, incapacity and disability benefits. Does Martin want his money to pay for his silly one-page ad campaign, or to pay for more of these people to sit at home, doing nothing, when they could be at work, helping to restore the economy?

His comments are so naive, one has to wonder if he has any experience in this field at all. I do – as has been chronicled many times in the past. Mrs Mike – my partner – used to work at a factory where Health and Safety monitoring was so lax as to be nonexistent – in fact, supervisors actively bullied workers into cutting corners. This regime was supported by Gordon Brown’s ‘light touch’ enforcement of regulations which meant the firm was always given prior notice of ‘surprise’ inspections, allowing time to put safety equipment in place before inspectors arrived.

Eventually – we believe – the repetitive nature of the work, in poor conditions that forced her to adopt an unhealthy posture, damaged my partner’s body. At first she tried to soldier through, but ended up taking so much time off work (in agony, I must add) that the company decided to sack her. She tried to get help from her union, but the shop steward seemed to be in cahoots with company bosses and failed to represent her in a reasonable way.

Now, thanks to the policies of the Coalition government for which Martin presumably voted, she is facing the possibility of having her Employment and Support Allowance cut off by officials who seem to think that her progressively-worsening condition is going to be cured by August, despite there being no evidence whatsoever to support the assumption.

Is this what Martin wants? The relaxation of what little Health and Safety regulation there is, creating a legion of people who are unable to work due to injury, and who are forced into poverty because government policy is determined to say that the damage is all in their mind, rather than admit the facts?

But then, he is a Tory.

Moving on, it becomes clear that Martin would fit in very well as part of Michael Gove’s Education Department, because what he really wants to do is destroy the Civil Service – the professional organisation that actually ensures government runs smoothly and prevents politicians from making fools of themselves on a daily basis. For every briefcase full of secrets that is left in a taxi, there are dozens of other cock-ups that are prevented by a paid officer’s quick thinking, I assure you!

He wants to “get rid of at least one in four of all the senior civil servants who earn more than two-to-three times the national average wage. The remainder can work harder for their lavish salaries and index-linked pensions or go also. And yes, by Civil Servants I mean everyone paid more than 50 per cent of their compensation – directly or indirectly – from the public purse.”

What a disaster that would be for the United Kingdom. Martin is calling for the elimination of the vast majority of the expertise that has been learned over years of service to the national interest (note that I say ‘national’ interest, rather than the interest of any particular political organisation). In one stroke, he would knock one of the most professional and experienced administrative systems in the world back to amateur status – much as Mr Gove is attempting in his own department, to the great despair of most of those working in it.

But then, he is a Tory.

His parting shot, at Cameron and Osborne’s counterparts in the Labour Party, is also wide of the mark. While his opinion that the two Eds could not do a better job is his own, his assertion that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown “got us into this mess by exploding government spending for little positive benefit” is utterly incorrect. For the vast majority of Labour’s 13 years, government spending was less, per year, than during the previous 17 years of Conservative rule. It was only after the banking crisis that government spending increased – due to necessity – and we’ve already discussed whether Martin would have been able to take out his expensive advert if he didn’t have a bank account. Conservatives have been trying to sneak falsehoods like this under our Radar for more than three years, now, and it is up to all of us to be vigilant against it and remind everyone of the facts.

But then, Martin is a Tory.

Some of his comments are right on the money, though. He starts: “I realise… you really cannot afford the time to actually think about us mere taxpayers and citizens.” Absolutely correct – they’re too busy thinking about important people like the bosses of the big firms they are helping to avoid paying UK tax.

On cutting the civil service, he writes, “that DOES NOT MEAN reclassify them as consultants at greater cost – it means TOTALLY eliminating their costs, direct or indirect, from the public purse”. It is true that – for the most part – employing consultants is a huge waste of time and money.

He wants the banking system sorted out (don’t we all?); he wants money spent on capital projects that benefit British firms, rather than “bolting together foreign-bought trains in a new UK factory”; and he rightly says, “let’s cut out this soundbite about the one million new jobs you have created. It is offensive to those desperately looking for employment. Unemployment is appalling, youth unemployment is worse, and your policies encouraging unpaid work experience smack of a clever form of slavery”.

Liam Byrne, please take note of the last comment, remember that it comes from a Conservative, clear your desk and quit as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.