Tag Archives: News Quiz

Osborne’s tax avoidance failure reveals the facts about Coalition policies

osborne embarrassed

Embarrassed: And so George Osborne should be!

What bad luck for George Osborne to get two sums wrong in the same week!

The first sum was a simple times-table question; a school pupil asked him to multiply seven by eight and he couldn’t do it.

The second sum was more serious because it was a sum of money. Rather a lot of money. £1.9 billion, in fact.

The Boy had claimed that around £3 billion in extra tax had been recovered from “high net worth individuals” – tax avoiders – after investigations by HM Revenue and Customs.

Unfortunately, errors in the way HMRC’s performance targets were set meant that these improvements were… well, “overstated” is how the Huffington Post described them.

This meant that, when HMRC said it exceeded its target for tax compliance in 2010-11 by £1.9 billion, in fact it had only just hit its target. The following year, its claim to have exceeded targets by £2 billion was out by the same amount; in fact it had made gains of just £100 million.

There is around £21 trillion in unclaimed, avoided tax sitting in ‘haven’ bank accounts around the world – many of them British territories – and Osborne has managed to collect just £100 million.

Meanwhile unemployed and low-paid working citizens – who have no income apart from state benefits, due to the systematic destruction of the UK’s industrial base by neoliberal politicians who were intent on increasing insecurity among the lower classes – are being starved to death.

Osborne has only himself to blame. When the Coalition government came into office, the Tories insisted that they didn’t need anything like as many public-sector workers as were then on the books – and started laying people off wholesale.

Now the DWP has a claimant assessment backlog of 700,000 for ESA alone (compared with less than 30,000 in May 2010) and the government’s flagship Universal Credit project is hopelessly bogged down, to quote just two examples of the remaining public servants being unable to do their jobs.

Meanwhile, outsourcing of government jobs to private companies has created a disaster: The National Health Service in England is slowly falling over the cliff, with privateers taking so much in profit that the service will go £2 billion into debt next year while waiting times at Accident and Emergency departments continue to increase out-of-control (no matter what lies David Cameron dribbles in Prime Minister’s Questions); a £116 million IT programme arranged with French firm Steria to run staffing, procurement and payroll services for civil servants was scrapped at a cost of £56 million – and then Steria was re-hired to outsource British jobs to India, Poland and Morocco, again at UK taxpayers’ expense.

Does anyone remember the fiasco when G4S was hired to run security at the London Olympics, failed to meet requirements, and the Army had to be called in at the last minute?

Atos and the DWP, anybody?

Andy Hamilton commented on this phenomenon during this week’s News Quiz on BBC Radio 4: “For decades, we have watched governments hand over the utilities and services to companies like G4S and Serco and we have watched as they basically ruined them.

“And then once they’ve ruined them, they get given some more to ruin until they’re running all sorts of services; they’re now huge!

“I still hanker after the good old days when G4S was just Group 4, and its core business was letting prisoners escape from vans.”

Some of us still hanker after the good old days when George Osborne was just a department store employee, and his core business was folding towels.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Something for the weekend?

“Monday: For sale – RD Jones has a sewing machine for sale. Phone after 7pm and ask for Mrs Kelly, who lives with him cheap.”

I was brought up on double-entendres – jokes, either intentional or otherwise, that employ double meanings that are usually orientated towards the filthy to get a laugh. The radio and TV comedies that brightened my gloomy 1970s and early 80s childhood were full of them, especially shows like ‘Round the Horne’

“Tuesday: Notice – we regret having erred in RD Jones’ ad yesterday. It should have read: ‘One sewing machine for sale, cheap. Phone and ask for Mrs Jones, who lives with him after 7pm’.”

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that this love of wordplay followed me into my working life when I embarked on a career as a journalist, reaching its zenith when I became a newspaper editor. An early headline hit was with a story about a soldier who was arrested after police found him using a statue of the Duke of Wellington as a urinal. The headline: ‘Soldier’s aim was no relief for Wellington’.

“Wednesday: RD Jones has informed us he has received several annoying calls because of an error we made in his classified ad yesterday. His ad stands corrected as follows: ‘For sale: RD Jones has one sewing machine for sale, cheap. Phone after 7pm and ask for Mrs Kelly, who loves with him’.”

Later I was to win the then-coveted Headline of the Week award in the UK Press Gazette, and praise as a “genius” from their reporter, when I headlined an article on Welsh Assembly plans to promote the Welsh language with the words ‘Cunning Linguists’.

“Thursday: Notice: I, RD jones, have NO sewing machine for sale. I smashed it. Don’t call my number as the telephone has been disconnected. I have not been carrying on with Mrs Kelly. Until yesterday she was my housekeeper, but she quit.”

With the weekend upon us, after a series of blogs on very heavy subjects, I thought it was time to lighten the mood with a few favourite double-entendre news cuttings, along with some quotes from the BBC’s News Quiz in similar vein (I was listening to old tapes of the show in order to dig out material on Peter Lilley for today’s other blog).

If anyone reading this would like to add clippings that they have found, please feel free to use the ‘Comments’ column for this purpose.

“See the bowmen of Rutland in action next weekend at the Rutland Agricultural Show, and why not have a go yourself? The Rutland Archers are always looking for new members, and are currently targeting disabled people.”

“A friend of Serena’s said David has talked of marriage. She feels she is still rather young, and he does have a long turn to page 3, column 1.”

“St Boswell’s Councillor Edward Bryden has called for action to be taken against dog fouling on a sports pitch at St Boswell’s. Cllr Bryden said, ‘I’ve had a number of complaints from residents about the amount of dog dirt found there. I’ve told them to put their concerns on paper and send them to the district council.'”

From The News Quiz: “There was a story about the Church of Scotland updating its hymnery because a lot of the old hymns are full of ghastly double-entendres which lots of young people find rather risible. Things like ‘O Mighty One, show me the size of your enormousness’. Apparently that is, verbatim, a hymn. There’s another that says, ‘Sweet Lord, I wouldn’t put that in the fridge if I were you’.
“Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is set to instigate a similar scheme after the line ‘Onward with the horn of plenty, father to us all’ provoked mass sniggers in a Galway Church.”

From the News Quiz, 1993: “Jeffrey Archer’s gardener, Richard Ovary, had a sex change. It’s a case of saying goodbye to Dick… and hello to Rachel. The transformation has been welcomed by Lord Archer, who has always claimed that his staff were a cut above the rest. Meanwhile Rachel has given the novelist her support – and the rest of her rugby kit. The Archers are keeping Rachel on to care for their grounds, although tactfully Lady Archer has volunteered to prune the plum tree.”

“At a store in Bristol, an assistant didn’t know which product should be run on which button. Each time she was unsure, she would hold the product in the air and call across the shop floor to the supervisor. There were no problems until a gentleman purchased a packet of Mates (condoms). The packet was held up in the air and the call went out, “What do these go on?” The reply was unprintable.”

“On churchyard tidyness: Would everyone tending graves kindly take away with them all relative rubbish.”

“Budleigh Salterton beach has been branded a health risk in a tough new guide to beaches in the UK. The survey claims that tests carried out on the sea water off Budleigh Salterton beach failed to meet the rigorous standards of cleanliness and water quality required by the European Bathing Water Guidelines’ standards. District Councillor Ray Franklin said: ‘It’s hardly surprising. On the one side we have the Exmouth outfall pipe, and on the other the Exe estuary pipe. Budleigh is simply caught between two stools at the moment.'”

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Plus Ca Change (or: The More Times Change, The More Tories Stay The Same)

I’ve just found the following fascinating snippet in a recording of the BBC’s News Quiz, c 1993. It’s a reference to a cock-up by then Social Security secretary Peter Lilley, that was revealed right around the time of the Conservative Party Conference that year.

“Peter Lilley had a very successful Blackshirt Rally- Blackpool Rally – in which he made one of those caring, sensitive speeches about how the loss of money and the budget deficit was all the fault of three single mothers in Cardiff,” said Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

“But then it transpired rather amusingly that his own department had managed to lose, entirely by incompetence, about £331 million, which is more money than all his stupid measures would have saved anyway.”

The legendary Barry Took, chairing the show, explained: “It is Peter Lilley and his team at the DSS. They’ve managed to overspend a massive sum from the welfare benefits, so would the person who received the Giro for £331 million and 48p please send it back to Mr Lilley or to any of his immediate staff: Eva, Unity or Benito.

“It was of course Mr Lilley who attacked scroungers of all sorts, and especially the growth in claims from single mothers, so any young woman thinking of getting into that condition should think again, and stay away from cabinet ministers.”

Now we have Chris Grayling at the Department for Work and Pensions – a man dubbed ‘Goebbels’ by the media, after Nazi Germany’s propoganda minister, in an apt (and entirely coincidental) follow-up to the News Quiz reference to Hitler (Barry Took’s comment namechecked Hitler’s wife Eva Braun, along with Unity Mitford and Benito Mussolini; and Ian Hislop’s reference to Blackshirts was a comparison with Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists before World war Two).

Grayling’s department awarded a contract to Atos Origin that was worth £801 million over a 10-year period, to carry out ‘work capability assessments’ on claimants of sickness and disability benefits, at which people with terminal illnesses or severe medical conditions have been declared fit for work and had their benefits cut.

The cost of appeals against Atos decisions is running at £50 million per year, and the number of successful appeals is currently around 40 per cent, according to The Guardian.

So, this time, we’re already up to nearly £1 billion (£801 million plus around two years of appeals against decisions) wasted on the latest attempt to demonise “scroungers”.  The language is exactly the same as in 1993, although it is now being used to attack the sick and disabled, rather than single mums.

And the situation is exactly the same. The Coalition wants to cut £9.2 billion from sickness and disability payments but is already on course to spend far more in the attempt, due to – in my opinion, and I’m sure I’m not alone – incompetence.

The more times change, the more Tories stay the same. It would be pathetic if it wasn’t so dangerous.

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