Tag Archives: talk

Cost of living: is the Don’t Pay campaign viable or is there a better way?

Take a look at this discussion of the Don’t Pay campaign, that calls for a million people to cancel their Direct Debits to energy firms:

Is it viable? Well…

There are pitfalls.

As I understand it, the suggestion is that you cancel your Direct Debits and make a complaint about the amount to your energy supplier, who cannot then switch off your supply for non-payment while the complaint is ongoing. It is important that you make your complaint direct to the supplier and not to any debt collection agency they may send to you.

According to the narrative, you may be offered a small reduction – but you should not accept it. Instead, you should wait for a letter of “deadlock” – meaning your supplier is saying they can’t come to terms with you.

Then you complain to the Ombudsman. What is not said here – but is apparent from the Ombudsman’s documentation – is that the complaint must be ongoing for at least eight weeks – or your supplier must have signposted you to the Ombudsman – before you can do this. And you must give the company an opportunity to resolve the issue.

Every complaint the Ombudsman receives is said to trigger a charge of £375 (some say £500) to the energy supplier. Strangely, the Ombudsman’s website does not mention the amount it charges.

The idea is that if enough people get to this point in the process, the energy firms will be paying £375 million on complaints alone and may fall into financial difficulties themselves.

However: these are firms that have built up huge profits over the last two years, and it is entirely possible that they could simply wait out any protests; I understand the proportion of customers needed to complain would have to be more than 15 per cent before any real threat to the firms’ viability is registered. That might be too much to ask.

Alternatively, instead of paying Direct Debits, you could instead arrange with your energy supplier simply to pay for what you use each month – meaning your energy firm doesn’t take more than you can pay because you can regulate it. But the tariff may be higher so you could still be out-of-pocket by doing this.

I imagine it would still be possible to make a complaint about the amount being charged via Direct Debit being too high, so you could still go through the Ombudsman process.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media are scaremongering with warnings that energy suppliers may simply get a court order allowing them into people’s homes in order to fit pre-payment meters or cut off the energy supply (although this last option is extremely rare).

Suppliers cannot move anybody to pre-payment if it is not practical – for example, if an illness or disability means a customer would be at risk if their gas or electricity was cut off. This Writer has seen information from a person on Personal Independence Payment whose supplier extended their present tariff until next March.

Suppliers also need to follow clear guidance and make sure they have given adequate notice, time to pay any debts and offered alternatives to being moved on to a pre-payment meter.

So what’s the best thing to do?

From what This Writer has seen so far, the best advice is to get in touch with your energy supplier and simply tell them that you are concerned that you will not be able to pay a Direct Debit if it increases hugely in October or January.

Explain your circumstances because, like the PIP claimant mentioned above, you may be able to negotiate an extension of your current tariff.

Discuss the benefits and pitfalls of every alternative that is available to you. Warn them that you are concerned you may have to take action against them if you cannot come to affordable terms – as a last resort.

And make clear exactly how much (or, realistically, how little) your financial situation is likely to change between now and next January; any payment plan needs to be practical.

Then see what they say before committing to any action that could harm your credit rating.

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Boris bombs in Northern Ireland talks – he has managed to upset everyone

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald meets Boris Johnson: she said she received no straight answers from him. Great result! The rest of us have to put up with outright lies.

Boris Johnson has managed a rare achievement in modern politics: having travelled to Northern Ireland for talks on how to restore the devolved government there, he managed to upset everybody he met.

The prime minister’s visit comes after the Democratic Unionist Party blocked the election of a Speaker to a new assembly at Stormont last Friday, meaning it cannot function.

The DUP – and other unionist parties – want changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol of the UK’s agreement to leave the European Union, which they say creates a hard trade border between the Province and Britain.

Johnson claimed to be there to build a consensus with political parties in Northern Ireland – but faced considerable distrust because they all know his foreign secretary, Liz Truss, is expected to make a statement on the government’s plans to act on the protocol on Tuesday – possibly overriding parts of the Brexit deal.

So, while they disagree on the issue that divides them, the Northern Irish parties seem to be united in their distrust of the man with ultimate power to act on it.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald accused Mr Johnson of unacceptable and obstructionist tactics, placating the DUP and giving “no straight answers”: “The British government is in a game of brinkmanship with the European institutions, indulging a section of political unionism which believes it can frustrate and hold society to ransom.”

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson said he would judge Johnson on his actions, not words: “We cannot have power-sharing unless there is a consensus. That consensus doesn’t exist.”

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry was no more positive: “We’ve seen a lot of soft words from the prime minister, an attempt at some sort of consensual way forward, but those words belie the fact that tomorrow Liz Truss is set to make a statement to parliament setting out the basis of the UK taking unilateral action on the protocol.”

And Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Colum Eastwood said: “If the British government tomorrow signal their intent to break international law by legislating to rip up the protocol at Westminster he will not have the support of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland.”

Johnson was jeered by about 200 people as his cavalcade arrived at Hillsborough, including campaigners for Irish language legislation, anti-Brexit activists and victims’ campaigners objecting to the government’s proposed legislation for dealing with legacy cases from the Troubles.

So in fact, Johnson has achieved a positive result.

He has united the people of Northern Ireland. None of them would trust him further than they could spit a rat.

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Was Vox Political article the blueprint for Russo-Ukrainian peace?

The negotiators: it may look as dull as ditchwater but it seems peace may break out as a result of what has been happening in this room.

Even This Writer can’t seriously make the claim in the headline.

But isn’t it curious that negotiators have come up with a 15-point plan for peace, after This Site published its own naive – I thoughtconcepts of what might work.

The one element that seems to be public knowledge at the time of writing is that Ukraine would give up its bid to join Nato, becoming neutral but able to call on protection from allies like the US, UK and Turkey.

That’s very close to my suggestion that Ukraine remain outside Nato but be able to call on the organisation for protection if its borders were violated – isn’t it?

Perhaps the negotiators could take up my ideas about the breakaway eastern territories and those seized by Russia in 2014 too?

This Writer’s biggest concern is that sanctions imposed by other nations against Russia become a sticking-point in international relations.

Logically, any that have been imposed by the UK will be dropped with indecent speed by Boris Johnson, because he’ll want to restore his funding stream.

But Russia’s claim that Western sanctions against Russia are “aggression and war with economic, political, information means” is a cause for concern.

Sanity may be breaking out between Russia and Ukraine, but is there any hope that it may spread elsewhere as well?

Source: Ukraine war: Reports ’15-point’ peace deal being ‘seriously discussed’ as Putin says he’s ‘ready to talk’ | World News | Sky News

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Russia-Ukraine: third round of talks begins – but will Johnson try to sabotage them?

Is Boris Johnson Vladimir Putin’s useful idiot? If Johnson announces new sanctions against Russia while that country is holding peace talks with Ukraine, it could provide an excuse for Putin to continue the war.

Russian and Ukrainian diplomats are meeting for a third round of peace talks, amid a wave of propaganda from both sides.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy reckons “there will be judgement” on Russia for its invasion of his country, while Vladimir Putin says Russia would quit Ukraine immediately if Ukraine agrees to demilitarise, and to allow the disputed regions in eastern Ukraine their autonomy.

None of the claims are realistic, and This Writer doubts they will be mentioned when the talks restart at 2pm today (4pm in eastern Europe). The negotiators will be looking for a mutually-acceptable conclusion – not trying to score public relations points.

I don’t think Russia will be prepared to give any ground on the disputed eastern regions that are inhabited by people of Russian ethnicity, who identify with Russia and who have (allegedly?) been persecuted for many years.

Nor will Russia relent on its determination that the Crimea should be acknowledged as a Russian territory. This is not unreasonable as it was only given to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in an act of remorse for what he saw as that country’s poor treatment within the USSR.

But the demand for Ukraine to demilitarise is unreasonable. If that country rid itself of all military forces, there would be nothing to stop Russia from rolling straight back in and taking over completely.

And there’s no reason for Ukraine to do as Russia demands; when an invader finds out he can’t win, you don’t offer to make it easier for him.

Realistically, both sides know this. They’ll be seeking a solution that allows them both to walk away with dignity.

Unfortunately, Boris Johnson has decided to hold talks on further sanctions against Russia, at the same time as the peace negotiations are taking place. He started his meeting with the Canadian and Dutch prime ministers at midday and is planning a press conference at 2.50pm – while the Russia-Ukraine talks are taking place.

Will he make an announcement that could upset the peace process? Probably. Johnson is a fool who acts only in what he sees as his own interest.

But what is Johnson’s interest?

Judging by his behaviour so far, his interests lie in prolonging Russia’s war, protecting that country’s interests in the UK, and preventing Ukrainian refugees from gaining asylum here.

An announcement of further sanctions – to be imposed at an undefined point in the future, as far as the UK is concerned – may be just the inflammatory stimulus Russia needs to call off peace talks again.

Bear in mind: it is the timing of the press conference that is contentious. By making an announcement on sanctions while the peace talks are taking place, Johnson is denying Putin and Zelenskyy a chance to come to an agreement.

If they were to make progress, an announcement on sanctions may be unnecessary in any case.

It seems that, by trying to appear proactive, Boris Johnson is simply trying to get in the way.

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Putin has found ANOTHER way to make the West look stupid: talk

Buddies: Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping of China. Putin seems keen to go back to the negotiating table after a chat in which Xi reminded him of China’s preference to leave other countries’ borders inviolate and their internal affairs to their governments.

Having almost conquered Ukraine within two days, Russian president Vladimir Putin has found another way to make Nato and the western powers including the UK and USA look stupid: negotiations.

According to Reuters,

Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to send a delegation to Minsk for negotiations with representatives of Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Friday after the Russian leader held a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The shift in mood could throw a lifeline to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has always said he knows his country can’t withstand an attack by Russia on its own.

He has had to watch Russian troops move into his capital city of Kiev, despite the heroic efforts of his outnumbered and outgunned military – and armed civilians. This could prevent further violence.

And it’s a good move for Putin because it makes the western jingoists look daft again. They’ve been saying he wants to create a new Soviet Union, starting with an occupation of Ukraine, and a trip to the negotiating table – most likely to secure Ukrainian neutrality so it won’t join Nato – will well and truly end that story.

This Writer is willing to bet he’ll take the disputed eastern territories into Russia as part of the negotiations; he’s in a position of power and will use it. He’ll say it’s what the people there want.

If Zelenskyy agrees to talks, and if we’re all very lucky, the violence could be all over by Monday.*

*All right, that’s highly optimistic. But a phrase reminiscent of “It’ll all be over by Christmas” reminds us all of what we’re risking, doesn’t it?

Source: Putin tells China’s Xi that Russia is ready to talk with Ukraine – Kremlin | Reuters

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If this is true, why are we sending a known security risk to negotiate with the Russian premier?

Boris Johnson: he’s wondering what he did with those pretty pink ‘Top Secret’ documents. He knows he had them out, but then everybody came round to the flat for some drinkies and now… (possibly).

Apparently Boris Johnson is hoping to salvage his reputation by trying to be the peacemaker between Russia and Ukraine.

He’s going to call Russian President Vladimir Putin, then visit the disputed region over the next few days, according to the mass media (this is from Sky News).

Some are saying this is an attempt to escape the stigma of Partygate and its allegations of irresponsible behaviour in Downing Street.

But Partygate is casting a very long shadow, it seems. Consider the following thread from Tim Shipman of The Times:

If this is right, then we’re sending, as negotiator, a man who habitually leaves the UK’s most important secrets lying around in full view of his wife’s friends and anybody else who happens to be around at the time.

For this reason (among many others, but this alone should be enough) I think Clare Hepworth is right to address Johnson as follows:

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#ConcreteMike : interviewer tells #InsulateBritain spokesman you can grow concrete

This is what happens when a right-wing radio presenter thinks he’s smarter than a simple man with a simple message:

“You can’t grow concrete,” said Cameron.

“You can…” responded Mike Graham – and then had to eat silence while Cameron let the enormity of his mistake sink in.

This Talk Radio presenter actually suggested that people could grow concrete – a synthetic substance.

And then he went on to suggest that being a carpenter – making items out of a renewable substance like wood – is bad. It’s one of the oldest and most useful professions in any human culture!

No wonder Mr Graham said he didn’t want to talk to Cameron – or anybody else from Insulate Britain – ever again. As it is, he will undoubtedly receive a strong shaming over this.

If you really want to know what Insulate Britain is about – there’s a reason behind their road-blocking protests, you see – then enjoy This Writer’s interview with another member of the organisation, here.

The quick summary is that if you agree with Insulate Britain, then you want warmer homes, a solution to the dangers of climate change, and decent jobs for local craftspeople.

If you don’t, then you side with somebody who thinks carpentry is a bad idea.

And if we’d listened to people like Mike Graham back when humanity was first starting its ascent, we’d all still be living in caves, wearing animal skins and afraid of the dark.

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Brexit trade talks continue after deadline as UK and EU negotiators appear to change their story

Man in black: why isn’t Johnson wearing a Union Flag facemask, considering von der Leyen has one for the EU? Men in black are traditionally… villains, aren’t they?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Sunday, December 13 the deadline for a post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal, considering the ratification process for all Parliaments?

Suddenly that’s not the story after all. Instead:

The two sides had said Sunday was the deadline for a decision on whether to continue with talks.

They’re making this stuff up as they go – on both sides.

This is what happens when both sides in a confrontation talk tough but know they really need to come to terms.

The UK is facing an economic disaster (that prime minister Boris Johnson may – or may not – be secretly working towards, depending on which rumours you believe).

And the EU has to consider the possibility of political destabilisation that could arise from failure to reach a deal.

And both could be hoping to magic up a public relations miracle in time for Christmas.

Forgive me, but This Writer finds the timing – and the rhetoric – all to be a little… cynical.

Source: Brexit trade talks: UK and EU to ‘go the extra mile’ in effort to agree deal – BBC News

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John Redwood thinks the UK can control its fish. John Redwood thinks he is Aquaman

John Redwood: I’m quite fond of this image of him, clearly broadcasting from his home planet.

Just when the Conservatives really need someone to win back their credibility, John Redwood turns up and starts talking about fish.

As UK-EU trade talks resumed in London, with an attempt to resolve differences on fishing quotas high on the agenda, Redwood tweeted this:

“Controlling our own fish”?

They’re not like dogs! You can’t put a salmon on a lead. You can’t put a harness on a halibut. And I’m sure a cod couldn’t care less what John Redwood thinks it should do.

Maybe fish behave differently on Vulcan.

Maybe Redwood has tired of being compared to a character from Star Trek and wants to take on a new role…

There have been attempts to grapple with the underlying issue…

… but not many.

This Writer wouldn’t be surprised if Tory desperation has reached such a point that they’re hoping we’ll be too busy laughing at Redwood to notice when they bugger up the bargaining – again.

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Labour members are banned from talking about Corbyn – and they’re not taking it lying down

Still the most apt comment on Keir Starmer: his namesake Hardie obviously didn’t say those words but if he were alive today, he might well follow through on the threat.

It’s the new policy from the Labour leadership: do as we say, not as we do.

Why is it permissible for Keir Starmer, David Evans, Angela Rayner, Lisa bloody Nandy, uncle Tom Cobley and all in the shadow cabinet and the NEC to spout any tripe they like about the suspended former Labour leader, while gagging rank-and-file party members?

It isn’t, as far as This Writer can see. Party rules certainly don’t allow for it.

And party members aren’t standing for it.

The edict, mentioned in the Mirror yesterday, is a repeat of what Evans and Starmer said back on October 29 when Corbyn was suspended – and party members ignored it then, too.

There have been petitions and open letters signed by members from CLPs across the UK, and individuals have spoken out on the social media and in their own groups.

They will continue to do so, because the Labour Party was founded on the principle that everybody is equal and, in this case, Starmer and the others have led by example.

They made a huge fuss about Corbyn’s suspension when they announced it; they can’t complain about everybody else making a fuss about it now.

And the way they are tackling the issue has been likened to Russian politics under Stalin in the 1930s:

An MP who was at the meeting… said: “In 40 years I’ve never seen anything like it. It was a bit scary.

“It’s like 1938 in the USSR, with the show trials. I’m not, and never have been, a fan of JC but it makes me feel a bit nervous.”

Starmer will hate this comment. He has already been labelled Keir Stalin over his ham-handed handling of Corbyn’s suspension.

And worse was to follow as Labour – and ex-Labour members took to the social media to hammer him:

All of the above are good, valid comments but I would draw particular attention to the one below. Unlike the others, it comments on the posture adopted by Starmer and his cronies who are currently infesting the Labour Party’s top positions:

That is what rings true, in everything Starmer has done since he became party leader – ironically on a “continuity Corbyn” ticket.

He isn’t a socialist. He’s a neoliberal, cut from the same mould as Tony Blair, Iain McNicol and Peter Mandelson. He hates the socialism that swept Corbyn to the leadership and boosted party membership to more than half a million.

And that means if you are a Labour member who joined because of Corbyn, Keir Starmer hates you.

He will try to drive you out. He has probably succeeded in pushing out many of your colleagues already.

He is trying to annul the votes of those who have left from the current NEC elections, in order to gerrymander a victory for hard-right-wing candidates, because he thinks that will send you on your way.

He is proving, every day, that he fooled huge numbers of you; you elected to the head of a democratic socialist party a man who is neither a socialist nor a democrat.

He deserves all the exposure you can heap on him. So to Labour members I say: 

  • Ignore Keir Stalin’s dictat to stay silent about Jeremy Corbyn. If you all speak up, there’s nothing they can do about it.
  • Expose the inconsistencies in his posture. His closest colleagues have broken party rules and they have committed acts of genuine anti-Semitism. Why has he taken no action against them?
  • And demand that the party leadership return to following its own rules by suspending all those who have broken them – including Starmer himself.
  • Do not give up until you have won.

You are many – he and his cabal are few.

Source: Labour banned from talking about Jeremy Corbyn’s possible expulsion from party – Mirror Online

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