Category Archives: News and Current Affairs

The Grandest Day Out

C'est Vrai

C’est Vrai

So my children have coped admirably with England defeat.   So much so that as we watched Brazilians openly weeping in the stadium after their comprehensive thrashing by Germany (1 – 7 just in case there is someone on the planet who didn’t know) they would watch so dispassionately and remark that they would get over it.

Buoyed up by their resilience to English football results, I thought I would throw another sport into the mix and I dragged them out of bed on Saturday morning at an UNEARTHLY hour to watch the Grand Depart of the 101th Tour De France from Leeds Town Hall.    For months now I had been watching  with rising levels of interest and excitement as Yorkshire decorate itself (in increasingly more eye-catching and inventive ways) in the tour jersey colours Yellow, Green and White with Red Spots in readiness for the world’s greatest cycle race.

There was disappointment in the week leading up the day when it was announced that Bradley Wiggins wouldn’t be in team Sky due to the support  (domestiques n’est-ce pas) needed for Chris Froome the defending champion.  As any regular reader of my blog will now I have supported him for a long time (click on his name if you want to read it) so I was quite gutted that the first British champion ever of the TDF wouldn’t be riding up the Headrow at 11.10 am on Saturday 5 July 2014.

Still we had Cav, practically a Yorkshire man as his mum lived in Harrogate (the finish for Stage One) so  I managed to get over the absence of my favourite mod cyclist and we joined in the throng of happy (and a few a bit grumpy) spectators and stood behind the barriers and waited, and waited and waited

It was fairly surreal standing in crowd 4 deep on a Saturday morning when then Town Hall clock said it was only 8.15 am watching the oh so cool  Gendarmes walking along the street in wraparound shades even before the sun came out.  There were many, many, many vehicles, from motor bikes to pick up trucks all with French number plates and official looking stickers zooming around looking very official and very important to keep our interest.

We saw Christian Prudhomme (the organiser of the TDF) be interviewed right in front of us.

Monsieur Tour

Monsieur Tour

No 1 of many many many vehicles that drive around the Tour whilst those incredible men race on their two very thin wheels.

No 1 of many many many  four wheeled motorised vehicles that drive around the Tour whilst those incredible men race on their two very thin wheels.

We saw giant fruits shoots and packets of chips fly past us as part of the “Caravan” a convoy of vehicles that precede the riders around the 190km course.  It had to be the most surreal part of the day.  But before we could really process  what we had actually seen the riders started coming out and being interviewed.  The tension in the crowd was palpable and as the riders lined up in front of Leeds Art Galley I had my first glimpse of the pelaton.  It was more thrilling than rows of brightly coloured plastic helmets ever have the right to be.  Then they were off on the roll out up Harewood House where the official race would be started by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  We saw them all, Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and nearly 200 other sleek lyrca’d machines pedaling leisurely up the Headrow.   It was so exhilarating that moments after they passed my legs were like jelly such was the intensity of the adrenaline rush

We had train tickets to go onto Harrogate for the finish to meet with friends but it wasn’t to be.  N and I came home (and H to a party) and watched the rest of the race unfold on television.  The sun had come out and so had every single person in Yorkshire it seemed.  Everyone on the highest of highs and not just those on Cote De Buttertubs.

Yorkshire Cordiale

just where does the race when and the spectators begin?

blurred lines – just where does the race en dand the spectators begin?

Yorkshire Cordiale

Yorkshire looked so beautiful.  The race was so exciting.  I knew every inch of the road.  Ariel shots of Middleham Castle, home of Richard III, Jerveux Abbey and Fountains Abbey, the location of many a sun-filled family picnic all looked glorious.  Harrogate was full to bursting point and as Cav was lead out by his team up Ripon Road (the loudest shouts coming from my dad I have no doubt) it looked like the sprinter would get his much dreamed of stage win in his mother’s hometown and get to wear the Maillot Jaune on Stage 2.  Alas for poor Cav it was not to be the fairytale ending as he crashed painfully just before the line and and Marcel Kittel crossed the line just outside Bettys on Parliament Street.

The crowds just before the end of the race..

The crowds just before the end of the race..hope Betty’s don’t run out Fat Rascals…

But despite that it was the most intoxicating day, all my friends were messaging each other delighting in their “blink and you miss it” stories that all ended in”but it was so worth it and I have never been prouder of Yorkshire” And best of all we got to do it all over again the next day.  My dad always said it was bigger and better in Yorkshire and really I don’t think there was anyone in the world that would have disagreed.  The Tour in Yorkshire was a Triumph.    This is really what this blog is about.  I want to say thank you to Gary Verity for having the vision and balls to pull this off.  I want to say thank you to every single person who decorated a bicycle yellow and dotted them around the route.  Who bunted or covered statues in yellow jerseys.  The pub in Knaresborough who painted red spots all over their walls.  To the farmer in Killinghall who painted his sheep in the colours of the three iconic jerseys.  To all my friends who swapped pictures on social media to allow us all to get intimate views and pictures of their experiences.  You all made this weekend one of the greatest of my life.

Of course N and I got out on our bikes in the evening.  As the sun set behind Temple Newsam N was determined to ride up the hill to the house.  “I need to conquer this hill” she said.  “Every time my legs hurt I just think of the Tour De France riders”.  Now then, isn’t that a champion legacy. Non? Bien Sur!

A Queen in A Carpark

Extraordinary and exciting as the news is that Richard III has been discovered, buried in a Social Services Car Park in Leicester for the past 500 years is, there is one detail of this story from this incredible story that defies all rational thought.   The discovery all stemmed from a hunch.

Phillipa Langley has become a new hero to me.  I absolutely adore that she raised all the funds for the dig and the dig itself on a hunch.  On a feeling.  In this age of computers and rationalisation, of research and scientific facts, she walked along that car park on a hot’s summer’s day when she felt it and she said she just knew.  “I walked past a particular spot and absolutely knew I was walking on his grave,” she told the Sunday Times.”It was a hot summer and I had goosebumps so badly and I was freezing cold.

“I am a rational human being but the feeling I got was the same feeling I have had before when a truth is given to me.”

Now I have been forced to watch endless Timeteams on Channel 4.  Horrible dreary programmes with beardy men grub about in the mud for a bit of crockery or at best a piece of Roman coin.   Dull Dull Dull.  I bet too, when they heard about this project they all scoffed and sneered at the fanaticism of Phillipa Langley and her fellow Ricardians, determined to reveal the truth behind their much maligned, King.

I am sure all scientists and academics were very sceptical, I am sure if she would have come to me I would have been too (from my extensive knowledge of Timeteam I know archeologists normally never find anything ever).  So how did Phillipa Langley keep going? Keep persevering with nothing more than a sixth sense?  How sweet it is that she was rewarded so fully?   To not only discover his remains, but have done so within the first fortnight of the dig.

So Phillipa Langley, I salute you, I think you are proof in the believing power of dreams, of never, ever giving up and for listening to your instincts.  I am going to take heed. The way you discovered your King in a Carpark makes you a Queen in my eyes.

It started with a hunch, not a hunch-back

How Richard III would have really looked based on facial reconstructive techniques.

Christmas Shopping Tips:- Avoid Google, Starbucks and Amazon

I was delighted to see the European heads of these massive US corporations squirming under the gaze of the select committee  a couple of weeks ago.

I particularly enjoyed Margeret Hodge’s ascersion that what they were doing wasn’t illegal, but it was certainly immoral.  It was so good to get that view on all the news platforms across the country.   Why should the rest of us work and live in worsening economic conditions, whilst Starbucks can claim to make no profit in this country because the licensing costs of using the name Starbucks here in the UK costs the same amount of the profit they would have made?

So here is an idea when doing your Christmas shopping try and use companies that haven’t had to explain their balance sheets to Parliament.

May I suggest either John Lewis or maybe even Morrisons.  Both have been in the papers over the past couple of days telling the Chancellor that the unfair tax practices the huge foreign conglomerates take advantage of could put them both out of business.

And with Amazon marketplace traders who are small businesses paying their fair share of tax, please still use them,  you can find them on Amazon and then just contact them direct so that they don’t lose out.

So then when you are gathered in the heart of your family on Christmas Day and everyone are opening the presents they love, you can have a rosy glow you have found the perfect gift AND that you have kept money in this country to help our economy instead of sending it on a wild electronic goose chase to end up in some Scrooge like billionaires pocket in the Caymen Islands, and saving British Jobs to boot.

What could be more in the spirit of Christmas than that?!

Happy Shopping Everyone!

The John Lewis Snowman showing us the Way!

 

 

Go Team GB….Olympics has stopped play!

I have managed to tear myself away from the excellent Olympic Coverage for just long enough to say I AM LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT.

From Danny Boyle’s wonderful, witty, quirky but hugely ambitious opening night to the Boxing I was watching late last night, it has all been fantastic, heart-stopping, dramatic, soul lifting, exhilarating, exciting, emotional and utterly addictive.

I have run, jumped, cycled, rowed, shouted and wept along side everyone.  I have never been more proud to be British.  And not just because we are third in the medal table.  The way the Olympics has been run seems to have been a triumph too.

Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony seemed to represent my Britain.  The place of innovation and wit, the home of the best music and a leader in youth culture.  But for me the cornerstone was the celebration of the digital revolution and the appearance of Sir Tim Berners Lee.  His altruistic gift to the world has changed all our lives and in this age of greed and avarice in many of our institutions it was good to be reminded that Britain is full of decent, wonderful, funny, generous people.

The same with the volunteers and the people watching the rehearsals.   Danny Boyle told them to take as many pictures as they wanted but just to save the surprise.  And everyone did.  Not one piece of the opening ceremony was leaked.   We are a nation chock-a-block with good, honest people but it’s not often we get to see it.  I love my country right now.  Everyone has that feel-good factor, I like it and I don’t want it go away when the Olympics ends.  Maybe that needs to be the legacy of the Games, that it’s great to feel good about ourselves and our country, that not only it is ok, it’s essential.  That is this a wonderful, fair, inclusive, funny, tolerant nation, and it’s good to celebrate it.  It makes me want to be a better person, to try harder, to be the best I can be too.

And the games, where do I start?  It has just been amazing.  The whole family is loving it. My daughter wants to be Jessica Ennis when she grows up, we have re-bunted the house. We have flags on the car.  I don’t want it to ever end.  We are even going down to stand on the streets of London to cheer on the Men’s Marathon runners on Sunday.

Right if you will excuse me I need to get back to seeing how those Yorkshire brothers are getting on in the triathlon.  Did you know if Yorkshire was independent we would be 7th in the Medals table!  Makes you proud by gum!

Jess Ennis making me clean the bathroom that little bit better

short but extremely pithy

My blood is boiling.. I know my blood is often boiling, I can’t get the kids out the door to school in the morning without my anger overspilling like a neglected milkpan but today my blood is going nuclear.

Those GDP negative growth figures of -0.7 for the last quarter must surely be THE WAKE UP CALL to any misguided fools still clinging on to the idea that George Osborne knows what he is doing.  The coalition’s economic policies are driving this country into the ground.

But what really got my goat beyond belief was the idiot at the treasury claiming that we were to blame if we paid a tradesman in cash the day after The Observer published that the super-rich had siphoned off £13 TRILLION into offshore tax havens.

I know plumbers cost the earth these days but even my bathroom renovations didn’t cost that much.  Mr Idiot from the Treasury I think your calculator might be on the blink.  Your sums are not stacking up.  Even if every transaction in the country was done cash in hand I think we would be far pushed to have squirrelled away those amounts.  Plus I have a very sneaky feeling that the names on those fantastical, unimaginable large deposits of money in the Caymans and all those other treasure islands of tax havenry are not Pete’s Plumbing or Scott the Sparky or John the Joiner do you?  I would be happy to bet the whole of the £13 trillion that no one depositing money in these ways has even driven a white van, ever.

It just seems to be another example of how the world is divided.  The ordinary people who work hard, play fair and get on with their daily lives with sanguine acceptance.  Then we have the elite, either  wealthy or ruling and frequently both, who just seem to live in another world altogether, a place where common sense, checked out a long time ago.

Bank of Dave on Channel 4 documenting the attempts by a Burnley Businessman to make a difference something for his community is another example.  He can see the crippling effect of banks not lending on local business.  He is a very personable, highly successful businessman and can see a solution.  He will set up his own Savings and Loans bank.   He makes his decisions by visiting businesses, he can see the level of hard work and dedication.  He does business by trust, instinct and a hand-shake.  He remembers when someone took a chance on him.  By episode 3, 95% of all money lent had already been paid back.  Any profits made were then distributed to local charities.  But what did the FSA want to do?  They wanted to shut him down because he didn’t have the necessary capitalisation.

Grrrrrrrrrrr, there it went again, my blood boiling over.  How have we got it so topsy-turvy?  The financial regulators couldn’t prevent the banking crisis of 2008,  but want to stop a man who is actually succeeding in making a real and lasting difference.

We have become a nation of box-tickers.  We need more can-do spirit in this country, men from the Treasury and FSA  please sit up and take note before it’s too late.

 

 

To (pay) Tax or Not to (pay) Tax….. Aye There is the Rub

It would be hard for anyone to have missed the news about Jimmy Carr and his tax avoidance scheme this week, and despite there being over a 1,000 people connected to the K2 scheme operating out of Jersey, it was his name and face splashed all over the media last week.  Maybe I am too cynical but I wondered about the Establishment connections of those other 999 anonymous beneficiaries, and how their names had been kept out of the paper.

Now anyone who knows me, or indeed has read my previous blogs knows of my deep admiration and support of the work that UKuncut does to highlight the despicable actions of  highly profitable businesses such as Goldman Sachs and Vodaphone, who engage in large and wholesale schemes to avoid paying their true corporation tax bill in full.  Indeed along with the tax affairs of  billionaire Philip Green so eloquently put by Jon Richardson on Have I Got News for You in October 2010 (see the UKuncut blog highlighted above to watch that again), I do feel some moral repugnance that highly successful companies making huge profits from UK tax payers should dodge, albeit in “legal” ways their taxation responsibilities.

David Cameron waded into the debate to express his moral outrage at Jimmy Carr, again demonstrating his shockingly bad eye for detail.  How on earth can the Conservative leader condemn anyone for this activity when his own previous Deputy Party Chairman, Lord Ashcroft was not UK domiciled for tax purposes.   It took the levels of hypocrisy to almost satirical levels. He also didn’t condemn Gary Barlow who up until the point of Tuesday’s tax scheme revelations was on course for National Treasure status.  Much was made of Gary Barlow’s work campaigning with the Torys in 2010.

So I have a plan and George Osborne or Ed Balls,  who ever to wants to use this, you can have it for free.

I believe very strongly that everyone should pay their fair share of tax.  Fact.

I believe that the majority of people are very hard-working, and probably working harder than ever.

I also can understand that if you are a higher rate tax payer you don’t want to have to give away 50% of your income to the Government.     If you earn a million pounds I can completely understand you will take action not to pay nearly half of that in income tax.

So why don’t we just have a flat rate of tax? Say at 25%.  Surely a Government doesn’t need anymore than a quarter of someone’s income.  This would give an incentive to the higher rate tax payers to pay their full obligation, and thus leading actually to an increase in income tax revenues.

But exchange for that I think there needs to be a moral sea-change on the view of tax avoidance.  It needs to become like drink driving socially UNACCEPTABLE.  If you, and yes I am talking to captains of industry like you Philip Green, if you want to work and earn fantastical sums in this country you need to be domiciled here, and make your contribution to our society.

My final point to make Tax Inspectors sexy.  Well maybe that is too much to ask for but to beef up their status and their powers.  Pay them a decent rate and retain the best of them, don’t let them go to the accountancy firms engaging in tax avoidance schemes that are only this side of the law.  Don’t let them turn from game-keeper to poacher.  Have Elliott Ness has their hero.  After all the only way Al Capone was finally brought to account was from his tax return wasn’t it?

How our tax inspectors might look.....

And if all that doesn’t work, well tax evasion in China is punishable by death…

Stupid Deaths

If Horrible Histories, that wonderful history comedy sketch show, ostensibly for children, but adored by young ones and their parents alike, is around in 100 years, I think their long running skit about ridiculous and “Stupid Deaths” will show the pointless death of racehorses for sport to a disbelieving audience.

I have loved the Grand National ever since I was a child.  It was an annual event, pick out the horse using the analysis of the amateur.  Superstitions, lucky numbers, favourite colours and names that appealed.   Over the years I had some successes.  Like everyone else there were wins with the famous sheep-skinned noseband of Red Rum.  A schoolgirl crush on Champion Jockey Jonny Francome, whose placings on Rough and Tumble earned me at least my stake back and a bit more.  But there were many more losses.  But I didn’t mind, it was all part of the fun  and festival of the day.

Over the years I have taken many of my friends for their first trip to the bookies on National Day.   In recent years they have become much inviting places.  When they were smoke-filled windowless rooms, their walls covered head to foot with screens and race details and men, always only men standing watching the numbers, trying to beat the odds, I found them very  intimidating places indeed.   I fully understood I was visiting a secret world, I had been granted access on this one day, and this National day only.

I knew the race was dangerous.  In 1980 only 4 horses finished the race.  I listened to the people who ran the sport, that the size of the field and the size and difficulty of the iconic fences of Beechers, Canal Turn and The Chair made it what it was, they made it unique and that led to the romance and mystique of the Race.  Take them away and you made the Grand National ordinary.    They said the National got in your blood, it was the ultimate prize in the steeplechase year and the traditions should remain.

And didn’t the Grand National always give a chance to the outsider, the long shot.  The winner always had story straight from a fairytale.  Even Hollywood had been seduced by the epic tales with the adaption of Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet starring a young Elizabeth Taylor as the eponymous Velvet.

No horses were injured in the making of this film

This alone should secure the race its place untouched in the sporting calendar.  You never hear of betting syndicates trying to influence the outcome of the National, unlike in every other fixture these days from flat racing, to football  and boxing and even recently to cricket, the game to me was the ultimate metaphor of fair play and decency.  But sadly even it has been tainted.

But something much much worse than all of that happens at the Aintree on National day. Every year beautiful intelligent horses die in horrific circumstances.  I knew this before yesterday but for all the reasons listed above I pushed these thoughts to the back of my mind.  But yesterday I could no longer allow myself the luxury of denial.

I was meeting old friends in a bar in Harrogate.  We were  having a wonderful, long chatty catch up lunch.  We hadn’t seen each other for some time and all of us had news to share and celebrate.  I was in the company of my two oldest and very dear friends.   My bets were already chosen at home but we were going to watch the race because one friend lived in same village as According to Pete.  She knew the owner too.  He was a lovely man she said.  We skipped off to the bookies to join the long queue to get our bet on.  This could pay for lunch my friend said.

So our hopes were high, it was amazing to have a personal connection to the race.   The bar was filling up, the excitement was rising, we had had a lovely lunch, I could not have been more contented.

Everyone knows the outcome of the race, the closest photo-finish ever, the first grey horse to win since 1961 and they won by a nudge of a nostril.   But sadly this year there is no story except two horses had to be put down after breaking their legs.  According to Pete was brought down by another fallen horse.  In short he had nowhere he could land because there were too many other runners and riders fighting for the same spot to come down safely and continue the race.

My friend had said that the owner told them that he didn’t care where Pete came in the race as long as he got round safely.  She said the owner will be distraught.   In that bar all those wonderful, contented feelings vanished instantly.  A bucket of cold water full in the face couldn’t have done it any quicker.  The betting slip was still on the table.  It felt like an insult, an affront.  Utterly offensive to be betting on a horse that raced and lost its life almost in front of our eyes.  That was my lightbulb moment.  I could no long sanction and legitimise this barbaric sport.

The other horse that died yesterday was Synchronized.  A Gold Cup winner ridden by Champion Jockey A P McCoy.  Synchronized had already thrown his rider before the race and there were reports that Tony McCoy had hurt his arm.  I thought about the incredible film about the racing driver Ayrton Senna.   Many changes had been made to the F1 cars the season he died to make the racing more exciting.   Since Senna’s untimely death and the loss of one of the most charismatic and exciting drivers there has ever been, safety changes have been to the sport and thankfully no driver since has lost his life.  Is that what it is going to take at the National too, nothing will change until a jockey dies? Racing’s equivalent to Ayrton Senna?    I really hope the British Horseracing Authority acts before there is any more loss of life, equine or human.

Money, money, money

Listening to the news this week has been even more horrendous and soul crushing than normal.

The Syrian regime’s bombing of their own people in Homs whilst the world stands back is brutal beyond words.  Why is this different to Libya?  Why is there no concerted international pressure?  Every night on twitter there are messages of support to the French journalist Edith Bouvier, injured in Syria and hoping someone will get her out.  I listened with disgust and horror to Paul Conroy’s widow talking on the radio on Sunday about how the Foreign Office had explained to her that it was too dangerous to send someone to rescue her husband, the Sunday Times photographer who was injured in the bomb blast that killed Marie Colvin.  How she wanted someone to say to hell with the protocol, they were going to go and get him.

I thought the tragic death of  Marie Colvin  (read her final report for The Sunday Times here) might have been a game changer, but apparently not.  When the news came in of her death it made me realise that this is a true journalist, someone who believed that the independent reporting was essential and would go to any lengths regardless of her own personal safety to get the truth.  I thought back to the Leveson Inquiry into Media Ethics and J K Rowling’s testament, where she talked about there being two types of journalists, those of the calibre of Marie Colvin who are essential to ensure a fair and democratic society, and the other sort that just invaded her life (and countless other public figures) and caused untold levels of stress and upset for no true journalist purpose. If you have time to read her written witness statement, the extent of press intrusion is quite staggering.  She said they should have a different name, that you could not compare the two.  J K Rowling is absolutely right.  We distinguish between photo-journalists and the paparazzi, we should do the same for journalists and what I don’t know.  Muck-raker hacks?  Bottom-feeder fantasists?  Mmm not that catchy.  I think they need some work.

Yesterday the Leveson Inquiry heard from the Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commission, Sue Akers who said “there was a cultural of illegal payments” at The Sun.  Bribery was openly discussed.  Multiple payments were made to officials in Government, Police, Prisons, Health Service.  One journalist was given £150,000 for payments to “sources” not for stories in the public interest but for “salacious gossip”

This coming the day after the launch of The Sun on Sunday, and Rupert Murdoch crowing that he had sales of 3 million yesterday.  Do you think Murdoch knew what was coming and rushing out that launch before Sue Akers’ statement?

It is worth pointing out this is The Sun, not the News of the World.  The Sun.  The Sun that accused other papers of a witch-hunt against them last week.   The levels of corruption just make me sick.  But what worries me more is, is anything actually going to change?   We have to ensure that they do, and we can all start by not buying The Sun, ever.  I am surprised twitter haven’t started a campaign to boycott major Sun advertisers too.  We have to stand up and say we will not accept this.

If that wasn’t bad enough Barclay’s Bank, the only British High Street bank that didn’t need a handout from the Government during the financial crisis has been outed as trying to claw back £0.5 billion from the Treasury on tax it hadn’t even paid.  This being announced on the day that Occupy London protesters were removed by bailiffs.

So one of the very few voices daring to question the ethical nature of big business practices has been snuffed out on the day one of those billion pound companies are found to be “trying it on again”.

Really I am not feeling a lot of hope today for the future of this country.  How have we got into this mess?  What is the answer?  Everywhere in my own life I meet with decent, kind, honest people.  I have experienced altruism on life-affirming levels.  I think I a fairly moral and decent person.    Is it true, is it as simple as power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely?   I haven’t even touched on the Workfare scheme.  News out last night was that McDonalds had taken £20 millions from it and used it to enhance their existing employees, they had  not created one single job, Asda have started cutting the hours of paid workers and using the unpaid labour instead.  These again are companies making millions every year.

Is it endemic?  How can we stand up and say not in my name?  Any thoughts and views are extremely welcome.  Surely if we all  stick together and say we demand better we can make a difference?

Divide and Rule

Diane Abbot is in hot water again saying that White people love to divide and rule.  There are calls for her to resign, that she is being racist.

I don’t know enough about this situation to comment but over the years I have felt constantly buffeted (usually by newspaper articles) by division.  I don’t think divide and rule is necessarily a “white” trait, just a rather ugly human one.

For example.. newspapers love to set working mums and stay at home mums against each other.   Even going so far as calling it a war.  Well I have been both.  Both have pluses and minuses and both are equally as hard.  Most crucially though I have never met in my 11 years of being a parent, another mum that “looks down” on someone else’s choice.  In fact my group of “mum” friends (both working and stay at home ones) are the most warm circle of support, comfort and essential advice.  Without them I couldn’t have survived.

A sub-section of the mums-phoney war would be the demonisation of child-care.  I had to return to work full time when my son was just over 6 months old.  I found the most happy, caring, nurturing environment in a day care nursery.  My son was very happy and  has made life long friends there (as have I.)   I will never forget reading the article on Sunday saying basically putting a child into nursery under the age of two was tantamount to child-cruelty. That is just irresponsible journalism. Was it not hard enough to be separated from my child for those long days without being made to think I was harming him too?  I would love to link you to the article but sadly there is now a paywall!

Public Sector V Private Sector

This reared its unnecessary head again recently over the strikes.

Public Sector workers are also tax-payers, and thus also contribute to the taxation revenue of this country.  And do the jobs that provide the infrastructure, government, roads, policing, courts, fire services, schools, hospitals, bin collection etc etc to let the rest of us get on with our lives.  So again. why do we have to put one against the other.  Why can’t we be grateful for the contribution everyone makes?

Men v Women

I hardly have to strength to reopen this Pandora’s box, but only today I saw someone has posted on facebook.. “do men make better online content than women”.  Oh yawn.  Some people make better online content than others.. it has nothing to do with their gender. End of.

Women v Women

All those phony stories about X-factor judges have fashion battles, boring.  Vacuous celebrity bubble-heads with too many dogs at war.. snooze.   In fact just don’t read any of those magazines, Jen at war with Angie (well she may have a point there!).  They are just there to pit women against each other in a way that I can only describe as akin to bear-baiting.   It is just horrible and it deadens all of us inside, comparison by hateful comparison.  I have written about magazines before.. you may like to have a look if you didn’t see it last time.

North-South Divide

All I will say on this subject is that I think the South think about this a lot than we do in the North!

These are just a few examples off the top of my head and reading this you might think I am being naive.  Of course an element of competition does spur people on to bigger and better things.  But there is definitely too much pitting people against each other just to stir up controversy.  And who wins out of all this?  Well usually the paper proprietors of course.

Thank you UKuncut

these were the words that stopped me shopping in any Philip Green establishment back in October 2010.  And do you know what Top Shop et al I haven’t missed you one little bit.

This was the first time tax dodging on this scale really entered my consciousness.

Hard on the heels came the OUTRAGEOUS HMRC actions to relieve Vodaphone of a £6 billion tax bill.  I can still hardly type the words without frothing at the mouth.

It was this action that lead a group of students to take some direct action and protest outside Vodaphone stores in London, and I am proud to say in Leeds.

Over the past year, I have watched and supported UKuncut as they  have taken to the streets and with wit and invention informed people of the levels of tax avoidance been carried out by large corporations whilst the rest of us had to suffer the savage cuts.  We were not all in this together.  They said.. don’t believe the Government hype.. there is another way.

But I don’t think, when UKuncut turned their attention to the HMRC itself anyone could have predicted the how deep the culture of “sweetheart deals” for corporations such as Vodaphone ran.  Not in this day and age, and when not when services to the poor and elderly were being so savagely cut.

UKuncut highlighted that the Permanent Undersecretary for Tax Dave Harnett had a very “cosy” relationship with the bosses of major corporations, coming top in the league of most “wined and Dined” civil servant.  He has later admitted he “shook hands” on the Goldman Sachs deal that let them off £20 million in tax on bonuses.  It is like something from a Dickensian novel not modern-day, when we are supposed to be ruled by transparency, procedure and accountability.  The man at the top of the tree at the HMRC was shaking hands of deals to let billionaires off their taxation responsibilities.  My belief has been completely beggared.

Due to pressure from UKuncut and from the whistleblower Osita Mba, a revenue solicitor, who first alerted Parliament to the Goldman Sachs deal, Dave Harnett has now “retired” but a 170 page cross parliamentary report on Tuesday has further established a systemic failure at the HMRC to deal with large corporations tax liabilities

So I say thank you UKuncut for your tireless work.  On Tuesday even the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail were taking up the cause.  And we all know what happens when Daily Mail readers get morally outraged!  This is a job, incredibly and brilliantly well done.

And it just goes to show, if we all stand up and make our voices heard.. we can change things, we can make a difference.  We are living in exciting times.