Category Archives: Politics

Playing House

If only houses were as easy to build in real life

It’s been a funny couple of weeks.  All was going well, my Y6 son left primary school for the last time and because I finished work early that day I was able to pick him and his sister up from school. It was a surprise.  They were delighted.  As was I, and in a fit of sentimental bonhomie I invited four or five of the mums and their children round, an all back to mine if you will to delay the inevitable goodbyes for a couple of hours longer.

All seemed to be going well.  Everyone seemed to be happy with the arrangement, children who normally got lifts wanted to walk home with us.  The sun was shining, life felt sweet.  The mums were going to have some coffees with lots of chat, the little ones would play in the garden and the older boys could play Call of Duty.  Yes, yes I lose all manner of gold star parenting points allowing my child to play this hugely inappropriate video game but every other boy in the class seemed to have graduated from Minecraft to Black Ops and Harry’s dad said we couldn’t make him be the only one who was left out.  He pointed out my own father banned me from watching Starsky and Hutch and The Professionals and did I want this for my own child?  Again a debate for another blog, probably called “Never did me any harm just mentally scarred for life!”

Then I got round the corner, it was immediately apparent something had happened. One boy was walking off by himself.  Several of the other boys were huddling around my son.  “He was out of order” said one boy.  “Can’t believe what he said” another reassured my son.

What had this boy said?  What utterances could have soured the day so rottenly and rapidly.  Turns out he said “No offense (the prefix of all major insults) but it will be really boring at Harry’s house because it’s so tiny.”  Excuse Me?  What? My son was so incensed he didn’t even want this boy in the house.  I wondered what did it matter how big your house was if you are all huddled round a screen playing computer games?

But it hurt, the comment from the boy really hurt.  I am very conscious that our house isn’t a big house, that possibly our house is the smallest in Harry and Nina’s classes.  I am mortified that Harry has a friend with an eight bedroomed mansion with a swimming pool in the back garden and what will the mum think of me if she drops Harry off up our little road of tiny and not particularly attractive houses?

A few years ago another boy in Harry’s class said that we had the worst house out of the three friends. I must admit that stung too. But I shrugged it off.  What did 7 year old boys know?  Another visitor then also pointed out how small our house was.  The message was getting harder to ignore.  Thanks everyone for mentioning that we were recreating the Old Woman and the Shoe nursery rhyme, that Julia Donaldson’s Squash and a Squeeze is not just a story to us.

I am not in any way gifted in making a house look good.  Clothes I am great with, I know colours, patterns and how to make the best of my figure.  But houses,  I am severely interior design challenged.  When if comes to putting rooms together, I can’t to do it, it never looks good.  We had a cleaner once,  she could arrange all the cushions on a bed like she was interior styling for a magazine. And so effortlessly.  Oh I watched with envy, and thought surely this is not beyond me?  When I tried to recreate it, a blind man suffering from Parkinson’s and  juggling chain saws would have done a way better job.

Plus I have an ability to make a mess by just getting out bed in the morning, my children appear to have inherited this trait too.  Every day life for me looks like I live in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  It it not as if I am not busy all day every day, cleaning and tidying up but I never seem to make the place look any better, I am just fire-fighting.  It’s the home equivalent of a payday loan.  All the time, effort and energy go to clearing up mess and there is never anything left over to actually make it better.

I have never been able to do it.  But everyone else around me seems to be channelling Sarah Beaney, Kirsty Allsop and Kevin McCloud.  Did I just miss out on the appropriate gifts from the home improvement fairies?  Is it too late for me?  Can I never have a good looking house and garden?  I know I curse Margaret Thatcher for relaxing the building regulations when she was in power.  Since then new homes every year have lost a square foot in size.  According to Ikea we live in the smallest houses in Western Europe and their new advert addresses this by trying to flog us storage solutions, the old bijoux is beautiful message.

How Big Is Your House?

I admit I have tried them all, clear plastic boxes, wicker baskets, hessian floppy affairs. Things that had always looked charming in someone else’s house but now in mine looks like, well just more clutter.  I suspect my problem is more about what is in the storage not what is surrounding it.  I love life, I love what my children produce, and they work on a volume principle.  Everything interests me and I find that passion very difficult to box in, to contain, to order.  And writing this, well I wonder, do I really need to?  You can’t take your house with you can you?  Life is about memories and experiences and feelings and sensations and do you know what I think I am doing very well on those, very well indeed.  So as I turn from the computer to go hug my children and see what they have produced since I have been writing this I see a life being lived fully and very happily.  Can you really ask for anything more?

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…

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?

War Horse

Yesterday was a red-letter day for such a cinephilic family as ours.

We all went to the cinema to see the same film together.  Steven Spielberg’s filmic version of the sell-out National Theatre play based on the Michael Morpugo book, War Horse.

The tickets were a very generous gift from a very lovely friend, and even though I know that refreshments are eye-wateringly expensive because food and beverages are how the cinema make their money, they get scant revenue from the films themselves.  I know this but it still really smarts when  two micro paper packets of popcorn and two drinks of pop comes to £14.

So we were in, we had our our rip off snacks.  In some ways I am delighted they were so small, as training children to eat automatically the minute they sit down and watch a film does make me very uneasy.  Plus I am the rustle police.  I CAN’T STAND TO HEAR ALL THAT CHOMPING AND SCHLURPING  around me when I am watching a film.  Don’t get me started about people who eat at the theatre.  What is wrong with you that you can’t stop munching for 3 hours.  What are we?  No better than grazing animals gazing blank eyed at the pretty people?  I went to Othello in the Autumn and all through a very intense and very powerful production someone behind me was eating a large bag of Minstrels……just stay at home and watch Casualty dear! Right snotty rant over!  We will leave coughing for another day.  What is wrong with people that they have to cough all over spell-binding performances?  I think sometimes people are just so desperate to have a voice, to be heard in anyway, they can’t stop themselves.

Crikey this is getting like a restaurant review isn’t it, so far down and still no mention of the film.

Next came the trailers.. a good number too, recently cinemas have been showing far too many ads and not enough trailers, but yesterday the balance was just right.

So Warhorse.  Well  first off, it was a very good film, it is not a you must see this film film, but it is very good. Essentially the story is Black Beauty goes to War.  The cinematography was exceptional, all the performances were excellent.   There were so many fantastic character actors from Britain and Europe, from Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, David Thewlis and Tom Hiddleston to Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Kebbell, Liam Cunningham and Eddie Marsan.  It was a treat to watch them as they came and went in Warhorse’s life. If you were a fan of  The Killing 2 there is a lovely surprise appearance for you too.  It was good to see David Kross again, he was the young Michael Berg in The Reader and Niels Arestrup, whose loving Grandfather was a million miles away from  the violent criminal mastermind in A Prophet. Oh how I would love to work for Jina Jay the casting director not only of War Horse but Tinker Tailor.  Acting is really something we British are very good at isn’t it.  I don’t think this talent is celebrated nearly enough.

John Williams scored it perfectly.  Swirling, stirring and lump in the throat emotional. It never dominated, it only ever emphasised.  When those last trumpet notes rang out at the end, well I don’t think I was the only one nudging away a tear.  In fact most of our showing was entertained to some very loud sobbing from about half way through the film.  I could see people craning their necks trying to identify the weeper.

I would say my only slight reservation was right at the beginning.  You could tell this was an American’s version of Devon.  There was something slightly almost dare I say Mary Poppinseque about the opening sequences at the farm.  A real sense of heightened reality. Maybe it was needed to carry the rest of the story, but it was surprising, but only fleeting.

There are some must see scenes, I am always so squeamish about spoilers I will say they both involve horses, and they are breath-taking and well worth seeing on the big screen.

The horrors of the First World War have been very cleverly handled.  There is enough to leave in you no doubt of the horrors and yet not so brutally done that children watching will have nightmares.  This is Michael Morpurgo’s skill as a story-teller, my children have also enjoyed Private Peaceful and When the Whales Came.  He tackles these adult subjects about the brutality and destruction of war and how it destroys lives and tears families apart but it is done in a way children can comprehend.

My son Harry, aged 10 said afterward that he thought War Horse was a beautiful film, very moving and just showed the pointlessness of war.

How have I written so much and not mentioned the horses that played Joey?  Well, what can you say?  The entire film you are wondering how on earth did they get the horses to do that?   You think they are acting too.  They really are the stars, and only a director as experienced and accomplished Steven Spielberg, a man who has added to the lexicon of cinematic imagery the way Shakespeare added words to the English language, could achieve that.

Borgen


There is a new show to fill the Killing shaped hole in the Saturday night schedules, and whisper it …. I didn’t even miss the jumper.

Yes BBC4 and Denmark have come up trumps again with a new 10 week political drama, Borgen, which is both castle in Danish and their word for Parliament.  The first two episodes were aired last night, and if Nick Clegg was watching I think he would have been gutted that he didn’t seize the day more in May 2010.

It’s a true lesson in Realpolitik, there is even a different quote from the original practicioner of the Dark Arts himself, Machiavelli at beginning of each episode.

We are following the very attractive leader of the Moderate Party, Brigitte Nyborg, a happily married mother of two, as she faces her first election.  In the TV debate, she throws away her spin doctored script and talks from the heart about being truthful and honest and real in creating a better Denmark (and about being too fat for the suit she was told to wear). This straight from the heart approach wins her party more seats than ever before, and thus drama and the politics begins in earnest.

The TV debate demonstrates clearly how many parties are represented in the Danish parliament.  There are the Liberals, Labour, The Moderates, The Freedom Party, The Greens and a whole host of others I couldn’t keep track of.  Their debate looked more like a round of The Weakest Link than one of our televised events in 2010.

The other element of the story is the media, in particular the main TV channel for news.  TV1.  Here we see behind the scenes of the broadcasts and are introduced to a number of journalists.  These include Hanne Holm, an older woman, who appears extremely professional and capable yet is sacked after an anonymous tip off that she is a drunk.   Hanne is convinced the younger, beautiful and very up and coming anchor has sent the email to replace her.

Katrine, though has her own difficulties. She is secretly mourning the death of her lover, who died in bed, post-coitally after their tryst.  He was, not only married with two children but also the Head of PR for the outgoing Prime Minister. Awkward.

Add to this heady mix of scandal and intrigue a ruthless Labour leader, a tranquilliser addicted PM’s wife whose desire for a Mulberry bag has far reaching consequences for her husband, INCREDIBLE interiors, pastry porn at every turn AND not one but both of Sarah Lund’s ex-partners, Jan Meyer and Ulrich Strange as TV Producer/Political Editor and Brigitte Nyborg’s husband respectively and it’s another thrilling, complex power struggle of drama from the home of Hamlet.   Yet again I am hooked.  Tak and GodNat, see my Danish is coming along a treat!

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.