Spinning Out of Control July 11, 2011Posted by markswill in Media, Politics, Schmolitics.
Such is the pace of revelation that unfolds on almost an hourly basis, I can’t even claim that it’s tempting to comment on the News of the World hacking scandal. Why would I add my tuppenyworth when just about all the big guns of media and political commentary have and will continue to articulate indignation that for once really is righteous, far more trenchantly and knowledgeably than I ever could? Henry Porter in yesterday’s Observer was a stirring exemplar of such tirades.
But during the past week’s events I am reminded of the phrase cynically used by the then Transport Minister’s spin doctor, Jo Moore, at the time of the 9/11 terrorist outrage, namely that it had been “a good time to bury bad news.” The bad news in question? Well there have been two items that especially got my goat, firstly the announcement that Bombardier, Britain’s last major (though foreign-owned) manufacturer of railway rolling stock had lost a contract to produce trains for Thameslink to the German company, Siemens with the direct loss of 1400 jobs at their Derby plant and many more thousands at its supply companies. There was some brief sense of outrage in the media: how could we not protect manufacturing jobs and irreplaceable skills in the same way that France, Spain or, well obviously Germany does; how could the Transport Secretary, Phillip Hammond, get away with his callow excuse that his hands were tied in awarding the contract to Siemens because of legislation passed by the last Labour government which demanded ‘tax payer value’ ?
Had the phone hacking and police bribery scandal not mushroomed beyond the cynical control of the Murdoch empire, some diligent journalists, never mind the odd senior Labour politician, might’ve taken Hammond to task over this. A little light Googling on my part revealed that the difference in ‘tax payer value’ between the two Thameslink bids was primarily due to the debt burden of financing it, and due to its complexity I haven’t been able to work out if the cost of benefit payments to the thousands directly and indirectly put out of work and the subsequent devaluation of our skills workbase exceeds that amount, but I bet it will. And when we can earmark £8billion in foreign aid, much of it siphoned off by corrupt governments and maladministration, I also bet that David Cameron’s facile ‘Big Society’ polemic will cut even less ice in Derbyshire and what’s left of our manufacturing heartland than it already did.
We must not forget that successive Tory governments, which this coalition is by any other name, have been happy to run down manufacturing in the fairly safe knowledge that financial services, media and retail will take up the slack employment-wise. But the events of the past few years clearly demonstrate that this unsound thinking, so if ever a cabinet member with some responsibility for generating taxable income could be accused for short-termism, let alone weasel words, then it is Mr Hammond.
The other unpalatable public announcement uttered with relief if not glee under cover of the NoW scandal last week was by British Gas who told us that households who bought both gas and electricity from them would henceforth, on average, be paying an extra £192, making a total of £1,288 a year. This followed a similar edict from Scottish Energy two weeks ago, the average 17% price hikes apparently justified by “unavoidable rises in the cost of (mainly imported) wholesale energy”. A few days after British Gas issued what, after the few remaining providers will now inevitably also raise their tariffs, is virtually a fait accompli, I learnt from the charity, National Energy Action, that £6.1million British families will thus shortly be living in fuel poverty, a rise of 12%.
I’m lucky because although on a low income I personally have neither dependents nor a mortgage to maintain – just an increasingly challenging rent bill – so I can only imagine the anxiety this must be causing families both young and old. Faced with the relentlessly escalating cost of food, transport, education and communications (every child just has to have a mobile phone, games console and soon, a tablet), they must now be seriously wondering if they can afford to heat their homes this coming winter, especially if it’s another harsh one… and never mind saving for that increasingly elusive pension.
There’s some simple arithmetic to be applied here which, yet again, I find little media and certainly no political appetite for. Higher living costs = less available discretionary spending = more reliance on cheap imported goods = decline of the retail sector, more unemployment, ghostly high streets and diminished balance of payments = lower tax revenues = less money available for welfare, healthcare and pensions. We are seeing undeniable evidence of this spiraling economic decline but nothing done to address its fundamentals. And if any of our public servant/masters needed reminding of how vulnerable their elected majorities are to this they should’ve read a harrowing feature in yesterday’s Sindie, ‘Middle Classes Are Britain’s New Homeless’ which chronicled the 1,000% – yes, that’s 1,000% – increase in the number of rough sleepers in London alone (my italics) during the past five years, 59% of the current 3,975 poor souls aged between 25 and 45 years-old, 49% of them lone parents and 20% couples with dependent children.
As my hero Hunter S. Thompson so eloquently put it, ooh-ee-ooh…
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