Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Monday, 3 September 2012

Zero hours contracts for NHS trusts

Today’s Independent reports that ‘zero hours’ contracts are being used increasingly for key clinical staff in NHS trusts.

Whereas it can be argued that the State might reasonably require individuals who are receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance to work some hours each week within the public service sector, the schemes that are being put in place are a great deal more than this they seem more like a punishment of the unemployed for not having a job – even though there are clearly not enough jobs.

Although most people may believe that the benefit system inherited by the Coalition was too generous to those without work, there has been a remarkable turnaround in the Government’s attitude towards the lack of jobs since Brown left office. When Cameron became PM there was no doubt that the lack of jobs was seen as the responsibility of government to correct.

Since the majority of the unemployed did want work they were viewed as unfortunate – victims of a downturn in the global economy. However, within a remarkably short time the Coalition, and the Tories in particular, have managed to put the blame onto the unemployed despite the fact that there are not enough jobs for the numbers out of work.

Through schemes such as ‘zero hours contracts’ those unfortunate to be unemployed have been reduced in number and turned into a resource for global corporations to exploit. In the three months to June the number unemployed fell by 46k to a a rate of 8.0% from 8.2% in the previous quarter. However, the number working part-time was up 16k to 1.42m – the highest since records began in 1992.

G4S, of Olympics notoriety, is one of the global corporations responsible for this practice. It is easy to take a nonchalant view of this increasingly used practice on the grounds that at least more people have some work which is helping to bring down the cost of so many unemployed. However, when it is recognised that the service provided by these global corporations create healthy profits for the directors and shareholder which are unlikely to be taxed at anything like the rate that is paid by small and medium sized UK businesses because of the use of tax havens.

So although the UK taxpayer may benefit from a lower cost for the unemployed, a good deal of the savings are simply passing into the hands of private investors of which, in too many cases only a small proportion is taxed.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A gift to all Republicans

Although there is a general understanding of the Queen’s right to be consulted, to encourage, and to warn the government of the day through regular audiences with the Prime Minister, this article in the Guardian shows that she and Prince Charles’ power over new laws is greater than thought. Apparently any new proposal that might adversely affect their private interests must be approved by them before they are passed into law.

Most would see the monarch’s right be consulted on the administration’s proposed solutions to current issues as being a valuable extra check on the government of the day and particularly in the case of the present Queen whose knowledge, built up over many years, must be to the nation’s advantage. Indeed ex prime ministers have remarked that, in the case of particularly vexed issues, to be able to speak with the Queen – knowing absolute confidentiality would be maintained – has been a singular advantage. However, that legislation that might adversely affect her or Prince Charles’ private interests must be approved by them before it passes into law does detract from what can be seen as broadly a positive aspect in the process of government.

The Queen does have the power to withhold ratification [Royal Assent] from any Bill – but this has not been refused since the creation of the United Kingdom in 1707 and would be seen as an extreme act under a system where the sovereign is expected to act on the advice of her ministers. However, this right to protect her and Prince Charles’ private interests could possibly become the focus of discontent during the current austere times.

An article in the Mail nearly two years ago showed that a third of the country still is owned by the aristocracy who make up just 0.6% of the total population. In times where there are not enough jobs and this is likely to be the case for many years to come, the passing of significant parts of this land to the nation be become small holdings for families without work would bring great relief to a considerable number of the people.

Blair should face trial over Iraq war

Writing in today’s Observer, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for Blair and Bush to face the international criminal court in the Hague over the US/UK led invasion of Iraq. Accusing them of lying about the threat from Saddam with regard to weapons of mass destruction and thereby creating a backdrop for the Syrian civil war and a wider Middle East conflict,

Tutu argues that ”The then leaders of the United States and Great Britain, fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.”

There is certainly something highly dubious about western powers encouraging opposition groups to rise up against these Middle Eastern dictatorships. It might be that the people are severely repressed, but the danger of supporting any of the opposing groups is that there is no certainty that the new group, having come to power, will be any less repressive than their predecessors – and what is certain is that thousands of innocent civilians, frequently women and children, will be killed or maimed in the process.

Tutu is one of the few high profile international figures able to make such accusations. The 80 year old cleric and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who came to prominence during the 80′s in the struggle against apartheid, is expressing what millions must think.

How strange that Tutu should make these accusations now when plans are afoot to honour Blair with a portrait bust in the House of Commons. Apparently there is a bust of every PM in the members’ lobby since 1900 and it is the tradition that these portraits are commissioned once the PM has left office and their party is out of power – so expect one of Brown to be commissioned soon after Blair’s is in place!