Monday, 20 October 2008

Non Elected Officials

When it was announced that Peter Mandleson was to join the Government as a Minister, I was amazed and couldn't understand why Gordon felt that he had to bring him back from the EU. Is our Prime Minister telling us that out of all the Labour Members of Parliament there isn't one who is as capable of being the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Well I'm sorry but what does that say about us, the electorate? Are we voting for people who are not up to the job of running the country, or is it that the Prime Minister thinks that his own MPs are not good enough?

I then started to wonder how many other non elected officials we have working in government departments as Ministers. I had quick trawl through some (but probably not all) of the Government Department's websites and found 9 Ministers who haven't been elected, is this right, is it even honest? How can a Government be responsible to it's electorate when there are so many non-elected Ministers in that Government.

I suppose that a student of politics would tell me that I am being naive and this situation is far from unique but I can't help wondering why Gordon Brown felt that he needed to look for 3 Ministers for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform from outside of the House of Commons. I'm sure that he would argue that he just wants to have the best people in place to steer the country through it's current economic problems but what does that say about the Department's previous Ministers? Should we infer that the 'B' team led us into situation we know find ourselves?

And don't get me started on the Government's so called Special Advisers. I have always felt uneasy about New Labour's reliance on these 'temporary' civil servants who are political appointees paid by Central Government. Admittedly the Brown administration has far less Special Advisers than Blair had but even so, in the financial year 2006-07, we the British Taxpayers, shelled out £5.9 million on them - yes £5.9 million. Remember that these are people who are appointed by the government of the day to work alongside civil servants in government departments who are not answerable to the electorate (because we didn't have any say in their appointment) but are there to add a 'political' dimension to the advise that civil servants give their Minister.

And what happens to all these Special Advisers, because let's face it, if you get a job like that it will only last as long as 'your' Minister is in post, well in the case of Alistair Campbell you go off and write a book about working in Number 10 or if you fancy entering politics proper like the Miliband brothers you are in the right place to look for a safe seat to get elected from, or then again you could be given a peerage like Shriti Vadeera and then go straight into Government as a Minister without all the bother of standing in an election.

I wonder if any of this is taught in the Government's citizenship lessons in schools - at first I couldn't find out because the dcsf website didn't seem to have a link to a site where I could look this up and when I phoned their helpline a very nice woman read from a prepared script telling me what citizenship in schools covered for the 14-19 age group but said she was very sorry but there wasn't anywhere where I could look at this for myself. However not one to be stopped at the first hurdle, I had a quick trawl through the Teachers' resource packs for Citzenship on the Teachernet website and I found that the curriculum covers parliament and other forms of government so let's just hope that our young people are far more politcally savve than us oldies.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Panorama - Britian in the Red

I suppose watching, or listening, to any programme presented by Jeremy Vine is a bit like admitting to buying The Daily Mail - you don't have to be Angry of Tonbridge Wells to agree with him, but it helps. You know that he will have his own agenda, he will think that he is speaking for the 'ordinary man in the street' but dear god let me shout loud and clear, he doesn't speak for me!!!

Last Thursday's Panorama programme was supposed to answer all the questions we, the ordinary people, had about the credit crunch, banking crisis et all. What is was however was 55 minutes of Jeremy trying to whip us all up into believing that the whole of the banking industry in this country was on the point of collapse, that our savings were better off out of the banks and under the mattress and if our homes weren't already suffering from negative equity we were about to loose our jobs and have them repossessed because we couldn't afford the higher mortgages anyway.

The 'ordinary' people they had filmed earlier were worried that they might have to pay more for their mortgages, that their homes mightn't increase in value by 300% in the next six months and we were supposed to feel sorry for one poor woman was having to work an extra half day a week to help pay the bills because she was worried that her husband's job in teaching could be in trouble because the government has underwritten the banks and they might start laying off teachers. If these vox pops weren't bad enough he then interviewed experts in banking, finance etc but no matter how much they tried to be calm and sensible about the current crisis Jeremy was having non of it and set about them like a little terrier. Wasn't it all the fault of the government? shouldn't we all hate the bankers? Surely we are all heading for financial Armageddon? The message was, if you aren't worried you damn well should be.....

Yet again the BBC have frightened far more 'ordinary' people than they have reassured. I'm all for keeping people informed about the current financial situation, but until the media in this country starts reporting the facts and not their usual hysterical scaremongering the 'ordinary man in the street' will continue to have no faith in either this country's financial institutions or it's Government's handling of what is a global problem and without some kind of faith we will surely be stuck in a recession for far longer than we need to be. Then I suppose the BBC will justify all the rubbish they are spouting by saying 'I told you so' - God help us and save us from irresponsible journalists!!!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

City Workers

If you wander around Canary Wharf during the day you would be forgiven for thinking that all the young city workers were a bunch of totally focused, unsmiling serious types, busy rushing from meeting to meeting with their mobile phones super-glued to their ears while sending very important messages on their Blackberries. But I'm delighted to tell you that after 5pm on a Thursday night they change, they metamorphose into human being. As the bars fill up and the alcohol consumption rises they start to loosen up and the noise level rises.

The young and not so young singles start flirting and the old buggers (in 21st Century City Talk that means 35 year olds) try to look cool by removing their ties and opening the top button of their Turnbull and Asher shirts. This is radical stuff! In fact this is the city culture I remember from the 70's - rush out of work - get to the pub - and unwind (or pissed)

But wait a minute something isn't quite right, yes they all have a drink in their hands, yes they are all VERY loud and yes some of them are flirting but take a step back and really look and you will see that they have been nursing that same drink for the past hour, the loud chatter is all work related and the old buggers are surreptitiously glancing at their watches wondering if they can still make the 6.30 from Charing Cross.

Bugger, it's 6 o'clock on a warm October evening in one of the world's great financial districts and I'm surrounded by a bunch of boring Bankers ..........(what is the collective noun for Bankers? - suggestions on a postcard please)

A change is a good as a rest

My usual routine of an evening is to feed the cats (Jess will have been pestering me for about an hour and Sassy has taken to walking across the keyboard for daring to ignore her sister!) then it's feed the dogs making sure that Murphy doesn't hoover up Bella's food if she wanders off looking for a drink. After their dinner it's time to walk the dogs; prepare my dinner; phone Dave; cook; eat; wash-up; decamp to the living room; try to stop the dogs from playing bitey/facey game; look for something to watch on the TV; give-up; make a cuppa; settle the dogs and go to bed with a good book.

Last Thursday however I was sitting outside the Slug and Lettuce at Canary Wharf sipping a large and rather expensive glass of chilled white wine waiting for Dave to finish work. I knew that he would be tired after work and would probably just want to get back to the flat but what he didn't know was he was taking me out for dinner, but as they say, 'a change is a good as a rest'

Read the first paragraph and weep!!

How many A levels do you need to write garbage like this!!
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Thursday, 2 October 2008

Lesley's Birthday

Hands Up - there's no excuse, except possibly old age and a desire to make people eat far too much but I forgot to take any photos of Lesley's birthday party. I had the camera ready but it wasn't until I was clearing up the next day that I realised that I'd left it upstairs in the office.

It's a shame because everyone had such a good time and there would have been some lovely pictures. Luckily the weather was kind to us and it was warm enough for the party to spill out into the garden. The little ones, who aren't little any more, I must think up a new collective noun for them, were so good and they had great fun teasing James, or Tree as they have nicknamed him. His firing up of the chiminea was a great success but I'm not sure how pleased their Mums will be if they ever repeat half of the shaggy dog stories he came out with. In fact they had a full evenings entertainment what with Wii competitions, Laurence's Magic Tricks and Lilly's stories so their parents (the older kids) had a chance to catch up with cousins they haven't seen for a long time.

It wasn't just family though we also had friends and neighbours there as well, in fact an old fashioned Carter party, just what Lesley had wanted and I think that everyone enjoyed themselves and hopefully made some new friends along the way.

Teachers Training Day

They really don't do themselves any favours do they?