Thursday, 29 December 2011

ANNUAL REPORT – ‘National Challenges, Local Opportunities’

Where to start for a personal and political review of the lowlights of the past 12 months? Well, we can judge organisations and people by the targets they set themselves. So let’s kick off with a look at Coalition government pledges ‘kept’, ‘in progress’ and ‘not kept’ (with thanks to The Guardian).

Yes, there are quite a number of pledges in the ‘kept’ column, but many of these are easy-peasy crowd-pleasers. So, achieving ‘banking freedoms’ will win City support, ‘review of workplace laws’ will help businesses sack without scrutiny, adopting the National Minimum Wage was frankly a no-brainer, and planting trees is franky ironic given the failed attempt to sell off the nation’s forests. ‘Simplifying the benefit system’ is beyond a joke as we already know this is going to be an utter disaster and end up costing more, financially and socially. ‘Stopping unfair competition with local authority newspapers’ just hasn’t happened as two have closed in the past year, likewise claiming success on the pledge that anyone paid more that the PM is having their salary signed off by the Treasury, nor scrutiny over fatcats earning 20x more than their lowest earning employee, given the sickening amounts paid to our own double- and treble-jobbing politicians.

Pledges ‘in progress’ include just about anything to do with equality – no surprises there – action on lobbyists, third world debt, cutting parliamentary perks, improving access to dentistry and dementia research among others issues it is clear they would prefer to bury in bureaucracy. ‘Not kept’ include all those commitments about green issues and employment, and of course the NHS – all issues the Tories were so overheated about before the election.

When Sebastian Coe tells us he wants the Olympics to be like Halley’s comet we must all start worrying. The comet that allegedly foretold the assassination of Julius Caesar, the death of Harold and consequent Norman Conquest in 1066 (which brought some Dents to England, so not all bad), the return of the Black Death and countless other historical nasties should not be conjured up – will someone give Coe a history lesson? Meanwhile hundreds of Londoners responded to Coe’s comments along these lines:

‘Coe is as deluded as he is unprincipled. These games are out of control.

Not content with riding roughshod over local people and turfing them out of their homes, he then proceeds to hire one of the world's most pernicious companies - Dow chemicals. Makers of Agent Orange, napalm and other horrendous child-burning weaponry, owners of Union Carbide, responsible for perhaps the worst peacetime civilian atrocity at Bhopal, whose people have still not been compensated properly. And what's Coes' response? He doesn't care. Not bothered. Not interested.

And now London is set to look like a militarised war-zone, with more troops than Afghanistan, drones circling overhead, thousands of armed-to-the-teeth CIA and other Secret Service operatives and enough weapons to launch a small war. This is about Games, is it? This is about brotherhood and coming together in a spirit of friendship? I scarcely think so. This is about Coe's ego, his games-at-any-cost. I need hardly add that all the promises of local people getting tickets and being first in line were all a hollow sham. They haven't had any, and they're complaining. The lies, the anti-democracy, the grotesque waste of public money, the disdain for human rights and human values, the war posturing - it all adds up to one miserable, sick, corrupt and venal fiasco.‘

Sad to say I am also quite unexcited by the prospect of the Olympics.

Meanwhile, looking at ‘local opportunities’ in Kensington and Chelsea, our own politicians must be laughing at us, taking credit for making ‘efficiency’ cuts while pouring more and more of OUR hard-earned cash into their own pockets. Thus our part-time MP Malcolm Rifkind supplements his MP’s allowance thus:

MPs salary plus extra as chair of select cttee - £80,000
Journalism 5,865
Then there are his directorships-
AAM (10 meetings a year) 56,000
EE CFG (6 meetings a year) 45,000
AdamSmith Inst 35,000
Unilever (8 meetings a year) 32,000
LLP (4 days a year) 25,000

If this is correct (gleaned from ‘Theyworkforus’ website) Rifkind is creaming in over £331,650/year, DOUBLE the PM’s salary (and we’re not counting allowances, expenses and second homes). No wonder his attendance at parliament is barely over 50% and ‘well below average’.

Passing by our senior officers for today, let’s look at our senior Tory Councillors – whose income comes from various sources. A Councillor’s allowance is NOT supposed to be a salary but to cover any loss of earnings plus expenses, though of course many hard-pressed back-bench Councillors rely upon it as a major part of their income. Cockell of course took the ‘local opportunity’ in 2007 to convince his fellow Councillors that being Leader of the Royal Borough was a full-time job so he should be recompensed commensurately. So currently our ‘Leader’ is supported by the public purse thus:

Leader’s full-time allowance £65,000
Chair of LGA (3 days/week) 52,000

This bring a hefty £117,000 without all the fringe benefits of luxury travel and feasting. We now face the prospect, if rumours are true, of adding a peerage into the mix which, if he attends regularly, could net an additional £42,000 TAX-FREE. This could also bring the Leader’s income to £159,000, well over that of the PM for three ‘full-time or almost full-time’ jobs, which brings the issue of ‘local opportunities’ into very sharp perspective, though it must be said that Rifkind’s nose-in-trough prowess cannot be beaten.

‘The savings go right to the very top’ Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell

All this opportunism and self-servatism, of course, bodes very ill as we enter a long period of economic stagnation and belt-tightening. It also threatens to bring all public servants into disrepute, which makes life very difficult for those of us with more ambitions for others than for ourselves.

Bring on the revolution!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Eton Rude Boyz

Who parped? Cameraman creates a stink in Brussels

In the same week that Cameraman omitted the courtesy of telling (let alone discussing) his Euro summit plan with his Deputy PM, K&C Tory Councillors were also forgetting their manners, with one senior Tory publicly calling an esteemed Labour counterpart a ‘f***ing c***’.

Aha! Pressure’s rising then.

If Cameraman and Clegg went head to head on Mastermind, I have no doubt that Clegg would win. He has the intelligence to be genuinely worried whenever things go badly. For Cameron, it took an all-night summit with European leaders far above his intellect who ran rings round him to cause the mask to slip; he now looks plain stupid. Frankly it is a bizarre turn of events that makes the duplicitous LibDems look good next to the Tories.

Our Council, like the current Government, is run by Eton Rude Boyz or wannabe Eton Rude Boyz. They have been born to rule and dominate. They will charm and seduce and speechify, but their real character soon emerges if things don’t go their way (see previous blog about Alexander de Pfeffel). Many of them simply aren’t very bright so cover this up by repeating the same old twaddle that an officer has written out for them in big writing, and if that doesn’t work they descend to sneering and hurling insults.

Our Kensington Rude Boyz are, it is clear, in disarray. We know some of the reason for this, and can guess at the rest. It will come out or be leaked to us eventually, that’s for sure.

Meanwhile our Labour Opposition is stronger and more purposeful every day. Given that we may have a General Election sooner rather than later, we are in a very positive place and up for the fight – locally as well as nationally.

Indeed, a recent poll on local election voting intentions on another local website, From the Hornet's Nest, put the Labour party at 59% of the vote, with the Tories at a miserable 15%. Says it all really!

Friday, 2 December 2011

A Charm Offensive is Still Offensive

Some years ago I was seated next to Jocelyn Stevens at a formal dinner when he was Rector of the Royal College of Art. Such was the rapt attention paid me by my host, that for three hours I felt like the most fascinating, intelligent, amusing and original woman in the world. Two days later I bumped into him and said a cheery hello. He had no idea whatever who I was.

Luckily I was well aware of his infamous charm, and simply found the episode funny. I also knew there is a far more sinister side to this promiscuous attention. It is a means of control and domination far more subtle, but ultimately just as offensive, as the violent moods he was also prone to.

In a similar manner Mayor Johnson has been bred and trained to please. From his carefully ruffled mop and boyish smile, his ‘cheeky’ off-colour comments, his renaming as ‘Boris’ (real name Alex de Pfeffel), to his deadly magnetism with women, he is designed to undermine resistance, and entrap.

Since 2008 he has increasingly become a caricature of himself, wearing silly hats, saying silly things and grinning his silly smile, his inner narrator imagining the press release as he plays to the cameras.

Despite this carefully positioned fa├žade, Johnson has an Achilles’ heel; he is desperate for your approval. Cross him or disagree with him at your peril; he is a fearsome enemy. He aims to run the country and will charm and wheedle and bully his way through if we let him.

So, beware of any man who is so obsessed with his hair - Berlusconi and Cameron with their dyed coiffes prove the point.

Contrast this object lesson of vanity and ambition with Ken Livingstone, a man unafraid to make unpopular decisions if he thinks they are right. Our Portobello and Golborne stallholders and traders were dead against the WEZ and so were we Councillors on their behalf. Now it’s gone and the pollution is literally deadly. No easy answers there.

I first encountered Ken in the early 80s when he was running the GLC, his free festivals on the South Bank and 25p bus fares transformed London. He still speaks from the heart and his ambitions, I genuinely believe, are for London and Londoners, not for himself. I am delighted he is visiting North Kensington on Monday; it will be a day to remember.

As for Alex de Pfeffel, a charm offensive is still offensive. So next time someone says ‘he’s such a character!’, you can answer, ‘Well, so is Freddie Kruger’.