Entries from December 2008 ↓

Six out of eight of the highest paid local council officials are in Conservative administrations

Even though he has one of the best front pages to a political website I’ve seen in ages, Eric Pickles cannot escape a little scrutiny from the “Tories plan purge of town hall ‘fat cats’” story by Sam Coates in today’s times.

According to the story, the Tories will clamp down on the pay of local government Chief Executives. But take a look at the list. Six out of eight of the councils listed in the story are Conservative led ie they can sort it out now if they wanted. The luxury of opposition does not apply for Tories in all too many local authority areas these days. If Mr Pickles seeks to push down Chief Executive salaries, the Conservatives could sort it out now. I do hope that Mr Pickles will be challenged on this – he really should give an explanation unless he wants to earn the “Do Nothing” tag like his boss.

Ken Clarke spin derails Osborne relaunch. Grassroots say bring back David Davis.

A third of Conservative party activists think George Osborne should go, according to a ConservativeHome survey (usual caveats on accuracy to be considered).

The Guardian seem to have been the victims of spin or have just got the emphasis of the story out of kilter with what Tory members are actually saying. Their piece carries the headline “Bring back Kenneth Clarke, party members tell Cameron as Tory reshuffle speculation grows” but if you look at the survey more deeply, it shows you that nearly as many activists do not want Ken Clarke back.

3 out of 4 activists want David Davis back though. So the headline should really have been “Bring back David Davis, party members tell Cameron”.

There have been a number of informed stories this week suggesting that Mr Clarke is returning to shadow-government. Significantly for Westminster watchers, he’s slimmed down his portfolio of outside activities in recent months. This could be because he’s 68 and taking it easy or that he’s been quietly preparing for a return for some time.

Having been on the receiving end of reshuffle speculation, the one thing I do know is that nothing is certain until they’re done, so there may still be hope for Mr Davis but it doesn’t look promising for him today.

George Osborne relaunch

“There will be no election promises of up-front unfunded tax cuts.”
George Osborne, The Times, September 2007

“My priority is to try to reverse the increase in National Insurance”
George Osborne, Sunday Times, 28th December 2008

A goodbye to Woolworths

Woolworths was the meeting point. For almost a decade, a bunch of growing kids would congregate outside the polished shiny metal-framed retractable doors of the Kidderminster branch of Woolworths. Our Saturdays were spent flicking though vinyl records, games for the Atari and Spectrum and playing with the new gadgets from regimented rows of stalls on the shop floor.

If we were feeling flush, we’d run up the escalators to the second floor to buy a cup of the worst tasting coffee on the planet. And if a parent happened to stray by, we’d sting them for an insipid strawberry milkshake or a lifeless coca cola in a plastic cup.

So for me, the demise of Woolworths was as much the commemoration of adolescence as it was a reflection of the Made-in-the-USA downturn.

Yet as the respected New York Venture Capitalist, Fred Wilson writes on his blog, whilst the downturn is the main cause of many of the recent business failures, something more fundamental is happening:

“Clearly the economic downturn is the direct cause of most of these failures but I believe it is the straw that broke the camel’s back in most cases. The internet, now closing in on 15 years old in its mainstream incarnation as the world wide web, is in many cases the underlying cause of these business failures. Bits of information flowing over a wire (or through the air) are just more efficient than physical infrastructure”

People stopped buying records and video games in Woolies years ago. Gone went the Kodak instamatic cameras at affordable prices. News is read online. Globalised manufacturing ensured that the household appliances they used to source more efficiently than their competitors, stopped being the cheapest; undermined by the ability for anyone to send an email to a sales representative of a shipping firm in China.

Globalisation in a connected world did for Woolies. When my son is a teenager, his friends will arrange to meet online and share their music tastes before pressing the ‘buy’ button. They’ll discover the world from their shared trust in favourite web sites.

We are entering an era of profound and irreversible change to the way people choose to live their lives and organise the world around them.

And there isn’t a politician on the planet who is going to stop this.