This morning, The Sun has apologised. (PDF)
Entries from October 2009 ↓
I’m not sure if Liam Fox has done his homework with this story, that the Tories may privatise the Met Office. From memory, I think that the Met office makes a surplus. It’s a Trading Fund with the MoD being the lead department in government. Sure, they could privatise it and make some money but it wouldn’t cut costs at the MoD. It might arguably increase spending given that our Defence personnel consume a lot of weather information. To purchase the stuff from a commercially focussed, privatised Met Office may cost them more than they currently pay. I’m sure his colleague General Dannatt would tell him that.
This story “Conservatives plan to give ministers more power over the civil service” is fascinating. For all the bluster about NuLab centralisation of power, it shows the the British Conservative Party has no intention of letting go of the reins. In fact, if the article is true, it suggests that in the unlikely event of the Conservatives winning the next election, ministers will be given more power to run their departments, with greater hiring and firing powers and executive control of delivery.
And my response is to say good on Francis Maude for having the courage to say it.
Out of respect for the former civil servants I used to work with, I will not highlight the examples of where my “maverick ideas” were held-up, delayed and ultimately ignored. But there were enough for me to know that the civil service was a seething mass of small “p” politics that needed stamping on. One day, I might tell the whole story.
Given the accusations of cronyism that were leveled at Ken Livingstone, the letters from Liz Forgan, Chair of the Arts Council to an officicial at the Department of Culture Media and Sport and, Boris Johnson to Ben Bradshaw, are pretty damning for the Mayor of London.
Taxpayer’s Alliance: It’s a Conservative Party front organisation with a director who doesn’t pay tax in Britain
Alexander Heath doesn’t pay tax in Britain. He’s a director of the Taxpayer’s Alliance (of Britain).
As well as being exposed for being a shallow campaign front for the Tories, the taxpayer’s alliance should also be prosecuted under the trades description act.
For the second time in a month, Vodafone have cut off my phone at 10pm on a Friday evening. You ring the call centre and they tell you that they cannot deal with your problem until Monday. Last month a kindly operative understood my difficulty and switched me back on to the network. This weekend they are less flexible.
I’ve been with vodafone for 11 years. We’ve had a our good times, we’ve had our bad times. It’s got to the point where we may have reached the end of the road in our fragile relationship.
Vodafone, you are useless.
Next time I do one of those MPs surveys where they ask what you think about companies, I’m going to give you 1 out of 10.
How would a party worker be able to show a text message from David Cameron to Boris Johnson, unless he was holding Mr Cameron’s phone. Either way, it’s revealing.
Nick Robinson: If viewers heard a bit of a cheer there in the hall, that’s interesting for the future of the Tory Party, it was a picture not of David Cameron on his own which they are largely seeing, it was a picture of him and Boris Johnson who has been both the star of this conference and its biggest problem, because he simply refused to follow the script on Europe. Wouldn’t do it, nearly was generating massive headline by doing so, ignored the advice that he was sent. One party worker close to David Cameron showed me a text message that had been sent to Boris as he got on the train home. Not a word of it I think is safely repeatable at any time on television.
Andrew Neil: Really?
NR: Absolutely so furious.
AN: We are often accused of exaggerating this but there is a certain tension between the two. The mayor of London and the leader of the Conservative Party.
NR: They were, they now talk of him in the way that Tony Blair used to occasionally talk about John Prescott. Boris will be Boris, Tony Blair used to say John will be John. It’s a way of saying, what are we supposed to do, what can do about it?
AN: I’m told it all goes back to the fact that they come from different parts of Eton. That Eton’s actually divided into Sunni and Shiite or some equivalent.
Former Lieutenant General in the army thinks Dannatt should not have allied himself so closely with one party.
Shaun Ley: The disquiet over General Dannatt’s move to the Conservatives is not just confined to Labour politicians. Lord Ramsbotham is a former Lieutenant General in the Army.
David Ramsbotham: The tradition has always been that the military do not align themselves with any political party. I was commander in Belfast in 1979 and on one Thursday I woke up in the morning with a Secretary of State from the Labour Party and that evening we had a Conservative one. But it didn’t matter, you were going on whichever government was there and that tradition is terribly important if there are to be proper relationships between the military and government that they should be entirely non-party and therefore personally I regret is when someone so soon after leaving and particular somebody who’s been so controversial as it were should appear to be lined up for a job with one or other of the political parties.
SL: There is an argument I suppose that we have no evidence that he effectively was expressing the views that he expressed in order to curry favour with the Conservatives so in that sense if this has happened after he ceased, being chief of the general staff isn’t that fair enough? If he’s now a private individual?
DR: Yes he’s perfectly entitled to express his opinions. What I’m concerned about is the suggestion that Mr Cameron who may be the next Prime Minister is seeking to use him as a source of advice and no reason why he shouldn’t of course but he was one member of the chiefs of staff committee and it was the chiefs of staff who provide military advice and of course if Mr Cameron becomes Prime Minister to whom he goes, not a former colleague.
SL: Do you think Sir Richard has made a mistake?
DR: Well I couldn’t comment on who gave him advice but I personally wish he had not allied himself so publicly with one political party at this particular time when so much febrile activity about who said what to whom about troop reinforcements and so on, is very much in the media.
David Cameron, glugging champagne on the day four million people heard their pay would be frozen; the day after they announced they’d slash pensions:
“When we caught him sipping fizz at an exclusive party, heavy-handed minders immediately moved in and tried to stop us leaving with the embarrassing snap.”
Basically, they’re taking us all for chumps. It’d be laughable if they weren’t 14 points ahead in the polls.
I think it speaks for itself. If you have views on this issue, please share them in the comments section below. I’m pretty certain they’ll get read by the Royal Mail.
Adam Crozier letter
Dear Mr Crozier,
ErnestMarples.com was set up in July to provide a free service to
convert postcodes to physical coordinates. Its founders believe that such a service is fundamental if we are to create an ecosystem for innovation on the web.
On Friday 2nd October, ErnestMarples.com was forced to close down
because of legal action by Royal Mail. As its services also powered
other sites, this has had a knock-on effect meaning the likes of Jobcentreproplus.com, planningalerts.com and thestraightchoice.com are
now no longer functional either.
The heavy handed approach by the Royal Mail to a growing sector of not-for-profit citizen focused websites is not new but still deeply regrettable. As a minister, I initiated a conversation that I hoped would lead to Royal Mail taking a more flexible approach with the web community who seek to use geo-spatial co-ordinates to develop new and innovative services that help the public in their daily lives.
I take the position that the postcode file and the data set of physical co-ordinates that go with it are a national asset that should be freely available to any UK citizen. I understand, though, that in the short term the entrepreneurs in your organisation have monetised their monopoly supply of the file to generate income of about £11 million a year.
We live in tough economic times. I’m a realist. But I do hope that you can apply your considerable talents to find an amicable solution that allows the profit making direct-mail industry to pay a fair fee for a postcode database license, whilst allowing the non-profit sector to flourish and innovate. Do this, and you might even stimulate a market niche of profit making internet related companies that can sustain Royal Mail in the digital age.
I intend to raise this matter with ministers in Parliament next week and look forward to hearing from you.
Jon Sopel: What is you reaction to these proposals?
Joan Bakewell: Well I’d like to know quite what they are because confusion has entered right away because they don’t see to have been thought through properly. The statistics that we have been given that they .. mean and women should both be retiring at 66 in 2016 means, if you follow that through, that women would have to jump three years in one particular year, it would have it rise .. the pensionable age would have to rise from 63 to 66. Now David Cameron ahs already said on the morning programme that that is unacceptable so we still aren’t sure how this is going to be resolved and there is going to be a review about it. So it is a bit of a confusion, however it is certainly the case that the age of state pensions will have to rise and I think it is very interesting that they are trying to bring men and women into the same sort of schedule of aging because of course women have a life expectancy much greater than that of men.
JS: Do you think that is a good thing?
JB: I think .. they collide. Yes it seems to me I think only just to men whose life expectancy is much shorter that they should not .. that women should not have an advantage over them, that doesn’t seem just and I think we must always be aiming for the just solution here. And I don’t think we have got that.
JS: The other thing about this is, if you speed up the timetable by which you want to introduce something like this, if you were planning your retirement and your are dependent on being able to draw the state pension at a certain age and suddenly find you can’t well then your plans are thrown into confusion?
JB: Yes well if I was women this very moment expecting to retire in sic years time and it was .. I beg your pardon, in ten years time which is the Labour Party target to 2020 and I was suddenly told that it was in five years, six years time, that would really .. those are the people who are going to be most upset you know .. the people who always seem to get the hard end of the stick however, those are the women who are going to be anxious, the women who are already looking forward to retirement in about .. and getting their pension when they ..erm ..getting their pension soon and it is now going to be extended by the Tories to an earlier date than Labour.
JS: Presumably the other people within that subsection who will be most effected are those that are most highly dependent on the state pension, maybe it is fine if you have got a private occupational pension that you can fall back on or other money but if your livelihood is dependent on receiving the state pension that could also affect you?
JB: Oh the pension is a lifeline for many, many people. You know people you are at the bottom end of the financial scale look forward to getting their pension, it makes a great difference in their lives including modest perks like the fuel allowance and the free bus pass and these all add up to extremely important advantages to people who deserve it and who haven’t got other resources, they may not even own their own house. So I mean of course these kind of changes hit people who perhaps least deserve it.
Jermey Paxman: What do you make of this pay freeze?
Teresa May: Well some of the details have been announced tonight, I haven’t seen all of the details. I have to say that I think first of all it shows that we are continuing to set the agenda. We’ve been talking for some time now about the need to address the deficit and suddenly lo and behold the government appears to be starting to look at that but in this rather sort of behind the scenes way. As you were saying earlier Jeremy, they had their own conference last week, why didn’t they announce it then?
JP: Perhaps they forgot or something?
TM: Forget about the4 pay freeze for thousands of civil servants, I think not.
JP: Let’s get a straight answer, do you support it or not?
TM: What I have said to you Jeremy is we need to look at all the details of it, but what you are going to be seeing ..
JP: Are you not supporting it?
TM: .. what you will be seeing tomorrow fro George Osborne is that he’ll be setting out an overall approach to how we deal with the deficit, not a sort of piecemeal do you look at this issue or this aspect or that aspect, but our overall approach to dealing with the deficit. We are the party that has been talking about the need to do that and we are going to do that in a proper fashion and not like the way that the government has just with this sort of Treasury briefing announcement coming out in the middle of our conference.
JP: Let’s look at pensions, do you propose to raise the age at which people .. or bring forward the rise in the age at which you can get the pension, now is that going to apply to men and women equally?
TM: Well the change in the state pension age is part of the process of actually equalising the state pension age between men and women. This is … the change to 66 in 2026 and then 68 in 2046 came out of the Turner review. What we are saying is that we would have a further review but with the view to bringing forward that first point at which the state pension age starts to rise. I think most people recognise with people living longer actually we have to look again at the point at which people go .. start to earn their state pension.
JP: But this is a key thing, you propose to bring forward the age at which you get your pension at 66 from the year 2026 to 2016, but the pensions between men and women are only going to be equalised in 2020, aren’t they?
TM: As ..the .. there are two timetables operating, yes. What the review will be doing will be looking at the appropriate timetable for that state pensions age to be ..
JP: So you haven’t decided yet?
TM: Well the announcement is that we will actually have a review which will look at that timetable with a view to raising the state pension age at an earlier point than 2026.
JP: For both men and women?
TM: For .. the state pension age will be applicable when it .. the point of 2026 was coming in for both men and women. So the review will be looking at what should happen to the state pension age for men and the state pension age for women and at what point should it ..
JP: At 2016?
TM: ..and what point should it raise to 66.
JP: Because this would apply to anyone who is currently in their fifties wouldn’t it? It would mean they would have to work a year longer/
TM: I’m afraid there are some tough choices to be made and if we look, as you know yourself, at the aging population that we have in the country, we have to look at what point it is appropriate for people to be receiving their state pension. People .. when the state .. if you think back, when the state pension was first introduced in fact the average age at which men and women lived to was actually significantly less than the point at which the pension was payable so very few people actually got it.
JP: But the consequence of this will be, will it not, that those people who rely upon the state pension, i.e. the poorest members of society, will be disproportionately hit?
TM: It means that ..
JP: That must be true?
TM: Everybody qualifies for the state .. the basic state pension and it means that people will be ..
JP: Those most dependent on it are the poorest, aren’t they?
TM: .. it means that people will be having to work at the point at which the age is r … the age at which you reach your state pension age rises. It means that people will be in the workplace for a year longer than they have to be at the moment in order to qualify for it. But these are exactly the sort of decisions Jeremy ..
JP: I’m right, aren’t I?
TM: .. these are exactly the sort of decision that have to be taken by governments looking at how …
JP: No one denies difficult decision have to be taken, but since you have already conceded effectively that this will hit the poorest people most severely, aren’t we back to the days of you being the nasty party?
TM: No, no we’re not and one of the other things that we’re committed to in relation to pensions is to restore the link between earnings and sate pensions, which many people have been calling for for some considerable time.
JP: Do you think when you look at this there is a case for reducing public sector pensions?
TM: The disparity between public sector pensions and private sector pensions is something that cannot be ignored, certainly, and I think it is an issue that we have to look at. If we are going to look at public sector pensions we would obviously be guaranteeing the accrued benefits would be protected but that’s not something ..
JP: There is no ‘if’ about it, you are going to look at it?
TM: That’s not something that one can deal with in opposition, and one of the first things that we would do in looking at public sector pensions is actually deal with the question of what are the figures around public sector pensions, there are lots of estimates out there about the cost of public sector pensions, we would ask our Office of Budget Responsibility – which we are setting up for other purposes primarily – but we would ask it first of all to conduct an audit of public sector pension so we can be looking at this issue on the basis of some firm evidence.