Friday, 27 June 2014

The bank steps in

Yesterday the Bank of England stepped into the financial market and put their foot down by limiting mortgage borrowing to four times salary. Yes it had been rumoured but was not expected. So why now?

The banks says we need a fire-break around mortgages to stop 'reasonable' behaviour becoming risky or 'irresponsible'. How does the bank see the countries recovery today as they currently control £350 billion of gilts?

They say we have seen the fastest job creation period in written history, that is quite a statement. What it does not show is that half the people with new jobs are doing 20 hours a week instead of 40 hours a week and that the average hourly rate has dropped recently. So has the bank taken this into consideration?

They also say that three quarters of debt has a floating rate, in other words they will be affected by rate rises in future, but one of the most popular questions is, “When will rates rise”.

Yesterday the bank reiterated that when the country gets back to full employment, rates will start to rise slowly. Do they mean when everyone has a 20 hour job or when everyone has a 40 hour job?

It is expected that rates will probably rise by a quarter percent at a time until 2.5% is reached and that will be approximately in 2017. Considering savers have been screwed since 2008, is this really good enough?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Has Labour reacted correctly?

Labour's thesis is that Cameron hired Coulson in spite of those warnings because he was desperate to get closer to the Murdoch Empire. The party is certainly right that Cameron was desperate: the Conservatives were not particularly worth joining in 2007 and so there would not have been an endless queue of former senior tabloid journalists desperate to join the team. Cameron is also a great believer in his gut instinct on people: he believes his convictions about those he meets are right, and he felt a good connection with Coulson. He sharpened up the Conservative brand and was instrumental in saving them from yet another existential crisis.

Those who dislike the Prime Minister already think he has terrible judgement, but are waiting to exact their own judgement on him until after the general election. As for whether Labour can make this electorally damaging for the Conservative party depends on whether the Miliband machine is running smoothly or whether it still has gremlins in the tank, as it did when the Labour leader managed to upset almost everyone by posing with the Sun and then apologising for doing so. The last few weeks have proven that quite a few people at the top of politics really shouldn't trust their guts so much.

Labour runs the risk of making sure the public loses the remaining confidence it has in politicians as a whole. You cannot selectively trash politicians when you use a hypocritical argument and the people know this. So if Harman, Prescott and others, back in 2007 knew that Coulson and the News of the World was phone hacking, what did them as member of the Government of the day do about it?

Miliband needs to be careful that his sanctimony doesn't get the better of him today, for Labour have serious questions to answer too. Cameron's judgement was poor but so is Milibands.

We need some statesmanship and leadership from our politicians, the public are tiring of this mindless petty points scoring which masquerades as 'policy'.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Leveson revisited

Have you forgotten about the who-ha caused by the Leveson enquiry, I am sure some people haven't and as it strikes at the very heart of what free speech in the country is about, I haven't.

Rebekah Brooks has been cleared of all four charges against her, her husband Charlie Brooks was cleared of perverting the course of justice, her assistant Cheryl Carter was cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and News International's director of security Mark Hanna was cleared of perverting the course of justice. Stuart Kuttner, former managing editor, was cleared of being part of a conspiracy.

However, Andy Coulson has been found guilty on one count of conspiracy to hack phones.

Within minutes of the verdict being announced, David Cameron made a public apology in Downing Street about employing Andy Coulson back in 2011.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Current season

We are in a very sporty mood at the moment, the world cup in Brazil, don't mention England, cricket at Lords with Sri Lanka, and don't mention England and Wimbledon which hopefully will be dominated by Andy Murray again, a Scot.

The FA has quickly doused calls for Roy Hodgson to be sacked as manager and maybe that is for the best. England need to stick with their young players and let them mature.

Part of the reason England failed to win the first Test at Lord's was unquestionably the lack of a spinner. Peter Moores, the England coach, recognises the shortcoming. “We are going to have to identify our next spinner, there's no doubt about that,” he said. “All sides need the option of a front-line spinner to be able to play in all conditions.”

Murray has not won a tournament since his Wimbledon victory last July, with back surgery in September proving to be the biggest interruption in his career to date. The Scot is buoyed by an impressive record on grass, and especially at the All England Club, where he has reached the final for the last two years and the semi-finals for the last five. 

Interest is predictably high as Murray prepares to become the first British man to return to the All England Club as champion since 1936, with Fred Perry and why do we always harp so far back, oh that's right because they are the facts!

Friday, 20 June 2014


I awoke this morning to find myself standing outside my house in the garden! This was particularly strange as I remember going to bed and not getting up or leaving the house, and yet there I was standing in the damp grass. I decided to return indoors only to find that the door was locked! I then realised that instead of green, the grass was grey, in fact everything was grey, I appeared to have woken up colour blind. Luckily the bathroom window was ajar and I would have been able to reach over to open the main window, except that when I looked down, the white bones of my forearm leading to the bones of my wrist and eventually the joints of four fingers and a thumb took me by surprise, I took a step back, became very cold and woke up...

I just thought I would share that with you this Friday :)

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Iraq politics

Is prime minister al-Maliki the right man for the job?

There are three main factions in Iraq:

Kurds 17%
Shias 61%
Sunnis 22%

According to the al-Maliki government there is a Sunni deputy prime minister, a Sunni head of the military and nearly half the local governors are Sunni, so they dispute the allegations of ignoring the Sunni population.

Critics blame al-Maliki and his Shia-dominated government for the worsening sectarian division in Iraq.

The US is now suggesting that they will offer stronger military action, in the form of air strikes if the current government stands down. Are they right to do this?

The al-Maliki government was voted in by the majority of the voters in the Iraq election in 2009, yet again a vision of democracy seems to be overturned by force. We in the west keep enforcing our views on the Middle East, but when they try to adopt our procedures, we do not seem to give them enough time to adapt.

Perhaps an enquiry into why an Iraqi army containing 300,000 are not willing to stand against a rebel force with less than 10,000 men should produce answers while meetings with Kurds, Shia & Sunni continue to take place so that they have a strategy to follow when the violence ends.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Hot Spots!

The Middle East and Arab states are not the only hot spot in the world. While the strife in Iraq
 spills over from Syria, trouble in Nigeria continues to escalate.

Nigeria came to our attention when 200 school girls were abducted in a single event last month.
 This came as a shock; however, the greater shock has been the Nigerian government's lack of
 response to the problem. At the beginning various conflicting reports came out, but after time it
 was clear that the Nigerian government were not in a position to do anything about the situation
 in northern Nigeria.

During this time and since on a nearly daily basis local Nigerians have died in terrorist attacks
 run by Boko Haram, yet another unknown until recently terrorist group. Like a lot of today's
 terrorists the organization seeks to establish a "pure" Islamic state ruled by sharia, putting an
 end to what it deems Westernisation. The Boko Haram leadership has international connections
 to Al-Qaeda via Al-Shabab, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa.


When a politician says "the situation in Saudi Arabia is very complex", this is a synonym for we
 sell arms to Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia supply arms to ISIS...

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


Please do not adjust your screen!

I do not currently have access to the internet and am using the local library. The equipment has been setup in a user unfriendly way and I am losing the battle of formatting currently.

Thank you for your patience in this matter. 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Where did ISIS come from?

We are aware of what is happening in Iraq at the moment because of 24 hour media, but who is ISIS?

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Shams (ISIS) is a militant terrorist group and off-shoot of al-Qaeda. 

ISIS has its origins in the insurgency against US forces in Iraq and was originally led by Abu Musaib al-Zarqawi. Known then as the Islamic State of Iraq, the group was brought to the brink of collapse by the killing of al-Zarqawi in a US airstrike in June 2006 and the intensive US counterterrorism campaign that seen US forces align with Sunni tribes. 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the current leader of the group, and used the conflict in Syria to revitalise the movement. 

The chaos in Syria allowed ISIS to hold this territory pretty securely. This isn't just a safe haven, though that matters a great deal. The war gave them a lot of access to heavy weaponry. ISIS also has a funding stream available to them because of local businesses and the oil and gas sector. Syria was a stepping stone and an important one, because of their success there, they have been able to show regional strength leading to a faster recruitment rate. This has helped them recuperate since leaving Al-Qaeda.

Right now, the Iraqi government has no answer to the ISIS threat. And a hard look at the reasons behind ISIS' rise and the causes of its current success suggest a grim future for the Iraqi government's efforts to beat back the dangerous militant group.

I am from the west, so I do not know everything about the area, the people or their beliefs, but I do believe we in the west must take some of the blame for today's situation.

Friday, 13 June 2014

DWP still...

First it was Universal Credit [UC], then it was the Disability Living Allowance [DLA], then it was Employment and Support Allowance [ESA] and now it is the Personal Independence Payment [PIP], to say that the Department of Work & Pensions is in chaos is an understatement!

New evidence has emerged of serious delays with the roll-out of the government's new PIP, after the parents of a disabled teenager told how he had been left for months without his disability benefits. They have been waiting nearly three months without any communication from Atos Healthcare, the company carrying out the PIP assessments in London and the south of England.

This is hardly surprising as Atos quits contract!

Attempts to tighten up scrutiny of disability claimants have also been thrown into chaos after the government's key provider of work capability assessments pulled out of the contract a year earlier than expected.

This week's concerns have alarmed disabled campaigners, who fear they are further signs that the entire reform process ' in which working-age disability living allowance is slowly being replaced by the new PIP ' is in trouble.

A DWP spokesman said: 'We will not comment on individual cases."

Atos has refused to comment, but its problems with both its PIP and DLA assessment work appear to be mounting.

DWP had to delay the start of the PIP reassessment process from 7 - 28 October, after the then minister for disabled people, Esther McVey, was forced by a judicial review taken by disabled people to order a new consultation on proposals to tighten the walking distance criteria for the PIP enhanced mobility rate from 50 to 20 metres. DWP was then forced to order further delays to the reassessment of many existing DLA claimants, with nearly all of the reassessments due to take place in Atos areas delayed. DWP decision-makers have also been left without expert medical advice for their more difficult DLA and attendance allowance claims, after Atos withdrew from much of the contract.

The DWP is overturning more than half of its own decisions in relation to some benefits. 

This has been revealed by Judge Robert Martin the outgoing president of the social entitlement chamber which deals with benefits tribunals. The DWP itself has yet to publish any statistics about the 'mandatory reconsideration before appeal' system introduced last year.

'Mandatory reconsideration before appeal' was introduced for personal independence payment (PIP) and universal credit (UC) from April 2013 and, for other benefits, for decisions made on or after 28 October 2013. It means that before a claimant can appeal a decision they have to ask for it to be looked at again by the DWP. Only once they receive written notification of the result of the reconsideration can they lodge an appeal, if they are unhappy with the revised decision.

The figures for reconsideration success were given by Judge Martin in the April edition of the Judicial Information Bulletin, which goes out to all tribunal members.

According to the judge, by 21st February 2014 the DWP had received 82,798 mandatory reconsideration requests and made a decision in 70% of cases, with decisions taking on average 13 days from the date they were received.

DLA decisions overturned 55.9%
ESA decisions overturned 23.0%
JSA decisions overturned 30.1%
PIP decisions overturned 13.9%
UC decisions overturned 71.1%

It is extraordinary that the DWP is overturning a massive 71% of its own decisions in relation to UC, but at least they have the excuse that it's a new benefit. But to be getting it wrong in more than half of all DLA decisions is even more astonishing.