Why You Can’t Trust the BBC News

On each page of the BBC News website there is a link to Why You Can Trust BBC News. Whilst there are more untrustworthy sources, such as the Daily Express daily warnings of blizzards and the Mail warning us about foreigners, especially that Duchess of Sussex troublemaker, the BBC is not quite as trustworthy as it would have us believe.

Take this article about Netflix. It is attempting to attack Netflix on the grounds that it declared a profit of just £2.35 million. It quotes a think tank with estimates of subscribers, revenues and profits. This think tank has an impressive team behind it, investigative journalists. But its estimates are for 2019 although the Netflix audited accounts are for 2018. The BBC, who are competitors of Netflix, appear to be deliberately misleading readers by suggesting Netflix should have paid £13 million in tax when in fact Netflix have not declared any revenues, profits or tax returns for 2019 as yet, and won’t do until October 2020. There is a Lib Dem connection too. The Director of Tax Watch, this think tank, is George Turner, formerly head of the Westminster office of the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats. Richard Brooks of Private Eye is also a Director. I would have hoped for better from that team, unless they are not party to this BBC duplicity.

Can you trust BBC News? Absolutely not. They will skew news stories to suit their agenda the same as the less reputable press.

While we’re at it, the BBC have just put up the License fee again. I won’t repeat it all again but in this post I laid down precisely why the BBC needs to be taken down a peg or ten and the licence fee abolished in favour of a subscription model.

Happy Brexmas

As the turkeys that voted for Brexmas celebrate the oven being lit, it is a good time to look hard at what Chief Turkey Farmer and Head Chef Johnson has in mind for the stuffing.

Leaving the EU didn’t have to be the end of the world. The EU had a lot wrong with it. Fisheries for example, although the UK Government were more complicit in encouraging non-British trawlers into our waters than they would want to tell you. The expansion to poorer Eastern Europe countries was a fatal mistake, draining them of their best skills and opening their markets for exploitation, whilst topping up the bank accounts of sometimes corrupt, sometimes racist, often homophobic, more often incompetent Governments. However, it had a lot of good points too with the Single Market of undoubted economic benefit to the UK. A Norway solution would have enabled us to continue to benefit from the Single Market whilst being able to develop our own trade deals elsewhere, for what that’s worth. We might also have been able to put conditions on any financial contributions.

The turkeys are cock-a-hoop at what they think are the benefits of free trade deals with the rest of the world. How misinformed they are. Free trade works when the parties involved are roughly on a par in terms of economic and industrial development. It works best for net exporters of goods and commodities. But 80% of the UK economy is services. Manufacturing, food, mining including oil, gas and coal, and so on represent just 20% now and our labour costs in those sectors are comparatively high. Free trade in goods and commodities with less developed countries with much lower labour costs will inevitably destroy what little industry remains in the UK. Take a look at the automotive industries in New Zealand and Australia to see the future of our car factories. Conversely, free trade with developed, high labour cost economies in the EU based on common standards and rules, has been very beneficial to the UK over the years. We really don’t want or need free trade with China, India, and Brazil. We really do need access to the EU for our services sector. We have a major balance of payments surplus with the EU in services and, in their own economic interests, I have no doubt that the EU plans to restrict UK access in that area.

Trump is the result of ill-considered free trade that has destroyed a huge amount of US industrial production. Make no mistake, Trump’s trade wars are very popular domestically and may yet see him re-elected despite everything else.

So right now we have a belligerent Chief Turkey Farmer and Head Chef declaring that the UK will not be tied to any EU rules. When it comes to services though, they are the customer and the customer is always right or they go somewhere else. When it comes to our exports of goods again, they are the customers and set the rules. We can, or course, set our own rules when we are the buyers but we don’t exactly have the capacity to replace EU imports with domestic production. Either way we have a very weak hand when it comes to negotiation with a trading bloc seven times our size. It is utter madness.

I fear it is necessary for Brexiteers to dip their toes into the pain that will be life outside the EU/EEA. Nothing other than the reality of a decimated economy will change their minds. For some, trapped in a fantasy where the British Empire is still there, just waiting for us to rejoin, nothing at all will alter their view.

In the meantime, despite his rantings, Farage’s joy is likely to be relatively short-lived. Leavers are predominantly older and Remainers predominantly younger, 80% of the 18-24 group. To put it bluntly, Brexiteers are a dying breed. Remainers will, in time, have enough political clout to reverse Brexit. I give it 10 years unless the turkey farmers realise that the Norway/EEA route is actually the best compromise. I will be in Trafalgar Square celebrating Brentry. But the EU also need to learn some lessons to prevent other nations following the UK out. It needs reform of fisheries and agriculture, to focus on people first, and to stand up against the “democratic backsliding” in Poland and Hungary. It needs to recognise that free movement of people works only where the push/pull factors do not result in mass migrations of skilled and educated citizens, causing major problems at both ends – Romania and the UK for example. These problems need real solutions.

Harry and Meghan

Fleet Street needs to watch itself. As the press spews vitriol at the royal couple, they should have been paying attention to the carefully balanced Question Time audience last night when not one single person thought Harry and Meghan were making a mistake. Dan Wootton in the Sun is probably the worst offender. He, and his despicable ilk, are the cause of Harry and Meghan leaving public life, and the UK, behind. The constant sniping, made-up stories, gossip. How much bile do people have to take.

Harry and Meghan are people with a right to live their lives their own way, so long that is, that they are not still dipping into the public purse. They are not possessions of the Queen and Buckingham Palace establishment. They are not possessions of the tittle tattle press. They are not the possessions of the British people, although we might be deemed employers to some extent and have some little entitlement in exchange for the money. Nevertheless, as human beings in a free society they are fully entitled to say no thanks, we resign, we’re off to live in Canada. See you at Christmas. They don’t have to ask Dad’s permission or Grandma’s either, let alone older brother’s.

I’m a republican, I am against the monarchy. But actually this pair have been a breath of fresh air, diverse, modern, able to express feelings, emotions, and admit to weaknesses such as mental health issues. If they stayed inside the firm then eventually their will and spirit would be broken by the sad old bastards that run the sad old Establishment. It might break them up but as a bare minimum it would put incredible strain on their marriage and family life. They would remain fodder for the trolls that inhabit editorial seats

I hope that this move allows the Queen and Prince Charles, Chair and CEO respectively of the Firm, to think clearly, get rid of the sad old bastards who cling to patronage like dog shit to the sole of your shoe, and build a new relationship with the press where respect for the right to a personal life is at the forefront (or no access). Some “sources” are suggesting William is incandescent with rage – probably true as his wingman has buggered off and left him to deal with all the crazies on his own.

Mark Steel in the Independent is so much more eloquent than I. Please, please, please read his article. Sample: “Certain newspapers seem extremely angry about the couple’s decision. Because they’ve spent the last two years publishing huge headlines saying, “Meghan should piss off, just piss right off, go on – PISS OFF”. So it’s understandable their front page now says, “How DARE Meghan piss off, when it’s her royal duty to stay here so we can tell her to piss off?”

Despite my anti-Royalist tendencies I do hope that Harry and Meghan will find a peace and happiness in Canada that the British press want to deny them, that they will continue their charitable works, and maybe one day will re-enter public life once the festering low-lifes that inhabit the corridors of Buckingham Palace have been pensioned off and replaced by people aware we are decades into the 21st Century. Assuming that is that Her Majesty and Son have the backbones to carry out a spring clean.

While we’re at it, there was an interesting article in the Express a few days ago. The Express, the “newspaper” that is never afraid to make up a story in substitution for actual journalism. On 3rd January they published “Queen ‘to bypass Prince Charles to naturally pass on Crown to Duke of Cambridge‘”. And their source for this bombshell information… was it a member of the close family, a constitutional expert, a royal correspondent? No it was Sherrie Hewson, Maureen Webster of Coronation Street, Carol in Carry on Behind, the hapless hotel manager in Benidorm and a panelist for Loose Women. So a credible source for such a momentous revelation then. This is, sadly, what the Express has become.

If we were actually a democracy, and elected our own head of state, and our choices were Liz, Charles, Anne, Andrew, Edward, even Wills, and Harry, who do you think would win hands down on the first ballot? Harry of course, because more than any of them he relates to the man and woman in the street – he understands them, they understand him. He’s normal (as normal as you can get in that family of disfunctional dingbats). Good luck to you son.

I’ll end with another Mark Steel quote, only because I love his writing: “Tomorrow there will be a debate on Newsnight between the royal correspondent of The Times, who insists the couple are a “rancid, stinking, steaming pile of fox mess”, and David Starkey, who will retort “No! It is imperative we stick with tradition and call them ‘mouldy piss-stained moth-eaten corgi-droppings who, in the 13th century would have been covered with marmalade and dangled upside-down for a year in a wasps’ nest’, but apparently we can’t do that now because of ghastly political correctness.”

Allocating Blame

As we take time to absorb the prospect of a 5 year far right Tory administration with a hefty majority capable of inflicting massive pain on the ordinary citizen whilst asset stripping remaining public property to assist in the re-election of Trump, it would be good to allocate blame.

Firstly to David Cameron for being stupid enough to call the EU Referendum, expecting an easy win but managing, in the process, to create such deep societal divisions that they will take decades to heal, and possibly not in my lifetime.

Secondly to Theresa May for being stupid enough to call a General Election thinking she could increase her majority and in fact losing it, forcing her to do a deal with the DUP Devil and her own right wingers. For being stubborn enough and putting herself above the national interest in not forming a national convention to agree a consensus path to EU Exit, instead setting red lines that precluded all hope of that consensus.

Third to Jeremy Corbyn for credibility-destroying fence sitting over a second confirmatory referendum and for not agreeing to a temporary Ken Clarke / Harriet Harman administration to deliver a second referendum. For stupidly agreeing to a General Election when it wasn’t necessary.

Fourth to Jo Swinson for also stupidly agreeing to that General Election, thinking naively that the Brexit Party would deliver the Lib Dems dozens more seats only to see that rug pulled away. And for stubbornly refusing to allow Corbyn to be a temporary PM to take over from Johnson when he was on the ropes and about to be knocked out.

Fifth to Nick Clegg for agreeing to that ridiculous PR Referendum that wasn’t PR and so enshrining FPTP that allows parties with a minority of the vote to get a significant majority of seats. Should have been top up seats like the other assemblies and parliaments. Tried, trusted, clearly works.

Sixth, to all the non-Tory/Brexit candidates that fought each other to allow Tory candidates through. Well done for that. Anti-Brexit parties actually got a majority of the vote but a significant minority of seats due to lack of collaboration.

Do I blame Johnson or Farage. Absolutely not. They are opportunists that recognised exactly how to destroy their opponents and win the seats even when not winning the popular vote. Everyone else played straight into their lying conniving hands. I could blame those who believed the lies but if we’re honest most people were not that stupid and knew they were being lied to – they just preferred those liars to the other ones. But I will blame, seventh, Labour party members who elected Corbyn as their leader twice, when a centrist Labour leader would have wiped the floor with Johnson and Co.

A New Way to Lead the Lib Dems

I’m afraid that my own less than favourable opinions of Jo Swinson were shared by the wider electorate at the December polls, and her own local electorate it seems. Jo was a fine MP, would have made a fairly good middle-ranking minister but was never Prime Minister material, and she should not have invited ridicule by suggesting she was. As a leader she was not inspirational, aspirational, or charismatic. Lightweight with a gender-related chip on her shoulder, calling out sexism where it did not exist was very irritating, preparing the excuses before the failure. Sturgeon didn’t have that problem. Clearly the burden of leadership caused her to spend less time on campaigning for her own seat than she needed to.

A major issue with Lib Dem leaders is that they need to be selected from a quite narrow pool of less than inspirational MPs. Davey was not my choice for leader last time and he won’t be my choice next time either. The Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru, and DUP do not feel the need to elect their leaders from members of the Westminster Parliament, and it hasn’t done the SNP any harm at all. So next time around we must not limit ourselves.

We need a charismatic leader, one that can carry arguments in big debates. We need a leader who has the time to lead without the shackles of constituency or Parliamentary duties. We need a media-friendly leader with new ideas, one not encumbered with a Coalition legacy. The next Paddy Ashdown / Charlie Kennedy. I guess I’m making the case for Chuka Umunna. But it need not be him. Just someone like him that can latch onto centre ground Labour supporters who are currently disenfranchised.

In Parliament our MPs should select their own leader, the one they feel most able to get behind, and who would automatically become Deputy Leader of the party overall. I think you could make a case for Daisy Cooper but I don’t think it is for the members to choose.

BBC License Reform

I’ve just received an email from change.org asking me to sign a petition to stop the Government decriminalising the non-payment of the TV License Fee. Clearly they don’t know me.

If I don’t pay my Netflix do they try and give me a criminal record? No, they cut me off. Same with Sky, my water, phone, electricity, gas, broadband and other service providers. They may take civil action to recover outstanding debts but they can’t make me a criminal, take away my livelihood, even jail me. The only other service you can use and be criminalised for not paying is using public transport without a ticket – that is treated effectively as deliberate theft and you always have a choice not to board a bus or train.

If you want to consume a rival competitor service, e.g. ITV, you need to pay the BBC for the priviledge. If you refuse you will be fined. If you refuse to pay the fine, eventually you will be imprisoned. I don’t pay Tesco to use Morrisons, so why should I pay the BBC to use Sky. Criminalisation of non-payment of the license fee is immoral and unjustifiable.

But let’s look at what you get for your license fee. The BBC is huge. It is the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees, 22,000 of them, 35,000 of them when you include part time and contractor staff. BBC News is the largest broadcast news gathering operation in the world. The BBC operates 8 national TV stations, 2 regional language TV stations, 10 national radio stations, 6 sub-national radio stations, and a network of 40 local radio stations. It has one of the largest and most comprehensive online news websites in the world, 5 staff orchestras, a professional choir, Then it has 13 commercial TV stations operating worldwide, 7 national commercial TV stations in the UK via 100% ownership (since April 2019) of UKTV (Dave, Alibi, Gold, etc.). It has a 10% stake in the new BritBox subscription service. It has, over the years grown into a vast media empire, and it has grown this large on the back of a guaranteed income stream enforced by criminal sanctions if you do not contribute.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for high quality online and broadcast news content independent of Government and independent sponsors. There is a place for commercial free entertainment. There is a place for national radio stations. There is a place for content that could not be sustained by commercial value. But those places do not have to involve becoming a vast media conglomerate funded by force.

So, I would like to see the Government carry out a full-scale review of the BBC with a remit to preserve independence and integrity but with everything else up for grabs. I would cut out BBC3 and BBC4 TV channels and merge CBBC and CBeebies. I would cut back the national radio stations to 4 (Radio 3 content is duplicated largely by commercial operations), and sell off the local radio network to commercial interests. BBC News (online and broadcast), Current Affairs, niche and minority language programming, and radio to be paid for via a fund to be set without political interference. Personally I think the rest should be funded via a subscription of no more than £10 a month. No license fee, no criminal sanctions, the choice not to use BBC services so they don’t have to fund pensioners’ viewing.

I won’t be signing that petition. The reverse – I’d like the Government to take an immediate decision to decriminalise non-payment of the license fee and make it a civil debt until wider reform can take place.

I want to move to Scotland. I want to vote SNP.

My General Election is officially over. My vote has been cast and posted. Lib Dem it had to be in the end. All I have to do now is sit back and await whichever nightmare scenario comes to pass. Johnson’s extreme right bull in a china shop approach, Trump-lite. Or Corbyn’s Venezuela-modelled economy. Or yet another hung Parliament where no-one makes any decisions.

One thing is for sure, everyone is thoroughly sick of Brexit. Johnson can’t get it “done” because even with a majority and exit at the end of January, that is only the start of a decade long haul to negotiate separate agreements with the entire world, sort out major policy shifts, e.g. to fishing and agriculture, and replace 50 years of mostly good regulations that mostly protect consumers. You’ve heard Farage declare his support for chlorinated chicken despite the reasons for chlorination being appalling US animal health standards.

I suspect I am not alone in being thoroughly sick of constant, continual lying by politicians of all parties. I need to stop yelling at the inanimate object in the corner of my living room that shows a non-stop parade of self-serving political agents spouting their version of the latest wheeze. New hospitals and nurses that aren’t really new, more police that just bring us back to the beginning of the Tory administration. Nationalisations for free. Superfast broadband for free just when 5G is about to take over. Borders down the Irish Sea that appear and disappear on a daily basis.

I want to move to Scotland. I want to vote SNP. I want a second Scottish Independence Referendum. I want to vote for Independence. I want to build a new Hadrian’s Wall and I want the Mexicans to pay for it. I want to be on the other side of that wall from Corbyn and Johnson.

Johnson Chunterings

It was pretty despicable of Boris Johnson to start blaming Labour for the release of Usman Khan when he clearly still posed a danger to society. Usman was sentenced in 2012 to Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). He would serve at least eight years but could not be released unless he had convinced the Parole Board he was no longer a threat. The Conservatives (and Lib Dems) were in Government at that time, and months later IPPs were abolished. On appeal, Khan’s sentence was reviewed and he would serve 8 years before receiving automatic parole subject to license conditions.

The fault lies in the sentencing rules in force in 2012. It does not matter under whose Government those rules were devised. Labour had been out of power for 2 years at that point and there was plenty of time for Tories and their Lib Dem partners to review the rules and update them. We know they did actually did this because IPPs were abolished. That review failed completely to deal with the impact on prisoners such as Usman Khan. Seven years on and innocent citizens paid the price for this error. The error was 100% the fault of the Government at the time of sentencing and in the seven years since when they did nothing to mitigate for the risks. It would be nice if Tom McNally owned up to the Lib Dem culpability to set an example of how politicians should act when events prove them lacking. I’d have more respect for that stance and I think most people realise hindsight is a wonderful thing and it would have been impossible to predict what would happen in 2019 back in 2012. An apology is all that is really needed, nothing more.

It was notable that Johnson did seem to try and distance his Government of 120 days from the Cameron and May administrations in order to try and wriggle out of having to accept even a modicum of responsibility but the bottom line is Conservatives, the party he leads, have been in charge of the Justice, Prisons, and Probation services for nearly 10 years.

Next to the appalling event on London Bridge on Friday, it seems trivial, but Johnson and his cronies seem determined to try and claim that they are creating 50,000 new nursing jobs, when they are actually retaining 19,000 due to be cut and adding 31,000. Same as police – recruiting 20,000 new police officers having already cut 20,000. Net result, zero. The maths involved is worthy of Diane Abbott on a bad blood sugar day.

I’m struggling to work out how, given every conceivable version of EU Exit carries a hit on the economy, all Johnson’s spending plans are dependent on getting brexit done. Magic Money Forests I guess.

In the meantime, the Daily Express (is that still going?) reports that “BBC viewers turn TV off as Andrew Marr ‘loses temper’ in interview with Boris Johnson”. This seems to be based on a number of Johnson’s cronies going onto Twitter and ranting that their Glorious Leader had been prevented by Andrew Marr from deflecting every question asked and rambling off onto a different subject, usually guesswork on what Corbyn would do. Marr, rightly, wanted to hear what Johnson would do on all the issues. This does seem to be a Tory tactic to avoid the awkward questions – tell the questioner what the opposition would do about something completely different followed by “get brexit done” to cure all ills. Corbyn is perfectly capable of burying himself and doesn’t need Johnson’s help with that. Back to the Express, I guess technically if two Johnson-supporting viewers switched off the headline is truthful. Putting “loses temper” in inverted commas means even the Express doesn’t think Marr lost his temper and they were just quoting. It’s good to know that fake news is alive and well in the UK and the Express are leading in that particular skill set. The Express now has a readership of 320,000, down from their high of 4,320,000 when they were a real newspaper. Is it any wonder?

Corbyn Annihilation

As Theresa May had her turning point in 2017 when her campaign came off the rails over social care, so I witnessed yesterday the most comprehensive annihilation of a political leader ever when Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed by Andrew Neil. It has to be a major impact on his credibility amongst those watching directly or even just viewing clips or reading press reports. My mind had been changing over the last week or two on my tactical voting plans, and that interview was the final straw. I will be voting Lib Dem after all and nothing right now could convince me to add my X to a Corbynite Labour candidate regardless of the risks.

The headlines are mostly concerned with Corbyn’s inexplicable failure to apologise for past anti-semitism in the Labour Party. That simple act might have closed down that entire line of questioning but he chose not to.

However, his inability to grasp that bonds are debts subject to interest was appalling. Technically if I buy a house on a mortgage then I have a debt and an asset that hopefully becomes worth more than the debt. They cancel each other out. However, that relies on the house value not going down and me keeping up the repayments. Buying train operating companies and Royal Mail are major risks, not dead cert profit makers with a guaranteed future value. Most of the energy companies make only very small profits and some make losses – hence many many failures in that market.

And then let’s move to Labour’s tax-raising plans. As Neil proved, those plans don’t just involve the most wealthy, even if they stay and pay, but will put up taxes for those on low incomes too, those claiming the married person’s allowance, those reliant on dividend income. He will put up taxes on small companies and on online sales, mostly small businesses run from spare rooms. Anyone who might inherit their family home in London and the South East will be paying up to £60,000 more in inheritance tax. Labour is targetting everyone . The policies disincentivise small business, entrepreneurs, high earners, and homeowners.

Overall, when you add together the failure to properly tackle anti-semitism, ridiculous nationalisations, and the intention to attack small businesses, entrepreneurs and pensioners reliant on modest dividend incomes, it is clear that a vote for Labour is a vote for economic collapse far in excess of what the Tories can achieve with their Brexit plans. Corbyn will turn us towards the Venezuela economic model. In the meantime, Labour moderates are letting Corbyn get away with this, presumably hoping a drubbing in the election will bury him and Momentum forever. It’s a dangerous tactic.

I only hope Mr Neil does the same hatchet job on Johnson, although I am resigned now, I think, to leaving the EU being the only way of lancing the boil and making the case for rejoining quickly, maybe not completely but along Norway lines. Johnson has to fail spectacularly in his Brexit to close the argument down for all time. Nevertheless, the way the polls are working at present, as Labour drops, the Lib Dems rise so a steep Labour decline at this point will only help us. Maybe Jo Swinson won’t be PM but she has a much better chance after last night of perhaps making major advances in Parliamentary numbers. The Lib Dems might be able to stop Labour extremism if Labour end up as the largest party.

EdX: Free University Education

I was lucky enough to go to University in the days where not only was tuition free but students got grants for living expenses (mainly beer and chips). Later in life my then employer paid for me to do an Open University Professional Certificate in Management. Today I’m doing courses at a variety of top Universities from around the world via EdX. These courses are completely free of charge. You can pay for verification and certificates if you want at nominal cost but if it is the learning you are after it won’t cost a penny. Currently I have courses at Berkeley and University of Washington on the go. This is all done via online videos and other course materials. Courses delivered to thousands of students globally at the same time, paid for by the verification fees from a relatively small number of those.

Whilst Oxford University has a single course available, no other British University seems represented, yet US and Australian institutions are enthusiastic participants. It strikes me that we, as a country, are way behind the curve here. It is disappointing.

Is the purpose of University education to educate the people, especially the workforce? Countries that invest in education reap the rewards in terms of productivity many times over. Or is it to maximise the fee income of universities? Like retail moving more and more online and high streets changing beyond recognition forever, so education at this level will start to move the same way. No longer will students be restricted by geography but, for many subjects that don’t require physical attendance, they can choose from any university in any country.

Here is my suggestion for a Lib Dem education policy. Within 2 years every publicly funded UK university should have at least one free course available on the EdX platform – centrally coordinated by the Open University to avoid too much duplication of content. The cost would be relatively low and perhaps self-funding via the verification fees, the benefits significant, and because the EdX platform is global, it helps sell the UK as a major centre of learning, up with if not ahead of the game. In case anyone is tempted by the suggestion, no, we should not set up our own platform. Why reinvent wheels and a major plank of the EdX approach is that it is a truly global collaboration not under the control of one country. Whilst our Government shouldn’t control the platform, it can oblige participation.

This ties in with current policy to give everyone a Personal Education and Skills Account to help them pay for education and training in later life – at least £3,000 three times over the course of their adult life, from age 25. That £3,000 times three would go an awful long way in validation and certification fees using EdX.

In the meantime I would encourage all to look at what is available from current EdX partners and take advantage of some of the best free education in the world.

Lib Dems Promise to Add £85 Billion of National Debt

That and £15 billion in extra taxes. £100 billion over 5 years to tackle the effects of climate change and protecting the environment. That’s an extra £1300 in national debt for every man, woman, and child in the UK. Tackling climate change is a laudable policy. Bankrupting the country and indebting future generations in a futile attempt to reverse it is anything but laudable. It is reckless.

The UK cannot, on its own, influence climate change. We can prepare, we can lead, we can mitigate within our borders, we can’t stop it as we don’t control the globe. There is plenty that can be done for a fraction of that money. You can spend £1 billion on reversing deforestation of the Amazon. You can change building regulations to make all future buildings zero carbon. You can invest in renewable energy technology and electric vehicle development – affordable conversion kits for all cars, vans and trucks. You can cancel HS2 and spend the cash on local public transport improvements. You can put VAT on meat to cut demand for farting cows. I could go on and on. But it doesn’t add up to £100 billion over 5 years.

This borrow and spent recklessness, wiping out every single benefit of debt reduction austerity we’ve been suffering for 10 years, makes it very difficult for me. I couldn’t stand on a doorstep and try and explain this degree of irresponsibility to a potential voter. It is almost as if we have returned to the days of making up fantasy policies justified by the knowledge that we’d never get anywhere near having the power to implement them. We can promise fairy dust powered flying carpets to solve congestion problems to get a few votes. But this is serious. We could, like in 2010, actually hold the balance of power and be held to account for failing to implement absolutely crackpot ideas. And in 2015 we were severely punished for that kind of failure.

I despair, I really do.

Added: 17/11/2019

I have received a response to the above post. It reads:

You don’t seem to understand what the National Debt is. The Government is essentially a huge bank. On the one hand it creates the currency by spending money into the economy. On the other it takes in savings in that currency and in the process creates a so-called National Debt. So if you buy £100 of Premium bonds you are adding to the National Debt.

So its not something our children and grandchildren would ever pay off. It is their asset.

The government spends money into the economy and gets some of it back in taxes. But it can’t get back more than it has created in the first place. The difference is the deficit. That’s quite normal.

If the Government always ran a surplus then it would, in theory pay off the National Debt after a time. But a surplus takes money out of the economy. When it paid of the ND there would be none left and we would be reduced to a barter economy.

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to respond; it is appreciated. I’m not an economist, but there again neither are 99.99% of ordinary voters. So I make no apologies if I have used incorrect terminology. If you borrow £85 billion through bonds then you create a debt of £85 billion that someone someday will need to pay back. Comparing a Government with a bank doesn’t work in my opinion. This Lib Dem proposal involves borrowing £85 billion. In the absence of information to the contrary this will involve lenders – individuals, countries, banks, institutions. The asset belongs to the lenders, not to the nation. It will need to be paid back by the debtors, the nation. It is a national debt even if it isn’t The National Debt. If I am misrepresenting how £85 billion will be found to fund this policy then the fault lies with how the policy is communicated because I suspect 99.99% of voters interpret the announcement in exactly the same way as I have. If it’s too complicated to explain to 99.99% of voters then drop it because others will tell them what it means and you won’t like their explanation.

Corbyn is also using the same cost neutral argument to explain how mass nationalisation costs nothing. If I take out a loan to buy a house for £200,000 on a 100% mortgage (they did exist once), technically I have a debt for £200,000 and an asset worth £200,000. But the asset is only mine when I’ve paid off the debt. Until then the asset really belongs to the lender. And the lender will want interest so I will actually pay £400,000 for my house. If I don’t look after the house and spend more money on maintenance and repairs it might lose value so maybe I pay £400,000 for a house that then gets sold for £100,000 or falls down and it costs me more money to clear the rubble. You could also argue that since I could make do with a £100,000 flat (I do live in the North), I’ve borrowed and spent £100,000 plus interest and maintenance more than I actually needed to. I’ve gone short on essentials and worked longer hours to make those repayments when it wasn’t actually necessary. The idea that you can buy things through borrowing and it costs nothing is absolute nonsense, arguments to fool the fools. That applies to Corbyn and also to Lib Dem excesses.

I would also add that if I borrow £10,000 to plant 5,000 trees with no intention of harvesting them ever for their wood, it isn’t a realisable asset and I haven’t increased the land value. It’s just nice to look at and good for carbon capture. I don’t mind any Government promising to borrow and spend £500,000,000 to plant 250,000,000 trees, great. Just don’t pretend it won’t really cost anything.

Labour: Free Steak Bakes for All

I shouldn’t watch Question Time. I always end up yelling at idiot politicians spouting nonsense and/or not answering the questions asked. Tonight the victim of my rant was Alex Phillips of the Brexit Party (not the Green Party MEP of the same name) as she attempted to address a question on the NHS. The Brexit Party doesn’t appear to have a Health Policy or any other policy other than Brexit and they can’t make their own minds up about what that is it seems.

That aside, Labour today pledged free broadband for everyone. Yesterday it was a 4 day working week whilst being paid for 5. Tomorrow, I am assured, it will be a free Steak Bake and Cup Cake for everyone, paid for by nationalising Greggs. I’m sure that a future Labour Government will find a place for Nicolás Maduro as an economic advisor should the people of Venezuela ever achieve democracy. And yet I might vote (tactically) for them. And the reason is that 75% of Labour MPs are not far left loonies and will act as a brake on their “leadership”.

And then we come to the Tories. Under their stewardship hospital waiting times in England are the worst since records began. It is an incredibly damning position for any Government to find itself in, especially during an election campaign. People are literally dying and it is Government policy to blame. Brexit, discouraging medics from other EU states from coming here, makes matters worse. But I don’t see the Opposition capitalising on this breathtakingly incompetent performance as they should be.

Instead Labour’s 32 hour week policy, and confusion about what that really means, would also do immense harm to NHS productivity. Welsh Labour and the SNP are not doing great things themselves on their devolved NHS performance. Which leaves the Lib Dems. Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Luciana Berger said the Tories had a “shameful” record according to the BBC. Berger is our Health spokesperson? When did that happen? She only defected in September. However, 1p on income tax to pay for additional spending is at least honest and quite easy to understand.

To my mind it is a complete mess. I don’t trust the Tories with the NHS. Their semi-privatisation and internal market have clearly failed. Labour has confused thinking – a 16% fall in hours = a 16% fall in productivity, basic maths. The Lib Dems at least have an honest funding approach but I have no real confidence that someone who served most of her political life as a Labour MP is now a true Liberal Democrat.

On health alone, hard Brexit aside, my vote is… drum roll… spoilt ballot. A pox on all your houses. But if I had to choose, at gunpoint, it would be the Lib Dem approach as long as Berger is closely shadowed by someone with more than 2 months of party membership. But here’s a suggestion… stop reforming the NHS every couple of years; give it some stability and consistency. I know it is so tempting for a politician to tinker but don’t, just don’t. Leave it alone and let the professionals run it at arm’s length from the politicians.

Time Up Labour

Labour’s 32 hour week proposal is amongst their most dangerous policies. Currently full-time employees work on average 37.3 hours a week. This proposal would reduce productivity by over 16%. The economists can grind that number to determine the reduction in GDP and profitability but I think we can guarantee that it won’t be a positive outcome.

The proposal will also create significant gaps in essential services – healthcare, policing, fire fighting. It is hard enough right now to access healthcare due to staff and skills shortages, let alone if their hours are cut.

The Labour suggestion is that this change would be phased in over 10 years. That isn’t really a consolation other than giving big businesses a fairly long lead time to pack their bags and leave the UK for more sensible, more productive, and more profitable locations. They haven’t got far to go – Ireland is close by.

The country could not afford to pay pensions at 60/65 and it is now rising to 67, an additional 11,500 hours for women, 3,300 for men. For younger workers retiring at 68, add a further 1,600 hours to that. So we all have to work longer to pay for our retirement. It’s a policy backed by all the main parties. McDonnell is now saying we can take off 10,000 hours by working 4 day weeks throughout our working life. What was the point of that? He can’t add up, clearly, and that’s pretty dangerous for a Chancellor.

There is an interesting article on Lib Dem Voice at the moment where Eddie Sammon makes a case in favour by using voluntary tax breaks for employers. It’s a better approach but some of the comments are not quite as supportive. I particularly chime with what has it got to do with the Government what hours I work. Preventing exploitation is the Government’s job so progressively reducing the maximum working week from 48 to 45 hours, and including all NHS workers, is a good idea. For environmental reasons, working your average 37.3 hours over 4 days instead of 5 makes sense and a lot of people already do that. Neither require a 16% reduction on the average working week.

If I may quote Eddie’s final line: “I still believe that GDP growth is desirable, but as Jacinda Ardern and Jo Swinson have said, a country’s prosperity cannot be judged on economic growth figures alone.” I completely agree with the latter sentiment although I am not convinced GDP growth is that desirable in a stable and wealthy economy as it sucks up natural resources in creating ever more growth. What we should be looking at is distributing GDP somewhat fairer than we currently do.

Tory Brexit Failures

I’m sick of Tory politicians blaming others for their abject failure to deliver Brexit. It is true that most Labour and Tory MPs signed up to Article 50 and stood on manifestos committing them to respect the results of the 2016 Referendum. However, bearing in mind that Brexit is not a binary issue, Labour did not commit to supporting a Tory interpretation of Leave into which they had zero input.

Had Theresa May been a collaborative leader, keen to find a consensus, we would now be in Transition, outside the EU, and negotiating trade deals everywhere. But she chose to design her own Withdrawal Agreement and blueprint for the future, adding red lines that no-one confirmed in a public vote. She reluctantly, at a very late date, decided to have talks with Labour but refused to budge on anything of significance – phoney talks for appearance sakes.

The sensible approach would have been an all-party constitutional convention to work through all the options and come up with a proposal that could be supported by an overwhelming majority of MPs, accepting that to Lib Dems, the SNP, and some others, any form of Leave would be unsupportable; nothing you can do about that. The Tories were not sensible though. They have tried to force through a hardcore Brexit that did not have a popular or parliamentary mandate and, thanks to Speaker Bercow, didn’t get away with it. Now they are keen to blame others for failing to back their narrow and dangerous extremism, including the latest Johnson wheeze to put a Customs border down the Irish Sea.

All Opposition candidates have a duty to counter these Tory excuses and point out their lack of collaboration and consultation with a broad spectrum of viewpoints is a direct cause of their failure to deliver a Brexit that a majority of people and MPs could support. They are the authors of their own misfortune and you cannot trust them any longer.

Cummings and Goings

I kind of stopped posting for a while as most things I wanted to say were quickly overtaken by events. I didn’t expect Johnson to comply with the Benn Act even though he sent the letter, unsigned. I didn’t expect a Conservative and Unionist Party deal that put a Customs border down the Irish Sea. I didn’t expect Labour to go along with a General Election when sitting 16 points behind in some polls. I didn’t expect my local Independent MP to say he was going to stand again but then I definitely hadn’t expected him, as a former Labour Remainer, to be trooping through division after division with the Tories. Few of my thoughts on how things would pan out have been accurate and I suspect that I am far from alone in that. All this is the work of weasel Cummings, puppeteer. Even at this point I confess I have zero idea what his game plan might be. One thing is for sure though, he is still trying to pull all of our collective strings. Even if Labour storm to victory something in the back of my mind would tell me it was part of a Cummings strategy for World domination starting in 2024.

I will, at this point make a couple more predictions. I predict our own leader won’t be PM on December 13th. I predict Johnson will retain his own seat. I hope these predictions are as accurate as my previous ones. Beyond that I couldn’t even begin to guess what the weeks ahead will bring.

There are some politicians I will be sad to see go. Amber Rudd, for a Tory, was actually a pretty good Home Secretary, and although I did question her integrity when she joined the Johnson Cabinet, she eventually did the right thing. Ken Clarke, probably the only Tory who I would have voted for as PM. A man of principle and honour, and a bloody good Chancellor. Speaker Bercow. Hours of entertainment who stood up for Parliament against a dictatorial minority extremist Executive. Joe Johnson, the decent brother. Those were all Tories but the good ones (they do – or did – exist). Then there is Vince Cable, whose biggest mistake was, I think, not to stand for Leader when he was in his prime. He would have been a better Deputy PM than Clegg and maybe we would still be on 50+ seats. But he has brought us back from oblivion. On the Labour side I don’t recognise many of the names of retirees. But on both sides I do see an significant number of women MPs bowing out due to the vitriol and hate that is routinely dispensed to MPs in general and women MPs in particular. I hope they are replaced and some decide to return at a later date when times have changed.

And so to the Election and who to vote for. I reside in Bury South, with Ivan Lewis as my local MP. In 1997 I was involved in the Labour campaign. Indirectly I helped Lewis to his first victory. By 2010 Labour was a shambles led by probably the worst PM in my lifetime, Gordon Brown, and I had returned to the Lib Dem fold. I was none too impressed with Lewis’ expenses tally either. In 2017 I voted tactically and Lewis was once again elected. However, Lewis eventually fell foul of sexual harrassment allegations, was suspended and, eventually, resigned from Labour, mentioning anti-semitism as a cause. I think I might have given him the benefit of the doubt with unproven allegations and a desire not to vote Labour or Tory. Lib Dem voting here is a bit pointless, barely scraping into 4 figures in 2017. Lewis has been acknowledged by Tory councillors and Lib Dem candidates of my aquaintance as a very good consituency MP too. But then for quite a few weeks now he has completely dumped his previous positions and started trooping through the lobbies with Johnson and Co. Was he considering crossing the floor, getting the Tory nomination for Bury South? It certainly looked that way. Lewis does change political horses more frequently than some people change their underwear, so it wouldn’t have surprised me. Opportunist some might say. If I had wanted an MP to vote with the Tories I would have voted for a Tory. Anyway he is standing as an Independent and I now have to work out tactics to defeat both Tory and Independent. I don’t want to put a vote in Corbyn’s bag but it might have to end up that way.

So he doesn’t want to go, and right now I won’t be sad to see him go, but Ivan Lewis has done great work for Bury South in the past according to his political opponents. I wish him all the best but not as my MP. Bye Ivan.

Change The Tune

I normally wake to Radio 5 Live news each morning. The volume is set to maximum to ensure a response. Imagine my surprise earlier this week when I awoke to a rather good, very loud, rendition of the Russian National Anthem. All was explained a while later when it was clear that normal programming had been replaced by a Rugby World Cup match between Russia and Scotland. Thankfully Scotland won 61-0.

Russia may be crap at rugby, and drug-cheating baa-lambs at most other sports. But you can’t deny the brilliance of their National Anthem. Some versions give me goosebumps. I’m not keen on Scotland’s Anthem really but it is infinitely better than the official UK National Anthem.

I’ll be upfront about it: I haven’t listened to every country’s National Anthem and objectively ranked them. But if they’ve won a gold medal at an Olympics I’ve probably heard their song. And I’ve taken some hints from sad people who have listened to the lot. With the possible exception of Liechtenstein, I’ve come to the conclusion our God Save The Queen is the worst of the lot. It’s not even about the UK; it’s a toast to an undemocratic birthright leader that once contained a line about an Irishman crushing rebellious Scots. The music is a tedious dirge better suited to a funeral. I would hazard a guess that half the population could not recite the first verse correctly, and 99% could not tell you the content of any other verse, assuming they knew there were other verses. I’d struggle myself on the first verse and have instantly forgotten any hint of those other verses even though I researched them for this post 5 minutes ago. It is the most forgettable anthem as well as the worst. I know no-one that is proud of and loves either words or tune. I don’t recall once in over 50 years when I’ve had the least desire to stand and sing it but am very envious of foreigners with a song to get passionate about. It has to go, relegated to Royal Anthem as it has been elsewhere in the world. At least Liechtenstein’s anthem is about the country.

My Top 10:

  1. Russia. Stirring. Goosebumps, suits huge youth choirs.
  2. France. Don’t know the translation but the music tells me a story.
  3. New Zealand. Simple and sweet with some odd lyrics that don’t always fit the music. Sing it around a campfire accompanied by a guitar.
  4. Australia. An optimistic young and free modern anthem that grows on you.
  5. South Africa. Symbolic of the demise of apartheid.
  6. Wales. Beautiful. The best version was the old HTV Wales closedown music.
  7. Italy. Bonkers intro but worthy of the home of great opera. Fantastic finale.
  8. Chile. A cross between a circus parade and beer hall drinking song.
  9. Ireland (Ireland’s Call). Symbolic foot tapper played when the united Irish rugby team take to the field. Quite like the Irish Republic’s tune too
  10. Senegal. Reminiscent of a 1950’s film score. No idea how you sing to it.

So what do we replace the dirge with? Jerusalem is for the English only, and we should have our own for when we compete in sports events as England. For the UK it has to be Land of Hope and Glory. I can see a time when we’re all proudly belting that one out in a way we can never do with the royal toast song. But let’s not do a Referendum and split the country 48%-52% between Land of Hope and Glory and the Birdie McBirdface Song.

Trump’s Kurdish Betrayal

During his Presidency, Donald Trump has said the most deplorable things, behaved in an unforgivable way, on so many occasions it has become commonplace, normalised. When you see a medical definition of psychopath, Trump meets every symptom. But everything to date pales into insignificance compared to his betrayal of brave Kurdish fighters who have been critical to the containment and near defeat of Islamic State in Syria.

By withdrawing US troops along the Turkey-Syria border, thereby giving the green light to the autocratic Erdogan to launch a direct attack in US, British, and French allies, Trump has shown exactly how treacherous and untrustworthy he really is. Turkey, as a NATO member, is also guilty of acting against the interests of its allies.

Trump has made it clear in his campaign and Presidency that he opposes US military intervention in foreign lands. However the civil war in Syria, had IS managed to consolidate their positions, was not a local issue but one of intense danger for the entire democratic World. Defeating IS, mainly using Kurdish fighters, is a matter of self-defence, not intervention. Having done their job we should all be eternally grateful to the Kurds. Trump, of course, has business interests in Istanbul, and Erdogan has threatened those interests before and caused Trump to dance to his tune. Who knows what was said in their recent phone call but let’s hope someone manages to subpoena the transcript.

We must make it clear to Turkey that they must stop their assault against our Kurdish allies. If they don’t then their membership of NATO should be suspended and trade sanctions applied. Tourists should be advised against travel to Turkey. I would go further and provide practical military support to help defend the Kurds. As to Trump, there’s nothing we can say or do that would have any impact on him. He is certifiable. We must rely on his countrymen to deal with him and this time he seems to have horrified many of his own supporters. Can he get any worse? Probably.

Time to Stop Playing Games

No.10 has let it be known today that a Brexit deal is “essentially impossible” after a call between Johnson and Merkel. We did know that Johnson’s strategy is to make a feeble attempt to look like he is trying to get a deal whilst sabotaging it at the same time. It looks like that game peaked a little early. Frankly, giving the DUP a veto over arrangements every 4 years was never going to fly. This disgrace of a Government and clown of a Prime Minister must stop pretending, stop lying to the electorate.

Merkel and the EU know very well by now that the one thing that will not pass the House of Commons is a Northern Ireland backstop. Tried and failed too many times. The EU and the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (who, incidentally, governs with about a third of the seats in the Dáil Éireann and has little in the way of a mandate himself) must finally accept that Deal or No Deal, Northern Ireland will not stay forever, on its own, in a Customs Union with the EU, and there will need to be Customs formalities, however light touch and away from the border. The EU must realise by now that the Tories have no electoral interest in Northern Ireland other than to keep the DUP on side. If the EU and Irish accept a deal without a backstop then we start talking about the future relationship, which can include a Customs Union. If there is a No Deal then that opportunity disappears. The EU, and especially the Irish, are themselves playing silly games.

It is absolute nonsense to suggest that terrorism will return to Northern Ireland because you set up a lorry park 5 miles from the border and require some trucks to lodge paperwork there whilst others continue to their destination and submit paperwork from their office online. Norway and Switzerland have land boundaries with the EU and are not in a Customs Union with the EU. It works. End of.

I have no real idea what Labour’s game actually is. I don’t think they know. The only thing I really know about Labour is that they need to replace Corbyn, and only a major electoral defeat is likely to shift him. Which is really bad news for those of us desperately keen to see the end of Johnson and his far right rump of a Tory party in power.

And finally, our own dear Leader, still insisting she can’t support a Unity Government led by Corbyn. What, even if she is in the Cabinet in a senior role, and he only has the confidence of the House to do two things: extend Article 50 and call an Election? She would sacrifice the future of the UK over a matter of personality? That too is a disgraceful petty game to play that could backfire very badly. The fact is, that tolerate him or loathe him, Corbyn is the Leader of the Opposition, has 245 seats (226 more than we do), and cannot do anything even vaguely leftish in the 3 to 4 weeks he would temporarily be PM for. So we need to stop with the silly games too.

I’m beginning to wish the SNP would put up candidates in every English and Welsh constituency. They appear to be the only realistic, practical and principled party and leadership at this moment in time. They may be playing games with Scottish Independence but not with Brexit issues.

Bottom line – with only a few weeks to go, Johnson should make his true position clear – he wants a No Deal to scupper the Brexit Party. The Opposition parties need to rally behind Corbyn, holding their noses if they have to, oust Johnson and authorise Corbyn to extend Article 50 and call an Election – no more. The Irish and EU need to understand that they can have a Deal with no Backstop or they can have No Deal with no Backstop. Either way, no Backstop. With a Deal they have another bite of the cherry with the future relationship and a transition period allows more time for practicalities to be ironed out.

There is a real danger for the EU, for Varadkar, for the anti-No Deal forces in the UK including our own Ms Swinson. That is that all the farting around and game playing does not stop Johnson and the No Dealers, we exit and. bar a short period of adaptation, nothing really bad actually happens. Like the Y2K Apocalypse that never was. Many careers will never recover though oddly Corbyn, a known true Eurosceptic, might just survive and prosper.

The Johnson “Plan”

Today Johnson presented a brief outline of his fantastic plan for a withdrawal agreement. It doesn’t appear to have gone down very well with anyone on the Opposition benches and our European friends don’t seem very enthusiastic either. I can’t say I’m impressed. I’ll be honest about my own position: I would like to be in the EEA / Single Market, outside the Customs Union. Norway. Second best, Remain though stop the silly Project Fear fibs and exaggerations. No point in a Turkey-style Customs Union as a Free Trade agreement is a lot more flexible. No Deal / WTO is not an idea I’d like to contemplate.

I’d make a couple of points though.

Firstly This “deal” isn’t actually a deal. Never has been. It is a divorce settlement designed to allow both parties to talk about a real deal whilst maintaining the status quo in a transition period. The transition period could go on for as long as it take to negotiate a free trade agreement. I never really saw anything really wrong with May’s Withdrawal Agreement. My only real objection was that May did not consult or collaborate, and that is wrong and undemocratic. If Johnson’s proposal is genuine (and that is a big “if”) then again I don’t really see much wrong with it. We can still then negotiate the softest of Brexits after a General Election results in his disposal.

Secondly, Norway is outside the Customs Union, Switzerland is outside the Customs Union. Both have free trade agreements but both must employ Customs formalities. It isn’t a problem in real life. You don’t see civil unrest breaking out on the Norway – Sweden border because there are some light touch border controls. You don’t see food rotting in trucks. Remain Project Fear is off and running again and undermining legitimate reasons to stay close to the EU. And the EU are playing that hand too. The Good Friday Agreement is a red herring – read it, look at Johnson’s proposal, find something specific in the documents that indicates they are incompatible. I haven’t found anything myself. People making the noises either haven’t read the GFA and are believing others. And the others have read the GFA and are making things up that aren’t there. With the Common Travel Area in force on the island of Ireland, so only commercial traffic is actually inconvenienced, there is no reason why the UK – EU borders can’t work like our friends in Norway and Switzerland make it work.

Johnson wants a No Deal for daft reasons I couldn’t even guess at. Call his bluff and accept this proposal. Have the General Election with no broken promises hanging over heads. Then negotiate a proven route to prosperity whilst trading (mostly) freely with the EU and doing trade deals of our own elsewhere, i.e. outside the Customs Union but inside the Single Market like Norway, Switzerland, Iceland.

What is the alternative? We all know Johnson has a cunning plan to use a loophole in the Benn Act. I’ve found one, there are probably others. We will be out on 31st October on his terms. Is that what Corbyn and our own leadership actually want? Teach Brexiteers a hard lesson maybe? I’m beginning to wonder.

Pension Age

Today a group of women lost their case in the High Court over whether the rise in the pension age to 67 by 2018 is unfair because they were not given enough time to make adjustments to cope with years without a state pension. The court found that the change corrects historic discrimination against men and isn’t unfair.

I have no sympathy whatsoever with the case being made. As a man I have always been astonished that men were expected to work 5 years more than women for their state pension. This situation is even more unfair when you take into account that women live longer to men, and therefore, on average, draw their pension not just for 5 years more, but more than 8 years at an additional cost of over £53,000 compared to men. The change means they will only get a bit over 3 years extra pension compared to me. That’s fair.

I saw the claimants being interviewed on the news channels, saying they have been robbed. This is absolute nonsense. They claim they are being forced to work longer when they have paid in for 45 years. What, forced to work as long as men have had to work and pay in? What’s their point?

Pension ages were not always different. When introduced it was 70 for both men and women and only 25% lived long enough to collect. In 1925 the age reduced to 65. In 1940 the age for women to retire reduced to 60 so most couples could retire at the same time – presumably based on women being 5 years younger than their husbands. Society has changed so much in the last 80 years but the pension age gap lagged behind for far too long.

When I started work at 16, as a civil servant, retirement was mandatory at 60. I could expect to receive my pension for 10 years. My female colleagues would get 16 years. That was my expectation for most of my working life. Now I know I will have to work to 67. That’s life. We are all living much longer. Even retiring at 67 I will now get 12 years of pension, and my female counterparts will still get 16 years. What this group seems to want is 23 years of pension for women approaching 60. Who is going to pay for that? Largely younger people struggling to raise kids and pay mortgages. It’s not on.

Frankly the equalisation of the pension age was, in my opinion, staggered over far too long a period. It is a correction that should have been made decades ago. For all its faults we have a benefits system designed to be a safety net for those who have not yet reached retirement but who cannot work for health reasons. That is the right mechanism, not the prolonged continuation of a gross inequality. I’m happy to pay taxes to help out people genuinely in need who have fallen on hard times through not fault of their own, not so happy to subsidise people of my own generation who just want to put their feet up for 23 years.

I’m feeling a little less “liberal” today it seems. I’m not feeling tolerant of these frankly selfish children of the 50’s and 60’s. Sorry. As to our party’s commitment that these women are “properly compensated for the failure of government to properly notify them of changes to the state pension age”, I cannot support it under any circumstances. They were properly notified. Equalisation has been on the cards since 1995. This was correction of a long-standing inequality and we did the right thing in 2011 when speeding up the timetable.