There was an error in this gadget

Monday, 19 December 2011

Why David Cameron Should Preach From The Union Rulebook..As Well As From Leviticus..

David Cameron this weekend spoke of how, as a country, we should return to Christian values. I have to admit that Mr Cameron trumps me on the religious activist scale. I am listed as Church of England, but have in truth only attended church on sufficient occasions to qualify for marriage, and the christening of my son.

Looking back at recent history, the financial collapse brought about by our over reliance on avaricious bankers, and the financial whims of free spending oligarchs in the stock market etc, in addition to the Tories historic derision for the lot of worker’s rights and unions, and I have to say that I couldn’t agree with him more.

This country has an ideologically contaminated government, blind to the precipice they lead us towards. Unemployment spirals out of control, benefit dependency balloons, and the government, instead of working tirelessly for a lasting solution that will lead us from the hinterland, train their collective fire upon union representatives, and those fighting for a morsel of fairness in their hard earned retirement.

We have seen recent attacks upon the paid time off for trade union representatives that were enshrined in law by Labour, much to the disgust of millionaire Tory backbenchers. Even the CBI recognise the worth of trade union representatives in business, yet still Cameron’s coalition of the cuts seems determined to remove the protection for low paid and vulnerable workers that these representatives provide on a daily basis.

We have witnessed the double speak and simple ineptitude of Francis Maude during the ‘negotiations’ regarding public pension reform, and the inflammatory and hypocritical remarks made by Michael Gove concerning the audacity of our teachers, nurses and public sector workers in actually daring to stand up for their rights and retirement. The hawkish element of the Tories, which recently seems to have assumed control of UK foreign policy, has always felt contempt for the NHS, comprehensive education, and the welfare state.

Their blind reliance upon the power of the free market has lead to an explosion in unemployment as they enthusiastically swung the axe at the public, charity and voluntary sectors, rather like the baby boom spiked our levels of populus at the end of the war.

Mr Cameron is plainly pandering to the core readership of the Daily Mail when making these comments, however, the merit of his words should not be lost upon those within his party who are shameless in their allegiance to the privileged few, and the destruction of the public sector.

Brotherly Love, Fraternity, Renunciation of Worldly Goods, Respect and Love of Your Neighbour are all extolled in detail throughout the bible. A few hours spent reading extracts from Matthew, Leviticus, John, Job, Thessalonians, Romans, and Peter, amongst others should tell Mr Cameron all he needs to know. I would also suggest that he consult the rules, aims and values of just about any democratic trade union within the UK.

We are built upon fraternity. We trade on mutual respect, commitment, public duty, community spirit, and a sense of justice that obliges us to stand united in the face of bullying, harassment, exploitation and unfairness, wherever manifested and whomever suffered by. It is our fraternal duty that has kept us strong for more than a century, and which will stand us between ordinary workers and unfettered exploitative excess, far into the future.

The irony of this is that, whilst Mr Cameron has plainly been attempting to commission a play right out of the republican election manual, all he has managed to do is highlight the listlessness of his party’s policy foundations, built upon increasingly shifting sands, whilst underlining the strengths of those whose values his party seeks to repudiate and destroy.

The Tories will continue to lament the passing of ‘collective responsibility’ ‘social cohesion’ and ‘moral values’ from their leafy shire strongholds, whist congregations encourage the onward march of Christian soldiers, whilst at the same time, the inherent values of trade unionism, ‘collective responsibility’ ‘fraternity’ and ‘mutual respect’ will continue to be ridiculed, demonised and maligned by the Tories, their millionaire backers and their right wing media bed fellows as ‘extremist’ ‘dangerous’ and communist’ when democratically actioned by workers.

Many have for years believed that the dogma of Toryism has lacked quality in many areas; a distinct lack of love and respect for fellow men, hatred for trade unionists and public sector workers, any real community concern, any regard for people occupying a lower income tax bracket and council tax band, the list goes on. If Mr Cameron has indeed enjoyed an epiphany which has illustrated for him the folly of his beliefs, and the misguided direction he leads our nation in, then I for one will doff my hat willingly in the direction of his fortitude and self awareness.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Embracing The Working Time Directive

If I were to advise David Cameron on the economy, I would suggest something that might force him to spit out his latte in disgust. Nevertheless, it is a strategy that would increase employment, decrease benefit spending, and free up public money which could be used to assist the regional economies which are being turned into scorched earth by current dogmatic Tory policies: embrace the Working Time Directive (WTD).

The heart is being torn painfully from the most vulnerable and poorest neighbourhoods in the name of 'market confidence' yet still we see unemployment figures rise, poverty levels rocket, and the continuing immolation of those sectors that traditionally lift working classes, ethnic minorities and women out of unemployment and benefit dependency.

The welfare bill is ballooning, thanks largely to Conservative indifference to rocketing joblessness in constituencies where they have no chance of electoral success. Even in 'true blue' areas, unemployment is creeping upwards whilst incumbent MPs focus attention on clamouring for promotion, rather than opening their eyes to the growing legions of jobless generations who will inflate the UK benefit bill for decades to come.

The right leaning group 'Open Europe' claim that a WTD without opt out could cost up to £11bn per year. These are frighteningly large figures, but when taken in the context of a benefit budget covering Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and Income Support of over £20bn per year, the opportunity for savings, deficit reduction, regeneration and increased employment become more obvious.

If the government were to set aside their distaste for EU regulation, natural contempt for workers rights and hostility to positive change, they would see that the end to the WTD opt out will no more destroy the economy than the minimum wage did, despite Tory claims at the time.

At a time of massive job shortages, rocketing unemployment and increasing social disconnection, it's surely logical to seriously consider the positive effects of a directive that, by nature, requires creation of jobs in order to fulfil its requirement? Placing people in work reduces unemployment, lowers benefit liabilities, stimulates the economy, and instils the work ethic that has skipped generations.

Positive effects of increased employment to disadvantaged neighbourhoods bring reductions in anti-social behaviour, and a feeling of personal pride that for many simply does not exist. It is plain to see that every penny used to implement such policies is a penny well spent. More importantly, such expenditure would save us money in the longer term.

Admittedly, the full implementation of the WTD would come at a cost, but this cost needs to be valued over the longer term, for the greater good, in the face of the bigger picture, bringing substantial social and industrial benefits.

The UK is an economy surviving on institutionalised overtime. We work harder, for longer, with fewer bank holidays than our neighbours. We have an adversarial, outdated approach to industrial relations, and successive governments have crowed about British 'competitiveness' Yet still we lag behind many other economies in terms of recovery, growth, poverty and investment. If we were running our economy in the best way, we would surely be lifting well clear of recession and racing towards economic nirvana, rather than speeding toward a fiscal tundra.

We need higher productivity, better work/life balance, and fresh approaches that will bring lower sickness rates, lower absenteeism, and greater profitability for our industries. The current system does not create these things, and needs to be consigned to history.

The economic downturn should be a watershed. The calamitous failure of strategies that scorned manufacturing and practical skills, instead worshipping financial services and all the confidence trickery that it brings, alongside an approach of selling the labour and toil of the most educationally disadvantaged and financial vulnerable for the lowest price needs to be abandoned.

Engagement by management with Unions needs to be encouraged, as does a greater openness to new ways of working on the part of those unions.

We need to ask ourselves what kind of society we want. Do we want the status quo to prevail, whereby millionaires choose their tax contribution rates, poorer communities are left to decay and stagnate, and those fortunate enough to work are flogged into later retirement, scant pension provision and an early grave? Or do we want higher employment, lower sickness/absenteeism rates, better work/life balance, economic stimulation, better employee engagement, greater profitability and productivity, and true recognition of our manufacturing abilities?

The industry of exploitation has failed as spectacularly as the industry of investment banking. This government dines hungrily on its cosiness to the city, and its fabricated reputation for economic competence. For the appetite that we all hold for economic success to be satisfied however, the Tories, as well as business at large, urgently need to swap dining partners and choose their diet from a new menu.
(Also published by the London Progressive Journal)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

As a Driver Who Has Coped With A Suicide, I'm Shocked By Clarkson. (Republish of Comment Piece from The Guardian (5th December 2011)

This article was originally published by The Guardian website on 5th December 2011.

Recent comments made by Jeremy Clarkson offended me on a number of fronts. By belittling the struggles of trade unionists in places such as Zimbabwe, Iran, Guatemala and Colombia, they offended me as a trade unionist. They also offended me as a human being who lives by his values.

His comments on railway suicides faired little better when pitted against my own bitter experience in this subject.

On October 13th 2002, I was driving a train. I had been qualified as a driver for just 7 months. Without warning, a figure appeared in my view, and stepped in front of my train as I hurtled along at 75mph. I barely had time to react before my train impacted with her, killing her instantaneously. In that moment, my family life, perceptions, and professional confidence were as shattered as her body was pulverised.

Train Drivers are professional, well trained people, and I was fortunate in that my training helped me effectively manage the incident. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the psychological aftermath. I was immediately placed on sick leave and was unable to face driving my car for a fortnight. I was prescribed medication so I could sleep, following insomnia that lasted 3 days. I suffered nightmares, mood swings and all manner of psychological incidents, and underwent intensive counselling. In total I was off work for 7 months.

In that time I had to attend the coroner’s inquest. I was questioned by the deceased’s relatives at length, and made to relive details of the fatality in graphic detail. I had to look the children of this poor lady in the eye as I told the story of how she died under the wheels of my train. The incident still lives with me to this day, and my family still suffer my mood changes as the anniversary approaches, even 9 years later.

Despite this, I’m not the biggest victim here. Children, grandchildren, and a husband were left behind, as were friends and colleagues. I take to a point, the view that her actions were selfish, but I also lament her reaching such depths of despair that our lives had to intersect in such a devastating way. She was obviously suffering from mental pain far beyond my comprehension. I can only look upon the loss felt by her family with profound sadness and compassion.

As a result, I cannot help but be shocked by even Clarkson at the spouting of such senseless and tasteless comments. Initially I was surprised at his empathy for Train Drivers. That positive surprise was soon exchanged for disbelief. His fixation on “disruption” caused by suicides, and his wish for bodies to be “left for scavenging animals” reflects the worst of the most unfeeling commuter’s sensibilities (trust me when I say from experience that such views are not marginal, despite being the minority) as well as the type of intolerance only seen in Daily Mail editorials.

People ending their lives this way are obviously desolate and hopeless. They are in the darkest of places. They cannot see a way out. Most disturbingly of all, they are normal people. They are people like you and I. They have families, jobs and friends. It’s undeniable that their actions inconvenience many people, commuters and Train Crews alike, but they are as much symptomatic of society’s failure to grasp the nettle of dealing with mental illness, as Clarkson’s comments are a slap in the face to everyone who has ever lost a relative, friend or colleague this way, and every Train Driver who has ever had to react to, and deal with the aftermath.

Clarkson is guilty of tastelessness and insensitivity. Perhaps we as a society share this guilt in that we are complicit in failing to properly accept that we all experience some mental distress at times. We all need to change our perceptions of mental illness, and people such as Clarkson, need to realise that their comments can either further that cause, or undermine it. His comments were deeply irresponsible, and not only speak to his own questionable perspectives on life, but also the gallery to which he was clearly performing.

When all is said and done, if you are seriously considering the option of standing in front of a speeding train, you are ill. I would hope that Clarkson can push his ego to one side and ponder this point for a while. If people of his ilk could only apply themselves to helping society understand, empathise and deal with mental illness instead of using it as a vehicle to sell DVDs and books, maybe more people would know where to look for the help that may keep them from jumping in front of my train. I may cross my fingers, but I certainly will not hold my breath.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Cameron Escapes via The Back Door Whilst Derby Burns..But Who Lit The Match?

I must admit that the Train Driver within me initially felt a touch of relief when it was announced that Bombardier had not been awarded the Thameslink contract, albeit solely for the fact that I found the poor design of the 377 so frustrating. The political activist within me however, viewed things differently, and when the ramifications for the Derby works hit home, I felt angry towards the government for making yet more empty promises.

Obviously, the loss of such a high level and prestigious contract signals difficult times ahead for the Bombardier works in Derby, and its workforce. Protests are planned, parliamentary manoeuvres have commenced. National newspapers have begun bellowing the war cries of outrage at the thought of a German company being awarded the contract over a ‘British’ one.

I cannot help feeling though that we are missing the point by directing the full force of our venom at David Cameron.

Yes, he made promises that he was not willing to keep. Yes, he proved himself to be as flimsy in government as he was lightweight in opposition, if not opportunist. But he alone does not deserve the full brunt of blame for Bombardier failing to win that contract.

I have spent a few years driving Bombardier’s staple offering to the EMU market within the UK. The 377 is a train that epitomises the term ‘unfulfilled potential’ The units acquit themselves brilliantly in terms of braking and acceleration when in AC mode, but are dogged by poor ergonomics and design and suffer from repeated operating problems, and lazy indifference in terms of comparative performance when in DC mode.

Many drivers have been exposed to repetitive injuries as a result of driving the train for extended times, in addition to muscular skeletal issues as a result of the positioning of the DOO screens and the design of the seat.

The fact that the Mk 5 units are of worse specification than the Mk 1’s, with all of the improvements made to previous sets as a result of sustained campaigning by dedicated ASLEF reps being ignored, merely underlines not only how poor in some areas these trains truly are, but also the fact that, owing to their braking and acceleration, they are vastly underperforming, and are nowhere near well enough designed to realise their full potential. This is a true shame, and in actual fact a betrayal of the Derby workforce by the Bombardier design and management teams.

TOCs have to share blame for this. Service issues could be avoided or minimised if Driver training was more in depth, and the DfT must accept that their failure to insist on improvements to the basic design, as well as their short sighted penny pinching has not helped.

The main failing is that the 377 overall is that it is full of promise that is choked off because of a lack of investment. Essentially though, Bombardier has shown that its products are, despite the quality of the craftsmanship at its disposal, a step behind other players in the sector. This is a hard truth, but in my opinion, a truth nonetheless.

Siemens have a proven track record in delivering high specification rolling stock with minimal operating and maintenance issues, and were even a step ahead when it came to financing deals.

The management team at Bombardier must accept that they have been simply outplayed by their competitors. The workforce have every right to feel aggrieved at Cameron turning his back on them, but they need also to direct some of their anger at those within the management of the company who failed to see that they needed to step it up a level.

On a purely commercial basis, I can see why the contract was awarded to Siemens. On a political and moral level however, the waters become much more clouded.

The DfT have admitted for example, that they have not carried out an assessment on the potential decimating impact of this decision on employment in the East Midlands, despite thousands of jobs relying on Bombardier. Ignoring the inevitable exodus of train building expertise from the UK, they have arrogantly scurried behind concocted excuses and falsified accusations levelled at the Labour Party, and EU rules.

At every twist and turn they have hung the workers at Derby out to dry, overall by overall, work boot by work boot, whilst cynically hanging the blame for it on the shadows of the previous administration, and the European Union.

Cameron and the government have dined hungrily on promises made to the Daily Mail reading masses about ‘standing up to Europe’ and ‘Putting British interests first’ etc.

On his first big industrial test, Cameron has failed.

Sadly for the dedicated and skilled workers at Derby, I fear that the management of Bombardier have unlocked the backdoor for the Tories on this issue by failing to win the bid on merit, despite the Government’s litany of broken promises.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

I Would Like To Say Thank You To Rupert Murdoch & David Cameron..

Another day goes by, and another set of shocking headlines are emblazoned across the news shows, newspapers and webpages detailing the slimy excesses of News International and its key players.

Rather than start with another attack on Murdoch, and David Cameron I would like to shake them both by the hand and say 'Thank You'

Thank You Rupert, for finally moving the political agenda forward in this country to a place where the tories can no longer have any credibility whatsoever when they accuse Labour of being 'in hoc' to trade unions...

The subserviance shown by the Tories toward your papers and executives has well and truly 'blunted the knife' and will finally afford Labour the opportunity to be more open in their support of progressive, democratic trade unionists.

Lets look at the dynamic of this; Labour have, since the changes ushered in under the stewardship of Neil Kinnock and his successors, been at times hesitant, and at others, downright scared of being seen to endorse any action taken by trade unions on behalf of their members. This is largely due to a more media centric approach taken by the leadership in the face of the burgeoning power of the Murdoch empire.

The mantra was, and for some still is, that 'Middle England does not like unions' and that supporting the democratic unions routinely panned by papers such as The Sun et al as being 'dinosaurs' 'stuck in the 70s' and a 'danger to Britain's prosperity' was a sure fire way to lose an election.

Many have questioned whether this was representative of a shift in ideology within the party away from our principled beginnings, but I do not think it is. I think it was the product of the overbearing influence that News Corp was permitted to exert over our political parties and their leaders.

Whilst it is certainly true and fair to point the finger at Labour over recent years for cosying up to Murdoch et al and therefore being complicit in their own troubles to that end, it is undeniable that the present ConDem regime is entwined in these scandals tighter than a sailors slipknot.

We have John Whittingdale MP, Tory Chair of the Culture Select Committee being shown to have close links to the organisation his panel is to interrogate, we have Andy Coulson, former tory spin doctor being proven to be at the very epicentre of all of this, and today it is reported that Gito Hari, the BBC journalist was vetoed by none other than Rebekah Brooks as a candidate for Coulson's Tory job, in FAVOUR of Coulson as a direct result of his News International links!

This, I suggest, will be the very tip of a very murky and dank iceberg.

I believe that it is fair to say that a line of responsibility and association can be traced from Murdoch right down to these key Tory figures, and that overshadows any schmoozing, glad handing, and sharing of sun kissed yachts by ambitious Labour strategists with the henchmen and women of Murdoch and his son.

That being said, the impetus is now fairly in Labour's hands.

Ed Milliband has stepped into the sunlight over this saga, and he needs to avoid the shadows to really start making the progress that is vital if we are to turf the ConDems out come the next election.

My point is, he is free to do so now that the scabbard of News International has been wrestled from their grasp, and the sword snatched away.

EdM was widely panned for 'doing deals with unions' during his leadership campaign.

Why shouldn't he? A cursory glance at the record of the tories ahows they have reason only for an embarrassed and awkward silence on this issue.

They have for years acted as the apologists and justifiers for the exploitation and greed of the banks, multi national industries and the worst excesses of slash and burn conglomerates.

I would trust the will of a democratic and accountable trade union with a clear philosophy and social responsibility over that of a profit driven hawk like Murdoch any day of any year.

Now the Tories have shown themselves to be not much more than the political wing of Rupert Murdoch inc. they have no room to bleat at Labour campaigning with conscience, and on behalf of organised workers across the nation.

Any attack on Labour by the tories for our links with trade union colleagues can easily be repelled and neutralised, and this frees our hand to once more organise both within the trade unions, as well as within society at large, in partnership woth union allies, as well as others.

Don't get me wrong, a violent lurch to the left would consign us to a generation of opposition, and should be largely avoided.

But we need to be willing to support the legitimate actions of democratically accountable and progressive trade unionists when they are fighting for jobs, for justice, for growth, and for the future of our great nation.

Statistically it is inevitable that some industrial action will not be justified due to a number of reasons, and it is only right and fair that Labour be as open and honest in their assessments of these scenarios as we are in our support for the vast majority of strikes which are proportionate, legal, democratic and justified.

It has to be said also that Labour is right to be a friend of business. It is only possible to redistribute wealth if there is someone there to create it after all, and it is everyone's interests to allow business to grow and expand.

But the fight for justice for working people is not one Labour can afford to shy away from.

The world may have changed, and business may have changed, but our commitment to those who produce the goods that create the wealth we all benefit from should never wane or wander.

The purpose of the Labour party has not changed once in the 111 years since it was founded, even though the world in which it operates is unrecognisable.

Our leadership need to accept and recognise that, and set the example of flying the flag high, and flying it proud for the working men and women of the UK.

Maybe we should afford Murdoch a special place within our history.

His determination to win at all costs, and to smash the collective will of the working people has ended up freeing our beloved Labour Party from the shackles placed upon it by the tentacles of his incipid empire, and the overeagerness of our past leaders to bend to his will and slanted agenda, just as Labour and the trade unions have freed workers from the shackles of exploitation and low pay for over a century.

Finally, I cannot forget 'Call Me' Dave.

I would thank Cameron for bringing us that 'Big Society' he loves so much. His cynical ploy to further undermine the backbone of trade unions by further cheapening the cost of Labour within our public services has ended up making him look like the vacant wax like failure we all knew him to be. His awkward silence and sluggish response to the actions of his friends within News Corps has only served to underline his own culpability in this.

I previously wrote that we should embrace the big society and use it to re-energise our trade unions through community activism. To that end I am proud that halting the further ambitions of News International is the first achievement of Cameron's grand idea.

So thank you Cameron; Your ineptitude, arrogance, and disdain for every person in this nation not within a safe tory seat, coupled with your subserviance to News Corp has bust open the lock to the door that was keeping Labour restrained within itself out of fear of being slurred for our natural principles.

Thank you Murdoch; Your hatred of the working man and woman who line your pockets, and your determination to win at all costs, has thrust us through that door and into the light.

Provided Labour can hold onto the spine we have rediscovered over the Murdoch issue, and have the vision and courage to grip onto the intiative and execute innovative policies that are true to what we stand for, namely a fair Britain, a strong economy, robust rights for workers, a fair playing field for unions, and a climate where commerce can flourish in a fair and just manner, the contributions of these two elitist and dogmatic millionaires to the advancement of the working classes will be forever appreciated.

So messrs Murdoch and Cameron, I offer my congratulations.

You should both be very proud of the first positive contribution you have made to British society..

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Ramblings From The Night Shift; A Poem

It is truly amazing what the human mind can produce when under the effects of sleep deprivation! Hope y'all appreciate it!

The sky is full of darkness
Waiting for the dawn,
With everything she brokers
The sunrise and the yawn,
The driver he is staring
Into another place,
Praying for the clock to spin
But ‘steady’ wins the race,

On board there is a peaceful air
The calm before the storm,
When chaos rules as on they step
From life of every form,
Their faces pressed against the glass
And shoulder bags so chic,
They scan and curse, they strive to win
The race to grab that seat,

The brakes they squeal and motors whine
The driver takes the power,
St Pancras, on to Blackfriars
Within the golden hour,
The rustling of the morning read
The metro on the chair,
The office girl has had her fill
Of news of that affair

The sunlight spreads across the Thames
They squintingly admire,
The silhouettes and office blocks
St Paul’s resplendent spire,
Off the train they briskly step
In kitten heels and brogues,
Ready to run the gauntlet of
The beggars and the rogues,

The business folk have been and gone
Replaced with prams and buggies,
The shirts and ties and pencil skirts
With sandals shorts and trackies,
From Luton on to distant lands
From Gatwick others fly,
To Brighton some will take their day
A beach on which to lie

The driver breathes a weary sigh
Then pours himself a brew,
It may well be his break time
But there’s so much more to do,
Brighton to St Albans
Then Blackfriars once again,
To Wimbledon, the Sutton loop
And Luton town for ten,

The final trip is Bedford bound
The last one of the day,
He’s climbs on board with time to spare
And smoothly pulls away,
Leagrave, Harlington, Flitwick too
Right to time he’ll keep,
Then Bedford where the day is done
He’s off to get some sleep!

Friday, 13 May 2011

David Cameron, Phillip Hammond & The Truth Behind The War On The Unions

David ‘The Condom’ Cameron sat in his princely leather backed chair, the gentle hum of upper class snorts and sexist jokes pierced the layers of cigar smoke that painted the air. Various service staff fussed about him, adjusting his napkin, re-filling his wine glass, and attending to his every wish. Under the table, one guy was on his hands and knees licking Cameron’s boots.

Moving on from Nick Clegg for a moment, Cameron munched enthusiastically on prime fillet steak, and took a healthy mouthful of rich, deep red wine. Relaxing back into the chair he glanced down at Nick Clegg as he continued to tongue bath Cameron’s already shiny brogues.
“You missed a spot!” He snarled and kicked out, causing the almost hysterical Clegg to scramble for the relative safety of the opposite chair leg. Instead he ended up grasping the calf of Phillip ‘Cancer Man’ Hammond. Looking down at his shoes, Clegg puzzled for a brief second as he realised that Hammond’s shoes were covered in a fine layer of wood dust.
“Strange” muttered Clegg to himself as he disentangled his arm from Hammond’s lower leg.
“What did you say fag?” Bellowed Cameron, craning his neck and peering below the crisp white table cloth.
“N-Nothing sir!” Cowered Clegg, scrambling back to his previous position at the feet of his master and enthusiastically starting where he left off, cleaning Cameron’s shoes with long, careful strokes of his tongue.
“You’d better make sure they’re clean fag!” Threatened Cameron, his face so twisted with rage that the wax that holds his eyes in place began to distort. His left eye slid upwards and was now fixed on the intricacies of the chandelier that dominated the ornate ceiling. Another servant rushed to Cameron’s side and nervously pushed the eye back into place, producing a scraper and sculpting the distorted wax back into its smooth, latex like state. Cameron blinked furiously for a few seconds, moving his head around and looking at random objects and people as his eyesight readjusted. Satisfied that the repair was carried out correctly, Cameron switched his gaze to the servant who had repaired him.
“You!” He snapped. The servant stood motionless, head bowed.
“Yes Sir” The servant replied, his voice trembling slightly as his thumbs danced around each other in a nervous fidget.
“What is your name?” He asked, his eyes narrowing.
“David Laws Sir!” He replied, his eyes firmly on the floor.
“Well Laws!” Spat Cameron. “You’d best be quicker off the mark next time!” Laws took in a sharp breath. Cameron aimed his words over Laws and at the other servants scrurrying about the room.
“You’d all better be quicker off the mark!” They all stopped and looked at Cameron, their eyes wide with fear. “I’ve already told you I’ll have your pensions if you don’t!” He said, his words sharp. Kicking out his leg he caught Clegg in the side of the face. “That includes you fag! Gold plated or not, your pension can be gone in the blink of an eye!” Clegg responded by licking faster.

Letting out a theatrical sigh, Cameron turned to Philip Hammond. He was busying himself by smiling as menacingly as he could into a compact mirror whilst lighting cigarettes. Frowning now and again, he flicked the lit cigarettes away with his cuprinol brown fingers and repeated the whole thing, over and over. Cameron paused as he watched, his eyes rolling. He rolled them slowly this time. The episode a moment earlier where his skin wax had distorted had left his eye socket sore.
“For the love of god Phillip!” He barked. Hammond wrenched his gaze from the mirror and extinguished both the latest cigarette, and his threatening grin, focussing on Cameron fully, snapping the compact mirror briskly closed.
“How many times do I have to tell you?” The servants went about their business, pretending not to be listening. “Britain’s Got Talent will not take you on as an impressionist!” Hammond’s shoulders sagged.
“But I look just like him!” He said, his finger tracing his leather like jawline. “Everybody says so!”
“Take it from me” sighed Cameron, absent-mindedly smoothing down the wax near his eye. “You’ll do no business as a Cancer Man impressionist!” Hammond let out a sigh, his demeanour one of deflation. “For god’s sake Phillip! Nobody even knows who he is nowadays!” Hammond’s feelings had been hurt, and he crossed his arms, examining the opulent patterns of the deep piled carpet. “I wouldn’t have even known who he was had it not been for those oiks on the Labour benches! The fucking X-Files! Infecting parliament with their working class rubbish!” Cameron snapped his fingers. David Laws came running. Nick Clegg banged his head on the underside of the table, swearing under his breath as he struggled to maintain his composure.
“Don’t forget the laces!” hissed Cameron under the table.
“Yes master” replied Clegg wearily, his tongue now coated in an oil slick of black polish and grime.
“Don’t just stand there Laws! Get me another port! Chop Chop!” Laws bowed his head and disappeared, returning a moment later with a fresh glass containing a rich red serving of finest port.
“Excellent Laws! Go now!” he said, waving his hand in a regal fashion. David laws bowed his head once more and turned, heading meekly for the servants quarters.
“Right, on with business!” said Cameron, rubbing his hands together. “How are we doing with the hit list?
“Perhaps I can help with that one?” offered a voice from across the room. Cameron and Hammond turned to look in the direction of the voice. It was Andrew Landsley.
Cameron pinched his nose. “I’ve told you Landsley, no talking to me! The only time you should be opening that idiotic mouth of yours is to put the other foot in it! I tried to get a doctor to sew it up but none of them will agree to be in the same room as you!” Landsley stood in the middle of the room looking glum. “If you want to get your ‘Privatisation & Franchise’ version of The Sims back this side of Christmas, I suggest you do as you’re told and jolly well keep quiet!”
“Yes David!” sighed Landsley, as he trudged back toward the open door. Looking over his shoulder one last time, he forlornly disappeared into the corridor.

“Hit List, Phillip!” Cameron barked. Phillip Hammond fumbled in his pocket, fishing out a piece of folded paper. Methodically he unfolded it, laying it on the table, taking care to ensure it was at right angles to the place mat. He produced a fine looking fountain pen, and having unscrewed the lid, made a show of scrutinising the carefully formulated script. Chewing gently on his bottom lip, Hammond produced his best ‘Cancer Man’ smile.
“All things considered, I believe we’re not doing too badly at all!” he announced.
“Details man, details!” ordered Cameron, leaning forward slightly, his tongue gliding across his wax lips as the scent of exploitation filled his nostrils.
Hammond clapped his hands twice. Two servants came scrambling through the door wheeling a large display board between them. Hammond pointed to a spot directly in front of Cameron. The servants duly complied, manoeuvring the board into position and standing there awaiting further instruction.
Cameron studied the pair of them.
“Don’t I know you two?” he asked. Hesitantly one of them stepped forward, his hands folded in front of him.
“Danny Alexander Sir!” he said. “And this is Chris Huhne” Alexander motioned nervously toward his colleague. Ignoring them Cameron turned his glare back to Hammond.
“Continue” he said.
“As you can see” began Hammond, producing a pointing stick from his suit pocket, “We have made good progress in short time” the tip of the stick rested on the surface of the board, just an inch away from a library book. The cover was unreadable. The book was dog eared and tattered, its spine and most of the text stained in a deep red.
“Is that blood Hammond?” asked Cameron hopefully.
“Oh, er, no” answered Hammond “Its ribena from a librarian’s stomach” Cameron looked on intrigued. “When we closed down the library we were forced to give her the statutory redundancy notice verbally as well as in writing, and she couldn’t ‘stomach’ all the noise!” Both men enjoyed the joke, throwing their heads back in laughter and pleasure as they imagined the harrowing mental image. Regaining himself, Hammond pushed on.
“So what’s that?” Asked Cameron, lightly stroking his chin. Hammond was now pointing to a white piece of paper. It was difficult to make out the text, but you could clearly see that the word ‘CANCELLED’ had been stamped across it.
“This is a pension statement from a schoolteacher” replied Hammond gleefully. “One of our biggest victories!” he said, the excitement clear in his voice.
Cameron nodded sagely, a slight expression of pride spreading across his waxy cheeks.
“I mean, honestly! Spluttered Hammond. “What makes these teachers think they’re entitled to retire before 65? Since when have they made millions running big corporations?”
“Quite right!” agreed Cameron as he held up his port glass, motioning to a servant to replenish its contents. “Make sure the press think I’m drinking guinness” he whispered. The servant nodded obediently, refilling the glass and disappearing discreetly.
“I mean, if these scroungers wanted to retire at a reasonable age, they should’ve formed a company and evaded their tax bill!” spat Hammond. Both men shared a gaze as they basked in the moment.
“Phillip” said Cameron, pointing at the board. “What is this?” Hammond looked at the board and flushed a little.
“That’s a nurse’s uniform” Hammond tried to look as businesslike as possible. For a second neither man said anything.
“So I’m guessing that this is to show that we’re dealing with all the lazy nurses in the health service?” asked Cameron, his eyebrows raised.
“I suppose so” stammered Hammond, fidgeting.
“You suppose so??”
“What can I say?” he said, defending himself. “I like polyester!” Cameron put his head in his hands.

“So what is the blank space for?” asked Cameron from between his fingers. Hammond wasn’t listening. He had the mirror open again, practising that grin, moving the mirror from left to right in the search for the perfect angle.
“Phillip!” screeched Cameron. In the corner a servant dropped a plate in shock, its fragments scattering across the floor. In a flash the servant was on his knees, scrambling to gather the pieces together, hoping his indiscretion had been missed.
Choosing to ignore the broken plate, Cameron fixed Hammond with an icy glare. “For the love of all things that are good and fucking green about this country, focus man!” For the second time, Hammond snapped the mirror closed and stuffed it into his pocket.
“But David, it’s my thing!” Hammond moved to take a cigarette from the packet on the table, but thought better of it, his hands returning to his lap.
“I’m sorry David” whispered Hammond. “I suppose I just fell in love with the idea of making people laugh with my smile rather than frightening children”
“Did someone mention children?” Cameron craned his neck, glaring into the far corner of the room. From behind the hat stand appeared Michael Gove, his withered fingers outstretched in a menacing fashion as he glided across the floor, the sun causing the stack of his angled top hat to give off a dull sheen.
“For goodness sake!” despaired Cameron, slamming his palm down onto the table, sending an echo around the room “Michael, do not make me regret making you Schools Secretary! It was against my instinct to give the job to a child catcher, but I gave you a chance! Get out and do your job!”
Gove’s nostrils were twitching. His eyes darted left and right, his body tensed and ready to pounce as his senses picked up the unmistakable scent of child.
“Quite right old bean, quite right!” bumbled Gove, backing towards the door. “How remiss of me! Something has come up! Please excuse me!” with that he turned and made for the door, his footsteps fading into silence. A few seconds later the lull was pierced by the blood curdling scream of an adolescent. Hammond and Cameron looked at the open door.
“He never misses” mused Cameron.
“Extraordinary” said Hammond, his stare remaining on the door, his eyes unblinking.
“Hammond!” breathed Cameron. Phillip Hammond looked at him blankly. “Empty space?” Cameron motioned at the board.
“Ah yes!” said Hammond, regaining his thoughts. “This one is slightly trickier than the last” he said, his face grimacing slightly.
“Tricky?” asked Cameron, one eyebrow raising.
“This space is for the Train Drivers” said Hammond.
“So?”
“Well, we’ve just started laying the ground for our attack, but it’s going to get complicated”
“How so?”
“Well, we’ve used a lot of the standard mood music we were using with the others” Hammond gestured at the board, pausing for a second to shoo away Huhne and Alexander, sneaking a feel of the nurse’s uniform before it disappeared out of the door with the two servants.
Regaining himself, Hammond continued.
“You know, overpaid, lazy, outdated procedures, need for reform, blah blah blah!” Hammond waved his hand.
Cameron nodded. “By all that, I’m hoping I’m reading this as cut cut cut!” Both men smiled, sharing the conspiracy.
“Absolutely!” said Hammond. “But it’s not as simple as it seems”
“How can it not be?” spluttered Cameron. “These bastards earn over £40,000 per year! And they weren’t even bankrolled through private school by their parents! They have a pension that will pay for their old age, but they don’t have a trust fund!” Cameron was enraged. A small bead of wax was melting and started rolling slowly down his forehead. Hammond motioned to smooth it in for Cameron, but thought better of it.
“I’ve always said Hammond!” shouted Cameron, his anger climbing still further. “If you have to rely on your pension when you retire, you don’t come from the right stock in life to deserve one!” Cameron picked up his port glass and emptied it with a single gulp before throwing it at the oak panelled wall, sending glass shards flying everywhere. Under the table, Clegg grabbed the table leg, overtaken with fear.
“What’s the problem?” demanded Cameron. "Just get The Sun and The Times to do what they normally do and run hatchet pieces about their union” Hammond remained silent as he listened. “All the readers will be so envious they’ll turn on them, we can make out we’re taking on vested interests, and hey presto another barrier is moved from our path!” Hammond looked down at his lap.
“What?” asked Cameron.
“It’s a private industry” muttered Hammond.
“Say that again” hissed Cameron, his voice quivering.
“It’s a private industry David” Hammond smiled awkwardly. “We privatised it if you remember”
“How can this be?” asked Cameron, his eyes wide in disbelief.
“I don’t know” whispered Hammond.
“How come the bastards are so well paid then?” demanded Cameron. “Why didn’t they go the way of the buses?” Hammond shrugged. “This wasn’t supposed to happen!” he shouted.
“You see my problem David” Hammond said flatly.
“There’s no problem!” growled Cameron. “Just lie!” He stood up, pacing back and forth as his mind hurtled.
“We lied about the coal miners in the 80’s, we lied about the cuts last year, we’ve lied about bigger things than this Hammond!”
“But David” questioned Hammond “How am I supposed to get past the problem that they will just say it’s all our fault?”
“Let them say what they want!” snarled Cameron. His right ear had dropped an inch due to his sweating, the wax starting to thin and stretch. He hadn’t noticed, and Hammond decided it wasn’t the best time to point it out. “We own the press for god’s sake!” “They say it’s our fault, we say they’re greedy, they’re outdated, they’re lazy, they’re socialists! I want those pensions Hammond! I want them! Nobody should have a pension that works unless they’re an MP or they run a big business! I’ve had enough of these unions thinking they can upset the natural order of things by getting good deals for the working man! I won’t have it!
“Yes David!” answered Hammond, not daring to open his mirror a third time. Cameron strode across to the window. Michael Gove was sitting on the lawns, wiping his mouth with a napkin. Next to him was a small pair of jeans. He delicately picked them up and placed them carefully in a nearby bin before silently gliding back toward the door. Cameron decided he had had enough of people putting these problems in the path of his grand masterplan. He could not believe the barefaced cheek of these Train Drivers and their ‘ASLEF’ band of communists actually believing they are entitled to have an opinion on safety and pay! How dare they? Cameron spun around to face Hammond. His ear finally gave way and broke free, skidding across the carpeted floor and coming to rest near the drinks cabinet. Clegg crawled hurriedly across the floor on his hands and knees and retrieved it, carefully cleaning it of carpet fibres and dirt before proudly offering it to his master.
“Good work Slave!” Barked Cameron as Clegg re-attached the ear and moulded the moist wax back into shape, producing a comb and reinforcing the curve of Cameron’s quiff at the same time.
“Hammond!” he hissed. “Nobody has a pension unless we, as Tories think they deserve it! Nobody gets a living wage unless their breeding signifies they are worthy! Train Drivers are no different! Make it clear that they will be worked like dogs until they drop, and the only pause they will be allowed will be to thank us for it!”
“Yes David!” replied Hammond obediently. He gathered his papers and rose from his seat. Suddenly, a thought flashed through his mind.
“David” he said.
“What?” spat Cameron, grimacing as Clegg moulded the bottom of his ear lobe to the wax on the side of his head.
“Why don’t we just solve the problem by putting robots in the front of trains?” Cameron sighed.
“We tried putting one in charge of London and look where that’s gotten us!” Hammond nodded to himself, turning and heading for the relative cool of the corridor.
“Hammond, there will be no excuses! These Train Drivers must be cut down before they start giving other workers the crazy notion that they can get decent wages and pensions too! This nation was not built on fairness and justice! It was built on Conservative values!”
“Yes David!” called Hammond from the corridor.
“There! Finished!” announced Clegg as he smoothed the last part of Cameron’s ear into place.
“Good work Clegg!” said Cameron. “Now get yourself into the laundry! You finished my shoes but you haven’t started on my britches yet!” Clegg’s shoulders sagged. “I warn you Clegg” said Cameron with a wicked smile. “I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym this last week, so I hope your tongue is up to the strain!”
“Yes master!” groaned Clegg as he trudged away in the direction of the laundry room.
“Good boy!” cooed Cameron. “We might just get a full five years out of you yet!”
Looking over the sprawling greens from the window, Cameron breathed in deeply as he surveyed his kingdom. In the distance he heard Clegg sobbing gently as the laundry bin slammed shut.
"God bless the coalition!" he said with a smile.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

AV Explained, & Why I'll Be Voting Yes To Fairer Votes!

Tomorrow, you have the privilege of deciding whether we continue to elect MPs using the traditional First Past The Post (FPTP) system, or change to the Alternative Vote (AV)

David Cameron and his bedfellows within the Tory Party, certain parts of the Labour Party, and even the trade unions have been busily soiling the debate on this issue since campaigning began, peddling half truths, lies and misconceptions about why AV should not be used.

But how does it work?

AV at its simplest works as follows;

* Voters rank the candidates standing in the election in order of preference, marking ‘1’ ‘2’ and ‘3’ next to the candidate’s name instead of an ‘X’
* In order to win the election, a candidate needs to secure more than 50% of the votes.
* In the event that no candidate secures 50% of the vote, your votes for second and third preference are taken into account, and distributed to the candidates, with each candidate who is in last place after subsequent counts being eliminated.
* The counts continue until a candidate secures 50% of the votes.

The largest advantage of AV is that it will bring to an end the days where tired and crusty MPs can renew their season tickets for the parliamentary gravy train by pandering to their core vote and ignoring the needs of everybody else, because the candidate who wins the election will have to have support from a majority of constituents.

So now I have explained the basic tenets of AV, let’s look at some of the lies and misinformation that the ‘No’ campaign have been spreading in an attempt to prevent you from receiving the representation you deserve!

AV will allow the BNP a foothold in parliament;
Not true. Even Nick Griffin doesn’t want AV. He has said himself that the BNP could never get an MP under that system.

When you look at the way people tend to vote, I am sure that if they had to list a second choice now, most Labour voters would choose a party or candidate of similar ideals to their first choice. The same can be said of traditional Tory voters. In stronghold Labour areas, you would see votes going to Greens, Local candidates, other left wing parties, and in the regions to the nationalist parties. In strong Tory areas you would see more going to UKIP and other right of centre candidates, as well as independents and nationalists.

A very small minority of people who vote Labour may vote BNP as a second choice. This, I believe would be more out of frustration with the failure of the main parties to represent their views pr engage with the electorate. Therefore, if people turn to extremist parties like the BNP, we should not be tying their hands so as to prevent them doing so, we should be taking notice when they tell us they are not happy. We should then be acting so as to stop them WANTING to vote for extremists.

Every Vote for the Facist BNP Scum is a defeat for mainstream political parties, and NOT a reason to deny the electors of this great nation a fairer system of choosing their representatives and advocates.

AV is too complicated;
What a bucket of drivel! Is the Prime Minister seriously saying to you that a voting system whereby you mark a ‘1’ next to your first choice, a ‘2’ next to your second choice, and a ‘3’ next to your third choice is too complicated for you to understand????

Apparently our multi millionaire, public schoolboy PM and his Eton chum Boris also think that you cannot fathom the principle that, when a candidate secures more than 50% of the vote they win, and if nobody secures more than 50%, the votes are recounted, and redistributed using 2nd and 3rd choice votes, with candidates gaining the lowest vote dropping out until one candidate passes the 50% threshold!!

It really is quite simple, and their arrogance toward the British public is staggering.

Then again, so is their hypocrisy!

Not only was Boris elected on a kind of AV in the London Mayoral election, so was David Cameron when he beat David Davis to become the Leader of the Conservative Party!

These are also the same two who are quietly making moves to force trade unions by law into the position where they can only withdraw their labour if more than 50% of the workers balloted turnout and agree! This despite the UK having some of the most restrictive trade union laws in Western Europe and the developed world!

So a democratic benchmark laid down in electoral procedure is good enough to stop the plebes fighting for fair working conditions, but it’s not adequate for us plebes to use in order to elect our representatives!

AV is unfair because a candidate coming 3rd, 4th, 5th, or even 8th could get elected.

This really is a misrepresentation of the whole system!

Gutter press right wing rags like The Sun would have you believe that this is true, but really it isn’t!

Whilst technically possible, it is far, far more likely that you as a voter will get the MP that you truly want!

These candidates have to attract votes, be there first or second choices. That means that they have to make sure that they appeal to more than just their party’s core support, as opposed to the current system where political parties parachute their chosen apparatchiks into safe seats, safe in the knowledge that they are safe from scrutiny or risk of failure.

Surely, this is better for democracy, better for justice, and better for you as a voter!!

I cannot understand why it is that trade unions are opposing this measure. It gives people more of a chance to hold their MP to account, bringing to an end the age of lazy MPs who know they are untouchable. (This is true of both Labour and Tory)

The trade unions champion the ideals of fairer representation, improved justice, and the right to redress for their members. Why should it be different when talking about parliament?

Sure, AV is not the ideal solution. Proportional Representation (PR) would be the best bet for us all. At the last election, we had the situation where a party received 23% of votes cast, but only received 8.8% of parliamentary seats!

But whilst PR is surely the goal that as progressives we should aim for, AV is a first step on that journey. Change in our country has hardly ever been by revolution, as evolution has always been the dominant taste on the menu. Is it a surprise that this is no different?

I cannot understand why the Labour Party oppose this either, other than the fact that they know that it will bring to an end the dominance of politics that they enjoy with the Tories.

What they fail to understand, is that bringing an end to the FPTP system will likely being an end to the insane situation where the conservatives can govern, despite hardly ever having enjoyed a democratic majority, thus ensuring that progressive politics is the ruling force in British Politics.

As a bonus, in the event that the vote goes against David Cameron, his standing amongst his fellow millionaires in the cabinet would be heavily damaged, and the coalition will be struck a huge blow!

People may be tempted to vote 'No' as a slap in the face to serial U-Turner Nick Clegg. Resist the urge! The fact that he agrees with AV does not make it wrong, it merely will make it more satisfying to give him an electoral beating under a fairer system!

The Tory party have always been a force for the status quo.

They are not interested in making things fairer. They do not believe in progressive change. So I am not surprised that they are going full force to oppose AV. If they had their way, unions would have no power, workers would have no rights, and only the privileged would have the right to any influence.

So I would respectfully advise against believing anything The Sun, or The Daily Mail tell you. They are opposed to change because they are in business to do the bidding of the rich and powerful.

Look at the arguments, digest the logic, have a think about whether you truly believe it is fairer for our parliamentary make up to be decided in a handful of seats, with every voter living elsewhere being irrelevant, and with political parties abusing the loyalty of voters by using safe seats to give jobs to their chosen protégés..

Or whether you think it’s only right and fair to expect a candidate to receive the support of 50% of voters in that constituency, thus making them listen to you more, and work for you harder?

If you agree with me that parliamentary elections should be fair, and MPs should serve us, and not their own narrow interests, VOTE YES TO AV ON MAY 5TH

Saturday, 22 January 2011

How Trade Unions Can Fight The Coalition and Avoid The Dance of Opposition.

I cannot help but feel somewhat responsible for events as I watch the car crash that is the coalition, unfold. I tend to watch the news whilst peeking from behind my hand these days, and I usually watch Question Time with a pronounced feeling of distaste in my mouth, and a grimace on my face.

I have to admit that I was one of those people who believed in the Liberal Democrats during the run up to the general election. I was taken in by Clegg and co when they made their empty promises, and I was taken in by the progressive facade of a party that was looking ever more popular in the face of a Labour party that had lost its impetus, lost its impact, and in far too many areas of policy and conviction, lost its way.

I was pushed towards the Lib Dems by a multitude of issues, including the 10p tax debacle, the continual erosion of worker’s rights, the blind lust exhibited by Labour towards big business, and the ‘parachuting in’ of party apparatchiks from solicitor’s practices in leafy London suburbs and into some of the most disadvantaged and forlorn constituencies in the land, including my home city of Hull.

What’s more, I even worked as a local organiser for the Liberal Democrats, liaising with the press and co-ordinating many electioneering activities within my former constituency of Littlehampton & Bognor Regis, and also leading online efforts to increase the Lib Dem vote. All this in front of the backdrop of ultimately false promises from the party leader, and a rising feeling that my natural habitat, the Labour party, had pushed me away, like so many others, as it lurched and lunged away from the very people it was formed to represent.

That said, I offer no excuses. I feel as if I have gunpowder on my hands as bullet after divisive bullet is fired at the working classes and the vulnerable by this ‘coalition’

I can only begin to clean my hands of that gunpowder by joining the struggle to turn Britain away from the abyss that is essentially a right wing pact that will, ultimately, choke off any last gasp of aspiration, protection, or advancement that sustains the most optimistic of organised, and unorganised workers alike.

It is obvious to me that the only sector that can realistically put the brakes on the downward slide of the ConDems, is that of the trade unions. I can’t help feeling though, that we are missing a trick here.

During the election campaign, Cameron called on the nation to join his ‘big society’ to become involved in the administration of the local communities and begin organising together in order to achieve local goals etc. We all know only too well that this is nothing but a cynical tory attempt to provide neighbourhood services (that we all pay ever more extortionate council tax for) on the cheap.

What many people are failing to appreciate however, is that Cameron and co are switching on the neon signs that are directing unions toward a massive opportunity that could trigger a resurgence in union membership and organised, community events that can only succeed in putting across our agenda to people who have never held a union card. And what is more, the tories created the very void that they are now calling on us to fill!

Think back to the days of Thatcher and Tebbit. The advent of the ‘right to buy’ scheme caused a seismic shift in the thinking of many within the British working class, putting to an end the self-identification of many as working class, and making some much more unwilling to withdraw their labour as a result of quite understandable commitment to servicing their mortgages, something which hitherto had not widely been an issue. This, combined with the systematic demonization of the trades union movement by the British press, the face-off between Thatcher and the NUM, and the inception of the anti-trade union legislation (instigated by the Tories, and sustained by Labour) ushered in an era of decline for organised labour within the United Kingdom.

Fast forward from the mid 80’s to 2011, and the void left by this era of decline is being made larger by the short sighted and damaging actions of the ConDems, and this constitutes an unprecedented opportunity for the trades union movement to reclaim lost ground, and also to inspire, agitate, educate and organise new generations of activists, members, officers, and ultimately leaders.

I believe that we are taking precisely the wrong decisions when it comes to fighting the ConDems. I believe that, instead of shunning the big society, and viewing it entirely as an object of ridicule, we should engage with it.

The TUC should be showing tangible leadership on this issue, preparing to work in communities, and giving the disadvantaged, vulnerable, and unorganised labour a reason to join us. The plans of the coalition include credit unions, community projects, local TV operations, library syndicates, employment services and many, many more functions that would previously be within the remit of local government and the civil services.

If we are to truly prosper for the long term, and increase our ability to educate workers against exploitation, against low wages, and against the very worst ravages of the globalised market, and once and for all move on from the climate within which low paid workers see themselves as helpless victims with no recourse to justice and fair conditions, we have to hold our nose, and do what most of us would find to be unpleasant work, keeping our eyes on the prize, and seeing past the fact that we are having to rub along with those who have either betrayed their promises to the poor and vulnerable, or simply fail to register their presence in the first place.

We need a network of community based bids being lodged to step into the void that was created by the worst excesses of Thatcherism, and which is only being made larger by the ‘big society’ rhetoric of Cameron and Clegg. The TUC needs to be organising member unions, co-ordinating resources and strategies and targeting these areas where once we may have been organising at foundries, factories and railway yards, and instead working with the local people to set up credit unions, help save local services, and give those hard pressed and forlorn communities something to believe in.

We cannot inspire people by rhetoric alone. In the hard times that are here, and which are set to get worse, people need action to inspire them. They need results and they need change, where it matters most, within their communities.

If we can be strategic, locally minded, and relevant to people in these poor communities we can help restore local pride, improve community services, reduce the feeling of disenfranchisement that so often leads to anti social behaviour, and provide a new link between the huge numbers of unorganised workers, and a trade union movement that can, once again be a true vehicle for change.

To achieve these new links, and greater opportunities for the recruitment and education of these people who desperately need a voice, as well as a cause to galvanise them, we need to look past basic tribalism and naked ideology, and be visionary.

The only realistic alternative to toryism is the Labour party. The jury is still out on Ed Miliband as leader. It is early days for him, but if he fails to inspire as Labour leader, the problems presented by the ConDemNation will only get worse by way of the Tories and Lib Dems solidifying their position as the governing parties, and that is something we all want to avoid!

We need to do what is right for the people for whom the trade unions were formed to defend and serve. We need the TUC to show true leadership, and not the usual horse trading and glad handing style of leadership that we usually have to make do with, and we need to seize this unexpected opportunity to reconnect with the poor, vulnerable and the unorganised labour within communities all across this great nation.

More importantly, we need to be grown up about what needs to be done, to resist the urge to retreat into the safe territory of protest banners, burning bins, and another generation of opposition politics, watching yet more of our young and exploited being thrown on the scrapheap by Cameron’s millionaire cabinet.

We need to work smarter as well as harder, and build community links, taking the opportunity to educate the young and the disenfranchised in a way that will inspire them to join the trade unions, and then ultimately join and progress through the ranks of the Labour Party ,to re-establish its identity as a political voice for ordinary, hard working men, women and children, for the vulnerable and for the exploited. To continue the fight against the very worst that Cameron and Clegg and their successors have to offer.

Most importantly of all, we need to wake up to the facts. We have a tory government. It may have a pale yellow fig leaf covering its intimate areas, but it is essentially tory. We can continue in the same historical vein of protests, slogans, and strikes. Or we can be aware of the world in which we are operating.

The court of public opinion is an important one, and we as trade unionists would do well to remember that. We need to play the ConDems at their own game, creating goodwill as well as new opportunities within communities.

Only when we have laid down roots in communities, and organised and educated those within them can we cement our own position as a movement, and as a foundation stone upon which the Labour party was founded.

The alternative is to continue to wave the banners, chant the songs and fill the streets with protest. Whilst there is nothing wrong with that at all, it completely misses the best opportunity we have had in generations. The coalition was brought in by deceit on the part of Nick Clegg. But it was also brought about by a thirst for change on the part of the public.

We need to be grown up about the challenge that faces us. We need to recognise that some things simply must be done differently if we are to achieve our aims as trade unionists and as progressives.

We need to realise that things do not always get done in the best way because they have been done the same way since 1880.

We have to adapt, to advance, to be strategic, and to change in a way that will allow progressive politics to set the political agenda in Britain rather than spend the next generation protesting about it.

Opposition creates fantastic folk songs, but it doesn’t make for a fantastic country. We need to stop writing lyrics, and start writing a more vibrant, democratic, open, inclusive and progressive future for this great movement, and more importantly for this great nation.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The ConDem Overlord & The Search For Paradise Lost

"Has one been here before?" mused Call me Dave to his ever loyal butler, Clegg.

"Not sure M'Lord" replied the erstwhile bagman as he puffed and panted just a few steps behind the overlord, struggling to bear the weight of Cameorn's batfink style steel wings. Yanking at his black bowtie, Clegg scanned the surrounding area with his keen eye, desperate to meet Dave's ever whim, as ever.

The two stood for a second, digesting the dramatic scenery that met them. Wrecks and carcasses lay before them, filling this apocalyptic vista with the remnants of many an old battle, the ghosts of warriors past and defeated trudging forlornly through the heavy mud that lay beneath the cashmere rug upon which Dave Cameron now stood.

Clegg nervously flicked his gaze between the rug, which he only just managed to get down in time, and the scorched remains of..what was it exactly?..ah yes, that's right, its the charred carcass of the miners union!

Diverting his eyes away from that mangled heap of working class hopes and aspirations, he again surveyed the rug that protected his master's designer shoes. Breathing a sigh of relief he congratulated himself on his timing. He has learned the hard way after last time. My, how David cameron had lambasted him! Those shoes must be clean! An Etonian cannot suffer the indignities of mud, except when playing rugby!

For a second, Clegg considered which was worse, Rugby, with its garish proximity to the hoi poloi, or cleaning Cameron's shoes? He couldn't help but grimace as he remembered the last time he has been forced to clean the overlord's footwear. The taste of shoe leather and mud had plagued his pallett for weeks afterwards. Choosing the latter, he made a mental note of his undying passion for Rugby, and promised himself an election phot opportunity next time.

Putting it from his mind, he returned his loyal attentions to the musings of his leader, and moral compass, who was breathing in the smoky air as he gazed at the past glories of his predecessors.

Feeling much like a conquering Roman emperor, the overlord stood on the brow of a steep hill, its imposing height enhanced further by the piles of rotting P45s and decomposing union rights which bristled and crunched gently below his decadent cashmere rug. Dismissing thoughts of commissioning himself his very own roman-esque imperial helmet, Dave strained to focus on the plentiful images of ghoulish figures and long since pulverised organisations that scarred the land.

Far, far in the distance lay yet more twisted and burned memories, scattered amongst the rusting components of a paper press, complete with buckled 'Welcome To Wapping' sign. To a side, the ghosts of honour, truth and integrity sat around a rickety table, arguing over who would privatise heaven first when they die, Thatcher, or Murdoch?

Sneering at the sheer vulgarity of their comments, the overlord let out a sigh. Reaching into his poscket, he pulled out his brand new wallet. Stiff and shiny, it was a gift from the editor of the Daily Mail, freshly made, by the hands of chinese children workers no less, from the life chances of council estate babies. Holding it gently to his nose, he inhaled deeply, revelling in the tangy, yet musty aroma of damp classrooms and milk tokens.

Gently opening the wallet, he smiled broadly at the picture of Rupert Murdoch that lined the inside pocket. "I love you Rupy" whispered Cameron, slowly and carefully stroking the edge of the photograph.

His thoughts were interrupted by a wheezing and choking sound which seemed to be approaching from over the brow of the hill.

"Good Lord Clegg" he mused, slipping his wallet casually back into his inside jacket pocket "We must have privatised the grave diggers! You wouldn't get a nationalised grave digger being that efficient! We haven't even delivered the kill shot yet and they've managed to get the NHS to the graveyard!"

"No M'Lord" replied Clegg, stepping forward and brushing some loose criticism from Cameron's shoulder. "It's just Andrew Landlsey. He's still recovering from the, er, holiday incident with the ambulance service"

Peering at the brow of the hill, Cameron and his butler watched as two scrambling figures appeared and moved closer, angry words bouncing back and forth between the two as they walked. It was indeed Andrew Landlsey. The overlord could not hide his admiration for his Health Secretary. Even when his trachea was blocked nearly to the point of bursting, and even when his throat was bruised to the point that he was bandaged, looking like a, ahem, "laydee" in a suit, he still managed to maintain that air of self serving and oblivious superiority that got him elected as a tory MP.

But who was the other? Why, it was none other than Michael Gove, Cameron's Education Secretary, and unofficial child fire safety figurehead!

The two men were still bickering furiously as they stopped in front of the overlord and his manservant.

"I say, what's the breeze chaps?" asked Cameron as he snapped his fingers.

Clegg rifled through the leather bag that hung at his side, producing a highly polished bottle of panda pop. He gave the lid one last polish before opening the bottle and passing it to the overlord. Ever since he was derided by many as being a 'senseless posh tw*t' he declined to drink from a glass. It made coffee drinking somewhat hazardous, but it was worth the effort.

"This twerp!" exclaimed Landlsey, rubbing at the bandage on his neck. "Why did you grab me? I usually pay before I get tied up!"

Gove fidgetted nervously. The gaze of his emperor always made him feel somewhat uneasy. Feeling his skin redden he fumbled with his now sweating hands.

"I'm damned sorry old bean!" replied Gove, brushing the dirt away from Landsley's tie, the deep blue of the weave disrupted by the smeared stain of the blood of a commoner. "I thought you were a child!"

"I was kneeling down!" exploded Landsley. "I stepped in some socialism and was wiping it off my shoe!"

In a far corner, a football match was taking place. Not being someone who even understood the virtues of football (after all, it isn't world cup year) Cameron studied the players as they rushed to and fro, resplendant in their overalls and safety boots, the respective fans of the Glasgow and the Belfast shipbuilders chanting songs at each other in a language that Dave just didn't even begin to understand.

Tearing himself away from his thoughts as to why football songs aren't written in latin, or at least in PR jargon, Cameron took a swig of panda pop as he spied Winston Churchill confronting the participants of the General Strike of 1911.

His chest swelled with pride at the thought of all those disgusting, lazy, greedy workers being faced down and broken. Not being able to resist, he glanced in the direction of the Liverpool dockers, smirking at their demise as he returned his loving gaze back to Churchill.

"Another brilliant example of a Liberal doing the right thing!" Gove spoke nervously, gulping as his sentence came to a shaky end. He looked at Andrew Landsley for support.

Landsley was engrossed in his reflection, checking the neat sky blue of his custom made throat bandage in the screen of his smart phone. Yes indeed, the i-twat application truly was worth an expense claim! Looking up blankly, he scrambled to recover as his colleague cowered in the icy glare of his emperor.

"Absolutely Michael!" agreed Landsley, rather too enthusiastically as he took one last glance at himself before returning the phone to his inside pocket.

"A fine liberal who became a great tory, no less!" Landsley adopted his best salesman smile. The overlord pondered these words for a moment, gazing at Churchill mid rant, and then glancing furtively at his loyal servant Clegg, who was busy speaking into a dictaphone.

"What are you doing Clegg?" demanded Cameron.

"I'm dictating the Lib Dem manifesto for 2015 M'Lord" replied Clegg. "Do you want to hear?" Clegg urgently pawed the buttons of the dictaphone, rewinding and then pressing play. "Whatever Dave says..Whatever Dave says.." spoke the disembodied voice within. Clegg stopped the dictaphone, and stood eagerly, awaiting his master's opinion.

Cameron rolled his eyes, and returned his attention to Messrs Gove and Landsley. Landsley had just given Gove a 'wet willy' and was slapping his thigh raucously at the sheer hilarity of it all.

Gove was trying to conceal a pet lip as he rubbed at his sodden ear with one of nanny's hankerchieves.

Becoming angry with himself for daring to compare Clegg to Churchill, the overlord snapped at his minions.

"What do you want??" Both men lurched back in recoil.

"Well, its this whole, NHS thing" said Landsley, examining the leather of his shoes.

"What about it man?" replied the overlord, his patience at such trifling matters wearing ever more thread bare.

"Well, how does it work exactly?" asked the Health Secretary.
Cameron sighed, his shoulders sagging heavily as he caressed his sweating quiff with a chamois.

"Andrew, we've been through this" he said, adopting his best calming voice. He stepped forward and put his arm around Landsley's shoulder. Clegg bridled with barely concealed envy.

"Instead of all those squillions of pounds being given to the health service to keep all those 'people' alive" He motioned with a flick of his hand at the football match that raged on in the corner and the foreign chants that were thrown up. "We take those squillions of pounds, and we give it to the doctors" The Health Secretary's face lit up in recognition.

"So we give it to the doctors so that they can give people a better service! Brilliant!" Landsley clapped his hands together" Cameron's eyes rolled again.
Removing his arm from Landsley's shoulder, he slapped the back of his head, causing the Health Secretary to stumble back, his expression one of disappointment as he rubbed his head. Gove smiled smugly as he continued to rub at his damp ear.

The overlord readied himself to speak before stopping himself abruptly.

"Clegg! Hand me my Thatcher pen! Now!"

"Right away M'Lord" Clegg prodiced a thick nibbed red pen from his master's leather play bag, and handed it ceremoniously to Cameron.
Taking one step forward, Cameron scrawled the words NO! NO! NO! across Landsley's face, before handing the pen back to Clegg, who replaced the lid, and polished it with his cuff before returning it to the bag.

"Allow me to point out that we are tories, Andrew" said Cameron quietly and calmly as the Health Secretary licked his hand and scrubbed at the red ink that covered his face. "As tories, we do not do things for the greater good. We do things that will benfit us, earn us the undying love of the gutter press, and keep our friends and family rich. That is all" Landlsey accepted Gove's silent offer of a handkerchief, and stared unblinkingly at Cameron as he continued.

"What we do, is we move those lovely squillions of pounds away from the filthy socialists in the health service, and we give it to the doctors who we play golf with, and who we went to school with who will use it to make themselves, and us, even richer. We only tell people that we want to make the health service better so they will leave us alone and not infect us with their working class, dirty logic. Do you understand?" Landsley nodded, still not blinking. Gove clicked his fingers in front of the Health Secretary's eyes.

"That's politics Andrew" said Cameron, with a dark smile.

"It's lying!" said Gove, before clamping his hand over his mouth, his eyes wide with fear.

"Same thing!" said Clegg as he manicured the overlord's left hand.

Cameron fixed his servant with an evil look, before melting into laughter. The 3 others eyed each other uneasily before following suit, laughing louder and harder in an attempt to outdo each other in the eyes of their emperor.

The laughing was interrupted by the sound of heavy breathing and tired footsteps. The four of them looked at the brow of the hill, where Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary was manhandling Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary back to his feet. He had stumbled, and mud was coating the knees of his ill fitting boiler suit.

Both men trudged over to where the other 4 were watching from, Eric taking off his helmet and wiping his brow with his glove.

"What's going on?" asked Hammond, his suit immaculate despite being knee deep in composted transport proposals for the last few days.

"I was just explaining to Andrew the principles of being a Tory Health Minister" replied the overlord with a dismissive wave of the hand. "He still thinks that he's there to provide care for normal people!" Both men shook their heads in disbelief.

"Did you find it all?" enquired Cameron.

Hammond shook his head. "We found many parts of it, but it was smashed into that many pieces, there are still many parts that we just can't seem to find.

"What you looking for?" asked Gove, his eyes following the outline of a young boy scampering across the horizon, his face blackened from the soot of a thousand chimneys.

"British Rail" replied Hammond cheerily."We managed to find collective bargaining, but we still can't find Research & Development, or any management competency"
Cameron considered the news for a moment.

The overlord was about to ask why it was that Eric Pickles was there. Choosing to ignore the fact that Pickles was eating, and that whatever it was had legs, which were still moving, he decided against it.

"Keep looking then. There has to be some competent management in all that mess somewhere. Don't worry so much about R&D though, and throw the collective bargaining thingy back. Oh, and Phillip."

Cameron leaned forward. Hammond reciprocated.

"Make sure it isn't found again. Make it go away" Hammond nodded approvingly, a menacing grin creeping across his features. The two men scuttled away, disappearing over the brow of the hill and into the sprawling mess below.

Watching the two men disappear from sight, the 4 men turned toward each other.

Cameron was late for an interview with The Sun and was worrying about whether he'd have time to get his trousers perfumed before the bottom kissing began. Clegg was wondering whether he would get to hold the perfume bottle this time. Andrew Landsley was in the midst of a eureka moment. Gove was stood next to a nearby bonfore, scaring the children away from the flames.

"I get it!" exclaimed Landlsey, his face shining with self congratulation.

"Get what?" demanded the overlord as he commanded Clegg to check his watch for him.

"I can't believe I missed it!" he shouted. Gove glanced across for a second. He was in the middle of smiling at some small children, who in turn were in the middle of running away in terror.

"I thought that the railways were privatised to enhance the experience for the passenger, and to attract inward investment and end decades of chronic underfunding and political tampering"

Cameron pinched the bridge of his nose in despair.

"But all along it was to break up the power of collective trade unionism, provide job opportunities for old school chums and failed tory MPs, and to give our families a good return on the stock market at the expense of safety and the travelling public!"

"Goodo!" shouted Cameron, slapping Landsley enthusiastically on the back. "You took your time, but you got there!"

"A bit like a privatised train after track access charges!" quipped Gove from the fireside.

"Good One Michael!" smiled the overlord.

The three chums shared a laugh for a second, drinking in the social superiority of what they were about to foist upon the parts of society that cannot afford private health care.

The moment was shattered by a shrill beeping. All three men turned to Nick Clegg, who was rifling through the pockets of his dress coat. After a few seconds he produced an alarm clock. Despite his best efforts, it would not stop beeping.

Gove and Landsley looked questioningly at the overlord.

"Its Clegg's latest project" he explained. "Says he wants to be at one with 'alarm clock Britain'"

"Can't he take the batteries out of alarm clock Britain?" asked Landsley, mockingly.

"Too late!" replied Clegg, tossing the alarm clock over his shoulder. "With the VAT increase and the fuel escalator, George Osbourne beat me to it!"

All 4 men laughed heartily, slapping each others backs and bending over double at what they were doing to the people who made them and their families rich.
"Sometimes, I think you're more tory than I Clegg!" spluttered Landsley. Glancing over at Churchill, Clegg smiled to himself. "Never a truer word Landsley, never a truer word"

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The ConDems; A New Year Digest, A Christmas Sketch.

Wow..its 0531 and I have officially beaten the sunrise! Before you all break into spontaneous applause and leap from your seats, I prey you remain sat for a while longer.

Its the 2nd day of 2011 and I have been thinking about how different things are from this time last year.

Sure, there are many examples of change, and of how we as a nation are currently wallowing in the delightful waters of change, suckling contentedly at the engorged nipple of progress, or whichever way you want to put it, but before I plunge headlong into a ski jump of sarcasm and caustic review, the greatest example of change is laid just a few feet away from me, and doesn't have a care in the world..

My beautiful boy Harry has quite literally taken the sum total of my life, put them in a washing machine, and hit the spin button...and I love it!

I could never have guessed this time last year that I would actually feel joy at the inception of broken sleep, exhaustion and constant worry.

Then again, I would never have guessed that Man City would be second in the Premier League, or that a Lib Dem would be Deputy PM. (The abbreviation for this job is DPM, or Dodgy Puppet/Marionette, for your future information)

Yep, alot has definitely gone down in 2010. There are markedly differing challenges for us all in the coming year. Confusion is the only sovereign that reigns with any true authority, as people and events confound our preconceptions.

I'm glad to say that I am not the only one who is working hard to come to terms with the strangeness that 2011 will herald, in a crazy new twelvemonth..look at what has happened, at least in my own questionable version of reality during the christmas season..

The price of food, petrol and houses are rising almost in line with bankers bonuses, and the government has reacted to claims that it is anti union by embarking on a large scale issue of coal stained scarves and caps for workers to doff whenever a boss passes near.

The Prime Minister has reassured the masses that he too feels the fiscal pain of government policy by using instructing his staff to carry his shopping back from John Lewis in Tesco carrier bags, and the chancellor has demonstrated his commitment to austerity by settling for a 5 star ski holiday in a wet snow resort instead of powder, and agreeing to use egyptian pharoh papirus, and the CV's of working class public sector workers to wipe his arse instead of £50 notes.

Bless those crazy tories and their socialist ideals!

Meanwhile, DPM Nick Clegg has managed to sidestep a potentially embarrassing banana skin..

The Lib Dem leader was due to address an annual meeting of retired steel workers and coal miners in Sheffield which he was expected to say that he was heavily in favour of coal mining, steel working, the wearing of white socks with suits, and the export of massed brass bands. In a strange twist however, he broke down in front of the audience, sobbing in a corner as his strings draped around him limply, shrieking that he despised his adopted family, and blamed them for everything in his career that had gone wrong. In response, Margaret Thatcher's spokesman refused to comment.

The following day, he was scheduled to attend a family reunion with his foster brother (call me) Dave, during which he was supposedly going to regail the packed hall with tales of how he blamed the ills of our great (one) nation upon those wet nosed, limp wristed lefties who wasted their lives with contemptible activities such as; coal mining, steel working, and engaging in the performance of brass band music.

A comment about how ridiculous white socks look with a suit was met with confused expressions from the faithful. One befuddled attendee was heard to comment that Clegg must be getting his wires crossed (strings tangled) as any self respecting conservative would simply have his valet's visa cancelled should such a faux pas be committed.

The DPM's new family though were very welcoming of the prodigal son despite his mixed introduction, throwing their arms around him and ushering him to the bar where they kept him stocked up with real ale (Black Sheep, allegedly) whilst he led a rousing sing song of anti student ditties, before dedicating a table thumping rendition of 'Loser' by Beck to his former compatriots in the Liberal Democrats.

The DPM has of course, had a rough time of it of late though, and it would seem he has learned his lesson. He has disclosed to aides that his main election strategy for 2015 is to launch a campaign where he gets all of his MPs to join him in signing a pledge not to imprison kittens and to condemn the actions, and uniforms of Adolf Hitler.

Meanwhile, reports that the 'Crazy Cat Bin Woman' and Prince Harry have each sent off Lib Dem application forms remain unconfirmed..

The coalition however, are pressing ahead at breakneck speed with various policies which will, they believe, change Britain, and redefine party politics.

In the latest show of cross party co-operation and coalition unity, Liberal Democrat members across the UK are signing up to join local fox hunts, now believing that the activity was only cruel previously because Gordon Brown has one eye and looks like he's made out of baked blu-tack, and Labour invented paper cuts.

Simon Hughes MP, the Deputy Lib Dem leader who was until recently against fox hunting before an unfortunate accident involving increased publicity and a ravenous ego, has been appointed by the coalition to work alongside foxes to try and convince them that hunting is actually in their best interests..

Elsewhere over the seasonal period, the Health Secretary Andrew Landsley MP narrowly avoided coming a cropper in a frightening medical emergency that managed to not only terrify those present, but also to demonstrate the wonders of intergrated government.

Mr Landsley had been basking in the afterglow of the union's appreciation, following him offsetting job losses in the NHS by employing some health workers to feed him grapes, fan his tepid brow, and lick his toga clean. Mr Landsley was exhausted coming into the holiday season, having launched his NHS reforms, introducing market style privatisation to the health service on the back of the, quite obvious, success of private railways..

At the same time, the Schools Secretary Michael 'Child Catcher' Gove MP has embarked on an innovative new scheme to prevent truanting. He has commissioned thousands of life sized replicas of himself and has positioned them at bus shelters, railway platforms and sweet shops up and down the UK in an attempt to frighten schoolchildren back into school, or at least into the Conservative Party. A mini gove product is also being considered which would sit atop the fireplace and reduce the amount of toddlers burning themselves by straying too near to living room fires..

In the meantime, the health Secretary's soft focussed coccon of self satisfaction and relentless rehearsals for looking chastened in reaction to commoners losing their jobs was cruelly shattered when he allegedly choked on some fois gras and baby meerkat pate and needed emergency medical attention.

Upon calling 999, Mr Landsley's valet was placed in a queue, and eventually connected to a call centre in Delhi, where a tender was issued for health care companies to bid for the contract to attend Landsley Hall and assist the Health Secretary.

Whilst the drama unfolded, the Local Community Secretary, and renowned saviour of community take aways and restaurants, Eric Pickles MP has instructed local councils that they must deliver more for less, and not only push up council tax bills.

In response, local authorites have entered into wodespread debate and brain storming as to how they can achieve this. An early fore runner in some areas is to put out traffic cones and set up contra flows and diversions, but not actually carry out any roadworks. This is something that has been trialled with huge success on the M1, and other major roads..

Back at Landsley Hall, Mr Landsley's staff were frantically trying to engage in a positive manner with interior and exterior partners and customers, by utilising the progressive, free, and efficient health service that the Health Secretary is so busily creating(sic).

Upon enquiring as to how long it would take for an ambulance to arrive, Mr Landsley's valet was informed that such data was commercially sensitive, and that a written statement would be made in the next parliamentary session.

After due diligence and scrutiny, a health care provider was awarded the contract to attend Landsley Hall, but was immediately referred to the competition commission following the same company being awarded a similar contract only hours earlier when a street cleaner was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack after receiving a revised pension estimate.

In the meantime Mr Landsley was feeling quite proud at how blue he was managing to turn, and decided to occupy himself by opening the evening postal delivery.

Disaster was avoided however with Mr Landsley was on the verge of hypoxia. Whilst hurtling headlong towards oblivion, the Health Secretary opened his council tax bill, the shock of which caused him to disloge and cough up his fois gras and baby meerkat pate, which he immediately shared out among his staff as a christmas bonus.

In other news, the Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond MP, and the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP have joined together in announcing an exciting new opportunity for commuters.

In reaction to the recent rises in the cost of season tickets, the two ministers have decided to work together by making it so that anyone buying a lottery ticket will win the following prizes; 3 numbers gets you a job selling teas and coffes from the on board trolley service of peak time trains, 4 numbers gets you a seat next to a blocked toilet in the carriage end of your morining service, 5 numbers gets you a 'walk on' priced return ticket and the jackpot gets you a season ticket..it is worth noting however that only players with 5 or 6 numbers AND the bonus ball will be eligible for a seat at peak times..

Back at the home of the health Secretary, the news broke of his timely recovery, and the contract for the health care provider to visit Mr Landsley was cancelled.

The company was subsequently paid £500,000 in recompense for the price of half of the diesel used whilst sitting in non existent roadworks.

I used to think that politics was a dogmatic and pointless exercise, dominated by also rans and bafoons who traded on the success of their parents or the accidental circumstance of their birth.

I hope that you can see why I may have changed my mind, taking into account the events whoch may or may not have happened over the holidays..

I send my best wishes and new year hopes to you and your families..may your god keep you safe, and may the new year bring to you all that you desire..