February 29, 2012 London 2012 Comments Off
MayorWatch reported yesterday on Channel 4′s plans for their coverage of this summer’s Paralympic Games. It seems they’re actually taking it seriously, with Clare Balding taking a lead role, which is a blessed relief to those of us who cringed our way through their appalling world athletics championships coverage last summer. If you remember, they made the catastrophic error of letting the omni-shambolic Ortis Deley present their coverage, only to have to sack him halfway through the championships out of sheer embarrassment. You don’t remember? Relive the pain…
I mentioned the other day that Ken is attacking Boris for having a Telegraph column which takes him no more than an hour to write on his Sunday afternoon off. This is despite Ken having juggled the mayoralty with his position as MP for Brent East (for over a year), a column for the Independent and a column for the Morning Star. Today it emerged that, for six years of his mayoralty, Ken had a company which he channelled money into from paid media appearances and speeches. Someone else reminded me that he even found time for the odd Have I Got News for You appearance whilst mayor. By my rough calculations that made him ‘Six-Job Ken’.
I mentioned, too, that Ken has pledged to hold just the one job if elected in May, despite already standing for a position on Labour’s National Executive Committee, which is a demanding and time-consuming role. But what would it involve exactly? Helpfully, Luke Akehurst has given an overview of the role:
The full NEC meets every two months for at least half a day, with an extended “Away Day” (actually held at Party HQ!) after Annual Conference each year to look at the year’s objectives. There are multiple meetings during the week of Annual Conference. During Conference week NEC members also chair conference sessions and introduce and respond to each debate.
In practice a lot of the NEC’s business is transacted in committees and panels, which usually meet in the months in between full meetings. This is essential as a 33 member NEC is too large to consider every issue in detail.
There are a number of ad hoc panels and committees to deal with particular tasks, for instance I am serving on one about implementation of the Refounding Labour changes.
NEC members also serve on each of the NPF’s Policy Commissions and on the JPC, which has strategic oversight of policy development in the party through overseeing the rolling programme of Partnership in Power. The JPC acts as the steering group for the National Policy Forum. It is therefore a joint committee made up of NEC, Government and National Policy Forum representatives.
So that’s half-day meetings, away days, meetings throughout conference, established sub-committees and panels, ad-hoc committees and panels, policy commissions and the joint policy committee – and that doesn’t even touch on the work, communication and reports that have to be undertaken on a near-constant basis between meetings.
That Ken is standing for a position that involves that much work, whilst attacking Boris for doing some writing on his Sunday afternoons off, is nothing but shameless hypocrisy.
Asked at Prime Minister’s Questions about Ken Livingstone’s tax avoidance, David Cameron noted:
“Red Ken has been caught red-handed.”
Today started well for those of us who are already unhealthily excited about the Olympics. To mark 150 days until the start of the games, huge bright Olympic rings travelled up and down the Thames on a barge, stopping at various landmarks to give people time to see them.
When they reached Tower Bridge, Boris announced the summer’s extensive cultural programme, including “the biggest festival of outdoor arts ever to be seen in the capital”. He added “Wherever you are, you will feel a part of the 2012 celebrations and experience a summer like no other in one of the most exciting cities on earth.”
So far, so good. Until this evening, when Unite general secretary Len McCluskey threatened to time public sector strikes for the middle of the Olympics, as part of their ongoing campaign against the government’s spending cuts. It’s actually hard, on a family blog, to give my reaction to the news. At a time when the city will be packed with tourists – from across the UK and the world – and at a time when the eyes of the world will be focused on London, how anyone with any brain at all can consider catastrophically disruptive strike action is genuinely beyond my understanding.
London – and Britain as a whole – would be a global embarrassment, with the ensuing chaos providing the worst imaginable advertisement for our capital and our country. The attempt to seize on what, for most, will be a joyous few weeks is nothing but cynical, heartless and greedy opportunism from the unions. You may remember that the Aslef union had similar plans at the time of last year’s royal wedding. Fortunately the plans were met with such universal disgust that they were promptly shelved. This strike action, too, must not be allowed to happen.
Of course, wherever there is discord in London, Ken Livingstone is never usually far away. The Unite union is one of his principal backers – they have campaigned for him and provided him with tens of thousands of pounds of campaign finance. Remember the YouGov poll a couple of weeks ago which showed that 50% of Londoners believe his union backing compromises his ability to hold office? In order to convince us otherwise, he must condemn these strike proposals in the strongest possible terms and, if necessary, return to the unions the cash which he has previously so hungrily received from them.
Under the Evening Standard article on Ken’s tax avoidance – in which they rightly mention the frankly innumerable accusations of hypocrisy – one reader comment made me laugh…
While on the subject, Guido has noted the complete silence on the matter from those left-wing blogs which normally vent a collective spleen at the slightest whiff of tax avoidance. Their hypocrisy is almost as grave as Ken’s.
Boris’s announcement yesterday that he’ll reduce the power of the tube unions by introducing driverless trains is a real step in the right direction. An automated network, free of threats and blackmail from preposterously overpaid drivers, will be a dramatic and positive development in the history of the London Underground. That some tube lines will be fully automatic within a couple of years is even better news.
It prompts five short thoughts:
Firstly, let’s not allow Ken Livingstone (as I’m sure he will) to try and provoke safety fears against the plans. Thirty cities worldwide already operate driverless trains, and each train would still have a ‘train captain’ responsible for passenger safety.
Secondly, one wonders if tube drivers will live to regret their union-encouraged greed. Not content with salaries approaching £50k a year, huge holidays and 35-hour weeks (for what isn’t a particularly tough job), they’ve constantly haggled for more cash – insisting on extra money (in some cases, bonuses of nearly £2,000) to work during the Olympics and, just recently, requesting triple pay and a day off in lieu for working on a bank holiday. They may have over-reached…
Thirdly, Ken Livingstone, funded and backed by the very unions who have caused so much disruption over the years, has never embraced reform of the network. Already Ken’s mates within RMT, Aslef and TSSA have condemned the plans, as one would expect them to. Only Boris can claim to have the appetite and ability to bring in these historic reforms.
Fourthly, remember how much tube efficiency is already up and delays are already down under Boris. Despite Team Ken’s desperate clammerings to the contrary, Channel 4′s FactCheck recently confirmed what those of us who use the network regularly knew already – that there’s been a huge improvement in performance. Most notably, they found that there have been an average of a million fewer lost customer hours every four weeks under Boris. When the system is fully-automated, and strikes are no more, those performance statistics will improve even further.
Lastly, the automation of the Tube is just one of many improvements being made on the network as a result of Boris’ record investment. Increases in capacity, new signalling, new trains, station upgrades, air-conditioned trains, improved disabled access…the list goes on. Click below to see how each line is being transformed:
Having had his pledge to cut fares proven to be an unfunded sham, and having admitted that his pledge to enforce a rent cap is entirely unworkable, it seems Ken’s already running out of ideas. His big announcement today was that Boris writes a column for the Telegraph (I may have paraphrased a bit there, but not much). Boris, so Ken says, should not be writing this column, and the fact that he does is clear and obvious evidence, so Ken says, that Boris doesn’t care about London.
Let’s critique this argument. It seems to me that there can be three possible objections. Firstly, that the column is for the nasty Telegraph, which is read by nasty, evil Tories etc. Secondly, that Boris is paid £250,000 a year to write the column. Thirdly, the amount of time that Boris spends writing it.
I’m going to dismiss straightaway the Telegraph objection. Given Ken has proudly written for the Sun (only to subsequently insist he hates News International, when a convenient bandwagon approached) and presented for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iranian state television, I’m going to trust that even he wouldn’t be so hypocritical as to criticise Boris for his choice of media outlet.
So, is Ken’s objection that Boris is a respected journalist and is thus paid lots to write the column? Would Boris’ critics be less bothered if he was paid just £50,000 – or even £8,500 (the amount Ken earnt from his job on Press TV)? Would earning a smaller figure in some way enable him to do his job as mayor better? Clearly not. Any objection at that level is nothing but jealousy dressed up as inverted snobbery.
What’s more, friends of Boris have today confirmed that, unlike Ken ‘tax-avoider’ Livingstone, the current mayor pays income tax on all his earnings. A £250,000 payment for the column means £125,000 straight to the taxpayer.
So perhaps the objection is that Boris writes the column at all? There are a number of responses to that. Firstly, a short article each week would take a seasoned journalist like Boris less than an hour to scribble up. He writes it on his Sunday afternoon off. Even his most ardent critics wouldn’t deny him a few hours of his own time each week.
Secondly, there’s an obvious comparison to be made with Ken’s time as mayor. As we were reminded today, Ken also had a column – for the Independent – when mayor. Furthermore, unlike Boris, who quit his position as MP as soon as he became mayor, Ken doubled up both jobs for over a year in 2000-01. ‘Three-jobs Ken’, he should’ve been known as. Added to that is the amount of time Ken spent out of the country appeasing his socialist chums rather than getting on with his job – remember how he visited Havana more often than he visited Hillingdon during his eight years as mayor? Remember Ken visiting Bexley just once in eight years? Remember those stats back in the autumn which showed Boris had visited almost every borough in London more in three and a half years than Ken did in his eight years? Ken was the part-time mayor, not Boris.
And what of the future? Ken has grandly signed a pledge saying he’d take on no other job other than the mayoralty if he wins in May. Yet already, he’s standing for a position on Labour’s National Executive Committee – a position which, if he’s to perform it properly, would easily take up more time than Boris’s column does.
This latest attack is nothing but Kenpocrisy from someone who’s rapidly running out of ideas.
[UPDATE: I've just been reminded that Ken also wrote a column for the Morning Star. 'Three-jobs Ken' is actually 'Four-jobs Ken'. At one point, he was simultaneously Mayor of London, MP for Brent East, Independent columnist and Morning Star columnist.]
February 27, 2012 Politics Comments Off
A friend just sent me this…
The British Medical Association has weighed in on the new health care proposals.
The Allergists voted to scratch it, but the Dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves.
The Gastroenterologists had a sort of a gut feeling about it, but the neurologists thought the administration had a lot of nerve.
The Obstetricians felt they were all labouring under a misconception. Ophthalmologists considered the idea short-sighted.
Pathologists yelled, “Over my dead body!” while the Paediatricians said, “Oh, grow up!”
The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, while the Radiologists could see right through it.
The Surgeons were fed up with the cuts and decided to wash their hands of the whole thing.
The ENT specialists didn’t swallow it, and just wouldn’t hear of it. The Pharmacologists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow, and the Plastic Surgeons said, “This puts a whole new face on the matter….”
The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward, but the Urologists were pissed off at the whole idea.
The Anaesthetists thought the whole idea was a gas, but the Cardiologists didn’t have the heart to say no.
In the end, the Proctologists won out, leaving the entire decision up to the arseholes in London.
Andrew Gilligan in today’s Telegraph has revealed that Ken Livingstone has avoided over £50,000 in tax by having all of his income paid directly into a company of which he and his wife are the sole shareholders. The move ensures Ken only has to pay corporation tax at 20% rather than income tax at 40% (or even 50% depending on the level of income). Furthermore, by using this device, Ken is able to split his income 50-50 with his wife, thus avoiding even more tax.
None of which would ordinarily be particularly newsworthy. It’s a completely legal and commonly-used method of tax avoidance. Where it gets difficult for Ken is that it’s also a flagrant example of ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ hypocrisy. Ken, the quintessential socialist, has previously said the following on tax avoiders…
Ken’s also said that “everybody should pay tax at the same rate on earnings and other income” and that the rich should pay an 80% rate of tax. He has constantly criticised Boris for saying the 50p rate of tax is too high, whilst deliberately avoiding it himself. Similarly, he constantly attacks bankers – for, amongst other failings, greed – whilst avoiding tax in a way that most of them (invariably paying 50% tax on salaries) could only dream of. Lastly, of course, Ken backs the thuggish UK Uncut mob, who chase after, often violently, anyone who they believe has avoided tax. Presumably they’ll be attempting to occupy Ken Livingstone’s house in the near future?
This video from Tuesday’s AgeUK mayoral debate is worth a watch. Boris pledges to extend the Freedom Pass to Londoners aged 60 years or older, discusses driverless tube trains, and calls on Ken to reveal how he will pay for his unfunded, unaffordable pledge to cut fares.