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There could be many more Inequality Moments this week

Posted on 20 March 2012 | 9:03am

I am due to be sitting on the This Week sofa with Michael Portillo on Thursday, when doubtless post-Budget discussion will dominate.

As regular viewers will know, the show kicks off with Andrew Neil asking Michael and his fellow close-up sofa-occupant for their ‘moment of the week’.

This week’s will probably emerge from tomorrow, but as I ran round Hampstead Heath this morning, I ruminated on a few possibilities from the week so far.

- the collapse of Fabrice Muamba, and the football world immediately showing a unity and a humanity it does not always manage to display.

- still on the sporting front, the announcement of the carriers of the Olympic Torch and the meeting between the youngest and oldest people on the list, 99 year old Dinah Gould, an 11 year old Dominic MacGowan.

In Budget week however it will be hard not to be political.

I enjoyed the body language between George Osborne and Ed Balls when they briefly shared another BBC sofa on Sunday. I sense George doesn’t like Ed much and that the feeling is mutual.

Then there was the moment David Cameron made his speech about the need to expand airport expansion in the South East, and I wondered if he regretted his short-term opportunism in opposing a third Heathrow runway at the last election, as some of us warned he would.

But narrowly edging it for now is the speech by the general secretary of the OECD, Angel Gurria, to a conference in China yesterday, urging the Chinese in their rapid economic development NOT to follow the US-UK route to the kind of wage inequality we have today.

It is a point emphasised by the near news blackout on the announcement yesterday of a freeze in the youth rate of the national minimum wage. Compare and contrast the frenzied focus on tax cuts for people who don’t need them with the dearth of interest in a further living standards squeeze on people at the bottom end. The Tories always hated the minimum wage, and given what they have done to the NHS, do not be surprised if the NMW is next in their sights.

Angel Gurria’s point will be emphasised further when Osborne delivers a Budget which, for all the pre-event sofa rhetoric, is clearly going to benefit the wealthy more than low and middle income families.

- Feel free to share YOUR moment of the week between now and Thursday night.

  • http://twitter.com/13murphy13 Peter Murphy

    Also on the sporting front, it’s not being reported much but London 2012 will be the first Olympics to have equal numbers of male & female athletes. In Beijing it was 42% female. 

  • Chris lancashire

    “near news blackout”? What rot. It was well reported on both the BBC and several newspapers. Why do you persist in forever talking down a generally excellent UK media?

  • Michele

    I’m sure that the focus on national wage rates is driven by needing (nay, wanting) to ‘gift’ the private providers post-Bill.

    Naturally there is a point in London Weighting (which I’d imagine still prevails in the Civil Service) … no time to check. 
    I don’t expect that all councils pay London rates and I’m not being London-centric as I know from a varied past that travel can be even more expensive elsewhere (that didn’t have the likes of Prezza and Ken – albeit separately – making sense of all the networks for them).  Travel is still very expensive here too but at least it’s punctual (95/6+% consistently for the past 5+ years as well as more frequent and more linking and faster, whoooosh).

    Anyway, must stop mouthing off.  Hope the lovely weather continues …. and that I didn’t just put a hex on that!  BFN xxx

  • Charles Bell

    Why cant Labour make a commitment to renationalise the NHS without compensation on the basis that this sale is against the will and interest of the people of the UK.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Britain has institutionalised economic and social inequality.
    Social outcomes of inequality include unhappiness, violence, obesity and addiction.
    Inequality contributes to consumerism, isolation, alienation and anxiety.
    Inequality led to borrowing which in turn led to the financial crisis.
    In Britain the income gap between the top 10% and the bottom 10% has multiplied by 14 in the last 25 years.
    The Scandinavian model is based on equality and solidarity. So there is an alternative.
    But it includes higher taxes.
    The economic “theory” behind inequality is NEOLIBERALISM, which took hold in the 1980s.
    But markets are not self-regulating, and there is no such a thing as rational economic actor.
    So neoliberalism is not backed by any facts – it is a rightwing ideology which benefits only the super-rich.
    George Osborne´s answer is more neoliberalism. More deregulation and privatisation. More short-termism.
    Ed Balls has been proved right on the economy. He also kept Britain  out of the euro.
    We need to reconsider the moral and ideological foundations of our current economic model, which includes unregulated markets and profit-maximising entrepreneurs.
    Since 1970s growth has declined and unemployment risen. Wages have lagged behind productivity. Wealth has gone into the hands of rich.
    Elites have now placed themselves above society, and are only interested in getting richer.
    Cutting the top rate tax now is bad politics!
    Neoliberalism is unstable and unfair. It is unstable BECAUSE it is unfair.
    We need moral capitalism based on fairness.
    Economic policy should be framed in the interest of society as a whole.
    We need new politics of common good.
    Banks should help business to invest in real economy instead of making money out of money.
    The sales revenues of Wal-Mart are higher than GDPs of all but 25 countries.
    The world´s largest investment manager, the Rothschild-controlled BlackRock, manages $3.5tn in assets – greater than national reserves of any country on planet.
    The $33.5bn Gates Foundation distributed more money in 2010 for worldwide causes than WHO had in its annual budget.
    These are only a couple of examples how big corporations and super-rich have taken over the world.
    Corporations are central to our economy, but they exist to serve us – not the other way around.
    Big corporations spend fortunes on lobbying and influence policy through their thinktanks and strategy groups.
    Multinational companies avoid taxes.
    The Tory-led government is totally in the pockets of bankers. The City pays the bills of the Conservatives.
    George Osborne is a member of the Bilderberg Group which is run by Rockefellers and Rothschilds.
    The coalition now intends to cut corporation tax to 23%.
    The budget will include major changes to profits from overseas subsidiaries.
    New policies have been written by multinationals themselves. People connected to McKinsey, KPMG and Rothschild-controlled companies Vodafone, Shell, Tesco, BHP Billiton and Barclays (famous for its tax avoidance) have been taking part in decision-making process.
    There is no real democracy in Britain anymore. Chatham House is dictating foreign policy.
    Media is owned by rightwingers. BBC is governed by Bilderbergers and members of Rockefeller´s Trilateral Commission.
    There is little hope that current government will provide any real change to the system which is not functioning.

    Ps. Britain´s debt interest in 2010 was £42.9bn. In 2011 it is £48.6bn. The QE programme of the BoE has so far kept the interest rates low, but the BoE has now ended it. The deficit is coming down, but Britain´s debt is increasing. By 2015 debt interest payments will be at least £65bn a year – almost 10% of total tax take!

  • Richard

     “I will have to get back to you on that.” Moment of the week to date was Harriet Harperson helping Ed Miliband out by explaining Labour’s costed Bankers Tax paying for your Job Creation Plans on The Daily Politics
    Until the Party stops promoting people as part of  a quota approach, you will remain in the wilderness. She is a national joke: bring back Two Jags for some straightforward policy narration! 
    Please explain the latest polling figures, Al.

  • Richard

     “I will have to get back to you on that.” Moment of the week to date was Harriet Harperson helping Ed Miliband out by explaining Labour’s costed Bankers Tax paying for your Job Creation Plans on The Daily Politics
    Until the Party stops promoting people as part of  a quota approach, you will remain in the wilderness. She is a national joke: bring back Two Jags for some straightforward policy narration! 
    Please explain the latest polling figures, Al.

  • Anonymous

    At least the media did report on the freezing on the national minimum wage, admittedly not as much as it deserved. Contrast with the coverage of the NHS bill currently being shoehorned through, the result of the appalling lack of coverage has essentially meant that many within the NHS feel that arguments for and against the bill haven’t been properly discussed and the government are pushing legislation through which will ultimately harm the health service irreparably. So for me 2 moments of the week, public outpouring of support and compassion for Fabrice Muamba (also
    the exceptional hard work of the NHS in looking after the young man). The failure of the government to look after the best interests of the NHS. 

  • Anonymous

    At least the media did report on the freezing on the national minimum wage, admittedly not as much as it deserved. Contrast with the coverage of the NHS bill currently being shoehorned through, the result of the appalling lack of coverage has essentially meant that many within the NHS feel that arguments for and against the bill haven’t been properly discussed and the government are pushing legislation through which will ultimately harm the health service irreparably. So for me 2 moments of the week, public outpouring of support and compassion for Fabrice Muamba (also
    the exceptional hard work of the NHS in looking after the young man). The failure of the government to look after the best interests of the NHS. 

  • Anonymous

    I think the moments of the week (bearing mind Portillo may nip in first with any one of them) are likely to be:

    1. 50% rate, its an issue now even if he keeps it. Plus other tax issues like raising threshold to 10k, proposed tycoon/mansion taxes.
    2. Ed Miliband’s counter-workfare strategy with 6 months paid work offered (or forced?) to those out of work for 1 year.
    3. Switch to regional pay rather than national for civil servants.

  • ronnie

    Because of the assault on democracy – the Tories overtly promised the exact opposite of what they’ve done and then started to implement the changes even before the bill became law;
    Because of the incredible arrogance involved in ignoring the advice of the vast majority of those who work in the service;
    Because of the very real danger of death and disease it will bring to those of us who cannot afford private care;
    there can only be one ‘moment of the week’ – the disgrace that is the passing of the Health and Social Care Bill.
    Please make a fuss about it on telly AC – it’s a momentous thing and needs to be kept front of mind

  • Anonymous

    (Off topic) Hope you read my reply two blogs back Michele re Ireland to see we are in agreement (I think.) Its a more important issue than economics I think hence the nudge.

  • Gilliebc

    My moment of the week so far is a rather personal one!  Readers of a squeamish disposition should look away now.

    I have this very afternoon ‘survived’ my first experience of root canal work at the dentist’s.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as some ‘helpful’ people had told me it would be!  It was very necessary though following an infection in a recently re-filled tooth which resulted in me looking as if I’d been beaten-up – spectacular bruises on one side of my face from jaw to and including eye.  Not very attractive and very painful.

    It’s funny how relatively mundane personal things put other stuff into perspective though.

    If a person does not enjoy good health, (as I normally do) every thing else just pales into insignificance. 

    I was interested to hear that some Doctors are talking about standing for Parliament at the next general election.  That sounds like a good plan to me!  I haven’t as yet given it a great deal of thought and I’d be interested to hear what others think about it? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Duncan-Phipp-macintyre/525048347 Duncan Phipp-macintyre

    I very much enjoy A. Neil’s programmes – I’ll look forward to Thursday’s, very late, night episode. Wednesday’s stramash bodes very badly indeed. It coincides with another unpleasantness – psychotherapy appointment. Draining if it is to have any value at all. The only light in this, personally, well is that my peach tree in the greenhouse is in blossom as is a nectarine and an apple that my sons planted as seeds. A glimmering ray of a solitary light amidst the gloom.
    I am so often incredulous as to just how self-serving the Tory profiteers are – and how brazen they are.

  • Anonymous

    On topic – its not just travel though is it, its rent as well, maybe other things.
    Difficult one to solve, and civil service wages aren’t the only unbalanced thing.

  • Anonymous

    I know all parties do this, but the minimum wage thing combined with public sector pay, is a clear example of politics over economics.

    I don’t mean to pick a fight, lets just say that some people believe in national minimum wage and national pay bargaining for civil service, some people believe these things should be regional. Does anyone believe that one should be regional and the other national though? Does George Osborne? I don’t think so, yet it looks like thats what we will get.

    This govt just does as much as it feels it can get away with, rather than what it believes – I think. Back in the day they slagged off Blair for this (with some justification) but I think they are worse.

  • Neal

    The Tories always hated the minimum wage ,do not be surprised if the NMW is next in their sights.
    ……………………………………………Sorry Alastair but I can’t agree with you on this one. Next in the Condems sights will be the abolition of the state O.A.P. for people who receive a public sector pension .I can see the headlines in the Daily Hate and Murdoch Bog Rolls now … ” Why should the private sector have to pay taxes to fund these parasites so they can live in the lap of luxury on TWO pensions ? ” 

  • Gilliebc

    Spot-on as ever Olli.  This country and its people have been totally stitched-up by the wealthy powerful elite and I don’t mean the wealthy powerful elite of just this country either.

    They are intent on pursuing a globalist agenda and to be perfectly honest I don’t believe a Labour government would be any different.  Not now.  The situation has already gone much too far. 

    Now that our once great institutions including the majority of the MSM are either owned or controlled (in most cases both apply) by TPTB there really isn’t much we can to about it.

    However, to finish on a brighter note, since the beginning of this month many banksters in the US and other countries have been resigning in droves.  With many more resignations still expected.  Not that it has been reported in our MSM!

  • Dave Simons

     I entirely agree about the passing of the Health and Social Care Bill being the moment of this week – at least I hope nothing worse happens. It’s a clear example of pre-Election Cameron lying to the electorate about no top-down reorganisations of the Health Service under the Conservatives. Get ready for the mantra from Portillo and ask what the Conservatives would have done if they had been in office during the banking crisis of 2008. Would they have bailed out the banks or let them go to the wall?

  • Anonymous

    Other moments internationally:
    - The case (I’ve just heard about) of the boy who was shot in the gated community in Florida, which according to CH4 seems quite shocking. I’m for “the right to bear arms” but not for people to shoot people they don’t like the look of.
    - The shootings in France.

  • Anonymous

    If we include Sunday in the week under the microscope, I would definitely go for the doctors declaring their intention to stand at the next election.  Not sure quite how it will work in relation to the national picture, but the idea of contesting a seat where the incumbent is blatantly not serving the public interest can be quite invigorating – cf Martin Bell and the dreaded Neil Hamilton in Tatton.  

    I am genuinely frightened about the future because it took years for the ‘Enough’s enough’ sentiment to purge the country of the appalling people in government.  I’m worried the electoral boundary changes, the disintegration of the Lib Dems to the benefit of the Tories and the self-censorship of the media will make this country uninhabitable.  I think the potential for corruption is very great – real, institutionalised corruption where politicians passing laws stand to benefit directly.  

  • Bullers

    A generally excellent media ? Been off- planet lately and missed Leveson ?

  • Mark Wright

    I would suggest that the Tories’ ‘regional wage variation’ proposal for public sector workers is just a short step away from introducing national variations to the minimum wage itself.

    My moment of the week – Sally Bercow wearing an inappropriately sexy and striking dress which only served to draw attention to the fact of her being strategically placed being TB and GB during the Queen’s speech to parliament. Blair tanned and relaxed. Brown, er, not quite so much…

       

  • Anonymous

    Doctors standing for election – well Gilliebc I think David Owen seems to have done quite well, then again there was Liam Fox!

    The only discrepancy I notice in this regard, is that doctors are against the NHS bill, so everyone says “They are the experts on this, we should listen to them.”
    Same when teachers argue against school changes.

    Yet when lawyers argue against reform in Ireland lately, or when bankers argue against bank reform, people are less keen to listen to the “experts”.

    Personally I think we should listen to service providers, but know that they are acting at least in part out of self interest.
    We should listen to those who receive the services too – one of Tony Blair’s major contributions to UK was to recognise this.

  • Dave Simons

     Glad to hear you’re through your root canal work at the dentist’s and I wish you a speedy return to normality. I do know a remarkable exception to ill health making everything else pale into insignificance. One of my friends, young and terminally ill, has been a regular campaigner against the Health and Social Care Bill, with articles featured in the national media. Now the Bill has been passed we won’t be allowed to let everything else pale into insignificance when we become ill.

  • Chris lancashire

    Absolutely not – believe the hysteria if you want to. Better perhaps stand back and compare the UK’s media with that of any comparable country – France, Germany, US. We have a broader quality press than any of those – from the Guardian Independent to the Times, Telegraph. On broadcasting, the BBC has its faults but remains streets ahead of NBC, TFI, RTL et al and Sky provides excellent broad based coverage.
    Leveson and the politicians are succeeding in besmirching that generally excellent record which leads to uninformed comments like yours.

  • ronnie

    Bankers arguing against bank reform do so because they don’t want to lose their power and freedom.
    Doctors arguing against NHS reform are being offered more power and freedom. They are saying they don’t want it because in their judgement born of long experience it will be detrimental to the care they can give their patients.
    There you have the difference. The doctors care about their patients – the bankers care about themselves.

  • Janiete

    That goes for me too! There is only one moment of the week, the passing of the Health & Social Care Bill. In fact, in years to come we will realise it was actually the moment of the decade.

    It has been a disgraceful abuse of our democracy, already admitted by Portillo, who confirmed the Conservatives knew they wouldn’t have gained power if they had been upfront about their plans before the election.

    Today I am totally in sympathy with Nye Bevan’s sentiment when he said:

    ‘No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep and burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.’

    I live in hope that British people will see them for what they are and heed warnings at the next election:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKFTtYx2OHc

     

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think its quite that simple, but you put a pretty good argument re opposite approaches to power and freedom.

    I hope that doctors can be trusted more than bankers, but I wouldn’t base any policy on trust.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think its quite that simple, but you put a pretty good argument re opposite approaches to power and freedom.

    I hope that doctors can be trusted more than bankers, but I wouldn’t base any policy on trust.

  • Gilliebc

    Thank you Dave for your kind words to me at the beginning of your post, they are much appreciated.

    Your young friend who is sadly terminally ill sounds like a very admirable person.  It’s remarkable how many people especially young people who find themselves in such a position find the strength and courage to try and make a difference for the betterment of others.

    The passing of the Health and Social Care Bill (how and why was that allowed to happen!) this week is no doubt the moment of the week/decade/century even and very worrying for most ordinary people. 

    Your last sentence says it all.

  • Ehtch

    Had three root canals in past due to sport, the worst bit is the injection in the upper jaw, I must have been about three feet above the seat by the time he stopped shoving the needle in – that smarted. The rest was alright. They’ve been quite reliable, but do have an infection now and again, but that is due to loss of blood supply into the remains of the tooth. The last crown was flipping expensive though – had a gold centre or something, which the dentist said helps stop infection or something.

    Doctors view life differently to the rest of us, on the whole, which goes with their territory. There have been quite high ranking politicians that were trained doctors, and Harry Hill-types they weren’t quite. Anyone remember David Owen? He should have stayed in the Labour Party and fought his corner, rather than all that SDP nonsense.

  • Gilliebc

    Regarding injections given by dentists Ehtch.  If they are painful, the dentist isn’t doing it right!  Or, administering it properly, I s’pose I should say.  I wouldn’t have believed that either.  But 5 years ago my dentist of 30 years or more retired and his practice was bought by a younger but nevertheless quite experienced dentist.

    I wasn’t sure what to make of him at first, but he is a damn good dentist.  He makes a point of delivering injections very very slowly and that way it is just slightly uncomfortable rather than eye-wateringly, fist-clenchingly painful.

    It makes a big difference using that technique.  All dentists should do it like that imho.

    Apparently gold is a natural anti-septic, which is why it’s said to be beneficial to pass a gold wedding ring across the eye of someone who has a stye or similar.

    I remember David (anytime) Owen quite well. I saw him on the box fairly recently.  He looks old now.
    I agree he should have stayed in the Labour Party as should Shirley Williams have done too.