April 2, 2012 Leave a comment
Oh I just love to alliterate…
Over the past week pretty much everybody I have spoken to has brought the same three issues up in conversation – petrol, pasties and George Galloway (unfortunately I cannot hear the name of the latter without picturing Rula Lenska stroking him and hearing those chilling words, ‘would you like me to be the cat?’ One of the more disturbing moments in the history of television). As I have (unforgivably) neglected this blog lately I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and air my opinions on these issues.
So it all kicked of nicely on the 28th March when, in a moment of fabulous stupidity, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude thought it was a good idea to advise people to fill up their tanks and keep a jerry can of petrol handy in case of strike action. Why he thought this was a good idea is still a mystery, probably even to himself. Other members of the government then decided to blunder in to make matters worse, giving conflicting advice about how full people’s tanks should be (pretty damn full was the general consensus, if you were wondering) and many members of the public duly rushed out in panic to suck the pumps dry, followed by many others who heard of the panic and also panicked and so on ad infinitum (or at least until the petrol pumps ran out, as they did in many areas).
The Conservative Party reacted by
trying to calm the situation, of course publishing a leaflet containing a scathing attack on tanker drivers. Well, well done… People love a good panic, as the government know and quite clearly exploited for their own duplicitous means. The prospect of strike action had been looming benignly for some time, without any sort of panic, until Francis Maude opened his fat mouth causing chaos and a chain of causation that led to a woman in York suffering horrific burns when petrol she was decanting in her kitchen caught fire. The government deliberately engineered a run on the pumps in an attempt to discredit Unite the Union and, in turn, the Labour Party, who receive donations from Unite (at least Labour are open about donors, unlike the Conservatives and let’s face it, Labour don’t have a bevy of millionaire pals queuing up to donate like the Tories do so donations have to come from somewhere).
A quick question, whilst we’re on the Unions, – why do certain elements of the press and the Tories themselves try to make out that Trade Unions are some dark, secretive, mafia-like organisation who should be feared and loathed in equal measure? A Trade Union is, in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary:
an organized association of workers in a trade, group of trades, or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests.
Yes, how very dare workers unite together to try and protect their own rights and interests and how dare they try and influence political parties to protect workers rights also. Shocking behaviour…
Today, William Hauge has crawled out from his lair (much like an aging cougar) to assert that the government have done a stand-up job of handling the crisis (this would be the crisis that they caused) by warning and preparing (the silly, complacent) public in case a strike does occur. What he fails to mention is that any strike action would take place after 7 days notice so it’s not as if you wouldn’t have a warning if one were to occur.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland has said:
We will not be calling Easter strike action as we focus on substantive talks through Acas. We do still retain the right to call strike action for after the Easter, should those talks break down.
It should be stressed that what we are seeking is reasonable and no more than what is in place elsewhere in the industry. There have been minimum standards governing the offshore oil industry since 2000 covering health and safety, training, and terms and conditions.
She added: “This is not a political dispute. It is an industrial dispute and the government’s recent rhetoric will not help us achieve a negotiated settlement. They must set aside their political objectives and work with us, the employers, retailers and oil companies to achieve an outcome that is good for the industry and the country.
George Osborne’s proposal to impose VAT on freshly baked products, increasing prices by 20%, swiftly aimed the nickname ‘Pasty Tax’, although it affects more than just the pasty of course, it applies to any food sold “above ambient temperature”. This means that some pastries will become subject to VAT depending on how long after they are taken out of the oven they happen to be sold – now that won’t cause confusion at all…
Personally, I only buy a pasty about 3 times a year (cheese & onion as I don’t eat meat) because I’m not a massive pasty fan and I actually prefer to wait for it to cool before I eat it. Besides, unless you shovel your hot pasty/pastry in your mouth as soon as you meander out of Greggs (remember when it was called Thurstons round these parts? That sounded nicer), which I don’t because I don’t like eating whilst walking or standing and eating in the street, then your snack is going to have fallen below “ambient temperature” before the time you get to eat it anyway. Basically, you’re paying extra to heat the paper bag that your pasty is in for a few minutes.
Ken McMeikan, Choef Executive of Greggs, has written in the Guardian Northerner how this tax could have huge repercussions for the baking industry and how this is the last thing people need when their finances are already squeezed.
When it became clear that George Galloway had won the Bradford West by- election many were quick to take to their computers and share their ‘expert’ analysis on why Labour had lost, flooding blogs, twitter and column inches. Interestingly, I have ready many, many articles purporting to tell me why Labour lost and Galloway won but only one of these articles had actually come from somebody who had lived in Bradford West for a time. Most of the others seemed to come from people who have never strayed North of Watford Gap but think they are an authority on the inner thoughts of the people of Bradford West and assume that all the Northern cities that are, for whatever reason, lumped together in most newspaper articles – Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham, Manchester – are exactly the same, so the people must all be exactly the same and all choose who they are voting for, for exactly the same reasons. Whatever.
I pretty much live next-door to Bradford and attended a school located on the Leeds/Bradford border with many pupils who came from Bradford, yet even I wouldn’t attempt to tell people why people in Bradford West voted the way they did, simply because I am not a Bradford West voter and I therefore don’t know. Perhaps we should all be asking people in Bradford West to tell us why they voted the way they did rather than assuming on their behalf’s, if that’s not too much of a novel idea?
I wasn’t hugely shocked to hear that Galloway had won because he has a history of this sort of thing. He was able to provide an ‘alternative’ to the three main parties, he has the ‘celebrity’ factor (something which, sadly, now seems to be an important component in people’s voting decisions) and, whatever you may think of him, he is a good performer who knows exactly what to say to impress people and get their vote. Presumably his voters hadn’t seen the video of the cat incident either…
If he will continue to impress voters in the community of Bradford West now he has won his seat in the Commons is a different matter, he did take time out from Parliament whilst he was MP for Bethnal Green and Bow to take part in Celebrity Big Brother which I think says something rather dubious about his attitude towards Parliament (the whole episode can be classified as dubious really) but we shall see how things work out at the next general election and hopefully by then I will have the image of George Galloway and Pete Burns performing interpretive dance in brightly coloured lycra leotards out of my head…