Monday, 1 September 2014
Now we all know that the law is an ass, but just when you thought it couldn't get to be any more of an ass, you can always rely on the Fourth Reich to teach you better...
You might not be aware that the EU and the USA are about to sign up to a thing called the 'Transatlantic trade and Investment Partnership' which is designed to protect foreign investors from government policies that hurt their profits. It will allow them to sue the UK government - i.e. you, the taxpayer - for damages.
Sound far fetched? Well, Philip Morris Tobacco is currently suing the Australian government under investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) - part of TTIP - because the introduction of plain packaging and anti-smoking campaigns are damaging their profits. Canada is being sued by US drugs firm Eli Lilly for revoking patents on drugs on the grounds that their benefits may have been overstated.
And for once, people from all sides of politics seem to be agreed about the dangers. More than 200 organisations across the EU, including the TUC, Greenpeace and War on Want, have written a joint letter to European and American trade negotiators demanding the removal of the ISDS process from the final treaty.
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “These clauses could thwart attempts by a future government to bring our health service back towards public ownership.” Private health providers could sue if the NHS changes it policies towards them.
Charlie Kronick, senior climate adviser at Greenpeace, said the group feared ISDS provisions could be used to prevent the EU from restricting imports of US diesel made from polluting tar sands in Canada.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament, signed by MPs from all parties, calling for the trade talks to be frozen until the issue is resolved. She said the move would “overturn decades of laws and regulations formed through democratic processes on both sides of the Atlantic”.
Tory MP, Zac Goldsmith, said: “It is hard to see how this won’t seriously jeopardise the sovereignty of the UK Government and its legal system. Disputes between companies and legislators should always be dealt with by British courts.”
What I find interesting is exactly how do you fine a country? What can be done to make the UK pay if it doesn't want to?
Why don't we just tell them to 'sod off'? - and while we're at it the EU can do the same as far as I'm concerned...
Sunday, 31 August 2014
Say hello to Maria Buchan and her 8 kids. Maria lives on benefits. Quite a lot of benefits in fact. Here's her tally :
£440 a month in child benefit
£1,604 a month in tax credits
£183 a month in income support
Not a bad haul. In fact, that adds up to £26,724 a year. But Maria isn't finished yet because even though she's been told she can't bear any more children, she's decided to have a couple more using a surrogate. This will add another £70 a week in benefits and increase her chance of getting rehoused from her current 3 bed council house to a 5 bed.
Life on benefits is tough! Oh, hang on - she reckons it isn't. She says "Being on benefits gives me an easy lifestyle. I have got more than enough money to pay the bills and feed the kids. I am constantly buying clothes for myself and I like to make sure the kids have nice clothes. I treat them to takeaways weekly and they have all got computer tablets apart from the youngest." Well, he is still a baby.
She's no stranger to controversy. In February, she had a string of tickets for using a bus lane in Birmingham quashed by pleading poverty. In 2013, she famously complained to the Daily Mail that the £500 cap on benefits was pushing her into poverty. After all, she might have to cut back on clothes and iPads! Scandalous! £26,000 a year? Well you can see her point. She was getting £30,264.
Personally, if I was milking the system for as much as Maria, then I'd be intelligent enough to keep my mouth shut about it.
Yep, life's tough when you're living on benefits...
Saturday, 30 August 2014
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LoanShark.com - the friendly face of personal finance...
Friday, 29 August 2014
I don't think anyone who reads my stuff regularly will be surprised that I have a particularly low opinion of the EU and have been pleasantly surprised by Nigel Farage's performance since he became UKIP's leader.
But yesterday's news must have made Farage a very happy man. He has his first UKIP MP - albeit for only a short period of time - courtesy of Douglas Carswell leaving the Conservative party and defecting to UKIP.
And Douglas Carswell is no fool. He's regarded in Westminster as a clear thinker and is a
a strong supporter of greater transparency in politics. He has campaigned for parliamentary candidates to be selected in open primaries and for a power of recall of MPs to be introduced.
He says his stance on EU withdrawal developed out of a belief the organisation is run by unaccountable and undemocratic institutions. I think his thinking is decidedly clear on that count. In his press conference, he made it clear that he doesn't believe that Cameron is serious about changing things and is skeptical about them delivering a referendum in 2017.
Carswell says that he will now do the 'honourable thing' and resign his seat in Clacton forcing a by-election. He currently has a 12,000 majority as a Conservative and the seat is situated in a UKIP hot spot. He's clearly confident he will win. In 2001 he stood against Tony Blair and apologised for coming second - although he managed to knock 7,000 off Blair's majority. He entered Parliament in 2005 and was part of Cameron's policy unit.
The man is no fool and I suspect that others in all parties will be watching to see how he gets on. It will be interesting to see whether others follow his lead.
Whatever happens, it's been an interesting day in politics...
Thursday, 28 August 2014
If you read my recent piece about Austin Mitchell's dissatisfaction at the ejection of aged MPs and the imposition of all women shortlists, then this is the woman who is responsible for the policy of tarting up the Labour Party to make it more inclusive and cuddly. A sort of New New Labour.
Imagine my delight at the latest developments.
She of course denies that she ever said any such thing despite the presence of witnesses, but it is claimed that she has referred to Northerners as 'backward'.
It's obviously no secret that Yearley and Mitchell can't stand the sight of each other and now Labour is threatening to sue Mitchell for his accusations against her.
From a personal point of view, I have no time for Labour. Period. I believe that the ageist and sexist policies that this woman is responsible for implementing are anything but inclusive. She represents to me all that is bad about spin doctors and, frankly, I tend to believe Mitchell.
On Sky News' paper review the other morning they were talking about this row and the man on the sofa waded into All Women Shortlists as totally discriminatory and unacceptable. Surprisingly, the woman next him agreed with him. Her view was that an AWS is degrading to women and their abilities. She maintained that the best person should get the job regardless of sex otherwise the cause of equality is insulted. Discrimination is discrimination. It can never be positive.
She's quite right. I want to see women appointed because of their abilities not because men were excluded from applying. And as it has been pointed out, Margaret Thatcher didn't need an all women shortlist to get the top job...