Wednesday 22 August 2012


When yesterday's figures on the progress, or otherwise, of Mr Osborne's deficit reduction scheme were announced, the usual culprits got the blame.

There has been, it was reported, a reduction in tax intake and an increase in benefits paid. 

I accept that companies may be cutting prices to encourage sales and as a result making smaller profits and paying less tax. 

But an increase in benefits? How could that be?

Is it possible that there was a massive increase in the number of unemployed? Surely not. According to the figures from the DWP unemployment has been coming down apace, and employment has been increasing. No, it can't be that.

It could hardly be an increase in benefits for the sick because we all know from 'Panorama' and 'Despatches' programmes that 88% of sick people are being taken off Incapacity Benefits and put on to cheaper JSA-type benefits, and, even if large numbers of them are returned to Incapacity by English Ministry of Justice tribunals, the numbers, and the cost, must still be reducing as they weed out the chancers, and of course those who are too sick and too alone to fight. So it can't be that.

We heard that the government had been anticipating a reduction in the deficit of around half a billion, and instead found itself with an increase of 2.5 billion. That's an error of some £3 billion in one short month. Now we know that they aren't overly competent, but you'd think that that kind of mistake would be unlikely if the problem were due to something foreseeable, such as an increase in the number of pensioners. 

Does anyone have any idea which particular benefits increase could have caused such an huge upset in Gideon's calculations?

On the subject of the deficit I noticed something interesting. At a time when the UK is struggling with such a massive deficit it is strange that the part of the government that could be called English as opposed to UK, ie the Department for Education, seems happy to give away nearly £10 billion of state assets.

According to this article, nearly 2,000 schools, and their playing fields, have been transferred to private organisations, for free, in some cases against the wishes of the local community. (What say you to that Mr Pickles? Localism being your watchword!)

Interestingly some of the beneficiaries of this Tory largesse have been:

Phil Harris, a Tory peer and the owner of Carpetright and the Harris Foundation;

ARK Academies, whose board includes Paul Marshall, a Lib-Dem bigwig and Stanley Fink,  Tory party treasurer and donor of £2.62 million to the Conservatives.

Frankly I don't give a stuff about whether or not the Olympics has a legacy, other than having made its sponsors an indecent sum of money. But Cameron seems to care; he bangs on and on about it enough. So why has he  allowed the sale of these playing fields, the result of which will be to reduce the sports facilities available to kids at such an early stage?

And why is it that benefit claimants get the blame for the worsening financial situation when the government appears to have given away billions in state owned property, completely coincidentally, I'm sure, to some of its biggest backers, and all indicators seem to point in the direction of reducing benefits costs?


  1. tris..They should get that Chloe Smith back on Newsnight to explain it all ;)

    When they sell off the playing fields of Eton then we can agree that we're 'all in it together'.
    But as the Duke of Wellington said.... " There grows the stuff that won Waterloo"
    So I can't see Wimpey or Barratts getting to build there just yet.

  2. Actually Monty, the lovely Chloe was on ITN last night, warbling about how you "couldn't put everything on your credit card" and spending your way out of a deficit "wouldn't work". Unfortunately the interviewer didn't think to ask her just how much "working" the current plan was doing.

    You're right about Eton not selling off its playing fields (they do not belong to Mr Gove so he can't sell them). I note too that a disproportionate number of British Olympians were educated privately.

    I wonder why...

  3. How did they get school privatisation under the radar?

    Selling off playing fields is a crap short sighted thing to do, but in the longer term, I'd be very suspicious indeed about handing entire schools over to the private sector.

    This won't go well with voters in Scotland, not well at all. I know we're not harmed by it in Scotland but boy, does it send a message for 2014.

    Also the picture you have of Gove is ripe for a caption competition.

    "I was speaking to George Galloway and he assured me, if you do it like this, its not rape..."


    My comment started off so well too...

  4. Tris

    They need Daddy to buy the Horse or the fencing kit / tennis lesssons ( Andy Murray excepted)and
    Eton/ Harrow/ Merchant Tailors etc to Oxon etc to provide the the oarieboat.

  5. Excellent article and a well-spotted contradiction between what Government says and what Government does. Just one wee niggle: in the heading, it's "Whose" not "Who's" - the latter is short for "Who is".

  6. tris

    'why is it that benefit claimants get the blame for the worsening financial situation'

    They are just a scapegoat a easy target to whip up mob frenzy and hatred against.

    Same as what you Nats do to Unionists or indeed anybody who feel/think they are British and whose loyalty is to a whole United Kingdom.

  7. HA HA HA... Oh Pa, I can always count on you to lower the tone!

    Yes, selling off schools is dangerous. It seems a weird thing to do, and I'm not sure why the English are allowing them to get away with it.

    In these schools, which are paid for by teh English taxpayer, they seem to be able to do whatever they want. Teachers I heard don't even have to be qualified...

    Of course I accept that being qualified doesn't make you a good teacher, but the course can help when dealing with the kind of issues that teachers face.

    Brilliant caption btw... would love to hear anyone else's...and I'll try to think of something clever (but probably won't).


  8. Hmmm... I'm sure that John Brownlie would have lent them his wee boatie, if only they had asked... and of course if they'd been prepared to travel to the islands...

    'What islands?', they say. 'We have islands?'

  9. Bobelix... Firstly welcome to the blog...

    Secondly, I hang my head in embarrassment. And thank you for having pointed out my error.

    My only, and poor (but genuine) excuse was that I did the whole post in a tearing hurry, while working on something else. (I noticed a '4' in the middle of the text when I glanced at it tonight!)

    I have to admit that I always have to think about "whose" and "who's"...despite having spent ages studying relative pronouns, and apostrophes at school.

    My English master would be horrified, as am I!

  10. Niko:

    There are racists everywhere. Several of my neighbours blame everything that happens on "foreigners", usually Eastern Europeans. (Embarrassingly one of them started to do it in front of a friend of mine who is from Bulgaria!)

    And yes, there are Scots who hate English and I can assure you it works the other way around. You should read the responses on the Daily Mail when a "scotch" story appears. How they hate us.

    There are nationalists who hate unionists, and, as we saw the other day, in a Twitter storm, unionists who detest nationalists.

    Read some of these:

    I don't engage in that kind of thing, but I accept that some nationalists do. Although I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would want to be British or be proud of Britain and I can't imagine why anyone would want someone else governing them... but as you will attest, I've never put you, or Dean down...or anyone else, for being a unionist.

    As far as I will go is to say that I think you are mad.

    That's a bit different from what the government in London is doing to the unemployed and the sick, and as we discussed recently, the old.

  11. tris

    being mad does not make me a bad person or even wrong.

    Edgar Allan Poe

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence -- whether much that is glorious -- whether all that is profound -- does not spring from disease of thought -- from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect"

    "In that direction," the Cat said, waving its right paw round, "lives a Hatter: and in that direction," waving the other paw, "lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad."

    "But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

    "Oh, you ca'n't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

    "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

    "You must be, said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

  12. being mad does not make me a bad person or even wrong.

    No but you are in need of serious outside help try getting help.

  13. Very literary Niko. You never cease to impress me, except of course when you rabbit on about the union...

  14. CH: They also have a blog which is on the blog list, somewhere over =+> there

  15. Didn't I read somewhere recently that the Cameroon bar was wanting to increase the amount of sport at schools. If, and it is a BIG if here, my memory about this is correct then how the hell are they, the English (Westminster) education department, going to achieve an INCREASE in children's participation in sport when they are selling off the damned sports fields?

    NO NIKO, I'm not being racist, anti English or anything else here. We all know, perhaps you don't, that education in Scotland is NOT governed by Westminster but by Hollyrood. Therefore we in Scotland can thank our lucky stars this is the case. At least OUR school sports fields are protected. Long may this continue.

  16. I think that was another U-turn Arbroath. Quite honestly, he's made so many of them that I've lost track (if you'll pardon the pun) but I think they decided it was impracticable... what with not having enough trained teachers, and there being a pressing need for kids to be able to read by the time they got to university.

    Another U-turn is that, with the Big Society (BS) in mind, his prime ministerialness had decreed that only athletes who put something back into the community would be getting gongs from HMtQ this time round.

    I'm not sure why he changed his mind. It may be that he found that most of them are too busy writing books (I see that at 18 Tom Daley has some sort of autobiography out) or making tv ads, to be bothered with BS work. (Another BS project bites the dust.)

    However, they are all to get something now, presumably in line with their social standing.

    As I've asked before, what is a grateful nation going to give Seb Coe, the lord who has everything.

  17. I think Seb will get a Sainthood. They'll embalm him and coat him in epoxy and sit him on that empty plinth in Trafalgar Sq for all to see.

    Olympic pilgrims will travel from the four corners of the known world to worship at his feet.

    Seb Coe, being a man of the people will not argue (which is hard to do anyway when you've been embalmed and coated in thick glue) when they tell him he won't be sitting regally but rather on all fours with steps leading up to his posterior so people can climb up and kiss his olympic arse.

    I think they should embalm him tomorrow, I mean, why wait, they might think of something really important for him to do.


  18. Sorry Pa, I've got to disagree. As far as I'm concerned it will NOT be a sainthood Coe gets but a FIRING SQAUD! :LOL:

    Just wondering Tris, with all the U turns that the Cameroon bar has carried out could this be the reason his head is spinning so much. I mean he keeps talking BS (Big Society) when in actual fact he is talking BS (Bull S****). :LOL:

  19. Tris,

    If you say whose again instead of who's or whatever I'll be voting NO! My boat's name is "Guaranteed Sea-sickness" so they're quite welcome on board. To combat this I have to provide liquid refreshments for all young ladies who are foolish enough to board. Four large Taliskers and a hairy Hebridean and they forget all about sea-sickness. Goodness, I'm fantasising again. I'll get my oilskins and wellies!

  20. Sorry, Tris, I'll pay more attention to the article in future. I'm sure it's very interesting!

  21. St Seb...epoxy resin, 4th plinth...

    Yep, I think you got it covered there Pa.

    Hilarious as usual... but very practical too... It will give him something to do for the ...erm, rest of his... well, maybe not. Not with epoxy...

  22. Erm, for the good of Scotland, John, I'll try, in the future, to remember the difference between who's and whose. I hang my head in utter shame.

    Hmmm... is a Hairy Hebridean a cocktail or just a randy bloke...called John?

    Oh yes, the article... what article? Definite, Indefinite, Partitive?

    Oh, that article. Nah, I've forgotten what it was about now...:)

  23. LOL Arbroath, it did strike me that he ought to have found a description for "the reason he came into politics" (as if...snigger)that didn't have the same initials as Bullsh*t!