As the manifesto season gears up – a very timely report today from the National Audit Office. It reveals David Cameron’s 2015 manifesto pledge to build 200,000 homes for first time buyers has resulted in not a single starter home being built. The full facts of this failed pledge are on Byline Times here.
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The day after the general election the House of Commons library released a flood of papers which had been held up because of purdah rules until after the result was known.
One of the most revealing papers was one on Banking Executives’ Renumeration in the UK. It drew on two sources – Britain’s submission ( required by EU rules ) to the European Banking Authority and British sources such as company reports and details from the banks themselves about long term incentives for senior executives.
The facts revealed in the annexes to this report confirm what a lot of people have suspected but have not always been able to prove. There is-a widening gulf between the top and the bottom that has been going on during the fiercest period of austerity which has seen real wages for million falling. If John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, had access to this information during the election it could have been dynamite.
Two facts are extraordinary. This boom in higher executive pay came under the coalition between 2012 and 2015 when David Cameron and George Osborne were actively pursing wage freezes and minimal wage rises in the public sector.
Second it is the scale of it – it is not a handful of new bankers becoming Euro millionaires, it is thousands of them.
And for the very, very top executives at five of our biggest retail banks it is untold riches if they meet performance targets.
The wider picture only came out because of a European Commission directive to collect figures from all 28 EU members on how many bankers are earning over 1 million euro (£884,300 at current rates) a year. At the time the Euro would have been worth less – but even so it is a large sum.
Britain will no longer have to supply this when we leave the EU.
The figures show startling increases in senior staff employed by the banking industry falling into this bracket between 2012 and 2015 across nearly all sectors. Altogether the number of higher earners has risen nearly 300 per cent over this period, from 1272 to 3551.
Among the bigger rises are those in investment banking where the numbers earning this figure and more has risen from 947 to 2146. In asset management the numbers rose from 94 to 415 while those in high street banks rose from 52 to 105.
The average salary among the 2146 top earners in investment banking was 2,021,000 euro or over £1.78 million a year. Among the 415 people in asset management it was even higher at 2,201,000 euro or £1.946 million a year. In retail banking the 105 people averaged a little less at 1,789.000 euro or £1.582 million each a year.
Equally damning is a survey taken from five banks in Britain – HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, Santander and the state owned RBS.
It looked at the money the five to eight top executives could make. At Lloyds 8 people share £24.9 a million a year between them. The figure for Barclays was £27.1m and at HSBC the top five people shared a whopping £33.4m.
Figures for the state owned RBS are lower at £11.35m while at Santander it was £10.6m.
As already known the chairmen and chief executives also get good pay packets worth millions.
What this says is that the coalition of David Cameron and Nick Clegg were happy to preside over this boom and impose severe austerity, and job cuts to pay for the mess the very same bankers created by triggering the crash in 2008.
As the song goes : “It’s the poor what gets the blame, It’s the rich what gets the pleasure, Isn’t it a blooming shame? ”
For not much longer I suspect given the current climate.
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One of David Cameron’s legacies from his ” Big Society ” initiative is the creation of a National Citizen Service for 15 to 17 year olds where they could go to summer camps.take part in adventurous sports like rock climbing and kayaking and undertake community work and local projects for four weeks.
He bequeathed Theresa May with a bill setting up a national trust with a Royal Charter so it could be implemented nationwide. So enamoured was David Cameron with the idea he has agreed to be chair of the patrons of the new trust.
But since Theresa May took office it has suffered two body blows. She has limited the money and dropped a commitment to a statutory requirement for schools and colleges to publicise it. None of this has had much publicity because of Trump and Brexit.
As a result it will have less money and less publicity.
Her action coincided with a damning National Audit Office report which questioned its ability to deliver and control the money it has already received.
The NAO warned : “The Trust has spent little time understanding costs and where savings could be made. The Trust has four strategic objectives: growth; quality; cost and sustainability. Its business plan includes a number of cost control initiatives at the early stages of implementation. “
“Based on a full unit cost, NCS risks being financially unsustainable in the future. Our analysis shows that in 2016, the estimated full unit cost exceeded the expected unit cost by 19%
“On this basis, it will cost government £560 million to provide 300,000 places in 2019-20, 32% more than the £424 million funding currently allocated. The unit cost will need to fall 29% from £1,863 in 2016 to £1,314 in 2019 to provide these places within the available spending envelope. “
Worse the report found that the trust had little ability to control costs.
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO added: “NCS is now at a critical stage…. The OCS (Office for Civil Society) and the Trust have shown that NCS can attract large numbers of participants, and participation has a positive effect on young people. These are no small achievements, but it remains unclear whether these effects are enduring and whether NCS can grow to become ‘a rite of passage’ available to all 16- to 17-year-olds.The OCS and the Trust now need to think radically about the aspects of the current programme that work and how best to achieve NCS’s aims at a more affordable cost to the taxpayer.”
The question is what is the NCS for? Will it just be another project high jacked by pushy parents who want their sons and daughters to have an attractive CV when they apply for a university place? Or will it serve as a genuine catalyst to give ” hard to reach ” young people an idea of community involvement.
One working class area where it is working is Barnsley.
The local MP,Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central, is strongly behind it and has promoted the scheme in his constituency.
“It obviously needs to be value for money but it is vitally important it gets to “ hard to reach “ kids as it can change lives.
“People sometimes think I am keen to promote it because of my army background and want to introduce it as a return to conscription. This is not the case – it is more than one needs the scheme to be put on a national basis.”
He says the success in Barnsley is helped by projects run by the town’s football club and also a recent exchange with the London borough of Newham which helped kids broaden their horizons.
At the moment the jury is out. Will it expand to benefit the working classes or just be another middle class ” rite of passage”. Who will win out- Barnsley or Eton?
I have also written about this for Tribune magazine.
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So Britain has had its ” independence day ” as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage would have it. And what have been the repercussions.
In 48 hours the pound has dropped to its lowest level since 1985.
Stock markets across the world from London to Wall Street have all fallen.
The Prime Minister has announced his intention to resign before the party conference triggering a Brexit leadership contest.
Jeremy Corbyn is facing a leadership challenge from his own MPs reinforcing the split between the Parliamentary Party from huge swathes of the membership. The shadow cabinet is now splitting as well with eleven resignations so far tonight.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has said that it is ” highly likely” there will be a fresh referendum on independence from England after Scots voted in every constituency to stay.
Sinn Fein has called for a border poll as a move to a united Ireland. Meanwhile it is pointed out that all Northern Ireland’s citizens are entitled to a Republic of Ireland passport which guarantees them free movement and jobs in Europe.
Spain has made it clear that all citizens of Gibraltar – who voted heavily to remain – could have Spanish EU passports if they took over joint sovereignty of the Rock. This means it could trigger a fresh crisis.
The promise of £350m a month for the NHS if the leave campaign one has mysteriously disappeared.
Britain’s taxpayers have begun a new bail out for the banks with £250 billion of our money earmarked to defend the pound.
The result has been however been welcomed as an ” historic opportunity” in Iran. See this report in a US pro Jewish and Israeli website here. The Islamic state also thinks it is a good idea as they see great opportunities for dividing Europe.
In the last 24 hours the situation has worsened.
In Berlin the six founding fathers of the EU met and decided they would not wait for a leisurely departure from Britain but ask the country to prepare to go this week.
Jonathan Hill ( Lord Hill) the British commissioner responsible for capital and financial markets announced his resignation from July 15. He was the lynch pin for the EU’s relationships with the City of London. See a report here. he is being replaced by a Latvian with strong support for the Euro.
A major rating agency Moody’s has changed Britain’s credit rating to negative while also ruling that the Euro’s credit rating is positive – widening the gap between the two currencies.
Some British people living in Brussels ” in the know” started applying for Belgian EU passports to ensure they had freedom of movement to apply for jobs in Europe. I wonder why?
What seems certain is that in short term prices are likely to go up but that is no problem for those Brexit supporters. some of them were celebrating their new freedom to buy bendy cucumbers without interference from Brussels.
I wonder how they will feel when Independence Day comes around next year.
A very good read from Des Freedman.Obviously a very happy Christmas for the Murdoch dynasty, their friends and the Prime Minister. What could possibly go wrong now -only immortality eludes them. Very much a tale of power corrupts. Now they have absolute power they must think nothing is beyond their grasp.
Families should be together at Christmas. That’s the simple message we should take from the merry noises emanating from Rupert Murdoch’s London apartment where, on Monday night, David Cameron, George Osborne, Rebekah Brooks and a slew of top News Corp personnel joined the mogul in capping off what has been a pretty decent year for him.
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As the crisis in Ukraine deepens David Cameron is taking an increasingly belligerent line against the Russians. He is now sending a token number of troops and promising greater European Union economic sanctions unless Vladimir Putin backs down.
This policy may well be right and is likely to be popular, though people might be wary of armed involvement. As he is reported in the Daily Mail on Friday telling Govan shipyard workers :”In terms of what Britain has done, we were the first country to say that Russia should be thrown out of the G8, and Russia was thrown out of the G8. We have been the strongest adherent that we need strong sanctions in Europe and we’ve pushed for those, achieved those and held on to those at every single occasion.” Now we are the first to send some troops.
Not so well reported has been Britain’s views on the £2.2 billion support package agreed by the EU including the UK to help Ukraine. As well as agreeing this large sum of money to help the Ukraine the package included measures to cover one of the most controversial areas of EU policy – the relaxation of immigration controls.
As I report in Tribune this week Britain actually signed up to deal which allowed the abolition of visa requirements for Ukrainians across 26 countries in Europe..
Among the measures the EU agreed is to abolish all visa requirements for Ukrainians seeking to come to the EU for any 90 day period in the Schengen zone. This covers 22 countries in the Eu and four others, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein ,Only the UK and Ireland have a permanent opt out.
The agreement said: “Mobility is an important area where the Commission believes meaningful, visible, short-term steps should be taken.
“While a number of them depend on the political decisions of the Member States, the Commission is willing and ready to pro-actively facilitate swift and efficient coordination in this area.
It added : ” The Commission fully recognises the importance of mobility and people-to-people contacts for Ukrainian citizens and will support Ukrainian efforts to move forward the visa liberalisation process as quickly as possible in line with the agreed conditions of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan.”
For other countries the EU agreement says: A “ Visa Facilitation Agreement is in operation between the EU and Ukraine and the Commission encourages Member States to fully exploit its potential. It gives Member States the possibility of choosing from a series of measures, including waiving visa fees for certain categories of citizens. In addition, the Visa Code gives the Member States additional options to waive the visa fees for further categories, such as, for example, children.”
When questioned the Home Office was adamant that it need not follow any of these guidelines. A spokeswoman said the agreement was equivalent to “a memorandum of understanding” between the EU and other member states outside the Schengen area and the UK need not implement anything.
At present the Home Office charges 129 US dollars (nearly £84) for a basic visa for Ukrainians to enter the UK for up to six months including children. Students are charged 234 dollars (nearly £152) and anybody seeking 10 year visa are charged 1150 dollars (nearly £747 ).
What is interesting about this is how David Cameron and Theresa May in the pre-election frenzy have already implemented a very tough policy on immigration to rival UKIP.
Such a move might well be popular – and there are real concerns – not least by unions like Unite – that fruit farmers were very keen on having Ukrainians over here as a source of cheap labour.
However I think we should know that Cameron’s warm words to help the desperate plight of the Ukrainians do not apply to having a single poor Ukrainian in Britain. The clampdown has begun and the troops, a token 75, are going in.
The description of how Theresa May handled the demise of the child sex abuse panel – reported by me on Exaro at the weekend- shows the ruthless home secretary at her most combative and courteous rolled into one.
Determined to put months of indecision and two mistaken chair appointments behind her- she took the most radical and surgical action she could do. She sacked the lot of the panel and started again. She had already.heavily hinted in her letter to the panel last year that this could happen. But she softened the blow with pleasantries and hand shakes and some genuine kind words.Never have so many people been so thoroughly stuffed in such a courteous way.
This streak of ruthlessness is why Theresa May is now a serious contender for the leadership of the Tory Party.You can read a good profile of her here by Guardian journalist Gaby Hinscliff. Her famous statement that they were the ” nasty party ” may have stuck a sour note with some supporters. But she know how to be nasty and nice simultaneously.
She made sure they didn’t feel the blame ” You have done nothing wrong” she told them. But she didn’t spare them the pain – they heard they were going in shocked silence.She said they could re-apply but I will be amazed if any do. And it was followed up with the disclosure after they left that Ben Emmerson, the QC to the inquiry, was staying and a tough email warning everybody on the panel to shut up or be sued.
In three months time there will be a general election. David Cameron may or may not win.But Theresa May already has her eye on the leadership. She is not yet in poll position – but she is making sure she will be a challenger by secretly organising the ground work and also instructing her staff to keep very quiet about who will support her..Not even to tell a soul over a drink in the pub – so I hear.
Then I suspect her track record at the home office will be a big issue – taking on the police, setting up this child sex abuse inquiry and taking hard lines on popular right-wing issues like immigration.
If anyone knows how to wield a knife – while being kind and courteous to the victim – Theresa knows. David Cameron better watch his back.
If ever David Cameron’s claim that we are all in it together needed to be proved false, look at a site on Facebook called the Rich Kids of Snapchat.
Set up by a 17 year old British public schoolboy and liked by 244,000 people this site celebrates the life style of the super rich public schoolboys – the new generation expecting to run Britain in a decade or so.
Far from having any concern for the rest of us, this ” fun ” site worships money, fast cars, Gucci, luxury yachts and private jets,champagne and has an unhealthy interest in guns.
It is virtually the calling card of the new ” Bullingdon Club ” and the kids know they are the new ” boss class ” – the future generation of Tory Cabinet ministers, entrepreneurs and flashy businessmen and bankers. And some will have the vote in next year’s election,
Among the fun pictures are kids using £50 notes as toilet paper, £20 notes for tablecloths, handling guns to protect their estates from the ” peasants”, and commuting from home to public school by private helicopters or showing they have a £10m private bank account at Coutts.
Not surprisingly this has produced a reaction across the net with people calling for the site to be taken down, and a spate of hostile comments – sometimes producing ripostes like warning people to shut up as they will be their boss in future life.
More seriously as the Inforrm blog reveals these antics have posed problems for the more mature seriously rich parents who wish to hide their opulent life styles from the rest of us and pretend “we are all in it together”.
As the Inforrm blog says : ” The consequences could be very serious for those wealthy teens, and their families, where potentially inflammatory images appear which include identifying information such as faces, car registrations and locations.
One 19 year old, who frequently posted about his lavish lifestyle and who was featured on Tumblr site “Rich Kids on Instagram”, has already run into trouble, having had several luxury cars from his father’s rental business subsequently set alight by vandals, causing over £500,000 worth of damage to his father’s business.
Another featured ‘rich kid’ was Alexa Dell, daughter of Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell, who posted an image of her brother tucking into a feast onboard a private jet, bound for Fiji. She also used her Twitter account to regularly post details of her location, complete with GPS location tagging- somewhat undermining the annual US$2.7 million her father reportedly spends on family security. Upon discovering this, Alexa’s account was removed and her image has been taken down.”
The blog rightly points out that in an era of unemployment and poverty where ceo’s have made people redundant this can be inflammatory.
It rightly adds:” a teen bragging about the lavish lifestyle of his or her CEO parent who has recently made redundancies or been the recipient of a sizeable bonus can easily catch the eye of a journalist on the hunt for a story – as can any images posted by a naive child who has a parent in the public eye. ”
But to me the whole site seems symptomatic of a yawning divide opening up in the UK and the last thing I would want to see is it taken down. Such antics provide the perfect foil to attack the wealthy Lynton Crosby and the image he wants the Tories to present to the electorate of the ruling class in the next election. Spoilt brats revealing themselves for what they really are!
Meanwhile in true entrepreneurial fashion the site is up for sale by its 17 year old owner. He has been offered $150,000 by an American but might let it go for a mere $40,000 to a Brit with spare cash from his pocket money.
I am rather surprised in the wake of Coulson’ s conviction for conspiracy over phone hacking none of the commentators have picked up the extraordinary passages about his appointment to the Tory Party in Matthew D’Ancona’s revealing book In It Together, The Inside Story of the Coalition Government.
In a series of purple passages he describes the determination of both George Osborne and David Cameron to woo him to become the £275k Conservative Party’s director of communications on 9 July 2007 – so soon after he resigned from the News of the World as editor over the conviction of Clive Goodman for phone hacking.
It is quite clear from Matthew’s account that Coulson himself had reservations about taking the job – which led him to become the Downing Street press secretary by 2010 at a salary of £140,000 a year – and in hindsight might suggest he was worried about further fall out over the phone hacking scandal.
But what is more extraordinary are the purple passages about Cameron’s passion for his professional abilities.. George Osborne is portrayed as a hard-headed strategist – Matthew describes his view of Coulson as ” a street fighter who could take the battle to Labour and win in a media knife-fight.”
But Cameron comes over as besotted with Coulson. According to Matthew ” Cameron..was awestruck by his communications director, whom he privately described in lyrical language.”
” He treated Coulson as a red top shaman, a source of secret knowledge about the world of tabloids, Essex and kitchen- table politics. The phone hacking story refused to go away but Cameron was determined not to yield to those who urged him to ditch Coulson.”
Matthew later adds – and remember that this written before the trial verdict – that Cameron was determined he must follow him into Downing Street and as a result didn’t want ” to ask too many questions.”
He writes:” Coulson had the talent of the outsider, and exercised a quietly magnetic influence upon his privileged bosses, bringing Billericay to Bullingdon.”
All this makes Cameron’s badly timed apology for appointing him show Cameron up as shallow turncoat. While it may not quite rank as an equivalent of Peter thrice denying Jesus, it says something about how a man who treats Coulson as a Messiah figure to connect with the working class and then distances himself as fast as he can when he is down and out. Particularly when it is clear from Matthew’s account that Coulson more than once offered to resign because of his Murdoch past.
Coulson has had a bad time – his trial and subsequent conviction – has led to a jury hearing about his ” love cheat “affair with Rebekah Brooks , his bullying manner from co accused Royal reporter Clive Goodman, and how he listened to the David Blunkett love tapes before publishing the story.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not sorry for Coulson or his fate but I do think the Prime Minister is being let off far too lightly. Peter Oborne has already exposed flaws in his apology statement, Matthew D’Ancona,a Tory insider himself, to my mind, exposes flaws in Cameron’s own character.
Yesterday’s clash between Ed Miliband and David Cameron over the Coulson affair was dominated by the Prime Minister’s assertion that he had been cleared by the Leveson inquiry of doing anything wrong.
He could happily quote Leveson’s findings which clear not only him but Rebekah Brooks – also now cleared of knowledge of phone hacking by a British jury – of behaving badly in any improper relationships between Number Ten and the Murdoch empire.
But delve a bit deeper into this rather contorted report – all one million words of it – which probably neither Cameron nor Miliband have – and you will find quite a different story.
Go to Volume Four and Appendix Five – and get one of the most devastating critiques of the incestuous relationship between top politicians and the media I have ever read from a High Court judge in my 27 years of political journalism.
As I reported before “he attacks what he calls the ” inappropriate closeness” between media bosses and successive governments not just now – but for over 35 years. Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron are all indicted in a damning charge sheet.
He baldly states “ politicians have conducted themselves in a way that I do consider has not served the public interest”.
He accuses them of being vulnerable to unaccountable interests, missing clear opportunities to address public concern about the culture, practices and ethics of the press and seeking “ to control ( if not manipulate) the supply of news and information to the public in return for expected or hoped-for favourable treatment by sections of the press.”
He concluded that all this gave rise to “legitimate perceptions and concerns that politicians and the press have traded power and influence in ways which are contrary to the public interest and out of public sight. These perceptions and concerns are inevitably particularly acute in relation to the conduct by politicians of public policy issues in relations to the press itself.”
Some exoneration for Mr Cameron and his predecessors!
If Labour had been sharp enough yesterday Ed Miliband could have rebutted Cameron’s confident assertions. But it may not be surprising that he missed it – because of the mismatch between Leveson’s conclusions and his comments on the sad state of the relationship between leading politicians and media proprietors. It has close similarities to the way the Hutton inquiry exonerated Blair and Campbell despite revealing some devastating facts.
But in no way can either Cameron or Murdoch be complacent about their respective roles in trading power for influence which is at the heart of why both the mainstream media and politicians are widely distrusted by the general public.
And with more to come no politician can afford to brush this aside as ” a here today, gone tomorrow” story!