Child Poverty and the Financial Crisis

Last weekend Trafalgar Square, London, was the venue for a protest aimed at holding the Labour Government to its election pledge to reduce child poverty. What? You couldn’t be arsed turning up? You heartless bastards, how could you ignore the plight of those poor children?

I missed it too actually, not through indifference or inertia but by design. I refuse to subscribe to the notion that child poverty can be separate from adult poverty. All poverty is relative of course so how do we define child poverty? Are those who do not have the latest trainers, games consoles etc.. poor? Or are the onces who are decked out in the latest designer clothes and equipped with the latest toys and gadgets but starved of attention really the ones living in poverty? If everybody was given £1000 a week to live on then the people who smoke, drink, do drugs, live in over-mortgaged houses, drive Chelsea Tractors and eat only in restaurants would be impoverished while those who live on lentils, drink home made elderflower wine and drive a pair of raffia sandals would be in the money. Little Nicky’s Theory of relativity.

I digress however, so getting back on topic, a protest about the government’s failure to reduce child poverty is really nothing but a protest against hypocrisy. While this NuLab government is in power a protest against hypocrisy seems futile. Why did they single out child poverty? It is, is it not, hypocritical for a government that has devoted so much time and effort to increasing poverty among the lower paid, disabled and old and raising the bar below which people cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads, eat and keep warm to talk about reducing poverty when what they mean is performing conjuring tricks with economic statistics?

We should not heap all the blame on NuLab of course; Brown, Blair, Mandelson et al have made matters much worse than they need have been but the foundations of our broken society were laid by Margaret Thathcher’s Conservatives. The blueprint was drawn up long before them however.

The English speaking world, Britain, America, and to a lesser extent Australia and Canada suffers from a disease that though know in other parts of the globe does not periodically reach epidemic levels. The most visible symptom of this disease is an uncontrollable urge to buy houses. This obsession, once established, quickly becomes all consuming. People will sell comfortable homes that are well within their means to trade up to something bigger / in a better area / nearer to a good school (the list of excuses given by people about to plunge themselves into financial hardship is almost endless. At the bottom end of the market even people for whom anything but renting a home seems like insanity will clamour to get on the “mortgage ladder.”

not so many years ago it would have been impossible for the unemployed or low earners to buy a home but so effective was the great lie of the finance industry that property prices always go up in the long term the lenders in the industry even believed it themselves. They gave mortgages to people who should not even have been allowed to borrow the bus fare home. Thus demand was maintained in the market forcing up prices far beyond a level that was realistic and people were persuaded to take on debts they could never hope to service let alone repay even had their stated income been anywhere near accurate instead of just a figment of a cowboy who worked for a bank (The Loan Arranger).

For almost three decades and despite two major bubble / burst cycles the madness has gone on. How can the cycle be broken when even now governments speak of injecting cash into the economy to get the market moving again? The first step towards breaking the mould and alleviating poverty would be the most painful for politicians who have nailed their colours to the mast of Free Market Economics and would have to admit they were wrong. There needs to be a campaign to reverse the propaganda to the markets madness decades and destigmatise rented homes. People who rent their homes are not of less worth, it is simply the case that their circumstances are different, they have made different choices.

The next big step, painless for politicians but agonising perhaps for us ordinary punters, is a process of reeducation in individual responsibility. We cannot live on debt, we cannot simply keep borrowing more. That Cowboy Banker The Loan Arranger might tell us we can but it only works so long as we can keep earning more to service the debts. As soon as our interest payments default, good bye lifestyle, hello poverty. Borrowing more than on can afford to repay is insanity but only the individual can decide what proportion of income is available to service debts. Only you can decide how much you have to send on CDs, books, wine, gadgets, designer clothes etc. to maintain an acceptable quality of life. Only you can decide whether you want to live in a mansion, eat only bread and soup and sleep on the floor or live in a dump and go go to lots of gigs, parties, clubs etc.

The Loan Arranger says “If you will just be the same as everyone else you will be happy, trust me?” And you do because he is so likeable and really seems like your new best friend.

The very very first thing people need to learn to get themselves out of their personal mess is never trust anyone who says “trust me.”

If we get our heads round those simple things we are well on the way to alleviating poverty.

Thatcher’s Wretched Revolution

Following the ripple of adoration from he fans following the proposal that Margaret Thatcher be given a state funeral, a tsunami of truth is now building as writers and bloogers jostle to debunk the Thatcher myth and put the truth oif her dismal politics of greed and selfishness in perspective.

Here’s one of the best I’ve seen so far: Thatcher’s Wretched Revolution

The usual mantra from the ex-Essex boys is that “Britain needed Maggie.”

In fact Britain needed Thatcher’s warped, money worshipping government in the 1980s like it needed The Black Plague in the fourteenth century.

Tory Boy is alive and well and living in…

Do you remember Tory Boy, the spotty, sneering, triumphalist young conservative created by Harry Enfield?
Tory Boy was a fictional character, a comic caricature like Loadsamoney or the grotesques created by Little Britain or The League of Gentlemen. Or was he?
I always believed Tory Boy was real, you see I was setting up computer and telephone networks in the City of London during that tsunami of unrestrained greed known as The Thatcher Years. I met Tory Boy every day. He was easily identified by his inability to differentiate between style and ostentation. His witless sneering was always aimed at easy targets and was generally so off target it was just off.
When the political mood changed Tory Boy disappeared but he did not die. All through the bleak years of John Major and the three stooges who succeeded him Tory Boy was lurking sceadugengan – like in the shadows of Conservative Central Office, unable to comprehend why he was no longer in the ascendant.
Before he could re-emerge into the light the political pendulum has to swing. In the event it was not the pendulum that swung but the Labour Party, so far to the Thatcherite right Conservatism became acceptable again.
Yesterday I logged the first sighting of Tory Boy in fifteen years at Iain Dale’s blog.
Dalie, normally an intelligent and witty blogger, worth reading even for those of us who will never agree with his politics, posted a bizarre blog about the Liberal Democrats. He asked why the Lib Dems are ducking a head on fight with the BNP.
It seems BNP candidates around the country will be opposed by Conservatives in all but 9 wards and by Labour in all but 10. The Lib Dems however will not fight around 120 wards where there is a BNP candidate.
What is the point of this question exactly other than a typically inept Tory attempt to smear the Liberal Democrats by trying to imply there is some covert arrangement with the BNP?
The Liberal Democrats are a small party, who can blame them for concentrating their resources in areas where they expect to do well, i.e. rural districts in the West and prosperous middle class suburbs.
The BNP are a small party, who can blame them for concentrating their resources in areas where they expect to do well, i.e. rundown inner city districts and industrial areas.
A head to head between these two parties was never likely any time soon.
So why is Iain Dale, whom we expect to be a Conservative Candidate at the next election trying to suggest the Lib Dems are ducking a fight with the BNP.
Could it be that next week the Conservatives anticipate the edge will be taken off their annihilation of Labour by successes at their expense by both Lib Dems and BNP?

If that is the case, a return to Tory Boy tactics is not going to help the cause.

Americas tradition of self loathing liberals

I hate to say it but…..

I TOLD YOU SO.

Ever since I started Little Nicky Machiavelli in 2005 I have been telling you regularly there is only one end to a bubble.

And now, somewhat later than I predicted the third bubble of the Blatcherite era has burst.

So now will all those people who were keen to tell me that unbridled capitalism is the only way to organise society and to parrot the mantra “Mrs Thatcher did a lot of good for this country,” like to eat their words? With a big slice of humble pie to follow.

Market economics is just another way of saying ” selfish, blinkered short-termism. Just remember where yoiu read that as your investments evaporate, the value of your house plummets, your job goes east and inflation eats your savings.

And next time you vote VOTE GREEN. Then I will not have to say “I told you so again”.

Big Idea for the New Year – Let’s Dump London.

Just before Christmas I was pontificating on what step we must take in order to set this great country of ours on the right track and seized the opportunity to remind everybody of the harm that was done to our national community by the crackpot economics and hate-based social policies of Margaret Thatcher. One comment that came in from somebody on my friends list suggested the country was a mess because Good Saint Margaret had not gone far enough and that the answer to our failing public services, culture of greed and selfishness and looming crises in the financial sector, health, education, transport and everything is to cut income tax to 16%.
A-ha I though, enjoying an Alan Partridge moment, a-ha, another whinging Londoner who can’t afford his mortgage and is looking for a thinly disguised handout from us sensible, pragmatic, stoical, hard working Northerners, Mildlanders and West Country folk.
Well up to now of course, we have never objected to subsidising the capital. Nineteenth century social commentator William Cobbett dubbed it The Great Wen (wen: a wart or benign tumour) and described the city as “the home of stock jobbers and tax eaters” or to put it another way people who grow rich without actually contributing anything to the society from which they enrich themselves. It may seem a bit unkind of him to lump all Londoners into this category but sometimes generalisation helps to make a point. And Cobbett did point out that there was plenty of room outside London to accommodate all those Londoners willing to get proper jobs and work for a living.
Cobbett’s hatred of London was extreme. Most of us have been happy to abide by the understanding that we subsidise London so long as few Londoners ever venture north of Watford or west of Reading.

About fifteen years ago I had the misfortune to work with the kind of Londoner who makes people hate Londoners. An East End boy who had moved up to a Bovis home in the suburban sprawl north of the North Circular Road, he thought his three bed dormer and his Renault Five meant he had joined the nouveau riche. Every day I endured his witless remarks about the north being like Coronation Street, about keeping coal in the bath, his repeating “Ee bah gum” as if it were something real people ever actually said and his general delusions of superiority. And of course his prattling about how marvellous Margaret Thatcher had been for the country.

One day I happened to mention I was extending my weekend in order to put some wall lights in the dining room and doing a few other domestic jobs. Being a long term house addict he jumped in;
“Oh yeah, I put wall lights in our lounge, maybe I can help. What’s your room like?”

I drew a quick sketch and said the lights were going on the chimney breast to cast a soft light over the table.

“Yeah, but its not that simple,” he said, “where’s your television?”

I told him that was irrelevant.

“Nah, nah, it’s very important. If you’re not careful you will just see your lights reflected in the television screen.”

I asked, “But how can that happen when the television is not even in that room?”

“Oh, its a dining kitchen.”

“No, its a dining room, the kitchen is a separate room. And the tele isn’t in the dining room.”

Where is it?”

“In the lounge?”

The cockiness faded a little, “Jesus, they must be small rooms.” he said hopefully.

“Well the lounge is fourteen feet by twelve, the dining room seventeen by fifteen and the kitchen about fifteen by nine. So how is the position of the tele relevant to my wall lights?”

By now he was totally gobsmacked – and I had not told him about the cellar, the attic and what used to be the scullery cum wash-house.

After the weekend I took to work a photograph of the view acrosse the valley of the Lancashire Calder to Pendle Hill, taken from my front door.

“Where’s that,” my aspirational colleague asked, “Scotland.”
“No, my front garden,” I told him. Well it was not a total lie, the first twenty-five feet was.

“You got a view like that in Lancashire.”

“Lancashire is beautiful and Coronation Street is a fairy story.

“How much is your mortgage for that place?” he asked.

“About a hundred a month.” I thought he was going to be sick. Londoners just don’t get the North.

That assumption of superiority is something I have often encountered in London, usually from people who have taken on a mortgage they cannot afford and delude themselves they have moved up in the world. They are invariably fans of Margaret Thatcher.

Unfortunately Thatcherite politics depends on engineering artificial economic booms by lowering interest rates to a level at which it becomes viable to borrow to invest. And Thatcherite philosophy tells is followers (quite wrongly) that the best investment is property because property values always increase. What goes up must come down of course and every housing boom bursts just as soon as reality rears its ugly head. Unfortunately the breed of Londoners who are responsible for that city’s ills are immune to reality. Thus as well as convincing themselves the only reason for the collapse of the property market is that people outside London are not prepared to take on mortgages of twenty five times their annual salary, they are prepared to believe the Olympic White Elephant is a wonderful money making opportunity, that tax cuts for the rich can result in more money flooding into the economy so everyone gets richer (in reality more money flows out of the economy through offshore investment vehicles and everyone, excepting the very very rich, gets poorer.
So while contemplating the meaning of life on New Year’s Day I was suddenly overwhelmed by the an idea that will save us hard-working, level headed etc. non-Londoners from having to subsidise the great Wen with our taxes while our sensitive ears are constantly assailed with their whining about needing more favours, more subsidies and more everything.
Let’s dump London out of the UK. Its an idea that should make everybody happy, Londoners for as long as it takes to learn they need us more than we need them, the rest of us forever. I would not exclude all Londoners from the UK, like Cobbett I would be willing to accommodate those willing to work at proper jobs that do not involve property developing, trading financial derivatives or flogging dodgy T-shirts to tourists.

But allowing some people* to stay, country lovers like Mike St. Mark, sweeties like eggbod and entertaining folk such as Jack Frost out would make room for us to exile to independent London all the people outside London who work in financial services, anybody who thinks Thatcher was a good leader, anyone who has owned more than two houses in the last five years or anyone who drives a black can and can tell you where St. Mary at Hill is.

I would even let a top quality Londoner like Ros Thompson bring Arsenal along with her, after all there are a few big cities in dire need of a decent football team. Among those that spring to mind are Bristol, Sheffield and … dare I say it?….yes I dare – NEWCASTLE.

*If your name is not among those of Londoners to be saved, don’t worry, the full list is too long to reproduce here.

The World Catches Up At Last

For most of the first two years of Little Micky Machiavelli’s blog the staple diet was politics, specifically the dishonesty, duplicity and malfeasance of Blair’s New Labour Project as they heaped betrayal on deception, deceit on sleaze to abandon every principle the Labour movement had ever held, hoping to trade on the well respected name as they became the party of big business and big money.

sometimes the blog was ridiculed, sometimes I was insulted, threatened, and accused of being a closet Tory (only by people who had not read my views on Margaret Thatcher of course) And towards the end I was accused of being a one trick pony.

At last the world is catching up. John Pilger writes here of how Blair and Brown’s Labour Party finished the job Thatcher began, the destruction of everything good and decent the Labour movement and their Liberal fellow travellers, Gladstone and Lloyd-George, had ever built in this country.

Read here how liberal Britain was destroyed over the last ten years by New Labour

Rivers of Beetroot Soup

,How strange that a speech made forty years ago by a pointy headed intellectual of thE rabid right tendency should still arouse more passion than the systematic breakup of the welfare system, the privatisation of the health service and the reduction of the police to a revenue collecting bureaucracy, or Blair’s illegally leading us into an illegal war without consulting Parliament, but when an obscure Conservative of the sweaty – toothed tendency mentioned Enoch
Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech last week we saw the political establishment become more animated that they have for years.
So why do our usually colourless and ball-less politicians become excited by a non issue?
Well, anything to do with immigration is a key issue among the 50,000 people whose votes actually matter in General Elections.
In a small, overpopulated island like Britain large scale immigration must be a serious concern that deserves to be debated openly and honestly. Unfortunately due to the dark forces of Political Correctness, no debate that might result in criticism of certain factions of immigrant community will ever be tolerated. The dark forces of Political Correctness always shout so loudly for democratic debate that they completely drown out any opinions that differ from theirs. And more often than not, when somebody does try to question the Politically Correct line on immigration, old pointy – head Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech is brought up. So when one of my local councillors recently asked how a town the size of Accrington is supposed to cope with the sudden arrival of a few thousand Poles and groups from various other nations newly enrolled in the EU, nobody could say, “You have a point, we need support from central government,” because all the PC brigade were jumping up and down yelling “Enoch Powell, Rivers of Blood”.
In consequence of this silencing of debate we have over the last few years acquired lots of little local immigrant problems. Schools cannot cope with large numbers of pupils who cannot speak English, social housing agencies cannot cope with increased demand for low – cost, family – sized accommodation, welfare agencies and health services cannot cope with new arrivals needing high levels of support and so on. All the little problems only need one trigger to convert them into a big, national problem. This has happened in Italy in the past few days; the murder of an Italian woman by a Romanian gypsy whose record of violent crime would have prevented him obtaining a visa before Romania joined the EU and its people were able to travel to and settle anywhere in Europe.

The little local problems we have are a direct result of the most unfortunate coincidence in modern British politics. At the same time as the “Jolly Good Chaps” Conservatism of McMillan’s era gave way to the swivel eyed, bonkers-in-the-head politics of the Thatcher era, Old Labour imploded. This opened the way for two decades of bonkers-in-the-head government. Margaret Thatcher’s answer to every domestic problem was “shaft the poor, give the rich ( wealth – creators ) a tax cut.”
“There are no principles, only expedients,” declared the Iron Lady in justification of her knee jerk approach to policy making, thus eternally making fools of those who still admire her for sticking to her principles. Tragically, her grasp of expediency was as shaky as her sanity. Thatcher’s expedients (shaft the poor some more, give the rich another tax cut) were the equivalent of sticking a band aid on a gushing artery. Problems were never dealt with but simply swept under the carpet as her neo-cons pressed on with their war on the working class.
(NOTE for people who still think Thatcher was good; if your livelihood depends on a milk – cow, you don’t beat it to death for not giving enough milk. The working class are the milk cow of any industrial nation. Its not rocket science, not even for the swivel eyed tendency.)
Collective bargaining through unions was undermined, the expensive and totally unfair burden of training their workforce was lifted from those poor, hard done by employers, apprenticeships coupled to further education through day release was virtually abolished. Despite all the hypocritical speeches extolling family values, tax breaks designed to make it possible for a single income family on an average wage to have a decent lifestyle were abolished to fund tax cuts for the rich. After all, the basic principle of swivel eyed economics is that the best way to make everybody better off is to take money from the poor and give it to the rich.

Even after Thatcher was deposed by her own despairing party, the swivel eyed tendency held on to power through John Major’s Conservative rump (oops, pardon!) and then Thatcher clone Tony Blair. As a result, Thatcher’s flagship policies, all made up on the spur of the moment when a difficult question needed to be fended off, continued for another ten years to exacerbate the problems, thus creating the current skill shortage, debt crisis and chaos in the housing market, not to mention the immigration problem and the shortage of plumbers, brickies, electricians, mechanics, machine operators, nurses etc. etc.

Had Madame Swivel Eyes not so thoroughly antagonised our European partners we might have been able to command enough support to block the onward march of Federalism. Thus we may have been able to restrict immigration to people who have something to offer. Had she not so thoroughly destroyed the social and economic infrastructure that held the nation together we might have been better equipped to deal with the challenges of post – industrialism.

Now we have huge social problems queuing up and an unholy alliance of the self interested super rich and the Political Correctness police doing all they can to prevent these problems being dealt with in any sensible way. So with the increasing unrest will Enoch Powells Rivers of Blood turn into Rivers of Beetroot Soup? Will it be the hoards from Eastern Europe rather than the poor corners of a crumbling Empire that swamp our nation and hijack our cultural and social institutions? It is unlikely.

Perversely, most of the voices raised against immigration now belong to the people who wholeheartedly support “free enterprise” and “maket forces” and thing Margaret Thatcher “did a lot of good for this country.” If any of them would like to tell us how it makes sense to deskill the workforce, destroy our industrial base and force our workers to compete for jobs with workers in the low labour cost economies of South East Asia while we have to import trained plumbers, electricians, brickies and plasterers from the old Soviet Bloc nations is “doing a lot of good” we will be eternaslly grateful. If you cannot, however, shut the fuck up and learn to love beetroot soup.

The bulk of recent immigrants are from Poland and the Baltic states and given half a chance will assimilate quickly. All it needs is for national and local government to recognise that some communities, where the migrants are focused, will need special support and extras investment (OOPS, BLASPHEMY!).

Whether that can happen while the two main political parties are in thrall to those 50,000 voters in the marginal constituencies where NIMBYISM rules and the immigrants are concentrated in traditional “safe seats” where the thinking voters vote means nothing remains to be seen.

If Your House Is Flooded, Thank Thatcher

A couple of weeks ago I had a full and frank exchange of views with a Maggie Thatcher worshipper (yes, there are still a few out there)
In response to my witty and incisive analysis this superannuated Toryboy called me rude names and suggested I must be stupid if I did not see he was right but did not actually make a point to back up his assertion that “Maggie did a great job for this country.”
Well one of the great things Maggie did was bulldoze through laws dismantling the planning controls that stopped speculative builders putting housing and industrial estates on the flood plains of rivers.
Environmental scientists and civil engineers warned against this, but common sense was never allowed to stand in the way of quick profits and the builders moved in.
With its escape route obstructed, floodwater backs up with devastating consequences after any period of unusually heavy rainfall. We have seen the consequenses this week in Sheffield (my daughter was stranded in the office on Monday night – she said they all got drunk and it was quite fun) and around the country and in recent years in Nottingham, Carlisle, York, the Medway Towns in Kent and along the Severn Valley.
kudos to Maggie though, true to her image she has never admited she was wrong. That’s the kind of strong leadership that still blinds so many people to the social and economic disaters her half – wit policies caused.

Thatcher Revisited

The Guardian TV reviewer Lucy Mangan, writing about Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain programme on The Thatcher Years picked up on Marr’s description of The Iron Lady as a “one woman revolution.
Lucy commented that she had been brought up to believe Maggie was a one – woman hell on earth. Lucy is a true profession however; she says “I popped a few pills and did my best, despite the fact that her voice, that self – aggrandising, cloying, patronising agonised and agonising voice oozing out the vicious, dead – eyed face still paralyses me with fear and loathing…”
Do you know folks, I never had the lovely Ms. Mangan down for such a big fan of Maggie.

Lest We Forget Maggie

While strolling in a local park over the weekend I passed a World War One memorial, statue of a soldier, head bowed, leaning on his rifle. On the plinth, above the names of the men from that town who died were the words “Lest We Forget.”
As more and more people start to talk of another Conservative government in the foreseeable future perhaps in local parks around the nation we should erect another statue, a group sculpture. On their knees and blindfold an old person and a young mother and next to them, also blindfold and in a wheelchair a disabled person. And behind them, eyes staring maniacally as she raises an executioners axe, Margaret Thatcher.
Lest We Forget it was she who launched the attack by the state on public services, created the culture of selfishness, made vindictiveness a virtue and marginalised the weak and vulnerable.
Lest We Forget it was she who determinedly undermined the print unions, handing control of the media to a fascist bully boy. (Sue me Rupe; you’ve got the lawyers, bring ‘em on.) and then spread the attract to organised labour in general because for reasons well known she resented the workers claiming their right to a decent wage.
Lest We Forget it was she who boasted of the way her father cheated his own staff, paying them not in currency but in goods to the value at marked prices of their earnings, having bought those goods wholesale himself. In a speech ~I was unfortunate enough to have to sit through she praised old man Robert’s “Christian values,” saying that he had done his staff a favour because had they been given money they would have “only wasted it.” Yet she had no problem giving tax cuts to the affluent on the grounds that people should be allowed to do as they please with their own money.
Lest We Forget it was Margaret Thatcher, the hero of the Conservatives, who made hypocrisy and dishonest respectable, even virtuous.
Remember these things when you decide to whom you will give your vote next month.