Archive | December, 2013
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Merry Christmas

23 Dec

Merry Christmas

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Not so much satire as real life

20 Dec
Sir Robin Wales is always right

See, I am always right. It says so right there.

Legal blogger David Allen Green has decided that government and parliament waste far too much time passing legislation, which is then subject to the tiresome jurisdiction of the courts. Whitehall and Westminster, he asserts, would be better employed doing other things.

So he proposes a modest Act of Parliament, the Something Must Be Done Act 2014. Once it is passed, no other legislation will ever be necessary and the meddlesome courts will be neutered forever.

This would be a piece of satirical genius were it not for the fact that Mr Allen Green has simply lifted and modified Newham’s The Mayor Is Always Right by-law, passed by councillors immediately after the first mayoral election in 2002.

Even if Newham residents are unfamiliar with the exact text of the by-law they will immediately recognise it from its impact on daily life in the borough:

Section 1:
The Mayor of Newham shall have the power to do anything, and nothing the Mayor does will be ultra vires.

Section 2:
The power given by Section 1 of this by-law shall include the banning of things by the Mayor.

Section 3:
The things to be banned referred to in Section 2 of this Act shall be the things which the Mayor of Newham says are bad for us.

Section 4:
What is bad for us for the purposes of Section 3 shall be determined by the Mayor of Newham with regard either to (a) headlines in the Newham Recorder this week and/or (b) the headlines the Mayor of Newham would like to see in the Newham Recorder next week.

Section 5:
Any person
(a)  voicing opposition to a determination made under Section 4 of this Act; or
(b)  acting in breach of a ban made under Section 1 of this Act,
shall be deemed to not care about the children and/or be soft on crime and anti-social behaviour.

Section 6:
In the event something must be done, the Mayor may at his sole discretion choose a thing to do, and the thing chosen shall be deemed as the something that must be done.

Section 7:
The thing chosen under Section 6 shall not have any rational or proportionate relationship to any intended objective.

Section 8:
There shall be crackdowns, announced from time to time by press release. Any crackdown under this Section 8 shall not endure more than one day after the press release in which it is announced.

Section 9:
There shall always be new penalties. And these penalties shall always be deemed tougher than the previous penalties and so shall be called ‘tough new penalties’ until superseded by the next ‘tough new penalties’ when they become ‘the old ineffective penalties’. However, any ‘tough new penalties’ under this Section 9 shall have no greater effect than ‘the old ineffective penalties’, even if announced as part of a crackdown under Section 8.

Section 10:
Within the boundaries of the London Borough of Newham this by-law extends beyond the rule of law.

Reading this in parallel with Mr Allen Green’s version, it is striking how little he has had to amend the original text to make it fit his comedic purpose. But what he thinks of as satire is actually real life here in Newham.

For richer, for poorer (but mostly poorer)

6 Dec

George Osborne claims that the UK economy is recovering and experiencing strong growth, thanks to the austerity policies pursued by the Coalition government since 2010.

But ordinary people can’t see any recovery at all. For them, all they see are stagnant wages and rising prices. There is a cost of living crisis.

Look at Newham. The table below shows the average (median) income for full-time workers living in the borough between the start of the financial crisis in 2008 and 2012.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Avg Income £25,521 £26,154 £26,998 £26,489 £26,666
Annual % Change 2.48% 3.23% -1.89% 0.67%
Overall 4.49%

In 2011 average income actually fell for Newham workers. And the overall increase across the 5 years has failed to keep up with prices. So people – even “hardworking people” in full-time jobs – are getting poorer.

The table below shows the annual change in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which is the government’s preferred measure of inflation. It also shows what would have happened to average incomes in Newham if they had keep pace:

Annual CPI 3.60% 2.20% 3.30% 4.50% 2.70%
Avg Income £25,521 £26,440 £27,021 £27,913 £29,169
Difference -£286 -£23 -£1,424 -£2,503
Cumulative -£4,237

Over five years Newham people have lost out on over £4,200 of income. For a city banker or a hedge fund manager that’s just a rounding error on their bonus. But for ordinary people it’s the difference between keeping the heating on during a cold snap or not; the difference between the whole family eating dinner, or just the kids.

This is recovery for the rich – the rest of us are still stuck in the recession. And George Osborne doesn’t care.