Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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A living wage should not just be the goal of the Left

Labour leader Ed Miliband: He's not as stupid as he looks

Labour leader Ed Miliband: He’s not as stupid as he looks

I know it is fashionable to laugh at Red Ed and patronisingly say he’s not that smart when it comes to economics. Except, he is VERY smart and was the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s right-hand man when he worked alongside Gordon Brown before 2008.

It would be very trivial to suggest either Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband are stupid. Misguided, yes, and certainly socialists but they also have the requisite skills to create a socialist economy just not a free-market economy.

But I think it has come to a point in the year 2013, where the debate between socialism and free-market economics is becoming redundant, just like the old Left versus Right arguments. I am a strident believer in capitalism, which is the foundation for free-markets, but in my view capitalism, in the UK at least, is broken and no longer serves the masses. We need reform. When Margaret Thatcher unleashed the power of the market during her reign in the 1980s it was abundantly clear socialism and 90% income tax rates were strangling ordinary workers financially and something had to be done.

But once the blue touchpaper was lit it was very difficult to stop the subsequent chain reactions. Between 1985 and 2000 the good times were there for all to enjoy: privatised utilities gave shares to the masses (unlike the Royal Mail sale where most were locked out because of the £750 threshold), people were lifted out of the dirt (literally) in manual labour jobs and allowed to become bankers, IT consultants, small business owners because of mass deregulation and low taxes brought about by Thatcher’s chancellors. The babyboomer generation fell smack bang right in the middle of the economic boom and they have done extremely well. As I am reminded when I see the new Range Rover parked outside my house as a babyboomer tends to his cash-buy terrace house a few doors down in preparation for renting it out!

But the wily boss class spotted an opportunity to get even richer and took control of the “free” market and since 2000, if not before in the 1990s, ordinary workers wages have been pushed down year-on-year. This does not just affect the unskilled and semi-skilled, but professionals in engineering, law and IT. Millions of people working in our biggest businesses haven’t had an above inflation pay rise for almost 15 years whereas the boss class have seen their salaries rocket, with it now unheard of for a CEO not to take home at least £1 Million in cash each year – before bonus, share options and their pension.

The money is there. It’s just now all funnelled to the top. This is why I scratch my head when I hear the boss class say with a dreaded look on their face that if they are forced to pay their employees a living wage, prices will need to go up. I’m not convinced anymore when there is such a gulf in wages between the top and the bottom of an organisation. There is clearly money about but perhaps greed has got the better of those at the top.

In the seventh largest economy on Earth, surely the private sector who create this wealth can afford to pay all employees enough so they don’t have to choose between eating and heating each winter? I will be accused of being economically illiterate. So be it. But when there is such disparity of wealth in one of the world’s richest countries, you have to question everything. When Labour brought in the Minimum Wage, the boss class said the world would end – except it didn’t. Labour’s Living Wage isn’t even as half as radical as the Minimum Wage with a tax break being offered to businesses who pay it.

Of course, this new policy from Labour is massively tinged with political campaigning but that’s the result of a democracy and rightly so. I even suspect Dave will be desperately trying to find his own living wage policy pretty soon…


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You’ve presided over 1,200 deaths? Oh, here’s your £1.9M pension pot

Bye: Sir David Nicholson finally goes (in a few months)

Bye: Sir David Nicholson finally goes (in a few months)

The NHS chief executioner executive who presided over care so appalling it resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people at Stafford Hospital has finally decided to announce his “retirement”.

Sir David Nicholson refused to resign when the damning truth was revealed by the Francis Report in February and NHS arch-worshipper David Cameron refused to sack him. Nicholson has been clinging on to his job and massive salary every since until today. But don’t get your hopes up – he isn’t going quite yet. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, (a swivel-eyed loon if there ever was one) is allowing the man who presided over the Stafford Hospital killing field, and then lied to Parliament about knowing about the high death rate, to stay in post on his basic salary of £211,000 until March next year when he will step down with a huge pension pot of £1.9 Million.

Nicholson was chief executive of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust (which Stafford Hospital fell under) during the scandal between 2005 and 2009. During this time, over one thousand patients needlessly died at the hands of their doctors and nurses who were being led by targets fed down by Nicholson to ensure he won the coveted Foundation Status (devised by the Labour Party) for his NHS Trust, when he would be given even more power over how Stafford Hospital was run, and, of course, more money.

I’ve written extensively about what went on at Stafford Hospital before so I won’t rehearse the same points again. Today’s news demonstrates how large corporations, not just in the public sector but in the private sector too, reward failure and collude to stifle consumer competition and employment competition to ensure a select few receive the rewards.

In the case of the NHS, the whistleblowers, including Gary Walker, former head of United Lincolnshire NHS Trust, who raised patient safety concerns to Nicholson in a 2009 letter to him has had his career ruined whereas the man whose direction significantly contributed to 1,200 families losing their loved ones sails along to the finishing line with full pay and a juicy pension to look forward to.

It’s the same in the private sector. As I have written previously, and was subsequently expressed in an article on the Backbencher online magazine today, capitalism – the great system of free markets and mass distribution of wealth – is no longer in operation. The world economy is pro-business not pro-free markets. One is the antithesis of the other.

Today’s economy is not what Margaret Thatcher envisaged. During the last twenty years capitalism has been captured by the elite and the free market is no longer anything like free. Business and trade is sewn up by the elite (CEOs, Governments, the EU etc) at the expense of the free market (consumer choice, employment competition, free trade movement etc). Capitalism is a theory which sees wealth spread through the masses – unfortunately, it is no longer implemented. Corporations take the wealth and push it up into the boardroom where it only benefits the few.

We now have big blocks of corporations where consumer competition is stifled (look at Yahoo buying up all the small tech start-ups (Astrid, Tumbler), driving up the costs of products and as corporations grow larger worker competition is stagnated, driving down wages.

No work going on here: Executive Boardroom

No work going on here: Executive Boardroom

Corporations have become so big that they are now not only able to do deals with one another (that’s called a cartel Shell and BP!) but with Governments and even entire continents as we have seen with Amazon and Google taking advantage of the EU tax laws which allow these massive corporations to pretend they don’t do any business in the UK and they only sell services in Ireland or Luxembourg.

This behaviour, aided by politicians and unelected legislators (EU commissioners, for example), doesn’t just drive down consumer choice and wages – it kills people. As we have seen in the third largest corporation in the world – the NHS – and large clothing firms paying Bangladeshis 21 cents an hour to work in collapsing factories.

It’s time to break up the power of the corporate elite, unleash the true values of Capitalism and Enterprise and set the people free.