Sunday, December 07, 2008

Independent Financial Adviser Question

The most pressing question you're likely to hear from your IFA right now? "Do you want fries with that?"

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Stimulate your pet - it's official

That nice Mr Benn, the Environment Secretary, is issuing pet owners with Codes of Practice, which include such gems as pets need beds, a toilet and mental stimulation.

His dad must be so pleased to see he's following in his footsteps as a fearless Socialist thinker...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Quiet American

That, apparently, is the city nickname for Lloyds TSB Chief Exec. Eric Daniels. But yesterday, during a broadcast conference call, he sounded like the king of jargon. He talked about using the "synergy" that will arise between HBOS and Lloyds TSB to create £1.5 billion in savings for the merged banking entity.

I think that means here in Halifax that jobs will go - especially as the news reports seem to favour the BOS side of things, as opposed to the mortgage specialist H part of the company.

Let's hope the quiet American is prepared to listen to the town's MPs and Rosie Winterton, MP, Minister for Yorkshire & the Humber, because "synergy" could mean the end for this town.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Banking 2008

I went with a relative to close his Bradford & Bingley savings account last Wednesday. He was concerned about the bank's future stability and wanted to make sure his hard-earned was safe. The junior employee behind the counter tried to dissuade him, promising us that the bank was safe. So safe, in fact, that they were now recruiting and "look, we've all being given new uniforms!".

Not convinced, he went ahead with the closure. Fast forward to Friday and the "safety" of new uniforms and recruitment was exposed as a pretty hollow sham - the share price is now less than the rights offer to existing shareholders - and the hoped for American private equity investor has high tailed it back to the land of the free.

Shame that a once solid building society got suckered into the self-certification and get-rich-quick buy-to-let. Shame also that the chief donkey wallahs give the poor footsoldiers a dodgy script to play out to worried investors.

Northern Wreck and now Bradford & Bungley: northern-based demutualised former buildings societies on the get rich quick trai - one was unfortunate, but two looks like the start of a trend!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Naked children? Not on the Cake!

Not often I agree with Esther Rantzen but her comments about over the top child protection decisions are amply illustrated by Asda's refusal to allow the photo of a baby's bottom on a birthday cake intended for the now grown-up owner of the derriere.

Rantzen's comments were made in response to a Civitas report, entitled Licensed to Hug, which highlights the fears felt by many who would have previously volunteered to work with children, but now feel put off by the attitude of some organisations and even wider society itself.

Of course, CRB checks are necessary, but, as Asda have shown, disproportionate responses have far-reaching consequences and run the risk of preventing children from forming the relationships with adult members of the wider community that are necessary for them to develop into responsible and mature people in their own right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don't worry - Gordon only wants to protect you

I've read this speech three times now and I still don't understand how giving the state carte blanch to hold detailed personal information should make me feel any safer from terror.

Apart from the difficulty of knowing exactly who will be able to access my DNA, biometrics, bank account, Tufty club membership, grandfathers' inside leg measurements etc, etc., there's still the problem of misuse.

After all, we're only just learning how many councils have misused the powers granted to them under the Regulation of Investigatory Procedures Act, which has seen local authorities "spying" on people applying for school places and filling their wheelie bins - all in total disregard of of Jack Straw's solemn assurance that there would be tight controls on those using it.

Now, some will say if you've nothing to fear... But that's not the point - neither is the threat we face: we were not consulted about this massive intrusion into our personal lives. It feels like were just sleepwalking into a total surveillance society.

Benjamin Franklin had it absolutely right, when he said:
"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Lesson in decorum and taste from the freesheets

Metro, Associated Newspaper's daily giveaway, offered its readers a new take on the Burma cyclone on Wednesday, May 7. Above the headline "Burma cyclone death toll could top 50,000", was a panel urging readers to log on so they could see a video of the destruction wrought by cyclone Nargis.

I know participation is all in news media, but on this occasion the best participation would be via donation - not morbid cyber-gawping.

Disasters' Emergency Committee Nargis appeal.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Serving Suggestion

I was a bit put out when we bought this pack of cakes. Seems modern etiquette requires you to take a bite out of a bun before offering it to your guests. Not wanting to make a social faux pas, I asked Marks and Sparks if this was the case. Apparently my comments have been sent to the sharp thinkers in marketing responsible for dreaming up such tosh; thought they'd have offered a year's free supply for providing a useful service: still, it's not too late if they want to recognise my diligence...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gordon - the taxing Atlanticist

Can his aides please tell Gordon to give the Americanisation of Britain a rest? After it turned Blair into a poodle, you'd have thought his astute successor would have steered clear of being seen as a slavish adherent of things coming from the Land of the Free. Not so, he's proposing our very own British Purple Heart for those members of our armed forces unfortunate enough to be wounded in Labour's wars.

Like all the other things Gordon would like us to do, this will probably come to nothing - shame the same can't be said for his plans to tax low earners: the public's verdict on that will be all to painfully given on May 1.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Honouring the Military

Strange how, for such a reserved character, Gordon Brown wants us to 'celebrate' so much. If its not 'Britishness' - whatever that is, it's the armed forces, who he now wants to appear at sporting events. Shame, though, that celebration doesn't seem to extend to giving those who sign on the dotted line recognition for their human rights when they end up in harm's way, as under New Labour they seem to do on an increasing basis.

Surely the best way to 'honour' armed forces personnel is to ensure they are properly housed, paid and equipped, rather than going in for hollow cheer fests before the footie kicks off - or is this really about presenting a glamorous image to the bored youth on the terraces, in the hope they might be similarly inspired to join up?

'Celebration' and 'honour' are all very well, but they are meaningless gestures if we can't debate - much less dare to criticise - the conditions the government expects the forces to serve under.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jam, Style and thanks on Oxford Street

I saw Paul Weller walking down Oxford Street last week. I'd like to apologise to him for causing a bit of a scene, but it's not everyday you see a true rock god in the flesh.

'He's not the god of creation, but he is the Lord of the Morning Light' Pan - As Is Now.

Couldn't put it better myself. Thanks for the music, long may it continue to inspire and enlighten.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Health and Safety on the Eye

Went on the London Eye with my nine year old son on Tuesday. Having paid for the tickets, we passed through security - which in our case consisted of a heavily-accented eastern european woman with a hand-held metal detector. On checking my rucksack she found a small football, at which point she asked me - in all seriousness - whether we were going to play with it on the trip! Aside from the fact that I was intent on getting my money's worth in sightseeing, didn't she think our fellow travellers might not look too favourably on a penalty shoot-out as they went round in the glass bubble with us.

A mistress of the bleeding obvious, if ever I came across one...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Horny-handed son of toil (or maybe not...)

Could Labour's new general secretary, city fund manager David Pitt-Watson be conclusive proof of the Party's break with its working class roots?

For the Party faithful there can be no doubt that money talks louder than tradition: Pitt-Watson was Brown's chosen candidate, in advance of a trade union official.

Keep the Red Flag flying - but not over New Labour.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tesco just ruined Valentine's Day

The flowers I ordered to be delivered to my wife and one true love (it's OK, they're the same person) weren't delivered due to a communication problem in the warehouse. That's what they told me at the Call Centre. Thanks folks; as your slogan goes "every little helps".

Hope Cupid shoots straighter than this...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Who pays the politician, and why won't they tell us?

News that Peter Hain, Welsh Secretary and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is to face a full parliamentary enquiry into the funding of his Labour deputy leadership bid is swiftly followed by revelations that Conservative shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, failed to over £400,000 in donations intended to fund his office.

If 'two jobs' Pete and Georgie, the self-professed chief bean-counter in waiting, either haven't the time or the intelligence to report donations properly, we definitely need a thorough overall of party financing.

Both Labour and Tories, when in power, have meddled with the financial reporting requirements to give their respective supporters and politicians some supposed advantage over the opposition. In reality, by cobbling together rules that favour the party in Government, they've created a system of byzantine complexity that politicians seem unable to understand or the public able to trust. Time for change; maybe even time to grasp the old state-funding nettle, after all, we can't trust the politicos to regulate themselves, can we?

Keeping it clean.

It's a bit of a nerve for the Cleaning and Support Services Association, the umbrella group that represents private contractors who are supposed to keep hospitals clean, to say that the Government's much vaunted £50 million "deep clean" should be scrapped in favour of more payments for regular cleaning.

We need clean hospitals and by interposing private firms, with dividend expecting shareholders, between the mop bucket and the ward, the NHS is being forced to divert funds away from cleaning into the pockets of CLSA members and their shareholders.

Once the hospitals are clean, we need to get rid of the self-serving CLSA and take cleaning back under the direct control of the NHS.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

If you go down to the woods today...

Spent the afternoon of the last day of 2007 wandering round Judy Woods, a 40 hectare site of ancient woodland in Wyke, Bradford. The place is great at any time of the year, although I was annoyed to see that we've been adding some long term features to the land that could remain there for up to 2,000 years.

The woods are very popular with dog walkers; no problem with that, I love the woods and I like dogs. It's the owners who don't clean up properly after fido that get me angry.

If you leave a dog turd in the open it will naturally degrade after a week or so - unless, of course, someone doesn't tread in it first. The best option, for all concerned, is to put it in a pooh-bag and take it home with you. The worst option is to put it in a plastic pooh-bag and then leave the bagged-up turd in the woods, where the plastic will remain for centuries.

The number of stupid dog owners taking the worst option, as evidenced by the amount of little tied up plastic bundles left at the edge of the paths and the base of trees , shows that man's best friend can be one of the environment's worst enemies.

How to get rid of the plastic.