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Saturday 19 February 2011

All In This Together?

I happened to Tweet the following this morning, after reading todays newspaper.
"Thinking of contacting HMG and asking if i can pay less tax like Barclays. Well, i had a bad 2010 as well you know. No, thought not"

For those not in the know, this refers to the story that Barclays paid very little tax (2.4%) on their total profits of £4.6bn, in 2009. This is inspite of them apparently paying out £3.4bn in bonuses that same year.
Part of Barclays justification for paying so little tax was that they had a bad year in 2008. Didn't we all?
This information only came to light because of a Labour Party MP asking for it.

Well, that Tweet certainly provoked a response and all the comments were of a very similar nature. One of digust, both for Barclays and for any Government that allows this type of thing to happen. But, the comments were about the state of the nation and of politics today.
For me, this shows something that i have been detecting a lot recently. A real groundswell of public opinion about the current government and about politics and politicians in general.

Obviously, most of the bad feeling is directed towards the current coalition government in the UK. That's no great surprise seeing as they are in power at the moment.
The coalition government are currently in the process of wheeling out a whole raft of spending cuts and inflicting them onto the UK population.

Now, spending cuts are never going to be popular, but the reaction to these is starting to threaten to get particularly nasty. The general feeling is that these cuts are going to affect the lower paid and most vulnerable in society the most.

And those spending cuts are set against a background of British banks paying multi million pound bonuses to their employees. Banks that would not be in existence if it wasn't for the monetary bailouts and guarantees given to them by the then UK government, back in 2008/9.
Bailouts paid for by the British taxpayer. Yes, that means you and me.

Yes, i know that Barclays bank, unlike  Lloyds and RBS etc, were not given any money directly in the form of bailouts. But, like all the banks, they were effectively given a guarantee by the UK government that they would not be allowed to fail. Meaning that they and the other banks, could then do what they liked and indulge in some more monetary gambling. Just like the old days.
Effectively gambling with our money. A situation that got us into this whole sorry mess in the first place.

The bank bailouts, bonuses and tax revenue debates is set against a situation where we are constantly being told by politicians that "We are all in this together".
Well, if that's the case, i'd like my tax to be reduced for 2010, a la Barclays, because i had a particularly shit year too.
Like many other people in 2010, i lost my job and now have to live within my means. Something a bank has been told it doesn't have to do.
I get no bailout. In fact when i went to the Job Centre to claim Job Seekers Allowance, i was told i wasn't eligible. Despite paying National Insurance for very nearly 36 years!
So please don't tell me and many more like me that we're all in this together. Because it is plainly not true.
And if anyone is due a nice bonus, then surely it is the British people for giving the banks the money to keep them afloat in the first place? Without our money, they would never have made those fat profits.

But, enough bank bashing. After all, we all expect the banks to behave in this way and we should not be surprised that they do so. Especially when our elected representatives are seemingly unwilling to rein them in, or control them in any way. Despite claims to the contrary.

We do though expect a little bit more, or at least we should do, from our elected political representatives themselves.

But, as we learned during the MPs expenses scandal, many MPs just don't seem to be living on the same planet as the rest of us. They are certainly living in a different economic environment to the vast majority of the population. The population that they represent.

This situtation is not helped by the fact that the leaders of all three main political parties are Oxbridge, or publically educated men. Men with very little to worry about when it comes to money.
In my humble opinion, millionaires are not the best people to be telling me that we are all in this together. Certainly not in times of austerity, like now.

So, the general consensus amongst the UK population is that our politicians are totally out of touch with reality. They live in a world, like The Queen, where they think that everything smells of fresh paint and where everything works. That is not always their fault, of course. They live in a world full of sycophants and "yes' people who are afraid to tell them of the reality of the situation.

How often have you seen, or heard about, that situation in the workplace? Where the head of a company has no idea what goes on on the shopfloor, because the underlings are too scared to tell them.
That's no way to run a country, or a business for that matter.

We have seen many examples of current politicians being out of touch and one happened just this week.

I'm sure we all know about the governments, now abandoned, proposals to sell off much of our public woodlands and forests.
Now, this is a classic case of a government being totally out of touch with the electorate. A government that, by the way, said they were going to be the greenest in history.

For a start, they seemed to fail to realise that these forests and woodlands were not really theirs to sell in the first place. They belong to the people.
But, they also didn't anticipate the huge adverse reaction that these proposals would generate. A reaction which, in the end, forced the government to apologise for their actions and to have to admit that they had "got it wrong".

So, what we had from government this week was yet another U-Turn. Although they'd never call it that, of course.

Now, it's one thing to admit that you are going to change your mind due to popular opinion. But, it is quite another to promise one thing in your election manifesto and then to do something completely different when you are elected. But, that is precisely what this government has done.

If you can't relate to those whom you represent, have little understanding of what they actually want and have to lie to get yourself elected, it doesn't exactly fill you with a lot of confidence in them does it?

Is it any wonder then that so many people these days have little, or no, respect for politicians and don't bother to vote?

I mentioned earlier about the various comments that i had on that original Tweet.
Well, here is another,  "Time to do an Egypt?"

Now, i'm sure that was meant, at least, partly in jest. But, it does get you thinking doesn't it?

Amongst those thoughts is probably something along the lines of, what did the people of Tunisia and Egypt say about their previous rulers? What was it that started them onto the road to rebellion and revolution?

Well, it could probably best be summed up by saying, amongst other things, "They (the rulers) don't relate to those whom they represent. They have little understanding of what the people actually want and they have lied to get themselves elected".

Sound familiar?

(I have a funny feeling i may well be returning to this topic, as i've not mentioned everything i intended to)

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