Archive for October, 2010

So there we have it.  After months of speculation, CamClegg Inc has revealed the details of the Comprehensive Spending Review and would you believe it? The proposed cuts will hit the poorest and the public sector hardest, with half a million workers likely to lose their jobs in the next four years.  It was what BBC journalist John Pienaar described as a piece of “carefully crafted brutality” (BBC Radio Five Live, 20 October). Interestingly, though, the BBC’s special spending review website doesn’t even headline the full extent of likely job losses; I had to dig a bit deeper for it until finding it on Nick Robinson’s blog.

This may be down to how well the government has spun the Review, breaking the proposed cuts down into small, digestible chunks.  Initially, Osborne preferred to outline annual rather than cumulative figures for job losses. But then along came the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Danny Alexander (Lib Dem) to “accidentally” reveal (leak) the four-year figure of 490,000 as estimated by the Office of Budget Responsibility.

The government could surely round it up to the half million mark without a sweat but they won’t because it’s psychological – like the pricing we see in shops: £19.99 rather than £20.  You have to wonder, though what’s going on behind the scenes at the Treasury? Was Alexander’s leak an act of subversion, a refusal to whitewash the true extent of these cuts? Or is it an Alexander-Osborne good cop-bad cop act? There are no clues yet of turmoil behind closed doors so I suspect it’s the latter.

I will leave in-depth analysis of the Review to the experts but surely it is not the solution to the national debt crisis? In fact, it may trigger the dreaded double-dip recession we’ve been warned about over and over. As pointed out on Irish television, the pound has declined, not bounced, on the currency markets since the review was announced (Primetime, RTE1, 21 October). If that turns into a long-term trend, the market speculators may craft some brutality of their own.

The truth is that, when it comes to cuts, this divide between public and private sectors is totally bogus. They are mutually dependent and that very dependence is crucial to economic growth. No growth, no confidence means no spending, no revenue.

So what is the government’s real agenda? Justifying the projected £80 billion cuts, the Secretary of Transport, Philip Hammond, repeated on television the propaganda line that there is “no alternative” because Britain has the highest national debt to GDP ratio among the G20 nations. He’s either lying to us or he doesn’t know his facts because Britain is actually mid-league table with Germany (about 65%), a good deal less indebted than Japan (over 200%) and the US (94%). In any case, comparisons like this are difficult to sustain and sometimes meaningless because debt levels have to be offset against a whole range of economic variables, nationally and globally. They certainly shouldn’t be used as an excuse to lay waste to the Welfare state. No, as Polly Toynbee argues, what we’re witnessing is nothing less than an ideological project to shrink the welfare state for its own sake (Question Time, BBC1, 21 October) while presenting it as being in the national interest.

So against the backdrop of public protests, strikes and riots across Europe, we wait with bated breath to see how the stoic Brits will react to the review. And that’s where the idea of “carefully crafted brutality” comes into play because the true pain and damage they will eventually wreak on the economy and society will not be felt all at once or across all classes of society. Cam-Clegg Inc has been very careful to spin the cuts in advance to neutralise opposition from within and manipulate public expectations. Now it will calibrate the cuts so that they roll out bit by bit over a four year period in the hope that it will offset any possibility of concerted protest and class solidarity in the run up to the next election. If that happens, we’ll only see the wreckage when it’s far too late to put it right.






So Laurel and Hardy have gone! Goodbye to bad rubbish!


Hicks and Gillett take the only dignified way out


Now we can ony wait and see what John Henry and NESV will bring to the club – hopefully not more bad faith and bad debt. But all Liverpool fans know that the problems of this great club are not all the fault of the former owners because we’ve suffered the spectacle of some truly abysmal football on the field from some very ordinary players who shouldn’t really be in a Liverpool shirt – and who were not signed by Hicks and Gillett. As for Roy Hodgson, I really don’t know. He’s a manager who looks out of his depth at the moment and I suspect he may have been brought in because he wouldn’t scare the horses at a tricky point in the club’s history. But maybe he should be given some more time to prove he’s up to the task of transforming fortunes on the field? If the club is still languishing in the relegation zone by Christmas then it may be time for him to go in the spirit of the season – peace and goodwill and all that.

From that point, we bring back King Kenny (or maybe Martin O’Neill?) to haul the club out of the relegation zone to at least mid-table and start the process of a complete overhaul of the squad in advance of next season. Forget the Europa Cup – it’s a liability for a team in Liverpool’s position right now.  Let’s just focus on who stays and who goes and build a proper Liverpool first XI and squad.

Who Stays? Reina, Carra, Skrtel, Stevie G, Torres (if he’s really up for it), Kelly, Kuyt, Cole, Shelvey, Spearing, Jovanovic, Pacheco and Ngog.

Who goes? Johnson, Agger, Aurelio, Konchesky, Kyrgiakos, Rodriguez, Wilson, Babel, Meireles, Poulsen, and Lucas.

Possible signings?  Who knows? Kevin Doyle from Wolves? Shane Long from Reading?  But we could do worse than have a look at Paddy McCourt at Celtic.

Can you imagine having him score a goal like that at the Kop end against one of the top four? Let’s face it, when was the last Liverpool player we’ve seen run through defenders? Ok so he’s not going to get away with it every week at the highest level but he has the ability and the potential. On the other hand, I’m not a Celtic fan and haven’t seen him on a bad day. He hasn’t got a regular place on the first XI so maybe there’s something in that?

Anyway, I’m sure other fans will have different views on all this so let me know what you think!  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this little gem from the glorious past!

BBC journalist, Andrew Marr, thinks that “a lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting”.  “They are very angry people!” he added angrily.

A gross generalisation indeed and one very few bloggers fit into. In fact, the kind of people Marr has in mind is unlikely to be engaged enough with the world to bother with a blog in the first place. But his attack on the blogging community is most interesting because he seems to commit the very same sins he identifies as typical of the average blogger – an angry, resentful rant that doesn’t allow facts to get in the way of a good controversy. But then again, maybe he wasn’t really that angry? Maybe he was just plugging his appearance at the Cheltenham Literary Festival?  It certainly got the media attention necessary for us to all to know that Andrew had made an appearance at a prestigious cultural event.

Whatever the case, it’s all the more remarkable coming from a BBC journalist who should really know better.  I will defend his right to speak out about issues that concern him. I will also defend his right to be a grumpy old man. But Marr should at least get his facts right, be more specific and particular in his critique and not be so defensive about his own profession of journalism. “The so-called citizen journalism”, he argues, “is the spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night. It is fantastic at times but it is not going to replace journalism.”  Speak for yourself, Andrew.  In any case, very few bloggers would claim to be “citizen journalists”. It’s certainly not what I’m about here. This is just me exercising my right to say what I think about the issues I care about – a fine democratic tradition, I would have thought.

So cool your jets, Andrew! The barbarians are not at the gates just yet. Public service journalism is not about to be swamped out of existence by the pimply brigade. But the best way to defend it is to practice it rather than descend into crass generalisations and prejudice.