"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Stuck in the Middle with ... Vince Cable

I downloaded a book to my Kindle eReader over the weekend. Not only was it a translation from the German, it was by a 19thC writer - E.T.A.Hoffman - who is not always the easiest writer to follow. So I struggled with it for a while before I realised that I had downloaded the second volume and obviously was starting mid-way as it were. I have now downloaded the first volume and finding the whole thing a lot easier to understand!

Why am I telling you this? Because I had the same feeling yesterday listening to Vince Cable's proposals regarding the green paper on Pension reform. A lot of the arguments for the pension reforms - with which I obviously do not disagree - are the arguments used against retaining Child Benefit for better off parents. The Telegraph article points out that these reforms will benefit women particularly - another reason that I would favour them - but again these are the arguments that I put in my blog arguing why Child Benefits should not be messed reformed!

So I have the feeling that I have opened the newspapers 'halfway through' the story and that the government has had a change of heart over welfare cuts and are not using the opposite arguments for two different 'benefits'. but it seems I haven't!

And the blog title? Well obviously it is a mish mash of the Joe Egan/Gerry Rafferty song and not only does it refer to my feeling of starting in the middle of a story whose beginning has passed me by, I also particularly identify at the moment with the refrain:

Clowns to the left of me!
Jokers to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle with you.

Elizannie is in the West Country, a bit cold but having fun.

Photograph courtesy of Daily Telegraph, article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/pensions/8086637/Women-to-benefit-most-from-pensions-shake-up.html

Thursday 21 October 2010

Slipping and Sliding

I am not going to go into long analysis of the Spending Review as there are plenty of better financial blogs doing that. It was as unfair as I expected and I am in the camp that feels the ConDem government have acted in an unnecessary way and it will disproportionally affect the poorer strata of our society.

Last night I watched Jeremy Paxman interview Danny Alexander. It was all rather odd - Paxo was being - in an ironic way I thought - gentle with Alexander. It was if Paxo knew that by pushing Alexander too far he would burst into tears. Alexander had no real answers - just repeated the 'formulas' he had been taught by his boss George Osbourne.

When Paxo asked the question, giving the example of DVLC workers in Swansea, of where those who lose public sector jobs could find other jobs Alexander faffed and fluffed. Reply: The government would of course encourage individuals to start new businesses via start up grants. Paxo looked sad and disbelieving. Alexander got redder and more confused. He knew what to say but did he believe it? The example given of the Swansea area Alexander surely knows is one of the country's employment bad areas.

In the end I went to bed because I could not stand any more after an afternoon of listening to financial analyses and reading blogs and etc. Unfortunately my mind was spinning and I had to get up to read something literary to calm myself down. My book 'on the go' is The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe but I somehow didn't feel this would anaethetise me enough so I opted for a dreadful who-dunit which did the trick and drove the spending review from my mind long enough to send me to sleep.

Today's photograph is one I love of the Thames Estuary at Westcliff. It is purely accidental that the tide is going out.

Thursday 7 October 2010

In praise of children!

I am being a bit lazy today and mostly publishing my part in a debate on another blog site about the awful implications made by the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on BBC2's Newsnight. If you have managed to avoid hearing about this up until now, click on the blog title above to catch up.

It has taken me a time to state my case on this as I have been too angry with Hunt's insinuations to type properly. There are so many objections to the objectionable implications made by this highly objectionable minister - OK you probably get the idea that I feel strongly about this. Someone who managed to lay these objections out in a calmer manner than I is Julian Ware-Lane on his blog: http://warelane.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/parenthood-is-philanthrophy-not-a-crime/#comment-2220

My edited contribution [with additions!]is below:

Going back into history around the end of the 18th/beginning of the 19th centuries, larger families amongst the poor are sometimes credited as one of the 'accelerants' of the Industrial Revolution. The fact that infant mortality rates were falling [then still high but not as high as previously] and that the wages earnt in the growing industries meant couples could marry younger and have more surviving children. These children in turn provided workforce for the growing numbers of factories and mines - and we must remember that children as young as four or five would be working as well as their mothers and fathers. So large families helped provide a 'raw material' - labour - for the Capitalist Society to exploit.

And to the parents - if they survived to old age, or at least an age when they were unable to work - the more children they had the more chance that they would be cared for in old age and not have to resort to the dreaded workhouse.

Yesterday I heard someone declaiming on a 'phone in programme that as s/he was childless why should s/he pay taxes to support the children of others: to educate and otherwise care for them. BECAUSE CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE: educate them and ensure they grow up up healthy and strong because - if we want to look at it selfishly as that 'phone in caller seemed to be doing - they are the future doctors, nurse, teachers, road builders, dustbinmen, traindrivers, shopworkers - get the picture?

We hear so much about Benefit Scoungers but any one who has children to make a profit must be very clever at managing money. No doubt someone will produce an example of someone they know who goes to Florida every year and is dripping with luxury goods whilst living on benefits. In reply I will take that someone to a house not far from here where a single mother with three children is having a terrible struggle to make her money last out between her meagre wage payments plus additional benefits. This mother did not set out to be a single mother and 'live on the state'- the tragedy of marital breakdown has reduced her to this status which is now almost hurled as an insult - and she still works as hard as she can to fit in with her growing family, working well below her educational status to fit hours and proximity to the family.

I thoroughly enjoyed being at home with my children and never felt I was 'wasting my education' or losing out on career opportunities. My mother once said 'educate a woman and you educate the family' - very true. Nowadays it is not so easy for women to stay at home with their children and in a lot of ways some of us older mums feel that children and childhood are 'devalued' by modern society and there seems to be a lot of pressure on children to grow up quickly. Childhood is a magic time that does not last long enough - lets preserve it and celebrate it, please.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Watching 'Made in Dagenham'

Please read all through the blog before deciding whether or not Elizannie has 'gone soft'.
I have just been to see the film 'Made in Dagenham' which is a fictionalised version of the 1968 strike by the women sewing machinists at the Ford, Dagenham factory. The settlement of the strike ultimately led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970. My companion was a Ford Pensioner, thus an ex-Ford worker, and he was also an ex-union official. As I wrote in my previous blog 'The Real Story of Made in Dagenham' [September 18th] I have family connections with Ford & Dagenham so we were both eager to find fault with the film!

Well, I won't lie to you, it wasn't as bad as I expected. There were continuity errors and remarks from my companion that certain things were anachronisms Ford wise - certain car models shown produced in Dagenham were not produced there etc etc. And I [being rather shallow] noticed some fashion errors in the characters' outfits! But all those can be allowed on the grounds of artistic licence....

I enjoyed the scenes with the women meeting Barbara Castle and thought John Sessions made an excellent Harold Wilson - I had not expected that at all! A couple of the fictionalised scenes actually made my eyes rather moist and yes there was a definite feel good factor to the whole thing. However the original reason for the 1968 strike - that the women should be re-graded from unskilled female labour to semi-skiilled gets a bit lost and the portrayal of the union and management negotiations - both when meeting together and between themselves - are more the stuff of film sets than actuality.

Bob Hoskins, as a fictionalised portrayal of the wonderful Bernie Passingham [in the film Albert Passingham], makes a comment that applies to many workers in many industries today [and many others fighting unfair conditions]:
Someone has got to stop those exploiting bastards from getting away with it
So lets hope the film sends the message to all sorts of oppressed groups that ordinary people can make a difference if they stand together. And I enjoyed the theme song for the film written by one of my musical and political heroes: 'The Bard of Barking', Billy Bragg with 'Made In Dagenham'.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Child Benefit

I am just going to add my rant to the child benefit 'debate'. It has taken a while for me to calm down enough after hearing the announcement yesterday at the Conservative Party conference of the changes that are proposed - trying to reply to someone earlier on this subject I had to re-type nearly every word due to typos caused by temper!

Just over two hours ago at 10.46am the BBC newspage published an article that had David Cameron reiterating that yesterday's announcement stands. To read this click on the Blog title above. Just a snippet:

On Monday Chancellor George Osborne said that from 2013 the benefit would be removed from families with at least one parent earning more than about £44,000 a year.

As I am sure that the whole cabinet are avid readers of my blog can I ask them collectively to consider the following points:

1. Yes, £44,000 is a good wage to earn - no doubt about that. But it is 'worth' more in different parts of the country and at different stages of life. This 'rule' does not take into account - for instance - house prices. In an area where house prices are extremely high first time buyers and those who are only a few years into a mortgage have very high mortgage repayments which makes the actual spending power of that £44,000 wage not so large as in other places where housing costs are much lower.

2. Many have already commented on the obvious diochotomy of housholds where there might only be one wage earner who earns over £44,000 as opposed to those housholds where there are two wage earners who both earn £43,000 but would not - as far as we know so far - lose the child benefit.

3. Child Benefit was always seen as empowerment for non-wage earning women because however short her partner kept her moneywise, as long as she was the recepient of Child Benefit there was an amount of money that was within her own control. Additionally - and this has been very important for a lot of women over the past few years - if a woman was non-wage earning but receiving Child Benefit it gave her a status toward her State Retirement Pension of 'Home Responsibilities Protection'. This means that every year Child Benefit was received it qualified one towards a State Pension, up to a limit of 22 years. If Child Benefit is not received there must be some mechanism put in place so that mothers who stay at home are not penalised in the pension stakes.

4. A wage earner on £44,000 is obviously a higher earner than one who earns - say - £25,000. S/he therefore pays more tax and on reaching £44,000 pays tax at a higher percentage, 40%. Rather than take away Child Benefit surely a 'sliding scale' of tax adjustment could be introduced so that someone earning £44,000 retains some of the Child Benefit but someone earning - say - £80,000 loses the lot? Would this be 'fairer'? Plus there is also the amount of Child Benefit each individual receives to be taken into account: i.e. this is dependant on how many children there are in each family. Should an individual on £44,000 lose all benefit for all children? Or again should a sliding scale operate, where so much is lost at different levels of pay?

Listening to the news at 2pm there has been an announcement from the Conservative Party Conference that there is a proposal about a 'tax break' for married couples. Again this raises all sorts of questions - not least that the Inland Revenue is allegedly one of the departments that is to undergo 'cuts' so this extra work is to be done by whom? And tax breaks for married couples - what about co-habiting couples with children? Are we going back to the old fashioned married man's allowance? And will there be a 'merger' of a couple's income - what about the separation of a couple's tax affairs for confidentiality reasons? Too many more questions? Have the Coalition Government really thought properly about all of this?

Sunshine and showers/Home from the West again

We drove home from the West country yesterday via Glastonbury. I love the place as has probably become obvious from previous blogs and yesterday it was particularly colourful as the shop windows in the High Street were beginning to show their decorations for the festival of Samhain, which is roughly equivalent to Hallowe'en.[For a link to a site about Samhain please click on the Blog title above]

We left Glastonbury to a glorious blue sky and warm temperatures. Listening to the Ryder Cup commentary on the way home live from the Celtic Manor, Newport [get the connection: Celtic Manor: Glastonbury!] we realised that the lovely weather was remaining in the West and we were travelling eastwards into more dull climes. But it was so good to hear that the Ryder Cup had such a successful [and exciting!] finish. Well done Newport!

The shop showing its decorations in the photograph above has a website which can be accessed here: http://lilithofavalon.com/
I have no connection to the shop btw!

Friday 1 October 2010

Wet Weather

We are in the West of England again and sharing our weather with South Wales. This is a shame for Newport where the awful rain has stopped play in the Ryder Cup Golf Tournament. Newport has worked tremendously hard to bring the golf to the area and prepare for it. Hopefully this will rejuvenate and bring more business to Newport.

There is an interesting story on WalesOnline about the rumours that the Celtic Manor development maybe up for sale after the Ryder Cup has finished. Go to:

Meanwhile I am catching up on reading and enjoying the view of the Bristol Channel!

The photograph above is of a West Country church. It was far prettier than the photograph of me eating a delicious scone!

Elizannie will return to serious stuff next week....