Wednesday, 30 April 2014


A Northern Rail Class 156 Sprinter, calls at Castleton Moor on the Esk Valley Railway with a Whitby to Middlesbrough service. This line was saved quite arbitrarily from the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, and yet for 20 years since privatisation has seen only a couple of trains per day in each direction. Unforgivably, none of these services are suitable for commuting to either of the line's termini. This railway awaits an imaginative and innovative operator who will maximise its undoubted potential at the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.
In last week's post Privatisation Profiteers Ride the Rails (at your expense), ANDY FLEMING examined the Tories'
half baked, inefficient, horrendously expensive and disastrous privatisation experiment with our railways. 

In the last post in this series he examines why Britain's rail network now the most fragmented and expensive in Western Europe to both passenger and tax payer alike, has become a cash cow to train operating companies who reap the profits, while you and I pay the losses.

Following the botched privatisation of British Rail in 1994, hopes were high that a change to a New Labour government in 1997 would see re-nationalisation of this strategic national asset in a country crying out for an affordable, reliable, safe and fully integrated environmentally-friendly public transport system.

But of course we didn’t see any such change. The key was in the word ‘New’. What we received was just a continuation of Major’s full-baked policies in railways and elsewhere, just different cronies enacting them. Sure there was the odd left winger full of bluster who was ready to drop all of their principals, in order to give the impression that there may be a little socialisation of the economy but of course it was a mirage. As would become clear following Tony Blair and George Bush’s illegal Iraq War of 2003, the petroleum industry was still pulling the strings despite the environmental rhetoric and run-ins with hard working truck drivers.

This phoney environmentalism was however a deceitful and duplicitous way of launching a full scale assault on the motorist with crippling petrol taxes, while simultaneously John Prescott was announcing an investment in railways so grand that the Victorians would have been jealous. It was of course all lies. Most of the £30 billion funding for the network announced in early 1999 wasn’t new money at all, just recycled promises from the last days of Major’s corrupt and sleazy administration. New Labour were of course masters of lies, dishonesty and deceit (these grotesque human traits were of course spun as ‘spin’ to the gullible).

It was brought home to me one night when BBC Look North carried a visit by Tony Blair to a primary school in Ferryhill, part of his Sedgefield constituency. One little girl asked the Prime Minister a fantastic question that deserved a fully honest answer.

“Please can you re-open Ferryhill station as there are a lot of people here who can’t afford cars”, she said.

His answer would be the reason why I wouldn’t vote Labour ever again,

“I’d love to be in a position to do it, but it would be just far too expensive”.

It was clear where this charlatan’s loyalties lay and they certainly weren’t with his constituents’ needs in a civilised society for even a basic public transport system. And he certainly couldn’t care less about the environment.

Sunday, 27 April 2014


It's Sunday. But it's financial. So it's Friday Financial with JULIAN SAYER.

Why and how inflation and falling wages hasn't bothered the wealthy.

This week I want to look at inflation and the cost of living crisis. There was a lot of fanfare last week with the announcement that wage increases have finally passed the rate of inflation. The full details of the announcement can be found here;

On the surface it sounds great, the bedrock of a recovery is in place and good times are just around the corner. But, if you look into what has happened over the last forty years and the consequences over the coming years, then a different picture emerges.

These figures include all the high ranking salaried jobs mainly in the banking and financial sector that we the tax payer so happily saved back in 2008. These salaries have and are rising faster than any other. These million pounds salaries and their huge bonuses will adversely affect this data, boosting the percentage higher and disproportionately. Our Government does little to cap them as it encourages the City to make more and more money. Just look at the figures involved, who else gets million pounds salaries and two hundred per cent bonuses?

Wages for the average person have stagnated and inflation has eroded the spending power that this reduced income can buy. For example average earnings adjusted for inflation have dropped 7.2 per cent since 2010 – leaving millions more than £2,000 a year worse off. This is where the economy has been hurt.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


Rail privatisation was implemented in a way that made no economic sense whatsoever, but satisfied the Tory dogma of state equals bad; private equals good.

ANDY FLEMING looked at how our once great national railway system that was the envy of the world, was butchered by politicians obsessed with imposing free market disciplines on a strategic national monopoly. In this post he takes a look at the Tories' half baked, inefficient, horrendously expensive and disastrous privatisation experiment with our railways.

You can always detect a political zealot. They are just like religious zealots and fundamentalists. The very last thing any of them can be bothered to do is learn any facts about the particular area they rant about. And I don't mind, I'm all for freedom of speech, just so long as they don't wreck our industries and economy or blow up aeroplanes. But that's just what's been happening to the British economy over the last four or five decades.

It has of course been an agenda dominated by right wing libertarian politics that has espoused an age old doctrine first propounded by Adam Smith and his "hidden hand" in his tome The Wealth of Nations. Like a hydra that keeps having its tentacles amputated, its philosophies of deregulation, "rolling back the state", and the wholesale privatisation of strategic state natural monopolistic industries just keep growing back.

The same old tired policies practiced right up to 1945 keep getting trotted out in every new generation of right wing politicians. They regard them as panaceas to every conceivable societal ill. It took an 'Old Labour' government led by Clement Attlee to civilise Britain, to legislate against children being sent up chimneys or down mines or becoming illiterate adults. Centuries of Adam Smith's free markets had failed to provide even a meagre standard of living for the majority of the population. The whole ideology was and still is just an excuse for individual greed masquerading as a political and economic ideology.

In just a few a few short years following VE day thanks to collective state intervention, Britain gained a socialised health care and education system, a Welfare State, socialised housing and the nationalisation of decrepit and rundown yet vital and strategic monopolistic industries including steel, coal and the railways. Such is the nature of global capitalism however, that even in the fifties a civilised society meant a society in which wage, safety and environmental protection costs were higher. Corporations and international capital always on the lookout for a workforce and a nation to exploit started to relocate their sweat shops run with slave labour to places such as Hong Kong and Japan.

It wasn’t long before the worsening balance of payments and trade deficits were being blamed on workforce laziness, unionisation, wages, infact everything under the sun as long as that didn’t include archaic British management practices or an early sixties Macmillan government led by a bunch of politicians like Profumo who epitomised the word sleaze.

Nationalised industries bore brunt of much of the blame and especially Britain’s railways. Nationalised in 1948 out of desperation resulting from decades of private company neglect, the “Big Four” railway companies (London Midland Scottish, Great Western Railway, London and North Eastern Railway and Southern Railways) became united and nationalised as British Railways.

It's April,1964 and even before Beeching swung his infamous axe, secondary but still important routes were being axed. Here is 34085 '501 Squadron' having to take a new route following the closure of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway near Sway.
At the time, the railways were faced with special problems. Before the Second World War both goods and passenger traffic was being lost due to the private motor car and lorry, both of which offered flexibility, no intermodal changes during a journey, and freedom in days long before traffic congestion. Prestigious expresses and high speed steam trains with romantic names were instigated such as the Coronation Scot, the Pines Express and the Flying Scotsman were instigated to lure passengers back thanks to their luxurious accommodation and futuristic looking motive power.

By 1945, after six long years of war and starved of funds, Britain’s railways were literally falling to bits. There had been a handful of things that ensured Britain had not been invaded by Nazi Germany, and most people will be able to name the well-known ones: the RAF in the Battle of Britain, the USA’s hand being forced at Pearl Harbour, and the carnage inflicted on the Soviet forces and people in defending Stalingrad. Well also add our railways and railwaymen. Because without them the mass movement of goods and people for D-Day, the evacuation or for the war effort generally would not have been possible.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Polly Toynbee joins protesters inside the Conduit Street branch of Starbucks (Image courtesy of The Observer)

We've already got it. we just need to use it properly

WITH the World Cup due to start in Brazil shortly, it's very appropriate that coffee has been in the news recently.

Firstly we had the news that Cafe Nero had been following the long practiced tradition of multi-national coffee chains and had been avoiding tax. Next up we had Starbucks - the company that led the way in tax dodging - announcing that it was moving its European headquarters to the UK. They cheerfully added that this would mean they would be paying more tax.

Well, that's jolly good of them. See, in the past they've not been able to see the benefits of coughing up tax. Oddly enough they've been unable to see that things like hospitals and schools and other nice stuff is paid for from tax receipts. So, it's nice that they've at last seen the error of their ways and will now be tipping vast sums of money into treasury coffers.

So why the change in attitude from Starbucks? Have they suddenly developed a guilt complex or taken on a new philanthropic approach? Have they hell. Since the outcry a couple of years ago over their tax avoidance, they've been losing customers. This is nothing other than soft soap PR. Rest assured they'll still be doing their utmost to deprive the Treasury of as much as they can.

Walk down any High Street and you'll still see idiots paying through the nose for Starbucks coffee despite all the publicity and boycotts in 2012. Quite frankly I despair. Our town centres are awash with coffee shops - both multiples and independents - so why the hell would anyone choose to give Starbucks their hard earned cash? In fact why would anyone choose to NOT use an independent?

Sunday, 20 April 2014


It's April 14, 1976, and Metro Radio's James Whale presents the station's late night phone-in programme, Night Owls. Metro Radio was one of the first nineteen commercial radio stations to gain an IBA licence following the demise of the North Sea pirate station in the late sixties. It's on air date was July 15, 1974.
ANDY FLEMING analyses how over the past thirty years freedom of speech, innovation, personality, choice and
imagination have been sacrificed within Commercial Radio, in favour of maximising company shareholder value and franchise revenue streams for the government. And politicians are once again the culprits! Our airwaves have been sold to the highest bidder without a thought for local public service or quality content.

Do you have a long memory? Do you remember how after her General Election victory in May, 1979, Margaret Thatcher 'transformed' the economic landscape of Britain with her 'resolute approach'? It was a defining moment in the social, political and economic history of our country. Because until that date all previous governments whether Conservative or Labour subscribed to the so-called social democratic consensus. In other words the British economy would not be comprehensively exposed to the vagaries of the free market, and neither at the same time would it be a full blown command economy as per the Eastern Bloc with all the limitations in terms of individual freedom such collectivisation would entail. Capitalism was to be the economic system rather than socialism, but the worst excesses of the free market would be excluded by a collectively provided welfare state.
So the UK was dragged into the modern world with a National Health Service, a free education system for all, benefits for the elderly, disabled and those unfortunate enough to be unemployed, a properly integrated public transport system and of course, 'homes for those returning heroes' from fighting Nazi Germany. Britain was going to be a more pleasant, fairer society where opportunities were going to be accessible to everyone without the exploitation and poverty of the inter war years. The Gold Standard was dropped and this new social democratic consensus was to be underpinned with Keynesian economics. The government would regulate capitalism by stimulating the economy in a recession with capital projects and would restrict the money supply when the economy overheated in one capitalism's cyclical booms. That was the theory at least, and until the late sixties and an ever increasing balance of payments deficit the mixed economy model seemed to be a practical compromise.

Regulation seemed to work, whether it was in employment, unemployment, housing, transport, and telecommunications or as especially applicable here, the media. However with the devaluation of sterling crisis in 1967 and then a major world oil price shock in October 1973 as a direct result of an Arab-Israeli war western economies had been hit by an economic tsunami. And it was one from which Keynesianism was not to recover sparking as it did political and industrial strife including three day weeks and Winters of Discontent. With another oil shock in 1979 as a result of the Iranian revolution, the last government of the old social democratic order and the last true Labour government led by Jim Callaghan was swept away by a new Conservative Party in government led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Her government was totally different to those of the preceding four decades, espousing as it did, a return to 'monetarism' to reduce inflation (restricting the money supply) as propounded by her economic guru Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek before him.

Thatcher's policies were socially brutal and divisive. Whole state industries were to be privatised and closed if not profitable irrespective of the country's strategic needs, or if the result led to mass unemployment. Inflation was to be reduced at all costs as was taxation; but just income tax and mainly the rates for top earners. VAT was doubled, and from the outset there was a re-distribution of wealth from the poor to the rich. Benefits were slashed in an effort to cut state spending and regulations across business, including in the media were cut to maximise profits. State 'red tape' to protect the consumer was apparently strangling private enterprise. Infact, Thatcher's whole philosophy could be summed up succinctly as state equals bad; private equals good. Period. But what would the effect of these gargantuan economic changes be on the media, and radio in particular?

Friday, 18 April 2014


There may be trouble ahead... retirement pensions will increasingly become unaffordable in the coming years, whether it's the state retirement pension or company and private pension schemes

It's Friday. It's financial. It's Friday Financial with JULIAN SAYER.

It's official. The UK state pension is worst in Europe.

It's been a busy two weeks looking after my six year old during the Easter holidays, but that's the conundrum of modern life. One of my pet hates is the lack of time modern life gives you; investing your most precious commodity (time) into the teaching of your greatest asset (your children.) So I am afraid this week's blog will be a short piece.

How a society looks after it's young, old and most disadvantaged says everything about it. This Government's continued attack on the most disadvantaged continues relentlessly. The poor, unemployed, handicapped, young and old are all suffering with reduced income, while the rich and multinationals continue to flout the tax laws stashing trillions of pounds in off shore tax heavens. This week I want to take a look at what's happening in the pensions industry, how it's affecting the pensioners now and how it will affect you when you retire in the future.

Having worked in the industry for twenty odd years, one thing I know for sure, is that this Government will continue to reduce the amount of pension you are going to receive in the future. Everything points towards it, an ageing population, reduced tax revenues, low employment levels, and longer life expectancy. In the UK we were once the envy of the world with our well run state and private pension schemes, and those lucky enough to have worked in the "golden generation" have reaped the rewards and are enjoying the benefits of these schemes. Sadly, just like our other world renowned institutions like the NHS and Railways, our pension system will be run down and hived off for the profit of the few, and to the detriment of the many.

Thursday, 17 April 2014


The irony of Tesco profits being hit because workers don't earn enough.


HAVING worked for the BBC for a short time, I can tell you categorically that most BBC journalists don't know their arse from their elbow.

Such is the narrow gene pool that the BBC selects its journos from (think Oxbridge and public school) that it's no surprise that they get the wrong end of the stick when it comes to even the most basic news judgement.

This week there was a classic example of what I'm talking about when Tesco announced its yearly results. The High Street behemoth posted profits of £3.3 billion. Worth pointing out at this juncture that a billion is a thousand million. So, a bunch of glorified corner shops pulled in 3,300 piles of dosh with a million quid in each. Nice work of you can get it.

But the BBC wasn't interested in this massive amount of profit because some highly paid executive had already decided that 'the story' was a six per cent drop in profits. Except it wasn't. If you strip out new store openings, the like for like fall was only 1.4%. Not too shabby in times of austerity, inflation and queues outside food banks.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014


The end of the line? After decades of neglect and funding cuts, by the late eighties much of Britain's once great national railway network was starting to look like this. Even worse, a large proportion of route mileage was already gone thanks to the infamous Beeching Cuts of the sixties, most of which were executed by a Labour government.
In a regular series of posts ANDY
FLEMING takes a look at our non-integrated and not fit for purpose public transport system. He starts by taking a recent historical look at the UK’s railway system, one of the most expensive in Western Europe for both passengers and taxpayers. It isn’t long before corrupt politicians are seen to be taking the public for a ride along the rails.

They say that travel broadens the mind, and foreign travel especially. I was a late starter in getting “the bug” for it. In fact it was on our honeymoon in August 1989 in Paris that I first set foot on foreign soil. And as a graduate student of sociology with modules in transport and planning what a shock it was.

We arrived in Paris via train, to me the most civilised form of mass transport, at Gare du Nord. The journey had been a real eye opener. We had travelled all of the way by train from Darlington, enjoying an overnight stay in central London and then using the ferry for the short crossing to Boulogne (this was before the Channel Tunnel of course).

Nothing remarkable in this, but on a personal level, visiting France for the first time was a big event in my life. At the age of twenty nine I had previously developed the view that everything about our country was best. Its education, health care, welfare, and other state systems and infrastructure were at the apex of civilisation.

My first footsteps on to the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF) express train shattered this UK-centric worldview. Clearly, before I had even tested a word of my pigeon French out on an unsuspecting local person, this wasn’t just a journey of discovery in terms of culture, society and country; it was a tale of two completely different national railway systems, and it would be a comparison in which Britain would inevitably come out a very poor loser. Bear in mind too our journey was at the time TransManche Link (TML) were still excavating the Channel Tunnel, Eurostar trains were still a couple of years in the future.

On time we left Boulogne and travelled through the beautiful countryside of northern France at high speed on our way to the nation’s capital. We were seated inside a second class compartment, but it appeared to both my wife Gill and myself to be perfect luxury. In fact, we had initially inadvertently mistaken our coach as being first class and we might be reprimanded for sitting there. Our worries soon abated on a walk down the train to enjoy the delights and service of a fully stocked restaurant and buffet car. That’s because first class was even more luxurious. This was first class travel with a second class ticket. Through Amiens and on to Paris we were whisked to pull into Gare du Nord on time to the second. This was how rail travel should be, I thought.

Monday, 14 April 2014


Britain's political landscape is a wasteland of so called 'centre ground' politics. Conservatives are the same nasty Tories they've always been but they pretend to have discovered compassion. New Labour are Tories with Red ties and a few quid from unions. The Lib Dems are just lying Tory bitches and the new kids on the block - UKIP - are merely a more racist, homophobic version of the Tories. Guest blogger PAUL SOUTHWOOD bemoans a lack of choice and explains that not voting should be seen as a positive action.

It's not apathy that stops people voting, it's the realisation that politicians are all the same.

VOTER APATHY. Already, the phrase has become enshrined in media-speak as a pocket-sized explanation for why so many people stay away from ballot boxes at elections. But it is a misnomer - like describing comets as falling stars or fossils as figured stones. Perhaps there are some apathetic non-voters out there; I haven't met any. I have on the other hand met angry non-voters. After some thought I have decided to join them as I am angry too.

Voters of course, are horrified. If you don't exercise your right to vote they say then you have no ability to effect changes nor any right to criticise the elected government. And the vote, they say is a right for which our forebears fought - at great cost to themselves.

Political parties of course feel no such tug of' historical heartstrings. This seems especially true of the present Labour Party; historically, nobody much can be said to have made any great sacrifice for the cause of Toryism.

Sadly, history can make a mockery of sacrifice, and it can do so In short order. 'If I die,' wrote many Red Army soldiers before battle was joined at Kursk "then count me a communist." Yet even if their sacrifice changed history, where now is their cause '? The Vietnam War cost one side millions of casualties, and scarified the conscience - and pride - of' the other. Yet now, increasingly, Vietnam is an aspiring Singapore.

History is littered with such lost causes - some deservedly lost. If British democracy is not to join them, then British politicians must manifest the one characteristic that makes voting in a multi-party state worthwhile - difference.

Saturday, 12 April 2014


It's July 16, 1969 and the start of the greatest voyage in our history: Apollo 11 is launched from Cape Kennedy atop a Saturn V booster (left). Four days and over 200,000 miles later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first people to set foot on another world (right). And all thanks to Newton's Laws of Universal Gravitation and Motion, exquisitely accurate at non-relativistic 'everyday' speeds.

Politicians and religious leaders invariably state with
certainty that their beliefs and preachings are the absolute truth. Guest blogger ANDY FLEMING investigates knowledge and certainty, and in the process reveals how a society that dispenses with true scientific scepticism inevitably ends in tragedy.

All of my life I've been fascinated by science, and although I'm not a scientist (I was however a laboratory analyst at ICI for many years, and I am an amateur astronomer) I still consider science to be the best human method for explaining how we, and the entire cosmos came to be. Unlike many other areas of human endeavour such as religion, our scientific theories, although still only approximate descriptions of reality, are testable, falsifiable and most importantly, can be verified by peer review. This cannot be said of many other academic disciplines, as instead of logical, rational thought, they rely on each individual's belief systems and their hypotheses are hence not testable in the real world.

Humankind's scientific theories are however, at best only approximations of reality, albeit often exquisitely accurate approximations. Over decades and centuries they have been developed and amended in the light of better data and evidence. For example Newton's Laws of Motion and Universal Gravitation were perfectly adequate up to 1915, and indeed are still used in determining a spacecraft's trajectory. Such an example is NASA/JPL's's New Horizons mission to Pluto, due to arrive with perfect accuracy to the nearest second at that distant dwarf planet in 2015. However, Sir Isaac Newton cannot be placed in the driver's seat in very strong gravitational fields or at relativistic velocities (speeds approaching that of light), due to effects including time dilation and Lorentz length contractions. And Newton’s speculative contention that time is a universal constant was proved incorrect by Einstein. It is the speed of light that is a universal constant.

Friday, 11 April 2014


More people are beginning to rediscover the benefits of shopping at independent local shops. It's better for the community, provides better quality, is environmentally sustainable and is free of supermarket cartels and should stimulate competition and better consumer choice.
Sick of hearing tales of multinational coffee shops who don't pay UK corporation tax? Annoyed at the way supermarkets screw customers and suppliers?  Wish that all those empty units in the local shopping centre were turned into thriving independent retailers?

Well, follow LUCY PATTERSON'S lead and do something about it. As Lucy explains, by shopping and thinking local, we can not only create employment but create communities.

Change the world by changing your little bit of it.

FROM the industrial revolution, to the dawn of the world wide web, it would appear that we are constantly led to believe that international is better than national; national is better than local.

But what about local?

In this age of globalisation and international banking meltdowns, I firmly believe that there is a place for the local to re-emerge.

I see embracing what I have on my doorstep and utilising it to its best effect as the currently missing catalyst for improving society. I am not talking about buying successfully ‘localised’ products and services; ones that we are led to believe have been developed with our particular culture in mind; I mean grass roots local. Products and services that are developed by people actually living within the community they serve; products and services that give back to the community in which they are based.

Think back to the times when your parents or grandparents had to buy their food from local shops and producers. Said producers were accountable for their wares and their trading places formed the hub of communities. Whether it be the market stall, butchers shop or simply the farm gate; there was transparency and simplicity in the sourcing of the things we needed and if something ran out or was not available at the time, we went without; sustainability and seasonality. Simple.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Coining it in: Wayne Rooney is paid £500,000 per day and is laughing all the way to the bank. James Campbell reveals an uncanny similarity between professional footballers and their bosses, and politicians. The solution: don't support professional football and in the political arena, don't vote.
Whether it’s voting or supporting, the solution is in our hands

Guest blogger JAMES CAMPBELL offers a solution to football supporters who are fed up being ripped off. He explains how direct action against the ills of football can also be applied to politics.

I WAS talking to a Newcastle United fan the other day and he was bemoaning the fact that money had ruined football.  In general terms he thought it was obscene that the likes of Wayne Rooney was getting paid £300,000 a week and that Mike Ashley was using Newcastle United to make money for himself and had no interest in the footballing success of the club beyond that.

I asked what he was doing about it. He didn’t have a clue what I was on about.  So I asked if he held a season ticket at Newcastle or a Sky Sports subscription to watch football.  Yes to both.

So I said OK, cancel both, don’t go to another game, buy another shirt or any other merchandise until things change.  Encourage others to do the same.  The response: “Ye cannot dee that, ye’ve gotta support ya team man.”

I asked if he’d protested in any way. He said they often chanted anti Ashley slogans at games and once turned their back on the field before a game….so he pays the man he hates his hard cash to shout abuse at him.

So I explained that he was as responsible for the ruin of the game as Rooney, Ashley and all of the others fleecing it.  He looked utterly scoobied.

So in really simple terms I went on.  What do you think would happen if everyone just refused to renew their tickets and cancelled their Sky Sports?

Blank look…..

Friday, 4 April 2014


Whether it's Spain, Greece or the United Kingdom, once proud nations have had their strategic state industries, wealth, assets, cultures and futures systematically stripped and sold-off to pay for the damage wreaked by greedy investment banksters and their friends in politically low places.

It's Friday. It's financial. It's Friday Financial with JULIAN SAYER.

Banksters have stripped countries of their assets and brought misery to millions.

In every region of the world I can think of, the sovereignty and wealth of each nation is being sold to the highest bidder.

The once proud people of each country are having it sold from beneath them. Each nation, and the people within it, are under attack, not from the so called terrorists we hear so much about, but from within the financial markets that demand their pound of flesh.

In every country, the people who run the Government have largely decided they no longer wish to serve the country's best interests, but prefer instead to serve the interests of the chosen few; the billionaires, the hedge funds, and the investment banks. They are in the process of gorging themselves on the sales of assets, houses and nationalised industries all around the world. The general public is being short changed in every respect.

Here in the UK whether it's the Royal Mail or LloydsTSB, the taxpayers' assets are being sold to help keep the nation's debts under some sort of control. You can argue the rights and wrongs of selling all the state's assets, but when you do, at least get fair value.

There is no doubt that the Royal Mail sale reeks of desperation and mismanagement. Royal Mail shares are currently more than 70% higher than the 2013 sale price. The investment bank that advised the Government made millions, even Mr Osborne’s best man had his finger in the pie. Everybody involved made a nice little turn, with the exception of the taxpayer who lost out to the tune of £750m. A full breakdown of the sale can be found here;

Thursday, 3 April 2014


Rising London property prices bringing misery to millions


ONE of the most accepted signs of madness is hearing voices inside your head. These voices generally tell the affected person to do irrational things that could be easily described as mad.

Well, all over the country - but especially in London and the South East of England - there are people who are very obviously mad. There are voices in their heads that are telling them that now would be a good time to buy a house. As crazy as it sounds, they are doing precisely that. It's madness of the type that affected The Dutch in the 17th century when tulip mania gripped the country and tulips were changing hands for thousands of pounds.

The UK equivalent of this form of madness can be seen every day on the streets of London where very ordinary houses are changing hands for more money than the average person will earn in a lifetime. What's more, this gross stupidity is belong encouraged by the government with the BBC, as usual, acting as chief cheerleader.

The government wanted to create a housing bubble in a desperate attempt to mask the dire state of Britain's economy, but they saw that there was a major problem: lenders unwilling to grant mortgages much above 80% and potential buyers being unable to save the massive amount of cash required for a deposit. Enter stage far right the Help to Buy Scheme.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


A voyage of discovery. It's September 5, 1977 and NASA/JPL's Voyage 1 spacecraft is launched atop a Titan IIIE/Centaur booster at Cape Canaveral's Launch Pad 41 (left). Thirteen years and 3.7 billion years later scientist Carl Sagan insists with NASA's Administrator Richard H Truly that for the benefit of public education the cameras of mankind's little robotic emissary are turned towards the inner solar system for a photograph of the Earth. At this distance, beyond the orbit of Neptune our planet is photographed as just 0.12 of a pixel (right).
As guest blogger, ANDY FLEMING in his own lifelong
voyage of consciousness-raising, makes the ultimate connection between our ancient and vast cosmos and the human spheres of politics, economics, and philosophy. In the process he deduces that our very survival depends on new economic institutions, caring for each other and cherishing our Pale Blue Dot, the Earth, the only home humanity has ever known.

I’m sure that all of us who share the same political, economic, sociological and philosophical perspective of this unique, revealing and informative blog arrive at this standpoint via a variety of routes. For some of us, our journeys may have been circuitous and lengthy, perhaps taking a lifetime. Meanwhile others may have been encouraged at an early age to foster a sense of equity, fairness, critical thinking, healthy scepticism and a disdain for greed and selfishness.

My own voyage of awareness, consciousness-raising, synchronicity and connection-forging has taken me from my college education in science, then my university education in sociology, my employment in youth work, the retail sector and the media and then on to my burning passion: marvelling at the vastness of the cosmos and our place in space. Anyone who knows me knows that my avid interest is mankind’s original science of astronomy, practised by generations of human beings, way back into the mists of antiquity.

Whatever subject we use as a vehicle in our individual journeys of discovery that reveal who we are and from where we came (both as individuals and collectively as a species), the road often includes a pivotal turning point or spiritual awakening. Our whole world view changes profoundly and with it our beliefs and aspirations.

Such profound personal development and change often arises through exposure to the works of great philosophers, sociologists, poets, authors or religious leaders. And yes, sometimes, as in the case of Nelson Mandela politicians too! Such progress may also not be without some personal discomfort and stress, and indeed to some people, change may be a psychological imperative as they battle their own personal demons.

Personal change within the political or religious spheres for example may lead to profound conflict with one’s peers, friends and family as one develops new ways of seeing society and the physical world. These new beliefs and new ways of thinking with healthy scepticism often place the person on a direct collision course with prevailing paradigms and the orthodox perspectives of the social and physical worlds. The invariable outcome however is a better, healthier human being at peace with oneself, the wide world and the cosmos.