Category: Politics

Gender inequality in the workplace

There was a recent law passed here in Britain. It compels companies with more than 250 staff to divulge whether or not they pay people different rates of pay for the same or similar jobs, based on gender. Watching news reports today, I was interested to hear that some companies have started to comply with this law, rather than face prosecution for non-disclosure. Even to a cynical person like me, those results are shocking. Many well-known companies are apparently happy to report that they pay female employees up to 15% less than men on average, for doing the same or similar job, often working side by side.

Over 500 companies have so far declared their results. Large employers including Easyjet, Ladbrokes, Virgin, Rolls Royce, Premier Foods, the BBC, and the Co-Op Bank report quite staggering pay differentials. Up to 50% less in Easyjet, 30% less in the Co-Op Bank, and 11% less at the BBC. So far, only two employers, The British Museum, and the UK Armed Forces, have stated a zero difference in pay based on gender.

These companies need to check the calendar. It is 2018, not 1918. It is over 90 years since women properly got the vote in this country. Almost 50 years since the founding of the Women’s Liberation Movement here, and 39 years since we first had a female Prime Minister. This archaic and unacceptable practice of paying female employees a lesser salary has to stop. And not only should the government be compelling companies to publish these statistics, they should be forcing them to eliminate this pay difference, making it illegal not to do so.

We currently have our second female Prime Minister. Does she get paid less than her male predecessor? Of course not. Do our law-makers in parliament receive less pay if they are women? They do not. But these same women in power, alongside their male colleagues on the same salaries, are happy to make the companies publish these figures, without appearing to be prepared to do anything about the results.

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New Year, new politics

This is usually a quiet time on the world political scene. The lull between Christmas and New Year also seems to operate in international affairs. But look closely, and there is a lot going on.

Street protests and rioting in Iran. Not something we have seen much of since the days of the Ayatollahs, but strangely coincidental to recent murmurings regarding North Korea, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. One minute the US is condemning Iran for aiding North Korea, and the anti-Saudi forces in Yemen, the next they have a ‘popular uprising’ on the streets. Come on, pull the other one. Rarely have I seen such a blatantly obvious CIA/Mossad inspired operation. If they can’t get them by going through the front door, they go round the back. Treating Iran as if it is some kind of hopeless principality in the middle of nowhere is sure to backfire on those involved. That country has a population of more than 80 million, and a well-equipped military too. And it is 640,000 square miles in size, so not Grenada.

North Korea is having talks with the South Korean government for the first time in a long while. Mr Trump has claimed the credit for this happening. That’s worth a belly laugh. Anyone with the tiniest understanding of those countries will be aware that each side views the other as neighbours and relatives, and not as enemies. They have always wanted to talk, but outside pressures have constantly interfered.

If you believe the news, Europe is all about the Brexit issue, and the UK leaving. But behind the headlines, parts of Europe are very worried about elections of anti-EU politicians in their countries. The Czech Republic has elections this year, and in Italy, some right-wing parties are forecast to do very well too. The Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, is set to gain a second term in 2018, and that country also has its share of far-right, anti EU politicians. Even in peaceful Sweden, the right-wing Sweden Democrats look set to increase their influence in the coming year.The Polish government has been defying EU laws, and will no doubt continue to clash with them throughout 2018. The real truth is that the EU is on the verge of collapse, at least in its current form, as the stranglehold of France and Germany is resisted by more and more of the member nations. They have a lot more than Brexit to worry about, that’s for sure.

And let’s not forget Russia. Most of it may not be in Europe, but its influence is widespread, and Vladimir Putin looks like he will get another overwhelming majority in the elections this March.

So when the news reports ‘not much happening’, you can be sure that there is.

Boris: Our national embarrassment?

I have no time for any Conservative politician, as you might expect given my obvious political leanings. But one above all is guaranteed to make me cringe, every time I see his face, read about his antics, or watch him being interviewed on TV. That person is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, better known as Boris Johnson, the Conservative member of parliament, former Mayor of London, and the current Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.

The mere fact that we present this wild-haired buffoon as the representative of this country is enough to get me riled. Then the fact that I share his (albeit common) surname makes me wish he had something as elaborate as his forenames instead. But what really gets to me, is that he pretends to be a clown. He acts stupid, trading on his shambolic appearance, and trademark unkempt hairstyle. He blusters and stutters, takes part in stunts and photo opportunities, and seems happy to allow himself to be viewed as a harmless figure of fun by all and sundry.

There are two reasons why this is unacceptable, and the first is that he is representing this country as our Foreign Secretary, our face to the world. The second reason is that none of it is true. It is all an act, a contrivance, a device. All set up to make him appear to be harmless, like some cuddly cartoon bear that inadvertently slipped into politics, and doesn’t know what he is doing.
Have a quick look at his background, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Born in New York City to wealthy upper-middle class English parents, Johnson was educated at the European School of Brussels, Ashdown House School, and Eton College. He studied Classics at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was elected president of the Oxford Union in 1986.

Joining the Conservatives, he was elected MP for Henley in 2001, and under party leaders Michael Howard and David Cameron he was in the Shadow Cabinet.

During his first term as mayor of London, he banned alcohol consumption on public transport, championed London’s financial sector, and introduced the New Routemaster buses, cycle hire scheme, and Thames cable-car. In 2012, he was re-elected mayor, again defeating Livingstone; during his second term he oversaw the 2012 Summer Olympics.

After Theresa May became leader of the Conservatives and Prime Minister, Johnson was appointed as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 13 July 2016.

Does this look like the track record of a fool to you? I would regard it as the clever insinuations of a well-educated man looking for his moment to take the most powerful job in UK politics.

Don’t be fooled by Boris, and look behind the hype.

Brexit: The new Civil War

It seems my country is being consumed by the debate over the referendum result. Friends are falling out, families are divided, and the polarisation of opinion has rarely been seen in my lifetime. This is more than falling out over a vote. Much more than ‘agreeing to disagree’ about a point of view. There is a bitterness behind it all; a burning resentment, often bordering on hatred.

The sides have been chosen, the lines drawn in so many sands, and nobody will be shaken from their beliefs. Not since 1642 has this country felt such division, though this time the weapons are words, rather than swords and guns. There was a vote, and 48% of those who voted did not get the result they wanted, or perhaps more accurately, expected. Ever since, through the mainstream media, in parliament, on blogs, and in any way that they can, that 48% (and those who didn’t even bother to vote) have been trying to overturn the referendum. Meanwhile, they have stalled it, protested against it in the streets, and campaigned against it in every single way possible.
That is their right of course, in a democratic society that provided the referendum they lost.

But what if it had gone the other way, the way they wanted? Would these Remain advocates have tolerated such vociferous opposition from those who had voted to Leave, but lost? I suggest not.

Leave voters like myself are made to feel as if we are simply stupid, or much worse. Insults flow thick and fast.
We are racist.
We are xenophobes,
We are uneducated.
We are not politically aware.
We are not ‘travellers’.
We are overweight. (Yes, one study looked at average weight)
We live in places where foreigners are hated.
We are not urbane.
We have no sophistication.
We have no world view.
We are all Right-Wing supporters, little better than Nazis.
We yearn for Empire, so are imperialists at heart.

Even those who don’t insult us directly do so by default.
We were duped.
We were fooled.
We are mere pawns of big business.
We are sheep for the use of capitalists.
We didn’t understand the implications.
We couldn’t comprehend those big words.
It was our poor education that made us vote the ‘wrong way’.
We took too much notice of propaganda.
We believed everything we were told.
We couldn’t be expected to be bright enough to have made up our own minds.

The latest cry is that ‘Its not too late”. Well, for those of us who voted to Leave, it is too late. We voted to Leave, and that’s what we should be doing. If the referendum is overturned, it will be too late for the democratic process we supposedly live by, that’s for sure.

Of course, the Remain voters contained a higher percentage of university graduates. They were all free-thinkers, many of them urbane city-dwellers with the ‘correct attitude’. They are mulitculturalists at heart; well read, well travelled, and up to date on world events. They are the intelligentsia of this nation, the keepers of morals, and the libertarian ideals. The best of the best, undoubtedly.

But it is unlikely that 48% of the population here fit those criteria. Any more than the other 52% are what they are constantly accused of being. They lost that vote, and it is unlikely that they will ever forgive the people who voted the other way. The bitterness is tangible now, and set to last for a generation, or longer.

This new civil war is not over. It has a long way to go yet.

The Washington Circus

When Donald Trump became the President of The United States last year, he did so on the back of a lot of promises to the American people. Those who believed his promises tipped the balance, and he was elected. Perhaps the most powerful of those promises was the he would ‘Make America Great Again’.

Looking back over this new administration, it seems to me that he has reneged on all his promises. From building the ‘Mexican Wall’, to turfing out all the illegal immigrants, creating American jobs for American people, and that one about making America great again. He and his merry-go-round cabinet and administration appear to have achieved very little. He didn’t manage to repeal Obamacare, and has also made the running of the world’s most powerful country a laughing-stock. He did get in some spiteful laws concerning transgender people and abortion, removed his country from any serious attempts to cut pollution and fossil fuel use and has played a lot of golf. The shameless promotion of the members of his own family has left him wide open to accusations of nepotism and favouritism too.

Not since the confusion of Italian politics, or the pre-war governments of France, have we seen so much disarray in the running of a country. Trump has lost the support of many influential politicians in his own country, and his appearances on the international stage have been marked by his lack of statesmanship, and obvious lack of political experience. Pushing past other leaders of countries to get a good spot in a group photo, or stumbling over embarrassing speeches when centre stage. Rather than extricate his troops from conflicts around the world, he has presided over increases of boots on the ground, missile attacks, and threats of action against other countries. The promises to build the economy of his own country, and to adopt isolationist polices if necessary have all just faded away.

His use of Twitter during the election campaign was inspired. He connected with people using the social media platforms as they did. But he didn’t know when to stop. His Twitter tirades have assumed the style of a spoiled child, with a school playground mentality of name-calling and ‘yah-boo’. He has sacked the people best qualified to carry out important tasks in his administration, and replaced them with others unsuited to those roles. He attacks his own appointees publicly, and criticises members of his own party too.

On the BBC News today, an American political analyst was offering an overview of the recent events in Washington, and the defeat of the repeal of Obamacare. At the end of the report, the BBC presenter was chuckling. Thanking the analyst, he concluded, “well at least it is entertaining.” The American government has become something to laugh at. The President of the United States is acting like the chief clown in a Washington circus.

I wasn’t smiling along with him though. A circus might be entertaining, but it has no place in the running of the most powerful nation on Earth. A nation that could well take us all down with it.

The Descent of May

Politics is a precarious path for a career, that’s for sure. Not so long ago, Theresa May was flavour of the month. The new strong woman, adored by many of the rank and file supporters, a better option than Thatcher; less abrasive, no annoying children, and smartly dressed too, in designer clothes.

Even though she hadn’t supported leaving the EU, she boldly threw her hat into the ring to succeed Cameron, emerging as the new leader with her own catchphrases, ‘Brexit Means Brexit’, and ‘Strong And Stable’. Even her enemies had to concede that she had a handle on things, and that she epitomised the Conservative ideology in a way that the public schoolboys preceding her never could.

Somewhere along the way though, it all went very wrong. Perhaps she was badly advised, or maybe the whole thing just went to her head. She could have waited out the term of the government, got on with the job, and led the negotiations around leaving the EU. But she wanted more. Personal approval, public affirmation of her leadership, and the possible destruction of any viable opposition.

So she called an election. One she was expected to win. One I thought she would win. I expected a Conservative landslide, the end of Jeremy Corbyn as opposition leader, and successive Conservative governments ruling unhindered until my dying day. All she had to do was to keep her nerve, and not disclose the reality of their policies. Say a few nice things, meet a few real people, including some who didn’t agree with her. Get her hands a little dirty on the campaign trail, and try to come across as someone behind the mask, and that iron grey hair.

But no. Instead, she decided to tell us what was best for us. The rich would continue to get richer, the poor could stay where they belong, and everyone in the middle would just do as they were told. She scolded her greatest supporters, the elderly, by taunting them with the prospect of selling their houses to pay for social care. She would not increase their pensions, and would means-test them for every benefit and allowance. As for the young, they wouldn’t vote anyway, so they could all shut up.

Why bother to appear on national TV debates, to argue her point? Why meet people in deprived areas that she didn’t want to associate with? Better to travel to nice comfortable places, where she would be welcomed by the wealthy and unconcerned. Better to give solo interviews to reporters than to face questioning from plebs about her policies. She didn’t need to do any of that, she was certain. Her victory would be enormous, the insiders and the pollsters had all told her, and she believed them.

They got it wrong, and so did she. She emerged with a tiny majority, and had to seek support of the far right DUP to prop up her government. Anyone else would have admitted failure, and resigned. At the very least, they would have gone back to the country with another election, apologised for their previous errors, and sought a bigger mandate. But she decided to cling on, to become an embarrassing figure, a female John Major, going from ‘The Grey Men’, to ‘The Grey Woman’. Then came the additional mistakes. Refusing to meet the victims at the site of the Grenfell Tower fire, and refusing to give interviews to the BBC journalists at the scene. As her political opponents showed their chops by hugging homeless victims, and helping to shift boxes of aid, she hurried back in her car to the studios of the BBC, to give a ‘personal’ interview with one chosen reporter.

She then threw away any chance of redemption via that interview, by harping on about the same things, boasting about the £5 million in aid for the victims, but unable to tell the reporter when and how it will be given out. She refused to accept any government responsibility for ignoring safety warnings after similar fires, and repeated her prepared quotes like a broken record. She looked older already, the signature eye-bags bigger than ever, her posture slumped and defensive. The reporter eventually gave up, her voice tinged with frustration at the attitude from the leader of Great Britain.

Mrs May is on her way out of politics, that’s for sure. And she only has herself to blame.