Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pensions, Prying and P.....?

Perhaps I should take advantage of the Oxford English Dictionary’s offer of free access to words starting with P (it’s in conjunction with BBC2’s Balderdash & Piffle programme (which was Quite Good in my family's opinion)).

Today again the early editions of the UK press’s front pages covered all sorts of things although many later editions switched to Ariel Sharon’s stroke as their main story. The Mail was excited about pensions noting that both the Co-op and Arcadia “have taken an axe to their gold-plated pension schemes”. Not unexpectedly the Mail lumps much of the blame on Gordon Brown’s “change in tax relief laws” but fails to mention the damage done by unwise investment strategies or by the disgraceful ‘pension holidays’ that many companies took in the good days. This was when companies stopped paying into pension funds because they were allegedly over funded. Good news for the directors who could increase their bonuses on the back of the increased ‘profits’. Gordon Brown’s change merely removed one of the three generous tax reliefs that funds had enjoyed and which went mainly to help the wealthy to increase their pensions. But pensions are so dull eh?

The Telegraph has picked up the Mail’s alarm about the size of the UK’s DNA database. It uses the wonderful “by stealth” phrase to paint a picture of an evil government determined to probe behind the lace-curtains of its populace. I can’t get very excited about this, it seems no more sinister than keeping fingerprints or photographs. But many British seemed obsessed with ‘privacy’; a curious concept that seems to have been thought up by the Edwardian Lower Middle Class. As I’ve sort of written before ‘if the Mail Telegraph and Liberty are excitedly agin, then the Home Secretary’s probably on the right tack’. The Guardian has a different worry (with which I have more empathy) because a disproportionate number of the DNA samples held have been taken from black men.

Cameron’s Honeymoon

‘I don’t hold with honeymoons; ‘tis all stuff and nonsense’

In the Telegraph, David Green, the director of the think tank Civitas, suggests that David Cameron is being a bit hasty by ruling out health insurance based options to the NHS. (‘and you never get nowhere if you’re too hasty’). The leader writer seems to agree and declares that Mr Cameron’s health speech was “disappointing”. Oh dear. But neither are nearly as horrid to him as Simon Heffer was yesterday. The Times leader writer declares that “Four weeks is a decent time for a honeymoon, even by the standards of Notting Hill residents. David Cameron is, however, determined to extend this political privilege”. But kinder words follow together with an acknowledgement of the task ahead if he is to win over floating voters who were unimpressed with the patients’ passport or similar wheezes. But elsewhere in the paper Stephen Pollard is unimpressed: “In nailing his colours so firmly to an exclusively tax-funded NHS mast, Mr Cameron is making a huge mistake”. Hmmm.

Other Party Leaders

Charles Kennedy has “has promised his critics a new "direct and aggressive" style but he has also come under pressure to clear the air by calling a vote of confidence in his leadership” according to the Independent. But what of the Blair and Brown saga? Hasn’t been anything about that for weeks now. What’s occurring, it can’t all have been made up to fill space can it?.

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