Thursday, 18 July 2013

Italian collapse rapidly approaching?

Italian voters have long been fed up with their corrupt parties pigging-out on public money; in 1993 a referendum motion to end party funding was passed, only to have been completely ignored by the politicians. Recent events prompted the shaky Italian Cabinet (desperate for some populist legitimacy if lacking any such democratic authority) - to propose an actual phasing-out of funding by 2017, starting with a reduction in this July's instalment. Unsurprisingly, yesterday only Beppe Grillo's 5-Star party and Bossi's Lega Nord voted for the measure - it was defeated by all the other parties voting together. It won't, however, last for long. 

Anyone following Hatfield Girl's painful accounts of the failure of the Italian economy - and the virtual bread rationing was for me one of the most telling indicators - will realise that the crisis is deep and real. A recent piece from the LSE puts the contraction as worse on just about every measure than the 1929 - 1934 collapse, and predicts 'The collapse of the Italian state finances is rapidly approaching. It will have an enormous impact on the Eurozone and the European Union'. Ambrose in the Telegraph has been saying so now for months.

Even my nephew, a studious mediaevalist spending the Summer in Chiantishire with no desire to notice anything after the fourteenth century, has been unable to neglect the malfeasances of bankers, panderers, frauds and politicians in Italian life today for those confined to the bolgia. (in translation only for me, but my valued 1976 edition with the translation by Dorothy L Sayers remains the best)

Timing-wise, an Italian collapse around October would suit me, with the € back to 1.25 or so.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

'Working at Home'

Reaching a certain level of seniority in employed work is marked by one's ability to announce breezily from time to time that 'I'll be working from home tomorrow'. Sometimes it's really beneficial, such as sorting a complex final construction account that needs quantities of ciggies and coffee only available at home. Most of the time it means a visit from the plumber or waiting for a parcel for which we senior types aren't willing to take a day's holiday. Whichever, it's a valuable privilege to be used carefully, not exploited. Except if your name is Phillippa Williamson and you work in the public sector.

Phillippa decided she wanted it all - a top London public sector job-for-the-girls, a fab home in the Lake District, a child and a family life. Her first grab was at HM Revenue and Customs, where she persuaded them to let her do a five day job in four, permanently 'working from home' for the fifth. Then she took the job as Serious Fraud Office chief where (so ironically) she not only decided that she only needed to work three days a week in London, but that the taxpayer should pay for her travel and accommodation when she did so; she changed her job into permanently working at home, with additional payments if she had to come into the office. And all for the wholly selfish and self-interested reasons - to spend time with her teenage son at her beautiful home.  ‘Now I have a Black-Berry, a webcam, I can teleconference – it’s amazing how it’s all changed. Part of my job is to think about where we are going to take the organisation and I do that more contemplative side better in my home environment.’ said Phillippa to the Mail in 2009, when the direction she was taking the SFO was straight down the shitter. With an absent boss who had already decried that the SFO shouldn't tackle any cases that were 'too expensive' to investigate - those against large global corporations - Phillippa could chillax by the Lakes at the taxpayer's expense.

The Commons PAC yesterday published a damning report on what to many eyes amounts to a serious moral fraud. The Chair of the PAC said;
“Mr Alderman provided the SFO’s Chief Executive Officer Phillippa Williamson with a contract specifying that her place of work was her home address in the Lake District. She worked there two days a week. When Ms Williamson worked at the SFO’s London offices three days a week, taxpayers paid for her travel and hotel costs to London, at a cost of nearly £100,000 between 2008 and 2012. For the CEO of an important public body such as the Serious Fraud Office to be granted such arrangements is quite astounding.
“Furthermore, a payment of over £400,000 was made to enhance her pension, even though the necessary approval from Cabinet Office to do so was not in place. The Cabinet Office should explain how this payment was allowed to go ahead without being approved."
And exactly why is no-one going to prison for this?

Monday, 15 July 2013

Labour can't be trusted with the NHS

Voters in the North East are learning painfully that Labour is best when it's, er, Tory. Having failed dismally to manage any sort of economic resurgence in the old Northern heartlands, Labour actually managed to widen the gap between rich and poor in the UK, had more young people out of work than any other post-war government, destroyed working-class communities with reckless immigration and so criminally maladministered the nation's finances that the great-grandchildren of all voters will still be paying for it. But it's with the NHS that Labour betrayed its own voter base most grievously. 

After throwing a tsunami of cash at an organisation unable to make good use of it Labour managed to double GPs' salaries to over £100k but cut their work to M -F 9 - 5, managed to pay NHS executives salaries and bonuses many times the Prime Minister's own salary, and fostered a culture of carelessness and irresponsibility that was ultimately responsible for over 13,000 needless pointless deaths in just 14 hospitals from poor care, medical errors and inadequate management. As the Telegraph points out, for Andrew Burnham, one of the Labour politicians responsible, to defend indignantly his own reputation whilst 13,000 families have lost so much more is behaviour of the most revolting self-interest. But what would you expect from a professional politician?

As with the banking and financial debacle, people should be in prison for what happened in the NHS under Labour - perhaps including Andrew Burnham. Why aren't they?