Today’s letters address different aspects of UK politics, in particular finances, and politics in the aftermath of Brexit. The first letter comes from one of our readers who needs to remain anonymous:
A committee of MP’s was recently set up and reported on the failure of British Home Stores and Phillip Green. The report found that Phillip Green had loaded the company with debt and also failed to fund the pension fund to such an extent that there was a five hundred and seventy one million pound shortfall. All this is very interesting and tells you much about Phillip Green and the companies he owns and runs with his wife.
However it is more interesting to compare the situation that the MP’s have overseen with regard to the country’s finances and the private pensions.
Over a similar twenty year period, the Labour party took the country’s debts from three hundred billion pounds to approximately eight hundred billion pounds. The subsequent Conservative government has nearly doubled that to one thousand five hundred billion pounds – yet those same MPs have not raised a finger in objection. What it means is that each individual in this country now owes twenty three thousand pounds.
The story with the private pensions is that Gordon Brown stopped the tax relief on dividends. This had the effect of ensuring many companies closed their final salary schemes to new entrants and these companies introduced much poorer schemes.
The Governor of the Bank of England during the early part of the Conservative government was fighting the Chancellor to ensure that the Bank of England employees would keep generous pensions – which they did. Soon after, Mark Carney was appointed as Governor of the Bank of England and moved from his native Canada.
Due to the Bank of England Governor and the Monetary Policy Committee experiment with the country’s finances, our interest rates are at their lowest for three hundred years. Because of this many of the private pension schemes are showing substantial shortfalls because they receive virtually no interest on their investments. The Governor of the Bank of England suggests this low interest rate policy will help the country’s turnover to grow – but if the people who held money were able to receive a decent rate of interest on their money then we would be in a much better position to increase spending and thereby turnover. The trouble is, many people have been encouraged to borrow on mortgages far more than they can afford if interest rates were to rise to normal levels. The Monetary Policy Committee cannot raise interest rates significantly now without causing problems in the housing market.
The biggest debtor of course is the Country and by keeping interest rates at extraordinary low levels the interest on our debts is manageable. The other matter is the policy of quantitative easing which has devalued the pound and ensured the gap between the richest in society and the poorest has increased. It has also encouraged people to look at any way they can increase the earnings potential on their savings, leading them into risky investments and again channelling funds into property.
The MPs have ignored the huge increase in debt of the Country and the continued destruction of the private pensions industry on which the workers in the private sector depend. Of course many of the people making these decisions, I would guess, have huge mortgages (given that they live in London) and at least five members of the Committee have public sector pensions which are not affected by their policies.
Like the Greens, the people making the decisions which adversely affect the ordinary people are not being affected.
Respectfully, GBM, Cardiff
The second letter is by our author and editor Mark Angelides:
would you believe that more than 50% of the people where I live want independence? It’s true! They feel the hospitals are full, the roads are overcrowded, public services are at breaking point and the education system is suffering under the strain of numbers.
Can you guess where I live? That’s right! Shanghai.
The Shanghainese concerns are very real. The hospitals are crowded. The roads are packed. Services are deteriorating. The standard of living for the majority of working and middle classes is in fact going down despite the unquestionable growth of the economy as a whole. And the average class size for any given school is in the high sixties.
The people of Shanghai want independence and a curtailing of the flow of people. Do they want this because they are racist toward other Chinese folk? Are they afraid that their culture is being diluted by other Chinese people? No. They want independence so they can control the number of people coming in.
For the Shanghainese, to see class sizes rise, roads become unmanageable, services at breaking point, goes against everything they were brought up to believe: growth is good. Many are now questioning this.
If less economic growth means a better standard of living, they are happy to accept it. If less growth means that a working family can get on the housing ladder, again they accept it. The Shanghainese are talking about independence from a country they love (and patriotism is very much acceptable in the PRC), because they see no end to the downwards spiral they live through.
This mass migration of people to Shanghai is encouraged by the government, and in many ways it seems a noble cause to move the population from poorly equipped villages with subpar schools to an arguably better environment. But there comes a point when taking an injured child to a hospital and waiting hour on hour to see a nurse (let alone a doctor) seems a high price to pay.
In the villages, hospitals, schools and homes stand empty. Whole towns are almost deserted; what of the handful of children left behind when the teachers have moved onto larger cities?
This serves no one well!
And what of the newcomers to Shanghai? Surely their lives are much improved? Actually, not so much. The demand for property has risen so far ahead of what exists that it is almost impossible to get on the housing ladder. Deposits needed for a mortgage will rise to 70% this year. Rental costs skyrocket year on year which makes it more difficult to save. Does any of this sound familiar?
Do the people of Shanghai want to close themselves off from the rest of China? Not really. What they want is controlled immigration that allows proper forward planning and governance; proper allocation of resources. They see this as common sense, not xenophobia.
And what of the Shanghainese folks’ thoughts on our own Brexit? Let me leave you with two events that really did happen to me:
On the day of the EU referendum, an elderly taxi driver asks me where I’m from. England, says I. “Today is your big vote day, eh?” “Yes”, I replied. He says “You should vote out. England’s one of the Old Greats. Why would you want someone else to control you?”
The day after the results were announced, many of my Shanghai friends send messages out on their WeChat groups (a cross between instant messaging and Twitter): Brits got Brexit…We want Shexit!
Respectfully, Mark Angelides
And finally, a nice proposal from one of our readers:
Sir,on my way up to the Lakes yesterday, I was overtaken by a Bentley with the registration NF 1 which set me thinking about how NF should be rewarded for his services to Great Britain, Northern Ireland and indeed Europe.Our Honours system is now an insult, and statues are so 19th Century and subject to vandalism.I settled on an idea that we, the grateful, should purchase an outcrop or mountain-top, and island or perhaps one of those redundant Forts somewhere within these Isles and name it appropriately. A couple of £million should do the job:“Farage Rock” / ” Farage Isle “I don’t know how one would set up a crowd-funding operation, nor indeed a collection which would not invite the legal profession to syphon off 80% !Equally I do not know whether UKIP or LEAVE have any plans.It’s an idea to kick around.Respectfully, “Real Emotions”