Posts Tagged ‘Financial Services’

Private Eye on the Companies Sponsoring the Tories in 2008

March 5, 2016

Private Eye in their issue for 5th-18th September 2008 printed this piece listing the companies sponsoring the Tory party conference that year.

Meet the Tories’ Brum Chums

The Conservative party conference will see Team Cameron entertaining a plethora of wealthy bedfellows from industry when it kicks off in Birmingham on 28th September …

The Arms trade…
Labour have been too embarrassed to be seen mixing with the weapons makers, but if shadow defence secretary Liam Fox becomes a real minister all that will change. Fox is timetabled to speak for the Defence Industries Council, an arms trade group led by BAE Systems chief executive Mike Turner.

Fox shares the enthusiasm of the “Vulcan” wing of the US Republicans for military reaction to perceived threats, reflected in the title of another meeting he is addressing on “Resurgent threats: Terror, Russia and Iran?” The meeting is sponsored by yet another arms firm, EADS, who hope to sell loads of kit to a future Tory government.

The Greens…
Cameron is fighting to make green a new Tory, colour, but it’s a very pale shade indeed. The Tory Green Initiative’s first meeting at the conference is paid for by the British Cement Association and has cement lobbyist Mike Gilbert on the platform. The link makes the TGI look more like an industry-friendly lobby group than an environmental campaign. Hardly surprising, as the Initiative is run by Nick Wood-Dow, the boss of lobbying firm Chelgate, which assists clients from the construction industry who have problems with “disproportionate response from the community, or from pressure or environmental groups.”

The Poor…
Shadow Treasury minister Mark Hoban is demonstrating the new Conservative interest in poverty with a meeting on the credit crunch, sponsored by Cattles plc, one of the Britain’s leading sub-prime lenders. Cattles makes millions through its “Shopacheck” loans to the low-paid that have APRS as high as 400 per cent.

The Lobbyists…
Last year Tory MP Peter Luff was outraged that the Canary Wharf Group gave £120,000 to Labour while promoting Crossrail, the line that will improve access to Canary Wharf. Boris Johnson also backs Crossrail, and Luff will presumably be horrified that the Canary Wharf Group is paying the London Assembly Conservatives. The group is funding a political “speed dating” lunch, where delegates can meet “the most influential people in London politics, from London Assembly members to deputy mayors.”

Elsewhere, shadow Treasury bod Mark Hoban is advertised as the top speaker at the “invitation-only financial services reception” of lobby firm Lansons, which makes a living from trying to influence politicians on behalf of big-money clients such as HBOS bank. It’s easy to see why Lansons has invited a shadow minister to their party, but harder to see why Hoban would accept.

The list of curious sponsors goes on: shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien is speaking on problem drinking – sponsored by brew SAB Miller. And Frances Maude, a key member of Team Cameron, is speaking on “Preparing for Power” – that to money from management consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

…and the Labour ex-ministers
Of course, the Tories aren’t the only one who know on which side their bread is buttered – three former Labour ministers will address the conference, getting in practice at sucking up to Cameron’s crew. Former trade minister Brian Wilson was once a left-wing MP and enthusiastic supporter of Castro’s Cuba; now he is chairman of the pro-airports lobby group FlyingMatters. Steven Twigg, the man once famous for defeating Portillo, and former Culture secretary Chris Smith complete the trio.

Those were the companies seeking to profit from the Tories gaining power that year. And looking at this, and the way Cameron very swiftly dropped his Green initiative when it appeared to have worked, it’s clear that this always was a sham. His Green Initiative was simply an astroturf organisation to get the Tories and their backers in the very un-Green cement industry back into No. 10. And since then, the Tories have dropped it completely. Cameron took down that windmill from his house, and has put his full support behind fracking, another industry which comprehensively wrecks the environment.

David Cameron is still firmly behind the arms industry. He was up at the BAE systems base the other week in Wharton, boasting about how he’d sold millions of their products to the war criminals and mass murderers in Saudi Arabia. He wasn’t bothered, calling their armaments ‘brilliant things’.

And the hypocrisy and deceit behind their lobbying bill, which shuts out charities and other organisations from influencing government, while leaving the real lobbyists to pursue their sordid trade, should be no surprise given their appearance sponsoring so much of the Tory conference.

And then there’s the matter of the 95 Tory and Lib Dem ministers with links to health care companies, who are hoping to get rich from the privatisation of the NHS.

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Vox Political: American Kids Sneering at the Homeless with Selfies

November 13, 2014

Mike has another piece worth reading on the latest trend amongst the fatuous and affluent in America. This is taking ‘selfies’, pictures of yourself with the destitute, and then laughing and jeering at them. The article’s entitled An import we DON’T need: homeless ‘selfies’, and begins

There a new fashion craze sweeping America’s rich, bored and – let’s face it – stupid kids, and it’s one that is sure to hit these shores at any time.

It involves – as the Addicting Info website puts it – “finding a homeless person and snapping an oh so outrageous selfie to post on Tumblr or Instagram. Then other youngsters come along to laugh and heap scorn on the mostly sleeping, ragged, destitute stranger”.

Oh how clever. How witty. How socially conscious.

The trouble is, as the site rightly pegs it, “the kids are reflecting the value our society places on homeless people. All it takes is a person to become dirty, smelly, and unkempt – and they become detritus, vermin – of no more note or merit than a rat or a pigeon”.

Given IDS’ own contempt for the poor and desperate, he wonders how long it will be before IDS’ teenage children or even IDS himself appears in one.

In fact, this kind of stupid exploitation of the poor for cruel laughs has been going on for a decade or more. I’d say it began with a set of videos called Bumfights. This was made by a rich, White kid, who would find vagrants and then make them perform degrading stunts and acts for trivial amounts of money. It was called Bumfights, because he’d get them to fight each other, in return for which he’d buy them a burger. In one case, he got one poor unfortunate to pull out a tooth with a pair of pliers. The video was heavily condemned, but it does seem to reflect the attitude of the vain, pointless and materialistic young, attitudes that have been fostered by decades of Neo-Liberal, Thatcherite propaganda.

Mike’s absolutely right in that sociologists have noted that we are less generous as a society towards the poor and unemployed. Jaynelinney in her blog has pointed to similar academic studies showing that people are more intolerant towards the disabled, and that abuse and violence towards them has risen in line with these attitudes.

It’s Yuppie values, the sneering attitude of the type of people Harry Enfield sent up with the character Loadsamoney. And there were and are people exactly like it. I can remember working briefly – for all of three days – for an independent financial consultancy in Clifton here in Bristol. Right in the middle of an exam to test our knowledge of insurance practice and law, the member of staff invigilating looked out the window to laugh at the sad state of a tramp in the park outside. ‘Too bad you can’t see it,’ he said.

This crew really did have the complete, yuppie attitude. I left on the third day there. Later on I found out through a friend that they’d been closed down by the two financial regulatory authorities, FIMBRA and LAUTRO. I was spectacularly unsurprised.

Unfortunately, although that company went, their attitudes remained and spread to the rest of the industry, and are now poisoning our society and our attitudes to the very poorest and most vulnerable.

Owen Jones on the Middle Class Domination of the Houses of Parliament

May 5, 2014

I posted a piece this morning on early trade unionist campaigns to get the vote for the working class and working men into parliament and the local authorities. This was in response to the way working people have become increasingly ignored and excluded by the political class, to the point where many feel disenfranchised.

Owen Jones in Chavs describes the way parliament has become overwhelmingly upper and middle class in its composition:

We’ve seen that prominent politicians manipulated the media-driven frenzy to make political points. Like those who write and broadcast our news, the corridors of political power are deominated by people from one particular background. ‘The House of Commons isn’t representative, it doesn’t reflect the country as a whole,’ says Kevin Maguire. ‘It’s over-representative of lawyers, journalists-as-politicians, various professions, lecturers in particular … There are few people who worked in call centres, or been in factories, or been council officials lower down.’

It’s true to say MP’s aren’t exactly representative of the sort of people who live on most of our streets. Those sitting on Parliament’s green benches are over four times more likely to have gone to private school than the rest of us. Among Conservative MPs, a startling three out of every five have attended a private school. A good chunk of the political elite were schooled at the prestigious Eton College alone, including Tory leader David Cameron and nineteen other Conservative MPs.

There was once a tradition, particularly on the Labour benches, of MPs who had started off working in factories and mines. Those days are long gone. The number of politicians from those backgrounds is small, and shrinks with every election. Few than one in twenty MPs started out as manual workers, a number that has halved since 1987, despite the fact that that was a Conservative-dominated parliament. One the other hand, a startling two-thirds had a professional job or worked in business before arriving in parliament. Back in 1996, Labour’s then deputy leader John Prescott echoed the Blairite mantra to claim that ‘we’re all middle-class now’, a remark that would perhaps be more fitting if he had been talking about his fellow politicians. (p. 29)

It would be easy, but lazy, to portray parliament as a microcosm of the British class system. It isn’t, but it certainly showcases the gaping divides of modern society. When I interviewed James Purnell just before the May 2010 election that brought the Tories and their Lib Dem allies to 10 Downing Street, I put to him how unrepresentative Parliament was: two-thirds of MPs came from a professional background and were four times more likely to have attended a private school than the rest of the population. When I referred to the fact that only one in twenty MPs came from a blue-collar background, he was genuinely shocked. ‘One in twenty?’

When I asked him if this had made it more difficult for politicians to understand the problems of working-class people, he could hardly disagree. ‘Yes, indeed. I think it’s become very much a closed shop …’ For Purnell, this middle-class power grab was the result of a political system that has become closed to ordinary people.

In the build-up to the 2010 general election, a number of excited headlines claimed that trade unions were parachuting candidates into safe seats. ‘Unions put their candidates in place to push Labour to the left,’ bellowed the Times. And yet, in the end, only 3 per cent of new MPs were former trade union officials. There was no similar outrage about the number of prospective candidates with careers in the City – the sector that, after all, was responsible for the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s. One in ten new MPs had a background in financial services, twice as many as in the 1997 landslide that brought Labour to power. Politics has also increasingly been turned into a career rather than a service: a stunning one in five new MPs already worked in politics before taking the parliamentary oath. pp. 104-5).

He then contrasts with the great political figures from Atlee’s cabinet of 1945 from the working class: Nye Bevan, Ernest Bevin, and Herbert Morrison. They were a miner, farm boy and grocer’s assistant, respectively. He contrasts this with the Tory jeers about John Prescott’s working class origins.

When he entered the House of Lords, that retirement home for the ruling elite, the Telegraph’s chief leader writer scoffed: I’m not sure ermine suits John Prescott.’ the comments left by Telegraph readers on the newspaper’s website were a class war free-for-all. One passed on a friend’s hilarious description of him as ‘the builder’s bum-crack of the Labour Party’. ‘Baron Pie & Chips’ and ‘Prescott is a fat peasant’ were other witticisms, as was ‘John “here’s a little tip” Prescott’. Someone has to serve the drinks between debates!’ guffawed another. Prescott was ridiculed because some felt that by being from lowly working-class stock, he sullied the office of deputy prime minister and then the House of Lords. (p. 106).

We desperately need more working class people in parliament. And as for the Telegraph, Buddyhell over Guy Debord’s Cat has posted a long series of pieces on just how frighteningly far-right the commenters on their website are. Very many of them post horrendously racist and overtly Fascist messages. One even suggested that the Nazis were being demonised out of ignorance (!) and that this would not happen if people knew more about them. (!)
No, the Nazis are demonised because people know exactly what they are like. Hence the attempts by Nazi apologists to deny the Holocaust ever happened, or played down the number of people who were murdered. The Cat has noted that the Telegraph uses the excuse that it can’t be held responsible for what it’s commenters post, and it is therefore not responsible for the ravings of the assorted stormtroopers that post there. This won’t wash. Other website are modded, and stopping genocidal racists from advocating mass murder is one of the few infringements to the right to free speech that most people would applaud. But not, it seems, the Torygraph. Either – God help us! – the editors secretly agree with these rants, or else they are following the old tactic Enoch Powell adopted with his supporters from the Far Right. Powell actually personally wasn’t racist. He spoke Urdu, and had served on various official bodies promoting civil rights for Blacks and Asians before the infamous ‘River of Blood’ speech. See the section on him in Bloody Foreigners: Immigration and the English. He actually hated the NF, but cynically used their support.

As for the Times, this is the quintessential paper of the establishment. I’ve got a feeling it was edited for a time by the very blue-blooded Peregrine Worsthorne. Under David Leppard, it saw fit to publish the lie that Michael Foot was a KGB agent. No wonder it printed scare stories about a coming union left-wing takeover.

Another Angry Voice on Payday Loan Sharks: You’ve Been Wongad

July 27, 2013

The payday loan company, Wonga, was in the news yesterday when it was reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was furious that one of the companies in which the Church had invested its pension fund had put some of the money in Wonga. The Archbishop has severely criticised Wonga, and similar legal loan sharks, and stated that he wanted the church to ‘outcompete them’ through offering alternative sources of money in credit unions.

Way back in 2012, the superbly well-informed Yorkshireman at Another Angry Voice posted an excellent piece giving further details on the company. It describes its links and connections to the Tory party, and the fact that even in America, the home of free-trade capitalism, companies like Wonga are only allowed to offer interest rates of 36 per cent. Among other fascinating facts, the article states

Here’s some of the stuff that the majority of the mainstream media seem happy to remain silent about.

Did you know that the payday loan sector has been booming since the economic crisis and the resulting “credit crunch”? In 2011 Wonga handed out an astonishing 2.5 million super-high interest loans. The predatory loan sector is one of the very few sectors of the UK economy that seems to be booming through the turgid economic climate created by George Osborne’s ideologically driven, catastrophically miscalculated and economically destructive austerity agenda.

Did you know that these kinds of super-high interest loans are illegal in almost every other advanced western democracy? That other nations tend to protect their poor and vulnerable from this kind of brazen economic parasitism. Even the notoriously Ayn Rand inspired, free-trade preaching, banker friendly mob that run the United States have imposed a Federal maximum APR of 36% for loans to military personnel, which is less than one one hundredth of a typical Wonga APR. Predatory payday loans are illegal in 13 states and regulated in the other 37 states. In Canada these kinds of loan are prohibited by usury laws, with any loan exceeding 60% APR (including fees and brokerage) being considered criminal.

Did you know that some financial sector institutions use the receipt of a payday loan as evidence of credit-unworthiness? The fact that you can be credit blacklisted simply for taking out payday loans seriously damages the argument that these loans are just a “helping hand” and not predominantly marketed at the extremely poor, vulnerable and financially illiterate.

Did you know that these kinds of payday loan companies are so universally despised that even the Daily Mail readership are near unanimous in their condemnation (scroll down to the bottom of this article and click the “best rated” tab). Here’s what Bob, a Daily Mail reader from Bridport, had to say about them:

“These rip off organisations should be properly regulated. Their interest rates are appalling. Feeding on the vulnerable in society. The adverts are a disgrace to elderly people. Shut them down now along with all the other Payday loan sharks on TV.”‘

It says something about the firm’s extremely low moral standing when even the readers of the Daily Mail universally hate it.

The complete articles is at http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/youve-been-wongad-tory.html. And it’s very well worth reading.