Monthly Archives: March 2010

"Money don’t say you love me, cash won’t make me stay"

After her enlightening appearance on children’s Question Time, I found myself drawn again to the wisdom of national treasure Jamelia, this time her turn-of-the-millennium hit “Money”.

Following another week of general election wrangling, with #cashgordon highlighting the flaws of social media, and a fresh round of MP allegations- this time up to 20 members from across the parties taking free jollies in exchange for favours- I found a report in the Guardian confirming, yet again, the age old wisdom that having lots of money doesn’t make people happy.

“More money makes society miserable” they triumphantly shouted.

With all the tweeting and cheating this ‘news’ still doesn’t appear to have reached our pampered public servants.

But all this talk of reddies lead the BBC’s Big Questions panel last week to address an issue that has never really made it to the political agenda, probably because we are a polite breed… and it’s about money.

They asked: should there be a MAXimum wage?

You’ve probably scoffed and thought about stopping reading now you’ve seen this.

But stay with me.

There is a minimum wage, it was only brought in under New Labour, so the debate is not necessarily done.

If we are agreed there is a lower-limit under which a person could not live, then it follows that there could be an upper one?

The economists who conducted the study in the Guardian argue that “once a country reaches a reasonable standard of living there is little further benefit to be had from increasing the wealth of its population. Indeed, it could make people feel worse off.

“As a nation becomes wealthier, consumption shifts increasingly to buying status symbols with no intrinsic value – such as lavish jewellery, designer clothes and luxury cars.”

They warn: “These goods represent a ‘zero-sum game’ for society: they satisfy the owners, making them appear wealthy, but everyone else is left feeling worse off.”

Reminiscent of Alain De Botton’s Status Anxiety, which is portioned up on Google Videos if you’ve got a couple of hours and the basic but not guaranteed ability to stream, this surely makes perfect sense?

People argue that they should be able to work as hard as they want to enjoy the lifeStyle they want.

But it is almost irrefutable fact that after a certain point money can’t make you any happier.

So why bother?

You can have a ridiculous house, cars and holidays, but if you don’t get on with your partner or you’re never at home, no amount of caviar can fill the gap.

Jeremy Bentham, as you may know was one of the founders of utilitarianism, the belief that everything should be done for “the greatest good for the greatest number of people”, the “greatest happiness principle” and, like a lot of 19th century thinking, it still rings true.

Bentham is also associated with the foundation of the University of London, specifically University College London (UCL).

He strongly believed that education should be more widely available, particularly to those who were not wealthy or who did not belong to the established church, both of which were required of students by Oxford and Cambridge.

As UCL was the first English university to admit all, regardless of race, creed or political belief, it was largely consistent with Bentham’s vision.

New Labour have widened participation, and all parties are committed to higher education if all aren’t prepared to show the cards which will set out payment plans.

But it is a shame MPs aren’t taking a leaf out of Jeremy’s, or even Jamelia’s books when it comes to the buying of affections.

Hoon, Hewitt, say this to yourselves next time a shady character slips you a family pass to Euro Disney:

“If you really cared babe

You would spend your time
If you don't understand

You can’t afford mine, no.”

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Cost of policy during Tony’s appearance at the Iraq Inquiry? £273,000

After winning my seat at the Iraq Inquiry, I set off down to London to take my place. And was greeted with scenes of all out police vigilance.

After a kindly police officer calculated the numbers of officers on duty, I set out to find out the cost of such an operation, and was delighted to have my FOI request upheld.

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

18 March 2010

Dear Ms Styles

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2010020002382

I write in connection with your request for information which was received
by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 09/02/2010. I note you seek
access to the following information:

* I would like to know how much policing of the Iraq Inquiry has cost,
particularly how much the day Tony Blair attended cost, and how many
police officers were there. I attended on the day and spoke to an
officer who outlined that there were 150 outside alone.

EXTENT OF SEARCHES TO LOCATE INFORMATION

To locate the information relevant to your request searches were
conducted at Finance Services.

RESULT OF SEARCHES

The searches located a number records relevant to your request.

DECISION

After considering whether any qualified exemptions were applicable to
this case, I have today decided to disclose the located information to
you in full.

The cost of policing the Inquiry on days other than when Tony Blair
gave evidence has not been specifically recorded. Any additional cost
to the MPS is minimal because the area around the QE2 Conference
Centre forms part of the normal policing of the “Government Security
Zone” put in place to protect the seat of government.

The estimated total cost of policing Tony Blair’s attendance at the
Chilcot Iraq Inquiry and associated events is **273k.

**178k of this estimate is in relation to opportunity costs. These
costs cannot be regarded as an additional cost to the MPS; rather, the
officers assigned to these duties would otherwise have been assigned
to other policing duties or operations.

**95k is additional costs in respect of overtime (**61k) and non-pay
costs (**34k). Non-pay costs include transport costs, catering costs,
air support costs, the erection of barriers and road signs for public
safety/road closures and the purchasing of specialist equipment.

657 police officer shifts and 28 police staff shifts were worked
during the operation.

The estimated costs highlighted above may change. The actual cost of
policing the event will be included in the annual cost of public order
policing report, which will be published on the MPA website in July
2010.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet which details your right
of complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please
write or contact Becca Oram on telephone number 0207 230 3101 quoting
the reference number above.

Yours sincerely

Becca Oram
Business Management Officer (Information)
Resources Programme Office

Generation why?

First published in Pluto Student Newspaper.

From the top positions in society… right across the board… the highest earners, the ones with money and power, those setting your wages (while cushioning their own), steering your department, leading from the top…

Old, often overweight, unattractive (save silver foxes like Lib Dem Chris Huhne) men.

The average age of an MP is 50, and for most big jobs- think chief exec- you’ve got to have enough “experience” to merit the six-figure salary. Well, you’ve probably got less skills than a GCSE in IT for those trusty powerpoints.

Only 37% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in 2005, and according to a report from the Electoral Commission last week, more than half of 18 to 24-year-olds are not currently registered to vote.

This will be the first general election I and around 3.5 million other people aged 18-23 will be able to vote in. So, before I sign guys, why should I pick you?

With duck houses, moats and an all-round gloomy financial situation, it is hard to place our trust in such a shady, oft incompetent bunch. Especially when the only thing we have in common with them is that we both wear clothes.

But the Question Time event hosted by the Student Left Network here at UCLan on 5th March was a refreshing change to being dictated to by the dictators.

So, on arguably the issue of the decade for young people, that of tuition fees, what did the three main parties have to say?

Possibly most interesting was the claim made by Mark Jewell from the Liberal Democrats that, if they were to gain power, they would scrap tuition fees within two terms.

Free fees often sounds outmoded, most students accept that they will leave university with a mountain of debt. So is this just an empty policy aimed at setting them apart?

Both Labour and the Conservatives said that this would mean that not everyone who wanted to would go to university, why squash people’s aspirations?

But, Mr Jewell backed up his party’s policy by saying that everyone should have the option, but better provision should be made for people wanting to go into other, wholly worthwhile professions that don’t require university education.

The North West of England makes the highest contribution to the UK’s manufacturing industry. Skilled jobs, but probably not skills best acquired in a classroom.

With less people going to uni, as in the old days of free education, fees could be covered by taxes, and only those who wanted and needed to go should go. Simples?

Mark Hendrick, the incumbent Labour MP spoke of the millions invested in education since New Labour came to power in 1997, aided by a sheet of education facts.

But he was challenged on the Labour party’s “arbitrary” goal of sending 50 per cent of young people to university. On the face of it, yes, you’d expect half of people to do this, but do they really need to? And, as Nerissa Warner-O’Neill for the Conservatives pointed out- what about the 51st person?

She also said the Conservatives would be waiting for the outcome of Labour’s higher education funding review. Which, without representation from the National Union of Students, the biggest union in the country representing young people, the advice is likely to be proceed with caps off.

As someone who has been to two universities, studying two different things, I can only say that first time around, I probably wasn’t prepared for what university would be like. But there wasn’t any talk of compulsory gap year volunteering, an idea that has been touted, but without an ingenious funding model, is unlikely to come from the public pocket, which already has a massive hole in it.

Maybe tuition fees will be your Iraq War. Maybe you’ve got an idea you can pitch to your MP. “Single issues” are the explanation for people not engaging with politics in the traditional party sense.

So not that Labour’s move from socialist to “New Right” and Cameron’s Conservative yet hoodie huggers have anything to do with it? Young people aren’t the only people that don’t vote.

Check out First Time Voters Question Time on the BBC or on IPlayer, hosted by mum and child-friendly Dermot O’Leary. The fact that ‘Adults’ Question Time isn’t speaking to people is a question in itself, and the cool, torn graphics are vaguely insulting to your intelligence.

But, ultimately, you have to do your research, see through the spin and make up your own mind.