Episode 11 – Fresh from the Easter holidays this week’s full sized episode has the real deal on steel, the infrastructure bill, more Partly Bg Society and a chat with Emily Kenway at the Living Wage Foundation.
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INTRO LINE – Beware the Living Wage! A dead useless £7.20 per hour. It will not pray on your young if they’re under 25! Woooooooo!
Hello and welcome to the Partly Political Broadcast. I’m Tiernan Douieb, GLC Balloon Race Winner 1983 and proud, and this week we are back to a normal length show with interviews and everything. Parliament is still in recess despite Jeremy Corbyn asking the Prime Minister to recall it. Not surprised he refused, I suppose you’d need quite the memory to remember all the names of 650 MPs. But even though – and yes that is a rubbish joke – even though they are still in recess this show is not. In fact, at Partly Political HQ I’ve got so much work to do, I’m more tied up than John Whittingdale on a weekend. That was my favourite story of the past few days, that the Culture Secretary has had a relationship with a dominatrix and not because it’s scandalous or anything. Let’s be fair, stories of people’s sex lives is hugely dull and regardless of how much I hate human Droopy the Dog tribute act Whittingdale, it’s none of our business.
Why I think it is interesting though, is that it means if he’s into S&M, maybe there are some ways to save the BBC properly. For a start they could try just telling him with all his policies he’s been very naughty and must be punished, before demanding he say they are in charge instead of him. If that doesn’t work, maybe there’s a safe word they can use and he’ll stop trying to dismantle them all together? Or as a last resort, they could just report the story of his relationship with this escort and if he tried to gag them, it’d just provide more evidence. Go for it BBC! Otherwise I won’t be focusing on that this week, or the news about the leaked papers from the Panama law firm revealing 72 current or former heads of state are involved in money laundering, or tax evasion. Let’s be honest, the main shock of that story is that it’s only 72 of them. And the law firm is called Mossack Fonseca which is exactly the sort of name Dan Brown would give a villain. We should’ve seen it coming. Check back to episode 8 with our chat with Jo Maughan about tax havens and we’ll get more into it all probably next week.
There’s a lot to get through on today’s show but I’d just like to say thanks again for subscribing and listening to this show and as always, if you do enjoy it, please spread the word and tell others to as well. Also if anyone out there would be keen to help with this show in any of the admin tasks – helping to find guests, sourcing Partly Big Society stories, any of that – please let me know. You can be a PPB Special Advisor or some other completely meaningless title that simply means if we ever do anything wrong, I can blame it on you and fire you, then carry on doing awful things regardless. Seriously though, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you fancy doing free work for nothing but sheer Tiernan love. Wow, that sounds wrong.
Anyway, we’re skipping headlines this week and getting straight into:
Is there a more prophetically named business than TaTa Steel? It may as well have been called ByeBye Metal or So Long And Thanks For All The Iron Carbon Alloy. The British steel industry is in severe decline and in the past week Indian company Tata steel announced that they are planning to sell their UK business which will cause up to 40,000 job losses and kick start the death of yet another UK industry. This isn’t because people in the UK have stopped needing steel. No, quite the opposite. Steel is still used in buildings and submarines and cutlery and food packaging and cars and this big sword I’m dangerously waving around as I record this.
SLICING SOUND EFFECT / SCREAM
SORRY! So yeah, we steel need steel but the UK industry is flagging due to being hit by high UK energy prices thanks to the rising costs of privatised energy companies ever since energy became denationalised and they need energy to use the furnaces to make the steel with. Then there’s the extra cost of climate change policies which isn’t help by the government’s lack of incentive to help companies afford to become more green, and then there’s all the cheap steel from China that is being sold in the UK for stupidly low prices. Due to the Chinese stock market crash, producers in China are now steel dumping on other countries. Yes that does sound like they’ve too much iron in their diet and need to see a doctor, but what it actually means is that they are selling steel at a loss. And here in the UK our government love nothing more than taking advantage of a situation where it can help all sides lose at once.
The UK government of course, has been hugely helpful in all of this and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and only giant shaved hamster in the cabinet Sajid Javid showed this by being in Australia on the day Tata steel made their announcement. He couldn’t have been physically further away from the steel crisis unless he’d managed to travel to Uranus which would’ve made a nice difference from being stuck up his own. When questioned about this on the Marr show, Javid said he was in Australia because he knew Tata Steel were in trouble but didn’t realise to quite what extent. YOU’RE THE BUSINESS SECRETARY! YOU HAVE ONE JOB AND THAT IS TO BE AWARE OF ISSUES LIKE THE COLLAPSING STEEL INDUSTRY! It’d be like a lighthouse keeper being inland as a ship hit some rocks and stating ‘well I didn’t know they’d be needing a light right that minute.’ No wonder he was in Australia though, because he would’ve known exactly when the shit was going to hit the fan and preferred to be overly warm rather than cool but covered in it.
The EU imposed anti-dumping duties on China in 2015, but the UK lobbied against them. Dumped Chinese steel currently has an effective UK state subsidy of up to 72%. Only two months ago Sajid Javid told MPs he wouldn’t fight for higher tariffs because there are lots of British businesses that consume steel so dumping is helpful for them. So a British business needs to suffer so British businesses can do well? Nice one Sajid. He seems like the sort of man who’d cut of his nose to spite his face, then rebuild a new better face for the nose while the face collapsed from blood loss. In fact, I might recommend that to him. Then there’s the EU state aid suspension which Cameron didn’t even begin to address in his EU reform plan. A decent state aid plan by the European commission could create a rescue fund for the entire European steel industry. Though let’s be fair, all of Cameron’s EU reform negotiations were a political chocolate teapot, if the chocolate was inedible and he accidently left it in the hotel.
So how can Tata steel be saved? Well the two more favourable options seem to be nationalisation or the sale of the business to a private buyer. And by favourable, I mean no one that has any say in it seems that enthusiastic about either. Sajid Javid was very defensive about it all on his Marr show appearance and said that Nationalisation wasn’t the way. I guess this is because it’d just ruin the government’s current record of selling off every nationalised service if they topped up the list with another one. Critics have said that nationalising the banks worked as an option but firstly if the banks had gone down, it would’ve threatened all UK industry, and secondly, that was an entirely different government that weren’t so opposed to nationalising anything.
So the likelihood is, if it is to be saved, it’ll be by a private buyer. Indian businessman Sajeev Gupta, who’s business already has activities in steel, has expressed an interest but says it’s all down to how much the government want to back it. So the question is, do they care enough? The Scottish government managed to facilitate it with two of Tata steel plants, briefly nationalising them before Gupta could take them over which may have had something to do with the public finding out that the new Forth Bridge is being made with Chinese steel. When steel is travelling 12000m even the Proclaimers would opt for instead taking the steel just 40m down the road from the bridge instead. Regardless of how iffy that’d make their lyrics.
So how do we make the government care about English and Welsh steel production? My idea would be that everyone that’s got a knighthood from now on has to wear a full suit of armour. That way steel production goes up again and several awful people will really hate the summer time. Or rebuild the entire House Of Commons with steel. It needs a refurb and again, it’d be great watching MPs hate summer and have to wear coats in the winter. Though sadly neither of those would really help unless Chinese dumping is dealt with. And that won’t be dealt with until the government decide UK are more important than propping up Chinese markets. Sajid Javid has said that he doesn’t want to live in a country that doesn’t manufacture it’s own steel, though I’m sure this is just his way of saying he’ll be moving to China.
Sometimes I wonder if the Conservative Party forgot to check the spelling of ‘steel industry’.
INTERVIEW PART 1
Did you have a favourite April Fool’s gag? Mine was waking up on Friday morning to see the UK government had launched a living wage that no one can actually live on. Classic! Then sadly it was still there after midday which ruined it. The Living Wage, while sounding like a terrible Hammer Horror Movie, is actually one of the George Osborne’s big ideas. Which also sounds like a terrible Hammer Horror Movie. It was one actually of his big ideas that lots of people had before he did, where rather than businesses just providing a minimum wage, they actually ensure workers get a fee that’s in line with inflation and living costs so they can, well as it says on the tin, live off it. This came into force on Friday and already some have hailed it, many haven’t claiming it’s either not actually a living wage, or that it’ll ruin businesses and ultimately it seems like, once again, it’s a policy that sounds a lot nicer in the headlines than when it plonks into your bank. So this week I spoke to Emily Kenway from the Living Wage Foundation to explain whether it is a good thing or not, why it only applies to over 25 year old, and if this now means we can refer to anything below the official living wage as a death fee.
We’ll get back to Emily in just a minute, but first:
You know what it’s like right? You’re just about to leave work to go on a much needed holiday but you suddenly realise there’s work you were meant to do, so what the hell, you reveal plans to sell off a highly profitable public service, then leave the office and piss off to Lanzarote for Easter, and hope it’ll just deal with itself while you’re soaking up some vitamin D. We’ve all been there right? No, not Lanzarote, though I hear it’s very nice at this time of year.
It turns out the government are selling off the Land Registry, something they announced at 5pm on the day just before the Easter holidays. No one is surprised they are selling off yet another public service, George Osborne is now the biggest seller of the UK’s public services since Thatcher. It’s almost as though he got a copy of that Japanese lifestyle book about removing anything in your life that doesn’t ‘spark joy’ and then remembered the only thing that really makes him smile is making the public bloody miserable. But the big problem with selling the Land Registry is that it controls all property transactions in England and Wales. Last year it made a surplus of £36.6m and paid the government more than £100m. So if that ends up in private hands well it’ll mean a long term loss for the public coffers yet again and also pushes the Infrastructure Bill that bit further forward towards changing trespassing laws so loads of blooming massive shale gas pipes can be built under private land without asking anyone. That’s what we all want right? Everytime we step into the garden we get the unnerving feeling that we are just a few feet above the evil levels from Super Mario?
The Infrastructure Bill has been passed through two readings at Parliament with very little noise about it all, which is odd, considering how loud it’ll be when it’s used to let people frack right in your backyard. Which sounds a lot ruder than I mean it to, though if it happens you’d probably prefer to witness a couple getting it on on your patio than someone bypassing your rhodadendrums to drill massive holes into the ground, fire chemicals down them and then taking all the ancient fossilised gas from the rock fissures. The bill is meant to help speed up planning permissions but it’ll do this by removing all decisions to sell or develop publicly owned land from the public sector. So the idea would be that private companies could sell public land to do with it what they want, even if that means destroying it for fracking and the like. David Cameron said a while back that the only reason people are against fracking is because they don’t know enough about it. And hey, if we don’t know enough or have fully conclusive evidence that fracking won’t cause earthquakes, pollute water, cause health problems through pollution or disturb ancient dinosaur sorcerer ghosts, then it’s just silly to be cautious isn’t it? Chill guys, chill.
Of course all The Queen’s properties are exempt from the act, as are anything owned by the British aristocracy who owns about a third of Britain’s land, which of course they need in order to prance around in tweed and shoot things that aren’t capable of starting an online petition. So this means the other two thirds will be used for things like the HS2 detour so it only ruins your houses and not any wealthy estates, or nuclear power plants so your kids can gain webbed feet and two heads instead. Though to be fair, most of the Royal family and aristocracy have those anyway from all the inbreeding.
So all very worrying stuff and even more worrying is that the public consultation on selling the Land Registry ended some time ago. There is however a 38 degrees petition against selling it off that’s getting a lot of signatures if you search for Land Registry on you.38degrees.org.uk and you can check out the consultation document on gov.uk and write to your MP about your objections to it. I’ll see if I can get an expert on it for a future episode too. Failing that, try marrying a royal family member or an aristocrat? Or maybe we should all club together to put adverts in Loot saying the House Of Commons is for sale to any nuclear power plant developers as it’s toxic enough already, and see how they like it.
INTERVIEW PART 2
So it seems the government are calling this a living wage, much in the same way you have affordable housing or compassionate Conservatism.
Thanks to Emily for speaking to me. You can find the Living Wage Foundation at livingwage.org.uk and they have a very informative and easy to use website. They are also on Twitter at @livingwageuk and on Facebook too. Emily is sadly leaving the Living Wage Foundation at the end of this week to work on other exciting projects. You can follow her on Twitter at @emilykenway to find out all about those.
I’ve got more very interesting interviews lined up for the next few weeks but please do keep sending through suggestions for anyone you’d like me to speak to or any subjects in particular you’d like me to find someone to talk to about.
Onto this week’s QUESTION OF THE WEEK
With the Prime Minister wearing headphones in Lanzarote and Jeremy Corbyn eating cake in Devon, I asked our followers on Twitter and Facebook where they’d suggest certain MPs should go on holiday and again, there’s been some lovely replies:
Jamie Newton – @JTAN – Ed Balls could go to the place where Pokemon come from because they also like saying their own name (on twitter)
Where are they from? Is it just Japan? Ed Balls would make a terrible Pokemon. I guess he’d be a Pokemon red and his powers would be leaving a note for his enemies saying ‘Sorry! here’s no pokeballs left!’
Lee – @budgie –
Boris Johnson => Mount Atos monastery
Jeremy Corbyn => Tel Aviv
Dan Jarvis => the NEC
Jacob Rees-Mogg => 1890s
Dave – @unrealMcKay – Not sure where I’d send Christopher Chope, but can it be a one-way ticket?
Simon Spooner – Alex Salmond always fails when he tries to fly on holiday – Disnae land.
LouisDStrong – Gove to Hove, Benn to a glen, Grayling should go sailing and Peter Bone should stay at home.
James McLellan on FB – I’d like to suggest George Osborne should visit the Marianas Trench. The very, very bottom of it.
Well I suppose it would be a holiday for him if he didn’t have to dig his own hole for once.
I’ll keep posting weekly questions on our Twitter and Facebook so keep your eyes peeled and send your entries in. At some point I may even do prizes though let’s be honest, if you’re spending as much time wishing politicians were sent to some sort of horrific destination as I am, then we’re all losers really.
PARTLY BIG SOCIETY –
So before I do this week’s Partly Big Society, here’s a quick update on our first one. Daniel Barrett received a letter back from Cllr Roy Perry after he sent him some candles for the Queen’s street party. Daniel sent me a pic of it so I thought I’d read it out on the podcast:
But well done Daniel anyway and again, if you haven’t taken part and would like to, please do send them some grade a rubbish party gifts. I’m really hoping my package hasn’t got lost in the post.
Right, this week, we head to the London Borough of Barnet, who’s Tory led council signed two big contracts last year with a private outsourcing company Capita PLC. What? Conservatives shirking responsibility from themselves via neoliberal privitisation once again? Shocking huh? The two contracts mean that all the councils back office services such as customer service and HR among others will be outsourced to save costs and also that Capita are now in a partnership with Barnet council on all development and regulatory services in the borough.
The excellent Mrs Angry or @brokenbarnet on twitter has been highlighting why neither of these contractual alliances are saving money or time or well, Barnet. Her blog is at wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk, do check it out.
Anyway, this week in particular, local resident are protesting against the council’s current plans to destroy all the local libraries. Well, sort of destroy, but more, like the Borg in Star Trek, assimilate them so they all become Technology Enabled Libraries. These require a pin code to enter, have absolutely no staff and no facilities such as a toilet or otherwise. So if you don’t have the pin, you can’t get in. If you need assistance to use the service you won’t be able to get in and if you’re a child under 15 you have to be with an adult who has a PIN. So essentially, they are transforming them from useful public buildings where anyone can study and read, into a, well, a lonely room with a few books in it, that require Mission Impossible like abilities to get into and once you’re finally there you’d probably feel more welcome in a prison. This system has been tried in Peterborough and hasn’t worked very well and it’ll cost Barnet council £1.4m to install which could be better spent improving the current libraries with more things like, you know, more books.
Again, Mrs Angry has written some excellent blogs highlighting all the problems and the council’s uncaring responses to people’s queries about it at local meetings. So I thought for this week’s Partly Big Society we could just do a simple protest to help the people of Barnet. Dan Thomas is the deputy leader of Barnet Council and is also currently running for the London Assembly, supporting bizarre Schofield Zac Goldsmith in his mayoral campaign. Dan uses Twitter a lot and his username is @barnetandcamden all one word. I thought it might be fun if everytime he tweets we all reply with a ‘SHHHHHHHH’ then hashtag #booksnotrobotsforBarnet. Again, please don’t be rude, and while chances are he may just block or mute everyone that does it, if he gets enough responses like that it’ll hopefully rattle his cage a little bit. The idea that someone like that can have a say in all of London’s services is terrifying. What next? Wedding registries run by Skynet? ED209 on parking? ‘Pay your fine you have 20 seconds to comply.’ I hope he doesn’t listen to this, I feel I’m giving him ideas. Stick a full stop before your reply so hopefully it’ll encourage people who follow you to do the same. And if he does reply to you, do point out exactly why you’re telling him to SHHHHHHHH.
If you live in Barnet do write to your other councillors too. All details are, again, on Mrs Angry’s blogs. If you have a local issue you’d like me to mention on Partly Big Society, get in touch.
And that’s all for this week’s Partly Political Broadcast. Again if you enjoy the show please please spread the word like it’s some damn tasty marmalade. The more people that listen, the more chance we can annoy people like Cllr Dan Thomas.
If you are interested in helping with this show, maybe making me some better jingles, or if there’s someone you’d like me to interview do get in touch via email@example.com on twitter @parpolbro and on Facebook at parpolbro as well. If you listen via iTunes please do give us a nice review as it really does help iTunes to promote it more. Or at least give us a star rating which is even quicker to do.
We’ll be back next week, so as they say in the steel industry, Tata for now. Although, well, hopefully not. BYE.