Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on December 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Depression in Soapland:

I don’t know how many readers of this column listen to the never-ending saga of “the Archers” – an “every day story of country folk” – on BBC Radio 4. It’s been part of our lives now since the 1950s and has spanned the generations. Sometimes it reflects events out in the real world. The controversy over GM crops springs to mind. But often it seems to be stuck in its own little rural cocoon.

But it can hardly ignore the state of the economy and the plight of many families who find themselves unable to make ends meet. Its been young Ed Grundy and his partner Emma who’ve had to bear the brunt of it in Ambridge. Poor Emma finds she just can’t make her budget stretch, and she has to let bills mount up to pay for essentials – like, for example, food. She even had to resort to visiting the Food Bank, in nearby Borchester. All this isn’t helped by Ed’s brother, Will, who’s still managing OK, with his job as gamekeeper on the estate. They share responsibility for little George (don’t ask!) which gives rise to plenty of bitter sibling rivalry.

In “the Archers” class divisions are very clearly drawn, and some are still doing very nicely thank you. Not all Archers’ fans will agree with me, but it’s interesting to see a touch of reality impinging on this radio soap.

Adviser in Wonga land

No doubt we’ve all seen those cosy commercials on TV for “Wonga”, the money lenders who promise short-term loans to those who find themselves cash-strapped before the end of the week. You know, the ones with the little old ladies doing their knitting. It seems you can just borrow enough to tide yourself over, and Robert’s your avuncular relative.

It’s a sure recipe, of course, to dig yourself deeper and deeper into debt. And what they don’t tell you in the adverts is that if you can’t pay back your loan within the specified time, the interest rises – until it can reach a whopping 4,000 per cent.

Of course money lending, and pawnshops (by any other name) are a rapidly growing business in Tory Britain. It reflects the state that so many people find themselves in these days. But when a Government adviser actually quits his job to join the money lenders it becomes a point of added concern.

I see in the Independent that a senior government advisor, Jonathan Luff, has quit Downing Street to start work with Wonga as a lobbyist. Wonga have been fighting moves to tighten up regulations on the money-lending business. It’s no surprise that one of its spokesmen said he was “delighted” that Mr Luff would be joining them.

A fair Cop?

I’d had it in mind to stay at home and not bother to go out to vote in the election for a new Police Commissioner for Gloucestershire. I mean, what’s it all about? It seems to me to be step towards the Americanisation of our police forces, and a further step towards creating a structure where absolute power is vested at the top. And in my book, that ain’t healthy. Not to mention the possible dangers of politicising the whole structure.

I was persuaded to the polling booth, however, by a piece in our local paper by Rupi Dhanda, the Labour-nominated candidate. It seemed that she shared most of my own misgivings.

So I ambled down to my polling station and gave her my vote. As it happened, though, she failed to win. It was the independent, a gentleman called Martin Surl, who gained most votes, on a turnout of a mere 17.1 per cent. I know nothing about Mr. Surl, apart from the fact that he’s an ex-policeman of some 30 years standing. But my reservations haven’t gone away. And with a pitiful vote throughout the country, has the exercise any credibility anyway?

Incidentally, I notice that the online Campaign group, “Unlock Democracy” has organised a petition to urge Theresa May, the Minister responsible, to change direction. Of course she should never have gone down that road in the first place.

… and finally:

The fact that the fat cats don’t pay their full whack of taxes (if any at all) is well known. They like to make their millions and hang on to them.

Now it’s been revealed that they pay progressively less each year as they improve their tax avoidance skills. In the last financial year they paid ten per cent less than the previous year – whilst the rest of us coughed up with six per cent more. There’s something wrong there isn’t there? Particulaly when the boss at Google boasts of his company’s tax evasion policies. It’s all good for his shareholders, apparently.



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