No tears at Newark Northgate

The BBC are reporting that the Chief Executive of National Express will be resigning. I have been told by a friend who used to work with Richard Bowker that he is actually quite a decent man.

Unfortunately the commuters at Newark Northgate station, and I suspect those at stations along the East Coast mainline won’t be shedding a tear.

Last year the company took over £16,000 from me and my wife for our season tickets. Trains were often dirty, delayed and frankly the service left alot to be desired.  The problem is if there is a new Chief Exec at National Express, or indeed if a new train operator takes over the East Coast mainline, I’m not sure service will improve.


Scrap EDMs website online

Instead of just writing about what a waste of money (in my view) Early Day Motions are, I decided to do something about it. Action is better than words! Well the website is online, and emails have been sent to all MPs asking them whether they would support scrapping EDMs.

I still can’t see a downside to getting rid of them? If you know of one please let me know. The upside is savings of over £500,000 a year. Given political parties want to reduce the cost of democracy – how about supporting this initiative?

PS – This isn’t a party political campaign. There are plenty of Conservatives who think EDMs are a great use of taxpayers money. I and I suspect many other just have a different view!

Real and frightening news

So there we have it. The economy has contracted at its fastest rate for 50 years. So where does that leave Brown and Darlings predictions. An end to boom and bust was what Mr Brown used to say. Is it time to buy a pile of roubles and bury them in the back garden?


Phil Hendren has often written about Early Day motions and how pointless they are. Indeed (and I agree with him on the point he makes about a late singer whose name I said will not be mentioned on this blog) he notes that the cost (mainly printing I assume) of each EDM is around £300 a pop.

So here is something that needs some brave MPs to champion. Come on guys and gals you must be out there. Lets start a campaign to abolish Early Day Motions. They serve no purpose bar perhaps generating a little local publicity – but if you  can’t generate publicity without some costly parliamentary motion you really aren’t doing your job are you!

So come on… who will get behind the call to get rid of Early Day Motions. At the time of writing there are 1757 EDMs (not counting amendments). If they due really cost circa £300 a go, that equates to a cost of £527,100.

Democracy will not be worse without these motions.

Lobbyists will have to try and influence properly and not try to persuade their clients that as an EDM has been tabled they are doing their jobs!

MPs can get local publicity without these costly meaningless motions!

So what are you waiting for.

The time is right to just do away with Early Day Motions!

When retailers lose their way

Retailing is fairly simple, or at least it should be. It’s about giving people what they want at a price that’s right. Many retailers fail to move with the times. Think of Woolworths – people stopped wanting what they had to offer and the results were pretty painful for thousands of their workers.

Now I don’t follow the results of WH Smith closely, but if yesterday was anything to go by I wouldn’t be surprised if they are struggling. Their mainstay I assume is books, CDs, newspapers and magazines, and of course stationery.

Many of the products they have on offer can be found on the internet much cheaper. Hence the closure of many records shops, and book stores. Newspapers are struggling to cope with a wold which is embracing digital media more and more.

Where shops such as WH Smith can compete against the likes of Amazon is when someone wants a product today, and not tomorrow or next week. Well you would think it could.

Yesterday we went into WH Smith to buy a CD for a family birthday, as we wanted to drop the present off that very day. I stroll up to the CD section, which given it’s not a huge store isn’t massive. What am I faced with? 37 different CDS with a sticker temporarily out of stock. Now it isnt like it was 37 out of 1000 CDs. There aren’t that many CDs in their Newark store. Stock availability for stores like WH Smith is key given all the other challenges they face.

It does make me wonder how long this famous high street name can continue!

Jackson free zone

Just a public service annoucement. This blog will be a Michael Jackson free zone. It’s sad when anyone dies. I, however never was a huge fan, and frankly found his life a little tragic having watched a few biopics on him. Sad, but then there are lots of sad stories every day. I’m afraid I can’t join in the seemingly forced sense of public grief that seems to happen these days when someone famous dies. Hopefully it doesn’t sound harsh, but there you have it.

As more than one person has pointed out my sympathies will be saved for people like the families of our servicemen who are killed in action in the various fields of conflict we are involved in.

BBC expenses…. pay it back!

Not so long ago I wrote how I was fed up about hearing about the expenses Members of Parliament have claimed and now had to pay back, even though many were within the rules. We all know now that the rules are shoddy to say the least and if they had thought a bit more about what they were doing, democracy wouldn’t be in it’s current state.

I also made the point that if you analysed the expeneses of other public bodies perhaps they wouldn’t be as squeaky clean as they would like.

And now we get chance to have a look at some of the expenese claimed by the BBC. Yes that’s the BBC funded by you and me:-

• £99.99 claimed by Mr Thompson to pay for a bottle of vintage champagne given to Bruce Forsyth for his 80th birthday last year

So the taxpayer pays for an expensive gift from one highly remunerated public sector employee to another. Pay it back!

• £1,137.55 claimed by former head of audio and music Jenny Abramsky for a dinner to celebrate Terry Wogan’s knighthood in 2005

A jolly paid for by the taxpayer? Who signed that one off? Pay it back!

• £238 and £217 for iPods in 2005 and 2007 respectively claimed by former future media and technology director Ashley Highfield

Buy your own ipod. I’m sure a technology director can afford it. Pay it back

• £500 claimed by BBC Vision director Jana Bennett after her handbag and contents were stolen on official BBC business. This cost was ultimately covered by insurers – not the BBC

Why on earth was she allowed to use company expenses to claim for that theft. My satnav was stolen. I run my own company. I can’t claim that loss on expenses.

• £231.55 claimed by Ms Bennett for a dinner with Jeremy Paxman to discuss the presenter’s contract in July 2004

I would have thought given he earns more than an MP he could pay for his own dinner. Will he pay it back, or perhaps she will?

• £100 claimed by Ms Bennett for flowers for Jonathan Ross in May 2006

Pay it back… he can but his own flowers given the millions of pounds he gets as salary funded by the taxpayer.

• £4.99 claimed by deputy director general Mark Byford for a book on the history of QPR football club in September 2007

Is that needed for him to do the job? Don’t think so. Pay it back!

Update:- The PDFs of the expense claims are there for all to see.  I wonder if papers will get their journos to trawl through them all like they did with MPs? I mean for example £500 paid as just the deposit for the executive Christmas Dinner.. sounds alot doesn’t it. Wonder what the limit was for that jolly?

Congestion charge? Funny – I worked in the public sector in London and I don’t think that was covered by my expenses. Why does Mark Thompson get that paid for by us?

I wonder what the difference between a dinner to discuss current issues, a dinner to discuss current topics  and a dinner to discuss current projects? Either way… lots of dinners and lunches come to that!

Enough is enough

I have to say that I agree with  the sentiments expressed by Roger Helmer MEP when he says enough is enough on expenses. What do you think? Is it time to move on and start to rebuild some faith in democracy instead of certain papers relishing any chance to sell a few more copies by constanatly banging on about expenses?

One very good man

Earlier in the year I went out and had a go at a youth (not a small child) who chucked what sounded like a rather large snowball at the window. I suspect my choice of language wasn’t the best given at first he denied throwing it, and then said he did it by accident. If memory serves me correctly I said, I’ve bollo**ed you and if you do it again I’ll bollo** your parents. Suffice to say on this ocassion nothing else has happened, although I suspect on the street we are regarded as somewhat strange as I am prepared to tell kids when they are doing something they shouldn’t, which is something parents seem unwilling or incapable of doing.

Yesterday I made a call for all honest hard working MPs to stand up and be counted. Today we learn that one MP has taken a stand against yobbos in his constituency, and not for the first time either!

Tobias isn’t the sort of chap you would want to pick a fight with. He isn’t the smallest of chaps. Even so, I think doing something like he has done takes guts and shows a real moral compass. Perhaps the press would like to talk about this sort of thing a bit more rather than the dreaded e-word when talking about of MPs!.

A few good men (and women)?

Ok that’s it. Ive had enough. I’ve heard enough. I am fed up of hearing about MPs and their expenses. So what if we put this in perspective. There are close to 650 MPs. They have apparently had to repay £500,000 of expenses even though some of the claims were within the rules.

Then you have one former boss of RBS who has paid back over £2 million, yet still have  a pension which is higher than the average person will earn in employment in a decade.

Then of course unemployment is higher than it has been since Labour came to power over a decade ago.

I made the point on Iain Dale’s radio show. Why isn’t there a group of MPs prepared to stand up and say look… we haven’t made dodgy claims, we aren’t on the take, and we are pretty decent people.

I guess the reason is that they fear that if enough digging is done they will be the next to be outed for perhaps making a legitimate claim that the moral minority think is wrong.

Of course those flipping houses or those claiming too much council tax (how exactly can you do that?) have no excuse. But it has gotten to the stage that a recent caller was bemoaning an MP who had claimed for a hands-free car kit on expenses. Well what’s wrong with that? I had one fitted to my car when I worked in the corporate world as it was necessary for the job. Are we saying that MPs cant claim for the likes of printers or a digital camera to do the job?

MPs and politicians have become an easy target. So much so that the Daily Mail were asking for 6 volunteers to go through the MPs expenses once online. Well done – lets just make people think all people in politics are corrupt.

But if we are going to do that, on the premise that its taxpayers money, well lets take a look at what people who work for councils claim, or what is claimed in the NHS.

I for one know that certain NHS consultants used to have Danish pastries provided at meetings on the taxpayer. Shall we do some digging on that? What about the expenses of Chief Executives of Councils? Or what about the expenses of every senior manager at Royal Mail. Shall I go on?

MPs are now easy targets. Maybe I am naive – but I still believe the majority of our elected representatives are honest and decent people. But please will some of them stand up and say so!