Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Just Sat Here Waiting....

For some crisis or other to yet again delay the triggering of article 50.

The 29th seems quite close to the end of the Month, it looks very easy for it to be pushed past the end of the month.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Definition of the Word Negotiation...

A lot of political sheninnigans is going on in Westminster at the moment in order to finally get article 50 presented to the EU and Brexit under way.

It seems to me that the Lords and all the other supposedly clever people including the woman that had the Government wasting thousands of taxpayer's pounds defending their right to invoke article 50 just don't understand the definition of the word "Negotiation".

The definition is "discussion or consultation aimed at reaching an agreement". That is a discussion between two parties aimed at reaching an agreement.

The outcome of the negotiations cannot be known beforehand because that's the whole point of the negotiation: to reach an amicable agreement AT THE END OF the negotiation.

Positions cannot be agreed beforehand because items on the agenda of the negotiations are parlayed (good Piratical term) and used in the negotiations as bargaining tools.

One never allows the other side to know your strategy or at what point you would settle, otherwise there is no point negotiating. If the other side knew your strategy beforehand, it severely weakens your ability to get the best outcome from the negotiations. If you both walked to the table and both agreed terms without negotiation, how would you know you got the best deal?

You always go into negotiations with the outlook of using your strategy to get the best outcome. There are points where you may get a better deal than you would have settled for, there are other where the terms are worse than your ideal. The point is to barter and exchange until you come to an agreement that is fair to both parties under the prevailing circumstances. You plan for the worst, and use all your cunning and guile to get the best outcome.

It's like buying and selling a car. The seller asks for a sum, say £5000. You, the buyer offers £2000. Bit of a low blow, but you always start low with the aim of keeping the eventual price at the end of the negotiations as low as possible. The seller then replies with a revised request of £4000, you offer £3000 and eventually you'll most likely end up at £3500, all thing being fair. But what if you offered three grand instead of two? Would the seller counter with £4500 instead of three grand? Would you end up at £4000 instead of £2500? How would you know if £3500 or £4000 was the best offer you could have got, because you never offered a cheeky two grand bid? What if the seller knew you had £4000 in your pocket, or you knew he was desperate for cash and would sell at a lower price just to get the money? See, negotiations can be very negatively affected by knowing strategy beforehand, but also boosted if you do things right and don't give away any advantage you may have.

So for the House of Lords to force the Government to guarantee certain things before the negotiations weakens our negotiating strategy.

For some posh bird to try and force the Government to put the outcome of the negotiations before Parliament for a vote is ludicrous: by definition the outcome of the negotiations are the best available. It's take it or leave it, as the Government has quite rightly said. There is no going back to the table and re-negotiating as those blind to the definition of the word would like. We will have used all our bargaining power, all our bargaining chips, all our best efforts in getting the best deal.

By definition the EU will have also have got the best deal for themselves, they won't want to re-negotiate either. At the end the goal posts cannot be changed.

To go back would weaken our position and end up with a worse situation than the one previously put before Parliament. There is no telling the EU it is unacceptable; they won't care. Stamp your feet as much as you want THEY. DON'T. CARE.

Now can all you supposedly clever bastards just fuck off, stop trying to fuck this country up and lets just get the negotiations started without interference, eh?

I just wonder if they've ever paid the full asking price for a car without trying to get a bit knocked off the price. I severely doubt it because I know rich bastards don't get rich and stay rich by paying full price for stuff.

Which means they're trying to nobble the Brexit negotiations with the intent of denying this country the best outcome and they are beyond contempt.


Yup, the Lords have proved yet again that they are a bunch of drivelling duffers with not an ounce of common sense amongst them and added an amendment that they want a "substantive" debate and meaningful vote on the Brexit negotiations. Whatever that means. When there can be none. It's take it or leave it guys... Accept the outcome of the negotiations or reject it and head for WTO rules.
Now most people would consider what they are doing as sabotaging the exit negotiations and forcing us down the worst of paths. I can't comment.

Friday, 3 March 2017

The very Ancient and Outmoded Labour Party (Part 2).

I was thinking and I think I've hit what it is about Labour that upsets me. It has failed to be aspirational. Sure, it aspires to be in power, but what after that? Nothing. Maybe it moves the deckchairs around a bit, but nothing truly inspirational. It's fiddling at the margins.

When I say aspirational, I mean for the working class it purports to respresent. What plans does it have to make the lot of the working class better?

A popular policy would be to outlaw zero hours contracts. The heinous things trap people by demanding exclusivity, but not rociprocating by providing a decent working week, every week.

In my mind, exclusivity means the company should pay the worker even though they are not working, because the company they are contracted to is preventing them from working for someone else.

If the company states you cannot work for anyone else, then they should be forced to pay a retainer to the employee. Of course minimum wage legislation means that the employee should be paid minimum wage even if they are not being used.

This is a very similar concept to the IR35 legislation that affected IT contractors.

Ok, a zero hours contract is a step up from employing people as self-emplyed contractors (e.g the so-called "Gig Economy") so the employer pays national insurance etc. but the exclusivity clause means that the employee should be paid for the time they are unable to work for anyone elase.

There should also be legislation aginst penalising people that cannot work at a certain time because they are working for someone else.

The legislation should make the agreement fair and equitable to both parties. At the moment the advantage is all towards the employer.

Another area Labour can help working people is social care. Wages in the social care sector are generally the lowest possible. A vast number of people are working for minimum wage despite having the qualifications and responsibility of administering medication and attending to the social welfare of their clients.

A move to professionalise the social care sector, maybe with union representation is sorely needed, it needs to be brought up to the same status as nursing. Having someone having access to and able to give medication including controlled drugs after a basic one day training course, or worse filling in a questionaire in my mind is just wrong. The discrepancy between social care and the medical profession is massive..

Workers in the care sector need to demonstrate a knowledge of social care and safety legislation. The basic care certificate introduced by CQC goes some way towards this, but more is needed.
More professionalism should improve wages for a sector with some of the poorest. That's what I mean by Labour being aspirational: introducing policies and legislation to improve the conditions of the poorest workers, the ones that are really being exploited.

Of course improved wages in the care sector then increases costs, but as I've previously mentioned, improved professional status will make it easier for the NHS then to take on social care and integrate it with the rest of the NHS, allowing patients in hospitals to be moved out of hospital wards.

A penny or two on income tax or national insurance to pay for the integration of social care budgets into the NHS budget wouldn't be baulked at by the majority of people. It would be a winning policy for Labour.

Friday, 24 February 2017

The very Ancient and Outmoded Labour Party.

It's a pity UKIP didn't win the Stoke by-election, with a defeat 2-0 the Labour party might have taken the hint and sacked their leader, Leicester FC-style.

Instead, with a score draw, the Tories can claim a historic result and Labour can carry on deluding themselves that things are fine and dandy, although the claim that Corbyn hasn't lost a by-election will have to be quietyly shelved. Not that it was much of a claim, the incumbent party almost never wins seats when in power.

The fact that the Labour party is really only relevant to students who have never lived a life, champagne socialists in London and militant socialists in Liverpool who have never grown up really, really upsets me. More than it should I know, but I still understand what the Labour party stood for way back when.

It stood up for the working man, it persuaded and didn't need thuggery to press it's point, because it was RELEVANT to the working man.

The working man could see the point of paying a small payment into a scheme so that we could have free health cover.

The working man could see that paying a small sub to a Union to protect him from overbearing employers.

But where is the relevance of the Labour party these days? Union leaders are seen hob-nobbing in posh restaurants with fat-cats, their leader really wants to do away with the Monarchy and wants a republic, he wants to do away with nuclear weapons, the very things that have kept the Russians from swallowing up the greater part of Europe. His policies are those of the trendy ultra-left, the sort of people who are miles away from the labourers, miners, steel workers, engineers and other blue-collar workers that made it.

They bicker and whinge about nit-picky irrelevances, like rights for every minority group going, including those that would deny them those very rights if they ever got in power.

Where is the working man or woman in all if this leftist irrelevance??

Nowhere. The left refuses to discuss substantive issues and place themselves in an electable position. For instance on the NHS they brook no discussion on how the NHS works, they would rather just shovel more and more cash into the black hole and naively hope more service comes out the other end.

The same mantra is pushed by the left regarding local services provided by councils.

Forget the fat cat bosses at the top earning six-figure salaries, forget the waste and the corruption, forget the lack of vocational nursing places, stopping working class girls getting a decent earning job.

Labour is now a party run largely by ultra-left socialist nutjobs that have absolutely no connection or empathy with the working man and would probably call working people fascists for daring even to earn money.

It just makes me sad that Labour is where it is, irrelevant to most of the people it originally set out to champion.

It makes me even sadder that the people Labour have cast aside still vote for them.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Zombie Blair Ressurected

The Unlawful-War-Fighting Monster Tony Blair might delude himself into thinking his resurrection is more Jesus-like, but in my mind ever time the stinking, lying weasel pops his nose into politics, he will be forever a zombie. Decrepit, deiscredited and universally disliked.

This time he's once again proving his dislike of democracy by becoming a figurehead for the anti-democratic push to ignore the Brexit referendum result and stay in the EU.

I've already blogged on why I voted to leave and my reasons for doing so.

But I'll reiterate: I like many of my peers voted to leave completely  That's end free movement, leave the EU, the ECC, EMCA, the ECJ and virtually every other political edifice with the name "European" in front of it.

That's the baseline. We are out and we make our own way in the world.

Now from that baseline, IF Teresa May can negotiate better terms at no extra cost to us, then fine, crack on. And yes, I'm aware that we have obligations post-Brexit, but they will reduce over time and then thankfully the EU gets none of our money. Ever again.

Of course Tony Blair is pulling out the old line that us leave voters didn't know what we were voting for. I'd counter that voters were very clear about what they wanted: THEY WANTED TO BE FREE FROM EUROPEAN INTERFERENCE and whatever consequences arised out of that were a price worth paying and they were happy to pay.

Of course Blair I'm sure will spout his "better off in, better to have influence in Europe" line. But, already we're seeing by voting to leave we are showing leadership and influence in Europe. The thing is, if the system is broke, then you are better off out of it. And we will show that (as long as politicians don't sabotage the leaving process).

It's a pity that Blair didn't lose an election as PM, instead he let Gordon Brown take the fall. Had he been defeated in the polls he might be a bit more humble. He should really wind his neck in and shut the fuck up.

Sorry Tony, the chance for you to be European president went a long time ago.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

The "Gig" Economy

About 18 years ago, I was working as a self-employed I.T. Contractor, writing Interactive Voice Applications for large institutions. I wrote the Telephone Banking Application for HSBC. When I say I wrote it, I made it work. I picked it up with a few weeks to the deadline for it to be working and HSBC desperate for it to work properly.  I managed it and made the application work.

As a self-employed contractor, I received no benefits from the client. But I did work at their premises and for the duration of the contract I was contracted to work for them exclusively. Independent contractors at the time were earning huge payments and working more efficiently than the large I.T. programming business. The clients also liked that independents were cheaper than the big boys and usually worked smarter. After all, you can't make a living on your own if you're a poor programmer (nearly all of my contracts were from word of mouth recommendations), but it's easy to be a bad programmer if you're working as an employee of a large company supplying I.T. services.

But the thing is, the payment we received, was paid to our own company. We decided on how much was taken as salary, how much was left in the bank account to cover the lean times, how much expenses we paid ourselves and what we bought for the company (claimable against VAT) and importantly how much we paid ourselves in dividends, at the corporate tax level of 20% at the time. You see, the government didn't like us, because we were smart and didn't give half of it away to them in tax.

Then when Labour came into power, under the influence of large I.T. service companies, a new tax code called IR35 was brought in that stated if you worked the same as an employee of a company even if you were self employed, then the company was liable to pay employers national insurance amongst other things and the contractor's payment was classed as a salary and taxed at that rate. The contract market tried to evolve after that, but it became harder to work as an independent on the client's premises and the big companies started to take over the market.

Fast forward 16 years and we come to the so-called "Gig" economy where individual self-employed contractors are employed on an exclusive basis by a firm to provide services. Sounds familiar. It seems IR35 has been forgotten, because one of the hardest things to get round was the exclusivity clause in it. We had to write the right of substitution into our contracts, so that we had the option of providing another contractor in our place if ever we couldn't show up. In essence, working like a larger business rather than a one man band. A risky strategy, but one that got round the exclusivity clause. Not so risky if you could team up with another contractor, like I did.

So the likes of Uber and other firms requiring the exclusive attention of a self-employed contractor fall foul of IR35 and I've been waiting for the Government to catch up and start to impose an already existing law onto companies using this model. Uber fell first, then a cycle courier won her case and now a plumber has also won his right to be classed as an employee. You see as the government said way back in the 90's you can't have your cake and eat it: if it walks like an employee, wears the uniform like an employee and is subject to rules like an employee, then it's an employee. With all the rights an employee gets. In the 90's we were earning huge sums, but this time contractors are lucky to reach minimum wage apparently. So the big firm, in not paying properly is falling foul of that law as well.

About time too. IR35 killed the independent contractor market thanks to big businesses. It looks like this time it's big businesses that are suffering.

Payback's a bitch.

It's just a shame it's not I.T. companies suffering.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Fucked NHS and lack of Cohesion.

Much noise in the press over the past week about how the NHS is on it's knees and close to collapse.

Of course the standard model is to demend more money is thrown at the NHS to help it cope. We all know that's only part of the answer. The general concensus is that all thet happens to the money is it gets swallowed up and quite often does no good at all and produces nothing in the way of betterment.

What needs to happen quite frankly is for the medical profession to start working as professionals and to work in a cohesive way, from GPS at the front end, hospitals providing specialist treatment and at the back end improvements in post-operative and social cafe outside of hospitals.

GP surgeries have long been criticised for the length of time taken to get appointments. In some cases it's been up to a month before you can get to see a GP. Great if you plan to be ill in a month, but bugger all use if you have an illness right now that needs non-specialist care.

Many GP practices in fairness have recognised this and gone to a new model: you can only book appointments on the day. So for instance you book an appointment at 8:30 when the surgery opens and get an appointment for that morning. Hopefully by the time you've battled through the continual busy tone and the hordes of callers you get a an appointment for that morning. The same then applies for an afternoon slot if you fail to win the morning lottery: you phone up at 12:30 and hopefully beat the hordes to get a slot. This then gets repeated ad nauseum possibly for a number of days until you're lucky enough to get through to the appointments person.

Of course if you work, this new scheme is completely unacceptable, because even if you get an appointment, because it's on the same day there is no way of letting your employer know in advance that you have an appointment and will not be in. Taking time off without permission even for a doctors appointment in quite a few businesses is a disciplinary offence.

It's also unacceptable if you are in pain, or feel you need urgent assistance.

So, for employed people it's not an improvement, because you still can't access GP services. Which then means that to get access to a doctor, you're going to have to access a 24hr medical service, i.e. Accident and Emergency.

In the febrile brain of some top-level NHS manager, I suppose that access to the 111 telephone service fills the gap. It basically avoids the GP's surgery and gives you instant access to medical advice. But not being face-to-face with a doctor, but instead talking over the phone to a non-medical person working from a script, means there will be mistakes. People with conditions that need urgent attention will be missed and those that don't need A&E will be sent there. It just depends on how the patient answers the questions on the NHS script rather than on proper medical experience.

Without some modification of GP and other services at the front end the pressure on A&E will just continue to climb.

I've seen it first hand: Ambulance crews queuing up because they can't hand over to A&E staff, the A&E ward full so patients have to queue for hours in corridors. And grown up children throwing a tantrum in the waiting area because their hangover isn't being attended to.

Of course at the other end of the hospital process beds don't get cleared quick enough. I've been in hospital sat on a bed for hours waiting to be seen by a doctor to be declared fit enough to leave. That's an issue of management that needs to be improved. Having to wait most of the day for doctor bloggs to come and sign you off is a waste of a bed. To be honest it always smacks of an ego trip, in that dr bloggs and only dr bloggs can sign patient X off. Tough shit he's on a late shift today and can't sign the patient off until the early evening. Just doing a shift handover to say patient x can be signed off in the morning if he passes fit by another doctor would be a simple change that eases the problem.

Of course those people which have no immediate carer pose the biggest problem due to the lack of social care. In our modern society of fractured families and an ageing population, the problem can only get worse.
Where patients cannot be discharged because they are not well enough to look after themselves, the lack of investment in the care sector is by far the most troublesome issue currently.

First I have to declare an interest. My wife is a carer and looks after people with learning disabilities.

The challenge facing the care sector is the larger numbers of people living longer lives. Not only the elderly able-bodied, but those with learning disabilities, those with longer term health issues and those with terminal illnesses. Medicinal science has worked wonders prolonging the lives of people with a number of health issues. Drug companies have developed medicines such as statins and others that prolong the lives of people with cardiac problems, diabetics are able to take advantage of a range of drugs to help them live longer... So it goes on.

In the last couple of decades the care sector has changed in a huge way. Issues with care had led to organisations like the Care Quality Commission that have pushed for a more professional service, raising standards of professionalism of staff. But the funding has not followed the improvements. Many, many staff are paid no more than the minimum wage, a fact covered by staff doing considerably long shifts to disguise the poor pay. The carers working day is typically 12 hours. When staff shortages or illness strike, that working day can easily extend to 18 or 24 hours. No overtime rates either, standard hourly rate is the norm during overtime, at weekends and bank holidays. People being paid minimum wage are tasked with giving out medication on the basis in some instances of no more than filling out a questionnaire.

If there was a prime candidate for some sort of union or professional representation, it would be the care sector. Of course that would increase wages and therefore costs, but it would be the start of a push for better funding and I doubt unions would be castigated for raising standards and wages for the people who are looking after our sick and disabled.

Care at the moment is provided by a hodgepodge of small independent private enterprises. Costs are high despite low wages, standards are variable and provision is always on a knife edge.
One of the issues with funding of care is the disconnect from the greater NHS in an administrative and budgetary sense. Care budgets are decided by local authorities. What needs to happen is that care provision needs to be taken in hand by the NHS and funded by the NHS budget, so that the benefits of more professional care, better wages, proper investment and closer integration with the rest of the NHS bear fruit and that caring as a profession shakes of it's somewhat seedy and "cheap" aura..

Until the back-end provision starts to improve, there will always be a pressure on hospitals as they fail to discharge patients that no longer need the intensive, specialist medical care of a hospital ward.

The provision of diagnosis, treatment, recuperation and if necessary ongoing care in the community needs to be provided with holistic outlook. It should all be funded from a single pot and managed as a single entity. You can't run GP surgeries and Care Provision independent from the bit in the middle, the hospital care.