Monthly Archives: November 2014

R.I.P. Westminster . . . Or Not!

I have been banging on for a while now about parliament being no longer ‘fit for purpose’ and so the news that the Palace of Westminster is in such a state seemed a ringing endorsement of my thinking.

I have to quickly say, however, that it gave no satisfaction whatsoever to hear this. Indeed I was filled with a great sadness last night as I watched the Newsnight presenter break off some of the rotten masonry from the roof with her bare hands. That sadness was then replaced with a growing anger as the implications of this news started to sink in.

I am incensed that it has been allowed to get into such a desperate state of disrepair and I ask myself, would MP’s allow their own properties to deteriorate in such a manner. I don’t think so, judging by the recent expenses scandal. Here we were treated to endless proof that vast amounts of money has been lavished on their accommodation, even down to a pristine Duck House!

This, like the pension’s crisis, health service and most of Society’s infrastructures have been deteriorating for eons and MP’s have been fully aware over those same eons. So why has it been swept under the vast political carpet, also in a sad state of repair from all it has been hiding over the centuries. The answer is simple, of course. It doesn’t win votes . . . neither did the expenses scandal but at least MP’s have well maintained homes, unlike their place of business!!

At times like this I always try to find the positive. Here I see a HUGE opportunity to overhaul our present outmoded political system, as I think many would agree needs doing. The present house encourages a two party system of constant confrontation, where too much time is spent in scoring political points and not enough on running the country.

The environment has to change and that can only be achieved by starting again with a new purpose built building designed for the modern era. By that I don’t mean replicating Brussels, a political ‘bureaucratic rice pudding mold’ designed by politicians for politicians. No, this new building should be designed to accommodate modern communication and the ability to facilitate and process people driven referenda on subjects of importance to the country.

Cameron is teasing us with a referendum on the EU for 2017, if he gets elected. How bloody patronising! It should become the norm that if sufficient interest is established, people are able to call a referendum on anything, including a new building for parliament . . . and whenever they like, as is the case in Switzerland. This would truly return democracy to the people but I don’t hear any of the party’s seeking our vote next year promoting this certain election winner . . . wonder why?! But I digress.

Returning to the Palace of Westminster. Structurally this is truly a magnificent edifice and a global trademark of London. It is on a par with the Taj Mahal in India and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, I would suggest. I believe that it has already earned its worth many times over in its contribution to tourism and therefore the right to a full restoration to its past glory. After all we owe it at least that for all the hot air it has had to process over its lifetime to date!

‘Guestimates’ for its repair have been suggested at £3 billion and so we can be sure it will be a lot more than this! By restoring it we are assured the presence of a global icon that will continue to earn its keep in tourism and a place of interest and education to future generations. Of equal importance, it will be a reminder of a past political system that we can no longer return to, like many other historic monuments including the Tower of London and the barbarism of Traitors Gate!

On behalf of the people I offer our humble apologies for your flagrant abuse, we know what it feels like, and thank you for the incredible opportunity you have now provided us with. We won’t let you down!


Until the next time

Did the Church really cause the financial collapse!

Churches photo

Many years ago I had a bank manager as a next door neighbour. He was a lovely man, a bit like Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army, who cared about people but without the pomposity. After he retired we began to see the closure of bank branches and the centralisation of banking services.

When I asked his view on these changes he said that we were now witnessing the end of banking in the true sense of the word, as banks began to place greater emphasis on money lending.

The difference he told me was that in his day when a customer came for a loan he would ask three questions: Could they provide collateral, could they afford the repayments and was it necessary?

This last question differentiated ‘banking’ from ‘money lending’ because the bank were concerned a customer might take on the very real responsibilities of debt for something impulsive and frivolous. This could then cause them to reduce their ability to meet the everyday demands of running a home, bringing up a family and, of course, repaying the loan. Managers were trained in the traps debt could lure human fallibility into and sought to protect their customers from their own weaknesses as part of sound business principle and practice.

Sadly they were often loathed and feared because of this but their actions came from a moral perspective based on religious values that dominated Society until the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. Since then our religious institutions have seen the power of their moral values over Society diminish, only to be replaced at a similar pace by financial values that are both narrower and more shallow in guiding our actions.

As the reasons for the financial collapse of 2007/8 have emerged it is clear that good banking practice was not the cause but rather irresponsible money lending. Loans actively pushed at people, who could obviously not afford them, whilst offering opportunities for high interest rates by trading on human fallibility. Knowing these loans could not be responsibly serviced, they were then ‘packaged’ up with ‘good’ loans and sold to other banks as AAA rated investments.

I am not seeking to judge but rather highlight a mind-set, no longer driven by religious moral values that had been a tried and tested code when my neighbour ran his bank branch. Because of this we now have a global financial system made toxic by bad debt, which not even the people who caused it have any idea of how bad it is, after pumping $16 trillion into it. Six years on and still the banks are ‘fragile’ and unable to support business and Society the way they used to. Indeed, this mind-set is now telling us that, through their actions, unemployment and debt could become the ‘new normal’!

Human misery of this magnitude can only be achieved without compassion, I would suggest and mirrors that which caused the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, or the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Here again, we have no idea of the true extent of the disaster through our irresponsibility but we do know it is spreading. These growing crisis are the result of traditional moral standards being replaced by narrow goals that are now beginning to rule our lives, particularly in the West and something Osama Bin Laden did and others seek to continue fighting vehemently against in the only way they know how.

In this new global world, where the power of corporations can be greater than that of governments, profit is the worst possible yardstick by which to live our lives and manage this Planet and its resources. As a species we desperately need to find a new moral ground from which to operate.

Traditional religious institutions may have shot themselves in the foot, by abusing their powers in the past but we have to find a way of either resurrecting them or replacing them. Another financial collapse is looming on the horizon now, as banks continue their ‘unbanking’ practices with no responsibility or concern for the hardship they are causing.

It may be their undoing at the end of the day, only time will tell. It could also be the catalyst for the people to demand and seek a new moral code . . . but seek and find one we must!


Until the next time

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Thinking from his book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the People . . . If They Want It!        By J T Coombes