Turkey strikes Syria…

In June this year, Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military jet, claiming that it was in Syrian airspace. Turkey maintains that it was clearly in Turkish airspace. So began a militarisation of the conflict between Turkey and Syria – neighbours, former allies and potentially powerful enemies.

Recently, the Turkish parliament passed a Bill allowing unilateral military action against Syria, resulting from a shell fired over the border having killed 5 civilians. “It is not a bill for war”, said Besir Atalay, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minsiter, though it is intended to possess “deterrent qualities”.  Turkey retains one of the world’s largest standing armies, at roughly half a million soldiers it is larger than the professional armies of the UK, France and Germany combined. It is second only in size, within the Nato bloc, to that of the US. Similarly, as of last year, there are serious and considered plans to yet further double the size of the Turkish army – to a million soliders trained and paid for by the Turkish state. The aim being to both solve issues Turkey has had for many years with terrorism and its Kurdish separatists in the southeast, and long term structural unemployment.

Turkey has been reserved in its response to the growing violence in Syria, fearing unilateral involvement, and actively pursuing a UN resolution or a broader NATO containment force to be deployed. It is critically aware of historic sentiments towards its Ottoman rule over much of the Middle East. Yet, like the quiet but forceful boy in the playground, it’s not really wise for Syria to go poking him in the eye…

30,000 estimated deaths in Syria, as of early October 2012, is still apparently not enough to prompt either a consensual UN resolution, or an intention from NATO to deploy force. The rebels are not tiring of their all too just cause, and Assad feels strengthened both by this International inertia and the civil strife in the country his family has dominated for two generations.

Hedge trimming on the Public purse…

 

(image illustrates hedge trimming around an MP’s helipad)

The thing that hasn’t been mentioned to any extent, in the recent MP’s expenses sage, is the nonchalant reliance on the State.

When the long term unemployed “sign-on”, they are considered “benefit scroungers”, yet for the life of me, after 20 years fairly close observation (and occasional participation) in the political process – I cannot see the difference, between this term of abuse for the proven needy and the self administration of funds to MP’s by way of supplemental income.

One MP appeared on the news to say that a constituent of hers had complained to her that she had had a formal request to the UK “Social Fund” rejected. The Social Fund is a means testing agency of the Department of Work and Pensions, which administers small loans and money gifts for the purchase of essential items. In this instance, the essential item under consideration was a bed and mattress, for a claimant with a long term health problem –  the mattress was allowed, but not the bed. So – the message is clear: we elect our officials to represent our interests in matters of local and national affairs. In the conduct of their office, they see fit to “self police” their remuneration in kind – as they are not directly responsible for their pay increases. They have cultivated a ‘nod and wink’ acceptance of incidental purchases that have only to satisfy an internal auditing committee, that they have been “wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purposes of performing their parliamentary duties”.

Thus, the cleaning of a moat (as there is no one else around to do it, the MP in question being indisposed in London, performing his Parliamentary duty)….the purchase of an elephant themed lamp, a bag of manure; the maintenance of underground pipes servicing a tennis court….all these items no doubt satisfy the House rules in their incurrance. The list goes on….and on. This is why this type of exposure can and will never again happen. It brings our Parliament and our representatives into shame. The petty, penny pinching, self betterment – clearly at the expense of other Public Servants – has to end. Above and beyond this though, is a culture of dependency that has soaked its way into every aspect of British life…

Alistair Darling’s first Budget…

Today, the Chancellor Alistair Darling delivered his first budget, prompting what can only be described as a lacklustre response. Financially cautious with limited social engineering intentions, it aimed to be a budget that halfway nodded towards the preoccupations of the moment.

These include green levies, such as the “aim” to levy a charge on plastic bags. Fuel tax manipulation has been put on hold, with an acknowledgement of $110 oil having pushed petrol prices to an already recent high. On Growth, the forecast for this year has been lowered to between 1.75 and 2.25 per cent. On Inflation, recent fuel and energy prices will stoke inflation during 2008, though he predicts a return to target (Target – 2%), by 2009.

On Public Spending:  to grow by 2.2 per cent in the next three years. On business, an interesting aim: target for small and medium-sized businesses to win 30 per cent of public sector contracts in the next five years. On Tax – new charge (anticipated at £30,000) on non-domiciled residents to be introduced from April and to remain in place for present and the next parliament. Beer duty to increase by 4p per pint, wine up 14p a bottle, cider up 3p a bottle and spirits up 55p a bottle. This could put the price of a pint in a typical pub, up by 12-15p, once VAT and margins accounted for – and the price of a bottle of spirits by 80p in a supermarket. These are significant increases and reflect growing Parliamentary acknowledgment of the need to “do something” to halt the permissive and pervasive attitude to drink in this country. Campaigners are not convinced that the tax system is the mechanism for achieving this change.

Tobacco duty to rise tonight by 11p per packet of 20 cigarettes and 4p for five cigars.

Supporting Budget 2008 documentation can be obtained  from the  UK Treasury’s own site at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/budget/budget_08/documents/bud_bud08_docsindex.cfm

We would argue that this is a profoundly flat budget, short on ideas, limited in scope and desperate for inspiration. Financially it states that extra revenue gleaned through additions to Duty will be re-directed to pulling more poor children out of the definition of poverty. Raising Child Benefit to £20 for the first child being the chief means of achieving this end, coupled with micro measures such as adjusting Child Tax Credits. These, however, are small beer and seem if anything, to be the tired and heavy breathing of a Government in much need of the recuperation of Opposition.

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