7 October 2007

Current affairs

So, no election this year, eh? G Brown has not bowed to pressure from the Tories and the press, and is now taking the flack for his decision.
Tories are criticising Brown mercilessly for his decision, and for delaying his decision so long. There is no reason, of course, for an election – no law that says an election must be called just because the party leader has changed. The delay, no doubt, was political in nature – make the announcement at the most opportune moment, and force the other parties to spend their conferences talking about nothing else but the possibility of an election. Also, maybe, an element of keeping options open until the last possible moment…
Did Brown bottle it? Or did he make a considered decision and announce it at the most opportune moment? We know what the opposition parties say, but, well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? If Brown had called an election no doubt they would have put an equally unflattering spin on it.
4Kool (younger daughter) says she will not vote when she turns 18 because “I don’t want to encourage them…”
“Spanish practices”: synonym for being lazy, doing as little as possible in one’s employment; antonym for Protestant work ethic, productivity, efficiency etc
Such practices are being discussed at length in the papers and on the radio this weekend, in connection with the Post Office strike. Some workers claim that they are overworked and have to do extra hours on a regular basis just to get the day’s work done. Others claim that they can knock off early when they finish their rounds, effectively working 4 hours and being paid for 8.
Personally, I know both sorts, even in my own little job. Although we are (allegedly) a team, and we have the same priorities and objectives, one member of the team gets by with as little effort as possible, hardly ever doing her contracted hours, let alone overtime. Although intelligent, she is often dead weight, and we resent this. Another member of the team works hard all day, always looking for the next thing to do, never checking emails or surfing the web, and often working significant amounts of overtime even though we are not paid to do so. He also likes to play the martyr a bit. Yours truly tries hard to tread the middle line, always on time in the morning, doing a little overtime if it means a job will get finished, but making it clear that the contracted hours are enough, and that my outside hours are precious to me.
Question: could “Spanish practices” be equated with the current trend towards a better work-life balance? I frequently read exhortations to “downsize”; to cut one’s working hours and have more quality time; to retire early and spend the kids’ inheritance; or to go freelance and work hours to suit oneself instead of being at the constant beck and call of an employer. How do such ideas square with the traditional English work ethic? Or is it a more sinister idea, implying that the employer is being cheated, or even robbed?
Inheritance tax: Conservatives say they will raise the threshold to £1m! Ridiculous. What an obvious, rabble-rousing, electioneering claim. This has found great favour with the tabloid press of course, but Patrick Collinson for one (in the Guardian yesterday) takes a more considered view. If a rich old man leaves just short of £1m to his “children” who are maybe in their 50s, how does this benefit society? The “children” will invest the money, probably in property, thus taking property even further out of reach of the younger generation. Perhaps personal inheritance limit (as opposed to death duties on the whole estate) would provide an incentive for people to leave their accumulated wealth to their grandchildren, nephews and nieces, dividing it more equally among the population? But there would be a shortfall in the Government’s income all the same, and no doubt this would have to be made up from somewhere.
Still, the Tories’ exaggerated posturing may have the positive effect of making the government think more carefully about inheritance tax thresholds. Wait and see…

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