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News Comment
a personal view from Erithacus

31st October 2009 

The FTSE100 index finished the week at 5044.55, more than 200 points down on Monday's opening level but still around 1000 points higher than it was a year ago. Trading during the week was mainly downbeat despite some optimism on Thursday and shortly after opening on Friday.

Firm indications that house prices are now, on average, higher they have been in the last twelve months did a little to increase confidence. Estate agents said that the housing market is still very patchy, with some areas showing little or no movement although in others there were said to be indisputable signs of recovery and greatly increased activity. The situation for commercial property, however, remains gloomy, indicating that small and medium businesses in particular face difficult conditions with no real expectation of an improvement in the near future.

Serious worries over current and future industrial action in a number of industry sectors added to a general air of pessimism this week. The postal strikes by members of the Communications Workers Union, causing major inconvenience for many businesses look set to continue and possibly to intensify, with the Royal Mail accusing the CWU of "being irresponsible" and warning that their action puts the future of the UK postal service at risk. The Union commented that they hoped Royal Mail would be "focused on reaching an agreement". Whilst most businesses are less reliant on postal communication than might have been the case a few years ago, the additional costs and delays may prove too much for many smaller businesses already stretched to the limit by the recession.

_______________________________________________

It has been quite a while since I wrote a "News Comment" column - for a number of reasons that I shall not go into right at the moment.

Now, however, I just cannot keep quiet any longer. It's not the "economic crisis", nor such weighty matters as global warming (or the coming ice age) that have spurred me to write, but quite simply the gross injustices of our society.

Some might think my particular gripes to be minor and inconsequential. I'm not, at this particular moment, concerned with the poor, nor the refugees, nor the severely disabled or disadvantaged. All have reasons to complain, and yet all are already in the eye of the media and receiving attention one way or another.

My complaints affect the vast majority of us, the quality of our lives, and our attitudes to society and to each other. What is happening, as I see it, is turning into a vicious circle becoming ever-tighter until, no doubt, one day we will all be so firmly embedded in the back end of our own self-centred worlds that even the most generous and altruistic of us will be unable to break out of it it.

It's a somewhat conflicting mix of ultra political correctness and self-serving hypocrisy that concerns me. On one hand we are increasingly being told what we can do and what we can't do, being protected from ourselves and from every slightly risky bit of enjoyment we could have squeezed out of our outstandingly mediocre lives, and the next moment we find someone who has managed to work around the system designed to protect the rest of us, and taken advantage of it.

A good example might be our Members of Parliament who still seem completely unable to understand the reason so many of us are so upset about their expenses. Now, I know that almost every journalist and political commentator has had their say about it but, remarkably, most of them seem to be completely missing the point as well. I don't care how much money is paid to MPs for their expenses. My MP, and all the rest of them, have a difficult job to do. It's simple: expenses, whether claimed by MPs or anyone else doing a job, are costs they incur personally in the course of their job. To put it another way, if they need to spend the money in order to do their job properly and efficiently, then they are entitled to claim it back. If not, then they should not be claiming it. And they don't seem to be able to grasp that very basic concept. If that's so, and having listened to many of them saying not very much more than "it's within the rules", then are these people who we should be trusting to run our country; people who apparently have no concept of what is right and proper and what is not? I think not.

Similarly, on the theme of people helping themselves without being entitled to it, I was recently horrified by the experiences of a young lady at the hands of a large UK-based company. And I don't mind naming them: Multiassistance Ltd. It's all fully documented, so I would welcome their comments. Having contracted to install a kitchen for the young lady and her partner, recommended by the kitchen supplier, Wickes, they failed to complete the job. Worse, they damaged much of the equipment and appliances bought and paid for from Wickes. They then proceeded to bully the young lady for payment, threatened to take her to court, and persisted until she, at that time expecting her first child, was in such a state that she paid them. The kitchen fitting never was completed by them. Such behaviour from any business is disgusting and reprehensible, and yet they know they can get away with it because few people will want to take the time and trouble either to defend themselves in court or go to the trouble of presenting all the evidence to the proper authorities. I would, but then I'm a grumpy old something-or-other.

Ah well. Enough griping for one week. Perhaps the next week will produce a brighter mood. Or perhaps not. I have to go now, anyway. Mrs Erithacus will probably be off on her broomstick shortly, and I need to prepare the defences to repel hoards of nasty little sweet-stealing thugs from the doorstep. It is, after all, Halloween.



31st October 2009                        



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