DO YOU ever get the impression that the reins of power in this country have been taken over by a gang of criminals?
We certainly do, as the population of Worthing and beyond continues to be ripped off time and time again by a series of massive scams.
The basic theme is always the same - public money is redirected into the coffers of huge, greedy businesses by their mates in government.
We saw it with PFI projects - in which the taxpayer ends up hugely out of pocket and the lucky contractors are quids in.
We see it with pointless wars - where thousands of lives are sacrificed and billions of taxpayers’ money spent in order to keep the arms manufacturers, oil firms and others making money.
We see it with the top-up benefits paid to people in low-paid jobs. Why should the rest of us chip in to save the likes of Tesco from paying decent wages that people can actually live off, when they are raking in millions and millions of pounds in profits?
We see it again in workfare. Jobless people are made to work at supermarkets and elsewhere for just their Jobseekers’ Allowance. This is unfair to them (whatever happened to the minimum wage?), unfair on the existing staff who are denied badly-needed hours, unfair on people looking for paid vacancies and unfair on taxpayers, who are funding free labour for businesses perfectly able to pay for it.
In effect, the firms using workfare are stealing from the rest of us, aided and abetted by their chums in power.
Meanwhile, those same supermarkets are allowed to spread all over the place, wiping out small traders. Look at the domination of Tesco in Worthing, the new Asda coming to Ferring, the doubling in size of Sainsbury’s at Rustington.
We also see the same insidious process at work with property development. As we have pointed out already, the “pro-countryside” Tories are scrapping previous restraints and paving the way for property firms to profit from the rape of our rural heritage.
As well as the 700 homes at West Durrington and the thousands of homes planned for the Arun district between Ferring and Felpham, there are plans for an 11,500-home new town at Sayers Common, for 4,500 homes and an industrial estate north of Horsham - the list lengthens every day.
More homes means more roads, which is great news for the construction industry - the once-shelved bypass of Arundel bypass is back on the agenda, putting wetlands and woods at risk.
Of course, while it may be immoral, there is nothing illegal under our current system in politicians working closely with the dynamic entrepreneurs of the business community and it is no doubt a complete porkin’ coincidence that construction and property firms gave £510,000 to the Tory Party between July and December last year - more than £2,700 a day (Daily Telegraph, February 22).
But readers may recall our exposé (in May 2002) of Heron Group boss Gerald Ronson, the money man and property developer behind the West Durrington Consortium of Titnore Woods fame.
Ronson is an actual convicted criminal, having been found guilty of one charge of conspiracy, two of false accounting and one of theft in August 1990, as part of the notorious Guinness insider share dealing scandal.
He was made a CBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours!
WORTHING West MP Peter Bottomley was one of the most prominent figures in the KWASH campaign to protect local NHS hospitals a few years back. As we’ve noted before, though, he seems to be keeping rather quiet on the issue now that his own Conservative Party are back in power.
Indeed, he didn’t seem at all enthusiastic about protecting the integrity of our health services in a House of Commons vote on January 16 this year. A motion was put forward recognising a need “for agreed limits on private sector involvement in the NHS” and noting with concern “the Government’s plans to open up the NHS as a regulated market”. Bottomley voted against, along with fellow Worthing ‘NHS champion’ Tim Loughton and most of their Tory chums.
Meanwhile, in a completely separate development, some fascinating research has been published at http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.com. This provides a long list of parliamentarians and their links with the private health sector, which would undoubtedly benefit from the privatisation of the NHS which started with New Labour and continues today.
One familiar name there is our former MP, Baron Higgins of Worthing, who apparently holds more than £50,000 of shares in Lansdowne UK Equity Fund, backers of private hospital group Circle Holdings.
Another is a certain Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone. The former Health Secretary shares her husband Peter’s enthusiasm for the Tories’ latest attack on the NHS, having declared: “I give this Bill an unequivocal and extraordinarily warm welcome.”
Virginia Bottomley also happens to be a director of the private hospital, health insurance and care group BUPA.
Readers may remember that he came to our attention back in 2006, when he had a go at Titnore Woods protesters (see issue 77). Then in 2008 he was suspended from local radio for insulting disabled people on air. And on February 9 2012 a letter in the Herald from Bill Geddes drew our attention to the fact that Hart is still coming out with the same hackneyed old prejudices - week after week after week.
We leafed through our carefully curated back catalogue of Worthing Heralds to see just how bad the situation is getting and we are sorry to report that the news is grim.
Back on November 10 Hart made a reference to “members of our burgeoning ‘underclass’, fresh from their labours in this summer’s riots”. On November 17 the columnist condemned “everything that is wrong with this country - dysfunctional families predominantly living out their lives via the benefit system.” On December 1 Hart wrote of “the underclass continually sponging off the state” while, interestingly, on December 15 he observed that “a number of people seem content to sit on their backsides and sponge off the state”. New year, same old column, as on January 26 the ever-inventive social commentator declared: “We have too many spongers, who have no intention of working and just want to draw off the system. Stop that, and we might have half a chance of getting this country back on track. If we don’t, the underclass will eventually bleed this country dry.”
On February 16 Hart even considered the letter of criticism an invitation to spew forth more of the same talk about “a number of people who do nothing, yet draw money from the system.” The funny thing is, though, that not all ‘spongers off the state’ meet with the disapproval of this particular upstanding member of Worthing’s business community. In his February 8 column, Hart stormed to the defence of one of Britain’s most justifiably hated men, RBS banker fat cat Stephen Hester. Angry at criticism of the multi-millionaire, Hart fumed: “Banking has clearly become a dirty word, and this ongoing saga has produced many victims, none more so than a hard-working, honest man who was good at what he did, yet public opinion dictates he can’t get paid what he’s earned, on a par with Communism some might say.” Communism? Errr, right you are Ian.
In many circumstances, the fervour of Hart’s reactionary views might lay him open to accusations of belonging to the extreme right of the political spectrum, especially when you consider that the German equivalent of ‘underclass’ is the ‘Untermensch’ that the Nazis were so keen to exterminate.
But there is no suggestion of any racist angle to Hart’s views - at least not in his Herald columns... We are, however, indebted to Dan Thompson for forwarding us a copy of a Facebook entry by Hart in which he makes a rather unfunny joke about benefit claimants not speaking English. On the very same page, we also see his suggestions for personal guests on a fantasy coach party, in which he concludes: “I will round the ten off with Mr Adolf Hitler.” Hitler? And why, Harty, pray tell? “Just to add some humour to the trip.”
Hmmm.. Could this be the final nail in the coffin of the chirpy undertaker’s less-than-illustrious journalistic career?
The latest update on the theft of our freedom came from The Daily Telegraph on February 18: “Details of every phone call and text message, email traffic and websites visited online are to be stored in a series of vast databases under new Government anti-terror plans. For the first time, the security services will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook.
“Direct messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games. Under the scheme the security services would be granted ‘real time’ access to phone and internet records of people they want to put under surveillance, as well as the ability to reconstruct their movements through the information stored in the databases.”
The Sussex constabulary continued to creatively blur the boundaries between policing and comedy with a classic real-life farce involving an over-enthusiastic copper and a undisclosed Sussex town’s CCTV’s cameras (Daily Telegraph, February 7).
Alerted by the control room to the presence of a dodgy-looking individual in his area, the plain-clothed custodian of law and order set off in frantic pursuit, dashing round the streets after the suspected ne’er-do-well, while the camera operators assured him he was hot on the villain’s heels. Red faces for the boys in blue when it turned out he’d been chasing himself!
* Factfile: 20 serving Sussex Police officers have criminal convictions (The Argus, January 3) - 900 across the country!
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