Archive | February, 2011

Ian Duncan-Smith: Deluded – yes. But how deluded?

20 Feb

On the infrequent occasions that Ian Duncan-Smith raises his shining head above the parapet, he demonstrates his willingness to espouse hearsay and assumption, rather than facts.

This week, he stated that there are “over 500,000 unfilled jobs” in the UK. Nice round number. If he derived that cheery information from the vacancy database, then his delusions are serious indeed.

The old Jobcentre Plus database was merged into the system a year ago. It was a bad system, but merging two bad systems does not make one good one.

A simple check indicates the validity of any vacancy figures derived in this way. A search for all jobs within 15 miles of Harrow throws up 100 ‘vacancies’ for the period 1 November to 18 February. Of that 100, 14% are self-employed, 8% are temporary, 5% are vacancies such charity or utility sales and at least 6% are ‘recycled’ (on the system almost permanently, but with the posting date changed). So at least 33% of the ‘vacancies’ are dubious in the extreme. Nothing wrong with a commission-only sales job – even though the long-term unemployed are unlikely to have the self-confidence to give it a go. Add to this the immediate loss of benefits and a turnaround time of 6 to 10 weeks for processing a new claim; we can see exactly how viable these vacancies are. Better the bare existence afforded by JSA than the risk of no income at all for over 2 months.

Of course, the integrity of the database is so highly regarded that the NHS, the Civil Service and most Local Authorities do not even put their vacancies on there! In fact even the DWP does not advertise there.

You think that 100 is too small a sample? Try this for size: search for shop-worker vacancies within 75 miles of central London. Result: 293 vacancies. But 224 of them are permanent. Try care jobs: 200 jobs, only 81 permanent; of the 200, most are via agencies and therefore tend to be ‘nebulous’ in terms of actual existence.

So c’mon IDS, let’s have some real facts and stop relying on the output of your own department. Put a wig on and join the jobseekers at a few Jobcentres, or perhaps try applying for some of the jobs on your website and see how many really exist.


BAHRAIN: Blood on British and American hands.

17 Feb

Obama, Cameron and Hague are conveniently ignorant of American and British history in Bahrain and the greater Gulf region.

In 1995, Admiral ‘Willy’ Williamson asked me what I thought about the American belief that Iran was behind the unrest in Bahrain. “Bullshit”, I said. He agreed; the senior American military commander in the region.

The dark forces behind the repressive, torturing regime in Bahrain were British. Ex-colonial police, ex military, ex intelligence officers like Ian Henderson, Barry Walmsley and their cohorts. All former employees of the British Crown.

Yet the American and British governments chose to ignore the sordid involvement of their own nationals in supporting a corrupt, oppressive minority ruling family. A country where Bahraini nationals are denied opportunity because they are Shia. A country where Charlie ‘Big Ears’ Windsor has cosied up to oppression.

America frequently cites China for civil rights abuses – yet shores up illegitimate regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Regimes that enjoy no populist support.

At times like this, the BBC, CNN et al roll out the ‘experts’ on Middle East affairs. Too often they are people with no knowledge, no experience and no background in the region. So, Mr President, Mr Prime Minister and Mr Vague – get real, get honest.