The War on Raspberries 202

On a recent visit to the National Mining Museum in Newtongrange, I was taken slightly aback by the questions from young adults who knew nothing at all about Thatcher’s destruction of the coal mining industry or its motives. It is hard to realise that for an 18 year old today the miners’ strike is as chronologically distant an event as Dunkirk was to me.

My whole adult life has been defined by the changes initiated by Thatcher and continued by Tories and New Labour. It is hard to remember now the world where your employer could not, by law, sack you just because they wanted to, and where you could get state protection from rapacious landlords charging unfair rents. The destruction of heavy industry in order to destroy the strength of organised labour, and the privatisation of the monopoly utilities for the profit of the rich, was a transformation that is at the root of the mass misery we live amongst today.

There was one small and forgotten part of Thatcher’s attack on traditional working class lifestyle that you probably had to be in Dundee to remember. The war on berry pickers. The soft fruit of the Carse of Gowrie and the Tay Valley is an important part of the Scottish economy. There is currently much concern as to how, post-Brexit, labour is to be found to pick the fruit. Government proposals to issue visas for the purpose are an order of magnitude below what is needed, and local labour remains difficult to attract.

It did not used to be difficult, until around 1980 the Tories launched an extraordinary campaign to drive pickers out of the fields. Berry pickers, they decided, were an unacceptable part of the informal economy and were not declaring their income on benefits claims. Suddenly teams of besuited benefits inspectors started appearing among the raspberry canes demanding social security numbers. People signing on for the broo had to produce their hands for inspection for berry stains. There was a campaign in the rabidly Tory Courier newspaper which even alleged that Tayside berry pickers were a major source of funding to the IRA!

So people stopped going to pick berries. Who would give up their unemployment benefit for a few weeks back-breaking seasonal work, with all the delays and rigours of signing back on again?

Which suggests to me a possible solution to the problem. British people should be able to do up to three months seasonal agricultural work without any requirement to declare the income for either tax or benefit purposes. This would make the financial incentive sufficient to get people into the fields, would protect the economic benefit of the crops to the economy, and would be benefit neutral (the benefits are already being paid) and more or less tax neutral (the large majority who can do this would be nowhere near reaching the income tax threshold anyway).

I am not sure whether the Scottish government’s tax and benefit powers suffice to introduce this in Scotland alone, but it should be considered as a possible way forward throughout the UK.

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202 thoughts on “The War on Raspberries

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  • Mike

    Except UK Government has never been motivated to serve the needs of the state they are motivated by party political dogma and ideology bought and paid for by donation. The Tories are paid to serve the ideology of Neo Liberal capitalism while Labour who used to be paid to serve the work force via Union donations are now bought and paid for by the same donors who bought off the Tories. The Lib Dems are open to the highest bidders.
    Who pays the piper calls the tune. If you want policy you have to pay for it its not enough to argue for or show the need for policy that actually works and is beneficial to the state as a whole that’s naïve.

    • joel

      Sadly reminiscent of the USA. Just finished a book by two of America’s most esteemed mainstream political scientists, Martin Gilen and Benjamin Page. They were reporting back In 2015 (that is, under Obama) that the U.S. political system had become an oligarchy, “where corporations and wealthy elites steer the direction of the country, regardless of and against the will of the U.S. majority and irrespective of which party holds the White House or Congress”. They concluded that, after two centuries of America’s Great Democratic Experiment, “Ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.” (Democracy in America: what has gone wrong, Princeton, 2015.) It is the full realisation of the neoliberal model of democracy.

      • Paul Greenwood

        Obama was selected by Goldman Sachs. He was a bagman for the Pritzker Family of Chicago hired to “encourage” Blacks to move out of neighbours the Pritzkers wanted zoned for development……they own the Hyatt chain….but made their money as tax accountants to The Mob and used Teamsters Pension Fund money to build their empire.

        Obama was so grateful he made Penny Pritzker Secretary of Commerce

    • Shatnersrug

      This certainly used to be true of new Labour. However almost all new labour donors have cancelled their donations in protest at the Corbyn leadership. Lucky the Labour Party now survives on the donations and subs of its nearly 600,000 members. We are now a party that’s wealth is almost entirely based on members

      • Paul Greenwood

        New Labour big donors were Morgan Stanley MDs and Ron Cohen who got all they needed from Gordo Brown for their contributions especially on Carried Interest and CGT Relief. Brown may have written his thesis on Jimmy Maxton but Gordo did a Ramsay MacDonald especially when Shriti Vader got him to rescue bank bonuses rather than bring the dogs to heel

        • Shatnersrug

          It’s interesting to note that some of these donors have cancelled party donations but are funding some MPs individually

  • james c

    Craig, such a scheme would be very easily used by money launderers. Stooges would be paid cash as fruit pickers, then the proceeds could be paid via their bank accounts as clean money to somewhere else. It would be nice work for the stooges,as they would get a fee of a few hundred pounds for doing nothing. All of their families could do the same, so it woluld be nice work for them.

      • Alastair McNeill

        Well of course it’s ridiculous. If you want to buy a 2nd hand car in Glasgow for 5,000 pounds in cash, the Police will be called to ask where you got it. But if you’re an Asian politician buying 50 million pounds worth of London property, it’s nudge nudge wink wink and a nice bit of commission for whoever has signed off on it. The money laundering laws are used to catch people they don’t like.

      • James

        I’m not quite sure why there would be any problems with with money laundering, even assuming all the fruit pickers had no bank account. I think you need a bank account to claim benefits these days, Giro cheques no longer exist. Stooges getting a few hundred pounds extra for smurfing their cash-in-hand wages through bank accounts would be ridiculously easy to police and would therefore not proliferate.
        Craig’s acerbic riposte seems a bit OTT, though. I can’t see that my namesake’s comment suggested any particular obsession with money laundering, nor did he seem to be advocating stopping “normal economic activity”, whatever that might be.
        Elegantly, those three words pinpoint the problem with Craig’s presumably tongue-in-cheek proposal. Singling out those Tayberry pickers for such a tax exemption would create a very abnormal new type of economic activity. There would be immediate howls from other sectors of the economy of foul play, unlevel playing fields and rightly so. To quell such dissent, Craig’s daft scheme would either have to be extended to cover great swathes of the economy, or abandoned pretty sharpish. Obviously, it would also be tested in the courts and found to be unconstitutional.
        Perhaps Craig is having a Delphic Oracle moment here? The exigencies of Brit-exit may well engender such unworkable, madcap schemes with predictably unfortunate consequences.
        You read it here first folks!

        • Bayard

          “To quell such dissent, Craig’s daft scheme would either have to be extended to cover great swathes of the economy, or abandoned pretty sharpish.”

          There is a workable version of Craig’s idea, it’s called Universal Basic Income. If we had that, then the benefits problem would not arise, nor would the problem of policing a scheme limited to crop picking. As to the problem with income tax, that’s just classism. The poor are no more likely to fiddle their tax returns than the rich.

          • James

            Your Universal Basic Income is not what Murray is suggesting. He is suggesting singling out one area of enterprise, fruit pickers, which is kind of opposite to universal. Which was my precise point.
            I did not realise I had raised any “classist” issues relating to “fiddling” of income tax, either by the rich or poor. You sound a little chippy there. The “policing” I referred to was in reply to the comment about money laundering made by james c.
            I had not heard of UBI before reading your reply. From what I’ve just read on Joseph Rowntree,, it doesn’t look ‘specially workable either. In fact it looks like a bit of a gooseberry of a scheme.

          • Dave Price

            Wow, academics have been debating UBI for decades, and some administrations have even implemented it – but all it needed was 20 minutes of James’ attention to dismiss the whole thing as a piece of soft fruit.

          • James

            It was a well-written and balanced piece on which is why I read it all, which took about 20 minutes with a bit of cross referencing. In fact it probably took less than one minute to realise broadly what UBI was. I’m not that interested in economics, and detest politics.
            Apart from Finland, briefly, and a few abandoned pilots, I fail to see it has been implemented by any administration.
            Academics debating such subject “for years” is a pretty sure-fire sign of its controversy rather than veracity. As with the BBC, you find yourself asking if it is such a wonderful template, why has it not been widely copied? So it is with UBI, it would seem, except that nobody ever adopted it. It’s a lemon, not a gooseberry.

      • James

        I’m not quite sure why there would be any problems with with money laundering. Stooges getting a few hundred pounds extra for smurfing their cash-in-hand wages through bank accounts would be ridiculously easy to police and would therefore not proliferate.
        Craig’s acerbic riposte seems a bit OTT, though. I can’t see that my namesake’s comment suggested any obsession with money laundering, nor did he seem to be advocating stopping “normal economic activity”, whatever that might be.
        Elegantly, those three words pinpoint the problem with Craig’s presumably tongue-in-cheek proposal. Singling out those Tayberry pickers for such a tax exemption would create a very abnormal new type of economic activity. There would be immediate howls from other sectors of the economy of foul play, unlevel playing fields and rightly so. To quell such dissent, Craig’s daft scheme would either have to be extended to cover great swathes of the economy, or abandoned pretty sharpish. Obviously, it would also be tested in the courts and found to be unconstitutional.
        Perhaps Craig is having a Delphic Oracle moment here? The exigencies of Brit-exit may well engender such unworkable, madcap schemes with predictably unfortunate consequences.
        You read it here first folks!

          • Sharp Ears

            Ekco. That name rang a bell. My father supplied their radio and television receivers in his Southampton business in the 1950s and 60s. He was one of their appointed dealers. They were excellent products and were most reliable.

            E.K. Cole. There was a brain and an innovator. An entrepreneur in modern parlance.

            All gone like much of British industry.

        • joeblogs

          Posting your nonsense twice does not make it any more, or less nonsense.
          “Singling out those Tayberry pickers for such a tax exemption would create a very abnormal new type of economic activity.” – like offshore tax-havens for monstrous corporations, for instance?
          You do realise, don’t you that the individual however, is not allowed to do that?
          Singling out berry-pickers, earning a pittance for a few weeks of the year, while corporations registered off-shore get away scott-free – this is your ‘Brave New World’? – keep it.

          • James

            Nonsense pretty much sums up you rant about “monstrous corporations” who “get away scott-free” [sic] – “this is your ‘Brave New World'”. What are you on about? Sorry if I pricked your bubble- the tosh about taking batteries out of mobile phones.

            Unlike you, I was not commenting on off-topic subjects like “offshore tax-havens” [sic], but addressing Murray’s latest post in which he advocates creating an exemption specifically for Scottish fruit pickers, that would manifestly be unfair, unworkable, illegal and divisive. I suspect he is, as so often, merely trying to provoke comment; he will I’m sure be aware of the validity of my critique.

            Did you like my link the other day to the Wiki article about the Thing? I hope you are acquiring a better understanding of how RFID now. About those [sic] marks above: scot-free does not have two t’s, and tax haven has no hyphen.

            Would you like me to repeat that?
            To Mods: I already asked for a deletion of at least one comment, I do not know how the first was sent, it must have been from my phone.
            To Mods and Blogs: apologies for wasting yet more of your time
            prosperum iter facias

      • pete

        Yes, and anyway the usual money laundering alert thresholds are higher than you would expect a fruit picker to earn, plus, you don’t call the police straight away, you alert the relevant authorities who make whatever enquiries are thought necessary.
        The American alert threshold ($10,000) is mentioned here:
        The British thresholds are similar.

      • james c

        Generally speaking, Craig, an obsession replies repeated, irrational behaviour – but will defer to your expert diagnosis.
        You know as well as anyone, that the Treasury is not going to give special tax allowances that can easily be abused.
        They are also reluctant to provide populist tax breaks to workers, that allow employers to pay below market wages.

        • James

          Obsession is also a delightful perfume by Calvin Klein, I think. Perhaps it wasn’t Nina Ricci after all. Nicely put, mr c; I’ve only been coming on this blog for a week or two; I’m recovering from a broken collar bone and am a bit bored. I’m increasingly realising Murray is primarily in the business of provocation in much of his recent output. It really is silly of us to rise to the bait, but that’s how it works on these blogs, I suppose. Joeblogs is great, I think he believes in magnets that pick up wood.
          Hey ho!
          prosperum iter facias

          • Paul Greenwood

            It wasn’t Nina Ricci apparently – it was seemingly fake packaging – clearly copyright law is to be observed under all circumstances ! Anyway the Web is littered with examples of fake Nina Ricci perfumes so it is clearly a counterfeiting favourite

      • Spencer Eagle

        The problem is that money laundering is a very real problem and much more widespread than most people imagine. Win a on scratch card or a lottery ticket and it is very easy to get £15k cash for your £10k ticket in most cities. Better still join the UK’s largest money laundering club, Costco, there you can spend £6999.00 in cash per day, 7 days a week, no questions asked. Take a look at the number of Ebay sellers in the Birmingham, London and Manchester who sell only Costco’s own brand ‘Kirkland’ products, at prices undercutting Costco. When I raised this with Costco they assured me that they only sold online through their own site, not on Ebay, when I asked how ‘Kirkland’ products were being sold at less than they could be bought at Costco I was told ‘it wasn’t their business if someone sold goods for less than what had been paid for them’. When I raised the issue of money laundering, they hung up.

        • Paul Greenwood

          Walk into a travel agent in Bradford or Heckmondwike or Oldham and ask for hawala services to transfer to Dubai or wherever……Private Banking for Proles

    • bj

      One never gets this concerned over white collar financial crime, even though that’s where the biggest ‘laundering’ is going on.

    • joeblogs

      James c
      Barmy comment.
      How would gangsters launder drug money in winter, when there is no fruit to be had?
      The sensible crooks are doing it via hairdressing salons and nail bars – where the clientele always pay cash.

      • Sigmund Freud

        Are you barmy, or just really, really thick joebloggs?
        What makes you think your gangsters would reject an opportunity to launder their money because it was not available in the winter. Do you think they would feel under some contractual agreement with the fruit pickers not to launder their money through anyone else, and during the winter they would therefore be unable to launder their money? Some kind of gangster omerta, perhaps?
        I love the mental image of your “sensible crooks… doing it via” their “salons”. Great stuff, keep it coming!

  • Observer

    Britain needs the kick up it’s arse that Brexit will provide in order to reinvent it’s manufacturing base. The world will not end with Brexit. It will concentrate the mind that the future is now. Life moves forwards, not backwards.

    And the TUC thinks we can move to a 4-day week, just when we need to maximise efforts. Baffling! This is why Jeremy Corbin and his lot are soo dangerous. Wake up and smell the raspberries.

    (Good suggestion about agricultural workers.)

    • Ian

      Such naive, neoliberal glib slogans. If you want what we have left of manufacturing and research to move out of the UK, taking their well paid, skilled jobs, then brexit will deliver for you. And leave us with low paid, deregulated unskilled jobs. Straight out of the playbook of idiots like Fox and Johnson.

      • Shatnersrug

        But Ian. It says in in the Daily Express so it must be true. Unlike observer all younger people are bone idle obsessed with there phones and being gay and black everywhere. All they need to do is do what he did in the 1950s and pull there socks up and work hard and all the things he’s scared of. Integration, fun, leisure time, technology will disappear and the 1950s will be here again.

        Getting old is scary I do understand but the world is nothing but change.

      • Stephen

        Britain and especially Scotland was world renowned for it’s manufacturing prior to entry into the EU (or gang of thieves as I like to call them). What, pray tell, has happened to the British that they would wish to take their manufacturing out of the UK and be subservient to a bunch of unelected bureaucrats.

        • Brian c

          The British state has been running down the productive manufacturing sector and flogging off national assets and public utilities to overseas interests – incl foreign states – for a generation. Nothing whatsoever to do with the EU. Everything to do with political ideology and a short termist, quick buck mentality.

          • Shatnersrug

            Brian it’s true, the story of modern Britain is the story of a financial war betweeen industry mainly in the north and finance capital based in London, for the last 30 years the gov has supported finance capital over industry, that brings with it deinvestment and unemployment, the city has done a fantastic job of encouraging industry owners to set up enormous factories in the Far East whilst running down factories here, not always a great success either but enough to encourage owners to float their companies and to walk away multimillionaires with a future in….finance capital.

            The government – both Tory and Labour used to push back against all this in defence of local employment however all this change in 1979 (although plans were laid well before then)

            This ofcourse has nothing to do with the EU, which is demonstrable just from looking at Germany. Germany briefly flirted with outsourcing industry in 2005 however decided against a it. The decision was entirely political – tax breaks for business, union rights for employees, quite likely because Germany know where high unemployment leads.

            Of course the daily Express version is that Germany has secretly encouraged all other Eu states to outsource whilst keeping all the industry for themselves, because NAZIs or something.

            Our problems, including the oncoming financial crash are at heart political, and will only be resolved politically, and that requires a government that is prepared to criminalise financial misdealing, protect and invest in local industry, ensure safe homes, health and a modicum of wealth for all its population and encourage egalitarianism through the land.

            With the exception of the corbynites we currently have a political system that works for finance capital, many politicians on both sides either come from or will retire to it. They need to be sidelined and removed if we are to see any kind of fair system again.

            And we can see what happens when we try to remove them. The most outlandish and frankly comical insults are thrown daily in the papers. Our relationship to the EU I’d entirely irrelevant

        • Vivian O'Blivion

          The EU didn’t shut down our coal and steel industry, it was Thatcher and her ideology and wrong headed notion of “sunset industry”. In point of fact, the EU regarded Ravenscraig as a European Centre of Excellence and pumped substantial funds in for technical development. We were working for years (fairly unsuccessfully) on an “expert system” a fairly early form of Artificial Intelligence.
          British engineering was also a world leader in tooling for deep coal mining.

          • joeblogs

            Absolutely right.
            Furthermore, it wasn’t liked that the UK was then energy independent, because of strategic coal reserves.
            The petro-dollar needed feeding, and the UK must be made dependent on US oil, so Mrs T. got to work, and began destroying it all.
            Welcome to now.

          • Michael McNulty

            The EU has done nothing whatsoever to stop the government’s cruel targeting of Britain’s disabled and poorest, all the while being the very same institution which doles out big welfare payments to landowners and farmers with the richest getting the most.

            A few times I’ve wondered if Craig might have invested some of his pension in a parcel of land for which he gets an EU grant (more profitable than a few % interest from the bank and safe from a stock market bail-in), and was that why he is so fiercely against the Brexit result and now, sympathetic to fruit-pickers because he’s got a crop? Fair play, a bit of land must be nice, but the EU’s okay if you’re secure yet worthless if you’re not. (I’ve also wondered if to comment on his own site more than it appears Craig uses the nom de plume Republic of Scotland, because their arguments so align?)

        • James

          Irrespective of the implications of the Yom Kippur war, Britain was economically slated as the “sick man of Europe” and was in receipt of assistance from the IMF. Britain and especially Scotland was on its arse in 1973. British manufacturing had already rapidly deteriorated from the heady days of the de Havilland Comet and the Jaguar XK to Morris Marinas and high quality but overpriced coal and steel. The entry into the EEC was in fact a turning point for the economy of UK. Although slow in coming, membership of the community enabled the transition from a manufacturing economy to a services-based one. This transition was inevitable due to the rapid growth of manufacturing and exporting by hitherto economically inactive nations.
          We have been doing very well economically on this basis, particularly since Maastricht put tax compliance in the financial services sector on a solid footing. Although “adding value” is often euphemistic, it is precisely at the heart of both manufacturing and service “industry”. Quite why we in Britain have such a beef against those more abstract forms of enterprise and bemoan the waning of manufacturing is unclear, probably the incessant clamourings of the tabloids over the decades. The distinction between manufacturing and services from an economic point of view is irrelevant; by adding value, you bring home the bacon.
          The bacon is shortly going to get much more expensive, and the “magic trick” we have pulled off for at least a quarter of a century since Maastricht is about to stop working. The magician will pack up and continue his conjuring tricks in Frankfurt am Main, Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam. The saddest part is that exactly those who voted to pull out will by and large be the hardest hit.
          I think raspberries will be the least of anyone’s worries, apart from a handful of nurserymen.

  • Muscleguy

    When we move up here to Dundee end of ’98 the berry farms locally would hire schoolkids. Both of ours earned money in the summer picking. Then Eastern Europe entered the EU and suddenly the kids were evicted and pick your own has vanished as well.

    The farmers really have little sympathy from me, they latched onto the Poles, Czechs etc and shut everybody else out and now they are reliant on them.

    Also there was a farmer on the TV news who admitted you cannot set up a stable home and have a family life in the UK on agricultural wages. You can’t cycling for Deliveroo either but that’s a separate issue.

    • Squonk

      The law changed on the employment of children. I used to pick berries as a kid but if any farmer employed me at the age I started to go with friends and family now they would be breaking the law. Even 15 year olds are not allowed to work the typical berry picking shift hours during school holidays. Nothing to do with eastern Europeans.

  • glenn_nl

    Very good idea. It would mean the money stays in our economy, instead of temporary migrants – often being exploited by gangmasters – taking the money they’ve made out of the country when they leave. If they leave, of course, instead of remaining to work under the radar, paying no tax, and being ripped off by landlords, employers and so on.

    • Mr Shigemitsu

      Foreign workers on UK farms (or anywhere else for that matter) are only paid in Sterling; but they cannot spend that Sterling anywhere outside the UK Sterling area (they don’t accept pounds in Poland!), therefore they need to exchange it for Zlotys, Euros etc.

      The counterparty (usually a bank) then holds that Sterling in their own Sterling Account, and, in turn, re-sells it for Euros, Zlotys etc to anyone wishing to spend, save, pay taxes, or invest, in the UK.

      So the Sterling area is effectively a closed system – the only thing that changes is the nominal owner of that Sterling, and possibly the exchange rate, depending on the volume and direction of exchange transactions.

      There is therefore no “drain” on Sterling from remittances – or imports – thanks to the UK having a free-floating, sovereign, fiat, non-convertible, currency.

      • glenn_nl

        The story doesn’t end quite there, and isn’t quite that simple, I’m afraid. Having a lot of your currency converted and sent abroad isn’t the cost-free process you appear to think.

        Euros in this country are a commodity – we cannot print them ourselves. They have to be bought with our pounds. If we have an increase of euros being bought by people don’t want to keep the pounds and spend them here, what do you think happens to their relative value?

        The relative value of pounds against euros goes down, inflation goes up. We do not have yuan to but Chinese goods, so how do you imagine their economy became so very much richer as a result of trade with the rest of the world?

        I could go on, but imagining there could be no problem at all to a country from having its money going to benefit another, is wishful thinking.

        • James

          That’s why I hate economics; both dutchglen and His Excellency are, I believe, correct. It seems to me to be a discussion relating to purchasing power parity.
          HE Shigemitsu is correct about the closed system of Sterling and the change of ownership; if the Polish plumber were paid in gold, the argument about ephemerality of capital flight immediately fails.
          Dutch glen is correct about FX being a “commodity” with variable value, whose trading due to such Sterling into Zloty exchanges is inflationary within Sterlingzone. Hence it is a PPP problem under discussion. I think?
          Economics is such a double-edged sword, and just as dangerous in the wrong hands. Can’t be doing with any of it tbh. His Excellency’s argument is highly persuasive and in fairness he did touch upon exchange rate fluctuations, but Dutch Glen’s not wrong either.

  • Patrick Maw

    Here in Lincolnshire we paid our children through uni with earnings on potato and strawberry fields. We worked during steelworks holiday period and on our days off. No we didn’t pay tax! The country now has a Obstetrician, a Vetinary Surgeon an Architect and a Steelworks Manager. Me, I’m 77 and knackered but proud.

    • Clark

      And I hope he isn’t.

      I should really open a forum about understanding and misunderstanding of science. We get a lot of unscientific theories in the comments of this site, and no one pays me for the educational work I do here, in fact I’ve encountered considerable abuse and suspicion for my efforts. I found it very hard, emotionally draining, battling against the collaborative effort to discredit me.

      But I’ve refined my thoughts since then, and I’m willing to come to London sometime with some big sheets of paper, draw some diagrams and run through some simple calculations.

        • Clark

          I refuted point after point on the appropriate thread. Refer there, or we can arrange a meet-up with Paul Barbara in London. I will require expenses, and I refuse to deal with more than three opponents at a time because it is too distracting and exhausting, and I suffer from poor emotional health as it is.

        • joeblogs

          I’ll try to simplify it – make it easier for you:
          I have a theory water will always run downhill, because it obeys the Law of Gravity.
          Refute it if you can, Kempe, or would you rather not?
          Good luck juggling your teapot.

        • Kempe

          ” I have a theory water will always run downhill, because it obeys the Law of Gravity. ”

          Then it’s not a theory.

      • Ian

        Ideologues don’t care about science, facts or research. They have an opinion, that is all, and nothing will change it. So don’t waste your time or energy. This site is full of it, an open invitation for every manner of wild goose chase.

      • Rhys Jaggar


        Not everyone is scientifically trained, thst is why scientists get paid and doctors get paid. My uncle once made a very valuable observations about GPs, namely that if ordinary folks knew what was wrong with them, they would by-pass the GP and go direct either to a pharmacy or a specialist doctor. So he had very little time for GPs whingeing about the ignorant masses.

        I worked for many years on the coalface of medical research and its commercialisation and let me tell you that the most distinguished Professors could be completely ignorant about the commercial world. It happens, it is not something to deride, we cannot be experts at everything.

        I spent quite a bit of time debunking the Zika Virus scare a few years back. I got a bit of flak for that. It was political pressure on Brazil leading up to the Olympics, part of US wanting a Government to let Wall Street loot the Brazilian economy, just like Novichok was a Russia-bashing exercise before World Cup. Bird Flu was another scam. And do not get me started on climate change….

        Too many scientists and medics have peddled lies for political preferment the past forty years, so the general public no longer trusts them uncritically.

        That is why discussions emerge here: loss of trust in scientific authority.

      • James

        More accurately put: virtually none of the theories on this site hold up to the scientific scrutiny of an average sixteen year old.
        By the way, to Clark (and you’ve helped me before in a number of alter egos Cockerell Cummings and all): why do some of my comments get deleted and others not? How exactly is Akismet used on here? If you are a mod, presumably you can see my email address, and if so feel free to PM me, I’m genuinely non-plussed by much this site, and I don’t just mean the profusion of bored old Alcan shareholders.

        • Clark

          James, I’m no longer a moderator here, I quit over an argument about tone-trolling on the 9/11 thread, so I can’t see your e-mail address, and submitted e-mail addresses don’t need to be genuine anyway; they just need an ‘at’ and a dot in convincing places.

          Akismet is an automatic spam filter. It has very few settings, so it behaves almost identically on any blog that uses it. It compares comments against a central database compiled from blogs all over the world. It makes fairly rare false-positives; if you suffer one of these, your comment will simply not appear immediately after submission, with no warning or message.

          Some comments are removed after submission by moderators interpreting the rules:

          However, all replies to a deleted comment are also deleted; a sort of collateral damage.

          Best wishes to you, and I hope you continue to comment.

        • James

          Thanks for that quick reply, Clark. You sent me those links on moderation rules the other day, I think I may have been Grundig. I’d already worked out that given email address need only be conformal, and I’m reading up about Akismet. Apart from a brief dalliance on Guardian a couple of years ago when bed-ridden for a week, I’ve never commented on blogs before. I’m only on here because I recently broke my collar bone, and am a bit bored. What I’m finding is that posts get deleted after attracting attention, and then I cannot post again for a few hours on the same device. VPN (ie changing IP address) makes no difference.
          Actually I have 101 questions about all this, some technical and some not. A “burnable” address you can get me at is spelled out in full by a 1998 Tom Hanks film, omitting the apostrophe and adding the @ at a judicious place followed by .com
          If you have the time…
          Thanks again for your assistance and go well 🙂

      • Clark

        I already covered that on the 9/11 thread. Please stop trolling me; if I defend myself I’m off-topic and breaking the rules.

    • Clark

      I am not discussing this any further here because it is off-topic on the first page of an important post. Paul Barbara should have similar respect for the moderation rules.

    • joeblogs

      Judging from the thread response you’ve catalysed, I have to say,
      “They don’t like it up ’em, Mr Mainwaring.”
      Made my day.

  • Julian Bond

    In your list of Thatcher’s policies, I’m reminded of another, the right to buy. And Tony Benn’s comments about this as a means of social control; You’re much less likely to strike if your home depends on a mortgage. And by encouraging councils to fill the gaps in their budgets by selling off council homes, while not allowing them to borrow to build replacements, you reduce the supply of social housing. Hence encouraging buy-to-let to fill the unmet need.

    • Shatnersrug

      Well that’s the reason for dumping so much debt on young people, by the time they’ve left college they 60 grand up the creak. You’re not going to go on to be a great risk taker if you’ve got debt to service. It’s why the bands are so shite these days. Only the privileged who have trust funds can afford to do it. And even they only want to make money to buy a safe house. That’s not how we did it back in the day. The temptation to take risks has been thoroughly brought down by debt. It’s not good for any industry except Finance

      • Rhys Jaggar

        That is why I strongly challenge the need to go to University now. It is not valuable as a preparation for work and most employers hate free thinkers anyway. What with the debts, you are far, far better becoming a skilled tradesman working the big London construction projects, earning £70-100,000 a year by aged 28, never having taken on debt.

        • Iain Stewart

          “It is not valuable as a preparation for work and most employers hate free thinkers anyway.”
          Of course, heavy irony! (Money is all that matters etc.) That must be why you post with a photo of Stephen Hawking.

    • Paul Barbara

      @ J September 13, 2018 at 10:48
      It’s now aired (or part of it); I’ve linked to it on the previous (correct) blog item.

    • Salford Lad

      Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has the core premise, that a Sovereign Nation such as the UK with its own Sovereign Currency, has the power to buy any available resource within its borders, including all idle labour to give full employment.
      To this end it uses a Job Guarantee to give a job to any person who wishes to work.
      This worker pool is considered a buffer stock of labour, which is paid by the Govt at an incentive wage above the unemployment dole level.
      The work for these JG workers is organised by Govt agencies to do socially useful work until the private sector picks up the slack and they are available to private sector industry.
      Seasonal fruit picking is one such area where these workers can be absorbed and contracted by Govt to the Agricultural sector at a decent wage and work conditions.. This avoids all the entanglements of tax bureaucracy ,as they are directly employed by Govt.
      As for the dangers of inflation and deficits. MMT controls inflation by removing excess money from the economy by taxation as required.
      Deficits level reaches its optimum when full employment is attained. Deficits are not a concern as a Govt with the power to issue money interest free and remove it with taxation has power over its economy for the well being of all its citizens.
      The present system by Govt of financing deficits by issuing bonds at interest to the private banking system is a form of Corporate welfare and unnecessary.
      John Maynard Keynes expounded, ‘ Take care of employment and the economy will take care of itself’.

      • Paul Greenwood

        MMT is bonkers in a country loaded with Debt especially one trading Derivatives on a London-scale. One day people will wake up and understand the UK is a giant Hedge Fund leveraged 10 times GDP with no gold reserves and no natural resources.

        • Rhys Jaggar

          People are well aware of that and wish to deleverage over time. The Hedge Funds will not like that.

        • Salford Lad

          The problem is not Govt debt, but private Financial Market debt. This is a problem for the Financial Markets and not for Govt, who involved themselves in the Great Financial Crash of 2007/8 by bailing out the private banks with the peoples money,
          Privatise the Profits and Socialise the Losses was the term used;
          99% of Financial sector shenanigans have no social usefulness, just a big Casino wheel

  • Bricks & Mortar

    Great idea. I was thinking exactly the same.

    As for money laundering – a condition of the scheme could be the money is declared, and paid into a uk bank account. HMRC then monitor how much a farm pays in seasonal wages vs how much fruit it sells. Inspectors to visit where there’s anything unusual.

    • Dungroanin

      Tax the profits of fruit sellers not the workers.
      Tax the farmers not the workers.
      Tax the consumer not the worker.

      As i say below it still won’t stop the industry declining.

      • Rhys Jaggar

        Taxing tenant farmers is a joke. If they are freeholders, maybe. Most farm land is owned by the richest estates in the country.

    • Ken Kenn

      Rephrase that:

      ” More mines closed under New Labour ”

      Corbyn can’t be a Marxist and a Neo Liberal.

      In your world and the media world he’s both.

      He’s as bad as the Nazis – he’s a Neo Liberal and a Marxist all in one.

      You’re not Kelvin McKenzie by any chance?

        • reel guid

          You would have to differentiate between still productive mines that were closed down and mines that were closed down because there was no coal left in them to mine.

          • Anon1

            The fact of the matter is that cheap imports meant thay by the 1960s UK coal was no longer viable. That’s why Labour closed so many mines and the Tories continued to do so.

          • reel guid

            Statistics can hide pretty much anything you want. Old Labour closed mines for economic reasons. The Tories wanted to close most remaining mines – and steel plants and shipyards – for political reasons.

        • Mark

          Typically short sighted argument from you. There’s a massive difference between closing pits after consultation with interested parties and closing pits for political reasons which had nothing to do with the mining industry. Thatcher decimated the industry and abandoned any technological advancements in clean coal at the same time (a really stupid move considering out coal mining industry was leading the way in that research at the time and could have had a great positive impact for the industry on the world stage) all because she despised the NUM and the working class. Highlighting how many mines were closed under Labour alos conveniently overlooks how many jobs were actually lost in your argument; around 10,000 jobs were lost under Jim Callaghan alone. Under Thatcher about 190,000 and nothing was put in place to regenerate the areas and the livelihoods either. Well except for EU help obviously and look what we’ve done there. I wonder if you have any links to or experience of mining towns or whether you just get all your info from the net and twist it to your right wing mindset.

        • N_

          You’re just sticking your tongue out. There’s a huge difference between closing mines when there’s near-full employment and deliberately creating mass unemployment which is what the Tory government did under Thatcher. If you had ever met any coalminers or ex-coalminers or people living in mining or former mining communities you’d know that.

          It was your reference to closures under Labour that was pathetic.

          • N_

            Callaghan said that in 1974. Yes there was near-full employment in the 1960s.

            Why do you think miners opposed closures in the 1980s but not in the 1960s?

          • Kempe

            ” Why do you think miners opposed closures in the 1980s but not in the 1960s? ”

            Because during the 1960s the NUM was led by Sydney Ford rather than Arthur Scargill. Ford was was seen by many miners as being too soft on closures brought about by the Labour Party of which he was a member.

          • Michael McNulty

            The Tories also knew closing pits and decimating other industries would put a lot of the manager-class out of work, their own voters, and it would be political suicide to have militant white collar workers marching alongside blue collar workers demanding jobs. That’s why they invented quangos and NHS Trusts, to create new jobs for their voters, because they were well aware how damaging mass unemployment would become when they created it for their City friends.

    • Dungroanin

      No problem with closing mines and getting people out of dangerous work is there?

      Doing it in one fell swoop and destroying a couple of generations self respect and their communities was criminal and vindictive by the Tories.

      • Anon1

        Thatcher closed 154 mines over 11 years.

        Labour closed 326 mines over 15 years.

        211 mines closed under Wilson, 154 under Thatcher.

          • Sharp Ears

            And everybody has forgotten the witch bringing MacGregor over to antagonize and provoke the miners.

            Donald Macintyre – a short obituary –

            ‘On his death, many involved in the 1984-5 strike expressed great bitterness against him. NUM vice-president at the time, Mick McGahey said, “It’s no loss to people of my ilk. MacGregor was a vicious, anti-trades unionist, anti-working class person, recruited by the Tory government quite deliberately for the purpose of destroying trade unionism in the mining industry. I will not suffer any grief, not will I in any way cry over the loss of Ian MacGregor.” However, others saw him as a positive force. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said: “He brought a breath of fresh air to British industry and he had such a genial personality. He had a tremendous way of putting things. He made a real difference and I was very grateful when he came back to this country.” ‘

            ‘Ding.Dong. The witch is dead!’ and so is British manufacturing as it existed.

        • IrishU

          Labour closing mines = good
          Tories closing mines = criminal and vindictive.

          What a load of nonsense, by all means be partisan but try and address the facts with some of your own. British coal was uneconomical by the 1970s and 1980s, the State (i.e. taxpayers) could not be forced to maintain uneconomical industries, on a mass scale, indefinitely. It is that simple. As for using the closure of the mines to break the power of the Unions, something had to be done about Trade Union Barons holding the Government and State to ransom. The Winter of Discontent ensured there was the support to break Trade Union power – Tory majorities in 1979, 1987 and 1987 demonstrate this.

    • Vivian O'Blivion

      A pathetically simplistic argument / observation. Deep coal mines were closing and opening all the time. The pits were getting larger as technology developed. A more useful exercise to view deep pit production output.

      Output was certainly in long term decline since at least 1970 (135 K tonnes). The decline is gradual ’till 1980 when Thatcher takes power, then it falls off a cliff. When Thatcher is ousted in 1990 output is 75K tonnes. Five years later under Major output is 35 K tonnes.
      Your observation also fails to factor in coal quality. Many deep pits were specifically exploiting a limited reserve of low sulphur coal. While power generation doesn’t much care about sulphur content (environmental factors aside), low sulphur coking coal was essential for steel making.

  • Paul Greenwood

    Who would give up their unemployment benefit for a few weeks back-breaking seasonal work, with all the delays and rigours of signing back on again?

    That is so true !! The State is so inflexible it requires Unemployed to stay that way – there is no graduated way back to employment

    • Jack

      hopefully there will be relased another longer interview, this didnt give much info and rather played into that these really are the culprits – my suspicion is that they might represent some criminal gang – that is they acted unrelated to russian gov.

        • Sharp Ears

          <3 stands for 'love' apparently. RT's reporting is fresher and often more factual and up to the minute than that of British state broadcaster. Yes, that is true, particularly on Palestine.

          Best to keep an open mind Observer.

  • N_

    The Boshirov and Petrov interview: clip 1, clip 2.

    (The following is from the transcript, not the clips):

    We arrived in Salisbury on March 3 and tried to walk through the town, but we lasted for only half an hour because it was covered in snow.

    I checked and it seems some snow did fall in both London and Salisbury on 2 March. I doubt much was still around on 3 and 4 March.

    ‘Isn’t it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume? The customs are checking everything, they would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it,’ Boshirov said.

    What I would like to know is what these guys’ jobs are, and where they have worked in the past.

    And what does the serial number on the perfume bottle and packaging indicate about where it was sold? It should allow the country or country group to be identified, surely?

      • N_

        Aren’t all perfume bottles of a given type manufactured in the same factory?

        Agreed it should reveal much more than just the country or country group.

  • Dungroanin

    As a child in the seventies and student in the early 80’s – strawberry, blackcurrant and gooseberry picking through the summer was a great way to stay fit and earn some pocket money. It did encourage the odd truantism in the dog days of the summer term. As a student you could sign on during the holidays – the benefit was not that much and barely covered food, in the Thatcherite mega unemployment era in the north – there were NO jobs available. Whole families were sometimes in the fields. The piecemeal pay was dependent on what prices the farmer could get at the market. Most people made between a few quid and a tenner. Some super pickers made £20-50+ on some days. I financed a couple of late summer hols on it. Bit back breaking, hand tearing and all weather – not at all glamorous.
    I remember when the ‘rabbits’ were let loose on the dole claimants – plenty fruit ended up going rotten.

    The reality is that even if people were allowed to pick the fruit and retain benefits – the total amount cultivated would still reduce drastically. Adhoc daily amateur gatherers can no way replace the industrial scale farming enabled by the EU worker.

    • Casual Observer

      De Industrialisation happened from 1880 onwards because we were being overtaken by players who came late to the industry game, and proved to be better at playing it than we were.

      Whilst Britain seems still able to provide workers who are able to produce a quality product, think Honda, Nissan, the country is woefully unable to produce management who are able to make manufacturing pay anything like as much as the money changing temple of the City.

  • Sharp Ears

    Scottish raspberries are the best. If you grow your own, as I do, pigeons permitting, the varieties of raspberry canes available have ‘Glen’ in their names, eg. Glen Clova, Glen Ample

    Berry good: the rise of the raspberry in Scotland, and the best places to pick your own


    In Dundee, the locals (Dundonians?) now have access to another branch of Mr Tristram Hunt’s V&A Museum

    A snip @ £80m. The cost doubled in the eight years between its inception and eventual creation.
    ‘In January 2015, it was announced that the museum’s original £45m budget had almost doubled but the development would go ahead with extra cash from the Scottish government, the city council and the lottery.
    So that’s OK then.

    Mind you, you have to shell out for tickets to the exhibitions. £12. Iniquity.

    • IrishU

      Yes Dundonians is the correct term.

      £80m for a building of that design, which has bound the City together and led to a massive regeneration of the entrie waterfront area? Worth every penny in my book and more importanlty you won’t hear many Dundonians grumbling about it either! It has been a long time coming, I was still at university when it was first mooted, thoroughly looking forward to returning to the City of Discovery in a few weeks to see it.

    • Ian

      Absolutely worth it, pity you just denigrate everything with your unquestioning posting of links that fit your predictable agenda.

      • Sharp Ears

        Got your £12 ready? Hope you are not disappointed.

        It must have been a Cameron/Clegg initiative. Hope that’s OK with you. LOL.

        • IrishU

          £12 isn’t a huge amount, so yes I have it ready. Much more than that will be spent in the DCA, Phoenix and Mennies!

          As for those behind the initiative, it was a link-up between the City Council, the V&A, the SNP-led Scottish Government and both of the City’s universities, Dundee in particular given its prominence in Design through Duncan of Jordanstone Art College. So nothing to do with Cameron and Clegg. Hope the facts are ok with you. LOL.

          • Iain Stewart

            “Got your £12 ready? Hope you are not disappointed.”

            Sharp Ears should be delighted to learn that OAPs get in for £7.00!

  • Node

    What they are saying is that they went through the same customs check corridor, one after the other, therefore they can’t explain why the timestamps show them to be at the same point in that corridor at exactly the same time. They invite the police to explain.

      • N_


        My comment appears to have disappeared. From RT’s translation: “We always go together through the same corridor and the same custom service officer or a policeman. One goes, the other waits. We went through the corridor together, we always (do it) together. How did it happen? It’s better to ask them (UK police).”

        Your interpretation is probably right. He says “together”, but he also says “the same corridor” and “one goes, the other waits”.

        I was expecting a corking bit of propaganda from Russia, but this interview cuts little mustard. It’s considerably inferior to the interview with Yulia Skripal with all the greenery in the background. When there are parallel channels – and these are merely exits – why would they never use two?

        While there is nothing suspicious about the the time-stamps on the two stills, I suspect the stills may have been chosen deliberately by Britain to elicit precisely the Russian response that they got (which was offered not just by the London embassy but also at the United Nations in New York), and that someone in MI5 or MI6 or at a British psywar desk is having a good laugh at this.

        Was Nikolai Glushkov involved in “business related to sports nutrition”?

        • Node

          They give a lot of detail about visiting Salisbury cathedral and taking photos, of spending an hour in the station cafe. All this should be easily checkable. If it’s true it raises more huge question marks over the UK government narrative.

          • N_

            Ah, a fuller transcript is up now.

            They say they went to a railway station on 2 March to check the timetable, so perhaps they did go from Victoria to Bow via Waterloo, which would require at least four trains.

            If nobody had been harmed, this interview would be hilarious in places.

            (Interviewer): Speaking of straight men, all footage features you two together. You spent time together, you lived together, you went for a walk together. What do you have in common that you spend so much time together?

            (Bashirov): You know, let’s not breach anyone’s privacy.

            RT say that more is to follow. I’d like to hear more about their international “sports nutrition” business activities.

  • Sharp Ears

    ‘I was taken slightly aback by the questions from young adults who knew nothing at all about Thatcher’s destruction of the coal mining industry or its motives….’ That implies that there is a severe lack of local history/politics teaching in the local education system and curriculum.

    The Newtongrange secondary schools are listed here.

    and this is the Scottish Government list of schools by type and location. Spreadsheet.

    • Kempe

      Perhaps they’ve been better educated and know the decline in coal mining and Britain’s other heavy industries pre-dates Thatcher by many decades. Coal’s best year for tonnage produced and men employed was 1913, British shipbuilders provided 45% of the world’s tonnage immediately post war, this was down to 4% before Thatcher even became PM.

      The reasons are complex and still the subject of much debate but old technology, management complacency and union stubbornness all played a part. Of course for those unable to get their head around it it’s much easier just to blame the hated Thatcher.

  • Charles Bostock

    I do wish people who should know better would cease going on about Mrs Thatcher having “destroyed” the UK coal industry,

    At most what she did was to accelerate a decline which was ongoing for the same reasons as the coal industry in all of Western Europe was declining (diminishing demand for coal in the face of cleaner, cheaper and more efficient* energy and uncompetitiveness in the face of coal from cheap labour countries).

    The current situation of the coal industry in the UK – ie, its virtual non-existence – is, broadly speaking, no different from that in the other Western European former producers, Thatcher or no Thatcher.

    It is true that the coal mining community has always held a particular place in the UK working class mythology. That is why there is still an annual Durham Miners Gala for a non-existent coal industry whereas there is no Lancashire Cotton Spinners Gala (for example).

    A little less sentimentality and a little more recognition of economic and technological reality would not come amiss when commenting.


    * from myriad examples : the inefficiency and pollution of heating houses by coal fires and moving locomotives by steam power….

  • Joyce Drysdale

    Good idea to allow seasonal work to be untaxed. Some fit pensioners may consider this. I worked for 44 years and still pay tax on my pensions. Although I could use a cash boost I would not pay WM any more tax.

  • Charles Bostock

    I believe there is a scheme in Germany whereby the unemployed can earn up to 500 euros a month without losing any benefits. I can’t recall whether that’s connected with certain types of work (perhaps the 1 euro an hour jobs I’ve heard about?) or if there are any particular conditions attached.

    This blog has some German commenters (well, people who claim to live there or who post with German names) = perhaps they could tell us more?

    • Charles Bostock

      I would urge anyone with knowledge of this to come forward. The info would be very much on topic and provide valuable input into the kind of discussion and debate that regular commenters always call for (but seem strangely reluctant to foster themselves).
      Actually, I’m surprised Craig hadn’t mentioned it himself, perhaps he wasn’t aware?

  • N_

    For some of those who dig with the right foot, Arlene Foster’s membership of the Church of Ireland situates her three-quarters of the way to Rome anyway, but now she is linking up with traditionalist Latin Rite fan Jacob Rees-Mogg to back an absurd plan for Northern Ireland issued by the European Research Group. It basically involves the region remaining in the EU free market and customs union in all but name, and yet with no “border down the Irish Sea”. Yeah right.

    It cannot go on happening for ever that the prime minister is made to withdraw proposals excruciatingly grovellingly when the ERG tell her to. Sooner or later something will crack. I doubt she will last until the Tory conference (30 Sep to 3 Oct).

    If a general election is coming, then from the point of view of maximising the Tory vote it would be preferable for the government to be brought down by the DUP than by what the media enjoy calling a “rebellion” by Tory MPs. Theresa May would have to be out of office before the election, for obvious reasons. Most “expert” scribbling about the Tory leadership has assumed the members will get a vote. They won’t.

  • Sandra Crawford

    Michael Hudson, a left style post Keynesian economist has suggested moving all taxes from Labour onto the rentier class, global corporations and banks. Excessive unearned income in other words. Certainly the low paid should not pay any. Good idea.

  • Jones

    Thatcher totally destroyed the working class, a whole generation of working class people were thrown on the scrapheap while yuppies made a fortune. Great Britain was built on the back of industries like coal mining yet thatcher called them the enemy within. It was once common for folk to go hop-picking and fruit-picking during the season, my own family did it, now agricultural work is all done by eastern europeans, i doubt the tories would allow a three month tax free period for British agricultural workers good though the idea is, as they like to squeeze every last penny out of the working class, their work policy is high pay to incentive the rich and low pay to incentive the poor.

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