Friday 31 January 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , ,
KJ and Fee put two and two together...

Thursday 30 January 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:

RBS payouts to UK staff expected to total £500m despite an £8bn loss
The bank is now expected to show an £8bn loss after announcing that mis-selling scandals and legal bills in the US were forcing it to take a £3bn hit. Analysts at Credit Suisse calculated the bank's total losses since the 2008 bailout would reach £43bn, almost as much as the £45bn pumped in by taxpayers to buy shares in RBS to stop it collapsing. The top management team have waived their bonuses for 2013 but other staff will expect to receive payouts, including Rory Cullinan, who is to run the new bad bank being set up by RBS. GUARDIAN

Fracking under homes could be allowed without permission
Ministers are considering changing trespass laws to make it easier for energy companies to carry out fracking beneath people's homes without permission. The move comes amid concern that fracking for shale gas could otherwise be held back by lengthy and costly court proceedings. Shale gas exploration typically involves drilling down vertically and out horizontally, often for more than a mile. Currently operators need to ask homeowners before they drill under their land, but they have a right to appeal by law if an agreement cannot be reached. BBC NEWS

The great migration south: 80% of new private sector jobs are in London
The brain drain meant that every major city outside the south-east is losing young people to London. The report by the think tank Centre for Cities highlights the need for better infrastructure, investment in skills and reforms to planning, and noted that Bradford, Sheffield, Bristol, Southampton, Blackpool and Glasgow saw employment shrink in both private and public sectors. Britain is one of the world's most centralised countries. In Germany the government is in Berlin, the financial centre is Frankfurt and there are cultural hubs in Hamburg and Munich. In the UK, London has it all. What's more, the UK Treasury keeps a much tighter hold of the purse strings than finance ministries in other rich nations. Local government raises 17% of its income from local taxation in the UK, compared to an average of 55% for other members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of more than 30 rich countries. GUARDIAN

Vince Cable undermines chancellor with 'wrong sort of recovery' message
Cable warned that weak exports and a hoarding of cash by businesses meant "the shape of the recovery has not been all that we might have hoped for". Instead, the recovery was based on the same sort of consumer borrowing that caused the crash. His remarks also implied the Liberal Democrats will not necessarily vote for the deficit reduction plan Osborne intends to put to MPs this autumn in an updated charter for fiscal responsibility. Cable argued that the additional £30bn austerity proposed by the chancellor after 2015 went beyond the joint coalition commitment to eradicate the structural part of the UK's current budget deficit. GUARDIAN

Prosecutors finally drop case against men caught "stealing" waste food from Iceland bins
Three men caught taking discarded food from bins outside an Iceland store will not now be prosecuted after an explosion of criticism over the decision to bring charges against them, including from the company's chief executive. The Crown Prosecution Service said it would drop its case despite having previously said there was "significant public interest" in prosecuting the men. They were caught last year taking tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes from the dustbins behind a branch of the high-street retailer. One of the accused said he had taken the food because he needed it to eat and did not consider that he had done anything illegal or dishonest in removing food destined for landfill from a skip. GUARDIAN

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , ,
Chris gets shown round the workplace...

Saturday 25 January 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,
Being beastly to foreigners seems to be back in vogue. At least to foreigners without much money. In its pursuit of popularity the Tory Party proposed stopping printing welfare leaflets in foreign languages and stop providing translators at benefits offices for those who don't speak English.

According to an un-named 'Tory insider' quoted by the Daily Mail, "The vast majority of voters will think this idea is plain common sense. It is unreasonable to expect taxpayers to spend huge sums on translators when people should be learning to read and write English."

Maybe the Tory insider is right about voters, maybe not. Either way, denying poor foreigners their legal right to benefits by putting up a language barrier won't really affect the "vast majority of voters". On the other hand, the government's ongoing outsourcing of providing interprepters for the Justice System will. Impairing foreigners' access to good interpreters when they appear in courts and police stations will affect all of us. Those voters who care little whether an innocent foreigner gets an undeserved punishment should remember: when the innocent get punished for a crime they did not commit the guilty who did commit the crime get away to offend again.

A report by the National Audit Office in January 2014 took another look at the performance of the Ministry of Justice's attempt at outsourcing the provision of interpreters to the justice system. 

The Ministry of Justice had earlier been scolded by Parliament's Justice Committee and the National Audit Office for the calamitous performance of this outsourcing arrangement. A key element in this outsourcing cockup was Capita (the outsourcer) slashing the rates of pay of interpreters. This pay-slash caused a boycott by the best qualified (Tier 1) interpreters, resulting in an unacceptable level of Capita's failure to provide suitable interpreters when required.

The January 2014 report includes a graph showing how Capita have done recruiting interpreters between October 2012 and November 2013

While Capita have managed to triple the number of Tier 3 interpreters, and double the number of Tier 2 interpreters, the number of the best qualified Tier 1 interpreters has only increase by less than one fifth (17%). Perhaps due to the ongoing boycott by the best interpreters, perhaps due to a policy of using lowest cost interpreters regardless of their qualifications.

Cuts in the Justice System don't only affect defendants. Cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have meant prosecutors have been unable to pursue cases properly. According to a report by the Bureau of Investigation, Michael Turner QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said:

Friday 24 January 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014 Posted by Jake 3 comments Labels: , , , , , ,

The Crown Prosecution Service has once again come under fire by a top judge for failing to prepare properly for a serious trial, and for citing financial constraints as the reason for that failure.

The judge told the court that the case ‘raises serious issues about the practice of the CPS in cases where complex evidence is involved,’ and called the CPS’s actions ‘completely unacceptable’.

Recently published court records reveal that judge Peter Murphy was forced to throw out a trial for conspiracy to supply class A drugs just two days in to proceedings, after the CPS failed to prepare properly, claiming that submitting certain evidence would have a negative financial impact.

The judge’s comments are part of growing criticism of the CPS, as uncovered by the Bureau last year.

A six month investigation by the Bureau found that budget cuts had led to the CPS losing 23% of its barristers (202), 22% of its solicitors (518) and 27% (296) of its higher court advocates.

That loss in staff correlated with an increase in the rate at which homicide trials failed because the CPS provided insufficient or no evidence after a not guilty plea. This was equivalent to one in twenty homicide cases and represented a rise of 50% compared with 2010. The rate at which the CPS offers ‘no evidence’ had also risen for burglary, robbery, fraud and forgery, and criminal damage trials.

Related article: New figures reveal the CPS has lost more than 20% of its legal teams

Friday, January 24, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,
But Chris, KJ and Fee think they do...

Thursday 23 January 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Former head of bank regulation says growth is thanks to too much borrowing, of the kind that caused the bust
The former head of the Financial Service Authority, Lord Turner, has compared Britain's rapidly recovering economy with the "hair of the dog" treatment for a hangover. Turner, who was on the shortlist to be governor of the Bank of England before Mark Carney was chosen for the job, told an HSBC breakfast that the economy had reverted to its pre-crisis model of growth. He said: "We have spent the last few years talking about the need to rebalance the economy away from a focus on property and financial services and towards investment and exports. We are now back to growth without any rebalancing at all." GUARDIAN

Osborne backs minimum wage rise to £7 an hour
Chancellor George Osborne has acted to try to outflank Ed Miliband over the cost-of-living issue by calling for a dramatic increase in the national minimum wage to restore it to its pre-recession value. Osborne has thrown his weight behind a proposal that would raise the minimum wage from £6.31 to £7 an hour from October 2014 – seven months before the general election. The chancellor said he believed businesses would be able to absorb the increase, now that the economy was growing again. GUARDIAN

Cap on rip-off pension fees 'shelved for at least a year'
Government plans to cap charges on workplace pensions will be delayed for at least a year, it emerged last night. The cap on charges above 0.75 per cent was meant to be introduced in April and intended to protect millions of workers being automatically enrolled into company pensions from paying high fees. The original plan first announced in October and dubbed a “full frontal assault” on pension charges, set out options including an outright ban on fees higher than 0.75 per cent, or 1 per cent for savers automatically enrolled in a workplace pension. Groups which had campaigned against high charges said news of the delay was a blow to millions of savers. The industry has furiously lobbied ministers to drop or delay the policy, warning that the government was “creating hugely significant practical and operational risk” for its auto-enrolment pensions programme by introducing the cap. TELEGRAPH

Ofgem accuses Npower of 'misleading' report on power costs
A report by power supplier Npower, claiming bills will rise due to higher energy distribution costs, has been dismissed by regulator Ofgem as "misleading". Npower, one of the UK's big six suppliers, said the report was designed to "shine a light" on company costs. In it, the company argues that energy suppliers make small profits and have little control over customer bills. In response to Ofgem, Npower corrected its figures and cut its projections for increased network costs. Ofgem said it was pleased npower had changed its numbers downwards but still questioned whether the energy company had yet got it right. GUARDIAN

Saturday 18 January 2014

Saturday, January 18, 2014 Posted by Jake 8 comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,

George Osborne’s championing a rise in the minimum wage is like the Big Bad Wolf championing better straw for little pigs' houses. Will his earnest “little pig, little pig, we’re all in it together!” convince us he is not a heartless cad after all? Or will we suspect the motivation for his sudden change of mind on this minimum pay increase? On the 10th January 2014 Osborne said it would be self defeating and job destroying, then on 16th January 2014 he said with a purr

"I want to make sure we are all in it together, as part of the recovery, which is why I want to see above-inflation increases in the minimum wage, precisely because the British economy can now afford that."

Did a Special Adviser remind him about elections? This appeal from Osborne for a higher minimum wage is of course not aimed at winning over people on minimum wages. George has already huffed and puffed and blown all their housing benefits down. This is aimed at those of us who are beginning to feel a little C-sick over cuts to pensions, pay, benefits, jobs and public services squarely aimed at the less well off. As Mervyn King said when he was Governor of the Bank of England

Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, in evidence to the UK Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee, March 2011.

Of course, it is unfair of us to compare Osborne to the big bad wolf. Let me say that now before the complaints come tweeting in from wolf lovers across the globe. All the wolf wanted was a meal, while Conservative Party policy is after much more than that.

Tory policies on benefits caps and bedroom tax seem designed to drive unsuitable people from suitable areas. According to Shelter, the housing charity, the way people are kept below the overall benefits cap is cutting housing benefit.

“Housing benefit will be reduced to prevent the total benefits received going above these limits.”

The effect of which is to push them out of their homes.

However, it is not enough to drive away all the unsuitable people from the suitable places. What about getting rid of the unsuitable properties? A report by Westminster Council shows the difference in expectations is between the well-heeled and the down-at-heel when it comes to the size of their gaffs. 

The Westminster report states a ‘Social’ 2 bedroom flat is 750 square feet, while a private ‘Society’ 2 bedroom flat is 1,200 square feet. A ‘Social’ five bedroom house, at 1,760 square feet, is smaller than a ‘Society’ three bedroom flat. And you can fit twenty one ‘Social’ one bedroom flats into a single ‘Society’ five bedroom house.

Friday 17 January 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels: , , ,
KJ, Chris and Fee get to the heart of the public/private debate...

Thursday 16 January 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Revealed: taxpayer-funded academies paying millions to private firms
Taxpayer-funded academy chains have paid millions of pounds into the private businesses of directors, trustees and their relatives, documents obtained from freedom of information requests show. The payments have been made for a wide range of services including consultancy fees, curriculums, IT advice and equipment, travel, expenses and legal services by at least nine academy chains. Critics fear that the Department for Education (DfE) is not closely monitoring the circulation of public money from academies to private firms. Since 2010 more than 3,444 schools – including more than half of secondary schools – have taken on academy or free school status. GUARDIAN

Lord Browne: fracking will not reduce UK gas prices
Fracking is not going to reduce gas prices in the UK, according to Lord Browne. He is the chairman of leading fracking company Cuadrilla, a leading government adviser, and one of the most powerful energy figures in Britain. He contradicts claims by Cameron and Osborne that shale gas exploration could help curb soaring energy bills. In August, Cameron said: "If we don't back this technology, we will miss a massive opportunity to help families with their bills … fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down." In July, Osborne said: "This a real chance to get cheaper energy for Britain … a major new energy source that can reduce energy bills." But Browne said: "I don't know what the contribution of shale gas will be to the energy mix of the UK. We need to drill probably 10-12 wells and test them and it needs to be done as quickly as possible... We are part of a well-connected European gas market and, unless it is a gigantic amount of gas, it is not going to have material impact on price." Browne also added to the government's ongoing troubles by labelling nuclear power as "very, very expensive indeed" and observing that giving more state subsidies to oil and gas than to renewable energy is "like running both the heating and the air conditioning at the same time". GUARDIAN

RBS bonuses: Government defends policy
Labour has demanded George Osborne block any attempt by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to pay bonuses of up to double its bankers' annual salary. The government owns 80% of RBS and could block large bonuses. Under EU rules, from 2015 RBS can only pay bonuses up to 200% of annual salary if shareholders approve the decision. David Cameron said he would veto any attempt by RBS to increase its overall pay and bonus bill, but did not say the government would reject individual pay awards. As it is, fewer than 100 RBS investment banking staff would be affected by the bonus decision, as RBS has reduced the size of its investment banking arm by about three-quarters since 2007. BBC NEWS

9m Britons are using credit to cover rent or mortgage payments - and 1m use payday loans
Nearly one million cash-strapped Britons have taken out a payday loan in the last year to help cover the rent or mortgage costs, a new study reveals. In total, nine million have borrowed to cover their rent or mortgage payments in the last 12 months, turning to unauthorised overdrafts, ramping up credit card debt or turning to friends or family for cash. Housing charity Shelter, which conducted the study, said it dealt with just under 9,000 calls to its helpline from people struggling to pay their rent or mortgage last year, a jump of one third on the total for 2012. DAILY MAIL

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Sunday 12 January 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014 Posted by Jake 4 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
In January 2014 the Labour Party issued another report, “Powering Britain: One Nation Labour’s plans to reset the energy market”. The report made various assertions relating to the period after 2010, conveniently overlooking Labour’s own lamentable record regulating the energy industry. It is quite extraordinary how much politicians care for us when out of power, and how little when in power. Wasn’t it Spiderman who said “With no responsibility comes great power”. Power to talk without having responsibility to deliver. Anyway, the report stated:

"Since 2010, household energy bills have gone up by over £300 a year whilst small businesses are paying over £13,000 a year more

Lack of competition in the retail market has resulted in consumers paying £3.6 billion more than they need to"

The report includes graphs showing how energy companies’ blaming wholesale cost (what the energy companies pay) for retail price (what you pay) rises since 2011 are phoney. Average annual increases between 2011 and 2013 have been:

  • Electricity: wholesale up 0.5% per year; retail up 9.7% a year
  • Gas: wholesale up 1.59% per year; retail up 11% per year

OFGEM, the energy regulator, denies that consumers are being ripped off though OFGEM accepts the need to “break the stranglehold of the big 6 in the retail market” (so we're not being ripped off, just strangled?) and has repeatedly blamed energy companies for not being "transparent" (i.e. telling the simple truth) about their wholesale costs.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,
The relationship between British Industry and British Government is the same as that between a dominatrix and her clients. Plenty of shouting and threatening, but no visible marks. 

Ministers appear in the news shooting out their lips, shaking their heads, scolding, threatening terrible consequences and spankings, but making no visible changes.

If you want to see a pair of reddened cheeks you need go no further than certain parliamentary committee rooms:

"I think you do evil" intoned Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, who was being strict to the boss of Google, accused of tax dodging.

“I apologise to the Secretary of State and I should apologise to this committee and the taxpayer on behalf of our company. We didn’t have the systems in place that we needed” grovelled the boss of G4S having been caught out overcharging for offender tagging services. 

Margaret Hodge is matched by Andrew Tyrie, the man of the gimlet gaze who chairs the Treasury Committee. Peers of the Realm have been called liars by other peers of the Realm. Lord Lawson, sitting on the committee, chastised Lord Stephenson, former chairman of the wrecked bank HBOS, with the words "Either when you said that you were being dishonest, or else, if you believed it to be correct, you were delusional. I prefer to believe that you were not dishonest, and you were simply delusional."

Friday 10 January 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , ,
Fee and Chris explain it all to KJ...

Thursday 9 January 2014

Thursday, January 09, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Cabinet split over George Osborne's plan for £12bn more welfare cuts
Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith is alarmed at the chancellor's approach to social security reform, while deputy prime minister Nick Clegg warns of a 'monumental mistake.' As the debate intensified, Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, confirmed that Osborne's plans would mean hitting the sick and disabled. Clegg criticised Osborne for ruling out a tax rise and even countenancing a tax cut for high earners, later adding: "I literally don't know of a serious economist who believes that you only do it from that lopsided, unbalanced approach. Almost all serious economists say you have some kind of mix." GUARDIAN

Lending to business suffers biggest fall since 2011, Bank of England data shows
The news raises concerns that economic growth is dependent on household spending, and casting doubt on the effectiveness of schemes intended to increase banks' appetite to lend. Lending to non-financial companies fell by £4.7bn in November, compared with a monthly average decrease of £1bn over the previous six months. But it was caused by a drop in loans to big businesses, whereas small business lending actually rose for the first time in five months. GUARDIAN

UK car sales at highest since 2007, helped by bank mis-selling compensation payouts
British new car sales rose to their highest level since 2007 last year, bucking a weak European trend to grow by 10.8 percent on the year. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says the sales were fuelled by growing confidence, cheap finance deals and PPI payments, shifting 2.265 million cars in 2013. Mike Hawes, the SMMT's chief executive, said it was difficult to measure the precise impact of the estimated £18bn of Payment Protection Insurance compensation, but that average payouts of £3,000 were having an impact: "It's enough to put a deposit down on a car." GUARDIAN

Workers to demand better pay deals after driving British car industry to an 11% sales surge
Unions say it is only fair that employees who took a pay hit when times were tough should share in the industry's current success. Mike Hawes, chief executive of trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, ­acknowledged: “The support the unions have given has been key.” But Mark Ovenden, boss of Ford in the UK, warned: “It is ­important to qualify the improvement.” He said Ford’s European arm would lose more than £600million this year, and wouldn’t break even until 2015. Yet it came as the manufacturer celebrated a bumper 2013 in which it notched up 37 years as Britain’s best selling car maker. DAILY MIRROR

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Saturday 4 January 2014

Saturday, January 04, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , ,
It is not just taxes paid by the little people that are avoided by the big people

Nor is it just the big energy companies and banks that find it child's play to run rings around their poodlish regulators.

In 2012 the government's policy of pursuing people with no money rather than people with money to hide resulted in the prosecution of 9,863 people for benefits fraud and only 617 for tax fraud. Even though according to the National Fraud Authority tax fraud (£14 billion) is seven times greater than benefits fraud (£1.9 billion).

Such favours are not restricted to the unconvicted. A National Audit Office report published in December 2013 reveals that British courts follow the example of British taxmen, pursuing little crooks while letting the big crooks scarper with their ill-gotten capital gains: 

"The annual amount of fraud perpetrated by criminals in England and Wales has been estimated by the National Fraud Authority as some £52 billion. On this basis, it has been further estimated that, out of every £100 generated by the criminal economy, £99.65 was kept by the perpetrators."

While confiscation orders of upto £1,000 are almost all collected, larger amounts manage to do a runner. Big crooks have places offshore to hide their 'earnings', and banks of well paid lawyers to camouflage their villainy:

Friday 3 January 2014

Friday, January 03, 2014 Posted by Hari 2 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Fee and KJ predict what will happen next...

Thursday 2 January 2014

Thursday, January 02, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
The CBI, Britain's biggest business lobby group, says "Pay your workers more"
John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, Britain's biggest business lobby group, criticised many of the 240,000 companies he is paid to represent for failing to pass on their new-found prosperity to employees. He told employers – whose FTSE 100 bosses are paid 136 times the national average – that they must ensure that all citizens benefit from the recovery. The GMB union warns that the real value of national average earnings has fallen by 14% since the start of the recession in 2008. Real earnings have dropped by more than 20% in London, with workers in Hammersmith and Fulham experiencing a 49% decline. By contrast, the average FTSE 100 boss collected £3.7m last year. Just three months ago Cridland attacked the Labour leader Ed Miliband’s plans for an increase in the minimum wage as a "real setback for Labour's pro-enterprise credentials". He said many companies could not afford to pay employees more than the £6.31 minimum wage for adults, and £5.03 for those aged 18 to 21. Miliband has said he will offer companies tax breaks if they commit to paying workers the living wage, which is set at £7.65 an hour. GUARDIAN

Energy costs 'deliberately inflated' by £150 per household
The so-called Big Six, British Gas, SSE, E.ON, EDF, npower, and Scottish Power, paid £4bn more for power than market rate, according to shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint. She accused the companies of paying over the odds to increase profits in other divisions of their companies or doing deals that were bad for customers. She added: "The time has come for a complete overhaul of our energy market. Labour will break up the big energy companies, put an end to the secret deals and force them to do all of their trading on the open market." Energy UK, which represents the big six suppliers, disputed the figures. TELEGRAPH

What economic recovery? Only one in 50 people believe things are better for them
The TUC survey looked at how people felt about the recent claims by Chancellor George Osbourne that ‘Britain’s economic plan was working.’  Out of 1,600 people polled many saw recent austerity measures as necessary but more than half wanted services that had been cut to be restored. The news will come as a blow to the Government which has been busy assuring voters that as the economy improves in 2013 and 2014 it will slowly be felt by everyone. TUC general secretary, Frances O'Grady said: ‘Voters accepted austerity as unpleasant medicine. But now they are realising that what they thought were the unpleasant side effects are what the Chancellor sees as a cure. Recovery seems to mean food banks, zero hours and pay cuts for the many, tax cuts and pay growth for the few at the top.’ DAILY MAIL

'It's a rip-off that makes Wonga look like Santa Claus': 300,000 of Britain's poorest people live at least 1km from a free ATM
There are 269 low-income areas with no free ATMs inside a 1km (0.6-mile) radius – with half of the most excluded people living in South Wales and the North. The people who relied on cash machines charging a flat fee were often poor - meaning they were disproportionately affected for taking out small amounts of cash. Labour MP Frank Field, who advises the Government on combating poverty, condemned the charges which range from 75p to £10. DAILY MAIL

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Wednesday, January 01, 2014 Posted by Jake 18 comments Labels: , , , , ,

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”

Generally speaking our posts at Ripped-Off Britons are about who not to trust and why. For a change, in this post we do not write about untrustworthy people who gain our trust using flim-flam and deception – i.e. the usual roster of bankers, energy executives, politicians etc. For this post we write about the trustworthy people we have been persuaded by flim-flam and deception not to trust – all the ordinary people.

It isn’t enough for dodgy people to fool us into trusting them. For the dodgy to succeed it is necessary for us to mistrust their victims. It is necessary for us to doubt those in poverty (because they don’t work hard enough), those freezing in the cold (because they wilfully don’t put on an extra jumper), the unemployed (because they are lazy), the disabled (they secretly tango when no-one is looking) etc. The dodgy need us to mistrust their victims, because the victims are the witnesses and the evidence of their dodginess.

Doubtless some of these people are victims of their own foolishness. However it is very often true that the foolish make up a small minority of the victims. Consider the 2010 General Election. The Conservative party took 36.1% of the vote, and the turnout was 65.1% of the electorate: therefore the Conservatives won 36.1% x 65.1% = 24% of the country’s votes (less than a quarter). A figure that is at least better than the 2005 General Election, which the Labour Party won with just 22% of the electorate (Labour took 35.2% of votes cast, and just 61.4% of the electorate bothered to vote: 35.2% x 61.4% = 22%).

Some graphs from the think-tank Demos provide a good example of how we have been persuaded to mistrust ordinary people. Their report, “Generation Strains”, provides graphs showing attitudes of people split by generation:

Pre-War: Born before 1945

Baby Boomers: Born between 1945 and 1965

Generation X: Born between 1966 and 1979

Generation Y: Born between 1980 and 2000

The graph shows that on balance the public believe that most people on unemployment benefit (the dole) are fiddling in one way or another. (The graph's percentage figure = those who agree - those who disagree. So 0% means an equal number agree as disagree)

The Demos report comments that this belief seems based on a massive misunderstanding of basic facts:

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