Broken Promises, Broken Country

[Today’s post is a bit of a political rant – please feel free to skip it if that sort of thing doesn’t interest you].

In 2015 the Tory Party manifesto contained a promise not to raise income tax, national insurance contributions or value added tax (VAT). At the time I can remember saying to my then colleagues that it was a stupid promise, (effectively blocking the three main ways a government can raise money at significant levels) and that I doubted that they would be able to keep that promise.

On Wednesday they broke that manifesto promise and raised NI contributions for the self employed. [Full Disclosure: I am self employed and therefore this will effect me directly]. Now there has been significant claim and counterclaim that they haven’t broken a manifesto pledge because it wasn’t what the legislation said; but I’m sorry – liar, liar, pants on fire. A manifesto pledge is made before an election, the legislation is enacted afterwards (assuming that you get in government). So actually the promise was broken when the legislation was laid and not last Wednesday then, wasn’t it, the manifesto pledge did not distinguish between employees and the self-employed, whatever your subsequent claim it is you manifesto pledge that you have broken.

As the proposal further unravelled we’ve now seen the Prime Minister back pedal and say that this won’t be legislated on until the autumn and not now (probably because there are sufficient Tory backbenchers who would vote against it, and the government would loose the vote), presumably in a hope that it will be forgotten about by then, and it can be sneaked through.

Regardless of all of this, I actually think that NI should be raised – across the board. We have a Tory government and once again we see that Education, Public Services, especially adult social care, and the NHS are completely f***ed (remember when we were last in this situation? Well it was a Tory government then too).

Austerity (or budget cuts) have been the mantra of the Tories since 2010 – the first five years they had their Lib Dem glove puppets to hide behind (bad news send out a junior Lib Dem minister), who got their reward in 2015, and lost nearly all their parliamentary seats. Coupled with buying off (one-off grants to) local authorities not to raise Council Tax (until now when the horse has finally bolted and now a 5% rise means a lot less than a year on year rise of 1% over the past five years would have) and in some cases buying off local authorities in order to prevent them embarrassing the government (Surrey County Council), this Country’s finances and public services are firmly in the toilet.

So actually put 1% on NI across the board or if you want to “even things up” 1% on employees and 2% on the self-employed, I really don’t care about your manifesto pledge (you’ve always been a bunch of liars, so you don’t change your spots overnight anyway), which was a stupid promise in the first place – just try being honest. You’re in government and need to sort out the mess that you’ve created. Austerity (cuts) do not work, and they never have, so now that the chickens are coming home to roost, how about having an honest conversation with the country and asking them what they actually want, and not what you think is important and while you’re at it what about some of those other stupid promises? Do we need HS2 (to save 20 to 30 minutes travel time) or could we spend that money better some place else? Do we need two (or three) new nuclear power stations, when there are better renewable alternatives, and spend the difference some place else.

FFS – have an honest conversation with the Country and stop pretending that we don’t have an opinion or a view, and only what you think counts.

Hacked

I’m not surprised at what Wikileaks has revealed [NY Times Article Link], I don’t think I’d ever assumed that any item of technology was completely safe. On the basis that the moment anyone claims to have made something secure, someone else will be looking at ways around that. Virtual cat and mouse if you will.

Also glad to see that George Smiley is making a return to print 😉 [LINK]

Blog Survey – Some Highlights

As regular readers will know I ran a blog survey during February. It’s the second year that I’ve done so, with an aim to see what it is that people like about the blog (and dislike), their favourite types of posts and a few other things.

I sat down yesterday to go through the results, and to randomly pick the winner of the £10 Amazon voucher, which has now been sent to them.

Thanks to everyone who took part, I’d like to have sent everyone a voucher as a thank you, but that would have been a trifle expensive! So if you didn’t win, thanks for helping me out with your time and views.


So some highlights from the survey.

Q. How long have you been reading this blog?

It seems things are pretty evenly split with half of respondents having been reading for 2 or more years, and the other half, a year or less.

Q. Which post types do you like the most?

There’s quite a bit of detail in the answers here, as I asked you to rank your answers in order of preference. However by far and away the most popular are allotment and gardening posts, followed in a close second by Quick Links, with cooking posts coming third.

Q. What media do you prefer in posts?

Text was the most popular answer here, with a mix of text and video or pictures a close second.

Q. What would you like to see in the future?

Again this question has a lot of detail, as it also asked you to rank from a lot less to a lot more. It seems though, that most people are happy with the post types as they are, although again allotment and gardening posts, and Quick Links were asked for “a little more” or “a lot more” in a few responses, as were nature posts.

This is one of the most important set of responses for me in helping shape future content. I’m pleased that it seems most people are happy with the balance at the moment, but obviously I can write more in those areas that seem more popular going forward.

Q. I’m thinking of starting a monthly (or possibly weekly) newsletter. This is likely to replace the Quick Links weekly posts. It would require an email subscription rather than being something that would appear by default on the blog.Would you be interested in signing up this?

Nearly everybody said yes. I have to say I’m not sure when this will happen, but it does seem that there is a demand for it. I’ll be giving this some serious thought over the coming days, so stay tuned!

Q. Demographics

I asked a couple of demography questions which I’ll aggregate a little here. The age group of my readers spans from 25 to 55 and is evenly split between male and female.

Obviously this is based solely on those that completed the survey and answered these questions (there was a “prefer not to say” option here, which a few people used, which is fine with me). So the actual answers might be different.


So there you have it. Thanks again to all those of you who took the time to complete the survey, and also thank you for being a reader of this blog.

Old School

When I was sorting through some of my Dad’s old paperwork, I found a folder in his filing cabinet with my name on it. Inside were a lot of my old school and college reports. I hadn’t realised that he’d kept them (although possibly given his filing system he may not have realised that they were still there).

I pulled a few out at random and it reminds me pretty much of how I felt about school and college. Latterly I didn’t really enjoy school very much, although college was much more interesting to me (probably because I was specialising in the subjects that were of most interest to me). My teachers seemed to think I was good in class but not very good at exams (which is pretty much how I remembered it).

I’m not sure whether or not I’ll keep them, for now they’re back in the filing cabinet.

Blog Survey

This post is pinned to the top of the blog. Scroll Down for more recent content.

Just over a year ago I ran a short survey of what you the readers thought of my blog. I made some changes as a result of that survey, so I thought it was about time that I ran the survey again to see what you think of those changes, and the blog in general.

It’s a short survey and should take less than five minutes to complete. If you do complete it, you can enter yourself into a draw for a £10 Amazon e-voucher. The survey will be open through February 2017, and the draw will take place after the survey closes.

Thanks for helping me out, and I look forward to hearing what you think.

Click here to take the survey.

Cauliflower Cheese

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Cauliflower cheese is one of my favourite dishes for a cold winter’s evening. Here’s a recipe for how I make it – there are of course plenty of others out there.

You’ll need:

  • 1 largish cauliflower (will make enough for 3 to 4 people, depending on appetite)
  • 1 and 1/2 pints of milk (semi-skimmed is fine)
  • 100g butter
  • 100g flour
  • 200 – 300g of grated cheddar cheese (or similar)
  • 4 to 6 eggs (hard boiled)
  • 2 teaspoons of English mustard
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Nutmeg
  1. If your eggs aren’t already hard boiled start off by bringing them to a boil in a pan of water, and boil for about 10 mins. You can do this while cooking the cauliflower, and making the sauce.2017-01-17-17-23-08
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C(160°C fan), Gas 4 or 5.
  3. Strip down the cauliflower to individual florets, wash and place in a pan of water, and bring to a boil.2017-01-17-17-23-04
  4. Place the butter in another pan over a medium heat. Once melted add the flour, and combine to a smooth paste.
  5. 2017-01-17-17-27-25Add a little of the milk and stir into the flour/butter paste, again until smooth. Repeat this once or twice more with a little milk each time. Finally add all of the remaining milk and continue to stir. Keep stirring until the sauce begins to thicken (you may find it helpful to use a small whisk at this point rather than a spoon), stir continuously to prevent any lumps forming.
  6. As the sauce thickens, add the mustard, salt & pepper and stir in.
  7. Next add about three-quarters of the cheese a little at the time, and allow it to combine with the sauce, keep stirring!
  8. Turn off the heat under the sauce. Drain the cauliflower, removing as much water as possible, and tip into the cheese sauce, and mix to coat all of the cauliflower with the sauce. Put the lid onto this pan to retain the heat.
  9. Take the hard boiled eggs, shell them and cut in half. Place them in the bottom of an oven proof dish.2017-01-17-17-43-10
  10. Tip the cheese and cauliflower mixture on top of the eggs. Grate a little nutmeg over the top, and cover with the remaining cheese.
  11. Cook in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese on top is a golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.
  12. Serve on it’s own or with some crusty bread.