Monday, 23 March 2015

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

It wasn’t until I moved to a small village in Leicestershire that I honestly became aware of the significance of this pneumonic for the colours of the rainbow.
    The battle in vain was the Battle of Bosworth Fields which took place on 22nd August 1485. Richard III and his Yorkists were on one side, Henry Tudor with the Lancastrians on the other. Henry won and was crowned, supposedly, as Henry VII in my village of Stoke Golding. I say supposedly as not being a native born Stoker I take the story with a pinch of salt. Probably true but we have no photographic evidence!
    After the battle Richard’s body was spirited away by supporters and ended up being buried at a monastery in Leicester. This monastery was later destroyed and all knowledge of where Richard was buried was forgotten until researchers worked out it was probably under what was then a car park. The skeleton was recovered, studied, tested, confirmed beyond all doubt that it was Richard and after much legal wrangling with York, who wanted the remains brought back there, it was decided it should be officially interred at Leicester.
    On the 22nd March 2015, the remains of Richard III were brought from the site where he was killed, through some local villages close to the battlefield and then on to Leicester Cathedral for a service. Thousands of people lined the villages and the route into Leicester to view the cortege. It was quite astounding.
Two armoured soldiers escorting the hearse through Dadlington
    A bit of history there for you, but that is not the point of this blog.
   What this story has brought to mind in me is that we can have history, people can turn out in support of a dead king hundreds of years after his death, but we, the English, don’t keep killing each other over things that happened in the past. Oh, you still get a bit of rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire, especially when it comes to football and cricket, but nobody sends suicide bombers into each other’s cities to wreak death and destruction over things that happened over 600 years ago.
    The Civil War divided the country between Royalists and the Roundhead parliamentarians. There are still people in this country who would like to see an end to the monarchy, but they don’t send in terrorists to blow anyone up. Although we still remember the gun powder plot, no one sets off anything more than a few fireworks. Battles are re-enacted for fun, but even those re-enactors don’t wish real harm on anyone.
    Maybe this is what makes the English so different to the rest of the world. We debate and argue about things. We condemn violence. Rivalry is usually confined to football fans. It is natural for one set of people not to get on with another set. This goes back to when we lived in enclosed villages and had to defend ourselves from the people in the next village who would mount raids to steal our cattle and women. But this was back in the Bronze age and we have moved on since then. We have learnt to tolerate other people, whether they share our views or not. I’ve yet to visit a town or city in England where the people say they don’t like their neighbours. The people of Liverpool don’t like those from Manchester. Nuneaton people deride those from Coventry. And everyone despises Londoners! Everyone thinks their town is the best. But we don’t try to force our views on others.
    When I watch the news from around the world I shake my head in despair when I hear of people fighting and killing each other over things that happened centuries ago. Whatever it was it happened. It is not going to unhappen. Fighting about it now won’t change anything only make things worse for the here and now. Don’t forget your history, but don’t live it. Learn from it and make sure it doesn’t repeat. Don’t hold grudges. Appalling things happened in the past but why punish the people of today for those actions? It is the world of today we should worry about not what happened in the past.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

We're All In


‘We’re all in.’ You must have heard it, the ads for the new Workplace Pension. Lots of smiling faces proclaiming that they will be part of a workplace pension. The fact that most of the people working for large companies are probably already in such a scheme is neither here nor there. I don’t know many large companies that do not or have not offered a pension to staff.
     The thing about this new scheme is that every employer is supposed to offer a pension scheme, even if they only employ one person.
      I looked up the details of the scheme, not that it really affects me as I am already retired. But out of interest I thought I would have a look at the website to see what I could find. Every employer has to offer a pension to staff earning over £10,000. Now, the bit you don’t hear about is that the staff don’t have to join, they can opt out, but the employer must not encourage them to opt out. (https://www.gov.uk/workplace-pensions - if you’re interested)

    Lots of thoughts come flooding into my mind here.
  1.  How many smaller businesses pay their employees more than £10,000 a year?
  2.  How many smaller businesses only employ part time staff?
  3.  Will people have their hours cut so that the employers don’t have to pay the pension contributions? What if some is earning £12,000 rather than £10,000?
  4.  Who is going to be managing these pension pots?
  5.  Will each company have to go out and find a scheme themselves or is it all going to be something recommended by the government?

     I don’t do sums so I’m not even going to try to work out the percentage costs of what these pension contributions will be. But with many firms running on tight budgets, with every penny accounted for in many paypackets, is this scheme a burden too far for many people?
     It is not going to help the low paid or part time worker, they won’t earn enough. It is not going to help the small businesses who employ people on good wages but running on small profit margins. These are probably people who just about manage to handle the necessary paperwork for HMRC let alone deal with pensions. So more work there for the accountants!
     And are these pensions transferrable as people move from job to job? Or will people end up with half a dozen different pension pots to draw on when they finally reach retirement age?
     It seems to me it is going to help the pension companies who will be getting money in from every Tom, Dick and Harriett. I wonder how many Tories have shares in pension companies.
     And apart from everything else, I thought the workers of this country already paid in to a pension fund. It’s called National Insurance. Isn’t this Workplace Pension Scheme just another tax on top of what people already pay? Or will it fail because people will opt out anyway?
     Can’t make my mind up whether it is good or bad, but on balance I don’t really like it and am glad I am already retired and don’t run a business that employs people.