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Daily View: Strikes over public sector pension changes

Clare Spencer | 09:27 UK time, Friday, 25 November 2011

Public sector strikers on 30 June 2011

Ahead of the public sector strikes over changes to pensions on Wednesday commentators debate whether the cuts are fair.

The Daily Mail editorial suggests union leaders aren't facing up to reality:

"Of course, the real culprits are the union leaders, who - like the antediluvian monsters they are - refuse to accept that an ageing population and the dire state of the national finances make public sector pension reform unavoidable.
"Indeed, one of the growing scandals of 21st century Britain is how, on average, the public sector is both better paid and better pensioned than a private sector on whose shoulders alone rests the awesome task of dragging the UK out of recession."

The Independent's editorial argues it is impossible to justify a strike in this economic climate:

"Faced with a slew of gloomy indicators, any avoidable economic drag is inexcusable. The trade unions must go back to the negotiating table, hammer out a deal and avoid industrial action. This is not about an ideological battle over the size of the state. It is about what the taxpayer can afford."

The Times editorial says pension cuts are fair to the taxpayer:

"Asking for higher contributions is undoubtedly hard on people whose living standards are already being adversely affected by a pay freeze at a time of high inflation. And being asked to work longer before retiring is unwelcome news for many. Being hard and unwelcome is not, however, the same as being unfair.
"Reform of public sector pensions is essential. Agreement on proposals made during the previous Labour Government's term must be accompanied by measures that make an earlier impact on the amount spent. Without reform it will take too long before savings are made and the taxpayer will be asked to bear too much of the risk that projected spending has been underestimated."

The Founder of the Taxpayers' Alliance, Matthew Elliott, says in the Daily Express he has other concerns about the costs to taxpayers - the cost of union reps:

"There are more than 1,000 local authority staff who could be keeping services such as libraries open; 645 at various agencies such as the HMRC who aren't around to make sure they get your taxes right; 458 staff at government departments including Work and Pensions who could be out catching benefit cheats; 282 in hospitals, 100 staff at primary care trusts, 82 staff at mental health trusts and 44 staff at ambulance services who should all be looking out for patients; and 54 at fire services who should be helping fight blazes . Instead they're all working for the unions."

The Sun's editorial urges union leaders to think again about a strike it says is increasingly resented:

"It is selfish because millions of public employees - from teachers and nurses to council workers - already get a terrific pension deal denied to other employees.
"Also, public sector salaries are typically £4,000 higher than the private sector. The strike is reckless because it will cost the country half a billion pounds as we battle an appalling financial crisis."

But in the Guardian teacher Caroline Ryder explains that she'll be striking because she sees a pension cut isn't fair given how hard she works:

"This is why it's hard to carry on regardless when you are consistently put down as not being good enough, and given more to do with less time in which to do it, and told you are worth less money for your efforts. This is why it's demoralising to be told you should keep giving as much of your time and energy as you do already until you are nearly 70. This is why I'm fed up enough with the way my profession is being treated to do something about it.
"I can't say for sure whether the coffers are empty or not. But does that mean I shouldn't strike? Not even slightly."

Daily View: The Leveson inquiry and privacy

Clare Spencer | 09:52 UK time, Thursday, 24 November 2011

News of the World


Commentators ask what effect the Leveson inquiry into UK media practices will have on privacy.

Allison Pearson says in the Telegraph that she is sickened by the newspapers who have been "breaking and entering into private grief - the burglary of men's and women's souls to sell newspapers":

"Not all journalists are the same. Some of us shudder at the vultures who make money, fun and increased circulation out of human misery. Since when did the destruction of a family become public sport? Let's hope that Lord Justice Leveson teaches the culprits a lesson they'll never forget. "Hack Fact Rats 'caught with pants down in legal sting'." Close quotes."

Suzanne Moore says in the Guardian
that it's readers who have a responsibility not to read the kind of articles which infringe people's private lives:

"Stop doing what is already illegal. But also recognise the blurring between broadsheet/tabloid, private/public, dead word/digital that is happening as we speak. I hear a lot of whinging about all the press, as I also work for Associated Newspapers. Some of it is absolutely justifiable and I hope Leveson is able to come up with better and sustainable regulation. But much whining about and by celebrities is hypocritical. Rather like pre-election polling that says we will vote for higher taxes for better public services which proves to be a nonsense when it comes to the actual ballot box, what people say they want to read and what they do actually read are two different things."

Also in the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash predicts
that, unless regulated, there is great motivation for the press to carry on invading people's private lives:

"As the online competition to printed newspapers grows, and ever more intimate gossip appears somewhere on the internet, where privacy is even more under threat than in the old-fashioned world of print, so the commercial pressure on tabloids to keep the voyeuristic revelations flowing will only increase. It is hard to see how self-regulation alone can stop them. The profit motive is too intense."

The Independent's Philip Hensher says there is an analogy to be drawn with the current exposure of newspaper tactics in enquiring into the private lives of celebrities and victims of crime:

"At the time, it was repeatedly argued by those who ought to have known better that by placing themselves in the public eye, and discussing their private lives at all, actors and celebrities had sacrificed all right to privacy.
"Those people who thought it was OK to hack into strangers' phones and publish the intimate results must have considered it as a price they were entitled to demand. The cost of participating in the modern world of celebrity was, it seemed, that you sacrificed your right to have a conversation, unheard by strangers, with your spouse or friends. Who imposed that condition? Why, the people who would benefit from it. The fact that that condition, undoubtedly true to a degree, had limits which were imposed by decency and respect is only now being made painfully clear.
"The same is true of the demand that our bodies be inspected in detail as a cost of travel, of taking part in modern life. At some point, it must become apparent that in every area of life, we are prepared to accept a risk rather than throw away civilised standards."

Finally, Dan Hodges argues in the blog Labour Uncut that the irony is that the appearances of famous people at the inquiry is fuelling celebrity obsession:

"Grant himself is a decent and unremarkable actor, and seems a decent, if unremarkable, man. And he has clearly been the subject of some unacceptable media intrusion. But I'm unclear how his performances in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bridget Jones: the edge of reason qualify him to pass judgment on issues such as media regulation and the sensitive balance between a free press and the state. Yet once again, Leveson bent over backwards to obtain his expert opinion; "From my perspective it's abundantly clear this is a topic you've thought about carefully", he gushed.
"The Leveson enquiry is supposedly exposing, and finding solutions to, the issues generated by the media's obsession with celebrity; though actually, it's our own obsession with celebrity, as [barrister] Carine Patry Hoskins has just discovered. But far from exposing it, Leveson is fuelling it."

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