Friday, August 17, 2007

Bang goes the pension

Why would a socialist be concerned about the stock marketing going into free fall? Surely I should be jumping up and down at the though of City Fat Cats loosing billions and forming an orderly queue for the nearest available window ledge?

Well unfortunately, as this article from the Guardian reports the plunge in the stock market has sent UK pension funds back into deficit, to the tune of 15 billion pounds.

This will be the excuse for another attack on final salary pension schemes (where a worker’s pension is based on their final salary), with companies forcing staff into defined contribution schemes (where the pension is based on the investment returns from the worker and employer’s contributions).

In a moment of uncharacteristic honesty, bosses at my previous workplace said the move from a final salary scheme to a defined contribution scheme transferred the financial risk from the employer to the employee. Many people who are in defined contribution pension schemes are about to find out exactly that, as the value of their pension plummets in line with the fall in the stock market.

It’s also interesting to see how supporters of the free market react when the sh*t hits the fan. We have the new President of France saying that market freedom did not mean the "law of the jungle". Unfortunately, it does.

Finally, if you want some light relief from this doom and gloom read the wonderful Daly Mash’s take on the stock market slide

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An unhelpful article

As a socialist, I’m completely opposed to all forms of discrimination. I have been an active anti-racist and even have a conviction for helping to drive the BNP from Brick Lane in the early 1990s.

I’m also a Rangers fans and I’m the first to admit that my club has a problem with a section of its support who continue to sing sectarian songs. I spend hours on Rangers forums arguing against people who still think it's ok to shout about Fenians and FTP. But I recently came across an article about sectarianism at Rangers by Mike Smith that really annoyed me

It is completely one-sided, there is no acknowledgment that the sectarian divide is an every day reality in Scotland or that members on both sides are guilty of offensive behaviour. Everything is the fault of Rangers and their fans. Nothing they do is good enough and everything they do is wrong.

There isn’t even a mention of Celtic in the article. No mention of the fact that their fans regularly sing songs in support of the IRA but Rangers fans are chastised for sing song about protestant paramilitaries. Why is one worthy of comment and the other not?

Rangers are chastised for not doing enough to tackle sectarianism among their fans but no mention is made of the club banning fans from Ibrox for sing offensive songs and stopping supporters’ clubs that won’t cooperate with the club in tackling offensive behaviour receiving tickets for away matches.

The club is also attacked for having a union jack displayed at the main stand. Now as a Scottish nationalist I dislike the butchers apron as much as the next person but at present Rangers are still a British club, so what is wrong with them flying their country’s flag. I mean if it is ok for the a Scottish Prime Minister of the UK to call for the Union Jack to be flown from public buildings what is wrong with a football club following his lead. Here once again we have no mention of the fact that Celtic fly the flag of the Irish Republic. Again why is a union jack at Ibrox worth comment but a tricolour at Celtic Park isn’t?

And that is why this article is really dangerous the bigots among Rangers fans will seize on it and say: “We told you that if we gave in on sing the Billy Boys and F*ck the Pope they would want us to stop singing God Save the Queen and carrying Union Jacks.” The author plays into the hands of the very people he is supposed to be opposing and makes it harder for the people who are actually trying to combat sectarianism.

Mike finishes by asking: “How would an [English] Premiership team be treated whose fans repeatedly engaged in racist chanting and singing?” Well maybe he should also ask the question: How would people react if schools in England were racially segregated? Because it is a sad reality that schools in Scotland are segregated along religious lines. That is one of the reasons that sectarianism is still a major problem