06 November, 2012

Alexander and the living wage

Every so often you hear a politician talking absolute nonsense and you dismiss it: twerps will be twerps, and these people make their living from associating themselves with new concepts before a national media with an increasingly short attention span. At times, however, the daft concept picks up news coverage and you are astonished to find it attaining some credence. At such times people of sense have to step in and fight, before it becomes accepted nationally.

That is how it is now for The Living Wage. Did you know there is a Living Wage Foundation (I shall try to find out who is funding this) and that this week, 4th - 11th November has been designated (by them) The Living Wage Week?

Years ago, in the early days of the Blair administration, they produced a National Minimum Wage, which is currently £6.19 per hour, or  £247.60 for a 40 hour week, around £12,500 a year depending on how much holiday you get. You may not think it very much and, when times are booming, it isn't. Now, however, there is plenty of unemployment and people feel able to temper their demands to get some income. That is how capitalism works: you have to price yourself into the market.

But right now, if person A can pay £5 an hour for a job and person B is prepared to do it for £5, they can't. It's illegal. A doesn't get his business working and B remains unemployed. Yes, I know it isn't much, but 2 million people in Germany (not Albania, Germany) are working for less than €5 an hour (£4). In China and the Far East they work for a lot, lot less. We have to compete.

The Living Wage takes this to a new level of idiocy. It is calculated not by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not by the Treasury, not even by the Social Services, but by the Department of Social Policy at Loughborough University (Loughborough is a small town in Leicestershire, central England, and is said to be the most difficult town name for a foreigner to pronounce). It is supposed to be the level at which people can lead a decent life, although we are not entitled to know what that implies.

Now Ed Milliband, leader of the Labour Party, we can forgive for espousing this nonsense. He is, after all, one of the people mentioned in the first paragraph who has to associate himself with concepts, it being too far from a general election to deal with actual policies. But on to the scene strides the burly figure of Alexander (Boris) Johnson, who doesn't need to espouse outrageous causes, because he is already elected, but does so because he, like Milliband, is trying to distinguish himself from the governing party (whilst belonging to it).

Just to make things clear, Alex and Ed are not proposing an increase of 20% in the minimum wage (the Living Wage has been set at £7.45, more in London, by Loof-Baroof Uni) because this new thing would not be compulsory. Companies can, and will, simply refuse to pay it. They are saying that companies should pay it, and of course they are willing to do a bit of strong arming. If you want government contracts, they say, you and your subcontractors should undertake to pay this new, arbitrary, Loofy minimum.

So, incredibly, the addle-pated, dewy eyed Mayor of London, claiming to be a Conservative, never having run a business in his life, is proposing, in these times of excess borrowing, that the taxpayers of Britain should pay 20% more for labour, making each piece of government business, such as the Health Service, more expensive. Not just more expensive than is necessary, because the minimum wage is almost certainly more than is necessary in a recession, but more than we do now: more expense, more debt, more recession, more unemployment.

It beggars belief. Johnson must be denounced as an ignorant, self promoting dunderhead who will say anything, whatever the cost to ordinary people, and however contrary to common sense, to get himself in the news.

We would be mad to let him anywhere near high office.

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