Time for an off-topic rant?

It is ages since I’ve written an off-topic rant, though I have been tempted once or twice ;-). Those temptations have now got the better of me, so please don’t mind if I just let off a bit of steam against the silly things that people in what passes for the government here are saying – plus the banks and a charity.

1. Single mothers are blamed for the recent riots for not bringing up their children with proper discipline. Rubbish! J K Rowling is (was) among many sterling role models for single parents. Many people find themselves in this situation through no fault of their own – a situation in which overwhelmingly the mother is looking after the children while the father(s) disappear, often providing no, minimal or meagre financial support. Most mothers are highly responsible for their children and do their best for them, whatever the circumstances. If anyone needs to be “blamed” for family break-ups, I submit that it is not (usually) the mother – she is the person left to carry the can.

2. Why has UNICEF now produced yet another patronising, superficial report, this time telling British parents what a bad job we are doing for working too many hours and giving our children too many gadgets compared with Spain and Scandinavia? As usual with these reports, the conclusions are based on a survey of 250 people; as well as being unrepresentative it is simply ignorant, in failing to consider relevant factors such as the cost of living necessitating work and the influence of US TV and its materialistic culture on an English-speaking nation compared with a non-English speaking one. But more to the point, I have been giving UNICEF a monthly donation for about 20 years because I believed it to be helping children living in poor countries and/or conditions, not for producing mindless reports for the media to shout about. I am going to stop my donation and give it to some other organisation that helps those most in need, as a small gesture of protest.

3. Iain Duncan Smith, a Tory minister, tells the “middle class” (his term) that it is our fault in some ill defined way that people live in poverty because we turn a mass blind-eye. Another load of rubbish. The “middle classes” are an easy target because we are too busy working, paying our taxes, educating our children, maintaining our living environment, and so on, to respond to this type of drivel. The truth is that it is these “middle classes” who pay our government’s salaries, part of which is to provide leadership and strategies to help all those in our society to maintain or improve their lot. Motes and eyes come to mind here.

4. Chris Hulne (Lib Dem energy minister) lambasts us for paying too much for our energy. He says we should be switching providers to cheaper ones, taking advantage of deals. What a load of hot carbon dioxide. Price-comparison websites are a nightmare in this regard in terms of how much information one has to provide to even get the comparison, as are the people employed by the charlatans who run our energy companies to knock on our doors at night to persuade us to change from one to another provider. And what happens if one does change to a cheaper gas or electric company? It puts its prices up after a few weeks so one is worse off than before. Mr Hulme would be better off regulating these companies better so they don’t charge so much in the first place, and while he is about it he could stop British Gas from making its minimal direct debit deduction much more than the energy consumed, only providing a “refund” once a year.

5. Banks are fodder for endless rants, but the recent report that almost but not quite recommends a split between investment and retail banks misses some tricks on the sharp practices of these odious institutions – odious because they use people’s money excessively to further their own profit motive, and they use technology to bamboozle the customer (so stupid as they even bamboozle themselves in this way, as yet another disastrous “rogue trader” has just demonstrated). Banks persuade customers to use online banking by reducing the number of branches, staff, etc, but they blatantly use the technology to foist loan offers on you every time you log on, providing no means to switch off this irresponsible garbage. Further, banks provide savings accounts at a certain amount of interest, but then “close” that type of account and reduce the interest payments to near-zero, often without bothering to inform savers. Therefore, to avoid being fleeced, one has to keep watch, and go through all the hassle of going to a bank, waiting to see some “advisor”, being pitched for all kinds of unwelcome “services”: all hoops to jump through to switch into another account that pays the same-ish, relatively meagre, rate of interest as the first account. Surely ending these sleazy practices are simple reforms to achieve that would be welcomed by every suffering customer?