MAM: Something better change

Pic: socialist worker

The issue of racism has been difficult to ignore of late. Dominating politics, social media and the media at large. We have been told Black Lives Matter. Home Secretary Priti Patel shared her experiences of personal racism in the House of Commons. And so on.

Incensed by the issue of racism (again). I have experienced racism at school, university and in the workplace. Back then I joined every movement going – anti-nazi league (ANL), anti-Iraq war and so on. Nothing changed then, disappointingly.

Here we are again 20 years later but worse. The racism is institutional. I decided to carry out my own experiment last week and pitch my comment piece on tokenism in the British media. I had no response from the Guardian (yet).

The Huffpost said they were already writing something similar. An NUJ publication (who was looking for someone BAME, based in Yorkshire – I technically don’t live in Yorkshire – but it was worth a try).

That particular NUJ publication wanted someone to write about BAME individuals failing to reach senior positions in the media. I wasn’t successful there either. All wished me the best of luck in trying “to place” my opinion piece. I did eventually place the piece in my own blog!

To quote the icon 1970s rock-punk band the Stranglers. Something Better Change.

MAM: Tokenism is not enough. The British media needs to change

When I was growing up in the 1980s there were few Black or Asian faces on the TV, few Black or Asian faces writing in the newspapers and few Black or Asian voices on the radio.

In fact, I could count on my hand the number of Black or Asian faces prominent in the British media: Trevor Macdonald, Moira Stuart, Baz Bamigboye, Lenny Henry. I would love to say things changed in the 1990s.

Well, not by much. There was Trevor Macdonald, Baz. No wait, there was Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Samira Ahmed, Mishal Husain, Naga Munchetty, Konnie Huq, Sathnam Sanghera, Sarfraz Manzoor.

I do applaud the respective news organisations hiring these people to represent diversity, and integration in the British media. Well done BBC, Channel 4, Guardian, Telegraph, the Times.

These media professionals are just token gestures by the British media (although welcome). Their appointments still amount for discrimination, positive discrimination albeit, and are not representative at all.

No doubt they were made by white middle-aged male TV executives given the brief of diversity. A note to these TV executives. Commissioning a BBC TV programme like Citizen Khan is not really “ticking all the diversity boxes” or launching the BBC Asian Network, does not mean ‘people like me’ have been catered for.

This desire for change, spurred me to get a job at a national newspaper in the early 2000s, I thought ‘hooray’ – I would be one of many ethnic journalists, I would start a revolution from within with my brown comrades. Sadly, no. Only a token few. Those who had already climbed the corporate ladder had kicked the ladder away for the next person.

To add insult to injury, I was often mistaken for one of the correspondent’s sister on numerous occasions, perhaps because we were the only Asian’s in the newsroom, we must be related! Imagine if that happened to every white British journalist in a newsroom?

So is the strategy for the British media to just hire a certain ethnic type to “tick all the diversity boxes?”

My two Scottish cousins have worked for the BBC for over 20 years now – one for BBC Scotland and the other has just been poached by Times Radio and is a former BBC 5 Live and BBC Radio 4 presenter. Both “tick the diversity boxes” – female, Glaswegian, Pakistani, so at least their bosses are happy.

If things are going to change in the British media – hiring ethnic minorities in ‘isolation’ has to an end. It is difficult for one person to start a revolution. Why not hire groups of ethnic media professionals at the same time not just one?

When you hire a Black or Asian media personality do not fall into the trap of over-exposure. They do not need to present or star in everything from game shows, natural history programmes to reality TV shows.

And to all those editors, I have worked with over the decades.

No, I am not an expert in General Pervez Musharraf, just because my parents are Pakistani. I don’t listen to Asian drum n’ bass because I am Asian (I like indie guitar music for the record). I do not often ‘go back home’ to Pakistan for holiday (I prefer Lake Garda). My favourite actors are not solely Sanjeev Bhasker or Dev Patel. Although, Sanjeev Bhasker played the role of a forgetful Asian doctor very well in Paddington 2.

MAM: Our Friends In The North

HS2 was bad enough, but HS3? Dire! I sadly watched (on Sky news) the prime minister Boris Johnson confirm the go ahead for the “HS projects” in the House of Commons.

Not only could the money – £100 billion (or whatever the ridiculous figure is) be better spent on improving the National Health Service or other key services. Furthermore, HS2 will destroy the local wildlife! Why not improve the existing services? Rant over.

My inbox was inundated with comments from PR companies and disgruntled organisations berating this go-ahead.

“Nikki Williams, The Wildlife Trusts’ director of campaigns and policy, says:

“Nature is paying too high a price for HS2. We urged the Government to re-consider in the light of The Wildlife Trusts’ report which evidenced the serious risk that HS2 poses to nature – and to take notice of over 66,000 people who wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to review HS2. Today’s announcement means that it is more critical than ever that the whole project is redesigned – before HS2 creates a scar that can never heal.

“It is vital that HS2 does not devastate or destroy irreplaceable meadows, ancient woodlands and internationally important wetlands that are home to a huge range of wildlife, from barn owls to butterflies. Green and sustainable transport is vital, but the climate emergency will not be solved by making the nature crisis worse.

 “As HS2 contractors get on with bulldozing and building, the public can help wildlife by being alert to works near them. Contact your local Wildlife Crime officer if you believe HS2 Ltd or contractors are undertaking works without permission. Wildlife Trusts along the route will continue to advise and engage with HS2 Ltd locally.”

Sure, if HS2 is finished or HS3 is finished it might improve infrastructure, create jobs and bring the North closer to the South, but it is a big IF!

Living in the HS2 heartland in Beaconsfield hasn’t helped. For the past decade or so, the locals have been campaigning against this absurd project, as it will go quite literally through their back gardens of their very large houses. I fear it is too late for them to make HS stop.

PS, I don’t own a large house with a very large garden.

MAM: Get breakfast done

So he did it. A landslide Conservative win by Mr Johnson, despite canvassing from actor Hugh Grant in Beaconsfield. Comrade Corbyn obliterated and so the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrat leader losing her seat in East Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

Hugh Grant

I have opted for a picture of Hugh Grant, rather than Mr Johnson in despair. In my constituency – Chesham & Amersham there was little point voting for anyone other than the Tories due to our MP Cheryl Gillian serving the constituency since 1992. She achieved 40.1% majority – 22,140 seats. There was a slight increase in support for the Liberal Democrats, but it hardly touched the sides.

For one moment, in the general election campaign, I thought Hugh Grant might be our MP, but sadly he was just supporting an independent candidate Dominic Grieve in the adjacent constituency of Beaconsfield.

So in my post-election analysis, a lot of people up North voted Tory – surprisingly, which I didn’t see coming. Apparently, Mr Johnson is the new “Mrs Thatcher”, who would have thought it? Loving the diversity in this picture (his new MPs, see below).

Source: Reuters

The Conservative landslide is also good for investors – property shares and the Pound made initial gains on December 13. Buy-to-let landlords were temporarily relieved also that Comrade Corbyn hadn’t been voted in and their properties re-distributed to their tenants! So far so good. Next stop is getting (you know what done).

Happy Christmas to you all!

To those who are still in the country and have not already jetted off to the Maldives, Mauritius, Egypt or Dubai….

MAM: OK boomer?

The phrase “OK boomer” has hit the headlines recently. It has also gone the (obligatory) “viral”. As a greatly ignored Gen-X-er I feel obliged to comment on this reposte by a millennial New Zealand MP, who was interrupted in Parliament by a baby-boomer when she was addressing the issue of climate change, even though it is not strictly to do with MAM.

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, 1969, the ultimate ‘baby boomer’ film

Baby boomers on a global scale have now protested at this phrase “OK boomer” which they have perceived as a put down by the younger millennial generation as a whole. So who are these baby boomers, and why are they angry?

Baby boomers are born between 1946-64 and all too often have final salary pension schemes and drive a Maserati or Audi TT after releasing some equity from their homes which have more than quadrupled in value since buying them 20 years ago. Well where I live anyway! They are also keen on Brexit, even though they have a home in the south of France and they read the Daily Mail. Oh and shop at Waitrose.

They also love Cornwall! SO, they are fed up of being patronised and singled out by millennials. I do think it is all going to end horribly. A big generational war involving avocados and rolled up copies of the Mail on Sunday. I say let them fight to the bitter end! Us poor Generation-Xers are not getting it right when it comes to saving or retirement, queue the latest bit of research from the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI), we are Generation-V-exed!

PPI head of policy research Daniela Silcock said  in an article in Professional Adviser: “The decline in defined benefit (DB) provision, reductions to the proportion of state pension people will receive, and an increased likelihood of renting, indebtedness and giving or receiving care in retirement mean members of Generation X are at greater risk of reaching retirement with an income that is not adequate, or sufficiently sustainable or flexible.”

Key stats

  • 55% – the proportion of Gen X in routine or manual jobs at high risk of not achieving a moderate level of income in retirement
  • £13,000 – the amount Gen X will lose in comparison to Baby Boomers due to state pension changes
  • 27% – the percentage of Gen X in rented accommodation, which means that in retirement a significant proportion of peoples’ income will be going on property costs

Generation X is doomed!

MAM: General Election fear and loathing (in the Home Counties)

We are going to have the second general election in two years in an attempt to break the Brexit deadlock. A strategy, I think was previously employed by former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May quite unsuccessfully and caused her to lose her majority in the House of Commons, rather than increase it. I think that was her intention? God knows.

As a middle aged 45 year old. I am of course worried about the prospect of a “Communist” Corbyn government. Who might, abolish private schools – hooray! re-distribute wealth to the masses – hooray! tax all inheritances over £125,000 – hooray! And also eat the rich! (I made that last election promise up).

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader

There have been threats from “jews” who will leave the UK, if Corbyn becomes Prime Minister according to the Sunday Telegraph, the super-rich will also escape on their private jets according to the Guardian and sadly if Corbyn becomes Prime Minister, the Spectator’s Rod Liddle will still be Rod Liddle.

Is this talk of a Corybn Labour government, just scaremongering by the right wing press? Or is Corbyn a serious threat to Boris Johnson? In the polls, the Conservatives lead by +8 points but that is not very much, Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats are a close third and the other political parties – Green, Independent, Brexit not far behind. Roll on December 12.

I will leave you with a picture of Robert Lindsay as Citizen Smith for those old enough to remember this BBC TV comedy.

Robert Lindsay pic credit: wikipedia

MAM: The Great Rock N’ Roll….Pension(s)

Ahhhh, the joy of pensions. When you are 45, this is another really boring topic you have to be well-versed in, why? because at 45 retirement is near, well 22 or 23 years off if you are lucky. I was 25 when I signed up to my first private pension. When, I was filling in the company form, it read “expected retirement age”, I thoughtfully put “50”, no “55”. I thought 50 was REALLY OLD. Now I am five years away from it, that is really scary.

So what do you do if you have accrued 5 or more private pensions. In my case, I consolidated 3 of them, and left the other 2 where they were. But everyone is different. So please seek official financial advice. Now when I eventually retire I know where everything is and I can get an annual retirement income of £200 per year (or thereabouts, I kid you not!) and rely on the State Pension.

Don’t get me started about the ‘Gender Pension Gap’ or the plight of the WASPIs. I leave you with a picture of the Extinction Rebellion marchers, I took last week on the way to interactive investor’s (ii) ‘Great British Retirement Survey‘ launch at the House of Lords.

Extinction Rebellion

Save the Planet (and Mr Broccoli) !

Middle-Aged Money aka MAM

After a quick Google, I have realised, I am now officially middle-aged. Middle age is defined between the ages of 45-65.

I have recently turned 45. Glorious middle-age (not) when your life turns to boring things, like planning for retirement, dying, mitigating IHT and a slowing metabolism.

You can no longer drink a bottle of wine a night, have a Chinese takeaway, drink 6 lattes and eat many packets of Maltesers and remain thin. No it is gym all the way – it is being vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, plastic-free in 2019.

In my regular column, I will be bringing you the antidote to the young (millennial) blog. Make way for extreme grumpiness and issues that effect middle aged people! Mostly involving tax and SUVs.

MAM: Selling your home in a downturn (don’t do it!)

White front door of a red brick English town house. Manchester.

Brexit, the EU, Boris Johnson’s private life (not the latter) have been the excuses from estate agents over the past several months when we have been trying to sell our home in the Home Counties. What started as quite a happy process, back in April of this year when I started de-cluttering has turned into one, slow, long, drawn out process culminating in us shelving plans to move.

What is the reality of the matter? Should I be blaming the local estate agents I employed (all three of them) in those months when our home was listed on all three property portals – Zoopla, Onthemarket, Rightmove? Should I be blaming Brexit? Should I be blaming myself and the unrealistic pricing of our house?

There could be some truth in all of the above. But pricing could be key. There is no escaping that the area we live in is an affluent one in South Bucks.- Beaconsfield (although we live in a village adjacent to this town) has the largest percentage of property millionaires in the country (according to the Telegraph) – topping 47%. This statistic has led to most sellers believing that their house is worth more than it actually is, or it is worth the same as it was at the height of the UK property boom, pre-Brexit.

Throw into the mix, that estate agents are desperate for your business and will list your home at any price to boost their books, you are left with a lethal combination. In fact, you are left with a stalemate. As although some sellers are dropping the price of their homes – more due to personal circumstance – divorce, separation, probate – by £50,000, £100,000 or even £200,000 – for a ‘quick sale’ – properties aren’t budging. I can count on my hand the same number of properties in our village, that was listed in January, still for sale now nine months later – all with their beleaguered sale boards rigidly standing to attention.

From my experience, I can safely say the only ones ‘who are making a killing’ or selling or buying anything are local or bespoke property developers, who are scooping up low valued ‘probate’ properties – sub-£500,000 – knocking them down and building two houses (then selling them for £1 million each) – making a nice profit. The larger developers, in the area, however are resorting to buying incentives, like an ultra-high definition TV, paying stamp duty, paying for legals if you buy their new-build, which on the surface is fine, until you find out they want to credit check you first with their own mortgage broker before proceeding. No thanks!

There seems to be no joy for a small family who simply want to upscale and be nearer better secondary schools, and at least have a garage! I was told by one estate agent, however, that families don’t want garages any more. In fact people now convert their double or single garages into home gyms, and also ‘orangeries’ are all the rage, forget about your bog-standard conservatory. Heck! I am not a Tory MP of yesteryear. Maybe I should request a moat too!

For us, we are going to wait before embarking on our property journey again, when Brexit has passed, and there is some semblance of political stability – not if comrade Corbyn is elected through.

I will definitely be wiser next time round. Oh and to those estate agents who try and send me flowers in order to get my business. Don’t!

MAM: One Step Beyond: Is the UK heading into recession in 2020?


Political uncertainty.

Then there is Brexit. ‘Deal or No Deal’. Britain is going to leave the EU on October 31st 2019.

Uncertainty everywhere. One thing however, which is certain – the UK economy is heading for recession. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Add the possibility of a snap general election, after the “No Deal” Brexit is “achieved”, we could see the political obliteration of the Conservatives as a party (as we know it), sorry Johnson, and the installation of a minority Lab-Lib Dem government, with “brother” Corbyn as Prime Minister – “Power to the People”, I hear you cheer!

Throwing this general election “curveball” into the equation, plus a weakening UK economy, things do not look “bright” nor do they look “orange.”

Duncan Brock, Group Director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, also fears economic turmoil ahead: “With a dampened mood across the sector, if a general election is also thrown into the pot of political turmoil in the coming months, then the service sector runs an even greater risk of following the manufacturing and construction sectors into cutbacks, cost-cutting and reduced workforces.”

Data firm Markit’s composite PMI, which tracks the private sector, said activity shrank in June for the first time since 2016. The service sector stagnated, while manufacturing and construction both shrank sharply.

Brexit and global trade concerns is the likely explanation for poor manufacturing data, in regards to construction contraction, this might be simply due to a lack of confidence hurting investment.

“It isn’t all bad news,” says Andrew Wishart, UK Economist at Capital Economics. Well that’s alright then.

“Some of the other balances of the services PMI improved. The backlogs of work and employment balances of the survey, which are historically the best guides to how the services sector will fare over the next few months, ticked up to an eight- and 22-month high respectively,” adds Wishart.

We are not out of the woods yet. The outgoing Bank of England, Mark Carney famed for his “Project Fear” stance, is fuelling the fire of a stalled UK economy, he said recently in a conference in Bournemouth: “Growth in the second quarter will be considerably weaker, in part due to the absence of that stock building effect and Brexit-related, temporary shutdowns by several major car manufacturers.

“Recent data also raise the possibility that the negative spill-overs to the UK from a weaker world economy are increasing and the drag from Brexit uncertainties on underlying growth here could be intensifying. The latest surveys point to no growth in UK output.

“Looking across the first half of the year, in my view, underlying growth in the UK is currently running below its potential, and is heavily reliant on the resilience of household spending.”

So, there we have it.  Perhaps, time-travellers Bill and Ted should be recruited to save us all from this mess. Now that would be Bodacious, and a twist to the plot-line.