#ukip’s Farage Opposes Further Increases In National Minimum Wage & #NMW Repeal On #BREXIT #GE2015

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Nigel Farage has said he opposes an increase in the minimum wage because it could encourage immigrants to come to the UK.

The ukip leader made his comments on Friday (17th April 2015) during a phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live, when a caller asked whether he would raise the rate.

He replied: “There is a problem with doing that.  That is that if you increase the minimum wage, you may actually even attract more migrant labour.  Don’t forget, the minimum wage in Britain is now nine times what it is in Romania.  If you increase it even more people would want to come.  I want to see the market adjust this.

“The current proposal to increase the minimum wage, which is the Labour proposal, to put it up by 2019 to about £8 an hour, I don’t think an marginal increase is really going to make a difference.

“I think the minimum wage was designed to be a floor and it has actually become a ceiling. Unless we restrict the flow of migrant labour … I think if we do increase the minimum wage, we will effectively just set a new glass ceiling.”

He added that the answer was to have a labour market where employers have to pay people more.

ukip has said it will support the minimum wage and take those on it out of tax altogether, but Farage’s remarks about keeping it at the current level may not go down well among the low-paid voters it is trying to woo in its target seats.

The Scottish National party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, attacked Farage during the BBC leader debates for blaming a series of problems on immigration. During the clash, the ukip leader said immigration had caused the housing shortage and put pressure on the NHS.

He has previously attributed overcrowding on the roads to immigration after he was late to an event because of traffic.

Nigel Farage: raising minimum wage would encourage Romanian immigrants

Farage Talks Of #NMW Repeal, #ukip Say No One On It Works Over 40 Hours & Tories No One Over 30 #GE2015

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Put simply, both parties claim that they would take people on the highest weekly rate of the National Minimum Wage out of paying Income Tax, but not National Insurance and/or Value Added Tax.  Well they are lying with regards to Income Tax too.

The Tories say you will not have to pay Income Tax if you are working 30 hours or less a week.  ukip says you will not have to pay Income Tax if you are working 40 hours or less per week.  The average working week is one of 43.6 hours and over 4 million people work more than 48 hours per week.  I leave you to work out which end of the pay scale is most likely to be working those hours.

ukip has never been more than lukewarm about the NMW and Farage has now come out against it.  He has said he opposes an increase in the minimum wage because it could encourage immigrants to come to the UK.  Farage made his comments on Friday 17th April during a phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live, when a caller asked whether he would raise the rate.

He replied, “There is a problem with doing that.  That is that if you increase the minimum wage, you may actually even attract more migrant labour.  Don’t forget, the minimum wage in Britain is now nine times what it is in Romania. If you increase it even more people would want to come.  I want to see the market adjust this.  The current proposal to increase the minimum wage, which is the Labour proposal, to put it up by 2019 to about £8 an hour, I don’t think an marginal increase is really going to make a difference.  I think the minimum wage was designed to be a floor and it has actually become a ceiling.  Unless we restrict the flow of migrant labour … I think if we do increase the minimum wage, we will effectively just set a new glass ceiling.”

Many people on the NMW at or below the highest rate already do not earn enough now to pay Income Tax, but they have no option but to pay VAT.  VAT bears down hardest on those on low incomes, whether they are in or out of work.  It bears down on those on fixed incomes like pensioners and those on Social Security.  It bears down on those with little or no opportunity to improve their earnings.  ukip made a bit of a joke, at the launch of their policies for women, about cutting VAT on sanitary towels, a product that only 49% of the electorate may regard as non essential.

Two right wing parties in this General Election are posing as the friend of the working class.  Working man, in ukip’s case, as women need not apply.  And ukip thinks women mistake its candour for misogyny.  When it comes to the NMW and Income Tax both parties are lying.

Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit Except When Drafting A Party Manifesto For #GE2015! #Labour #RaceForNumber10

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The following is the Labour Party’s 1945 General Election Manifesto in its entirety (4,964 words).

Let Us Face the Future:
A Declaration of Labour Policy for the Consideration of the Nation


VICTORY IN WAR MUST BE FOLLOWED BY A PROSPEROUS PEACE

Victory is assured for us and our allies in the European war. The war in the East goes the same way. The British Labour Party is firmly resolved that Japanese barbarism shall be defeated just as decisively as Nazi aggression and tyranny. The people will have won both struggles. The gallant men and women in the Fighting Services, in the Merchant Navy, Home Guard and Civil Defence, in the factories and in the bombed areas – they deserve and must be assured a happier future than faced so many of them after the last war. Labour regards their welfare as a sacred trust.

So far as Britain’s contribution is concerned, this war will have been won by its people, not by any one man or set of men, though strong and greatly valued leadership has been given to the high resolve of the people in the present struggle. And in this leadership the Labour Ministers have taken their full share of burdens and responsibilities. The record of the Labour Ministers has been one of hard tasks well done since that fateful day in May, 1940, when the initiative of Labour in Parliament brought about the fall of the Chamberlain Government and the formation of the new War Government which has led the country to victory.

The people made tremendous efforts to win the last war also. But when they had won it they lacked a lively interest in the social and economic problems of peace, and accepted the election promises of the leaders of the anti-Labour parties at their face value. So the “hard-faced men who had done well out of the war” were able to get the kind of peace that suited themselves. The people lost that peace. And when we say “peace” we mean not only the Treaty, but the social and economic policy which followed the fighting.

In the years that followed, the “hard-faced men” and their political friends kept control of the Government. They controlled the banks, the mines, the big industries, largely the press and the cinema. They controlled the means by which the people got their living. They controlled the ways by which most of the people learned about the world outside. This happened in all the big industrialised countries.

Great economic blizzards swept the world in those years. The great inter-war slumps were not acts of God or of blind forces. They were the sure and certain result of the concentration of too much economic power in the hands of too few men. These men had only learned how to act in the interest of their own bureaucratically-run private monopolies which may be likened to totalitarian oligarchies within our democratic State. They had and they felt no responsibility to the nation.

Similar forces are at work today. The interests have not been able to make the same profits out of this war as they did out of the last. The determined propaganda of the Labour Party, helped by other progressive forces, had its effect in “taking the profit out of war”. The 100% Excess Profits Tax, the controls over industry and transport, the fair rationing of food and control of prices – without which the Labour Party would not have remained in the Government – these all helped to win the war. With these measures the country has come nearer to making “fair shares” the national rule than ever before in its history.

But the war in the East is not yet over. There are grand pickings still to be had. A short boom period after the war, when savings, gratuities and post-war credits are there to be spent, can make a profiteer’s paradise. But Big Business knows that this will happen only if the people vote into power the party which promises to get rid of the controls and so let the profiteers and racketeers have that freedom for which they are pleading eloquently on every Tory platform and in every Tory newspaper.

They accuse the Labour Party of wishing to impose controls for the sake of control. That is not true, and they know it. What is true is that the anti-controllers and anti-planners desire to sweep away public controls, simply in order to give the profiteering interests and the privileged rich an entirely free hand to plunder the rest of the nation as shamelessly as they did in the nineteen-twenties.

Does freedom for the profiteer mean freedom for the ordinary man and woman, whether they be wage-earners or small business or professional men or housewives? Just think back over the depressions of the 20 years between the wars, when there were precious few public controls of any kind and the Big Interests had things all their own way. Never was so much injury done to so many by so few. Freedom is not an abstract thing. To be real it must be won, it must be worked for.

The Labour Party stands for order as against the chaos which would follow the end of all public control. We stand for order, for positive constructive progress as against the chaos of economic do-as-they-please anarchy.

The Labour Party makes no baseless promises. The future will not be easy. But this time the peace must be won. The Labour Party offers the nation a plan which will win the Peace for the People.

WHAT THE ELECTION WILL BE ABOUT

Britain’s coming Election will be the greatest test in our history of the judgement and common sense of our people.

The nation wants food, work and homes. It wants more than that – it wants good food in plenty, useful work for all, and comfortable, labour – saving homes that take full advantage of the resources of modern science and productive industry. It wants a high and rising standard of living, security for all against a rainy day, an educational system that will give every boy and girl a chance to develop the best that is in them.

These are the aims. In themselves they are no more than words. All parties may declare that in principle they agree with them. But the test of a political programme is whether it is sufficiently in earnest about the objectives to adopt the means needed to realise them. It is very easy to set out a list of aims. What matters is whether it is backed up by a genuine workmanlike plan conceived without regard to sectional vested interests and carried through

Point by point these national aims need analysis. Point by point it will be found that if they are to be turned into realities the nation and its post-war Governments will be called upon to put the nation above any sectional interest, above any free enterprise. The problems and pressures of the post-war world threaten our security and progress as surely as – though less dramatically than – the Germans threatened them in 1940. We need the spirit of Dunkirk and of the Blitz sustained over a period of years.

The Labour Party’s programme is a practical expression of that spirit applied to the tasks of peace. It calls for hard work, energy and sound sense.

We must prevent another war, and that means we must have such an international organisation as will give all nations real security against future aggression. But Britain can only play her full part in such an international plan if our spirit as shown in our handling of home affairs is firm, wise and determined. This statement of policy, therefore, begins at home.

And in stating it we give clear notice that we will not tolerate obstruction of the people’s will by the House of Lords.

The Labour Party stands for freedom – for freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of the Press. The Labour Party will see to it that we keep and enlarge these freedoms, and that we enjoy again the personal civil liberties we have, of our own free will, sacrificed to win the war. The freedom of the Trade Unions, denied by the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927, must also be restored. But there are certain so-called freedoms that Labour will not tolerate: freedom to exploit other people; freedom to pay poor wages and to push up prices for selfish profit; freedom to deprive the people of the means of living full, happy, healthy lives.

The nation needs a tremendous overhaul, a great programme of modernisation and re-equipment of its homes, its factories and machinery, its schools, its social services.

All parties say so – the Labour Party means it. For the Labour Party is prepared to achieve it by drastic policies and keeping a firm constructive hand on our whole productive machinery; the Labour Party will put the community first and the sectional interests of private business after. Labour will plan from the ground up – giving an appropriate place to constructive enterprise and private endeavour in the national plan, but dealing decisively with those interests which would use high-sounding talk about economic freedom to cloak their determination to put themselves and their wishes above those of the whole nation.

JOBS FOR ALL

All parties pay lip service to the idea of jobs for all. All parties are ready to promise to achieve that end by keeping up the national purchasing power and controlling changes in the national expenditure through Government action. Where agreement ceases is in the degree of control of private industry that is necessary to achieve the desired end.

In hard fact, the success of a full employment programme will certainly turn upon the firmness and success with which the Government fits into that programme the investment and development policies of private as well as public industry.

Our opponents would be ready to use State action to do the best they can to bolster up private industry whenever it plunges the nation into heavy unemployment. But if the slumps in uncontrolled private industry are too severe to be balanced by public action – as they will certainly prove to be – our opponents are not ready to draw the conclusion that the sphere of public action must be extended.

They say, “Full employment. Yes! If we can get it without interfering too much with private industry.” We say, “Full employment in any case, and if we need to keep 8 firm public hand on industry in order to get jobs for all, very well. No more dole queues, in order to let the Czars of Big Business remain kings in their own castles. The price of so-called ‘economic freedom’ for the few is too high if it is bought at the cost of idleness and misery for millions.”

What will the Labour Party do?

First, the whole of the national resources, in land, material and labour must be fully employed. Production must be raised to the highest level and related to purchasing power. Over-production is not the cause of depression and unemployment; it is under-consumption that is responsible. It is doubtful whether we have ever, except in war, used the whole of our productive capacity. This must be corrected because, upon our ability to produce and organise a fair and generous distribution of the product, the standard of living of our people depends.

Secondly, a high and constant purchasing power can be maintained through good wages, social services and insurance, and taxation which bears less heavily on the lower income groups. But everybody knows that money and savings lose their value if prices rise so rents and the prices of the necessities of life will be controlled.

Thirdly, planned investment in essential industries and on houses, schools, hospitals and civic centres will occupy a large field of capital expenditure. A National Investment Board will determine social priorities and promote better timing in private investment. In suitable cases we would transfer the use of efficient Government factories from war production to meet the needs of peace. The location of new factories will be suitably controlled and where necessary the Government will itself build factories. There must be no depressed areas in the New Britain.

Fourthly, the Bank of England with its financial powers must be brought under public ownership, and the operations of the other banks harmonised with industrial needs.

By these and other means full employment can be achieved. But a policy of Jobs for All must be associated with a policy of general economic expansion and efficiency as set out in the next section of this Declaration. Indeed, it is not enough to ensure that there are jobs for all. If the standard of life is to be high – as it should be – the standard of production must be high. This means that industry must be thoroughly efficient if the needs of the nation are to be met.

INDUSTRY IN THE SERVICE OF THE NATION

By the test of war some industries have shown themselves capable of rising to new heights of efficiency and expansion. Others, including some of our older industries fundamental to our economic structure, have wholly or partly failed.

Today we live alongside economic giants – countries where science and technology take leaping strides year by year. Britain must match those strides – and we must take no chances about it. Britain needs an industry organised to enable it to yield the best that human knowledge and skill can provide. Only so can our people reap the full benefits of this age of discovery and Britain keep her place as a Great Power.

The Labour Party intends to link the skill of British craftsmen and designers to the skill of British scientists in the service of our fellow men. The genius of British scientists and technicians who have produced radio-location, jet propulsion, penicillin. and the Mulberry Harbours in wartime, must be given full rein in peacetime too.

Each industry must have applied to it the test of national service. If it serves the nation, well and good; if it is inefficient and falls down on its job, the nation must see that things are put right.

These propositions seem indisputable, but for years before the war anti-Labour Governments set them aside, so that British industry over a large field fell into a state of depression, muddle and decay. Millions of working and middle class people went through the horrors of unemployment and insecurity. It is not enough to sympathise with these victims: we must develop an acute feeling of national shame – and act.

The Labour Party is a Socialist Party, and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain – free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organised in the service of the British people.

But Socialism cannot come overnight, as the product of a week-end revolution. The members of the Labour Party, like the British people, are practical-minded men and women.

There are basic industries ripe and over-ripe for public ownership and management in the direct service of the nation. There are many smaller businesses rendering good service which can be left to go on with their useful work.

There are big industries not yet ripe for public ownership which must nevertheless be required by constructive supervision to further the nation’s needs and not to prejudice national interests by restrictive anti-social monopoly or cartel agreements – caring for their own capital structures and profits at the cost of a lower standard of living for all.

In the light of these considerations, the Labour Party submits to the nation the following industrial programme:

1. Public ownership of the fuel and power industries. For a quarter of a century the coal industry, producing Britain’s most precious national raw material, has been floundering chaotically under the ownership of many hundreds of independent companies. Amalgamation under public ownership will bring great economies in operation and make it possible to modernise production methods and to raise safety standards in every colliery in the country. Public ownership of gas and electricity undertakings will lower charges, prevent competitive waste, open the way for co-ordinated research and development, and lead to the reforming of uneconomic areas of distribution. Other industries will benefit.

2. Public ownership of inland transport. Co-ordination of transport services by rail, road, air and canal cannot be achieved without unification. And unification without public ownership means a steady struggle with sectional interests or the enthronement of a private monopoly, which would be a menace to the rest of industry.

3. Public ownership of iron and steel. Private monopoly has maintained high prices and kept inefficient high-cost plants in existence. Only if public ownership replaces private monopoly can the industry become efficient.

These socialised industries, taken over on a basis of fair compensation, to be conducted efficiently in the interests of consumers, coupled with proper status and conditions for the workers employed in them.

4. Public supervision of monopolies and cartels with the aim of advancing ;industrial efficiency in the service of the nation. Anti-social restrictive practices will be prohibited.

5. A firm and clear-cut programme for the export trade. We would give State help in any necessary form to get our export trade on its feet and enable it to pay for the food and raw materials without which Britain must decay and die. But State help on conditions – conditions that industry is efficient and go-ahead. Laggards and obstructionists must be led or directed into better ways. Here we dare not fail.

6. The shaping of suitable economic and price controls to secure that first things shall come first in the transition from war to peace and that every citizen (including the demobilised Service men and women) shall get fair play. There must be priorities in the use of raw materials, food prices must be held, homes for the people for all before luxuries for the few. We do not want a short boom followed by collapse as after the last war; we do not want a wild rise in prices and inflation, followed by a smash and widespread unemployment. It is either sound economic controls – or smash.

7. The better organisation of Government departments and the Civil Service for work in relation to these ends. The economic purpose of government must be to spur industry forward and not to choke it with red tape.

AGRICULTURE AND THE PEOPLE’S FOOD

Agriculture is not only a job for the farmers; it is also a way of feeding the people. So we need a prosperous and efficient agricultural industry ensuring a fair return for the farmer and farm worker without excessive prices to the consumer. Our agriculture should be planned to give us the food we can best produce at home, and large enough to give us as much of those foods as possible.

In war time the County War Executive Committees have organised production in that way. They have been the means of increasing efficiency and have given much practical assistance, particularly to the small farmer. The Labour Party intends that, with suitable modifications and safeguards, their work shall continue in peacetime.

Our good farm lands are part of the wealth of the nation and that wealth should not be wasted. The land must be farmed, not starved. If a landlord cannot or will not provide proper facilities for his tenant farmers, the State should take over his land at a fair valuation. The people need food at prices they can afford to pay. This means that our food supplies will have to be planned. Never again should they be left at the mercy of the city financier or speculator. Instead there must be stable markets, to the great gain of both producer and consumer.

The Ministry of Food has done fine work for the housewife in war. The Labour Party intends to keep going as much of the work of the Ministry of Food as will be useful in peace conditions, including the bulk purchase of food from abroad and a well organised system of distribution at home, with no vested interests imposing unnecessary costs.

A Labour Government will keep the new food services, such as the factory canteens and British restaurants, free and cheap milk for mothers and children, fruit juices and food supplements, and will improve and extend these services.

HOUSES AND THE BUILDING PROGRAMME

Everybody says that we must have houses. Only the Labour Party is ready to take the necessary steps – a full programme of land planning and drastic action to ensure an efficient building industry that will neither burden the community with a crippling financial load nor impose bad conditions and heavy unemployment on its workpeople. There must be no restrictive price rings to keep up prices and bleed the taxpayer, the owner-occupier and the tenant alike. Modern methods, modern materials will have to be the order of the day.

There must be a due balance between the housing programme, the building of schools and the urgent requirements of factory modernisation and construction which will enable industry to produce efficiently.

Housing will be one of the greatest and one of the earliest tests of a Government’s real determination to put the nation first. Labour’s pledge is firm and direct – it will proceed with a housing programme with the maximum practical speed until every family in this island has a good standard of accommodation. That may well mean centralising and pooling of building materials and components by the State, together with price control. If that is necessary to get the houses as it was necessary to get the guns and planes, Labour is ready.

And housing ought to be dealt with in relation to good town planning – pleasant surroundings, attractive lay-out, efficient utility services, including the necessary transport facilities.

There should be a Ministry of Housing and Planning combining the housing powers of the Ministry of Health with the planning powers of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning; and there must be a firm and united Government policy to enable the Ministry of Works to function as an efficient instrument in the service of all departments with building needs and of the nation as a whole.

THE LAND

In the interests of agriculture, housing and town and country planning alike, we declare for a radical solution for the crippling problems of land acquisition and use in the service of the national plan.

Labour believes in land nationalisation and will work towards it, but as a first step the State and the local authorities must have wider and speedier powers to acquire land for public purposes wherever the public interest so requires. In this regard and for the purposes of controlling land use under town and country planning, we will provide for fair compensation; but we will also provide for a revenue for public funds from “betterment”.

EDUCATION AND RECREATION

An important step forward has been taken by the passing of the recent Education Act. Labour will put that Act not merely into legal force but into practical effect, including the raising of the school leaving age to 16 at the earliest possible moment, “further” or adult education, and free secondary education for all.

And, above all, let us remember that the great purpose of education is to give us individual citizens capable of thinking for themselves.

National and local authorities should co-operate to enable people to enjoy their leisure to the full, to have opportunities for healthy recreation. By the provision of concert halls, modern libraries, theatres and suitable civic centres, we desire to assure to our people full access to the great heritage of culture in this nation.

HEALTH OF THE NATION AND ITS CHILDREN

By good food and good homes, much avoidable ill-health can be prevented. In addition the best health services should be available free for all. Money must no longer be the passport to the best treatment.

In the new National Health Service there should be health centres where the people may get the best that modern science can offer, more and better hospitals, and proper conditions for our doctors and nurses. More research is required into the causes of disease and the ways to prevent and cure it.

Labour will work specially for the care of Britain’s mothers and their children – children’s allowances and school medical and feeding services, better maternity and child welfare services. A healthy family life must be fully ensured and parenthood must not be penalised if the population of Britain is to be prevented from dwindling.

SOCIAL INSURANCE AGAINST THE RAINY DAY

The Labour Party has played a leading part in the long campaign for proper social security for all – social provision against rainy days, coupled with economic policies calculated to reduce rainy days to a minimum. Labour led the fight against the mean and shabby treatment which was the lot of millions while Conservative Governments were in power over long years. A Labour Government will press on rapidly with legislation extending social insurance over the necessary wide field to all.

But great national programmes of education, health and social services are costly things. Only an efficient and prosperous nation can afford them in full measure. If, unhappily, bad times were to come, and our opponents were in power, then, running true to form, they would be likely to cut these social provisions on the plea that the nation could not meet the cost. That was the line they adopted on at least three occasions between the wars.

There is no good reason why Britain should not afford such programmes, but she will need full employment and the highest possible industrial efficiency in order to do so.

A WORLD OF PROGRESS AND PEACE

No domestic policy, however wisely framed and courageously applied, can succeed in a world still threatened by war. Economic strife and political and military insecurity are enemies of peace. We cannot cut ourselves off from the rest of the world – and we ought not to try.

Now that victory has been won, at so great a cost of life and material destruction, we must make sure that Germany and Japan are deprived of all power to make war again. We must consolidate in peace the great war-time association of the British Commonwealth with the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. Let it not be forgotten that in the years leading up to the war the Tories were so scared of Russia that they missed the chance to establish a partnership which might well have prevented the war.

We must join with France and China and all others who have contributed to the common victory in forming an International Organisation capable of keeping the peace in years to come. All must work together in true comradeship to achieve continuous social and economic progress.

If peace is to be protected we must plan and act. Peace must not be regarded as a thing of passive inactivity: it must be a thing of life and action and work.

An internationally protected peace should make possible a known expenditure on armaments as our contribution to the protection of peace; an expenditure that should diminish as the world becomes accustomed to the prohibition of war through an effective collective security.

The economic well-being of each nation largely depends on world-wide prosperity. The essentials of prosperity for the world as for individual nations are high production and progressive efficiency, coupled with steady improvement in the standard of life, an increase in effective demand, and fair shares for all who by their effort contribute to the wealth of their community. We should build a new United Nations, allies in a new war on hunger, ignorance and want.

The British, while putting their own house in order, must play the part of brave and constructive leaders in international affairs. The British Labour Movement comes to the tasks of international organisation with one great asset: it has a common bond with the working peoples of all countries, who have achieved a new dignity and influence through their long struggles against Nazi tyranny.

And in all this worth-while work – whether political, military or economic – the Labour Party will seek to promote mutual understanding and cordial co-operation between the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, the advancement of India to responsible self-government, and the planned progress of our Colonial Dependencies.

LABOUR’S CALL TO ALL PROGRESSIVES

Quite a number of political parties will be taking part in the coming Election. But by and large Britain is a country of two parties.

And the effective choice of the people in this Election will be between the Conservative Party, standing for the protection of the rights of private economic interest, and the Labour Party, allied with the great Trade Union and co-operative movements, standing for the wise organisation and use of the economic assets of the nation for the public good. Those are the two main parties; and here is the fundamental issue which has to be settled.

The election will produce a Labour Government, a Conservative Government, or no clear majority for either party: this last might well mean parliamentary instability and confusion, or another Election.

In these circumstances we appeal to all men and women of progressive outlook, and who believe in constructive change, to support the Labour Party. We respect the views of those progressive Liberals and others who would wish to support one or other of the smaller parties of their choice. But by so doing they may help the Conservatives, or they may contribute to a situation in which there is no parliamentary majority for any major issue of policy.

In the interests of the nation and of the world, we earnestly urge all progressives to see to it – as they certainly can – that the next Government is not a Conservative Government but a Labour Government which will act on the principles of policy set out in the present Declaration.

#ukip Mislays English Midlands! #GE2015 #RaceForNumber10 #GeneralElection2015 #Birmingham #Porthmadog

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Once more a senior member of ukip, Paul Nuttall in this case, has put Birmingham in the north of England.  We are not in the north nor in the south of England, we are in the Midlands.

One would have thought, given ukip’s obsession with British values and culture, that the party would know where the Midlands are in England.  Why?  Well, William Shakespeare came from down the road in Warwickshire which is most definitely not in the south of England.

Of course, Will, if alive today, would not be a natural party supporter, despite ukip’s desire to turn his birthday into a national holiday.  He wrote too much about the human condition being something common to all, whether they live in Scotland, Venice, Verona, York, Alexandria, Troy, Athens, Bangor, Shrewsbury, Coventry, Rome, Denmark, Harfleur, Orleans, Auvergne, Bordeaux, Rouen, Paris, Angiers, Windsor or the Forest of Arden, to be a little Englander.

And on the subject of England, it was Kipling who wrote, “And what should they know of England who only England know?”  In Paul Nuttall’s case precious little, given he recently managed to think it was 1974 and that Porthmadog is called Portmadoc.  I imagine, given his ukip copyrighted, southern centric equatorial line that he thought The Gateway To Snowdonia was in the north of England.  Actually, it is in the English Midlands, in a way, as so many of us from here take our holidays in that welcoming foreign country.

What next?  Northern Ireland, an offshore colony of northern England?

Paul Nuttall, Lacking In Hwyl, Declines To Translate #ukip Into Welsh …

#Farage Gravely Insults English Midlanders Thrice …

Polish Prince challenges cad, Nigel Farage to duel #ukip #GE2015 #RaceForNumber10 #GeneralElection2015

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Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s Nigel Farage!)

A Polish aristocrat – Prince Jan Żyliński – has challenged Nigel Farage to a duel because he has “had enough of discrimination against Polish people” in the UK:

The challenge was issued 3 days ago and to date there has been absolute silence from the Farage camp.

Running scared it seems.

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Please feel free to comment. And share.

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UK’s Healthy Manufacturing Sector, Meaningful Manual Labour & Other Myths … #InOurBritain

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We do not know how many people work in manufacturing.  Why may I confidently make this statement?  The answer is hidden in plain sight:

SIC 2007: The Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities is used to classify business establishments and other standard units by the type of economic activity in which they are engaged.  The information in this dataset uses the 2007 revision (SIC 2007).

Let me unpack that for you, if my company manufactures plastic widgets and I have on site a canteen directly employing ten staff then those ten staff are counted as working in manufacturing, because my business establishment or other standard unit is a manufacturing company.  Should I outsource my canteen then ten jobs in manufacturing will disappear and ten appear in the service sector, because the provider of the canteen is a catering company which is classified as being in the service sector.

You will not be surprised to learn that I gnash my teeth when yet another reporter or politician measures the strength of the UK manufacturing sector purely by the number of people directly employed by it.  I gnash in sympathy with the likes of the Engineering Employers Federation.  And, yes, I have done some work with them, too!  The public sector used to contract with them to provide training for people looking for work, but not all were on Jobseeker’s Allowance and I had discussions with them about new premises to replace their old site in Tyseley.  Unfortunately, those talks were overtaken by the events of 2008.

The EEF has an ongoing campaign to champion and celebrate UK manufacturing.  Pity no one mentioned that to Farage before he made an ass of himself, early last year, about ukip’s plans to make our country a great trading nation again:

Manufacturing accounts for half of UK exports making the UK the 10th largest goods exporter in the world

Companies across the sector employ 2.6 million people and this figure has been on the rise for over a year

Industry accounts for the lion’s share of business R&D accounting for 72 % of R&D expenditure

Manufacturing output accounts for 11% of total UK GVA

Wages 13% higher than economy average and pay growth has been rising faster than in the rest of the economy for more than two years.

Manufacturing facts and figures

To be fair to Farage, he did, a month or so later, do something few in the media ever do and revised his view of UK manufacturing and its place in the world.

To return to the start of my piece, imagine a plastic widget manufacturing company in the 1950s that directly employed 400 staff and the same company today, but employing a lot fewer people.  The obvious response is usually to put the decline in employment down to mostly external factors ranging from overseas competition to overly strong trades unions, from Thatcherite monetary policy to excessive EU regulations and goldplating, from poor management to lack of investment in capital and labour, from adverse currency market moves to lack of accessible capital, from deindustrialisation to globalisation, from not producing the goods and services that the world wants to buy to poorly educated school leavers, from excessive taxation disincentivising entrepreneurs to increases in the cost of energy; from offshoring to unofficial strikes, from profit taking rather than re-investing to the prevalence of too many third generation family owned and run businesses, from downsizing to rationalisation, from mergers and acquisitions to the deaths and retirements of employees and business owners and so on.  The outsourcing of functions, previously delivered in house, rarely makes this list of causes, but it really should, because all the following may have been outsourced at our plastics factory over the last 60 years or so:

Security; receptionists; cleaning staff, both office and shop floor; catering staff, including the tea lady; office staff; design staff; delivery drivers; building maintenance; purchasing; marketing (and web design and management); factory medical staff; the odd job men; personnel staff; machine operators …

In fact, everyone may be outsourced either through contracts with companies to deliver services like logistics or catering or by employing staff through employment agencies.  In fact, one might end up with only a few staff counted as working in manufacturing, the salaried middle and senior management.  Incidentally, none of this is new.  Twenty years ago, I met a Human Resources Manager working for GEC Alsthom at their Washwood Heath plant who was on an agency contract.  One has to question the logic of such an approach, given his employer was costing Alsthom money through its approach to using taxpayer funded public services to fill jobs at the plant.

I met this HR Manager when I accompanied a colleague (and good friend of mine) to a meeting with him to discuss how we, the local Jobcentre, might help Alsthom recruit more people from the local area, one with high unemployment.  We used to do things like that back then as a matter of routine.  We had been assisting Alsthom in filling jobs on the company’s shop floor where those workers made, actually assembled, trains in what is known, rather dismissively, but accurately as a screwdriver operation.

Through a pre 1997 scam, the company had been eligible to receive about £600 per person if the person they took on met the conditions for entering Training For Work, a government funded scheme administered by Training and Enterprise Councils. These Job Entry Training payments, as they were known in Birmingham and Solihull, were administered by Training and Enterprise Councils and were paid ostensibly to cover the sort of induction programme that any self respecting business would not require a financial incentive to put its new recruits through.

Jobcentre staff had to sign off on each payment before they were released and by doing so we got to count each person attracting a payment as a job entry (and we had indicative targets to try to meet).  My apologies for the preamble, but in undertaking this work we built up a relationship with the HR staff and, by checking the details of each new recruit to determine whether or not they attracted a payment, we found out from where they were recruiting staff which was revealing in itself.

Having developed a rapport, we were able to persuade our new friend in HR to discuss with us about doing more than just checking the NI records of people and signing off on their eligibility for TFW.  A few years before, in 1992, LDV next door to Alsthom had made over 1,000 workers redundant and many of them were still unemployed and lived locally.  We hoped to persuade Alsthom to allow people to undertake Work Trials to show they met Alsthom’s requirements.  Alsthom were asking that applicants had an NVQ Level 2 in Manufacturing which no one locally had.  The Work Trial option would have levelled the playing field for local job applicants.

The HR Manager told us that Work Trials sounded useful, but that they were a no go with the trades unions.  Ok, we said, we will happily meet with them to explain how they help unemployed people to show an employer what they can do with no risk of losing benefit, even if they are offered a job.  For whatever reason, that meeting never took place.  I had looked forward to brandishing my trades union membership card and referring to Branch 5/709 as I gave the secret  …

On the way out of our ultimately fruitless meeting, my friend was hailed by an office worker who thanked her profusely for helping her into a job with the company.  What did you have to do with it, said the manager.  Us?  My friend said we could tell him because he had asked us directly, but in normal circumstances we were not allowed to approach an employer as to what had occurred.  An agency had placed the vacancy with us, we had advertised it, submitted a list of suitable people for interview and one of them, the grateful woman, had got it.  My friend exploited the opening to ask how much the agency had charged for putting Alsthom in touch with our service that was within walking distance of where we were standing.  Somewhere in the region of £400 to £600 back in the mid 1990s.  Incidentally, back then, the Tories would not allow us to point out that our service was free.  When that despicable New Labour crowd got in., Mr Blunkett let us promote our service to employers as being free at the point of delivery …  Had a nice ring to it and still does, does it not?

It was during this discussion about how an agency had charged Alsthom for filling an office job, using a service for which their client had already paid, that we learnt that he too was employed by the agency!  An agency, moreover, that had no qualms about pointing Alsthom in our direction for factory shop floor staff, because you find them, unlike good clerical staff, down at the Jobcentre.  However, by requiring applicants to have an NVQ Level 2 in Manufacturing they had restricted the pool of applicants to white men, mostly with a background in automotive manufacturing.  Farage and company would have loved the plant back then with its all white male manual workforce, its offices full of female juniors and male managers …  Do not get me wrong, there were brown faces on the shop floor (as a result of a fortnight in the sun) and women too (taking messages from the offices to the shop floor).  No People With Disabilities though need apply.

I had been angling for another trip back to Alsthom after my friend and her fellow employer marketing officer got taken on a grand tour of the plant.  I only wanted to sit in the cab of a Eurostar train set which was surely not much to ask?  Us chaps can be very childish at times so having been firmly put in my place my my two female colleagues I needed another legitimate way into the plant.  Fortunately for me, the company was not enthusiastic about taking PWDs on, but had agreed to another colleague and friend of mine, the Disability Employment Adviser, accompanying a hearing impaired jobseeker, supported by an interpreter, to a recruitment test organised by Alsthom’s HR people.  The DEA allowed me to shadow him and cock a snook at the better half of our External Relations Team.  Yes, we were in ERT!  Sorry, old, poor joke.

Any way, we met the HR Manager on site and he took us through the plant hence our subsequent joint observations about the visual demographic make up of the workforce.  A very informative visit.  The plant was amazingly clean and not at all what we expected, but then it was not a manufacturing plant.  They were assembling trains for London Underground not fabricating the parts for them.  The basic carriages were made elsewhere, delivered to the site and then seating, wiring and so on were installed.  Companies like Alsthom in days gone by would have employed electricians, carpenters, upholsterers, glaziers and the like, but not now, despite them asking for an NVQ Level 2 and poaching recruits at a premium from car companies with household names.  I asked the HR chap about whether they had someone on site to repair torn seat cushions and the like.  No, he said, we just send them back to where they come from for a replacement.  So much then for what Blue Labour these days likes to romantically call the joy of meaningful manual labour.  A joy that seemingly increases with distance, class and income, and the option not to have to do it.  As Alan Johnson remarked recently, most people wanted their kids to get jobs that involved them not having to follow their forebears down the pit or into the factory.

Our hearing impaired jobseeker was asked to undertake a test to see if he was able to undertake the work that would be asked of him if he were taken on.  We would have preferred a trial of a few days, but the test was the best we were able to wangle.  What they were testing was his ability to staple wires to the underside of a tube train carriage.  The carriage chassis were on their backs with what resembled paper dress patterns spread over them.  The patterns on the sheets were coloured lines on to which the various wires had to be ‘stapled’.  Our chap did not need, as it turned out, his local authority supplied interpreter.  He was more than able to follow what he was being asked to do and he did so well, but not quite quickly enough, allegedly.  Either way, he did not get the job, but not before the HR Manager had started talking about audible, but not also visual fire alarms; stepping back into the path of silent forklift trucks, driven by people not looking where they were going and so on.  Employers seeking to justify discrimination back then often had very vivid imaginations and work places that were veritable death traps to all, but those whom they sought to employ.

I and the DEA, both white collar workers, and the interpreter, a female white collar worker, would have been able to do the job for which our client was applying so it was certainly not difficult and well within his abilities.  Alas, this ‘test’ took place before the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.  One was always (and remains) wary of building a case on partial observations, but a few years later I visited my old office and had a chat with the new Jobcentre Manager, another friend and colleague.  We got around to exchanging notes about the company and agreed that we shared the same view about its recruitment practices, but without a complaint from a third party no action might be taken to investigate them.

Some of the current discussions around manufacturing seem overly nostalgic for my taste and ignore the reality of what working on the shop floor was really like for those who had no choice, but to work there.  Moreover, what many ignore, along with the impact of outsourcing, is that much of manufacturing is now focused on high value added production.  Production requiring highly qualified workers capable of using quality data, CAD, CAM and other complex machinery, some of which augments their physical strength many times over for a specific purpose, for example moving a car body on an assembly line.  I have seen one of these Cyberman devices (and masses of TQM data) on the Jaguar production line at Castle Bromwich.  Someone stepping into the device has their strength increased by ten so one skilled man may do what ten unskilled or semi skilled men had done in years gone by.  Moreover, none of them would have been expected to have interpreted statistical data or would have been given the power to stop the production line without reference to line management.  I have seen a button that allows the Cybermen of JLR to do just that.  Manufacturing has moved way beyond the ken of Red Tory, Blue Labour and ukip, all of whom wish to reconnect with a manufacturing working class that mostly no longer exists and these days, when it does it rarely looks like an unskilled or semi-skilled white male.

Of course, the fishing industry is not what it once was either.  I remember so well a question on it in my Geography O Level examination paper in 1983.  The question was partly based on data that showed that between 1945 and 1975 the size of the UK fishing industry workforce had halved whilst at the same time the size of the annual catch had remained the same.  The things one’s mind palace or, old style, lumber room files away for future reference, eh?

Incidentally, JLR employs 100s of people through agency contracts and when the NHS does the same, its agency workers are counted as being in the private sector and not the public, despite being paid for out of the public purse.  Mrs Thatcher knew how to play this game when she ‘reduced’ the size of the Civil Service by changing the employment status of staff at places like the British Museum.  On the Friday they were in the Civil Service, but the following Monday they had left it to become other public sector workers.  The head count within the Civil Service had fallen at a stroke, but the total number of people employed by central government had remained the same.  Mrs Thatcher could honestly say she had reduced the size of the Civil Service, if asked by a reporter about her pledge to do so.

And any way, what do we mean by manufacturing?  When someone talks about it, do you think about chocolates or buildings?  What is Cadbury of Bournville, if not a mass manufacturer of confectionery?  And what of another manufacturing plant in Castle Bromwich, not far from JLR and which recruited redundant track workers from Rover in the south of Birmingham?  What do they produce?  Well, they produce modular units in which people may live, that are manufactured on a production line and whose use may reduce build times by as much as two thirds.  Perhaps Natalie Bennett should have a Party Political Broadcast filmed there?

Benefits of re-shoring

We love manufacturing

Manufacturing: Our future in Europe

Liam Byrne MP’s Hoped for HS2 Maintenance Depot Permanently Delayed?

Targets And Taking Out The Trash In A Total Quality Management Setting Part 2 #GE2015 #RaceForNumber10

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You may have noticed, from the first instalment of this series, that Royal Mail set no target by which they wished to reduce non attendance due to ill health.  If you decide that you have a problem then it is of fundamental importance to know where you are to set a baseline against which you may measure the effectiveness of any action you undertake.  Targets are an irrelevance if adopting such an approach.  In fact, they may hinder an organisation from achieving sustainable, lasting change.

I attended numerous meetings with all sorts of organisations when I was part of the team implementing New Deal in Birmingham.  One particular meeting sticks in my mind for all the wrong reasons.  I was there, with representatives of Groundwork Birmingham, to discuss with staff from Birmingham City Council about how we might use the Environmental Taskforce Option of New Deal to set up an Intermediate Labour Market model to increase the level of recycling in Birmingham.  Groundwork had access to European funding so that the Option would pay a wage as opposed to Jobseeker’s Allowance with an additional payment on top of £15 per week (if memory serves correctly) and travel expenses.  We just needed buy in from the Council as to the approach being proposed.  I was principally there to explain how New Deal worked and what we would accept (and not accept) in terms of work placements.  I also made clear that each individual placement category would require prior approval from the Employment Service before positions falling within it might be made available to eligible jobseekers.  Specifically, no canal side clearance type jobs would be approved, that one day a week had to be set aside for NVQ Level 2 or equivalent training and that half of another day must be used to provide help with looking for work.

Birmingham City Council was a member of the Birmingham New Deal Partnership Board and so we assumed that the idea would be accepted in principle.  I think we just envisaged overcoming a bit of resistance to the idea before explaining how the project might work with the Council’s support.  I say resistance, because senior Councillors signing up to New Deal was no guarantee that officers would necessarily fall into line and enthusiastically grasp the opportunities on offer.  Ten years or so later, I was to have problems explaining to Birmingham City Council officers that I was really offering them free (well, relatively free) money to add extra space to Children’s Centres.  Any way, the Environmental Health people were not opposed to the ILM.  They could just not see the point of it.  True, they were not meeting the recycling target at that point, but with a tweak here and a tweak there they were confident that they would soon do so.  There was clearly no desire to exceed the target set.  Moreover, no more waste would seemingly be recycled if the  target was met on their terms.

I said I was principally there for official reasons, but, in no particular order, I was (and I am) a resident of Birmingham, I remain very concerned to see ever greater recycling and, as a Labour party member I was keen to see New Deal succeed.  New Deal would partly deliver its promise through offering a wide range of opportunities from which jobseekers might choose.  I have to say I was aghast at the complacency of the local government officers as was the Councillor (and a friend of mine) sitting opposite me.  Neither of us could do anything to get them to budge and neither could Groundwork who were, at least, better prepared to address the objections they thought would arise.  The target had trumped any attempt at experimentation to see if recycling might be increased and/or improved, particularly in areas of Birmingham suffering from above average deprivation.  I am struggling to remember if that project ever moved past that meeting.  Thankfully, other parts of the Council were more responsive to similar ideas.  Although one very successful project that deserved core funding after it had proved itself no longer exists.  I bet there is many a visitor to Birmingham to this day who would appreciate the help of roving tourist information staff.

The fact that they could tweak (or fiddle) their way to meeting the target suggests that it was of no practical value.  There is a tendency in such situations to say we will reduce x by y%.  However, if x falls and recycling activity stays the same then y as a % of x increases (and so we may meet our target without doing anything more than before).  The objective we should be seeking to achieve is that ever more waste than now is recycled.  Consequently, we are fixing no limit on the percentage of waste to be recycled, but we are setting today’s level of recycling and overall amount of waste as baselines (more about them on another occasion) against which to assess future performance.  Ideally, though, we want to reduce first, reuse second and then recycle before resorting to incineration or landfill.  Councils have more ability to increase recycling than they have to reduce consumption and encourage greater reuse.  Their baseline should be the current levels of recycling with the direction of travel being to reduce it, alongside working with others to lower wasteful consumption and increase reuse.  With regards to the latter, one person’s waste product is another’s raw material so where there is muck there is brass, even in the 21st Century.

A target to simply increase recycling by a certain percentage is no way to achieve something of which most people want to see more.  There are thankfully few refuseniks, enthusiastic for ever more Council tips, these days.  Most of them though do seem to be here in Birmingham fighting a rearguard action against the replacement of black bags with wheelie bins.  Please, do not ask me to expand on that particular story!  I hope you have noticed that I have not said how we should reduce, reuse and recycle.  Individual communities should design ways to do that themselves with appropriate input from waste experts.  Honestly, it does not pain me to say that consultants who specialise in particular areas are good people to have on hand as critical friends and for advice and support (but rarely pre-packaged solutions), despite the things I say about the generalists and the Big Four (may their profits be blighted)!

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn …

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The Willow-Wren was twittering his thin little song, hidden himself in the dark selvedge of the river bank. Though it was past ten o’clock at night, the sky still clung to and retained some lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the sullen heats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer night. Mole lay stretched on the bank, still panting from the stress of the fierce day that had been cloudless from dawn to late sunset, and waited for his friend to return. He had been on the river with some companions, leaving the Water Rat free to keep a engagement of long standing with Otter; and he had come back to find the house dark and deserted, and no sign of Rat, who was doubtless keeping it up late with his old comrade. It was still too hot to think of staying indoors, so he lay on some cool dock-leaves, and thought over the past day and its doings, and how very good they all had been.

The Rat’s light footfall was presently heard approaching over the parched grass. ‘O, the blessed coolness!’ he said, and sat down, gazing thoughtfully into the river, silent and pre-occupied.

‘You stayed to supper, of course?’ said the Mole presently.

‘Simply had to,’ said the Rat. ‘They wouldn’t hear of my going before. You know how kind they always are. And they made things as jolly for me as ever they could, right up to the moment I left. But I felt a brute all the time, as it was clear to me they were very unhappy, though they tried to hide it. Mole, I’m afraid they’re in trouble. Little Portly is missing again; and you know what a lot his father thinks of him, though he never says much about it.’

‘What, that child?’ said the Mole lightly. ‘Well, suppose he is; why worry about it? He’s always straying off and getting lost, and turning up again; he’s so adventurous. But no harm ever happens to him. Everybody hereabouts knows him and likes him, just as they do old Otter, and you may be sure some animal or other will come across him and bring him back again all right. Why, we’ve found him ourselves, miles from home, and quite self- possessed and cheerful!’

‘Yes; but this time it’s more serious,’ said the Rat gravely. ‘He’s been missing for some days now, and the Otters have hunted everywhere, high and low, without finding the slightest trace. And they’ve asked every animal, too, for miles around, and no one knows anything about him. Otter’s evidently more anxious than he’ll admit. I got out of him that young Portly hasn’t learnt to swim very well yet, and I can see he’s thinking of the weir. There’s a lot of water coming down still, considering the time of the year, and the place always had a fascination for the child. And then there are— well, traps and things— you know. Otter’s not the fellow to be nervous about any son of his before it’s time. And now he is nervous. When I left, he came out with me— said he wanted some air, and talked about stretching his legs. But I could see it wasn’t that, so I drew him out and pumped him, and got it all from him at last. He was going to spend the night watching by the ford. You know the place where the old ford used to be, in by-gone days before they built the bridge?’

‘I know it well,’ said the Mole. ‘But why should Otter choose to watch there?’

‘Well, it seems that it was there he gave Portly his first swimming-lesson,’ continued the Rat. ‘From that shallow, gravelly spit near the bank. And it was there he used to teach him fishing, and there young Portly caught his first fish, of which he was so very proud. The child loved the spot, and Otter thinks that if he came wandering back from wherever he is— if he is anywhere by this time, poor little chap— he might make for the ford he was so fond of; or if he came across it he’d remember it well, and stop there and play, perhaps. So Otter goes there every night and watches— on the chance, you know, just on the chance!’

They were silent for a time, both thinking of the same thing— the lonely, heart-sore animal, crouched by the ford, watching and waiting, the long night through— on the chance.

‘Well, well,’ said the Rat presently, ‘I suppose we ought to be thinking about turning in.’ But he never offered to move.

‘Rat,’ said the Mole, ‘I simply can’t go and turn in, and go to sleep, and do nothing, even though there doesn’t seem to be anything to be done. We’ll get the boat out, and paddle up stream. The moon will be up in an hour or so, and then we will search as well as we can— anyhow, it will be better than going to bed and doing nothing.’

‘Just what I was thinking myself,’ said the Rat. ‘It’s not the sort of night for bed anyhow; and daybreak is not so very far off, and then we may pick up some news of him from early risers as we go along.’

They got the boat out, and the Rat took the sculls, paddling with caution. Out in midstream, there was a clear, narrow track that faintly reflected the sky; but wherever shadows fell on the water from bank, bush, or tree, they were as solid to all appearance as the banks themselves, and the Mole had to steer with judgment accordingly. Dark and deserted as it was, the night was full of small noises, song and chatter and rustling, telling of the busy little population who were up and about, plying their trades and vocations through the night till sunshine should fall on them at last and send them off to their well-earned repose. The water’s own noises, too, were more apparent than by day, its gurglings and ‘cloops’ more unexpected and near at hand; and constantly they started at what seemed a sudden clear call from an actual articulate voice.

The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. At last, over the rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and once more they began to see surfaces— meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens, and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, all washed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, but with a difference that was tremendous. Their old haunts greeted them again in other raiment, as if they had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel and come quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to see if they would be recognised again under it.

Fastening their boat to a willow, the friends landed in this silent, silver kingdom, and patiently explored the hedges, the hollow trees, the runnels and their little culverts, the ditches and dry water-ways. Embarking again and crossing over, they worked their way up the stream in this manner, while the moon, serene and detached in a cloudless sky, did what she could, though so far off, to help them in their quest; till her hour came and she sank earthwards reluctantly, and left them, and mystery once more held field and river.

Then a change began slowly to declare itself. The horizon became clearer, field and tree came more into sight, and somehow with a different look; the mystery began to drop away from them. A bird piped suddenly, and was still; and a light breeze sprang up and set the reeds and bulrushes rustling. Rat, who was in the stern of the boat, while Mole sculled, sat up suddenly and listened with a passionate intentness. Mole, who with gentle strokes was just keeping the boat moving while he scanned the banks with care, looked at him with curiosity.

‘It’s gone!’ sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. ‘So beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!’ he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.

‘Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,’ he said presently. ‘O Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.’

The Mole, greatly wondering, obeyed. ‘I hear nothing myself,’ he said, ‘but the wind playing in the reeds and rushes and osiers.’

The Rat never answered, if indeed he heard. Rapt, transported, trembling, he was possessed in all his senses by this new divine thing that caught up his helpless soul and swung and dandled it, a powerless but happy infant in a strong sustaining grasp.

In silence Mole rowed steadily, and soon they came to a point where the river divided, a long backwater branching off to one side. With a slight movement of his head Rat, who had long dropped the rudder-lines, directed the rower to take the backwater. The creeping tide of light gained and gained, and now they could see the colour of the flowers that gemmed the water’s edge.

‘Clearer and nearer still,’ cried the Rat joyously. ‘Now you must surely hear it! Ah— at last— I see you do!’

Breathless and transfixed the Mole stopped rowing as the liquid run of that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up, and possessed him utterly. He saw the tears on his comrade’s cheeks, and bowed his head and understood. For a space they hung there, brushed by the purple loose-strife that fringed the bank; then the clear imperious summons that marched hand-in-hand with the intoxicating melody imposed its will on Mole, and mechanically he bent to his oars again. And the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as they were wont to do at the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was marvellously still.

On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold the air, and they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the end, whatever it might be, that surely awaited their expedition.

A wide half-circle of foam and glinting lights and shining shoulders of green water, the great weir closed the backwater from bank to bank, troubled all the quiet surface with twirling eddies and floating foam-streaks, and deadened all other sounds with its solemn and soothing rumble. In midmost of the stream, embraced in the weir’s shimmering arm-spread, a small island lay anchored, fringed close with willow and silver birch and alder. Reserved, shy, but full of significance, it hid whatever it might hold behind a veil, keeping it till the hour should come, and, with the hour, those who were called and chosen.

Slowly, but with no doubt or hesitation whatever, and in something of a solemn expectancy, the two animals passed through the broken tumultuous water and moored their boat at the flowery margin of the island. In silence they landed, and pushed through the blossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led up to the level ground, till they stood on a little lawn of a marvellous green, set round with Nature’s own orchard-trees— crab-apple, wild cherry, and sloe.

‘This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,’ whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. ‘Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!’

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror— indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy— but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

‘Rat!’ he found breath to whisper, shaking. ‘Are you afraid?’

‘Afraid?’ murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. ‘Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet— and yet— O, Mole, I am afraid!’

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

Sudden and magnificent, the sun’s broad golden disc showed itself over the horizon facing them; and the first rays, shooting across the level water-meadows, took the animals full in the eyes and dazzled them. When they were able to look once more, the Vision had vanished, and the air was full of the carol of birds that hailed the dawn.

As they stared blankly. in dumb misery deepening as they slowly realised all they had seen and all they had lost, a capricious little breeze, dancing up from the surface of the water, tossed the aspens, shook the dewy roses and blew lightly and caressingly in their faces; and with its soft touch came instant oblivion. For this is the last best gift that the kindly demi- god is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself in their helping: the gift of forgetfulness. Lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and pleasure, and the great haunting memory should spoil all the after-lives of little animals helped out of difficulties, in order that they should be happy and lighthearted as before.

Mole rubbed his eyes and stared at Rat, who was looking about him in a puzzled sort of way. ‘I beg your pardon; what did you say, Rat?’ he asked.

‘I think I was only remarking,’ said Rat slowly, ‘that this was the right sort of place, and that here, if anywhere, we should find him. And look! Why, there he is, the little fellow!’ And with a cry of delight he ran towards the slumbering Portly.

But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, and can re-capture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty of it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties; so Mole, after struggling with his memory for a brief space, shook his head sadly and followed the Rat.

Portly woke up with a joyous squeak, and wriggled with pleasure at the sight of his father’s friends, who had played with him so often in past days. In a moment, however, his face grew blank, and he fell to hunting round in a circle with pleading whine. As a child that has fallen happily asleep in its nurse’s arms, and wakes to find itself alone and laid in a strange place, and searches corners and cupboards, and runs from room to room, despair growing silently in its heart, even so Portly searched the island and searched, dogged and unwearying, till at last the black moment came for giving it up, and sitting down and crying bitterly.

The Mole ran quickly to comfort the little animal; but Rat, lingering, looked long and doubtfully at certain hoof-marks deep in the sward.

‘Some— great— animal— has been here,’ he murmured slowly and thoughtfully; and stood musing, musing; his mind strangely stirred.

‘Come along, Rat!’ called the Mole. ‘Think of poor Otter, waiting up there by the ford!’

Portly had soon been comforted by the promise of a treat— a jaunt on the river in Mr. Rat’s real boat; and the two animals conducted him to the water’s side, placed him securely between them in the bottom of the boat, and paddled off down the backwater. The sun was fully up by now, and hot on them, birds sang lustily and without restraint, and flowers smiled and nodded from either bank, but somehow— so thought the animals— with less of richness and blaze of colour than they seemed to remember seeing quite recently somewhere— they wondered where.

The main river reached again, they turned the boat’s head upstream, towards the point where they knew their friend was keeping his lonely vigil. As they drew near the familiar ford, the Mole took the boat in to the bank, and they lifted Portly out and set him on his legs on the tow-path, gave him his marching orders and a friendly farewell pat on the back, and shoved out into mid-stream. They watched the little animal as he waddled along the path contentedly and with importance; watched him till they saw his muzzle suddenly lift and his waddle break into a clumsy amble as he quickened his pace with shrill whines and wriggles of recognition. Looking up the river, they could see Otter start up, tense and rigid, from out of the shallows where he crouched in dumb patience, and could hear his amazed and joyous bark as he bounded up through the osiers on to the path. Then the Mole, with a strong pull on one oar, swung the boat round and let the full stream bear them down again whither it would, their quest now happily ended.

‘I feel strangely tired, Rat,’ said the Mole, leaning wearily over his oars as the boat drifted. ‘It’s being up all night, you’ll say, perhaps; but that’s nothing. We do as much half the nights of the week, at this time of the year. No; I feel as if I had been through something very exciting and rather terrible, and it was just over; and yet nothing particular has happened.’

‘Or something very surprising and splendid and beautiful,’ murmured the Rat, leaning back and closing his eyes. ‘I feel just as you do, Mole; simply dead tired, though not body tired. It’s lucky we’ve got the stream with us, to take us home. Isn’t it jolly to feel the sun again, soaking into one’s bones! And hark to the wind playing in the reeds!’

‘It’s like music— far away music,’ said the Mole nodding drowsily.

‘So I was thinking,’ murmured the Rat, dreamful and languid. ‘Dance-music— the lilting sort that runs on without a stop— but with words in it, too— it passes into words and out of them again— I catch them at intervals— then it is dance-music once more, and then nothing but the reeds’ soft thin whispering.’

‘You hear better than I,’ said the Mole sadly. ‘I cannot catch the words.’

‘Let me try and give you them,’ said the Rat softly, his eyes still closed. ‘Now it is turning into words again— faint but clear— Lest the awe should dwell— And turn your frolic to fret— You shall look on my power at the helping hour— But then you shall forget! Now the reeds take it up— forget, forget, they sigh, and it dies away in a rustle and a whisper. Then the voice returns—

‘Lest limbs be reddened and rent— I spring the trap that is set— As I loose the snare you may glimpse me there— For surely you shall forget! Row nearer, Mole, nearer to the reeds! It is hard to catch, and grows each minute fainter.

‘Helper and healer, I cheer— Small waifs in the woodland wet— Strays I find in it, wounds I bind in it— Bidding them all forget! Nearer, Mole, nearer! No, it is no good; the song has died away into reed-talk.’

‘But what do the words mean?’ asked the wondering Mole.

‘That I do not know,’ said the Rat simply. ‘I passed them on to you as they reached me. Ah! now they return again, and this time full and clear! This time, at last, it is the real, the unmistakable thing, simple— passionate— perfect——’

‘Well, let’s have it, then,’ said the Mole, after he had waited patiently for a few minutes, half-dozing in the hot sun.

But no answer came. He looked, and understood the silence. With a smile of much happiness on his face, and something of a listening look still lingering there, the weary Rat was fast asleep.