Monday, 9 May 2016

Why Are Labour Doing badly in Scotland?

I know I haven't posted on this blog in a while and most of the posts I have made have been updates to previously existing pages but after years of abstinence I've started using my Twitter account again, and I'm finding it very difficult to convey a nuanced argument in 140 characters so what I'm planning to do is to write a series of articles on here that I can link to when trying to explain a point online.

One of the most common debating points I keep coming across and have yet to read a proper analysis of, is the question of Labour's poor electoral performance in Scotland.

To remind anyone reading this in the future the Scottish Parliamentary Elections 2016 have just taken place and Labour have come third behind the SNP and the Tories. This article attempts to explain why and to offer a friendly if outsiders suggestion as to how the party can advance.

Suggested reasons I've seen presented include Structural Decline and bad feeling left over from the New Labour years.  I hope to show both of these hypotheses are wrong and to do so I start at the beginning, and in this context the beginning is the UK General Election of 2010.

The UK General Election of 2010

The Labour Party in Scotland went into the 2010 General election with over 50 of Scotland's MPs. In fact the 2010 Election was notable in Scotland in that no seats held by any party changed hands. The electorate held to their allegiances and most MPs across the board were returned with increased majorities.

So what happened to cause the SNP landslide at the Scottish Parliamentary Election in 2011?

Although the political ground in Scotland was firm in 2010, in England it had shifted significantly.  The love-in with Tony Blair's New Labour was over, destroyed by the financial crash of 2008, which saw the first major financial crisis of the Labour Years. Leaving the ground open for the Tory Party under their as yet untested Leader, David Cameron, to sow the seeds of doubt in Labour's financial accuity.

The result of this, and Gordon Brown's unpopularity in England, led to the outcome of the 2010 General Election being a Conservative-led coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

For Scotland, this was the worst possible outcome.  Scotland had voted Labour in overwhelming numbers and received a Conservative-led government.  The national consciousness went into a kind of mass internalised, but slow, panic. The previous Conservative governments under Thatcher and Major had been openly hostile to Scotland, shutting its heavy industry, stealing the benefits of its oil reserves to fund the bloated South East of England and attacking its ability to deliver public services.

It could be said that the Scottish nation went into a 'circle the wagons' attitude.  The main unspoken question in Scotland became 'Who can protect Scotland from the Tories?'.  Labour were in disarray, suffering the shock of being out of government for the first time in 13 years, and going through an internal re-organisation; they selected Ed Milliband as leader, an able but easily maligned former policy adviser from London with a seat in Darlington.  The Liberal Democrats, often seen as the alternative voices in politics and well represented in rural and Highland Scotland had finally jumped off the fence they had been straddling for decades and had put the hated and feared Tories into power, thus toxifying their brand for years to come. The would go on to lose every mainland seat they held in Scotland.

This left the door open for the SNP, led by the extremely capable Alex Salmond to fill the void.

The SNP's landslide in 2011 was in effect a defensive move by Scotland in reaction to the 2010 Election result.  The SNP were seen by more people in Scotland as capable of defending their country from the Conservative-led government in Westminster than anyone else at that time.

Labour still had them majority of Scottish MPs but they were seen as impotent given their numerical disadvantage in Westminster.

2011-2015


So the SNP are in government in Holyrood from 2011 with a surprising overall majority which made it inevitable that they would hold a referendum on their main constitutional policy, and reason for existence, the Independence of Scotland. To not have done so would have been a betrayal to their long term supporters and would have been seen as political cowardice by their opponents.  It can be argued that the SNP were bumped into a referendum earlier than they had planned, but either way Salmond choose 2014, the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn at which a smaller Scottish force routed a larger and better equipped English army, and secured the Scots ran their own country for the next 400 years, as the date for the referendum.

This gave all the political parties plenty of time set out their positions, form into 'Yes' and 'No' groupings, and for the issue to be widely debated by the Scottish population.

Labour had a number of options open to them but choose, mistakenly I believe, to stick with its traditional position supporting the Union. They could have allowed each member to determine their own choices and 'potentially had spokespeople on both sides of the debate, as they do currently on the issue of membership of the EU, but they rejected that position.  This meant Labour spokespeople were sharing the 'No' platform with the hated Tories and the now distrusted Liberal Democrats.  This fitted the SNP's narrative of 'they're all the same'.

In the end the Independence referendum resulted in a 'No' vote by 55% to 45%, but crucially for Labour the areas which delivered a 'Yes' vote weren't the rural SNP heartlands, but Dundee and the urban central belt areas of Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dumbartonshire. Traditonal Labour voters had been convinced of the veracity of the SNP's flagship policy and had seen it defeated by their own party working with their traditional enemy, the Conservatives.  The political ground had shifted under their feet and where before they had stood on solid Labour Ground they found themselves in secure SNP territory.

After the referendum the SNP continued in power at Holyrood, although Alex Salmond relinquished the leadership of the SNP in favour of his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon. The overall opinion of most people in Scotland is that the SNP, as a government, hadn't done as badly as many feared, given their lack of experience, and the referendum debate had galvanised and politised the population to an unprecedented degree. The gamble of putting what had once been a one-issue party of protest into power appeared to have paid of. So come the 2015 UK General Election most of the SNP voters from 2011, who had mostly been Labour voters as late as 2010, stuck with the party and the result was another SNP landslide, leaving Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories with only one seat each in Scotland. The Labour brand remained tarnished through its association with the Conservatives during the Independence Referendum.

Alex Salmond had as I said handed over the reins at Holyrood to Nicola Sturgeon, and stood successfully as a candidate in the 2015 General Election, returning to Westminster where he had been an MP prior to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. One interesting aspect of the 2015 General Election was the degree to which it was dominated by Sturgeon, even though she wasn't even a candidate. Her stock grew during this period as much because of the attention given to her by her opponents as by her actions themselves.  Voices in England were heard lamenting the lack of a party like the SNP south of the border.

In 2015, however the climate was slightly different however in that, the polls had shown a Labour victory unlikely and the the Conservatives had played on the possibility of the SNP doing well, thus talking up their vote, as a way to show Labour weak and possibly needing the SNP to form a government.  The irony of the leader of a coalition government using the potential of a coalition government as a weapon of fear was not lost on everyone, but it worked and the 'threat' of an SNP influenced government delivered the tory majority in England that Cameron sought. It also probably played a part in delivering the SNP landslide which the Tory party in England would not have been too unhappy about, as it meant a reduced Labour presence in Westminster.  The SNP had masses of MPs, all but three of Scotland's MPs were now from the party, but they were as impotent as their Labour forebears had been. The political polarisation of the UK into Tory England and not-Tory Scotland was complete.

The Liberal Democrats were all but wiped out in the 2015 Election as the electorate punished them for supporting the tories.  A lot of the Lib Dem vote had been tactical, but with their decision to jump off the fence in 2010 Labour supporters in Tory/Lib Dem marginals saw no advantage in voting tactically for a party in league with the enemy and so voted Labour.  This enabled a number of Tory victories caused, not by a rise in Conservative support, but a drop of Lib Dem support.  For the first time ever, the Liberal Democrats were replaced as Westminster's third party by the SNP. 


The Scottish Parliamentary Election of 2016

And so we come to recent events, the Scottish Parliamentary Election of 2016.

Prior to this election, from a Labour perspective, a couple of key changes had taken place. The Labour Leadership in Scotland, decimated as it had been by the previous SNP landslide was now in the hands of Kezia Dugdale, a new, younger untarnished leader, and notably female.  The Labour Leadership in Westminster had fallen to Jeremy Corbyn, the veteran left winger; a move which a number of prominent right wingers distanced themselves from, and regarded as the first step towards Armageddon, and which left wingers regarded as a return to true Labour values after the Blairite years of New Labour.  Common wisdom would have said that Corbyn's brand of socialism would appeal to the Red Clydeside heartlands but less to the more affluent areas in Edinburgh, the Glasgow suburbs, and rural Scotland.

The Scottish Parliamentary Election also saw a new Tory leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, also a younger break with the past for her party. So for the first time all three major parties in Scotland were led by women.  The most interesting factor this brought was that it made no difference whatsoever as people in Scotland appear to be less concerned with a politician's gender and sexuality (two of three being open about being in same sex relationships, and as it matters so little I'm not even going to say which two) than their plans on how to run the country.

So we have the situation in which an incumbent SNP government in seen to have performed reasonably well, a Tory government is in place in Westminster, Labour having failed to prevent this and Liberal Democrats still largely in exile due to their previous act of treachery in putting the 2010 - 2015 government into power, and people are asked to vote for a new Scottish Parliament.

Those who had voted SNP in 2010 and 2015 see that their votes mostly had the defensive effect that wanted. The SNP government in Scotland had protected the country from the worst of the Tory excesses south of the border. The SNP had also, by steering a distinctly Scottish left of centre approach, appealed to Labour minded voters who may be tired of their party's electoral failures.  The SNP voters who they had picked up from the Tories during the Tories' worst years of decline were in part won back by Ruth Davidson's optimistic but realistic approach. She never claimed to be campaigning for power but to be an effective opposition, an argument that appeals to many who value democracy, thus conceding victory to the SNP from the start. The 'alternative left' vote was being swept up by the Scottish Green Party, who had been on the 'Yes' side during the Independence referendum and thus were not tarnished by association with other parties. The Scottish Left, ow is form of Rise had less impact than their forebears in Solidarity and the Scottish Socialist Parties had done.

The Greens went on to pick up seats in the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary election, and it is to the issue of party structure I want to consider next as this is significant in understanding the rise of the Scottish Green Party..

Party Structures


Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are all structurally Unionist parties, that is they are each one party covering, either all the United Kingdom or covering England, Scotland and Wales and having a sister party in Northern Ireland, The Conservatives with the Ulster Unionist, Labour with the SDLP, the Lib Dems with the Alliance Party.

The Green Party is actually three separate parties, the Green Party of England and Wales, the Green Party of Northern Ireland and the Scottish Green Party.  Each of these parties manage their own affairs, elect their own leaders and while they share a common philosophy, determine their own policies.  This is why the Scottish Green Party was able to adopt a pro-Independence position without reference to the anyone in England.  Although Labour in Scotland brand themselves as 'Scottish Labour' they are in fact a regional part of a national organisation, Labour members in Scotland are members of The Labour Party, not Scottish Labour.

During the period of Conservative government pre-1997 the influence of the Scots in the Labour Party, which reflected their electoral strength at a time when Labour in England were in a minority, led to some resentment in England.  Conversely the decline of Labour in Scotland now has Labour seen there as being dominated by the party in England. Both of these perceptions result from Labour being one party on both sides of the border.

The Future

Labour in Scotland has to make a break with its past if it is to have any hope of re-gaining its traditional dominance in Scottish politics.  In some parts of the country it is seen as lazy, corrupt and arrogant, expecting support without earning it. Some candidates were in the past seen as lacking ability but got elected because of the colour of the rosette they wore.  Whether this is a fair analysis or not doesn't matter, it is the way a significant number of Labour people were viewed.  The clear out of the old leadership and their replacement with Kezia Dugdale should be seen in time as a step in the right direction and anyone who holds her responsible for the 2016 result simply isn't looking at the long term picture.

Labour in Scotland will continue to be tarnished with the Unionist and 'just like the Tories' labels unless Jeremy Corbyn's leadership provides a sufficiently distinct change of image bringing traditional working class socialism back to forefront in place of some of the perceived Westminster Bubble issues.

Labour in Scotland has be seen to be as Scottish as the SNP and do to this I would suggest that it forms its own, separate Scottish Labour Party.  This should not be seen as a rebellion against the party in England but should be negotiated with the party in England, and agreement made that any and all future Scottish Labour MPs in Westminster will take the Labour whip in an arrangement similar to that Labour currently holds with the SDLP.

This would enable the new Scottish Labour Party to decide for itself whether to take a position on Independence which would be different from that of the English party possibly giving each member and spokesperson the ability to speak either 'Yes' or 'No' in the inevitable forthcoming second referendum debate.  There has always been a streak of Nationalism in some Labour people in Scotland as a result of small nation syndrome, but with the party holding a firm Unionist position it has always been suppressed.  If this tendency was allowed to have its voice heard those voters who left because they felt Labour wasn't Scottish enough, could return.

There is a pro-Independence majority in Holyrood but without an absolute majority the SNP are unlikely to seek a second referendum unless pushed to do so by the Scottish Greens, as this would be seen to be a rejection of the democratic will of the people.  The second referendum is more likely to come after 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Election assuming the SNP make it an election commitment and retain control in Holyrood.  This gives all parties the time to re-evaluate and re-frame their policy on the issue. Labour should learn from the mistake of siding with the Tories and the Lib Dems in the first referendum debate and not repeat it. They should not come out as 100% in favour of Independence as this would alienate the Unionist majority but allow their elected representatives at all levels to hold and express a personal opinion as they are doing currently on the EU referendum.




Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead - Download it now.

This is just a quick post to urge support for the campaign to make Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead Number one is the UK charts this week. 

Here is a link to the FaceBook Group organising the campaign - https://www.facebook.com/groups/2807687628/ 


 In other countries when past leaders die their passing is met with riots, public waling, or the building of silly statues. In the UK we put silly songs in the charts. It is a uniquely British style of protest, something the subject of this protest never understood about the people she kicked around and abused for 11 years. 



Monday, 7 November 2011

Pro Cuts Directors still Paying themselves Very Well

I said in a recent post that I would try to find out just how much the Procuts 35 take as salary, sometimes from themselves.

Here are the figures.

Will Adderley, CEO, Dunelm Group - gets paid £350,000 p.a.
Robert Bensoussan, Chairman, L.K. Bennett
Andy Bond, Chairman, Asda - now with Republic Fashion Stores
Ian Cheshire, Chief Executive, Kingfisher - gets paid £1,972,100 p.a.
Gerald Corbett, Chairman, SSL International, moneysupermarket.com, Britvic - £215,000 from MoneySupermarket.com (2008) others to be confirmed
Peter Cullum, Executive Chairman, Towergate - gets paid £167,140 p.a.
Tej Dhillon, Chairman and CEO, Dhillon Group - n/k
Philip Dilley, Chairman, Arup - n/k
Charles Dunstone, Chairman, Carphone Warehouse Group, TalkTalk Telecom Group got £240,000 in fees as chairman of Carphone and £360,000 as chairman of TalkTalk
Warren East, CEO, ARM Holdings gets paid £1,436,097 p.a.
Gordon Frazer, Managing Director, Microsoft UK - n/k
Sir Christopher Gent, Non-Executive Chairman, GlaxoSmithKline - n/k
Ben Gordon, Chief Executive, Mothercare - has announced his intention step down on November 17th, was on an annual salary of £600,000, but picked up £5.2million including share incentive payments in the year to March 2011
Anthony Habgood, Chairman, Whitbread, Chairman, Reed Elsevier gets paid £500,000 p.a.
Aidan Heavey, Chief Executive, Tullow Oil gets paid £1,670,909 p.a.
Neil Johnson, Chairman, UMECO gets paid £240,000 p.a.
Nick Leslau, Chairman, Prestbury Group - no salary figures but recently paid £156M for St Katherine's Dock in London
Ian Livingston, CEO, BT Group gets paid £2.36M p.a.
Ruby McGregor-Smith, CEO, MITIE Group- gets paid £1,229,000 p.a. most of this coming from public sector contracts, i,e, YOUR taxes
Rick Medlock, CFO, Inmarsat; Non-Executive Director lovefilms.com, The Betting Group - gets paid £597,000
John Nelson, Chairman, Hammerson gets paid £597,000 p.a.
Stefano Pessina, Executive Chairman, Alliance Boots - pays himself £693,000 p.a.
Nick Prest, Chairman, AVEVA - pays himself £85,000 p.a (2009)
Nick Robertson, CEO, ASOS - pays himself £341,706 p.a.
Sir Stuart Rose, Chairman, Marks & Spencer - no longer at M&S
Tim Steiner, CEO, Ocado - pays himself £646,000 which includes a bonus of £220,000, not bad for running a company that can't turn a profit and whose shares at close of play today (7/11/11) were worth 87.1p down from £2.50 in February.
Andrew Sukawaty, Chairman and CEO, Inmarsat gets paid £1,478,000 p.a.
Michael Turner, Executive Chairman, Fuller, Smith and Turner gets paid £590,000 p.a.
Moni Varma, Chairman, Veetee - n/k
Paul Walker, Chief Executive, Sage - Now left Sage
Paul Walsh, Chief Executive, Diageo gets pAID £3,183,000 p.a.
Robert Walters, CEO, Robert Walters - n/k
Joseph Wan, Chief Executive, Harvey Nichols - n/k
Bob Wigley, Chairman, Expansys, Stonehaven Associates, Yell Group
Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive, Next - gets paid £1,757,000 p.a.

Lowest confirmed annual pay of the Procuts 35 is £167,140 p.a. making all the people named above in the top 1% of the country for large pay packets.

The rest of us, to borrow a slogan from the Occupy protests, are the 99% and these people are not representative of us nor act in out interests. Please boycott their businesses. Don't fund your own oppression.

The source for most of these figures is businessweek.com and are from various dates within 2011 unless stated, others are gleamed from news stories. As you can see it's not possible with ease to discover what all these people earn. If you know of any other sources where I can check or double-check these figures I'd be glad to hear about them.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Boycott Republic Fashion Stores

Andy Bond was Chairman of ASDA when the boycott of the businesses of the Procuts 35 started. He is now the Chairman of the Private Equity Funded 'Republic' fashion chain.

Back in April Andy seemed to acknowledge the recession predicting that the recession in retail will continue for another two years from that point. He has not however retracted his initial statement that the private sector (currently in recession and facing a crisis in confidence, job losses and issuing profit warnings excepted for the greedy bastards increasing their own pay by 50% just to prove to rest of us what a bunch of uncaring, ruthless bastards they really are) will magically step in and provide jobs for the millions of public sector workers Andy wanted to see sacked.

For this reason I am extending the boycott to include 'Republic'. Andy, you can run, but you can't hide. Any business you are associated with is now tainted by your public position.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Director's Pay Continues to Rise

There's a report out today that shows that the claims of the millionaire cabinet that everyone has to suffer in the current economic climate is a pile of lying hogwash.

FTSE 100 director's earnings rose by almost half last year
Link

I won't repeat the report here but suggest that you read it.

The question to be asked is how to respond to this outrage. Well in the pages of this blog I have, where available, included the details of the salaries and remuneration packages of the Procuts 35 who said that public sector workers, including their own customers, should be sacked to pay for excesses of the banks.

Well I intend to update and re-publish details of the earnings of these people just to show that when they said that cuts had to be made they did not mean to their own salaries, the hypocritical swine that they are.

I've been busy on other projects most of this year but winter is setting in and now I have time to hunt these people down and expose their greed and I will delight in doing so. Stay tuned for updates.

Here are the latest figures for the annual earnings of the Procuts 35. Those with nothing next to them yet will be added shortly.

Will Adderley, CEO, Dunelm Group - gets paid £350,000 p.a.
Robert Bensoussan, Chairman, L.K. Bennett
Andy Bond, Chairman, Asda - now with Republic Fashion Stores
Ian Cheshire, Chief Executive, Kingfisher - gets paid £1,972,100 p.a.
Gerald Corbett, Chairman, SSL International, moneysupermarket.com, Britvic - £215,000 from MoneySupermarket.com (2008) others to be confirmed
Peter Cullum, Executive Chairman, Towergate - gets paid £167,140 p.a.
Tej Dhillon, Chairman and CEO, Dhillon Group - n/k
Philip Dilley, Chairman, Arup - n/k
Charles Dunstone, Chairman, Carphone Warehouse Group, TalkTalk Telecom Group got £240,000 in fees as chairman of Carphone and £360,000 as chairman of TalkTalk
Warren East, CEO, ARM Holdings gets paid £1,436,097 p.a.
Gordon Frazer, Managing Director, Microsoft UK - n/k
Sir Christopher Gent, Non-Executive Chairman, GlaxoSmithKline - n/k
Ben Gordon, Chief Executive, Mothercare - has announced his intention step down on November 17th, was on an annual salary of £600,000, but picked up £5.2million including share incentive payments in the year to March 2011
Anthony Habgood, Chairman, Whitbread, Chairman, Reed Elsevier gets paid £500,000 p.a.
Aidan Heavey, Chief Executive, Tullow Oil gets paid £1,670,909 p.a.
Neil Johnson, Chairman, UMECO gets paid £240,000 p.a.
Nick Leslau, Chairman, Prestbury Group - no salary figures but recently paid £156M for St Katherine's Dock in London
Ian Livingston, CEO, BT Group gets paid £2.36M p.a.
Ruby McGregor-Smith, CEO, MITIE Group- gets paid £1,229,000 p.a. most of this coming from public sector contracts, i,e, YOUR taxes
Rick Medlock, CFO, Inmarsat; Non-Executive Director lovefilms.com, The Betting Group - gets paid £597,000
John Nelson, Chairman, Hammerson gets paid £597,000 p.a.
Stefano Pessina, Executive Chairman, Alliance Boots - pays himself £693,000 p.a.
Nick Prest, Chairman, AVEVA - pays himself £85,000 p.a (2009)
Nick Robertson, CEO, ASOS - pays himself £341,706 p.a.
Sir Stuart Rose, Chairman, Marks & Spencer - no longer at M&S
Tim Steiner, CEO, Ocado - pays himself £646,000 which includes a bonus of £220,000, not bad for running a company that can't turn a profit and whose shares at close of play today (7/11/11) were worth 87.1p down from £2.50 in February.
Andrew Sukawaty, Chairman and CEO, Inmarsat gets paid £1,478,000 p.a.
Michael Turner, Executive Chairman, Fuller, Smith and Turner gets paid £590,000 p.a.
Moni Varma, Chairman, Veetee - n/k
Paul Walker, Chief Executive, Sage - Now left Sage
Paul Walsh, Chief Executive, Diageo gets pAID £3,183,000 p.a.
Robert Walters, CEO, Robert Walters - n/k
Joseph Wan, Chief Executive, Harvey Nichols - n/k
Bob Wigley, Chairman, Expansys, Stonehaven Associates, Yell Group
Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive, Next - gets paid £1,757,000 p.a.

Lowest confirmed annual pay of the Procuts 35 is £167,140 p.a. making all the people named above in the top 1% of the country for large pay packets.

The rest of us, to borrow a slogan from the Occupy protests, are the 99% and these people are not representative of us nor act in out interests. Please boycott their businesses. Don't fund your own oppression.

The source for most of these figures is businessweek.com and are from various dates within 2011 unless stated, others are gleamed from news stories. As you can see it's not possible with ease to discover what all these people earn. If you know of any other sources where I can check or double-check these figures I'd be glad to hear about them.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Power of Boycotts

People sometimes doubt the power of boycotts. They look at international conglomerates with multi-billion pound turnovers and wonder what possible difference their spending power can make.

This week we've seen the Power of Boycotts. News of the World, the biggest selling purveyor of tittle-tattle, sexual gossip, pro-Tory propaganda has been closed down as a result of a short lived but hard hitting boycott.

The News of World boycott differed from most commercial boycotts in that instead of targeting consumers it asked the News of the World's advertisers, its main source of income, to remove their ads from the paper.

Pressure to comply with the boycott was organised through Twitter and FaceBook and before any knew it advertisers were receiving thousands of message from customers saying were going to take their custom elsewhere if their ads remained in the paper. The advertisers soon realised that the News of the World had become a toxic brand and there was a virtual mob with virtual torches and pitchforks out for its blood.

The revelations that people at News International had been hacking into the phones of the families of murder victims and the families of dead soldiers was enough to turn the British public, who had tolerated the intrusion of the privacy of publicity seeking celebs and hypocritical politicians, against those responsible. The public roared, the advertisers listened and the paper was shut down by its ruthless owner, sacking the staff but keeping on board the person in charge at the time most of the offending events had taken place.

It was a partial victory for common decency but now people have tasted victory and the smell of blood is in their nostrils, they are not going to let things go.

It is suspected that News International will launch a new Sunday paper making this exercise more of a re-brand than a closure. The boycott campaign against the rest of News International has already begun with demands for a full and independent investigation of those responsible.

The links between News International and the Metropolitan Police make an investigation into these matters by the Met a potential whitewash. The investigation should be conducted by a senior appropriately skilled person or team with no connection to previous events from another force or even from Interpol should that be necessary and the cost of the investigation should be paid by News International.

We can make a difference; we know that now, so let's go after the ProCuts 35 with renewed vigour.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Boycott Virgin Media

This post marks a departure from the usual policy of only targeting the companies of the 35 business people who made their support of the cuts known in an open letter.

No one at Virgin Media signed that letter, so why am I now asking for people to boycott their services? Quite simply because they are absolutely useless.

Virgin Media provided my broadband until the end of January but the story begins in December

On December 16th the phone service stopped working. This was reported to Virgin Media via their online forum as I had no other way to contact them. The broadband was still online.

This forum is full of complaints from hundreds of Virgin Media customers who are not getting the service they have paid for.

Subsequently 4 separate appointments were made for engineers to attend to fix the problem before one finally turned up on 3rd January and fixed the problem which was in their control box a couple of street away.

All of the previous 3 appointments were cancelled on the day they were supposed to take place and notification of cancellation on two of them was only received after the time of the appointment. Two of those days involved me taking time off work to make the appointments. The reason given for one of the cancellations was the weather. It is true to say that we had some snow over that period, but I do not live in an isolated cottage in the middle of Dartmoor, I live in an out London suburb where the roads were gritted, the buses kept running and binmen collected the rubbish on schedule all through the winter.

I was without a phone service, which I had paid for, over Christmas and New Year during one of the coldest spells we have had in years. With two children in the house, one of whom is registered disabled, this was a situation that involved more risk than I found acceptable.

Within 5 minutes of the phone being re-connected I had a phone call from someone claiming to be from Virgin Media demanding my account password. This was not given of course.

These phone calls continued daily , and sometimes up to 5 times a day until I posted a notice on the forum telling Virgin Media that if they wasted any more of my time I would charge them. During one of these phones I was threatened by an employee of Virgin Media and demanded to speak to his supervisor. On this occasion that occurred and he agreed to end the calls. The calls continued but petered out shortly after.

During the time the phone was out of action I hadn't paid my December bill as that was my only leverage to ensure that a repair would eventually be completed.

After the third appointment was cancelled on the day it was supposed to take place I contacted Virgin Media from work and cancelled all my services with a switchover date of 31st January.

During that call, or a subsequent one around that time a closing balance on the account was agreed between myself and someone at Virgin Media that would cover my alleged services oup to 31st January.

Since then I have had threatening letters saying that I owe them a small balance.

The fact is that they owe me.

Their customer service is appaulling.

I phoned them on receipt of the most recent letter to try to resolve the issue by referring them to the previous agreement on the closing amount. The person I spoke to was abusive, rude and was unable to provide me with the Register Office address of Virgin Media so that I could formerly issue legal proceedings of my own. All Limited Companies have to have a registered office address. She also refused repeated requests to pass the call on to someone who could answer the question.

It took me one Google query to find out that Virgin Media's Register Office is Virgin Media Limited 160 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QA.

One thing you should know about Virgin Media is that if you use the service you pay for they will cut back of your bandwidth. They advertise 'Speeds of up to 20MB' but as anyone with some technical knowledge of broadband knows this is rarely achievable and in Virgin's case is never reached. If you use your broadband a lot, by say letting the kids watch programs on the BBC iPlayer they will throttle back your bandwidth to a half or a quarter of what you pay for. They will not of course reduce your bill when they do this.

So basically, with Virgin Media we have a company that sell services, prevent you from fully utilising them, cannot fix faults within a reasonable period of time, threaten their customers and provide totally crap customer service.

They may not have signed the offending letter but those are enough reasons for me to advise anyone to steer clear of them.

There are other cable broadband provider if you wish to avoid paying BT phone line rentals charges. let me know if your experience with any of the others is similar to mine with Virgin, or if you would positively recommend someone.