Leaders: Cameron’s own-goal in the North Sea

DAVID Cameron does not have a lot of support in the North East of Scotland, and with his latest speech to be made tomorrow he is not likely to gain any more.
An oil worker on the Nelson North Sea Oil Field. Picture: TSPLAn oil worker on the Nelson North Sea Oil Field. Picture: TSPL
An oil worker on the Nelson North Sea Oil Field. Picture: TSPL

North Sea oil workers and the other industries around them that rely on their work will find Mr Cameron’s remarks insulting. He has probably unwittingly given Alex Salmond a major boost in the May elections.

Companies in the North Sea, one of Scotland’s most important industries, have been laying people off. A recent Scottish Parliament report suggests that the 
current crisis could see 15,000 jobs axed from the figure of 200,000 it presently supports. Not a great prospect, 15,000 more people out of work.

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Yet what is David Cameron going to say to the British Chambers of Commerce today? He is going to say that falling oil prices are cutting business costs and that this should be handed on to workers in the form of pay rises. He is to say: “That’s good for your employees…” Well, not for all of them it isn’t, Mr Cameron.

But the Prime Minister’s ill-considered speech will not just upset those in and around the oil and gas industry. Mr Cameron is something of an employer himself. There are 121 ministers of the crown, 46 government departments and over 300 government agencies employing somewhere in the region of 400,000 people.

Those in the public sector have seen pay rises of 1.2 per cent according to government figures, some way behind the 2.2 per cent pay increase seen in the private sector. So, one would imagine that Mr Cameron’s own employees will be expecting his words to mean that they too can enjoy a little boost in their pockets. But then where is this going to come from as we are continually being told that Britain must continue to pay down its debts and that the age of austerity is not over?

The people who will be most annoyed and frustrated with Mr Cameron’s speech will be those thousands of people in Britain who run a business, from the smallest to the largest, and there are many more individuals in the small business category. These are generally people who have struggled to make it through the recession, a massive crippling recession brought on by the inability of previous governments to properly restrain the greed of big bankers with effective regulation. They were once properly regulated, but that was relaxed.

So the business people that have survived have worked hard, dug in and persevered with their businesses. Much of the motivation for that will have been to ensure they kept paying their taxes, what with HMRC having become so adept at winding up businesses that owe them.

Now, that generous Mr Cameron has raised the expectations of every worker by saying that Britain’s bosses can afford to give them a pay rise. The Prime Minister gets to break the good news and pay no part of the cost. Are businesses not supposed to be the Tories’ natural bedfellows?

A killer devoid of humanity

An envelope of stamps and a box containing spoons. What a sad, pathetic prize that came at the cost of a life, that of a loving wife and mother. Of course nothing is worth the taking of a life, but what Robert Buczek killed pensioner Eleanor Whitelaw for makes it all the more senseless, all the more tragic.

It was quite rightly described in court as a revolting crime. Buczek obviously approached the door with every intent of doing harm and making some personal gain. He asked for help and relied on the good nature of the person he was callously lining up to be his victim, and then he ascertained she was on her own before striking.

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And this was a crime that had much wider repercussions. This is the type of crime that spreads fear among people who are living on their own – regardless of where in the country – and just breeds despair and mistrust. It contributes to an environment that has vulnerable people withdrawing from society and normal contact.

After the verdict it emerged Buczek had a previous conviction for assaulting and robbing another pensioner when he was only 14, in his native Poland.

This murder was a despicable crime. But it was not an indictment of open borders or free travel and we should beware if it gets held out as such. There was no failure here by immigration officials or the Scottish police who had caught Buczek illegally carrying a knife. No-one could reasonably be expected to foretell Buczek’s descent to violent murder from his previous offences. This was simply the action of a depraved killer devoid of humanity, and can only be treated as such.