Advantage Car Rental and Driving in Rome – A Warning!

Last summer I decided to visit the beautiful city of Rome. I had never been to Italy before and IPM were hosting their annual club promoters festival and pool party, so it seemed a good excuse to take in some sun, fun and a bit of ancient history. Since the events for the festival were scattered all over the city, it seemed sensible to hire a car to get around. I’m quite an experienced driver and I’ve driven in many European cities and felt quite confident getting around without incident. My general rule of thumb when driving abroad is to follow the signs and the flow of the local traffic, never park in a place where nobody else is parking, and if in doubt – ask somebody. So it came as some surprise five months later – just before I was heading out to Turin for a bit of winter ski – to find that Advantage Hertz Car Hire had debited six lots of €30 from my credit card for ‘traffic violations’.

“How could this be!?”, I fumed. Rome is the 3rd most congested city in Europe, you can’t help but be careful. You have to perpetually check your rear view and wing mirrors just to survive. And in a Fiat Panda, no one can really speed. Especially in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with a Tom Tom One with speed camera alerts. I didn’t even get a parking ticket! So after notifying my credit card company and making enquiries with the people at Advantage Hertz, I decided to do a search on the internet to see if other people have had a similar experience. And lo and behold I found a thread on Tripadvisor with over 30 postings from unhappy customers. So I decided to use an alias and chip in with my experience. However, Dbabe from Pittsburg was not happy with what we had to say… me in particular.

     

Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

25 June 2011, 7:09

DevineInsp, London

1. Dear all

A stark warning about the above – avoid making the same mistake as me.

I booked a car from these people from “Rome Fiumicino Airport”, believing (understandably) this would be convenient for my flight. What they neglect to tell you is that they are in fact several kilometres away from the airport, and offer a very limited shuttle bus to the airport, at times that suit them and not you (it is certainly not 24 hour or even close).

We nearly missed our flight having to deal with navigating our way to their offices, and then waiting for ths shuttle bus when it eventually turned up late.

I simply do not understand how, given the critical nature of timing around getting to an airport, they can claim they are based at the airport. If you want the convenience of an airport-based car rental service, avoid Advantage.

Tom

After 33 postings of complaint, Donna (aka Dbabe) entered the fray with a staunch defence of Advantage Car Rental.

Dbabe is a destination expert for Rome and she travels there often with her husband, but only once a year with the kids. The Dbabe profile states that she is aged 35-49, she is female, hails from Pittsburgh and her travel style is “splurge occasionally”. When travelling Dbabe tries to “blend in with the locals”, and although she likes to travel for fun, a great holiday includes: Museums / Cultural / Historical sites / Great food / Wine

Donna joined Tripadvisor in 2003 and at the time of writing has made 13,487  posts, written 39 traveller articles but only 10 reviews. Donna often writes her name without a capital letter at the beginning. I’m assuming that this is because she is so busy writing postings for Tripadvisor that she just doesn’t have the time to check for such grammatical detail.

 

dbabe

pittsburgh

34. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

05 November 2012, 17:47

Destination Expert for Rome

Their website clearly states that the site is “near” the airport, not at the airport. Their website also states they do not accept debit cards. You should have read this information before booking. This is your fault and not advantge’s.

https:/…customer_support.html

https:/…Car-Hire-Rome.html

donna

I hadn’t read what Dbabe had wrote when I joined the debate, I merely relayed my experiences in a serious and sensible fashion:

39. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

10 January 2013, 16:45

Forget the distance from the airport – what about getting half a dozen deductions from your credit card for ‘traffic offences’ that are never corroborated? When I booked with Advantage this summer, not only did they not have the car I booked when I arrived, the car they did have was a grade lower and they charged me MORE than what was on the voucher! 5 months later and I have had not one, not two, but 6 deductions off my card for unexplained ‘traffic offences’. No paperwork has been provided to validate these, I never once received a parking ticket (I was in an apartment parked on a residential road with lots of other cars) and I was driving a Fiat Panda so speeding is impossible. This is still ongoing, but at present they’ve had me for €180… avoid like the plague.

Fatjack from San Diego understood, but gave me this stark warning…

Fatjack, San Diego

40. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

10 January 2013, 18:10

Wait a few months and you will be getting traffic violations through registered mail. Most likely they were for ZTL violations or driving in a bus lane.

Me

41. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

12 January 2013, 12:15

Fatjack, you weren’t wrong – ZLTs and driving in public transport lanes! These ‘violations’ are obscure to say the least. Advantage seem to be taking advantage of the fact that these are obscure offences that only locals would know about. The staff at Advantage could simply tell you to be careful about what time you’re driving into the centre, or to look out for bus lanes. But of course why would they when they get an extra €30 as a ‘reasonable’ administration fee for each offence?

This is clearly a recurring issue with tourists yet its obviously a deliberate policy not to warn tourists of these pitfalls of driving in Rome. I simply keep on getting told I should have read the T&Cs, but they were never included when I booked online with Economy Car Rentals, and the type on the actual form is about half a millimetre high, and condensed, and after all the messing about when you arrive, who’s going to then spend an hour going through T&Cs when they’re on holiday? Besides, it wouldn’t make any difference unless you were aware of these random obscure violations. I’ve driven in many European countries and get around without incident and I’m sorry, this is just a con, and its more to do with Advantage than the authorities. So far their admin fees amount to practically the same as the price of the car hire!

So this was all very civil, until Dbabe decided that I was a woman and I was very naughty and I needed scolding…

dbabe, pittsburgh

42. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

12 January 2013, 12:30

Destination Expert for Rome

Another person who claims that because she’s a tourist she’s a target. If you parked on a street without having the proper sticker on your car then you would get a ticket. If you were speeding then you would get a ticket. If you were in a restricted zone (ztl) then you would get a ticket. If you drove in the wrong lane then you would get a ticket.

These are legitimate fines and the authorities go to the rental car companies for your information. Each time they have to do the research to see who had the car it costs you a fee. If it was six different infractions then it’s six different fees. You agreed to these terms when you signed the contract. If you didn’t read the contract before you signed it and didn’t read up on the driving laws in Italy then that’s your fault and not the car rental agency’s fault. The company is under no obligation to make sure YOU know what the laws are before you rent a car. I have never had one rental agency in the US tell me about restricted zones or lanes or times I could or couldn’t drive somewhere so why should they be responsible for that anywhere else? You were responsible to know this information-not them to tell you.

These violations are not random and they’re not obscure. There are signs telling you about bus lanes and restricted zones. If you missed or ignored them that’s your fault. If you chose not to read the T&C’s of your contract-that’s your fault. If you broke the law-that’s your fault. I get so tired of people complaining that this is a “tourist ripoff”. How the heck can a camera know who’s driving the car? Can you explain that to me? How does a camera target tourists? The simple answer is—-THEY CAN’T!!!! You broke the law and were caught (6 TIMES-NO LESS!!!) and now you come here to complain that the rental company should have warned you before renting you the car. Give us a break. Take responsibility for your actions, pay the fines and stop wining. It’s not a con, it’s what you agreed to when you didn’t read the T&C’s but signed them anyway.

Donna

Donna wasn’t finished and took the time to look up, cut and paste information from the Advantage Car Rental website, which I greatly appreciated.

dbabe, pittsburg

43. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

12 January 2013, 12:40

Destination Expert for Rome

And by the way, this is on the advantage rental cars’ website:

Fines and Penalties

You are responsible for the cost of any parking fines or other penalties incurred when the car is on rent to you. We will pass on the relevant charge to you plus any administrative expenses, as follows:

– Damages Administration fee: EUR 50/GBP 50/CHF 55

– Fine Administration fee: EUR 50/GBP 50/CHF 55

Fatjack asked if he could show my posting to his wife, which I agreed to before trying to calm down Dbabe.

 

Me

45. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

12 January 2013, 22:10

Feel free to pass it on as far as you like fatjack… And despite what dbabe says, a bit of consideration goes a long way to making the world a fairer, happier place. This is obviously a common problem so give a customer a break eh. No one wants to have their memories of a great holiday in a beautiful city tainted by a nasty little surprise debit on their credit card a few months later, it’s just a plain mean and deliberately exploitative way to do business. SO STOP SHOUTING AND REMONSTRATING as if I purposefully roared around Rome in my hired Fiat Panda like Michael Caine in The Italian Job. And If anyone thinks €30 is a reasonable ‘administration’ fee for typing a registration number and date into a computer to identify a car then I’d love you to be my employer, I’d be on footballers wages.

Dbabe wasn’t any calmer…

dbabe, pittsburg

46. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

13 January 2013, 14:09

Destination Expert for Rome

Whether or not we think it’s reasonable is not the point. You agreed to this when you signed the contract. They are well within their rights to charge you for their time and effort. There is nothing mean or exploitative about it. If you thought the fee was too high you shouldn’t have rented the car or broken the law. It’s really that simple. Perhaps they charge so much as a deterrent so people will be more cautious of the laws, who knows, but that’s what they charge and you’re responsible to pay it just like you’re responsible to pay the actual fines when they catch up with you.

***a bit of consideration goes a long way to making the world a fairer, happier place****

I’m sure the Italian police think the same thing about people being more considerate of their laws and not driving without fully knowing what they’re doing. The fact that you broke six different laws shows you had no business driving in Italy and that you showed no consideration for the Italians who live there and have to put up with this kind of behavior on a daily basis.

Donna

Here is a picture of a typical days traffic in Rome.

A typical day driving in Rome

A typical day driving in Rome

Here is a graph of how many of those cars Dbabe seems to think belong to tourists.

A graph showing vehicles driving in Rome

A graph showing vehicles driving in Rome

Me

47. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

15 January 2013, 9:32

Dbabe, I don’t know about you, but I imagine that most people look forward to going on holiday, as by its very definition it is a welcome break from working and a time to relax, enjoy yourself, and escape the pressures and responsibilities of home and work. Usually, once I’ve planned my vacation time I get the added bonus of looking forward to what is always an enjoyable experience. But that’s just the kind of guy I am.

Judging by your fervent defence of Advantage and your passionate advocating of the thorough reading of T&Cs, I imagine you’re the kind of freewheeling gal that plans your holiday nine months in advance with a detailed itinerary of all the fun activities you’re going to do, detailed maps of the resort and surrounding area with a chart logging distances between attractions, and variable times of how long it will take you to reach each place of interest depending on traffic, weather and wind direction. I would also imagine that you take time to learn the language of the country you’re travelling to, as well as local customs, bus and train timetables and the entire legal system. I bet you’re so organised that you vacuum pack your luggage well in advance so that its ready to go, and then adhere to a strict diet to ensure that your weight doesn’t change before your holiday and the clothes you prepacked don’t fit. Me; I pack the night before – shocking eh! But that’s just the carefree, reckless maverick that I am. That’s probably why when I booked my hire car online via an agent, I didn’t think to track down the company CEO to ask where the car hire company’s T&Cs could be found.

My crazy, mad, foolish recklessness was probably the reason why after arriving at the airport in Rome – soaking in the glorious sunshine that I am so cruelly deprived of in my hometown and excited about the vacation week ahead – whilst waiting to get picked up by the Advantage rep, I wasn’t thinking about reading T&Cs. Outrageous I know, but after the short journey from the airport through the organised chaos that is Roman driving, when I got to the hanger full of cars that were broken in one way or another, and was told that there was only one car available and it was lower than the class of car I had prebooked and paid a deposit for but I had to pay the same for it anyway, my thoughts weren’t “Ok, then direct me to your T&Cs”. Foolish me was thinking “Right, okay, I’m on holiday so let’s just make do and get on with enjoying ourselves and not make a fuss” – what a total fool I was. Even when I went to pay for this lower grade of vehicle and for some unexplained reason it was about €15 more than what was on my voucher, I still didn’t think “Hm, well let me just sit here for the next hour painstakingly examining the 3pt tiny text of your T&Cs in this hot, dimly lit hangar to see what has gone wrong so that I can take the ‘no choice’ option left to me, return back to the airport and spend another few hours of my holiday doing the same with another car hire company. I’ll phone the apartment owners from there and just inform them I’ll be a little late – maybe 12hrs or so.”

Clearly you are right for admonishing me for “wining” about all this because its obviously my fault for behaving in a recklessly human manner. Had I been the fastidiously organised automaton that you obviously are, and a stickler for loyally following rules and regulations to the very letter, regardless of how unreasonably impractical and improbable doing so is for a normal human being, then I obviously would be incredibly dull, irritating and wierd, but at least I wouldn’t have found myself in the predicament I am in now.

Could I ask you something that is not really related, only perhaps in an abstract way? Have you ever done that social experiment where they put you in a room with a machine that gives a stranger in another room electric shocks everytime they get a question wrong? The machine has a dial that goes all the way up to ‘DANGEROUS, RISK OF DEATH’, and with every wrong answer the voltage goes higher. But its up to you to turn it up and press the shock button. Obviously its a test, you can hear the stranger screaming everytime you administer a shock, but the ‘authority figure’ in the room just keeps on telling you to turn it up until you refuse or you electrocute the screaming, anonymous stranger to death – but not really of course because its just a test. I think if you did this social experiment that the anonymous stranger would be toast in no time at all. I’m not too sure what the test is supposed to say about the subject who is doing the electrocuting, do you have any ideas?

Here is how Dbabe prepares for her holidays

Dbabe always reads the small print

Dbabe always reads the small print

dbabe, pittsburg

48. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

15 January 2013, 20:08

Destination Expert for Rome

Yes, foolish you!!! You booked the car in advance. This is the time to read the T&C’s! You had the time, you had the opportunity. Did you do it – NO. That is your fault for not finding them on the website. They’re there and very easy to find.

Also, you’ve made a lot of assumptions about me and the way I travel. Most of them are wrong. The one thing I will say is that when I book something, be it a car, hotel, apartment or even a tour, I read the T&C’s. This way I don’t get surprised by anything that may go wrong. Does this make me an “automaton”– I don’t think so. It makes me a prepared traveler.

As for the shock scenario- it’s just idiotic.

All in all, your whole defense is that you didn’t have time. You didn’t have time to find the T&C’s. You didn’t have time to read the T&C’s. You didn’t have time to read the traffic rules. You didn’t have time to find out about the ZTL’s. You didn’t have time for this…..you didn’t have time for that. I suspect that if you have invested as much time in your research of the driving responsibilities and the T&C’s of car rental as you have invested on this thread you wouldn’t have had any problems while in Italy. Yet you didn’t because —let’s all say it together— you didn’t have time! Yet, you’ve found plenty of time to come here and whine and make assumptions about people and accuse companies of being on the take and all sorts of other outlandish things.

You’ve made 4 posts…all of them complaining about how unfairly you were treated. You’ve not once taken responsibility for anything that happened. It’s the rental agencies fault for not telling about ZTL’s. It’s Italys’ fault for having ZTL’s. It’s the company’s fault for not handing you a copy of the T&C’s and for not reading them to you. It’s everyones’ fault but yours. I find that amazing.

Donna

I was quite impressed that Dbabe found my scenario amazing after all of that time she has spent looking at spectacular works of art in Rome, and I found myself warming to this lady who steadfastly reads all Terms and Conditions every time she enters into a contractual agreement – I wanted to know more about what made this lady tick. Unfortunately my next posting was deleted by Tripadvisor at the behest of the community of Dbabe and two Australians – Lynn B aged 50-64 from Sydney who has 15,039 postings, 38 reviews and 6 traveller articles to her name, and zomp416 from Melbourne who has 665 posts and 8 reviews – pretty impressive considering he has only been a member since September 2012… But here is a copy of the posting anyway.

Dbabe, again you are absolutely spot on. It’s just fortunate for me that Advantage refunded all the charges to my credit card today. They obviously do not retain the same fascist outlook that you and Mussolini both share. Fortunately I only have skis to get around here in Turin, and all the closed slopes are clearly signposted, so I have no need to worry about incurring the wrath of the authorities by doing something that I shouldn’t be doing when I don’t know what I am doing is something that I shouldn’t be doing.  And rest assured that I didn’t spend too much time replying to your reply, I was just lucky enough to catch an internet signal in my hotel as I was taking a dump, which inspired my lengthy posting. Incidentally, is Babe your surname or is it something that you have added to your Tripadvisor ID to assert the fact that you are a hot chick. If it is your surname then that’s pretty cool, although quite a name to live up to. If the latter, then can you please send me a photo to confirm that you are actually a ‘Babe’ and not advertising falsely, its just that the three Donnas that I know – Donna Eetsalad, Donna Ecksersize and Donna Kebab – are all quite obese and very ugly, so I am naturally sceptical.

PS: If you aren’t actually a ‘Babe’ but have only added this to your name to make you feel better about yourself, safe in the knowledge that your true identity will never be revealed online, then I’m afraid we’re done. I can handle you being a Fascist as that would imply a penchant for S&M, which could be fun; but a liar too! That’s just a bridge too far.

Here is a picture of how Dbabe might actually look

Dbabe takes time out to clean her car

Dbabe takes time out to clean her car

50. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning

16 January 2013, 16:39

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This post was determined to be inappropriate by the TripAdvisor community and has been removed.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

Our staff may also remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason. Thanks for being a part of the TripAdvisor travel community!

Removed on: 16 January 2013, 23:05

I pleaded with Tripadvisor to allow me to make recompense for any offense my written nonsense had caused. I wanted to write some Terms and Conditions related to having a sense of humour so that Dbabe could read them and satisfy herself that it was actually OK to be a little foolish and irresponsible every now and then, and even have a smile at your own expense sometimes, because people who don’t make mistakes don’t make anything. I feel that with adequate instructions and T&C’s to follow that Dbabe may have lightened up. I even offered to write a poem to Dbabe as a show of amnesty; but alas, they would not allow me to add anything more to the thread. If they had then Dbabe would have surely seen me in a completely different light after reading these poetic words of penance:

 

Roses are red, violets are blue

Donna’s from Pittsburg and likes to read rules

Advantage Car Hire are great at what they do

And the Roman authorities, they are great too

But me, I’m just a lazy, inappropriate fool

And I should spend more time reading and following rules

 

For Donna aka Dbabe (forgive me)

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Margaret Thatcher Is Dead

The witch is dead

(This posting is re-blogged courtesty of Another Angry Voice)

It was announced on Monday 8th April that the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was dead. The sense of jubilation at her death is truly remarkable and obviously distressing to the many millions of right-wing people that describe her legacy in glowing terms, even going as far as claiming that she was the best Prime Minister ever, despite her massive unpopularity and her appalling legacy of failure.

The fact that so many people have taken to open celebration of her death is evidence of her legacy. The woman clung to power by dividing society and setting the factions against each other, instead of allowing them to unite against her. Even after her death British society is still clearly divided and the same divisive scapegoating tactics are being used again by the incumbent Tory led government.

Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, the first ever adherent of neoliberal pseudo-economics to gain power at the ballot box rather than through violent US backed military coups. She remained a lifetime friend of her fellow neoliberal adherent, the murderous Chilean dictator General Pinochet, even going as far as direct intervention to assist Pinochet in evading justice after he was threatened with extradition to Spain to face trial for crimes against humanity.

Margaret Thatcher and her friend, the murderous  Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Margaret Thatcher and her friend, the murderous
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Thatcher’s rise to power signaled the end of the post-war consensus mixed economy and the beginning of the neoliberal age. The old agreement between the parties that Britain should strive to balance regulated capitalism with state control over vital infrastructure was torn up in favour of Thatcher’s barmy post-industrial dream of a hyper-capitalist nation built around the financial services industry in London.

One of the core tenets of Thatcher’s neoliberal agenda was the firesale of state assets based on the absurdly fallacious reasoning that capitalists can always run things more efficiently than the state. Huge swathes of taxpayer funded industry and infrastructure were given away at bargain basement prices. In some cases such as the sale of British Telecom, the exponential improvements in technology give the impression that privatisation was a success, however the privatisation of utilities like gas, electric and water have severely damaged the UK economy by eroding the disposable income of the public with ever inflating prices, meaning that the public have less money to save or to invest in genuinely productive activity. Even after Thatcher’s demise, this mania for privatisation continued with all kinds of barmy privatisation scams from John Major’s botched privatisation of the railways to Gordon Brown’s massive expansion of PFI economic alchemy schemes. Some of the most barmy privatisations include the sale and leaseback of the HMRC property portfolio to a tax haven based company (seriously) and the privatisation of the UK independent nuclear deterrent into the hands of a consortium 66% owned by US based companies!

Another way in which the Thatcher government fueled the City of London post-industrial fantasy was through the abandonment of capital controls and the deregulation of the financial sector, which opened the floodgates to an unprecedented tax-dodging bonanza. In return for these changes, financial sector interests and major tax-dodgers poured cash into Tory party coffers allowing them to present their loopy free-market ideology as some kind of slick modernisation programme through expensive ad agencies such as Saachi and Saachi. The Thatcher government introduced the new brand of politics where style took precedence over substance and the real political agenda remained hidden behind impenetrable layers of presentation. Subsequent leaders such as Tony Blair and David Cameron have pushed this kind of spin even further, seeming at perfect ease as they outright lie to the public (Iraqi WMDs, David Cameron’s debt reduction lies).

Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch shared a marriage of convenience.  She allowed him to build up a vast anti-competitive press empire, and he  used that empire to back her policies.

Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch shared a marriage of convenience.
She allowed him to build up a vast anti-competitive press empire, and he
used that empire to back her policies.

Slick advertising wasn’t the only way in which the Thatcher government managed public perception. Thatcher allowed right wing interests to build up vast media empires. The most famous example being her intervention to ensure that Rupert Murdoch could buy up the Times newspaper. This marriage of convenience between the UK establishment and Rupert Murdoch has continued to the present day. Murdoch commands a huge audience and continues to be sucked up to by British political leaders despite the shocking revelations about the disgusting criminality and corruption at his newspapers.

Aside from handing over valuable state assets for derisory prices and recklessly deregulating the financial sector, another way in which Thatcher coddled the wealthy was through huge tax cuts justified with the ludicrous trickle down fallacy. Allowing the wealthy to extract ever more wealth from society was never going to enrich the poor as the Thatcherites loved to claim, especially given the the way that the Thatcher regime facilitated offshore tax-dodging. Instead of investing the glut of North Sea oil wealth and the cash raised through privatisations into a sovereign wealth fund like Norway or reinvesting in British industry, Thatcher wasted it all on ludicrous tax breaks for the wealthy.

Another area in which Thatcher wreaked her havoc was in housing policy. Her loathing of anything social led to her direct attacks upon social housing. Her government arranged the firesale of social housing with the stipulation that the money raised could not be reinvested in building more social housing or renovating existing social housing stock. The construction of social housing was all but abandoned in the 1980s and has never resumed.  Othodox neoliberal theory tells us that a reduction in state intervention in the housing market should lead to a rise in private sector housebuilding, however, just like with most neoliberal theory, the reality was completely different and this rise in private sector housebuilding never happened. In fact, private sector housebuilding has declined since the 1980s. The housing shortage created by Thatcher’s assault on social housing led to unsustainable property price inflation, with investors preferring to get fat as ever rising demand pushed their property prices and profit margins upwards, rather than investing in anything productive like the actual construction of new housing.

Thatcher also oversaw the deregulation of the private rental sector and the abolition of security of tenure for private tenants. Countless greedy Thatcherites have sat back and raked in the cash as they allowed other people to pay off their buy-to-let mortgages. This idle rentier class is now a clearly defined Tory demographic. In a way, it is a return to the old days of idle landlords soaking up the wealth of entire communities by renting shit houses to transitory “peasants”. One of the very worst aspects of Thatcher’s housing reforms is that one third of all of the social housing that was sold off on the cheap has now found it’s way into the hands of the idle buy-to-let brigade. In fact, probably the largest former council house property portfolio in the entire country belongs to the son of the minister charged with selling off all those state owned properties in the first place!

In order to build the foundations of this ideologically driven neoliberalisation experiment, Thatcher needed to hobble all opposition and consolidate as much power as possible in her own hands. She castrated local government, closed down the Greater London Council and oversaw a centralisation of the education system (based on privately operated exam boards) that has churned out generation after generation of inadequately prepared an politically naive students.

Thatcher spent eleven consecutive new years eve celebrations with  Jimmy Savile. The idea that he would have been allowed such a close relationship with the Prime Minister without being thoroughly vetted by the security services is frankly laughable.

Thatcher spent eleven consecutive new years eve celebrations with
Jimmy Savile. The idea that he would have been allowed such a close
relationship with the Prime Minister without being thoroughly vetted by
the security services is frankly laughable.

Undoubtedly the most famous way in which she consolidated her own power was through her war on the trade unions. She famously derided the miners that had been the productive backbone of the nation for centuries as “the enemy within” then removed their union powers and crushed their industries, ruining countless communities throughout the industrial heartlands of the UK. The fact that these communities built around their mines, shipyards, and steel factories were predominantly Labour voting areas was absolutely no coincidence. Not only did she castrate their unions and steal their jobs, she had no plan at all for the regions she was destroying, other than to leave them in a permanent state of destitution and social degeneration. It took the outright defiance of Michael Heseltine to save cities like Liverpool from suffering even more from the brutal indifference of Thatcherism.

Such a centralisation of power runs entirely contrary to the libertarian and minarchist principles that supposedly underpin neoliberal theory, but the only way that such a barmy neoliberalisation process could ever have been enforced was through the ruthless revocation of power from anyone that stood in her way. The fact is that all of Thatchers successors have all enjoyed the dictatorial powers she carved out for herself, with very few central government powers being redistributed back to local government.

Another defining characteristic of the Thatcher regime was brazen economic mismanagement. From the massive inflation peaks in the early and late 1980s to the deliberate neglect of British manufacturing, the ever widening trade deficits; and the fact that her government ran constant budget deficits in all but two of the years for which she was Prime Minister (in fact the 1988 and 1989 budget surpluses are the only Tory budget surpluses recorded since 1973, so perhaps, with an 18% budget surplus rate as compared to 0% for all of her Tory party successors, she wasn’t actually that bad by the usual Tory standards).

Still, it didn’t seem to matter that interest rates on people’s mortgages went through the roof, that the long forgotten phenomena of mass unemployment was stalking the land again after a 50 year hiatus, that British industry was collapsing into terminal decline: The right wing press and the Tory propaganda machine spun an unrelentingly positive story of “modernisation” and the public lapped it up and carried on voting for her.

Returning to Thatcher’s war with the trade unions, the ongoing decline in British manufacturing can be traced back to this divisive class war against the working people of Britain. Thatcher’s ideological hatred of the trade unions was so rabid that she would rather the entire industry be destroyed than allow adequate trade union representation for the workforce. A good contrast can be made with Germany, where instead of playing class warfare, with the government and business interests on one side and the workers and trade unions on the other as Thatcher did, they built their industrial strategy on co-operation between the bosses and the unions, even allowing union representatives onto the boards of directors as a matter of course. Thatcher’s divide and rule strategy has resulted in decades of industrial decline, social fragmentation and vast trade deficits, whilst Germany have cemented their place as world leader in the production of high tech machinery, successfully reunified their divided nation and run enormous trade surpluses.

Any commentary on Thatcher would be incomplete without mention of the Falklands. It is quite clear from declassified documents that the conflict was deliberately provoked through the withdrawal of the South Atlantic naval defence. Thatcher was warned several times by military experts that such a withdrawal would be seen as an open invitation for the Argentine military dictatorship to invade. In the buildup to the invasion, Thatcher was languishing in the polls, the most unpopular Prime Minister in history. After the Falklands victory she rode the tide of jingoism to a landslide election victory and a whitewash investigation concluded that the war had been “unavoidable”.

Another incident that must not be forgotten is the Hillsborough disaster where 96 Liverpool FC fans were crushed to death due to police incompetence. It took 23 years for the evidence to be released, evidence which demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Thatcher government and South Yorkshire police colluded in a massive cover-up campaign, where blame was deliberately transferred to innocent Liverpool supporters with the willing assistance of the right-wing press. Especially the S*n, (belonging to Thatcher’s chum Rupert Murdoch) which is still boycotted in the city of Liverpool to this day as a result of the outright lies that were printed about the behavior of Liverpool fans on that tragic day.

The final factor that cannot possibly be excluded is the policy that eventually brought the Thatcher regime down. By the late 1980s Thatcher must have come to believe that she was invincible. She’d crushed the unions, castrated local government, sold off the national silver on the cheap, slashed taxes for her wealthy backers and done it all with three landslide victories at the polls. Her final folly was Poll Tax; a policy so unpopular that it provoked the largest wave of civil disobedience in living memory. Only a power crazed fool with a head full of neoliberal gibberish could possibly have thought that they could get away with imposing it. She was warned by her Tory party colleagues that it wouldn’t float but she persisted with it until she was driven out of office by her own MPs.

Only the blue tinted spectacles brigade would even try to pretend that Thatcher didn’t leave the UK countless toxic legacies such as over-centralised power, adherence to ideological neoliberal pseudo-economics, countless failed privatisations, the massive scale of tax-dodging, industrial decline, mass unemployment, housing policy neglect, rising debt (national, corporate and private), a hopelessly mismanaged education system, political reliance upon the Murdoch empire and the reckless gambling of the deregulated financial sector that eventually led to the global financial sector meltdown. Probably the single thing that stands out above all of these toxic legacies is the way that she ruthlessly destroyed the gains of the post war society, cynically setting sectors of society at each others throats whilst deliberately re-extending the wealth gap.

Another of Thatcher’s toxic legacies was Tony Blair. Many Tories try to deny the link between Thatcher and Blair, however the similarity is absolutely obvious to most people. Tony Blair was quite clearly a Tory in a red tie. Instead of undoing the damage that Thatcher had wrought, he intensified it with more privatisations, more dodgy outsourcing contracts, more Murdoch love-ins, more bank deregulations, more tax-dodging scams and more deliberate neglect of British industry. Even the most rabid Tory would hesitate to contradict Thatcher herself ,and when asked what her greatest achievement in politics was, her reply was “Tony Blair and New Labour”. The affection between the two was mutual, with Blair providing a grotesquely uncritical eulogy to the sworn enemy of anyone remotely left-wing or liberal minded:

Margaret Thatcher was a towering political figure. Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour Government… As a person she was kind and generous spirited and was always immensely supportive to me as Prime Minister …  you could not disrespect her character or her contribution to Britain’s national life. She will be sadly missed.”

Tony Blair was obviously saddened to hear of the death of his ideological mentor. I thought that I’d be much happier on the day that Thatcher finally died, however, it is absolutely clear from the shape of the UK political landscape that she is actually still alive. All three of the establishment parties are now wedded to her brand of ideologically driven orthodox neoliberalism; the scars of her economic blundering can be seen carved across the landscape and across countless communities; the gap between rich and poor is wider than ever and still growing; the post war welfare system is under ruthless attack from both sides of Parliament; crony capitalism and industrial scale tax-dodging are rife and the tactic of playing elements of society off against each other in order to distract attention away from the villainy of the establishment powers is as prevalent today as it was at the height of Thatcherism.

It doesn’t matter that the woman is so reviled that her grave will have to be kept behind a security cordon to prevent it from becoming an extremely popular open air toilet. It doesn’t matter that she is dead and that people are satisfied that she is gone. Her toxic legacy has not gone, in fact, the current government are busy with schemes that Thatcher herself would never have dared dream of, such as privatising the NHS and simply giving away half of the secondary schools in England, £billions worth of taxpayer funded property and all, for free, to unaccountable private sector interests.

It is 34 years since Thatcher introduced neoliberal pseudo-economics to the UK and we’re still paying the price now. Hell, we’ll still be paying the price in another 34 years given that the entire political establishment is utterly riddled with this rotten ideology. The economic and social destruction she inflicted can never be fully repaired. Too many industries destroyed, too many taxes dodged, too many communities divided and too many generations brought up on the right-wing mantra of “greed good; social conscience bad”.

Reblogged courtesy of: Another Angry Voice

Absent Without Leaving

It’s come to my attention that the short lay off I’ve had from cathartic regurgitation of the thoughts, opinions and irreverent observations that make up the contents of my head has stretched from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Whilst it seems tritely pretentious to refer to the people reading this as “my readers” or even “Dear readers” considering my ‘following’ is currently at the barely legal end of double figures – although Serendipidy must count as at least two or three as she is my #1 fan (thank you Boston) – it doesn’t seem right to jump straight back in without some kind of explanation; it just lacks continuity and that messes with my natural OCD. Besides, I’m not exactly “jumping back in” really, at this point I’m simply fabricating a posting through mellifluously flowing phraseology based around the reasons behind my lack of postings in recent months in order to fill a gap; a bit like a cheap hack who creates a story out nothing more than the speculative assumptions derived from out-of-context comments made by celebrities, or the stories sports writers invent about transfers during the summer break in the English Premier League – basically, it’s just content without much substance – but well written and enjoyable to read I hope.

The reason for my inactivity isn’t down to lack of ideas – that cerebral brood of pestering little bastards constantly keep me awake at night – no, I have plenty of ideas. I intended on doing a follow up to Expressions Of Interest and an illustrated posting showing famous characters from the world of English football and their lookalikes (I spent an hour deciding whether I should turn Arsene Wenger into Darth Vader or Mr. Burns from the Simpson’s before I realised I really had other more important stuff to do). I have a half written posting about the pro’s and con’s of work experience for the young based off having an intern of my own, and I even considered changing my Avatar and writing a eulogy and introduction to my new graphic icon. And of course my blog wouldn’t be my blog unless I took my usual descent into indulgent foolishness, which I intend on doing when I write my musings on attractive celebrity women I would and wouldn’t like to date and the reasons why. So you see there’s no shortage of quality ideas in my mind, just a shortage of time. However, one thing I will not be doing is extending the lengthy commentary on the much belated and debated passing of Margaret Thatcher – it’s been done to death (no pun intended). Instead I’m simply going to re-blog a wordy but well written posting from a place called ‘Another Angry Voice’ just to satiate the appetite of those across the pond who may be interested in reading an unsentimental view of the Iron Lady’s legacy to Britain.

So perhaps you’re wondering how you can be 489 words and three paragraphs in to this posting and still have no idea why I’ve not been posting recently… then again perhaps you’re not. Perhaps you got bored already and didn’t get this far, in which case this whole section is redundant to you; but simply put, I just haven’t had the time. Since the turn of the year I’ve been stuck in the middle of a post-graduate teacher training course known in England as a PGCE. This course is full time and usually runs over two years, but I’m one of a few students who have taken the first 1 year PGCE – which is known to be a pretty tough course to do over two years let along one – whilst continuing to work pretty much full time. This has been very hard, not least because I’ve had to squeeze in a spell of home renovation, management of family drama’s and a domestic dispute between me and my local council, and another between me, Advantage Car Hire and the traffic authorities in Rome. I’m not trying to illicit sympathy here – being a kiddie-in-the-middle I gave up on that before puberty – no, these are just some of the travails of life that beset us all and these particular travails are the reasons for my lack of postings. However, I have two months to run on my course and I’m slightly ahead of the game, so I think I’m ready to make another contribution. I’ll start off with how the year began – dealing with the traffic authorities in Rome and Advantage Car Rental. Well not exactly dealing with them, but their number one fan on Tripadvisor – Dbabe, fierce advocate of the responsibility and obligation of consumers to read Terms & Conditions!