FT loses its motherloving mind with ill-advised rap-themed front page opinion piece

"Stay Middling And Retire Disappointed"

The FT has an incredible front-page opinion piece today. The print version has the headline "G-Dawg splashes out tax cuts like P Diddy with Dom Pérignon in his blingiest giveaway". Really:

The actual piece – which I so wanted to just cut and paste, because, wow - has more:

George Osborne could reinvent himself as a rapper if politics loses its appeal. He sprinkled his Budget – sorry “Autumn Statement” – with shout-outs to his posse (the MPs for Hereford, Burnley and Thurrock)… Giving back to his homies, the chancellor splashed out with tax cuts like P Diddy dispensing Dom Pérignon to a thirsty entourage…

Mr Osborne also talked up the soljaz on the street, if the small businesses who are the backbone of our nation may be described thus…

Having laid claim to the business ‘hood

– A short break here to point out that marvellously, even when writing in faux-hip-hop slang, the FT style guide still insists on a leading apostrophe in the word "hood" –

Having laid claim to the business ‘hood, G-Dawg was free to pursue his beef with its most disrespected inhabitants: the banks…

For [small businesses], life is currently a case of Stay Middling And Retire Disappointed rather than Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.

As an art form, rap is loud, but lacking in substance.

– A second parenthetical to point out that that sentence was the pull quote of the entire piece –

That was the problem with Mr Osborne’s Autumn Statement too… To critics, Mr Osborne still resembles Boy George more than 50 Cent.

Wow.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.