Archive for May, 2012
The timing of the return of the wet stuff is unfortunate given the plans for a ‘street party’ at the allotments. But it has to be admitted that we codgers welcome the relief from the endless lugging of heavy watering-cans. Every piece of me aches right now, a condition not helped by standing in a queue at the Bank. A posh woman, with a small dog tucked under her arm, was quizzing the cashier on the stability of the financial institutions. She eventually tottered off having declared herself reassured. Perhaps Mervyn King should send for the young Merlin?
But the bankers were not alone in causing irritation this morning. For all of our lives we codgers have tended to look up to Doctors. It is an attitude born in an age when family doctors were really that. They lacked the knowledge of today’s clinicians but they always appeared to regard the troubles of their patients as their own. They were on call 24/7 and saw every patient turning up at their surgeries irrespective of how many there were. Suddenly we are very disillusioned with their successors.
In deciding to strike, they have at a stroke lost our respect. Yes we know that the mad Lansley has torpedoed their morale but equally clearly they, like him, regard their own rewards as more important than those in their care. They have surrendered the high ground. Sad.
Meantime I have attended a function involving those for whom the high ground is but a distant memory. I found myself chatting to three Conservative MPs. Expecting them to react angrily I asked whether our dear leader can survive. Their answer was surprising. All three broadly took the view that David Cameron is rapidly becoming a liability, a man tainted in the public eye. They had little belief that he will resign however bad the revelations vis-a-vis his involvement with Murdoch become, but they do believe that he is rapidly becoming unelectable. Which means? It means that if he hangs on until the Lib Dems finally discover their backbones he will lead his party to defeat.
So their glum answer re the succession was Ed Miliband. But should he fall meantime they favour Osborne, but are beginning to worry at the implications of his various U-turns since his budget. Things like the pasty tax could, they contended, have been foreseen with a little diligence. Michael Gove was the other possible mentioned, but one of my companions struck a doubtful note. Gove, he said, is “too geeky” and “lacks the common touch”. He is a “bit like Mekon” – a reference to a sci-fi character in the old Eagle comic.
So it looks like Cameron or bust. Just how tainted is he? A prosecutor would point to his Blair-like integration into the Murdoch camp. He would move on to his sacking of Uncle Vince Cable, who we now know was being threatened by Cameron’s friends at News Corp. He would cite his appointment of Hunt, despite having been very aware of his devotion to the Murdoch cause. He would point to the fact that both Rebekah Brooks, to whom Cameron sent regular affectionate messages, and Coulson, his declared friend and aide, are facing very serious criminal charges. He would point to his defence of Hunt who, at best, was guilty of total incompetence. He would point to his relationship with Gove who this week described Rupert Murdoch as the greatest man on earth bar the Pope.
But it isn’t a prosecutor that our dear leader faces, it is public opinion based on media coverage. And that is bad and likely to get significantly worse, almost to the point where Cameron appears to have been part of a plot to install News Corp and emasculate the BBC. As with Blair his reputation will never recover in the eyes of floating voters.
Ed Miliband has done little to inspire but right now he must be feeling that every day is Christmas Day!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY!
“What we are choosing to think and say, today, this moment, will create tomorrow and the next day, and the next week and the next year, etc. The point of power is always in the present moment. This is where we can begin to make changes. We can begin to let the old worries and nonsense go. Right now. The smallest beginning will make a difference. Stop for a moment and catch our thoughts. If we want a joyous life we must think joyous thoughts. The way to control our life, and heal our body, is to control our choice of words and thoughts. No one thinks in our mind but you!”…….Louise L Hay (Bestselling author of You Can Heal our Life and You Can Heal Your Body).
It is not a popular view but we codgers are thankful for the drop in temperatures. Most of us spent our working lives in sedentary occupations carried out in the equivalent of air-conditioned hen batteries, the switch to hard manual labour came late in life. After the past week of sweat-dripping, we understand why builders always appear to be sitting down with a copy of the Sun in one hand and a mucky mug in the other.
Perhaps the surfeit of sun has induced madness. I say that because we have become obsessed with the Leveson Inquiry. Few believe that any good will come of it, but for sheer entertainment value it leaves Coronation Street standing. Every day brings new appearances by the great and not so good. Many appear as nervous as prospective paper-boys attending their first interview. Many are evasive, many are desperately trying to portray a world in which the name Murdoch was never heard. Many seem to suffer from acute memory loss.
But yesterday’s star turn was Michael Gove who fitted none o those categories. As teachers are only too well aware the poison-dwarf doesn’t talk, he orates. He speaks in carefully constructed sentences, enunciating beautifully, scattering his prose with ostentatiously learned language. And he permits interruption by no man, not even a learned Judge. Eventually Lord Leveson managed to get a word in edgeways but by then he was unusually tense, too much Gove is bad for the soul. “Mr Gove”, said the Judge, “I don’t need to be told about the importance of free speech. I really don’t”.
But Mr Gove was having none of it. “I think it is wise to look at the historical context”, he boomed. It was, he said, a Latin writer who had said “O tempora, O mores”. It was Gove at his patronising best, it was magnificent impertinence. It stunned even the ever-talkative QC for the enquiry, Robert Jay, into stunned silence.
But Michael Gove has a weakness. He reminds me so much of the sort of upper-class twit portrayed in Monty Python and who so often occupied the seat next to me on long flights. They talk and talk, peppering their delivery with words quite new to the ordinary soul. But sooner or later, as their attempts to impress mount, they reveal things better left concealed.
And so it proved yesterday. Our dear leader has gone to great lengths to say that ‘we’ made the mistake of getting too close to News International. But Gove saw himself in competition with Tony Blair who became so close that he became Godfather to a baby Murdoch. Asked how he would describe his relationship with Murdoch, Gove said that his friend Rupert was “One of the most impressive and significant figures in the world over the past 50 years”.
Gove was in full flow now, doubtless the Downing Street gang were tearing their hair out. Murdoch, he boomed “was a force of nature, a phenomenon, a great great man”. He hadn’t managed Godfather status but he had met the great man eleven times in the year after he became educaton secretary. On 19th May 2010 he met Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks for dinner and a “general discussion”. The party was in Murdoch’s flat in St James, central London. The following month Gove and his wife attended another dinner and “general discussion” with Rebekah.
Unlike most other attendees at Leveson, Gove suffers from no memory loss. Just the opposite. He boomed on and on about his parties with “Rupert and Rebekah”, he delighted in stressing his friendship and involvement with the greatest man of the past half-century. By way of a bonus he explained that he used to work for Murdoch and his wife still does.
Pure theatre. But by now Gove will have been told that his big mouth has destroyed weeks of spin and evasion aimed at destroying claims that Murdoch and the leading Conservatives were as distant from each other as John Prescott and exercise machines. Suddenly we saw into a cosy little world in which News Corp and the posh rich boys were as one.
The timing is unfortunate for Gove’s fellow Murdoch-worshipper, Jeremy Hunt, who is due to provide our entertainment tomorrow. Mind you, his is truly a mission impossible. He will go to great lengths to prove that he had no idea that his personal aide was feeding daily information to the Murdoch camp during the bid-process. The argument is purely academic since, as Professor Vernon Bogdanor has forcefully pointed out, being unaware does not render Hunt innocent. At best the culture secretary is guilty of “gross incompetence” since he should have instructed his staff to have nothing to do with a paid lobbyist or an interested party. Vernon Bogdanor is a research professor at King’s College, London, and is author of The New British Constitution and The Coalition and the Constitution.
Mr Hunt’s other defence is that he and his fellow ministers had no personal views on Murdoch, that melted away during the Gove lecture. In fact by Gove standards yesterday was quite a day. For by way of an encore he later revealed that he has in mind schools being run as private profit-producers. That should really cheer up our beleagured teachers!
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY!
“You can step back from your thinking, almost as though you were watching a movie instead of actually being in it. You can dismiss your thoughts – you can simply let them go”….Dr Richard Carlson
As we headed down to the allotments this morning we were somewhat taken aback to see the main road criss-crossed with bunting. One of the geezers operating the hoist said that he wasn’t sure why they were doing this but suspected that it was in readiness for the passing of the Olympic Torch, coupled with the Jubilee weekend. And no he couldn’t explain why the various faulty bulbs are never replaced in the very lamp-standards now being so lovingly attired.
I have to admit that the overt wave of enthusiasm building around both events has us rather bemused. Anyone who loves sport is looking forward to the Games, certainly the althletics part of them, but the endless reports of the progress of the torch are beginning to wear thin. The constant prattle about the ‘mother torch’ from which the currently in-use torch is lit all sounds like an extract from Enid Blyton, and the unending interviews with torch-bearers each telling us that this is the most exciting moment of their lives leaves us wondering if they work in Tesco. But who are we to deny the nation its thrills? Who needs sex, fags or booze if they can stare at a torch soon to be sold on e-bay?
To we codgers the greater mystery is the enormous popularity of an unelected monarch. Right now the Queen has an approval rating of +78. Compare this with Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg who have minus ratings of -11, -12 and -27 respectively. You may respond by suggesting that this is inevitable given that politicians have to take unpopular decisions. But you would be wrong. Approval ratings go back a long way and a little research will show that in 1946 King George VI achieved only +3 per cent whilst Clement Attlee was streets ahead.
You might be tempted by the theory that the present government is widely perceived as one of rich boys concerned only for the rich. But that hardly explains the near adoration of what in reality is the hereditary privilege of a family of unearned wealth, the very bastion of highnesses whose whole demeaner spells out the lowness of every other fellow human being. You might be tempted by the age factor, the Queen is now a long-serving elderly lady. But the tendency in Britain is to regard the elderly with disdain.
Of course there is an element of the soap-opera syndrome at work here. We Brits love soaps and the chance they provide to liven our lives by focussing on the doings of others. But the main factor is surely that endemic to the human condition is the need to look up to a point of leadership and, in the absence of a Churchill or Attlee, the Royals are the only show in town. And however one feels about a monarchy in a democracy, it is what they prevent that endears them to many. The sight of the ghastly Blair at yesterday’s Leveson Inquiry reminded us that he would have been our President.
Bronzed and at ease, for a hour or so he lived out his fantasy. Yes he was a godfather to one of the Murdochs, but no he was never so close to them as to be guilty of bias. No, he didn’t allow his newly invented ‘spin-doctors’ to bully anyone or to tell anything but the truth. No, he didn’t lie over Iraq. No, he isn’t amassing a fortune based on his prime ministerial role. Look, he said, I’m a pretty straight sort of guy. The man attracted odium from a zillion actions, still be sees himself as an earthly example of God.
Yes it was really the corruption and unending falsehoods of the Blair regime that started the colossal collapse in the public confidence in politicians. And yesterday, as on every other day, we had yet more evidence that his successors are, if anything, even worse. Osborne announced U-turns on the budget he presented just weeks ago and attempted to claim that he had always intended them. Baroness Warsi, Cameron’s chosen conduit to working-class communities, proved to have feet of clay. Yet more evidence emerged of the part played by Cameron and Hunt in a conspiracy to wave through the Murdoch bid for media supremacy. The teachers and nurses, hardly revolutionaries by nature, spoke angrily of lies and hidden agendas. Even Nick Clegg felt obliged to talk of an elitist, wealthy and broken establishment.
Things have now reached the stage where even if politicians tell the truth they are not believed. It is difficult to see how the situation will do other than continue to deteriorate, all trust has gone.
And therein, I would contend, lies the explanation for the enormous surge in support for the Monarchy. Yes we see privilege there, but we also see honesty. And we all need someone to look up to!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY;
“Find the narrow gate that leads to life. it is called the NOW. Narrow your life down to this moment. Your life situation may be full of problems – most life situations are – but find out if you have any problems at this single moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now? Be where you are. Move deeply into the NOW”….Eckhart Tolle
Another very hot day. The main preoccupation on the allotments is now water, an irony not lost on a bunch of codgers who have spent months splashing about in it. But in such temperatures chickens and plants alike consume enough liquid every hour to sink a battleship. So lugging is the order of the day, and we all know what happened to the captain of the lugger. Even the news that the Olympic Torch is due to pass our main gate this week did little to raise exhausted spirits when we sat down for our brew, but as always the morning headlines soon focussed our ancient minds.
The biggest surprise was the record of an interview given by Nick Clegg on yesterday’s Andrew Marr show. Being summoned to appear before Marr is the nearest earthly equivalent to meeting God, those called tend to spill the beans as one might in the confessional box. The difference is of course that what is said is immediately spread around by reporters, people least likely to be found on the Almighty’s right hand.
Asked about the News Corp scandal, Master Clegg was surprisingly frank. He said that the whole affair showed that Britain was being run by a “broken establishment”. “It all confirms my view that it’s high time we cleaned up our broken establishment”, he said and went on to say that his two years in government had convinced him that “power in this country is wrongly distributed, it’s totally wrong”. He didn’t actually mention posh boys but the inference was there, as it was later when Uncle Vince Cable talked of the need to break up the coalition “well before 2014″. Of course as with all Clegg contentions there is an inconsistency here. Clegg is part of the broken establishment.
But other more consistent vultures were hovering yesterday. Over on the Sky News ‘Murmaghan’ programme David Mellor was sharpening his talons. The former Tory cabinet minister said that there will be many scalps resulting from the Leveson Inquiry. The first to go will be Jeremy Hunt who should have realised that he could not take on a quasi-judicial role, having already expressed his determination to see the Murdoch bid through. But Mellor’s greatest venom was reserved for our dear leader.
Cameron, according to Mellor, won’t resign but his credibility is “blown away”. He went on to give his appraisal of David Cameron. “He has been exposed as a shallow callow sort of guy who doesn’t have too many aims and ambitions and can’t even get basic judgement calls right”. Oh dear. Considering that Mellor is still at the heart of the Conservative establishment that must have spoiled our dear leader’s weekend chillax.
Several other leading-lights lined up to earn interview fees by condemning their own government. Usually Baroness Warsi can be relied upon to rush to the rescue by speaking out for the good, honest guys. Sadly she was somewhat preoccupied defending herself. The fact that the normally supportive Telegraph has this morning published a whole page of ‘evidence’ regarding her expenses suggests that Knacker may be calling. Leading Lib Demmer Lord Oakeshott was quick to point out that like Ceasar’s wife, she must be above suspicion. He added that “I’m afraid the story so far looks seriously suspicious”.
But there is perhaps hope for an establishment under attack if one of the assailants is Nick Clegg, given his habit of invariably advocating that which the bulk of the nation opposes. Having earlier implied that the Tory part of the coalition would struggle to run a gentleman’s club – posh boys never run chip shops – he turned on Theresa May for suggesting that we may have to limit immigration from Greece if it finally collapses. “This is unhelpful, we are all Europeans”, he boomed. Maybe, but does he seriously believe that our crowded island can go on accepting whoever fancies drawing benefits here?
However, despair not. The British establishment may be broken but it ain’t broke. Today we learn that Cameron has over £4 million in his piggy bank, Hunt £4.7 million, Spelman £4.5 million, Hague £4.8 million, Osborne £4.5 million, Strathclyde £9.5 million and Hammond £8.2 million.
So even if the vultures finally dive, our dear leader and his pals can head for a cave and still have enough of the readies to order supplies from Harrods!
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY!
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly – you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken you over!”…..Eckhart Tolle
We have just returned from sun-kissed Snowdonia. Several of us share ownership of a holiday home which stands on the edge of the beach. Our usual experience is of a Scott’s last journey vintage with gale-force winds rattling our false teeth, this weekend was somewhat different. Even our fellow Welshmen were too drained to sing along with the Eurovision Song Contest, surely the utimate cure for insomnia.
We left Albert and several other chickenmen in charge. Albert has never been involved with the Welsh ventures, he regards us as a bunch of Welsh gits. We take no offence since his racism extends to most other parts of the Kingdom. Anyone not born in Lancashire is personna non-grata with titchy Al.
It is always interesting to chat to the villagers in North Wales. At the best of times they are less than keen on what they see as posh boys in distant Westminster. Now they are finally alienated. They may dwell in what our friends regard as God’s country far removed from English hell, but they read the same newspapers. And this weekend has finally confirmed their worst prejudices. We used to scorn their comments about posh boys as bent as hairpins, but suddenly that is exactly how it appears.
The political scandal over Murdoch’s battle to buy BSkyB moved closer to David Cameron yesterday after new evidence undermined the prime minister’s claim that his Government was scrupulously even handed in deciding on the £8 billion deal. A memo, released by the Leveson Inquiry, revealed for the first time that Mr Cameron already knew his Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was in favour of the bid, before he handed him quasi-judicial power to rule on it after Vince Cable had been mysteriously trapped in to revealing his dislike for the Murdochs. In the private message to the PM, Mr Hunt told that James Murdoch was furious at the delay and stressed the importance of the deal going through.
It has also emerged that Mr Hunt may have misled parliament by claiming that contacts with his sacked adviser did not involve him. In fact Hunt himself exchanged personal texts with Murdoch’s adviser, even to the extent of personal chat about their respective children. In total more than 1000 texts were exchanged between News Corp and Mr Hunt’s department.
Both Cameron and Hunt have great PR skills, but even their verbal sleight of hand cannot explain away the mass of revelations that show that they were both hell-bent on waving through the bid. Had it not been for the Millie Dowler affair the planned emasculation of the BBC would now be underway. Web of deceit hardly covers what has been going on. The so-called Chipping Norton set was perhaps the first indication that the Prime Minister was inappropriately involved with vested interests. Now we know that the stories of regular parties and get-togethers were but the tip of a corrupt iceberg.
In most organisations such a state of affairs would by now have been referred to the Chairman, someone who can normally be relied upon to stand apart from any misconduct. But the Conservative Party chairman is Baroness Warsi. This morning’s Sunday Torygraph has front page headlines that feature her, and for all the wrong reasons. The Baroness has admitted that she failed to declare a source of income for more than a year. And on this evenings’ BBC news a GP landlord has claimed that she paid no rent for accomodation on his proerty yet claimed expenses.
The Telegraph headline related to income from a London property she had bought and rented out. In normal times the Baroness might have escaped too much attention, but after so much talk by both her and our dear leader of a “commitment to be one of the most transparent governments in the world” it is very bad news indeed for the coaltion’s credibility.
Mr Hunt’s position is already untenable, the idea that he is not responsible for what his adviser does is ludicrous, especially since we now know that he condoned what was happening. And the web is beginning to close around the dear leader who still faces revelations at the various criminal cases being lined up by Knacker.
The latest polls show that the public now trusts Miliband and Balls more than Cameron et al. It isn’t that they have done anything to earn that trust, but they need do nothing given that ministers are sinking quickly into a quicksand from which escape looks as likely as the Welsh Nationalists lining up to applaud them!