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!
As mentioned yesterday some of the allotments gang are now heading for the land of our fathers. Of course Snowdonia has a reputation for a drop of the wet stuff, but we have put our faith in the weathermen. Probably return looking like drowned rats!
Our main interest is in the magnificent recently reopened railway between Caernarvon and Portmadog, a journey by steam of 24 miles. After many years of toil, plus a good deal of funding from various sources, the old Welsh Highland Railway track which closed in 1937 is back in action. Even if you are not, like us, steam nuts, you would enjoy the beautiful scenery and reminder that life was once conducted at a more leisurely pace.
Hopefully we shall be back with you on Sunday. By then the odds are that our dear leader will have provided many a new talking point. Rupert Bear had nothing on ‘Dave’. Certain it is that yesterday’s revelations at the Leveson Inquiry have made Hunt’s position untenable, whilst Cameron clearly knew that the culture secretary was anything but impartial. Pimms and resignations all round!
Meantime copy our example, make hay while the sun shines!
Another lovely morning. But several of us are somewhat frazzled. Given the sudden evidence that the sun still exists, we plan to head off to the land of our fathers for what our dear leader would doubtless call a chill-out. The problem is that before we go we have to do in one day what we would normally spread over several. Those left behind will feed our unruly hens, but can hardly be expected to disinfect, dig trenches or get in supplies. One of the countless psychologists that earn their crusts via magazine articles should add PHT to their repertoire. Pre Holiday Tension would be a perfect subject. The solution? Don’t go!
But at least we not as near tipping point as our dear leader. Yesterday he was obliged by the Speaker to retract his accusation that Ed Balls is an idiot. It did seem slightly unjust given that the coalition is about to switch from austerity to growth as its economic strategy, something Brother Balls has been advocating from the start. Even Baldrick would by now have realised that simply screwing everyone, and everything, into the ground will only lead to ruin. But the Posh Boys have taken quite a while to cotton on.
Now of course they will claim that two-year’s austerity followed by two years of growth was Plan A. Such is the world of politics in which few things are ever decided, and no one accepts that he or she may just have got it wrong. Yesterday the Leveson Inquiry lifted the curtain a little.
Lord Leveson is beginning to sound somewhat concerned at the task facing him. “Why do I see this all coming back to hit me?”, he asked yesterday of no one in particular. Jeremy Paxman was there, and probably depressed the learned Judge further by remarking that “your challenge is to stop yourself becoming a total relevance”. Andrew Marr didn’t offer cheer either. Asked what he saw as the answer to press regulation, he said his role would merely be “to criticise the inquiry for whatever it comes up with”. But one visitor did shed some light, albeit not on the press.
Stephen Dorrell rolled up. Remember him? He was national heritage minister under John Major, and in that role was asked to draft the government response to the report on press regulation by Sir David Calcutt. Dorrell recalled that he used the “traditional method for responding to politically difficult issues. He presented a do-nothing option. This apparently involves three choices.
The first is to simply ignore it, a strategy, Mr Dorrell said “which has worked surprisingly well on many occasions”. The second is to “announce that the government will do absolutely nothing”, but this has its “pitfalls”. The third is to promise “to look at legislation when parliamentary time permits”. Meaning never?, asked his Lordship. Dorrell smiled patiently. “We always had to present our conclusion that we were going to do nothing in the least bad way”, he said.
So now we know! It is rather like discovering the De Vinci code, we can now interpret the various seemingly odd assurances that pour forth from our dear leader. Yesterday he was obliged to tell the House that he has no intention of conceding the right of prisoners to the vote. He had to say this given that masses of his backbenchers demand war with the European Court, which has set a 6-month deadline for at least some action. But the dear leader has no intention of offending his Lib Dem lapdogs by actually refusing to act.
The word is that in about five months time he will announce that some concessions will be considered as and when parliamentary time permits. Some call it the long grass, the overly frank Mr Dorrell has interpreted that!
One of our allotments gang stays well clear of our endless chatter about issues of the day. Jim retired some years ago, at which time he decided to discontinue watching TV news bulletins and to forsake all newspapers. I remember his insistence that they serve only to depress and his strategy seems to have worked since, unlike the rest of us, he always appears serene and unruffled, interested only in those things that he can directly affect. I was reminded of this last night when I tuned in for my daily dose of misery.
The Metropolitan police stand accused of accepting huge hand-outs from a private investigation company prepared to pay cash for inside information. Another story implied that million sof Olympic tickets are available from touts. The head of the UK border force warned that he cannot rule out four hour waits at airports during the Olympics. Three former executives of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, Messrs Myler, Crone and Hinton, have been referred to the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, accused of misleading parliament. The IMF has demanded a Plan B to resolve our economic nightmare. The Lib Dems are dismayed at Tory plans to lock up hooligans.
The entire news seemed guaranteed to ensure that I hit the pillow feeling like a guy who has lost his winning lottery ticket. Even the piece revealing that Nick Clegg believes that our number one priority is gay marriages failed to encourage a feeling that those holding the reins of the runaway horses know excatly what they need to do as the cliff looms.
But the most worrying piece of all concerned dear old Uncle Vince Cable. During the election campaign he came across to many as the only honest bloke amongst the lot of them, and one who knew what had to be done. Later, when in office, he was the only one to spot what was going on with Murdoch. He ‘fingered’ Brooks, Cameron, Hunt and the rest long before the rest of us cottoned on.
Sadly from that day on he has been less than popular with the posh boys. And now the biggest donor to the Conservative party has accused him of being a socialist. One imagines Adrian Beecroft gathered around a candlelit long oak table with our dear leader and his cronies. Over the brandy he asks what can be done to rid us of this bald-headed pest. No chance of having our News Corp pals dig up a scandal for Uncle is too old for such diversions. Suddenly someone comes up with a wizard wheeze, lets ask the Daily Telgraph to brand him a socialist, after all the last real one was Aneurin Bevan and he ended up being very unpopular. And so it came to pass.
In fact the Daily Torygraph has gone even further. Today’s main headline reads ‘Socialist Cable not fit for office’. That makes him even worse than Bevan, who did at least dream up the once efficient NHS. And what is it that the nation’s favourite Uncle has done this time?
He has described a report from multi-millionaire Beecroft as “bonkers”. Which is exactly what it is since it includes, amongst other far-right ideas, the one of legislating for employers to fire workers at will without compensation. Even our dear leader realised that this is hardly a vote-winner and had the published version doctored to exclude the zaniest parts. Sadly for him someone leaked a copy of the original.
Mr Beecroft is living proof that if you pay enough you can command obedience from anyone on this earth. Since Uncle has resolutely refused to so much as meet him he is not happy, yesterday he complained that the Conservatives are “hugely held back by the Lib Dems”, and went on to ask why the hell Uncle Vince was Business Secretary.
For those who regard Vince Cable as second only to Stonehenge on the list of British treasures this is all rather alarming. As tensions about the unending cock-ups by the coalition mount attacks on his ancient frame will do likewise. How long will it be before his ancient structure begins to crumble? The fledgling PUV ( Preservation of Uncle Vince) society must step up its recruitment and funding before it is too late.
Honest politicians are becoming extinct and Uncle is past the point of breeding. Perhaps we should have him stuffed and placed in the foyer of the Natural History Museum as a reminder of what might have been! Chicken-keepers would come from all ends of the earth to pay homage to the greatest feather-ruffler of them all!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “When a man tells you he got rich by hard work, ask him whose.”….George Bernard Shaw
From tomorrow we will be a man short for the hen duties. The sudden appearance of blazing sunshine has triggered Albert into action. Working on the suspicion that, as happened last year, our only summer will take place in May our grizzly pal has decided to bring forward his annual sojourn to Blackpool. As he squats in his knotted hankie on that not-so-distant shore peace will descend on the allotments. We will certainly hear less rhetoric about the misdeeds of politicians and their chums, but this morning King Grump seemed determined to leave a few thoughts with us.
Rant number one concerned the Murdoch saga. When the News of the World closed, with its metophoric head bowed in shame, we were assured that whilst there was a good deal of shoddy history to be exposed it was all in the past. A few ‘rotten apples’ had blighted the impeccable Murdochs, once they were gone inappropriate behaviour would be merely a distant, if disturbing, memory.
One of the people who did most to bring about the exposure of what really happened was Tom Watson, MP. Before the truth finally emerged great efforts were made by the leading villains of the tale to persuade leading politicians to silence the persistent Watson. When that failed they resorted to stalking. At the time Watson reported spotting a motor-cyclist parked outside his house, of being eerily aware of being followed wherever he went.
It transpired that his suspicions were justified. Clearly the plan was to find some method of silencing him before too much damage was done. The Sunday tabloid thrived on the belief that every living male was engaged in an affair of some kind. In fact it relished the obsession which saw blackmail as the perfect way to silence critics. So it is no great surprise that it decided Watson must be the possessor of skeletons waiting for exposure. A former policeman, Derek Webb, was hired and the stalking began. A front-page scoop was in prospect, even better the greatest danger was about to be silenced. There was one major problem, the redoubtable Tom Watson, unlike News Corp, had no dark secrets.
Unfortunately for the Murdochs someone forgot to pay a ‘loyalty bonus’ to the former knacker. Had they done so we would probably never have learned the identity of those who ordered the Russian-like surveillance. But now we know!
The men responsible for what News International described as ‘inappropriate conduct” were Mazher Mahmood and James Mellor. News Corp has responded to the exposure by saying that it has “zero tolerance” of wrongdoing, but has declined to say if either man has been discplined. But, you may comment, how could they discipline former employees.
The simple answer to that is that both are now employed by the Sunday Times. Mr Mellor is deputy news editor, Mr Mahmood is an investigative reporter!
Our dear leader, and his mentor Mr Blair, must constantly wonder at what else has yet to emerge about the ghastly bunch they courted so enthusiastically!
BORN POOR, STAY POOR!
Today Nick Clegg, if he has recovered from this morning’s polls, will unveil a study which shows the “stark gap” between the life chances of the poorest and the better-off in Britain. The gulf is now at its widest ever, and that is saying something!
Only 7 per cent of children attend private schools, but these schools provide over 70 per cent of High Court judges and 54 per cent of FTSE 100 chief executives. One in five children from poorer homes achieves five good GCSEs, compared with three out of four from affluent homes. One in five is on free meals, but only one in 100 Oxbridge entrants is. The list goes on and on.
Britain was always the leader in having a class-divided society, and the ever tightening cuts are making the situation even worse.
Today Mr Clegg will tell us that the situation is “morally, economically and socially indefensible. He may forget to mention that he was educated privately at Westminster School from where he went on to Cambridge University!
It’s here! Warm weather, blue skies, spring flowers sparkling like jewels. For the first time for what seems like a lifetime there were no anoraks, or charity shop rainwear, to be seen as we cleaned out the hens this morning. Every real or imagined problem seems to contract in conditions such as these and, joy unlimited, the forecasters tell us that we can rely on at least a week of the warm stuff. Suddenly our hobby seems a pleasant diversion rather than a fight with John Prescott. For this moment at least we no longer feel that someone is peeing on us from a great height. Such is our collective delight that our traditional distrust of politicians has softened.
At least it did until, over our brew, we noticed that the front page of most newspapers devotes many column inches to a picture of our dear leader leaping into the air at the news that Chelsea had won their penalty shootout. And by way of a bonis he is standing alongside Barack Obama. For a second we wondered when Mr Cameron became a Chelsea fan, then we realised that his new spin-doctor has struck gold. Just a few days ago we were told that, in view of the poll ratings, a huge effort was to be made to recreate ‘Dave’ the man of the people. Hence pictures of him washing up, eating pies and now sharing the heart quickening of devotees of those other men-of-the people, Premiership footballers.
I sometimes look back across the years and wonder why it is that people like Churchill and Attlee somehow seemed more real than the leaders of today. They appeared on newsreels complete with dandruff and ties askew and tended to talk slowly as if searching for the truth. Like the rest of us they had apparent frailties. Today’s bunch are immaculate, use auto-cues, speak to carefully selected punters, and leave us wondering how Gods such as these can contrive to cock-up every project they touch. The answer is simple, what we see is an act composed in the minds of the new breed of ‘spin-doctors’ who create what they believe the public wishes to see or hear.
And they are in big demand. Mad Boris is reinstalled as London Mayor thanks in part at least to the smoke and mirror skills of Guto Harri. He admits to some problems in projecting the Boris image given our hero’s penchant for saying the first thing that comes into his mind. So when Boris called talk of phone-hacking ‘codswallop’ the spin-doctor had to quickly explain that this was merely a rather colourful way of repeating what the police had told his boss. He reflects that he had to create an appeal to make BJ attractive to people disinclined to vote Tory, so he had his man “support an amnesty for illegal immigrants, to engage with Muslim communities, black churches, the gay community etc, while at the same time demanding immigration curbs and tax cuts to hold on to Tory supporters”. He cast product Boris as “less charasmatic than usual, less broadminded and a little less attractive”. Smoke and Mirrors indeed!
Having created a Boris acceptable to the electorate Mr Harri has now moved on, no one can accuse the spinners of excessive belief or loyalty. Guess who he has joined? That’s right, he has joined Rupert Murdoch. His aim is to “restore the News Corp reputation”. Quite a challenge. He preferred this to being David Cameron’s spinner, so clearly he saw that as even more challenging!
He will probably return when Boris cycles into Downing Street. And right now only Ed Miliband seems to represent an obstacle. For every day brings a new hole into which our present dear leader manages to step. Today he has let it be known that he intends to back proposals put forward by Adrian Beecroft, a multi-millionaire venture capitalist who has donated more than £530,000 to the Conservative Party. The proposals call for changing the safeguards that protect employees from being sacked without compensation and at will. Clearly our dear leader’s new spinner felt this would create the image of a leader now converted to growth via ruthless industry.
Sadly he didn’t check it out with Uncle Vince Cable and his fellow Lib Demmers, whose spin-doctor has let it be known that it is not on. Using the usual pseudonym of ‘A source close to Mr Cable’, the Lib Dem spin-doctor yesterday said; “It is surpising that No 10 backs a report compiled by one of the Tory party’s biggest donors..especially since Britain already has the most flexible labour market in the world”. As I type these words the Cameron spinner is preparing his response.
Since we never see the real politician would it not be less confusing to let the spin-doctors openly take over the process of government? No we wouldn’t believe what they said, but neither do we believe in the false creatures of their creation!
SPARE A THOUGHT!
Spare a thought on this sunny day for Andrew Strauss. For over a year every sportswriter in the business has banged on about his failure to score a century and coupled that with a suggestion that he stand down as England cricket captain.
On Saturday news came that he had scored a ‘big hundred’ against the West Indies. And guess what? Before the writers could don their sackcloth Didier Drogba had won the European Championship in dramatic style.
Guess you’ll just have to score another when people are paying attention Andrew!
Opinions amongst our allotment gang on English football fluctuate somewhat. Verdicts on the Premiership swing from beyond compare to couldn’t win a raffle, and views on ownership by foreign magnates are unsuitable for use in a family-style blog. Suddenly a unanimous voice has emerged, we are in a class of our own. Abramovich has brought pride to English hearts. I stayed well clear of all this guff, being a non-league fan I view the whole Premiership thing with scepticism, to me it is a classic example of money taking over sport, and to hell with feeder leagues when we can simply buy the best in the world whenever the mood takes us. Chelsea isn’t exactly an example of English players, my pals should save their judgement for the English team. They won’t have long to wait.
But I kept my thoughts to myself and when, after the hen-cleaning ritual, we gathered for our brew conversation shifted to the latest political opinion poll. Today’s version in the Independent makes worrying reading for our dear leader. Ten per cent of 2010′s Tory voters say they have decided to back Ukip, while 26 per cent of those who still support the Conservatives are “seriously considering” switching to support the Eurosceptic fringe party.
Clearly Europe is becoming a major issue for many. Forty-six per cent say they would vote for Britain to leave the EU, and a further 23 per cent are considering that possibility. Worse still for our dear leader his personal popularity is down seven points to minus 28, he has been overtaken by Ed Miliband for the first time. And Miliband/Ed Balls have now overtaken Cameron/Osborne for trust in handling the economy.
Overall Labour now has a nine-point lead, up two points on the last ComRes poll, to 41 per cent. Small wonder really given the growing implications of our dear leader’s involvement in the Murdoch scandal, and the clear evidence that the fierce austerity policy is taking the economy in the opposite direction to that achieved by Obama’s growth programme.
So Ed Miliband rules OK? As things are now he certainly does. But amazingly he is contemplating what would surely be political suicide. He is seriously considering meeting Tony Blair’s desire to return to front-line politics. “I think we should respect him” says young Ed in an interview published today in the Telegraph. “It is his decision as to what he wants to do and how he wants to play a role”. Asked whether he plans to give Mr Blair a job he said “of course”.
Apparently TB has already devoted time to advising the party on strategy, clearly his zest for money-making tours is beginning to wane. But am I alone in seeing such a comeback as suicidal for the new Labour leader? One of the greatest criticisms of Cameron is that he is a new version of Blair, and they do have much in common. The Murdoch affair has only just begun to do its damage to the various players, and both Cameron and Blair will emerge with shattered reputations. Both have been less than honest with the people, Iraq springs to mind as does the NHS. Both are brilliant presenters, both have come to be seen as posh versions of dodgy second-hand car salesmen.
Up to this point Miliband has impressed many of his original foes. He looks like someone who would stay well clear of the Murdochs of this world, he looks like someone who cares.
But talk of bringing back Cameron’s mentor casts a shadow. Can his judgement really be that suspect?
HIGH SPEED RAIL HITS THE BUFFERS!
Word is that having seen an analysis of supposed benefits, the Treasury is developing cold feet in regard to the £33 billion or so needed to achieve a short reduction in train journey times by 2023.
Meantime directors of the Quango HS2 Limited are being accused of holding shares in one of the contractors awarded contracts. And other critics have asked how it is that contracts have been awarded, and millions spent, given no treasury sign-off.
Sounds like a well-oiled plan for a cock-up to dwarf even the last government’s NHS IT blow-out!
The Daily Express, which seems to have replaced Lady Di by the weather as a front-page feature, tells us that we are heading for a heatwave. The suggestion lifted spirits on the allotments this morning, for day after day of dark skies overhead and mud underfoot have gradually converted a cheerful bunch of old codgers into a mass version of Victor Meldrew. And the massed ranks of chickens seem similarly inclined, unlike ducks they don’t enjoy the wet stuff.
Once we had spent our usual couple of hours scraping up muck and shouting angrily at both the hens and each other, we settled in the shed for a brew. First topic up was the Olympics and the fact that there are still thousands of unsold tickets, that annoys somewhat those of the gang who devoted yonks to placing unsuccessful bids. However we quickly tired of Lord Coe, and all his works, and turned to Britain’s number one soap opera, the Royal family.
We were prompted by a new opinion poll carried out by Ipsos MORI. It shows that the anti-monarchists, who get so much press coverage, are in a very small minority. Only 13 per cent were in favour of a republic, the lowest proportion for 20 years. A whopping 80 per cent want to remain subjects of the Queen. Support for the monarchy was highest among the over-55s, at 88 per cent, but even in the 18-24 age group 73 per cent favoured the present system.
The poll also showed that the Midlands was the most loyal part of the country, with 89 per cent preferring the monarchy to a republic, compared with 77 per cent in the North and 76 per cent in the South.
A spokesman for Ipsos MORI said; “Since the Royal wedding the publicity the Royal family has received has been phenomenal, particularly for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The resulting jump in support of five percentage points since the royal wedding is very pronounced”. And therein lies part of the explanation for the seemingly endless support for the monarchy. For vast numbers the Royals are the most revered soap opera of them all, and we Brits adore soaps, the perfect escapism, a way to live ones life through the supposed lives of others. How else does one explain the mass hysteria at the death of Princess Di or the equally hysterical obsession with Kate Middleton’s bum?
There is of course another factor. In a constantly changing, and often insecure world, even those who espouse soaps treasure continuity. And the Queen has provided this in great measure. Over 60 years of great change she has provided a constant background, a reminder that at its heart our society doesn’t change, is always there for us. And the us is important, there is no question of political allegiances. We hear a lot about the ‘posh boys’ at the top, but in a strange way the Royals, the poshest of them all, are seen as of the people.
When I was a boy my Gran was typical of most of her generation in seeing the King as an earthly version of God. She once stood within yards of him and for the rest of her days treasured that moment above all others. Few now interpret the monarchy in that way, but only this week when the Queen and the Duke visited the Burnley area thousands jostled for just a glimpse.
We codgers like to think of ourselves as rational beings. Logic tells us that revering an unelected head is irrational, that the Royals are merely hman like the rest of us, albeit a somewhat more privileged version. But we are totally in support of the concept of a monarchy. Why? Because, as the Duke of Edinburgh once pointed out, their great value lies in what they prevent. The alternative would be a President and people such as Blair and Cameron on the balcony of Buck House!
Not a pleasant thought is it? Both prime ministerss have proved to be secretly coorupt in their dealings with the Murdochs. Both have used the honours system as a means of boosting party funding. Both have lied to the nation, or failed to reveal what they should have revealed. That is how politicians are now, and they have lost the trust of the people. If they, or any other politician, were head of state the nation would more easily flounder and split asunder.
Had I written this just days ago I would have added that the Queen has never put a foot wrong in sixty long years. Sadly she did just that this week by including some extremely dodgy characters in her Jubilee reception for monarchs from across the world. But doubtless she was advised by the hopeless Foreign Office, and in any case who amongst us has not erred more than she has?
So forgive us if we don’t dress up in cardboard crowns or applaud Lords in ermine, but condemn us not for we are just as fervently in support of Her Majesty, albeit for slightly different reasons!
THE WORLD OF FOOTBALL; “He has won six million dollars in as many years”…Rob Lee, Sky Sports 2 “Bilbao have a corner in a very good position here”….Stan Collymore, Channel 5 ” He ( John Terry) wears his shirt on his sleeve”……Ray Parlour, Sky Sports News “It could easily end up a goalless draw if neither side scores”…..Phil Brown, Radfio 5 Live
The dark clouds of economic turmoil are gathering, now almost everyone has cause for concern. One might have imagined that a crisis of this magnitude would preoccupy our leaders but, if the front page of the Daily Torygraph is any indication, they are still somewhat off the pace. The headline tells us that ‘Number 10 is sponsoring a guide to changing nappies. It is ridiculous, says our dear leader, that people have to take courses before driving a car yet are left unadvised on the most important task of all. Oh yes, and he plans to promote tax relief for families employing full-time nannies. On the allotments this morning there was a feeling that even more ridiculous is the fact that a Prime Minister sees a practice such as nappy drill, which is handed down from generation to generation, as a top priority and believes that most families employ nannies. He may not be, as Albert put it, three pence short of a shilling, but he appears to be heading in that direction.
Our dear leader has also been busy lecturing the rest of Europe on the art of austerity. Hopefully the audiences will not look too closely at what it has achieved here. Absolutely nothing. The national debt continues to climb and there is little sign of any serious effort to stimulate growth without which stagnation is the very best we can hope for. Vast amounts have been poured into quantitative easing which has simply served to make the banks rich enough to start speculating again. Healthy banks in a sick society: a bad mix.
Frankly even sensible projects would attract at best lukewarm support from a society now deeply divided. Yes, much tighter monetary controls were needed but time and again the coalition has messed up the detail. Worse still it has attempted to sell cuts via demonisation. A classic example are benefit cuts. In reality only 3.4 per cent of families in receipt of long-term benefits have four or more children, yet people like Jeremy Hunt have constantly banged on about the state no longer funding “large workless families”. Benefit recipients at large have been portrayed as feckless, workshy scroungers, living in opulence funded by taxpayers. The appalling mass murder of the Philpott children last Friday may well be related to this for they were featured extensively during the election as evidence that the welfare system is out of control.
In fact every section of our society that has so much as raised a protest at the cuts affecting them has been villified. The police spend too much time in the backroom, nurses waste time gossiping to patients, blind people fail to use their mobility, teachers are sub-standard. Step by step the government has alienated millions. And to rub salt into the wounds it has failed to do more than raise an eyebrow at the tax avoidance and obscene salaries of the top banks, businesses and tycoons.
Austerity on its own is a dubious tool at best, without a total commitment by everyone it is doomed to failure. But the good news is that we are now to have a chance to judge the alternative. The election of Francois Hollande as President of France on an anti-austerity ticket will provide an interesting contrast with what our dear leader, and his cronies, have done here.
Members of Hollande’s new governmnet took up their post yesterday. The new President pledged “dignity, simplicity and sobriety”, and made what many will see as a positive move by appointing 34 women as ministers, exactly half of the total. The new ‘cabinet’ then voted in a 30% wage reduction for all ministers and the president. Ministers were told they will be expected to adhere to a strict code of conduct. The code rules out presents and private invitations and expects ministers to travel by train. Ministers were told to stay in constant touch with the public, to use the internet extensively. Above all there must be “transparency in government”.
All of which sounds promising. Had our crowd worked to such a code the entanglement with the Murdochs would not have happened, and a better fist would have been made of getting detail right. The arrogance of people like Lansley would have been tempered by real and open communication.
Hollande has also made clear his attitude to the bankers and the very wealthy. Tax is to be raised significantly. We are constantly told that such action would lead to a mass exodus. Hollande shrugs and says it is “their choice”. He is no fool and clearly believes that no one is indispensible, particularly if by their example of greed they poison morale.
Time will tell, but there has to be another way to achieve recovery than the chaotic one we are pursuing. History tells us that unity is strength, and that is only possible if everyone feels that we are all sharing the pain. Hollande is by nature a socialist. Many years have passed since we had such an animal here and the idea will worry those who confuse the creed with communism. But it just may be the answer.
The new minister for equality and housing is Cecile Duflot, the former head of the Green Party. She said that, after the first meeting, she felt “deep emotion and enthusiasm”. The justice minister is Delphine Batho. She said that she was “extremely happy, and really enchanted”.
Can’t remember any of our lot saying such things!
DEBATE ABOUT HONOURS RATTLES ON
The suggestion by a group of Lord Lieutenants that the word Empire should be deleted from our honours system has clearly rattled many of the old buffs who rejoice in being seen to be a member of something that no longer exists.
Suggestions for a change are pouring in, one that caught the eye focusses on the OBE. It should, says a petition, now stand for Order of the Brussels Empire.
Nick Clegg will doubtless agree!
I suspect that many a retired geezer rues the day that Tesco 24 came to town. When I first escaped real life by becoming a hen-keeper I enjoyed having the perfect reason for avoiding shopping – one has to be up at first light and devote the rest of ‘shopping hours’ to cleaning-out, drinking tea and arguing with ones colleagues. Then Tesco arrived. Now it is entirely normal to be asked to pop in on the way to the allotments. This morning I joined the usual early-bird Tesco shoppers, comprising a woman in a dressing gown whose small child screamed throughout the whole of the time I was there, plus a horde of suits who were all yelling into their mobiles whilst frantically grabbing bottled water with the other hand. I emerged from the hell-on-earth to find that, despite the car park being half-empty, someone had parked their tank so close to my old banger that getting in required unique skills that have long since deserted me.
Assuming that the yelling suits are the leaders of our business community one could only feel total confidence that we will pull out of recession any day now. I jest, but the ever gloomier economic situation is in fact worrying. Today our dear leader is to lecture EU leaders on the need for “successful austerity” threatened only by the impact of the Jubilee holiday break. Being now removed from the world of finance and business I had assumed that our version was proving rather less than successful, but who am I to doubt so great a mind?
In fact so besotted have I become with our dear leader that I tuned in yesterday to Prime Minister’s Question Time. I haven’t watched this for yonks and expected to receive carefully thought through explanantions for the burning issues such as our police shouting down the Home Secretary, the decision to take away disablement benefits from the blind, the massive tax avoidance practices of all our leading companies and other topical mysteries. I was disappointed.
If yesterday’s performance is any guide PMQT has become a modern version of Punch and Judy. The slashing of police numbers at a time of potential civil unrest was first up. Our dear leader turned into his beetroot mode and had to be urged by Ed Balls, of all people, to calm down dear. Since that was a reference to an embarrassing indiscretion by the raging Cameron, he raged even louder.
But he insisted that he was “extremely calm”. However he said it like Herbert Lom as Inspector Clouseau’s boss. You may recall the scene in which, very calmly, he slices off his finger with a cigar-cutter. Ed Miliband spotted the incipient rage. “I know you are going to have extensive training before you go before Leveson. I have a suggestion – it should include anger management”.
Our dear leader’s temper didn’t improve when he was asked about any discussions he had held with the new French president. Unfortunately our hero refused to see him when he recently visited these shores. And then came the not unexpected Miliband punch-line. Why not, he asked, send him a message and sign it LOL. The dear leader’s reply was puzzling. “Perhaps I have been overusing my mobile phone”, he said, “but at least I haven’t been throwing it at the people who work for me”. Does the meek Miliband Junior do such things or was this a reference to the long-gone Grumpy Gordon? Or even Nick Clegg? We shall never know.
Neither it seems shall we know much else about the nation’s zillion crises, for the impression gained was that the dear leader is now totally absorbed with the Murdoch threat gathering around his noble head. Miliband did make one more attempt to elicit a view about the police and NHS but this was, it seemed, the last straw.
Our dear leader flew into a rage of Prescott-like proportions. His only intelligible response of the whole show was; “I often wonder whether your problem is that you are too weak, or that you are leftwing -your problem is that you are both”. And there we had it. All this time we have been speculating as to what the dear leader was devoting his giant brain as the nation heads for the cliff. It appears that it has been exclusively devoted to little Ed.
Had the mythical little green man from Zog popped into the public gallery he would have concluded that the affairs of our country are so much in order that the leaders have time for an audition for a new comedy show.
Pointless really since the only broadcaster that would have used it now has problems of its own, the Cameron/Murdoch/ Hunt bid has failed and future shows are likely to be of a more serious nature!
A WARM WELCOME FROM KNACKER!
Just two of the many tributes paid to Home Secretary Theresa May when she addressed the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth yesterday;
“Home Secretary, I believe that you are a disgrace”…Dave Bennett. “You may not like this Home Secretary, but we no longer trust you in the police service”….Simon Payne, another officer.
THE NEW COALITION ACADEMY (with thanks to Private Eye).
Headmaster David Cameron MA; “There is a perfectly good alternative to the Austerity word – Efficiency. We are not making ‘cuts’ in teaching staff, the sanatorium, the CCF, the Art department, the building programme or indeed anything else. We are making “savings” in these areas which may, in the course of time, lead to them disappearing altogether – and what a saving that would be. I would like to thank and say goodbye to all the members of staff, too numerous to mention, who have just discovered that they are moving on to fresh opportunities and exciting new challenges at the local job centre“.
If only chickens had better sanitary habits, they would make perfect house pets for those who suffer from the attentions of mice and whose cats, in the new age of quality cat-food, are usually too content to bother with a little hunting in the pantry. As you might expect we get plenty of attention on the allotments from Mickey’s descendants, but their numbers are kept under tight control by the hens. Chickens usually appear less active than Eric Pickles but the sight of a mouse triggers an unexpected lightning-fast reaction. One lunge, one peck and another carcass awaits us when we do the daily clean-out.
In the split second before they join Mickey in the sky, the mice must be astounded at the transformation of an ambling clucker into Jekyll. Much like our reaction this morning when we learned that Jon Cruddas, appointed yesterday as Ed Miliband’s new policy chief, used his first public comment to demand a referendum on EU membership. Up until now the Labour Party has firmly supported Britain’s continued membership of the EU, a stance that has caused great frustration to many who share the view of a majority of Conservative MPs that membership is a one-way deal, with the UK giving much and gaining nothing other than a good deal of interference and bureaucracy.
Mr Cruddas said; “This is about democracy. At certain stages the political classes should invite the people into the discussion that effects their everyday lives; none more important than Europe”. How other leading lights in the opposition will respond is going to be interesting. David Cameron is coming under increasing pressure from his backbenchers to call a referendum at a time when the whole federalist European dream is going up in smoke. Only the Lib Dems are preventing this, they seem to believe that being ruled from Brussels is the only way to a future Utopia. And up to now they have rested content in the belief that the massed ranks of Labour MPs would join them in blocking anything as outrageous as allowing the people to voice an opinion.
Before yesterday few of us had even heard of Jon Cruddas. But he has struck a chord with many, not least because he talked of “stopping this thing festering” and stressed that irrespective of where people stand on Europe, it is the right of every citizen to participate on an issue that “affects material everyday life and our culture”. Perhaps the new policy bigwig is also a shrewd politician for this looks the one issue on which the Conservative Party can save itself in the public eye.
Certain it is that it is hard to think of any other. Yesterday Rebekah Brooks came out fighting after being charged with perverting the course of justice. Her husband, Charlie Brooks, spoke of a witch hunt. Without doubt Knacker seems to have veered from doing absolutely nothing to proceeding with what are very serious charges indeed. It guarantees that the whole Brooks saga will be rearing its head in court this winter. In fact given that there may be many other charges in the pipeline, there can be little doubt that the albatross will follow our dear leader for most of the rest of this parliament. At the very least he is increasingly seen as guilty of crass misjudgement in maintaining an intimate friendship with people keen to influence the government to wave through a bid of enormous commercial and cultural significance.
But the interested spectator would be ill-advised to focus on the Rebekah Brooks aspect of the affair too closely for the real danger to David Cameron lies in the Jeremy Hunt story. Here we have clear evidence that someone in Hunt’s department was passing sensitive information to News Corp at a time when the culture secretary was supposedly acting in a quasi-judicial role following the mysterious dismissal of Vince Cable. Up until now Hunt has refused to resign and Cameron has joined hands with him. The question is did Hunt and Cameron know what was happening.
Suddenly this becomes a huge threat. Lord Leveson has decided to call both Smith and Michel, the two aides for Hunt and James Murdoch respectively, and to question them in advance of seeing Hunt. The two may attempt to argue that neither of their masters knew of the information- passing, but will anyone really believe that they were a couple of Walter Mittys overseeing, off their own bats, a multimillion takeover bid? At best it sounds fantastical.
Of course Hunt is culpable anyay given that a minister is responsible for the actions of his minions. But if he was party to it we have Watergate revisited. And that takes us to the biggest question of all, did Cameron know?
The next few weeks will be very revealing. The Labour Party will have to come clean over a referendum, and our dear leader may have to come clean on his protegee Hunt.
Watch this space!
THEY CANNOT BE SERIOUS!
Government plans that could reduce, or even eliminate, state benefits paid to thousands of blind people have sparked a revolt by Lib Dem MPs in the latest sign of tension inside the coalition over some spending cuts.
Although Nick Clegg is supporting the plan rebels are demanding a U-turn after it emerged that many blind or partially sighted people who receive Disability Living Allowance will lose out . Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, attacked both Clegg and Cameron yesterday. He said; “It is manifestly unfair that blind people should be subjected to this additional strain and worry”.
It seems that under new assessment rules blindness will not qualify as a serious disability. To quote a certain tennis star, they cannot be serious!