Archive for June, 2012
Uncle Vince Cable is something of a hero amongst the allotments gang. Slight overstatement perhaps, let us just say that he is the only current politician that we respect. He knows what he is talking about, is totally frank and is old enough to have experience. Wasted in the Lib Dem lot but he is clearly not driven by ambition.
Yesterday he, predictably, didn’t mince his words on the Barclays scandal. The financial sector is, he said, “a massive cesspit that needs cleaning up”. By way of support Mervyn King, Bank of England Governor, demanded a “real change in culture”, and Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors, called for a “total clear-out” of top bankers.
Who can disagree? It now appears that Barclays are not the only Bank involved in criminal behaviour, but that is irrelevant to the Bob Diamond situation. He must go if there is to be any hope of restoring customer trust.
But we codgers do disagree in that there is more than one cesspit, our whole top society now comprises a giant version. The Commons was mired by the expenses revelations and the scandals involving the Murdochs, Jeremy Hunt, Werrity and the rest. The Catholic Church was exposed for child abuse cover-ups and the Church of England ridiculed for indecision. The dark recesses of the cosy and corrupt relations between press, police and the Bullingdon set have shocked everyone. And now the banks, on whom we have to rely for probity, already reeling from their own monumental follies, are exposed as greedy, lying, arrogant incompetents with a sense of entitlement way in excess of anything the much attacked benefit claimants could ever dream of.
To a considerable extent the introduction of massive salaries and bonuses have influenced much of this. This development was triggered around twenty years ago by supposed successful reward-driven schemes in the United States. What they do today we do tomorrow, and it usually leads to disaster. In this instance no one realised that huge bonuses don’t cause people to work harder but to work differently. If someone offered you a million for selling in 12 months a pile of dodgy bonds, what would you do?
And right through our giant cesspit the belief that bonuses must be huge has flourished. Yesterday Vince Cable’s own department had to attempt to defend the decision to award Moya Greene, the head of state-owned Royal Mail, bonuses of £371,000 plus £38,000 in benefits and £200,000 pension supplement. Why? Because she improved Royal Mail’s financial performance by increasing the price of stamps from 46p to 60p for first class and 36p to 50p for second. The biggest imposition on the public for many years, the biggest bonus is a reward.
David Cameron and George Gideon Osborne have used the Barclays outrage to talk of the need for a complete change of culture. But, like Uncle Vince, they seem to believe that there is only one cesspit. It is the one they swim around in that needs a cultural change. And it can’t happen whilst they are in charge for to them big bucks are mere routine.
They simply cannot grasp that even the bonus they have just handed to the person they appointed to run our postal service is a figure that many take most of their lifetime earning.
Never mind, there is always the possibility of a Labour government. But wait a moment! Today’s headlines speak of Tony Blair making a comeback at Number 10. Since he was one of the diggers of the inital cesspit that is hardly a cheering thought!
THOUGHTS ON TRANSPORT; “A pedestrian is someone who thought he had put petrol in his tank”…..Sam Levinson “What do you think of Volkswagens? I’ve been inside bigger women”……Harry Kurnitz “My garage’s motto seems to be ‘if it ain’t broke we’ll break it”……Jerry Seinfeld “I’ve called my car Flattery because it gets me nowhere”……Henny Youngman “Wouldn’t it be nice if the wattage of a car stereo could not exceed the IQ of the driver?”…..Robert Maine “Sir, Saturday mornings, although recurring at regular and well-foreseen intervals, always seem to take this railway station by surprise”……W S Gilbert “Being on a cruise ship is like being in jail, with the added option of drowning”……Samuel Johnson “Doctors have a nickname for motor-cyclists; organ donors”……Cheryl Atkin
If our gang of old codgers is any guide there are a lot of angry people about right now. For some time Bankers have been near the bottom of the most trusted professions, now they have dropped below estate agents and politicians. Yesterday Bob Diamond said that “some people acted in a manner not consistent with our culture and values”. Wrong. What the whiz-kids did in regard to Libor was completely in line with the culture and values that people like him have created.
Visit any of the watering-holes in the City of London at about 4.30pm and you will be able to observe the gangs of braying, sharply dressed kids whose sense of entitlement is breathtaking. While people everywhere are losing their jobs because of the rash behaviour of the Banks, the Bolly keeps flowing for these arrogant yobs with posh voices. Contrition for all the damage they have done? Absolutely not. People like Diamond have driven them on, paid them obscenely high rewards and encouraged them to believe that their world is the equivalent to a casino.
Of course we now know that they have been busy not merely speculating but also behaving dishonestly. Public confidence in the banks is now zero and heads must roll. If Diamond knew about this he is a knave, if he didn’t he is an incompetent fool. So our dear leader was right to take to the air yesterday with his insistence that the man at the top must always accept responsibility for the misdeeds of his organisation. But David Cameron is guilty of hypocrisy.
Jeremy Hunt is still in his ministerial post despite the corrupt behaviour of his department in regard to the Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB. Instead of doing the honourable thing, he sacked his adviser, Adam Smith. The prime minister himself is still in his high office despite admissions – that had to be dragged from him under oath – that he was intimately involved with various senior News Corp executives at a time when neutrality should have been mandatory. And Andrew Lansley is still in his post despite deliberately misleading the public, and the medical professions, about his intentions to marketise the NHS by stealth.
Yesterday the British Medical Association passed a vote of no confidence in Lansley and demanded he resign. A few weeks ago the Royal College of Nursing did likewise. Lest you imagine that this is simply part of some academic debate about ingrowing toenails you should perhaps ask your doctor. Amongst other things he will tell you that the cancer network is being dismantled and funding for cancer treatments halved. The network has achieved wonders in recent years, one hospital has undertaken diagnostics, another surgery and so on. Individual centres of excellence have worked seamlessly to create a massive fightback against cancer. Is it any coincidence that the private sector is running a huge advertising campaign offering private treatment for cancer? Of course not.
Meantime George Osborne and Lansley are busy threatening hospitals with closure as a result of Private Finance Initiatives, PFIs, imposed on them by the previous government. PFIs were a disastrous idea aimed at keeping the cost of buildings off the national balance sheet. What they have actually done is to stuff the pockets of private ventures whose interest in patients is akin to Diamond’s interest in customers. And guess what? Osborne is still signing off PFIs, at the last count the coalition had imposed £17 billion’s worth.
On last night’s David Bumblebee’s Question Time, Tony ‘Baldrick’ Robinson lashed out at the astonishing decline in competence and integrity of Bankers, minsters..the whole establishment. It was refreshing. Bang on cue the loopy minister who tried to sell off the forests said that it was all the fault of Labour. At this, a lady in the audience asked “for how much longer are you going to blame them? You sought election on the basis of making improvements – when will you start?”
It is not over-dramatic to claim that all the people that once earned our trust - MPs, bank managers, solicitors, doctors – seem to have faded from our esteem. All we have left are posh rich boys who seem incapable of recognising that all that they say reeks of hypocrisy.
Pity that Screaming Lord Sutch is no longer with us!
SOME QUOTES TO THINK ABOUT; ”Television is for appearing on, not for looking at”…….Noel Coward “Never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television”….Gore Vidal “Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other”…….Ann Landers “On television you can say you’ve pricked your finger but not the other way around”……George Carlin “I don’t watch television. I think it destroys the art of talking abot oneself”……Stephen Fry “The first thing a comedian does on gettimg an unscheduled laugh is to verify the state of his buttons”……Alva Johnson “The worst words in the English language are ; ‘We have to talk’. Either that or ‘Whose bra is this?’……..Jerry Seinfield
Are we allotments codgers the only people still worrying about the effect of global warming? Probably not but world leaders certainly seem to have decided that wars and bailouts are infinitely more important. We expect little else from them, our biggest frustration is the view of so many that people who fret about bees and the like are anoraks. Our concern is that bees pollinate almost two-thirds of the things we eat. No bees, starvation all round.
We have gone to great lengths to plant flowers essential to the survival of bees and we take delight in spotting their arrival. Of course, as Chris Packham has shown in his excellent TV programmes, bees are part of an ecological chain so every aspect of wildlife needs help as we send in the bulldozers to destroy habitats. This is no longer a matter for nature lovers alone, our grandchildren need us to act now.
But such things seldom make the headlines. Whilst the natural earth is progressively hammered to death we read instead about politicians and city slickers. In fact, under the present government the two are really one. During the uproar about the mess that the banks have landed us in we were warned again and again that were we to upset the financial experts they would simply move elsewhere. The same stuff was wheeled out when details of the obscenely high bonuses and salaries of bankers and executives of FTSE top companies. Even the fact that they almost all practice tax-avoidance was justified. They will go elsewhere boomed George Osborne. To Greece perhaps?
The worst example of greed on a giant scale has featured in this blog on many occasions. Bob Diamond takes home salary and bonus payments that mere man simply cannot comprehend. He, we are supposed to believe, has made Barclays Bank a world leader. Hmm. Even if this were true it is hard to accept that his rewards, and those of his top executives, must equal the total rewards provided to thousands of banking staff.
Suddenly we learn something else. Not only has Diamond been pocketing money capable o making even a Premiership footballer go green with envy, he has been running an incompetent and dishonest organisation.
Barclays have been fined a record £290 million for distorting the cost of loans paid by millions of customers. It has been found guilty of repeatedly distorting basic financial data used to set interest rates on millions of loans and other transactions around the world.
The scandal relates to the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), the interest that banks pay on money they borrow from each other. The Libor rate is one of the basic pieces of information on which trillions of pounds of financial transactions are based. It helps determine the interest rate that is applied to loans, mortgages, credit cards and business loans. Regulators have concluded that between 2005 and 2009, Barclays traders and managers regularly made “false reports” in order to push up Libor and other interest rate measures higher or lower than its true rate.
E-mails show Barclays traders to staff, submitting Libor data, demanding manipulation of the figures. A typical one asked that “we go crazy with raising 3-month Libor”. The reply said “done, just for you big boy”. An external trader asked that the rate be lowered to save him “becoming a dead man”. Back came the reply “OK”, a response that drew an invitation to “come over and I’ll open a bottle of Bollinger”. And so it went on, deceit heaped on deceit and to hell with ethics and customers alike.
Diamond’s response to this latest outrage is to promise not to draw his bonus for this year. That still leaves him with a gigantic salary plus share options. The senior Lib Dem peer, Lord Oakeshott, probably spoke for most people when he remarked that if Diamond refuses to resign, the Board should have sufficient backbone to sack him. Oakeshott said that under Diamond Barclays had become “a casino that was rigging the wheels and loading the dice”.
This government has plunged new depths by allowing people such as Jeremy Hunt to dump blame on to junior staff, to fire them and to carry on in office Whatever happened to the principle that the person in charge is always responsible for what happens in his or her operation? If Diamond didn’t know, he was incompetent, if he did he was condoning criminality. Either way he must go.
The decent, hardworking banking staff at Barclays and the millions of its customers have been deceived, treated with contempt. The fact that other banks may have done the same is irrelevant.
All this came on the day that we were warned our contribution to the European Investment Bank is about to rise by another £1.3 billion as part of the EU efforts to save the Euro!
Stop the world, I want to get off!
SOME MEMORABLE QUOTES; “If you want to hurt your parents and are not brave enough to become a homosexual, go into the arts”….Kurt Vonnegut “People make a living donating to sperm banks. Last year I let £500 slip through my fingers”….Robert Schimmel “The easiest job I ever had was a store detective in a piano shop” ……Rainer Hersch “Awards are like haemorrhoids; sooner or later evry asshole gets one”….Fredderic Raphael “I never accepted a knighthood because just to be me is honour enough”….George Bernard Shaw “Computers are like humans, they do everything but think”…..John Von Neumann
There were blue patches of sky when we arrived at the allotments this morning. Psychologists have long studied the effect of various colours on the human spirit, all I know is that what my Gran used to describe as ‘enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers’ lifts our spirits enormously. Less so the hens, which staged a mass escape. But Albert’s giant-sized net quickly restored order. The people on ‘Springwatch’ may believe that urban foxes are a joy to behold, we know only too well what they can do to wandering chucks.
Some relief this morning at the news that George Osborne has changed his mind about the planned fuel duty rise. It may be churlish to wonder if ‘Gideon’ knows what he is doing, but it is only three days since both he and Justine ‘forest-seller’ Greening stressed the inevitability of the increase. The problem is of course that we have reached the point where we believe nothing said by politicians of any party. But there is one honourable exception.
At the last election five of us went along to an eve-of-poll rally. No, we were not enticed by the usual preaching to the converted nonsense, but by the guest speaker. It was Dennis Skinner, the man they call the Beast of Bolsover. Several of us do not share his political beliefs but to a man we admire his total honesty, his refusal to speak other than the truth. We were reminded of this by a rare interview with him by Decca Aitkenhead of the Independent. Rare because he regards interviews as “elitist crap”, self promotion.
The Beast is 80 now, and has been a member of parliament for longer than George Gideon Osborne has been alive. Having survived both cancer and heart bypass surgery, he remains to this day one of the most assiduous members of the House where his voting record is almost unrivalled. When the expenses scandal broke a glance at the records showed that not only had he not transgressed, he had made no claims whatsover. He refuses to discuss this, he has an almost obsessive aversion to anyone appearing to be ‘holier than thou’.
During Callaghan’s premiership he was invited to join the cabinet. He declined, telling ‘Sunny Jim” that he would be unable to adhere to collective responsibility given his insistence on always saying what he thought. From that day to this he is a daily fixture in the Commons, a scourge to ministers of all political persuasions.
When the Jeremy Hunt scandal broke he commented that; “When posh boys are in trouble, they sack the servants”. David Cameron rounded on him. Skinner was, the prime minister said, an aged dinosaur so old and irrelevant that he should collect his pension and crawl away. Many older people were deeply offended by this, but not the victim. In his interview Skinner says that Cameron should “keep on doing it..now and then you see the arrogance of the man, of the Bullingdon Club”.
The Beast was one of nine children to a miner and a washer woman. He grew up in a Derbyshire mining community. he ws brilliant at maths, able to recite times tables backwards at the age of six. He won a scholarship to a grammar school and proved to have the sort of memory that made exams easy, Latin especially so. But to his mother’s dismay, at 16 he left school and followed his father down the pit.
It was, he recalls, hard work, slavery. He still remembers running backwards through a tunnel, dragging a trolley, trying to carry an injured colleague to safety. He remembers the terror of plunging 800 metres down a mine shaft, the abrupt sudden halt, the shared fear. Most of all he remembers the shared comradeship, the code of behaviour that had every member of the shift prepared to put others first when danger struck.
Skinner became a local councillor, in 1970 he was elected to parliament. Constituents talk of him as their champion, a man prepared to take on anyone in the pursuit of justice. The only public recognition that ever came his way was an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party. It went into the bin. He is incorruptable, one of the few writers to even meet him by appointment tells of his refusal to allow his questionner to buy the coffee.
It goes without saying that he abhors the present posh boys and their disdain for working people. But that is not a political point for he equally condemned Blair’s dalliance with the powerful and rich. In fact he abhors anyone whose personal needs take priority over those who are struggling to cope. That takes in a lot of people and it would take many a coach to take his parliamentary enemies on a trip to Bolsover, in the unlikley event they would deign to go there.
But to us the man is a treasure, a rare creature in public life. You have no need to share his beliefs to admire his total honesty, what you see is what you get. Other names such as Foot, Benn, Thatcher, Grimond, Churchill come to mind. Like them or loathe them, you had to admire their total honesty, their refusal to bend either knee or truth.
This blog is not alone in constantly banging on about untrustworthy politicians. Today that is the view of most people. Oh for more Dennis Skinners. It is perhaps unsurprising that our dear leader hates him with an all-consuming passion. He sees him as common, uneducated, very old and an unpleasant hindrance.
What Skinner thinks of him is not hard to imagine!
SOME QUOTES FOR TODAY; “Everything takes longer than it should except sex”….Murphy’s Law “When you give a child a hammer everything becomes a nail” …..Leo Kaplan “More always means worse”….Kingsley Amis ”There are no exceptions to the rule that everyone likes to be the exception to the rule”…..William F Buckley “At bank, supermarket or post office, there is one universal law which we ignore at our peril; the shortest line moves the slowest”….Bill Vaughan “A motorist is a person who, after seeing a serious wreck, drives carefully for several blocks”……Jane Pickens ”They have eating dogs for the anorexic now”….Duke of Edinburgh to a blind woman with a guide dog “I couldn’t believe it when I read that 82% of men would rather sleep with a goat than me”……Sarah Ferguson “The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire”……Voltaire
Two sunny mornings on the trot. Blue skies make all the difference, suddenly life feels good. Even Albert was cheerful this morning, less so when someone mentioned that, no, this is not the start of summer, merely a brief interlude between monsoons. But for the moment our efforts at attracting bees are paying dividends. There were masses of them around the sunflowers and runner bean flowers. Incidentally there were also large numbers of sparrows, creatures we haven’t seen in this neck of the woods for yonks.
It is on such mornings that I reflect on the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even bother to turn up and discuss it at last week’s Earth summit in Rio. Those that did pledged only to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses. World governments, which have performed such miracles in developing stealth bombers and drone warfare, global markets and trillion-dollar bailouts are not even prepared to spend a tenth of the energy they devoted to these projects on defending our living planets. They have abandoned the fight to save so much of what we hold dear; the forests, the brooks, the wetlands, the coral reefs, the glaciers, the birdsong and the night chorus.
Just another example of the folly of so much being entrusted to politicians who think only as far as their next election. But at least we can all draw some comfort from doing our little bit to support wildlife. Every allotment, every garden can make a small contribution and, to quote the dreaded Tesco, every little helps.
What we cannot do anything about is the growing threat of terrorism by British, yes ‘British’, citizens. The chattering classes continue to bang on about innocent until proved guilty and human rights. Meantime, we had an update yesterday from Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5.
Giving the Lord Mayor’s annual Defence and Security lecture, he said that the so-called Arab Spring, so passionately supported by the British government, has opened up new bases for exporting jihad. In almost every uprising it is not democracy as we know it that has emerged but hardline Muslim fundamentalists, inimically hostile to the West.
The result is that the opportunities for British would-be jihadists to seek training in the art of terrorism have increased fourfold. Right now, Jonathan Evans revealed, several hundred Brits are making their way to Arab countries for training. All are known to the security boffins. Equally well known are, he said, individuals “working in back rooms in the UK on plans to mount credible terrorist attacks”.
So since we know the identity of most of these lunatics why leave them to their own devices? That is where Nick Clegg and all the bleeding hearts come into play. We cannot punish peole for intent they say, intent in itself is not a crime. So our whole legal structure is based on the principle that until they actually convert a bus load of innocents to body parts they cannot be apprehended. Result is that the security forces can only match cunning with cunning. Since 9/11 no fewer than 43 plots have been identified and thwarted. But the would-be perpetrators are still free to try again.
Sooner or later the security people will miss one. If we continue to handicap them with human-rights laws that is an inevitability. Surely the time has come to strengthen their arm. Why should it not be a criminal offence for any British citizen to attend al-Qa’ida training camps? Human rights? What about those of the proposed victims?
An emotional response in pubs and clubs across the country is that since these madmen love the Islamist states so much they should go to live there. But that is not an answer, these people are mainly British by birth. The multi-cultural society of which many are rightly proud has a flip side.. They cannot be deported, they belong here.
Yes there are sensible arguments about the need for better social conditions in our inner cities, where housing and employment failures provide breeding grounds for those who dream of Islamic domination. But we are where we are.
Perhaps our dear leader could take time off from talking about policies he may, or may not, introduce in four years time, to consider how thousands of deaths at the hands of the known enemies in our midst can be avoided.
On this issue at least he could rely on public support when Nick Clegg begins to rant about a threat to democracy. There is a greater threat!
THOUGHTS ON DATING; “When I first met Mr Right, I had no idea that his first name was ‘Always’ “……Rita Rudner “I’m a one-man woman. One man at a time”…..Mae West “I took up a collection or a man in our office. Sadly I didn’t get enough to buy one”…..Ruth Buzzi “I don’t know what went wrong between me and my girlfriend – or Tubby as I called her” …..Stewart France “To keep a man you must be a maid in the living-room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. I hire the other two and take care of the bedroom myself”…..Jerry Hall “I think–therefore I’m single!”…..Liz Winston
Sackcloth and ashes all round! Together with many other daft people I got caught up in the sudden burst of confidence surrounding the England Euro 2012 squad. Italy were as good as beaten and here we come Germany, I cried. In the event Italy looked in another league. Slices of luck plus a lot of sheer hard graft kept England in the hunt until penalties moved on to the agenda, the rest was entirely predictable. At least Wayne Rooney netted his, but it was the first thing he managed all night.
So the flags have disappeared from the allotments and normal misery is resumed. The mood was slightly improved by the Daily Express front page which foretells of us all sizzling in 90 degree temperatures, but we did need to remind ouselves that the very same organ predicted a new ice age starting from last week. Perhaps they should have stuck to the Princess Di stories.
Meantime we have had more evidence suggesting that the only people paying tax in this country are those who can ill afford to. Some economists are now claiming that the amount of tax income being lost exceeds the entire value of every austerity measure being imposed. So presuamble our dear leader and his posh pals are burning the midnight oil whilst coming up with a plan to outlaw tax avoidance? Afraid not!
All the signs are that David Cameron is devoting his entire being to demonstrating to his rebellious Tory right wing that he is really one of them. Today’s evidence comes in the form of a much publicised speech outlining his plan to crackdown further on welfare spending for the young, the jobless and larger families. But surely his Lib Dem partners will not stomach this? They don’t need to for, incredibly, he is announcing policies that will be put before the country after the next election in 2015. Even by our dear leader’s bizaare standards this is bizaare plus. The economy is sinking fast, and the gang running it are entirely focussed on what they may do in three years time.
Predictably leading Lib Demmers, Labourites and charities have lined up to describe the plan as barmy. So they too are now focussed on a time by which we may well be in debt up to our eyeballs. Yes the plan is barmy, not least the idea of all under-25s moving back into their former homes. Perhaps in Chipping Norton, with its large houses and wealthy parents, that is an option, in the East End of London it is all a little different.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of it all is not that our dear leader is behaving oddly, that is par for the course. It is that any of them think that far-right policies will be vote-winners come 2015. Yes a lot of people resent the true scroungers that they know, but numerically they add up to very little. Few people wish to see children put on to the streets, most want to see an imaginative initiative aimed at creating employment for young people. Most want to see real action to stop tax-avoidance.
It is often the case that the theatre produces a topical analysis of what is really happening. It has done so again with Laura Wade’s ‘Posh’. The play is clearly centered on the Bullingdon Club and the values of our current leaders, what they really believe. ‘Posh’could well become to this government the cultural tag that spin became to Blair’s.
It is all there. From student fees to horse rides with Rebekah Brooks to misunderstanding LOLs and country suppers, the sense is of an out-of-touch elite pretending to be different from what they really are. It is impossible to see this play and imagine that the poeple it portrays remotely get how the majority in Britain live their lives, or even care.
And right now the reality validates the play. The prime minister and his posh friends genuinely feel unable to tackle the financial misdeeds of their own kind. Yes, they will kick out at the occasional working-class miscreant such as Jimmy Carr, but to stand in the way of the cream of society, as they see it, is just not on old boy. But they are delighted to resurrect the most extreme policies aimed at tackling the undeserving poor even though they cannot actually enact them for at least four years, and then only if there is a clear Tory majority.
Now we read that Tony Blair, having made millions from his lecture tour, wishes to make a political comeback. Heaven preserve us. What we need is fewer, not more, politicians whose every move is aimed not at solutions but point-scoring and nonsensical promises about things that may be possible in umpteen years time.
We need people such as Terry Leahy, who created in Tesco an example of what simple efficiency can achieve.
But of course we won’t get him, or any of the other proven experts in sorting things out. Instead we will now endure weeks of arguments about what the next governmnet will or won’t do. And deep down we know that, whether it is the Posh or Labour, the answer is sod all but create an even greater mess!
THOUGHTS ON HAPPINESS; “Happiness is an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of others”……Ambrose Bierce “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a poor memory”…..Albert Schweitzer “I never knew what happines was until I got married. And by then it was too late”……Max Kauffmann “What’s the use of happiness? It can’t buy you money!”……Henny Youngman “When I ws young I used to think that wealth and power would bring you happines. I was right!”…….Gahan Wilson
It’s one of those dsmal days when the sky seems to be almost draped over us. Whenever I travel by air I always reflect that all that seperates us fron a perfect life of blue skies is a load of muck. And so it is today, but we codgers set about our work with gusto for we have something to look forward to. Tonight the England team takes on the Italians in the Quarter Final of Euro 2012. And they are going to win. And then comes Germany. The team’s morale is transformed and anything is possible. It has taken the powers-that-be a long time to realise that an English manager for an England team is eminently sensible.
Which is more than can be said for the appalling nuisances that currently assail you on every visit to the town centre. Charity muggers by profession, they are widely known as Chuggers, not a term of affection. What they attempt is intimidation. One favourite ploy is to block the intended victim’s path and to pour forth emotional tales of the charity that they supposedy represent.
Over the past week or so, they have been wearing Marie Curie jackets. Each person accosted was told £5 donated would pay directly for 15 minutes of a cancer nurse’s time. You will be helping to save a life, usually follows. In fact it is a downright lie. The Chuggers in question are employed by a company called Tag Campaigns. It has charged Marie Curie £367,000 to run the campaign, money paid out of donations to the charity by supporters who believed that they were directly funding patient help.
Worse still the point of persuading the public to text a £5 donation has nothing to do with the fiver. It is a trick aimed at obtaining mobile numbers which are then passed to the call centre which rachetts up the pressure on punters to take out a direct debit. The largest of the ever growing number of fundraising firms is The Gift Group Ltd, whose founders own the parent company of Tag Campaigns. The company’s founders and only shareholders are Chris Kazamias and Darren Instrall. Over the past three years they have paid themselves £1.2 million in dividends alone.
The Chuggers themselves are paid £8 per hour and are required to obtain 10 texts per day in their first week, increasing to 25 in the fourth. Bonuses arise once the call centre lands a long-term financial commitment. Virtually no training is given on the campaign subject, in the case of Marie Curie a video was it.
In theory such things come under Eric Pickles, the Local Government and Communities Secretary. On hearing of investigations being conducted by amongst others, the Telegraph, he said;”These are extremely serious allegations. People donate to charity in good faith. Allegations that the public have been misled risk shattering people’s confidence and trust in charitable giving”. Bang on big Eric.
What has been happening reflects badly on Marie Curie. The cause they espouse is a very worthwhile one, they do not need to facilitate what amounts to deception. And they were wrong to put their reputation in the hands of third rate salesmen who lack any knowledge of what the charity stands for.
And they are not the only charity using companies such as Tag Campaigns. From this moment on we should all simply refuse to exchange the time of day with people using Charities to line their own pockets.
Simply put we should tell them to Chugger off!
We are all weary of the endess revelations about tax denied the exchequer by tax avoiders. But it is important since it is the low tax income that creates the need for ever more draconian cuts.
Today we learn that the Inland Revenue has more than 20,000 tax tribunal cases on its waiting list, involving billions of pounds in potential revenue. The department has announced that at present reduced staffing levels it would take 38 years to clear the backlog.
Brilliant! Clearly reports that George Osborne could run a chipshop are exaggerations!
The Met Office tells us that in this region we had the equivalent of one months rain yesterday. It certainly looked that way when I arrived at the allotments this morning. Sheets of water cover large areas, the big pond resembles the Serpentine, the once magnificent sunflowers lie exhausted and battered. The hens ignored their sanitized drinkers and drank thirstily from filthy puddles. We codgers set to work on the spreading of gravel.
But we are fortunate in not being situated alongside a river. A nearby village does and many a lounge is in ruins, every possession coated in wet mud. But our homes didn’t escape completely. Our roof proved vulnerable to the fiercest rain any of us can remember, so the scaffolding will be darkening our windows any hour now.
Apart from all that everything is fine. Which is not the case at our local schools where the seemingly mad education secretary, Michael Gove, has become the man they love to hate. Never having met him I can only base my judgement on TV sightings. He comes across as bumptious, all-knowing, and to the right of Genghis Khan. So far the ‘poison dwarf’, as he is less than affectionately known in these parts, has been doing his level best to demonise the teaching profession, now he has signalled his intention to drag the whole system back to the 50s. He wishes to return to a two-level exam system, to the days when every talented child was clearly marked high flier, all others stigmatised and branded no-hopers.
In typical Gove style the news of this latest politically driven wheeze was ‘leaked’ to the media without either Cameron or Clegg being told about it. All credit for once to the Lib Dem leader who, when confronted with the news some 5000 miles from these shores, immediately made it clear that his party will block it. His reaction was that any move aimed at restoring a two-tier system is unacceptable. He is right.
Of course every teacher knows that there are moments when they would wish the disruptive minority to be as far from their sight as is humanly possible. But every teacher equally knows that any system that uses the ability, or otherwise, to pass exam papers as a means of segregation is essentially evil. Those old enough to remember the trauma of the eleven-plus make-or-break exams will remember also the sense of instant superiority or inferiority that lingers in their minds to this day.
The problem with people like Gove is that they are ideologically driven to such an extent that they believe their every thought is a progressive one. Gove and his kind have at their core a belief that the class system must be reinforced, made more entrenched. They genuinely believe that there are better class families that deserve everything the state can do to reinorce their righteousness, and that the rest are so much flotsam.
Meantime our dear leader has much to worry about, not least his impetuous decision to name Jimmy Carr as someone involved in ‘morally repugnant tax-avoidance’. Within hours he was confronted with the news that Gary Barlow is equally culpable. Since he is a leading Conservative supporter that was another matter altogether. Now the list is lengthening by the hour. This morning Chris Hoy, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Barry are amongst dozens more accused of robbing the taxman of his dues.
The word is that over the next few days dozens more will be exposed, including many leading Conservative and Labour donors. One suspects that by next weekend we will be left wondering if anyone receiving a large salary pays any tax. It is already clear that the collective cost of tax-avoidance by the wealthy costs the treasury far more than all the cuts so far imposed on what Gove would describe as the undeserving poor.
It would be interesting to know what the Goves of this world think about taxes. Probably along the lines of the legendary Sheriff of Nottingham. Perhaps Nick Clegg will emerge as a latterday Robin Hood? Probably not. Pity, he would look more sensible in green doublet!
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” I have e-mail, a cell phone, a fax. I’ve got an answering machine, three phone lines at home, one in my purse, and a phone in my car. The only excuse I have if I don’t return your call is I just don’t like you”…..Alicia Brandt
If this is summer God help us when winter arrives. I haven’t resumed the art of chicken-cleaning yet but felt morally obliged to look in on my pals in action on the allotments. Gumboots, gravel, cursing, sheets of water everywhere – it was not a happy sight. Perhaps we should have bred ducks which, unlike chickens, need no protection from the wet stuff.
Like a News of the World reporter of old I made my excuses and left. I headed for Tesco where I joined hordes of less-than-happy shoppers. For some it seems to have become somewhere to go when all else fails, but I have never become addicted to the idea of examining displays of baked beans as a diversion. But moments such as these do serve to remind one of just how crowded our island is becoming.
It was quite brave of Ed Miliband to speak out about immigration yesterday. Sadly what he said inspired little hope that he has any real plan in mind, but at least he did face up to the fact that his party has been “remarkably soft” on the issue. He was equally correct to say that politicians cannot go on with the pretence that there is no problem given that immigration is often the main topic of conversation in pubs and clubs up and down the land.
When Theresa May recently ventured to suggest restrictions she was immediately confronted by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi – she of the expenses scandal – who predictably cried racism. It illusrated perfectly the mess we have allowed ourselves to get into. Somewhere along the line the politically-correct brigade have managed to convince everyone that to refuse entry to anyone who is not British by birth is to be racist, the sort of ghastly creature that is covered with tattoos and supports the BNP. It is of course illogical nonsense.
The simple, if unpopular, truth is that this island is becoming dangerously overcrowded. Every part of our social structure is creaking at the seams. Even without the handicap of Lansley, the NHS was losing its ability to cope with an ever increasing population, our social services are collapsing under the weight of rocketing caseloads, unemployment amongst young people is a nightmare, our roads are jam-packed with, er, jams, our commuter train services are the equivalent to cattle-trucks, our primary schools are swamped. Wherever you look things are overcrowded.
Given its obsession with austerity for the lower classes, the government is taking the axe to benefit payments, but no one mentions that over 350,000 of the claimants are recent immigrants. Many inner-city primary schools are under seige and class sizes have almost doubled in the past four years. To make things even worse more than a million children do not speak English as their first language. In the past year alone this total has risen by 50,000.
It all reminds me of the buses I used to catch many moons ago. The conductor would declare standing room only and, after allowing eight passengers to board, would declare that more would create dangerous overcrowding. That is where we are as a nation right now, yet the population projections suggest an increase of another 20 per cent over the next 20 years.
Perhaps the most alarming short-term crisis relates to employment. Miliband pointed to what he called “a collison of large immigration from Eastern Europe and a UK labour market that is becoming too nasty, brutish and short-term”. It is, he said, a “class thing”. If you wanted a conservatory built you are better off as a result of the large number of foreign workers recruited on short-term low-paid deals. If you earn your living by building conservatories you will struggle to find work.
Now that at last a leading politician has had the gumption to mention the unmentionable there is perhaps a ray of hope. There needs to be since over the next few months there is a real risk of large numbers arrivng from various parts of Europe. Someone has to have the courage to face up the EU and to say that the door is shut. And as new members of the EU such as Turkey appear someone has to make clear that unlimited access to the UK is not available.
Up until recently anyone coming out with such proposals would have been labelled a little Englander. No longer, most people now recognise that little England is sinking under the sheer weight of its numbers.
Our dear leader will doubtless respond to Miliband by pointing out the sanctity of the laws of the EU. Since he yesterday lectured the Argentinian President about the importance of referendums, perhaps he would like to hold one here. Polls suggest that his slavish adherence to EU rules is not quite as greatly admired as he imagines!
QUOTES FOR TODAY; ” A classic is a book that everyone wants to have read, but nobody wants to read”…..Mark Twain “I gave my young nephew a book for Christmas. He spent a month looking for where to put the batteries”….Milton Berle “A hundred thousand sperm and you were the fastest!”……Jim Hightower “He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death”……Saki “When they circumcised you they threw away the wrong bit”…..David Lloyd George “Tony Blair is only Bill Clinton with his zip done up”……Neil Hamilton
After a week or so of ceiling gazing I made my first tentative visit to the allotments this morning. A ghastly ego lurks within most of us and mine was secretly hoping to find that I had been much missed, that things had gone a little awry. I have to confess that I could see no sign whatsoever that my giant intellect had been missed, my absense had made no difference. It seems that one benefit of catching a bug is a dose of much-needed humilility!
Which is probably what Gary Barlow had with his cornflakes this morning. Last week he strutted the Buck House stage with Her Majesty who within hours gave him an OBE, an award which supposedly identifies the holder as a top citizen. It now appears that the Take That star has been on the take. Like Jimmy Carr, he hasn’t been paying his taxes. Last night Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem deputy leader, said that the honour should be “reconsidered” after the revelation that he, and two other members of the band, put tens of millions of pounds in music industry investment vehicles that act as tax shelters designed to enable members to claim back more in tax relief that they pay in the first place.
Hughes said; ” Its probably too late to undo the honour but it should be a relevant consideration. Honours are meant to be for people who serve Britain and are good citizens in doing so. If you don’t pay your taxes you are not a fully decent citizen”. The senior Lib Demmer went on to demand that in future, the honours committee make sure that people are “clean as far as their tax affairs are concerned”.
Judging by further revelations published in today’s Times, that should lead to some rather short lists. HM Revenue and Customs has particualrly mentioned ‘film schemes’. These currently cost the taxpayer over £5 billion per year. Film schemes attract investments from Premier League footballers, television personalities and people working in the City. An investor can put in, say, £100,000 and then borrow £900,000 thus earning £1 million tax free. In theory they must eventually settle with the taxman but in reality the schemes than allow them to transfer liabilities offshore.
Investors in Terra Nova, a company set up by Tim Levy, claimed about £22 million in tax relief in 2008 after buying the rights to a number of films. They were due to pay back £18 million next year but have now been offered the opportunity to “retire” from the partnership and transfer all funds to a Luxembourg company called Sirocco. Mr Levy, 43, founded ‘Future Films’ thirteen years ago . More thn £6 billion has passed through his hands . His home in Twickenham cost £6 million in 2006, after which it underwent extensive refurbishemnt. Independent Financial Advisers who sell his investments are rewarded with stays on luxury yachts, skiing breaks.. no expense is spared. In effect it is all about investments aimed at tax avoidance.
Such schemes are news to most iof us but all th indications are that the vast majority of waelthy people are involved in something similar. The range of tax avoidance schemes is breathtaking, the amount of tax lost to the exchequer runs into dozens of billions.
It was inevitable that our dear leader would leap on to the bandwagon of criticism of Jimmy Carr when his particular scheme was exposed two days ago. But he should tread with care. Lycamobile is the Conservatives’ most generous donor after giving more than £300,00 over the last nine months. It has paid no corporation tax for three years. Government adviser Sir Philip Green banked one of the biggest pay cheques in corporate history in 2005, £1.2 billion to be precise. The money was paid to his wife who lives in Monaco and thus avoids UK tax. Lord Ashcroft has given more than £10 million to the Conservative Party but is “non-domiciled”, thus avoidng tax.
In a comment to this blog a reader commented that politicians tend to stand on the heads of others when they are sinking. How right he is. If they really are outraged by all of this they should devote time to legislating against it.
Expect the fur to fly on this over the next week or so as more and more are named and shamed. They will all produce the same defence, namely that what they do is not illegal. But they all know that what they are doing is morally indefensible. The welfare state that a civilised nation requires has to be funded out of a general pool of taxation. The vast majority have no option other than to contribute their reasonable share. For the better off to opt out is to cheat on everyone else.
But we cannot escape the conclusion that we have become a morally corrupt society. Appeals to the better natures of the rich will fall on deaf ears. Only the politicians can restore financial justice. So God help us all!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “Don’t be so humble. You’re not that great”…Golda Meir “Winstin Churchill would make a drum out of the skin of his own mother the louder to sing his own praises” ….David Lloyd George “More people will get out of your way if you say I am about to puke than if you say excuse me”….Sally Berger “Do not take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive”…..Elbert Hubbard “Be yourself is the worst advice you can give to many people”…..Tom Masson
Old codgers like me often take delight in slamming the modern age of instant communication, but I have to confess that without the Internet I would have felt pretty isolated over the past week or so. This morning I even had an email from a close friend in Spain who has been following my progress as recorded on this site. She tells me that great interest is building there in the deeds of the England team. As it is here. For many of us the spirit of the England camp is truly amazing given our track record. Could it just be that having a manager born in Croydon, and who speaks English, has something to do with it?
Meantime my alarm at what is being done to the NHS grows by the day. In my time as a Foundation Trust chairman I had regular contact with the chief executive of the Regional Health Authority, Mike Farrar. He is not someone given to exaggeration or hyperbole. He is now in charge of the NHS Confederation and had this to say: “Without action now the NHS looks like a super-tanker heading for an iceberg”. He added that whilst the NHS needed redesigning politicians had “consistently failed to put the long-term interests of their population’s health above their own short-term political interests”.
Mr Farrar was speaking in the wake of an NHS Conferation survey of more than 200 chief executives and chairs. It showed that NHS finances are in the “worst situation ever experienced”. It also showed that patient care is deteriorating rapidly in the face of cuts totalling £20 billion coupled with the sheer chaos resulting from the so-called Lansley Reforms. The people that should know say waiting times are rocketing, and many treatments are being curtailed.
Yesterday another influential voice was added to the chorus of doom. John Appleby, the chief economist of the King’s Fund, warned that the NHS is “setting itself up for failure” by stretching an already “barely achievable” productivity challenge for another four years. What the service is being told to do by Lansley is, he said, ”frankly undoable”.
Yesterday also saw two new announcements from government. Social Care Minister Paul Burstow said that the indicative budget for England’s 28 cancer networks is being cut from £18.5 million to £10 million. Treasury sources indicated that the present cuts of £20 billion will be increased to £50 billion over the next six years.
Nowhere is all this mayhem more evident than in cancer services. The networks introduced by the previous government have made a big difference. Almost halving the funding will be disastrous. Disastrous for most but not all, the private sector is now advertisng instant and personalised treatment for those “wise enough” to take out private insurance cover”. Lansley will be delighted by that, the rest of us can only look on in despair.
Last week brought all this home in a big and painful way. One friend who has cancer attended his usual clinic. Nurse numbers had been cut and, together with 20 others, he had to wait for almost three hours before learning that those not seen would have to return the following day. As if that was not enough his chemotherapy treatment was postponed. He tells me that a harrassed nurse was in tears as she said that “Lansley should come here to witnesss the effects of what he has done”.
Another friend was on a hospital ward suffering from cancer of the spine. His relatives had been told that he had little more than a week to live. Suddenly they were told that, due to staff cuts, he had to be moved out and, despite their protestations, he was taken by ambulance to a nursing home. A member of the family travelled with him and said that it as an appalling ordeal. He died two days later.
Tomorrow many GPs will be on strike so far as routine treatment is concerned. Lansley is making much of this. The truth is that this is not primarily about pensions, it is an indication of just how far morale has fallen. GPs are supposedly being given the responsibility for commissioning. They have neither the time nor appropraite skills to undertake it and, right now, the Primary Care executives so recently made redundant are being recruited back to take on the role. Sheer and utter madness. Reforms were needed but these are the wrong ones!
More than anything else I would like to see a group of people forced to sit on a cancer outpatient clinic and to witness what is happening. That group would include Lansley, whose madness led to this, Clegg who condoned it, and such as Jimmy Carr who seem to believe that not paying tax is justified.
Many years ago Aneurin Bevan called such people vermin and has been villified for it ever since. But he was right. How else can you describe those who care so little for others?
QUOTES TO PONDER ON; “There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore looking like an idiot”….Steve Wright “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t”……Margaret Thatcher “The thing most women really like in bed is breakfast”……Robin Williams “I tell kids they should throw away the cereal and eat the box. At least they’d get some fibre”….Dr Richard Holstein
A visit from Albert apart, I haven’t set eyes on my fellow chicken-keepers for over a week now. I presume that they and the hens are still in the land of the living. I am slowly returning to it and, I have to admit, am beginning to miss both. I guess we old codgers got it right, keep busy and surround yourself with mates. Hopefully I’ll soon be back amongst them, especially if England win tonight!
But meantime I have come closer to realising just how divided our society has become. Today’s Guardian describes it as ‘Breadline Britain’ and devotes a lot of column inches to describing the plight of millions of hard-working families living just one bill away from financial disaster. Even those with a regular job are struggling to make ends meet, many reach the end of each month with empty pockets and even emptier stomachs.
Those who are unemployed, invariably through no fault of their own, are trapped in a downward spiral of despair. The level of debt is rocketing and the bailiffs are everywhere, threatening and bullying with impunity. The latest estimate is that over 7 million are now seriosly affected by the austerity measures, which despite all the evidence to the contrary, are still being pursued by the Old Etonians.
All of which is bad enough, but the reason for the sense of bitter resentment to be found everywhere is the fact that the vast majority of wealthy people pay as little as 1 per cent income tax, yes, 1 per cent. The flourishing tax avoidance industry is now costing the country billions of pounds, far more than the gains resulting from every cut applied so far.
In March George Osborne used the Budget to condemn aggressive tax avoidance as “morally repugnant”. Yet on the following day Roy Lyness, of Peak Performance Accountants, assured his clients ; “We’re delighted to inform you that most of the powerful tax-saving opportunities have survived unscathed”.
One of the most popular is a scheme know as K2. It works by transferring salaries into a Jersey-based trust, which lends investors back the money. As the loan can technically be recalled, it is not subject to income tax. One of the many using this scheme is comedan Jimmy Carr. He pays himself £100,000 in salary and puts £3.3 million through the scheme. The result is a bonanza, virtually no tax. Carr’s lawyers point out that the scheme is not illegal. Moral? Thats another matter altogether. No wonder he comes across on stage as a perpetually amused man.
A reporter from The Times, posing as an IT consultant earning £280,000 per year, contacted a number of tax avoidance specialists offering schemes to people on high salaries. Mr Lyness promised that K2 could slash a hypothetical tax bill of £127,000 to a personal rate of only 1.25 per cent. Every company offered similar schemes.
Graham Aaronson, QC, has proposed new rules for the government to combat aggressive, albeit legal, tax schemes such as K2. He says that people ask him how much tax he pays. His response is 50 per cent and the very act of mouthing it makes his “blood boil” at the thought of so many paying less than 3 per cent because of “some artificial scheme”.
And the ranks of the tax-dodgers are not comprised solely of celebrites such as Mr Carr. Officials at the Inland Revenue confirm that many banks now use complex offshore loans to help their senior staff shelter millions of pounds, earned in bonuses and salaries, from tax liabilities.
Scandal is an inadequate word for what is being permitted by this government, which is happy to face up to the wrath of the masses but afraid to take on it’s friends. We can only view it with contempt. It claims that we are in this together, a phrase used by Rebekah Brooks in a text to our dear leader. We must certainly are not.
But the government comprises politicians and we have no illusions about them. What is more shocking is the revelation that even those who brighten our evenings with their men-o-the-people humour are equally dismissive of the plight of those who pay their inflated salaries!
OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES! Michael Gove, talking to a school class last week, “There’s a whole generation who can’t do basic maths”. Schoolboy in audience “And you’re running the country!”
Bright dawns the day with hope renewed! It certainly does when you have been prostrate for many a day and suddenly feel like putting your trotters to the ground. No idea where the bug came from, and even less where it has now gone, but it is not a companion to be desired. This being a non-monsoon day I was able to venture out into the garden. With any luck I’ll be back to allotment duties before you can say damnation to all chickens.
Meanwhile I have alternated between reading Alastair Campbell’s memoirs and newspapers in general. On the former I will mention but one thing. Campbell seems to have spent large chunks of each day noting down what one would have imagined to be confidential and privileged information. So it was in May 2003 when Blair was pushing through his dream of joining the Euro. Brown had let it be known that he, as Chancellor, would set a 5-part test. Blair believed it was simply Browns way of “thwarting” him.
And so it proved. On June 9th Brown announced that Britain had not passed the five tests. It should therefore not join the Euro currency. According to Campbell, Blair was “pretty fed up” and feared the right decision was being frustrated by his arch-enemy. So now we have at least one thing to thank Grumpy Gordon for, if Blair had been allowed free rein we would this very day be immersed in the chaotic disaster of the single currency. Thank God for Gordon Brown!
The newspapers. Given the time to study them in mind-aching depth, I have realised that the most interesting stories are those that are clearly important yet are hidden away in a paragraph on page ten or so. One of these concerned Lybia, the country that David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkosy bombed intensely throughout the Gaddafi uprising. In fact we spent billions. In fact we killed a million. But, were told, this was Cameron’s Falklands, this was about ridding the world of the most evil regime it had ever hosted.
You may have noticed that news from Libya is now as rare as hens teeth. So presumably it is now the heaven on earth promised by our dear leader as, hour by hour, he briefed us on yet another bombing raid. It most certainly isn’t. When our ambassador returned there in triumph we were told that the people lined the streets to pay homage. In reality they, or some of them, attempted to assassinate him. The Ambassador, Sir Dominic Asquith, is descended from one of our most famous Premiers and is a cousin of Helena Bonham Carter. Islamists militants launched a rocket-propelled grenade at his car and two of his bodyguards were critically wounded. How strange that a news blackout has descended on a story the like of which headline-writers dream of.
Equally strange is the omission of mention of a bomb attack on the US mission in Benghazi, or the kidnapping of a delegation from the International Criminal Court. Or, for that matter, the poublic desecration of a British Second World War cemetery. Or .. I wont go on, suffice to say an internet search throws up dozens of instances of extreme lawlessness and violence, few of which have been covered in the media. The reason for that? No briefings from central government, someone there would prefer that we remain blissfully unaware that Lybia is now even more violent and oppressive than it was under Gaddafi. In reality there is no central government, the people are living in appalling deprivation, the services that we bombed are still not working. Madmen with guns are everywhere.
There seem to be two morals here. We should be told the truth. We should stop risking the lives of our young servicemen by supporting causes we do not understand. Much though we rightly loathe people like Gadaffi and Hussain we should recognise that their countries are jam-packed with equally undesirable people.
No, it was not our dear leaders Falklands!
OUR FICKLE SPORTS WRITERS! Just a week ago every sports hack assued us that our so-called international squad, hastily assembled by Roy Hodgson, couldn’t win a raffle. Today almost every one of the selfsame experts are banging on about the celebrations that will follow Englands triumph when they bring the Euro 2012 trophy home.
So what has changed? We came from behind to beat the Swedes, that’s what. Like everyone else I would like to see England in the Final, not least because one could then reasonably ask why almost every major English club spends a fortune on continental managers and players.
But it would be nice to see a modicum of balance and caution being applied!
Having been in an horizontal position for almost a week it is hard to work out how I can comply with my Father’s Day cards which urge me to have a jolly day. I was still considering a plan when Albert arrived. I commented that it was the first sickbed visitation by a member of the allotments gang, he replied that he had been afraid of “catching something”, but had decided that since I was still alive it couldn’t be that bad. Great pal Albert, but he doesn’t do jolly. However he did bring me a giant-sized turnip.
Al told me that the chicken-keepers have been banging on about the man they call the ‘poison dwarf’, Michael Gove. Possibly because some of them are ex-teachers they definitely do not like what they see, or read about, the education secretary. Then again, I don’t like him and I have no links with the teaching profession. Maybe it is because he comes across as a bumptious know-all.
Either way, he has once again imperiled the reign of our dear leader. According to some government sources Lord Leveson was so infuriated by a speech given by Gove that he wrote to the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, demanding that the wretch be fitted with a silencer. Failng that the Judge was prepared to quit. Think about it. Had that happened the whole pack of cards would have fallen. In his speech Gove claimed that Leveson had created a “chilling atmosphere” towards freedom of speech and “should be gagged”.
You may recall an earlier blogpost that described Gove’s own appearance before the Inquiry. For the first, and only, time Lord Leveson lost his cool and told his witness ;”Mr Gove, I do not need to be told about the importance of freedom of speech, I really don’t”. Unabashed, our pet hate-figure went on to praise Rupert Murdoch as one of the greatest men ever to walk this earth. Second only to Gove himself perhaps?
Like Cameron and Osborne, Gove is a close member of the Murdoch clique. Unlike them, he continues to bang on about it and with great apparent pride. Clearly he sees no distinction between freedom of speech and lies, phone-hacking, harrassment and blackmail. Murdoch, he clearly believes, must be free to do or say whatever he pleases. And this is the twerp responsible for our schools!
In his speech to political journalists, Gove said that there is great danger of regulation being imposed by “judges, celebrities and the establishment” … all of whom have an interest in taking over from the press as arbiters of what a free press should be”. Is he seriously contending that the press has shown itself capable of being arbiters? The parents of Millie Dowler and countless other victims of Murdoch may well take another view!
He probably believes that someone like himself is best placed to ‘keep an eye’. Really? Today’s papers give yet more details of the affairs of Lady Warsi, who as co-chairman of the ruling party is presumably an example of the absolute impartiality and trustworthiness of politicians. She has been found wanting, she is far from alone.
Of course Gove makes no secret of his passion for Murdoch and all his works. He undoubtedly sees his role as protecting his hero, of allowing him to plough on with the ruination of lives for a large handful of silver. This man is potentially more poisonous than Jeremy Hunt. Our dear leader should sack him before it is too late.
But he won’t. The hold and threat of News Corp is tightening around many memebrs of this beleagured coalition.
QUOTE OF THE DAY; ” Which pub did Cameron leave his integrity in? Each time I watch coffins coming back from the futile Afghan conlict, the horrible thought crosses my mind that those soldiers would not have died if it hadn’t been for Mr Slippery’s desire for office at any price. Disgust is not a strong enough word, really. ”…..Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday.
I won’t bore you with more tales of my bedroom ceiling, a landscape with which I have become overly familiar over the past week. No piece of decorating has ever been so minutely examined and, in my mind’s eye, I have been transformed from an expert in DIY to someone as skilled in that art as was dear old Cyril Smith in hang-gliding. But last evening’s gazing at the TV brought great cheer. When the doctor came he pronounced my pulse as normal, it was fortunate he didn’t arrive during the England v Sweden match. Had he done so I would now be waiting on an NHS corridor trolley, an innovation of Lansley’s ‘reforms’. The England comeback followed brave substitutions made by Roy Hodgson, perhaps we at last have a good choice as manager. And by way of a bonus he speaks English!
First thing to catch my eye when she-who-must-be-obeyed brought in the papers this morning was the latest honours list. I scanned it, applying the Andrew Marr test as I did so. Marr recently ridiculed the awarding of honours to people who had done no more than the job for which they are well paid. And there they all were, first one to catch my eye was our dear leader’s Chipping Norton colleague, Charles Dunstone.
He co-founded the Carphone Warehouse 22 years ago with £6000 of his savings, and saw it grow into one of the country’s largest mobile phone dealers. Today he has a personal fortune of £860 million, so his Conservative Party donations are mere pocket-money. And all credit to him. But why, other than the fact that he is a member of the nation’s most exclusive clique, should be receive a knighthood? The whole thing is elitist nonsense.
But for me today’s big story is the announcement of the cabinet investigation into the claims made at the Leveson Inquiry by Rupert Murdoch that immediately after the Sun’s switch to the Tories, Gordon Brown called him to berate him about it and to threaten that “his government would now make war on News Corp”. Brown immediately denied that such a call ever took place, but both the Murdochs and David Cameron have made great play of the supposed fact that Grumpy Gordon was every bit as tainted as they quite clearly are. Now comes the shock!
According to Murdoch, speaking under oath, the long abusive call came just after the Sun’s announcement, which was made just after Brown’s party conference speech in September 2009. The Cabinet Office yesterday announced that there had been no call that month. It went on to add that only one call was made during the whole of 2009. As was Brown’s practice, that was listened in to by Downing Street staff whose notes reveal that the only subject covered was Afghanistan.
So either the story was a total invention or the Cabinet Office civil servants are involved in a huge cover-up, something as likely as my opening for England. One hopes that Lord Leveson will now be inviting Murdoch to pay him a repeat visit!
I have always had suspicions about the dramatic claims. Back in 2009 I, as chairman of an NHS Trust, had a meeting with an MP who was then a PPS to one of the Labour ministers. I asked him about Grumpy Gordon. He told me that going in to see him was a nightmare in that he would stop you in midflight and tell you that he was not interested in ‘rubbish’, only facts. Mr Brown, my visitor told me, was too honest, too forthright, too obsessed with pure facts. It painted the picture of a prime minister who was inconsiderate of the feelings of others, who spoke the truth whoever he wounded. Grumpy but scrupulously honest.
Add that to the findings of the Cabinet Office and Brown’s heated refutal of Murdoch’s claim and what do you have? It can only be that the story was an invention. That being so you are left wondering just how much of the other Murdoch/Cameron versions of everything has more substance than an Enid Blyton book.
Meantime I notice that Paul Jenkins has been knighted. He was the lawyer who Cameron claims gave him the legal go-ahead in 2010 for the appointment of Jeremy Hunt despite being on holiday at the time, as a result of which he had not seen Mr Hunt’s comments on BSkyB. Now there’s a surprise.
As I slide down under the duvet again my final resolution is to trust no one. With the exception of Roy Hodgson of course!
QUOTES FOR TODAY; “I couldn’t believe it when I read that 82 % of men would rather sleep with a goat than me”…..Sarah Ferguson “Buckingham Palace isn’t ours. It’s a tied cottage”……Prince Philip “I declare this thing open. Whatever it is”……Prince Philip “I left England when I was four when I found out that I could never be king”….Bob Hope “A jury is twelve people chosen to decide who has the best lawyer”…..Robert Frost “There is nothing like a solemn oath. People always think you mean it”…..Norman Douglas