This time last year we would have described this morning as cold. Everything is relative and, after the coldest December since Adam was a lad, we felt it to be quite mild. Just as well for today we were joined by Barry, who is new to the self-sufficiency lark, and so rare are new members that we have to hang on to them with might and main. Barry has been made redundant by the local authority and has decided to produce his own eggs. That sounds daft so I will rephrase it. He has decided to keep chickens. A few days ago his first self-assembly coop arrived.
Even those of us used to the perils of MFI kits tend to struggle for up to two hours with coops and we usually enlist the help of a friend. Not Barry. To our astonishment he had finished within 30 minutes. There was however a snag, he had several pieces left over and they happened to secure the floor section. Albert, not a candidate for the diplomatic service, was quick to rabbit on about more haste less speed. Bill poured oil on troubled waters by suggesting that Barry was no worse than the coalition.
When as a team we had eventually reassembled Barry’s prefab, we retired to the hut for the last of the Christmas sherry. Bill enlarged on the coalition bit. Unlike the rest of us he had read the front page of several of today’s papers and the unfortunate story of the much lauded ‘bonfire of the Quangos’ which warmed our anti-bureaucracy hearts soon after the election. You may remember the PR. Under Labour a zillion unelected Quangos had been created and the whole land was creaking under the weight of a million orders. Even worse the empire of the uneleceted was consuming billions of the national purse. They were all to be abolished within the first four months of the new Cameron/Clegg wonderworld. And before we read today’s reports of the Commons public admistration select committee that is exactly what we imagined had happened. The whole pile of red tape and waste had been hurled on to the bonfire, and good riddance.
But it seems that, as in many other things, the coalition acted with undue haste. The chairman of the committee which investigated the Clegg version of Guy Fawkes night is Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, and he had nothing good to say about what has happened. He says that “the whole process was rushed and poorly handled and should have been thought through a lot more. This was a fantastic opportunity to help build the big society and save money at the same time”. The whole project says Mr Jenkins “has been botched”.
And he hadn’t finished at that. He added that “in the short term the reorganisation will now cost more than it will save. This was put together on the hoof and needs to be much improved for future reviews”. Not surprisingly the Labour members were quick to join in the latest Clegg bashing. John Tricket talked of chaos and an irrational, unaccountable and expensive mish-mash of proposals which will do nothing to improve the quality of services.
Today’s report is profoundly critical of the Quango-vetting process used. It claims that the criteria used to test whether a Quango should survive were conflicting and inconsistently applied. An example quoted was the decision to make art funding independent of government yet film funding went the other way. This report won’t make good bedtime reading for the head muppets, the summary is best left until dawn. For it confirms the committee’s view that the project will not deliver savings or result in greater accountability.
At some stage of its work the committee called the head of the Civil Service, Gus O’Donnell, to clarify the supposed cost savings. Despite being given time to go way and organise an audit Mr O’Donnell was obliged to confirm that he coudn’t prdouce an analysis of any net savings which is probably Sir Humphfrey speak for ‘there ain’t any’.
Add this fiasco to the news that we are cutting up for scrap brand new ships and planes and it is hard to escape the conclusion that the deeds of government are straight from the script of Monty Python. And one cannot exclude the previous administration from that since they created the said Quangos, ships and planes in the first place. But we are now in a bigger mess than ever for we have work carried out by Quangos now lying unattended and we haven’t saved so much as a quid in the process.
The prime minister will probably respond to the select committee by ordering an Inquiry which wil take several years to reach a conclusion by which time the Miliband family will be ready to reinstate the Quangos. How else will they find jobs for their favourite uncles?
The next time there is talk on high of bonfires someone should perhaps suggest that they are checked for content before ministers strike a match!
ASHES TRIUMPH CHEERS THE NATION!
So excellent was the England performance down under that it is probably unfair to single out individuals. This was truly a team performance and bowlers and batsmen alike demonstrated just how far England have come under Flower and Strauss. Even the loss of Stuart Broad failed to derail the team and, by the end of the Sydney Test, the Aussies were lining up to describe the England standard as well above their own.
Sadly the series marked the end of Paul Colligwood’s Test career. And he went out on a characteristic note when he flung himself like a circus acrobat to snatch the edge that did for Ricky Ponting in Perth. Paul was a world-class fielder and a gritty performer with bat and ball. He is a man of great self understanding and has used his abilities to the fullest extent possible.
Of course we all realise that Australia are no longer the greatest, in fact they are way behind both South Africa and India. But we should relish the moment. England will surely never travel to those famous grounds again and come away so utterly triumphant.
FAMOUS CRICKET ‘SLEDGES’; Steve Waugh was arranging the field for Nasser Hussein who had just arrived at the crease. He placed Ponting at silly point and said “I want you right under his nose”. Ponting replied ” that would be anywhere inside a three mile radius”. Sadly Nassar laughed so much that he was dismissed the next ball.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The Cruel Sea 2. 1977
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which British daily newspaper closed down in March 1971? 2. Of which country was General Yakubu Gowon head of state?