Posts Tagged ‘Beleagured’
I missed the hen duties this morning and could only imagine the tussle between Albert and the broodies which shoot back to the nestbox within seconds of ejection. It is enough to try the patience of a saint and my pal isn’t one of those. I was at the hospital having an MRI scan. For the uninitiated this involves being wedged into a tube rather like thus used in submarines. The difference is that they don’t fire you out of the other end, but they do give the eardrums a fair workout. A tip for you; should you have to spend an hour in a scanner do keep your eyes shut and dream of whatever will keep your mind occupied. I spent the hour driving a train with Zsa Zsa Gabor as my stoker, but its a question of whatever turns you on. The alternative is to stare at an enclosure two inches from your head!
When I escaped I bought a coffee and a paper. The first thing that caught my eye – in the paper not the coffee – was a headline featuring the latest attack on the beleagured Andrew Lansley whose plans to turn the NHS in to a medical version of Tesco have won him a zillion enemies. But this time it is his friend and ally Stephen Dorrell who has pulled the trigger.
Dorrell ran the NHS in John Major’s government and has gone out of his way to mak eit clear that he believes himself to be capable of doing a better job than his pal Lansley. Dorrell was pressed to say whether he would be more efficient. He spluttered and then said that he was “going to plead the fifth amendment”. In other words, yes but I daren’t say so.
Dorrell, who chairs the health select committee, which wants significant changes to the plan, said that Lansley has blundered by trying to absolve politicians of blame by heaping responsibility on to doctors. He also claimed the credit for the listening exercise launched by David Cameron.
I know that people working in the NHS are now totally confused about the coalition’s intentions. Some have been told by Nick Clegg that the whole plan is off the table and will be replaced by a new one which will begin its route through the Commons all over again. Other hospitals have been told by Lansley that there are to be no U-turns, the private sector age is on its way.
With every professional body indicating total opposition and the Lib Dems beginning to assert themselves, it could be that the days of Lansley are drawing to their end. But either way there is chaos ahead for he has already pressed the destruct button on Primary Care Trusts, some of which have already been scrapped. Madness. So the much-disputed plan is already part installed. Given that fact and this week’s revelations about the private healthcare sector it is hard to see how Lansley or anyone else is going to avoid meltdown of our health service and mass hospital closures.
But Lansley is an arrogant and stubborn soul and until today he has drawn comfort from his close band of Tory pals. But Dorrell senses the chance of a comeback so in goes the knife.
After all what are friends for? With friends like Dorrell who needs enemies?
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Charles Blondin 2. Vectis 3. Paul Newman 4. Fish 5. Welcome to My World 6. Emma Thompson 7. John Williams 8. Nineveh 9. July 23rd 10. The Queen
Slowly but surely Britain and France are being sucked in to what is rapidly becoming a Libyan civil war. Yesterday we had an increase in what an American General once described as mission creep. We are now to send army experts in to advise the rebel forces in what is clearly a contravention of the UN resolution. And by way of extras, French and British planes carried out attacks on Gaddafi’s communications hubs and the Royal Navy submarine Triumph launched Tomahawk cruise missiles in to Tripoli.
None of this has gone down awfully well with the allotment crowd, most of whom believe that the French unusual thirst for battle is the result of the beleagured Sarkozy seeing an opportunity to be heralded a saviour, and Cameron becoming to him what Blair became to George W Bush. Maybe, maybe not, but it is hard to understand why Libya merits our undivided attention whilst adjoining countries face similar nightmares. Because Libya is the one of most strategic importance? No, that’s Syria. But whatever the explanation for our pouring unlimited cash into this venture – each missile costs £800,000 – the fact remains that we are slowly edging into a permanent involvement.
The first British ‘boots on the ground’ will be advisers. As Menzies Campbell pointed out yesterday,Vietnam began with an American president sending military advisers in! The next step will probably involve attacks by Gaddafi on those advisers which will trigger our sending in troops to protect them. By that point ‘defeat’ would be devastating to Sarkozy and Cameron, whose self understanding seems low on this point, and more and more troops will be shipped in. The identity of the so-called rebels is still an unknown and there is at least a possibility that the blood of our personnel will be shed fighting for terrorists.
Of course we were right to play our part in protecting civilians, but there is no logic to say that we should be the main contributor. From this point on we and the French are largely alone in defying the UN resolution and in switching from protection mode to nations at war. In our case there is the even more worrying thought that we are reducing our armed forces to miniscule levels and we are firing off weaponry, the cost of which would already have provided thousnads of nurses or policemen.
Within days now this conflict will have reached the point where the British and French leaders can only withdraw with enormous loss of face. It will quickly become another Afghanistan where everyone really knows that there is no possibility of other than ignominious exit.
Once agin the role of the Lib Dems comes under the spotlight for realistically they are the only ones capable of stopping this mad adventure. Many, like Menzies Campbell, are extremely unhappy but Cameron has Clegg in a vice-like grip.
No one can stop the madness and we can only pray that Gaddafi collapses quickly. If not we will face the prospect of more young men coming home in coffins, having perished in wars that are not our responsibility and which we are no longer equipped to fight!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; GOD AND RELIGION; “Men don’t get cellulite. God might just be a man”…..Rita Rudner “Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends”……Woody Allen “Only one thing is impossible for God; to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet”……Mark Twain “God may be dead but 50,000 social workers have risen to take his place”……J D McCoughey “When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised the Lord doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and asked him to forgive me”……Emo Philips “If you want to make a man very angry tell him you are going to pray for him”…..Edgar W Howe ”I know God is a man. Because if God was a woman She would have made sperm taste like chocolate”…….Carrie Snow “My church accepts all denominations – fivers, tenners, twenties”…..Patrick O’Connell “My favourite characters in the Bible are King David, Delilah and Charlton Heston”…..Milton Berle ” A Christian is a man who feels repentance on a Sunday for what he did on Saturday and is going to do on Monday”…..Thomas Ybarra
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1 The police 2. It was deemed to be too noisy
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What name had Alvin Stardust used back in the 1960s? 1.What is ‘Sting’s ‘ original name?
Throw some tomatoes into a chicken-run and see greed in its most naked form. One will grab one and race off to the most distant parts where it will do a Bunter and race back to steal someone else’s titbit. But are they really that different to humans? I was pondering over the question whilst watching the hoo-hah and thinking about the apparent mystery of the group of GP’s that the government has wheeled on stage as a counter to the block condemnation of the Lansley privatisation plan for the NHS. Why would any doctor be in favour of a development that Dr Clare Gerada, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, yesterday warned will destroy the long-standing trust that people have in their ‘family doctors’. The answer is, I suspect, greed.
In January 50 GPs were invited to 10 Downing Street for a champagne reception. They are the leading lights of a body called the National Association of Primary Care which is officially non-political. Treading the corridors of power that evening was one Dr Charles Alessi, who two weeks earlier had penned a tabloid comment piece backing the radical pro-market plans of the Conservative part of the coalition.
And Dr Alessi makes no secret of his feelings. He has alreaday been accused of standing by whilst 500 jobs were axed at his local hospital in Kingston, Surrey. He is unrepentant and says that the changes at Kingston are a forerunner of things to come. He argues that hospital physicians are “over-treating” patients, too many people are being given drugs like those that stop elderly people going blind, a condition known as macular degeneration. But won’t patients revolt if they are not given the medicines they need? “Yes” is Dr Alessi’ view, ” it is pretty uncomfortable”. It seems reasonable to assume that Dr Lessi’s fellow champagne drinkers share his views, and although they are a small minority amongst the nations 38,00 GPs they are powerful allies of the beleagured Lansley.
Now let us be a little cynical for cynicism vies with greed amongst the human vices. If the scheme becomes reality, GPs will become the new rich. Kieran Walshe is professor of health at Manchester Business School and he has studied the likely financial outcome of GPs taking over the £80 billion NHS budget. He believes that GPs in a consortium could set up a private company which they own, and then get the consortium to contract out the comissioning of health care to that company. If that company can make savings by spending less on its patient’s care the surplus could then be distributed to the shareholders – the GPs.
Under this, or a similar arrangement, if a GP-owned company saves 5% of the budget each GP will receive £140,000. That apart each will receive £55,000 as a management allowance plus other payments yet to be determined. Professor Walshe believes that GPs will be in line to pocket £300,000, double the amount of a hospital surgeon.
We can safely assume that the carrot being dangled by Downing Street is a big one and we can safely assume that some will be tempted. But there will be a price to pay and I don’t mean simply hospital closures as private healthcare providers are brought in to ‘cherry-pick’ by commissioning consortiums. Far more horrendous will be the destruction of the doctor patient relationship. How will we feel if we suspect that our own doctor is denying us treatment to line his or her pocket?
This whole scene is building up to a huge confrontation unless the Lib Dems find their backbones. Whatever happens I would feel incredibly sad if someone I trust with my life can no longer be trusted at all. But at least that won’t happen, for my doctor, like thousands of others, has made clear that he will have nothing to do with such a brazenly unethical proposal.
Perhaps I should buy him some champagne by way of compensation for not becoming a Cameron crony!
QUOTES FOR TODAY; “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defence”….Steve Landesberg “A lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on”….Winstin Churchill “A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a world of explanation”……Saki “There is nothing about which men lie more than their sexual powers. In this at least every man is, what in his heart he would like to be, Casanova”….Somerset Maughan “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election”….Otto von Bismarck ”I have too much respect for the truth to drag it out on every trifling occasion”……Mark Twain “There’s a perfectly good explanation for this, which I’ll make up later”……Mel Brooks “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember what you said”……Mark Twain ” A lie is an abomination unto the Lord and a very present help in times of trouble”……Adlai Stevenson “I told you a million times, don’t exaggerate”….Rik Mayall “It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie in his place”……H L Mencken
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Pittodrie, Aberdeen 2. John Peel’s
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Where was the liner ‘Queen Elizabeth’ destroyed by fire in the 1970s? 2. In which crime show did Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins co-star?
Before the start of the soccer World cup in South Africa a couple of my optimistic pals secured a large St George’s flag to the back of the allotment shed. And there it has remained ever since, a constant reminder that when it comes to forecasting Albert and Tom are about as useful as rattlesnakes in a lucky dip. But the more observant amongst us have noticed something strange. Throughout the bitterly cold period before Christmas the flag drooped, unmoving and about as animated as Billy Bunter at a meeting of Weightwatchers.
We now realise that bitterly cold weather is as it is partly because of the absence of wind.Which of course explains why it has been reported that during the coldest snap in a century the nation’s ever-growing wind industry failed to make any contribution to the beleagured national grid. The return on a vast investment was precisely zero!
I recently pulled in to a layby in The Lakes to look more closely at a wind farm. I was astonished by the amount of noise and the sheer size of the disfiguring giants and drove away reflecting that having just one of those in ones backyard would be a less than calming experience. Later, in a local pub, I mentioned this and someone who lives within striking distance of that particular wind farm said that the noise was not the principal probelm since they only rotate in wind and there hasn’t been much of that in recent times. It sounds ridiculous I know, but the idea of no wind hadn’t occurred to me!
I had almost forgotten the incident until I read yesterday a report compiled by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF). It seems that Britain’s wind farms generated electricity to just 23.6 per cent of their full capacity between October 2009 and September 2010.That is lower than at any time since 2002-03 when figures were first collected. Data included in the report also shows that 2010 was the least windy year in Britain since records began in 1824. The root of the problem is an atmospheric feature called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) which controls wind speeds in northern Europe. We are, it is reported, in the middle of the longest streak of negative NAO on record and there is good reason to believe that this trend will continue.
Another thing I hadn’t grasped is that electricity cannot be stored in large quantities. Power companies have to generate it at exactly the moment customers want to use it. But the wind might not be blowing when 11 million people want to boil the kettle and there is a direct relationship between low temperatures and little wind. In other words wind farms can only help when demand is well below peak.
Given that last month Chris Hulme, the Energy Secretary, promised a “seismic shift” to wind and other non-carbon forms of generating electricity this is all rather worrying. And the comments of John Constable, REF’s head of research, are not reassuring. He said yesterday that “these latest figures show, again, that this is economically and technically reckless; wind simply will not do what ministers tell it”. He went on to warn that “if ministers place too much reliance on wind, the electricity system will come under considerable stress, with very high prices and unscheduled interruptions”.
Whilst no politician in his or her right mind is about to admit that the wind farm mania is unwise, but Mr Hulme has self understanding and seems to have softened his opposition to nuclear, the only non-carbon technology with any chance of meeting future demand. Ministers may be theoretically tied to the expansion of wind farms but they know that major power cuts or huge power bill rises would destroy any government that presided over them.
There may well be a gigantic wind farm heading your way but it seems that, gradually, wind is moving from being a technology of the future to being a technology which was the future once. Isn’t it therefore time to stop spending vast amounts and disfiguring the countryside or does the government have a guarantee from God of high winds?
EVEN THE GOVERNMENT IS PRACTISING TAX AVOIDANCE!
At a time when even those on the breadline are having to pull their belts in even further, there is widespread anger at the failure of Osborne and co to tackle tax avoidance schemes which are calcuklated to be costing the exchequer the equivalent of the national deficit.
We now learn that not only are ministers failing to close the many loopholes, they are actually allowing their use by state-owned ventures. A good example is The Tote, the government owned bookmaker. The Tote is about to move a portion of its business offshire and reduce its tax liabilities in the process. Despite being fully state-owned it plans to filter bets placed with third-party, off-shore bookmakers through its Guernsey outpost in a move that will sidestep income tax.
As the national squeeze becomes ever fiercer and damaging, it becomes ever more amazing that nothing is being done to change the laws that enable companies and corporations alike to rob the national purse of billions. The usual explanation is that Osborne has friends in big business. But surely that doesn’t extend even to the bookies?
FOOTBALL WIT; “Football is a game with 2 linesmen, 222 players and 20,000 referees”; Bob Monkhouse. “When they first installed all-seater stadiums everyone predicted that the fans wouldn’t stand for it” George Best. “The most vulnerable area for goalkeepers is between their legs” Andy Gray. “We know what we need to do now so I think we will either win or lose” Ian Rush. “We got the winner three minutes from time but then they equalised” Ian McNail.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. An IRA bomb in his fishing boat 2. France
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Gordon C Liddy took part in a famous burglary. What was it called in popular jargon? 2. Hubert Humphrey died in 1978. What was his middle name?
Anyone who cares about sport should offer up a vote of thanks for Andres Iniesta, without whose goal an estimated 700 million viewers around the world would have switched off feeling that they had witnessed the death of football and of sportsmanship. In truth the World Cup final was a disgrace. Over many matches millions had come to admire the magical passing and riveting entertainment value of the Spanish team. Clearly Holland, like any other team in the tournament, could not match this and we all expected them to practice close marking and ‘spoiling’ tactics. But we didn’t expect violence. It was a miracle that there were not serious injuries in the first half when many assaults disguised as tackles received only yellow cards from the beleagured Howard Webb.
Mr Webb is an excellent referee who was put in an impossible position. Those who now protest that he should have put a stop to thuggery by producing at least two red cards early on would have been the first to complain that he had ruined what is arguably the greatest sports event on earth. As it was he ended up with a record 14 yellow cards and, inevitably, a late sending-off. But if teams are going to conduct themselves in the way that the Dutch did no referee will be able to either allow the game to flow or to keep sufficient players on the field to complete the match. To crown it all the players in orange disgraced themselves after the final whistle by surrounding the officials in brutish style.
The Spanish were not without guilt but their misdemeanours were largely born out of frustration and human reaction to seeing colleagues hacked down. Toward the end of the game we were treated to some of their magic with players flicking the ball to each other in beautiful motion. But beauty rarely emerged and sport lost what could have been the perfect advertisement for a game so often called beautiful but which rarely is. A game fitting this description requires two sides capable of intricate movement and a conviction that winning is only part of the perfect performance.
Thanks to Iniesta we were spared the ultimate horror of proof that artistry never succeeds. And when he tore off his shirt in ecstacy we read the words on his singlet which read ‘Dani Jarque always with us’, a tribute to a former Espanyol player who died of a heart attck in August 2009 at the age of 26. The words seemed to sum up the spirit of oneness that has characterised the team from the outset.
If this all sounds very partisan I can only reply that at the kick-off I had no preference as to winners. I suspect that many who watched became biased only as it became clear that Holland’s plan comprised victory at any cost. And the tragedy is that they had no need to resort to such tactics for they had shown in earlier matches that they could offset their lack of finesse with sheer effort and commitment.
Of course we Brits looked on with a regretful eye. Spain had for most of the tournament looked like the team we imagined we had. In reality England were pathetic and incapable of inspiring even the most one-eyed fan. And it is even worse than that for many of the team will be past their play-by date come the next World Cup in four years time. Have we the ready replacements? No! Whereas the number of players in the top Spanish league qualified to play for their country is almost 75 per cent our number is 30 and falling. And what did we hear during the tournament? A long list of foreign players to be ‘bought’ by our premiership clubs who are happy to pay out fortunes for this but reluctant to fund even the most basic youth development programmes.
One must accept that the ultimate driving force here is that of the regular fans. If their priority is to have a successful Premiership side then they have to accept that it comes with a price, a low-quality national team. They cannot have both. Even in this tournament the fact that most goalkeepers in the Premiership are not qualified to wear the England shirt almost led to an even greater disaster than was experienced. Only the heroics of David James saved us from total humiliation and he is nudging forty.
But sport is bigger than any of these issues. It can inspire and unite nations in the way that nothing else can. The showcase final should have been a demonstration of all that is good in sport and, by comparison , bad in other aspects of our lives. It was almost ruined by those who valued sportsmanship less than the ideals of fair competition. It almost, but not quite, cast a shadow over the wonderful organisation of the South Africans and the legacy that it deserves to leave to those in poverty.
One final thought. As the inquest rumbles on let us ignore those who choose to blame the referee. When asked about an official’s performance, the late Bill Shankly once remarked that he hadn’t seen him kick or maul anyone. Sportmanship has no need of arbiters!
IN THE NEWS THIS MONDAY; The Food Safety Standards Agency is to be abolished. It seems that the retail giants have friends in high places! XX Lord Mandelson is appearing in TV ads to promote his memoirs. He even refers to himself as The Prince of Darkness. XX Cancer recovery rates are rocketing. But what effect will the fall in forward development budgets have? XX The spies released from Russia are residing in an unnamed hotel in Southern England. They will take a break from spying before their relaunch.
THINGS I LEARNED YESTERDAY FOR THE FIRST TIME; The Government Communication HQ in Cheltenham employs 5,500 but only 2.49% are from ethic minorities. xx The chief executive of fashion group Burberry, Angel Ahrendts, has received cash, benefits and shares worth £6.1 million. XX Marc Bolland, new chief exceutive of M & S, was lured from Morrisons with rewrads up to £15 million.