Posts Tagged ‘Bombshell’
It is not often that the hen-keepers are in total sympathy with the Conservative establishment but in regard to the revision of the planning law we stand united with those from whom, some of us at least, usually maintain a healthy distance. Big Eric Pickles has truly got himself into a pickle, he and his shiny-faced leader have for some mysterious reason chosen to pursue a policy guaranteed to bring the wrath of the Tory faithful down on to their balding pates.
Initially Cameron had his Tory fan-club positively purring when he announced that in future communities would be at the heart of what amounted to a new, micro-localist planning process. At last ‘outraged of Surbiton’ would be free to tell would-be rural despoilers where to go ( preferably a hundred miles away). Then came the new national planning framework (NPPF)!
Bombshell! This pledges that “at the heart of the planning system is a presumption in favour of economic development”. This meant that communities and neighbourhood planning must conform to a wider agenda for growth. In effect the much vaunted new powers for localism only allow the communities to say yes. Should they say no to the addition of two thousnad houses to a small village the government inspector has no option than to overrule them.
It was only when revelations of the close links established between ministers and developers broke that the Tory faithful began to smell a rat. Further revelations about the vast amounts of money handed to their Party by would-be builders completed the picture. The new planning act is aimed at giving free rein to any entrepeneur keen to make a fortune and to hell with England’s ‘green and pleasant land’. Indeed it was made clear only last week that the government intends to waive the protection given to the green belt, which seems destined to become the concrete one. And the resulting rural devastation will primarily hit urban dwellers, the majority of whom can be relied upon to vote for a monkey should he or she wear a Blue rosette.
The greatest mystery is that Osborne and Pickles clearly regard housing as an economic driver. Yet, even if this were true, land is not the critical issue. It is not in short supply and cannot therefore be a curb on growth. Permissions already exist for 330,000 unbuilt houses, with 280,000 of them in the banks of the 11 largest developers which constitute the lobby that has influenced the government. This is in addition to 750,000 houses lying long-term empty, thanks to the chronic inadequacy of property taxation. Brownfield sites are estimated to have room for a further 3 million houses.
The much-cited fall in house completions to 140,000 last year had nothing to do with planning and everything to do with the economy. Housing supply correlates with the economic cycle and the availability of subsidy and mortgage finance. The argument is fogged by housing need being confused with demand. The quickest solution is to tax England’s under-occupied housing space and relieve VAT on housing conversion. It is crazy to build in the country when the local town has vacant space in every street and a host of derelict brownfield sites. If the building programme is centered on urban areas there are none of the problems of access to services, shops and roads that accompany every new estate built miles from any of them.
But instead of doing the obvious the government proposes to hand over to developers the right to maximise profits by rapidly destroying the sense of rurality that remains a blessed feature of the 65% of England that lies outside towns. Rural England will soon start to look like the south of Ireland, Spain or New Jersey, its inhabitants ever more reliant on cars, and cities ever more impoverished. Our landscape will sprout the clutter of ads, signs, masts, turbines and sheds that are a feature of so many other countries.
The change will have resulted not from a great cry from the people to be free, or from economic need. It is happening because a powerful and wealthy lobby got a lucky break when the government was vulnerable and ministers were either corrupted or not thinking straight.
Back in 2004 when Grumpy Gordon talked of “liberalising the planning system”, Eric Pickles said on his constituency website that; “The Treasury seems determined to loosen control to make development easier. Adding to suburban sprawl will detract rather than help urban regeneration and brownfield redevelopments, and fuel the migration from our towns and cities”. Spot on Eric, but that is exactly what you are now proposing.
Hostility to this whole idea is building and The National Trust is at its forefront. Cameron and other ministers have attacked the NT membership as a bunch of ignorant Luddites, a selfish incompetent crowd. Harsh words given the massive support that the protector of so much of our heritage enjoys. Politically dangerous words, given that an estimated 85% of the members are said to be supporters of the Conservative Party.
Civil war is breaking out and it is between the government and its core supporters. The opposition is rubbing its hands despite the fact that it has no regard for our countryside. it merely cries let battle commence as Big Eric squares up to the very people that brought him to high office.
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!
1. Whose funeral in Milan in 1997 was attended by Elton John and Naomi Cambell? 2. Which Frenchman was the first to launch menswear and ready to wear collections? 3. Which ex-Tory leader was born on the same day as ex-Goodie Bill Oddie? 4. What is Dr Ross’s first name in “ER”? 5. In which decade was Parliament first televised? 6. Best known as Kat Slater on “EastEnders”, what is actress Jessie Wallace’s real name? 7. Which rugby player joined Ulrika Jonsson as a “Gladiators” presenter? 8. Who played Owen Springer in “Reckless”? 9. Which priest replaced Father Peter in “Ballykissangel”? 10. Which ex-”Gladiators” presenter became an “I’m a Celebrity” contestant?
For some time now it has to be admitted that Nick Clegg has been regarded, on the allotments, as something of a joke. Our ribaldry was probably a reaction to his dramatic fall from grace so soon after most of us had watched in some awe his debut in those TV debates. At the time we dared to hope that here was a man of principle, a fresh face injected in to the tired old Tory/Labour routine, someone who just might transform the way we see politics. Then he seemed to misunderstand the role of a coalition partner and became a pawn in the smooth Cameron trap.
The result was that up until today any mess-up on the allotment, of which there are plenty, was described as a Clegg. Maybe no more. Suddenly Nick Clegg has emerged from the rose garden love-in with all guns blazing, and it helps that his cause is the one that means a great deal to all us old ‘uns, the NHS. Between the lot of us we have a good deal of experience of the heath service administration and we know that improvements are needed. But we are united in believing that the Lansley plan is sheer rubbish, ideologically driven and will destroy the service. Up until today we had the distinct impression that, despite the massive opposition to the proposed reforms, Lansley had no intention of listening. And on more than one occasion this blog has declared in some despair that only the Lib Dems can save the NHS. That was based on the mathematics which show that the Conservatives cannot get the bill through without their support.
Clegg has lobbed a verbal hand grenade in Lansley’s direction. The biggest bombshell of all is his insistence that the bill will definitely have to be re-examined by the House, a step guaranteed to torpedo the launch date of 2013. Clegg has declared that the secretary of state will “continue to be accountable for your health services”. That will please the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs, both of which have opposed the bill’s proposal to abandon the current situation, whereby the heatlth secretary’s legal duty is to provide comprehensive health care for all. The use by Clegg of the word ‘will’ is significant, there is to be no bargaining this time around.
The same applies to his pledge that “there will be no sudden, top-down opening up of NHS services to any qualified supplier”. Bang goes Lansley’s plan to hand over so much to his pals in the private sector. And Clegg no longer refers to GP-led commissiong, the bill’s foundation stone. He insists on “clinician-led commissioning”. In other words hospital doctors will be equally involved. That will be music to the ear of the Royal College of Physicians, another fierce critic of Lansley. And GPs should be “under no obligation to join a consortium”. All of this will clearly derail the bill but Clegg was clear on this too. Lansley’s “arbitrary deadlines” are “no good to anyone” our born-again hero told his astonished audience at University College hospital in London.
This massive volte-face by the Lib Dem leader means one of two things. Either he has agreed all this with Cameron in which case the prime minister faces a massive problem in persuading his back-benchers that health care is not a natural bedfellow of profit, or he has decided to defy Cameron. Either way it is very good news for the NHS and all who depend on it.
By coincidence I read this morning an article written by Tom Riddington, a final year medical student at King’s College, London. He condemns the Lansley plans. He reflects on his training past and yet to come, and concludes that “My training has taught me nothing about money. The health secreatry wants me to use billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money to buy hospital services. I didn’t go to medical school to ration people’s healthcare. It goes against every instinct I have; find the symptoms, make the diagnosis, identify the right treatment – then explain why I can’t afford to provide it”.
Tom goes on to claim that Lansley’s ideas are “dangerous and flawed”.He says that all the senior GPs he has spoken to say they would rather retire than implement such dangerous changes. If that happens it would leave young and freshly qualified GPs with no financial training in charge of commissioning. It would be, Tom argues, rather like “asking accountants to practice medicine”.
Fear not Dr Tom, a shining knight is riding to the rescue. Who would have bet on that just weeks ago? If he keeps his word, Nick Clegg may well bring down the coalition but to do so on the issue that the vast majority care about more than any other could well put the Lib Dems back in favour.
It would also have the benefit of ridding us of Andrew Lansley, a disaster on two legs if ever there was one!
THE NEW EGGHEADS SPECIAL CHALLENGE QUIZ; 1. Which christian name derives from the Germanic for “strong ruler”? 2. Between 1963 and 2006, how many Bond films featured the Aston Martin DB5? 3. The novel “Robinson Crusoe” was based on whose experience? 4. What important post did Millard Fillmore hold? 5. Which magazine serialised “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” in the 1890s? 6. Which group features Peter Salisbury on drums and Simon Jones on bass? 7. Where were the first Winter Olympics held in 1924? 8. Who preceded John Bruton as Prime Minmister of Ireland? 9. What can be a type of musket or a type of rhomboid? 10. How many seasons in the top flight did Alan Curbishley’s Charlton win more than they lost?
I imagine that any observer of our daily efforts with the hens might well conclude that we allotmenteers are experts on the ways of animals. Sadly they would be mistaken, in fact despite years of practice we are still not expert in the ways of chooks. Why do they prefer to sleep in nest-boxes to using perches, and why do they all insist on crowding into one box thus creating a perfect reconstruction of a rail trip to Manchester. To add to our sense of ignorance we noticed headlines in one of today’s journals asking ‘how do hedgehogs have sex?’. We can only answer ‘with difficulty’, hardly the reply of experts.
One thing we do know for sure is that Nick Clegg will soon be running out of his experts, given the rate at which he is firng them. A few days ago we reflected on his sacking of Professor Richards, an expert in mental health, who dared to question an announcement about enhanced services which omitted to mention that others were being depleted to provide the cash. Today he has given marching orders to Lord Oakeshott, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman.
It seems that his Lordship is not impressed with George Osborne’s claim to have tamed the Banks. He said “if this is robust action on bank bonuses, my name’s Bob Diamond and I’m going to claim my £9 million bonus”. But he didn’t stop there. He went on to say of the Treasury negotiators “they’ve got an awful combination of arrogance and incompetence, most of them couldn’t negotiate themselves out of a paper bag”. He didn’t seem unduly upset by his dismissal for he went on to say “I’m afraid that the Banks have taken the treasury for a ride and I’ll be more comfortable saying that from the backbenches”
As if on cue, within an hour of that little bombshell another was dropped. Stephen Hester, the chief executive of RBS, which only exists at all thanks to a massive injection of taxpayers money, has been given a £2.04 million bonus on top of his salary of over a million. The extraordinary payment was immediately described by Vince Cable as “extraordinarily wrong”. Maybe Uncle Vince will be the next to go!
The truth is that the deal with the Banks is not worth the paper it was printed on. The supposed concession on lending more is written alongside caveates that make clear that it is not enforceable. When you add in the massive tax concessions outlined only yesterday on this site, you can only conclude that it is game set and match to the Banks, the multi millionaire allies of the multi millionaire Chancellor. Indeed the Daily Mail – hardly an anti-Tory organ – today devotes a full page to the PR disaster of the “Tories being so matey with the super-rich”.
Yesterday I watched Nick Clegg being verbally assaulted by a group of students who were incensed by his broken promise on tuition fees. He floundered and pontificated and he became quite angry. I had the distinct impression that he would have liked to fire them too. He rose to fame during the televised election debates thanks to his good presentation skills. What we didn’t realise then is that there is no substance behind that dazzling facade. We also hadn’t seen the ruthless streak.
It all amounts to bad news for Britain. Labour can huff and puff all it wants but only the Lib Dems can restrain the coalition’s madcap drive toward oblivion. And if you doubt my view read the letter published today by the leader of Liverpool Council which was heralded as the model to follow when creating a ‘Big Society’. Cllr Anderson ends his letter with ” A whole army of volunteers has seen through the big society as nothing more than a smokescreen for massive spending cuts that undremine the very fabric of society. We want nothing to do with it!”.
Councillor Anderson can expect his P45 from Nick at any time. Of course he could switch from local government to the Banks where he would find that all is more than well with the world!
Dear Reader No responses as yet to my plea for guidance on the THOUGHTS FOR TODAY feature. Do you want me to continue with it? Either way here is today’s researched selection. Dennis
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “A highbrow is someone who can listen to the ‘William Tell Overture ‘ and not think of The Lone Ranger”….Jack Perlis “Few think more than two or three times per year. I’ve made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week”…George Bernard Shaw “Boxing got me started on philosophy. You bash them, they bash you, and you think, what’s it all for?”…..Arthur Mullard “I need eight hour’s sleep per day. And ten hours at night”…..Bill Hicks “Many are called, but few get up”…..Oliver Herford “If you want the world to beat a path to your door just try having a nap on a Saturday afternoon”….George Burns “People who say that they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one”……Leo J Burke “”Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business”….Dave Barry “I’ve just been on holiday by mistake to the Norfolk B-Roads”…Peter Kay “Always choose the oldest customs official; no chance of promotion”…..Somerset Maughan “I see nothing wrong with power so long as I am the person holding it”….Cecil King “Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go , it’s one of the best”….Woody Allen “I remember the first time I had sex because I kept the receipt”….Bill Brandis
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. The Labour Party 2. The Prince of Wales
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. She starred in many films as a dotty English lady, played Miss Marple, and died in 1971. Who was she? 2. In what sphere did Otto Klemperer win fame?
Harold Wilson once remarked that a week in politics is a long time. It seems that he was right. Just a week ago the general sentiment in the allotment shed was definitely pro-Coalition. Today a noticeable change was evident and even allowing for the postponement of ferret racing due to the arrival of the monsoons the members were unusually grumpy. The small element that opposed the idea from the start were in an ‘I told you so’ mood whilst the majority who realise that the Cameron/Clegg dream ticket is our last hope now realise that the word dream was a little overblown.
Perhaps the last straw came in the shape of David Laws. Unknown to us until suddenly rocketed to supreme power as the head of the campaign to slash expenditure, he made a good initial impression. Here was a no-nonsense Lib Dem determined to get over the message that in the crucial months ahead every penny must count. He more than any other had the task of persuading us that sacrifices had to be made and examples set. The Daily Telegraph, which seems better able that the official Watchdog to monitor expenses, has produced evidence that Mr Laws is hardly in a position to preach to us and his position is clearly untenable.
Prior to this bombshell we had the fiasco of the BBC’s Question Time. Millions tuned in to hear the traditional debate about the Queen’s Speech only to learn that the Coalition had refused to field a Minister unless the membership of the panel was changed. Even the normally avuncular David Bumblebee was moved to remark that it was not for Downing Street to dictate such things. It was both incompetent and arrogant, a sign perhaps of the knives being sharpened for our only truly independent broadcaster.
When Mr Cameron came to Yorkshire he did appear to partly redeem things when he spoke of the need to reintroduce manufacturing into our economy. If a nation fails to make things it must import them and that is not a good way to establish a sound balance of trade. But the Old Etonian then plunged into the black books of many of the ferreters when he added that we must do it Thatcher-style. Hardly! Many of our members are skilled time-served men who were swept on the human scrap heap when the Thatcher government set about destroying our manufacturing base. One Minister at the time told me that our day was done, why engage in dirty work when other countries wil do it for you!
There are countless examples, none more appalling than the fate of the Leyland Vehicles and Rover Group empires which contained many plants involved in high quality, highly profitable components. When the Government gifted the empires to companies from abroad no attempt was made to ensure that the manufacturing base was retained in the UK.
We were constantly told that Britain had the benefit of ‘invisible earnings’. We have since learned that what the Banking houses did was invisible in more ways than one! We began to breed a massive industry based on consultancy and bureaucracy. The pin-stripe replaced the greasy overall.
One can only hope that Mr Cameron’s plan to return to the old dollar-earning skilled crafts is more firmly founded than it sounds. It needs to be more reliable than what he and his twin brother Clegg predicted about fat cats and the Lords. It will be streamlined and no longer based on the old pals network they cried to frenzied appaluse of disgruntled ferret keepers. Today we read of 55 more Peers being appointed. Amongst their numbers are a line up of those who backed Cameron including Michael Howard, donor Dolar Popat and other cronies. And as if to prove that none of the parties meant what they promised other appointments include two-Jags Prescott, Ian Paisley and all.
This catalogue of mishaps has occured in a week when changes to capital gains tax mean a further hammering for long-term savers. Many older folk rely on the interest from savings made over a lifetime of thrift. Small wonder that our Dave dropped hints about interest rate rises. But even that was odd since the Bank of England led by the dynamic Mervyn King is supposed to be in sole charge of such matters.
But, as one of the more optimistic ferret racers remarked, maybe one week from now we will be back to singing the praises of the marriage made in heaven. Then again his record at forecasting the outcome of the Thursday night ferret race suggests that he is to forecasting what Cyril Smith was to abseiling!
Tomorrow………………..How much do we really know?………………………..?