Posts Tagged ‘Cameron’
This is one of those mornings when one looks back with regret at having refused the chance to emigrate. Someone near to the allotments had erected a mass of flashing Christmas decorations in their front garden, now they are draped along our boundary hedge. Inside our domain, roof panels compete with fallen leaves and two coops have sunk into a sea of mud. And as we struggled to restore order a bitingly cold wind carried away our curses. Chicks at Easter are the stuff of dreams and painted eggs, chickens in December are a recipe for POIS which to the unitiated stands for pissed off in spades.
But for most of the gang things could be a great deal worse. All around us we see people suffering great hardship, not least the young people, many of whom in these parts are searching for work. Today we learn that the government is proposing to apply pressure to cancer sufferers with the threat of taking away their disability allowances should they fail to satisfy ”back to work” panels that they are truly incapable of working. Clearly whichever halfwit came up with this wheeze has never endured the experience of cancer. The truth is that in their desperate search for more ways of reducing costs the government are looking in the wrong place.
As with their reluctance to tackle the nation’s big earners and tax evaders, Cameron and Osborne are also avoiding any move likely to offend their other supposedly big supporter’s group, the over-65s. But having the dubious privilege of being in that category does not necessarily mean that one is, as the Cockneys have it, brassic-lint. Some of my pals are reliant on the state pension and there is no possibility that they could exist solely on that. But the majority of us enjoy a company pension awarded before the government began to destroy such things. To be blunt, we can manage perfectly well without winter fuel payments, bus passes, free TV licences and special tax allowances. Of course we like to have them but with so many younger people suffering real hardship, as against a reduction in pleasures, we can see no reason for special treatment simply because we are ancient.
Of all the bountiful gifts bestowed on us by politicians in the grip of obsessions about ‘grey voting power’, the most ludicrous of all is the bus pass. Most of us have never bothered to obtain one but we know many who have, and few of them really depend on them to get them from A to B, a feat that would be unaffordable without a free pass. Most of those we know who carry a pass in their purses or wallets regard them as a ticket to ride purely for the sake of riding somewhere. One couple have developed a hobby of travelling the length of the land, a journey of, presumably, a zillion bus stations and irritable drivers.
Nick Clegg recently said that millionaires who happen to be old should forego benefits such as bus passes, TV licences, fuel payments etc. He went on adovocate means testing, an emotion-firing term if ever there was one. Some high-profile figures have already taken action, the ‘Surviving Winter Appeal’, supported by the likes of Michael Parkinson, Jonathan Dimbleby, Ann Widdecombe and Joan Bakewell, calls on the better off to hand over their winter-fuel allowance of up to £300 to those in greater need. The scheme is to be applauded but essential welfare decisions should not be determined by charity.
Neither should they be determined by means testing or ludicrous talk of millionaires (Clegg has become so close to rich ministers that he imagines they are typical citizens). The simple way to tackle this issue is to use the tax system. Anyone sufficently flush to be paying tax at 40% could be excluded from elderly benefits. It would save a good deal of treasury expenditure which could then be used to further assist youth employment and care of the elderly infirm.
There is inevitably a caveat to this generous proposal from a bunch of codgers. Real action must be taken to tackle bankers and the rest of the top 1% of earners. We realise that they are the privileged friends of very rich government leaders but so long as they are allowed to pocket their millions without paying any tax to speak of, no one will volunteer to help, no one will truly feel that we are all in this mess together.
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Which Gareth Gates hit contains the words “We’re caught in a trap”? 2. In which series did Mark Benton play a tramp called Sheldon? 3. Who produced the Communist Manifesto with Friedrich Engels? 4. What is a firebat? 5. Where are your fontanelles? 6. Which American protest singer is linked to the “dustbowl ballads”? 7. Who wrote the stories subsequently televised as “Poldark”? 8. In which time device would you find an escapement? 9. The port of Archangel is in which country? 10. The Titanic was launched in which city?
When, as part of their attempt to ‘sell’ their NHS reforms, David Cameron and Andrew Lansley announced that the NHS was failing cancer patients several of my allotment pals were deeply disturbed. Up to that point they had clung to the belief that if any organisation could save their nearest and dearest it was the NHS. Although we were still all opposed to the idea of applying massive reforms at the same time as imposing £20 billion cuts, we were shaken by the claim that our cancer services were the worst in the developed world.
When the controversy reached its heights, with virtually the whole of the medical profession warning of the extreme dangers of the Lansley plan for localised commissioning and the introduction of the private sector, it was apparent that the bill was seriously flawed. It was then that Cameron repeated his election claim that Britian had “a higher rate of cancer deaths than even Bulgaria”. Both he and Lansley repeatedly justified their draconian plan by emphasising that both survival and death rates from cancer are extremely poor by internatiuonal standards. Without doubt the seemingly honest announcement rattled many who were on the brink of supporting the huge campaign to save our health service.
We now learn that they lied. New research released yesterday has, not surprisingly, received little publicity in the right-wing newspapers for it shows that the NHS, far from being at the bottom of the cancer mortality league, is in fact “the international leader in tackling the disease”. A study published in the British Journal of Cancer covers extensive research by Prof Colin Pritchard, a health academic at Bournemouth University and Dr Tamas Hickish, a consultant medical oncologist at Poole and Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospitals. The authors studied cancer mortality and the amount of GPT spent on healthcare between 1979 and 2007 in England and Wales and nine other countries including Germany, the USA, Spain, Japan and France.
In a statement Pritchard said yesterday that the research shows that the ministers have “misrepresented the NHS’s record on cancer in order to gain support for their unpopular shakeup”. In fact England and Wales saw the biggest drop in mortality among males aged 15-74 – down 31%. While six countries saw falls of at least 20%, England and Wales – which in 1979-81 had the third highest rate with 4,156 deaths per million men – improved the most, achieving by 2004-06 2869 deaths per million. Among men aged 52-64 and 65-74, who are more likely to get cancer, mortality dropped by 35% and 28%.
While mortality among women the same age declined by less, at 19%, that was the third biggest improvement after Japn (23%) and Germany (20%).
The research goes on to show just how good England and Wales are on cancer care, relative to spend. It makes clear that; “We do significantly more with proportionately less funding. It means that 34,484 people are alive today who wouldn’t have been if things had not improved since 1980″. The reference to funding reminds us that the percentage of GDP spent on the NHS is significantly lower that that of most of the other countries covered by the research. It specifically mentions that, in monetary terms, the NHS is “vastly superior to the private healthcare system of the USA”.
The authors of the report rightly point out that we must always strive for further improvement. Our mortality rates may be amongst the best in the world but every death is one too many. The tragedy is that the result of what one leading clinician has called a totally unintelligible bill will undoubtedly be to reverse the improvements that have occurred.
As Pritchard himself remarks, Cameron and Lansley are happier with NHS ‘bad news’ stories, rather than “celebrating the considerable achievements in recent years of the NHS”.
The reason for that is obvious but nothing can justify telling lies which, apart from damaging the reputation of the NHS, have caused untold misery to the millions who have been diagnosed with the disease we all fear above any other.
This news broke on the day that Theresa May admitted that she has no idea as to how many unwelcome guests have been arriving in the UK. Call it incompetent or dishonest, either way this government is becoming less appealing by the day!
OOOO JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ OOOO
When I penned my recent piece on the death of democracy I underestimated the willingness of at least some MPs to stand up for it. In last night’s debate in the Commons on the need for a referendum on Europe, an impressive number of Conservative MPs made it clear that having been party to a promise to consult the people, they had no moral alternative than to vote for a national vote. Despite a three-line whip imposed by the prime minister, 82 voted for a referendum and a further 15 abstained. In all about half of all Conservative members, outside the “payroll vote” of ministers and their aides, defied Davd Cameron and the barrage of threats to which they had been subjected. Of course the motion was lost since Cameron can rely on his lapdog Lib Dem partners, and his dormant Labour opponents, to support him.
The point here is that the vote was not about leaving Europe, loosening our ties, or staying in. It was simply about the right of the people to express a view on an issue that impinges on every family in the land. If truth be told when, in the run-up to the election, Cameron pledged to force a referendum at the “earliest moment” he was of course indulging in the type of politics that has brought the art so low in the public view. The reality undoubtedly is that whilst he does have reservations about Brussels, he has even greater reservations about the concept of listening to public opinion. For different reasons Miliband feels much the same way.
One of the most dramatic moments of the debate came with the resignation of Philip Hollobone, an aide to David Lidington, the Europe Minister. He pointed out that the debate was the result of a public petition and said that supporting the referendum motion could help to “restore public confidence in politicians and Parliament”. He went on to say: “Heres our opportunity to show people that actually the system can work; that representative government does actually continue to function in the land where it was nurtured and developed; that patriotism, putting your country rather than your own interests first, is not foreign to this House”. He was followed by Stewart Jackson, another PPS, who also resigned, accusing Mr Cameron of “catastrophic mismanagement in terms of my party”. He in turn was followed by a large number of other Conservative MPs most of whom emphasised the importance of keeping promises conveyd by them to their constituents.
None of them were heard by the prime minister who left the House after giving his own version of things. He didnt have a good day. His analogy of helping a neighbour to put out a fire was ridiculous. Yes, one would do that but that doesnt imply that one would also allow the neighbour to impose countless rules on ones own household. But, as is often the case anything daft said by the king of spin was more than matched by Ed Miliband. He said that when the French President told the prime minister to shut up he was speaking for Britain. Mr Miliband clearly hasn’t spoken to many of what he terms ‘ordinary people’.
A new poll out today reveals that almost 75 per cent believe that the British people should have the opportunity to express a view on the EU. Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have shown total contempt for that view, clearly they hold a very low view of the people and of the democratic process.
I suspect that their view of us all is reciprocated. I thought I would never say this, but I admire the 97 Conservatives who at least demonstrated that not all MPs are simply ‘voting fodder’ and there is some point in electing representatives.
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It seems that there are a few shock-waves rolling around the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. On the face of it the senior coalition partners have every reason to feel satisfied for, despite the severest cuts to public services in our history, the Tories are still neck-and-neck with Labour. But for them a very threatening situation appears once one examines the breakdown of the projected support. In short, whilst the Tory support from men is holding firm, the opposite is true of the women.
In the latest ICM poll there was merely a modest lead for Labour amongst men (26% against 24.5% for the Tories). But amongst women at large the difference is more pronounced (27% against 21%). And when you examine the breakdown further there is a real shock. Amongst women aged 55 and over the number “dissatisfied with the way Cameron is doing his job” has leapt from 27% at the start of the year to 48%. These are election-changing figures. So what is happening?
Probably the first reaction from the Tory spin-doctors was that the prime minister’s unfortunate comments to two female MPs has turned women off. But the decline was recorded before he did that. It may be that his apology didn’t help, but the chauvanism was not the prime cause. However he was probably ill-advised to claim that he identifies with the problems women have “around the kitchen table”. His remarks sounded patronisng and unreal given that he lives in a very different world and his wife markets bags for prices greater than the average household income.
YouGov polling suggests that the huge fall in the support of women came before Cameron’s “calm down dear” moment. Yes, there may be some relationship between Cameron’s perceived attitude to women and their withdrawal of support, but he missed the point completely when he remarked that he is not “a sort of all right luv, I’ m down the pub tonight bloke”. No one thought that he goes around in a string vest, sinking pints and smoking roll-ups. It seems that many women see him as a posh boy with a default setting of condescension to the fairer sex, which he sometimes fails to hide quickly enough.
But the real issue is that the coalition is dominated by men who, not surprisigly, take a male view of what should be cut. The services hit most severely have been things affecting, primarily, women and children. And there are perceived injustices on women’s pensions . Even on announcements made to woo back the disaffected there are clear signs of masculine judgement ; to close libraries and baby clinics is fine but the policy of bin collections is the priority. That is almost certainly not how many women see it.
The truth is that the Conservative Party of today is dominated by men. Only 16% of their current MPs are women and a study by the academics Sarah Childs and Paul Webb (‘Sex, Gender and the Conservative Party”) concludes that Cameron backed away from his earlier determination to feminise the Party. This was, they say, a “major missed opportunity”. Given more women around the cabinet table it is unlikely that leaving Labour to talk about child tax credits, early learning centres and healthcare would not have happened. The latest reports showing the decimation of nursing would have been challenged for, whilst not all women are nurses, the cause resonates more clearly with them than with men. Likewise all children-directed benefits.
A few days ago I was talking to a senior Labour politician in London. I asked him if Labour can possibly win the next election. He replied yes, because by then Yvette Cooper will be the prime minister in waiting. Far fetched? Perhaps not, for she was noticeably the star at the recent Labour conference. And it was also being leaked that Ed Miliband is about to promote Emma Reynolds, Rachel Reeves, Liz Kendall and others.
We blokes of the allotment are just as guilty as Cameron of often not recognising the importance of the female view. But then we are not running the country. He is, and all the signs are that he has totally misread the importance of the female approach to issues that men dismiss so easily.
He will continue to do so at his peril for the Sarah Childs and Paul Webb study illustrates clearly the enormous impact on seats gained given a big swing in the female vote!
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN RULE?
Even Eric Pickles, not perhaps the greatest champion of women’s rights, was shocked to discover that civil servants have spent over £250 million on inappropriate items. In his speech to the Tory conference big Eric may well highlight, as an example, a visit to a gentlemen’s club for a ‘staff away day’. It cost the taxpayer £5000 and the ‘club’ featured ‘Amber Topaz’ and ‘Lady Beau Peep’!
We now have a roof over our heads on the allotments. Every member now has a base to stage the annual veggie competition and to gather for the sale of seeds and plants in readiness for the Spring or, in the case of greenhouse owners, for early germination. Just like the allotments featured on last night’s ‘Gardener’s World’, our community is a close knit and, usually, happy one. We particularly welcome newcomers and bombard them with advice. To avoid givng the impression that they have joined a geriatric mad-hatters tea party we hen-keepers confine that to matters agricultural. Were it otherwise we would today have been having a rant about the EU!
Whilst we are all delighted to learn of the fall of Gaddafi there are many amongst us still puzzled at our role in his downfall. Only yesterday the RAF were continuing to bombard his supporters and the loss of civilian life is mounting horrendously. And why only Libya given the situation in Syria? But we are told that Cameron has been brave. Ignoring the question as to how bravery can be achieved sitting behind a desk, we tend to ask just when he is going to show equal bravery in standing up to the EU.
Yesterday featured an outpouring of rage against the National Trust by the minister for planning, Greg Clark. The NT has had the timerity to question his claim that every village in the land must concede the right of developers to build more and more housing estates. Never mind the preservation of rural England, we desperately need millions of extra houses to cope with the rocketing population cries the minister. He misses the point that we also need more roads, hospitals and social services to cope. In truth we are a small overcrowded island near to breaking point. We simply cannot continue to allow millions of eastern Europeans to come here. The EU demand that they must be granted automatic entry will destroy not only our heritage but our infrastructure too!
Meantime, the EU has delivered another massive blow to our 4.8 million small businesses. If the present abysmal economic growth chart is ever to recover they are the people who must deliver. That becomes even less likely given the Agency Workers Directive drawn up in Brussels. This will grant temporary agency employees the same employment rights and conditions as permanent workers, including paid holiday entitlement and maternity leave. Right now the use of agencies is keeping many small employers afloat, this new law will make it impossible for them to resort to temporary staff, it will destroy them.
If the government is serious about developing a strategy for growth, it should tell the European Commission that it is suspending all directives that are harmful to job creation. But it wont because, as ministers warned yesterday, this would see us in trouble with the European Court. So Cameron et al will bend the knee and allow another nail to be hammered into the coffin of enterprise. As this blog reported yesterday, Qunago bosses are being pampered and cared for by the coalition. Our business sector is being left to the mercy of unelected big-wigs sitting in ivory palaces.
We chicken-man are far from unanimous in our scepticism about our prime minister. But we are united in one belief. Bombing Libya is not our highest national priority, resurrecting our economy and preserving our heritage most certainly are. And that means taking back the right to run our own affairs.
Come the next election the people will give little thought to Libya and a great deal of thought to the state of our nation. David Cameron is busy digging Colonel Gaddafi’s grave, in conceding the right to rule to Brussels he is also digging his own!
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A SPECIAL SUNDAY QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!