Posts Tagged ‘Clegg’
It is time to batten down the hatches according to the weathermen. We’ve done our best on the allotments this morning and can now only pray that the talk of hurricane-force winds is wide of the mark. Should it happen expect to see a flock of chickens circling Manchester airport. The spectacle could even include a little fat chap since Albert insists he will stay with his flock if the worst develops!
So there is plenty to moan about this cold morning, and the one thing we are good at is moaning. But we realise that we are much blessed compared with the jobless and elderly who have effectively been left abandoned by a government continuing to stick to a fiscal plan that even Bladrick would recognise as unworkable.
Today we learn that unemployment is on course to hit 3 million for the first time in 20 years. We also learn that the desperately needed reforms to elderly care have been put back to 2025. Both situations are totally unacceptable, and will undoudtedly lead to social unrest in the first case and extreme hardship and cruelty in the second.
Yesterday brought Prime Minister’s Question Time and one would have expected a serious debate about a crisis rapidly spinning out of control. What did we get? A pathetic yah-hoo of childish taunts from Cameron and Miliband. The leader of the opposition did make the valid point that the government’s belief that cuts in public worker’s numbers would be offset by increases in the private sector has proved to be nonsense given that, in the absence of measures to boost growth, business volume is falling sharply. But from that point the two men turned the exchange into a comedy. Miliband taunted Cameron about his rift with Clegg, Cameron then focussed on the Miliband family divisions. They went on to enact a scene that resembled Captain Mainwaring’s set-to’s with Mr Hodges, the grocer/ARP chief. They undoubtedly went to bed chuckling, the jobless and elderly – if they watched this rubbish at all – probably shed tears on their pillows.
As each day passes it becomes ever more evident that Keynes was right. To beat recession there must be growth stimualtion aimed at encouraging consumer spending, albeit not based on debt. Unless Osborne changes tack the private sector will continue to contract. Given the choice the few companies that recruit will understandably select experienced applicants and the number of young people who have never worked will continue to rocket.
We already know that care for the elderly infirm is at breaking point and there have been various revelations of neglect and cruelty. Yesterday Lansley refused to rule out a new tax on pensioners to pay for the soaring costs of old age, and his advisers admitted that key parts of the proposed reforms may not take place until 2025. Spending cuts have already driven some care homes out of business, while inspectors have warned that elderly and vulnerable people are being abused by poorly trained helpers in their own homes.
Earlier this year, a government commission led by Andrew Dilnot, an economist, recommended a series of reforms including a plan for individuals to take out private insurance to cover the first £35,000 of any nursing or care home costs they might incur in old age. Costs would be capped and care bills over the £35,000 limit would be met by the state. He also recommended that short term measures were needed to protect those already in care.
That will of course cost money so the answer is no hope. Yet when the Olympic committee asks for a doubling of its budget for the opening ceremony the answer is go ahead. And the high-speed rail project is gobbling cash even before the controversial plan is approved.
We clearly have a strange sense of priorities compounded by an economic strategy that simply won’t work. But the worst fact of all is that our leading politicians don’t care. Both major parties are devoid of initiatives and intent only on point-scoring. Yes, the situation is serious but there seems to be no concern for either young people seeking work or elderly needing decent care.
We have lost our soul and there are no champions to point to a better tomorrow!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Rio de Janeiro 2. Australia and Tasmania 3. Cairo 4. Camp David 5. Martha’s Vineyard 6. Between East and West Berlin 7. Florida 8. Israel and Jordan 9. Iraq 10. Nile
If there is such a thing as a Duke of Edinburgh fan club, we codgers of the allotments should be in it. Philip is held in high esteem amongst our gang and not just because he is even older than we are. Some of us remember him as a dashing naval commander, few would have bet on his lasting the course as a silent member of a privileged and somewhat outdated clique. But he has toed the line apart from the occasional outburst. And today the papers are full of one of them.
We have always contended that the man is worth listening to, that he has more expoerience and nous than Cameron, Clegg and Miliband merged into one. And why shouldn’t he speak out, this is still supposedly a democracy. Yesterday he did just that in a conversation with Esbjorn Wilmar, of Infinergy, which builds and operates turbines. Philip was quick on the attack, he described wind turbines as “absolutely useless, completely reliant on subsidies and an absolute disgrace”. We agree wholeheartedly.
The Duke went on to ask if Mr Wilmar believes in fairy stories. a good question since almost everything we have been told about wind farms is just that, a fairy story. Right now every electricity customer is paying around £90 per year to subsidise the monstrosities that are popping up everywhere. Heaven help you if you live withing two miles of a land-based version for the noise emitted is horrendous, so much so that right across the country turbines are being switched off during strong winds following a huge number of complaints about unacceptable noise levels. Residents near a new 22-turbine wind farm in Fullabrook, Devon, report that the noise is so acute that many sleep on sofas in their front rooms!
Already the UK has 3,421, with 2941 being onshore. Incentives are being paid to land owners with a view to a further 4500 being erected urgently, most of them owned by overseas companies, which currently receive around £500 million per year in government subsidies.
Noise apart, there is another major problem. During the coldest weather there is usually little wind and turbines cannot produce power without wind. On the other hand when there are very strong winds the national grid cannot cope with the surge and the power produced cannot be stored. Ministers contend that wind harnessing is essential if we are to meet the official commitment to produce 32 per cent of Britain’s electricity from 2020. But it simply will not work.
Even if we were able to build 10,000 turbines between then and now, they would come nowhere near meeting a third of our needs – indeed, during the coldest winter months, when demand is highest, they would supply only about one tenth of the demand. That means that gas-fired power stations, whose operation pushes more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And electricity generated by wind is vastly more expensive that that generated in other ways.
Of course there is an urgent need to generate clean electricity while cutting our use of fossil fuels. But wind farms are not the answer, neither is solar power, wave power or tidal power. The theory in every case sounds fine but the volume capabilility is very low indeed. Sadly the only way to pursue a dynamic green energy power is to build new nuclear power stations.
Not a popular idea. But simply spending vast amounts of something that can never make a significant impact is ludicrous, truly a fairy story.
Predictably, the politicians are rushing to silence the Duke and anyone else who dares to question their supposed wisdom. Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, calls opponents of wind-power “curmudgeons and fault-finders”. Coming from someone who seems incapable of remembering whether or not he was driving a car, that is rich. Coming from someone who supports spending £1 billion on buying up properties to clear the way for high-speed rail which will serve a tiny fraction of those suffering appalling rail services, it is as rich as Albert’s wife Christmas cake.
Good for the Duke. He may not have been elected but he regularly demonstrates a good deal more sense than those that were!
VIEW FROM (NEAR TO) THE SPEAKER’S CHAIR!
Sally Burcow in today’s Sunday Star; “First it was Labour’s fault, then the snow was to blame. And now its the Eurozone’s turn. Next thing you know it will be leaves on the line. How easy this politics game is. Just avoid taking responsibility and pass the buck!
Well I’m afraid it won’t wash. Unemployment figures are at a 17-year high and more than a million young people are out of work. For the government to blame the Eurozone is absurd. The fact is jobless figures always have a time lag . There is more connection with what happened six months ago.
It is time for this Government to stop pointing the finger at other people – or the weather. Come on Tories, man up and take responsibility – you’re fast running out of excuses. They urgently need a plan to stimulate growth and create new jobs. They should delay no longer.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. A cucumber 2. Jans Lehmann 3. Sutton Pierce 4. The Mikado 5. St Leger 6. Peter (Rabbit) 7. A Human 8. An Alto 9. Partridges 10. Saddam Hussein
There were one or two disgruntled souls amongst us this morning as we sorted out the squabbling hens. The reason was twofold. As happens when daylight hours reduce the hens have reduced their egg output more than somewhat, it is a time when even the most enthusiastic questions the amount of work involved and its reward. But the main reason for Albert and Billy doing a Victor Meldrew was that the vote went aginst them at last night’s gathering of the alloments association. But, as someone pointed out, that’s democracy for you. Everyone has a vote and sometimes the verdict isn’t what one desires.
I have long suspected that the democracy that we Brits love to lecture other countries about only happens at local level. We elect MPs, which is democratic, but they are prevented by the parliamentary whip system from reflecting the feelings of their constituents, which isn’t. And today we have the perfect example.
In preparation for Monday’s vote on an EU referendum, the Daily Express commissioned a YouGov survey. The poll found that more than two-thirds of all voters – 67 per cent – would like their MPs to vote in favour of holding a referendum. Of Tory supporters 78 per cent were in favour, of Labour 59 per cent and of Lib Dems 57 per cent. Equally telling is the fact that 75 per cent wanted MPs to be free to vote according to their personal views, having taken readings in their constituencies. Immigration was cited as the biggest factor encouraging a desire to reconsider our EU links with 81 per cent and 60 per cent of Tories and Labour respectively making clear their unease.
So, this being a democracy, Monday’s vote will be an historic one. Actually no. Cameron, Miliband and Clegg have all imposed a three-line whip with instructions to their MPs to vote down the proposal for a referendum. Some MPs are so incensed that they may risk rebellion but anyone with even the faintest ambition for promotion will not dare to do so. But in defying public opinion perhaps the reviled trio are at least standing by their beliefs. Actually no!
The records show very clearly what each man promised before the election. Cameron was crystal clear, a Conservative government would hold an early referendum to establish the view of the people in regard to Brussels. Clegg claimed to be “passionate” about a referendum and added that; “We’ve been signed up to Europe by default; two generations have never had their say”. Miliband made no secret of his love of Europe, but did promise the referendum that both Blair and Brown failed to hold despite promising to do so.
It is therefore not unreasonable to charge all three with telling lies. Neither is it unreasonable to charge them with a total contempt for, and disregard of, democracy. Few see the benefits of being a member of a vast bureaucratic and unaccountable organisation. Few support many of the myriad of regulations, the talk of an EU army and constant leaks revealing waste and corruption. But that is beside the point which is that the people have a right to at least express a view.
Let us hope that at least some brave souls will refuse to be told what they can and cannot vote for on Monday. Norman Tebbit spoke for many people of all political persuasions when he said yesterday that imposition of a gag in parliament will “embitter” many. It will, he said, be seen by voters as “a mixture of threats, cowardice and clever political manoeuvring”.
It will also tell us a good deal about the snivelling and dishonest leaders of our so-called democracy!
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH OUR WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. What did MGM stand for? 2. What colour is puce? 3. Which “Pop Idol” winner appeared on “You are What You Eat”? 4. Who was the first presenter of the TV series “Tomorrow’s World”? 5. Which cartoon character was the “fastest mouse in Mexico”? 6. Who had 90s No.1 hits with “The Power” and “Rhythm is a Dancer”? 7. Which US state is the second smallest? 8. According to the saying, who rush in where angels fear to tread? 9. What is Blue Vinney? 10. Who wrote “Five Children and It” and “Wet Magic“?
It is hard to believe that just a week ago we were complaining about the heat. Today we cleaned out the hens in an howling gale and temperatures capable of freezing a brass monkey, in the unlikely event that such a creature would inhabit an allotment. But be thankful for small mercies, the season of political party conferences is over and we shall no longer have our evening news dominated by pictures of Clegg, Miliband and Cameron reading out speeches written by spin-doctors and received with rapturous applauise for those daft enough to attend such things. Neither will we suffer the irritation of hearing that the shebangs have cost the taxpayer millions in terms of police overtime, traffic diversions and civic receptions.
As if to demonstrate what an utter farce these things are the three leader’s script-writers released the texts of the main address at least a day before it was read/acted by the mighty ones. In the case of Cameron, the process proved not only futile but rather revealing. In the version released overnight to the press his writers had the great man urging everyone to pay off their credit cards. It was only when the papers headlined the advice that someone realised that, in the unlikely event that anyone took notice and acted, the economy would dive even faster than it currently is. What is needed is more spending, not more saving said the gurus, and by the time Cameron slithered to the podium he had performed his zillionth U-turn.
Since we can reasonably designate the Lib Dems as a sort of flacid limb of the Conservatives, it seems equally reasonable to regard David Cameron’s words as being those of the government. Right now the only issue that matters is the plunging economy and it has to be said that he cast little bread on to the waters. There seemed little substance, merely a supposedly Churchillian appeal to rally to the flag, to put the Great back in Great Britain.
Unfortunately, according to The International Monetary Fund (IMF), Germany and the UK, both of whom are still able to borrow at low interest rates, should now “consider delaying” their cuts programme. The IMF argues that Britain could afford to raise its debt by 50% of GDP without triggering a crisis. The benefit would be growth. But all that Cameron and George Osborne came up with was a wheeze to make people pay £1000 for an unfair dismissal hearing. Good stuff for the right-wing, but hardly likely to impact on our flat-growth pojection.
“We are the party of enterprise” squeaked Mr Osborne. As figures published over the weekend show, his party is first and foremost the party of the City of London and financial engineering. More than half the party’s donations in the last year came from the City and banking. Its most lavish donors were hedge funds, financiers and private equity firms; the very interests which drove the financial sector over the cliff in 2007-8.
It’s not just slashing the rate of corporation tax for banks, or delaying the milk-and-water Vickers bank ringfencing proposals until 2009, or refusing to clamp down on bank bonuses or vetoeing a financial transactions Tobin tax. Its the refusal to intervene directly in banking or finance to drive recovery that most starkly reveals whose interests the government puts first.
Sadly if you examine the other actions by the Chancellor you find a similar pattern. When he struck a deal with Switzerland, and British tax evaders stashing their ill-gotten gains in Swiss banks, he could have held out for £25 billion. Instead he settled for £5 billlion. Meantime changes to controlled foreign company rules, capital allowances, inheritance tax and similar levies (all of which reward only corporations or the ultra-rich) will deprive the exchequer of billions.
It is against this background that the government has to hammer the middle and lower income classes to balance the books, although even this isn’t happening so far in the austerity regime. To be fair the governmnet has an enormous political dilemma. It has to convince the mass of the people that we are all in this together whilst at the same time maintaining its warm relations with its political paymasters. Not dissimilar to the dilemma of the Labour Party and the trades unions, the difference being that Labour is not in power.
One doesn’t need to be Robert Peston to work all this out. But political affiliations are rooted in history and no amount of rhetoric will change the outcome. Which leaves the question about the point of conferences.
They achieve nothing and are simply a way of firing up the activists of each party. Since 96% of us do not come within that label the messages pass us by. After several weeks of successive conferences all I remember is the Labour lot booing Blair’s name, and Theresa May’s porkie about a cat. Lib Dems? I honestly can’t remember anything.
Clearly what is needed is someone at the helm who is not in hock to the City or trades unions. Someone capable of making objective judgements without fear or favour. Robert Peston for PM say I. We wouldn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about but he just might know which buttons to press, and clearly has no concerns at alienating anyone!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. The Pope 2. Estate car 3. The deaf 4. Dakota 5. Thomas Sorenson 6. Tibet 7. Tax 8. Munich 9. Two 10. SAS
I remember holding a straw-poll just after the general election. It was a fine day and a fair number of allotment holders had gathered in the ‘shed’, there was much talk about the negotiations being carried out by the Lib Dems with both Cameron and Grumpy Gordon. Over a third of us had voted Lib Dem and there was a good deal of speculation as to what Clegg – who had bewitched many of us with his TV debate performances – would do.
The course of action favoured by most of his new disciples was that he should opt for allowing the Conservatives to form a minority government with the promise of support so long as its policies were acceptable to the Lib Dems. This would enable the risen stars to act in the national interest whilst leaving them free to maintain their own identity. Even better, they would have retained the right to force a general election on any issue on which they had widespread public support. The result could easily have been a triumph and the first Liberal government in living memory.
But the lure of high office took Clegg along another path. He entered into a marriage of non-equals, and the latest Mori poll tells us that should an election take place now, almost two-thirds of those who voted Lib Dem would no longer do so. In fact a straw poll on the allotments yesterday showed no one willing to contemplate any alternative to the two traditional giants. Tim Farron, the president, said at the Lib Dem conference that “without the Lib Dem influence the Conservative dominated government would have been a “nightmare”. He missed the point which is that without the Lib Dems there would be no Tory-led government.
In reality the Lib Dems have excercised little restraint. The Tories’ ideological prescription for down-sizing the state and pushing ahead with its neoliberal agenda means that the NHS and the welfare state are seriously at risk. The Tories are using the opportunity of the financial crisis to transfer taxpayer’s money from the state to the private sector, not because it is more effective, but because that is what their ideology demands. The Lib Dems have made it possible for the Tories to do pretty much everything they dreamed of doing, with just a little bit of tweaking at the edges as a sop to their junior partners.
On the NHS for example, every expert in the land is warning of its imminent demise and privatisation. The concessions supposedly wrung out of Lansley by the Lib Dems make no difference whatsoever to the thrust of the bill. Had the Lib Dems retained an independent status it would never have seen the light of day.
It is difficult to see how the party that, for a few short weeks, Nick Clegg took to the brink of electoral success can survive at all from the mess that he has created. If, as we all hope, the government succeeds in its economic policy, the credit will go to Cameron and Osborne. Should it fail, the blame will almost certainly be placed at the hands of people such as Alexander and Cable.
In fact any successes will not be shared. Cameron has reasonably claimed success over the intervention in Libya. Do you recall any of his TV appearances on this ever including a mention of Clegg? On Europe, Cameron has undoubtedly been grateful for the option to point at Lib Dem opposition to demands from the right of his party for a referendum and a withdrawal from the Human Rights Act. He is able to tell his right-wing supporters what they want to hear without actually doing anything, thus avoiding a damaging split with the pro-European Tory wing.
Nick Clegg likes to invoke as a comparison the coalition that served the country so well in World War 11. It is pure nonsense. The marriage then was one of equals and so great was the external threat that the nation recoiled from political dogma. There were no ideological debates to be had, Corporal Hitler saw to that.
Nick Clegg’s big address at the Lib Dem conference was every bit as well acted as we have come to expect. He was reading ftrom an autocue and yet still managed to convey the impression of someone sincerely pausing for thought, of someone reaching into his very soul to find the truth. But even in that he did make one huge error.
He chose to launch the bitterest possible personalised attack on Miliband, Ball and others. He publicly burned his boats so far as any possible liaison with Labour is concerned should there be another hung parliament. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, since the possibility of one becomes more remote by the day.
Who knows who will emerge from the next election for both Conservative and Labour parties are less than impressive. But the odds are that one of them will. People will regard a vote for the Lib Dems as one for the Tories. The inevitable outcome will surely be a total redistribution of that impressive Lib Dem vote on a pro or anti Conservative basis.
I take no pleasure in believing this. Just for a fleeting time I, and millions like me, thought we were witnessing the birth of a new age in British politics. We were transfixed by the relatively unknown Clegg. Alas, he lives in cloud-cuckoo land!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Hertfordshire 2. A miller 3. Frank Morgan 4. Andy 5. Rome 6. Canada 7. Michael Bentine 8. Nijinsky 9. Grass 10. As a Tomato
No need to remember my radio this morning for the Test Match is over. Throughout the duration of every game Test Match Special is a must, and even those unenlightened souls who are not obsessed by cricket enjoy listening to the mixture of commentary, anecdotes, stories of cakes and occasional gaffes. Of course the greatest of the latter was Brian Johnston’s reaction to Agger’s immortal line about Ian Botham ‘ failing to get his leg over’. On Tuesday it was once again the blushing Aggers who triggered convulsions. Whilst watching pictures of Kevin Pieterson adjusting his bat handle, Aggers remarked that “It’s not easy putting a rubber on, is it Michael”. With Phil Tufnell alongside Michael Vaughan it was no surprise that once again convulsive laughter stopped play.
On the allotment we all enjoyed that. Come to think about it we’ve enjoyed much of what we’ve heard on the news recently. In fact we have decided to run a sweepstake on the number of about-turns performed by Agger’s fellow Etonian, the prime minister. I’ve drawn 8. The calculation ends on Novbember 1st and I reckon that I’m in with a chance. Of course agreeing what is or isn’t an about-turn can be difficult but we have unanimity on 5 so far.
The fifth emerged yesterday when Justice Secretary, snoozer Clarke, was forced by Number 10 to abandon a plan to give rapists, and other serious offenders, a 50% discount in return for early guilty pleas. Just weeks ago Kenneth Clarke announced that the policy was agreed but Andrew Cooper, the new PR guru in place of the departed former editor of the News of the World, advised Cameron that the Tory brand was being damaged.
Just days earlier Cameron, under pressure from Clegg, in effect dismantled Lansley’s NHS plans which now face rewriting and resubmission to parliament. A few weeks ago the Caroline Spelman plan to sell off the forests met a similar fate, as did the plans announced to make anyone unemployed for more than twelve months lose 10% of their housing benefit. And then there was Cameron’s conversion to interventionalism in foreign civll wars.
Working for this prime minister must in some ways be worse that serving under Grumpy Gordon. He used to decide everything, Cameron leaves his team to dream their dreams and to announce them. He then has private polls of public opinion carried out and, probably, reads the Rupert Murdoch line before deciding whether to step in and stop the whole shebang. You could reasonably say that he makes more screaming U-turns than a getaway driver without a satnav!
The amazing thing is that Ed Miliband seems incapable of even scoring a point as one ministerial humiliation follows another. In the House yesterday the two bickered and threw insults but one was left worrying at the thought of either of them being in charge of a town hall, let alone a country.
But there is a mounting opposition to the saga and it rests on the Conservative backbenches. Several broke cover yesterday in defence of their right wing heroes such as Clarke and Lansley. But the protests could become politically dangerous should the Conservatives begin to reap some of the blame for what is happening. Fortunately for the PM that is not likely so long as the human punchbag called Nick is happy to take the punishment.
My own view is that ‘Dave’ should carry on having his ministers dangle off the gangplank. Just three more and I could be fifty quid in pocket. Should be easy for him for practice makes perfect!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Its star’s John Challis (Boycie) 2. Philadelphia 3. Hilary 4. Dolly and Cissy 5. Eddie Brown’s 6. Darrin Stephens (Bewitched) 7. North Tanton 8. Paul Shane 9. Mrs Polouvicka 10. Bernard Hedges
A blustery but sunny morning as we wandered, in cynical mood, down the lane to the allotments. Cynical? Most of us are permanently cynical, this morning especially so, having just read that Clegg and Cameron had already agreed the changes to the NHS bill before the Sheffield Kid announced on yesterday’s BBC his intention to demand them. As we reached the gate, Albert remarked that expert though the pair are in the art of deception, they will need to produce something very special to explain the situation in Libya.
Almost forgotten it? Understandable, given all the things that have swept it from the headlines since we began our bombing mission there some six weeks ago. But we and the French are still bombing away. Bombing is perhaps the wrong term for we are mainly using missiles which cost a cool £850,000 per one-way trip. According to Reuters we have so far managed to kill or maim almost as many civilians as we have saved from Gaddafi’s wrath.
Shortly before the no-fly zone was imposed Barack Obama assured a bipartisan group in Congress that the action would take “days not weeks”. A week later he told the American nation the aim was limited to purely humanitarian ends. He refuted absolutely any suggestion of regime change. Two weeks later, in a joint letter signed by David Cameron and Sarkozy, he brazenly conceded that it was, after all, about regime change when he said “it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in charge”.
Perhaps that fits with the bin Laden execution. Assassination is now, apparently, the foreign policy du jour. Yesterday, the British defence secretary, Liam Fox, insisted that “Nato does not target individuals”. True, it goes for families. Just over a week ago they killed Gaddaffi’s son and three of his grandchildren. Much waving of American flags over bin Laden but on Libya the French and Brits will soon be left to bomb alone, for Libya is not a popular cause in the States and, having obtained his political pay-off from bin Laden, President Obama is poised to withdraw almost completely.
So here we are with a conflict supposed to last days, and was not about regime change, that has gone on for six weeks, cost a fortune in terms of lives and weaponry, and won’t end until the regime changes. Even as we prepare to negotiate a truce with the Taliban, Gaddafi’s offer of a ceasefire has been rejected out of hand. In the name of humanitarianism, the war must be prolonged. If need be for ever since there is stalemate on the ground.
Of course the bombing does have support to a degree from the United Nations, although many countries are now protesting that the French and British action is beyond that authorised. Many ask why not intervene also in Syria and Yemen, where many protestors are dying daily. There is no logical answer, only the one that the gung-ho French and Brits have already bitten off more than they can chew.
The only way in which they can exit without humiliation is to go in on the ground and some British ‘advisers’ are already there with the increasingly suspect ‘rebel’ forces. But it would need American troops to make up a strong enough force and that is unlikely. A prominent US senator in New Hampshire said ‘if the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of US troops is to prevent genocide, then we should have 300,000 in the Congo right now, where millions have been slaughtered. We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan. We would be staying on in Iraq”. The senator’s name was Barack Obama.
We can pontificate for ever on the Libyan ‘mission’. Unless we arrange an assassination or send in troops there will be no progress, only bloodshed. Surely we can only settle for simply imposing the no-fly zone however ineffective that may be. Right now we are edging into something that we cannot control and which cannot succeed.
The prime minister must tap in to his self-understanding. Hoodwinking Clegg is one thing, doing it to a watchful world an altogether tougher task!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; WRITING “ Your life story would not make a good book. Don’t even try!”…..Fran Lebowitz “Is there any living writer whose silence we would ocnsider to be a literary disaster?”……Cyril Connolly “Advice to writers; sometimes you have to stop writing. Even before you start”……..Stanislaw J Lec “Writing is the hardest way to earn a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators”….William Saroyan “Writing is one tenth perspiration and nine-tenths masturbation”….Alan Bennett “You, a writer? Listen, dear, you couldn’t write ‘fuck’ on a dusty Venetian blind”…….Coral Browne “There was a time when I thought my only connection with the literary world would be that I once delivered meat to T S Eliot’s mother-in-law”……Alan Bennett “Writing is not a profession, but a vocation of unhappiness”….Georges Simenon “Writing is like the oldest profession. First you do it for your own enjoyment. Then you do it for a few friends. Eventually you think, what the hell, I might as well get paid for doing it”…….Irma Kalish
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Francis Ford Coppola 2. Anthony Eden
TODAY’S QUESTIONS ; CAN YOU BEAT THE EGGHEADS?; 1. What kind of sculpture was originated by Alexander Calder, who died in 1976? 2. Who wrote ‘Whatever happened to Sex?’ ? 3. Asuncion is the capital of which country? 4. Which ‘Pop Idol’ star was born Jan 20 1979, in Berkshire? 5. Who had hits with ‘Take Your Time’ and ‘Got to Have Your Love’ ? 6. What is a paravane used for? 7. Dr James Naismith devised which game? 8. In which decade was Jeremy Paxman born? 9. Which worldwide magazine was conceived by DeWitt Wallace? 10.. To within two years, when were postcodes introduced to the UK?
How different life feels on days like this. The allotments are alive with sunshine, every colour is enhanced and the path that has been covered in ice and then mud is suddenly easy on the feet. Even the dandelions, which should have no place in the home of gardeners, are throwing their heads defiantly in the warm air. If only this could last for ever! Mind you there is a flip side to everything, already the water suppliers are warning of a hosepipe ban. Just months ago there were extensive floods and what I don’t understand is the failure to build more reservoirs. But then again the things that I don’t understand would fill a Cyril Smith-sized book!
And right now the Alternative Vote is right up there. We all received a leaflet from ‘call me Dave’ Cameron yesterday. It even has a picture of the Old Etonian signing autographs with his left hand. perhaps he uses the right one for official business? Either way, he is urging us to vote no on May 5th.
The Alternative Vote, says ‘Dave’, is unfair, expensive and discredited. Discredited by whom? Pass, although he does mention that only Australia and Papua New Guinea use it, so maybe Shane Warne and co no longer see it as fair dinkum. He also mentions that countmg can take days which is a real no-no for those who enjoy a tension-laden booze-up on election night. And he underlines the fact that the candidate who finishes third can win.
And that is the feature that puts me off the Clegg/Miliband dream ticket. It’s as if after the 1oo metres final in the Olympics the spectators are asked to list their favourites in a sequence one to five and eventually we are told that Mr Bolt has been displaced on the winners rostrum by Bert Brown from Croydon Harriers.
That may not make sense to you, it scarcely does to me and I wrote it. But even more puzzling to this simple soul is ‘Dave’s’ claim that supporters of such odious people as the BNP will “get their votes counted many more times than everyone else”. I think I know what he means but it is an odd way to put it.
There is of course in all this an assumption that we all have alternative choices. But is this the case? My dear old Gran was what she called ‘a red hot Liberal’ and hated any candidate that threatened gorgeous Lloyd George and his mates. I suspect there are many who on the left and right who feel much the same and would only tick a second or third choice as a means of tactical voting.
I am open to persuasion on this. Right now, first-past-the-post seems more in line with my approach to life, I certainly disagree with Albert and Jack. they refuse to vote until such time as the ballot paper offers ‘None of them’ as an option. If everyone followed that approach it wouldn’t take long to count the votes, but it sounds a bit unpatriotic to me. And in extremis it would leave the loopy bloke from Bacup who always votes and always votes for the Monster Raving Loonies running the country. On second thoughts, that might be no worse than now!
I’ve just had a final thought. Why is PR guru ’Dave’ so keen to have a no vote? Presumably because he sees disadvantage for the Tories under AV. And I don’t even understand that !
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY: FASHION; “A dress has no meaning unless it makes a man want to take it off”….Francoise Sagan “The Pope. Great guy. But in a fashion sense, he’s one hat away from being the Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan”…..Jon Stewart “Her hat looks as if it had made a forced landing on her head”…..Harriet Cobb “A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off for the rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat”….P J O’Rourke ”They should put expiration dates on clothes so we would know when they go out of style”…..Garry Shandling “Some women hold up dresses that are so ugly and they always say the same thing. ‘This looks much better on’ On what? On fire?”…..Rita Rudner “I don’t own a dress. I wear skirts but I look like a netball teacher”….Victoria Wood “you have no idea how much it costs to look this cheap”….Dolly Parton “A sweater is a garment worn by a child when his mother feels chilly”…..Nora Ephron “If the shoe fits get another just like it”…..George Carlin “Men who wear turtlenecks look like turtles”…..Doris Lily “The softer a man’s head, the louder his socks”……Helen Rowland “Some women think bikinis are immodest. Others have beautiful figures”….Olin Miller
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Harold Wilson 2. Margaret Thatcher
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who wrote books about Inspector Morse? 2. In which city was Bertolucci’s Last Tango?
Did you see the special PR launch staged by Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Lansley? It was a clear sign that the massive reaction against their plans to emasculate the NHS are beginning to register. Lnasley says that there have to be some tweaks to his plans, Clegg says there have to be huge changes, Cameron just goes on and on about how he had to rely on the excellent NHS when he most needed it. As we were seeing to the hens this morning, Albert commented that the prime minister (or PR minister as he insists on calling him) could sell snow to the Eskimos. I have to confess to being bewitched by the similarity to Tony Blair, they both tell a good tale.
But no sooner had we listened to the blather about it being wrong to “charge ahead” in response to yet more hostile reactions from the medical fraternity, than a leaked copy of a memo issued by the chief executive of the NHS, David Nicolson, blew the talk of consultation to kingdom- come. In it Mr Nicolson makes clear that there is little room for manoeuvre. It records that a “red line” exists beneath the fundamental planks of the Lansley plan and they “are not for changing”.
I imagine few are surprised to learn that the high-profile visit to Frimley Park hospital was little more than an exercise in spin, but most of us are surprised to learn that the intention is to change virtually nothing. There will be some ‘concessions’ with local Councillors given a place on the GP commissioning bodies, although how this will improve things is open to considerable debate. There is also mention of hospital doctors being included, and this makes sense for surgeons and consultants have a far more comprehensive insight into critical care than GPs.
But the central plank of the plan will survive. Lansley is hell-bent on introducing the private sector by allowing it to take over the simpler treatments. The result will be that NHS hospitals will be undermined and obliged to merge. The result of that will be fewer hospitals and greater travel distances for ambulances, patients and relatives alike.
The aspect that worries me above all others is the inevitable destruction of the cancer networks. I spend a lot of time helping the multi-discipline teams that have, in recent times, done so much to improve the quality of cancer care. Once GP consortiums (or the private companies to whom the task will be sub-contracted) take over, the service will be broken up and we will step back ten years in our levels of care. People will die and I for one will fight this to my last breath.
But all this hoo-hah is about something that the Conservatives wish to do and, to be fair, it does reflect their belief in privatisation. The likelihood is that chaos will develop for already many Primary Care Trusts have been wound up as the exodus of skilled staff accelerates. But before considering that as the protests gather momentum, we should be aware of what is happening right now.
Government claims to have maintained funding are nonsense. Efficiency-saving targets totalling £20 billion have been set. Since most large hospitals have already cut their administration to the core, that means reductions in medical staff and procedures. Many hospitals across the country have slashed the number of hip and knee operations and the waiting time has trebled. Suddenly a lot of the better-off patients are electing to ‘go private’ which, since the surgeons are the same ones, will lead to even longer NHS waits.
And other operations are no longer guaranteed. Surgeons have today published a letter warning that they are no longer able to guarantee emergency operations. The letter is signed by, amongst others, John Black, the president of the Royal College, and makes clear that emergencies are now “squeezed in at the end of the day”. There is now “relative neglect of the needs of those admitted as emergencies”.
I am not opposed to the concept of competition in many things. But what Lansley is trying to do in the health service will create a two-level service. We are told that it works well in America. It does for some, but in trying to change it Barack Obama was attempting to help those who cannot afford to pay.
I even wonder if Cameron really understands the implications. In fairness I suspect that he does not and sees his role as merely rescuing Lansley from total humiliation. But if he is able to smooth-talk the opposition away, millions will one day rue the destruction of what had become a good and comprehensive service. And it is of no use waiting for Miliband to save the NHS, by the time he is is any position to do anything it will be too late.
Next time you pass your local hospital look carefully at those open gates. Politicians on the make are already ordering the padlocks!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; MONEY : “I once gave a waiter a tip. I told him never to step off a moving bus”….Groucho Marx “Money makes money and the money money makes makes money”…..Benjamin Franklin “My problem is how to reconcile my net income with my gross habits”….Errol Flynn “Today you can go to a petrol station and find the cash register open and the toilets locked. They must think toilet paper is worth more than money”……Joey Bishop……..” Nothing dispels enthusiasm like a small admission charge”…..Kin Hubbard “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?”…..John Barrymore “The difference between outlaws and in-laws is taht the outlaws never promise to pay it back”…..Kin Huddard “It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor so long as you have money”…….Max Miller
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Liverpool 2. Madame Tussauds
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which major engineering project was completed by Egypt in 1970? 2. Which ancient disease was worldwide in the early 70s, especially in Africa and India?
Not quite so warm today as we cleaned out the chicken coops but everyone seemed in high spirits. ‘Calamity’ Clegg does much to raise spirits here as his clangers follow in quick succession. Yesterday saw yet another. When challenged about the cuts to pensioner’s fuel allowances he replied that it was just another scare story dreamed up by Ed Balls. Clearly Kenneth Clarke was not the only coalition minister asleep during the Chancellors oration! But it has to said in the Lib Dem leader’s defence that he makes us laugh and we should perhaps be grateful for small mercies.
Laughter is becoming a rare feature of our community where the cuts are beginning to bite. Some of our libraries face the axe, the number of beat bobbies is to be halved, a number of centres for the severely disabled are to close. In fact no part of our daily lives will be untouched by the severest cuts ever experienced. No doubt the politicians will reply that times are hard and every penny counts. And they would be lying through their teeth!
Hidden away in the Budget are statistics capable of sending even the mildest amongst us into a rage. Our annual contribution to the European Union is set to soar to £9 billion by 2015 and we face an almost immediate rise of 17 per cent. In the past year our contribution rose from £4.7 billion to £7.6 billion and it is planned to rise again sharply this year. And that is far from the total bill, the near certainty is that we will have to follow up our massive payments to bail-out Ireland with bail-out contributions to Greece and Portugal.
Tory bankbencher Bill Cash yesterday said that the expenditure is “totally unnecessary” and added “I’m utterly opposed to the EU enlargement process”. Fellow Tory MP Douglas Carswell described the figures, and the latest news of payments for pros[ective new members Croatia, as “absolutely shocking”. He went on to complain that “this week we are cutting public services in my constituency while planning a huge payout to Croatia”. This shows, Mr Carswell said, that it is high time we had an ‘in or out’ referendum on EU membership. ” The EU project is a debt union and whatever the politicians promise, Britian seems to keep on paying”, he added.
Matthew Sinclair, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, was also in a rage. He described our contributions as ” extrememly worrying”. He added; “A combination of the grandiouse ambitions of European politicians and the needs of new member states are set to make EU membership a worse and worse deal for British taxpayers. If Eurocrats won’t embrace the austerity measures that people here have had to, the government should refuse to finance that and not just accept Brussels’ demands for more and more money”.
It really is extraordinary that at a time when so many are facing extreme hardship in this country we are still pouring money in to the EU. Slowly but surely we are being bled dry by the Brussels machine. Bailout follows bailout, subscriptions continue to rocket, regulation after regulation encircles us. To say all this is not be be anti-European but simply to recognise that the more we pay out the greater the domestic cuts will have to be.
In fairness to David Cameron it was the concessions made by the Blair government that landed us in this horrific situation, and it is his need to placate Calamity Clegg that prevents him even considering a referendum. The irony is that we are to have a pointless one about a tweak to our voting system but are not prepared to consult the public on a far more important issue.
In defiance of the views of member-states the EU parliamentarians have just voted themselves another huge increase and hardly a day passes but we read of chauffered limos, massives expenses for which no receipts are required, and perks the like of which would have our Westminster crowd on the front page of every newspaper. It surely has to stop and if it doesn’t we should be heading for the exit.
Despite what the right-wing press says this morning not everyone marching in London is a left-wing militant. Coachloads of people who have never demonstrated before are on the road. They are demanding that the rate of cuts be slowed down. They should also be demanding that our ever escalating payments to the money-grabbing Brussels empire-builders be cut too!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; SPORT “I never comment on referees and I’m not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat”…..Ron Atkinson “The entiure contents of the Manchester City trophy room have been stolen. The police are looking for a man carrying a light blue carpet ” …….Bernard Manning “If that had gone in it would have been a goal”….David Coleman “You’d think if any country could put up a decent wall, it would be China”….Terry Venables “The first time I went skiing I wasn’t very good, and broke a leg. Luckily, it wasn’t one of mine”…..Michael Green “The manager has a fresh pair of legs up his sleeve”……John Creig “Games are the last resort of those who do not know how to be idle”….Robert Lynd “The English football team – brilliant on paper, shit on grass”…..Arthur Smith ” The Premier League is a multi-million industry with the aroma of a blocked toilet and the principles of a knocking shop”……Michael Parkinson “I never make predictions and I never will”….Paul Gascoigne “I went to a fight the other night and an ice hockey game broke out”……Rodney Dangerfield “For me the worst part of playing golf has always been hitting the ball”…..Dave Barry
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. A rocket 2. They died durinbg the return to Earth when the cabin pressure failed
TODAY’S QUESTIONS 1. How many pennies made up a shilling in Britain’s pre-decimal currency? 2. What was a shilling worth in new pence after decimalisation?
On such a beautiful morning it is hard to understand depression. But our allotment gang has come to understand the insidious condition well since one of our members has fallen victim to the dark night of the soul. Of course we all get low from time to time, but we have learned that ‘black-dog’ in its worst form is different. Sometimes it can be due to chemical imbalance, sometimes the result of battling on through nervous exhaustion. But it is not, as Geoffrey Boycott yesterday inferred when talking about the departure of Michael Yardy from the cricket World Cup, simply proof that the victim is ‘not good enough’. For heavens sake, we thought that this type of ignorance had long gone. What victims need above all else is an acceptence on the part of their family and friends that depression is simply an illness and no more deserves stupid stigmatisation than cancer or any other condition. The very fact that we openly discuss the problem in an everyday setting has helped our pal enormously. He now wears a cap emblazoned ‘Stuff Depression’, a sure sign that his old humour is returning.
If it hadn’t been for Boycott’s stupidity we would all have been tickled by the latest Clegg fiasco. Around the Commons he carries the nickname ‘Calamity’ and it is not hard to understand why. Yesterday he forgot to switch off his mic and was heard to tell Cameron that “if we keep doing this, we won’t find anything to bloody disagree about on in the bloody TV debates”. It summed up perfectly the hole into which he has dug himself and his party. Clegg does not appear to be a man blessed with an excess of self understanding and he has never come to terms with the concept of a coalition of differing views, preferring instead to simply support Cameron in whatever lunacy (viewed from a Lib Dem viewpoint) he may be engaged. Indeed Labour has already signalled that it will not enter a debate with both Clegg and Cameron since they are in effect one party.
All this is happening against a background of a collapsing economy and draconian cuts. Yesterday I heard of a respite service for severely disabled children being axed for want of £8000. Undoubtedly every community in the land has similar tales to tell whilst they read of our now facing a further massive payout to bankroll Portugal. The polls suggest that the effect is poliarisation. Those who voted Lib Dem now see them as irrelevant and are pondering the best alternative.
Without doubt some will return to their Tory roots. But will Labour gather in the major benefit? Many Lib Dem voters were people dissilusioned with the ‘New’ added to Labour’s brand by Blair. They were unable to detect any real difference between the traditional persecutors and defenders of the poor and vulnerable. To win them over Ed Miliband has to move to the left to disassociate himself from the City crowd. But if he moves too far the possibility is that he will find himself lined up beside the dinosaurs that still inhabit parts of the trades union movement. Indeed, even tomorrow when he attends the London protests he would be well advised to sit clear of the more extreme. People are in distress but they want fairness not revolution.
Over the past few weeks Miliband has certainly won over many in the House. He outdid Cameron in prime minister’s questions on the subject of the NHS, was sustained in his response to Libya, and wasn’t upturned in his response to the Budget on Wednesday. Cameron is now finding it harder to bully him or to rattle via personalised attacks.
But he has some way to go before he is perceived by the public as the people’s champion. Some say that he is too honest for his own good. That may be a handicap in the world of spin but he has stuck to his guns by sticking to his description of the “squeezed middle”, which all the presentation experts advised him against. Clearly he believes in it and shows all the signs of growing into the first senior politician of principle that we have seen for very long time.
The May elections will give a better indication of just who are the inheritors of Clegg’s blown opportunity. You could safely bet your mortgage on the death of the Lib Dems who are now seen as Conservatives. The worry is that their death may lead to inheritors such as Ukip and the BNP or, more likely, turnouts at a new low.
One thing is sure. If by any chance a new coalition is called for come the next general election, Ed Miliband will treat Nick Clegg with even more caution than the born-again Union barons!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; COUNTRIES “I find it hard to offer an opinion on New Zealand because when I was there it seemed to be shut”……Clement Freud “New Zealand is a country of thirty thousand sheep, three million of whom think they’re human”…..Barry Humphries “The way I understand it the Russians are a sort of combination of incompetence and evil – sort of like the Post Office with tanks”……Emo Philips “A Scotsman is a man who, before sending his pyjamas to the laundry, stuffs a sock in each pocket”…..Ambrose Bierce “In Britain, a dog is for Christmas. In Korea, it could be for breakfast, dinner or lunch”…..Anon “Wales is a country where Sunday starts early, and lasts several years”…..Peg Bracken “The Welsh are always so pleased with themselves. I’ve never taken to them. What are they for ?”….Anne Robinson “Sweden is where they commit suicide and the King rides a bicycle”….Alan Bennett ”India; done the elephants, done the poverty”….Phil Tufnell “What I look forward to most on returning from India is a dry fart”….Phil Edmunds “The Irish are a race of people who don’t know what they want and are prepared to fight to the death to get it”……Sidney Littlewood. “There’ll always be an England, even if it’s in Hollywood”….Bob Hope “Boasting about modesty is typical of the English”….George Bernard Shaw “An Englishman’s ultimate ambition is to get a railway compartment to himself” …..Ian Hay “If I were God and were trying to create a nation that woulkd get up the nostril of the Englishman, I would create the French”….Julian Barnes
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Two 2. Astronomy
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What was ‘Blue Streak’ on which Britain stopped work in the 70s; a jet fighter, a rocket or a superfast car? 2.What happened to the three-man crew of the 1971 ‘Soyuz’ 11′ flight?
We were making a door for the new hen-run when Billy asked if we had seen the byelection result from Barnsley. We hadn’t due to the fact that all of the coalition-supporting papers had conveniently forgotten to mention it. But his Guardian had squeezed it in on page 9. Small wonder that the headline included the word humiliated for the Lib Dems came rank bottom in a field of six. Labour held the seat with a 13.53% increase and their candidate (Dan Jarvis) was trailed by Ukip, Conservative, BNP, Independent candidate, with Mr Clegg’s party, which came second in the general election, bottom with a paltry 1,012 votes. And this despite their fielding an excellent candidate who is the son of the celebrated barrister George Carmen.
Sadly the party that promised to change the face of British politics has lost the respect of most of those that supported it. It has committed the cardinal sin of demonstrating a total lack of integrity. Most fair minded observers saw their entry into a coalition as reasonable but no one expected them to simply rollover and abandon every commitment they made. Clegg’s behaviour over tuition fees needs no reminder, but there has been a succession of other issues where they have shown feet of clay and a Conservative Party, which was not elected to govern, has been able to pursue arguably the most right-wing agenda for decades.
And today we have yet another example. Vince Cable had let it be known that he was determined to fight to the death the News Corporation’s proposed takeover of BSkyB, a plan that will create the largest private media company Britain has ever seen. News Corp is expected to have a turover of over £9billion by the time of the next election, that will be almost double of that of the BBC whose licence fee has been frozen by Jeremy Hunt, the minister who has surprised no one by deciding not to refer the bid for further examination.
Once Cable had been removed from the responsibility by Cameron it was always clear that Rupert Murdoch had won. The behaviour of Conservative ministers has been breathtakingly improper, and I am not referring merely to the Christmas visit that the Camerons paid to James Murdoch. Columnist John Crace probably sums up the natiuonal mood of cynicism today when he composes a mock conversation between Cameron and Hunt. Hunt tells the prime minister ” After a lot of thought, I’ve decided that if News Corp pretends to hive off Sky News then it can do what the hell it likes”. Cameron replies “Good show! I’ll tell James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks when Sam and I go round for dinner tonight”.
What has this to do with Lib Dem integrity. A lot. Just weeks after Cable had made clear that the party would “wage war” on this, the Lib Dem spokesman on media policy, Don Foster, was quick to declare support for the Murdoch deal. And from Uncle Vince not a word and no resignation as a minister.
Perhaps I am missing something here but I find it hard to understand even one thousnad voting for what has become a rabble prepared to pay any price just to share the trappings of power. Few will blame Cameron for doing what a Conservative government with a large majority would be expected to do, even if his judgement does seem to be all over the place. But he has no large majority, he simply has a large number of Lib Dem MPs as voting fodder and no willingness to stand up for what they supposedly believe in.
If what happened in Barnsley yeaterday doesn’t sound alarm bells ringing nothing will. These are early days but one poll predicting the wipe out of every single Lib Dem candidate at the next election doesn’t sound too far-fetched!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “ Obama has attacked Cameron for advocating a no-fly zone. Unfair, because what Cameron meant was he wants to rid Libya of all flies”…John Crace “Did you hear about the woman who stabbed her husband 37 times? I admire her restraint”…..Roseanne “I’m all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults”…..Gore Vidal “John Prescott has the face of a man who clubs baby seals to death”…Denis Healey “Tony Blair is only Bill Clinton with his zip done up”….Neil Hamilton “Tony Blair has as much charisma as a pair of dentures grinning in a glass of water”….Trevor Bayliss “As God once said, and I think rightly…”….Margaret Thatcher “I wish my flat was filled by one big man in his blue underpants”…Edwina Currie on John Major “At least it wasn’t Ann Widdecombe”….Pat Dessoy, John Major’s sister “To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy”……Will Dufant “Success means having to worry about every damn thing in the world, except money”….Johnny Cash
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Join the European Community 2. China
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which USA President’s wife was named Thelma Catharine Ryan? 2. What was Saigon renamed in 1975?
Suddenly the sun is flooding the allotments with new hope, not to mention a little warmth. Here comes the Spring? Sadly not for Eno, our adopted weather lady, tells us that high winds and rain return tomorrow. But we did some digging whilst the opportunity presented itself. And we witnessed a remarkable incident. Albert drew his fork from the sodden ground to find a frog impaled on it. My pal was horrified for whilst he has little affection for most people, he has it in abundance for wild life. And this frog was mighty wild, as you would be if some old geezer rammed a fork into you. Without having the faintest idea as to the correct procedure we eased the flailing creature from the fork whereupon it hopped away at high speed. Did the prongs miss vital organs or aren’t there any? All I know is that our forked friend was last seen sitting on a stone and, presumably, croaking dreadful curses in Albert’s direction.
And presumably most charities and voluntary groups across the country are also cursing. As each day passes we learn of more such bodies being forced to close down as their already meagre funding is withdrawn. It is noticeable that it is only after sentence has been passed that the leading lights speak out. The reason for the silence of those still hoping for funding is clear. This government is forcing a conspiracy of silence, offer one word of criticism and expect to be hammered.
Yesterday Jonathon Porritt, someone well beyond the vengeful claws of the executioners, did speak out and the odds are that many a silent charity chief applauded silently. Porritt hit the nail on the head when he said that “the idea of a big society without the public purse is an outrageous lie, an impossibility. Many are being manipulated to play a part in this scam”. I am sure that right now the chief marksman, Clegg, is racking his brains to find a way to punish Porritt.
His sackings are usually easier. Yesterday the coalition announced the sacking of David Richards, Professor of mental health services research at Exeter University. He is suddenly no longer an independent adviser to the Department of Health’s improving access to psychological therapies programme, a position he has held with distinction for the past two years. And what did he do to attract the Clegg axe? He exposed the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister lied to the public.
Last week saw Clegg making great play of a new initiative to improve access to modern psychological therapies for people suffering from anxiety and depression. He went on to claim that £400 million was being made available to increase the number of therapists across the country, something the Professor has tirelessly advocated. Clegg implied that this was new money and a true indication of the coalition’s desire to help change the ‘Cinderella’ image of mental health medicine.
When Professor Richards found out that the money had to be taken from other mental health services he erupted. In a public statement he said yesterday that “we were very disturbed when we discovered this deception”. He went on to say that “I personally feel very aggrieved that mental health is being used by this government to shore up its very poor opinion poll ratings and I don’t want to be part of it”.
Richards demanded explanations but all he received was dismissal. Cross Clegg and exit is the scene at the top. The Professor has made clear that no explanations were forthcoming and said that this is not mere detail but a “matter of great import to people trapped in a cycle of untreated misery and fear”.
It is of course an outrage, but it is also a tragedy for people who had drawn comfort from David Richard’s plan to establish a highly trained group of around 1500 psychological wellbeing practitioners who could have made such a differnec to lives endured in darkness.
Such handling of anyone who dares to question or disagree is now regular practice. But this particular incident tells us something else. The repeated claims that NHS funding is protected are a lie, a sham.
So it’s no knighthood for the good Professor. More importantly, it’s no hope for those millions suffering from mental health problems, arguably the worst affliction of them all. And it is another warning to anyone that dares to differ with the coalition. The Big Society is beginning to look like the Big Brother one!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ” A woman’s rule of thumb; if it has tyres or testicles, you’re going to have trouble with it”….Rita Rudner “The difference between a man and a battery is that a battery has a positive side”….Jo Brand “Can you imagine a world without men? No crime and lots of happy, fat women”…..Nicole Hollander “A man is designed to walk three miles in the rain to phone for help when the car breaks down, and a woman is designed to say “You took your time” when he comes back dripping wet”….Victoria Wood “They claim to be he-men but the combined hair from their chests wouldn’t have made a wig for a grape”….Robert Benchley “A woman is like a tea bag- you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water”…..Nancy Reagan “A woman is a person who can look in a drawer and find men’s socks that aren’t there”….Dan Bennett “”Last night she was banging on my door for ages – but I wouldn’t let her out”….Dean Martin “Oh why can’t we break away from all this, just you and I, and lodge with my fleas in the hills – I mean, flee to my lodge in the hills”….Groucho Marx “When I’m not in a relationship, I shave one leg. That way, when I sleep, it feels like I’m with a woman”…..Garry Shandling “I took up a collection for a man in our office but I didn’t get enough to buy one”….Ruth Buzzi ”I’m a one-man woman. One man at a time”…Mae West “I can’t get a relationship to last longer than it takes to copy their CDs”…..Margaret Smith “I could dance with you until the cows come home. On second thoughts I’d rather dance with the cows until you come home!”…Groucho Marx ”He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death”…..Saki
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Robert Watson-Watt 2. Lunokhods were Soviet unmanned lunar rovers
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1, GARP began gathering data back in 1978. What do the initials stand for ? 2. Which country tested its nuclear weapons at a site called Lop Nor?[ ???????????????????????????????????????????????????
I knew that I was in for a ribbing when I arrived on the allotments well after daybreak and noticed Albert’s bike propped against the shed. But my old pal was in a good mood and contented himself with raised eyebrows. It turns out that he had a win on the gee-gees yesterday but was keen to avoid the news reaching his better-half. It reminded me of the scene from Fawlty Towers and I found myself wishing he hadn’t told me lest I bump into Margaret and, like Major Gowan, get betrayed by my tongue. Albert’s forecast on the horses must have been more accurate than the one he put forward on the Oldham and Saddleworth byelection!
In common with several of those who were swept along in the Nick Clegg euphoria at the general election, Albert had been convinced that Oldham would prove to be Clegg’s swan-song, the Lib Dems would be anihilated. In fact, although they lost by over 3500 votes to Labour their share of the vote held up well. At 31.9% it was certainly light-years ahead of the present national poll rating of 8%. Despite the Woolas factor, Labour took a share of 42.1%, a huge increase of 10.27%, so Ed Miliband will be reasonably content and the only massive fall was that of the Conservatives who dropped by over 13%.
The probability is that the people shaking their heads this morning are Conservative MPs and supporters. Some weeks ago this site revealed details of a memo from David Cameron making clear that a Lib Dem victory was the real aim. Although the prime minister did make a token visit, those from these parts who canvassed in Oldham returned to report that the Conservative campaign was in a lower key than Paul Robeson’s voice. It was the first example of the coalition parties working as one and the outcome will not have pleased many Tory activists one little bit.
But the objective observer must concede that Cameron called it correctly for, if the threatened Lib Dem collapse had occurred the odds are that the coalition would have crumbled too. And right now, with Miliband out in front, a general election is the last thing that the Old Etonians want.
To me at least the most astonishing statistic concerned those who didn’t vote. Over half of the good people of Oldham and Saddleworth boycotted the polling booths. Inevitably that included the usual flat-earthers who either didn’t know that there was an election or who wanted to watch something on television. But so great was the abstention that one can only conclude that many thousands decided that they have lost faith in politicians of all parties.
I have never been able to undertsnad why voting in a parliamentary election is not mandatory given that people can opt for a postal vote. But the likelihood is that no politician would like to see the results include a huge number ticking the box marked “None of them”.
Yet such a development would surely be good for democracy and would certainly introduce a note of humility on the part of those who love to defend their lunacies by declaring that they are merely carrying out the wishes of the people!
But for now we can imagine the degree of relief at the Clegg breakfast table this morning. The only problem is that as the butler serves the Camerons there may well have been mutterings about ‘now they really owe us’. Clegg has emulated Houdini but the grip around his throat has tightened and the day may well come when his boss will feel less inclined to come to the rescue!
HONOURS LIST FARCE CONTINUES!
As always the government was keen to include lollipop men and women in the New Year Honours List. Sadly the latest awards for ‘this incredibly important safety service’ coincided with decisions right across the country to make the gallant pole-bearers redundant.
But at least the government’s best friends, the Finance wizards, did well. Philip Remnant was but one of those honoured. He was appointed by Grumpy Gordon to U K Financial Investments, the body managing government stakes in bailed-out banks. UKFI has overseen a system where publicly-financed banks continued paying big bonuses but stopped lending to small businesses!
Nice to know that not everyone to be presented to Her Majesty is on the dole queue!
ANTI-SMOKING LOBBY TRIUMPHS AGAIN!
In December, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom decreed that Live XXXBabes, a free-to-air unencrypted adult sex chat services channel that until recently broadcast on Sky’s channel 950, had breached its rules during a daytime broadcast on 5 October. The channel offered the opportunity to “chat to the hottest, filthiest babes” on premium rate phone lines with the promise that they would “do anything you want…whatever turns you on”.
Presumably Ofcom was upset with some of the things that did turn punters on? No. It was concerned that “a female presenter wearing skimpy lingerie was smoking heavily…the prolonged sequence of smoking drew attention to the activity of smoking as a desirable activity..”
Purveyors of soft porn be warned. Encouraging people to smoke is the greatest evil!
SAVE OUR FORESTS!!!
In a previous blog I outlined the crazy government proposal to sell off all of the forests controlled by the Forestry Commission. This will lead to 20% of the UK forests being taken over by developers. And we all know what that means.
’38 Degrees’ is attempting to organise a massive protest and that looks the only hope. So far 135,000 have visited their website and ‘signed’ the petition. It will take a bigger number than that to stop this destruction.
Do please give your support!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 800,000 2. Australia
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which British tennis star married Chris Evert? 2. Which government minister of the 90s appeared in 1974 as a guest on the Morecambe and Wise TV show?
We are splashing around the hen runs as against the sliding of a fortnight ago. Hard to say which is the worst but at least the risk of Albert losing more front teeth is lowered. Mind you much more of the incessant rain will see the chooks issued with stilts. Every DIY book I’ve ever read has warned that hens must not paddle about on wet surfaces, but since the side of runs are not covered I have yet to solve, what is to me, the greatest mystery since Lord Lucan. Billy commented that should the chooks be Lib Dems they will float around, but the jibe struck me as possibly premature for today is the day on which the much maligned Nick Clegg may turn the tide.
Of course the reverse could happen, he could finally drown in a flood of Oldham and Saddleworth votes. The polls suggest that this may be the end of the Lib Dems but yesterday, whilst at a funera,l I spoke to several people who were in Oldham over the weekend. They were canvassing and told me that the overwhelming impression was that the result is too close to call. We shall see, but unlike the politicians we should draw our own conclusions before we know the outcome.
Without doubt the Lib Dems should win. At the general election they came within a hundred or so votes of toppling Phil Woolas who was subsequently disqualified for allegedly telling lies about his Lib Dem opponent. But, and it is a big but, they were then riding the crest of the ‘I agree with Nick’ wave. Now things look a little different and many who voted Lib Dem then feel betrayed. Students certainly do and it could be argued that what Clegg did over his tuition fees pledge was every bit as dishonest as the words of brother Woolas.
It seems to me that if the Lib Dems win the pressure on Clegg will ease. If they lose by a whisker he will be able to argue that a few votes either way is not decisive. But if they lose heavily he is surely finished. Over half of his MPs are already in rebellious mood and a heavy defeat would convince them that they have nothing to lose by pulling out of the coalition.
Of course a significant defeat for the Lib Dems raises other questions according to who wins. If Labour do so, despite the Woolas effect, it will certainly strengthen Ed Miliband’s arm and confirm that if the colaition collapses and David Cameron goes to the country he will have a fight on his hands. If the Conservatives win – an unlikely outcome given that their campaign has been deliberately low key – Cameron would rightly face any election confident of securing an overall Tory majority.
I have been surprised at just how seriously the political chattering class is taking the possibility of a coalition collapse. But everyone that I have spoken to bases the thought on a Clegg hammering in Oldham. Young Nick says that isn’t going to happen.
But his promises are not to be relied upon! Come tomorrow morning his fate may be sealed or, like Houdini, he may have escaped yet again.
SEX STORY WITH A DIFFERENCE!
The ‘dead days’ between Christmas and the New Year are tough ones for hacks charged with filling their columns. No great surprise then that the Telegraph embraced with enthusiasm a Press Association report of a sex study conducted in the USA.
The study found that couples who do not have sex before marriage have a more satisfying sex life than those who do. In fact their rewards also include ‘better quality sex’. In this day and age it was rivetting stuff and may well have caused many a couple to wonder.
Clearly the paper had difficulty fitting in the whole of the sensational revelations for it didn’t include the name of the sponsor of the study. Private Eye helped out by revealing that it was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, aka the Mormons!
THE THUMB THING IS CONFUSING!
The Sun can always be relied upon to provide important advice on the nuances of differing cultures and has printed a helpful guide to hand signals and their meaning around the world.
Th entry for the ‘thumbs up’ sign reads “This means ‘cool’ in the UK but in Iraq and Afghanistan is a vulgar insult”.
But wait! Just three pages later the Sun’s military awards include a picture of a British airman surrounded by smiling Afghan boys , all giving enthusiastic thumbs-up signs. The caption read ” Thumb-thing special…young Afghans give a hopeful sign for the country’s future”.
Or did they?
HOW MANY MORE MUST DIE MR LANSLEY?
We have complained previously about the decision to withdraw the offer of a free flu jab to the under fives. Now three-year-old Lana Ameen is dead, the latest victim of an appalling decision. Yesterday her Dad (who is a doctor) and Mum released a photo of their little girl on a life-support machine in the hope that it will shame ministers into reconsidering their terrible error.
Given the havoc that he is imposing on the whole NHS it is probably too much to hope that Lansley will listen. But he should and right away!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Michael Caine 2. John Hurt
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. How many were unemployed in Britain in 1971; 800,000, 1.8 million, or 3 million? 2. In which country did Kerry Packer build a media empire?