Posts Tagged ‘Constituents’
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“?
The famous theory that there is a heaven and we are in it seemed even less plausible this morning when we began to dig out the old fish pond. We sank into the mud up to our knees and we were not wearing waders. Albert made an attempt at singing ‘mud, glorious mud’ but it did little to boost the morale of either us or the frogs who were leaping about in rage at the disruption. But we are only weeks from spawning time so it had to be done. One consolation was that this is not a complicated task which may be just as well because I have been trying in vain to understand what Andrew Lansley is talking about.
I had hoped that yesterday,s first session of parliamentary health questions would explain all about the massive – I think – reforms that the rather strange Mr Lansley is touting around. After all, I reasoned, MPs, being by nature simple creatures, are pretty good at asking simple questions. They did that but understanding the answers was another matter altogether. Most of the questions were about the distinct possibility of constituents dying as a result of the Lansley plan. They didn’t actually use those words but that was the gist of the often petulant enqiries. Sadly they were each given a dose of gobbledegook.
A typical example was the reply given to Mark Lancaster ( Milton Keynes). He wanted to be sure that doctors were going to receive sufficent funds with which to reconstruct a service that actually seems to be working well. Mr Lansley spoke at length about a ‘pathfinder consortium’. But, others wanted to know, doesn’t the word pathfinder infer a trial of a vague idea? It seems not, for there are apparently to be hundreds of pathfinders but the explanation as to how they will avoid producing hundreds of different schemes was so oblique that, despite having chaired two NHS Trust, I was totally bamboozled.
So confusing was the dialogue that Stephen Dorrell rushed to the aid of his mentor. He assured those MPs still awake that there would be ” improved core delivery of the efficiency challenge …reinforcing the interface”. So that’s all right then, these Lansleyites know what they are talking about. The problem is that no one else does and the stakes are very high!
Simon Hoggard of the Guardian ventures the view that the NHS reform plan was dreamed up by Andrew Lansley in his bedroom. He goes on to suggest that it is not so much a reform as a sellotape and string construction in the old British tradition of mad machines. Rowland Emett used to draw wonderful trains powered by kettles, weird collections of scrap which would make you a cup of tea, hit a golf ball or play dominoes. More recently Wallace and Gromit created devices to get you out of bed, pull your trousers up and make the toast. Or there is the Mousetrap game where the crank turns a lever, which hits a boot, which kicks a bucket, which makes a ball-bearing fall on to a seesaw. In the end the mouse is caught in a net. Or, more often, not.
Lansley’s reforms seem to be based on the same kid of connections and reactions. In theory they could just work but the worry is that quite a few people who should,know say that they won’t. Doctors, the British Medical Association, the independent Kings Fund and others see the plan as doomed, yesterday one gained the impression that most MPs on all sides feel the same. Of course they probably haven’t allowed for the ‘reinforcement of the interface’.
Certain it is that members were determined to be difficult. Some even went so far as to ask why none of this was in the manifesto or coalition statement of intent. Others wanted to know how GPs could find time to take on a zillion commissioning tasks whilst continuing to see their patients. Yet more were concernmed about postcode medicine. To all of them the answer was the same, reinforcing the interface would solve all problems.
As someone who regards the NHS as crucial for every family in the land I worry about all this. I realise that Lansley’s intention is to privatise the service but he doesn’t even seem to have a workable plan for that. In fact I came to a slightly worrying conclusion yesterday.
Perhaps the plan is as daft as everyone claims and suppose that Lansley, Dorrell and all are simply loopy. It would explain a lot but its implications are less than reassuring aren’t they?
IRAQ INQUIRY; THE PLOT THICKENS!
The Iraq inquiry rolls on and on and we all know the outcome anyway. But some of the revelations really are intriguing.
Yesterday it was the turn of former cabinet secretaries to give evidence. Predictably they claimed that Blair was economical with the truth only last week. Lord Turnbull said that no key papers were presented to the cabinet and Mr Blair was wrong to claim that ministers knew what was going on. When asked if there were proper cabinet decisions in the run-up to war, Lord Wilson answered ‘emphatically not’. In fact the cabinet was not asked to approve going to war until three days before the troops landed. Asked what the cabinet could have done Lord Turnbull replied that ‘they were pretty much imprisoned’. In fact the only option they had was to remove Blair. The final condemnation was reserved for the ministers who, with the exception of Gordon Brown and Robin Cook, didn’t seem to mind being left out’.
So we now know that there weren’t any discussions. Surprise, surprise! No surprise really but it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that Mr Blair should be tried for war crimes! Certain it is that Mr Cameron’s infatuation with him becomes stranger by the day!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY;” They say movies should be more like life. I think life should be more like movies”…..Myrna Loy. “Shakespeare wrote ‘ kill all the lawyers’. That was before Agents!”….Robin Williams. “I never go to movies where the hero’s bust is bigger than the heroines”….Groucho Marx. ” Night watchmen have a life expectancy in horror movies of 12 seconds”….Sam Waas. “Table for Five would be an ideal movie to watch on a plane. At least they provide free sick-bags”…..Simon Rose. “Watching a musical is like doing your own root canal work”…..Don Black “Very few pwople go to the doctor when they have a cold, they go to the theatre”…James Agate ” Nudity on stage is disgusting. But if I were 21 with a great body it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience”…..Shelley Winters.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Jack Hawkins 2. Sally Bowles
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. He directed ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘The Quiet Man’. he died in 1973. Who was he? 2. The musician Pablo Casals died in 1973. What was his instrument?
Have you ever noticed the extent to which we all live in a sort of bubble? Within that we tend to imagine the rest of the world to be merely a larger version of our own expereince. I can best illustrate this by quoting a pal who works for the RAC. He commented recently that every car in the country had broken down that day. It clearly felt like that but in reality every car to which he had been called had broken down, which is a quite different thing. Nearer to home – on the allotment to be precise – there are other examples. Albert tends to assume that every male in the land listens to Lady Gaga music, and Eric that everyone spends their evenings sorting stamp collections. In other words we all asssume that our own experience is universal.
And so it is with Bob Diamond, the chief executive of Barclays. Yesterday he appeared before the Treasury select committee and predictably came under fire from MPs who compare his astonishing income with that of their constituents. He seemed bemused and it was obvious that he doesn’t regard an income of £70 million over the past four years as remotely astonishing, indeed there were moments when it seemed he imagined that everyone earns something in that region.
Mr Diamond has moved from the investment arm of his bank to become its overall boss. As such he will no longer be part of the fantasy world of investment wizards where a bonus of less than a million would be seen as an insult. But he won’t starve, for his new salary is £1.35 million, with the possibility of an annual bonus equal to 2.5 times that amount.
The real glimpse of Mr Diamond’s ‘bubble’ came when he said that there was a period of remorse and apology for banks but he believes that period now needs to be over. In other words, mistakes were made but all is now sorted and we all need to move on. It clearly didn’t occur to him that the vast majority of the nation cannot move on because it is struggling to pay for goods and services whose prices are rocketing whilst wages are frozen or reduced. Perhaps even further from his understanding is the fact that an increasing number have no jobs at all.
Of course there was a time when the financial sector earned more than the rest of us but stayed in touch with reality because their pay packets still spoke in thousands. Now it hands at least one million to thousands of employees who have become so isolated from total reality that they simply cannot grasp why we are all so angry about a few errors of judgement. Judging by Mr Diamond’s demeanour they all believe that the rest of society is only marginally less well off. Of course the reality is that each of them are paid more for a years bean-counting than most people earn in a lifetime. The gulf has become unbridgeable and in their fantasy worlds they play games of monopoly with people’s income and forget that in so doing they ruin lives.
Later the Chnacellor declined an offer from MPs to condemn Diamond’s claim that it was time for bankers to stop apologising. But then he would, for Osborne too lives in a bubble born of great wealth and the assumption that the whingers are only marginally worse off and should simply look on the brighjt side and get on with their lives. The problem is that he has probably never really met someone who earns the sort of wage that he spends on a Christmas break.
But Mr Diamond, Osborne and all will continue merrily along in their bubbles and no doubt will meet up for cocktails occasionally and bemoan the negativity of those only slightly less fortunate than themselves. Yes, we make mistakes, they will say as the waiter refills their glasses, but you win some and lose some old boy.
No Mr Diamond it is not the time to kiss and make up because the hardship caused by your industry will darken our skies for many years. So long as you regard as your right astronomical salaries for even mediocre performances you must expect the rest of us to be hostile. In that respect your bubble is different from those of the likes of Albert and Eric. The rest of us can ignore them for what they do affects us not!
AND DIAMOND IS FAR FROM THE WORST!
To show just how out of touch with the rest of humanity the financial sector is it is worth looking at the cash trousered by many by comparison with whom Diamond is a pauper.
In 2008 Adam Levenson of Fortress Investment Group was paid a bonus of £194 million. In 1996 Lawrence Cross of Green Tree Financial Corp was handed £45 million. In 2006 Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs received £35 million. In 2006 John Mack of Morgan Stanley received £26 milllion.
Now we can understand why our interest levels are reduced to near-nothing! Didn’t they do well..for themselves!
A FRIEND LOST FOR EVER!
This morning I went to the funeral of a wonderful man. His name was David Lyons. I knew him as a Governor of the local NHS Foundation Trust where his energy and humour kept everyone going. At that time David had long retired from his employment but was as busy as ever serving a wide range of voluntary organisations. I knew of his great efforts on behalf of MIND, the CVS and a local school but this morning I heard of a large number of other groups to which he gave wholehearted support.
David was one of those rare people who saw the needs of others as much more important than his own. He was a big man in every sense of the words and the sight of him coming in through the door always lifted my spirits.
He was active within the Labour Party and I used to delight in the verbal assaults he would launch on any minister who, he felt, was not putting the interests of the less-fortunate first. My favourite example was his assault on Patricia Hewitt who had the misfortune to speak at a conference chaired by my friend. He didn’t like what she was trying to do in introducing private medicine, and he didn’t regard her as a true socialist.
At the service a large photograph of David rested against the coffin. It felt as though he was watching us, judging our commitment to others. And his uproariou sense of humour seemed to hang in the air, I could hear him saying now go out into the rain.
And we did. And we stood in the rain exchanging memories of a man of so many parts. I was privileged to share in just one and shall always remember him.
CRICKET FAILS TO CLEAN UP ITS ACT!
The excitement of the Ashes contest had pushed from our minds the scandals of the Pakistan tour during the summer of 2010.
It was therefore something of a shock to learn that the accusations of ball-fixing which rocked the cricketing world have still not been resolved. The International Cricket Council tribunal has postponed any verdict until February.
It really is disgraceful. The continued delay means that even if they are exonerated the three Pakistan players accused by the News of the World will miss out on selection for the World Cup. Should they be found guilty it will simply mean that cricket has once again been shown to be very slow in tackling practices that could destroy the game.
With friends like the ICC no one needs enemies!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Sir Michael Edwardes 2. The bicentennial of the United States.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which Michael starred in ‘Sleuth’ on the big screen? 2. Who played ‘ The Elephant Man’ ?
Our pin-up weather lady Eno said that today would see temperatures well below brass monkey levels. In reality it was somewhat warmer and wearing five pairs of underpants proved unnecessary, not to mention sweaty. So with the icicles staying on the shed rather than our noses we quite enjoyed this morning’s routine. Most days bring the same jobs but today the vaseline pot was out. At times of severe frost it is wise to cover chicken’s combs as a means of protection. They don’t seem to mind and if it works we might consider doing our own. Whatever we do we cannot possibly look as utterly daft as Vince Cable does this morning.
Two female reporters from The Daily Telegraph armed with a tape-recorder called to see him at his constituency surgery. They pretended to be constituents and proceeded to ask his views on the coalition. Uncle Vince is clearly pretty gullible, the only other person to fall for such a charade was Sven Goran Erikson! But we learn more than that Mr Cable is as daft as a brush, he is now revealed as someone who, is to say the least, rather devious.
He talked of being in the coalition as akin to being at war and went on to boast that he is prepared to use his ‘nuclear option’ to bring the whole thing crashing down. He revealed that behind the scenes the Tories and Lib Dems are fighting a ‘constant battle’ not least on the soft approach of Cameron’s pals to the banks. He also claimed that Cameron plans to scrap the winter fuel allowance for the elderly but had yielded over immigration. In Mr Cable’s judgement the coalition is travelling at too fast a speed on a wide range of reforms including the NHS. Many of them are ill-thought through. Now we all knew that but what we hadn’t realised was that madcap plans like those of Lansley are even opposed within the supposedly close-knit coalition.
Most dramatic of all was Mr Cable’s admission that he is fighting a war against Murdoch, the friend of Cameron. “We have declared war and we are going to win (to block his owning the vast majority of the UK media)” Uncle told the giggling reporters. Small wonder they were giggling for this was a real scoop to take back to the editor. For them Christmas bonus assured, for Uncle a caning by the Etonian head. In fact it all worked out rather well for Cameron who has switched the media portfolio to Jeremy Hunt, thus ensuring that he keeps his promise to Murdoch.
The coalition is clearly anything but close knit. Indeed everyone’s once favourite Uncle said that many of the government’s policy proposals are “dangerously out of control”. He likened what is happening to a “Maoist revolution comprising too many ideas and too little careful planning”. For good measure Mr Cable attacked the scrapping of child benefit for higher earners which was handled “in a rather cack-handed way”. And within hours other leading Lib Dem ministers had fallen foul of hidden mikes. Michael Moore, Ed Davey and Steve Webb all lambasted the decision to cut child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers and Moore described the tuitions fees decision as “the biggest, ugliest, most horrific thing of all”. He went on to say that “I signed a pledge. I’ve just committed the worst crime a politician can commit, now folk distrust us as a breed”. Moore added a punch line; “the Tory rightwingers hate us with a passion”
The moment the news broke that the two questioners were in fact reporters Uncle changed his approach somewhat. He “regrets the statements and is embarrassed by them”. He has “no intention of leaving the government and is proud of what it is achieving”. The problem with directly conflicting statements is that one of them must be untrue. Either way the person making them is telling lies.
What Cameron and his boy Clegg think of it all is plain, or I should say Cameron for what he thinks is what his lackey thinks. But it seems reasonable to assume that trust between the two parties has plummeted faster that the current temperatures. And it gives more credibility to rumours about schisms developing. I still suspect thet a poor result in the Oldham bye-election will bring the end of Clegg. But suddenly his replacement by Cable seems very unlikely to attract Tory support.
Many of us used to admire Vince Cable and saw him as a man of great self understanding, the cleverest and most honest of politicians. Sadly he now fails on all counts but it is hard to sympathise. Anyone daft enough to tell confidential stories to total strangers is hardly fit to be involved in governing the country!
Others will argue that the sooner he responds to Cameron’s public humiliation of him the sooner will come the restoration of at least some of the Lib Dem reputation for independence. Mr Miliband may need to sharpen up his act sooner that he imagined!
UNEMPLOYMENT IS THE KEY!
There are two theories about tackling the deficit. Osborne believes in massive front end cuts with additional employment provided by the private sector. Grumpy Gordon believes this to be dangerous in that it will spark more job losses and lead to lower retail sales. Who is right? The jury is still out but there are some worrying signs for the present chancellor.
A survey out today shows that a third of the 232 local authorities across the UK now have more than 1000 residents claiming jobseeker’s allowance. Pre-election the number was just 26! And total long-term unemployment has risen to 839,000, a 34% rise since the election and the highest level since February 1997. Across the country unemployed people outnumber vacancies by more than five to one.
By the Spring Osborne will be either humiliated or vindicated. It may be too early to forecast which but one cannot escape the view that a sudden burst in private sector jobs seems unlikely given the rise in VAT, power bills and all which must serve to restrict non-essential purchasing.
Perhaps we should ask the owners of Man City to consider a buy-out bid for UK plc?
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Tsar Nicholas 11 2. Prince Charles
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Charles de Gaulle died in 1970. In 1940 he became the leader of which movement? 2. Which Nobel prize winner claimed that vitamin C could protect against the common cold?