Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’
After helping with the hens I paid a visit to our local garden centre. That is something of a misnomer these days for, in common with most other ventures that started out as a plant supplier, it has developed into a flourishng business offering a wide range of products. And it houses an excellent restaurant. Having loaded our trolley she-who-must-be -obeyed and I popped in for coffee and a fresh-from-the-oven scone. Whilst we were doing our Eric Pickles impersonation I noticed that the eating-house rejoices under the name of Camerons.
Surely not! The man gets around but Lancashire is a long way from Chipping Norton, and the staff are extremely polite. It would be hard to imagine them referring to anyone as ‘Swivel-eyed loons’ and that is the latest description of Conservative Party activists to eminate from our dear leader and his Old Etonian pals. David Cameron himself used the ‘Swivel-eyed’ bit to describe those of his party who question his appraoch to Europe, and this morning’s papers publish claims that one of his ‘close friends’ has added loon to embrace those who dare to wonder why same-sex marriage has become a top priority given that it didn’t so much as feature in the manifesto.
The Daily Telegraph, hardly an enemy of the Tories, is standing by its story of an interview with “a member of Mr Cameron’s circle”, but is refusing to name names. Others have suggested that the mystery spokesman was Lord Feldman, and have published pictures of him and our dear leader together at university. The man awarded a peerage by Cameron has denied the charge.
But clearly someone said it and the effect on party activists has been electric. Last night Robert Woollard, the chairman of Conservative Grassroots, said that many of the Prime Minister’s inner circle live in a “Westminster bubble” and too often treat the party’s activists with “contempt”. Membership of the party has plunged from around one million to one hundred and it does seem to be an odd time to launch yet another attack.
The oddest thing of all is that today’s opinion polls suggest that it is the membership, rather than the Cameroons, that reflect public opinion. On Europe a clear majority wish to exit the EU and demand a referendum now. The response to same-sex marriage is broadly the same, and this week it is likely that up to 200 Conservative MPs will vote aginst the bill. It will pass, but our dear leader is relying on Labour and Lib Dem votes to achieve this.
This morning David Burrowes, who is leading the opposition to what he sees as a redefinition of marriage, has rushed into print to rant about the “swivel-eyed loons” slur. It has served to make him and the vast majrity of Tory bankbenchers even more determined to fight a Bill which they believe is beng “hustled through with undue haste and minimum scrutiny”.
We increasingly gain the impression that our dear leader is leaping from one hole to the next in his frantic pursuit of what he believes to be vote-winning policies. The problem is that they are not – most people list the economy as their number one concern – and that most of his wheezes deeply offend loyal Conservatives.
All this is happening at a time when Labour is failing to make headway in the polls. Nigel Farage may have been bruised in Scotland but he is likely to be smiling inwardly. Already up to twenty Tory MPs are said to be in favour of Nadine Dorries’s idea of a Ukip-Tory alliance.
David Cameron would be well advised to remember the fate of other prime ministers who have tried to lead the country in defiance of their own party!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” It has often been suggested that Mr Cameron surrounds himself with privileged men who do not share the problems or values of the average voter. “Swivelgate” gives his critics amunition That the comments were not part of a planned speech but the product of casual conversation will encourage those critics to interpret them as the unfiltered expression of how some of No 10′s metropolitan circle really feel about their own party”…Sunday Telegraph editorial of today.
One news story above all others dominated our chatter on the allotments this morning. Sir Fergie, the patron saint of all codgers, has announced his retirement. We can easily understand the reasoning, but we are disappointed for here was living proof that old ‘uns can hold their own in the new whizz-kid age. We had expected him to carry on into his eighties and to continue to yell abuse at referees from his wheelchair. But God help whoever takes over for Fergie is to join the Man Utd Board!
Meantime our dear leader is in yet another hole. Nigel Lawson’s attack on the EU has fired up the many Tory MPs who see a legal commitment to a referendum as the only hope of slowing down the rise of Nigel Farage. And there is growing uproar in Westminster about the strange treatment by the police of Nigel Evans. David Cameron must be feeling the onset of Nigelitis. The only available cure is to apply for the Old Trafford vacancy. At least he would then hear crowds singing his praises, something less than likely in his present role as Nick Clegg’s dad.
Of more immediate concern to us codgers is the growing evidence of an impending collapse of our GP services. We are all ancient now and, between us, could write a book about the important part played in our lives by what we grew up to call our family doctors. Until recently the familiar figures were always there when we needed them,, and always knew our family history, a key factor in diagnosis. Now the traditionally small practices are being merged into larger impersonal ones where you seldom see the same doctor twice in what feels like a production line. And where one senses a weary resignation, a feeling that retirement cannot come too soon.
So what has happened? Until fairly recently most GP practices comprised partners, with the occasional use of locums to cover holidays. The first change was the ending of the obligation to provide out-of-hours services. Then came a massive increase in the amount of non-clinical work imposed on partners. They now face additional responsibilities such as staffing, performance management, premises and accounts, and the advent of commissioning and the transfer of more work from secondary care is the last straw. Oh yes, and GPs are to face regular revalidation.
Seeing patients has become but one of many tasks and many GPs are retiring early rather than deal with rising bureacracy, stress and burnout. Some of our brightest doctors are going to work abroad and we will soon be back to “golden handshakes” to recruit GPs to high-demand areas.
One early outcome of the new pressures is a shift away from partnerships towards salaried roles. A salaried GP, or a locum, can see their pateints and deal with their associated paperwork. And that is it. The majority of young doctors are now female and they tend to opt for salaried positions. To be able to afford them, partners are having to cut back on what they pay themselves to maintain practice solvency. Not surprisingly partners do all they can to cope without recruiting additional staff.
This crisis is building at a time when hospitals are under great fnancial pressure. The result is that GPs have lost their intimate link with consultants and have to contend with patients waiting sometimes months for specialised help. To make things even worse GPs are no longer allowed to make referrals to specific consultants, and have to explain to patients that private medicine is the only route that enables them to do that.
Thanks to Lansley’s so-called reforms GPs now face an even greater embarrassment. Patients are becoming aware that the new commissiong groups are now responsible for regional budgetry decisions and are beginning to question whether the doctor’s motives are always in their best interest. Throw in the inevitable growth of postcode medicine and the near-total collapse of care for the elderly and disabled and the picture of chaos and general disgruntlement is complete.
What is now happening is that we are training doctors only to offer them working conditions so hostile that they leave or go into private practice. Personalised care by a GP who knows his or her patients will disappear. Smaller surgeries will no longer be viable and will be swallowed up by larger impersonal organisations with little continuity of care. As practices struggle to survive incomes will diminish, but at the same time the government expects workloads to continue to rise when practices cannot recruit or retain staff.
What is now happening is unrealistic and unsafe and risks destroying a vital service that we have always taken for granted. However ministers choose to dress this process up it is really about saving money. This is happening alongside a marked reluctance to address tax-avoidance which is costing the treasury countless billions.
Yesterday tax experts representing most of our large tax-avoiders visited Downing Street. They offered voluntary co-operation, a sort of ‘God make us honest, but not just yet’. It won’t do and a government committed to retaining essential services would have shown them the door!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Given the scale of cuts it is increasingly difficult to shield vulnerable people from the effect. Some of the peple we have responsibility for may be affecetd by serious reductions in services – with more in the pipeline over the next two years. Councils plan to make £800m cuts in adult social care over the next 12 months. Around £104m of this will be made through the complete withdrawal of services”….Sandie Keene, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
The clouds had gathered when we arrived at the allotments this morning. For those of my pals who retain a loyalty to the two main political parties – the last Lib Demmer has absconded – it must have seemed symbolic. Just weeks ago David Cameron was dismissive of the Ukip “fruitcakes”, now he is talking in more concilitary tones.
We had an interesting chat with one of the non-hen keeping allotment holders who proudly told us that he had cast his vote for the “clowns”. Whether he is typical is open to debate but he emphasised that his decision was not simply about Europe, although he does believe that Ukip is the only chance to rid ourselves of what he describes as an albatross around our neck. He sees the EU as an emblem of many other things he hates including bossy, distant, arrogant, metropolitan elites foisting immigrants on him and then telling him he is a racist.
To many of the new Ukip voters, David Cameron looks too close to that model of politician to ever be trusted, even when the alternative is Ed Miliband. If this chap’s feelings are any indication Ukip may well sustain a surprising share of the vote even in a general election. And this morning’s news that our dear leader has appointed two more Old Etonians to his No 10 team will have served only to reinforce the belief that an elitist clique is on the bridge.
On last night’s Newsnight the three major parties – including the Lib Dems in that category is becoming increasingly dubious – struggled to deal with the fact that what they call a protest vote has reached 25% of those bothering to vote. And on Europe their contortions were painful. The Labour representative evaded the question altogether whilst the coalition partners talked about a referendum should there be a major treaty change. Ukip are having none of it - they want out, full stop.
All three tried to reassure themselves that come a general election the public will turn back to the ‘real’ parties. Hmm. If our friend is anything to go by they have a major fight on their hands for the level of trust in the established order has never been lower.
Is it fanciful to speculate that trust in ‘stars’ from all walks of life is collapsing at an alarming rate? Perhaps political scepticism is escalating as a result of growing evidence that many who once enjoyed our personal trust were not what they seemed. In my own family Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris for many years provided innocent fun, living proof that life needn’t be taken too seriously.
I am still praying that the man that so often enthralled us with those two little boys is innocent. Sadly we now know that the Its a Knock Out hero was anything but. Sadly each week brings new dark allegations against others we regarded as the perfect antedote to ghastly politicians, and each new story brings out our cry of how could we have believed in them.
It all takes us in the direction of believing in no one that we see or read about. It is not a fruitful atmosphere in which politicians have to struggle to regain our trust. Perhaps they are secretly praying that Nigel Farage will be found wanting. But all the signs are that he is as we are. He drinks, smokes, honestly admits his mistakes, and loves lounging on bar stools. Not something one would put on a CV but the man spurns stardom before it can cast its halo.
To be or not to be? Right now we codgers are disinclined to answer, be the question related to politicians, showbiz or even sporting heroes. We now instinctively trust no one. We need a hero of rectitude. Farage? The jury is out!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home in Weston-super-Mare!”….Kingsley Amis 1922-95
There were quite a few clown jokes as we cleaned out the hens this morning. The sun had gone into hiding, but spirits amongst the codgers were high since everyone enjoys anything that rebounds on the Hush Puppy man Ken Clarke. It takes one to know one and, a few days ago, our least favourite Hooray Henry branded Ukip supporters as clowns. This morning he may well be reflecting that there are rather a lot of people with painted faces and funny hats!
A lot of the local election results have yet to reach us but those that have show that Farage et al have made considerable progress. The fledgling party’s success in the South Shields by-election is remarkable, they surged into second place with 24% of the vote and left the Conservatives a long way behind. They completely eclipsed the Lib Dems who came seventh, only just beating the Howling Laud Hope Loony, and losing their deposit in the process.
The inquests amongst the ‘big’ three parties has begun. Most spokesmen have talked of a protest vote, but the wiser heads amongst them have recognised that it is more than that. Many people are disillusioned by a failure of the coalition partners to keep to their manifesto promises.Even more feel that the political establishment has become elitist, unrepresentative and out-of-touch. Unlike Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband the Ukip leader has been crystal clear about his party’s aims and he has sounded like a breath of fresh air.
We have of course seen sudden upswings in popularity before, most recently in the case if Nick Clegg in the run-up to the last general election. But there is a difference this time. Clegg won support as a result of out-performing Cameron and Grumpy Gordon in open debate. But in terms of policy he promised little more than fine tuning. Nigel Farage stands above all else for something that the other parties will not countenance, an exit from the EU.
David Cameron has spotted this and is trying to play the referendum card, but his party is divided and the Lib Dems will block any move he makes. The Lib Dems are fiercely pro-EU membership, the Labour party likewise. This means that those who have come to see the EU as an unnecessary expense bringing with it open-door immigration and enough regulations to sink an aircraft carrier if we had one, have only one choice.
Of course not everyone wishes to exit the grasp of Brussels, but polls suggest that over half of the electorate feel that way and the longer the age of austerity and tax-avoidance goes on the more appealing will become the case for exit. And the Farage stance is of the no-ifs-or-buts variety.
Without doubt Ukip faces ever increasing scrutiny and much will be made of its economic competence, its lack of governmental experience. But many a disgruntled voter will reason that they could hardly be worse that this government and the last.
Perhaps we are merely witnessing a sudden spark that will be extinguished by the first strong wind. Then again, it is hard to see the ‘major’ parties shifting ground on either EU or immigration. If Ukip is to wither and die it will require the electorate to lose interest in the EU and all its implications. How likely is that?
Farage has already shown himself to be no shrinking violet when dismissing such suggestions as our exports beng dependent on EU membership. And the forthcoming MEP elections will provide him with a dream platform.
Only a brave individual would dare to say that this is the long-awaited big shift in British politics. But only a fool would talk of clowns!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”Damn it all, you can’t have the crown of thorns AND the thirty pieces of silver!”…Aneurin Bevan on his position in the Labour Party, 1956
Another beautiful morning boded well for we hen-cleaners, but does it bode well for our dear leader? Chipping Norton’s favourite son seems besieged, a feeling hardly helped by the Daily Torygraph featuring a huge picture of Nigel Farage on its front page. To be fair it has also headlined David Cameron’s latest anti-Ukip wheeze which involves bringing forward legislation for an EU referendum. Nice thought but since the dreaded Nick Clegg has immediately announced that the Lib Dems will not allow it, the odds are that the hastily constructed torpedo will explode on loading.
We sat outside with our mugs of tea this morning, an experience so rare that the gang was in the sort of warm reflective mood that is usually unique to the Bull & Royal. The general view was that, given such amiable but weak leadership, Britain is back to being ruled by unelected Barons. But this time around it is not the union variety that is ruling our roost. Beer and sandwiches will not placate the new groups that turn the organ-grinder’s handle whilst monkeys, disguised as ministers, dance.
Today two groups are the equivalent of the unions of yesteryear. The first are the boardroom tax avoiders, whose corporate and individual taxes, if paid as intended, would transform the public finances from deficit to surplus in an instant. It is hard for ordinary folk to understand the grip they hold on their fellow clique of elitists at the heart of government, but it has become increasingly clear that our Old Etonians lack the courage to seriously challenge them.
The second group is the British press with its collective interest in weak government. The Leveson report, published last November amid so much hope for much needed change following the phone-hacking scandal and much else, has failed. Its 2,000 pages are history.
Today the Leveson report is to press reform what ‘In Place of Strife’ was to union reform. Harold Wilson flirted with union reform after the seaman’s strike in 1966, and then got scared off in 1969. David Cameron has done the same thing, flirting with press reform after the phone hacking scandals in 2011 before getting scared off in 2013. In both cases vested interests prevailed. In 1969 the Daily Mirror ran a front page editorial headlined; “There exists in Britain a power outside parliament as great as that which exists within it!” And so it is today, only the identity of the power has changed.
There is perhaps a slight hope that the government, backed by the all-party agreement, may stand firm on press regulation but as the general election draws nearer it is unlikely. The prime minister’s links with Murdoch et al are well known and he is unlikely to jeopardise their support. And should Ed Miliband triumph he is unlikely to want to pick a fight with the press in the difficult circumstances of a Labour government.
So we now have not union barons, but those of the boardroom and press variety. There seems no prospect whatsoever that government will tackle the former, and only a remote hope regarding the latter. The implications for us all are unnecessarily harsh austerity and continued bullying and unethical hounding by the media.
At times like this one tends to think back for examples of champions lost, of tough characters who would have said enough is enough, and meant it. Sadly it is a short list, only Thatcher and Churchill spring to mind. Perhaps a continuing success on the part of Ukip might just force David Cameron’s hand on the tax avoiders at least.
But we shouldn’t hold our breath, barons have a tradition of ruling for decades!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I’m tired of all the nonsense about beauty being only skin deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want – an adorable pancreas? …Jean Kerr in ‘The Snake has all the Lines’.