Posts Tagged ‘Ed Miliband’
It has to be admitted that there are some Little Englanders amongst our allotments gang. I say that having listened this morning to a less than enthusiastic reaction to the news that our dear leader, and Sam’s step-father, have persuaded the Chinese government to fund and build our much debated high speed rail. As we cleaned out the hens it became apparent that some of my pals share our European neighbours suspicions about Chinese expansionism.
If anything last night’s news coverage from Beijing served to heighten the bout of paranoia. Those reporters who were not banned altogether were not permitted to ask questions at the Li and Dave press conference, and one was left with the distinct impression that anyone mentioning human rights might end up with more worries than the thought of objectors in the Chilterns increasing their understanding of the stories coming out of Tibet.
Apart from a feeling that the sight of our Prime Minister travelling around with a begging bowl is somewhat humiliating, I was unable to focus on all this. I confess to being more troubled by the fact that once again we long-suffering customers of RBS and NatWest have lost access to our cash. For the second time in 18 months our cards are bouncing in the manner of Eric Pickles in a rage. Perhaps reduced bonuses to fund investment in a few IT experts would be in order. Or perhaps our dear leader can sell RBS to his pal Li?
But life is full of mysteries right now, and the greatest of these is that of energy prices which are tipping so many families over the financial edge and into the clutching hands of Wonga and the rest of the Payday loan sharks. When, a few weeks ago, Ed Miliband promised to freeze prices for a period whilst he broke up the Big Six cartel, David Cameron accused him of Marxism. Since then he appears to have been going to great lengths to do the same thing.
And here lies the mystery. In the absence of our master salesman the spin-doctors of Old London Town have announced that huge concessions have been extracted from the energy suppliers. It will, they tell us, lead to a “£50 reduction in energy bills”. But on Newsnight a spokesman described it as a “£50 reduction in the increase (of up to £150) in energy bills”. Even this mathematically illiterate codger can work out that it cannot be both. To add to the confusion Gorgeous George Osborne has let it be known that he will cover the cost via direct taxation and a less generous approach to green policies.
It sounds to me as if prices will still climb, but by not as much as the profit-makers intended. Always provided that our dear leader has not been brain-washed into believing that questioners should be silenced, one can only hope that he will include an explanation when he next week resumes his weekly abuse of the upstart Miliband.
Talking of whom the Daily Mail has made much of the deeds of his ancestors. It so happens that I am currently reading ‘Wartime Britain’ by Juliet Gardiner, a study hailed by Max Arthur of the Mail, as a “seminal work”. On page 279 one reads that in the pre-war years the Daily Mail described the British Union of Fascists as a “well organised party of the Right ready to take over responsibility for national affairs with the same energy and purpose that Hitler and Mussolini have displayed”. Apparently Lord Rothermere was persuaded by Mussolini. People in greenhouses and stones come to mind!
Meantime our esteemed Attorney-General has launched a scathing attack on the EU. It is, he said yesterday, “arrogant, aloof and astonishing”. The UK, he said, plays by the rules and is punished for doing so. Some might say more fool us!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Ninety per cent of politicians give the other ten per cent a bad name!”….Henry Kisssinger PEACE, 1973
Britain’s spiralling cost of living will force more people into crippling personal debt which already totals a breath-taking £1.4 trillion. UK households now owe the equivalent of 94 per cent of the country’s economic output for the whole of last year. But such tributes to the much heralded economic recovery passed my fellow codgers by this morning. As we cleaned out the hens they had more important matters on their minds – can Brad Hadden stand in the way of the cock-a-hoop England bowlers when play resumes in the Brisbane Test?
Even the revelation that it was the latter-day Keir Hardie, Tony Blair, that gave the US the go-ahead to spy on millions of Britons failed to deflect them from arguments about the selection of Tremlett. In fact the only concession to what is happening in the real world the Barmy Army of the allotments made today was a chat about yesterday’s PM Question Time, possibly the only more entertainingly abusive forum than the Brisbane crowd.
If there existed a Royal College for abuse our dear leader would by now be its president. Yesterday found him at his very best. His usual attack centres on Unite’s Len McCluskey, but a new target has emerged in the shape of the Reverend Paul Flowers. Clearly David Cameron has missed the news that the 2008 bank crash was masterminded by an assortment of Moonies, Tory card sharps and Doctor Who fans.
Crocodile tears cascaded down those rosy cheeks as he implored anyone – meaning Ed Miliband – to assist his zillionth inquiry aimed at proving that Labour are a bunch of rotten eggs. The jaw-dropping hypocrisy was magnificent. Never mind that the coalition encouraged Co-op bankers to expand while regulators slept, here was a villain who had dined nightly at chez Miliband and who was a godfather to even the children that Ed has yet to generate.
At this point the Speaker called the accused. Guess what – we were then treated to a list of Dave’s dodgy dozen including such intimates now appearing in a court case that Ed was not allowed to mention. Things were getting out of hand and, as so often, it was left to brother Meacher to light the fuse. He had only reached a description of Mali having outperformed the UK economy when our dear leader cried that he had clearly been out on the town with the Reverend and had taken mind-altering substances. In truth Mr Meacher has inhaled nothing more mind-altering than Tony Benn’s dairies and he protested to headmaster Bercow who sent the whole lot of them home.
The pity is that so many of us confine our parliamentary viewing to the Abuse Show for it is the select committees that provide any real insight. Yesterday the Business and Skills version was preoccupied with the bankers, and demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the incompetent Reverend was far from unusual, he represents the norm.
The committee spent over two hours questioning senior staff from Goldman Sachs and UBS, the banks that led the Royal Mail giveaway. Based on their ‘expert’ advice the Coalition sold 60% of Royal Mail at 330p a share, thus valuing the company at £3.3 billion. Yesterday the shares were changing hands at 550p, representing a loss to the British taxpayer of £2.2 billion, enough to fund several train-loads of soldiers, nurses and social workers.
So far the banks that priced and marketed the shares have been paid £12.7 million and stand to get a further £4.2 million if Uncle Vince Cable thinks they warrant it. Staggering. Adrian Bailey, who chairs the committee, concluded that “The government, in view of what has happened subsequently, would be mad to give them yet more money”. Since it is, it probably will. In mitigation, the bankers made clear that such transactions are impossible to forecast in advance, thus consigning their Experts label into the waste-paper basket.
But all is not lost. Yesterday the identity of the next City of Culture was revealed. It is Hull, a choice we codgers have regularly advocated. How could a city that has two-Jags Prescott as its culture bedrock have been ignored for so long?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “To reward the private sector that lost the taxpayer potentially billions and, in these days of austerity, would be a very politically dangerous thing to do!”…..Adrian Bailey, chairman of the Business and Skills select committee.
“I’m hearing an awful lot of stuff from you about how wonderful you are, and what great expertise you have. Can I, as a taxpayer, assume that all this is the cult of the high priest and meant to say you are much better at your job than you are, and you have failed the taxpayer”….Brian Binley, Conservative member of committee.
Albert’s arrival for this morning’s hen-cleaning attracted rather more attention than is usually the case. His face was covered in paint. It was, he told us, the result of a demonstration he staged last night for his grand children of the noble art of Halloween conversion. In the absence of make-up he used gloss paint left over from his kitchen redecoration. We couldn’t help but wonder how Mrs Albert felt this morning when she awoke to find a pint-sized Dracula next to her. But the world is full of fools.
Some of them earn their living from foolery, others are just plain daft. Amongst the former, and head and shoulders above the rest, are to be found our favourites, the incomparable Eric and little Ernie. But yesterday we for the first time began to fear that their domination of the memory hall of double acts is under threat. We tuned in to PM’s Question Time and realised that if the Beeb feels inclined to update its Christmas schedule our heroes may vanish from our screens for ever. Morecambe and Wise were brilliant but were they really as hilarious as the Dave and Ed Show?
As if to consolidate his role as Eric, our dear leader yesterday sported, for the first time, glasses similar to the great man. He had clearly practised before the mirror, for his frequent routine of flicking them back up his nose was a perfect re-creation. We expected him to tug at Ed’s wig and to slap his chubby cheeks but even an Old Etonian couldn’t reach across the despatch box. But the verbals were splendid.
The script writers had chosen energy prices as the background, and Dave was quickly off the mark by triumphantly accusing little Ed of rejecting the Tory policy of switching suppliers yet proceeding to switch his own. Presumable Bletchley Park had extracted this gem from their recordings. But Ed was up to it. Of course he wants to pay less for his fuel; he just doesn’t think it should be so expensive in the first place. His script writer had him respond that Dave was in cahoots with the big six, who were now the big seven. “The only thing people need to do is switch prime minister”, he squeaked. Goalless draw so far.
Ed then asked why Dave has gone from being Rambo to Bambi in “four short years”. He could have used Toughie to Tufty or Arafat to Puddytat but script writers are paid by the hour. Dave’s had him respond that Ed was a “one-trick pony that has run out of road”. They will have to sharpen up for a Christmas Show since one-trick ponies, or even 90-trick ponies, perform not on the road but in a circus ring. But the show roared on.
Dave called Ed a “seven-weAk day man” and said that he created a “pathetic spectacle”. We loved the way he then waved his new Specsavers as he said it. As with all good double acts the half-hour was over in a flash and Dave stalked out with his very best I-have-better-things-to-do-with-my-time-than-argue-with-you closing line. We almost expected the pair to return with ‘Bring me sunshine’.
It was only later that we remembered that the pair are supposedly involved, albeit in a vague way, in running the country, and we amused ourselves by playing the parlour game of Do They Know That..?
Do they know that Iain Duncan Smith is not as daft as John Major suggests? Five Supreme Court justices upheld a Court of Appeal decision that his “back to work” scheme is legally flawed. IDS, as he is known to his wife, has fast tracked an Act through parliament which validates the scheme retrospectively, and has managed it without anyone noticing.
Do they know that the World Health Organisation has warned that our record level of youth joblessness is a “health time bomb”? Prof Sir Michael Marmot says that the UK is “failing too many of our children, women and young people on a grand scale”. For good measure he said yesterday that the UK’s poverty rate is comparable to that of Hungary but even they do more to “redistribute wealth”. As we speak IDS is probably slipping through legislation banning Marmots.
It is probable that they are also not aware that a record number of teachers were caught cheating in GCSE, AS and A-level exams this year, or that enemies of the less-than-funny Michael Gove are putting it down to his passion for employing unqualified teachers. We are sure that had Dave known this he would have taken urgent steps to block the impressionable Jeremy Hunt from launching his copycat scheme to use G4S as a replacement for qualified doctors.
It is a pity that they didn’t know that the official estimate is that our energy companies are systematically overcharging customrrs by £3.7 billion a year, for that snippet would have provided rich pickings for their script writers. And had they realised that the big six no longer pay corporation tax the range of jokes would have been even greater.
Even they must know that the newspapers and politicians are now daggers-drawn over press regulation, although since Nick Clegg went to get her Majesty’s signature it is possible that he hasn’t told them. But either way they are well advised to feign ignorance since both politicians are press are held in equal odium by the public and jokes would be bound to offend someone.
But we are being somewhat harsh. Dave has other things on his mind right now, as would anyone whose best friends are in court. And Ed has to decide whether he really supports HS2 or must do what his backbenchers tell him to do. And both men are just a week away from their next show.
So we should leave them to their promising showbiz careers and leave IDS to deal with affairs of state! On second thoughts, leave it to Big Eric Pickles and ignore the news that his £7.5 billion scheme to encourage the building of new homes is now reported to be building them in areas of plentiful supplies.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “No news is good news; no journalists is even better!”….Nicholas Bentley
It was good to see the sun this morning, even though its heating switch was in the off position. Having read of impending gale-force winds we codgers were thankful for small mercies as we cleaned out the hens whilst dressed in the manner of Eskimo Nell. Brass monkeys would have fled the scene but we wizened northerners are made of tougher stuff. Not everyone shares that view, she-who-must-be-obeyed contends that where there is no sense there is no feeling.
Either way our dear leader was the focus of attention when we thawed out with our brew. Yesterday he incurred the wrath of his arch enemy, little John Bercow, when he turned a terrible brick colour and declared Ed Miliband to be a conman. As my old Gran used to say it takes one to know one. As a nation we love the concept of National Days, and the calendar is packed with such, ranging from the Rose through to Ferret breeding. Henceforth our Playboy versions will mark October 23 as National Conman Day.
It follows that yesterday was in retrospect the inaugural occasion. A quick resume revealed that we are off to a prolific start. We positioned our dear leader’s sleight of hand in regard to Stafford Hospital near the top of the list. The prime minister labelled the hospital a national disgrace, a place in which dehydration is only avoided by drinking from flower vases. Just days later over 50,000 locals paraded through Stafford in support of their “treasured hospital”, and it was revealed that vases have been banned for the past half century. Perhaps we should have a conman of the year award?
Our dear leader would be up there amongst the favourites. Yesterday he strengthened his claim by suddenly announcing that Miliband’s green taxes were to blame for the continual rise in energy prices, and promised to “roll them back”. It did seem to contradict his election slogan of “Vote blue to go green”, and it did seem to bemuse his LibDem partners who promised to ensure that his promise will never see the light of day. But it was a textbook example of a first-class con – promise something which cannot be delivered due to the intransigence of others.
But completion for the honour would be intense. The police yesterday staked their claim with what must have been the most beguiling performance before a Commons select committee of all time. Jerry Reekes-Williams, of West Mercia police, reported on his investigation of the trio that gave to the media versions of their meeting with Andrew Mitchell that directly contradicted the conversation recorded on the Mitchell’s tape-recorder. The officers, said the investigator, were not guilty of lying, but they did mislead by “putting weight on certain words and phrases”. The trio followed with a demonstration in the art of evasion so wearisome that Keith Vaz, the normally tolerant chairman of the committee, was moved to ask if they imagined the questioning to be “some sort of TV panel show”.
But even they probably felt less uncomfortable than the American and British security surveillance lot when Angela Merkel became uncharacteristically heated at the discovery that they have been busy hacking into her mobile phone. Catlin Hayden, the White House’s National Security spokeswoman failed her comman test when she replied that “We are not monitoring , and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel”, thus revealing that they have done so in the past. Come back Edward Snowden, all is forgiven!
It was no surprise to find Michael Gove, who always gives the impression of someone auditioning for the part of a villain in a Bond movie, up there amongst the champion conman contenders. Having declarer that his beloved ‘free schools’ are carefully vetted he was unmasked by a leaked Department for Education document. His signature appears below a proposal to “reduce financial analysis”, and for good measure the suggestion is coloured in green with “Yes, cut” scrawled alongside.
Another contender in the conman stakes must be Gorgeous George Osborne. He is about to trumpet the news that the economy is at last enjoying strong growth. Sadly for him a study about to be released by Manchester University reveals that the top 20% of earning households are enjoying most of the growth, and that the north/south divide has widened dramatically. Our hero may well forget to mention that the ‘recovery’ is somewhat selective!
No list of conmen would be complete without mention of the tax avoiders. Every day brings more names of offenders and today official figures show that £35billion was uncollected last year, a figure far in excess of all the cuts imposed on what the gorgeous one calls “ordinary people”. Today’s new names include the Gondola Group, which owns Pizza Express, Zizzi and Ask. It has avoided UK corporation tax to the extent of £77m since it was bought by the Cinven private equity fund in 2006. But is unfair to single out any one avoider, the practice is almost universal including even the recipients if our lottery flutters, Camelot.
Having said all that it has to be admitted that the banks are still the most likely contenders for the Cameron conmen award. Take a bow Barclays, who may no longer pay you interest on your current account but still know how to maintain gigantic bonuses despite the EU cap. Barclay’s cunning plan is to hand out a third payment to bankers in addition to basic salary and traditional bonuses. The payment will probably take the form of a monthly allowance , paid in cash in addition to salary but not taken into account when bonuses are calculated.
Aspiring conmen such as politicians, police , spies and business gurus can eat their hearts out. When it comes to the noble art of conmanship our banks are still without equal!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects”…..Herodotus
As was the case with Mark Twain, it seems that reports of John Major’s death were greatly exaggerated. His isn’t a name that comes up often amongst the allotments codgers, but a few weeks ago someone did mention him only to be told by Albert that he had “gone to glory”. The former prime minister having given low profile a whole new definition the rest of us felt unable to contradict the claim. Yesterday we learned that we were wrong, and the Conservative hierarchy likewise. All credit to the chap who, according to ‘Spitting Image’, always ate his peas one at a time!
At last someone remotely connected to our dear leader and his fellow Etonians has realised that the behaviour of the Big Six energy companies is totally unacceptable. John Major was unequivocal that the energy firms are profiteering. He went on to say that: “I do not see how it can be in any way acceptable that with energy cost rising broadly 4%, that the price for the consumer should rise by 9 to 10%”. It was, he said, “not beyond the wit of man to do what companies have done since the dawn of time and borrow their investment rather than funding a large proportion of their investment out of the revenue of families whose wages have not been going up at a time when other costs have been rising”.
After the Edwina Currie saga the so-called grey man has kept his thoughts to himself, we admire him for breaking his vow of silence. He recalled his own modest roots and warned that “silent citizens” should not be overlooked just because they do not “make a fuss and just get on with their lives”. For good measure he also issued a warning to Iain Duncan Smith over benefits. “If he listens only to the bean counters and cheerleaders concerned only with abuse of the system he will surely fail”, he said.
In passing, Sir John commented that in addressing the energy crisis Ed Miliband had shown that his heart was “in the right place”. But he saw a one-off windfall tax as a better option than a price freeze. What neither he nor Miliband nor the Coalition have mentioned is the word they clearly believe creates horror in the minds of the public. Nationalisation. A poll just published suggests that they are all misreading the public mood.
Nearly 70 per cent demanded energy in public hands. Given the number this is clearly no ‘hard-left’ mantra, consumers are sick of being victims to an endless rip-off by what amounts to a cartel. In many cases they are in desperate financial straits and Major was right to use the term “heat or eat”. The shocked reaction from Downing Street about the need for competition was pure nonsense. Consumers have no choice whatsoever. They have to ‘buy’ energy, and the Big Six are in cahoots with each other.
The truth is that the Coalition have no objections to state ownership in any state but Britain. Our foreign-owned energy suppliers can profiteer at the expense of British consumers and the French state can benefit. Or take the new deal with EDF and China to build the Hinkley Point nuclear power station. The government has struck a deal worth twice today’s market rate for nuclear-generated electricity over 35 years. A whopping subsidy will be paid by British taxpayers to France and China. Take the Royal Mail privatisation. The profitable elements were flogged off to the likes of the Kuwait dictatorship sovereign wealth fund, while the British taxpayer carried the burden of the pension fund deficit. This is modern capitalism: we nationalise debt, but it’s always private companies that get the profit.
If you do still feel sympathy for the Big Six you might perhaps care to look at Scottish Power. The pathetic regulator Ofgem has order it to repay £8.5 m after being caught mis-selling. Hardly a punitive fine since Scottish Power’s pre-tax profit doubled last year to £712m. It also paid a dividend of £890m to its Spanish parent. Meanwhile SSE has been found similarly guilty and investigations are continuing into npower and E.ON.
What is needed is a new publicly run British energy industry. All profits should be invested in lowering prices, in modernisation, and in building the renewable energies of the future. Consumers should have elected representatives and the body should be combined with an emergency national insulation programme for homes and businesses, dramatically slashing fuel poverty, helping the environment, and creating secure jobs in the future.
This is not socialism, it is common sense. Any party daring to mention it would be surprised at the level of support out there. But faint hearts and ideologists will talk of the punitive set-up costs.
Perhaps they should for the first time take a serious look at tax avoidance. Today we learn that even more companies are robbing the exchequer by loading up on ‘debt’ through the Channel Islands loophole. To those already named on this blogsite we can now add BHS, Office, Nando’s and Pizza Express to mention but a few. In fact the situation is now out of control and economists estimate that many billions of pounds are being lost.
Our dear leader may elect to ignore John Major, Ed Miliband et al. But he now faces a more formidable foe. The vast majority of the British electorate is ranged against him! Mass demonstrations and a refusal to pay bills are just a whisker away !
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “The less people know about how sausages and tax laws are made, the better they will sleep at night!”..Otto von Bismarck
The term gutter press crops up regularly when we codgers gather for our brewe after cleaning out the hens, and this morning was no exception. Several of our members had taken their daily dip into the Daily Mail with their cornflakes and, unsurprisingly, found their favourite read under heavy attack. To be fair their choice of paper is determined by their better-halves who enjoy the extensive coverage of fashion and other related subjects. Last year I travelled to London with a group of budding economists to be entertained to lunch by the Mail’s city editor, Alex Brummer, and it was only then that I learned that the Mail is unique in having a predominantly female readership. It explains a good deal about the circulation figures.
The current affairs coverage is hardly likely to attract any but the most rabid right-wingers, but to them it must fall as manna from heaven. During my years with the NHS I shared the rage of many at the constant invention, distortion and lies as the Mail attempted to undermine and destroy the service. That the rest of its ‘news’ coverage was slanted was taken as read.
But over the past day or so it has plumbed new depths. As part of its campaign aimed at destroying Ed Miliband it has chosen to launch a vicious attack on his late father, Ralph. Even Jon Steafel, the paper’s deputy editor, felt obliged to admit on Newsnight that the prominent featuring of a picture of Ralph Miliband’s grave was an “error of judgement”. It was good to hear both David Cameron and Nick Clegg expressing support for Ralph’s family, and the younger son in particular.
In fact the only leading politician who refused to condemn this extreme example of the gutter press in action was pompous little Michael Gove, no great surprise given that his wife, Sarah Vine, is a leading columnist at the Mail. No doubt her latest piece entitled “Sarah Vine: Making me Flab-U-Less” has cheered many.
It is not often that we codgers find ourselves in agreement with Alastair Campbell, but the decision of Newsnight to feature him alongside Steaful was a masterstroke. Campbell went crazy with rage. He launched a vicious attack on the widely loathed Paul Dacre, and tore to shreds the assertion that Ralph Miliband “hated Britain”. He recalled that Miliband senior served with distinction in the Royal Navy during the war and at no time ever gave the slightest indication that he “hated” his adopted country. Yes, he was not in favour of the monarchy or the established church, but since when is that an indication of hatred for Britain?
Campbell was not alone in his vitriol. The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith pointed out that the owners of the Mail had been enthusiastic supporters of the Nazis in the 1930s, and said it was “odd for a newspaper to judge a man on the basis of the history of his family when that newspaper is owned by a family that did more to pursue the Nazi cause pre-war than any other publication”. Leo Panitch, who worked alongside Ralph Miliband for 27 years said the Daily Mail article was a “scurrilous piece of extreme right-wing propaganda”. Nick Clegg tweeted that he supported Ed. “Politics”, he said, should be about playing the ball, not the man, certainly not the man’s family”.
When some years ago I was at University studying political history the publications of Ralph Miliband were essential reading. There was never the slightest indication that the author hated Britain. What he hated was the class system of his day, and the part played by such as the Daily Mail in influencing working-class opinion. He was dismayed by the resulting fear often induced in Labour party figures who, rather than standing up to be counted, responded by themselves accommodating of the reproduction of that system. I often found myself disagreeing with Ralph Miliband but never for one moment did I detect a hint of anti-Britishness. Such a suggestion is absurd.
Of course Ed Miliband can expect to be the subject of a continuing campaign of hate from the Mail as the election comes ever closer. Right now it is peddling the claim that his threat to the ‘big-six’ energy companies is a throwback to the old socialist love of nationalisation. Wrong again. What Miliband the younger is posing is an interesting piece of ideology. What do you do when markets do not work?
What do you do when markets do not generate genuine competition, when the consumer is forced to choose between companies offering the same essential services at the same prices. We have yet to hear a convincing answer from any coalition minister.
Much was made last night of the refusal by editor Paul Dacre to appear on Newsnight. We think that we know the reason. The October edition of ‘Tatler’ features a beaming Lady Rothermere, wife of the proprietor of the Daily Mail, throwing an admiring arm around the shoulders of Geordie Greig, editor of the Mail on Sunday, a job he owes to the patronage of milady Rothermere.
The same Greig recently defied an instruction from his editor-in-chief, Paul Dacre, that his sport department should share staff and resourcres with the daily title. And the selfsame Greig is letting it be known that he will be replacing Dacre as editor of the Daily Mail any t ime soon.
Should Dacre’s revolting portrayal of a family grave hit circulation it may happen even sooner!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY “Under capitalism man exploits man. With communism it’s precisely the opposite!”…..J K Galbraith
Today’s heading is not an indication that we codgers have seen the light and are setting forth as missionaries to darkest Wigan. The old biblical adage seemed a perfect summary of today’s news and since, unlike the tabloid sub-editors, we don’t have a prize for the cleverest headline, we decided to use it as a tribute to Gorgeous George Osborne and other stories that demonstrate that our society is divided between those who hath and those who are, as the cockneys say, brassic lint.
Of course those in the latter category do not include our GPs. Almost 700 of them now earn more than £200,000 a year, of those 160 are trousering over £250,000. Many of them have been able to boost their income by serving on the 211 clinical commissioning boards set up by Andrew Lansley, and whose executives are mainly those handed handsome redundancy packages when the old Primary Care Trusts were abolished. Some of us were naïve enough to believe that GPs were actually going to run the new creations, the reality is that the only effect of GPs attending endless meetings is that getting an appointment is now more elusive that a dinner party with Dave and Sam.
Another story that caught our cynical eyes was the one concerning the Green MP Caroline Lucas. She is to appear in court charged with obstructing the police. What she actually did was to join hundreds of others in a peaceful protest against fracking. Sadly for her she is neither wealthy nor a member of the establishment. Do you really imagine that a Conservative MP would have been singled out by Knacker?
But the big story of the day is the one of the Chancellor rushing to the rescue of our beloved bankers. The EU doesn’t pass many useful laws, but most of us probably gave it two cheers for proposing that banker’s bonuses be capped. Mr Osborne has rushed to their defence and plans to spend taxpayer’s money on a court action aimed at allowing bigger bonuses to continue! In fact our leading bean-counter had a bad-hair day yesterday.
He led the chorus of right-wing rage at the preposterous proposal by Ed Miliband to take money from the energy firms cartel. It is, the chorus had it, the equivalent to summoning the ghost of Lenin. Most of us beg to differ, we are tired of being ripped-off by monopolistic firms happy to greet rises in wholesale prices by jacking up household bills, yet almost never dropping them when prices fall. One of their spokesmen yesterday let it be known that they will fight. You bet they will, nothing must be allowed to slow down their rocketing profits.
Poll;s tell us that we codgers are typical in having lost any sense of political affiliation. But we are pleased by the range of policies announced by Miliband the younger. We don’t agree with some of them but at least it will now be possible to distinguish between the major parties. No surprise that the Prince of Darkness, now known as the Lord Mandelson, has condemned them – he stood at Blair’s right hand as the Labour Party moved to the right of Genghis Khan .
It is indeed a funny old world when Osborne’s multimillion bung to housebuilders and estate agents, otherwise known as Help to Buy, is described as capitalism whilst any move against excessive profiteering at the expense of consumers is regarded by the establishment as a red revolution. Mandelson, Osborne and their pals display an ignorance of economic terms such as “market failure” and” imperfect competition”.
Privatisation is a positive step but only if it results in competition that drives prices down by empowering consumers. It is a thoroughly bad thing when it hands monopolistic control of an essential service with the customer having no real alternative source of supply. Water is a classic example. It is even worse when driven by the old boys network.
So, despite our reservations, we applaud the assault on the excessive profit makers and tax evaders by pale pink Ed. For too many years the hath-nots have felt the need for a champion. It is just possible that they have now found one!
The jury is out but we need no lectures from Mandelson who is no more a democratic socialist than I am a Charles Dickens. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”big business is the art of extracting money from another man’s pocket without resorting to violence!”…..Max Amsterdam
There was a ripple of ironic applause when I appeared on the allotments this morning. My frequent absence for hen-cleaning of late has left me as popular as a boil on a boundary rider’s bum, but hopefully a few weeks of regular attendance will restore my reputation. My explanation does not sound plausible but it is true – I have attended umpteen NHS clinics for investigation of the ‘shadow’ on my lung shown by XRay which has proved to be the result of a plastic cash card in my shirt pocket. Perhaps I should have claimed that I was indulging in trysts with Zsa Zsa Gabor.
But the codgers soon switched their attention to a somewhat younger target. Almost everyone had watched the performance of Ed Miliband at the Labour Party conference and, inevitably, people whose memories now resemble colanders were full of praise for his ability to memorise a one hour speech. How will our dear leader beat this? He could try performing whilst standing on his head, but that would serve only to turn his face even ruddier and who will want to vote for a beetroot?
Predictably the predominantly right-wing papers are wheeling out the Red Ed taunt. Hardly. For those of us whose early years were dominated by such as Nye Bevan he is at best pale pink. But he is shrewd. Although the polls show that the county as a whole is less than impressed with the idea of the two Eds being in charge of the bean-counting, the reading in marginal seats is somewhat different. There the Labour Party leads the Tories by 44% to 33%, and these are the seats that Miliband needs to win to gain the right to select the number 10 curtains. And the policies rattled off will have gone down well there.
Not least amongst these was the attack on the utilities. The announcement of a proposed freeze on prices will in reality draw few critics from any household. Prices have been rising at around 9% annually for several years and it has long been apparent that the big six are operating what is effectively a cartel. British Gas owner Centrica, EDF, Npower, SSE, E.on and Scottish Power have raised bills quickly when wholesale prices have risen yet shown a united reluctance to reduce them when they fall. Over the same time, multibillion -pound profits have soared as have dividends and bonuses.
Of course Miliband is playing the populist card, but he has chosen a good one. Most of the companies on whom we rely for our power are foreign-owned, and their commitment to the people of this county is minimal. The system is bust, there is no real competition. The tycoons will of course threaten blackouts and plague. The answer to that is to introduce new truly competitive suppliers plus real regulation.
Please don’t interpret this endorsement of the thoughts of Ed the geek as an indication of total endorsement. We were concerned at things he didn’t mention. The destruction of the NHS, HS2 and Europe were hardly mentioned and that worries us. Maybe our new stage star reasons that such things are best left to Ukip, who could do Labour a power of good in constituencies held by the coalition? But if we codgers are any guide failure to address these momentous issues will lose Ed a lot of votes amongst those who once voted Labour.
Having said all that we must express delight at the discomfort of all those who described Ed Miliband as weak and non-confrontational. He certainly demonstrated that he is not so, he even lashed out on the Murdoch-Cameron link. He also made clear his determination to be master in his own house and it was amusing to see John Prescott looking as happy as a walrus with a gastric problem. Mind you, we couldn’t help noticing the carefully placed ranks of young and televisual persons who appeared to be transfixed with the delight once associated with a Tom Jones concert.
Funniest of all were the coalition stooges who appeared on last night’s Newsnight. Miliband, they sneered, looks anything but a Prime Minister. Do we conclude from that that they believe that Mssrs Cameron and Clegg do?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” If, one morning, I walked over the River Thames, the headline that afternoon would read ‘Prime Minister Can’t Swim!”…..Margaret Thatcher
The mist hanging low over the fields reflected perfectly our state of mind as we codgers gathered on the allotments this morning. Most of us had been to a late-night party, and were more in need of the hair of a dog than the feather of a chicken. Albert, who imbibed rather more than the rest of us, complained that the hens looked as big as Eric Pickles, to my bleary eye they appeared more like Wee Georgie Wood. It was fortunate that we were not scheduled to play in a Premiership match, though I imagine that the incentive of earning £200,000 a week would have enlivened us.
It was only when we gathered for black coffee that Jack reminded us that the party conference season has arrived. Not news to set the pulses racing. It doesn’t seem to have made much impact on MPs either, since 38 per cent of Tory members have let it be known that they are giving their event a wide berth. They are instead attending a private conference at a Chipping Norton hotel for a series of ’motivational’ lecture by the likes of Lynton Crosby and, presumably, such leading Chipping stars as Rebekah Brooks and Jeremy Clarkson.
The talks will doubtless include presentation skills, an art form now regarded amongst the politicos as infinitely more important than policies. Meantime our dear leader will head off to the MP-less Party Conference to stride the stage in true Olivier fashion. It is said that bullshit baffles brains. Maybe, but for us brainless ones it merely irritates.
Two of our three national leaders devote a great deal of time to the noble art of acting. Messrs Cameron and Clegg are reaching heights normally exclusive to the Palladium. The third, young ED, hasn’t quite mastered the art and is currently performing at the level of a nervous beginner at the local Rep. We sceptical ones are left wondering why British politics is so obsessed with so-called charisma.
We wonder if anyone has noticed that the highest trust rating recorded by any UK politician is 28 per cent, in other words more than 70 per cent listen to their role-playing and disbelieve every word. If so they may also have noticed that there is, not too far from these shores, a political leader with a rating of 80 plus. And she has not been coached in the art of charisma.
In fact Angela Merkel’s public speaking style is as inspiring as the Eurozone quarterly growth figures. Europe’s most powerful leader is, er, boring, snoring. She’s so cautious that she has the exact same jacket in at least 70 unadventurous shades and wears an identical outfit (one of the jackets with dark trousers) every day. If she was a British politician and appeared on Newsnight there would have to be another BBC inquiry, this time into allegedly sending the audience to sleep before bedtime.
A German election looms. Even there they have PR ‘experts’ and one such seized on Mrs Merkel’s habit of placing her hands together, fingers pointing downwards to create the shape of a diamond. He produced a poster featuring “The hands of power”, and was quickly rebuked. It means nothing, said the lady, “I do it because I never know what to do with my arms!”.
I report all this not to condemn Angela Merkel, but to praise her. She has few critics and even those who oppose her admit that she is honest and not easily deflected from what she believes to be right. The German people know only too well the dangers involved in ‘charismatic’ leaders and they have grown to love ‘Mutti’ (mummy) not least because she is utterly charisma-free.
Arguably the most trusted Prime Minister ever to choose the Downing Street curtains was Clem ‘the clam’ Attlee. By his standards Mrs Merkel is as exciting as James Bond. But he was trusted and respected. Sadly the new British penchant for televised debates would have destroyed him.
We codgers have a sneaking admiration for Ed Miliband. Our reservation is based on the fact that he seems decidedly short of policies. Our worry is that he too has become caught up in the phoney fever about charisma. If only he would settle for being boring and combine it with clear policies there would, we believe, be hope for the post-Blair Labour Party.
So no we won’t be following the Party Conferences. If we feel the need for make-believe scripts and polished acting we will go to the local 6-screen Vue cinema!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” I always knew that if all else failed I could become an actor – and all else failed!”….David Niven
A sunny morning always lifts the mood as we clean out the hens and collect the eggs. It is at times like this that I notice the change in attitudes to the news, something less evident on wet mornings when words are few and cusses many. I find myself remembering times when most discussions were based on an apparent acceptance that what we read was what was. No longer.
If our group is in any way typical we have become more individual, liberal and cynical. To an extent this is due to the constant drip-feed of opinion polls which tell us that we are no longer as gullible as was once the case. A good example is the case of the Union barons response to Ed Miliband’s proposed reforms to the relationship of Unite and the rest with the Labour Party. Disgraceful they cried, this will torpedo his plans to choose the curtains at Number Ten.
Within days a poll revealed that over 60 per cent of Union members believe that young Ed is spot on, and the proposed changes will make a significant number more likely to support him come the election. Just a decade ago the unionised workers accepted the word from the dynosaurs on high as gospel and kept their thoughts to themselves. Now they draw strength from the knowledge that many others think exactly as they do.
A similar example can be found in the case of Syria. The British people, boomed our dear leader, demand action. He lost the Commons vote since many MPs had been made aware by YouGov that the vast majority of the people demanded exactly the opposite. Then we have Gorgeous George Osborne’s claim that the economic recovery is underway. We quickly learn that the majority believe otherwise.
It would of course be foolish to attribute the discernible change in public attitudes solely to polls but they must be a major factor. In the new age of mass communications people feel liberated as individuals, able to establish what others think and to dip into the vast reservoir of thinking and debate.
Yesterday my theory received a boost with the publication of a study by NatCen Social Research, which surveys a representative sample of more than 3,000 people annually. It found that the nation has changed beyond recognition in the three decades since it first began examining society. People are now much less bound by class, gender and sexuality. I venture to suggest that increasing knowledge of what others really feel has played its part.
The researchers found a recent shift towards a “more sympathetic stance on benefits and recipients”. Osborne and his pals talk of scroungers imagining they are tapping into the public mood, they are wrong. Perhaps this is partly explained by the fact that only 20% now trust government to put the nation’s needs above those of a political party. In fact trust in Westminster has all but collapsed.
No great surprise then that the chasm between what most politicians advocate on Europe and what people feel is enormous. A record 67% want either to leave or to remain only if the EU becomes less powerful. The Lib Dems and Labour party are completely out of step with what the electorate demands.
One of the biggest changes in attitude relates to homosexuality. In 1883 only 41% thought it “acceptable for a homosexual person to be a teacher in a school”. Now 83% think it acceptable. This may well reflect the fact that in 1983 most people identified with a religion, now only around half do so.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest change relates to the Banks. Back in 1983, 90% thought that Banks were well run, now just 19% believe that. Almost as predictable is the fall in public esteem of newspapers. Less than half of the 53% that thought them honest and well run in 1983 now believe that. Rupert Murdoch et al are losing their power to influence.
Wherever you look in this fascinating insight into what we really think you find one common thread. The old order of Britain, where the traditional pillars of society were respected, has suffered a huge loss of public trust. Even the monarchy is down to 45%.
To me the most interesting finding of all is that a large majority believs that it can now influence what politicians do. It will become increasingly hard for MPs to toe a party line that they know is deeply unpopular with their constituents. No longer will they be able to merely ask their inner circle of activists and choose to believe that they are a reliable guide.
The same pattern probably applies in the United States. Barack Obama cannot lightly dismiss from his thoughts on Syria the fact that over 70% of his countrymen oppose any involvement. Polls there, as here, have given the silent majority a voice.
There are of course those who belong to the Doubting-Thomas school of thinking. Our own Albert believes nothing and no one. It follows that he doesn’t believe the findings of any survey or poll . But he is, to quote Bob, spitting into the wind!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “ Public opinion, at least partly, reflects the behaviour of the people and institutions in question – whether they be politicians, journalists or bankers. So their future public standing lies to a large extent within their own hands”…..NatCen Social Research survey.
Editors of national newspapers seem to draw false conclusions as to the reasons for reader loyalty. When, on Sundays, we codgers rest from our hen-cleaning chores various paper emerge from pockets and the Sunday Torygraph is usually in the ascendancy. Today it is preoccupied with Syria and dark tales of dark deeds by the British Communist Party – which we suspect now comprises an old geezer in Ealing and his rotweiller – in influencing Ed Miliband’s stance. Presumably the editor imagines that it is such fantasy that has us reaching for our two quid. It isn’t, we buy to read the excellent sports coverage.
In common with the rest ,the Telegraph is in essence a method of propaganda. Every story and article is slanted to the political right in the same way that the Mirror leans in the opposite direction. Today we learn that the one and only Dr Liam Fox is about to make a comeback, news that is supposed to have us gasping with the excitement we normally reserve for the fall of Aussie wickets. Our actual reaction is to ask where Werrity has got to.
It all serves to remind us of the hoo-hah about political party funding. Young Ed has made a mess of his handling of the alleged vote rigging in Falkirk, and the apparently whiter-than-white trades unions have decided to reduce their donations to the party they founded. Now Miliband the younger has decided to promise to limit by law party donations to £5,000 and to introduce an element of state-funding.
At the last election Labour spent £8 million, an amount now likely to be significantly reduced. But the Conservatives spent £16.7 million and they would be the more affected. The Lib Dems got through a mere £4.8 million. The grand total spent on campaigning was £31.5 million. For that money you can buy a lot of lies!
We codgers have a suggestion. Why not confine expenditure to the production and printing of manifestos? As I type the words I can almost hear the roars of disbelief from the assembled ranks of spin-doctors and imported American campaign-wizards. But boil down their so-called professions and what do you have. A total preoccupation with slanting, distortion and plain lies.
Is there anyone left on planet earth who believes anything they read in party pamphlets that clog up our letter-boxes? Only the party faithful, and they would have voted for the party of their choice anyway. Does anyone tune in to a party political broadcast and view it as anything but a piece of biased propaganda? Only the party faithful and their votes are already assured.
Even the vaunted leader’s debate at the last election were a distortion. Yes the three leaders were able to counter what they saw as falsehoods, but the winner was not the most truthful but the one best equipped in the Olivier art of acting. You may remember that Nick Clegg wiped the floor with Cameron and Grumpy Gordon but does anyone seriously believe that NC was telling the unvarnished truth. Students certainly don’t!
Arguably the worst orator ever to be Prime Minister was Clem ‘the clam’ Attlee. He would have been the ultimate cure for insomnia, but he proved to be honest, above influence and a great social reformer. Ed Miliband would run Clem close on the boring stakes but are we looking for an actor or a man or woman of their word?
If politicians wish to talk us round let them hold mass meetings in the unlikely event that anyone turns up. Let them get out on the doorsteps to meet real people. Above all else let then produce manifestos that spell out precisely what they will do if elected. The coalition has strayed so far from its pledges that one wonders if it has one of those satnavs that lead you up the equivalent of Al Capone’s garden path.
We realise that this is all somewhat revolutionary, it is about politicians telling the truth and nothing but. But surely even they realise that their credibility is now at an all-time low.
There is of course one major problem in today’s British politics. If all three parties were to drop embellishments and simply tell the unvarnished truth it would quickly be apparent that their policies are almost identical!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is that I don’t know which half!”…..Viscount William Leverhulme
We codgers were all saddened by the news of Cliff Morgan’s death. Who will ever forget him running with the ball for the Lions in South Africa in 1955 , or his many star performances for his beloved Wales. Younger folk may well recall his cheerful appearances on ‘Question of Sport. Anyone who caught so much as a glimpse of him will feel a sense of loss this morning. He suffered a life-threatening stroke in the seventies, and later had to cope with cancer of the vocal choids, but he never flinched or complained. A great Welsh legend has gone, but he will never be forgotten.
Yesterday we applauded Ed Miliband for forcing our dear leader to pause from his headlong dash to join the American plan to launch missiles into Syria. We were not condoning the use of chemical weapons, we were not condoning the murderous behaviour of either Assad or the Islamist-dominated so-called freedom fighters. We were making the point that unless a way is found to bring the Russians on board any military action would only serve to intensify the situation in Syria, and might well lead to retaliation against Israel, which has nuclear weapons at its disposal. Miliband, we argued, was right to insist that the United Nation’s option was explored before any irreversible action was taken.
David Cameron, we reasoned, would have no trouble in winning Commons approval for a short delay. We were wrong. What we didn’t anticipate was that he would be unable to win support for even that. We are puzzled as to why Ed Miliband opposed the watered-down proposal he had been instrumental in creating and can only assume that he had been warned of a mass Labour revolt. But the biggest surprise of all was the refusal of a large number of Tory and Lib Dem MPs to toe the party line. It has damaged David Cameron, and it has left us in a strange state of limbo.
Presumably there would be a change of heart if the UN Inspector’s report does point to Assad as the user of chemical weapons, and if the Russians do then support action. But even in that eventuality there is now clearly a possibility that the majority of MPs would continue to reflect the public mood. Still scarred by the lies and lunacy of Blair at the time of the Iraq invasion, millions now take the view that it is no longer our role to act as a world peacemaker.
In the heated post-debate hoo-hah some government sources rushed to contend that the vote would provde succour for Assad. They completely missed the point that an ill thought through strike would serve either to strengthen his support or bring to power people even more tyrannical. They also missed another important summary.
For the first time in many a year MPs were representing the views of the people they supposedly represent. It feels almost as if someone has unlocked a door marked Private and said that your views count, we are not the exclusive owners of wisdom. Suddenly it feels as if democracy is, after all, alive and well.
A part of us says that we cannot sit by and leave the Middle East victims to their fate. But anything we do must be guaranteed to improve their lot. Firing lethal weapons into their midst is unlikely to do that. Only concerted action by the world at large will bring peace, and the time has come to ask whether the United Nations serves any useful purpose.
We continue to worry about this humanitarian nightmare. But the one thing we do not worry about is the threat that our MPs may have damaged the ‘special relationship’ with America. Millions in Iraq and Afghanistan have died as a result of that!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” It is very clear tonight that, while the House has not passed a motion, the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action . I get that and the government will act accordingly”….David Cameron
The antics of our dear leader have long entertained us allotment codgers. His latest photo-call tops the list. Perhaps his posing in bathing trunks was an attempt to frighten Putin, but the effect on our bunch of pot-bellied hen-keepers was to increase our affection. Education and dosh apart, he isn’t so different to us!
Perhaps the millions of pot-bellied out there have reacted in the same way, for today’s ICM popularity poll puts David Cameron at the top of the leaders. Only 21% believe that Ed Miliband is doing a good job and a mere 17% say the same of Nick Clegg. Our hero romps home with 32%.
But wait a moment. We too are falling into the spin-doctors trap, the figures surely suggest that all three are damned by the electorate with the PM being slightly less unpopular that the others. In other words our long-held view that the people are sick of the lot of them is vindicated.
That is certainly true in regard to the Green-belt. Those green fields and woods are vanishing quickly and of the people in power only our favourite pie-eater, Eric Pickles, battles on to preserve them. The pot-bellied one and the dynamic duo of Miliband and Clegg seem to have no opinion at all and Gorgeous George Osborne is free to force through the destruction of what he calls an “irritating impediment” to economic growth.
Plans now exist for more than 150,000 homes to be built on Green-belt land. The sites include some of England’s most scenic areas, including parts of Dorset and the rural outskirts of York. In addition more than 1000 acres will be lost to office blocks, warehouses and the HS2 rail link.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) analysis shows that there are now dozens of areas of protected land where councils have given the go-ahead to development. No green area is safe, even Epping Forest is to be replaced by houses. Since local authorities were advised that rejected plans would be reconsidered by Inspectors the number of approved new houses has doubled since August of last year.
Nick Boles, the planning minister, has made clear that the continued escalation in EU citizens entering the UK make building inevitable. Given the influx the need for growth in building “trumps every other consideration”, says the developer’s hero. If the Bulgarian and Albanian are as currently forecast count your pennies and invest them in Bob the Builder!
To be fair some MPs are attempting to cry foul. Five weeks ago, Chris Skidmore, a Conservative MP, set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group to oppose development on Green-belt land. Twenty MPs have already joined, and protests about the emasculation of local authority powers are in the Westminster air. Sadly the ability of back benchers to influence anything is but a distant memory.
We codgers genuinely mourn the rapid loss of our fields. As on many other issues we yearn for someone prepared to stand up to Osborne. In our imaginations that someone should be the leader of what was once the people’s party. Sadly Ed Miliband seems to have no clear policies on anything.
Things have come to a sorry state when all that stands between us and the disappearance of our fields is Eric Pickles. We hope that his stature continues to grow - but not to the extent that he bursts!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY ” There are enough brown field sites to build 1.5 million homes and it should not be necessary to sacrifice our countryside!”…..CPRE yesterday.
Do you ever have the feeling that you are the only sane person left standing? We codgers do, but it is of course, in our case, an illusion since most who witness our constant struggle with a hoard of bad-tempered hens believe that when it comes to fantasy we are the kings.
However, several of today’s news stories have served to strengthen our delusion. First up was the one involving Gareth Bale. When it comes to dribbling a football this chap is a handy performer, but can he possibly be worth £100 million? What has happened to the new financial fair-play regime? What has happened to loyalty? Do today’s soccer stars give a hoot about the fans whose cash, be it at the turnstiles or via Sky subscriptions, pays their ridiculously inflated wages? The answer of course is no, but one wonders if the Premiership will still be here a decade from now.
Of course when it comes to fantasy there are few to match the banks. They ruined the economy, and celebrated the achievement by awarding themselves ever-increasing bonuses. In the case of RBS they did even better. They obliged the taxpayer to bail then out and then proceeded to pick our pockets for perks galore. Now we learn from Gorgeous George that there is to be a new chief executive who will introduce a “new culture of focusing on the customer”. And Ross McEwan will accept an “incredibly low salary by way of an example”. He will, announces the chancellor proudly, be paid “only” £1 million per year. Perhaps in Osborne’s fantasy world that is a low figure!
But our prize for the fantasy of the week goes to our dear leader. He, it is said, has caused terror to rip apart the Labour Party ranks by recruiting Jim Messina, the world’s greatest spin-doctor. Messina apparently engineered the election of Barack Obama, and will join Lynton Crosby in ensuring that by election day David Cameron is perceived by the electorate as the greatest man to walk this earth since Christopher Columbus.
Fantasy does seem to be creeping in here, not least because our favourite Old Etonian is a decidedly harder sell than the prince of oratory, Obama. But for us the greatest fantasy is the idea that the whole electorate is gullible to Baldrick standards. The belief seems to be that all 60% of the voters in the North West who, research tells us, are struggling to pay their bills will cast their cares aside and become convinced that this is Utopia. And all those who worry about the privatisation of near everything will decide that they really always wanted the NHS to be run by Serco!
This morning’s papers tell us that young Ed Miliband is now in desperate search mode for a PR guru to counter this deadly threat. Miliband, the pundits tell us, is a submarine who needs to surface more frequently. We are unsure about that since in the case of most leading politicians the more you see of them the dafter they appear. But maybe Ed should sign up the guy that ran the campaigns of George W Bush, anyone who could convince a nation of his brilliance must be quite someone.
If it is true that spin-doctors, who do not even share the beliefs of their masters, can persuade us to dance as puppets on a string we are indeed in Fantasy Land. Perhaps we are, given that today we learn that Kitchener’s famous poster never existed!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Lead me not into temptation. I can find the way myself!”….Rita Mae Brown
Even the thunderstorms won’t come to Wigan. The end of the heatwave has proved something of a dry squib in our neck of the woods, no thunder and not much rain. In fact we are less than sure that the heatwave has ended at all, for many a droplet of sweat descended from ancient brows as we cleaned out the hens this morning.
Having decided that the new baby should be called Marmaduke we quickly moved on to other topics today. The former bankers amongst us – who now claim to have been estate agents – are appalled at Gorgeous George Osborne’s £130 billion gamble with the housing market. They seem convinced that his concept of a mere 5% deposit on homes up to £600,000 is going to rebound in rocketing house prices and a further giant increase in debt.
Those who once worked for the NHS, including yours truly, are besides themselves with incredulity at the near-panic regarding the shortage of consultants in A & E units across the country. Unsafe, scream ministers. Of course it is unsafe but they are the people that brought it about. The cost of the crazy Lansley reforms plus the imposition of £20 billion of ‘efficiency cuts’ has impoverished most Foundation Hospitals. The worse than useless regulator Monitor has enforced the budget cuts, and hospitals have been forced into staff reductions. And since consultants are the most expensive employees they have been the obvious target. Well done Monitor, we wouldn’t trust them to regulate our hen-runs.
Frankly it is time for politicians to stop playing politics with so many key services. And pigs might fly, I hear you say. But the suggestion is a logical one since the outcome of the 2105 electon is a mathematical certainty. I say this having had dinner yesterday with a friend who is a bigwig of the Institute of Mathematicians. John loves maths in the way that most of us love cricket or ferret-racing. He delights in explaining such mysteries as why when the captain of a Jumbo jet calls for a doctor there is always one amongst the 365 passengers. Last night he was in expansive mood on the subject of our electoral system.
Very simply, the battleground on which British elections are fought advantages Labour. Its vote is distributed more efficiently than that of its main rivals. While the Conservatives stack up support in seats they already hold, Labour’s vote is spread more evenly. John Major would have won the 1992 election by some 60 seats, rather than by 21, had the Tory vote been spread as evenly as Labour’s. Today there is great excitement in Tory circles at the news that their party is almost level with Labour in the opinion polls. But here’s the rub. Level ratings wouldn’t come close to delivering the Cameroons a Commons majority, to achieve that they would need a double-figure lead and that isn’t going to happen.
Mr Cameron knows that, and that is why he sought to bind the referendum on AV, which the Lib Dems wanted, with a smaller House of Commons. That would have greatly reduced Labour’s statistical advantage. But the deal collapsed, ostensibly because Clegg et al were offended by Tory attitudes to AV. In reality the likelihood is that Clegg saw the present distribution of seats as his guarantee of sufficient seats to make certain another coalition.
Our dear leader knows only too well that he faces mission impossible if an overall Tory majority is the aim. In addition to the spread, he also faces the ‘nibbling’ effect of Ukip and the fact that Left-wing Lib Demmers have drifted toward Labour. If the graph sketched by John is any guide, it is psephologically impossible for him to deliver a working majority for the Tories.
All of which proves just how uudemocratic is our first-passed-the-post system. It also suggests that when he told Andrew Marr, on Sunday, that he aims at a Tory victory he was acting as if from the Pinocchio school of truth-telling. He knows it, his bankbenchers know it and Nick Clegg knows it. They all know that for the next two years the PM has no alternative to saying one thing and planning another.
We are likely to see a kind of two-step dance. Cameron and Clegg will seemingly step back from each other before once again joining hands. They will wish to demonstrate two things. The parties are seperate entities, but they are working together in the national interest, irksome though that may be.
Both Tory and Lib Dem party members will be less than happy when 2015 brings a re-run of the Rose Garden love-in. But what alternative will they have?
All this assumes mathematically that Ed Milband is not able to make huge inroads in Tory and Lib Dem seats. That sounds as likely as the Aussies winning the Ashes series for any party only one term out of office has enormous problems in proving that it has changed its spots.
So, on the assumption that the maths are correct, we are set to endure two years of futile political abuse and points scoring. Not a happy thought is it?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY ” It is far from impossible that, come 2020, Mr Cameron will have equalled Margaret Thatcher’s tenure in Downing Street – without having won a single election to compare with her hat-trick!”……Paul Goodman of ConservativeHome