Posts Tagged ‘Eggheads Quiz’
Without doubt we allotmenteers have short attention spans. One only has to flick back across the blogs of the past year to realise that we have something of the mental butterly in our genes. No story has ever lived to be re-examined on the following day, yet here we are on day three of the News of the World scandal and still banging on. More revelations of hacking into the phones of distraught families continue to appear, even families of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to have been regarded as fair game. Yesterday, as advertisers rushed to cancel contracts and readers deluged the newspaper with abuse, the current editor, Colin Myler, told journalists that the paper faces “an extremely painful period”. He was wrong. Clearly he was not aware that it has no future at all. Murdoch junior has announced that Sunday’s edition will be the last ever and all proceeds will go to charity.
One of the sub-plots emerging is the role of the Metropolitan Police. There now seems general acceptance of the fact that officers were in the pay of the Murdoch organisation and declined to investigate what they clearly knew. In the interest of national justice and reputation this must surely be the subject of an investigation that everyone trusts. That rules out the police themselves. Boris Johnson made exactly that point yesterday and his demand that the affair be investigated by the Independent Police Commission is the answer. If we cannot trust the police all is lost and the government would do well to heed the Mayor of London’s advice.
Yesterday it was the turn of the House of Commons to debate the growing crisis of corruption. Under pressure from Ed Miliband, the prime minister had no alternative than to agree to an enquiry. But, perhaps not surprisingly, he refused the demand that it be chaired by a Judge. Behind the scenes he is still battling with Nick Clegg on this. We can only assume that David Cameron is anxious to have someone in place prepared to deliver a ‘whitewash’. A clinically conducted probe would, one suspects, bring to light aspects of his relationship with Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. Meantime both Cameron and Hunt, the culture secretary, are sticking to their argument that this cannot be allowed to derail the Murdoch bid for BSkyB. The odds are that, given the hammering they took from their own MPs yesterday, they may have to change their position. But clearly Cameron is going to great lengths to avoid offending the man who, he believes, holds his political future in his hands from turning his media empire against the Conservative Party.
On that point something surprising happened yesterday. Whether by plan or sheer instinctive disgust, Ed Miliband attacked the Murdoch organisation as never before. At a stroke he earned himself, and his party, a place in Rupert Murdoch’s black book. Come the next election we can now be sure that the whole might of the Sun, The Times, the Sunday Times and Sky will be hurled against the Labour party. Plus of course whatever new title is launched to replace the News of the World. No trick will be too dirty, no invention too calculated, no punch pulled, in the camapign of revenge. He who crosses Murdoch receives no mercy.
Over the years most Labour Leaders have fretted a great deal about the press. Wilson, Blair and, to an extent, Brown all courted editors. But it was Neil Kinnock who failed to pay homage and who failed to be elected as a result. He fought the Murdoch anti-union stance at the time of the move to “Fortress Wapping”. On election day 1992 The Sun carried a front page cartoon of Kinnock’s head inside a light bulb with advice to the ”last person to leave Britain if Kinnock wins” to switch the lights off. John Major won a fourth Tory term.
Blair was more prone to shady deals than the idealistic Kinnock, and he flew to Australia in 1995 to address the annual junket for senior News International executives at exotic locations around the world. As a calculated act of homage it worked and both Times, Sun and News of the World stood by Blair almost to the end. And Blair’s travel was only the beginning, the hated BBC was pursued and tamed on sports rights and the Alistair Campbell “dodgy dossier” episode did Labour no harm with Murdoch.
The rest we know except that just two weeks ago both Cameron and Miliband attended a Murdoch ‘do’ in London, there to rub shoulders with the great man. Cameron is striving even in extremis to maintain his fawning relationship but suddenly young Ed appears to have decided that decency is of greater currency than votes and he has broken ranks.
It may be that this devastating affair and the closure of the Sunday paper will end in the collapse of the Murdoch empire’s grip on the British electorate. In that case Labour will emerge safe and purified. On the other hand he may just have signalled away any chance of power so long as Cameron is in Murdoch’s pocket.
Some commentators are today talking of Miliband having “waved goodbye to an uneasy friendship”. Maybe, and maybe he will one day regret it. But I for one respect him more for what he has done. With the police and the government impilicated in the most disgusting acts in the history of the British press, I feel thankful that one man was prepared to draw the line, whatever the consequences!
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A NEW EDITION OF ‘THOUGHTS FOR TODAY’ FOLLOWED BY THE NEXT EGGHEADS QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I cannot recall any story having quite the impact on my allotment pals of the one now developing around the News of the World. Several, who are regular readers, said this morning that they have bought their last copy. And it seems that they are not alone. Across the country a wave of revulsion is heading Murdoch’s way, advertisers are cancelling contracts and thousands are signing up to the ’38 Degrees’ petition demanding that the government reconsider its view that News Corp is a ‘fit and proper’ organisation to become the major power in the British media.
Each day brings fresh revelations of the phone hacking scandal. Until yesterday most of us had been fairly indifferent to stories of millionaire soccer players and their kind being subjected to intrusion. Suddenly we learned of the hacking of, and interference with, the phone of murdered schholgirl Milly Dowler. Now we are told that the same callous treatment was probably applied to Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the girls killed in Soham by Ian Huntley, as it was to their distraught parents. We also learn that Graham Foulkes, whose son was killed in the attack at Edgware Road tube station, has been advised by police that his details were also in the records made by Glenn Mulcaire.
Mulcaire has gone public with a profuse apology, claiming that he was under great pressure to do what he did by the News of the World. It seems inconceivable that the editorial staff did not know. Revelations will undoubtedly pour out over the next few days since the police appear to have held for a very long time a great deal of evidence. That of course raises the appalling suspicion that they turned a blind eye. Why? Pointedly News Corp yesterday insisted that payments were made to the police during the editorship of Andy Coulson. Indeed he and Rebekah Brooks seem implicated in all that went on.
And that is why the finger of shame is panning wide to include David Cameron in its range. He was known to be a friend of Brooks, some papers today suggest that his Witney kitchen was often the venue for informal chats. What we do know for sure is that over last Christmas he and his wife were entertained at her home. What we also know for sure is that he appointed Coulson to be his close adviser, and steadfastly defended him each time accusations were made.
Yesterday the politically astute prime minister spoke publicly of his being appalled at what has happened. Strangely he also chose to say that this could not affect the decision over the Murdoch takeover of BSkyB. Perhaps we are getting paranoid here but Cameron also fired Vince Cable when he was overheard to be criticising News Corp.
Things may worsen for Cameron yet. Perhaps a cornered Andy Coulson will reveal to what extent he told the prime minister what had happened, and was happening? Be that as it may there is only one way in which Cameron can restore his moral standing. He must ask Ofcom to review the conduct of News Corp companies and, meanwhile, he must suspend the authorising of the News Corp aquisition of shrares in BSkyB. If he fails to do this the vast majority will believe that he is hiding behind self-made rules to deliver the prize sought by his friends in the Murdoch juggernaut in return for favourable press coverage.
The long established Sunday newspaper is almost a British institution. Suddenly it is a loathed one and David Cameron would be well advised to demonstrate quickly that he identifies with that sentiment.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Orange 2. Jennifer Saunders 3. Madonna 4. London and Birmingham 5. Unchained Melody 6. Goldcrest 7. 18 8. Martin 9. Cricket 10. 1940s
It has to be admitted that we chicken-keepers are to be numbered amongst the masses who help the tabloid press to rake in the cash. We have always realised that many of their exclusives are based on information obtained illegally but, to be honest, we have never been too horrified at the revelations about pop-stars and the like. They take their millions and must expect intrusion probably sums up our view, always assuming that we had one at all. But suddenly we really are horrified at what Labour MP Tom Watson yesterday described as a “despicable and evil act”.
Today’s Guardian reveals that the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone during the police hunt for the missing schoolgirl. Even worse it deleted voice mails to make room for more incoming frantic appeals to the young girl, an action that led friends and relatives to conclude wrongly that Milly might still be alive and risked destroying evidence. Small wonder that the Dowler family yesterday issued a statement describing the paper’s action as “heinous” and “despicable”. In effect the News of the World was listening to, and recording, every private word, every desperate plea for Milly to get in touch. When her voicemail box filled up, the newspaper’s employees deleted the messages left in the first few days after her disappearance.
According to the Guardian, the paper paid a private Hampshire investigator, Steve Whittamore, to track down phone numbers, two of which were “blagged” illegally from BT’s confidential records. Then with the help of its own private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, the paper began its “hacking”.
At that time the editor was Rebekah Brooks, now Rupert Murdoch’s chief UK executive. The deputy editor was Andy Coulson. Both have strong links with David Cameron, the former having entertained Cameron at her home over Christmas, the latter having been his media adviser. It seems extremely unlikely that they did not know what was happening. Indeed Paul McMullan, one of Brook’s assistant editors, is on record as having said that he personally commissioned several hundred acts that could be regarded as unlawful and that senior editors were aware of this. Former showbusiness reporter, Sean Hoare, is also on record as telling the New York Times that he was actively encouraged by Coulson to hack into voicemail. Clearly the paper had come to see itself as above the law, in fact Brooks claimed at one time to have paid the police for information.
Since this latest, and most shocking of all, revelation has come to light during the period when culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is deciding whether to nod through the bid by Murdoch’s News Corp to take over BSkyB, one would have imagined that even he would be concerned at the conduct of what will become the major media organisation in the UK. But it seems not. The only MP to speak out has been Tom Watson who told Newsnight that leaders of all parties received “plenty of hints” that something murky was going on. “That’s the biggest scandal of the lot”, he said. “Politicians are frightened of News International and they need to act”. The only other dissenting voice was that of John Prescott, himself a victim of hacking. He revealed on Twitter that he was writing to Hunt demanding he block News Corp’s bid.
But they may prove to be voices crying in the wilderness. The Labour Party stopped short of calling for a re-examination of whether News International could be regarded as fit and proper to take over BSkyB. The Conservative party did the same, an inevitability given the personal links that its senior members have with the Murdoch organisation.
Just how close are we as a society to being corrupt? We have the gutter press plumbing ever greater depths, we have police who clearly have been very reluctant to investigate, we have politicans at the top who appear to be in cohorts with the alleged perpetrators of what Milly’s grieving family call “heinous” crimes.
The sad answer is : very close indeed!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. In international soccer, what is the main colour of Holland’s shirts? 2. Who is older; Ruby Wax or Jennifer Saunders? 3. “Into the Groove” gave a first UK No 1 for which singer? 4. Which two cities were linked by the M1 whwn it first opened? 5. Which song was a British No ! for Jimmy Young, the Righteous Brothers, Robson & Jerome and Gareth Gates? 6. What is Britain’s smallest songbird? 7. How many sides are there in a pair of nonagons? 8. Which George was the main producer of the Beatles hits? 9. E W Swanton wrote about which sport? 10. Was Joanna Lumley born in the 1940s, 50s or 60s?
Albert has headed off for his annual holiday in Blackpool, all is peaceful on the allotments. Bob remarked that we only miss people when they have gone but he didn’t have a lump in his throat. Given this morning’s glorious sunshine our old pal undoubtedly now has his knotted hankie on his head and a pint in his hand. It is not his help with the chickens that we shall miss so much as his ability to start a fight in an empty telephone box, he unwittingly prevents us ever falling victim to ennui or depression brought on by the England one-day cricketers. With His Moanship away there was less chat this morning but we did notice one story which illustrated, for the umpteenth time, our various government’s ability to pour money down the drain.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a damning report on a project to replace 46 fire control centres in England with 9 regional sites. It was, says the NAO, a “comprehensive failure” which wasted £469 million of taxpayer’s money. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is accused of rushing into the project, managing it poorly and failing to follow proper procedures.
The project was launched by the Labour Government in 2004 and was axed in December last. No IT system had been delivered, and eight of the nine regional control centres remained empty. The DCLG is committed to paying at least £247 million – possibly rising to £431 million – in rent on the centres, which will never be used for their original purpose, until the final lease expires in 2035. So the eventual cost to the taxpayer could be very much higher that presently forecast.
The idea of replacing fire control centres with a small number of regional sites was controversial from the start and bitterly opposed by the fire service itself. According to Tory MP Richard Bacon, Lord two-Jags Prescott “forced his pet regionalisation project upon local fire and rescue services without proper consultation, without competent project management and without any understanding of the complexity involved”. Bacon is a member of the Commons public accounts committee which is chaired by Labour MP Margaret Hodge. She agrees. “The project, she says, was a “monumental failure of mismanagement and a careless approach to fundamental elements”. So the two parties are agreed on something!
The original estimate for project costs on this hairbrained scheme was £120 million. By last year £250 million had already been spent. By December the anticipated delay to delivery of the project had reached five years and it was cancelled by the coalition. But not in time to prevent the completion of the buildings which, on top of their initial costs, will account for another £431 million in rent and upkeep unless purchasers can be found, an unlikely prospect given their specialised nature.
How could any department waste a minimum of £469 million? According to the NAO the DCLG failed to provide leadership and handed management resposibility to management consultants. It also failed to sort out problems with delivery by the contractor. This is near-unbelievable for everyone knows that management consultants are a joke, people who can write elaborate reports but who lack implementation skills.
Hardly a week passes but we learn of yet another fiasco of this kind. How will any government ever convince the electorate that the time has come for sacrifice when it is clear that it is totally incompetent and expert only in the art of pouring money down the drain.
And expect no sackings over this. Contrast that with the treatment you would receive should you forget to file your tax return or pay your council tax. It isn’t just their constant dishonesty that has brought politicians low in the public esteem, the fact that their incompetence wastes more than the savings from a hundred painful cuts plays its part too!
A couple of my allotment mates are in despair today. They had managed to convince themselves that Andy Murray was about to become the new saviour. Now that he has failed they refer to him as a Scot, up until yesterday he was British, a born-again Tim Henman. But AM played well and is without doubt the best British player to grace Wimbledon for many a year. The problem is that he and Henman are as rare as hen’s teeth, every year we go through the ritual of watching every other so-called star mown down in the first round. Those two apart we haven’t produced a single player of real quality for generations. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) continues to pour money and effort into the structure, but it is all in vain.
A few days ago I was watching cricket on Sky when David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd asked Mike Atherton, who had been to Wimbledon, if he plays tennis. The former England cricket captain was dismissive. The gist of his answer was certainly not, tennis is an exclusively middle-class sport. He is right. You don’t agree? Well, consider the grass roots of the English game. Every major sport, be it soccer, cricket or rugby, draws its English top stars from local clubs. From there youngsters emerge, join the professionals or part-timers in the lower divisions and, if they show real promise, are quickly snapped up by the top clubs. In some cases they emerge through the academies but even then their initial grounding is invariably at local club level.
In reality English tennis has no such structure. The people who play it are almost all white and of middle-class families. And the middle-class enthusiasts know how to put up invisible barriers around their local clubs. Membership is seen as a stamp of social standing, a place on the committee doubly so. Many are less concerned with winning games than with extending their social network and meeting up with genteel friends of like persuasion.
Yes the system did produce Tim Henman but I am sure that he would acknowledge his middle-class background. The question is what would happen if you went down to the local park and pulled a rough-necked lad out of his soccer match and trundled him along to the local tennis club? The odds are that a posh bloke in a V-necked sweater would tell him that he is wearing the wrong sort of shoes. The youth then either responds with expletives and heads back to his soccer or says yes sir. In that case he almost certainly doesn’t have the makings of a world-beater.
And if you look at the big tennis showcase, Wimbledon, you find little evidence of a missionary zeal to draw in new converts to the game. Yes, a few tickets are held back for sale and people do queue for days but they are clearly already converted. The vast majority of tickets go to the clubs, this completing the vicious circle. Many attend yearly and have blazers to prove it.
I find myself in total sympathy. After all, who really wants their social haunt invaded by the sort of person who can be found at soccer matches and, to an extent, Twenty20 cricket? Suddenly “I’m off to the club for a knock-around dear” becomes “I’m going to listen to some colourful language and the chance of violence”. But the fact remains that unless our grass roots clubs open up to youth of all classes the chance of developing a rising star is very limited. Try to list middle-class, highly educated soccer Premiership stars, you won’t need many pages.
Of course Andy Murray is living proof that it can happen but he comes from north of the border where things are different. It was noticeable that during his centre-court games many of the blazers took to calling him Tim. For many of them he is a little beyond the pale, brilliant though he may be.
Who cares? Probably very few. For most people watching Wimbledon on TV is an annual excitement, one to be filed away for another twelve months once the usual British balloon is punctured by a star born and bred in a country where class is irrelevant. But we should desist from the annual LTA bashing for no coaching system in the world can produce results from so limited a field.
It all reminds me a little of the situation of cricket in the south of england half a century ago. Our top local clubs played only friendly matches, wore club ties and selected our opponents for their social participation. That has all gone and now there are leagues just as fiercely competitive as those in the north.
But there is little sign of that happening in tennis. Northern England led the way in cricket, but even here the tennis clubs are still the preserve of dear boys and darlings.
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. For which sport is Billie-Jean King famous? 2. According to the proverb, absence makes what grow fonder? 3. Who hosted ITV’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire? 4. In which country is ‘Ayer’s Rock’ ? 5. Which species of creature includes the most poisonous animal in the world? 6. Which soap family included Lisa, Marlon and Shadrach? 7. If something is biodegradable, what will it do? 8. How many noughts are in the written number two hundred thousand? 9. Every how many years is a National Census taken in Britain? 10. Where are you if you visit the Granite City?
We grizzled allotmenteers might not fare too well in Mastermind, but even we knew that the twerps on last night’s Question Time were talking tripe with knobs on. Several of them mourned the fact that the children deprived of school by the wicked strikers would feel upset, deprived and unsettled by the fact that their schools were closed. We are less sure about the children of madrigal singers in Surbiton but around here they were absolutely delighted! And for good measure we were treated to the bizaare spectacle of Tory and Labour Party spokesmen agreeing that the public sector workers should not expect special treatment, conveniently forgetting that MPs, and those at the top who evade all taxes, most certainly do. Indeed George Osborne himself has, according to ’38 Degrees’, managed to do the same!
Sadly all the hoo-hah of yesterday tended to smother the latest outrages by the European Union which accounts for more of our cash than any pensions pot ever could. Brussels has announced plans to slap three new taxes on Britain which could cost the UK a staggering extra £10 billion. This will be on top of the current annual payment to Brussels of £13.3 billion. And yet another proposal covers the intention to chisel away at Britain’s £3 billion per year rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher.
To crown it all Brussels also called for a new financial transaction tax, which critics say will hurt the City of London and leave consumers with even higher costs, plus a plan to let Brussels grab a chunk of green taxes which are already being levied on polluters.
All of this fits in to EU plans for a huge increase in its budget, a move that has already been attacked by David Cameron and has sparked fury in Downing Street about the greed of Eurocrats at a time when every member country is tightening its belt. Perhaps even more worrying than the proposed extravagence is the intention to accelerate moves toward a one-Europe State, already a foreign minister has been appointed and similar moves are planned for almost every area covered by a minister at Westminster. Oh yes, and we are not allowed access to the unbelievably high expenses of MEPs!
At some point it seems ineviatble that amongst politicians only the Lib Dems will continue to promote the European dream, and since they now command a mere 13% of the electorate we can perhaps excuse them from the debate. Amongst the major parties the signs of having reached the end of the tether are becoming apparent. Yesterday it emerged that Oliver Letwin, who is the Cabinet Office Minister, and Steve Hilton, the prime minmister’s closest political friend and big ideas guru, are speaking openly of the inevitability of pulling out altogether.
They appear to have a lot of support. Tory bankbencher Douglas Carswell said yesterday that his reaction to the news that cabinet ministers are starting to come round to the view that we should leave the EU would be; about time! Fellow MP Peter Bone added that ” The EU has already doubled our contributions. If they want to take more of our rebate, David Cameron needs to wield the male equivalent of a handbag. These moves are yet another nail in the coffin of the European Union”
For simple folk like us the benefits of being in the EU are still not apparent. Not being in it would not affect our trade links but would clearly make enormous savings and free us of the constant problems posed for our internal security by complex legal processes. It would also restore to our parliament the right to legislate rather than refer proposed policies for approval.
Frankly, we are approaching the moment of truth. If we are to stay in the EU we must begin to reduce the size and scope of our own government, for we don’t need two. But has anyone in politics the courage to force the issue?
It wouldn’t take that much courage for a referendum would place the decision firmly where it should be, in the hands of the people! If we can hold one on something as trvial as a possible tweek to our voting system we can surely do the same on what in reality is the biggest issue facing this country since 1945!
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There was a time when bonfires were a regular feature on the allotments but, as inhabitants of a smokeless zone, we have had to forego the convenience of burning the piles of waste and the pleasure of roasting spuds whilst dancing round the flames in the manner of Hopalong Cassidy’s enemies. Well, I made the last bit up but the rest is true. Now we obediently fill our wheelie bins in the vague hope that someone will actually collect them before internal combustion makes that unnecessary.
And it seems that we are not the only people who have given up on bonfires. David Cameron and his motley crew were elected on the promise of a bonfire of all the Quangos created during the Blair years. Of course none of us expect politicians to keep to their word but we did at least expect a reduction. A check on the listings shows that the total has increased. And yesterday Ed Milband listed a whole list of new gossip shops manned by the great and good of the chattering classes.
For young Ed to score a point in his weekly tussle with the balding Dave is a rare event, but in yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Question Time he did just that. He pulled off the old trick of asking a question to which he knew the answer but suspected that ‘Dave’ didn’t. How many new Quangos will the NHS reforms require, he asked. Not having a clue – although maybe making a mental note of the possibility of Sam chairing one – Dave blustered. Everyone in the land loves the NHS reforms sums up what he said, and the dreaded Lansley nodded vigorously.
Mr Miliband, of the Ed variety, then provided the answer and even Ken Clarke woke up with a jolt. It seems that the present number of 163 will rise to an astonishing 521. By now the Speaker was getting tetchy, having already warned both contestants about time wasting, and young Ed settled for rattling off as many as he could remember without consulting his briefing papers from the spin doctors. “Pathfinder consortia, health and well-being boards, shadow commissioning groups, a national commissioning board, PCT clusters, FHA clusters, clinical networks, clinical senates” he intoned before the Speaker intervened again. Ye Gods. Will anyone ever have time to practice medicine? But it will provide some nice little earners.
In fact Mr Miliband was unusually well armed. For good measure he announced that the redundancy payments for NHS staff fired by the Lansley brainstorm would add up to £852 million. Could the prime minister guarantee that none of those people would be re-employed by the NHS? For some reason Dave began to rant about strikes and at this point the Speaker announced that “We’re very grateful”, John Bercow speak for “Shut up sunshine”.
However I digress, a shock reaction to young Ed scoring twice. The bit of the broadcast that staggered me was the number of new Quangos that are planned. I am of course assuming that Ed didn’t make it up since even Dave would surely have recognised that. Having once been on a couple of Quangos I confess to having a low opinion of them. The ones I joined seemed to be packed with busybodies with time on their hands, little grasp of the subject and with obsessions with taking notes and enjoying large lunches. And that was only the chairpersons as they insisted on being addressed!
There is of course a brighter side to all this. Those who fear the decimation of the NHS need worry no more. Quangos never make decisions and always blur the edges. My medical pals can rest easy. Nothing will ever really happen, other than the expenditure of taxpayers money, and with the Libyan adventure now heading for the one billion pounds mark that will be small beer.
I am not displeased at all this. Quangos do provide pleasure for thousands of middle-class ladies and gentlemen of a certain age, and once again my conviction that one must expect the opposite of what politicians promise has been vindicated.
And young Ed, looking more than ever like a Panda, undoubtedly headed off to buy a drink for his researchers. Dave has the more pressing matter of working out how he can lay claim to Andy Murray, given the certainty that Alex Salmond will do likewise. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Thaw 2. Florin 3. Smokie 4. Chris Evans 5. 1980 6. Bluto 7. Yes 8. Liverpool 9. Portugese 10. Culkin
Albert’s hearing aid has been found. It was discovered during this morning’s cleaning-out and the clear evidence was that it ‘passed through’ one of the hens. The good news was that it was still emitting a whistling sound, the bad news being that our excitable pal then emersed it in a bucket of hot water. It is now as dead as a Dodo. Albert has asked me to mention it in the blog to enable him to present a copy to the NHS hearing aid clinic. I fear the worst for the cash-strapped service is struggling to cope with the Lansley cuts and is unlikely to be swayed by such a bizaare explanation. The odds are that the God of hearing aids will ignore the fact that one of her colleagues lost hers down the loo, and will cry do as we say, not as we do!
If so she will be in noble company. Over the past few days a series of politicians including Messrs Cameron, Gove, Pimm and Miliband have lined up to condemn the public sector workers planning a mass walk-out in defence of their pensions. Given that many of them are in line for no more thn £6000 per year it is hard not to sympathise, particularly in the light of the responsible and stressful jobs they carry out. But the fact remains that unless something is done the pension pot will run out in the years ahead given the change in demography. Unless Lansley’s plan for the NHS succeeds in reversing the trend to live longer we are heading for a black-hole big enough to swallow the lot of us. And we are all in this together!
Wrong! Perhaps few realise that the one group of public servants immune from pension cuts are our parliamentarians. On Monday’s Newsnight, Conservative Nick Boles affected a reasonable tone ahead of tomorrow’s strikes. He wondered aloud to Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers whether anyone else got as good a deal as teachers, asking “is there anybody out there who gets 13.5% from their employer?”.
Had Ms Bousted been properly briefed she could have answered look in the mirror. In 2009 the government actuaries deemed it required a taxpayer contribution of not 13.5% but 31.6% for the largesse dished out to our politicians. There have been tweeks since but costs are still at 20%. Without digging into the detail – partly because I find it hard to fathom – I can headline it by confirming that just 20 years service at Westminster secures an index-linked retirement income of half final pay. Set lump sums aside and MPs are clocking up rights at twice the rate of teachers!
And that is far from all. If an MP falls ill he or she need not worry about hard-faced men from healthcare company Atos refusing incapacity benefits. He or she must merely satisfy fellow MPs, who serve as trustees, that they are no longer up to lolling on the green benches. He or she will then get full pension at once – topped up on the assumption that the voters would have continued to elect him or her until they reached the age of 65.
Even more generous than the parliamentary scheme is the provision for the premiership, speakership and lord chancellorship. Just one days service in any of these offices affords an immediate whole-life annuity, worth several million to people in middle-age.
There have been various promises of reform but the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority says it can do nothing until the leader of the Commons commences powers legislated for before the election but not yet “switched on”. In any case, it says, it will take much time to collate evidence and consult with MPs. You can bet your life on that!
This really sums up the greatest frustration felt by all those being hit by cuts of various kinds. If we were really all in the same boat it would at least seem fair. But we all know that the rich and corporate are evading tax to the tune of £120 billion. Now we know that the very people who fail to tackle that iniquity are also keeping generous pensions whilst lecturing teachers, nurses etc about the need for change.
The Westminster brigade should be thankful that we Brits are different to the Greeks. Riot? Nah, we are too busy wondering if Murray can really make it this time!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Which John married actress Sheila Hancock? 2. Which pre-decimal coin had the value of two shillings? 3. Which group revived a previous hit in the 90s with the help of Roy “Chubby” Brown? 4. Which TV presenter’s shows have had Toothbrush and Breakfast in their titles? 5. Were the Olympic games last held in Russia in 1960, 1980 or 1988? 6. Who is Popeye’s rival ? 7. Was Sir Walter Scott Scottish? 8. Which English soccer side was managed by the late Bob Paisley? 9. What is the main language in Brazil? 10. Which Macaulay starred in the cartoon and live action film “The Pagemaster”?
A hot and sunny morning on the allotments! We wandered about in a daze for this was a very rare experience, the sort of day when Blackpool beach sounds like a treat rather than the equivalent of Scott’s last journey. It was also the sort of day to trigger thoughts of cricket. Right now those are not positive thoughts, and I am not referring solely to yesterday’s bizaare Twenty20 between England and Sri Lanka. Pieterson and Morgan apart, this England side couldn’t have beaten a Co-op egg! Why players such as Bell are excluded is one of the great mysteries of the age!
But far more worrying is the gradual takeover of the administration of world cricket by India. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is cricket’s equivalent of football’s Fifa. In every sense! The ICC is already heavily influenced by the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), its present chairman is the former head of the BCCI, Sharad Pawar. Under the present rules there is a fixed term for ICC presidents and no one country can hold the office for two consecutive periods. At today’s ICC annual meeting in Hong Kong, India is proposing that once appointed a president can rule for life! Now that is even worse than Blatter at Fifa, he at least stages the occasional election, albeit a corrupt one of course.
Ridiculous, it simply can’t happen. Oh yes it can! As in the case of football many of the countries that vote scarcely play cricket. How can Argentina, Afghanistan etc be allowed to decide Test match schedules? But hovering in the background is Narayanswamy Srinivasan, the power in Indian cricket, the owner of Chennai Super Kings and the chief executive of India’s board. What he wants he gets. Remember the plan to reduce the next world cup to the top ten teams to eliminate all the one-sided and meaningless games that marred the last one? During a recent tea-break at a meeting in Singapore, the man of power talked to the various chief excutives who had just ratified the decision. When the meeting resumed the majority reversed the decision and the next world cup will be just as tedious as the last.
How is this overwhelming influence obtained? Geoffrey Boycott has no doubts. “Many countries that play cricket are frightened to death of India’s financial power. You’ve got TV stations queuing up in India to beam the coverage of their tours in to India and they pay a lot of money for that” says the outspoken Yorkshireman. He is clearly right, India has a vast audience for cricket and filming rights produce a bonanza for authorities often reduced to counting the piggy-bank.
So the odds are that this week will see a new order at the ICC with an Indian president taking the top job on a permanent basis. Two outcomes are obvious. The new umpires’ Decision Review System will be scrapped. It has proved popular with the fans but India has already refused to use it on the forthcoming tour of England. Of greater importance, there will be an eight week period each year when no international cricket will be allowed. This will give free rein to the Indian Premier League. That will be a financial body-blow to England. But even more important than that is the threat to good governance.
We all know from the scandal surrounding last year’s Test series with Pakistan that a cancer of corruption is spreading within the game. This emanates from Indian bookmakers who make fortunes, often in distinctly unethical ways. Millions of pounds change hands daily on such obscure things as the number of ‘no-balls’. The only body that can even attempt to keep this under control is the ICC. Need I say more?
The complex game of cricket is open to corruption like no other. It is already losing its reputation for fair play and a strong incorruptable ICC is the only hope. The idea that any single country should hold sway on a permanent basis is appalling, the idea of that being India, the home of cricket manipulation, even more so.
If this goes through Fifa will look a paragon of virtue by comparison. The English, Australian, New Zealand and South African delegations should walk out if necessary. That may only account for four votes but world cricket without the four would be less of a money spinner to say the least. India may hold all the power but matches played against Afghanistan and Argentina would soon show where the pulling power really rests!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Germany 2. Italy 3. Alan Titchmarsh 4. Gennell 5. Ernie Wise 6. China 7. Westlife 8. Potter 9. Holly 10. Colin Farrell.
HIGHEST SCORE SENT IN SO FAR; 8 BY J ROACH. HOW DID YOU DO?
There was a time when our allotment co-operative was an indulgence, an interest, a way of keeping active. For quite a number it has now become a means of reducing household costs. A regular supply of eggs and veggies helps to offset the seemingly endless increases in power bills, not to mention the constant rise in the cost of nearly everything. We are all on pensions of one sort of another but, since none of us worked for banks, they leave little to spare.
The changed, and in some cases straitened, circumstances lead to regular discussions about finding a nice little earner involving minimum effort. But the only one that comes to mind, given our lack of qualifications and energy, is that of an MEP. Since the general public pays little attention to the European elections, and has no real idea as to what members of the European Parliament actually do, it is conceivable that an old fogey standing as candidate for the Chicken Party would sail through.
The idea was prompted by the news that MEPs have refused to release audits on expenses. We already know that they are paid far more than Westminster MPs who have had their expenses wings well cut. But all we know about the Brussels brigade is that they spend expenses worth more than £300,000 each per year. And that’s it. Despite an EU court ruling that it is in the public interest the European Parliament is still refusing to reveal all. The argument is that internal audit reports are administrative documents for internal use only. It all sounds very similar to Fifa doesn’t it? Even MEPs outside the “bureau” of 20 senior European deputies, are not allowed to see the reports.
In the recent court case which followed legal action by Ciaran Toland, an Irish lawyer, the parliament’s lawyers fought off his demand for transparency by saying that “The use members make of the allowances available to them is a sensitive matter followed with great interest by the media”. So keeping it all under wraps is alright then!
Just occasionally the media has been able to shine a light into the murky Brussels gravy train. An example was the investigation by the Telegraph which forced the resignation of Den Dover, a Tory MEP, who was asked to pay back more than £345,000 in “misused” staffing expenses. But by and large the train stands undisturbed and silent in the sidings.
And what our MEPs do is an equal mystery to most of us. Our Westminster lot hold surgeries and deal with vast amounts of complaints and mail. They are whipped into attendance at the House and seem to attend more local functions than the Mayors. Have you ever heard of your MEP doing such? Do you even know who he or she is? Nor do I.
All of this may explain the hoo-hah now developing about the Brussels budget. David Cameron is doing his best to block the proposed huge increase but don’t hold your breath. The prime minister also had a rant yesterday about the planned £280 million headquarters. The plans were unveiled by the EU president, Herman Van Rompuy. He described the new building as a “jewel box”, it will be a “humane gathering place” containing a “diversity carpet”. Ye Gods, small wonder that Cameron said that the present building is perfectly acceptable. Not for the power builders, it isn’t. Be in no doubt, the leading lights in Brussels are still hell-bent on centralised control of almost every aspect of our lives.
Perhaps we should be thankful that Tony Blair went when he did. Only the intervention of Grumpy Gordon prevented his taking us into the Euro. Sadly he had already signed away a good deal else. Yes, like it or not, we are all part of the integrated Europe dream!
The old adage has it that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So come the next elections do remember to put a cross against the name with a chicken symbol alongside! Which of us it will be has yet to be decided but one salary plus the exes divided 20 ways will keep us all solvent. And there will still be plenty of time for the elected to look after his chooks!
TODAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. In which country were BMWs first made? 2. St Francis of Assisi is patron saint of which country? 3. Which Alan presented the TV programme “How to be a Gardener”? 4. Which Sally was British women’s team captain in the 1966 Olympics? 5. Which late comedian was the one with the “short, fat hairy legs”? 6. Which country was once called Cathay? 7. Which boy band had a No 1 with their version of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl”? 8. Which Dennis created “The Singing Detective”? 9. Which Buddy did Alvin Stardust sing about? 10. Which Irishman Colin starred in the movie “Phone Booth”?
There was an air of disappointment on the allotments this morning. It emanated from the significant number amongst us who have been staunch fans of President Obama. Here, my pals liked to say, was an honourable man who would always put what was right before any political considerations. Perhaps distance does lend enchantment for the comparisons made between him and our lot have always been favourable. Suddenly, at a stroke, the American hero of the chicken-keepers has fallen from grace.
The feeling that maybe this, after all, is just a politician on the make like every other, has been triggered by the President’s announcement of the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, plus the remainder of the 33,000 “surge” troops by September 2012, smacks of political calculation rather than military judgement, indeed the US Generals have been quick to distance themselves from the decision.
Of course it reflects Mr Obama’s ambivalence about the Afghan strategy that he unveiled at West Point in December, 2009, after months of agonising about what to do following General Stanley McChrystal’s stark assessment that the United States was on course for defeat. On that point there was probably widespread sympathy for the man who had inherited a war that few believe can be won. But to now announce withdrawal dates is astonishing. To have them as secret targets for the military is one thing, to tell the enemy with whom negotiations are the only realistic hope is another.
The effect may well be to leave the 70,000 troops in Afghanistan to fight and to be killed without any prospect of achieveing anything because they lack the “force density” required for a counter-insurgency offensive. The withdrawal of all the “surge” troops announced at West Point risks a reversal of the fragile gains they have made, leaving the Taliban to slip back into areas being relinquished.
And above all else it will surely shatter any hopes for the talks now under way with Mullah Omar’s Quetta shura faction of the Taliban. Omar was clearly under great pressure from the “surge” but will surely now ask himself why he should negotiate. All he needs to do is wait for the American troops to leave. And for ordinary Afghans, why side with Nato forces or their indigenous allies if the Taliban will soon return?
Ultimately, Mr Obama will be judged not on how quickly he pulled the troops out but what kind of Afghanistan they left behind. For all its political adroitness, the President’s decision could lead to escalating chaos and civil war and the country could once again become a base for Islamist enemies of the West. We can all undertsand his reluctance to be in Afghanistan, not least because it is an unpopular war with the American public and an election is due next year. But what we cannot understand is what amounts to the torpedoing of the only real hope of securing a better Afghanistan; negotiations, for no one really believes that the corrupt and incompetent government forces will be ready to beat off the Taliban in the short term.
So it would appear that yet another major politician has feet of clay. Needless to say the Italians, French and Germans have been quick to follow suit. Britain? But of course. In fact William Hague went to great lengths yesterday to strees that we will not be involved in conflict at all from 2015. Again he is right with the decision but wrong to tell the enemy. It is almost like Churchill having told Hitler we will not battle on beyond 1945!
Without changing one iota of their intent Mr Obama and the other leaders could have said that they will not ease back until the Taliban sit down to agree terms. At least that way they would have retained a strong bargaining position for the next six months, and that just might have been enough. We surely owed at least an attempt at a face-saving formula to all those who have died in this futile, misguided conflict born of Bush and Blair.
Now they have ensured failure and further jeopardised the morale and safety of all the Nato troops. But then given a choice between their own political skins and those of the troops we are not surprised at their choice are we?
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEAD QUIZ; 1. Lancashire 2. L.B 3. Kent 4. Rum 5. Locum 6. Argentina 7. Dog 8. Northamptonshire 9. D H Lawrence 10. Apple
Some of my pals on the allotment have renamed their former hero, Nick Clegg, Big Chief Red Face. Given to using names from long past Westerns, they used to call him New Way but now that they realise that should an election take place his MPs could hold their meetings in a telephone kiosk the mood of the born-again Liberals has changed. For my part I see reason to believe their despair a little premature for young Nick is hitting back at his Old Etonian gaolers. Today’s wheeze has hit the headlines and sounds good to me, albeit slightly impractical.
Clegg has let it be known that were the Lib Dems in power the soft treatment of the Banks by the Conservatives would be a thing of the past. Meantime he is advocating a giveaway of government-owned shares in RBS and Lloyds, worth hundreds of pounds to British taxpayers. Such a move would create 46 million shareholders and allow a form of collective ownership of the Banks. In practice no one is likely to sell their loot in the short term since the bank’s share prices have not yet recovered.
Clegg is aiming at good psychology here. Such a move would demonstrate that the British public, which funded the saving of the Banks, has not been overlooked or ignored. Their money has been used to the tune of billions and billions yet at present they have absolutely no say at all in what happens when normality is achieved. Under the Clegg plan everyone on the electoral register would recieve an estimated 1450 shares in RBS and 450 in Lloyds. Such parcels would be worth £770 on the basis of the current share prices and holders would be free to sell when, and if, the level of the government’s rescue purchase price was reached.
Meantime the theory is that, at last, the public would be in a position to stop the appalling extravagence and greed demonstrated by those who led the Banks to destruction. How a collective voice could appear from 46 million shareholders is less clear, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that some bright spark would come up with a mass transfer of proxies for annual meetings. If they did the disgraceful sight of executives paying themselves millions at the public expense would come to a glorious end.
I may be in a minority of one here on the muddy plot, but I believe Nick Clegg deserves credit for at least trying something new and for recognising that most people are sick to the back teeth of suffering hardship, whilst the incompetent fat-cats that caused the disaster continue to line their already deep pockets.
If he has any breath left after this sudden and unexpected kicking-over of the traces, Clegg might well cast a glance in the direction of Network Rail. It also relies on the taxpayer for its funding and received £3.7 billion last year from the Department of Transport. Its chief executive, Iain Coucher, stepped dwon last year after a controversial 3-year reign. The period was peppered with complaints regarding performance, and even allegations of the misuse of public funds. A review concluded that “Network Rail has insulated itself from real-time economics and political concerns leading to criticisms that it is arrogant or out-of-touch with the reality for the industry, passengers, government and taxpayers”. Anyone using our unpunctual, dirty and overcrowded trains will say amen to that, although given the botched up privatisation of the railways it is almost impossible for the long-suffering passengers to know who to blame.
But one thing is for sure. They will not be impressed by today’s announcement of a £1 million payoff for Coucher. Even the Transport secretary, Philip Hammond, was moved to say that this will “stick in the gullet” of taxpayers and fare payers who have just suffered further huge increases in fares. Perhaps the only surprise is that Coucher was not included in the honours list in the way that Stagecoach boss Brian Souter was. In the week he was knighted thousands of commuters were stranded for hours on South West Trains routes out of Waterloo and communication was so poor that many broke out of stranded trains. Oh yes, he also took the Department of Transport to court, winning tens of millions in extra subsidy payments.
The truth is that under the coalition the rich and privileged, and often contributors to the Conservative Party, have flourished whilst the rest of the nation has been hammered. I at least draw some comfort from the sight of Nick Clegg at last speaking out for the man in the street.
Who knows, my pals may one day dig their ‘I agree with Nick’ sweaters out of the attic!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. Mike Atherton played for which county cricket club? 2. Which were the initials of US President Jonnson? 3. In which county is Ashford International station? 4. Does a Pina Colada contain rum or gin? 5. Which word for a duty doctor is a Latin name for place holder? 6. Which country’s Rugby Union side are the Pumas? 7. Is a Dandy Dimmont a dog, a cat or a horse? 8. In which county is the stately home of Althorp? 9. Which controversial author used the initials for his first names David Herbert? 10. What sort of fruit flavour does Calvados have?
Ask any cross section of society about health concerns and you will probably get a variety of answers. There will be those who never give it a thought, those who count their greens, those who spend a large part of every waking moment worrying about symptoms. So it is with our allotment gang. It always strikes me as illogical that people well into their seventies – even eighties in some cases- should devote time to worrying about their health, after all we will all be done for within the next decade or so. But traits do not seem to fade with age and some of my pals are forever fretting about this twinge or that. I always tell them that if they really must worry they should forget cancer and coronary problems and focus instead on mental health.
The reason for that is the appalling state of our psychiatric wards. No one wants to be ill, but in the case of physical problems the likelihood is that you will find yourself in a reasonable hospital environment. Fall prey to mental illness – and one in three of us will to a greater or lesser extent – and you are almost certain to find yourself on an overcrowded and understaffed ward, fearful for your safety and unlikely to recover quickly. Indeed the evidence is that such is the state of our mental health services, you are likely to further deteriorate.
I knew this from various inspections, but yesterday the outgoing president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Dinesh Bhugra, spoke out officially. He talked of widespread failures in inpatient care for mentally ill people. There are, he said, many hospital wards that do not meet acceptable standards and which discharge back into society sick people who remained a risk to themselves and others.
The Professor blamed the problem partly on a ” dangerous vacuum” created because British doctors are not training as psychiatrists, while visa restrictions mean doctors friom abroad can no longer be appointed to fill the gap. A survey by the Royal College has found that 15 per cent of the 544 consultants’ posts in the UK are unfilled. In addition some 209 consultants are due to retire or resign. Even in times when all the posts were filled the service was inadequate, now it scarcely functions. A study to be published next week shows that over half of patients – mostly women – report feeling unsafe. Average bed occupancy are in some hospitals running at over 100 per cent and daily one-to-one contact with nursing staff is less than that deemed conducive to recovery.
Professor Bhugra warns that very high bed occupancy militates against quality and safety. Given the continued reduction in beds as a result of the failed care in the community regime, only the most disturbed, distressed and unwell are actually admitted to a ward. For such people the ward becomes their home but in many instances there are no seperate sleeping and toilet facilities for men and women, and there are few activities during evenings or weekends.
Mental Health charities such as Rethink claim the high number of suicides are a direct result of psychiatric wards failing to provide a therapeutic environment. Rethink spokeswoman Rachel Whitehead says that many people tell them that they feel unsafe and have little support or therapy. Supervision, she says, is also a problem, largely due to overstretched staff and wards which are overcrowded.
There are some good hospitals but I have visited some which have scarcely moved on from the time of Dickens. The problem is a simple one; too few beds, outdated wards, inadequate staff and an ever reducing number of specialist doctors. Those of us who so far have been fortunate enough to not need the service should surely demand that something be done. We are little better than a third-world country in our attitude and approach to mental health and the time has come for the people to demand action.
Sadly we do it with little confidence. New polls out today show all three of our political leaders with a negative rating. Hostility to the coalition has grown sharply with only 35% having trust in it. But the opposition fares little better. Of course the daily U-turns have destroyed faith – today’s relates to the proposal to cut prison sentences – but the problem is deeper than that. Few now trust politicians.
But that is where we must look for realisation that mental illness is man’s greatest affliction and demands as much attention and resource as any physical condition. Perhaps Lansley could redeem himself here although his beloved private sector will provide little help.
Churchill used to talk of ‘action this day’. Oh for a Churchill could well be cry of the tortured inmates of our degrading mental health wards!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Eagle 2. Wales 3. Stairway to Heaven 4. Faraday 5. Paint 6. Lyon 7. Yorkshire 8. Bell shaped 9. Hair salon 10. Hood
We used to enjoy welcoming our Beat Bobbie to the allotment. He would call most days, share a brew and gather any useful information we had gleaned through our various family circles. It seemed very much the way to go, the perfect formula for building up a vast network of ears and eyes. Now he has gone, now we once again feel remote from the police. But the coalition is determined to cut the costs of security by 20 per cent.
Now we realise that it is more serious than losing officers on the Beat, however valuable they were. The same axe is being wielded to the counter-terrorism police! One of the country’s most senior counter-terrorism officers is being made redundant and he is just one of many. The head of the West Midlands team is Detective Chief Superintendent Matt Sawers, and he will leave in two weeks time as part of a £40 million cut.
Sawers is an experienced counter-terrorism officer who has run the West Midlands unit since it was formed seven years ago. He was at its helm during the high-profile investigation to foil a plot to kidnap and behead a British soldier. He also ran the operation which led to nine men being charged six months ago with conspiracy to cause explosions and engage in acts of terrorism.
Sawers is among 175 officers being obliged to leave the West Midlands force. The police authority have invoked regulation A19, requiring officers with 30 years or more service to retire even if they are well under retirement age. The result is that the most experienced are departing. Across the country the number of officers is to fall by 12,000 plus 16,000 civilian posts. The result is that suddenly the close watch on suspected terrorists will be reduced. The government has broken its promises on public safety and the outcome could be grave.
You may respond by pointing out that there have to be sacrifices. My contention is that we have our priorities wrong. Yesterday Danny Alexander admitted in a TV interview that the cost of our involvement in Libya may incur costs of over £1 billion. Yesterday we learned that the French/British attacks are leading to the death of innocent civilians, including children. Since our supposed mission is to protect civilians it is hard to understand why we are continuing to crank up the bombing in spite of the Americans, Germans , Arab League, Russians and others having distanced themselves from what now looks suspiciously like involvement in a ciuvilian war.
But the real question is why we see Libya as a higher priority than security at home. The costs already incurred in Libya are greater than the savings being made from the sacking of Matt Sawers and his many colleagues. It simply doesn’t make sense.
There would appear to be a probable outcome to this lunacy. Libya will end in a stalemate and we will be drawn into restructure. In the UK the likelihood of atrocities by the ‘enemies within’ will multiply and something horrendous will happen.
David Cameron has spent time over the past few days on lambasting fathers, and trying to browbeat NHS staff. His time would have been better spent considering the first duty of every occupant of 10 Downing Street, the Defence of the Realm!
TODAYS NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. Which comic did Dan Dare first appear in ? 2. Golfer Ian Woosnam comes from which country? 3. Which song links Rolf Harris and Lead Zeppelin? 4. Which inventor Michael appeared on a £20 note? 5. Gouache is a type of what? 6. The notorious Klaus Barbie was the Butcher of where in France? 7. Which county do the Arctic Monkeys come from? 8. What shape is something if it is campanulate? 9. Was ‘Cutting it’ set in a butcher’s, a hair salon or a hospital? 10. Which Robin was the spoof film ‘Men in Tights’ about?
Several of our allotment holders are disabled, some more so than others. But all earn great respect amongst the fraternity given the way they determinedly tackle tasks that come easily to those of us lucky enough to have no significant disability. It would never occur to us that they have less rights than the rest of us, indeed we would identify anyone who feels that way to be akin to regimes that have nursed such odious beliefs, Adolf Hitler comes readily to mind!
It follows that all of us, disabled or otherwise, were appalled at the story surrounding the Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies. He has sparked outrage by suggesting that disabled people could be paid less than the miminum wage. He told the Commons that disabled people were “less productive” than others and employers should be allowed to pay rates below the legal minimum. Such people, he claimed, can’t be as productive as someone who hasn’t got a disability and it was inevitable that employers were going to take on the person who was “going to be more productive and less of a risk”. He particularly highlighted those with learning difficulties.
Understandably, the mental health charity Mind was outraged. Its director of external relations, Sophie Corlett, said that it was “preposterous to suggest that someone who has a mental health problem should be prepared to accept less than a minimum wage to get their foot in the door with an employer”. Labour’s Anne Begg, who chairs the Work and Pensions Select Committee, said that these remarks were “utterly outrageous and unacceptable”. She probably spoke for the vast majority when she said that to suggest disabled people should be treated as “second class citizens” was shocking. It showed, she claimed, that some Tories inhabit a ” warped world”.
As I understand it there are now laws that ensure that large suppliers employ disabled people. That apart many such as Tesco see it as a moral responsibility. No one chooses to have a disability and all those brave and determined enough to hold down a job have an absolute right to be treated in the same way as everyone else. They are neither inferior nor superior, they are simply people no different to the rest us in all respects bar the fact that they suffer more.
The horrible aspect of Mr Davies’ outburst is that it lifts again the lid on what many members of his party feel about what they call the underprivileged. Mr Davies is a senior member of the powerful Tory backbench 1922 committee, so it seems reasonable to assume that he is not alone in feeling this way.
What leading Consetrvatives feel is hard to guage but no one hurried to rebuke the MP. We do know that David Cameron had immense respect for his father who overcame huge disabilities to reach the top of his profession. Indeed, the prime minister has dedicated a newspaper article marking Fathers Day to emphasise this again. And he is right to remember his dad as an inspiring and determined man.
But the worry is that he may conclude from this that any disabled person who doesn’t match what his Dad did is lacking in some way. This doesn’t follow at all. Not everyone has the intellect or connections to follow what is a good example. Many simply do not have the physical ability to perform every task.
Of course we all know those whose disabilities are hard to spot yet are always parked in the special parking bays. We all know some who, to quote the old Army term, swing the lead. And we all know able-bodied people who do likewise! But to generalise is dangerous and hurtful to the vast number of genuinely disabled who desire only to be treated as equals and accepted for what they are, fellow travellers on this path we call life.
At the very least the opinion of influential people like Philip Davies could lead to employers viewing the disabled as a source of cheap labour. Even worse it could damage the self-respect of many brave and proud people. Logically they know that the only difference between him and them is that he was born lucky and stayed that way. But when life is hard, when even the simplest task is something of an ordeal, logic is often buried in a feeling of humiliation, pent-up outrage even. And especially so when even their democratic representative is keen to abuse them
Mr Davies and his kind should keep their obnoxious, patronising thoughts to themselves!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. London Eye 2. Horse racing 3. Beginning 4. Nursery 5. Air Miles 6. Monday 7. Green 8. French 9. Blue 10. Norfolk.
ANY 9s OR 10s OUT THERE? THAT IS SERIOUSLY GOOD! KEEP QUIZZING!