Posts Tagged ‘Eric Pickles’
Everything was frozen this morning -windscreens, the hen’s drinking troughs, the ponds and the bunch of grumpy old codgers whose sole desire was to clean out the chickens and escape to the warmth of the allotments ‘hut’. Oh to be with the Barmy Army in Australia, they may not have much to sing about but at least they are warm!
Once we had restored our circulation there was a good deal of ribaldry about our fallen hero, Tony Blair. It seems that he has fallen out with his buddy Rupert Murdoch, who is on record as saying that he will “have nothing more to do with Tony Blair, not ever”. According to the Mail on Sunday the breakdown is due to Mr Blair and Ms Deng staying overnight at Mr Murdoch’s mansion in California on two occasions without Rupert’s knowledge. In fact the pair also had “multiple encounters” in both London and New York.
The office of our beloved WMD predictor has categorically denied an affair, and all we scandalmongers know is that King Rupert has separated from Ms Deng, who leapt to his defence when, at the Leveson Inquiry, a fierce geezer with a bucket of custard attempted to donate it to him. But whatever the real explanation for the Blair fall from grace, it could be good news for our dear leader who is still part of the News Corp social circle. The Sun was a passionate supporter of New Labour, perhaps we can expect our rosy faced Dave to adorn the front page of every builders bible at the next election?
Alongside most of the morning paper’s coverage of the world’s richest ex-politician, there is an equally intriguing story about generous awards given to three members of our armed forces, a surprising development given that the Ministry of Defence has shown total contempt for those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. But before you break into a chorus of at last we must explain that the recipients of a cool £100,000 are female RAF recruits who incurred ‘injuries’ from marching in step with male colleagues. They have now recovered from the effects of “over-stride”, which is more than can be said for those who no longer have legs to stride on yet are struggling to make ends meet!
Meantime Parliament’s anti-sleaze watchdog has been approached by a coalition of MPs, academics and celebrities who claim that the City of London’s lobbying activities merit examination. There are, the group claims, “revolving doors between the government and powerful City interests”. It hardly surprises us but we imagine that Knacker is less than delighted at the possibility of yet more dirt-sifting.
He must have a pending caseload longer than that of the few remaining social workers, and our humble plea will not help. We believe that it is high time that bankers were held accountable for their actions which impact on so many. The latest outrage concerns RBS who, according to a report by Lawrence Tomlinson, were guilty of “stealing people’s livelihoods from them”. Mr Tomlinson last night called for jail sentences, should it be proven that firms not necessarily in immediate financial distress were “engineered” into the bank’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG), a division with the power to scrap loan deals, impose inflated interest rates and charge hefty penalties.
The report alleges that firms were forced into GRG sometimes through small technical breaches of loan terms, such as late filing of minor financial information. They were then hit with exorbitant rates and fees causing them to collapse, allowing RBS to buy their property and assets on the cheap. One such business said that it paid RBS £256,000 in fees alone whilst in GRG.
The report has reached Uncle Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who says that allegations are “very serious” and has asked the Financial Conduct Authority to investigate. We have no axe to grind with RBS and are inclined to wonder how all this happened whilst it was under the direct control of Gorgeous George Osborne. But the fact remains that time and again the banks are found to have engaged in what amounts to fraud yet the only consequence are resignations accompanied by golden goodbyes.
If only our favourite pie-eater was in charge of everything! Today we are told that Eric Pickles has solved the social implications of “problem families”. Quite an achievement. No detail is provided and we can only accept that like God and Stephen Fry, Eric moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” We live in a world where lemonade is made from artificial flavours and furniture polish is made from real lemons!”……Alfred Newman
Whilst we chicken-keepers find Chris Packham’s obsession with urban foxes extremely galling, it has to be said that he and his Autumn Watch pals have taught us codgers a great deal about wild life. We have always been vaguely aware of the creatures that abound on the allotments, but over the past few years we have come to realise that their lives contain more drama than our own and quiet observation provides constant fascination.
Last week the cotoneaster was covered in berries, their bright orange red making tiny dots of colour in a corner of the site otherwise composed of various greens. This morning there is hardly a berry to be seen, the result of an influx of visiting birds. At one time such developments would have passed us by but, having absorbed the sermons of Saint Packham, now we are more intimately aware of the lifestyle of our resident blackbird. Clearly it regarded the berries as its own private larder, and when the interlopers first appeared it rushed to defend it. As the strangers fed rapidly, plucking berry after berry without pause, it launched itself from above. Having driven off one interloper, it returned to attend to the others which he dislodged in a flurry of wings but as he chased them away so the first bird returned and began to feed again.
Not a dramatic tale to match the Brooks affair with Cameron’s adviser, and I tell it only to illustrate that our fellow creatures lead lives every bit as emotional, insecure and fraught as our own. The discovery has encouraged us to make the effort to provide them with a habitat, our version of the Eric Pickles house-building programme although, unlike our hero, we do try to choose the right location.
It was a different revelation that taught us that we are not even aware of the habits of animals much closer to us. Recent studies have shown that a dog’s mood, and intentions, can be gauged by observing the way in which our pets wag their tales. When they wag to the left beware, when to the right they are happy. Research has shown that the predominantly left movement is accompanied by increased heart rates and behaviour typically associated with stress, anxiety and increased alertness. Maybe you, like us, had simply assumed wagging of any kind was just, er, wagging? The knowledge is not only interesting but useful!
I am tempted to end my audition for next years ‘Spring Watch’ by commenting that like us animals are individuals, no two are the same in instinct or temperament. But I hesitate to do so, we humans are changing. In this modern age of instant mass communication we seem to be losing our individuality, we seem to be heading in the direction of the Borg collective so often featured in Star Trek, where the leader’s thoughts are force-fed into every attentive mind.
I have felt this for some time but it is only today that I feel confident enough in my theory to give it voice. That is because I have just read the text of a speech given by David Steel at Strathclyde University. Lord Steel, the former Liberal leader, has launched a fierce attack on the prevalence of spin doctors in politics, noting that he is given “daily outpourings of tweets to circulate” and bombarded by emails with “lines to take” on current issues”.
The man who was once regularly portrayed on ‘Spitting Image’ as a rebellious spirit is apparently sick and tired of the daily “laundry list” sent out by LibDem headquarters. It is increasingly contributing, he argues, to the “diminution of individual expression or even thought in politics” as politicians are expected to repeat a positive message over and over again and to never deviate from the script.
The peer says that he is even sent a list of lines to send to followers on Twitter. “The increasing role of spin doctors is to be deplored”, he says. “They hand out questions for MPs to ask, and they daily bombard party activists with lines to take”. Steel says that “even as a humble member of the upper house” he receives daily doses of laundry lists of the alleged achievements of the coalition government plus a selection of press coverage – all favourable of course.
He notes that no extracts of the unfavourable coverage of the latest peerage list was included. He goes on to condemn David Cameron and Nick Clegg for continuing with the current system of allowing politicians to select new peers, usually in exchange for “fat cheques”.
Steel bemoans the new age of rehearsed sound-bites and “prime minister’s insult time” and ends with a sigh. “Little wonder”, he says, that the membership of political parties “is in decline”.
We can reasonably assume that what goes for the Lib Dems applies equally to the Conservative and Labour parties. People like Denis Skinner, who refuse to become automatons are derided by our dear leader as beyond their sell-by date. Once they have gone we will be led by the human equivalent of Borgs.
I rest my case but linger briefly to add a rider. A few days ago we bemoaned the power now resting in one man over such vital national assets as Grangemouth. We understand, and sympathise with the protests of unions. But we condemn unreservedly invasions of individual’s property and family. That isn’t individualism Mr McCluskey, it is thuggery!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”I condemn intimidatory tactics. it is not how industrial disputes should be conducted. This is true for unions just as it is true for employers!”….Ed Miliband
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 seems that Mrs Albert was not pleased with our gift of a power drill to mark her beloved’s birthday. According to the great – miniscule actually – man she still holds stubbornly to the outdated sexist view that men should look after house maintenance. As we cleaned out the hens on this sunny morning he rather soured the equally sunny mood by banging on about rough justice, and despite our tendency to ignore his every word the term struck a chord.
Our eye was caught by the story in the Independent about the collapse of a series of leading barrister’s chambers. Michael Mansfield QC, whose clients have included the family of Stephen Lawrence and the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, is one such sufferer. It is, he tells us, the result of the government’s reforms of legal aid. Those who can’t afford to hire legal representation will in future have to fend for themselves and the caseload of barristers will collapse. Mr Mansfield believes that the government is trying to undermine the independence of the bar and “its ability to challenge government decisions”. Whilst we instinctively have little sympathy for barristers, we certainly see this as yet another example of what Mansfield describes as “one rule for the poor, another for the rich”.
The Sun has devoted its page 3 to ‘Tina Headturner’ and the rest of the comic to the news that Alan Lewis, a Tory vice-chairman appointed by our dear leader, has been arrested over an alleged rape of a teenage girl 1n the late 1960s. He has been bailed pending “further inquiries”, and no charges have been brought before a court. Why then have the police decided to splash the news? We are always concerned about allegations regarding something that allegedly happened fifty years ago, we are aghast at the police acting as judge and jury.
Another illustration of rough justice lies at the heart of a story featured in most papers. The focus is on a Nottingham hospital where nurses have been “reduced to tears” by their workload and openly tell of patients being left hungry and dehydrated. Down the road at Kings Mill Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield nurses are telling a similar story. They this week told inspectors that; “We cannot go on, it’s terrible, nurses are crying because care is so bad”.
Since the coalition took office 5,500 nurses have been axed, and former Blue Peter presenter Jeremy Hunt has openly admitted that many hospitals are “not staffed to safe levels”. It is rough justice for patients and nurses alike. Right now politicians are falling over themselves to promise improvements in everything known to mankind, it is high time that they committed to rectifying the mess they have made of the NHS. Despite what the unworldly Lansley believes, most people cannot afford private healthcare and the wards available to us are being turned into a nightmare.
The Daily Torygraph does little to stimulate hope of action. According to its lead story Messrs Cameron and Clegg are immersed in negotiations aimed at continuing their heavenly partnership after the 2015 election. How that fits with stories in other papers about a secret pact being forged between Cameron and Farage is less than clear. It does all suggest that our dear leader is not as convinced that “Milband couldn’t win an egg ‘n spoon race”, as he makes out.
But just as we wre concluding that its rough justice all round, a dashing Robin Hood character comes riding to the rescue. Well, Friar Tuck really for it is none other than our favourite pie-eater Eric Pickles. He wants to ban parking spy cameras being used by “overzealous” local authorities to maximise income from parking fines.
In an ever increasingly unjust society the man is a national treasure. he could become our version of Chairman Mao. The rest of them deserve to be eaten alive!
THOUGHTY FOR TODAY; “You know what I hate most about being a public figure? The public!”….Howard Stern
We were relieved to be able to clean out the hens this morning without the rain and howling wind predicted by the weathermen. But the word is that Hurricane Wigan is on its way and the grandson of one members headed off to the Great North Run in apparel normally associated with Atlantic fishermen.
All of which put us in a somewhat gloomy mood when we gathered for our brew. It was soon made even gloomier when the latest revelations about HS2 were relayed by Tom, whose brother lives in Lancaster. HS2 will not serve Lancaster, Penrith or Carlise, leaving them reliant on a slowed-down service on the old line. Lancaster’s direct London service will be cut from 18 trains a day to eight – which will go via Manchester adding about an hour to the journey.
Elsewhere Wakefield’s London service will be reduced from 34 trains a day to 16, and direct trains from Bradford will be axed. Stoke, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Coventry and Rugby will all lose their fast trains to the capital. Our bewilderment about the most expensive project ever undertaken deepens by the day. To add to the mystery Network Rail has raised the possibility of even more drastic cuts. One option, it says, is to change the network north of London into a “hub and spoke” operation with almost all non-HS2 long-distance services axed and passengers not on the new route forced to change on to HS2 at hubs. Since many of the hubs are up to ten miles from central existing city stations this would entail what could be a “difficult interchange”. Ye Gods!
So it increasingly looks as though the supposed benefits of HS2 will be available only to less than half of northern passengers. But now comes another revelation to stoke the feeling that the £60 billion is not being well-spent. Lord Berkeley, the chairman of the Rail Freight Group, has warned that the plan is not based on timetables which would demonstrate that it will disrupt freight traffic to the point where conveying freight by road will be the only option.
It seems that we codgers are not alone in believing that, to quote Berkeley, the government is bulldozing through a “badly-designed project that doesn’t link up properly with the existing transport network”. To the noble Lord and us you can add the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Committee who have predicted a lengthy, costly project leading to a “capacity crunch” in parts of the system.
Today brings news that the ‘Stop HS2′ campaign is about to transform itself into a political party which will field candidates in marginal affected constituencies at the general election. This will attract considerable support from MPs such as John Baron, Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay, who leads an influential group opposed to the latest cuts to army numbers. Yesterday he said that it comes down to financial priorities; “We can either fund white elephants such as HS2, or ensure the defence of the realm”.
The only remotely sensible justification for the project is that it will enable businessmen to spend more time in their London offices. The price we are all going to pay for that is massive and takes many forms. And will wizards still travel to London in 23 years time? Given the rate at which technology is developing the likelihood is that real-time conferencing will have made redundant our present methods of communications.
It is all a complete mystery to us. But just to prove that our minds are not of the, er, single-track variety can we mention another one that swirls around us. Some of our allotmenteers are of the Muslim faith, and they seem just as mystified as the rest of us at the unending argument about the use of niqabs . To us the covering of the face is bound to make positive relationships more difficult. But in specific cases such as court appearances, schools and hospitals it creates an impossible situation.
Nick Clegg says that he is uneasy about telling people how to dress. So are we, but the concealment of the face is a step too far. On this David Cameron is right. The practice has no religious justification and if it is appropriate to ban the wearing of crosses, as many employers do, it is doubly appropriate to do the same with niqabs.
But enough of mysteries and on with Sunday, hurricanes permitting. Perhaps, dear reader, you understand all that happens, perhaps it is only in aged minds that our well-ordered society seems to become increasingly stupid. Perhaps we should seek clarity from our favourite possessor of all knowledge, Eric Pickles?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”Hegel set out his philosophy with so much obscurity that people thought it must be profound!”….Bertrand Russell
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
Regular readers will known that we codgers are ‘Trekkies’, fans of Star Trek. For sheer escapism there is nothing to beat being transported into outer space and meeting up with the creatures that supposedly exist there. No truck with ridiculous prejudices about the colour of ones skin, no Old Etonians, no politicians more concerned with their expenses than our problems. And today we are agog at the news that the two Voyager probes have reached interstellar space, not thanks to Captain Kirk, but for real.
The twins were launched in 1977 on a tour of the solar system. After beaming back images of Jupiter’s giant red spot and Saturn’s shimmering rings, Voyager 2 moved to Uranus and Neptune, Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to power past Pluto. Now the scientists monitoring it have received clear evidence that it has passed through the heliopause, which is the long-hypothesized boundary between the solar plasma and the interstellar plasma. Now we really have gone where no man has gone before.
Voyager 1 is the size of a small car and carries evidence of what humanity looked like in 1977. it carries a gold-plated copper disc with sounds, images and data from that year which scientists hope intelligent life forms will be able to access. If they succeed, they will uncover 116 images and natural sounds, including surf, wind, thunder and the songs of birds and whales as well as greetings in 56 languages and printed messages from US president Jimmy Carter and the then UN secretary general Kurt Waldheim. Music on the disc includes Beethoven, Mozart and Chuck Berry.
Equipped with an eight-track tape recorder, computers with 240,000 times less memory than an iPhone and a nuclear reactor, the leading probe is moving at 11 miles per second. It will remain in contact with earth until at least 2025 and is now 11,625 miles away, a fraction of its possible journey. In about 40,000 years time, both Voyagers will approach stars for the first time.
Given that the human mind cannot cope with the concept of unending space, none of us can possibly make a judgement about alien beings. But the fact that the first representative of Earth they will meet some 40,000 years from now will be peanut farmer Jimmy Carter is disconcerting. They may indeed conclude that humans were a puny race, if their leader was any indication.
Of course the more fascinating question is whether the human race will exist at all when that Southern drawl is first listened to by little, or maybe big, green men. If scientists dealing with the more mundane issue of global warming are to be believed our planet will by then be empty with not so much as an Ikea remaining.
It’s a sobering thought isn’t it? Every day mankind stages wars, invents ever more sophisticated technology and breeds more mouths to feed from ever-reducing resources. Every day each and everyone of us, bar Wayne Rooney, worries about what is going to happen tomorrow. Yet 40,000 years from now, when Chuck Berry gives his first rendering to a galactic audience, all traces of man may be only whistling in the wind.
The whole affair brings a real sense of perspective. Perhaps it isn’t worth getting hot under our human collars about today’s news that our Westminster pack have discovered another way to milk their taxpayer hand-outs. In 40,000 years it won’t matter. Mind you if the suspicions that Eric Pickles is from outer space is correct, he may be out there still fretting.
A final thought. When I was a boy we sang about heaven up above the bright blue sky. Will Jimmy Carter reach it?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on thee, and I’ll forgive Thy great big one on me!”…..Robert Frost
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.
When it comes to escapism Dr Who has few equals. A surprisingly high number of our allotment codgers are avid fans, none of us are content to simply watch the TV first-screenings. DVDs are a wonderful invention and I for one have watched Matt Smith wave his sonic screwdriver a zillion times.
For addicts it is very hard to name a favourite Doctor, all have brought their own interpretation and all have proved the triumph of good over evil a spellbinding alternative to real life where the reverse is invariably the outcome. It follows that the selection of the one to replace the zany Matt is of considerable importance to us.
For us there is only one choice. If the various Doctors can be said to have a weakness it is that they always appear to be physically inferior to the various enemes they face. Yes, they do triumph in the end but we have long felt that it would be good to see the Daleks, Cybermen et al recoil in terror at their first sight of mankind’s defender. That is why we are launching our campaign to install Eric Pickles for the reincarnation to be screened in December.
Even the most fantastic fantasies require a change of cast from time to time, and we also fancy a few new adversaries. The antics of our own Albert prompts us to concoct a new species from the galaxy of Albertonia, we would love to see their expressions when faced with the new Time Lord. Our Eric would literally eat them alive, a spectacle never seen before over so many decades of Whoness.
We also fancy creating the Lobbyists, a corrupt race clad in ermine. In his present role big Eric has expressed a desire to crush them, and a touch of noble squashing would go down well with our Saturday pie and chips. And how about the Cleggites, a race of slightly mad creatures whose constant U-turns would present our new champion of logic with a real challenge. Equally troubling for him would be the little green men from Etonia, a race determined to take over the control of civilisation as we know it. Many a suspense could be mounted as the Borisites and Cameroons arrived from Rupertis armed with copies of the News of the Planets!
Yes, our minds are made up. No disrespect to all of our Doctor heroes, but by way of a change we would like to have just one who is literally larger than life, one for whom town halls and the other edifices of alien power are automatic targets.
So if you feel as we codgers do start to lobby your MP. Raise enough cash to encourage him or her to table questions, and leave the rest to Jeremy Hunt. It will take quite a few questions to persuade him to use his influence on the Beeb, but as a former inhabitant of Rupertis he can swing it for our chosen one.
Of course there are those in this politically correct age who are campaigning for the first female Doctor. Forgive us unenlightened ones for snorting. In our little world of Chauvenistia the ladies are still confined to washing the eggs, and we have no wish for them to gain ideas of such prestigious roles as muck-shifting.
Vote Pickles for Doctor Who the even greater!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “These allegations will sharpen everyone’s focus, but much work has yet to be done. What you don’t want to do is for laws to be introduced which allow the the recall of MPs for unfair, spurious reasons – for example, for voting in favour of gay marriage”….Source close to Nick Clegg commenting yesterday on the lobbying scandal.
Wigan fans are on their way to Wembley, so our numbers were somewhat reduced this morning as we gathered to clean out the hens. We wish them well but reckon their chances are akin to our landing on the planet Zog. But you never know, it has been known for hard-grafting sons of toil to overcome prima donnas.
Once we had exhausted our recollections of long-gone FA Cup Finals, we found ourselves fascinated by the outrage of Eric, whose son lives near Bodham in north Norfolk. We have long since formed a mental picture of the place based on Eric’s descriptions following his many returns from visits. We have in our minds-eye pottered along winding country lanes under grand skies that have inspired poets and painters for centuries. We have seen so often the gentle Norfolk landcape dotted with houses, halls and cottages built from clay dug from north Norfolk soil. We have lingered at Baconsthorpe Castle, a magical place down a lane, up a track round a corner and in a time warp.
Although we haven’t actually been, we share Eric’s reaction to an appalling decision. North Norfolk is about to be vandalised and butchered. The timeless skyscape is to be torn apart by a gigantic wind turbine standing 285 ft tall and with a blade-span the width of a jumbo jet. The tip of the turbine will be 579 ft abve sea level. It will degrade vews for miles in all directions.
The contribution of unreliable, inefficient wind turbines to our energy creation is to say the least, questionnable. And millions are being driven into fuel poverty by forcing them to pay for subsidies that make windfarmers filthy rich. When you add in the despoiling of areas of natural beauty the picture is complete. Our energy policy is disastrously incoherent, and few imagine that turbines will play any real part in whatever emerges. But our concern here is with the proof positive that when Eric Pickles introduced his new National Planning Policy Framework he was lying through his teeth. Likewise Nick Clegg, who echoed the mantra that this marked “the beginning of a power shift away from central government to the people, families and communities of Britain”.
Given the two spokesmen we didn’t of course believe a word of it. But even we cynics are astonished at the speed with which the promise has proved to be false. When the proposal first appeared in Norfolk there was public outrage, incredulity even. Thousands of objections were lodged, no other planning proposal has ever generated such a response. English Heritage weighed in by arguing that the damage to the setting was not justified. Local councillors were beseiged by residents contemplating living within visual distance of the giant turbine, and that meant anyone within a six mile radius.
To the great relief of everyone the North Norfolk District Council decided to refuse planning permission. The verdict was unanimous as councillor after councillor reminded political friends and opponents alike that local planning policy rules that turbines ‘sited so prominently that they are visible for miles’ should not be allowed and particularly not ‘near the Cromer ridge’ - on which the Bodham turbine would be built.
The sense of relief did not last long. The developers appealed and an inspector ruled that the opinion of local people and their elected representatives was wrong. He granted permssion and remarked that the new act does not allow for a referendum. Indeed it does not.
The new planning laws are slanted in the direction of developers, and inspectors are under instruction to nod through ‘sustainable development’. In effect local authorities have lost their powers and the people that elect them are disenfranchised.
We are used to the lies of politicians, but this one is right up there with the most blatent!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” The planning act demonstrates the utter lie of the coalition’s claim to be committed to localism!” Michael McMahon in the Spectator 20/4/2013
We may be dreaming of a white Christmas but if today is any indication we are more likely to have a wet one. Free-range hens tend to lay in any place that takes their fancy, and mud seems to be particularly alluring to creatures that want to deposit quickly before resuming their great worm hunt. The result is that some of my fellow codgers are now pressing for the purchase of an egg-washing machine. How we ever saw this as a pleasant pastime is hard to follow on mornings such as this.
But it was interesting to see pictures of the Queen attending her first Cabinet meeting. I confess to fearing for her wellbeing when I saw a shot of Big Eric Pickles greeting her but she survived and even emerged with a set of table-mats. We also saw live pictures of Her Maj arriving at Number 10. We didn’t hear what was said but it probably went along the lines of “Have you come far your Majesty?” with the response “What do you do?”.
The ministers lined up in the hall, all with shoes gleaming and ties straightened. Jeremy Hunt seemed almost overcome and bowed so low that he almost headbutted the Monarch as he returned to his usual height. Had he done so even he would surely have perished this time. The commentator told us that the Queen was fascinated by it all, to us her expression suggested rather extreme disinterest. But who knows. We could only reflect that a tour of the Foreign Office with William Hague did seem a modest reward for sixty years on the throne.
However the more significant news seemed to us to be the revelation that the Chippng Norton set is alive and well. On Saturday night the first of its usual series of Christmas parties took place at Merriscourt Farm, the home of Tom Astor, great-grandson of the American heiress Nancy Astor. And, yes, our dear leader was there with his special friend Rebekah. According to eyewitnesses they were deep in conversation for long periods.
Downing Street spin-doctors have confirmed that the old friends met. They at least have learned from the past. But has our dear leader? Many will find the continuing dalliance very strange indeed. Ms Brooks is facing very serious charges and the Prime Minister is widely suspected of being in cahoots with the Murdoch camp during the BSkyB bid.
Now he has re-triggered the speculation. Did he really know nothing of what was going on at the News of the World? Is he still selling his soul to win the approval of the Sun? Is it really appropriate for a Prime Minister to be so closely embroiled with people accused of serious criminal behaviour? We plebs are less than impressed.
If our dear leader continues to behave thus, he may be the next one to receive a gift of table mats!
We cleaned out the hens early this morning, then headed off or the Southport Flower Show. We had intended to go yesterday but unwisely heeded the weather forecast which predicted unending rain. It proved to be a lovely day. Today was forecast to be lovely and guess what, the heavens opened. Eating toasted sandwiches in the rain was a new experience.
Attendance was noticeably down on previous years, and the number of exhibits likewise. Monsoons or recession, who knows? But the absence of crowds did mean that the exhibitors had time on their hands, time to chat. Being an avid collector of cacti I was able to pick up some useful tips plus a few new species. But we did pick up something else, great concern at the latest government announcement about building on green belt areas!
This was specifically ruled out in the Conservative 2010 general election manifesto. But who cares about promises, senior sources have confirmed that the Prime Minister and Chancellor want to examine ways and means of building hundreds of thousands of new homes, and green belt areas represent the easiest and most profitable options for developers who are loathe to undertake clearance of disused ‘brown sites’. This despite the fact that such delapidated areas would provide enough space to build every house required over the next five years.
It is not only the rural communties that are alarmed. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has let it be known that he is opposed to such “vandalism”. Tory MP Chris Skidmore says that we have “a duty of trust to protect green belt land for future generations”, fellow MP Nick de Bois says that any shrinking of the green belt would be “flawed and would fly in the face of the Government’s Localism Bill , which supposedly hands power to local people to define their own neighbourhood plans”. Tracey Crouch, another Tory MP, says that it would be “quite wrong for the coalition to take away the green belt from the next generation”.
The astonishing aspect of this sudden move is that only months ago the new National Policy Framework carefully drew together proposals aimed at appeasing environmental groups, and included instructions to local planners to protect green belt land.
Now it is said that our dear leader is determined to “think the unthinkable”. Apparently he has the support of lapdog Clegg and, perhaps inevitably, Gorgeous George Osborne who has to find an alternative to tackling his rich tax-avoider friends.
Thankfully they can expect another rebellion by Tory MPs, many of whom feel a genuine commitment to preserving our heritage. And they are right. The truth is that no one has the right to destroy our remaining areas of natural beauty. They belong to generations to come. No half-witted politician should be free to do so however close they may be to the wealthy developers. Houses should be built on areas that cry out for regeneration.
To compound our mood of irritation we listened to Test Match Special on the way home. It was raining at Lords and the commentators went on and on about Kevin Pieterson. They were speculating as to the content of his text messages to pals in the South African team. One possibility is that they contained advice about bowling to England players, particularly Andrew Strauss.
Our verdict was a simple one. Get rid of him. Better still ask our dear leader to appoint hm as a special adviser. Two obnoxious characters could be just what is needed to tip Tory MPs over the edge when the new approach on the green belt reaches the voting stage!
It’s one of those dsmal days when the sky seems to be almost draped over us. Whenever I travel by air I always reflect that all that seperates us fron a perfect life of blue skies is a load of muck. And so it is today, but we codgers set about our work with gusto for we have something to look forward to. Tonight the England team takes on the Italians in the Quarter Final of Euro 2012. And they are going to win. And then comes Germany. The team’s morale is transformed and anything is possible. It has taken the powers-that-be a long time to realise that an English manager for an England team is eminently sensible.
Which is more than can be said for the appalling nuisances that currently assail you on every visit to the town centre. Charity muggers by profession, they are widely known as Chuggers, not a term of affection. What they attempt is intimidation. One favourite ploy is to block the intended victim’s path and to pour forth emotional tales of the charity that they supposedy represent.
Over the past week or so, they have been wearing Marie Curie jackets. Each person accosted was told £5 donated would pay directly for 15 minutes of a cancer nurse’s time. You will be helping to save a life, usually follows. In fact it is a downright lie. The Chuggers in question are employed by a company called Tag Campaigns. It has charged Marie Curie £367,000 to run the campaign, money paid out of donations to the charity by supporters who believed that they were directly funding patient help.
Worse still the point of persuading the public to text a £5 donation has nothing to do with the fiver. It is a trick aimed at obtaining mobile numbers which are then passed to the call centre which rachetts up the pressure on punters to take out a direct debit. The largest of the ever growing number of fundraising firms is The Gift Group Ltd, whose founders own the parent company of Tag Campaigns. The company’s founders and only shareholders are Chris Kazamias and Darren Instrall. Over the past three years they have paid themselves £1.2 million in dividends alone.
The Chuggers themselves are paid £8 per hour and are required to obtain 10 texts per day in their first week, increasing to 25 in the fourth. Bonuses arise once the call centre lands a long-term financial commitment. Virtually no training is given on the campaign subject, in the case of Marie Curie a video was it.
In theory such things come under Eric Pickles, the Local Government and Communities Secretary. On hearing of investigations being conducted by amongst others, the Telegraph, he said;”These are extremely serious allegations. People donate to charity in good faith. Allegations that the public have been misled risk shattering people’s confidence and trust in charitable giving”. Bang on big Eric.
What has been happening reflects badly on Marie Curie. The cause they espouse is a very worthwhile one, they do not need to facilitate what amounts to deception. And they were wrong to put their reputation in the hands of third rate salesmen who lack any knowledge of what the charity stands for.
And they are not the only charity using companies such as Tag Campaigns. From this moment on we should all simply refuse to exchange the time of day with people using Charities to line their own pockets.
Simply put we should tell them to Chugger off!
We are all weary of the endess revelations about tax denied the exchequer by tax avoiders. But it is important since it is the low tax income that creates the need for ever more draconian cuts.
Today we learn that the Inland Revenue has more than 20,000 tax tribunal cases on its waiting list, involving billions of pounds in potential revenue. The department has announced that at present reduced staffing levels it would take 38 years to clear the backlog.
Brilliant! Clearly reports that George Osborne could run a chipshop are exaggerations!
If only chickens had better sanitary habits, they would make perfect house pets for those who suffer from the attentions of mice and whose cats, in the new age of quality cat-food, are usually too content to bother with a little hunting in the pantry. As you might expect we get plenty of attention on the allotments from Mickey’s descendants, but their numbers are kept under tight control by the hens. Chickens usually appear less active than Eric Pickles but the sight of a mouse triggers an unexpected lightning-fast reaction. One lunge, one peck and another carcass awaits us when we do the daily clean-out.
In the split second before they join Mickey in the sky, the mice must be astounded at the transformation of an ambling clucker into Jekyll. Much like our reaction this morning when we learned that Jon Cruddas, appointed yesterday as Ed Miliband’s new policy chief, used his first public comment to demand a referendum on EU membership. Up until now the Labour Party has firmly supported Britain’s continued membership of the EU, a stance that has caused great frustration to many who share the view of a majority of Conservative MPs that membership is a one-way deal, with the UK giving much and gaining nothing other than a good deal of interference and bureaucracy.
Mr Cruddas said; “This is about democracy. At certain stages the political classes should invite the people into the discussion that effects their everyday lives; none more important than Europe”. How other leading lights in the opposition will respond is going to be interesting. David Cameron is coming under increasing pressure from his backbenchers to call a referendum at a time when the whole federalist European dream is going up in smoke. Only the Lib Dems are preventing this, they seem to believe that being ruled from Brussels is the only way to a future Utopia. And up to now they have rested content in the belief that the massed ranks of Labour MPs would join them in blocking anything as outrageous as allowing the people to voice an opinion.
Before yesterday few of us had even heard of Jon Cruddas. But he has struck a chord with many, not least because he talked of “stopping this thing festering” and stressed that irrespective of where people stand on Europe, it is the right of every citizen to participate on an issue that “affects material everyday life and our culture”. Perhaps the new policy bigwig is also a shrewd politician for this looks the one issue on which the Conservative Party can save itself in the public eye.
Certain it is that it is hard to think of any other. Yesterday Rebekah Brooks came out fighting after being charged with perverting the course of justice. Her husband, Charlie Brooks, spoke of a witch hunt. Without doubt Knacker seems to have veered from doing absolutely nothing to proceeding with what are very serious charges indeed. It guarantees that the whole Brooks saga will be rearing its head in court this winter. In fact given that there may be many other charges in the pipeline, there can be little doubt that the albatross will follow our dear leader for most of the rest of this parliament. At the very least he is increasingly seen as guilty of crass misjudgement in maintaining an intimate friendship with people keen to influence the government to wave through a bid of enormous commercial and cultural significance.
But the interested spectator would be ill-advised to focus on the Rebekah Brooks aspect of the affair too closely for the real danger to David Cameron lies in the Jeremy Hunt story. Here we have clear evidence that someone in Hunt’s department was passing sensitive information to News Corp at a time when the culture secretary was supposedly acting in a quasi-judicial role following the mysterious dismissal of Vince Cable. Up until now Hunt has refused to resign and Cameron has joined hands with him. The question is did Hunt and Cameron know what was happening.
Suddenly this becomes a huge threat. Lord Leveson has decided to call both Smith and Michel, the two aides for Hunt and James Murdoch respectively, and to question them in advance of seeing Hunt. The two may attempt to argue that neither of their masters knew of the information- passing, but will anyone really believe that they were a couple of Walter Mittys overseeing, off their own bats, a multimillion takeover bid? At best it sounds fantastical.
Of course Hunt is culpable anyay given that a minister is responsible for the actions of his minions. But if he was party to it we have Watergate revisited. And that takes us to the biggest question of all, did Cameron know?
The next few weeks will be very revealing. The Labour Party will have to come clean over a referendum, and our dear leader may have to come clean on his protegee Hunt.
Watch this space!
THEY CANNOT BE SERIOUS!
Government plans that could reduce, or even eliminate, state benefits paid to thousands of blind people have sparked a revolt by Lib Dem MPs in the latest sign of tension inside the coalition over some spending cuts.
Although Nick Clegg is supporting the plan rebels are demanding a U-turn after it emerged that many blind or partially sighted people who receive Disability Living Allowance will lose out . Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, attacked both Clegg and Cameron yesterday. He said; “It is manifestly unfair that blind people should be subjected to this additional strain and worry”.
It seems that under new assessment rules blindness will not qualify as a serious disability. To quote a certain tennis star, they cannot be serious!
In an attempt to avoid the danger of foot-rot Albert has insisted on implementing his brainwave of laying turf paths down the centre of the largest hen-runs. But the risk of rot to his feet has clearly extended to higher regions of my old pal’s anatomy, for he swept aside any suggestion that the experiment was doomed to failure. Within an hour of his unloading, and laying, countless rolls of top-quality turf, the hens were devouring the grass in the manner of Eric Pickles faced with a tray of pies. New ideas are fine, but you need to think them through!
And so it is with austerity. Cameron and Clegg, the Laurel and Hardy of politics, will this week renew their marriage vows and promise ever increasing austerity. The fact that it simply isn’t working has clearly escaped them, as has the distinct possibility that the new French president may prove them somewhat foolish. But the truth of the matter is that what is being practiced in the UK is selective austerity, the very worst kind. If anything is likely to cause widespread alienation this is it.
Let us take just a couple of examples. First the plight of Britain’s ever-growing army of carers. A YouGov survey published over the weekend reveals that nearly 60 per cent of carers are suffering from mental health problems due to the strain of caring and juggling other responsibilities. A huge number are experiencing exhaustion and physical strains, and insomnia is par for the course. The majority of the current six million carers are aged over 60 and they are often relied upon to move or lift immobile people or are obliged to bathe, clothe and medicate sick relatives. Their situation is rapidly worsening as cuts and postcode lotteries on local authority help, or lack of it, kick in. Emily Holzhausen, director of Carers UK, says that “we are seeing very worrying signs about the impact of local authority cuts and the tightening of eligibility criteria”.
Austerity for the volunteer army of carers is hitting them hard. The reduction in support, be it home-helps, respite care, or cash is turning their lives into a dangerously punishing treadmill. Yet were there no carers committed by a bond of love and sense of obligation, the state would inherit a massive bill.
For our second example let us visit the fiefdom of George Osborne, Cheshire East. There the Tory-led council has decided to spend £600,000 over budget to tart up the town hall. The chief executive trousers over £200,000 per year and has a deputy who is paid in excess of £170,000. The chief excecutive is on sick leave and, to avoid too much sorting of paper-clips falling on the deputy, the council has voted to appoint yet another top dog to be paid £80,000 for a short-term stint.
Two simple examples of the hit or miss of what our dear leader likes to call austerity by all for the sake of all. Is it any wonder that people are angry and that trades unions are beginning to flex their long-wasted muscles?
THE HONOURS SYSTEM IS DISCREDITED IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE!
The practice of successive governments of, in effect, selling honours to the highest bidders has brought our uniquely British honours system into total disrepute. And now even those who decide on gongs are in revolt.
Lords Lieutenants are a throw back to medieval times but you can still see them at local events, wearing military uniforms and carrying swords. The latter are a symbol of their willingness to defend Her Majesty, but given that most of them are both old (all fail the Cameron ‘Skinner’ judgement test) and rather tubby that seems very unlikely. And even some amongst their pompous numbers are now demanding change in the matter of nomenclature.
George Reid, sword-carrier for Clackmannanshire, told a Commons committee that he is uneasy about the use of the term Empire. David Briggs, of Cheshire, feels likewise and Sir James Cropper, Cumbria, suggests titles more meaningful for the present times. All three gave examples of possible recipients who refused honours on the basis that our once glorious empire slaughtered and enslaved their ancestors.
Of course that can be debated by those with pink-coloured specs, but one fact is undeniable. There is no longer a British Empire! It is surely time to delete reference to it.
Better still, since we are supposedly counting every penny, why not scrap the whole outdated system?