Posts Tagged ‘Grumpy Old Men’
Several of us headed off in the van yesterday to collect some chicken coops. Being nincompoops we travelled back in the rush hour, and boy did we regret it. The motorway was jam-packed, the service stations resembled a Lady Gaga concert. The country is seizing up was our rather gloomy prognosis, as we spent forever crawling behind a van bearing the inaccurate boast that “We never slow down on customer service”.
And it is not just grumpy old men that watch despairingly as our roads, our hospitals, our rail services, our sewage and water supplies et al, are becoming ever more inundated. In our angrier moments we blame the cuts, the politicians, the banks and every other curse that comes to mind. But the reason for it all is quite simple, our population is rocketing past the levels at which a small island’s infrstructure can cope.
The latest projections from the Office of National Statistics predict that by 2043 Britain will be the most populous country in Europe. Our population will have swollen to 74 million, outstripping France and Germany. The landmark figure of 70 million is expected to be reached within 16 years. In fact over the next decade the population will increase by the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds every year. The official estimate is that the number of people in the UK will grow by 491,000 every year through to 2020, the fastest sustained growth for 50 years.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migration Watch UK, tells us what we already sense. “These figures conirm that the UKs dramatic rise in population will continue unabated”. He added that “two thirds of the increase is due to immigration and as people return home this evening crammed into public transport and on congested roads, they could well ask where all of these people are going to fit”. Indeed they may!
The one-third that isn’t due to immigration relates to the fact that we are all living longer. At the end of last year there were 1.4 million aged 85 and over, this is forecast to double by 2035 and the number of over-95s will quadruple. Nothing we can do about that except be thankful to the NHS.
It follows that immigration must be reduced, or even stopped. The irony is that anyone saying that is immediately accused of being racist. In fact the unchecked flood of people entering the UK is giving succour to vermin such as the BNP. The issue has nothing to do with race, it has everything to do with the obvious fact that the place is full beyond its capacity.
Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, in commenting on the projections, said yesterday that “there is more to do to bring net migration to the order of tens of thousands per year and ensure migration which benefits the UK”. He is right to try because, as we have learned recently the world population is itself set to rocket. But – and it is a very big but – so long as we are party to the EU open doors policy the government remains powerless to stop the flow of immigration from within its borders.
Right now we are seeing the fallacy of the one-club EU approach. Perhaps not surprisingly, Germany and France are unhappy at the thought of constantly bailing out smaller and more economically-fragile countries over which they have no budgetry control. Thanks largely to Grumpy Gordon we are not in the Euro. However we are an obvious destination for people in the countries insufficiently resourced to cope with the recession, and they are pouring in. Ultimately that damages not only this country but the ones being deserted by skilled workers.
On Monday half of David Cameron’s MPs refused to support his denial of an EU referendum. Since then various Conservatives who supported the prime minister have warned that they will not do so next time, amongst them was the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. He knows that the clock is ticking on the cost of population explosion, not just on services but on their costs plus those of pensions and benefits.
By contrast Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband continue to ridicule any worries about over-population. Perhaps they would like to tell us just how many they believe we can accomodate without bringing about a total collapse!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Ray Parker Jr. 2. Bolton 3. Twelve 4. Pigs 5. Pain 6. Switzerland 7. In the morning 8. Overload 9. President Marcos 10. A lie detector.
The dying beans and sweet peas are suddenly revived as the warmest sunshine of the year beats down. Even we codgers showed signs of renewed energy as we cleaned out the chickens this morning. Suddenly most grouses are forgotten, the grumpy old men have become Clint Eastwoods wearing basball caps. I say most because one grouse will not melt in the heat, our united hostility to the European Union!
Almost every day brings news of yet another damaging inposition. A few days ago we learned of the EU order to make all agency staff eligible for the benefits bestowed on permanent employees. According to the think tank ‘Open Europe’ the new Agency Worker’s Directive will put 28,000 young worker’s contracts at risk by making them too expensive to keep on. Such a loss will wipe out more than half of the 50,000 new jobs the Coalition has promised to create for unemployed yougsters every year.
Today brings another and even more crushing Directive. The EU has threatened to take legal action against Britain if we fail to introduce new rules on welfare. Their ruling is that EU nationals, including “benefit tourists”, must be entitled to residence-based benefits, employment support allowance, pension credit and income support from the day they arrive irrespective as to whether they intend to stay or not. At present EU arrivals must legally live here for five years before qualifying for state benefits. It means that people who have never worked here or paid any contributions and, regardless of whether they have any previous link with the UK, can arrive as they please and demand instant benefits payments from the British taxpayer.
Chris Grayling, the work minister, has confirmed that the cost to the British economy will be £2.5 billion in the first year, and could well climb sharply as more European unemployed seize the opportunity to draw money from our benefits system. Grayling declares himself to be “disappointed and surprised”. Harsher words have come from Iain Duncan Smith, the Works and Pensions Secretary, who is currently working on plans to simplify and reduce the costs of the UK benefits system.
He complains that the EU is overstepping the mark. The decision, he says, confirms the worry that the EU is “pulling more and more areas of national competence into its fold. And these decisions are taken outsside of national democratic processes by unelected and unaccountable institutions”. In fact it qualifies as one of the most bizaare rulings yet in that it breaks the vital link that should exist between taxpayers and their own government. And to make matters even worse there are further rulings on the way which force the UK to pay benefits to those who have returned to mainland Europe, and who may never have made more than a token payment to UK society.
A succession of ministers have condemned the latest move as an “outrage”. But they have all wrung their hands and sighed “but what can we do?” . Members of yesterday’s BBC Question Time audience were quick to tell them. Pull out of Europe broadly summarises the response and polls tell us that the view is shared by almost 75% of the population.
So for how much longer can David Cameron rule out a referendum. For how much longer can he impose swingeing cuts on every section of our society whilst paying huge sums to Brussels? At the Tory Party conference he is likely to face up to a third of his MPs now determined to force the issue, and many more are known to be opposed to the way that Europe is now shaping. As one Tory MEP put it, yesterday, we refused to join the single currency yet face the prospect of finding amounts greater than those realised by our domestic cuts to bail out countries who did join.
Sources close to Downing Street say that one worry, and one worry alone, prevents Cameron from bowing to the popular demand for a referendum. Nick Clegg is said to have warned that in the event of such a proposal coming before parliament the Lib Dems will bring down the government. Ha ha! If Clegg actually did this there would be a general election and there would be a total eclipse of the Lib Dems.
The point of no return is here. We simply cannot afford to continue to yield powers to Brussels and we certainly cannot afford to meet the ever escalating costs of dancing to its tunes. On instances like the latest one we should at the very least refuse to co-operate and let the bureaucrats take us to their Court. We should then refuse to honour their ruling. What can they do – send a gunboat?
Even David Cameron’s closest friend Rupert Murdoch is opposed to Europe, so it really is hard to understand why such a bellicose orator makes the smallest mouse look intrepid!
QUOTE OF THE DAY; “The housing minister Grant Shapps is just a kid who does not understand how local authorities work. I’m horrified by the naivety of ministers who needed help from the property industry to understand the rights and wrongs of what they are trying to do”. Mike Slade, chief executive of Helical Bar who has advised the Conservatives on the new planning laws and who chairs the Conservative Property Forum which charges £2500 for meetings with senior Conservatives.
The thaw didn’t last long! I arrived back at the allotments to find us almost back to square one and, if the forecast is to be believed, we are about to return to last week’s version of Eskimo Nell. For ignoramuses such as me it is difficult to relate all this to global warming! I did notice that the 2011 calender is up in the shed so some optimistic soul believes that we will still be here. Even so I’m not sure that pictures of the Women’s Institute members doing a ‘calender girl’ is good for the mental wellbeing of grumpy old men. Perhaps I should ask David Cameron who bangs on incessantly about wellbeing. But maybe it is the threat to his own that troubles him.
I have mentioned before my friends down south who are involved in essential social services. Their latest stories are enough to make the blood run cold. Social services are under the control of local authorities and one wonders if the Old Etonians even realise what is going on. They have made great play of the austerity measures being enforced but have left the decision making to local councillors. Since they find even the task of keeping pavements free during icy weather that seems a tad dangerous.
Already in some regions huge budget cuts have been passed down to essential services such as care of the elderly and mental health. Already redundancies have been announced and services already at breaking point are collapsing. Without doubt vulnerable people are going to die as care is diminished or totally withdrawn. Equally certain, those social workers left to stem the tide will leave in despair. In trusting councils to handle this Cameron is sowing the seeds of his own destruction. More importantly he is leaving people who cannot fend for themselves at the mercy of bodies renowned for poor management.
Throughout the coming week we are going to hear a series of announcements about cuts. Some, like the selling off to foreign powers of our search-and-rescue service, are plain bizaare. Others such as the halving of coastguard stations sound strange, as do those confirming that road maintenance and the repair and maintenance of schools will be suspended indefinitely. And we already know about the police reductions.
But the one set of cuts that we won’t hear much about are those affecting social services. Is the silence down to fears of reactions or, as I suspect, are the councils not telling the government? It is one thing to laugh off repairs and suchlike, rather more difficult to do so over deaths resulting from callous indifference.
Several years ago the then Labour government announced an integration of the NHS and social services, indeed I travelled to Leeds to hear from the new joint boss. Sadly the government backed down in the face of intense lobbying by local authorities whose empire building was threatened. The result is that the government has direct involvement with hospitals ( although they don’t always see Lansley as a plus) and none with the victims of local authorities whose idea of priorities is, to say the least, skewed against those who are out of sight and mind.
And to compound the horror of all this one has only to remember that the amount we have donated to the Irish Euro rescue exceeds the total of all the savings being made!
The impression one has is that, unlike Grumpy Gordon, Mr Cameron loves the trappings of power. That being so he would be well advised to check out some of the things being done in his name right now for, as they become common knowledge, a whirlwind of outraged public opinion is going to occur. Add to that the fact that he only clings to power thanks to the Lib Dems who are now in total disarray.
There is a real irony here. Through all the years of boom the Labour government seemed irrelevant. Its traditional battles for those at the bottom end of society were superfluous. Suddenly we are heading into deep waters where only those who really know what life is like there know what do to and how to do it. They may be back in action sooner than they expected or maybe hoped!
STUDENTS FOR IRAN?
Iran took a step towards nuclear self-sufficiency yesterday, using locally mined uranium for the first time in an act of defiance to the west on the eve of the resumption of talks over its atomic programme.
This could be a precursor to a very dangerous situation and something has to be done before it is too late. It occurred to me that we might consider sending an ambassadorial team so scary and revolting that even the Iranians might take notice. A team led by Mr Gilmore, the moron cenotaph despoiler, the yob that struck Camilla plus the thirty or so students that PC Knacker managed to grab could do the trick.
On the other hand the latest nuclear power might lock them up. Either way we end up quids in!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Alvechurch and Oxford City 2. Mrs Golda Meir
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who wrote Sophie’s Choice, published in 1979? 2. Of which country was Dr Hastings Banda president?
Even the ferrets have a better life than we chicken-keepers. Overnight the fierce frost returned and as we set to on the water-containers the snow began to fall. At least it is obliterating all the junk discarded over the past few days which suits we out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind adherents. But there the consolations end for we grumpy old men no longer see snow as a visual delight. Of course a snowbound allotment site is not new but last year it came in February and it was easier to bear given that Spring was around the corner. Now I eye it as I once, from behind the sofa, eyed Aunt Ethel who arrived early and stayed for ever.
But enough of chickens, we all have the distraction of the zillion secret US embassy cables to distract us. Today the Guardian, which was the initial recipient of the tripe, has a main headline telling us that Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, described Cameron and Osborne as being out of their depth. Now wait a moment, that is what the US ambassador said he said. In fact the cable in question didn’t say that anyway, it said that King had said that the Tory party (then in opposition) lacked depth. He also said that Cameron and Osborne lacked experience which, considering that they had not then had experience of government, was what Basil Fawlty called a statement of the bleeding obvious.
I have met and talked to Mervyn King. He is a facts man. What he is claimed to have said was, at that point in time, a fact. To now turn it into a great plot is absurd but the newspapers have to sell copies. We can therefore expect days of lurid headlines all purporting to reveal something sensational.
All of the cables have one thing in common. They were written by ambassadors or their staff. All love to describe themselves as diplomats which is really a posh description for spin-doctors. Yes they are bright people with self understanding but their objective in briefing their bosses back at home is to show themselves in a good light, people worthy of reappointment or promotion, people who know all that there is to know about the country in which they reside. Perhaps the best analogy is a prosecuting counsel. They slant the report to suit their case or to provide the recipient with what they want to hear. And they do it from memory for notes are not taken during their appointments.
The only exception to all this are the handful of cables that relate to real issues such as the security of nuclear products in Pakistan. Why such intelligence was transmitted through a system that legally allows over 3000 people access is beyond understanding. But those apart the whole shebang is gossip writ large. And one doesn’t have to be an ambassador to know that the version of an event or discussion varies dramatically according to who delivers it and their motives.
Fortunately for our ambassadors no one has yet decided to provide copy of the British cables to either WikiLeaks or The Guardian. Were they to do so you can bet your bottom dollar that our man in Washington would by now be reversing his ‘inside’ stories about President Obama. He would be seizing on a sentence here or there which could, when taken out of context, explain why his original report suggesting that the new man was the most popular in the universe was a little wide of the mark. It is all a game and, with the exception of the true security briefings, everything is probably ignored and filed unread.
Which is more than can be said for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He is said to be in hiding in London and is being pursued not just by the mad Sarah Palin who demands his execution, but also by Swedish prosecutors who wish to question him in connection with unrelated criminal allegations. Even the saner leading lights in the States are now also planning retribution so he is likely to be hiding at 10 Baker Street for some considerable time. The apparent leaker, Bradley Manning is less fortunate, he is already incarcerated.
To be fair most of this morning’s papers have given the whole affair only modest coverage. But the Guardian has decided to devote almost the whole edition to revelations about this and that supposed sensation. Even the fact that, according to an ambassador, Prince Andrew is supposed to have used a four letter word is seen as the equivalent to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
At one time I used to meet various foreign diplomats. Even when they told me the time I felt obliged to check my own watch. What they say is always slanted and what they say other people say doubly so.
Yes the fact of a leak of this size is a cause for concern but what it reveals is an excess of half-truths and total hogwash. Those bombarding us with this nonsense should seek employment in the ancient Egyptian art of making mountains out of molehills!
TUITION FEES ONLY INCREASE IF YOU ARE ENGLISH!
It is hard to understand the logic behind the announcements that Scottish students will continue to enjoy no tuition fees and their Welsh equivalents will be limited to £3,200 as against the proposed English ceiling of £9000.
How can this possibly be right when English taxpayers provide a giant slice of the funding granted to the devolved Welsh and Scottish assemblies? Clearly even the students do not understand for yesterday Welsh students staged protests to coincide with the ones in English cities.
Come to think of it the whole thing is becoming more bizaare by the day. Vince Cable, who drafted the new legislation, has now indicated that he may well abstain or even vote against it.
Aspirins all round!
WORLD CUP MORE IMPORTANT THAN SAVING THE WORLD!
With scientists warning that there is little time left in which to save the world from inundation and ultimate destruction one would have imagined that world leaders would have at least attended the climate change summit in Mexico.
But no! David Cameron was unable to be there due to his commitments at the FIFA world cup event. Is it me or do we seem to be getting our priorities wrong?
ASHES; BOYCOTT HAS THE ANSWER!
Few would argue other than that Geoffrey Boycott was one of the finest batsmen to play for England but entertainer he was not. Today he gave his view on the current Ashes series.
He doesn’t believe that either attack is good enough to bowl the other side out twice. Most people share that view. But he goes on to say that five draws would be enough to enable us to hold on to the Ashes. Ye Gods, I’d rather watch paint dry!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1 1979 2. Hanoi
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who wrote the 70s plays ‘No Man’s land’ anmd ‘Betrayal’? 2. Of which country did Robert Muldoon become prime minister in 1975?
The worst morning of the new ‘winter’ greeted us this morning as we arrived at the allotment. Yes, the sun was glaring from a blue sky but everything was frozen. All the chicken’s water containers were a block of ice and the stock of lettuces had turned as brown as Albert’s vest overnight despite being inside. Anyone seeking encouragement to try self-sufficiency would be ill-advised to seek inspiration right now from this gang of grumpy old men. It is on mornings such as these that buying eggs in Tesco boxes doesn’t seem quite so heinous. But at least a couple of our number were in high humour!
Bob and John are both rabid eurosceptics and have often reminded us forcefully of all the alleged shortcomings of the takeover of power by what they like to call faceless EU bureaucrats. When the news of the Irish bailout broke they were quick to remind us that the amount being handed over by Britain was equivalent to all the savings forecast to result from the cuts now decimating many of our public services. I recall John saying that maybe someone will now realise just how disastrous our membership is proving to be.
It seems that someone has. Yesterday the Daily Express became the first national newspaper to launch a ‘Get out of the EU’ campaign. Banner headlines on the front page of the Express suggest trouble for the coalition since, as it showed with its Diana obsession, this newspaper above all tends to be persistent and dogged. We may wrap our fish ‘n chips in yesterday’s edition but you can bet your muesli on those of the next weeks, even months, repeating the theme!
What interested me above all else was the identity of those who led the day-one attack. Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP and wants to see the UK out of the Union. It struck me as being a little like turkeys voting for Christmas but he is scathing in his condemnation of Brussels and all its works. He starts his assault by pointing out that the ‘Irish’ £7 billion is in addition to the £14 billion which we pay each year. For good measure he advises that there is now another £435 million to be found to help fund the increases which the EU people have decided to award themselves.
All that we knew, but his statistics on red tape are truly astounding. Internal market commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, has carried out a survey into the cost of regulation in the EU. He established the cost to be 600billion euros a year. If you then compare that with the European Commission’s own figures covering the advantages of membership you arrive at £120billion per year. In other words, Eurocrats themselves admit that the costs of the EU outweigh the benefits by five to one!
The other thing that surprised me was the information on trade with Europe. We currently have a £14.4billion deficit, in other words our purchases from EU countries exceed our sales to them. Amazingly Norway and Switzerland both sell around twice as much per head to the EU as we do. And they are thriving independent states outside the EU membership.
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, is another supporter of the Express campaign. He warns that we may be obliged to pour billions into saving failing euro economies such as Greece and Portugal and he is angry at the threat to British democracy by what he calls “meddling Brussels bureeeaucracy”. Mr Davies and other MPs also point to the destruction of our laws and commonsense by the EU Convention on Human Rights and the destruction of immigration controls due to freedom of movement laws for EU citizens.
There is a great deal more and most of it is damning. Of course up to this point anyone questionning EU membership has been brushed aside and any thought of a referendum dismissed. One suspects that the decision by the Express may trigger a more difficult problem for the government. Presumably an equally great problem will be the fact that over one hundred Tory MPs are already declaring support, leaving ministers reliant on the support of the Lib Dems who believe not only that we should be in Europe but that we should embrace the euro too.
In this daily blog I really try to be even-handed but I am struggling on the EU for I genuinely don’t understand what the avantages of membership are supposed to be. And if MEPs don’t understand there is little chance of my enlightenment. Even my self understanding offers nothing. Part of me suggests greater strength in numbers but another part suggests that we are enduring hardship here and pouring money out across the channel. Occasionally I remind myself that some of my best mates are europeans but that clarifies nothing for they too regularly rail against the idea of a single European State. They may not have our advantage of the English Channel but they do have our sense of national identity.
There is only one way of resolving this massive issue and that is a referendum. One suspects that the reason for Blair and Brown denying us one was that they expecetd to lose it. But the will of the people should surely prevail and at the very least we would have a reasoned debate in which the case for staying in could be explained.
This is infinitely more important than the referendum planned for a change to our voting system. After all if our integration into Europe goes all the way we won’t need a voting system at all!
JUST HOW TOLERANT HAVE WE BECOME?
Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has published a report on a visit he made to northern Afghanistan where he managed to gain access to a group of Taliban. He was taken to a secret location to meet the Taliban district chief who apparently acts as a sort of magistrate amongst the local population.
The reporter met a number of those engaged in the fight with American and British forces and was, to say the least, surprised to meet British citizens amongst them. One of the fighters was ” a burly bearded man with a hint of a London accent”. He admitted that he is a mini-cab driver in London and “makes good money there”. He said that he and other cabbies collect money for the jihad all year round and then travel over to join the fighting for three months of each year.
No surprise really but it does perhaps remind us not to be rude to our driver the next time we visit London! Remember that our Taliban cab drivers have human rights!
ENGLAND NEED A SWANN SONG!
It isn’t only Old Trafford that has rain. The second day of the first Ashes Test at Brisbane ended early due to a surfeit of the wet stuff. At least we nighthawks were able to go to bed!
Sdaly it was not another huge success story for our favourites and the most worrying feature for me was the ease with which the Aussies handled Swann. He could prove the real difference between these sides and we urgently need him to get into his spinning groove.
He has rightly been compared with Warne but so far has looked more like Phil Tufnell of sacred memory!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1 1976 2. Transkei
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which organisation proclaimed 1975-85 as the Decade for Women? 2.. The status of Sikkim changed in 1975. What did it become?