Posts Tagged ‘House Of Commons’
Bitterly cold this morning but at least it’s dry thanks to a howling wind. Raising chickens in the summer is a delight, right now it is anything but. We can only grin and bear it for Albert’s solution is not on. He tells us that beneath that old army greatcoat lie three pairs of ‘long-Johns’. I’m tempted, but realise that if I had to derobe to that extent at bedtime it would be morning before I put my nightshirt on.
Anyway, enough of mad codgers, I would like to restore the sense of perspective that today’s newspapers clearly lack. Almost all of them focus their headlines on the latest antics of Nick Clegg. Yesterday he failed to take his seat alongside David Cameron who faced a raucous House of Commons to explain his EU veto. The simple truth is that Clegg signed up for the coalition and posed repeatedly alongside the Tory leader. He has broken just about every pledge he made at the general election and has earned his party a new nickname, the Liberal Doormats.
One final thought before I emulate the papers in giving sulking priority over what should have been the main story of the day. David Miliband and Nick Clegg have both made much of the fact that Cameron got it wrong. But what would they have done? The answer they offer is negotiate more forcefully. Are we really supposed to believe that they would have fared better against the Merkell/Sarkosy duet? In our humble opinion all three UK party leaders have got it wrong. Surely we should either be in the EU lock, stock and barrel or completely out of it. Being just in yet still handing over billions to bail out those inside seems, to us, the worst of all worlds.
Enough of such nonsense, let us look at what should have been screaming out from every placard. For some time we codgers have followed with great interest – sadly a vested interest in several cases - the research being conducted at the University of Georgia and the Mayo Clinic in the United States. The focus has been on a protein called MUC1 that is manufactured in substantial amounts in cancerous cells. The researchers have been attempting to find a vaccine. And they appear to have succeeded!
A powerful vaccine has been established and in tests conducted so far it has dramatically shrunk breast and pancreatic cancers by an average of 80 per cent. It has done this by targeting sugar molecules on the protein that turn against cancer. The researchers believe that the same success rate will be apparent aginst prostate, bowel and ovarian cancers.
Prof Sandra Gendler said yesterday that; “This is the first time that a vaccine has been developed that trains the immune system to distinguish and kill cancer cells based on their different sugar structures on proteins such as MUC1. We are especially excited about the fact that MUC1 was recently recgnised by the US National Cancer Institute as one of the three most important tumour proteins for vaccine development”.
No, I don’t understand the technical stuff either, but the summary by Prof Geert Jan Boons, of the University of Georgia, is enough to send my pulses racing. He has concluded that the vaccine “clearly elicits a very strong immune response and activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumour size by an average of 80 per cent”. Just imagine the effect of this on all those you know who are right now praying for such news!
There is more research ahead but the experts believe that trials involving patients could be here within two years. One cannot help wonder why cancer research across the world is so fragmented. Cancer does not recgnise international boundaries and neither should the fight against it. Every research charity should surely right now be offering additional funding to the American team. Perhaps, given extra help, the American scientists could reduce the lead-time, perhaps by next Christmas millions could be receiving revolutionary treatment.
One in three of us will experience cancer in one form or another. This astonishing breakthrough could change our whole experience of life, it could be the most profound change in medicine for half a century. Yet it only merits a few column inches in a few papers!
I once used to dream of becoming a newspaper editor. I was simply not good enough yet I find myself reflecting that I just might have had a better sense of priorities than many do. Who cares what Clegg is up to? What difference will he ever make to anyone’s life? Those researchers in Georgia may well change the course of the quaillty of life of a third of the people on this earth!
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Guardian usually arrives on the hen-cleaning early shift tucked neatly into Jack’s pocket. It receives less attention at the brew-break than was once the case. Then known by all as the Grauniad, because of its penchant for spelling errors, it used to provide the basis for a wager based on who could spot the most. Today it was unfolded as we read its front page about the Prince of Wales, and I noticed that somewhere called Chin is expanding its nuclear armoury, clearly old habits die hard!
Anyway it appears that unknown to most, Charles is part of a “secretive constitutional loophole” which gives him the right to veto legislation. Since 2005, ministers from six departments have had to seek his consent to draft bills on everything from road safety to gambling and the London Olympics. Neither the government nor Clarence House will reveal what, if any, alterations to legislation Charles has requested, or exactly why he was asked to grant consent to such a wide range of laws.
In the last two parliamentary sessions the Prince has been asked to consent to draft bills on wreck removals and co-operative societies, a freedom of information request to the House of Commons has revealed. Between 2007-9 he was consulted on bills relating to coroners, economic development and construction, marine and coastal access, housing and regeneration, energy and planning.
All very odd. But a threat to democracy? Hardly. At least Charles can be relied upon to give an honest independent view which is more than can be said for the unelected Lords which is packed with toadies of successive Prime Ministers, and even includes more than one who has spent time at “Her Majesty’s pleasure’. And it is no more undemocratic than the ‘Witney set’ which, until the Murdoch explosion, was clearly pulling David Cameron’s strings. And you can look at the Werrity affair…I won’t go on, suffice to say that there is probably no one out there who believes that democracy actually exists at all.
Of course any mention of the Royals brings out, from under the stones, the supporters of ‘Republic’, the proponents of an elected head of state. Its director, Graham Smith, was quick to say that the secret power afforded to Charles is “an affront to democrtic values”. Hmm, he clearly has more trust in the existance of such a thing than the rest of us. As for an elected leader, one wonders who he has in mind. Blair perhaps since he collects highly paid jobs with the same enthusiasm that others collect stamps. Boris perhaps? Eddie the Eagle? Graham Smith?
By coincidence all this hit the headlines on the day that a report from the public administration select committee was published. It accuses the coalition government of maintaining pointless ministerial jobs to maintain influence over crucial parliamentary votes. It claims that David Cameron’s government is “patronage-driven” and is spending vast amounts of public money to buy loyalty. It reports that the coalition is failing to cut senior jobs despite its pledge to slash Whitehall costs.
Brenard Jenkins, the Conservatiuce chair of the committee, says that the government’s response that the ministerial number of jobs are “under review” is political code for “their refusal to engage with this committee”. He went on to claim that the number of ministers in the Commons is at its “absolute limit”. And there are more aides than is necessary. This proliferation of appointments is “more about exercising patronage over MPs, and thus being able to influence debates and votes, than it is about efficiency and accountability” added Mr Jenkin.
There are now 121 MPs on the “payroll vote” as ministers and their aides who are obliged to vote with the government or resign. The committee says that the payroll should be slashed by more than sixty. It also calls for the end to the appointment of unpaid ministers to circumvent legal limits on the size of government. Far from reducing government costs the Prime Minister is increasing them. And last week’s rebellion on the EU referendum is likely to herald yet more appointments as a means of silencing the Eurosceptics. There will soon be more Chiefs than Indians in the cloistered court of Kings David and Nick!
The theory behind our democratic system is that the country is ruled by independently-minded individuals elected by the people, each approaching legislation with his or her sole influence being the views of constituents. No string-pullers, no ‘donors’, no rich hangers-on. It is of course a fairy story as one corrupt government follows another.
If we enjoyed true democracy the outrage about Charles would be justified. As thing are I for one welcome the thought that there is at least one in authority who is not in the pay, or grip, of shadowy figures that never seem to come to the Gruaniad’s attention!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY; ” For all their faults, Thatcher and Blair were respected not for their bossiness but because of their principles and vision (whether you agreed with them or not). Cameron is not in their league. He’s got one vision; that the nation requires the services of David William Donald Cameron as Prime Minister. For years I thought Cameron was likeable but with two major defects – no credible programme to bolster the country’s fortunes and being a rich toff with no idea how most people live. It’s true that those were, and are, big defects. But increasingly, another one is coming into view. Bluntly, Camerion has a nasty streak. When the going gets tough, he has no answers – just insults and bullying”. Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow in her Sunday Star column dated 30th October 2011.
The alternative to growing old is even worse and, as the hands on the clock move on, we codgers find ourselves taking an increasing interest in the standards of care provided for those whose bodies ultmately surrender. We were already aware of the painful fact that the standards of care for the elderly incapacitated are the worst in Europe, but now things are set to get a good deal worse. It frightens all whose limbs are beginning to rebel, it should shame everyone in the ‘big society’.
Government funding has been cut by almost a fifth, an horrendous amount given that the sum available was already inadequate. More than £1.3 billion has been removed from council’s annual spending on help for the over-65s since the Coalition came to power. The details have emerged from a House of Commons analysis and reveal that most councils are cutting all elderly services funding, even to the extent of increasing charges for such basic services as meals-on-wheels and home care. Nursing homes are in financial crisis after cuts to fees to cover specialist dementia care.
The result will be twofold. Many more elderly and frail patients will have to stay in hospitals which is a very expensive route. Even worse the quality of life of both patients and their families will be reduced drastically. Michelle Mitchell, the charity director of Age UK, says that “the care system is in crisis. We need the Governmnet to show leadership and make the difficult but vital decisions to reform our broken care system”. Emily Hilzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK, said many were suffering from “real terms cuts”. She said that “it is extremely worrying as we look at the impact on families’ lives. We know that families are already under an enormous amount of stress and that will only get worse with these cuts”.
In 2009-10, the last year of the Labour government, councils spent £7.6 billion on social care for the elderly. This year, the figure is up to £1.3 billion lower. Last year George Osborne promised an extra £2 billion for councils to spend on care homes, meals on wheels and help for the elderly and disabled with daily tasks such as washing and dressing. Incredibly this money was not ‘ring-fenced’ and the vast majority of councils have allocated it elsewhere.
It is no coincidence that mental health social services are also in melt-down. For any government to simply leave councils to their own devices on such services is a crass deriliction of duties. Such services are what define a fair and caring society from one of a third-world one. To learn of such things on the day that it is announced that our donations to Brussels of £12.75 billion far exceed our benefits of £5.8 billion is truly infuriating!
We all know that there have to be cuts, but they have to be slanted to protect the vulnerable and affect those who can afford to economise. Yesterday we learned that the 100 FTSE top bigwigs received average pay rises of 49% over the past 12 months. Nick Clegg commented that they seem to live on another planet. Pity he supports a cabinet happy to allow such wanton greed to continue unchecked!
Despite what others say I have continued to believe that David Cameron, albeit somewhat out of touch with our new ‘underclass’, means well and will fight for justice against the Tory right. Having today read an article by the Speaker’s wife, Sally Burcow, I am beginning to wonder. According to her, Cameron says whatever it suits him to say at the time he’s saying it. Why? According to Mrs Bercow “he is out to get cheap applause or just to get his way”. When, she asks, “will the public look more closely and see that, far from being Mr Nice Guy, the PM is an arrogant bully who should be knocked off his pedestal and put in his place”.
Presumably the Conservative Speaker is well placed to make judgement on the Prime Minister and to pass it on in pillow talk. If he/she is correct, our suffering elderly may wait a very long time before suicide looks an attractive alternative to what they are going through!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Wigan 2. William Wordsworth 3. North 4. Commonwealth Day 5. Wessex 6. Lisbon 7. Spirit in the Sky 8. Robert Plant 9 Freddie Starr 10. Joseph Lister
If the reaction of the dozen or so chicken-keepers that I chatted to this morning is any indication the reputation of the political establishment sank to a new low yesterday. Liam Fox apologised to the House of Commons for an almost unbelievable catalogue of misjudgements and misleading statements and MPs divided along party lines. Conservative ministers and MPs yelled their support, the Lib Dems did their usual lapdog impressions, and Labour’s spokesman missed the point entirely. The expenses and phone hacking scandals have taught them nothing, their only interest lies in themselves.
The important issue in the Fox saga is that the defence secretary is arguably the most important and sensitive cabinet post. He is the one responsible for the security of the country and the lives of British servicemen and women. In times of crisis abroad or national security at home his is the judgement that counts above all others. During the second world war it was no coincidence that Churchiull insisted on also being responsible for the post, he knew that the wrong judgement by anyone acting in that capacity would be fatal.
Clearly there is much more to come on this remarkable story. Adam Werrity attended an extraordinary number of 40 meetings with Dr Fox in just 16 months. He had access to his dairy, and he flew around the world to meet up with him. He handed out business cards which claimed that he was an adviser to the defence secretary, and it has now emerged that some of the rebuttals made by Fox were untrue.
Among the many meetings was one with a defence equipment supplier in Dubai, at which no MoD official was present. This on its own was a clear breach of the Ministerial Code. On various other occasions Werrity met heads of states and future ambassadors. He even joined his hero for a get-together with senior US generals. The list goes on and on. All of this must have cost Werrity a great deal of money and the inevitable question is where did his funding come from. And just how much business did he garner off the back of his ‘adviser’ role?
It is already clear that Fox has breached the ministerial code and it is impossible to believe other than that he deliberately, or naively, assisted his friend to make money. It is an open secret in Westminster that the constant presence of an ‘adviser’, who had no security clearance or official status, was a major concern for both the MoD and Foreign Office officials. Dr Fox must have been aware of this.
In reality though there is no need for further investigation. The man responsible for men and women who this very day are putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan is clearly a man of very poor judgement. Would you put the life of your son or daughter at the mercy of someone so incapable? Neither would I.
Several leading political commentators have today ventured the view that David Cameron will be reluctant to risk upsetting the Tory Right by being seen to wield the knife against him – particularly after sparing Ken Clarke, the darling of the Left, following his attack on the Home Secretary over the ‘catgate affair’. If this is true it also tells us a great deal about the judgement of the prime minister. We are told that Cameron’s sole objective is to win the next election, nothing else matters. Not reassuring is it? Neither are his claims that ‘Labour were just as bad’. We all know that, but it sounds as bizaare as a murderer claiming leniency on the grounds that others have done the same! Incidentally, should Cameron really wish to have the real facts he has the option of asking the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, Sir Philip Mawer, to investigate fully. Somehow that seems unlikely!
Dr Fox must go. How does he imagine those with relatives engaged in armed conflict feel this morning? How does he imagine that, whether Cameron dismisses him or not, anyone will ever trust his judgement again?
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ????????????????????????????
Yesterday I wrote of the conflict in Afghanistan and quoted the brave father of the first Britsh soldier to be killed there. Brave indeed for he said what most of us have felt for some time, which is that hundreds of our brave troops have been sacrificed by politicians who have never fired a shot in anger, and whose real motive is self-glorification. And even now we hear of yet more deaths and appalling injuries. The war was instigated by Bush and Blair but today’s politicians continue to make ‘photo-call’ visits and to insist, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that we are winning and are stabilising the region. Chief amongst the advocates is Liam Fox, defence secretary.
Suddenly there is good reason to question his judgement. As mentioned two days ago he is being accompanied on his tours by one Adam Werrity. He has distributed business cards describing himself as an adviser to Fox, even worse his cards carry the House of Commons motif. It appears that Mr Werrity has visited the defence secretary at the MoD’s HQ on 14 occasions in the past twelve months. Dr Fox initially refuted claims that Werrity has accompanied him on official visits but today The Guardian has a picture showing the two men together on an official visit to Sri Lankan ministers.
The revelations will increase the pressure on Fox, who has been accused of putting national security at risk by offering Werrity regular access to his high office. Questions have also been raised about whether Werrity is profiting financially from the relationship. It is hard to avoid that suspicion since Werrity ran a defence company while Fox was shadow defence secretary, and a health company while Fox was shadow health secretary.
Werrity, 34, lived with Fox in a flat near Tower Bridge before the defence secretary married Jesme Baird in 2005. He was a guest at Fox’s 50th birthday party at his official Whitehall residence last month. Readers who examine the comments attached to Wednesday’s blog will know that the relationship is being widely questionned.
This is the man who holds sway over our servicemen and women. David Cameron should suspend him today and order an independent investigation. That is exactly what would happen in a private sector company and this position has greater implications than any to be found there.
I have to admit that many of my fellow allotmenteers, most of whom served in the British army, have little but contempt for the defence secretary. But suddenly we have moved on from personal likes and dislikes, suddenly we face a huge defence scandal in the making!
Those of us who remember Churchill can well imagine just how long Dr Fox would have been at his desk from the moment that this story broke. Come on Mr Cameron, you may not be a Churchill but right now the interests and lives of our armed forces rest ultimately with you!
YOUR WEEKEND GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ: 1. In 2001 whose car was found in Lake Coniston, 30 years after an attempt at the water speed record? 2. Which city of the Ukraine was closest to Chernobyl? 3. Which crisis brought about the hot line between the White House and the Kremlin? 4. On which West Indian island did Bob Woolmer meet his death during the 2007 Cricket World Cup? 5. Who replaced President Nixon after Watergate? 6. In October 2001, the US’s Senate Majority leader rceived what in the post? 7. In the Sept. 11th 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, in which state did the plane crash which did not crsah into a building? 8. Who succeeded Ayatollah Khomeini as president of Iran? 9. In 1979 who was the first western rock star to visit the USSR? 10. Who succeeded J F Kennedy after his assassination?