Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Tony Blair in never-never land!

Another beautiful morning. When we arrived at the allotments the rows of sunflowers were beaming back at their God, and the masses of begonias were bathed in shining glory. At such moments we codgers are always reminded of the famous lines about Solomon in all his glory not being arrayed as such as these. It is quite a sobering thought that even in an age of a multi-billion fashion industry we mere mortals still cannot match the glorious splendour of plants that just three months ago were seeds capable of being blown away by the gentlest breeze. It always serves to reassure us that despite being scruffy we can still play a part in the creation of something that even Lady Gaga cannot outshine.

Having cleaned out the hens, and lifted another half-dozen rows of new potatoes, we settled on the wall alongside the shed for our tea and doughnut break. There was considerable amusement at the news that the officer in charge of police horses let slip the fact that Rebekah told him that the retired horse she acquired from them was for the use of David Cameron. Our hearts go out to our dear leader who this morning faces the dual task of persuading the decidedly reluctant Aunty Merkel to impose real sanctions on Vladimir Putin, plus explaining for the umpteenth time that he scarcely knew either Mrs Brooks or her horse. His life seems to be dogged by difficult women, and even the arrival of the thigh-flasher has done little to ease his burden.

But our butterfly brains soon alighted on weightier matters. Yesterday, whilst Ed Miliband was hob-nobbing with President Obama, his perpetually dark shadow Tony Blair was giving the inaugural Philip Gould lecture to a rapturous audience of former Blairites. As ever the former leader managed to convey the earnest air of a latter-day saint as he emphasised that young Ed must be prepared to leave his “comfort zone”. He wasn’t specific but there were some outside of the worshipping throng who wondered if he had one or two invasions in mind. They probably wondered too about his claim that money is not important, something so often asserted by those who have acquired enough to take over the Bank of England.

We codgers know only too well that there is much to be said for casting aside old grudges. But we find it hard to forgive our former hero for the lies he told at the time of his joint adventure with George W Bush. Millions died in the aftermath of the supposed quest for weapons of mass destruction and to his day the carnage continues in iraq, with the repercussions still haunting those charged with the security of these islands.

But peace comes at a price say those who still cling to the illusion that whilst wrong in substance, Tony Blair was right in principle. Peace? Try telling that to the people of Iraq. Yes, many were relieved to see the fall of Saddam Hussain but what they didn’t grasp was that there was no rational plan to avoid their tortured country from sliding into an age of brutality that even Saddam couldn’t match.

A few days ago we were chatting to a Church leader who has spent time in Iraq attempting to assist the large Christian community in the north. He told us that the last Christians are right now fleeing from places where their communities have lived for almost 2,000 years. All of them face a deadline for them to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be killed. And this is no empty threat. Isis, the new brutal and fanatical extremist ‘army’, lives by its statement that for those who fail to comply “there is nothing to give them but the sword”. Already thousands have been slaughtered.

Isis now rules an area larger than Britain and has already ‘eliminated’ many of the ancient Christian communities of eastern Syria. Those leaving Mosul, captured by Isis on 10th June, in order to seek refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan are being stripped of all their possessions. Our informant said that every Christian stopped at a checkpoint were stripped of everything they were carrying, but it was a better fate than that of those who were executed. Meantime the ancient Christian churches have been ransacked and the ruins now fly the black banners of Isis and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self appointed Caliph and wearer of expensive Rolex watches.

The rapid elimination of Christians is not of course the only nightmare building in Iraq. Females are losing their right to education and much else, and repressive dress codes are being enforced. On the spot executions of anyone inclined to protest are commonplace and kidnappings, such as that of two nuns and three orphans when they stopped at a petrol station, are an almost daily occurrence.

None of which was the responsibility of Blair or Bush. But the carnage which they triggered achieved nothing and in retrospect has nothing to commend it. The only meagre consolation is that we learned an important lesson, we should not commit military action to societies that we simply do not understand. The idea that Iraq would hold elections with an equivalent of the Lib Dems accepting the outcome was naive beyond words.

So we codgers cannot find it in our ancient hearts to forgive Mr Blair, his copy-book is spoiled beyond any hope of a clean page.

Of much lesser moment are the deeds of the England cricketers, but they didn’t entirely escape our censure this morning. Some of us still help with schoolboy coaching and the first lesson always is that you should leave the high or wide ball alone on the grounds that if you don’t hit them you can’t be out. Yesterday a constant procession of England batsmen did and they were.

The word pathetic rent the allotments air twice this morning, but the cricketers at least will hopefully prove us wrong.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” Frisbeetarianism is the philosophy that when you die, your soul goes up on a roof and gets stuck there”…George Carlin.
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Beware of the out-of-hours death trap!

One of the joys of being part of our allotments co-operative is the diversity of its members. We are all now retired and work together in common cause, but our backgrounds cover almost every class, race and trade. And most of us originate from other parts of the country, thus ensuring a wide range of accents. I was reminded of this when Tommy this morning embarked on another of his somewhat embroidered tales about his native Wolverhampton. The first record of a settlement in Wolverhampton dates from 985 AD, he said. At that time a grant of land was made to Lady Wulfruna by Ethelred the Unready, in recognition of her marrying his reluctant brother, Ethel the Unsure-about-him. It sounded as unlikely as a Nick Clegg promise.

It was another beautiful morning, the sort that has one wondering if all those soaking wet and freezing ones really happened. The bank of foxgloves at the far end of the site sparkled in the sun, and there were enough bees in attendance to create a beehive of Eric Pickles proportions. The long-hidden comet fish were dashing around the pond lilies, and even the chickens seemed to have caught the summer mood as they scratched furiously in search of any worm daft enough to sleep near the surface. We sat on the wall with our mugs of stewed tea and reflected that all was well with the world.

Well our small piece of it at least. Out in the ‘real world’ things are not quite so rosy. As we scanned the Sunday papers we quickly came down to earth with a bang. A record number of foreign criminals began legal action in an attempt to avoid being deported from Britain last year, a substantial bill chargeable to the taxpayer. More than 2,400 offenders lodged appeals against efforts by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to have them removed after committing serious crimes. Among them are five convicted of murder or manslaughter, fifteen rapists plus 35 sex offenders including paedophiles, and 120 violent offenders.

Most of the appeals are brought on human-rights grounds, mainly under article 8 of the European Convention which protects the “right to private and family life”. Typical of the majority who win the right to stay here is Harnault Hospice Kassi.
In 2011 he was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison after being convicted of offences including theft and conspiracy to steal. Police raids revealed credit cards, cash, mail, mobile phones, passports, electronic kit and computers plus credit card accounts set up using stolen identities. Although his marriage has since ended the courts decided that his human rights would be breached by deportation. The human rights of his many victims were not discussed.

But such matters are trivial in comparison with the words and deeds of British subjects now serving with the extremists in Iraq and Syria. Typical is Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 23, who left his family’s £1 million home in Maida Vale, West London, last year to join militant groups, telling his family that he was “leaving everything for the sake of Allah”. Now Bary, whose father is accused by American authorities of having been a senior lieutenant to Osama Bin Laden, has posted a series of warnings aimed at Britain. On Monday he used Twitter to say: “The days of Muslim silent oppression are over, the lions are coming for you filthy kuffs, beheadings in your own backyard soon. The black flag of tawheed (Isis) will fly on top of parliament…stay indoors and await the bombs you scummy pagans”.

It is hard not to despair. The reaction from the government is to prattle on about promoting British values in schools. That is undoubtedly a worthy aim but something more immediate is needed if our streets are not to run with blood. A good starting point would appear to be the reversal of cuts to police numbers and prison places, and legislation making threatening behaviour on this scale a serious criminal offence. Forget human rights and end talk of holy wars. There is nothing remotely holy about madness of this kind, and the vast majority of the nation is becoming very angry at being constantly vilified and threatened by demented idiots.

But meantime we have something more mundane but equally dangerous to worry about. When the last government relieved GPs of the responsibility for out-of-hours medical services it made a huge mistake. Some areas are fortunate enough to be still covered by a co-operative comprising local GPs. But most are not, and many are at the mercy of private sector deliverers who economise by employing as few qualified staff as possible. In such areas patients are advised to ring the latest version of NHS Direct and decisions are based on telephone conversations, a method of diagnosis that no self-respecting clinician trusts.

As an example of what is happening take the sad case of three year-old Sam Morrish. The little boy died just 36 hours after falling ill at his family’s home in Devon. His mother had taken him to the local GP, suspecting a chest infection. The GP said that there was no infection but by the next morning Sam’s condition had worsened. That evening he vomited what appeared to be blood and his parents rang NHS Direct. On being told that Sam was not passing urine the nurse appeared concerned and promised a call-back. But the nurse recorded the details wrongly on the computer and recorded the call as routine.

Becoming increasingly worried Sam’s parents contacted the local out-of-hours service, Devon Doctors. There an unqualified call handler directed them to a treatment centre in Newton Abbott. At the centre the family were placed in a queue. It was only when Mrs Morrish asked a passing nurse for help that an ambulance was called and Sam was rushed to Torbay Hospital. Even there he as not properly treated – he was not given antibiotics until three hours after they had been prescribed. He died from septic shock on December 23.

The NHS Ombudsman is about to publish his findings but one thing is clear. The out-of-hours service is unsafe and disorganised. In the absence of sufficient and immediately available GPs, the only safe service is that provided at A & E units, always provided that they have safe levels of staffing.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has met Sam’s grieving parents and, if he has an ounce of determination in him, he should surely insist that the out-of-hours service be reorganised without delay. So far he has simply focussed on the fact that the Labour Party made the first blunder. We know that but the lives of such as little Sam are infinitely more important than political points scoring!
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “How beautiful it is to do nothing and then to rest afterwards”….Spanish saying.
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Delusional greed is not a pretty sight!

The Grim Reaper visited the allotments last night. When we released the hens one didn’t emerge, and it was time for Albert’s hole-digging talents to be pressed into service. We never kill our chickens, our reasoning being that they have served us well with eggs and are entitled to a comfortable retirement. Eventually, like us, they die and odd though it may seem each passing saddens us. Yes we know that zillions of their fellow chucks line the Tesco shelves but ours are not anonymous members of battery farms, they have individual personalities and traits and some even have nicknames. Perhaps we codgers are all slightly mad, perhaps we are living examples of Britishness.

That being the case we should perhaps volunteer to help our dear leader who, in the wake of the possibility that children in Birmingham are being prepared for insurrection, has ordered that Britishness must be added to the national schools list of compulsory subjects. But what is it? The head of all the Cameroons mentioned fish and chips and football which seemed to us somewhat inadequate. Over our morning brew we came up with queuing, talking about the weather, moaning and arguing about Duckworth Lewis. Equally inadequate. Some of us recently visited the magnificent thousand-year-old Lichfield Cathedral, an experience that prompted someone to add Christian heritage to the list. But that is hardly likely to appeal to the PM’s target audience. Perhaps Britishness is best defined as being so dense that we don’t know what it is?

But we hope that the affliction of delusional greed doesn’t appear on the final draft. It certainly exists in our society, but we like to believe that it hasn’t yet infected those who wear flat caps or breed ferrets. Be that as it may, every day brings examples of contamination. It started within the bankers who chose to believe that the financial crash was not of their making, and that they deserved record bonuses for clearing it up. In fairness it must be said that maybe they caught the bug from MPs who had become so delusional that they saw moat houses as so key to their jobs that the bill must be passed on to taxpayers.

Today the headlines centre around the greatest greedy delusional of them all. Tony Blair is alive and well and busy amassing a personal fortune from lectures on the art of peacemaking. For some time we wondered just how he reconciled that with so many deaths resulting from his lies about Saddam’s supposed arsenal of weapons capable of flattening London. We realise now that he still sees what he did as a triumph, and he seems to have no recognition of the fact that no attention was given to an exit strategy before his pal George W Bush launched his ‘shock and awe’ campaign. Now Blair is urging missile and air attacks on the al-Qaeda madmen, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are interspersed amongst the innocents that they are murdering.

We are not unduly surprised by the final evidence that power corrupted Tony Blair and left him deluded. What does surprise and disappoint us is evidence that senior executives in our beloved NHS have also caught delusioni-greeditis to give it its full medical name. Nurses are under enormous pressure in many disciplines as a result of cuts to their numbers and escalating numbers of incoming patients, but despite this they have been denied a 1 per cent pay rise by the Department of Health. The pay band for most front-line nurses ranges from £21,500 to £27,900 and there are many instances of their struggling to pay household bills.

A freedom of information request to NHS provider trusts has revealed that pay for executive directors has increased by an average of 6.1 per cent, and a number of trusts have paid out bonuses of between £10,000 and £15,000. An example of what has been going on behind closed doors – the government has no direct control of Foundation Trust pay – is provided by the Oxford University Hospital Trust. There six executives received huge bonuses while the chief executive received a hand-out of between £40,000 and £45,000.

All of this largess comes from budgets already under real strain, and inevitably leads to yet more clinical staff cuts. And the average hospital boss takes home £164,000!

This is a classic example of delusional greed. Delusional because non-clinical manager’s contribution to patient care is limited to the control of administration and systems, arguably the weakest feature of the NHS. Every trust has more executives devoted to non-clinical work than is justifiable, and to compound the scandal every Foundation Trust has a part-time chairman on around £50,000 plus six non-executive directors each pocketing over £30,000. My own experience as an almost unpaid chairman of 12 years tells me that if the whole bunch vanished tomorrow they would not be missed.

It is very unusual for us codgers to criticise the NHS but these revelations have infuriated us. Thanks to the botched-up reforms imposed by Lansley and Hunt the NHS clinical staff are undergoing a living nightmare in which it is near impossible to fulfil their professional duties. We had foolishly assumed that the senior managers were making sacrifices too. What they have actually done is to abet the betrayal of those they supposedly support whilst thrusting their snouts into the trough.

No we can’t define Britishness but we hope that Mr Blair and the NHS lay bosses are not examples!
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Delusional, self-serving Blair is back. He backs democracy until it delivers results of which he disapproves”….Ian Birrell, Independent.
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Bush and Blair – the final condemnation!

Of such mornings is paradise made. Slightly over the top but arriving at the allotments in our shirtsleeves and seeing everything bathed in a golden glow lifted our spirits this morning, and served to remind us that the best things in life have no price label attached. Throw in the fact that tonight marks the start of weeks of wall-to-wall football on the box and you have a recipe for happy codgers, even allowing for the inevitable complaints from wives who incredibly prefer to watch the boys of Mrs Brown to those of Mr Hodgson.

Always the odd man out Albert was banging on about air travel when we gathered in the hut, having cleaned out the mutinous hens. His newly found preoccupation was triggered by his difficulty in renewing his passport, a prerequisite for heading off to New Zealand to visit his grandson. According to our dear leader the Liverpool office is busy right now, small consolation to Albert whose secret weapon, Mrs Albert, visited it yesterday. She was shown a pile of boxes which if stacked one on top of the other would constitute a danger to the near-empty 757s leaving Manchester airport.

But empty or otherwise today’s planes, according to Albert, represent a tribute to technology when compared with those of 1910 when Britain’s first commercial aircraft factory was established at Filton. There was produced the Bristol Boxkite which were used to launch routes going as far as the string would stretch. However, services were eventually cancelled when passengers became tired of having to climb out of a tall tree after every landing.

As with most of Albert’s tales this one sounded more the result of an over active imagination than research, and in no time at all he was talking to himself as the rest of us metaphorically applauded the government at the news that the number of people in work has leapt by 350,000 in just three months. It is of course true that the employment recovery is being fuelled by austerity with wages below inflation, but at last progress is being made. What troubles us is that many Conservative MPs seem incapable of recognising that the recovery is leaving in its wake a tide of poverty the like of which has not been seen in Britain for decades.

Yesterday Oxfam publicised its report on “Breadline Britain”. It featured zero-hours contracts, high prices, benefit cuts and energy prices. On Radio 4 the charity’s director said that there are families starving in Britain today. He spoke of children describing a “biting feeling of hunger” in their stomachs.

Within hours MPs such as Conor Burns and Charlie Elphicke reported Oxfam to the Charity Commission, and warned that the “lies” would alienate many Oxfam donors and supporters. The charity was, they ranted, playing politics. In fact it was simply telling the truth that most of us would prefer to be unmentioned. For more than 70 years Oxfam has lobbied governments of all parties. During the last Labour government, Oxfam criticised ministers over the Iraq war and refused to accept its “bloodstained” donations. Yes its work is political, but not party-political. We may not want to believe it but right now children are in poverty and the actions of such as Ian Duncan Smith have rendered them so.

It was the mention of Oxfam’s reaction to the Iraq invasion that reminded us that today brings reports from Iraq that finally confirm that what Bush and Blair did was a war crime of horrendous proportions. Blair won support for the invasion by lying about supposed weapons of mass destruction. They compounded that by brushing aside any calls for a strategy for dealing with the aftermath of an inevitably easy victory, and ludicrously claimed that Iraq would become a beacon for democracy and the rule of law in the troubled region. Over the years that followed countless lives were lost, including those of British servicemen. And £9 billion was spent.

With Blair and Bush consigned to history their successors perpetuated the illusion and we heard much about the exit strategy ending in triumph as the Iraq forces, now armed and highly trained, took over the security of the ‘rescued’ nation. Yesterday a horrified world watched as al-Qaeda-linked militants seized city after city and the new Iraqi army fled.

Saddam Hussain was a tyrant. But the idea that his removal would trigger a new democratic age was a fairy story. In reality it has made things even worse and served to bring terrorism to the streets of Britain. Politicians whose only motive was self-glory have sent young men and women to die in a country that they did not understand. The likelihood now is that the fanatics will spread their lunacy to the whole region, and their irrational and obscene beliefs to all corners of the globe.

The sight of Tony Blair posing as an envoy for peace is surely final proof that the world is slowly gong mad. As is the spectacle of our politicians wringing their hands. With the honourable exception of the Lib Dems each and every one of them supported the most ill-judged military action of modern history.
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I have always made the point that I do not particularly see the point of going back over these issues. I voted and acted as I did, and do not see the point of going over the history books”….David Cameron, 11/6/14
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Care homes – a licence to abuse and humiliate!

As we cleaned out the hens this morning there was a good deal of speculation as to why British troops are being flown out to take part in ‘exercises’ in Estonia. The official announcement talks vaguely of increased tensions with Russia, we suspect this is yet another example of politicians living in a fantasy world in which we still rule the roost. The situation in Ukraine is chaotic and extremely dangerous and frankly no concern of ours. That apart does anyone seriously believe that Vladimir Putin is going to be influenced by a nation that has reduced its armed forces to where they are dependent on part-time reservists?

One would have hoped that Iraq and Afghanistan had taught us an unforgettable lesson – never start a fight that you cannot finish. The many British families destroyed by those conflicts are entitled to believe that their sacrifice has at least prevented any more posing by armchair ministers. If we allow our troops to be drawn into yet another mission impossible, they will surely have the support of everyone in rising up in absolute outrage.

If our leaders have need of an outlet for their repressed aggression we suggest that they pay belated attention to the plight of elderly, confused and vulnerable people who have the misfortune to find themselves confined in a so-called care home. Once again it has fallen to the BBC to expose abuse, bullying and ill-treatment. Clearly the present inspection regime is totally inadequate for every time that the BBC employs undercover reporters their hidden cameras reveal treatment that would have shamed the Third Reich. Last night we watched pictures of residents being slapped and humiliated which shame Britain. Almost immediately employees were sacked, suggesting that the employers have no idea of what is happening in their own organisations.

Anyone who has worked with a victim of dementia knows only too well that it is a very challenging task, one that calls for dedicated and professional carers. Often the stress, and need for constant attention, proves too much for even the most caring family, and at that point they turn to the state for help. In the days when most residential places were provided by local authority Homes, this was usually provided by staff carefully supervised by qualified Matrons. Then came privatisation.

There are still some good quality establishments run by resident owners who are in touch with everything that happens, and take pride in providing what they like to describe as a home from home. Of course they too experience problems but, being immediately accessible to relatives, involve visitors in the solutions. Despite funding cuts many of them still organise trips and diversions to make life for residents as pleasant as possible.

But private owners are now in a minority. The much vaunted market has taken over and most Homes are part of large chains whose directors are located in remote head offices where profit margins are the only criteria. Minimal budgets are allocated to individual Homes, and staffing costs are cut to the bone and below it. The result is that employees are paid minimum wages, many are employed on so-called zero-hours contracts. They often get little training, and feel undervalued – not a good background for dealing with dementia or other complex diagnoses. Home managers are under constant pressure from centralised bean-counters and every day is a chaotic routine of dealing with crises, with little or no time left for supervision.

If care staff were properly paid with a reasonable workload and expert help and guidance to hand there is no doubt that care quality would improve. But that would involve higher costs and lower shareholder dividends. Unless state funding is increased the present penny-pinching and employment of anyone available at below a living wage will continue, and that inevitably opens the door for people entirely unsuitable for a caring role. Yes there are some decent, kindly people who do their level best, but there are also people of a darker nature.

We codgers fear above all else ending our days in a version of hell on earth. We therefore have a vested interest in demanding action. But we are sure that millions of compassionate Brits will echo our call. No one wants to see their elderly parents subjected to humiliation and ill treatment. Neither do they wish to hear mealy-mouthed politicians defending the indefensible, not least because millionaire ministers will never face such a nightmare.

If our treatment of the vulnerable is not to brand Britain as the most cruel in the developed world one of two things must happen. Either local authorities must be given the funding to reintroduce their own facilities, or private Homes must be properly funded and monitored.

The answer will be that times are hard. Yet we can still afford the much debated multi billion HS2, and we can still indulge the vast number of tax avoiders. And even Her Majesty’s opposition seems to have little to say about toleration of what amounts to mental and physical torture.

They probably consider that elderly people with dementia don’t vote. But their relatives and their disgusted peers do!
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “It is obvious that what is needed is better-quality training for carers and better pay. Their status should be raised to a professional level in line with nursing and teaching – then more dedicated people would be attracted to this essential work”…….Celia Bircumshaw.
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Troops betrayed by spineless ministers!

The latest demographic projections suggest that the number of people reaching a century will treble over the next ten years, and will continue to rocket after then. We allotment codgers are clearly fork-tongued since the reaction to the news as we cleaned out the hens this morning was one of great concern for today’s young people who will have to fund zillions of G4S care homes. In the next breath we were unanimous in our hope of being in receipt of a letter from King Charles the Umpteenth.

The next news snippet to catch our attention was yesterday’s letter to Health Secretary Hunt from the British Medical Association (BMA) no less. The medical profession is up in arms about Mr Hunt’s decision to block a 1% pay rise recommended by independent pay advisers. For such as junior doctors and newly qualified nurses it does seem incredibly harsh, but the BMA believes the decision is yet more evidence that the government doesn’t have a “meaningful and sustainable solution to addressing the funding gap in the NHS”. Without such, the BMA contends, the outcome of an ageing population will be that patient care will be at “serious risk”.

We naive codgers were under the impression that doctors were expert in diagnosing the future, but they do seem to have taken rather a long time in spotting the obvious. The NHS has been chaotically reformed from the top down, has suffered a £20 billion funding cut, and is receiving an ever-increasing number of older patients. Worse still it is in the charge of a Blue Peter presenter expert in making battleships out of bog rolls but decidedly less adept at running hospitals.

But at least none of that is surprising to those of us who have worked in the besieged NHS. What has really shocked us is the outcome of the so-called al-Sweady inquiry, named after a fatality in Iraq. So far some £22 million has been spent since the inquiry opened in March, 2013. It has sat for 167 days and heard evidence from 280 witnesses. The hyper-expensive affair has followed claims that British troops in Iraq killed up to 20 civilians.

Yesterday Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), the human rights law firm acting for the families of the alleged victims, suddenly announced that it was withdrawing the claims
since they now realise that “there was no evidence to substantiate the claims. To call this a scandalous waste of public money is an understatement, but even worse is the willingness of ministers to allow lawyers on the make to besmirch the reputation of British forces.

PIL is headed by the socialist lawyer Phil Shiner, who is well known for pursuing British soldiers through the courts over alleged war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. His firm has been paid millions from public funds and hundreds of claimants have been compensated to the tune of about £20 million. It is not difficult to imagine what happens when the ‘ambulance chasers’ transfer their UK tactics to countries where poverty is widespread.

Meanwhile, the relatives of six officers of the Royal Military Police killed in the town of Majar al-Kabir, north of Basra, have been denied a hearing of their own. It seems that the concept of justice is limited to Iraqi claimants who are encouraged to make claims, however flimsy the evidence.

No one suggests that all our soldiers behaved with total propriety in extreme circumstances, often in fear of their own lives. But the vast majority behaved bravely and with honour in what were often horrifying encounters. The relentless mud-slinging must stop. It is time to shut down what amounts to a blueprint for lining the pockets of lawyers by denigrating our troops who were sent to an impossible war by politicians.

David Cameron should stop issuing ridiculous threats to President Putin and his army, and look instead at the disgraceful treatment being dished out to our own army!
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I don’t know what weapons will be used in World War 111, but I know that World War IV will be fought with wooden sticks!”….Albert Einstein.
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Not the best of days!

Like most of our trains I am running somewhat late today. As excuses go mine is a reasonable one, having spent several hours at our local A & E department. One of my allotments pals developed unexplained pains during this morning’s hen-cleaning and Albert and I quickly conveyed him to the service that Jeremy Hunt is so anxious to close. I am delighted to report that it all proved nothing to worry about.

One only has to spend a while in the waiting area to realise just how important this service is. Whilst we were there two ambulances arrived and the staff responded instantly, calmly and compassionately. There may or may not be truth in the claim that centralised emergency centres would be more cost effective, but the extra time taken to reach them could well represent the difference between life and death. It is surely time for every family in the land to tell politicians in no uncertain terms that they have no moral right to endanger life by playing idiotic political games.

Whilst waiting for what proved to be excellent news, we thumbed through the dailies. The latest report from Iraq did little to restore any faith we once had in politicians.The nation was taken to war on the basis of a barefaced lie and many lives have been sacrificed. We tend to forget that, with the honourable exception of the Lib Dems, the vast majority of Westminster MPs nodded through the Bush/Blair madness. Since then successive ministers have told us that the new Iraq is a better place as a result of the bloodshed.

Really? Last week al-Qaeda fighters seized control in Iraqi cities. The strength of the fighting showed the extent of al-Qaeda’s resurgence across western Iraq over the past year. The militant’s reappearance has terrified local residents many of whom remember the beheadings and brutal punishments that took place when al-Qaeda last had control. The death rate has returned to more than 1,000 per month and there are clear indications that the Nato-trained Iraqi forces are in deep trouble.

Mr Blair is busy making millions these das. Many believe that he should charged with war crimes. But he was only able to do what he did with the tacit support of the majority of the political parties. They will never be forgiven by grieving families.

Of lesser moment, but revealing all the same, are the 1984  cabinet papers released to the National Archives yesterday. They tell us that there were moments during the government’s bitter year-long struggle when the nation “stared into the abyss” and contemplated the use of troops as violence reached its peak.

Here we had a power-mad Prime Minister locked in near mortal combat with a power-mad union leader. Both had hidden agendas, the former wished to destroy the unions, the latter sought insurrection. In reality no one won for the coal industry was totally destroyed and the cause of legitimate union membership likewise.

In their different ways Iraq and the coal dispute provide us with one important lesson. We are ill advised to unquestioningly accept what the likes of Blair, Thatcher and Scargill tell us.

The emergence of powerful protest organisations such as 38 Degrees is surely to be welcomed and supported. Millions have supported them in their demand for openness on issues such as the NHS. In them, not in Westminster, lies the best prospect for real democracy!

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Princess Di theories refuse to die!

If our ‘mailbag’ is any indication we codgers are not alone in believing that our troops are being turned into the fall-guys for the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this mornings news of a long series of human rights investigations into alleged violations in Iraq have heightened our paranoia. As we cleaned out the hens this morning, we began  to wonder if any day now we will learn that the Taliban is to sue our commanders for infringing its human right to cut opponents into small pieces. But maybe it will hold back for fear of slowing down the talks aimed at restoring its right to resume control.

In fact it increasingly appears that the only people on earth to benefit from the wars born of political lies are the politicians. Of course we all hold Tony Blair responsible but we tend to forget that, with the honourable exception of the Lib Dems, almost the enture House of Commons supported his madness. Many of those MPs are still in office and they are about to receive a pay increase of 11 per cent. If it were not for their counterparts on the EU gravy-train we would think them somewhat greedy.

But their avarice pales by comparison with the EU’s foreign diplomatic service which, we learn today, is spending hundreds of millions of pounds on a vast empire of overseas offices staffed by bureaucrats many of whom pocket salaries and benefits totalling more than £150,000 a year. They are part of what is known as the European External Action Service which employs 3,417 staff, whose work duplicates the existing diplomatic service operated by member states.

In reality this is but the first step along the road to Brussels assuming control of foreign policy. But that is only the beginning of the next stage of the growing Superstate. RAF planes and other military assets are shortly to be handed over to European Union countries under plans for a “Euro Army”. Many Conservatives fear that our dear leader is on the verge of committing Britain to deeper military involvement with the EU and they fear that the step will be an irreversible one. They are probably right, the text issued from Brussels yesterday makes clear that member states must “improve the availability of required civilian and military capabilities”.

Bernard Jenkins, the chairman of the Commons public administration committee, says that “any Tory prime minister should be wholely opposed to what is clearly intended. To sign the UK up to this programme is not just another blow to the UK’s beleaguered defence industries but is another step towards a euro army”. Perhaps he should have a word with Nick Clegg?

But all this was somewhat overshadowed this morning when we learned of the launch of yet another police inquiry into claims that Princess Diana was murdered by an SAS hit squad. We knew that Scotland Yard had checked out claims published by Soldier N, a former Special Forces sniper. Now a new French probe is to be led by Sabine Kheris, a respected judge who has overseen many high-profile cases with international and political links. In other words the French are taking seriously the new allegations of blinding lights being shone into driver Henri Paul’s eyes.

We codgers have never believed the endless conspiracy chatter. But like an undiagnosed pain it goes on and on and we begin to worry. The implications for the establishment are too horrendous to contemplate and we prefer not to even consider it. But sometimes long-term pain cannot be simply wished away!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Building democracy as an imposition from abroad is a form of imperialism!”….Lech Walesa Nobel Peace Prize, 1983.

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The enemy within – the clock is ticking!

The part of our allotments dedicated to the chicken project has long been a no-go area for dogs. Most of us codgers own dogs and it is frustrating to have to leave them at home, but sad experience has taught us that letting them loose amongst hordes of hens is akin to permitting Eric Pickles free access to a pie shop. The truth is that, much as we like to see  Fido as a canine version of the SAS, few domestic dogs are as well drilled as society requires. And we believe that the scrapping of licences has not helped.

There is one exception to our unwritten rule. Bill lost his sight some years ago but is still a regular visitor thanks to his Labrador guide-dog. His professionally trained companion never leaves Bill’s side. Albert regularly manages to fall into one of the ponds, thanks to ‘Lab’ Bill has never done so. Guide Dog charities always receive generous support from the rest of us who, when reading of the latest outrage committed by out of control canines, can only wonder why someone on high has not considered restoring licences with a requirement for owners to attend an elementary training establishment.

Sadly that is about as likely as Gorgeous George Osborne’s promised surplus. Yesterday he received a standing ovation from the Tory faithful who seemed unaware that right now he can only claim to have increased the deficit. Even by mad political standards, to applaud someone for merely promising an unlikely achievement in ten years time is going some. But it isn’t the succession of pie-in-the-sky utterances at party conferences that worries us, our growing concern is the absence of any references to the real threat to these islands, the enemy within.

As a nation we are now so brainwashed in the art of political correctness that every one of us hesitates to mention the name Muslim in the same breath as terrorism. In one sense this is understandable since most Muslims are as peace loving as the next man or woman, but the fact remains that British citizens are taking an active part in atrocities being committed in a growing number of countries.

In Syria thirteen of the brigades within the so called Freedom fighters have formed a new alliance that excludes the rapidly growing al-Qaida-linked group. Jihadi groups have rolled into town across northern and eastern Syria, and intense  clashes have broken out as those fighting to rid the county of Assad have come to realise that their supposed allies have a quite different agenda and are prepared to indulge in the most appalling violence to achieve a Islamist state.

In their midst are some of our fellow countrymen who have been radicalised by madmen allowed their human rights to stay in this country, and to preach propaganda the like of which we haven’t heard since the birth and death of the third Reich. Having completed their insane ‘missions’ they return to the UK free to recruit more naïve and impressionable young men. Sharia law they cry, and we avert our eyes.

Anyone prepared to simply shrug and rationalise by suggesting that it is not for us to criticise young man willing to stand up for what they believe in should read this weeks edition of The Spectator. It contains a long account of the experience of a survivor of the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya, an atrocity believed to have been led in part at least by British citizens.

Simon and Amanda Belcher were on their way to a cinema at he Mall when they heard the sound of gunfire. Within minutes they were hidden under parked cars. Gunmen approached and – standing feet away - announced in perfect English that; “We have come to kill you Christians and Kenyans because you have been killing our women and children in Somalia. Any Muslims can go”. “I’m a Muslim!” shouted one man with children, and he was allowed to go. The gunmen then shot everyone else.  

Suddenly the terrorists spotted the Belchers. Their eyes, the Belchers recall, were not crazed, they were cold and unemotional. They shot the hiding pair who feigned death and are are now being treated in hospital. Their recollections are chilling in the extreme, they are dominated by groups of gunmen walking the building searching for men, women and children to kill.

This all sounds very much like a story about some distant conflict which we Brits can  observe with horror from the safety of distance. To an extent it is ,but the fact of the matter is that increasingly people who live amongst us are involved and it is only a matter of time before atrocities occur here.

It is time to abandon all the academic niceties about human rights, all the innocent potential victims have human rights too!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “During the last few days hundreds have died in al-Qa’eda attacks in Nigeria, Pakistan and Iraq. In some strange way Kenya was attacked because it is an important modern country, with a booming economy and a bright future”….Aidan Hartley 

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Exposed: the ultimate deception!

A sunny morning marked Albert’s birthday. It didn’t seem entirely appropriate for someone of a less than sunny disposition, but the nearest thing on earth to the late lamented Compo is our national treasure and we presented him with a new anorak and a power drill for the long-suffering Mrs Albert. Speaking personally I would miss the wee man very much, he provides a sense of balance since some of my eternally cheerful allotment pals always make me wonder just what it is I am missing.

Having said that I have to report that the ex-servicemen are less than cheerful this morning. They have read with incredulity the paper produced by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) thinktank obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act. It seems that the ministry is concerned at the adverse reaction of the public to its plans to blow up Syria and has been devoting time to dreaming up ways of ‘selling’ war. Yes, even the Generals are now besotted with the art of spin!

The paper focuses on ways of convincing us that war is not in fact a gruesome thing. It recommends that the practice of staging “repatriation ceremonies” be quietly abandoned, a clear reference to the processions of hearses carrying coffins draped in the union flag that have been driven thorough Royal Wootton Bassett and, more recently, Carterton.

There is a need, the paper contends, to  “reduce public sensitivity to the penalties inherent in military operations”. It also urges that the public should be given a “clear explanation of the reasons for going to war”. It suggests that, when we are unconvinced of the relevance of a campaign we become “acutely sensitive to the level of casualties incurred”. For good measure it suggests greater use of mercenaries and the SAS which, it contends, enjoy less sympathy and attention.

The paper specifically mentions the level of public support for the Falklands conflict, and seems puzzled at the more recent reactions to Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps we can help here. The Falklands affair had a straight forward objective and was called for by a population comprising British citizens. The invasion of Iraq was based on an invented threat to these islands from weapons of mass destruction which could hit the UK within 45 minutes. And even Baldrick could work out that there was no possible end result other than a resentful culture which we simply do not understand.

The exposure of this document serves to remind us of two repulsive realities. At the highest levels of government there lurks a conviction that public opinion can be manipulated by the art of ‘spin’ first introduced by Blair, Mandelson and their motley crew. Secondly, politicians have no concern for lives sacrificed for actions that they calculate will enhance their own reputations.  

Unsurprisingly families of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have reacted with fury at the MOD’s suggestions. Deborah Allbutt, whose husband was killed in Iraq, described the proposals as ” brushing deaths under the carpet”. She was not alone. And it was not only bereaved families that reacted bitterly, large numbers of people supported the view that war is never justified unless this country or its subjects are under direct threat.

Yesterday was a black one for the MOD and government. It was also revealed that thousands of British soldiers are being put at increased risk of psychosis and suicide because the authorities refuse to stop using a controversial anti-malaria drug that has been banned in the USA. Our troops are still being given Lariam – a drug described as a modern-day “agent orange” by doctors because if its toxicity. Lt-Col Ashley Croft, who served for more than 25 years in the Royal Army Medical Corps said yesterday that; “For the past 12 years I was saying that this is a potentially dangerous drug, but my warnings fell on deaf ears”.  

Thankfully the Syrian reaction has demonstrated that the British public is no longer prepared to support the idea of sending young men and women to die in wars between madmen fighting over which has the best imaginary God. 

The callous disregard for the welfare and lives of our service personnel tells us all we need to know about our  deceitful and callous new-age politicians.

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “How do wars start? Politicians tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read!”……Karl Klaus

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY;

 


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Manning exposes USA in more ways than one!

It is, I suppose, inevitable that a group of codgers with time on their hands will from time to time argue about the strangest subjects. This morning we buried a hen always known affectionately as Bald Eagle, because at one time it lost most of its feathers and took on the appearance of its kinsfolk in the Tesco fridges. As we dug the hole Andy remarked that she had gone to a better place. Our first reaction was Wigan, but we then realised that he was speaking of the unmentionable, Heaven.

Since humans consume millions of the creatures each year it sounds an odd belief. But where does the admission queue end? Dogs, cats, elephants ? Does it even bar people from the North? I throw in that additional point for Stephen Hawkins next pronouncement on the grounds that Gorgeous George Osborne’s father-in-law, Lord Howell of Somewhere South, yesterday suggested that such wretches are the right neighbours for fracking.

But our minds soon tired of the heavenly debate and turned instead on to the revelations resulting from the Bradley Manning trial about America, the land of the free. We find ourselves unable to take seriously the claim that Manning was hell-bent on betraying his country. He was perhaps naive, daft even. But at bottom line, he was for us a hero. Amongst the footage he exposed was a US military helicopter gunning down a father taking his children to school; evidence of a death squad operating in Afghanstan, dementia sufferers incarcerated in Guantanamo, an Apache helicopter targetting journalists …the list of horrors is a very long one.

Significantly the Obama administration didn’t merely go through the motions in pursuit of Manning. They brought a charge of treason, of “aiding the enemy”. A guilty verdict would have redefined the media as proxies for the enemy. It would have ended any distinction between a traitor selling secrets to the highest bidder and someone speaking to a journalist on a matter of conscience and for no reward.

Manning was often forced to exist naked in a cell in conditions described by the UN as a form of torture. The prosecution has represented, in essence, a proxy war on watchdog journalism. Rather than targetting reporters  – for the moment – the administration has focussed on journalist’s sources. It is embarked on a slippery slope.

Over a decade ago, the US initiated two calamitous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with a terrible human cost that is still being paid.. It was always in the interests of the US elite to keep the consequences of their actions as far away from public consciousness as possible. The real aim is to stem opposition. Every US hawk still shivers at the photographs of naked Vietnamese children running from a napalm attack, which triggered the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Manning revealed the sordid realities of a war that the armchair warriors want sanitised. We admire his courage, he has taught us that the suppression of information by such as Putin also happens in the country so often lauded as an example to follow. He has also taught us that deceiving the people is high on the agenda of the world’s most powerful ‘democracy’.

The prosecution of Bradley Manning was inevitable. It is the attempt made to brand anyone shedding light on appalling conduct as a criminal that tells us all, and more, that we need to know about the dark side of the great American dream!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” The powerful know that if those who chip away at their authority are not undermined, or humiliated, or even persecuted, others would be emboldened to strike blows at them too!”….Owen Jones

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Hague’s greatest miscalculation!

The latest survey into national well being by the organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that the UK is down at tenth place in the world rankings. Top of the table yet again is Australia where 85% say they are happy and in good health. We are down amongst the also-rans in the seventies. The findings provided no surprise to our cynical bunch of codgers, we can only draw consolation from the thought that our flock of hens would probably provide a better ranking if only they could talk.

What the secret of the perpetual state of contentment down under is is open to speculation. Perhaps, after the weather, the fact that the government doesn’t delude itself that it is responsible for the rest of the world figures high up the list. That is certainly one of our negative factors as the terrible events of the past week have shown. Britain no longer rules the waves, is on its uppers, is beseiged with domestic problems but, hey presto, we immediately turn cartwheels in our desire to sort out every conflict that breaks out.

This is now the case in Libya, where even the Americans are maintaining a distance. For two years pundits have proclaimed the imminent fall of President Bashar al-Assad. High on Arab Spring they declared he would fall from the logic of history. Or he would fall because western sanctions would bring him down. Or he would fall because the media, as in the novel Scoop, were with the rebels and had decided they would win.

Assad has not fallen. He is still there, locked in the lethal Muslim schism that resurfaced with the demise of the region’s secularist dictators. These have now almost all gone. They had faults in abundance, but they did succeed in suppressing religious discord, instilling rudmentary tolerance and keeping the region mostly in order. This was in the west’s interest, and the rulers, like those in the Gulf, were supported accordingly.

Turning turtle and abetting their downfall may yet prove the most disastrous miscalculation of western diplomacy since the rise of facism. Prior to the Iraq war , Saddam persecuted the Shias, but their shrines were safe and intermarriage was common. After the war, Sunni and Shia are torn asunder, with a death toll of ghastly proportions. Similar agony may soon be visited on the Afghans, Libya’s Tripoli is more unstable now the west has toppled Gaddafi, its fundamentalist guerillas spreading mayhem south across the Sahara to Algeria, Mali and Nigeria.

Of course much of this might have happened without western intervention. But we undoubtedly have made things worse not least by sabre-rattling on to which neo-conservative Islamism could fasten. Al-Qaida was in 2000 a tiny group of fanatics. America and Britain have portrayed it as an all-powerful enemy, apparently lurking in support of every anti-secularist rebellion. Yet the reality was that there was initally no threat to the UK.

Given this general situation most European nations, plus America, have decided that wars in the region are not their affair, apart from providing humanitarian aid and the pursuit of diplomacy. A few days ago William Hague caused the ending of the EU arms embargo. His only support came from France, whose President is desperately looking for an overseas diversion from his domestic crisis. So little Britain is once again galloping to the rescue.

The coalition clearly believes that the answer to the Syrian crisis is to send arms to the rebels. The idea that these will only reach the good guys is absurd. The inevitable next step will be to send in troops and, before we can say George Bush, we will be fighting alongside al-Qaida. Worse still we will draw Russia into the conflict, which in turn will provoke Israel and so it will go on. The hoped for peace talks will be stillborn.

And none of this will help the innocent victims in what is becoming a bloody conflict. Indeed more weapons will inevitably lead to even more violence.

But over and around all this hangs one huge question. Why do we see this as our problem, our responsibility? To act as part of an EU or UN collaborative venture might be justified, to act alone is surely madness!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY ; ” The wider danger posed by the Syrian civil war is its capacity to suck other countries into its vortex. The involvement of Russia, Turkey, Iran (together with its proxy Hizbollah) and Israel make for a highly dangerous cocktail, even without the prospect of Western arms shipments. Furthermore the conflict is proving a magnet for jihadists – including more than  100 estimated to have arrived from the UK – who will return home to cause trouble, if they survive”….Daily Telegraph Leader article, 29/5/2013

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NHS reform; all we get is gobbledegook!

The famous theory that there is a heaven and we are in it seemed even less plausible this morning when we began to dig out the old fish pond. We sank into the mud up to our knees and we were not wearing waders. Albert made an attempt at singing ‘mud, glorious mud’ but it did little to boost the morale of either us or the frogs who were leaping about in rage at the disruption. But we are only weeks from spawning time so it had to be done. One consolation was that this is not a complicated task which may be just as well because I have been trying in vain to understand what Andrew Lansley is talking about.

I had hoped that yesterday,s first session of parliamentary health questions would explain all about the massive – I think – reforms that the rather strange Mr Lansley is touting around. After all, I reasoned, MPs, being by nature simple creatures, are pretty good at asking simple questions. They did that but understanding the answers was another matter altogether. Most of the questions were about the distinct possibility of constituents dying as a result of the Lansley plan. They didn’t actually use those words but that was the gist of the often petulant enqiries. Sadly they were each given a dose of gobbledegook.

A typical example was the reply given to Mark Lancaster ( Milton Keynes). He wanted to be sure that doctors were going to receive sufficent funds with which to reconstruct a service that actually seems to be working well. Mr Lansley spoke at length about a ‘pathfinder consortium’. But, others wanted to know, doesn’t the word pathfinder infer a trial of a vague idea? It seems not, for there are apparently to be hundreds of pathfinders but the explanation as to how they will avoid producing hundreds of different schemes was so oblique that, despite having chaired two NHS Trust, I was totally bamboozled.

So confusing was the dialogue that Stephen Dorrell rushed to the aid of his mentor. He assured those MPs still awake that there would be ” improved core delivery of the efficiency challenge …reinforcing the interface”. So that’s all right then, these Lansleyites know what they are talking about. The problem is that no one else does and the stakes are very high!

Simon Hoggard of the Guardian ventures the view that the NHS reform plan was dreamed up by Andrew Lansley in his bedroom. He goes on to suggest that it is not so much a reform as a sellotape and string construction in the old British tradition of mad machines. Rowland Emett used to draw wonderful trains powered by kettles, weird collections of scrap which would make you a cup of tea, hit a golf ball or play dominoes. More recently Wallace and Gromit created devices to get you out of bed, pull your trousers up and make the toast. Or there is the Mousetrap game where the crank turns a lever, which hits a boot, which kicks a bucket, which makes a ball-bearing fall on to a seesaw. In the end the mouse is caught in a net. Or, more often, not.

Lansley’s reforms seem to be based on the same kid of connections and reactions. In theory they could just work but the worry is that quite a few people who should,know say that they won’t. Doctors, the British Medical Association, the independent Kings Fund and others see the plan as doomed, yesterday one gained the impression that most MPs on all sides feel the same. Of course they probably haven’t allowed for the ‘reinforcement of the interface’.

Certain it is that members were determined to be difficult. Some even went so far as to ask why none of this was in the manifesto or coalition statement of intent. Others wanted to know how GPs could find time to take on a zillion commissioning tasks whilst continuing to see their patients. Yet more were concernmed about postcode medicine. To all of them the answer was the same, reinforcing the interface would solve all problems.

As someone who regards the NHS as crucial for every family in the land I worry about all this. I realise that Lansley’s intention is to privatise the service but he doesn’t even seem to have a workable plan for that. In fact I came to a slightly worrying conclusion yesterday.

Perhaps the plan is as daft as everyone claims and suppose that Lansley, Dorrell and all are simply loopy. It would explain a lot but its implications are less than reassuring aren’t they?

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                                        IRAQ INQUIRY; THE PLOT THICKENS!

The Iraq inquiry rolls on and on and we all know the outcome anyway. But some of the revelations really are intriguing.

Yesterday it was the turn of former cabinet secretaries to give evidence. Predictably they claimed that Blair was economical with the truth only last week. Lord Turnbull said that no key papers were presented to the cabinet and Mr Blair was wrong to claim that ministers knew what was going on. When asked if there were proper cabinet decisions in the run-up to war, Lord Wilson answered ‘emphatically not’. In fact the cabinet was not asked to approve going to war until three days before the troops landed. Asked what the cabinet could have done Lord Turnbull replied that ‘they were pretty much imprisoned’. In fact the only option they had was to remove Blair. The final condemnation was reserved for the ministers who,  with the exception of Gordon Brown and Robin Cook, didn’t seem to mind being left out’.

So we now know that there weren’t any discussions. Surprise, surprise! No surprise really but it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that Mr Blair should be tried for war crimesCertain it is that Mr Cameron’s infatuation with him becomes stranger by the day!

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THOUGHTS FOR TODAY;” They say movies should be more like life. I think life should be more like movies”…..Myrna Loy.   “Shakespeare wrote ‘ kill all the lawyers’. That was before Agents!”….Robin Williams.    “I never go to movies where the hero’s bust is bigger than the heroines”….Groucho Marx.   ” Night watchmen have a life expectancy in horror movies of 12 seconds”….Sam Waas.   “Table for Five would be an ideal movie to watch on a plane. At least they provide free sick-bags”…..Simon Rose.   “Watching a musical is like doing your own root canal work”…..Don Black    “Very few pwople go to the doctor when they have a cold, they go to the theatre”…James Agate    ” Nudity on stage is disgusting. But if I were 21 with a great body it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience”…..Shelley Winters.

YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS;   1.  Jack Hawkins   2.  Sally Bowles

TODAY’S QUESTIONS;   1.  He directed ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘The Quiet Man’. he died in 1973. Who was he?     2.  The musician Pablo Casals died in 1973. What was his instrument?

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Blair’s biggest challenge yet on Iraq!

No rain, no ice this morning so we  cleaned out and fed the hens without so much as a curse. But we did have a mild argument on the subject of honesty, that of politicians to be precise. It was triggered by today’s headlines about the Iraq Inquiry and the sudden implication by the former attorney general that Blair lied on his previous appearance. It was Tom who argued that it is impossible to be a leading politician and to avoid telling porkies. Perhaps the rest of us are as naive as Tom suggested, but it still seems a sad state of affairs.

In support of his case Tom cited Mr Cameron’s press conference of yesterday when he was accused by the BBC’s Nick Robinson of duplicity, having failed to mention his intention to smash up the NHS during his election camapign. Of course the truth is, said Tom, that he deliberately witheld the intention for fear of losing votes but he could hardly tell that truth yesterday could he? Eventually the argument petered out which, one imagines, is what Blair is praying will happen with the Iraq Inquiry. But will it?

Our former prime minister is due to reappear before Chilcott’s team on Friday and it will take all of his evasive charm to handle the fact that Lord Goldsmith, his most senior legal adviser at the time of the invasion, has alleged that his public statements about the invasion contradicted the legal advice he had been given. He said that Blair’s words made him “uncomfortable” and described how he was cut out of discussions over the drafting of the UN resolution used as cover for the invasion of March 2003. He insisted that had he been consulted he would have seriously altered the wording of the resolution. On Friday the greatest spin-doctor of them all will be asked why he made definitive statements disputed by Lord Goldsmith!

The attorney general’s evidence also suggests that Mr Blair may have misled Parliament over the legality of the war. Lord Goldsmith called into question some of the arguments used by Mr Blair during a crucial speech to MPs on 15 January 2003, as he attempted to convince them of the need to deal with Saddam Hussein. Amongst other things he said that “there are circumstances in which a UN resolution is not necessary, because it is necessary to be able to say in circumstances where an unreasonable veto is put down that we would still act”. This despite the fact that only a day before, Lord Goldsmith had told Mr Blair that the current UN resolution dealing with Saddam “could not be used to justify an invasion”.

Asked by Chilcott whether “the prime minister’s words were compatible with the advice” he had been given, Lord Goldsmith replied No. It is clear that both men cannot be telling the truth!. Interestingly the top legal adviser reiterated that “my views were nor sought in the perod between my meeting with the prime minister on 22 October 2002 and my telephone call with Jack Straw on 7 November 2002 when “the text of the resolution was all but agreed and during the period of my exclusion important changes occurred”.

If Lord Goldsmith’s evidence is open to debate it is less likely that new evidence from Jack Straw is. Yesterday the Inquiry released a secret memo form Mr Straw which, on March 25 2002, warned the prime minister of the “high” risks of his visit to George W Bush. It said that “a legal justification is necessary but is far from sufficient precondition for military action. And what will action achieve? Iraq has no history of democracy so no one has this habit or experience”. Yet more explaining for Mr Blair to do for many of us knew that the talk of free elections was hot-air! 

The establishment looks after its own and few expect other than a whitewash. But yesterday has upped the stakes and it is perhaps not unfanciful to imagine that the summary could be that parliament and the nation was deliberately misled and many good people died.

Tom may be right in contending that politicians have to lie to survive but maybe, just maybe, we are about to learn that there is such a thing as a lie too far!

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                              DESTRUCTION OF THE NHS IS UNDERWAY!

A major part of David Cameron’s defence of the sweeping NHS reforms was that he is following in the steps of Tony Blair. Perhaps no one has explained to him that Blair ain’t as popular as he once was! But having listened to him, the most eminent clinicians in the land made clear that “Approve or disapprove, this policy marks the end of the NHS”. And some one a little nearer to home had some cutting remarks to make.

Sarah Wollaston is in the unique position of being both a Tory MP and a GP. She said that the reforms are the equivalent to “tossing a grenade under the health service”. Dr Wollaston is a member of the parliamentary Health Select Committee and its overall verdict was equally hostile. MPs said they were surprised by the “significant policy shift” between what the coalition promised to do in May and what it is now proposing. There was “uncertainty compounded by apparently inconsistent messages”

Back in May, Cameron must have known he was planning the biggest reorganisation in the history of the NHS and its privatisation. He chose not to be honest and his defence that he is merely continuing along the path set by Blair is less that reassuring. And even now he is surely lying when he says that hospitals that fail to compete will be left to go into bankruptcy. No government could contemplate a large conurbation denied medical care. Or could it?

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                                              TAX AVOIDERS MAY BE REVEALED!

Are some of our super-rich tax avoiders about to come under the sort of spotlight reserved of late for MPs?

Yesterday the former banker Rudolf Elmer, who is due to appear in a Zurich court charged with breaking secrecy laws, handed to Wikileaks documents said to contain details of more than 2000 account holders who had used offshore tax havens to keep money out of the hands of the taxman.

The next fireworks night may come a little early this year!

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A FEW THOUGHTS ON IT…..“Computers are like humans – they do everything but think”…John Von Neumann.    “Bill Gates declared to the world, ‘I am Microsoft’. Mrs Gates had no comment”…..Whoopi Goldberg.   “”A computer once beat me at chess but it was no match for me at kickboxing”….Emo Philips    “The Internet is so big and so pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life”……Andrew Brown

YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS;  1.  It fell from 7.9 million to  just under 7.4 million.   2.  1975

TODAY’S QUESTIONS;   1.  Who played the male lead in ‘Last Tango in Paris’? 2. Which much-loved jazz trumpeter died in 1971?

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Did Baldrick compose the Human Rights Act?

Vernon is fond of remarking that there is a hell and we are in it. I am suddenly inclined to agree. Four of us have just spent almost two hours digging paths through the snow which in places on the allotments stands almost two feet deep. Underneath it is solid ice and inside the chicken runs themselves the water-feeders could sink the Titanic. During a lifetime of  keeping poultry I have never experienced such a battle. The sun is sparkling from a blue sky, but in terms of melting is as useful as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip. Clustered around the calor gas for a brew we concluded that our human rights to lie in bed are being infringed.

So crackpot is the present Act that we may well have a case. But to be serious, David Cameron should, to quote his sternest critic, stop talking and start acting over an Act that continues to cause outrage. The critic is heartbroken father Paul Houston of Darwen, Lancs. His 12 year-old daughter Amy was killed in a hit-and-run crash by Mohammed Ibrahim. He was already banned from driving, had no licence or insurance, and a string of convictions. Yet on Thursday a tribunal ruled against his being deported to his native Iraq since such an act would infringe his human rights. Clearly Amy and her grieving family have no rights, neither do all the troops who have died or been wounded fighting to restore order in Iraq!

In fairness to the Prime Minister, he told  a press conference that his response is one of great anger. Here we have, he said, an Iraqi asylum seeker convicted of an offence that led to the death of a child and yet we are being told that there is no way this person can be deported to Iraq. It is wrong”.  He added that Iraq should not be seen as a land too dangerous to deport people there. He added that ” Britain has spent billions of pounds and lost many, many good people to make Iraq a safer country”.

But Mr Houston is unimpressed. Before the election he received a letter from Mr Cameron promising that the present Act would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights. Being angry is for ordinary folk, Mr Cameron is supposedly in charge of the nation and, in contrast to his deputy, his word should be his bond. He should perhaps sit down and ask himself who is running the country; the EU, the Judges or the government.

The case of Amy is an appalling example of the Human Rights Act which must have been composed by Baldrick on one of his bad days. It is full of inconsistencies and scarcely a week passes but a vcitim is shown to have no rights and the perpetrator an unlimited number.

In expressing rage Mr Cameron showed that he has a heart and that he shares oiur outrage. But that is not enough. He has it in his power to scrap the bill and proceed with the replacement that he promised and which helped him to gather the votes that he did. We know that the Lib Dems are opposed to such a move but he should be prepared to take them on. He would in any case enjoy sufficient support from Labour to force the new Bill of Rights through.

Most people are sick to the back teeth of hearing about rulings from Brussels. This week the European Court overturned the 140-year ban on prisoners being allowed to vote. Enough is enough. Either the giovernment is prepared to defy, or break away from, Brussels or it should openly admit that it has no powers to bring sanity back to justice.

The tragedy of little Amy should be the trigger point for Mr Cameron and his colleagues to prove that they have spines. Will they keep their word or is Clegg now the norm?

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                                  ASHES TEST; PASS ME THE SACKCLOTH!

Which idiot described the England squad as invincible and the Aussies as the poorest Test side ever to wear the baggy-green? Yes it was me!

The Perth Test ended this morning (our time) in total humiliation for England who were twice skittled out by bowlers such as Johnson and Harris who most of us had seen as easy prey for what we believed to be a very strong England batting line-up.

Suddenly we are back to the old days when a visit to Australia was an ordeal for team and fans alike. But surely this Australian side can’t repeat the dose even on wickets that favour Johnson’s swing. Or can they?

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YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS;    1.  Agatha Christie  2.  Simon Rattle

TODAY’S QUESTIONS;  1.  From which musical came the song ‘You’re the one that I Want’?  2.  With which poolitician did the press link Norman Scott?

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