Posts Tagged ‘Mr Cameron’
We have built an impressive bonfire in readiness for tonight’s celebrations. This morning we checked its interior for sleeping hedgehogs before sprinking kerosene. No need to apply any to ‘Werrity’, for the guy is stuffed with old newspapers many of which feature his famous namesake. It was whilst we were doing this that Albert commented that were Guy Fawkes alive today he would not lack for volunteers!
My old pal is somewhat vexed by the news that the Border Agency have for some while decided not to check in detail the passports of incoming visitors to these shores, a slight omission compunded by the fact that, for the first time in a century, there are no warships guarding our coastlines. Short of a welcome mat there is little more we can do to invite every terrorist on the globe to join us.
Why no frigates or destroyers protecting our shores? Sadly our total fleet has been reduced to 19, despite pledges by Mr Cameron that “a 40-ship Navy was the absolute minimum”. Of the 19 survivors, eleven have been deployed in the Mediterranean as part of our Libyan mission. Some are now heading back but right now what is known as Emergency Fleet Ready Escorts has, er, no escorts available.
Given that the cost of the bombing of Libya by the RAF has cost the equivalent of ten frigates it is all very odd. Of course the theory is that we have performed a great humanitarian deed in gaining the Libyan people their freedom. This was Cameron’s equivalent to Thatcher’s Falklands, was it not. No it wasn’t and we have not ‘won freedom’, we have merely displaced one tyrant to make way for another.
Right now Libya is anything but free. In towns such as Sirte, now reduced to rubble, and Bani Walid, where Gaddafi hid after his Tripoli palace was over-run, local people are enraged by mass looting and summary executions by rebel fighters. Rebel fighters are still carrying out house-to-house searches for alleged Gaddafi supporters and reports speak of mass hangings. Even doctors and nurses who treated injured Gaddafi fighters are being rounded up and, at best, cast into a prison in Zawiyah, in “appalling conditions”.
But this is merely the prelude to what is to come. Abdel Hakim Belhaj is the most powerful military figure and is threatening to ignite a whole new conflict over his Islamic extremism. Indeed, many former rebel fighters are now talking openly about a new revolution if the country’s political leaders on the National Transitional Council give in to pressure from Belhaj, head of the Militrat Council, to turn Libya into a fundamentalist Islamic state, modelled along the lines of the old Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The more moderate military leader, Abdel Fattah Younis, was assassinated just weeks ago and many suspect that associates of Belhaj did the deed. With Younis gone, Belhaj is all-powerful. He has received messages of support from Ayman al-Zawahri, the new Al Qaeda leader, and the courthouse in Benghazi now flies the terror network’s flag. Reports speak of armed gangs to be seen everywhere, each parading the Al Qaeda flag and chanting Islamic slogans.
Belhaj was the driving force behind last week’s announcement that Libya will introduce Sharia law, a brutal form of justice that includes flogging and executions for those accused of ‘crimes’ such as adultery, homosexuality and theft. It will allow Libyan men to take multiple wives and give males custody of children, while women will have no right to divorce. Belhaj demands brutal punishment for anyone who critices Islam or refuses to pray.
It will be Belhaj’s second attempt at taking over Libya. In the Eighties he launched an uprising against Gaddafi which failed. He fled to Afghanistan and fought in the Soviet-Afghan war. He then returned to his native Libya and formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. He again fled but was captured by British and US intelligence in Malaysia and was handed over to Gaddafi.
At the very least Libya now faces renewed civil war for Belhaj is hated by many of the secular elements of the evolution. One, named Kharyee, said yesterday that ”If he becomes boss, we will make another revolution. He wants to take over but we will kill him before he can do that”. But resistance will be difficult for Belhaj’s links with the Taliban have earned him powerful friends
The only possible conclusion is that, as in Iraq, we went to war on the assumption that removing a dictator automatically opened the door to human rights and the rule of law.Those of us with an understanding of these countries knew that it wouldn’t be like that. The land is now awash with weapons and hostilities are breaking out between the Warfalla and Obeidi tribes, the Berbers in the western mountains, the Magariha, Misrata and coastal Kargala Tawajeer tribes. All came together to fight Gaddafi, now their old emnities are resurfacing. The scene is set perfectly for one all powerful figure to assume control.
That man will be Belhaj. He is committed to jihad – the overthrow by Holy War of Christian states and the creation of an Islamic world. No, Mr Cameron, this was not a Falklands style triumph!
TEST YOURSELF WITH THE WEEKEND QUIZ!
1. Deva was a Roman city now known as what? 2. Spanning 30 years on the charts, how is Tony Fitzgerald better known? 3. What does a kleptomaniac do? 4. What is the popular name for the anaesthetic nitrous oxide? 5. Who was the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit? 6. The doomed ship Titanic was registered in which English city? 7. In which year did Marc Bolan die? 8..What is made up of the minor arcana and the major arcana? 9. The Romanian dictator Ceausescu was executed on which day in 1989? 10. In ” The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”, who played his wife Britt Ekland?
I never thought I would live to hear my fellow chicken-keepers singing the praises of Millwall supporters, but that is exactly what happened this morning. Searching for some comfort in the depressing images of broken Britain, my pals loved the report of a huge contingent of the fans of the soccer club of ill-repute forming a protective ring around shops in Eltham. One said that little thugs are not welcome, we await their arrival with eager anticipation. Needless to say the cowardly mob of criminals turned back. Right across the country similar groups are forming up, people have no confidence in the government or police and they will no longer stand idly by and watched businesses built by hard-working locals destroyed. The fight back is under way but what a terrible indictment of the establishment that is!
Those of us in the north have now had our first taste of the thuggery and mayhem. Manchester police were yesterday obliged to add 100 of their most highly trained officers to the vast convoy of police buses heading for London. The result was that when the entirely predictable riots broke out last night the local constabulary was ill-resourced and lost control. The same story applied across all of our region. The prime minister eventually returned from his holiday and immediately ordered that London must be protected, the result was that other cities were not. Even he must surely now realise just how mistaken his policy of reducing police numbers is.
Any suggestion that what we are seeing is the direct result of cuts or perceived corruption at the heart of government or police has become untenable. Yes, the decisions to cut youth facilities and the lack of any attempt to deal with conditions or unemployment in deprived areas are factors but you do not make your neighbourhood a better place by burning down your neighbour’s house. You can’t scream about social injustice whilst walking away from looted stores with TVs. You do not make this society a fairer one by terrorising ordinary men, women and children, or by setting fire to their streets, or by destroying businesses that have served communities and provided jobs for over a hundrd years. The riots have no moral authority whatsoever.
The fact of the matter is that the hoodlums who are out on our streets robbing, burning, throwing bottles and putting people on the mininum wage out of a job are self pitying scumbags. The vast majority of ordinary folk themselves have problems, but they work hard and always do their best for their families. Now they are forced to run for their lives as leering looters destroy or steal their possessions and peace of mind.
Whilst not all the pictures are of black youths, the great majority are. Those images of black youths looting and pillaging will not soon fade from the national consciousness. They have set race relations back in this country by 30 years. And appeals to parents are a waste of tiem, in many cases parents have been involved alongside their violent kids.
And in their pathetic swaggering we see the limits of society’s attempts to be soft, to be compassionate. In the end – softened up with their human rights, pampered with a benefits system that was meant to protect the vulnerable – we get this shabby shower. Listen to one of them droning on about unemployment and you are left wondering who on earth would employ them.
There have been many moving pictures of innocents caught up in the reign of terror by marauding thugs. None more so that the ones featuring a miidle-aged man who was beaten unconscious in full site of a single policemen who could only watch and wait for reinforcements. When they came they had to literally fight their way through to help the victim. He is not expected to live. If the situation continues more deaths are inevitable.
No one can deny that there are major social issues to address. But right now the priority is to reclaim control of the streets. Any talk of police cuts must be abandoned and all city constabularies must be allowed to expand. There are other imaginative moves to consider if only the out-of-touch politicians will listen. In one of todays papers, a group of ex officers, both police and military, have proposed the creation of a national reserve comprising experienced, fit, retirees operating as a sort of police TA and ready to return to take over all desk work at a moments notice. And another idea caught my eye.
Hundreds of arrest have been made and already some of the accused are being released on bail. This is ludicrous but the problem is that there are no empty cells. Someone has suggested the creation of a holding area to meet the immediate need to get the leading offenders off the streets. This to be backed up by detention camps created on former military sites still owned by the state. The scene is then set for lengthy sentences that may deter but will certainly protect the rest of us.
Draconian? Not really when you consider what is happening under cover of mass disorder. One example was the incident in which yobs invaded a shop and carried away the owner’s baby which she was nursing. Had that happened in normal times it would have carried a huge sentence. There should be no difference in law.
Perhaps the other pressing issue is that there is no fear of the police. Some of this is of course down to the attitudes police themselves have portrayed, but a good deal of it is down to the police impotence born of fear that even laying a hand on a villain may result in suspension. For the time being all thoughts of human rights should be banished by temporary law using, if necessary, The Riot Act.
After all the vast majority of decent law-abidng people are being deprived of their human rights! Meantime we must retain our sense of humour. We ferret-men were much cheered by a comment you will find attached to yesterday’s blog. Send the fat bloke from the TV ad about ‘Confused dot com’ on to the streets, he suggests, that would bore them into submission!
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A VERY SPECIAL QUIZ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The weather is sunny, the news less so. But the hens seemed indifferent to it all, even ‘Gaddafi’, the bullying pecker, is unmoved. Rather like his ghastly namesake! Yesterday William Hague gave an object lesson in the art of turning, claiming that he always intended to spend a billion rearranging the concrete in Libya before leaving the Colonel in residence. To be fair David Cameron needs no lessons in the art of turning and it is surely time for his latest performance.
Because the idea of paying off the whole national deficit at record speed just ain’t working! As expected the growth of the economy has ground to a near halt. We chicken-breeders are to economics what dear old Cyril Smith was to hang-gliding, but even we can work out that if cut-backs are too rapid there are fewer jobs, less inclination to spend and less tax revenue. In effect the economy is as flat as a MacDonald’s pancake. And we are less than impressed with the latest excuses about weather and Royal weddings, which surely compete with the “dog ate my homework” we all peddled many years ago.
Mr Osborne may well be preoccupied with the latest Guardian revelations about his involvement with the Murdochs, but he really should turn his mind to the more pressing issues of the need for a Plan B. He won’t of course, hence our humble plea that Cameron intervenes as he did on Forests, the NHS and other lunacies. The latest wheeze of overhauling planning laws might make some difference; Britain built its way out of recession in the 1930s, but concreting over this sceptered isle is, understandably, always fraught – as seen in the local rows surrounding the massive investment of money we don’t have in high-speed rail.
But such things are really straws in the wind. Uncle Vince Cable is banging on about printing more money but the Bank of England will take some persuading given that inflation is rnnning at twice its target. That leaves only the option of slowing the frenzied pace of deficit reduction, which Mr Osborne insists would shatter “confidence” and push up borrowing costs.
This is nonsense. With cheap, long-maturity government debt and an independent currency there is no reason on Earth to think that closing the deficit more steadily would visit a Greek-like crisis on these shores. And, as top economist Jonathan Portes has declared, low interest rates are the product of the slump itself, rather than the result of Osborne’s hair shirt.
As a group of geezers who see no shame in an about-turn, we suggest that the prime minister pulls away from worrying about what Rebekah is going to reveal, and instead steps on the Osborne corns. His one idea of boosting growth by eliminating the 50% tax bracket is truly political dynamite, what he must do is ease back a little on VAT and job cuts. Such moves would not only be popular but would also encourage a return to buying. And he needs to give more help to manufacturers by leaning on the Banks which we supposedly partly own.
To go on pretending, as Osborne did yesterday, that all is positive is crass. He should address an audience wider than Ed Balls for we have all seen what is happening in America. Politicians there are putting the scoring of points ahead of the national interest and there is no future in that!
Just for a week the prime minister should put aside the inevitable Murdoch clan revelations and put the country first. He must know by now that some of his motley crew are three pence short of the proverbial shilling, deep down he must know that the economy will ultmately decide his fate. He should win back a few of the supporters he has lost by acting now!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Rock festival 2. Wales 3. Advent 4. Edinburgh 5. Atonement 6. Albert Hall 7. Judaism 8. Film Festival 9. Nirvana day 10. Lincolnshire
I’m sure that if the prime minister knew of our gang of aged chicken breeders he would regard our mutterings with utter disdain. Understandable in a way since none of us would gain social acceptance at one of his Chipping Norton parties, but quite wrong in another. For we represent a cross-section of society with the breakdown of political allegiances broadly in line with those portrayed by Mori, plus a fair sprinkling of geezers who never vote at all. But we are all shocked by the unending revelations about the Murdoch empire, and even more staggered by the role that David Cameron has played in it.
Of course even we yokels realise that none of this began with the arrival in Downing Street of the Old Etonians and Mr Cameron’s main defence in yesterday’s Commons uproar – that Gordon Brown was equally culpable – misses the point. What has been uncovered over the past week or so is a large informal network, in which newspapers, policemen and politicians all looked after each other with jobs, influence, money and treats.
It is now perfectly clear that this has been the order of the day for a very long time, but the excuse that the new Prime Minister merely joined an established orgy of corruption makes his actions no less deplorable. And to compound the felony Mr Cameron conceded yesterday that, during his 26 social gatherings with the Murdoch clan since becoming PM, he did discuss the BSkyB takeover bid, albeit in an ‘appropriate’ way. He shouldn’t be surprised that his enemies are now choosing to create their own version of what took place, the point is that he shouldn’t have been there at all.
That apart there are significant questions to be answered about his judgement in appointing Andy Coulson, given the clear indications that his resignation from the News of the World was the result of charges of phone hacking. In July 2007 Cameron appointed Coulson to his office as leader of the Conservative Party. He said then that “Andy will make a formidable contribution as a senior member of my team in building the most effective strategy and operation to win the next general election. I look forward very much to working with him”. Of course what emerged from that election was a coalition and one of the first to warn Cameron against bringing Coulson into government was his then admiring partner, Nick Clegg. This followed a Commons committee accusation that senior executives at News International were concealing the truth about the extent of phone hacking. Yesterday the MPs attacking the PM included many of his Lib Dem partners.
Sadly even the announcement of the terms of reference for the Inquiry into all this aroused suspicions. Cameron surprised everyone by including the BBC. It may be a coincidence but this was a constant demand by the Murdochs whose motives for shrinking the Beeb have always been obvious. Perhaps we are all paranoid in wondering if their word still holds sway?
But the story that has unfolded would create paranoia in a monastery. It is increasingly clear that the Murdochs have frightened our politicians into submission. Just a fortnight ago, Ed Milioband was warned that Murdoch’s papers would “make it personal” after he broke with the political class omerta towards the company. There are now a whole list of similar threats to various politicians. In effect the fear was that those who crossed Murdoch would get the full tabloid treatment. It was a powerful Mafia-like racket. And turning to the police for help was not a good idea!
It is clear that when the various trials take place there may well be much more for the Prime Minister to fret over. But right now it would be good to believe that he ‘gets it’, that he realises that someone has to clean up our corrupt and bullying culture at the top. A small step in the right direction would be for David Cameron to become totally detached from the clique which has done so much to damage him.
He must realise that right now, at least so far as Tory and Lib Dems are concerned, this is not an issue about changing governments. It is about changing the Prime Minister and he needs to act right now. No more cosy parties with Rebekah Brooks et al, no more toadying to the will of corrupt bullies!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Shoulder blade 2. Great Stour 3. Sex Pistols 4. Falmouth 5. India 6. Judo 7. Henry the First 8. The wind 9. Maastricht 10. Young
Some one up there has turned off the tap! To walk to the allotments minus a brolly was little short of a miracle, and we set about our work of clearing the mud in a brighter mood than for some days. There have been moments when I wished I were a hen, able to stay in the dry with a near army of fogies attending to my every need. Then again I would never have the chance of being invited to a David Cameron birthday party as was Rebekah Brooks in October.
This latest revelation about our very strange prime minister plus the sad but very convenient death of the whistleblower Sean Hoare, who made clear that Andy Coulson was a key figure in the hacking scandal, could well have occupied our tea break but Phil had a different Cameron tale to tell.
His nephew is employed by Derby based carriage builder Bombadier. Thousands of British jobs there are devoted to building train carriages and there was considerable optimism about the future. It was widely expected that the company would be given the task of building rolling stock for the £6 billion upgrade on the Thameslink rail route, an order guaranteed to provide continuing employment for thousands.
Those thousands are now laid off and face a very uncertain future. Given the firm’s excellent quality and reliability record, the government created shock waves of giant proportions when it announced that the massive contract was to be awarded to German firm Siemens. Outrage soon followed but Mr Cameron and his Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, proceded to claim that their hands were tied. At Prime Minister’s Questions last week, Cameron said that “we were bound by the criteria set by the previous government. In this case the procurement process was designed and initiated by them”. At first hearing it sounded a weak explanation for the sacrifice of so many British jobs. Upon examination of a leaked document it proved to be a barefaced lie.
Someone in the Transport ministry decided to reveal all by releasing anonymously a copy of the “Invitation to Tender”(ITT) for the Thameslink Rolling Stock Procurement Programme (TRSP). The document reads ; “The issue of this ITT in no way commits the Secretary of State to award the TRSP to any person or party. The Secretary of State reserves the right to terminate the competition, to award the TRSP without prior notice, to change the basis, the procedures and the timescales set out and referred to in this document or to reject any or all Proposals and to terminate discussions with any or all Bidders at any time”.
In other words the point of the process was entirely proper, to oblige the British Bidder to offer a competitive price. Predictably the government is now defending its decision to sacrifice thousands of skilled jobs, and to destroy an important British enterprise, by claiming that it would have been at risk of contravening EU procurement directives. Experts have dismissed this excuse, but even were it to be valid we have to ask ourselves about our real priorities! Since the vast majority of the people believe that we shouldn’t be subject to EU law anyway, it seems decidedly odd to sacrifice so much for fear of Brussels becoming irritated.
Former Treasury Minister Geoffrey Robinson said that the document proved that ministers were free to decide. They were free, he said, to “put the national interest first”. He ended with a plea that the decision be reversed to “save a vital British industry”.
Sadly his plea is likely to fall on deaf ears. The multi-millionaire Hammond is not renowned for viewing British manufacturers favourably, and Cameron has become totally preoccupied with explaining his extraordinary relationships with Coulson and the Murdoch clan.
Job creation should surely be an absolute priority for any British government, particularly at a time of recession. Instead we have one happy to see thousands more skilled workers cast on the scrap heap and to defend its failure via a tissue of lies!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S PUB QUIZ; 1. Rose 2. Tessa Jowell 3. Westlife 4. Seaweed 5. Sweet 6. Victoria 7. Oil tanker 8. Fuller’s 9. Blood poisoning 10. Leopards
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR ANOTHER PUB QUIZ????????????????????????????
I have written before of the hostile reception given by the ‘vets’ amongst our allotment gang to the outcome of the Strategic Review which led to ships and aircraft heading for the scrapyard and thousands of military personnel being warned of their impending redundancy. The answer from the government to the many similar reactions was along the lines of we can’t afford to maintain a full fighting force anymore, and our involvement in world affairs is over. A few weeks later two of the ships on the way to Portsmouth for scrapping were diverted to Libya to rescue trapped British citizens. But never mind, this, we were told, was a one-off.
So it was with some surprise that we learned that David Cameron was leading demands for action against Gaddafi. Presumably we still have some planes left although we know that a large number of pilots have been presented with their P45s. But experts suggest that we will not be able to sustain any involvement for long unless an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan is authorised. Of course we all understand the real reason for Mr Cameron’s emulation of the Thatcher Falkland’s adventure but we nevertheless agree that Gaddafi must be prevented from mass murder and we welcome what the RAF has been able to do to stop the madman in his tracks.
All of which suggests that the Defence Review must be revisited urgently. But where will the cash come from? We humble chicken-keepers beg to suggest that the prime minister show equal courage by taking a closer look at what the EU is doing with the sackfuls of money that we hand over each year. If he does, he may well be rather shocked.
A good example has been provided by Ville Itala who is a Finnish MEP on the parliamentary budgetry control committee. He has revealed that during the past 12 months over £80 million was spent on ‘spin-doctors’. The EU employs an amazing 722 ‘communication officers’ whose task is to “present the commission in a favourable light”. Admittedly that is no small task but the number is patently out of control. And £8 million was spent on running EuroparlITV, a channel devoted to telling good stories about Brussels and which is watched by a mere 850 viewers per day, most of those being employees of the EU.
The Finnish MEP is not content at that. He goes on to reveral that millions are spent on a limousine service for MEPs and £37.6 million on security gaurds who have failed to prevent three armed robberies over the past two years. In fact the list goes on and on and it is impossible to doubt Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party’s leader, when he says that the EU has become “nothing more than a spending machine that lavishes public money on projects that are pointless, useless and turn off voters”.
And if you need further examples Mr Cameron try looking at the MEP’s abundant indulgences. Despite widespread hostility, MEPs have voted to increase their personal staffing allowances by £15,336 per year and an increase in “daily subsistence and “general expenditure” to up to £91,000 per year. Oh yes, and MEPs no longer have to provide receipts or proof of expenditure.
Of course the army of fib-doctors tell us that such charges are the price we pay for the new unity of Europe. That seemed sadly lacking this week when Germany refused to support the Gadaffi motion at the United Nations!
It seems to us that Cameron must reverse many of the military cuts if we are to continue as world policemen. If he doesn’t, brave and badly under-supported servicemen will die. Europe seems the least painful way of offsetting the extra cost. Certainly extra taxes are not possible given that from April the poorest will pay the most tax.
There is of course another option, to tax the Banks and bring corporate tax-evaders to heel. But that is too big a step even for a born-again warrior!
QUOTES FOR TODAY; “When he said we were trying to make a fool of him, I could only reply that the Creator had beaten us to it”……Ilka Case ” You have a brain like Einstein’s dead since 1955″……Gene Perret “If your IQ was any lower we would have to water you”….Anne Robinson “When you go to a mind-reader, do you get half price?”……David Letterman “A hundred thousand sperm, and YOU were the fastest?”…..Jim Hightower “If you’re going out of your mind I suggest you pack light. It’s a short trip”…..Anne Robinson “Why did he shoot himself? I suppose no one else would”….Spike Milligan “He’s his own worst enemy! Not while we’re alive”….Herbert Morrison and Ernest Bevin “If I were your wife , I’d put poison in your coffee! If I were your husband, I’d drink it”….An exchange between Nancy Astor and Winston Churchill
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Birmingham 2. National Exhibition Centre
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Whose grave in Highgate, London, was daubed and damaged by vandals in 1974? 2. Which British Cathedral begun in 1904 was not dedicated until 1978?
Several of us went to a night out at a place called Rivington Barn last night. It was a superb do held on behalf of the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, and organised by a group of wonderful ladies who rejoice in the name of the Adlington Witches. Thanks to their toilless efforts the attendance was massive, the local world and his wife were there. If Mr Cameron really wants to understand community involvement he should ask Marina, Kath, Carol or Marje. Some have experienced cancer and they are fighting back big time.
Of course the flip side was that we were somewhat bleary-eyed when we turned up late to let the hens out and to continue repairs on what looks like a scene from the Blitz. When Albert hit his thumb with the hammer the air turned blue and I am not referring to the Conservative Party. That is not a safe talking point right now for even the staunch lifetime Tories amongst us are upset and muttering about a new poll tax moment. Yes, you’ve guessed it, the forests have suddenly become the biggest challenge facing the coalition.
A few days ago I pondered on this strange development. The treasury has confirmed that the sale of all the state-owned forests and woodlands will result in a financial loss so we can dismiss the idea that it is part of the deficit reduction plan. So why on earth did the cabinet agree to launch such a controversial idea at a time when it will have more than enough hostility to contend with over spending cuts? Yesterday we were given an answer by Julian Lewis, the Tory MP for New Forest East. He said that the wheeze was dreamed up by “those unelected advisers, those bright sparks, who thought up this rubbish about privatising forests”. he had plenty of support. Zac Goldsmith, who headed up David Cameron’s environmental policy group when in opposition, said that the proposals “went too far” and he had no idea why anyone thought it sensibel to “be so radical”. Caroline Nokes, one of the Tory MPs in the New Forest, said she was all for shrinking the state but this was ” too big and too much”. In fact a whole number of Conservative leading lights made clear yesterday that they will vote against the government on this, and most admitted that the idea dreamed up by advisers should never have seen the light of day. There is certainly no financial or political advantage to it.
On Friday night we had the first indication that this may be one of those rare issues that brings the usually apathetic British public on to the streets. Junior Minister Mark Harper is the Tory MP for the Forest of Dean. He called a public meeting to explain the supposed benefits of privatisation and the meeting had to be abandoned in uproar. He was pelted with eggs and had to be rescued by police who drove him away in a van. And these were not idealistic students aided and abetted by anarchists, they were typical middle class, middle age, Tory voters. And right across the country similar attitudes are emerging.
On Thursday the government fielded immigration minister Damian Green on the BBC Question Time programme. He seemed bemused by the verbal onslaught over forests and when challenged to give one good reason why the privatisation should go ahead, simply floundered and waved his hands in the air. He understandably couldn’t come up with any justification for spending taxpayers money on what would be the biggest change in land ownership since the Second World War.
The petition being gathered By ’38 Degrees’ on its website is now at the 500,000 mark and climbing. There are clear signs everywhere that this proposal is uniting people right across political colours. There is still time for David Cameron, who clearly had no hand in the plan and assumed it to be a minor issue, to pull the plug on it. But if he continues to identify himself with it and refuses to budge, this could well be his equivalent to Thatcher’s poll tax moment. And even the poll tax had some apparent reason for its creation, forests have none.
Certain it is the straws at which he is clutching will not keep him aloft. In desperation Ministers yesterday said that some of the forests could be sold to the National Trust. Immediately Dame Fiona Reynolds announced that the government had made “no attempt” to talk to the Trust and that to handle such an undertaking would require huge funding.
If this humble ferret-breeder might presume to offer advice to a prime minister it would be pull out now. To many people’s surprise the coalition has touched the nerve of public opinion that triggers massive reaction. All that lies at the end of this road is defeat and humiliation. That possibility may have to be faced on major financial issues, but to fall on his sword over something that even he probably thinks is mistaken is ludicrous.
And this time he cannot hope to let his sidekick, Clegg, take the blame for yesterday the majority of Lib Dem MPs, most of whom have forests in their areas, also signed the petition!
A BAD DAY FOR CRICKET!
The future of international cricket is in the balance. If fans come to believe that match-fixing is prevalent will they pay good money to watch games, the outcome of which has already been decided? No they won’t!
And what is the International Cricket Council doing to stamp out the cancer in the midst of a wonderful game? Not a lot! Yesterday, lenient sentences were handed out to the three Pakistan players found guilty of fixing matches during last year,s tour of this country. But Asif, Amir and Butt could be back playing Test cricket in four years time. Everyone knows that they are simply the tip of a rotten iceberg but the many others possibly behaving in the same way may well conclude that a four year ban is better than trouble with the betting gangs.
Incredibly the authorities have failed to act on a number of other exposures. One such involved the alleged fixing of the match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. A Pakistan player told a former player of fixing and the latter telephoned the authorities hotline with details. That was four months ago and he has yet to even receive an acknowledgement.
Time and again the ICC lifts the lid, hands out token punishment and closes it again. If this goes on the game won’t!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ” If I owned both Texas and Hell, I’d rent out Texas and live in Hell”….Philip Sheridan “If an Englishman gets run down by a truck he apologises to the truck”….Jackie Mason ”The English have an extraordinary ability to fly into a great calm”….Alexander Woolcott “The Englishman has all the qualities of a poker, except it’s occasional warmth”….Daniel O’Connell “I like the English. They have the most rigid code of immorality in the world”…Malcolm Bradbury “It is no longer true that continentals have sex lives whilst the English have hot-water bottles. Now the English have electric blankets”….George Mikes “A genius is a man who can rewrap a shirt and have no pins left over”….Dino Levi ”Between me and Rudyard Kipling we cover all knowledge, he knows all that can be known, and I know the rest”…..Mark Twain “I cannot tell whether genius is hereditary because God has granted me no offspring”….James McNeill Whistler “What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid on my carpet”….Woody Allen “Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex”…Karl Marx.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. John Ford 2. Film Actress
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. For what was John Cranko (died 1973) famous? 2. She wrote ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ and died in 1973. Who ws she?
“I’ll bet Abramovich has never done this” muttered Albert as we dug in the hen litter, a task that vies with setting mousetraps as my most dreaded, this morning. I’m sure he’s right, but then again neither would I if I had enough cash to pay fifty million for a lack-lustre footballer without even missing it. Clearly the Russian mantra of all men being equal wasn’t quite as inclusive as we used to believe in those heady days of the Daily Worker. It may be irrational but the news of the soccer largesse has made us even more cynical about our impending ’Big Society’.
A few days ago I mused on the plan for the Big S to take over libraries and run them with volunteers. I doubted the availability of literate volunteers with no need of income and a willingness to spend months learning the knack, before settling into several days per week full time employment without so much as a thought of financial reward. Several local fans of the Cameron big wheeze contacted me to point out that there is now a dynamic young Big Society Zsar who is more than happy to devote his life to leading us toward the promised land, in which we are not only all equal but ask nothing other than to serve others and, in some cases, library books.
I must confess to being taken aback by this news for the appointment of the Zsar had escaped me. I learned that Mr Cameron, the greatest Zsar of them all, had promoted to be a Lord a 34 year old former management consultant to be known henceforth as Lord Wei of Shoreditch. That didn’t sound the best of starts for the new age of all being equal, but at least the man was happy to work for nothing for three days per week on teaching us all the joys of voluntary near-full-time work.
Up until today I hadn’t read anything in the press about the new star Zsar so it was something of a surprise to read this morning that he has had to announce a reduction of 33 per cent in his hours. It seems that, unlike his benefactor, he is not a millionaire and has realised that he must allocate more time to “earn money” and to ”have more of a life”. We are told that, sadly, Lord Wei does not have “a private income”. Which seems to suggest that the army of near full-time voluteers will need to have one. Now that narrows the size of the new army somewhat doesn’t it!
All of which prompted me to look up Lord Wei’s terms of reference. He was to focus on “freeing people from the daily grind to give them more time to do voluntary work and involve themselves in running their communities”. Perhaps that explains the ever increasing number of redundancies amongst skilled public sector workers? However I did learn something else. Whitehall sources say that when he was invited to take up the post the new Lord imagined it to be salaried. Now he has concluded that working for free for most of each week is incompatible with ‘having a life’.
But the Big S top stars – which really means Cameron plus those who dare not cross him – point to the fact that they now have another new star Zsar. Lord Tarzan Haseltine is an unpaid advisor. So now we have the real specification for the new age volunteers. They need to be long-retired, and in possession of rather a lot of the readies!
Give us a break Mr Cameron. Many of us are tiring of all this hogwash at a rate faster than Torres is ever likely to run for his new Russian master!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “All the world’s a stage, and most of us are desperately unrehearsed”…..Sean O’Casey “The world is like a safe to which there is a combination – but the combination is locked up in the safe”….Peter de Vries “The quietest place in the world is the complaints department at the parachute packing department”…..Jackie Martling “We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artifical flavours and furniture polish is made from real lemons”…..Alfred Newman “Life is full of misery, loneliness, unhappiness and suffering, and it’s over much too soon”….Woody Allen “Life is good and bad. Mostly and”….Diogenes “If life was fair Elvis would be alive today and all the impersonators dead”….Johnny Carson “Life is generally something that happens elsewhere”…Alan Bennett “Life is like a dog-sled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes”….Lewis Grizzard “On the keyboard of life always keep a finger on the escape key”…..Scott Adams “He was an interesting character, Hadrian. He had a wife and a husband. And he built this enormous wall. I’d never thought of him before as a gay bricklayer”….Billy Connolly “I think Hitler had a fatal flaw. If I invented my own superior race I’d want them to look like me, or worse”….Buzz Nutley. “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?……Tony Hancock
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Australia 2. Toc H
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which country was ruled over by Papa Doc Duvalier? 2. Bebe Daniels died in 1971; what was the name of her husband and showbiz partner?
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!
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?
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!
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?
Almost every book on hen-keeping stresses the importance of keeping chooks off wet ground. None explain how this is to be achieved and, after a lifetime of the hobby, I am still none the wiser. I would defy anyone to find fault with the care we allotmenteers bestow on our many broods, but even we find impossible the task of keeping the runs free of mud in conditions like those of recent days. We’ve tried gravel, sand, and even yelling but nothing works. It all illustrates the difference between theory and practice! And that is the trap that David Cameron has fallen into in backing Lansley’s mad plans for NHS reform.
There are many things to admire about the prime minister but his tendency to prove his NHS credentials by harping on about his gratitude for what it did for members of his family is not one of them. Countless families across the land could tell similar stories but it doesn’t follow that they would wish to support its demolition at the hands of a complete fool. And if you feel that is harsh on Lansley just look carefully at the horrendous errors of judgement he made over swine flu. Children and adults alike have died as a result of his arrogance.
Not surprisingly the coalition is under attack from the British Medical Association over its reform plans. They are not alone for a host of Conservative MPs plus ex-ministers such as Stephen Dorrell have expressed great concern at the speed at which major change is being imposed together with £20 billion worth of cuts. The abolition of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) was well merited but the switch to a new commissioning method needed careful planning. It also needed to be free of ideological change such as privatisation.
Today the prime minister has assured us that GPs are ready to take over the role. They are not and never will be given that practising family doctors have neither the time nor expertise. What has happened is that a number of areas have offered to set up commissiong organisations run by private health care providers, most of whom are from the USA. They in turn have links straight in to private medical services prepared to invest in buildings and the provision of non-specialist diagnoses and treatments.
The idea is not dissimilar to that tried by Patricia Hewitt. She wished to set up a trial in the North West which would involve a private company opening outpatients clinics near large hospitals. They would employ junior doctors from overseas and would offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ within which patients would be seen, diagnosed and, if the condition was trivial, treated wthin one day. It was only when it was revealed that the loss of income from ’easy’ medicine would effectively bankrupt the hospitals that a major public uprising began. The cost structure of the NHS is such that surpluses from routine work subsidise the cost of cancer, coronary and other acute medical procedures.
I have nothing against private enterprise competing with state service providers but there must be a level playing field. If the private sector is to be allowed by commissioners to compete it must offer the total range of services and not ‘cherry-pick’. And it will not do that for the simple reason that all the potential profit lies in the straightforward work.
The Hewitt proposals were ditched at the eleventh hour and the one-stop-shop is now operated by the NHS in Lancashire with great success. I know because I, together with deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, led the campaign. I also know something else.
Lansley’s plans were on the verge of being ditched a la Hewitt. If David Cameron’s intervention saves the day for Lansley there will be several outcomes. In the short term we will see waiting times doubled with the result that those with deep pockets will jump the diagnosis queues. In the medium term many hospitals will close with the result that patients and visitors will be obliged to travel big distances. And the quality of care will deteriorate as patients are seen by less experienced clinicians.
We all empathise with Mr Cameron’s personal tragedies and problems. But by his own admission they were handled well by the NHS. If he continues down the Lansley road other families will not have the same quality of care.
Yes the NHS has improved enormously but, yes, it can improve further. But the profit motive and life or death decisions are uneasy bedfellows and, if Cameron really cares as much as he claims to, he will apply the brake of caution to the madman at the controls.
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL CONTINUES TO SELL SECRETS!
The Alastair Campbell Diaries Volume two will be published on January 20th and already some cash is being raked in by newspaper serialisation. This edition will cost £25 which ensures another big pay day for the former Labour spin-doctor.
Just reading today’s revelations in the Guardian turned my stomach. Intimate details concerning the Royal family, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are all featured. And I have read all I want to read of this political version of kiss and tell.
Call me a stick-in-the-mud if you must, but I find the making of money out of confidence-breaking sickening. Of course Mr Campbell didn’t sign the Official Secrets Act and is not committing a crime. But one wonders if at the time he warned people that he was noting down their every comment with a view to revealing all for cash at a later date.
If my ire causes just one reader to keep their twenty-five quid in their pocket I shall feel glad to have spoken out!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “I’m a wonderful housekeeper. Every btime I get a divorce I get to keep the house”…Zsa Zsa Gabor. “A neighbour is someone who has just run out of something”….Robert Benchley. “Our terraced house was so small the mice walked about on their back feet”….Les Dawson. “I hate housework. You make the beds, do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again”…..Joan Rivers. “I’m years behind with my ironing. It’s no good doing it now, it doesn’t fit anyone I know”…..Phyllis Diller
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Watergate 2. Horatio
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Did the population of London rise or fall between 1961 and 1971? 2. What year were the British people asked to vote yes or no to stay in the EU?
With most colleagues having only just gone to bed the task of rousing sundry animals fell to Vernon and yours truly this morning. Our self understanding tells us that neither of us are really in to yelling Auld Lang Syne when three sheets into the wind and we volunteered to cover for those that are. Our halos were so large that we had to pass through the gate sideways. It gave us a chance to examine the CCTV film, a task that is still a novelty. It will soon wane for to date all we have caught has been shots of Albert adjusting his new front teeth. Of course the sad thing is that we have need for such security at all.
But a local Bobby told me that at national level there is great tension about terrorism and all shopping malls and other places where crowds gather have been put on to high alert. And the worst aspect of this is that the threat comes not from some foreign power but from British citizens. I guess that says it all about the immigration policies of successive governments and the shackles that have been put on the security forces in the name of political correctness.
For too long the subject has been suppressed but now the situation is heading out of control. David Cameron was very brave to tackle the issue head-on in his New Year message. He began by talking of the arrest of nine men accused of plotting a Christmas bombing campaign. Had the police not uncovered the plot and acted it is possible that thousands could now be dead.
The prime minister went on to suggest that, as a nation, we now face fundamental questions about why young Muslims continue to be drawn into violent extremism. He called for the Muslim community to help address how their minds are “poisoned’. We all know at least some of the answers, not least among which has been the pressure on the police not to be heavy handed with extremist preachers and the reluctance of the courts to act against those brought before them.
The United Kingdom now has more ‘enemies within’ than at any time in its history. And Mr Cameron has some of his own too. It seems that a prolonged row is continuing within the coalition. Lib Dems are pressing hard for some of Labour’s contentious security measures to be watered down. Meet a Lib Dem minister and expect human rights to be mentioned within minutes. What Clegg and his pals seem unable to grasp is that the rights of the many must exceed the rights of the few. Yes, in an ideal world we want a block on even the remotest possibility of police arresting innocent people. But we are not in an ideal world, we are in one where innocent shoppers can be blown to pieces by demented madmen.
It may well be the case that Blair’s dalliance with Bush has helped to ferment this situation but it is too late to change that. Our soldiers are dying in Afghanistan and since we are prepared to countenance that we must also countenance harsh measures at home to clamp down on the disciples of the murderous al-Qaeda. In opposing such actions Mr Clegg is conveniently forgetting that the Iraqi Muslim, Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, who carried out the recent suicide attack in Stockholm, lived in Luton and was radicalised at Bedfordshire University. To talk of closing Universities that allow such influences and to ban students from abroad may sound measures to the right of Genghis Khan but the alternative is looming very large.
One senses that David Cameron is only hesitating to introduce harsher measures because of the antics of his coalition partners and a belief that the public will not support them. I suspect that a poll would show that the vast majority are sick of the constant fear of insane attacks.
New Year resolutions are seldom kept but this is one that should be made and bedded in concrete. If 2011 is to be the better year that we all yearn for David Cameron must have the courage of his convictions. If the Lib Dems and their friends feel that human rights are being damaged they should perhaps emigrate to Iraq or Afghanistan where they might find that those whose rights they wish to protect believe that such sentiments are for the birds!
Happy New Year and, hopefully, a safe one!
FORENSIC DECISION IS A BAD MISTAKE!
The coalition has decided to close down the national Forensic Labs. A service will now, in theory, be provided by private companies. Experts have warned that this seriously jeopardises the justice system in the UK, a view based on the many time-consuming investigations that have led to convictions for serious crimes.
The Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, has appealed to the government to reconsider its decision. He has warned that the private sector will not be willing to undertake large volumes of work which involve them in losing money. He adds that by its very nature work carried out by the Forensic Service can be very time consuming and costly. It is hard to quantify in terms of hours spent, the base on which any private company will operate.
Mr Hoyle warns that the decision will make many investigations impossible and says that “it does not make sense and should be reversed immediately”.
Will Ministers listen? Not if Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Minister, has his way. He seems opposed to any form of punishment and probably sees arrests as unnecessary!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. A system for writing Chinese in the Roman alphabet 2. Ceefax
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Dennis Gabor won the Nobel prize for physics in 1977 for work in what technique? 2. The Tarbela Dam in Pakistan was completed in 1975. Which river does it dam?
An air of resignation hangs over the allotments. We are up to our ears in snow but at least, according to the forecasts, we ain’t going to get any more. Just as well for some of the greenhouses which overlook the chicken runs are sporting huge overhangs which look ready to refill the areas we have spent yonks on clearing. But the chooks clearly appreciate our efforts for there were some eggs today which is unusual at this time of year, let alone in the return of the ice age. Very strange but not half as strange as the goings on in Oldham East and Saddleworth consituency where the three main parties are preparing to fight to the death in the first electoral test for the coalition.
Strange indeed because one of the parties is going to great lengths not to win! Unfortunately for David Cameron somene has leaked copies of instructions he has given to torpedo the Tory candidate, Kadshif Ali. A planned campaign involving dozens of volunteers delivering leaflets has been cancelled, visits by leading Tory ministers likewise. In fact the prime minister has ordered that no efforts be made to support Mr Ali. Short of driving around the patch wearing a yellow rosette and urging voters to support the Lib Dems, Mr Cameron has done everything possible to deliver what sounds suspiciously like an electoral pact with his close friend Mr Clegg. All ‘Dave’ would say when challenged was that “we wish our partners well”. He may do but grassroots Tories will be unhappy about this, many feel that already too many concessions have been made.
There are presumably two possible explanations. The first is that Cameron fears a Lib Dem defeat in a consituency that they almost won against Woolas would be the breaking point for Lib Dem MPs many of whom are already talking privately to Ed Miliband and company. But if this is the reason why field a Tory candidate at all? The other more sinister possibility is that, like Lloyd George and Ramsay MacDonald before them, Cameron and Clegg are secretly planning a permanent alignment and that entails not opposing each other in an election. Under this the party most likely to beat Labour would in effect be the coalition or joint candidate.
There have been rumours to this effect for some time and the bye-election brings it to a head. But if this is the secret plan it is a high risk one. It is built on an assumption that Lib Dem voters will stick with the coalition. All the signs are that roughly half will never vote for any party connected with Clegg again. Ironically this contest is the result of Phil Woolas having been found guilty of lying. The lies told by Clegg were of far greater import and were signed.
The government has called the election at the earliest possible moment to minimise the possibility of students staging protests. But there are fascinating aspects to the result. If the rather pompous Lib Dem Elwyn Watkins wins expect a backlash from Tory backbenchers. If Labour win, the coalition is in deep trouble and those Lib Deb MPs who voted against the government last week may well go one step further. Should the unsupported Tory win expect Clegg to fall and Cameron to lose his main stooge.
Oh what a tangled web they weave when they are trying to deceive!
THE STAGGERING COST OF MEPs!
Westminster MPs will doubtless be relieved that for the moment at least the Telegraph has turned its beady eye on to their European counterparts, the MEPs. And the findings are truly staggering!
Britain’s members of the EU parliament are costing the taxpayer £26 million per year. Alnost all earn more than MPs and all have voted themselves a nice inflation-busting increase for next year. In addition to their salaries MEPs are able to claim, without providing receipts, almost unlimited expenses. Some who made the fewest appearances claimed the greatest amounts but few claimed less than £100,000 on expenses. And there is also the huge cost of pension provision. On average each MEP costs us £370,000. And to do what?
According to Sian Herbert, an analyst at the thinktank Open Europe, “MEP’s activities and whereabouts are woefully under-scrutinised…and there are serious questions about transparency and accountability”.
But the EU, which has failed audit for many years, refuses to publish details. It continues to be not only undemocratic but the sort of company you wouldn’t buy a second hand car from! Perhaps it should merge with FIFA!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Grease 2. Jeremy Thorpe
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. How old was Bertrand Russell when he died? 2. Where was the first ever nerve transplant performed?
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?
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?
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?
Only drizzle greeted us this morning so we decided to be thankful for small mercies as we slithered about in the chicken runs. In fact working with livestock during the dark months always reminds us that we are somewhat privileged by comparison with our charges. It is now dark before five and, for fear of the ever growing number of urban foxes, the shutters go down for the start of a thirteen hour confinement. We, on the other hand, then head for our meals and some live sport. Not that last night’s England performance was inspiring, we would have been better employed locked up with the hens wondering which idiots decided to pay Capello a King’s ransom. Even better we could have worked on a cunning plan to become a Lord!
In truth it needn’t be too cunning for all one needs to do is to make large donations to one of the political parties. When, a decade ago, the hereditary peers were thrown off the gravy train there was much talk about their not being appropriate in a democratic society. Since then the total number of those entitled to wear ermine and collect huge attendance payments, not to mention other hand-outs, has rocketed to 750 if one includes the latest list about to hit the headlines. In effect it has become a privilege available for sale.
Up to 30 Tory supporters will be joining the ranks of the most high this week. A typical selection is Andrew Feldman, the Conservative’ co-chairman and a university friend of the Prime Minister. He was responsible for drumming up cash during Cameron’s leadership campaign of 2005, and a year later became the Conservative chief fundraiser. Earlier this year the media disclosed that Mr Feldman was part of a consortium awarded a cotract to build one of the few five-star hotels in the Balkan state of Macedonia. the contract was won despite having no previous experience of running a hotel. Mr Cameron has been one of the most vocal backers of Macedonia being allowed to join the EU but has denied that Mr Feldman influenced party policy on Macedonia or became involved in meetings between the prime minsiters of the two countries.
Stanley Fink, the Tories’ treasurer, is also to join the club but, sadly, rumours that dancing star Ann Widdecombe is also being measured for ermine have proved false. Needless to say the Labour Party is equally keen to reward its friends. Nigel Doughty, the Labour donor and City financier will rub shoulders with Gulam Noon, the curry millionnaire who was caught up in the loans for peerages affair under Tony Blair. Pay enough, be patient and you will not have to wait for heaven to reap your reward!
We are the only country in the world with such an elitist system and it has the added feature of being entirely corrupt. And this is not party points-scoring as such diverse characters as Lord Prescott, Lord Archer and Lord Kinnock demonstrate. The days when left-wing zealots decried the whole shebang are long gone, in fact when Neil Kinnock remarked on ‘Have I got news for you’ that he was searching for a title to follow ‘Lord’, Ian Hislop suggested hypocrite!
The most amazing aspect of all this flummery is that extension of it continues at a time when everyone is supposed to be suffering the outcome of the Banks’ follies together.The British empire has long gone, the ships we once used to rule the waves scrapped, but we still believe that title and privilege are appropriate.
Our self understanding tells us that we all enter and depart the world in the same way. But in between we love the role-playing that says pooh to equality. Perhaps the last word should go to the poet Mary Robinson who in 1795 wrote of ” pavements slippery, people sneezing, Lords in ermine, beggars freezing, titled gluttons dainties carving, genius in a garret starving”.
Little has changed!
MIGRANTS CONTINUE TO POUR IN!
The latest employment figures from the Office for National Statistics show that British workers are losing out in the battle for jobs. Between July and September no fewer than four million migrants were occupying posts here. The total is 204,000 up on the same period of last year, an increase of 5.5 per cent.
And nearly half of the influx are economic migrants from the new EU member states in eastern Europe. Freedom of movement laws drawn up by Brussels mean that any cap is powerless to halt the rising flood of easter Europeans. And it has now emerged that the UK could be forced to accept an even greater wave of foreign workers under secret plans by the European Commission. Officials wish Britain to take 40 per cent of the Indian skilled migrants expected to come to Europe every year under a free trade deal. The quota is almost seven times that allocated to France which is less amenable to the intake of foreign workers.
Last night Alp Mehmet of ‘Migration Watch’ claimed that Britain is shooting herself in the foot. He pointed out that 16 per cent of our IT graduates are unemployed yet we have agreed to take in thousands of IT experts from India. He went on to insist that the majority of jobs being created here are going to overseas workers.
It is a sensitive subject but so is unemployment. Conservative MP Philip Davis probably reflected the views of many when he complained that “we are mad in this country to have people born abroad coming in to do jobs that people here are capable of doing”.
But there is a huge problem here. The EU’s borders are entirely porous and anyone can get in and subsequently demand admission to the UK on the grounds that the move is an internal EU one. So long as we are party to the Lisbon Treaty we will remain vulnerable, indeed eminent statisticians forecast that at the present rate of immigration the Britsh born percentage of the UK population will represent less than half within 40 years.
What on earth are we allowing to happen at the hands of inept politicians?
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 1973 2. David Bowie
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which MP disappeared from a Florida beach in 1974? 2. In which country was the composer Malcolm Williamson born?
The first task this morning was a visit to B & Q in search of roof panels to replace those that ended up in Austria last week. The check-out lady there has become a friend over the past few years, but only after we explained why a load of old geezers regularly drop in for what must look like the ingredients for Cameron’s big society. Mind you, whilst we don’t understand what that is, we are confident that B&Q could supply it! On our return with the battered pick-up we began the process of hitting our thumbs and swearing which are the key features of our DIY endeavours. The level of curses was enhanced somewhat when Albert reported the Met Office as predicting further storms later this week. If we hurry we may just get the runs covered in time for the whole lot to be re-dispatched.
But there was light relief to be had over tea when we saw the headlines announcing the latest government initiative. It seems that the brother idea to the big society is a national wellbeing measure! Apparently Mr Cameron has long dreamed of having a wellbeing index and to have it updated quarterly and published to every citizen to enable them to better organise ther lives. Whitehall claims that we are likely to be the first country to have such an initiative, no great surprise there. Already work is underway and the government has commissioned the national statistician Jil Matheson to devise questions with a view to the first ever wellbeing survey being launched in the Spring.
That sounds a long time to think up a few questions but the press relaese tells us that not only will it ask about recycling (no explanantion given as to why wheelie bins are considered our major source of delight) but will also deal in depth with psychology and attitudes. Downing Street spokesmen seemed almost as vague on this as they proved to be on the big society but they did have a go. They said that a large sample is needed to enable anyone who wishes to move, say, from London to Exeter to establish what effect the move would have on their quality of life. I can only assume that an aunt of Mrs Cameron is thinking of moving west, but it seems an expensive way to find out just how hostile the natives are likely to be.
Another advantage that the spin-doctors trotted out was that come the next comprehensive spending review – bit frightening to be told that there is to be another – the government will “have a clearer idea as to which cuts are most acceptable”. At this point I lost the script as Premiership Managers like to say. That was because they added that sustainability will be a by-product. Ye Gods, this is even dafter than Clegg’s already abandoned “1000 ideas”.!
I have the uneasy feeling that this is another one from David Cameron’s ‘dreambox’. He followed the fanfare for the wellbeing scheme by saying that “Wellbeing can’t be measured by money or traded in markets. It’s about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and, above all, the strength of our personal relationships”. Spot on there Dave but what do any of those things have to do with the government?
I may be the odd one out on this but it seems to me that what most people want is less involvement with politicians, not more. Many of us derive great pleasure from laughing at them, or complaining at their ineptitudes’ and that is probably the extent of their influence on our personal sense of well being. For what it is worth the one national survey of ‘happiness’ has shown little change over the past three decades. Ministers have come and gone, recessions and boom years too, but the average Brit has remained constant in his or her joy or misery.
I sense that David Cameron means well and, unlike his deputy, is as straight as they come. But he does seem preoccupied with a vision that no one else can fathom, a sort of benign big brother who loves, and is loved by, all. I hate to disillusion an idealist but people were happy under such diverse characters as Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown not because they loved them but because they took the usual British perverse approach of mocking them. People loved the tales of counting ones fingers after a meeting with Blair, of not risking a meeting at all with Grumpy Gordon, of Lady Thatcher really being a man in disguise and of Major having his underpants outside of his shirt to please Edwina.
Probably his self understanding should tell the present leader that the best he can hope for is to be vaguely more popular that the others. But if he insists on maintaining the tempo of a new, barmy and impossible-to-understand idea every other day I suspect that he will create a reputation for being even more boring than Sir Alec Douglas-Home. Never heard of him? The ultimate accolade for a bore!
The Daily Mirror can usually be relied upon to flay fat-cat bankers alive but it was strangely quiet over the news that the state-owned Northern Rock is paying departing boss Gary Hoffman £500,000 of taxpayers money to stay at home for six months before he joins rival bank NBNK.
Strange because the rest of the Fleet Street hacks had a field day. In fact so great was the uproar that within 24 hours it was announced that Hoffman had decided to waive the ‘ golden goodbye’.
We can only speculate as to the silence of the ‘people’s champion’. Surely that had nothing to do with the fact that Hoffman is a non-executive director of Trinity Mirror, the owners of , er, the Daily Mirror?
BUY BRITISH…NOT LIKELY!
I am reliably informed that almost 90 per cent of the materials required for the building and staging the 2012 Olympics is being purchased from abroad. Sounds like we really have that opportunity sorted then!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 1975 2. The Labour Party
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which three Arab nations joined in a federation in 1971? 2. With what unusual crime was Joyce McKinney charged in 1978?