Posts Tagged ‘Mr Osborne’
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
It was my turn to fetch the corn today. One of the sacks burst on the way back so I can confidently predict that she-who-must-be-obeyed will not be too pleased at sitting in what resembles Farmer Giles barn when we take our next spin. I did consider cleaning the car out but a chat with the man at the depot dissuaded me. We are, he told me, all doomed.
He ferreted under the stack of hay which serves as his chair, and produced a copy of today’;s Guardian. It reports that Britain’s fragile recovery was dealt a severe blow yesterday after figures revealed a slump in household spending. This, it continues, could severely restrict growth and knock the government’s debt reduction plans further off course. Danny Gabay, of Fathom Consulting, says that Britain is already back in recession if exceptional items are stripped out of the Office for National Statistics revised GDP figures.
The only surprising aspect of all this is that Osborne and his zillion advisers had not anticipated that household spending would plummet. By their own figures unemployment is set to rise to almost 9% by the end of this year and one can safely assume that at least another 20% are liivng in fear of it. Throw in the rocketing inflation on the cost of food, the rocketing costs of power, the zero returns on savings plus many other factors and you have the obvious conclusion that people must cut back.
It is hard to find an economist who doesn’t believe that the strategy of eliminating the deficit in one parliament is a potentially disastrous one. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that if buyers are forced to buy less, producers will produce less and employ fewer people. Hetal Mehta, UK economist at Daiwa Capital Markets, said yesterday that we now face contraction and there are “ significant weaknesses in the UK consumer sector”. Mr Osborne needs to dust off his Plan B and fast!
One gathers that David Cameron was bitterly disappointed that President Obama did not endorse the rate at which the coalition is making cuts. Given the American approach of using growth as the stimulant that was hardly surprising. What is surprising is the preoccupation with the NHS at a time like this. The £20 billion cut in funding will be difficult, but to at the same time launch a massive and contentious reform is madness. It will offset any savings and occupy ministers for months ahead.
It has been apparent from the start that this government has a stubborn streak. It refused to listen to the outcry aginst the sale of the forests, it is effectively refusing to do so over the NHS. And, worst of all, it refuses to listen to economists the world over. There would have been no shame in announcing a fall-back position, and it is still not too late.
I confess to finding it all confusing and depressing in turn. I cannot even work out where the money that the Bank of England lends comes from. All I know is that a lot of reputable economists and thinktanks are saying that we are heading for a financial collapse, the like of which few have ever seen.
Perhaps we should all have a Plan B? Head off to a tropical paradise such as Fiji. I loved it when I visited. The good news was that there is no nincompoop like Osborne in charge. The bad news? No allotments, no cricket!
THE ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Zulus 2. Phyllis Nelson 3. Jose Maria Olazabal 4. Aldeburgh 5. Tracy-Ann Oberman 6. Varicella 7. Stereophonics 8. Robbie Coltrane 9. National Theatre 10. Alan Alda (of M*A*S*H fame).
DO PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU MANAGED 7 OR MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The suggestion of frost hung in the air this morning and we retired to the shed as quickly as possible. We had company because a robin has taken up residence. Robins have a touch of the Andy Gray about them and are certainly not the friendly creatures depicted on a zillion cards. This one, having decided that a heated room complete with sacks of corn represents good digs, regularly attempts to drive us out and is not averse to a flying attack. But today we were too preoccupied with Tom’s story to pay too much notice. He was on the warpath for a local garage which, he claims, failed to tighten his wheelnuts on service. The result was that one of them overtook him as he drove down Headley Way. We did make the point that it is always prudent to check such things personally lest some apprentice was hungover.
It prompted me to wonder if the coalition is aware of the dangers of wheels coming off. I am no economist but it is hard to escape the worry that the economy is heading that way. A lot of finance wizards are set against the idea of cutting at the speed of light whilst trying to create growth. Yesterday we learned that the UK growth has ground to a halt and George Osborne’s explanation of too much snow sounded suspiciously like straw-clutching.
Indeed there were various other statistics guaranteed to have us reaching for the worry beads. Inflation is up to 5 per cent and climbing, as is unemployment. Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, issued a warning that wages will continue to fall sharply in real terms, and every day brings fresh politically damaging stories of people who are falling into the poverty trap and beyond. Right now even the rosiest spectacles show only dark clouds.
Perhaps most worrying of all is the fact that the worst in curbing spending, such as the hike in VAT has yet to have its impact, and many within the coalition’s MPs are now calling for a coherent review with a view to examining the speed of the deficit-reduction plans set out back in June. But Osborne, backed by Cameron, is not for turning and is prepared to stake the future of the government on his high speed programme. The wheels are wobbling but he is driving on.
The nightmare for the rest of us is that by the time it becomes apparent that a double-dip recession is on the cards, it will be too late for anyone to do anything except rebel against the government, And there are already worrying signs that we heading for a summer of discontent. Such police as are spared the axe would be well advised to swat up on ‘kettling’ techniques!
Given his apparent indifference to the Channel Four cliams that he is avoiding personal tax to the extent of over a million pounds one can only assume that Osborne is either crass or arrogant. Then again I guess that if I was a multi-millionnaire I too might be slightly disinclined to worry about the rising cost of tinned beans.
To be fair we may find by the autumn that the worries of various experts including Ed Balls and Vince Cable were groundless. But the wheels are definitely wobbling and a pause to check the nuts might be wise!
WISHING OUR LIVES AWAY!
I stood in a queue yesterday and began to wonder if I would be there for life. When I eventually reached the counter I realised that people had been choosing Christmas cards. They were reduced in price but discussions about Aunty Ethel liking snow scenes took time. Are they all mad?
From there I went to a supermarket where I found a shelf laden with Easter Eggs. These were not reduced in price but there were people discussing their respective merits before wheeling their trolleys to the cashout. Are they all mad too?
Perhaps it is just me being a grump but I can’t help wondering if we are wishing our lives away. Or if these folk can find nothing better to do. After all there are vast numbers of voluntary groups crying out for help.
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ” I still miss me ex, but my aim is improving”….Woody Woodbury. ” I never even approved of divorce until I got married”….Diane Ford “I’m not upset about my divorce. I’m only uposet I’m not a widow”….Roseanne. “My husband and I divorced over religious reasons. He thought he was God, and I didn’t”…..Vera Foster. “I come from a wealthy divorced family. My Mums wealthy, my Dad’s divorced”…..Pauley Shore ” I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back”….Zsa Zsa Gabor. “I was so horrified when I read about the harmful effects of smoking that I gave up reading”….Henny Youngman. “If smoking is not permitted in heaven I won’t go”…Mark Twain.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. John Ford 2. The cello.TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Of which country was Sean Lemass (died 1971) a former leader? 2. Who became famous for mysteriously bending spoons? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
A flurry of snow triggered mass panic this morning. The fact that the December freeze was the worst for a century has not dispelled the paranoia and the chicken and ferret keepers alike see convinced that we will get another dose before the daffodils break surface. And you know what they say about being paranoid, it doesn’t follow that there isn’t something awful awaiting you. But for now a calm order has been restored and we were able to moan about something other than the Council’s invisible gritters. And what more topical subject could there be than VAT?
A couple of the gang once earned their crusts in accountancy and they are amazed that Osborne’s defence of the VAT hike has gone unchallenged. His case is that cash must be found to slash the deficit and no one is likely to dispute that. It is his argument that the only alternatives were National Insurance contributions or income tax rises. Rubbish is the view of my numerate pals. They contend that the chancellor is pandering to the powerful and by so doing has scored an own-goal. The VAT rise is unpopular and it will damage any green shoots of economic recovery. He is said to be cutting 500,000 jobs in the public sector, the VAT rise will make replacement posts in the private sector far less likely.
According to John and Alec the alternative was clearly to tackle the powerful, all the signs point to the coalition being scared of the big-spending lobbyists and particularly those in the financial sector. A couple of threatening speeches from Osborne and Cable were met with a barrage of threats about financiers heading for other countries and, hey presto, all is forgiven. The bonus tax levied by Alastair Darling was described at the time by most experts as too soft but compared with what is happening now Darling was the equivalent of Attilla the Hun.
Yesterday was a generally bad day for Mr Osborne. He returned from his widely criticised luxury Swiss ski break, which suggested limited self understanding, to find most of the national papers carrying adverts which portrayed him as ‘the Artful Dodger’, a campaign launched not by the Labour party but by the ’38 Degrees’ group which is non-political, already boasts 250,000 members, and alleges that the Chancellor’s family avoided £1.6 m.in tax Then he got himself into an awful knot in trying to explain why he believes that VAT is ‘progressive’ yet David Cameron sees it as ‘very regressive’.
Regressive indeed and the money that ministers are asking the public to raise could be raised in five minutes by calling the bluff of the richest section of the business community. So long as they shy away from this confrontation, and instead hammer the poorer sections of society, there will be widespread dissatisfaction. Few of us have the expertise of people like John and Alec but we know enough to realise that what is happening with banks is equivalent to pardoning the Great Train Robbers, letting them keep their loot, and applying a levy on everyone else to make up for the cash stolen.
The bankers have walked away from the debacle they caused scot free, with almost a trillion pounds of public money in their pockets. There was not so much as a compulsory lending ratio on their books. And the bankers rejoice. The big four are soon to reveal that some 200 in each of them earned over a million pounds last year. They have also rewarded themselves with personal bonuses of £7 billion over Christmas. That alone represented two fingers to the public and three times the money to be raise by the VAT rise.
There is no VAT or other transaction tax on banks. Money that properly belonged to share-holders and, in many cases, taxpayers , simply walked off the premises. It is as if a state-subsidised car manufacturer decided to allow its employees to take home half a dozen cars each Christmas!
Many of the cuts being applied by this government are justified for the waste of the previous regime was horrifying. Need an example? The multi-billion pounds NHS IT system that never worked will do to be going on with. But Osborne has fallen at an important fence. He needed to win over the public, to prove that we are truly all in this together. Visit any of the central London bars where the financial people gather and you will hear the popping of champagne corks.
They simply cannot believe that they have got away with it. And neither can the rest of us!
BUT IS AN AUSSIE THRASHING A GOOD THING?
England ended the day in a strong position at the Sydney Test. It is hard to know who to praise most in what has to be the fittest and most talented England team for many a year. The only slightly sad thing is that Paul Collingwood is nearing the end of his illustrious Test career, but there are a number of execellent young replacements waiting in the wings.
Australia seem to lack any back-up and, with the exception of the one brilliant spell by Mitchell Johnson, have looked a poor outfit. And that isn’t what devotees of Test cricket wanted to see. Yes, we longed for a winning series but we now worry about the effect of huiliation on Australian support through the turnstyles over the next few years. I worked in Australia and was surpirised to learn that not everyone down under is a cricket fan. Many are but I often sensed that the attraction was the regualar display of Aussie invincibility.
If the team continues for several years to look born losers will the support hold up? One prays so for already attendances at Test cricket in most of the other cricketing nations is falling away sharply. In India the crowds now turn out mainly for one-day cricket, Pakistan has real problems, West Indies have lost most of their support and even South Africa is seeing a swing to one-day.
The lifeblood of Test cricket has always been the Ashes but it is hard to see other than one-sided games for some time to come.
But our side can only play what is fielded against them and they have been magnificent.
SOCCER QUOTE OF THE DAY; Alex Fergusson was asked if given a gun with one bullet would he use it on Arsene Wenger or Victoria Beckham. He replied ” Could I not have two bullets?”
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Airey Neave 2. 1971 (February)
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who won the Nobel prize for peace in 1979 for her work in Calcutta? 2. Which country won 17 of 29 track and field gold medals at the 1972 Olympics?
The golden autumn carpet crunched underfoot as we strolled down to the allotment this morning. I picked up a horse chestnut leaf and showed it around, commenting on the usual stuff about death and rebirth. Joe, who knows about such things, stopped me in my tracks. Apparently the UK chestnuts are being ravaged by a disease and our constant companion is another victim. There will be no rebirth. The revelation darkened my mood for it seemed a fair analogy for the Osborne massacre. If he proves right there will indeed be a national rebirth. If, as many suspect, he is wrong our economy will be on the way to destruction before next Spring arrives.
In terms of spin Osborne yesterday showed all the signs of learning from the new Tory ex-News of the World spin doctor. Or was it Jean-Baptiste Colbert, treasury minister to Louis XIV? He once said that the art of taxation is to “pluck the maximum amount of feathers from the goose with the least amount of hssing”. Osborne has certainly succeeded for polls suggest that the majority of the electorate is pleased with what he has done. But for how long will the benign mood envelop the nation?
My skills in economics are equivalent to those of Fifa in public relations so I hesitate to even predict. But even this ignoramus is worried at the news that his review coincides with a marked slowing down in the economy and the latest survey of trading prospects has softened markedly since the summer. The housing market is in the first stages of a double dip, consumer and business confidence is weak and high street spending is easing back. Certain it is that Mr Osborne is gambling for high stakes.
Being a politician he is also lying through his polished teeth. One reason for the favourable public reaction may well be that he has succeeded in creating stereotypes. People on benefits are those who lie in bed whilst the rest of us work, local authority workers are overpaid and under-employed. Both images truly fit only a miniscule number but the imagery helps to sell the massive cuts in both benefits and employment. As the truth dawns we can expect trouble. Fortunately we Brits are very different to the French, Spanish, Italians et al for if anyone announced a revolution here no one would turn up should it be raining. Which is just as well since the cuts in police numbers plus the strange announcement that millions fewer will go to prison hardly sound like the words of a government preparing to man the barricades.
Incidentally the troubles in those countries suggests that the coalition line about this all being down to Blair and Grumpy Gordon is somewhat misleading! I mention that since it gives me the cue to mention something that Osborne seemed to forget, the EU. Yesterday it was announced that our membership will cost us a massive £9.2 billion next year, this is based on an increase of £884 million, the equivalent to an additional 14,000 NHS doctors, 29,000 nurses, 34,000 Bobbies or 52,000 army privates. Small wonder that Tory MEP Daniel Hannan has described his collaegues acceptance of such largesse as undermining attempts by national governments to cut costs.
The other omission from the Osborne rantathon was the news that the banks are reported to be very relieved at his lenient treatment of them. But then we shouldn’t be surprised at that since he insists in believing that the financial setor was not responsible for what has happened, a view that even the Governor of the Bank of England does not share. In fact the ballooning of Britain’s deficit mirrors exactly that of the average of the 33 most developed countries, from 1% of GDP in 2007 to 9% in 2009, as tax receipts slumped and unemployment payments rocketd in the wake of the crisis created by the worldwide Banks.
But at least we now know the plan. Of course we can ignore the empty rhetoric about broadest shoulders for even I realise that the loss of a few thousand a year is merely a setback to those of means, but to those on the poverty line will represent the difference between a roof over their heads and food on the table. And, sadly there is more bad news on the way for those at the bottom end.
The cuts to local authority funding are horrendous and they will have no alternative than to slash services. People with money in their pockets can cope, albeit grudgingly, with the loss of social services, libraries, leisure facilities and the rest. For those who live on a hand-to-mouth basis these will represen,t the final straw. Clever politics of course, for the blame will fall other than on Westminster.
But all of these nightmares will melt away if the economy begins to recover and the tills again ring to the sound of spending. If that happens Osborne will rightly be seen as the saviour incarnate. If things go the other way he will be reviled and the Miliband family will be heading for Number 10. One group is doomed whichever way things go. Given success the Tories will claim it and the obsequeous Lib Dems will be discarded. Given failure they will be blamed for allowing the massacre to take place in the very way they opposed during the election.
So there is one consolation. Either way it will be goodbye for ever to Clegg, Cable, Alexander and all!
TIME FOR FOOTBALLERS TO JOIN THE REAL WORLD!
Wayne Rooney could hardly have chosen a worse time to start grunting on about a wage demand of £250,000 per week. But he just may have triggered a desperately needed rethink by those that supposedly run our national game. It is out of control and heading for total financial and moral collapse.
Have these greedy and often obnoxious oiks any awareness of the real world? Do they realise that millions of fans spend almost their entire leisure money, and often most of the rest of their earnings, on making their obscene wages possible. Have they no self understanding to tell them that they are far from Gods, far from perfect solo entertainers?
Wayne Rooney could now do the game a great favour by moving abroad. Man Utd has shielded him from the outcome of loutish behaviour and spent vast effort on enabling him to hone his skills. If I were Sir Alex I would refuse to touch him with so much as a barge pole from this day on!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS ; 1. Billie Whitelaw 2. June Whitfield
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What landed 362 passengers at Heathrow for the first time in January 1970? 2. Who was fined £200 for the possession of cannabis in 1970?
As mentioned before, a variety of newspapers find their way to our allotment shed each day. The Daily Telegraph is far from being the ferret-market leader but its front page story did grab the attention of most who gathered for the morning moan. We have a new government but it seems that the age of sleaze is still rolling on, something of a surprise given the many protestations of innocence that peppered the general election campaign. According to the banner headline, the Tories are selling access to Ministers for £1000 per go!
The Conservatives are offering business leaders the chance to sit and dine with Ministers at a conference. The inaugural Business Dinner is being marketed as “an exclusive networking event” where guests will “enjoy good wines and superb food” and will be held inside the “secure zone” of the Conservative Party conference at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. George Osborne will be guest of honour and each table will be hosted by “a prominent Conservative MP”. However, application forms make it clear that business leaders prepared to spend £1000 per head can guarantee that they dine with “at least one serving government minister”.
These places of prestige will be known as the platinum tables which are guaranteed to be “prominently positioned” near the top table where none other than Mr Osborne will be seated and the diners will also get access to the VIP lounge plus reserved seats at the conference itself. Money raised will go to Tory Party funds and would-be guests are told that they must be on the UK electoral roll.
Now here’s the really clever bit. Because the fee for a seat is below the legal limit for declaring donations the lobbying businessmen will have their identities protected from the prying eyes of the media. It doesn’t fit well with the pledge made by David Cameron to introduce a “new politics”to restore public trust. During the election campaign he promised to reform party funding to “clean up our messy politics”.
So what does the Committee on Standards in Public Life make of all this? Well we do have the view of the former chairman, Sir Alistair Graham. He believes the Conservative stunt to be “unwise”. He believes that it gives the impression that you can buy the opportunity to influence government. Sir Alistair added yesterday that ” if you are trying to set a high moral tone this sort of thing is unwise. Governing parties need to be very careful about their fund-raising for the public reacts very strongly to the idea that you can buy the opportunity to influence ministers”.
How right the former chair is. This is grubby and a disheartening sign that the old sea of sleaze surrounding Westminster has not gone away. If I, as a businessman, wished to gain access to a minister I would be very happy to hand over £1000 plus the trimmings. Of course the minister may not be able to deliver what I want but one thing is for sure. If his subsequent actions facilitate whatever favour it is I seek, everyone that knew of my plan will automatically assume that he took the pieces of silver, or cheque in this instance, and performed a corrupt act despite the fact that the action was coincidental.
Such a stunt would attract little criticism of a party in opposition but for the government of the day to perform thus is disturbing. How many more revelations can we expect from the Telegraph? It is high time that we Brits stopped lecturing developing countries on corruption. It seems that we have plenty of our own to attend to! Before it is too late Mr Cameron should perhaps order a little study of Burns. ‘O wad some power the giftie gie us, To see ousels as others see us’ would seem apt. That way his colleagues might develop a little self understanding!
UNDERWEAR IS THE BIG SELLER!
The British Lifestyles Report, by research group Mintel, is out today and proves, if proof were needed, that our allotment gang is not typical of the population at large. In broad terms the findings are that households have tightenened their pursestrings to cope with the recession yet many long-term spending trends persist. A hefty chunk of our disposable income is devoted to alcohol, clothing and trips to the salon after we’ve taken care of the essential bills and transport.
After the credit-fuelled spending spree that sowed the seeds of the collapse, consumer spending contracted by over 6 per cent to £974 billion last year and the same trend is forecast for this. We have cut back on alcohol and drinks sales fell by 3.1 per cent even though the market is still massive at £38.4 billion. Even after the fall, the average Brit still spends an average of £622 on booze per year.
But the surprise of the report is that, despite the recession, expenditure on hairdressing and beauty is well up and the desire to look good is not confined to the ladies. The men’s ‘grooming’ market is up a whopping 50 per cent at £850 million. Demand for clothing and accessories also held up with spending reaching £46.2 billion, a small increase that equates to £750 per head.
Eating out has fallen off dramatically as have short-break holidays but amazingly underwear sales are up on past years and it couldn’t all have been for Lady Gaga! The other major movement against the trend as on feeding and clothing pets, where spending has increased by no less than 30 per cent over the past decade. The pets market now weighs in at £2.4 billion!
It is interesting to learn how others spend their diminishing income. But we codgers seem to buck most of the trends. We certainly don’t overspend on underwear ( patched long-johns can last many a year), we have not reduced our intake of ale and the amount we spend on beauty treatment, or even haircuts, is pretty low, nothing actually. As for pets, we work to the principle that what we can’t grow they don’t get.
But its all a bit misleading anyway. The well-to-do are the ones driving any expenditure other than the bare necessities. People on low incomes now facing higher VAT and benefit cuts will not be spending much on luxuries!
CRICKET; THE FINAL TEST
As I write, the final test match against Pakistan has provided only a dozen overs thanks to the monsoons but once the players take the field tomorrow this is, for England, the big one! The last thing they need is another humiliating defeat before preparing for the Ashes down under.
Hopefully someone has explained to a number of the batsmen that the idea this time around is to hit the ball with the middle of the bat! Sadly the news is that for Strauss it is already too late.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. America’s Cup (for yachts) 2. Swimming (200m breaststroke)
TODAY’S QUESTIONS: 1. With which form of handicraft did Erica Wilson make her name? 2. Which award did Sean MacBride share with Eisaku Sato in 1974?
Suddenly I am absolutely disillusioned with George Osborne. At first glance he appeared to be the answer to a bankrupt nation’s prayers. He said the right things and indeed did the right ones too when he stimulated the exposure of Fat Cat salaries. And when he announced the creation of an independemt Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to eliminate once and for all the presenting of statistics in such a way as to suit a poltical argument I actually purred. This was a move to equal the brave decision of the 1997 Labour government when it ceded to the Bank of England the right to set interest rates.
And that is why I chose as my heading the first line from that famous and wonderful Beatles number. It was line one of their longest single ( seven minutes and fifteen second)s and has always seemed to me the perfect plea to stay the courageous course and not to spoil a fine start. But Mr Osborne most certainly has. At first sight it seemed a slightly pale version of the 1997 Bank of England move since the hastily announced independent body consisted on day one of a three-person committee serviced by macroeconomists loaned by the Treasury. It was physically located in the Treasury with the Treasury handling all press inquiries.But I was reassured by the fact that the unit was headed up by Sir Alan Budd, a highly respected founder member of the Bank of England’s monetary committee and head of an Oxford College. Whilst the whole thing looked shall we say, slightly odd no one could doubt that Alan Budd wouldobject to political manipulation.
On the eve of the Prime Minister’s appearance for Questions last week The Guardian published a leaked Treasury document showing that the measures in Osborne’s budget would lead to the loss of 1.3 million jobs in the public sector. By the time that Cameron had risen to face the howls of protest of Labour and alienated Lib Dem members he had in his hand a report issued by the new independent OBR stating that such losses would be more than offset by the creation of millions of vacancies in the private sector. The immediate reaction was to wonder how such a small and new unit could have produced a study so quickly and was it a coincidence that it did so on the morning of Cameron’s ordeal by fire , and he is no Clint Eastwood!
Within 48 hours all hell was let loose as leading figures in the private sector lined up to ridicule the forecast.Then came a blast from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Europe’s leading thinktank. It made clear that any UK recovery will be ‘too muted to result in strong job creation’. It forecast that the UK rate of unemployment will remain at 8 per cent through 2011. The government countered that their figures had been produced by independent experts. But had they? Is the new OBR what Osborne says it is or is it a deception to match Blair at his best?
Suddenly we have a clue. Sir Alan Budd is to leave at the end of this month. The suspicion must be that his independence has been called into question by the shambolic way the affair was handled by Osborne. The Treasury claim that the report was Sir Alan’s attempt to make a contribution to the debate rather than a crude attempt to spare Cameron embarrassment. The explanation strains credulity. It also claims that Sir Alan wasionly on a short-term appointment , another claim that strains credulity given that those who know him expected at the very least that he would remain until a permanent appointment is made.
We need the Coalition to succeed in economic terms. But suddenly we sense that it is prepared to mislead us and that will make it far more difficult for the painful medicine to go down. Be honest with us Mr Osborne or any acceptance of what you propose will dissipate. You started well, don’t make it bad!
THE THURSDAY NEWS HEADLINES : Flints discovered on a Norfolk beach prove that man was present in the UK 950,000 years ago. Even Jimmy Saville wasn’t discovered then! XX The Prime Minister has promised a new model for public services, whatever that means XX Many GPs are already refusing to support the plan to switch financial control of the NHS to them XX Marc Bolland, head of M & S, has warned that the budget will hit sales XX Amazon is to launch a grocery delivery division. And why not? Tesco sells books! XX Washington and Moscow are to swap spies. And to think we thought they had all retired!
THINGS I LEARNED YESTERDAY FOR THE FIRST TIME; We are often overawed by what looks like a million stars but in fact only 2000 are ever visible even under the most favourable conditions. By international agreement the whole sky is divided into 88 constellations with fixed boundaries.
The initial euphoria which greeted the Coalition amongst the ferret-breeders appears to have evaporated. When we gathered in the allotment shed on the day after the election there was excitement in the air and it wasn’t simply because Albert had been bitten. He and several others, lifetime Labour supporters, had turned to the Lib Dems and their new-found hero, Nick Clegg, was about to take over the universe. Now he seems to have vanished and rumour has it that he has been kidnapped by a gang of aliens led by Michael Howard.
Our Conservative contingent were delighted at regaining power even though they were less happy about slumming it with Albert’s lot. The bunch that stuck by Labour seemed pleased at least that grumpy Gordon had gone and seemed prepared to give the Coalition a chance at solving the nation’s debt.
But, as Harold Wison once remarked, a week is a long time in politics. And several weeks is even longer! The natives are becoming restless! The view of many is that the new bosses are suffering from amnesia. They continually refer to the debt as having being caused by Mr Darling and his pals, which irritates several members who have come to regard the Banks as even more despicable than traffic wardens. To me the worry emerging is that young Mr Osborne seesm more concerned with political points scoring than problem solving. I also worry that Gordon and Alastair may yet be proved right about early cuts leading us back into recession.
None of us really understand all the nonsense about consultation. How could that possibly work? When twenty or so of us ferret folk mulled over the priorites for cuts it was quickly evident that there were at least a dozen divergent views. Nigel Lawson has described the talk of consultation as a PR exercise, a statement I find comforting since the thought of having in charge people mad enough to believe that talking to 50 million people would produce a consensus is not a happy one.
Most of us agree that tackling poverty should be a high priority. Sadly, almost every move announced so far seems destined to make the gap between the haves and have-nots even wider. Even revelations about the astronomic salaries being pocketed by heads of housing associations have earned nothing more than a frown.
But right now the new Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, is the one whose picture is being used as a dartboard in our shed. Several of our number are ex NHS workers and they are apopletic at some of his utterances. Ever the peacemaker I have tried to say that he is a decent cove even if he doesn’t know what he is talking about. But they show no mercy with the darts.
He seems to be off-beam in many respects. The announcement of a public enquiry into the terrible situation in Mid Staffs hospitals was well received but he added that he wished to know why the Strategic Health Authority(SHA) did nothing. It seems that that is exactly what they were expected to do since the hospital in question has Foundation status and does not come under the remit of SHAs. Foundations report directly to Monitor, an expensive regulator which sits in London and seldom if ever visits the hospitals it supposedly controls.
Even more bizarre is Mr Lansley’s view that the first target for red-tape cutting is the Accident & Emergency waiting time rule. In fact , my pals tell me, this is the only one of hundreds that actually achieves what it is aimed at. Take it away and expect the staff to be reduced and to return to taking half the local lbrary with you the next time you hit the wrong nail with your hammer.
In fact the Lansley prescription sounds suspiciously similar to all the other stupid ones dished out by politicans over the past decade or so. We are about to see yet more rules covering readmissions. Yet these account for only 30,000 patients per year out of the many millions treated. And talk of new financial targets is ludicrous. The NHS uses our money and usually uses it wisely. Fines are nothing more that monopoly money.
The NHS is arguably the most important service for the majority of families. Expectations of a new bureaucracy-free era were raised during the election campaign when Nick Clegg promised to abolish SHAs and other layers of pen- pushers and to trust the doctors. Let us hope that the men from Mars relaese him soon!
Our ferret-breeders club may not represent a cross section of the sort beloved by Mori but a straw- we use a lot of that-poll suggests that the Lib Dem support is now nil. About a quarter of members voted for them but they seem to have split beween those who have returned to the Milliband brothers and those who feel that since Caneron is king they might as well sit at his throne. The Lib Dems may well get their new voting system but will anyone vote for them when all this is over?
I’m still with the Monster Ravers for there is something about David Cameron that reminds me of a rooster I once owned. It was tall and handsome and crowed a great deal but when faced with a raging chook it headed for the shrubbery. Then again perhaps that is unfair since he has had the courage to have young Clegg abducted.
Anyway, for the next few weeks we will care not a jot. Come the World Cup final we will be dancing in the streets. Unless, that is, my forecast is as wrong as some fear the Chancellors’ to be !