Posts Tagged ‘Nick Clegg’
Being of less sturdy build than Eric Pickles we codgers were in danger of being blown off our ancient feet as we cleaned out the hens this morning. Bert the weather God had clearly decided that a gale force wind would inject a little variety into our mundane lives, and as is so often the case we sent curses in the direction of his control centre in the wild blue yonder. We can never make up our minds on global warming but, in common with every outdoor worker, we certainly believe that something is causing Bert to act in an increasingly Boris-like way.
It has to be admitted that as analogies go that is an unfortunate one, for Boris Johnson has been deleted from our Christmas card list. During a speech in honour of Margaret Thatcher yesterday he chose to echo the words of Sir Keith Jospeh of 40 years ago in which he warned of the dangers of “excess reproduction by women from social classes 4 and 5″. Low intelligence was, said the then leader of the Tory right, threatening “our human stock”. Yes, mad Boris decided to return to the old right-wing obsession with IQ.
“It is,” said the mayor of London, “surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2% have an IQ above 130. Nick Clegg wasted no time in accusing everyone’s favourite clown of “unpleasant, careless elitism”, a way of regarding people as dogs. Fair comment, to which we can only add that Boris is once again contending that the right to steer the UK Titanic is the exclusive preserve of clever people like him.
It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves of the convention of IQ. Average is defined as 100, with the distribution calibrated – again purely by convention – to a standard deviation of 15. Seeing as IQ tests have evolved to secure the same bell-shaped (“normal”) curve found in physical natural phenomenon, it drops out as a matter of logic that roughly 16% of people will indeed be assigned an IQ below 85, and about 2% a score of 130+. Thses statements convey nothing about anything except the way that IQ is defined.
Many moons ago I was employed by British Leyland. Michael Edwards was brought in by Margaret Thatcher to “breathe new life into the state-owned giant, and he brought with him a South African psychologist. Every senior manager was subjected to an IQ test and the new management, including yours truly, was based on its outcome. The rest you know – the company plunged through one disaster to another. As a measure of potential success IQ is as useful as a boil on a boundary rider’s bum. It tells you nothing about work-rate, dedication, honesty, ability to relate to others or loyalty.
In fact a top ranking in intelligence is a minus point in such a devious and dishonest profession as politics. Put aside the need to be honest or hard working and you are right up there in politics! But in real life it is a different matter.
Sadly it is the influence there of people such as Boris Johnson that stands in the way of true equality of opportunity. Like most of our leading politicians Boris comes from a privileged background, one that automatically ensures attendance at a public school which multiplies the chances of entrance to Oxbridge tenfold. And it is there that individuals become part of the greatest obstacle to progress in life, the old boys network.
Hardly a day passes but we read of some prestigious appointment going to people who just happen to be friends of the establishment. Today’s offering is the new chairman of Natural England. Andrew Sells was, we are told, chosen by ministers “purely on merit and intelligence”. It is presumably a coincidence that he has donated £111,250 to Tory party funds. Not a political point since every Blair appointment was along the same lines.
Despite it all there still are some determined people who make it to the top of their chosen profession, notably in the world of science and medicine. But they do it in spite of the societal system, not because of it. And interestingly a lot of them did not feature in the top 2 per cent of a meaningless IQ test!
Think again Boris. Being an intellectual snob does not give you the right to pour cold water over millions of ambitious kids!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” The danger is if you start taking such a deterministic view of people because they have got a number attached to them, in this case an IQ number, they are not going to rise to the top, that is complete anathema to everything I’ve always stood for in politics. It is unpleasant elitism that suggests we should give up on a whole swathe of fellow citizens”…..Nick Clegg
It was, as they say, a bit nippy on the allotments this morning. We recently acquired a stock of black hoods which pull down over the head to protect the jaw and neck ,and a casual observer might have concluded that the Great Train Robbers were planning a repeat performance had they seen us cleaning out the hens. The problem is that they are all of one Eric Pickles size and whilst some of us were struggling to breath, others such as Albert wouldn’t struggle to accommodate Lady Gaga as a mascot.
Most of the chatter this morning centred around the 50th anniversary of Dr Who, and last night’s excellent programme on the Beeb. It focussed on the doubts expressed by the top brass when the idea of a story line featuring space travel and Daleks was first muted. The screening of the first ever episode coincided with the assassination of President Kennedy and the faint-hearted reached for the axe. The enthusiastic producer was ordered to make no more than four half-hour slots of “the crap”. One week later over ten million tuned in and the crap became pure honey. Fifty years on the idea of revisiting Agincourt still enthrals those of us who find todays world less than exciting.
Beneath last night’s glitz about Bill Hartnell there was, whether intended or otherwise, an underlying moral. Never abandon a dream at the first hurdle. It should surely be adopted by our dear leader in regard to his “Vote blue, go green” promise of just three years ago. According to the Sun he has become unnerved by the ever-rising energy prices to the extent that he has taken to storming around his personal tardis ordering all and sundry to get rid of this “green crap”.
That would, we believe, be a huge mistake. Yes, the so-called big six energy suppliers need to be brought to heel and subjected to real competition, but the fate of the environment is even more important. Over the past few days new scientific evidence has emerged suggesting that, contrary to popular belief, the earth’s climate has continued to warm over the past fifteen years. Given the succession of appalling weather events that shouldn’t surprise us. It all reinfiorces the view that we owe it to future generations to hold our nerve and to continue to set an example by reducing greenhouse gases.
And there is another reason for urging our dear leader to hold his nerve. Yes, there is good reason to question expenditure on windmills that cost more than they will ever save, but it is folly to abandon projects such as insulation which, to quote Nick Clegg, will keep bills down in the long run by preventing the present horrendous waste.
If David Cameron is in the mood for crap-cutting there is plenty to go at without jeopardising the planet. He could put ideology aside and examine the wisdom of privatising every conceivable service. We now know that contracting out parts of the probation service to Serco has put the public at risk, and torpedoed the prospect of offenders seeing the error of their ways. We now know that the one railway franchise in public ownership is producing a handsome profit and a better service than any of the for-profit ventures, and there is no justification for change.
He could resolve to stop his endless point-scoring which convinces no one and merely serves to bring politicians into even greater public contempt. What is the point of devoting his time and volatile emotions to the Labour links with the Reverend Flowers when to do so merely prompts the opposition to exhume for the umpteenth time his own links with the Murdoch clan and all the old stories of donor influence? Right now we all know that our political parties are corrupt, wouldn’t it be better to break the cancerous mould?
Above all else it would surely be a giant step forward toward saving our democracy were the prime minister to give a lead in listening to the people, instead of employing an army of spin-doctors to bombard them with propaganda as transparent as a stripper’s chemise.
By way of a start he should perhaps glance at the latest opinion poll on the need to counter global warming. Almost 70 per cent see this as anything but “green crap”!
PS; Observant readers may by now have noticed an apparent reluctance to mention the Brisbane Test match. We can only suggest that instead of an 82-page booklet on what to eat, the England team should perhaps have been provided with one on how to bat!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Some people go to India to find the mystery of life. I’m still trying to work out how to start my car!”……Rodney Dangerfield
Today is Albert’s 81st birthday, a milestone he marked by bringing a bag of Tesco doughnuts to the allotments this morning, the wee man’s generosity knows no bounds. We practiced the art of delayed gratification by delaying consumption until the hen-cleaning was done, after which we gathered in the hut to begin our Eric Pickles impersonations. With the honourable exception of Albert, who is as thin as the meat between a mackerel’s eyebrows, we codgers are all blubber-carriers but, being of advanced years, subscribe to the eat drink and be merry school of thought. Hopefully the rest of the maxim will not come to pass since tomorrow we are due to fumigate the greenhouses.
We usually mark each passing day with an update on MP’s expenses – it is reassuring to be reminded that the people’s representatives are doing their bit for the ever widening gap between the haves and have nots, and today’s hero is former Labour minister Denis MacShane who has admitted filing nearly £13,000 of bogus parliamentary expenses. His guilt was reportedly uncovered by a Commons investigation in 2010, but remained hidden from Knacker under parliamentary privilege. Friends of MacShane last night claimed that many other MPs had made similar claims. Clearly they fail to realise that we prefer our scandals by a drip-feed process.
Joking apart, it does concern us that most people seem blissfully ignorant of about just how unequal Britain has become, both poorest and richest imagining themselves much nearer the centre than they are. Nick Clegg is a master in the art of capitalising on this when he pretends that raising income tax thresholds helps the poor most when he surely knows that of the billions already spent on this, three-quarters has gone to the upper, not the lower half of earners. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies points out, tax credits and benefits are what most affect the bottom fifth of households, not tax rates. If Clegg sincerely wanted to help the poor, he’d raise their pay or their credits.
Yesterday we noticed two news items which illustrate perfectly the incredible wealth gap that is opening up. When Trevor Matthews joined Aviva from Friends Life he received a “golden hello” package of £2.2 million, that included a £470,000 cash payment. At the other end of the scale the number of hospital malnutrition cases doubled. Primary and secondary diagnoses of severe malnutrition hit 5,499 last year and is rising at an alarming rate. Meantime the number of people fed by food banks reached 350,000.
The Archbishop of Canterbury urged the ‘better-off” to give 10 per cent of their Christmas spending to food banks. Good idea, but we have an even better one. Companies such as Amazon will make substantial profits from British consumers over the coming weeks, yet pay virtually no corporation tax. Ministers should publicly challenge them to donate to food banks. The need to maintain a good image just might persuade them!
Then again the man driving the wealth gap even further just might veto any confrontation with his friends. Gorgeous George Osborne lives in a world that chooses to believe that food banks are for scroungers. But even he seems to be becoming increasingly aware of the fact that crushing what he calls ‘ordinary people’ may have electoral consequences.
How else do you explain the fact that not a week goes by without our chancellor appearing on the news clad in the outfit of a manual worker? We have almost forgotten what he looks like without a hard hat!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it!”…..Ken Livingstone
On dark mornings such as this we find ourselves wondering why anyone in their right mind would elect to come here. Of course we know why but as we performed our imitation of drowning rats whilst cleaning out the hens it was easy to imagine that even easy hand-outs must be scant consolation. Having said that it must be admitted that we have had a decent summer this time around. Sadly it appears that Bert the God of Weather has decided to dampen our blue skies optimism.
It seems that, unlike us codgers, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is hanging on to his optimism. Today’s headlines tell us that he has warned the political classes that economic growth is not enough to make Britain a “healthy society”. He welcomes the indication that the Osborne austerity plan may be yielding fruit, but he emphasises the need for the creation of a “more caring society”. God bless the man, he clearly still imagines that politicians care about caring.
They don’t and never have. Providing that a majority of the population promises its support at the next election, they are perfectly happy to leave the rest to their fate. And right now that is a grim prospect given that any attempt to balance the books without collecting taxes must lead to cuts in services that hit those at the bottom of the income table with all the force of a sledgehammer.
There are still many caring people and organisations who perform valiant charitable deeds, a perfect example being all those who giuve oif their time to run the ever-increasing number of food banks but even amongst their ranks it is possible to sense a growing anger as they witness scenes that according to our crowing politicos simply don’t exist.
Brits are not given to protest but we are now witnessing an increasing number of public expressions of rebellion at misrepresentation covering many aspects of our daily lives. Even Nick Clegg has been moved to protest at the concept of free schools which employ unqualified teachers. Perhaps he will soon notice that the same dangerous cost-cutting philosophy is being applied to health.
Over the past few days I have been inundated with comments from supporters of Stafford Hospital where, in attempts to ‘sell’ the idea of privatisation, politicians and activists created an impression of a cruel, incompetent NHS which can be saved only by transferring services to private companies. If you turn to the comments attached to my piece about the possibility if our having been misled you will, I suspect, be shocked. Over 50,000 people took to the streets to condemn the web of lies.
We now have evidence that not only are politicians going to great lengths to exaggerate NHS failings and the virtues of private healthcare providers, they are enabling their pals to avoid the payment of taxes. Companies receiving lucrative Government contracts to run care services looking after tens of thousands of vulnerable people are avoiding millions of pounds in tax through a loophole nodded through by ministers and condoned by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
More than 30 companies, including some of the UK’s most recognisable brands, benefit from what is known as the quoted Eurobond exemption. The firms cut their taxable UK profits by taking high-interest loans from their owners through the Channel Islands Stock Exchange. By racking up large interest payments to their parent companies, they reduce their bottom line and cut their tax bill.
An example is ‘Partnerships in Care’, several of whose mental-health facilities have recently failed inspections. Examination of Companies House records shows that it ‘owes’ £321.9m to its owners, Cinven, a European investment firm. By paying interest of £29.7m on these borrowings in 2012, it helped to turn a healthy operating profit of £31.7m into a pre-tax loss leaving the group with a tax credit of £629,000.
Or take Tunstall, another favourite of ministers. It is ‘paying’ a 16% interest rate on its borrowings from its owners, the Charterhouse and Bridgepoint private-equity funds company. The firm, which provides services for the newly formed clinical commissioning groups, avoided up to £19m in UK corporation tax in 2012, after £76.1 m in interest on the ‘loans’ from its owners virtually wiped out its operating profit, leaving it with a tax bill of only £548,000.
The same practice is now being used by the vast majority of private companies awarded former NHS work. Many if them report that their arrangements have been approved by HMRC.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts committee said yesterday; “Companies have a duty to pay their fair share of tax relative to the profits they are making in this country. Yet it seems every week brings a new revelation of another business who is using artificial structures to move their profits out of the UK, seemingly for no other purpose than to avoid tax”.
The Archbishop’s dream of a caring society will remain just that so long as treasury income excludes a substantial part of tax due!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I find the case of these private health companies particularly depressing. They get their income overwhelmingly from taxpayer’s money, for the purpose of providing vital public services, yet do not appear to be making their fair contribution”…Margaret Hodge
The term gutter press crops up regularly when we codgers gather for our brewe after cleaning out the hens, and this morning was no exception. Several of our members had taken their daily dip into the Daily Mail with their cornflakes and, unsurprisingly, found their favourite read under heavy attack. To be fair their choice of paper is determined by their better-halves who enjoy the extensive coverage of fashion and other related subjects. Last year I travelled to London with a group of budding economists to be entertained to lunch by the Mail’s city editor, Alex Brummer, and it was only then that I learned that the Mail is unique in having a predominantly female readership. It explains a good deal about the circulation figures.
The current affairs coverage is hardly likely to attract any but the most rabid right-wingers, but to them it must fall as manna from heaven. During my years with the NHS I shared the rage of many at the constant invention, distortion and lies as the Mail attempted to undermine and destroy the service. That the rest of its ‘news’ coverage was slanted was taken as read.
But over the past day or so it has plumbed new depths. As part of its campaign aimed at destroying Ed Miliband it has chosen to launch a vicious attack on his late father, Ralph. Even Jon Steafel, the paper’s deputy editor, felt obliged to admit on Newsnight that the prominent featuring of a picture of Ralph Miliband’s grave was an “error of judgement”. It was good to hear both David Cameron and Nick Clegg expressing support for Ralph’s family, and the younger son in particular.
In fact the only leading politician who refused to condemn this extreme example of the gutter press in action was pompous little Michael Gove, no great surprise given that his wife, Sarah Vine, is a leading columnist at the Mail. No doubt her latest piece entitled “Sarah Vine: Making me Flab-U-Less” has cheered many.
It is not often that we codgers find ourselves in agreement with Alastair Campbell, but the decision of Newsnight to feature him alongside Steaful was a masterstroke. Campbell went crazy with rage. He launched a vicious attack on the widely loathed Paul Dacre, and tore to shreds the assertion that Ralph Miliband “hated Britain”. He recalled that Miliband senior served with distinction in the Royal Navy during the war and at no time ever gave the slightest indication that he “hated” his adopted country. Yes, he was not in favour of the monarchy or the established church, but since when is that an indication of hatred for Britain?
Campbell was not alone in his vitriol. The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith pointed out that the owners of the Mail had been enthusiastic supporters of the Nazis in the 1930s, and said it was “odd for a newspaper to judge a man on the basis of the history of his family when that newspaper is owned by a family that did more to pursue the Nazi cause pre-war than any other publication”. Leo Panitch, who worked alongside Ralph Miliband for 27 years said the Daily Mail article was a “scurrilous piece of extreme right-wing propaganda”. Nick Clegg tweeted that he supported Ed. “Politics”, he said, should be about playing the ball, not the man, certainly not the man’s family”.
When some years ago I was at University studying political history the publications of Ralph Miliband were essential reading. There was never the slightest indication that the author hated Britain. What he hated was the class system of his day, and the part played by such as the Daily Mail in influencing working-class opinion. He was dismayed by the resulting fear often induced in Labour party figures who, rather than standing up to be counted, responded by themselves accommodating of the reproduction of that system. I often found myself disagreeing with Ralph Miliband but never for one moment did I detect a hint of anti-Britishness. Such a suggestion is absurd.
Of course Ed Miliband can expect to be the subject of a continuing campaign of hate from the Mail as the election comes ever closer. Right now it is peddling the claim that his threat to the ‘big-six’ energy companies is a throwback to the old socialist love of nationalisation. Wrong again. What Miliband the younger is posing is an interesting piece of ideology. What do you do when markets do not work?
What do you do when markets do not generate genuine competition, when the consumer is forced to choose between companies offering the same essential services at the same prices. We have yet to hear a convincing answer from any coalition minister.
Much was made last night of the refusal by editor Paul Dacre to appear on Newsnight. We think that we know the reason. The October edition of ‘Tatler’ features a beaming Lady Rothermere, wife of the proprietor of the Daily Mail, throwing an admiring arm around the shoulders of Geordie Greig, editor of the Mail on Sunday, a job he owes to the patronage of milady Rothermere.
The same Greig recently defied an instruction from his editor-in-chief, Paul Dacre, that his sport department should share staff and resourcres with the daily title. And the selfsame Greig is letting it be known that he will be replacing Dacre as editor of the Daily Mail any t ime soon.
Should Dacre’s revolting portrayal of a family grave hit circulation it may happen even sooner!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY “Under capitalism man exploits man. With communism it’s precisely the opposite!”…..J K Galbraith
It was still dark as I drove along the M6 this morning. Dark, wet and depressing. I had promised to be back for the hen-cleaning, and felt frustrated by the vast range of trucks and cars impeding my progress. How strange it is that so many of us have to rush around at ungodly hours, just how important is the work that draws us from our warm beds? I do know various people who would use the local trains if only they were remotely reliable. How will HS2 help them?
Such random thinking always seems to emerge in traffic-jams, and this morning I made a conscious effort to focus on rather more momentous issues. Given that the radio was replaying the oratory of slick Nick Clegg I had to settle for that. In effect he was peddling the idea that coalition government is here to stay, and that the Lib Dems will forever serve as a brake on the mad people of the right and left. It is a clever ploy, one that just might see Master Clegg permanently entitled to all the trappings of power without troubling responsibility.
But it seems to me that the king of U-turners is right in one respect at least, politicians are going to have to get used to loss of absolute power. This is well illustrated by the ludicrous annual conferences. A decade os so ago they were meaningful in that the attendees were party members determined to have their say. In 1953 the Conservatives had 2.8 million members and the Labour Party 1 million. Today those numbers have shrunk to miniscule levels. The website ConservativeHome (which now stages its own conferences) suggests that the total party membership is below 100,000 – less that half the number when Cameron was elected leader. Labour’s number is harder to calculate given that the trades unions affiliate people without asking them, but the number becoming members by choice is probably even lower that the Conservative total.
The result is that the annual conferences are merely PR functions aimed at maximum TV coverage for political Oliviers. Policies are conceived and honed by a small coterie of aides in London and their masters are simply charged with the task of selling them.
What has happened is that the old concept of society being divided into a party of property and one of workers is dead. It was perhaps the advent of ‘New’ Labour that drove the final nail into the old order, that and the progressive elimination of the labour-intensive factory floors. In truth there is now little significant difference between the parties. Fiscal policy? Osborne now borrows more than even Grumpy Gordon proposed. There simply is no divide in opinion obvious enough and large enough to suggest why half the country should want to be on one side and the other half on the other.
Political affiliations are fading because the population is becoming less and less tribal. A few days ago we reported on the national attitudes survey which demonstrates that only a small percentage of the population now identifies with one political party. Just because we don’t think an air strike on Libya is a good idea doesn’t mean that we think free schools a bad one. Yet every election asks us to choose between baskets of policies. The political system offers us only fixed menus when most of us really want to go a la carte..
People have not lost interest in politics, merely in political parties. The success of groups like TaxPayers’ Alliance and 38 Degrees shows there is plenty of interest in political issues. But so many of these do not fit neatly into party labels. The result is a growing proliferation of minor parties. Ukip is an interesting example. Its founder, Alan Sked, has left because he believes that it is attracting members who are racist or anti-intellectual. He now wants to start up a new anti-EU party, this time one that opposes the so-called bedroom tax and seeks to nationalise the railways.
He is likely to be unhappy in any party for long. But then most if us in our hearts are Skeds; we find ourselves with a range of opinions which straddle the manifestos of all the major parties, and many of the minor ones too. The next election will see the birth of many more of the minor category. The Save the NHS party will field over a hundred doctors, does anyone disagree? But if elected under the present system the doctors would have to produce policies on many other issues.
Let me end with the future scenario as seen by a bunch of old codgers. The public has made it clear that it sees the idea of political parties as dead. But how do we kill them off? We are destined to trundle along being governed by two and a half parties which have ever fewer members, and no doubt end up being propped up with taxpayer’s money. But MPs are sensing the national mood and are likely to become far less responsive to the whips. Syria will be but the first of many ‘rebellions’.
In due course existing conventions will crumble. The Prime Minister and the main offices of state will be directly elected, encouraging more and more independent candidates to come forward. Every policy will have to command support in the Commons on its merits. Then the country could simultaneously vote for both welfare reform and a mansion tax without considering supposed party loyalties.
Yes it will be messy in a sense, a PM would be forced to work with people he or she had not chosen to work with. But that would resemble real life – what business is run along tribal lines, with two slates of executives constantly trying to do each other down?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “The public has decided that the future of democracy lies elsewhere: in popular protest, single issues and so on!”…Ross Clark
Bert the Weather God must be as angry as a Sunderland supporter or a pie-less Eric Pickles if this morning’s precipitation is any indication. We codgers have never served on one of those tossing trawlers so often portrayed on TV, but we felt empathy as we splashed about in our oilskins this morning. Cleaning out the hundred or so chickens was not a calming experience and their determination to leap on to every tray of muck made it even less so.
But even in our grumpier than usual mood we were probably ahead of slick Nick Clegg in the happiness league table. This morning a YouGov survey reveals that 59% of all those who voted Lib Dem at the last election believe that the party has got worse, with only 9% seeing it as having improved. To add to the young actor’s woes over a third of Labour voters say they will only contemplate a coalition if he is replaced as Lib Dem leader.
Throw in the fact that Uncle Vince Cable is making clear his distaste for what he sees as Clegg’s “phoney” economic debate at the annual conference, and the picture is near complete. Clearly there are those who are less than enamoured with the idea of jumping into bed with the most handsome opponent and to hell with principles. Not too surprising given that LibDems have traditionally been hostile to nuclear power, ‘unfair’ voting, badger culls , EU referendums, student fees and the user of state power to infringe personal liberty on porn or sexuality.
But another poll out today does offer a crumb of comfort for Mr Clegg. The Resolution Foundation asked people to choose the issue that they see as the one most likely to influence the way they vote. The majority chose a reduction in household bills as a means of improving living standards. At first glance the outcome is not overly reassuring for the party of Lloyd George, who must be spinning in his Welsh grave. Only 3% see the Lib Dems as having any worthwhile ideas. But a second glance reveals that only 7% and 5%% see the Tories or Labour respectively as having a clue either.
The other key question asked which party has the best ideas to bring wages into line with economic growth. Again the Lib Dems came last with only 4%, but again the Tories and Labour fared little better with 6% and 11%.
Some weeks ago we reported on the annual national attitude survey. This suggested a sharp reduction in the number of people identifying with any political party. Today we see this writ large. It is not just slick Nick and his disparate crew that have lost the trust of the people, to a considerable extent they all have with the possible exception of Ukip who seem to be spared the searching lights of the pollsters.
Despite the view of some experts that the Lib Dems will hang on to the seats they hold and thus be able to flash their garters at eager suitors, we still predict that after the election Nick will be able to hold his conferences in a telephone kiosk. That would leave us at the mercy of posh Dave or shy Ed. Not a thrilling prospect is it?
Perhaps it is time for Lib Dem President Tim Farron and Uncle Vince to make their move. The former has let it be known that he likes shy Ed, the latter is the only senior politician on offer who has worked as others work.
But they shouldn’t hide in the shadows for too long, for right now it looks very much as if the imaginary ballot paper box headed none of the above will be a clear winner!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle!”….Winston Churchill
The mist hanging low over the fields reflected perfectly our state of mind as we codgers gathered on the allotments this morning. Most of us had been to a late-night party, and were more in need of the hair of a dog than the feather of a chicken. Albert, who imbibed rather more than the rest of us, complained that the hens looked as big as Eric Pickles, to my bleary eye they appeared more like Wee Georgie Wood. It was fortunate that we were not scheduled to play in a Premiership match, though I imagine that the incentive of earning £200,000 a week would have enlivened us.
It was only when we gathered for black coffee that Jack reminded us that the party conference season has arrived. Not news to set the pulses racing. It doesn’t seem to have made much impact on MPs either, since 38 per cent of Tory members have let it be known that they are giving their event a wide berth. They are instead attending a private conference at a Chipping Norton hotel for a series of ’motivational’ lecture by the likes of Lynton Crosby and, presumably, such leading Chipping stars as Rebekah Brooks and Jeremy Clarkson.
The talks will doubtless include presentation skills, an art form now regarded amongst the politicos as infinitely more important than policies. Meantime our dear leader will head off to the MP-less Party Conference to stride the stage in true Olivier fashion. It is said that bullshit baffles brains. Maybe, but for us brainless ones it merely irritates.
Two of our three national leaders devote a great deal of time to the noble art of acting. Messrs Cameron and Clegg are reaching heights normally exclusive to the Palladium. The third, young ED, hasn’t quite mastered the art and is currently performing at the level of a nervous beginner at the local Rep. We sceptical ones are left wondering why British politics is so obsessed with so-called charisma.
We wonder if anyone has noticed that the highest trust rating recorded by any UK politician is 28 per cent, in other words more than 70 per cent listen to their role-playing and disbelieve every word. If so they may also have noticed that there is, not too far from these shores, a political leader with a rating of 80 plus. And she has not been coached in the art of charisma.
In fact Angela Merkel’s public speaking style is as inspiring as the Eurozone quarterly growth figures. Europe’s most powerful leader is, er, boring, snoring. She’s so cautious that she has the exact same jacket in at least 70 unadventurous shades and wears an identical outfit (one of the jackets with dark trousers) every day. If she was a British politician and appeared on Newsnight there would have to be another BBC inquiry, this time into allegedly sending the audience to sleep before bedtime.
A German election looms. Even there they have PR ‘experts’ and one such seized on Mrs Merkel’s habit of placing her hands together, fingers pointing downwards to create the shape of a diamond. He produced a poster featuring “The hands of power”, and was quickly rebuked. It means nothing, said the lady, “I do it because I never know what to do with my arms!”.
I report all this not to condemn Angela Merkel, but to praise her. She has few critics and even those who oppose her admit that she is honest and not easily deflected from what she believes to be right. The German people know only too well the dangers involved in ‘charismatic’ leaders and they have grown to love ‘Mutti’ (mummy) not least because she is utterly charisma-free.
Arguably the most trusted Prime Minister ever to choose the Downing Street curtains was Clem ‘the clam’ Attlee. By his standards Mrs Merkel is as exciting as James Bond. But he was trusted and respected. Sadly the new British penchant for televised debates would have destroyed him.
We codgers have a sneaking admiration for Ed Miliband. Our reservation is based on the fact that he seems decidedly short of policies. Our worry is that he too has become caught up in the phoney fever about charisma. If only he would settle for being boring and combine it with clear policies there would, we believe, be hope for the post-Blair Labour Party.
So no we won’t be following the Party Conferences. If we feel the need for make-believe scripts and polished acting we will go to the local 6-screen Vue cinema!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” I always knew that if all else failed I could become an actor – and all else failed!”….David Niven
Editors of national newspapers seem to draw false conclusions as to the reasons for reader loyalty. When, on Sundays, we codgers rest from our hen-cleaning chores various paper emerge from pockets and the Sunday Torygraph is usually in the ascendancy. Today it is preoccupied with Syria and dark tales of dark deeds by the British Communist Party – which we suspect now comprises an old geezer in Ealing and his rotweiller – in influencing Ed Miliband’s stance. Presumably the editor imagines that it is such fantasy that has us reaching for our two quid. It isn’t, we buy to read the excellent sports coverage.
In common with the rest ,the Telegraph is in essence a method of propaganda. Every story and article is slanted to the political right in the same way that the Mirror leans in the opposite direction. Today we learn that the one and only Dr Liam Fox is about to make a comeback, news that is supposed to have us gasping with the excitement we normally reserve for the fall of Aussie wickets. Our actual reaction is to ask where Werrity has got to.
It all serves to remind us of the hoo-hah about political party funding. Young Ed has made a mess of his handling of the alleged vote rigging in Falkirk, and the apparently whiter-than-white trades unions have decided to reduce their donations to the party they founded. Now Miliband the younger has decided to promise to limit by law party donations to £5,000 and to introduce an element of state-funding.
At the last election Labour spent £8 million, an amount now likely to be significantly reduced. But the Conservatives spent £16.7 million and they would be the more affected. The Lib Dems got through a mere £4.8 million. The grand total spent on campaigning was £31.5 million. For that money you can buy a lot of lies!
We codgers have a suggestion. Why not confine expenditure to the production and printing of manifestos? As I type the words I can almost hear the roars of disbelief from the assembled ranks of spin-doctors and imported American campaign-wizards. But boil down their so-called professions and what do you have. A total preoccupation with slanting, distortion and plain lies.
Is there anyone left on planet earth who believes anything they read in party pamphlets that clog up our letter-boxes? Only the party faithful, and they would have voted for the party of their choice anyway. Does anyone tune in to a party political broadcast and view it as anything but a piece of biased propaganda? Only the party faithful and their votes are already assured.
Even the vaunted leader’s debate at the last election were a distortion. Yes the three leaders were able to counter what they saw as falsehoods, but the winner was not the most truthful but the one best equipped in the Olivier art of acting. You may remember that Nick Clegg wiped the floor with Cameron and Grumpy Gordon but does anyone seriously believe that NC was telling the unvarnished truth. Students certainly don’t!
Arguably the worst orator ever to be Prime Minister was Clem ‘the clam’ Attlee. He would have been the ultimate cure for insomnia, but he proved to be honest, above influence and a great social reformer. Ed Miliband would run Clem close on the boring stakes but are we looking for an actor or a man or woman of their word?
If politicians wish to talk us round let them hold mass meetings in the unlikely event that anyone turns up. Let them get out on the doorsteps to meet real people. Above all else let then produce manifestos that spell out precisely what they will do if elected. The coalition has strayed so far from its pledges that one wonders if it has one of those satnavs that lead you up the equivalent of Al Capone’s garden path.
We realise that this is all somewhat revolutionary, it is about politicians telling the truth and nothing but. But surely even they realise that their credibility is now at an all-time low.
There is of course one major problem in today’s British politics. If all three parties were to drop embellishments and simply tell the unvarnished truth it would quickly be apparent that their policies are almost identical!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is that I don’t know which half!”…..Viscount William Leverhulme
The antics of our dear leader have long entertained us allotment codgers. His latest photo-call tops the list. Perhaps his posing in bathing trunks was an attempt to frighten Putin, but the effect on our bunch of pot-bellied hen-keepers was to increase our affection. Education and dosh apart, he isn’t so different to us!
Perhaps the millions of pot-bellied out there have reacted in the same way, for today’s ICM popularity poll puts David Cameron at the top of the leaders. Only 21% believe that Ed Miliband is doing a good job and a mere 17% say the same of Nick Clegg. Our hero romps home with 32%.
But wait a moment. We too are falling into the spin-doctors trap, the figures surely suggest that all three are damned by the electorate with the PM being slightly less unpopular that the others. In other words our long-held view that the people are sick of the lot of them is vindicated.
That is certainly true in regard to the Green-belt. Those green fields and woods are vanishing quickly and of the people in power only our favourite pie-eater, Eric Pickles, battles on to preserve them. The pot-bellied one and the dynamic duo of Miliband and Clegg seem to have no opinion at all and Gorgeous George Osborne is free to force through the destruction of what he calls an “irritating impediment” to economic growth.
Plans now exist for more than 150,000 homes to be built on Green-belt land. The sites include some of England’s most scenic areas, including parts of Dorset and the rural outskirts of York. In addition more than 1000 acres will be lost to office blocks, warehouses and the HS2 rail link.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) analysis shows that there are now dozens of areas of protected land where councils have given the go-ahead to development. No green area is safe, even Epping Forest is to be replaced by houses. Since local authorities were advised that rejected plans would be reconsidered by Inspectors the number of approved new houses has doubled since August of last year.
Nick Boles, the planning minister, has made clear that the continued escalation in EU citizens entering the UK make building inevitable. Given the influx the need for growth in building “trumps every other consideration”, says the developer’s hero. If the Bulgarian and Albanian are as currently forecast count your pennies and invest them in Bob the Builder!
To be fair some MPs are attempting to cry foul. Five weeks ago, Chris Skidmore, a Conservative MP, set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group to oppose development on Green-belt land. Twenty MPs have already joined, and protests about the emasculation of local authority powers are in the Westminster air. Sadly the ability of back benchers to influence anything is but a distant memory.
We codgers genuinely mourn the rapid loss of our fields. As on many other issues we yearn for someone prepared to stand up to Osborne. In our imaginations that someone should be the leader of what was once the people’s party. Sadly Ed Miliband seems to have no clear policies on anything.
Things have come to a sorry state when all that stands between us and the disappearance of our fields is Eric Pickles. We hope that his stature continues to grow - but not to the extent that he bursts!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY ” There are enough brown field sites to build 1.5 million homes and it should not be necessary to sacrifice our countryside!”…..CPRE yesterday.
Flying is not a description one would associate with what happens on the allotments, but we do have a surplus of the ants variety right now. Usually we see a sudden rush of activity from the wretched creatures which lasts a few days before the birds do us a favour. But this year the air continues to be full of the emergents from the ground as new queens leave the nest to mate and found their own colonies. But it seems that the long spell of hot weather has brought about a change, and here we are in August still waving our arms about like demented traffic policemen. Perhaps mating has been stimulated by all those long sultry nights?
Perhaps the rare encounter with a prolonged touch from Phoebe is also affecting the mating habits of humans given that the UK’s population is rocketing. In less than 12 months Britain’s population has soared by more than 400,000 to reach 63.7 million, by far the largest increase of any European Union member state. No fewer than 813,200 babies were born. There were 558,800 deaths and official migrant figures show an increase of 165,660. The birth total is the highest in this country since 1972.
Of course the ‘hidden’ statistic here is the number of EU citizens that continue to move in unimpeded. Simon Ross, the chief executive of ‘Population Matters’, an organisation which campaigns for environmental sustainability, says that the rise is “concerning” and adds that; “Our growing population is the root cause of most of our pressing problems, including a lack of housing, pressure on services and development threats to our countryside and green spaces”.
Sometimes items of news fit neatly together, and so it is this morning. Under an order approved by Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, the water companies will be required to consider fitting water meters with a view to billing customers with every drop of the wet stuff they consume. We are not in principle opposed to meters, but the fact that large swathes of the country are seen as vulnerable to drought is less than reassuring. But, we are told, the population growth is outstripping projected capacity!
We codgers are in danger of being labelled eurosceptics, but it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that being ruled by Brussels does have a rather large flip-side including more than the fact that half of our fellow citizens seem hell-bent on living here. Hardly a day passes but some new regulation hits the headlines, and today is no exception. The EU is to introduce its own birth, marriage and death certificates, a costly plan which can only be part of the multi-million pound campaign by the bureaucrats to tighten their grip on national identities.
For an official view on this who better to turn to than big Eric Pickles. He said yesterday that “From cradle to grave, Britons are now to be stamped with the EU flag, as Brussels starts interfering in people’s birth, death and marriage. This imposed Euro-law is part of an aggressive campaign to bully councils and public institutions into flying the EU flag and to remove the Union Jack and our Royal Crest from public life”.
We are, says the nation’s leading pie-eater, facing an ever faster “Euro-creep”. Presumably the rest of our political establishment have no view on the matter, no great surprise since our dear leader is absorbed in the greatest whistle-stop tour in history, and Nick Clegg subscribes to the view that EU emblems on our underwear are an absolute must.
We really do try to keep an open mind on things EU, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. In just 24-hours we learn that our population is rocketing out of control mainly thanks to the EU open-borders law, that vast sums are to be spent on frippery guaranteed to offend most Brits, and that symbols of national identity are to vanish at a greater speed than Eric’s supper.
We have no strong political beliefs but one thing is certain. Unless the Lib Dems and Labour commit to allowing the people a voice on future EU membership our choice in 2015 will narrow to Messrs Cameron and Farage! Ye Gods!
Considerable embarrassment was in evidence on the allotments this morning. Over the past week or so the resident cricket ‘experts’ have let it be known that the lack-lustre Australians would, when faced with Jimmy Anderson on his Old Trafford wicket, struggle to reach three figures. Yesterday ‘Pup’ Clarke scored more than that on his own!
But it seems that we are not alone in our tendency to make hasty and incorrect judgements. Our illustrious government continues to hollow out our public-sector services to such an extent that we are heading towards control of public provision of essential services by a handful of private monopolies. I took a look at the deeds of the Ministry of Justice. In 2010-11 it spent £578m on a clutch of private providers. The following year it was £614m. Last year it was £737m paid to such worthies as G4S, Serco, Sodexo, and Capita. How much would it have cost to retain the services ‘in-house’? No one knows!
But as lunacy goes this all falls well short of Whitehall’s greatest farce, the House of Lords. Yesterday brought the latest list of citizens entitled to dress in ermine. Gone are the days when political parties protested that donations played no part in the selection process. All three main parties proudly announced details of the amounts handed over.
The Conservatives included Sir Anthony Bamford, who has personally handed over £101,000 and whose companies have chipped in with an additional £4.7m. Howard Leigh has donated £219,002. Labour has chosen William Haughey, who has donated £1.3m, and Jon Mendelsohn whose record as a Labour fundraiser is impressive. The Lib Dems have honoured James Palumbo who has handed over £600,000 plus the use for campaigns of his London super-club. Also on their list is Rumi Verjee, who has donated £770,000 since May 2010.
Yesterday Lord Oakshotte, the Lib Dem peer, condemned the list. He said that it “polluted parliament and the political parties that collude in this corruption”. Few will disagree. But not only has the upper house become a place consisting mainly political donors, or placemen, it has become one of the largest legislatures in the world. The number of peers is now 785 and analysts are predicting that the 1000 mark is just around the corner given the ever-increasing rate of new appointments.
The original concept of a second chamber had much to commend it. A tight-knit group of independent thinkers with the remit of examining the proposals of the Commons was often helpful in calling for a rethink on the maddest draft laws. But those days have long gone, the Lords has become a means of winning party funding, and of ensuring that the will of the Commons is thwarted according to political allegiance.
The cost of this undemocratic and outsized circus is of course considerable. The cost expressed in terms of the credibility of politics is even greater. But we shouldn’t be surprised, for in any argument about reform Nick Clegg is cast in the role of judge and jury. He was thwarted in his attempt at moving to an elected chamber, and has now reached the point that he almost wants the institution to look absurd so that the electorate realises that whatever the demerits of elections to a second chamber, the status quo is even worse.
In that at least he is clearly right. But the question as to whether we need a House of Lords at all must surely be faced. How can we go on forcing people to rely on food-banks whilst pouring public money into a corrupt Whitehall farce of which Brian Rix would surely have been proud?
Even the thunderstorms won’t come to Wigan. The end of the heatwave has proved something of a dry squib in our neck of the woods, no thunder and not much rain. In fact we are less than sure that the heatwave has ended at all, for many a droplet of sweat descended from ancient brows as we cleaned out the hens this morning.
Having decided that the new baby should be called Marmaduke we quickly moved on to other topics today. The former bankers amongst us – who now claim to have been estate agents – are appalled at Gorgeous George Osborne’s £130 billion gamble with the housing market. They seem convinced that his concept of a mere 5% deposit on homes up to £600,000 is going to rebound in rocketing house prices and a further giant increase in debt.
Those who once worked for the NHS, including yours truly, are besides themselves with incredulity at the near-panic regarding the shortage of consultants in A & E units across the country. Unsafe, scream ministers. Of course it is unsafe but they are the people that brought it about. The cost of the crazy Lansley reforms plus the imposition of £20 billion of ‘efficiency cuts’ has impoverished most Foundation Hospitals. The worse than useless regulator Monitor has enforced the budget cuts, and hospitals have been forced into staff reductions. And since consultants are the most expensive employees they have been the obvious target. Well done Monitor, we wouldn’t trust them to regulate our hen-runs.
Frankly it is time for politicians to stop playing politics with so many key services. And pigs might fly, I hear you say. But the suggestion is a logical one since the outcome of the 2105 electon is a mathematical certainty. I say this having had dinner yesterday with a friend who is a bigwig of the Institute of Mathematicians. John loves maths in the way that most of us love cricket or ferret-racing. He delights in explaining such mysteries as why when the captain of a Jumbo jet calls for a doctor there is always one amongst the 365 passengers. Last night he was in expansive mood on the subject of our electoral system.
Very simply, the battleground on which British elections are fought advantages Labour. Its vote is distributed more efficiently than that of its main rivals. While the Conservatives stack up support in seats they already hold, Labour’s vote is spread more evenly. John Major would have won the 1992 election by some 60 seats, rather than by 21, had the Tory vote been spread as evenly as Labour’s. Today there is great excitement in Tory circles at the news that their party is almost level with Labour in the opinion polls. But here’s the rub. Level ratings wouldn’t come close to delivering the Cameroons a Commons majority, to achieve that they would need a double-figure lead and that isn’t going to happen.
Mr Cameron knows that, and that is why he sought to bind the referendum on AV, which the Lib Dems wanted, with a smaller House of Commons. That would have greatly reduced Labour’s statistical advantage. But the deal collapsed, ostensibly because Clegg et al were offended by Tory attitudes to AV. In reality the likelihood is that Clegg saw the present distribution of seats as his guarantee of sufficient seats to make certain another coalition.
Our dear leader knows only too well that he faces mission impossible if an overall Tory majority is the aim. In addition to the spread, he also faces the ‘nibbling’ effect of Ukip and the fact that Left-wing Lib Demmers have drifted toward Labour. If the graph sketched by John is any guide, it is psephologically impossible for him to deliver a working majority for the Tories.
All of which proves just how uudemocratic is our first-passed-the-post system. It also suggests that when he told Andrew Marr, on Sunday, that he aims at a Tory victory he was acting as if from the Pinocchio school of truth-telling. He knows it, his bankbenchers know it and Nick Clegg knows it. They all know that for the next two years the PM has no alternative to saying one thing and planning another.
We are likely to see a kind of two-step dance. Cameron and Clegg will seemingly step back from each other before once again joining hands. They will wish to demonstrate two things. The parties are seperate entities, but they are working together in the national interest, irksome though that may be.
Both Tory and Lib Dem party members will be less than happy when 2015 brings a re-run of the Rose Garden love-in. But what alternative will they have?
All this assumes mathematically that Ed Milband is not able to make huge inroads in Tory and Lib Dem seats. That sounds as likely as the Aussies winning the Ashes series for any party only one term out of office has enormous problems in proving that it has changed its spots.
So, on the assumption that the maths are correct, we are set to endure two years of futile political abuse and points scoring. Not a happy thought is it?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY ” It is far from impossible that, come 2020, Mr Cameron will have equalled Margaret Thatcher’s tenure in Downing Street – without having won a single election to compare with her hat-trick!”……Paul Goodman of ConservativeHome
We codgers are determined not to complain about the heatwave, having moaned non-stop about the rain and cold winds. But it has to be admitted that it is causing a few problems on the allotments. A number of hens have succumbed to the high temperatures, and our runner beans are hanging their heads despite the applicaton of many a bucket of Adam’s ale. Meantime Albert, now back from Porthmadog, has somehow managed to put our fridge out of action and is as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip.
And whichever giant brain decided to sell off the national plasma bank to an American private equity firm is equally ill-regarded this morning. For obvious reasons this national health asset is extremely important, and the idea of handing it to an equity company with none of the safeguards in terms of governance is bizaare. Ministers were quick to point out that Bain Capital was co-founded by US presidential candidate Mitt Romney. This snippet is supposed to have us say well that’s okay then. But we don’t. We find the obsession with privatising every essential service both ridiculous and extremely dangerous.
We include our schools in that sentiment, given Michael Gove’s obsession with so-called Academy versions. In fact everything that he does strikes us as divisive and part of his drive to seperate the high-flyers from the less talented. Now we learn that Nick Clegg has woken from his slumbers to announce a plan to introduce tests for five-year-olds.
We understand the supposed logic here, but presume to suggest that five is too late and tests are too blunt an instrument. The gap in cognitive development between children from advantaged and disadvantaged homes is observable long before they reach primary school. Tests are no substitute for the in-depth knowledge nursery staff have of the children in their care. Heavy investment in early years education would facilitate the identification of children already falling behind their peers thus providing the trigger for programmes that emphasise play, reading for pleasure, socialisation and empathy.
In fact we find ourselves out of sympathy with the whole drive for more and more tests at all ages. Research has shown that our children are more worried about tests than in any other developed country. Yet what contribution to education does comparing pupils make? Gove’s plans to place all pupils in a league table ranked according to ability will lead inevitably to a world where only the kids at the top count rather than one in which “very child matters”.
Readers old enough to remember the ‘eleven-plus’ exams may well share our view. Even now, after so many years, one meets people who still feel a sense of inferiority based on failing to score high marks in a one-off instant test. As in Gove’s plans of today no attention was paid to teacher’s appraisal of effort and progress, even the most talented kid could have an off day induced by nervousness and it was no uniform for you as your peers headed off to grammar schools.
It is interestig that politicians often choose to compare our national literacy levels with that of Finland. That, they tell us, is the standard we should aim for. Perhaps they haven’t visited Finland. Yes, there are consistently high standards, huge levels of teacher satisfaction, minimal social selection and an education sector that is lauded throughout the world. But there are no inspections, no punitive lesson observations and minimal testing. And children are not taught by rote and parroting facts so beloved by people like Gove and Clegg.
It leads us to wonder if such worthies – their view not ours – were ever children. Did they never experience the natural curiosity of a child, the desire to enter into the fantastic world of the imagination. Did they never encounter the sort of teacher portrayed in ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, one who metaphorically sat amongst his or her pupils and led them through the magical world of storytellers such as Dickens?
Like medicine, education is a great skill which, when practised by professionals unencumbered by constant interference, can produce startling results. In both fields politicians do far more ill than good. Were they to focus their attention solely on developing doctors and teachers with a sense of vocation and self-belief before leaving them to practise their art the world would be a better place.
Come to think about it the world would be a better place were there no politicians at all!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: ” Education by audit is contrary to the natural gift which is education. Once you try to audit a developmental process you kill what you wish to encourage! The current UK government’s tragic misconception of education will have catastrophic effects ”….Professor John Matthews, London.
The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, yesterday launched a full-blooded attack on the “mad” policy agenda of the EU. It seem that one of the bureaucrats has dreamed up a plan to “reform data protection laws” which will cost UK businesses hundreds of millions of pounds. Grayling described the zillionth law to emerge out of the Brussels wonder-building as an example of the work of people “completely oblivious to the potential consequences of what they are doing”. Brussels’ officials are, said Grayling, “not living in the real world”.
He will of course be put in his place by Nick Clegg who dwells in that very world, and who believes that the EU is the nearest we can get to heaven on earth. We codgers have to admit to being occasional citizens of the unreal planet, given that we spend our days on encouraging chickens to lay eggs which we then give away. But even we can work out that young Nick’s infatuation will end in tears.
However the Brussels’ fantasists are not alone, as a quick glance at this morning’s papers will reveal. First up come those who now devote their entire lives to rabbiting on about same-sex marriage. The nation may be in dire financial straits, the human race may be destroying the planet, but people elected to run the country spent all of yesterday arguing about the possibility of staging gay weddings in the chapel in the Palace of Westminster. Speaker Bercow is said to be in favour, so that’s all right then.
Anyone inhabiting the unreal world is bound to meet up with Tony Blair. He continues to bang on about his astute decision to hoodwink the nation into going to war in Iraq. But meantime he has added a new country to his portfolio of multi-million-pound business interests. The mineral-rich backwater of Mongolia is the latest client to sign up for Blair’s diplomatic skills. Perhaps the whole world is unreal. Having fooled us lot our super-rich Labour star is fooling everyone else.
Not far behind him come the Middletons with their slogan about having given birth to the future Queen. They have brought out the first American range of their flourishing mail-order party-paraphernalia firm. Since they dwell on planet Unreality it has clearly not occurred to Kate’s mum and dad that their sudden popularity in the soap-opera loving USA may not be down to the product!
Britain’s Got Talent underlined its membership of the unreal world by screening an egg-throwing contest, which displaced the England v Australia match not to mention the worrying condition of Prince Philip and Nelson Mandella from the headlines. And this on the day when it was confirmed that six out of every ten households are now bombarded with unwanted call-centre messages about British Gas, ferret breeding and a host of other things that are of no interest to anyone other than the army of operators in Hong Kong.
I won’t go on, I’m already convinced that the unreal world exists and contains more people than inhabit the real one. But having learned from Mr Grayling that the Brussel’s mob is there I am suddenly inclined to preserve my sanity by giving it a miss.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Why does our leadership spend so much time placating Clegg when there is no way he is going to walk out? We should be doing what is right and telling him he knows where the door is if he doesn’t like it”..Tory minister quoted in todays Sunday Telegraph, page 23.