Posts Tagged ‘Nick Clegg’

Do the Lib Dems face extinction?

It was not a good morning for neuralgia sufferers on the allotments this morning. Several of us codgers are afflicted by severe face pains, and fierce cold winds are triggers. It is a condition for which there is no cure so even the much heralded Jeremy Hunt plan to make GPs available at the drop of a hat, without increasing their funding, is of no consolation. All they can do is prescribe drugs, the side effects of which are even worse than the condition. So on mornings such as this it is a case of scarves on and carry out the hen-cleaning in record time before taking shelter in the hut for a brew.

As always on a Monday morning football was the first topic of conversation, and there was much rejoicing at the further three points added to Liverpool’s total at the expense of super-rich Manchester City. Even the neutrals would like to see the scousers win the Premiership in the 25th anniversary year of the Hillsborough disaster. Given the apparent web of deception on the part of the police and the guttersnipe lies of the Sun, their uniquely loyal fans surely deserve a little consolation.

They were not the only victims receiving sympathy as we munched on our doughnuts. Local MP Nigel Evans has confessed that he contemplated suicide during his months of hell. Everyone in these parts regards what happened to him as a stitch-up on the part of the police. The principle witness against him changed his story mid-testimony, and several of the others made clear that their appearance in court was forced upon them since they believed that no criminal action had taken place. The popular MP had no alternative to hiring an expensive legal team and now faces a ruinous bill. The charges having been proved to be totally false the costs should surely be borne by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and the ultimate irony is that Mr Evan’s own party was instrumental in introducing a law that rules this option out. Feelings have not been eased by the TV appearance of the leading regional member of the CPS, who seems to believe that shouting and waving his arms around is sufficient justification for an entirely unjust prosecution.

Meantime our attention has been caught by the publication of the latest polls which followed the Clegg versus Farage TV debates. Only 7 per cent of voters now say they will support the Lib Dems at the polling booths. This puts the party at real risk of total wipeout at next months European elections, when it is defending 12 seats, and of seeing its 57 seats in Westminster reduced to a single-figure rump at next year’s general election. To appreciate the scale of the slump, this level of support was last seen in 1970 when the then Liberals did not contest all seats.

Almost one in four voters backed the Lib Dems at the last general election. The party then lost a large chunk of support from the left after joining the Tories in government, then a second big chunk after the tuition-fee fiasco at the end of 2010. Since then it has flatlined at about 10 per cent in the polls – until sliding again now in the wake of Clegg’s televised attempt to tackle Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

Once the party that became the repository for protest votes, the Liberal Democrats have killed that option by nodding through such right-wing ideas as privatisation of the NHS whilst gaining no brownie points for Osborne’s successes in the field of economics. Not surprisingly, that view is shared by many party members outside of the Clegg circle. Yesterday a book hit the headlines, it is the work of Jeremy Browne, the former foreign office minister. It poses an interesting question: “If the party didn’t exist, why would it be necessary to invent it?”.

Mr Browne goes on to ask “What is the point if the Lib Dems these days?”. He sees the “Orange Book liberalism” once espoused by Clegg, but now dulled by his determination to curry favour from his Coalition partners, as the only hope for a resurgence. This would involve tax cuts, school vouchers, the abolition of the House if Lords and an even more open immigration system.

The problem is that Clegg is now obsessed with holding office at any price, and is disinclined to seriously damage his Cameron connection. Even more important is his belief that the core values of his party are largely incorporated in the agenda of Cameron and Miliband, both of whom have moved their policies towards the centre. In other words there is no obvious rationale for the Lib Dems other than to play a support role in a coalition, any coalition.

Compare this with Ukip whose anti-EU and anti-establishment policies conflict with the mainstream parties and therefore appeal to a sizeable number of disillusioned voters, and those who can find no other champion for their views on Europe. Ukip will never muster sufficient support to oust either Tory or Labour but they will become the home for most of those who previously vented their rage by voting Lib Dem.

We codgers used to have considerable sympathy for what we saw as the independent and caring “middle” party. That has faded, and now we are not even remotely surprised that the choice has narrowed to the point where we answer Jeremy Browne’s question about the point of his party by answering none.

By his surrender of Liberal values and blind unquestioning support for the EU Nick Clegg is about to keep his promise to change the face of British politics. But not n the way that he intended!
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” This was the party that became a repository for protest votes. But no longer. The Lib Dem survival strategy is to present itself as nicer than the Tories and less spendthrift than Labour. But who can blame voters for turning their back on such a dismal offering?”….Ian Birrell.
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Do the Lib Dems face extinction? as PDF --


Our leaders are experts – in childish insults!

How times have changed! Just a few years ago some of my fellow codgers appeared at the allotments wearing tee-shirts announcing that they agreed with Nick. Those garments have long since been converted into dusters, and it seems that no one believes in Master Clegg any longer. In fact the verdict on last night’s Clegg v Farage debate was that, in proposing the head-to-head, the Lib Dem leader made his final and fatal error of judgement. He had clearly decided to gamble all on his earnest honesty without grasping the essential truth that no one believes anything that he says.

Perhaps the most telling moment in the debate, presided over by David Bumblebee, was when Farage produced a Clegg leaflet from the last election declaring that the time for a referendum had arrived, and desperate Nick resorted to a ludicrous tale about ‘Nige’ being a secret member of the Vladimir Putin fan club. At that moment we sensed that we were watching the final death throes of a man who once looked capable of changing the face of British politics. The irony was that many people believe that we should remain in the EU, all Clegg has done is to reduce that number.

Within minutes of the shambles ending the Conservative and Labour spin-doctors were in action. Their respective leaders laid too much store in intelligent debate to become involved with minnows who confuse intelligence with childishness, they told us. Clearly they had missed yesterday’s PM’s Question Time. Dunce and Muppet were two of the more mature insults traded between the Prime Minister and Her Majesty’s leader of the opposition. Is it any wonder that the country resembles the Titanic? Can these overgrown schoolboys even arrange the deckchairs?

As we cleaned out the hens this morning we found ourselves pondering on so many issues that merit serious discussion, few of which seem to have the attention of the modern version of the Morecambe and Wise show. Not least amongst them is the growing loss of confidence in the police, a worrying development in a law abiding democracy. The Hillsborough affair will dominate the headlines for months to come, and the Lawrence, Plebgate and Murdoch affairs rattle on.

Hardly a day passes than we hear at national or local levels of unacceptable behaviour by police officers – yesterday we learned of a preacher being arrested, and locked in a cell for 18 hours without food or drink before being released without charge. In our local patch we learned of an elderly blind man being ‘tazered’ and handcuffed, having been confused with a machete-wielding thug. In both examples senior officers announced that there was no need for reprimands.

But a lot of this could be put down to incompetence. The same cannot be said of the news that the Police Federation paid a PR firm for advice on using “guerrilla tactics” against ministers. The secret plot was laid in a £10,000-a-month contract. The media strategy called for a military-style ‘blitzkrieg’to halt government plans to reform pay and conditions for officers. The rest we know, as does Andrew Mitchell.

We codgers include two former Bobbies amongst our number, and realise that the vast majority of officers are honest and dedicated. But poor leadership is allowing a minority to drag the reputation of the police into the mud. The time has surely come for the equivalent of the Army’s Sandhurst with commissioned officers being trained in man-management and the art of detachment from those in their charge.

Someone up there has to stop trading childish insults and to give attention to serious developments such as this. They also need to refrain from lightly dismissing their own failures. Yesterday Uncle Vince Cable did just that when he brushed aside claims that his handling of the Royal Mail privatisation had cost the taxpayer over £1 billion. It was, he said, a triumph and part of his “learning experience”.

At the very last our dear leader should have shouted “dunce”!”
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Let’s free ourselves up. I know the people are behind this. Come and join the People’s Army. Let’s topple the establishment that led us into this mess!”…Nigel Farage, TV debate of 2/4/14.
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Our leaders are experts - in childish insults! as PDF --


Time to tackle public enemy number one!

If comments made as we cleaned out the hens this morning are any indication my fellow codgers enjoyed last night’s Farage and Clegg show. An early poll suggests that the former ‘won’, but we suspect that merely reflects the overall public view of EU membership. In our opinion they both won, if only for having the guts to enter into public debate when the major parties are reluctant to show their true colours.

Nick Clegg made much of the claim that Ukip are “scaring people” over immigration, but seemed blissfully unaware that what is really frightening the people is the evidence of their own eyes as every day they experience the effects of overcrowding. Nigel Farage made much of the pressure mounted by the Lib Dems for Britain to join the Euro. In truth both men made a persuasive case and we shall look forward to the second half on BBC2. It could well be that our dear leader will be the one to gain most from this battle of the eloquent given his apparent belief that the EU is far from the heaven portrayed by Clegg, but scarcely the nightmare described by Farage. If we are to stay in, fundamental reform will be necessary and, in theory at least, he is promising this.

At least the nation will have the chance to make its conclusion known in May when the EU elections take place. Which is more than can be said of the appalling situation created by the so-called Big Six energy companies. If ever there was an example of privatisation being against the public interest this surely is it. A few days ago we read of a young woman driven to suicide by her inability to cope financially with the task of heating her home. It was a story capable of shaming any society.

If the transfer of an essential service into private hands was ever to prove other than an opportunity to profiteer the appointment of a Regulator with real power was essential. Instead we got Ofgem which has proved as useful as the proverbial boil on a boundary rider’s bum. The Big Six have operated as a cartel and have upped prices at every opportunity. It has paid excessive dividends and created millionaires amongst its executives. Every household in the land has been grossly overcharged, and for those on low incomes the result has been untold hardship.

At long last Ofgem has woken from its hibernation and will today announce an investigation into profiteering. It is expected to refer the energy sector to the Competition and Markets Authority, having at last realised that the leading firms have a case to answer over rising bills. The inquiry is likely to result in the Big Six – British Gas, SSE, Npower, EDF, Scottish Power and E.ON – being broken up. That will be no mean task given that almost all of them are now in foreign ownership.

Already one of the monopolists has taken fright. SSE yesterday announced its intention to freeze prices until 2016, and we can expect others to also panic. But it is too little and too late.

The Big Six all raised their prices last winter by as much as 11 per cent despite wholesale prices rising by only 1.7 per cent in the year. Average dual fuel energy bills rose from £570 in 2003 to £1,267 last year amidst claims that competition was being stifled by selling gas supplied by the Big Six companies own wholesale arms. The eventual reaction of politicians forced the Regulator’s hand. Now they are fighting like ferrets in a sack to claim the credit which in truth must go to Ed Miliband who announced his party’s intention to impose a freeze should it win the 2015 election.

There is an irony here since in a recent poll most people named the Big Six and politicians as the two institutions they most distrust.

The two bodies now enjoy the dubious honour of being joint public enemies number one. The rest of us simply want to be charged fair prices for a commodity that we have to buy whether we wish to do so or not!
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Why don’t we trust the British people to make their minds up on what I think is the most important constitutional question we have faced in this country for three hundred years!”…Nigel Farage, TV Debate.
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Time to tackle public enemy number one! as PDF --


The big debate but where are Cameron and Miliband?

Yesterday we pricked out several hundred Begonia and Petunia ‘plugs’, and sod’s law dictated that there would be a sharp overnight frost. The plants are of course in the greenhouse, but it is unheated and, when we arrived at the allotments this morning, we hardly dare open the door. But all appears to be well. A load of compost is due today and the bright sunshine reminds us that Spring has sprung.

Despite that some of my fellow codgers were in a state of mourning as we cleaned out the squabbling hens. For many a year the followers of Manchester United have, at this time of the year, strutted around like Peacocks, now they have a hangdog air. The rest of us avoided the subject of football when we gathered in the hut, and were thankful for the absence of Manchester City fans since we had no wish to start a momentous day with a debate about who has the richest owners. Speaking personally I find it impossible to muster any interest in stories of oil-rich sheiks and wealthy Americans for I still inhabit the world of non-league football where a roar merely indicates the arrival of the pies, and a second one the fact that someone has found a hot one.

So why is today a momentous one? Because tonight brings the first of two televised debates on the subject of EU membership. It is over forty years since the politicians deigned to expose their thinking on what for many people is a big issue of Eric Pickles proportions. But even now the Conservative and Labour leadership are opting out. The former is split asunder on the issue and the latter is pro-membership but very aware that such an admission could well cost votes.

So it has to be hats off to Messrs Clegg and Farage who have agreed to bare their souls in public. Nick Clegg is taking a calculated risk since, given his party’s current ratings, he really has little to lose. Nigel Farage knows that the majority of the great British public is somewhat sceptical about being ruled from Brussels, and he sees the opportunity to win popular support.

To us the issue is not as simple as the two debaters portray it. Before deciding on in-or-out we feel the need for enlightenment on how the leading lights see the EU of, say, 2030. Do they visualise a United States of Europe with Westminster reduced to dealing with minor domestic issues? If so, count us as no. On the other hand if they see the EU of tomorrow as a common trading club we would vote yes.

The problem undoubtedly is that many of the member states envisage the former, and it is easy to see why. Their financial involvement is a positive given that they receive back more than they pay in. They are also able to enjoy security the like of which they could not provide for themselves. And their citizens can move freely into wealthier societies and indirectly increase national income.

As one of the ‘wealthier’ members we incur a massive membership fee. We face an ever increasing population with no power to limit it to the levels at which our infrastructure can cope. We face the frustration of being increasingly regulated by legislators whose laws are inevitably tailored for the majority, the smaller economies.

We codgers are open to persuasion and, whatever their motives, we applaud the Clegg and Farage attempt at openness. But we venture to suspect that neither will be prepared to mention the unmentionable. We are an island and border controls are entirely possible. Are we prepared to see every service swamped and ultimately destroyed?

The degree of stealth by all politicians to a controversial and massive issue like HS2 serves as a warning here. Those who favour continued EU membership must come clean on the subject of migration. No ifs or buts, we would like to know if a renegotiated membership involved restoration of a states right to control admissions. If that is not resolved all else is, by comparison, trivia.

It is disappointing in the extreme that the major parties either cannot or will not make clear their attitude to this. They are playing a dangerous political game for were they to line up with the Lib Dem policy of open doors the Farage momentum would gather speed.

We are less than convinced that that would be a good thing but sometimes the devil you know is the only show in town.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Government is to life what pantyhose is to sex!”…P J O’Rourke
QUOTE OF THE DAY; “I’m now much more secure in my own skin, much more self-aware than I was before (addiction treatment)”….Rev Paul Flowers, former Co-op bank chairman.
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download The big debate but where are Cameron and Miliband? as PDF --


Who runs Britain?

Many of the daffodils were flat on their faces this morning when we arrived at the allotments. Overnight heavy rain and wind had triggered their imitation of Arsenal players facing Chelsea, and someone remarked that all we needed now was Andre Marriner to pick the wrong ones. Meanwhile we codgers feel as furious as Arsene Wenger. Battered Daffs may not feature on many lists of misfortunes, but we spent a lot of time on these and now they have certainly hastened away too blooming soon!

However our thoughts turned to weightier issues once we had retreated to the hut. Of course we all know that David Cameron is our dear leader, and that the ultimate wizard Nick Clegg is his stooge. But who is actually running Britain? We were tempted to name the banks, Rupert Murdoch and all the powerful lobbyists that spend as much time at Number Ten as Alfie, the resident mouser. But by the time we had reached our second doughnuts we had decided that the EU and the Law Society are ahead of all others when it comes to hoisting the sails on the once-good ship Britain.

The European Union is about to take Britain to court, and the word is that the resulting fine is likely to be eye-watering, even greater perhaps than the extra £800 million we are about to present because our economy is outperforming other member states. Britain’s offence is the use of a “right to reside” test being used for incoming EU citizens. The test, first introduced by Labour to try to calm fears of so-called “benefits tourists” coming to the UK, requires migrants from other EU states to prove they are seeking work before they can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. EU officials claim that this is discriminatory since British citizens do not have to pass it.

The timing of this action is somewhat unfortunate given the approaching European elections. That great Europhile Nick Clegg will struggle to explain how the test can possibly be applied to people born here since shpuld they fail it their only option is the Falklands. He will probably opt for such tests being abolished completely, thus allowing unlimited entry. But the dashing Farage is persistent and just may ask where the extra capacity in our hospitals, schools and the rest is going to come from.

Mention of schools takes us neatly to our other runner of Britain, The Law Society. It has decided to enshrine Islamic law in the British legal system under guidelines for solicitors on drawing up “sharia compliant” wills. The ground-breaking guidance will allow high-street soliicitors to write Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of inherittances and exclude unbelievers altogether.

The documents, which will be recognised by Britain’s courts, will also prevent children born out of wedlock – and even those who have been adopted – from being counted as legitimate heirs. Anyone married in a church, or in a civil ceremony, could be excluded from succession under sharia principles, which recognise only Muslim weddings for inheritance purposes.

Baroness Cox, a cross-bench peer leading a parliamentary campaign to protect women from religiously sanctioned discrimination, including from unofficial sharia courts in Britain, said yesterday that it was a “deeply disturbing”development. “This violates everything that we stand for”, she said. She added that it would “make the Suffragettes turn in their graves”.

Our concern is that this is a major step on the road to a parallel legal system for Britian’s Muslim communities. Already there are many unofficial sharia courts and the Law Society is opening the door to the next stage. To be opposed to this is not racism but a simple belief that a society cannot have two approaches to the law yet remain stable.

The fascinating aspect of these two examples is that both are taking place outwith our elected government. Who is running Britain? We are unsure but it isn’t us and it certainly isn’t Westminster !
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Life is like a dog-sled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes!”…Lewis Grizzard.
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Who runs Britain? as PDF --


‘Money no object’ – absolute rubbish!

When, a few days ago, we arrived at the allotments to find that an act of God had transferred the main hen-run roof to the neighbouring Vicar’s lawn we resisted the temptation to question the Almighty’s judgement for fear of adding another black mark to the list that we may have to explain away up yonder. But we did react rather badly to our treasurer’s comment that money is no object. Since it was the shortage of cash that had led to the roof being insecurely fixed, it seemed to us just about the daftest comment since Barclays announced that lower profits should trigger higher bonuses.

Yesterday our dear leader uttered the same words as our now former bean-counter. To be fair he said it whilst up to his knees in dirty water, but he did subsequently call his first press conference in many months to repeat the silliest thing he has said since declaring his love for Nick Clegg in the Number Ten rose garden. Already flood victims are asking if the uninsured will receive recompense, the cancelled flood defence projects will be reinstated, if loss of income will be compensated for, if ruined clothes will lead to M & S vouchers…the list is long enough to make the use of management consultants at £2000 a day by government departments to offset the effect of redundancies look like small change.

The truth undoubtedly is that David Cameron himself has absolutely no idea as to what he meant. Having taken since before Christmas to jerk into life, and with Messrs Miliband, Clegg and Farage also wading for the cameras, he felt the need to say something to all those voters who are now floating in every sense of the word. Few will have believed the all-embracing promise, and even fewer will be impressed by the announcement that our dear leader has personally taken over control of the government’s emergency committee. Every time he does this – as he did with the A & E crisis – he infers that the ministers concerned are as useful as a boil on a boundary rider’s bum.

It also has to be said that the government does seem to be in some disarray. If its performance in regard to flood prevention has been “spot-on”, for what was our hero Eric Pickles actually apologising ? If money is no object when homes and lives are in jeopardy why is Chris Smith banging on about his Environment Agency having been hamstrung by treasury cuts? Why has an EU ruling been allowed to curtail dredging? The spin-doctors are in for a busy time!

Perhaps the biggest danger of all in banging on about money being no object is that other sections of society who are in desperate straits now hold out their hands. Charities striving to help the victims of the bedroom tax and the homeless have been quick to point out that whilst having your ground floor ruined is heartbreaking, not having a home at all is even more so.

This morning the National Housing Federation has drawn attention to the negative impact of the tax on the 522,000 people who are subject to it. The disability charity Papworth Trust reports that a third of disabled people have been refused emergency payments, despite government guidance that disabled people who live in adapted homes get first call on discretionary housing payment funding. The result is that many disabled people are now existing in unheated apartments and are being threatened by bailiffs.

But even they are in a better position than the already homeless. Nottingham county council will vote later this month on proposed cuts that will result in almost all the homeless and housing support services across the county being closed down. Given the severity of local authority cuts many others are expected to follow suit. The charity Framework predicts that over 6,000 very vulnerable people will be “cast adrift”, transferred to the pavements. Multiply that number to arrive at a national figure and you have a terrible indictment of even a cash-strapped country, let alone one in which money is no object.

One suspects that the Prime Ministers statement will come back to haunt him on countless occasions. The only mitigation we can offer is that at last all of the political parties are preparing to make clear that Alex Salmond’s promise that Scottish independence is compatible with retaining the pound is false and out of the question.

On that at least our dear leader has agreed that money does not grow on trees, be they submerged or otherwise!
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public!”….George Jessel
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download 'Money no object' - absolute rubbish! as PDF --


Miliband plans show lack of prep!

As we waded around in the allotments mud this morning, we codgers cheered ourselves with reflections on the performance of our fellow doughnut-eater, Eric Pickles, over the past couple of days. We have long held that politicians are not to be believed but most of them are reasonably subtle in their porkie-telling. Big Eric does not do subtle, so it was no surprise to us that having condemned the Environment Agency on Sunday, he yesterday told the yelling Commons horde that he admired the very ground that it treads. Well done Eric, at least you are open about your make-it-up-as-you-go approach to life.

Meantime the somewhat more subtle Nick Clegg has earned headlines by demanding that the Conservative and labour leadership recognise the threat of Ukip, whose leader Nigel Farage was last seen up to his ears in Somerset mud. Unless Messrs Cameron and Miliband act now Ukip will emerge as a major threat in the Euro elections, warns the seemingly earnest Nick. Perhaps he has missed the latest poll which shows that Nigel et al pose a threat to only one party – the Lib Dems, whose percentage suggests that come next year they will be able to hold their MP meetings in a telephone kiosk.

So with young Nick heading for the exit door, and old Nigel not certain to find the entrance, we seem to be heading back to those uncomplicated days when there was a straight choice between incompetent Tories and incompetent Labour. That in turn involves a straight choice between our dear leader and his supposed arch-rival Ed. It has to be admitted that if this was a boxing contest it would hardly be at the top of the bill.

When David Cameron toured our local hospital we reached the conclusion that he is a good orator but somewhat lightweight in understanding, a perfect guest at a party but hardly a dynamic choice to run one. We have never enjoyed a visit from not-so-Red Ed so our impressions are based on the words that reach us via the media. And most of those leave us totally confused. People that should know tell us that Miliband the younger has surrounded himself with even younger people. That may explain why many of the policies being unveiled seem to lack ‘prep’, as they used to say at Dotheboys Hall.

This morning we read of Labour’s plan to give the public clout in regard to hospitals. In fact most of them are now Foundation Trusts and, as such, have a board of Governors who are elected by the members (the latest total locally is 22,000). The Governors appoint the Chairman and non-executives and play a significant part in the appraisal and selection of chief executives. They also tour the wards and initiate improvements.

Just how much involvement by patients does Miliband have in mind? He is right to refer also to the new commissioning groups but the idea of simply sticking a couple of busy-bodies on them is ludicrous. The groups are the result of very odd thinking on the part of Lansley and merit only elimination, not enhancement. Up until a few years ago the role was carried out by regional offices comprising ten men and a dog. Someone is advising Mr Miliband badly.

The same appears to be the case with schools. State schools already have governors, elected by parents. They appear to have considerable powers. The idea that we now need ad hoc parent groups with power to hold headteachers to account is crazy. How would that fit with governing bodies, and who would wish to be a headteacher answerable to any vocal parent obsessed with the belief that little Johnnie is beyond reproach?

Someone gave me for Christmas a copy of Tony Benn’s final diary. In it Benn expresses his amazement at the stance of his beloved Labour Party to an EU Referendum. The great man is pro Europe but believes passionately in democracy. In avoiding the subject Labour is betraying its roots, he contends.

A number of those codgers likely to vote instinctively favour Labour. But the old days of ardent loyalty are gone, and Ed Miliband would be well advised to refrain from accepting every half-baked idea dreamed up by his
boy wonders.

By the way are you agog at the announcement by the England ladies football captain, Casey Stone, that she is gay. Who cares? Will we now have a press conference featuring the men’s captain John Terry and his heterosexual tendency?
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “One can always tell it’s summer when one sees teachers hanging idly about the streets, looking like cannibals during a shortage of missionaries”….Robertson Davies
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Miliband plans show lack of prep! as PDF --


Whatever happened to our sense of belonging?

The age of miracles is not past! That reassurance occurred to us when we arrived at the allotments his morning under enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers, and a significant reduction in the number of miniature lakes.It increased our sympathy for the engulfed people in the west country who have now endured almost five weeks of living hell.
How they will feel about the news that our dear leader has taken personal control of their destiny is easy to imagine, particularly as he opened his Superman mission by slamming the Environment Agency for discontinuing the practice of dredging. The Prime Minister has also let it be known that Eric Pickles will be in day-to-day charge, but whether the sight of him surfing the water on a sturdier version of Prince Charles’s wooden throne will provide consolation is perhaps open to doubt.
Yesterday we tuned in as usual to Prime Minister’s question time, a weekly entertainment that has become as popular with us as Fools and Horses. Perhaps we would hear of belated plans to help our waterlogged brethren? No chance, those who supposedly run the country were too busy indulging in their favourite pastime of hurling abuse and guffawing hysterically. Ed Miliband had spotted that the government front bench was occupied entirely by middle-aged men. There they were on display: 16 blokes in suits, eight in grey and eight in black pinstripe and many minus hair, a loss not due to Dave’s decorated barber. But a cornered Dave is dangerous and within seconds he was bellowing about the greatest woman of them all, the sainted Margaret.
The row was of course a fatuous one. The reason for such limited representation of the fairer sex is almost certainly down to the fact that few women would wish to be part of what amounts to a blokish club in which the majority are largely ignored by those who supposedly shape the nation’s destiny. One thing is certain, if parliament was comprised entirely of women it would be focussed on real issues debated in an adult fashion with far less emphasis on party political points scoring.
Just hours before we enjoyed the weekly pantomime we had read reports revealing that many thousands of those now entitled to vote have failed to register, and an even greater number of those that have said that they have will not be bothering to go to the polling stations. The reason for this is not hard to fathom, young people are totally disillusioned with politicians and have never experienced the sense of belonging that characterised earlier generations.
It is tempting to put this down to people like Clegg who promise one thing and blatantly do another, but the explanation has, we suspect, deeper roots. Society itself has become a lonelier experience. Gone are the days when roads comprised residents who knew each other and looked out for each other. It is not unusual to hear people remark that they have never so much as spoken to their neighbours, let alone gathered together with them to socialise and discuss grievances and woes.
Over the past two decades or so the new age of communication and dispersed families has gradually eroded the sense of belonging to a community but, until fairly recently, there has still seemed to be a sense of national identity. That has now all but dissipated and it is unusual to chat to anyone who feels either respect for, or interest in, political leaders of any persuasion. It is surely no coincidence that mental health problems are rocketing for many feel lonely in the crowd with no one to share and halve their problems.
It would not surprise us codgers – still enclosed within a comforting time warp – if the Scottish people do vote for independence. The case for separation is a dubious one but, if the polls are to be believed, many see this as the chance to opt out of what they see as a less than united kingdom ruled over by people they don’t identify with and are as far removed from their influence as Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are from Scottishness.
The reaction of the Scots and Welsh to the disappearing sense of belonging is perhaps understandably to draw back into what they see as the only remaining national identity. If the option of separation from London was available to people in Northern England you can bet your prize ferret that they too would want to jump ship.
Of course it would be nonsense to ascribe what has happened socially solely to politicians, but their antics don’t help. This morning’s row between Gove and his supposed Lib Dem deputy, David Laws, is a case in point. They cannot agree on whether flagship academies should be scrutinised by inspectors, and they cannot agree whether the leader of Ofsted should be a Tory or Labour figure. To most “ordinary” (to quote our dear leader) people the answers are yes and neither, but all sense of common nous and fairness has departed from the Gods.
Yesterday mad Boris demanded that strikes must be banned unless sanctioned by polls involving more than 50% of union membership. That sounds entirely reasonable but he himself was elected by a far lower percentage. And come the election, whoever wins, you can be sure of one thing – less than half of the electorate will vote.
That is a measure of what has happened to our sense of belonging!
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened”…Winston Churchill
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Whatever happened to our sense of belonging? as PDF --


Corruption – cronies galore!

Yesterday’s downpour ensured that there was plenty of mud on the allotments this morning. January was the wettest since records began and February seems hell-bent on matching it. But as we cleaned out the hens this morning we codgers reminded ourselves that by comparison with Somerset we have little to complain about. We can only guess at what it feels like to be under water for a month with more rain forecast, and to be reliant on a department run by Owen Paterson, who refuses to believe in global warming and would struggle to organise a booze up in a brewery.

But a quick perusal of the morning papers, as we gobbled our Eric Pickles doughnuts, confirmed that the nation has more to worry about than the coalition’s Mr Bean. Only Nick Clegg could be “appalled and astonished” at growth of the evidence that, slowly but surely, his partners are slipping cronies into every key non-elected position. Perhaps he should have had a word with his chum David Laws, the Lib Dem Schools minister, who has let it be known that he is “absolutely furious at the blatant attempts by the Tories to politicise Ofsted”. Michael Gove has sacked Baroness Sally Morgan from her position as head of Ofsted, prompting a response from her that a “worrying pattern of non-Tories being replaced by loyal Conservatives in top public posts is emerging”.

A senior Lib Dem source has told the Independent that “Education policy is far more important than rewarding Tory cronies”. His fears will shortly be reinforced when Gove appoints Theodore Agnew, who donated £134,000 to the Conservative party between 2007 and 2009. That will provide two hits in one for the teachers’ enemy – Ofsted will now dance to his tune and another crony will have his feet under the table.

Meantime the Sunday Torygraph has a front page story about the “Alarming culture of NHS care”. The new head of the Care Quality Commission, the official regulator, David Prior, has published an article in which he writes of bullying, harassment, and abuse. Prior was for 12 years the chairman of a large hospital trust, and one can only be thankful for not having been a patient there. By contrast I chaired an equally large trust and , despite walking the wards every day, never encountered any of the atrocities he writes of with such relish.

For good measure Prior trots out the old chestnut of Stafford hospital where one woman became a TV star with her increasingly dramatic tales of people drinking out of vases. Over 50,000 locals marched in protest at the false witness about their hospital. but the lady appeared in the New Year honours list. If you have a moment to spare flick back to the many detailed comments made by supporters of the hospital. You will learn that most Staffordians believe passionately that the whole affair was part of  the Lansley/Hunt privatisation agenda.

Surprise, surprise. Mr Prior lists ‘competition’ amongst his proposals to save the NHS. That intrigues me since I have yet to learn of any private healthcare provider that covers cancer, coronary care or any of the life-threatening conditions. Allowing the private sector to ‘cherry-pick’ the more routine work will simply bankrupt our hospitals, and there are already signs of just that. The NHS is simply swamped and is working to impossible budgets given the increasing longevity of the population. Only more resources will solve the nightmare.

Until yesterday I hadn’t heard the name of David Prior mentioned in NHS circles, although I did recall someone of that name being deputy chairman of the Conservative party. This key independent role surely couldn’t involve him could it? Indeed it does!

I am tempted to bang on about housing but, for fear of putting you to sleep, will simply observe that the head of a key new government review is Natalie Elphicke. Mrs Elphicke is the wife of Charlie, a Conservative MP.

These examples prompted me to take a look at appointments made to the significant number of quangos that exercise a great deal of power. Suffice to say the word corruption sprang to mind.

I cannot in all honesty claim to be surprised!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

“THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it wrongly and applying unsuitable remedies!”…Groucho Marx

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Corruption - cronies galore! as PDF --


Power to the people? Pigs might fly!

A cold sun shone from a blue sky as we cleaned out the hens this morning. Better by far than driving rain, and the sight of snowdrops and other bulbs breaking through put us codgers in a positive frame of mind. Sadly that miracle will disappear faster than Eric Pickle’s lunch, since the weathermen tell us that yet more storms are heading our way. Never mind, at least we no longer have to listen to endless news flashes regarding the Premiership big spenders, or commentators worrying about the Rooney family having to cope on a mere £300,000 per week. We are also to be spared daily accounts of the England cricketers, a relief for those who enjoy whipping the Aussies. And Andy Flower is on his bike, yet another example of managers being held responsible for the inept performances of the so-called stars.

Escape from such dross allowed us to apply our giant intellects to weightier matters when we retired to the warm hut this morning. Is it really true that a surfeit of doughnuts causes a surfeit of body hair? We hope not, for the prospect of being fitted with a tag by Chris Packham is less than appealing. Anyway, we wolfed a trayload of Tesco’s best and found ourselves debating language as a social barrier.

We were not entirely surprised to read this morning that English is now a second language at 1 in 9 schools. The army of race relations ‘experts’ need look no further for the root cause of the ever increasing tendency of our communities to split into factions. Some years ago I worked for a time in Holland. I hadn’t made the slightest effort to learn Dutch, and outside of the factory gravitated to fellow Brits to avoid the sense of isolation that comes from socialising with people whose conversation was beyond my comprehension.

In fairness to myself it has to be pointed out that I was only there for a limited time, but had my move been permanent I would have felt obliged to learn the language. That has nothing to do with race relations, it is simply common sense. We should stop wasting money on translators and multiple language signs and brochures and make it clear that anyone deciding to migrate should learn the local lingo .

Thus endeth the sermon, but before we put our soapbox back under the stairs we can’t resist a comment on the Lib Dem and Labour parties who combined yesterday to kill off the Cameron proposal to enshrine an EU referendum in law. The message from the unelected peers was loud and clear – we have no intention of allowing the people to have a voice on the subject of EU membership. The bill did not propose leaving the Union. it merely called for an open debate on an issue that affects every family in the land. Clearly Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are not quite as committed to democracy as they would have us believe.

It is the attitude of the latter that puzzles and disappoints us. On the one hand he is bravely proposing to replace the decidedly undemocratic Labour Party voting system to one of one member/one vote, on the other he is blocking the idea of the whole nation enjoying the same right. And Nick Clegg? Now that is less puzzling.

Clegg pressed the self-distruct button within months of his rose-garden romance with the new Prime Minister. His about-face on tuition fees was but a prelude to breaking just about every pledge in his party’s manifesto. His defence of having of behave differently in a partnership is laughable, clearly he has little belief in principles. The problem he faces is that once you’ve lied so blatantly, you can’t expect to be trusted next time. Serial adulterers face the same dilemma, but at least they usually display some self-awareness.

For all the notice that voters will take he might as well enter the 2015 election promising that Vince Cable will learn to talk to wasps, that by 2017 everywhere you go will be downhill, criminals will be given gallstones until they learn to be good, every pensioner will be given a panda, paid for by selling Margate to the Arabs. The man is a fraud and it is entirely possible that his party will be outvoted by Ukip in the European elections.

Lets face it, any party that is beaten by one whose members believe that the flooding is the result of the legalisation of gay marriage needs to cuddle up to the electorate, rather than deny it the right to a long awaited referendum!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to!” ….Laurence J Peter

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

 


-- Download Power to the people? Pigs might fly! as PDF --


Whatever happened to love?

We had a record number of ‘hits’ in response to yesterday’s piece about assisted suicide, an issue raised in Monday’s edition of Coronation Street. As we codgers cleaned out the hens this morning we found ourselves wondering why this should have happened and could only conclude that there are many tortured souls out there, fellow beings who perhaps lack the most important ingredient of life – love and the knowledge that they are not alone.

By chance a Conservative minister, Nicky Morgan, yesterday urged his party’s leading lights to “stop using the language of hate”. He said that voters are frustrated by the endless “language of hate”. It is time, he said, to drop negative comments and the constant reference to “who we hate”. It was a refreshing reminder that, despite our differences, we are all fellow travellers on the all-too-short journey of life, one that needs above everything else a leavening of compassion and love.

Of all the travails of life the feeling of being alone is the greatest. ‘Experts’ talk a great deal about mental health and the importance of acceptance and feeling the fear and “doing it anyway”, but they never talk about togetherness and the need to share the burdens of others. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of those who feel that life is no longer worth living. We allow our governments to neglect mental health services, and we opt out of open and objective discussion about the dilemma of those suffering the dark night of the soul. Politicians constantly launch Inquiries into this or that subject, but never facilitate such structured examination of the way to live or the right to die. Ignoring difficult subjects does not make them go away, it merely serves to isolate those who feel lost in an irrelevant and uncaring world.

It seems to us that in every aspect of life in today’s frantic world we are never brave enough to apply the greatest gift of human nature – love. Wherever one looks one sees an apparent determination to score political points, a refusal to see the other side and a mentality of I’m alright Jack. Harsh? If you think that take a look at today’s headlines.

The Lib Dems, who one would have thought were rather less warlike than the other parties, are tearing themselves apart. An independent inquiry concluded that there was no clear evidence that Lord Rennard did what four lady members accuse him of, but that he should apologise anyway. Not surprisingly he has refused to do so, and the aggrieved are hopping mad. If the members really believe in the cause they should surely come together to resolve this. The leader of the party, Nick Clegg, should surely bring the five combatants together and try to involve them in reaching a decision. Perhaps he is confused about the word love, which sometimes involves leadership.

Another banner headline concerns the ‘postcode lottery’ of NHS drugs for the terminally ill. Even though the treatments have been approved by the regulator Nice, patients in areas where funding is low are being denied the life-prolonging drugs. A caring Prime Minister would long since have decided that this is totally unacceptable and would have instructed his health secretary accordingly. For good measure he would have decided that the concept of rationing health care by pound notes is morally wrong. Whether the previous government did just that is irrelevant.

The same lack of love – or caring if you are more comfortable with that word – is to be seen in regard to food banks. The response of ministers to the news that the number is still rocketing was to suggest that there will always be queues for anything that is free. That is a disgraceful slur on thousands of people on low pay who simply cannot cope. Would anyone withhold their vote from a party that acknowledged a problem and set about rectifying it?

Another example of an uncaring approach is the so-called bedroom tax. Yesterday the BBC News featured a couple who occupy separate bedrooms because of the medical needs of the wife. They have been advised that their rent will now climb and they face eviction. Does no one in authority not see this as unjust and totally unacceptable?

The danger in talking of love is that many confuse it with a soppy form of bowing the knee. We codgers see it rather differently. We are anything but angels, but we do believe in speaking out and acting against anyone who behaves in a selfish way. It seems to us that the only criteria is the effect of what one does on others. None of us are Liverpool fans but we very much admire the spirit that causes them to sing that ‘You’ll never walk alone”.

Today too many are being left to do just that!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Only one kind of love lasts – unrequited !”…..Somerset Maugham

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Whatever happened to love? as PDF --


Honesty is a virtue!

Debris littered the allotments when we arrived this morning. Since the wind was still near gale-force we decided against a clear-up, settling instead for a curse in the direction of Bert the weather God who has clearly concluded that Christmas is a perfect time to demonstrate that the weather patterns are changing. To add to our woes our unshakable conviction that one can drink away a cold has added a hangover to runny noses and sore throats. But despite it all we were cheered by the news that the England cricketers still have backbones.

We codgers wouldn’t survive without our calor-gas fire and we lost no time in gathering round it for a brew as the wind howled around the allotments hut. We noted with interest the pictures of Tory MPs clad in red jackets at yesterday’s hunts,  it is perhaps reassuring to know that they are not devoting their holiday to worrying about issues we would tend to regard as rather more pressing than blowing horns.

But should they have read this morning’s papers they may well have concluded that they are becoming increasingly isolated, and not merely because of their John Peel tendency. The latest poll from Guardian/ICM reveals that the gulf between politicians and the people has widened to an extraordinary extent. Asked to come up with the word that best shows “how or what you feel about the political class”, no fewer than 47% came up with “angry”. Throw in the 25% who said “bored” and you have the remarkable fact that almost three-quarters of the population no longer identify with their elected representatives.

Clearly some of the divisive policies pursued by the Coalition are partly to blame, but one suspects that the fundamental dishonesty of politicians of all persuasions has played a part. Yesterday we highlighted a minister defending the withdrawal of rail services on Boxing Day, a happening that just three years ago he condemned Labour for. It illustrated perfectly the current approach to politics, believe in nothing and accept responsibility for nothing. And automatically oppose anything that your opponents propose.

The most significant feature of the poll that is that amongst the young ennui is more marked. A massive 68% indicated that the are unlikely to vote at an election. At the last election 76% of over-65s were still voting with 46% of people aged 18-24 going to the ballot box. That represented a big fall from the days when three-quarters of all ages voted. But 2015 will almost certainly herald a new low.

All of which is bad news for democracy. But it can only be reversed if today’s leaders resolve to change their ways. Cameron and Clegg clearly regard any admission of having erred to be out of the question. On the rare occasions that Miliband has ventured to admit that the last government made mistakes he is immediately abused. To err is human and our dear leader would be surprised at the reaction from the public to a demonstration of honesty.

There are of course other factors. David Cameron’s links with the Murdoch clan, MP’s expenses, Lansley’s lunacy over the NHS, honours for money, the gulf between the people and politicians over Europe… the list is a long one. And one can add the lack of conviction for no one any longer understands what the parties stand for. There was no such dilemma in the days of the likes of Thatcher, Attlee or Wilson. One might not like their ideology but one knew what it was. Thatcher was “not for turning”, today’s leaders spin like tops.

Perhaps they will take note of this year-end poll and resolve to change. Probably not but change, however unlikely, is always possible. If you doubt that take a look at the TV viewing figures for Christmas Day. The long established favourite EastEnders was in fourth place with a  record low of 7.8 million.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “October is a funny kind of month. For the really keen cricket fan, it’s when you realise that your wife left you in May!”…..Denis Norden

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

 

 


-- Download Honesty is a virtue! as PDF --


Thoughts from a motorway car park!

I would love to tell you that, like Neville Chamberlain in 1939, I am speaking to you from my study in 10 Downing Street. Sadly my location is somewhat humbler, we are travelling to North Wales in a minibus and, having tired of the M55 traffic jam have decided to rest a while at a service station where finding a space is celebrated in the manner usually reserved for a lottery win. As the computer expert – amongst the codgers that merely means knowing how to switch the thing on - I have been assigned the rear table with a view to updating you.

Not that there is much to report so far. We spent the best part of an hour stranded behind a young lady who was plucking her eyebrows with the help of the rear view mirror. It almost triggered a New Year resolution since several of us, being ancient, have developed brows comparable with those of Denis Healey. But we lack the obvious patience required and who looks at us anyway? Perhaps the girl had merely tired of looking at the truck in front of her which bore the slogan “We never stop when giving service”?

At moments such as this my mind tends to wonder yet again about the vexed question of EU migrants. If this morning’s experience is any indication this small island is nearing capacity and , being rebels, we tend to wish for leadership prepared to give Churchillian salutes to the Brussels bureaucrats.

But I quickly move on to other considerations given that Messrs Clegg and Miliband  seem to regard the prospect of a zillion Romanians with equanimity. Just what our dear leader believes is hard to fathom, but he does at least seem to recognise that the prospect of a life of queuing, be it on the motorway or at the hospital, is not a vote winner.

That too is not a subject calculated to wile away an hour or so in the equivalent of an internment camp, and I begin to ponder the practice of blogging which I indulge in each day. This site now regularly attracts a lot of readers. But who are they, where are they? Being unable to afford a sophisticated hit-analyser we have no idea. Apart from a bloke in Bacup, who regularly tells us that we should be certified, our feedback is minimal. If you are out there it would be great to hear from you!

Perhaps our dailies have the same feelings. Yes they do receive some comments, but as a percentage of the circulation they are hardly of Eric Pickles proportions. For example the Daily Telegraph recently devoted a good deal of column inches to a Pippa Middleton feature aimed at helping us prepare for Christmas. It contained such gems as “Don’t forget lemons for drinks, breakfast foods and essentials such as candles, lavatory paper, Sellotape and batteries”. Did the Telegraph get a postbag bulging with thankful letters praising the intellectual capacity of the sister of our future Queen?

Mind you the article did make a sort of sense. Which is more than can be said for one from the Evening Standard cricket correspondent, Tom Collomosse. In his report from Perth he commented that the fast bowlers will tire in temperatures exceeding 100c, and the England batsmen should exercise patience. Not only would they tire, they would probably die in the equivalent of 212 degrees F. Feedback? Perhaps it was the heat that prompted spinner Swann’s ill-timed and sudden retirement?

I must end now, Tom and Albert are climbing in and the latter is taking over the wheel. When he is thus employed I feel a compulsion to stare at the road ahead. Call me yellow if you must, but I do want to enjoy Christmas in one piece!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “The optimist proclaims we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true!”…..James Cabell (1879 – 1958) Novelist and Journalist.

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Thoughts from a motorway car park! as PDF --


Ignore Boris – IQ equals Intellectually Questionable!

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!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


-- Download Ignore Boris - IQ equals Intellectually Questionable! as PDF --


There is crap to be cut Prime Minister!

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!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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

           oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo 


-- Download There is crap to be cut Prime Minister! as PDF --