Posts Tagged ‘Nick Clegg’
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!
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
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
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?
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
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!
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
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!
“THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it wrongly and applying unsuitable remedies!”…Groucho Marx
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!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to!” ….Laurence J Peter
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!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Only one kind of love lasts – unrequited !”…..Somerset Maugham
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.
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
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!
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.
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