Posts Tagged ‘Old Etonian’
Hope you had a belting Christmas. Now all we have to bother us are dodgy digestive systems and credit-card repayments. The build-up to the great day started back in October and it was impossible for any one day to live up to so much hype, but we allotment codgers had a go. One thing that has to change in our nest next time is the placing of Christmas cards. Each year we stand them on every conceivable ledge or shelf, each year people keep opening the front door at which point every card in the place takes off for Manchester Airport. Suggestions on a postcard please, but no prizes for suggestions involving sellotape which is guaranteed to create a unwelcome demand from she-who-must-be-obeyed for redecorating.
Today’s papers return us to the real world, although how real the polls are is hard to fathom. The ones I have read suggest that David Cameron is now regarded by 99 per cent of the population as a posh version of Mother Theresa. Perhaps the polls were taken in Surbiton, I really cannot imagine that reading in Wigan where they use the Old Etonian for darts matches. But the story that really attracted attention on the allotments concerned Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem children’s minister.
As a member of the coalition’s top team Ms Teather gave vehement support to the austerity programme. She stood shoulder to shoulder with Theresa Cameron and the dashing Osborne in refusing to contemplate action against tax dodgers, bank bonuses, high-speed rail and Olympics overspend. Like her hero Nick she made clear that the people must tighten their belts and stop whingeing about such luxuries as libraries and meals-on-wheels.
And that is her right. But being a hypocrite isn’t. Having supported cuts in local public services she is now campaigning against the ghastly plan to close public libraries in Brent. Why Brent? Because that is her constituency.
And she is not alone in her incredible hypocracy. Jeremy Browne (foreign office), Steve Webb (pensions) and James Brokenshire (crime) have all followed suit. All have lobbied their fellow ministers to save their own patches!
With behaviour like this is it any wonder that ministers and MPs at large are now to be found at the foot of the table of trustworthiness. Even estate agents and journalists now leave them standing. With one exception!
David Cameron stands next to God, David Beckham and Lady Gaga in the ratings, a politician far removed from the riffraff that seek our votes. Funny old world isn’t it!
I never thought I’d live to report it, but this morning David Cameron received a unanimous round of applause on the allotments. A few days ago we scratched our ancient heads at his choice of the financial sector as the UK’s red-line for the EU negotiations. We still do, but what we hadn’t anticipated was his willingness to slug it out in the face of what amounted to bullying tactics by the Germans, French and almost every member of the EU. If this was a tabloid it would have Cameron asking ‘Just who do EU think we are?’. But it isn’t and I’ll content myself with admitting that he has surprised us all, not least those who saw him as a PR guru and little else.
Of course, given the attitude of his back-benchers, the Prime Minister had little alternative to doing what he did in demanding some return for his support, but a whole series of his predecessors have rolled over when ordered to do so by the EU big guns. He didn’t flinch and we all have seen pictures of the animosity shown by Sarkozy and others. Few of us will lay awake at the revelation that if we refuse to bend to their will, the French and Germans just won’t love us. One spokesman for the furious EU gang has said that we will face revenge. If my memory serves me well they have tried that before!
Apart from the sudden transformation of the Old Etonian into a David happy to take on the Goliaths, one new truth has dawned. Whilst it is difficult to forecast the future given that the problems of the Euro still look insurmountable, one thing is clear. In an attempt to win German financial support most of the other Euorpean countries are surrendering their sovereignty. The deal leaves Britain in splendid isolation and the time has surely come to ask ourselves just what are the benefits of being members.
Such Lib Demmers as still exist will insist that we gain from influence at the Brussels table. That has now gone and suddenly the ‘for’ column looks empty. Trade? Hardly since we currently buy more from Europe than we sell to it and, in any case, manufacturers on either side of the channel will never turn down orders. Indeed, the talk yesterday of the new EU bloc freezing out trade with China and the USA sounds like commercial suicide that we are well out of.
The ‘ against membership’ column looks a tall one. Our subscriptions exceed our recipts by a large margin, and our industry is handicapped by a mass of laws. Our island is over-populated and there is nothing we can do to prevent EU citizens pouring in. Our laws are repeatedly overridden by the European Court and our agricultural and fishing industries are at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats. Viewed objectively, rather than politically, it is hard to spot the advantages of staying in the EU that will now emerge.
For this gang of old codgers the most puzzling aspect of yesterday was the response of Ed Miliband. Clearly it is politically dangerous to shower your opponents with even faint praise, but his claim that Cameron has got it totally wrong automatically triggers the question as to what he would have done. So far we have heard nothing on that score and we are left wondering if he seriously believes that we could allow ourselves to become even more enmeshed in an authoritarian and undemocratic organisation that will progressively assume control for every sovereign nation’s affairs.
Inevitably today’s right-wing press is demanding a referendum. It is likely that Cameron would not be averse to that since being able to speak for the whole country would help him when he has to respond to the inevitable EU backlash. Little doubt about the nation’s verdict when asked whether we should remain in Europe, but it would spell the end of the coalition and, given the apparent view of the Labour Party, would trigger an election. At this very moment Mr Cameron is probably reflecting on the fact that Churchill took on external threats only to be dumped when the ballot boxes were wheeled out in 1946.
But would the Lib Dems and Labour seriously consider going to the country recommending that we sign up to a ’Merkozy’ regime? Do turkeys vote for Christmas?
IT’S TIME FOR YOUR FAVOURITE WEEKEND QUIZ!; 1. How many times did Joe Frazier fight Muhammad Ali? 2. What was designed and made in a variable form by Sikorsky in 1941? 3. The TV series ‘Spooks’ is about which organisation? 4. Who had hits with “One Night in Heaven” and “Moving on Up”? 5. Which “dog like” peninsula formed Canada’s tenth province in 1948? 6. What was Coco Chanel’s Christian name? 7. Quilp appears in a book about what kind of shop? 8. In which European country are the Pindus Mountains? 9. If a creature is demersal, where does it live? 10. In which county was the first Youth Custody Centre set up in 1908?
??????????? ANSWERS TOMORROW ??????????????
Yesterday’s blue skies are but a distant memory, today it was back to the wellies as we plodded about amongst the squabbling hens. Just as soon as conscience allowed we were back in the clubhouse for our brew. But there was little rejoicing over the news that George Osborne has sold Northern Rock to his pal Richard Branson for a knock-down price. Our beamimg lizard-like Chancellor pronounced it a good deal but we codgers tend to regard any sale at a price miles below what one paid as anything but. That apart, any excitement at the rare sight of the treasury actually receiving money was offset by the news that the good old MOD has spent almost the amount of the Branson cheque on unauthorised use of management consultants, whose services cost ten times that of the recently redundant boffins.
The fact that we seem to mess up near everything must weigh heavily on David Cameron’s mind as he sets forth to tackle Angela Merkel. His mood won’t have been helped by the publication of a leaked document in today’s Telegraph. Whilst it is reassuring to learn that even the super-efficient Germans are not immune to leaks, the content is disturbing. It appears that Germany is planning to allow financial defaulters in the Eurozone to go bankrupt, and then to take over their economy as a prelude to total political integration. Germany’s Iron Lady was already planning to clip Cameron around the ear before issuing a bulletin confirming positive discussions. Her proposed leniency was down to the Old Etonian having let slip that he is not, as demanded by his rebellious MPs, going to ask for the return of some powers to Britain.
But now Angela has to convince the king of spin that he will feel quite at home in a sort of second string EU group which she can ignore and thus not worry about. Now she has to instruct him that even though the treaty changes will be rather significant, he must not do anything so rash as hold a referendum.
The problem is that the German Chnacellor, like most of her countrymen, is efficient and as logical as Spok himself. Someone as earnest and transparent as David Cameron is easy meat for she can anticipate his every move and be there before he makes it. What is really needed is a UK representative capable of confusing even the most logical of minds. That is why we codgers have decided to nominate Andrew Lansley. Merkel would never be able to anticipate his moves since even he doesn’t know what he is going to do next.
The story of his reform bill has run for almost as long as ‘the Mousetrap’, and it is still being rewritten. Right now the Lords are trying to make head or tail of it and approval is still some way off. But Andrew Lansley has proceeded anyway and most of the Primary Care Trusts have been wound down, their staff paid handsome redundancy packages before being signed up by the commissioning bodies supposedly to be run by GPs who have no intention of doing anything of the sort. The NHS is in chaos and no one, including brother Lansley, has any idea as to what happens next.
To add to the general Bladrick-like air, Lansley abolished waiting time targets at the same time as he applied the largest financial cuts ever experienced in our health service. Surprise, surprise, there are now people in great pain who have been waiting for a year to even obtain an appointment. One such is Julia Hough, a 39 year-old from Dorset. She was diagnosed with endometriosis but when she saw a consultant gynaecologist was told that surgery would not be available for a very long time. She was off sick from work and was in acute pain. Her only possible course of action was to raise £1,400 for private treatment.
Now Mr Lansley has reimposed the waiting time targets that he abolished. To make the decision appear less bizzare he has announced that any Primary Care Trust Chair failing to meet them will be sacked. Sadly, he has forgotten that his bill’s proposal to abolish such posts has already been acted upon!
Never mind, most of us who feared the death of the NHS realise that it has happened. All we can do now is to firstly ponder on the cashflow implications of paying for private treatment, and secondly what to do with Andrew Lansley.
Luckily, the Merkel threat and Mr Lansley’s latest confusion have coincided. So send him off to Berlin and watch the fun. Negotiating with our master of mystery will surely break even the Iron Lady’s heart!
A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE WEATHER:
” It’s so cold I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets”…Bob Hope “Better the chill blast of winter than the hot breath of a pursuing elephant”….Chinese proverb “It was so hot today I went to a cash point machine just to enjoy the feel of a cold gun aginst the back of my neck”…..David Letterman “Rain is one thing the Brits do better than anyone else”….Marilyn French “It’s spring in England. I missed it last year. I was in the bathroom”….Michael Flanders “One can always tell its summer when one sees teachers hangiing about in the shops , looking like cannibals during a shortage of missionaries”…..Robertson Davies
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE WEEKEND QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Some of my pals on the allotment have renamed their former hero, Nick Clegg, Big Chief Red Face. Given to using names from long past Westerns, they used to call him New Way but now that they realise that should an election take place his MPs could hold their meetings in a telephone kiosk the mood of the born-again Liberals has changed. For my part I see reason to believe their despair a little premature for young Nick is hitting back at his Old Etonian gaolers. Today’s wheeze has hit the headlines and sounds good to me, albeit slightly impractical.
Clegg has let it be known that were the Lib Dems in power the soft treatment of the Banks by the Conservatives would be a thing of the past. Meantime he is advocating a giveaway of government-owned shares in RBS and Lloyds, worth hundreds of pounds to British taxpayers. Such a move would create 46 million shareholders and allow a form of collective ownership of the Banks. In practice no one is likely to sell their loot in the short term since the bank’s share prices have not yet recovered.
Clegg is aiming at good psychology here. Such a move would demonstrate that the British public, which funded the saving of the Banks, has not been overlooked or ignored. Their money has been used to the tune of billions and billions yet at present they have absolutely no say at all in what happens when normality is achieved. Under the Clegg plan everyone on the electoral register would recieve an estimated 1450 shares in RBS and 450 in Lloyds. Such parcels would be worth £770 on the basis of the current share prices and holders would be free to sell when, and if, the level of the government’s rescue purchase price was reached.
Meantime the theory is that, at last, the public would be in a position to stop the appalling extravagence and greed demonstrated by those who led the Banks to destruction. How a collective voice could appear from 46 million shareholders is less clear, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that some bright spark would come up with a mass transfer of proxies for annual meetings. If they did the disgraceful sight of executives paying themselves millions at the public expense would come to a glorious end.
I may be in a minority of one here on the muddy plot, but I believe Nick Clegg deserves credit for at least trying something new and for recognising that most people are sick to the back teeth of suffering hardship, whilst the incompetent fat-cats that caused the disaster continue to line their already deep pockets.
If he has any breath left after this sudden and unexpected kicking-over of the traces, Clegg might well cast a glance in the direction of Network Rail. It also relies on the taxpayer for its funding and received £3.7 billion last year from the Department of Transport. Its chief executive, Iain Coucher, stepped dwon last year after a controversial 3-year reign. The period was peppered with complaints regarding performance, and even allegations of the misuse of public funds. A review concluded that “Network Rail has insulated itself from real-time economics and political concerns leading to criticisms that it is arrogant or out-of-touch with the reality for the industry, passengers, government and taxpayers”. Anyone using our unpunctual, dirty and overcrowded trains will say amen to that, although given the botched up privatisation of the railways it is almost impossible for the long-suffering passengers to know who to blame.
But one thing is for sure. They will not be impressed by today’s announcement of a £1 million payoff for Coucher. Even the Transport secretary, Philip Hammond, was moved to say that this will “stick in the gullet” of taxpayers and fare payers who have just suffered further huge increases in fares. Perhaps the only surprise is that Coucher was not included in the honours list in the way that Stagecoach boss Brian Souter was. In the week he was knighted thousands of commuters were stranded for hours on South West Trains routes out of Waterloo and communication was so poor that many broke out of stranded trains. Oh yes, he also took the Department of Transport to court, winning tens of millions in extra subsidy payments.
The truth is that under the coalition the rich and privileged, and often contributors to the Conservative Party, have flourished whilst the rest of the nation has been hammered. I at least draw some comfort from the sight of Nick Clegg at last speaking out for the man in the street.
Who knows, my pals may one day dig their ‘I agree with Nick’ sweaters out of the attic!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. Mike Atherton played for which county cricket club? 2. Which were the initials of US President Jonnson? 3. In which county is Ashford International station? 4. Does a Pina Colada contain rum or gin? 5. Which word for a duty doctor is a Latin name for place holder? 6. Which country’s Rugby Union side are the Pumas? 7. Is a Dandy Dimmont a dog, a cat or a horse? 8. In which county is the stately home of Althorp? 9. Which controversial author used the initials for his first names David Herbert? 10. What sort of fruit flavour does Calvados have?
How different life feels on days like this. The allotments are alive with sunshine, every colour is enhanced and the path that has been covered in ice and then mud is suddenly easy on the feet. Even the dandelions, which should have no place in the home of gardeners, are throwing their heads defiantly in the warm air. If only this could last for ever! Mind you there is a flip side to everything, already the water suppliers are warning of a hosepipe ban. Just months ago there were extensive floods and what I don’t understand is the failure to build more reservoirs. But then again the things that I don’t understand would fill a Cyril Smith-sized book!
And right now the Alternative Vote is right up there. We all received a leaflet from ‘call me Dave’ Cameron yesterday. It even has a picture of the Old Etonian signing autographs with his left hand. perhaps he uses the right one for official business? Either way, he is urging us to vote no on May 5th.
The Alternative Vote, says ‘Dave’, is unfair, expensive and discredited. Discredited by whom? Pass, although he does mention that only Australia and Papua New Guinea use it, so maybe Shane Warne and co no longer see it as fair dinkum. He also mentions that countmg can take days which is a real no-no for those who enjoy a tension-laden booze-up on election night. And he underlines the fact that the candidate who finishes third can win.
And that is the feature that puts me off the Clegg/Miliband dream ticket. It’s as if after the 1oo metres final in the Olympics the spectators are asked to list their favourites in a sequence one to five and eventually we are told that Mr Bolt has been displaced on the winners rostrum by Bert Brown from Croydon Harriers.
That may not make sense to you, it scarcely does to me and I wrote it. But even more puzzling to this simple soul is ‘Dave’s’ claim that supporters of such odious people as the BNP will “get their votes counted many more times than everyone else”. I think I know what he means but it is an odd way to put it.
There is of course in all this an assumption that we all have alternative choices. But is this the case? My dear old Gran was what she called ‘a red hot Liberal’ and hated any candidate that threatened gorgeous Lloyd George and his mates. I suspect there are many who on the left and right who feel much the same and would only tick a second or third choice as a means of tactical voting.
I am open to persuasion on this. Right now, first-past-the-post seems more in line with my approach to life, I certainly disagree with Albert and Jack. they refuse to vote until such time as the ballot paper offers ‘None of them’ as an option. If everyone followed that approach it wouldn’t take long to count the votes, but it sounds a bit unpatriotic to me. And in extremis it would leave the loopy bloke from Bacup who always votes and always votes for the Monster Raving Loonies running the country. On second thoughts, that might be no worse than now!
I’ve just had a final thought. Why is PR guru ’Dave’ so keen to have a no vote? Presumably because he sees disadvantage for the Tories under AV. And I don’t even understand that !
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY: FASHION; “A dress has no meaning unless it makes a man want to take it off”….Francoise Sagan “The Pope. Great guy. But in a fashion sense, he’s one hat away from being the Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan”…..Jon Stewart “Her hat looks as if it had made a forced landing on her head”…..Harriet Cobb “A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off for the rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat”….P J O’Rourke ”They should put expiration dates on clothes so we would know when they go out of style”…..Garry Shandling “Some women hold up dresses that are so ugly and they always say the same thing. ‘This looks much better on’ On what? On fire?”…..Rita Rudner “I don’t own a dress. I wear skirts but I look like a netball teacher”….Victoria Wood “you have no idea how much it costs to look this cheap”….Dolly Parton “A sweater is a garment worn by a child when his mother feels chilly”…..Nora Ephron “If the shoe fits get another just like it”…..George Carlin “Men who wear turtlenecks look like turtles”…..Doris Lily “The softer a man’s head, the louder his socks”……Helen Rowland “Some women think bikinis are immodest. Others have beautiful figures”….Olin Miller
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Harold Wilson 2. Margaret Thatcher
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who wrote books about Inspector Morse? 2. In which city was Bertolucci’s Last Tango?
A hen escaped this morning. It proved elusive to a bunch of old blokes wearing wellies and, after countless attempts to collar it, Bob suggested we leave it to come to its senses. But as it headed for the neighbouring road Albert made the point that being an idiot, it has no sense to come to and was in imminent danger of sharing the fate of a hedgehog which ended up as flat as a cold omelette. So a large net was sent for and capture achieved.
It was the comments about idiots that led to a suggestion that I use the blog to nominate a national idiot of the week. Today’s choice was a close run thing but former Labour minister Michael Meacher made it by a length. He has chosen to publish on his blog a picture appearing to show Chancellor George Osborne with a gaping, six-inch wound across the throat. The headline screams “Labour should go for Osborne’s jugular”.
Just how stupid can anyone get? There are many fanatical and disturbed people out there, and to them the picture is open to literal interpretation. As one commentator on the website said “it is important we don’t unconsciously create an atmosphere of violent hyperbole and the dehumanisation of those we don’t agree with. If a Tory blog had a picture of Ed Balls hanging from a lamp-post we’d be appalled”. Indeed.
Mr Meacher has every right to castigate George Osborne over his financial policy. But to do so in a way that appears to extol violence in its worst form is appalling. As at this moment the article remains online and merits top prize for idiocy.
Not far behind was David Cameron for once again demonstrating his total lack of English history. It is the job of a British prime minister to stand up for his country when abroad. But again the Old Etonian has chosen to denegrate his homeland. When visiting Pakistan he chose to to place the entire blame for the 60-year conflict in Kashmir at our door. Forget the fact that he is supposed to be our defence counsel, he is historically incorrect. At least in mitigation he could have pointed out that we gave Pakistan parliamentary democracy, superb irrigation systems, excellent roads, the rule of law, the English language, and even such valued pastimes as cricket. And serious historians have been quick to point out that many other historical actors have played their part in the recent story of this deeply troubled Indian state. All this apart he could have pointed out that we contribute billions of pounds in aid, and were foremost in leaping to help during last year’s terrible floods.
Readers will doubless recall his speech in the United States when he claimed that in 1940 we were a junior partner in the fight against Hitler and all his works. In fact at that point we stood alone! Sadly our new prime minister matches Tony Blair in his complete lack of historical facts and an eagerness to ingratiate himself with every audience.
So there we have it. The very first Allotmenteer’s Idiocy Awards. It is hard to refrain from adding that with people like Meacher and Cameron involved in the leadership of Britain it is no surprise that we are in an almighty mess!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; HONESTY: “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics”…….Benjamin Disraeli “There are three kinds of liars; liars, damned liars, and politicians”……Will Rogers “There is one way to find out if a man is honest – ask him. If he says ‘yes’, you know he is crooked”….Groucho Marx ”Everybody has a bit of Watergate in him”…..Billy Grahame “A man had rather have a hundred lies told of him, than one truth which he does not wish to be told”…….Samuel Johnson ”I never know how much of what I say is true”…Bette Midler “Truth is the most valuable commodity – let us economise”……Mark Twain “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is the best defence”…..Steve Landesburg “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 “It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless of course you are an exceptionally good liar”….Jerome K Jerome
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1 The Irish Republic 2. It disappeared after local government changes
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1 Soccer : Who did Keegan and Toshack play for together? 2. Who bought Warwick Castle in 1978?
A lovely sunny morning offset by brass monkey temperatures greeted us this morning. Like us, the cabbages have turned white, unlike us they will return to their natural colour in due course. Meantime the chooks are devoiuring the lettuces in the big greenhouse so they are far from deprived. We half noticed all this as we worked but so used to the routine are we that we chat as we work, what posh people call multi-tasking I believe. And the chat today was about Alan Johnson.
There is a healthy contempt for most top politicians on the allotment but Alan Johnson was the exception. Several of us met him during his stint at the Department of Health and we liked him. He was almost unique amongst the posh people that run the country. He didn’t go to Eton or Oxbridge and he once had an ordinary job just like the rest of us. He related to ordinary folk and they to him. In the Commons during his brief period as shadow chancellor he was constantly patronised by the Old Etonian set. Had Cameron told me that I couldn’t count and didn’t count I would have been inclined to do a Prescott, but to Alan it was as water is to a duck’s back.
No one knows what the personal problems that led him to resign are, doubtless the gutter press will either dig up or invent something. He can expect no mercy from the Murdoch press. But whatever they invent it will not diminish the man for he stood out amongst the two front benches which are packed with people who went straight into politics from university, and have no real idea of what the life of an ordinary family is like.
One thing is certain in all this. Cameron et al will find it a good deal harder to patronise Ed Balls who is widely regarded at Westminster as having the sharpest economic brain. I spent an hour with him when he was in charge of Education and I liked him. But I also gained the distinct impression that tangling with him would not be a pleasant experience, especially if the subject was finance. When Ed Miliband originally appointed Alan Johnson the relief on George Osborne’s face was there for all to see, whatever he pretends he will not be relishing the idea of combat with Balls on his own subject.
But there is something depressing about it all isn’t there. Any prime minister must select his or her ministers from a total of around 300, and many of those will be too old or too daft. And he will know that the best brains in the country are all somewhere else, earning more and working more sociable hours. The result is that a PM tends to play it safe by selecting from within his own social class. The result is that we have people such as Osborne or Lansley responsible for huge organisations within which, if they were free to apply, they would command no better than a middle-management position.
Like them Alan Johnson was no genius, but he did have one big thing going for him. He had self understanding and common sense. He knew what the people out there really think and he knew how much they would take. Had he been chancellor you can be sure that he would have understood precisely which cuts were beyond the pale.
The interesting feature now will be how much Balls reins in his passionate belief in Keynes, in the concept of boosting an economy before extracting the wherewithal to balance the books. Ed Miliband tends to the view that some heavy cuts at the front end are needed, Balls does not. He believes that the economy is being driven over a massive cliff and many economists believe that he is right.
And Ed Balls does not take kindly to patronising posh people. Be sure that when he addresses ministers as my honourable friend he doesn’t mean one word of it!
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE MURDOCH BID?
Most people appear reluctant to see even more media power pass into the hands of one man, Rupert Murdoch. That explains some of the popularity enjoyed by Vince Cable during the election. Since then he has rather fallen from grace and his faux pas about Murdoch gave the prime minister the perfect opportunity to take the responsibility for scrutinising the bid for BSkyB away from him and to hand it to a Murdoch devotee, Jeremy Hunt.
Now no one believes other than that a stitch-up is underway. And no one was surprised to learn that over the holiday Cameron visited Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, and her husband at their Oxfordshire home. Ironically news of the visit coincided with news of pressure mounting over allegations of phone-tapping at the News of the World, the former editor of which was, until today, Cameron’s communications director.
The reaction from the opposition has been hostile. Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis described Cameron’s visit as ” extrordinary”. He claimed that “the prime minister may be in breach of his own ministerial code”. There is, claimed Mr Lewis, ” an arrogance about this prime minister that is slowly coming to the surface”.
Sadly the critics can huff and puff all they wish, the deal is as good as done!
SOME THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “I’ve decided to take up a life of crime but I can’t decide which party to join”…Roy Chubby Brown “The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put make-up on two faces”….Maureen Murphy ” A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country”….Texas Guinan “A politician never believes anything he says, so he is always amazed when you do”….Charles de Gaulle “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it wrongly and applying unsuitbke remedies”….Grouch Marx “Being in politics is like being a soccer manager. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think its important”……Eugene McCarthy “Reagan won because he ran against Jimmy Carter. Had Reagan run unopposed he would have lost”…….Mort Sahl
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. James Callaghan 2. Basil Hume
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which character in ‘Coronation Street electrocuted herself? 2. Who was the first presenter of the TV show’ The Generation Game’?
Disraeli once remarked that England does not like coalitions. That is open to debate but we can be reasonably sure that Nick Clegg is beginning to dislike the one in which he has become entangled. Already the polls are showing a massive collapse in his party’s support and the signs of rebellion amongst his members are manifesting themselves in Lib Dem MPs voting aaginst the government even at this early stage. Out in the real world the electorate seems to have almost forgotten that Nick and company exist at all. Gone are those first-day double acts with David Cameron and the media are beginning to refer to the Tory government as the Old Etonian rubs shoulders with Obama and sundry other world leaders.
Perhaps even more worrying for the man who just weeks ago electrified the TV debates is the growing number of economists beginning to warn that the early and severe cuts being applied to just about everything may tip us into an economic depression greater than any in living memory. Their argument is that public spending needs to be stimulated in the short term rather than reduced. Which is exactly the case made by the Lib Dems before they climbed into bed with those determined to squeeze the lemon until the pips fall out.
The history of coalitions suggests that they can work well providing that they include competing equals and several at that. The deal that Clegg has signed up to meets neither criteria and he is virtually trapped given that any move to bring down his new bedmates would certainly lead to obliteration at the resulting election. He probably reflects now that had he settled for supporting a minorityTory administration he might well have remained an apple in the public eye providing that he only prevented what were clearly unpopular proposals.In that way he could have proved once and for all that the Lib Dems represent the middle way between the general belief of the Right that the poor and vulnerable are all underserving and the Left which tends to the opposite.
And now, more quickly than any thought possible, a range of proposals which will cause massive hardship to those with no power to help themselves are emerging. One such was portrayed last evening on the BBC regional news. It appears that as a result of reduced funding from central government Bolton Coucil has to cut £40 million from its budget. It claims that it has no option but to slash services for, amongst others, children and the elderly. An interview was shown involving an elderly married couple whose already difficult life is about to become a nightmare. The lady in question is a retired teacher who has developed Alzheimers disease and has become totally dependent on her carer husband. She is no longer capable of poing anything for herself and he made it plain that without the help that he receives he would be unable to cope however hard he tries. He would in effect be attempting to provide intensive nursing care on a 24/7 basis and it is not hard to imagine the outcome for both of these devoted people.
Clearly this is but one example of the nightmare about to hit vast numbers of good people who quietly have coped with the worst possible circumstances in the twilight of their years. No amount of right-wing rhetoric about getting on bikes can save them, they face a sentence of hell on earth imposed in our name by people who probably have no conception of a life of pain and poverty. And this is where the ultimate challenge to the Lib Dems arises. They are the only politicians that can stand up for such victims. But have they the guts to do so?
No one is suggesting that theredo not have to be cuts and economies. But in a civilised and caring society there are surely some things that must be fought in the name of humanity. And many of these centre around the elderly and frail. In the same report we heard that nursing homes have been told to re-tender at reduced costs and we heard one owner make clear that this means a big deteriortaion in the standards of proviison which in many cases is already at a standard below that where any dignity can exist. If the situation around the country is so desperate it would be better by far to slash the number of Councils which often overlap. There are many draconian alternatives and they all represent less hardship for those whose only escape from misery is death.
Of course the Labour Party is alreday fighting such developments tooth and nail but they are in reality impotent. Despite their waning popularity the junior members of the coalitionare still in a position to stop the worst excesses of right wing policies. Yes, to do so might lead to their annihilation but the founders of the Liberal tradition would not have been deterred by that. And there is just a possibility that were the Party to stand and fight for the truly oppressed the public perception of them might swing into more favourable climes.
Everyone wants the fight against financial ruin to succeed but when they hear that the net affect of the Budget on the Banks, who caused the disaster, is a net gain and, just days late,r learn the intended fate of our elderly many cry enough is enough!
Mr Clegg could do worse than note the words of Abraham Lincoln who, in a letter dated 15th March, 1876 said ’ I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice’.
Father’s Day is the one day of the year on which our allotment shed stays frimly bolted. We are even open on Christmas Day, a practice established some years ago when one of our she-who-has-to-be-obeyeds insisted on one of our members helping with the washing-up. But on Father’s Day we all resume our rightful place as the centre of attention for sons and daughters who had forgotten our existence.
Unlike Mothering Sunday our special day has no historical or religious roots. Some decades ago retailers in the United States decided that Dads merited attention as did their sales figures. Now it is observed on the third Sunday in June not only here and in the USA, but in Canada and Australia too. And quite right too, we Fathers deserve unlimited praise, not to mention a supply of socks and ties. Perhaps the German satirical poet and illustrator Wilhelm Busch anticipated all this when he wrote, in 1877, that ‘becoming a father is n’t difficult , but it’s very difficult to be a father’. Then again perhaps he didn’t, since Germany stubbornly fails to celebrate.
As the great man implied it is very difficult to be a good Dad. Given six daughters I have always admired the approach adopted by Mr Bennet in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. You may recall that he locked himself in his study and insisted that any daughter wishing to have advice on affairs of the heart must first make an appointment. The problem is that unless you are an Old Etonian, a la Cameron, you don’t have a study. Then you take up ferret-breeding and spend your days in a shed together with sundry other escapees from domestic bliss.
When we all gathered this morning talk inevitably centered around the appalling burden we had to bear yesterday. Several had peeled spuds and even more had laid the table. Consoled by the fact that such horrors will not assail us again for twelve months we turned to more pressing concerns such as the fate awaiting John Terry who led a revolt only to find that he was the only one in it. Then there was the awful prospect of another all Williams sisters final at Wimbledon and the impending thrashing of the Aussies (at cricket not soccer, where they may well thrash us).
Of course not only are we all Dads but we also had Dads. The interesting aspect of that is that we all seem to have followed in their footsteps. In Tom’s case that has unfortunate consequences since his Dad was so smitten with ferrets that he insisted on taking them on his honeymoon. That led to unfortunate events such as when he accidently released one in the dining room and Tom has maintained the tradition by even appearing for a medical armed with his favourite. The GP ended up in A& E and has never been the same man since.
But the way in which we tend to pursue careers or pastimes we learned at our Dad’s knee is uncanny. Many of us have never watched Alan Titchmarsh yet seem to have a built-in know-how on gardeneing. Others became good cricketers as did dad before them. One member is a retired solicitor, another a Doctor, both pursued exactly the same career as their fathers. Incidentally the latter is a very much valued member of the Club, having become expert at the art of finger-stitching.
Lest you assume that this tendency to be like Pater is unique to us just spend a few moments considering the famous. One of the best batsmen in county cricket today is Nick Compton, Lampart is a familiar name in top soccer and John Snow a top TV presenter. Coincidence? No, simply proof that we oppressed Dads are universally as inspiring as Churchill whose son Randolph followed him into politics.
To end on a more sombre note I have always regretted profoundly the fact that I was just nine years old when my Dad died. I so often wonder what he was like, what he felt, what dreams he had. I have always missed the man I never had. My other regret is that I lack the deep faith of some of my pals. Bill mentioned his Pa this morning, as he often does. On one occasion, when Bill was quite poorly he told me that he had no fear of death, he was looking forward to seeing his Dad again.
Anyway, that’s the end of our big day for another year. Yesterday the offspring lined up to hand over their cards. For the next 364 days should they need us we are to be found in the allotment shed. But I have reminded my daughters that the sign reading ‘Men Only’ is strictly enforced.
Coming up; WIMBLEDON we’ve missed you!!!………………………………………..