Posts Tagged ‘Politician’
When David Cameron offered soothing words to the National Trust and other objectors to the proposed new planning laws, few amongst our allotment gang believed a word of it. But then we are a cynical bunch, a product of a lifetime of listening to politician’s words and then observing their actions. I confess that my blog on the subject of the financial links between the big developers and the Conservative Party fuelled the doubts and, in a perverse way, I am relieved that today’s news suggests that our green belt and areas of natural beauty are in great danger.
A disturbing feature of this government is that it invariably implements its proposals long before parliament has endorsed them. We have seen it with the so-called NHS Reforms, and today there is clear evidence that the same is true of the hotly disputed planning framing stitch-up between developers and ministers. For the purpose of this piece we can ignore the Lib Dems who, as on so many issues, have pledged to cry stop but in reality will simply do as they are told by their dominant partners.
The hard fact is that developers are already using the draft reforms to appeal against any refusal by local authorities to grant planning permssion for estates on green land, this despite the fact that there are sufficient ‘brownfield’ sites to accomodate housing needs for the next decade.
In Oakham, Rutland, planning inspectors have overruled the county council’s decision to reject an application to build 96 houses on a site designated an Area of Particularly Attractive Countryside. In his written rejection of the Council’s decision, the inspector quoted the draft planning laws on seven occasions! In North Norfolk the district council were ‘strongly advised’ to take the draft framework into account when they granted permission for a lorry park and silo to be built on a meadow on the outskirts of Great Ryburgh, Fakenham. In Redditch an application to build 171 houses on an area of green belt was approved on appeal after another reference to the framework. In Malmesbury, Wiltshire, developer Gleeson has made extensive reference to the framework as part of its application to build 200 houses on green fields to the north of the town.
In every instance the Planning Inspectorate has said that the draft framework can be considered in decisions on developments as it gave a “clear indication of the Government’s direction of travel in planning policy”. In other words, the developers can do broadly what they wish to do since the framework rules that decisions must favour development.
Yesterday the National Trust warned campaigners that current decisions give a strong indication of how the guidelines will be applied when they are adopted. Paul Miner, the senior planning officer of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said; “It is worrying that the new framework is already being implemented despite being out for consultation..local protection for rural areas will be lost”.
God bless organisations like the National Trust for they mean well and care about our heritage. But they are incredibly naive. Knowing that the majority of the various societies membership are of Tory persuasion, Cameron rushed in with his usual earnest “I love it too” blather. And they believed him for a few days at least. Did they really imagine that he was prepared to ditch the bill which has brought the bulldozer-men rushing to Downing Street with their cheque books at the ready. Like his mentor Tony Blair, David Cameron knows a backhander when he sees one.
Few people actually like or trust developers, but this situation goes far beyond that.This is already a crowded island and its one redeeming feature is its countryside, its restful green spaces. Its urban areas are pockmarked with decaying ex-industrial sites crying out for development. But the work involved is less profitable than simply starting on a virgin field.
And who will stop this corrupt and destructive new law which developers drafted? Only the voice of the people for the official opposition are still cowering in their bunkers as more and more revelations about the blatent corruption of the Blair years emerge. In theory power is being delegated to local communities, in practice David Cameron is pointing a rude sign in their direction!
THE ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. A small rock plant 2. Chrissie Watts 3. The Old Man of the Sea 4. Nothing 5. Jemini 6. A nap 7. Harlequins 8. Baz Luhrmann 9. Billy Joel 10. Greenland
There was an air of disappointment on the allotments this morning. It emanated from the significant number amongst us who have been staunch fans of President Obama. Here, my pals liked to say, was an honourable man who would always put what was right before any political considerations. Perhaps distance does lend enchantment for the comparisons made between him and our lot have always been favourable. Suddenly, at a stroke, the American hero of the chicken-keepers has fallen from grace.
The feeling that maybe this, after all, is just a politician on the make like every other, has been triggered by the President’s announcement of the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, plus the remainder of the 33,000 “surge” troops by September 2012, smacks of political calculation rather than military judgement, indeed the US Generals have been quick to distance themselves from the decision.
Of course it reflects Mr Obama’s ambivalence about the Afghan strategy that he unveiled at West Point in December, 2009, after months of agonising about what to do following General Stanley McChrystal’s stark assessment that the United States was on course for defeat. On that point there was probably widespread sympathy for the man who had inherited a war that few believe can be won. But to now announce withdrawal dates is astonishing. To have them as secret targets for the military is one thing, to tell the enemy with whom negotiations are the only realistic hope is another.
The effect may well be to leave the 70,000 troops in Afghanistan to fight and to be killed without any prospect of achieveing anything because they lack the “force density” required for a counter-insurgency offensive. The withdrawal of all the “surge” troops announced at West Point risks a reversal of the fragile gains they have made, leaving the Taliban to slip back into areas being relinquished.
And above all else it will surely shatter any hopes for the talks now under way with Mullah Omar’s Quetta shura faction of the Taliban. Omar was clearly under great pressure from the “surge” but will surely now ask himself why he should negotiate. All he needs to do is wait for the American troops to leave. And for ordinary Afghans, why side with Nato forces or their indigenous allies if the Taliban will soon return?
Ultimately, Mr Obama will be judged not on how quickly he pulled the troops out but what kind of Afghanistan they left behind. For all its political adroitness, the President’s decision could lead to escalating chaos and civil war and the country could once again become a base for Islamist enemies of the West. We can all undertsand his reluctance to be in Afghanistan, not least because it is an unpopular war with the American public and an election is due next year. But what we cannot understand is what amounts to the torpedoing of the only real hope of securing a better Afghanistan; negotiations, for no one really believes that the corrupt and incompetent government forces will be ready to beat off the Taliban in the short term.
So it would appear that yet another major politician has feet of clay. Needless to say the Italians, French and Germans have been quick to follow suit. Britain? But of course. In fact William Hague went to great lengths yesterday to strees that we will not be involved in conflict at all from 2015. Again he is right with the decision but wrong to tell the enemy. It is almost like Churchill having told Hitler we will not battle on beyond 1945!
Without changing one iota of their intent Mr Obama and the other leaders could have said that they will not ease back until the Taliban sit down to agree terms. At least that way they would have retained a strong bargaining position for the next six months, and that just might have been enough. We surely owed at least an attempt at a face-saving formula to all those who have died in this futile, misguided conflict born of Bush and Blair.
Now they have ensured failure and further jeopardised the morale and safety of all the Nato troops. But then given a choice between their own political skins and those of the troops we are not surprised at their choice are we?
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEAD QUIZ; 1. Lancashire 2. L.B 3. Kent 4. Rum 5. Locum 6. Argentina 7. Dog 8. Northamptonshire 9. D H Lawrence 10. Apple
A mild morning for chicken-men but there was a palpable air of disappointment in the air this morning. A lot of the folk are cricket buffs and just weeks ago there was great rejoicing as England proved once and for all that the Australians can be beaten, hammered in fact. But yesterday they thrashed England for the third time in a week at the form of the game that many now favour. With the World Cup just around the corner England suddenly look like the gang of losers that we had come to know for so long. One reason may well be the incredibly long and taxing schedule. Who agreed to this, who really runs cricket these days? It is easier to say what runs it. Greed, that’s what.
But who runs Britain? Until recent times that was an easy one. The establishment comprised the government and its circle of contacts, the BBC heirarchy, the Church, the Bank of England, Royalty, big business, trade unions et al. But all that has changed and now there is a new power in the land, the press. One only has to note the muted reaction of every top politician to the Coulson affair to realise that something is not quite right. Up to now the pattern has been the usual Westminster one when it comes to scandals. The scandal itself, the uncovering, the refusal to resign, the resignation, the closure. At least that seems to be the hope.
But this time there should be no closure. Because the practice of often illegal surveillance by hacking into phones, using eavesdropping technologies and stealing documents continues. This isn’t just about Coulson, or the News of the World, or even Murdoch. Many other newspapers have been doing the same. Shrewd editors pass off the really dirty stuff to self-employed dirt diggers but they are happy to buy and publish the results. And politicians are running scared, the power of the press to influence the electorate has reached a peak.
Columnist Jackie Ashley tells of meeting someone recently who talked of good police contacts and offered to get hold of bank records of someone she was curious about. When she refused she gained the impression that her contact thought her unnecessarily fastidious.
But although others are also guilty, the chance of exposure of the new rotten world of press methods and resulting influence has arisen around the Murdoch empire. But who, if anyone, is sufficiently independent to really force through a total investigation? Certainly not the political establishment. Take a look at the guest list for any of Murdoch’s summer parties and who do you find? At the Orangery in Kensington or the Oxo tower you will have no difficulty in spotting Cameron of course but it is the other names that cause an intake of beath. Lord Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, both Miliband brothers, Ken Livingstone, Nick Clegg, George Osborne..not too much chance of any of them being over eager to bite the hand that feeds them.
These are merely examples of the close ties woven between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, when they were prime ministers, and Cameron now, and the Murdoch camp. There have been, and still are, private meetings and dinners, calls and much talk of mutual interests. The government of this country is in hock to the press, in terror almost.
Of course given indications of massive power, influence and dubious methods we would normally turn to the police. But as John Prescott is currently complaining they were remarkably reluctant to do anything when the news of phone hacking broke, in fact they didn’t so much as inform those whose phones were known to be hacked. Either the police themselves are now drawn into the web or they fear the leading politicians that are. Either way it is bad news for democracy.
We have moved into a digital age of exposure, most of it driven by the press. The time has come to shine a light on the one profession that has for so long been able to work quietly in the shadows. At one time press scrutiny was the only safeguard we had against corruption, now the press itself appears to be the major influence and yet escapes the full disclosure and scrutiny that it demands of those it decides to investigate according to its political leanings and ambitions.
Who is brave enough to stand up for democracy?
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “There are two types of people; those who walk into a room and say ‘Well, here I am’ and those who walk into a room and say ‘Ah, there you are”….Frederick Collins. “Is your husband religious? Oh yes, he thinks he’s God almighty”….Mrs David Frost. “He was a cock who thought the sun had come up to hear him crow”…..George Eliot. “But enough of me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”…Bette Midler. “Do you think you’ve learned from your mistakes? What mistakes”…..Leslie Caron “My greatest regret in the theatre was that I could never sit in the audience and watch me”…..John Barrymore. “He’s a self made man who worships his creator”….William Cowper…”Don’t be so humble. You’re not that great”….Golda Meir. “The nice thing about egoists is that they don’t talk about other people”…Lucille C Harper.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. India 2. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which US city was the Watergate building? 2. In which TV serial did Annie Sugden feature as a character?
No rain, no ice this morning so we cleaned out and fed the hens without so much as a curse. But we did have a mild argument on the subject of honesty, that of politicians to be precise. It was triggered by today’s headlines about the Iraq Inquiry and the sudden implication by the former attorney general that Blair lied on his previous appearance. It was Tom who argued that it is impossible to be a leading politician and to avoid telling porkies. Perhaps the rest of us are as naive as Tom suggested, but it still seems a sad state of affairs.
In support of his case Tom cited Mr Cameron’s press conference of yesterday when he was accused by the BBC’s Nick Robinson of duplicity, having failed to mention his intention to smash up the NHS during his election camapign. Of course the truth is, said Tom, that he deliberately witheld the intention for fear of losing votes but he could hardly tell that truth yesterday could he? Eventually the argument petered out which, one imagines, is what Blair is praying will happen with the Iraq Inquiry. But will it?
Our former prime minister is due to reappear before Chilcott’s team on Friday and it will take all of his evasive charm to handle the fact that Lord Goldsmith, his most senior legal adviser at the time of the invasion, has alleged that his public statements about the invasion contradicted the legal advice he had been given. He said that Blair’s words made him “uncomfortable” and described how he was cut out of discussions over the drafting of the UN resolution used as cover for the invasion of March 2003. He insisted that had he been consulted he would have seriously altered the wording of the resolution. On Friday the greatest spin-doctor of them all will be asked why he made definitive statements disputed by Lord Goldsmith!
The attorney general’s evidence also suggests that Mr Blair may have misled Parliament over the legality of the war. Lord Goldsmith called into question some of the arguments used by Mr Blair during a crucial speech to MPs on 15 January 2003, as he attempted to convince them of the need to deal with Saddam Hussein. Amongst other things he said that “there are circumstances in which a UN resolution is not necessary, because it is necessary to be able to say in circumstances where an unreasonable veto is put down that we would still act”. This despite the fact that only a day before, Lord Goldsmith had told Mr Blair that the current UN resolution dealing with Saddam “could not be used to justify an invasion”.
Asked by Chilcott whether “the prime minister’s words were compatible with the advice” he had been given, Lord Goldsmith replied No. It is clear that both men cannot be telling the truth!. Interestingly the top legal adviser reiterated that “my views were nor sought in the perod between my meeting with the prime minister on 22 October 2002 and my telephone call with Jack Straw on 7 November 2002 when “the text of the resolution was all but agreed and during the period of my exclusion important changes occurred”.
If Lord Goldsmith’s evidence is open to debate it is less likely that new evidence from Jack Straw is. Yesterday the Inquiry released a secret memo form Mr Straw which, on March 25 2002, warned the prime minister of the “high” risks of his visit to George W Bush. It said that “a legal justification is necessary but is far from sufficient precondition for military action. And what will action achieve? Iraq has no history of democracy so no one has this habit or experience”. Yet more explaining for Mr Blair to do for many of us knew that the talk of free elections was hot-air!
The establishment looks after its own and few expect other than a whitewash. But yesterday has upped the stakes and it is perhaps not unfanciful to imagine that the summary could be that parliament and the nation was deliberately misled and many good people died.
Tom may be right in contending that politicians have to lie to survive but maybe, just maybe, we are about to learn that there is such a thing as a lie too far!
DESTRUCTION OF THE NHS IS UNDERWAY!
A major part of David Cameron’s defence of the sweeping NHS reforms was that he is following in the steps of Tony Blair. Perhaps no one has explained to him that Blair ain’t as popular as he once was! But having listened to him, the most eminent clinicians in the land made clear that “Approve or disapprove, this policy marks the end of the NHS”. And some one a little nearer to home had some cutting remarks to make.
Sarah Wollaston is in the unique position of being both a Tory MP and a GP. She said that the reforms are the equivalent to “tossing a grenade under the health service”. Dr Wollaston is a member of the parliamentary Health Select Committee and its overall verdict was equally hostile. MPs said they were surprised by the “significant policy shift” between what the coalition promised to do in May and what it is now proposing. There was “uncertainty compounded by apparently inconsistent messages”
Back in May, Cameron must have known he was planning the biggest reorganisation in the history of the NHS and its privatisation. He chose not to be honest and his defence that he is merely continuing along the path set by Blair is less that reassuring. And even now he is surely lying when he says that hospitals that fail to compete will be left to go into bankruptcy. No government could contemplate a large conurbation denied medical care. Or could it?
TAX AVOIDERS MAY BE REVEALED!
Are some of our super-rich tax avoiders about to come under the sort of spotlight reserved of late for MPs?
Yesterday the former banker Rudolf Elmer, who is due to appear in a Zurich court charged with breaking secrecy laws, handed to Wikileaks documents said to contain details of more than 2000 account holders who had used offshore tax havens to keep money out of the hands of the taxman.
The next fireworks night may come a little early this year!
A FEW THOUGHTS ON IT…..“Computers are like humans – they do everything but think”…John Von Neumann. “Bill Gates declared to the world, ‘I am Microsoft’. Mrs Gates had no comment”…..Whoopi Goldberg. “”A computer once beat me at chess but it was no match for me at kickboxing”….Emo Philips “The Internet is so big and so pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life”……Andrew Brown
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. It fell from 7.9 million to just under 7.4 million. 2. 1975
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who played the male lead in ‘Last Tango in Paris’? 2. Which much-loved jazz trumpeter died in 1971?
Even the hens seemed perky this morning. Perhaps their instincts tell them what our pin-up weather lady, Eno, tells us. For the time being we can forget frosts and very low temperatures and each week brings Spring just that little bit nearer. So morale is high on the allotment site for the time being, certainly higher than that of David Chaytor!
The MP yesterday achieved the unwelcome status of being the first politician to be put behind bars over the expenses scandal. With several more cases to be heard he will probably not be the last. His conduct amounted to no less than fraud but there are a significant number of other MPs and ex-MPs who are very fortunate not to be in the dock also. Perhaps that is why people like Cameron and Miliband have been noticeably reluctant to make comment?
At the trial Mr Justice Saunders told Chater that ” politicians hold a powerful place in society. Their behaviour should be entirely honest”. He went on to say that “the expenses scandal has shaken public confidence”. The learned Judge was perhaps being generous for the impression one gains is that public confidence has been destroyed.
This is a dangerous situation in a democracy and one hopes that there are enough honest and true members of the Westminster brigade with self understanding to begin the task of restoring faith. But the signs are not good. The new system of expenses is far from perfect but it ill befits parliamentarians to be creating an unholy fuss about it so early in its life. It would seems that many of the elected simply do not grasp just how low their reputation has sunk. And the lack of firm leadership is not encouraging them to consider it!
Whichever party is in power over the next few years faces a huge problem. It has to convince us that we must make sacrifices for the common good. That is never an easy message but when people near the breadline see their representatives with their noses in the trough it becomes an impossible one. When oh when will they realise this?
That is a hard question to answer, but it is hard to be optimistic. When the man in charge of finance is so insensitive to public opinion as to head off for a luxury holiday abroad over Christmas it doesn’t bode well. The days of don’t do as I do but as I tell you are long gone Mr Osborne!
BANKERS SHOW TWO FINGERS!
Remember Vince Cable declaring that “we have to take robust action on unacceptable bonuses”? So do I. But clearly he and the rest of the coalition have decided to leave well alone. And the bankers are having a field day!
The publicly owned RBS looks set to hand out £1 billion in bonuses. Barclays boss Bob Diamond got a record pay package of £63.3 million last year. The list is a very long one but it gives us a simple message. The government’s pleas for restraint have been swept aside and a grand total of £7 billion is on its way to the pockets of the people who created our financial mess.
Alastair Darling raised £3.5 billion through his levy on bonuses and there was hardly a protest. The new Chancellor has decided to rely on voluntary restraint and the bankers are openly sniggering.
It is a total disgrace. The City high-rollers are having the time of their lives whilst thousands of teachers, nurses and bobbies on the beat are receiving their redundancy notices. How can this be other than the greatest outrage of all time?
CRICKET SLEDGING CLASSICS; Merv Hughes was bowling to Javed Minadad when the batsman was heard to comment that Hughes was nothing but a fat bus conductor. Minutes later Merv hit the stumps and, as the batsman headed off, was heard to cry “tickets please!”.
Mike Gatting was the victim of a brilliant Shane Warne ball. Gooch was unsympathetic..”had it been a doughnut it wouldn’t have got past him”
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The Daily Sketch 2. Nigeria
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What was unusual about the actors in the 1976 film ‘Bugsy Malone’? 2. What was the name of Paul McCartney’s group in the mid-70s?
At last! We were able to dig trenches this morning and the mountain of chicken muck is now concealed. Even after several days of thaw the ground was still hard and we now have muscles to match those of Popeye. Or as Leonard Cohen used to sing, ‘we now ache in the places where we used to play’. After yesterday’s early clean-out I deserted the camp and, together with she-who-must-be -obeyed, drove down to Oxford to deliver belated Christmas pressies. Whilst we were with our relatives the cards that we posted well before the big day dropped through their letter-box. So we were not the only people frozen into inaction.
It felt good to make a trip unencumbered by snow or ice. Of course the English climate never tires of tormenting us and, by way of a change, we encountered thick fog through the Midlands. Some idiot had decided to drive blind and the resulting pile up meant that thousands of us spent rather a long time parked on the M6 but it still felt like freedom after weeks of frozen incarceration. And it gave me time to ponder on my vote for Person of the Year when on New Year’s Eve the chicken and ferret folk decide whose picture will adorn the allotment shed through 2011.
Of course no one gives a monkey’s elbow what we lot think but we still take our long-standing tradition seriously. Who impressed us most, cheered us up and regularly revived our sagging spirits? I will let you know tomorrow what we decided but you can be sure of one thing, it won’t be a politician!. It is usually the case that some leading names appear on the slips of paper but those days have gone. The revelations about expenses, the Clegg stance on pledges and the appointment of Lords of dubious character have created a sense of alienation from the ruling classes. I suspect we are not alone!
As if to drive the final nail in the coffin of politicians we learn today that the Telegraph was not exposing a sudden lapse from grace when it broke the news of greed and dishonour. Today’s Telegraph reveals that as long ago as 1980 the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, warned the Cabinet that there was a ” grave risk of serious public scandal” over the abuse of expenses by many MPs. Records of Cabinet meetings, published today by the National Archives, show that parliamentary pay and allowances were the source of great concern. The prime minister went on to warn that MPs should be seen to be accountable for the various secretarial, research assistance and travel allowances. She demanded that Ministers give the lead in tightening the system. There were many abuses and “it might be necessary to consider prosecuting MPs known to be guilty of abuse”. It was necessary to “expose publicly the full implications of MPs’ actions”.
Incredibly nothing was done and it was to be thirty years before the truth was told by a national newspaper. So for three decades many politicians have deceived the people that elected them. The whole system of government was rotten to the core. To be fair there are honourable parliamentarians, but if even a combatative character like the sainted Maggie could not hector them into honesty and openness the lack of integrity was clearly deeply embedded.
The fact that change is now under way reflects no credit on an institution that was clearly happy to embrace dishonesty. Had the Telegraph not decided to act in the public interest we would have continued to pay taxes to fund moats and duck houses. In our book the only title open to politicians is crook of the year!
Between now and tomorrow why not ponder on your own choice of someone who impresssed you, someone who seemed genuine, a role model for your youngsters. There are some such folk out there although I suspect that your list, like mine, will not be a long one!
A fantastic performance by England in Melbourne has ensured that we retain the little urn. The England team was superior to the Aussies in every respect, it is a long time since we have been able to honestly claim that when visiting down under.
We should perhaps spare a thought for Ricky Ponting. He has been a superb batsman over many years and drew the short straw in captaining a team bereft of talent. With the possible exception of Mike Hussay and, occasionally, Mitchell Johnson this Australian side is one of the poorest to wear the baggy green.
But they came up against an England team led as never before by Flower and Strauss. Fitness levels are high, morale likewise. Now all they have to do is put on a repeat performance in Sydney starting on Sunday!
CAMERON’S PAL CONDEMNS PACE OF CUTS!
It is predictable that opponents of the coalition are busy condemning the sheer pace of the financial cuts. Slightly more worrying are the concerns expressed by financial pundits. Extremely worrying is the latest news of a fierce attack by a leading charity figure and key supporter of David Cameron’s ‘big society’.
In an open letter to the prime miister, David Robimson, the co-founder of the Community Links charity, has warned that the massive public spending cuts will doom Cameron’s main social policy initiative to failure and will create a ‘Hurricane Katrina’moment for the coalition.
Robinson, whose charity was described by Cameron as “one of Britain’s most inspiring community organisations” writes ” forcing an unsustainable pace on a barrage of uncoordinated cuts that hit the poorest hardest is not an act of God. Why let it be your Katrina?”
This surprise attack came on the day of a less surprising one. Ed Miliband wrote that “many people feel powerless in the face of these decisions that will affect their lives, families and communities. The political forces in Whitehall that have made these decisions appear forbidding and unheeding”.
Perhaps Robinson’s attack will cause someone in government to pause for thought. One can only hope so for the economic readings suggest that the cuts are too rapid and, equally worrying, the trade unions have awoken from their decades of slumber, even moderates such as Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union are openly plannibg major strikes. Katrina moment indeed!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The USSR 2. Whether or not to stay in the EEC
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What year was the Watergate burglary in Washington DC? 2. Which Olympics were hit by terrorists who attacked the Israeli athletes?