Posts Tagged ‘Prime Minister’
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 ??????????????
When I penned my recent piece on the death of democracy I underestimated the willingness of at least some MPs to stand up for it. In last night’s debate in the Commons on the need for a referendum on Europe, an impressive number of Conservative MPs made it clear that having been party to a promise to consult the people, they had no moral alternative than to vote for a national vote. Despite a three-line whip imposed by the prime minister, 82 voted for a referendum and a further 15 abstained. In all about half of all Conservative members, outside the “payroll vote” of ministers and their aides, defied Davd Cameron and the barrage of threats to which they had been subjected. Of course the motion was lost since Cameron can rely on his lapdog Lib Dem partners, and his dormant Labour opponents, to support him.
The point here is that the vote was not about leaving Europe, loosening our ties, or staying in. It was simply about the right of the people to express a view on an issue that impinges on every family in the land. If truth be told when, in the run-up to the election, Cameron pledged to force a referendum at the “earliest moment” he was of course indulging in the type of politics that has brought the art so low in the public view. The reality undoubtedly is that whilst he does have reservations about Brussels, he has even greater reservations about the concept of listening to public opinion. For different reasons Miliband feels much the same way.
One of the most dramatic moments of the debate came with the resignation of Philip Hollobone, an aide to David Lidington, the Europe Minister. He pointed out that the debate was the result of a public petition and said that supporting the referendum motion could help to “restore public confidence in politicians and Parliament”. He went on to say: “Heres our opportunity to show people that actually the system can work; that representative government does actually continue to function in the land where it was nurtured and developed; that patriotism, putting your country rather than your own interests first, is not foreign to this House”. He was followed by Stewart Jackson, another PPS, who also resigned, accusing Mr Cameron of “catastrophic mismanagement in terms of my party”. He in turn was followed by a large number of other Conservative MPs most of whom emphasised the importance of keeping promises conveyd by them to their constituents.
None of them were heard by the prime minister who left the House after giving his own version of things. He didnt have a good day. His analogy of helping a neighbour to put out a fire was ridiculous. Yes, one would do that but that doesnt imply that one would also allow the neighbour to impose countless rules on ones own household. But, as is often the case anything daft said by the king of spin was more than matched by Ed Miliband. He said that when the French President told the prime minister to shut up he was speaking for Britain. Mr Miliband clearly hasn’t spoken to many of what he terms ‘ordinary people’.
A new poll out today reveals that almost 75 per cent believe that the British people should have the opportunity to express a view on the EU. Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have shown total contempt for that view, clearly they hold a very low view of the people and of the democratic process.
I suspect that their view of us all is reciprocated. I thought I would never say this, but I admire the 97 Conservatives who at least demonstrated that not all MPs are simply ‘voting fodder’ and there is some point in electing representatives.
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We were all tickled by the window smashing episode at Lords, particulary the Newton’s law defying explanations as to how a glove took off under its own volition. It reminded us of an episode in our shed/meeting room. An argument developed about the amount of compost required and Albert did a Prior. Having hurled his cup through the window he claimed to have suffered a muscular twitch whilst listening to Lady Gaga. At least it was a little more imaginative than the ECB excuse! But most of our incredulity today was reserved for the speech made yesterday about the Lansley NHS reforms.
I think we can safely assume that Lansley will soon be gone forever, rather in the manner of Albert’s hearing aid which fell into the hen’s bran and was consumed. In that case we never learned the identity of the villian since about fifty hens were rampaging. In the case of Lansley we have less trouble in working out who ‘done him in’. It was clearly Nick Clegg who was lauded in this blog a week or so ago when he spelt out his demands. The list of changes announced by the prime minister yesterday matched the Clegg list precisely.
I am quite pleased in the sense that the plan to massacre the NHS has been flushed down the drain. But what we have now is a formula for a cock-up to beat them all. GPs will no longer be obliged to become commissioners which means that most of them will opt out. But how is commissioning to take place in areas where that happens? Monitor is to be deprived of the Lansley role of promoting the private sector and will instead revert to its previous role as a , er, monitor. Having been very involved with the London based organisation that does not inspire me, my impression always was that it couldn’t monitor a chip-shop. But the biggest change is the barmiest!
This involves replacing the GP commissioning groups with something called ‘Clinical Senates’. These will of course include GPs, but will also include nurses, hospital doctors and managers. Now that sounds familiar. It should because it is a Primary Care Trust (PCT) under another name. That is going to be an expensive business for Lansley has already abolished most of the PCTs and handsome redundancy packages have been the order of the day. Most of the talented managers have left and the professionals have drifted back to working full time on their clinical work. So we are now going to recreate PCTs and, presumably rehire hundreds of the very dear departed. And since David Cameron insisted that there is no timetable a la Lansley we could presumably face a year or so with no one in charge at all.
I can imagine that you may be thinking that I have nothing constructive to offer. If you check back you will find that I proposed the abolition of the PCTs, Health Authorites and Monitor with full responsibility being held by the Department of Health through small regional offices. It wasn’t my brainwave but that of two very senior D of H officials that I dined with whilst still a Trust Chairman. It would have saved a fortune and would have obviated postcode medicine.
Now we face utter chaos. Thanks to Blair the NHS is well used to that but it represents yet another opportunity wasted. Blair? Oh yes, he was the master of cock-ups. When, soon after his election, I went to see him with a party of GPs I came away impressed. Local hospitals were to be freed of red tape and obliged to focus on delivery of service. What he actually did was to introduce 400 targets and toothless Foundation Trusts. They involved elected governors who would represent the people. Sadly he took away their powers and gave them instead to Monitor. Enough said! He also, via Patricia Hewitt, attempted to transfer outpatient work to private companies. That was a fiasco.
A lot of good people in the NHS are breathing a sigh of relief this morning. Back to square one was how one consultant put it to me. Not quite, I suspect he and his colleagues should take a course in living with cock-ups for they are about to enter one capable of making Whitehall farces look serious!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE ON TV SITCOMS!
1. In whose home is “The Green Green Grass” set? 2. “Thirtysomething” was set in which US state? 3. Who did “Casualty’s” George play in “May to December”? 4. What were Private Godfrey’s sisters called in “Dad’s Army”? 5. Which bookie did Vince Pinner work for? 6. Who had a wife, daughter and mother-in-law who were witches? 7. In which real-life town was “Jam and Jerusalem” filmed? 8. Who sang the theme music for “You Rang M’Lord” with Bob Monkhouse? 9. What was Richard’s mother called in “To the Manor Born”? 10. Which lead character had the nickname Privet?
CONGRATS TO DAVE BALSHAW WHO SCORED 100% IN THE LAST (ANIMAL) QUIZ!
A howling gale, no sign of Albert’s missing hearing aid, and the great escape by four hens all combined to take the level of grumpiness to new heights this morning. Only the fact that Lady Gaga’s new recordings are due out tomorrow saved the day for the King of Grumps is addicted to the music from planet Mars. For the rest of us this afternoon’s Premiership play-offs offer some diversion although we fear the worst for our heroes from Blackpool.
On days like this the flak directed toward whoever happens to be in government is considerable, and it has to be said that there is considerable scope for ire. The problem with the British political system is that the prime minister is forced to select his ministerial team from elected MPs which makes the choice rather limited, given that most of them have never run anything more testing than a raffle. By my reckoning David Cameron is sitting on five dud eggs and he must yearn for the chance to have a clear-out. But a coalition presents real problems in this regard.
The other problem is that the prime minister decided at the outset to practice the art of delegation. As a former chief executive I could have warned him that this can be a dangerous practice. The theory, as expounded in a thousand management textbooks, is fine but it is based on the assumption that the entire team is comprised of geniuses in the making. Any team selected from a pack of carpet-baggers, PR twerps and good-for-nothings is likely to include some real buffoons in the making and the present cabinet certainly does.
Ken Clarke headed the list even before this week’s ludicrous statement on rape and the idea of slashing prison sentences at a time when over 60 per cent of the population believes that they are already too soft. Next comes Andrew Lansley whose handling of the NHS has reached the point where Number Ten has been obliged to take the project over. Chris Huhne is close behind, having followed up his attack on the government of which he is a part by lurching toward a major scandal involving an allegation that he asked his wife to take speeding points for him.
Uncle Vince Cable will certainly be on Cameron’s secret sacking list, having been caught talking on tape about using his “nuclear” option of resigning and then performing more U-turns than a Brands Hatch driver. And then there is the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, who triggered national uproar with her proposal to sell off the nation’s forests without even consulting her leader.
David Cameron likes to talk about the ‘Big Society’, about our all being in this together. He would be well advised to try an experiment. Why not bring in Ministers who are not politicians but who have proven expertise in their specialist fields. Of course the political classes would object, turkeys never vote for Christmas. But at least he could then lead in the way he desires, by setting objectives and letting ministers get on with implementation.
Had he, for example, appointed one of the really successful front-line executives in the NHS they would have come up with improvements but ones that are possible and make sense. In every field there are experts who have been there and done it, people like Lansley and the others have no knowledge, no experience and no residue of goodwill to call on.
Certain it is that a cabinet reshuffle is overdue. If Cameron persists with this bunch of idiots or nincompoops he has no chance of winning the next election. Of course, should he lose, the Opposition will take over and bring back from the dead their own no-hopers such as those who paid out millions to private companies for NHS work that they didn’t perform. Unless someone breaks this ludicrous vicious circle we will continue to be the world’s greatest example of incompetence in motion.
I believe that Cameron has it in him to try something new along these lines. The worry would be that, given his penchant for delegation, he might invite Nick Clegg to organise it. Frying pans and fires come to mind!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEAD QUIZ; 1. Groove between nose and lip 2. 1940s 3. Architecture 4. Joseph Black 5. Benjamin Britten 6. Ian Woosnam 7. Russia 8. Family Plot 9. Sri Lanka 10. Flushing Meadow, New York
Our first task this morning was to find a number of roofing panels that were blown off during the night. It was as if someone up there decided that we were allowed good weather for the big event, and should now be reminded that the British climate is not to be trusted. Having done that, we left Bob to perform his usual wonders with a screwdriver and spent a blustery hour digging trenches in readiness for the latest burial of chicken output. And it seems that we are not alone in doing a bit of burying. Yesterday the government decided to release some devastating news about the NHS in the certain knowledge that the media would have other things on its collective mind.
Monitor, the quango set up by the coalition to oversee all Foundation Hospitals ( a status planned for every hospital that survives the Lansley reforms), announced that each unit must face funding cuts of 7%, something of a change from all the talk of NHS funding being ‘ring-fenced’). Very few of the large hospitals have any ‘fat’ left after endless imposed ‘efficiency targets’ and several have already made clear their plans to cut services and extend waiting lists. This is a serious development but the spin-doctors got it right, no one noticed the press release on a day when William and Kate entranced us all.
And there was another piece of unwelcome news for David Cameron, which again won only small mention on a day when we were looking the other way. Remember Cameron’s ‘keep calm dear’ remark to Angela Eagle? She was attempting to claim that the story he was telling about a GP who fiercely supported the plan to transfer all commissiong to GP practices, was untrue. This one GP, he inferred, knew far more than the Royal College which universally condemned the idea. The prime minister appeared to be reading from a letter from a Dr Howard Stoate and those of us who know well the workings of the health service were impressed that he had managed to find even one GP prepared to speak out aginst his colleagues in such a forceful way.
It now transpires that the greatest PR man of them all read only selected extracts of Dr Stoate’s letter! The Doctor, and former MP for Dartford, has published a statement. “Doctors do not glibly accept every aspect of the health bill”, he says. He goes on to say that the prime minister was guilty of taking his remarks out of context and stating a conclusion that was “entirely misleading”. He concludes by demanding that “Cameron should stop using the health service as a political football”.
So the news that was buried on the nation’s day of celebration is very bad news indeed. It tells us that the NHS cuts are real and are about to prove very damaging. And it tells us that rather than staging a listening exercise, Cameron and Lansley are being extremely economical with the truth.
As I have remarked before, the view of many senior clinicians is that the NHS is being thrown into a tailspin from which it cannot recover. For once I find myself in agreement with Alistair Campbell when he says that ; “the plans are not thought through, not popular with those who run the NHS or use it, and politically toxic, not least because they have no mandate for them”.
The whole episode reinforced my feelings of yesterday about the importance of the Monarchy. As I wrote then, it seems to me that the Royals have one advantage over any politican of today. They are honest. Meantime we should prepare for the death of the NHS!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; COMMUNICATION “I climbed a mountain and hollered, ‘Hellooo!’. A voice came back, ‘The echo is busy at the moment. Leave a message at the beep, and we’ll get back to you”…….Eddie Izzard “Mobile phones are the only subject on which men boast about who’s got the smallest”….Neil Kinnock “When I’m on a train and someone starts to bellow into their mobile phone I shout, ‘Quiet! I’m trying to travel”……Maureen Lipman “The concept behind the mobile phone is that you have absolutely nothing to say and you’ve got to talk to someone about it right now”…….Jerry Seinfeld “The cell phone people say there’s absolutely no danger from cell phone rdaiation. Boy, it didn’t tak ethose tobacco executives long to find new jobs, did it?”……..Bill Maher
ANSWERS TO THURSDAY’S QUIZ; 1. George Lucas 2. For her sculpture.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which year did President Nasser die? 2. How did the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima die?