Posts Tagged ‘QUIZ’
This morning we noticed that the water in the large pond on the allotments has suddenly become crystal-clear. Throughout the summer and autumn it has been as black and forbidding as Albert’s vest, now we can actually count even the fish which lurk near the bottom. They must feel like Mrs Biggins when her curtains come down for their annual wash. But why does it happen?
Anyway, our attention today has been focussed on our primary schools. One of my fellow hen-keepers, Bill, has a niece who has just qualified to teach, and tells me that the government is proposing to reduce the number of times that a trainee can re-sit the final exams. Judy had to take the test three times and under the new rules she would have been fired off after two. Given the lass clearly has an affinity with small children and knows her subjects well that would have been a pity. But here’s the rub, Michael Gove has specifically excluded academies and free schools – run by private companies or other organisations outside of County Council control – from the new proposal. Now just why would he do that?
Character assasination is not our thing but it has to be said that Michael Gove always reminds us of those ’upper-class twits’ which used to feature in Monty Python. That’s his funny side, but there is a darker one. His behaviour toward those schools that have decided to stay within the state system is nothing short of dictatorial.
A perfect example is provided by Downhills primary school in Tottenham. The school has been told that either Gove will make an “academy order” or the governors can vote to do so themselves “by no later than 27 January 2012 ”. The school, he has ordered, must be taken over by “a business, university or private school”. Whichever emerges they will be free to use unqualified teachers.
This year Downhills has passed the acceptable rating of 60% and is making good progress, despite being in a difficult catchment area. Labour MP David Lammy is a former pupil and he is outraged by what is happening. There is, he says, no evidence that forced acadamies work in the primary sector and the Downhill children are being used in an attempt “to experiment with 100 years of proud history”.
Downhill’s head is Leslie Church. He says that the school has worked hard to improve the quality of teaching, but there is no alternative than to obey since Gove’s department is asking for a response without allowing any alternative. He worries that the move will mean that the school no longer has ” democratic accountability”. At present there is a democratically elected governing body, and a democratically elected local authority. Both have the power to change the head if they have cause for concern, neither has done so. Right now both parents and councillors see themselves as responsible and “behave in a supportive way”.
This is beginning to happen right across the country and, in the view of many educationalists, will have an adverse effect on primary schools where parent involvement is a major factor. Of course if the governors, who are elected by parents, decide to make such a move that is an entirely different matter.
But Gove is gaining a reputation as a little dictator. Before it is too late someone should remind him that we do still live in a democracy. Just!
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE WEEKEND QUIZ;
1. Which former First Lady was nicknamed “The Smiling Mamba”? 2. Who had hits with “Joanna” and “Celebration”? 3. Where would you see a facula? 4. Who played the title role in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”? 5. Which country has a unit of currency called the Leone? 6. The seaside town of Westward Ho is in which county? 7. Oloroso is a type of which drink? 8. Back in the charts in 2005, in what year was Bananarama’s first hit? 9. Which Wonder of the World statue was at Olympia? 10. In which century did William Caxton establish the first English printing press?
We allotment codgers love a mystery. Hardly a day passes but we mull one over, they can range from the latest Felix Francis whodunnit to what appear to be over-frequent visits by Jack Smith to Mrs Biggin’s semi. Today’s papers gifted us two mysteries to debate during our brew-break.
The first concerns The God particle, at least that is what the headline writers term it. There is near hysteria regarding the first glimpse caught by scientists of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle that is thought to underpin the subatomic workings of nature. We learn that physicists Fabiola Gianotti and Guido Tonelli were applauded and borne shoulder-high by hundreds of scientists yesterday as they revealed evidence for the particle found amid the debris of hundreds of trillions of proton collisions inside the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.
Apparently the Higgs bocon is the signature particle of a theory of the origins of mass. Its name derives from Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University who first pointed out the need for the evidence that could be provided by the missing particle. It seems we are now one step nearer knowing where we came from, which will hopefully be more cheerful than where we are going to.
But after some debate we decided that this did not qualify for the Codger’s mystery of the day award on the grounds that we haven’t the faintest idea as to what they are talking about. To us the only mystery is why they bother and whether it justifies the fortune already spent on it. But who are we to suggest that cancer, climate change and such are of more immediate priority?
The second mystery of the day is the Big Society. We have never fathomed out what it is and were reassured today to read that the public administration select committee, having considered the matter at length, are no wiser than us. What is it, they ask. Nick Hurd, the minister for civil service appeared before the wise men and claimed that people fundamentally undertstand it. Having conducted research which showed that only one geezer in Southend had even the vaguest idea, the committee begged to differ. It demanded the appointment of a Big Society minister. That rather upset Mr Hurd, who supposedly already has that dubious honour.
Having read the report I am no clearer as to exactly what David Cameron’s dream is. But one finding by the committee did strike me as worthy of thought. Presumably a key part of this never-never land is volunteering, people coming forward to work for their community. The MPs pointed out that given that the government is financially screwing charities and self-help groups into the dirt whilst at the same time privatising local services previously under the aegis of local authorities, the likelihood of anyone volunteering is reduced. Who would be prepared to work for free for a private profit-making concern?
But is that really what this mysterious society is all about? In May, David Cameron relaunched the policy for the fourth time. If even the select committee is bemused perhaps he should have a go at launch five. Maybe it is all in some way connected with that elusive particle?
At least we have two good questions for next Friday’s quiz. We can be pretty sure that the only responses we will get will be ‘pass’.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE WITH THIS MIDWEEK ‘ON THE MAP’ QUIZ;
1. W hich South American city has a famous Copacabana beach? 2. The Bass Strait divides which two islands? 3. Which Middle East capital is known locally as El Qahira? 4. Where is the official country home of US Presidents? 5. Whose Vineyard is an island off Cape Cod? 6. Where was checkpoint Charlie? 7. Which US state has a ‘pan handle’ seperating the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico? 8. In which two countries is the Dead Sea? 9. The site of ancient Babylon is now in which country? 10. On which river is the Aswam Dam?
OOOOOOOOOO ANSWERS TOMORROW OOOOOOOOOOO
Sunday morning on the allotments is always different to the other days of the week in that Albert, for as long as I can remember, always roars out Methodist hymns as he works. To make things even worse he pays no heed to the seasons, this morning we had a whole range of triumphal Easter renderings. My analysis has it that he has a repressed guilt complex centered around the fact that on the Sabbath he doth labour, a clear contravention of his Methodist roots. The other codgers simply believe that he is one pence short of a shilling.
Albert and I go back a long way and we share a childhood ambition, one never realised. We both grew up wanting to be not train drivers but spies. I can remember sitting in a Lyons Corner House – this is a rather old story – amongst about a dozen boys who all appeared to be reading a newspaper. Each paper had a central hole through which one could watch people entering the establishment. The idea was based on movies we had seen and was, we imagined, part and parcel of a spy’s job description.
Of course the war years were ideal for would be spies. Urged on by posters warning of listening ears, we all spied relentlessly. No success can be claimed but two of those boys have nursed the desire for the art right through to old age. Now we are both disillusioned, not merely because we never made it but becuase it seems that every spy has a business card and regularly gives TV interviews. I am reminded of this by an exclusive in today’s Sunday Telegraph.
From this we learn that Mikhail Repin, a Russian spy, was expelled after trying to gain secrets from politicians. There are, we learn, around 50 spies employed in the Russian embassy in London’s Kensington Palace Gardens. They even have a conventional organisation structure within which Mr Repin was a mere third ‘secretary’. All of the spies regularly meet officials at the House of Commons and defence and security think-tanks in Whitehall. At a barbeque last summer Repin mingled with such notables as Keith Vaz and Simon Hughes.
For an annual fee he was able to enrol for private lectures by senior military and intelligence officials plus regular drink parties and finger-food buffets. In fact he was given free access to every corner of the establishment. No one seemed surprised at the presence of a handsome young Russian who asked lots of questions and made copious notes of the answers.
Clearly spying is not what it once was and one cannot help wondering if the time has come for Mr Putin to order a headcount review. Fifty does seen over the top, particularly since everyone knows who they are and what is their spying speciality. We learn that the expelled Repin was tasked to learn more about government policies on the EU (something even the government would like to know), trade finance and the UK-US relationship. Rather than replace him, Mr Putin could consider the cheaper alternative of watching Sky News.
To those of us brought up on the works of John le Carre it is all very disappointing. In mitigation it does occur to us that the large number employed by Russia in London may reflect the fact that they imagine us to have unrevealed secrets about such things as the EU. In actual fact we ran out of secrets long ago, and are now rapidly running of ships, planes and troops too.
But maybe we missed a trick here. In all good spy novels it is the double-agents that catch the eye. We could have negotiated a job-share with Mr Putin which involved Repin moving to the Russian embassy in Paris. There must be a potential for spying there and we just might get to know what Sarkozy means when he talks darkly of teaching Cameron and his followers a lesson they won’t forget.
After all, given the modern version of spying modus operandi all “Michael ” Repin would have to do is join Sarkozy’s lap-dancing club and ask him!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Three 2. A helicopter 3. MI5 4. M People 5. Labrador 6. Gabrielle 7. The Old Curiosity Shop 8. Greece 9. On the seabed 10. Kent
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 ??????????????
Hardly a day passes but someone arrives at the allotments witha tale of woe about the latest cuts. The housebound now spend most of their days in bed as a result of the home carers services being slashed, meals-on-wheels are but a distant memory, the local children’s charity has closed.. the list is a long one. Those of us of a less volatile nature than Albert tend to trot out the cliches about all being in it together and money not growing on trees, but even we are stunned by the government’s ability to turn a blind eye to tax evaders and to produce, as if from a magician’s hat, buckets of cash for its pet projects.
Over £32 billion has been earmarked for the 100-mile high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. This incredibly expensive brainwave will eventually reduce journey times by 35 minutes, and we are supposed to believe that the top businessmen likely to use it will, as a result of the time saved, be able to transform our economy. The fact that such wizards tend to work on the train has been swept aside, as has the fact that the existing rail network desperately requires investment.
But, with the final approval for this madness due at any time, a number of senior Conservative MPs, who represent constituencies around the Chilterns, have let it be known that they may rebel given the certain scarring of an area of natural beauty. Indeed, Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh Secretary, has let it be known that she just might resign. No problem. Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, will announce next week that she has found £500,000 and will use it to fund a one-and-a-half-mile tunnel under the Chiltern Hills near Amersham.
Clearly money is no object when it comes to what many leading lights have described as a white elephant in the making. To hell with the housebound, this is a prestigeous asset we must have despite the fact that we are a small island and the time saved via higher speeds – trains on that route already run at 125mph – is inevitably small.
We can take it as read that, despite all the protests about priorities, the project will be approved. Then we can await revelations in Private Eye about the contractors and their connections with senior politicians.
Even in good times this venture would be open to debate, to pursue it so frantically right now beggars belief. But it is nice to know that there is still plenty of spare cash available!
LANSLEY IS STILL SOMEWHAT SECRETIVE!
My story about the refusal of the Health Secretary to publish the government’s own risk assessment of his much debated NHS Reform bill caught the eye of the Deputy Speaker of the Commons, Lindsay Hoyle
I have a letter from him making clear that he believes it “essential that the risk register is published immediately”, and he goes on to confirm that he has written to the Secretary of State for Health “urging him to release the information so that it can inform the debate currently taking place in parliament about NHS reform”.
But the register remains under wraps. We don’t need too much imagination to work out the reason!
TEST YOURSELF WITH THIS WEEKEND QUIZ! ANSWERS TOMORROW!!
1. Alan Shearer’s league career finished with a game against which team? 2. Which Kenny Rogers hit starts, “On a bar in Toledo…”? 3. In which sport is there a piste other than skiing? 4. Which member of Queen would have been 60 in September 2006? 5. Which Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced TESSA? 6. Which character was played by Dooley Wilson in “Casablanca”? 7. Who wrote the play “Private Lives”? 8. Who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner? 9. Whose hits include “Waterfront” and “Alive and Kicking”? 10. Voords, Krotons and Autons have all appeared in which TV series?
Home Secretaries come and go at a frequency matched only by football managers, and it has to be admitted that few find favour with my ancient fellow chicken-keepers. The latest incumbant bears a remarkable resemblence to the posh but loopy Lady Catherine De Burgh created by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice and, like her, Theresa May spouts on seemingly oblivious to the rights of anyone she considers beneath her station, which embraces everyone bar God himself.
In fairness one has to concede that running the Home Office is rather like having a pet tiger. All can be fine for a while, but you know that sooner or later it will eat you. It has continued to so perform on a succession of Home Secretaries and associated ministers, despite most of them having the ethics of rattle-snakes. Remember Michael Howard? He anticipated Mrs May’s appalling behaviour in the latest scandal by blaming Derek Lewis, the director of prisons, for the 1995 breakout from Parkhurst top security prison. Remember Ed Balls? He sought to avoid blame after the shocking Baby P case by ordering the sacking of Harringey’s director of social services, Sharon Shoesmith, who was able to extract a huge compensation payout.
In fact it has become habitual for Home Secretaries, or their ministerial colleagues, to turn on their officials. John Reid and David Blunkett were shameless, setting out – seemingly quite deliberately – to destroy the constitutional settlement which had defined the realationship between politician and civil servant in the post-war period. The list goes on and on and the relationship between ministers and their officials is now, understandably, a fraught one.
The point at issue is that civil servants are bound by a code of confidentiality and cannot publicly answer back when ministers blame them publicly. Which is why Brodie Clark, a senior official at the UK Border Force felt obliged to resign before he could refute the trashing of his reputation that was Theresa De Burgh’s immediate reaction to revelations that Al Qaeda and all have been waved thorugh our so-called border controls.
A seemingly fine civil servant with 40 years unblemished service has been destroyed in an instant, and it is clear that his right to an impartial investigation has been taken away. The judge has pronounced sentence before hearing any evidence, Mrs May has shown that the only skin that matters to her is her own. All that we know is that either she or Mr Clark is lying. We are less than impressed at the sudden statement by another member of the Border Agency that Mrs May’s version is the right one. Clearly he has been persuaded that his interests are best served by diving in to her Ladyship’s rescue.
The debate in the Commons was a rowdy affair, but an unimpressive one. No one attempted to find the truth, the government and opposition focussed entirely on abusing each other. Tory MPs dutifully rose to read eulogies to the Home Secretary, their Labour opponents screamed ‘reading’ to point out to the watching public – as if we didn’t know – that the slips of paper being read all bore the fingerprints of Downing Street. And from there came the Old Etonian to declare that Clark was as guilty as Satan himself. Mr Cameron may yet regret his haste.
For me the only telling intervention was from yet another Home Secretary, Jack Straw. He asked how many ports and airports Mrs May had visited to check on the working of her trial system. “We allowed the informatin to come up to ministers,” she said airily which translates as “not one”.
The whole shabby episode tells us that not only is Mrs May an incompetent of Baldrick proportions, it also tells us that she is self-serving. But, more importantly, it serves to remind us just how low politicians have sunk when compared with their predecessors. It is almost 30 years since a British politician last resigned on a matter of honour. That was Lord Carrington, who insisted on taking the responsibility for Britsh unpreparedness ahead of the Argentine invasion of the Falklands.
In truth Peter Carrington was not even remotely at fault but the failure happened on his watch. We may sneer at the concept of honour but society is a poorer place without it. Carrington, unlike the present bunch of self-serving, dishonourable, rich incompetents, had extensive experience of life. He fought courageously through the Second World War and emerged with the Military Cross. He understood the importance of hnour and leadership in public life.
Compare him with today’s guttersnipes and you understand quickly why politicians now share with bankers the dubious distinction of being the least trusted people in the land!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ;
1. Arctic Monkeys 2. Carnoustie 3. Dog 4. Michael Howard 5. Rothmans 6. Geology 7. Damien Hurst 8. South Pole 9. Alcatraz Prison 10. Tibet and Nepal
I’m sure that when Burns set in train the fad for seeing ourselves as others see us he little realised just how painful a process it can be. I have never attended one of the zillions of courses aimed at teaching the art for I have no need. When she-who-must-be-obeyed is in full flow a dozen managemnt consultants couldn’t match her. This morning the paper-boy had staged one of his regular one-day strikes, which are always guaranteed to switch attention to me as I rush my cornflakes in readiness for joining my colleagues in the greatest chicken project since Kentucky.
We are, she told me, just a group of dopey old blokes messing around with an even larger group of dopey hens. Can you believe that? Well maybe you can, maybe you believe that Roman Abramovich is richer than Solomon simply because he happens to be a mate of Putin rather than the world’s shrewdest businessman. Oh dear, maybe you are right.
I yield to the possibility, having read yesterday the findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize. What he has to say is devastating to the beliefs that high fliers entertain about themselves. He claims to have discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. This idea is based on a study that he conducted over eight years of the results of 25 top business ’stars’. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero.
The results, he tells us, resembled “what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill”. His findings have been widely replicated. They show that, for example, traders and fund managers throughout Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. Given the total failure of the financial sector this comes as less of a shock that the various authors may imagine, but what of business at large?
In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading FTSE British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests carried out on patients at Broadmoor. On central indicators of psychopathy, the bosses’s scores either matched or exceeeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders!
The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong senes of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.
In their book Snakes in Suits, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare point out that as the old corporate bureaucracies have been replaced by flexible, ever-changing structures, and as team players are deemed less valuable than competitive risk-takers, psychopathic tendencies are more likely to be selected and rewarded. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you’re likely to go to prison, If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family you’re likely to go to business school. If doing down others by any means is your thing, you are likely to end up in a very highly paid job or even become Prime Minister.
It is certainly true that the chief exceutives of today behave like dukes of old extracting from their estates. What they extract is out of all proportion to what they do or the value they generate, sums that sometimes exhaust the business they parasite. They are no more deserving of their wealth than oil sheikhs. The rest of us gape on the sidelines and usually assume that, say, Bob Diamond takes more pay from Barclays than the sum total paid to one hundred of his employees simply because he is one hundred times cleverer that one hundred of them. But is he really?
In the UK, the money earned by the poorest tenth fell by 12% between 1999 and 2009, while the money made by the richest 10th rose by 37%. The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, climbed in this country by 26 in 1979 to 40 in 2009.
Someone has to be in charge of everything but what has changed is the amount of reward. Clearly that is all that has changed, for the shrinks suggest that those at the top are no different to the old autocratic duffers of my youth. They both cashed in on who they knew, rather than what. They both were, or are, happy to climb at the expense of others.
Think about it. Is you ultimate boss really a hundred times smarter than you? Would he or she really win Mastermind? When I apply all this in retrospect I have to confess that I most certainly was not as clever as many of the managers who really ran the ship, mind you the pay differential was not the ludicrous thing it now is!
Anyway I must stop now, it is time to head off for a team-building session with Albert and my other chicken consultants.
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!
1. Who won the Best British Group award at the 2007 Brits? 2. Where did golfer Padraig Harrington win his first major, the Open Championship? 3. To which mammal family does the dingo belong? 4. Who preceded David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party? 5. Which tobacco company sponsored the ‘Football Yearbook’ from 1970 to 2001? 6. What is the study of rocks and rock formation? 7. Who was short-listed for the Turner prize for “Shark in Formaldehyde? 8. Is the penguin native to the North Pole or the South Pole? 9. Which building, built on an island in San Francisco Bay, is now a tourist attraction? 10. On which two countries’ borders is Mount Everest?
The allotments bonfire went well, even the weather Gods were on our side for once. But the adults were haunted by the images of the appalling inferno on the M5, possibly the result of a bonfire burning toxic waste and too close to a major road. Someone somewhere was not thinking intelligently and the result is simply too awful to take in. That tragedy diverted our minds from a local outrage that has had a lot of us calling for an all-out war on scumbags.
Whilst what has happened to a local war memorial, and many others acrosss the land, is clearly of little consequence compared with the fate of those trapped in their cars in Somerset, it is still an appalling reflection on today’s society. Vandalism has long been a problem for our war memorials, but now their desecration has plunged new depths. Thieves have begun to systematically plunder memorials for scrap metal. Plates listing so many who lost their life whilst defending our freedom clearly represent nothing to the scumbags who tear them from their foundations before hurling them on to their vehicles en-route to scrap dealers. Many of them must be almost as bad, since no one could fail to identify a metal scroll of names containing military ranks.
The biggest villains of all are us, the people. We sit back and allow people like Kenneth Clarke to condemn punishment and to advance the argument that criminals must be educated as to the harm that they do. And we say little when the police let it be known that anyone caught in the act of desecration will be given nothing more punitive than a written warning. It is all nonsense, people such as these give not one jot for the fallen dead, or those that regard their memory as something precious, something to revere. The only language they will ever understand is a heavy sentence delivered in a court.
Hopefully the sense of outrage that is building will stir vote-seeking politicians into action. But what should that be? It seems to us codgers that the first target should be scrap metal dealers, some of whom around here are of the count-your-fingers variety. Few of the looters have equipment sufficiently sophisticated to melt down their gains. They simply take them along to dealers. They should be licensed and only allowed to trade if they have no record of offence. The licence should specify that all visiting sellers must present proof of identity which must be recorded.
Another positive would be a ruling that all councils must have a named officer responsible for memorials. The result would be a national inventory and a commitment by local authorities to keep memorials in good order, and to involve the police immediately problems are spotted.
The drastic cuts imposed on the police make the next action a difficult one. But where beat bobbies still exist, memorials should be included in their lists of things to be checked. And everyone arrested should be prosecuted. Whatever the batty Justice Minister says, the prospect of a prison sentence is still the best deterrent.
Finally it is worth asking about the role of the Heritage Lottery Fund. It distributes one sixth of the money raised by the lottery for good causes, and since its launch in 1994 it has allocated £4.7 billion to 32,000 heritage projects. Only 66 projects have had any relevance to war memorials and few of these have exceeded £3000. I have no quarrel with grants such as those of £40,000 for a “pink plaque” homosexual history trail in Manchester, but I do wonder why this is seen as more important than showing respect for the millions who died for their country.
I realise that much of this outburst will seem ‘sentimental trash’ to a generation that was spared the horrors of war, and pure comedy to the scumbags who respect nothing and no one. But I am sure that the vast majority of the nation share the sentiments.
Churchill liked to demand ‘action this day’. Is it too much to ask that his modern age millionnaire successors, most of whom have never donned a uniform, just for once try to emulate a man who believed in never bending the knee to ‘guttersnipes’? And it would certainly be better than banging on about a caring ‘big society’ that doesn’t exist.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Chester 2. Tony Christie 3. Steal 4. Laughing gas 5. Florence Nightingale 6. Liverpool 7. 1977 8. A pack of tarot cards 9. December 25 10. Charlize Theron
We have built an impressive bonfire in readiness for tonight’s celebrations. This morning we checked its interior for sleeping hedgehogs before sprinking kerosene. No need to apply any to ‘Werrity’, for the guy is stuffed with old newspapers many of which feature his famous namesake. It was whilst we were doing this that Albert commented that were Guy Fawkes alive today he would not lack for volunteers!
My old pal is somewhat vexed by the news that the Border Agency have for some while decided not to check in detail the passports of incoming visitors to these shores, a slight omission compunded by the fact that, for the first time in a century, there are no warships guarding our coastlines. Short of a welcome mat there is little more we can do to invite every terrorist on the globe to join us.
Why no frigates or destroyers protecting our shores? Sadly our total fleet has been reduced to 19, despite pledges by Mr Cameron that “a 40-ship Navy was the absolute minimum”. Of the 19 survivors, eleven have been deployed in the Mediterranean as part of our Libyan mission. Some are now heading back but right now what is known as Emergency Fleet Ready Escorts has, er, no escorts available.
Given that the cost of the bombing of Libya by the RAF has cost the equivalent of ten frigates it is all very odd. Of course the theory is that we have performed a great humanitarian deed in gaining the Libyan people their freedom. This was Cameron’s equivalent to Thatcher’s Falklands, was it not. No it wasn’t and we have not ‘won freedom’, we have merely displaced one tyrant to make way for another.
Right now Libya is anything but free. In towns such as Sirte, now reduced to rubble, and Bani Walid, where Gaddafi hid after his Tripoli palace was over-run, local people are enraged by mass looting and summary executions by rebel fighters. Rebel fighters are still carrying out house-to-house searches for alleged Gaddafi supporters and reports speak of mass hangings. Even doctors and nurses who treated injured Gaddafi fighters are being rounded up and, at best, cast into a prison in Zawiyah, in “appalling conditions”.
But this is merely the prelude to what is to come. Abdel Hakim Belhaj is the most powerful military figure and is threatening to ignite a whole new conflict over his Islamic extremism. Indeed, many former rebel fighters are now talking openly about a new revolution if the country’s political leaders on the National Transitional Council give in to pressure from Belhaj, head of the Militrat Council, to turn Libya into a fundamentalist Islamic state, modelled along the lines of the old Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The more moderate military leader, Abdel Fattah Younis, was assassinated just weeks ago and many suspect that associates of Belhaj did the deed. With Younis gone, Belhaj is all-powerful. He has received messages of support from Ayman al-Zawahri, the new Al Qaeda leader, and the courthouse in Benghazi now flies the terror network’s flag. Reports speak of armed gangs to be seen everywhere, each parading the Al Qaeda flag and chanting Islamic slogans.
Belhaj was the driving force behind last week’s announcement that Libya will introduce Sharia law, a brutal form of justice that includes flogging and executions for those accused of ‘crimes’ such as adultery, homosexuality and theft. It will allow Libyan men to take multiple wives and give males custody of children, while women will have no right to divorce. Belhaj demands brutal punishment for anyone who critices Islam or refuses to pray.
It will be Belhaj’s second attempt at taking over Libya. In the Eighties he launched an uprising against Gaddafi which failed. He fled to Afghanistan and fought in the Soviet-Afghan war. He then returned to his native Libya and formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. He again fled but was captured by British and US intelligence in Malaysia and was handed over to Gaddafi.
At the very least Libya now faces renewed civil war for Belhaj is hated by many of the secular elements of the evolution. One, named Kharyee, said yesterday that ”If he becomes boss, we will make another revolution. He wants to take over but we will kill him before he can do that”. But resistance will be difficult for Belhaj’s links with the Taliban have earned him powerful friends
The only possible conclusion is that, as in Iraq, we went to war on the assumption that removing a dictator automatically opened the door to human rights and the rule of law.Those of us with an understanding of these countries knew that it wouldn’t be like that. The land is now awash with weapons and hostilities are breaking out between the Warfalla and Obeidi tribes, the Berbers in the western mountains, the Magariha, Misrata and coastal Kargala Tawajeer tribes. All came together to fight Gaddafi, now their old emnities are resurfacing. The scene is set perfectly for one all powerful figure to assume control.
That man will be Belhaj. He is committed to jihad – the overthrow by Holy War of Christian states and the creation of an Islamic world. No, Mr Cameron, this was not a Falklands style triumph!
TEST YOURSELF WITH THE WEEKEND QUIZ!
1. Deva was a Roman city now known as what? 2. Spanning 30 years on the charts, how is Tony Fitzgerald better known? 3. What does a kleptomaniac do? 4. What is the popular name for the anaesthetic nitrous oxide? 5. Who was the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit? 6. The doomed ship Titanic was registered in which English city? 7. In which year did Marc Bolan die? 8..What is made up of the minor arcana and the major arcana? 9. The Romanian dictator Ceausescu was executed on which day in 1989? 10. In ” The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”, who played his wife Britt Ekland?
Two days ago I bemoaned the chaotic response of the clergy of St Paul’s Cathedral to the arrival on their doorstep of “Occupy London”, an offshoot of a worldwide protest against the suffering caused to others by bankers who continue to reward themselves handsomely. A reader commented that it was an enormous opportunity wasted by the Church at large. And so it seemed.
But now Dr Rowan Williams has led a U-turn of Cameron proportions, and suddenly both the protesters and Church look considerably more threatening to the cosy world of the greedy elite. Yesterday the Archbishop said that the Church of England had a “proper interest in the ethics of the financial world” and warned that there had been “little visible change in banking practices” following the recession.
He urged David Cameron and George Osborne to drop their opposition to a European-wide tax on financial transactions, which is expected to be formally proposed by France and Germany at the G20 summit of world leaders starting today. “The demands of the protestors have been vague. Many people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism; but it isn’t easy to say what we should do differently. It is time to be more specific,” Dr Williams said.
The archbishop’s intervention came after the Church and the City of London corporation agreed to suspend plans to evict protesters who have been camped on the doorstep of St Paul’s for more than two weeks. The issue had caused deep divisions within the Church and led to the resignation of three members of the St Paul’s clergy.
Suddenly the Church is seen to be part of the voice of the people. After referring to the chaotic initial response as “forgetting the substantial question that prompted the protest”, Dr Williams spoke for millions when he said that “the protest is an expression of a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment that shows no sign of diminishing. There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of an impatience with their return of ‘business as usual’ – represented by still-soaring bonuses”.
The archbishop said that he supports the main proposals of a recent report from the Vatican calling for widespread financial reform. The central recommendation is for a financial transaction tax – known as the ‘Tobin tax’ after the economist who developed the idea – levied on the sale of shares, bonds and foreign currency. It would be expected to raise billions of pounds. The proposal has the backing of significant experts who can hardly be written off as naive anti-capitalists – George Soros, Bill Gates and others.
But the detail is less important than the position now taken by the Church through its leading figure. It has in effect cloaked the protest in respectability and identified itself with it. Its level of support is now likely to rise sharply for polls show clearly that the vast majority, far from seeing us all in this nightmare together, believe that the coalition response to it is grossly unfair.
We hen-cleaners were delighted at the news. We are not anarchists, and few of our number regularly attend church. But we are sick and tired of the obvious links between this government and the rich and powerful. Now that the Church has leapt from the fence and decided to back the protesters, we suddenly feel it respectable to do the same. For too long the Church has allowed itself to be sidelined, it can be a force for good.
Of course Messrs Cameron, Osborne et al will attempt to discredit the archbishop, protesters and all. But the fight is now on and who knows where it could lead!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY (COURTESY OF PRIVATE EYE);
He had access to the diary – he could tell you where and when, You could meet with Liam Fox and other quite important men, A four-star US general has some thoughts he’d like to share? In a restaurant? In Florida? Get Werrity out there!
Werrity, oh Werrity – what will he do now, Werrity?, A man who overlooked such unimportant things as verity., Will businessmen still call him? And will anybody care If we find, when this is over…Adam Werrity’s not there.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Jingles 2. A stilt 3. Horse fair 4. Mustique 5. Stepmother 6. France 7. Belgium 8. Argentina 9. Make furniture 10. Football
When Nick Clegg launched his attack on the FTSE chief executives whose salaries have increased by almost 50 per cent this year, he wondered if they live on this planet. The answer of course is that they don’t, but we codgers suspect they are not the only ones. Right now even those who voted Lib Dem are disillusioned, and there is little doubt that if this government goes its full term the Lib Dems will vanish from the face of the earth. Many of us see that as a great pity for, like most people, we are sick and tired of the endless cycle of Conservative and Labour bigwigs neither of whom offer hope for the future. So is there any hope for the Lib Dems?
There could just be. If they should split from their big-brother partners on an issue important to the electorate the impetus that Nick Clegg gained during those TV debates could reignite. Even Baldrick will have worked out that the Osborne plan is a disaster, yet few have confidence in Labour who didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory in controlling expenditure sensibly. Now here is the strange thing, Clegg is hanging on in there despite almost every senior Lib Demmer outside of the Cameron embrace protesting that the Party is breaking its own commitments on the economy. And they believe that their plan would turn things round.
Yesterday four members of the Lib Dem federal policy committee (Prof Stephen Haseler, Simon Hebditch, Dr Jo Ingold and Linda Jack) plus six parliamentary candidates and the Leader of the Lib Dem group on Richmond Council, published a letter demanding what they call ‘Compass Plan B’, the proposed policy on which they fought the election. They add that Liberal Democrats who still believe in the manifesto on which they went to the country now demand a recognition that ” the government will miss its deficit target reductiuon and as the economy slows the deficit could well increase”.
The group go on to demand of the party leadership that out of responsibility to the country, they must now tell the Conservatives that they will no longer support policies which are not working. Instead there must be a radical programme of measures including an emergency recovery programme, a fairer tax system and social investment.
As a financial illiterate I cannot pretend to know if they are right. But even I can work out that something different is urgently required, and what they are saying seems to make sense. So why on earth is Clegg refusing to listen? One can only assume that he is besotted with high office for, as he showed at the Lib Dem conference, he is prepared to face down his entire membership to stay at Cameron’s right hand. Yes, we know that the Prime Minister has promised to begin seperation in the year before the next election. By then it will be too late for Clegg’s army, either the Conservatives will be able to claim the credit for turning the economy around or the Lib Dems will be associated with their failure.
Clegg doesn’t come across as particularly unworldly, but clearly many of his most loyal supporters are beginning to wonder if he is up there with the executives and bankers on planet Zog!
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!!!
1. What are the metal discs in the rim of a tambourine called? 2. Which word can be a pole with a footrest or a wading bird? 3. What annual event is the Cumbrian town of Appleby noted for ? 4. On which island was Princess Margaret when she suffered a stroke? 5. Who was older, Princess Diana’s mother or her stepmother? 6. In which country did the former Edward VIII marry Mrs Simpson? 7. Albert succeeded Baudouin in which country? 8. In which country did Fergie’s mother spend the latter part of her life? 9. What does the Queen’s only nephew do for a living? 10. At which sport did Harry excel in his first few weeks at Eton?
OOOOOO ANSWERS TOMORROW OOOOOO
Faith is not something regularly mentioned on the allotments but I do know that several of our members are regular churchgoers. Suddenly the fasco at St Paul’s Cathedral has brought religion into our conversations, and it has to be said that believers and non-believers alike are bemused at the chaotic response of the clergy to the arrival of the ‘Occupy London’ protestors. It seems to us obvious that from day one the house of God should have accepted people attempting to draw attention to the ever widening gap between the rich and the rest of our society.
Always provided that the protestors allowed uncluttered access to the cathedral and committed no violent acts it is hard to understand how various members of the clergy decided that it was a good idea to invoke spurious Health and Safety claims, and to focus the attention of the world on the closure of a treasured place that even Hitler’s bombs could not disturb. To compound the chaos the Chapter failed to each unanimity and the result has been resignations, and stress-related illnesses, all in a matter of days. Now the ultimate authority, the Dean, has found it necessary to step down. All ridiculous since the protest is aimed at bankers, not clerics.
As banners held aloft by various protestors proclaim Jesus would not have banned them. Since the whole ethos of the Church is based on His life it is impossible to conclude other than that those who purport to lead His followers have lost sight of the very reason for their existence. In fact there is a total contradiction here for, as I remember well from Sunday School of decades ago, Jesus threw the moneylenders from the temple. Incredibly one of the first reactions from the clergy was the risk of loss of tourists income. To an extent our Cathedrals have become Disney-like in their preoccupation with money. Yes, they need income to survive, but surely it should never be seen as their first priority at a time when so many are being reduced to penury and misery.
Ironically, the decision to pitch 200 or so tents on a small triangle of paving slabs in the western shadow of the cathedral was apparently accidental. The camp had initially targetted Paternoster Square, a modern business and retail development which contains the London Stock Exchange. As protestors gathered 17 days ago the privately-owned square was sealed off by police, funnelling them instead towards the adjoining cathedral. But one suspects that the protestors were not entirely unhappy about this given that the site is jointly owned by St Paul’s and the Corporation of London. To focus on the latter was a real bonus, for if any organisation in the land personifies the corrupting power of riches this is it.
Few of the millions who regularly pass through the 1.2 sq miles of the City of London realise that they are entering and leaving the dominion of a powerful local authority unlike any other. Combining the pomp of ancient traditions with influence going right to the heart of government, the City of London Corporation oversees its own police force, courts and electoral system. Its lobbyist sits opposite to the Speaker in the Commons. While other public institutions are subject to scrutiny under freedom of information law, this one enjoys unique exception.
Its website tells us that it operates on a non-party basis through its lord mayor, aldermen and members of the Court of Common Council. The real source of power lies not with the relatively small number of residents, but with businesses who have the majority of voting rights. Under a system likened to the slavery franchise of chattel owners in the American South, the will of companies within the corporation’s boundaries play a determining role. Before 2002, the 1700 business vote already swamped the 6000-odd residents and Blair’s reforms proposed to expand the business vote to about 32,000 and to give a say, based on the size of their workforce in the Square Mile, to international banks and other big players. Voting would reflect the wishes not only of the City’s 300,000 workers, but of corporate managements. So Goldman Sachs and the People’s Bank of China get major influence in what is arguably Britain’s most important election. The “City Cash” is the most controversial aspect. Officially a “private fund built up over the past eight centuries”, income is derived from property and investments, and is used to “finance activities of relevance nationwide”. This, say critics, is the source of the corporation’s power; an opaque fund to buy off dissent. Thanks to the accidental arrival of the protestors its almost secret powers and money are under an unanticipated but revealing searchlight that will not be welcomed by George Osborne and his wealthy associates.
It is perhaps the overwhelming influence of what is in effect a “rotten borough” that has shaped the attitude of one of our greatest cathedrals. When one visits it, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Jesus would have felt uneasy amongst so many dignitaries wearing elaborate robes and pointed hats. It is equally difficult to imagine that these church leaders see themselves as the champions of the “poor and oppressed”.
And so it has proved with Bishops, Deans and all, clearly uncomfortable in talking to young people with banners and a conviction that institutions like the City of London Corporation represent all that is unfair in our society. The Dean, who supported eviction, having gone the Anglican community now has one last chance to redeem itself.
It should announce this very day that provided there is no obstruction or violence, it is happy to live alongside all those who speak out for social justice. Of course the Corporation will proceed with court action aimed at eviction – and all the violence that will entail – but the church could stand opposed to such action.
To what extent the secretive Corporation controls the cathedral is.. er, secret, but this is a unique opportunity for the Church at large to make contact with the millions who rarely cross its doors but in their innermost souls still glance in its direction in times of trouble.
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The alternative to growing old is even worse and, as the hands on the clock move on, we codgers find ourselves taking an increasing interest in the standards of care provided for those whose bodies ultmately surrender. We were already aware of the painful fact that the standards of care for the elderly incapacitated are the worst in Europe, but now things are set to get a good deal worse. It frightens all whose limbs are beginning to rebel, it should shame everyone in the ‘big society’.
Government funding has been cut by almost a fifth, an horrendous amount given that the sum available was already inadequate. More than £1.3 billion has been removed from council’s annual spending on help for the over-65s since the Coalition came to power. The details have emerged from a House of Commons analysis and reveal that most councils are cutting all elderly services funding, even to the extent of increasing charges for such basic services as meals-on-wheels and home care. Nursing homes are in financial crisis after cuts to fees to cover specialist dementia care.
The result will be twofold. Many more elderly and frail patients will have to stay in hospitals which is a very expensive route. Even worse the quality of life of both patients and their families will be reduced drastically. Michelle Mitchell, the charity director of Age UK, says that “the care system is in crisis. We need the Governmnet to show leadership and make the difficult but vital decisions to reform our broken care system”. Emily Hilzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK, said many were suffering from “real terms cuts”. She said that “it is extremely worrying as we look at the impact on families’ lives. We know that families are already under an enormous amount of stress and that will only get worse with these cuts”.
In 2009-10, the last year of the Labour government, councils spent £7.6 billion on social care for the elderly. This year, the figure is up to £1.3 billion lower. Last year George Osborne promised an extra £2 billion for councils to spend on care homes, meals on wheels and help for the elderly and disabled with daily tasks such as washing and dressing. Incredibly this money was not ‘ring-fenced’ and the vast majority of councils have allocated it elsewhere.
It is no coincidence that mental health social services are also in melt-down. For any government to simply leave councils to their own devices on such services is a crass deriliction of duties. Such services are what define a fair and caring society from one of a third-world one. To learn of such things on the day that it is announced that our donations to Brussels of £12.75 billion far exceed our benefits of £5.8 billion is truly infuriating!
We all know that there have to be cuts, but they have to be slanted to protect the vulnerable and affect those who can afford to economise. Yesterday we learned that the 100 FTSE top bigwigs received average pay rises of 49% over the past 12 months. Nick Clegg commented that they seem to live on another planet. Pity he supports a cabinet happy to allow such wanton greed to continue unchecked!
Despite what others say I have continued to believe that David Cameron, albeit somewhat out of touch with our new ‘underclass’, means well and will fight for justice against the Tory right. Having today read an article by the Speaker’s wife, Sally Burcow, I am beginning to wonder. According to her, Cameron says whatever it suits him to say at the time he’s saying it. Why? According to Mrs Bercow “he is out to get cheap applause or just to get his way”. When, she asks, “will the public look more closely and see that, far from being Mr Nice Guy, the PM is an arrogant bully who should be knocked off his pedestal and put in his place”.
Presumably the Conservative Speaker is well placed to make judgement on the Prime Minister and to pass it on in pillow talk. If he/she is correct, our suffering elderly may wait a very long time before suicide looks an attractive alternative to what they are going through!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Wigan 2. William Wordsworth 3. North 4. Commonwealth Day 5. Wessex 6. Lisbon 7. Spirit in the Sky 8. Robert Plant 9 Freddie Starr 10. Joseph Lister
Almost all the allotmenteers read Private Eye. We love it. Mind you, Mr Hislop may not love us since we only buy one copy which is passed around over the next fortnight before the next issue arrives. Today we gathered round to look at the cover of the special 50th anniversary edition. Good cover – they always are. Today features pictures of Harold Macmillan and David Cameron. The magazine asks itself if satire makes a difference. Under Super Mac’s picture the caption reads “Magazine pokes fun at Old Etonian Prime Minister surrounded by cronies making a hash of running the country”. Under Cameron it simply says “Er…”.
For half a century the magazine has beaten the dailies to every story and every scandal. There must be many a politician, both local and national, who opens the latest copy with trepidation. There must be many a council chief too, not to mention the press whose double standards the Eye delights in exposing.
Today the Daily Mail gets some stick. On September 15th the Mail attacked the BBC for its decision to show, with his permission, the death of a cancer-stricken soldier. The BBC had, pronounced the Mail, gone too far in a cynical attempt to boost ratings. The Eye goes on to show the Mail’s reaction to Gaddafi’s death. It cleared the width of its website’ s homepage to display no fewer than 17 pictures including his mutilated corpse and another of his son.
The Sun also earns attention. “Disgraced Liam Fox will get a £17,000 pay off despite breaking the ministerial code”, fumed the tabloid. The Eye says that clearly the case of the defence secretary is quite different to that of news International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who walked off with a mere £4 milliom pay off in July after “presiding so brilliantly over the phone-hacking disaster”.
Above all, the Eye does superb investigative journalism unequalled by any other. Be the government Labour or Conservative there is a real lashing when corruption is unearthed, and over the years there has been a great deal of that.
More people should buy Private Eye. Its revelations never cease to astonish, its humour never fails to delight.
By way of a postscript here is a paragraph supposedly written by George Osborne ; ” I welcome the latest monthly figures which show that inflation has leapt to 5.2 per cent as showing that plan A is working. City economists said a rise like this was simply impossible, but I have delivered an inflation figure far higher than anyone could possibly have predicted. I see no reason why, under my stewardship of the economy, inflation shouldn’t outstrip all predictions once again”.
Happy anniversary Private Eye, may you continue to spotlight the crooks and deflate the pompous for many years to come!
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE WEEKEND GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ:
1. Which club joined the Football League in 1978 and made the Premiership in 2005? 2. Dove Cottage was home of which poet? 3. Which Pole was first reached in 1909? 4. Which Day replaced Empire Day in 1958? 5. Alfred the Great ruled which kingdom? 6. Estoril is a resort north east of which major city? 7. Which No 1 for Norman Greenbaum was reworked by Gareth Gates? 8. Who was the founder lead singer with Led Zeppelin in 1968? 9. Freddie Powell found fame as which crazy comic? 10. Which Britsh surgeon was a pioneer in improving surgery hygiene?
Several of us headed off in the van yesterday to collect some chicken coops. Being nincompoops we travelled back in the rush hour, and boy did we regret it. The motorway was jam-packed, the service stations resembled a Lady Gaga concert. The country is seizing up was our rather gloomy prognosis, as we spent forever crawling behind a van bearing the inaccurate boast that “We never slow down on customer service”.
And it is not just grumpy old men that watch despairingly as our roads, our hospitals, our rail services, our sewage and water supplies et al, are becoming ever more inundated. In our angrier moments we blame the cuts, the politicians, the banks and every other curse that comes to mind. But the reason for it all is quite simple, our population is rocketing past the levels at which a small island’s infrstructure can cope.
The latest projections from the Office of National Statistics predict that by 2043 Britain will be the most populous country in Europe. Our population will have swollen to 74 million, outstripping France and Germany. The landmark figure of 70 million is expected to be reached within 16 years. In fact over the next decade the population will increase by the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds every year. The official estimate is that the number of people in the UK will grow by 491,000 every year through to 2020, the fastest sustained growth for 50 years.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migration Watch UK, tells us what we already sense. “These figures conirm that the UKs dramatic rise in population will continue unabated”. He added that “two thirds of the increase is due to immigration and as people return home this evening crammed into public transport and on congested roads, they could well ask where all of these people are going to fit”. Indeed they may!
The one-third that isn’t due to immigration relates to the fact that we are all living longer. At the end of last year there were 1.4 million aged 85 and over, this is forecast to double by 2035 and the number of over-95s will quadruple. Nothing we can do about that except be thankful to the NHS.
It follows that immigration must be reduced, or even stopped. The irony is that anyone saying that is immediately accused of being racist. In fact the unchecked flood of people entering the UK is giving succour to vermin such as the BNP. The issue has nothing to do with race, it has everything to do with the obvious fact that the place is full beyond its capacity.
Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, in commenting on the projections, said yesterday that “there is more to do to bring net migration to the order of tens of thousands per year and ensure migration which benefits the UK”. He is right to try because, as we have learned recently the world population is itself set to rocket. But – and it is a very big but – so long as we are party to the EU open doors policy the government remains powerless to stop the flow of immigration from within its borders.
Right now we are seeing the fallacy of the one-club EU approach. Perhaps not surprisingly, Germany and France are unhappy at the thought of constantly bailing out smaller and more economically-fragile countries over which they have no budgetry control. Thanks largely to Grumpy Gordon we are not in the Euro. However we are an obvious destination for people in the countries insufficiently resourced to cope with the recession, and they are pouring in. Ultimately that damages not only this country but the ones being deserted by skilled workers.
On Monday half of David Cameron’s MPs refused to support his denial of an EU referendum. Since then various Conservatives who supported the prime minister have warned that they will not do so next time, amongst them was the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. He knows that the clock is ticking on the cost of population explosion, not just on services but on their costs plus those of pensions and benefits.
By contrast Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband continue to ridicule any worries about over-population. Perhaps they would like to tell us just how many they believe we can accomodate without bringing about a total collapse!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Ray Parker Jr. 2. Bolton 3. Twelve 4. Pigs 5. Pain 6. Switzerland 7. In the morning 8. Overload 9. President Marcos 10. A lie detector.