Posts Tagged ‘Rebekah Brooks’
We codgers wholeheartedly support the “Winter Friends” appeal launched yesterday, and it seems that we are not alone. Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry, Sally Gunnell and Sir Tony Baldrick were amongst those urging the restoration of “an old fashioned sense of neighbourliness” by making an online pledge and to receive cold weather alerts as a trigger for checking on frail elderly people in ones vicinity. Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are as statistically likely to cause serious problems as cigarettes, and when you add the effects of a house or flat with inadequate heating the result can be catastrophic.
Of course we can take the easy option of simply blaming the greedy energy companies, or the politicians who make excuses. We can also bemoan the stupidity of supposed austerity which by denying a relatively small number of vulnerable people an extra allowance whilst giving £300 to every household inhabited by older people, many of whom are perfectly capable of fending for themselves, results not only in suffering but in expensive hospital admissions. But even we experts in the art of moaning realise that it achieves nothing. We have pledged to keep an eye on all those housebound folk known to us and to make sure that they have adequate heating, not to mention a constant supply of eggs.
Albert remarked that he would welcome a visit from Joanna Lumley, less so a visit from one of us. But even he acknowledges that we are the lucky ones and supports the launch of a Barmy Allotments Codger’s Army, to be known henceforth as BACA since acronyms are essential when seeking the attention of local authorities.
Meantime those who should be tackling such social issues seem preoccupied with their own interests. Our dear leader is probably less than happy at yesterday’s Old Bailey descriptions of his birthday party at Chequers attended by Rebekah Brooks. He is also under enormous pressure to do something to stem the expected flow of EU migrants in January. To be fair he is trying to take action rather than pretend, as do the Labour and Lib Dem parties, that there is no problem.
But all of the so-vcalled major parties will this morning be obliged to recognise that the mother of all problems is looming for them. The potential for Ukip to reshape British politics is revealed in a rare constituency poll showing the Conservatives in third place in Thanet South, whereTory MP Laura Sandys this week announced her decision to stand down at the next election.
The poll conducted by Survation shows Labour in first place with 35% (up nearly 5% on the last election), Ukip second on 30% (up 24 points), the Tories third on 28% (down 20 points) and the Lib Dems fourth on 5% ( down 10 points). The poll shows disagreement with the Tory claim that a vote for Ukip will allow Ed Milband into Downing Street. Given a scenario in which Ukip did not stand, 41% said they would not vote, 22% said they would vote Conservative and 19% said Labour. In other words Farage and company are taking votes from the other parties almost equally.
All of which tells us that simply claiming that a vote for Ukip is a wasted vote will not be enough to prevent the most dramatic shift ever in British politics. The thought that our once united kingdom may one day be controlled by Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond is not a happy one!
We take little pleasure in concluding that the corruption, incompetence and plain dishonesty of our leading parties is taking us into uncharted waters. But merely rearranging the deckchairs on the ‘UK Titanic’ will clearly not be enough to avoid the looming iceberg!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put make-up on two faces!”…..Maureen Murphy
Whilst we chicken-keepers find Chris Packham’s obsession with urban foxes extremely galling, it has to be said that he and his Autumn Watch pals have taught us codgers a great deal about wild life. We have always been vaguely aware of the creatures that abound on the allotments, but over the past few years we have come to realise that their lives contain more drama than our own and quiet observation provides constant fascination.
Last week the cotoneaster was covered in berries, their bright orange red making tiny dots of colour in a corner of the site otherwise composed of various greens. This morning there is hardly a berry to be seen, the result of an influx of visiting birds. At one time such developments would have passed us by but, having absorbed the sermons of Saint Packham, now we are more intimately aware of the lifestyle of our resident blackbird. Clearly it regarded the berries as its own private larder, and when the interlopers first appeared it rushed to defend it. As the strangers fed rapidly, plucking berry after berry without pause, it launched itself from above. Having driven off one interloper, it returned to attend to the others which he dislodged in a flurry of wings but as he chased them away so the first bird returned and began to feed again.
Not a dramatic tale to match the Brooks affair with Cameron’s adviser, and I tell it only to illustrate that our fellow creatures lead lives every bit as emotional, insecure and fraught as our own. The discovery has encouraged us to make the effort to provide them with a habitat, our version of the Eric Pickles house-building programme although, unlike our hero, we do try to choose the right location.
It was a different revelation that taught us that we are not even aware of the habits of animals much closer to us. Recent studies have shown that a dog’s mood, and intentions, can be gauged by observing the way in which our pets wag their tales. When they wag to the left beware, when to the right they are happy. Research has shown that the predominantly left movement is accompanied by increased heart rates and behaviour typically associated with stress, anxiety and increased alertness. Maybe you, like us, had simply assumed wagging of any kind was just, er, wagging? The knowledge is not only interesting but useful!
I am tempted to end my audition for next years ‘Spring Watch’ by commenting that like us animals are individuals, no two are the same in instinct or temperament. But I hesitate to do so, we humans are changing. In this modern age of instant mass communication we seem to be losing our individuality, we seem to be heading in the direction of the Borg collective so often featured in Star Trek, where the leader’s thoughts are force-fed into every attentive mind.
I have felt this for some time but it is only today that I feel confident enough in my theory to give it voice. That is because I have just read the text of a speech given by David Steel at Strathclyde University. Lord Steel, the former Liberal leader, has launched a fierce attack on the prevalence of spin doctors in politics, noting that he is given “daily outpourings of tweets to circulate” and bombarded by emails with “lines to take” on current issues”.
The man who was once regularly portrayed on ‘Spitting Image’ as a rebellious spirit is apparently sick and tired of the daily “laundry list” sent out by LibDem headquarters. It is increasingly contributing, he argues, to the “diminution of individual expression or even thought in politics” as politicians are expected to repeat a positive message over and over again and to never deviate from the script.
The peer says that he is even sent a list of lines to send to followers on Twitter. “The increasing role of spin doctors is to be deplored”, he says. “They hand out questions for MPs to ask, and they daily bombard party activists with lines to take”. Steel says that “even as a humble member of the upper house” he receives daily doses of laundry lists of the alleged achievements of the coalition government plus a selection of press coverage – all favourable of course.
He notes that no extracts of the unfavourable coverage of the latest peerage list was included. He goes on to condemn David Cameron and Nick Clegg for continuing with the current system of allowing politicians to select new peers, usually in exchange for “fat cheques”.
Steel bemoans the new age of rehearsed sound-bites and “prime minister’s insult time” and ends with a sigh. “Little wonder”, he says, that the membership of political parties “is in decline”.
We can reasonably assume that what goes for the Lib Dems applies equally to the Conservative and Labour parties. People like Denis Skinner, who refuse to become automatons are derided by our dear leader as beyond their sell-by date. Once they have gone we will be led by the human equivalent of Borgs.
I rest my case but linger briefly to add a rider. A few days ago we bemoaned the power now resting in one man over such vital national assets as Grangemouth. We understand, and sympathise with the protests of unions. But we condemn unreservedly invasions of individual’s property and family. That isn’t individualism Mr McCluskey, it is thuggery!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”I condemn intimidatory tactics. it is not how industrial disputes should be conducted. This is true for unions just as it is true for employers!”….Ed Miliband
The nightly ritual of locking in the hens was somewhat delayed last night. We had not allowed for the Conservative Party conference when we went to Manchester for a charity event, and we found ourselves caught up in a howling mob. Not the one inside the conference centre but the one massing outside it. According to the police there were over 50,000 protestors, it felt to us like the whole world and his banner-bearing wife.
If the banners were any indication the grievances were many, ranging from NHS cuts and Rupert Murdoch through to warning bells for cats. The overall impression we gained as we were jostled around was that our dear leader is not generally held in the affection which we codgers bestow on a daily basis. The result was that we were too late for our event and, to make things worse, had to wait for what seemed a lifetime for a train home from Oxford Road due to cancellations caused by an escaped puma on the line at Wigan. At least I think that was what the garbled announcement said, it was hard to be sure given that the massed ranks of the beneficiaries of private enterprise were chanting slogans.
At the time we were less than sure as to why Murdoch featured amongst the placards. Given this morning’s headlines it may be that the bearers knew something we didn’t – not a difficult achievement. It seems that our dear leader stands accused of misleading Leveson on his friendship with Rebekah Brooks. Leading journalist Matthew D’Ancona has timed the publication of his new book, ‘In It Together’, to coincide with the gathering of the Tory great and good, and claims that David Cameron misled the Leveson inquiry when he said that his friendship with Rebekah developed only after her marriage to his Eton contemporary and confidante Charlie Brooks.
According to D’Ancona, a journalist with close links to 10 Downing Street, it was Rebekah who brought Cameron closer to Charlie, not the other way round. Brooks, says D’Ancona, got very close to the PM by a “mixture of charm and persuasion”. Her charm, he reports, enabled her to “break through Cameron’s armour”. Given that Ms Brooks faces trial in October, and that no action has been taken on implementation of Leveson, the coming month may well prove a troublesome one for our hero!
In fact a quick scan of this morning’s papers suggests that the Gods that descended on Manchester yesterday are troubled indeed. Several organs report that the decision to bring forward the Help to Buy scheme was only made when Miliband the younger announced his package of measures aimed at curbing the cost of living. Every economist quoted contends that there is a real chance these subsidised mortgages will create another boom-bust, and it is interesting to note that Gorgeous George Osborne has included in the small print an arrangement allowing the Bank of England the right to call a halt should house prices start to rocket. That is a huge political gamble given that the new Governor Mark Carney, although hand-picked by Osborne, is nobody’s fool or poodle!
There is less political risk in Osborne’s other wheeze, the one involving the long-term unemployed reporting daily to job centres. This will be applauded by many but not by the already hard-pressed centre staff, whose numbers have already been cut. The likelihood is that those reporting will find them selves permanently encamped in the queues which, even now, move at the pace of Eric Pickles in a sack-race.
Amongst Conservative activists the mere mention of the Lib Dems brings extra furrows to troubled brows, and there was apparently a good deal of off-stage chatter about the possibility of coming to an agreement with Ukip. The plan being touted by even some ministers is a repeat of the deal Ramsay MacDonald struck with Lloyd George many moons ago. The Labour Party was given a clear run in seats that they could win in exchange for their not contesting Liberal potential gains. But we all know what happened to MacDonald!
Arguably the greatest worry amongst the Cameroons is that of image. They desperately wish to dispel the idea that the party is dominated by the better-heeled. They probably feel somewhat troubled by the much vaunted Aussie humour of their new PR guru, Lynton Crosby. At a well publicised pre-conference briefing for MPs, Mr Crosby said that he had been startled by the expensive jewellery when he attended a fund-raising dinner in the prime minister’s seat of Witney/Chipping Norton. “if just one of the ladies had sold just one earring we could have funded the Tory party for three months”, he said.
With friends like that who needs enemies, even if they do come in batches of fifty thousand?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “We ought never do wrong when people are looking!”…Mark Twain
The mist hanging low over the fields reflected perfectly our state of mind as we codgers gathered on the allotments this morning. Most of us had been to a late-night party, and were more in need of the hair of a dog than the feather of a chicken. Albert, who imbibed rather more than the rest of us, complained that the hens looked as big as Eric Pickles, to my bleary eye they appeared more like Wee Georgie Wood. It was fortunate that we were not scheduled to play in a Premiership match, though I imagine that the incentive of earning £200,000 a week would have enlivened us.
It was only when we gathered for black coffee that Jack reminded us that the party conference season has arrived. Not news to set the pulses racing. It doesn’t seem to have made much impact on MPs either, since 38 per cent of Tory members have let it be known that they are giving their event a wide berth. They are instead attending a private conference at a Chipping Norton hotel for a series of ’motivational’ lecture by the likes of Lynton Crosby and, presumably, such leading Chipping stars as Rebekah Brooks and Jeremy Clarkson.
The talks will doubtless include presentation skills, an art form now regarded amongst the politicos as infinitely more important than policies. Meantime our dear leader will head off to the MP-less Party Conference to stride the stage in true Olivier fashion. It is said that bullshit baffles brains. Maybe, but for us brainless ones it merely irritates.
Two of our three national leaders devote a great deal of time to the noble art of acting. Messrs Cameron and Clegg are reaching heights normally exclusive to the Palladium. The third, young ED, hasn’t quite mastered the art and is currently performing at the level of a nervous beginner at the local Rep. We sceptical ones are left wondering why British politics is so obsessed with so-called charisma.
We wonder if anyone has noticed that the highest trust rating recorded by any UK politician is 28 per cent, in other words more than 70 per cent listen to their role-playing and disbelieve every word. If so they may also have noticed that there is, not too far from these shores, a political leader with a rating of 80 plus. And she has not been coached in the art of charisma.
In fact Angela Merkel’s public speaking style is as inspiring as the Eurozone quarterly growth figures. Europe’s most powerful leader is, er, boring, snoring. She’s so cautious that she has the exact same jacket in at least 70 unadventurous shades and wears an identical outfit (one of the jackets with dark trousers) every day. If she was a British politician and appeared on Newsnight there would have to be another BBC inquiry, this time into allegedly sending the audience to sleep before bedtime.
A German election looms. Even there they have PR ‘experts’ and one such seized on Mrs Merkel’s habit of placing her hands together, fingers pointing downwards to create the shape of a diamond. He produced a poster featuring “The hands of power”, and was quickly rebuked. It means nothing, said the lady, “I do it because I never know what to do with my arms!”.
I report all this not to condemn Angela Merkel, but to praise her. She has few critics and even those who oppose her admit that she is honest and not easily deflected from what she believes to be right. The German people know only too well the dangers involved in ‘charismatic’ leaders and they have grown to love ‘Mutti’ (mummy) not least because she is utterly charisma-free.
Arguably the most trusted Prime Minister ever to choose the Downing Street curtains was Clem ‘the clam’ Attlee. By his standards Mrs Merkel is as exciting as James Bond. But he was trusted and respected. Sadly the new British penchant for televised debates would have destroyed him.
We codgers have a sneaking admiration for Ed Miliband. Our reservation is based on the fact that he seems decidedly short of policies. Our worry is that he too has become caught up in the phoney fever about charisma. If only he would settle for being boring and combine it with clear policies there would, we believe, be hope for the post-Blair Labour Party.
So no we won’t be following the Party Conferences. If we feel the need for make-believe scripts and polished acting we will go to the local 6-screen Vue cinema!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” I always knew that if all else failed I could become an actor – and all else failed!”….David Niven
Having regularly shared Tesco beefburgers during day-long tasks on the allotments, we codgers were eyeing each other with interest this morning. Any signs of neighing? Has one of us eaten the remains of Raisa, the police horse once owned by Rebekah, the flame-haired Morgana Pendragon of the court of King Rupert and his knights of the bugged table? Can one of us claim to have consumed the very spot on which our dear leader once sat? Probably not since the likelihood is that Continental companies regularly bulk up more expensive beef with a dash of horse, and have no need for supplies from Chipping Norton.
Either way it is all a little worrying. Not that horsemeat is necessarily harmful, but if they are doing this without rapid detection what else is finding its way into our daily treats? Anyone for a rat sandwich?
But an issue even more important than the fact that ‘Every little helps” means more than we thought has triggered our volatile spirits today. The Banks are back on the headlines. Not for fiddling the interest rates, or even for persuading us to take out loans which will clearly lead to their sending in their Gestapo disguised as debt-collectors, but for continuing to inflate their already obscene rewards practices.oalition’s new lower rate ofb taxation for the very rich.
Today we learn that Goldman Sachs paid its senior bankers an average of $400,000 (£250,000) in 2012, an increase over 2011 of over 10 per cent. The bank has set aside $13 billion to cover bonuses and perks, and only backed down yesterday on its plan to delay payments until after April 1st to enable staff to benefit from the new lower rate of tax proposed by the Coalition for high earners.
It would be unfair to bang on solely about Goldman Sachs for all of the major banks are continuing to demonstrate a capacity for greed that is breathtaking. Even our dear leader will eventually tire of blaming Grumpy Gordon for the financial mess and concede what everyone else has long realised, the financial collapse was caused by greedy, reckless and incompetent Banks. This has been compounded by their determination to pass on every ounce of suffering to their long-suffering customers.
But here, and around the western world, the bankers have powerful friends in high places. When Gorgeous George Osborne warns that we offend the banks at our peril, he really means his peril. Many a fellow rich-boy lurks within the cosy world of the money-crunchers and big time gamblers, not to mention the sellers of products that most certainly do not do what it says on the tin.
Most ordinary – non Old Etonians – folk are now edging toward the belief that keepng ones hard-earned pennies under the bed is the only safe practice. And most continue to ask what has happened to the countless billions poured into the banker’s outstretched greasy palms in the form of ‘Quantitive Easing’. To close vital public services, emasculate our armed forces, strip hospitals of nurses, crush those living below the poverty line but transfer amounts that make such costs puny by comparison to the very institutions that created the nightmare seems strange to say the least.
Defenders of the city continually demand that we should lay off on criticising the Banks. They continually echo Bob Diamond’s suggestion that it is time to forgive and forget, to bury the politics of envy.
If you are worried about your job security, beset with ever-increasing power and rail bills and about to lose any financial bets you have, that is a big ask. Such setbacks incline us more to demand that government should act for all the people, not just a chosen few.
It should regulate the Banks, not pour money into them so long as they continue to trouser it for themselves!
FAMOUS QUOTES ON MONEY!
“The quickest way to make a million? Marry it”….Zsa Zsa Gabor “If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late”….James Goldsmith “The first rule of business is: do other men for they would do you”….Charles Dickens “A study of economics shows that the best time to buy anything was last year”…..Marty Allen “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable”…..J K Galbraith “Business is the art of extracting money from another man’s pocket without resorting to violence”……Max Amsterdam “There are only two times in a man’s life when he shouldn’t speculate: when he can’t afford it and when he can”….Mark Twain “There is hardly anything in the world that man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper”…..John Ruskin “Gentlemen prefer bonds”…..Andrew Mellon
We may be dreaming of a white Christmas but if today is any indication we are more likely to have a wet one. Free-range hens tend to lay in any place that takes their fancy, and mud seems to be particularly alluring to creatures that want to deposit quickly before resuming their great worm hunt. The result is that some of my fellow codgers are now pressing for the purchase of an egg-washing machine. How we ever saw this as a pleasant pastime is hard to follow on mornings such as this.
But it was interesting to see pictures of the Queen attending her first Cabinet meeting. I confess to fearing for her wellbeing when I saw a shot of Big Eric Pickles greeting her but she survived and even emerged with a set of table-mats. We also saw live pictures of Her Maj arriving at Number 10. We didn’t hear what was said but it probably went along the lines of “Have you come far your Majesty?” with the response “What do you do?”.
The ministers lined up in the hall, all with shoes gleaming and ties straightened. Jeremy Hunt seemed almost overcome and bowed so low that he almost headbutted the Monarch as he returned to his usual height. Had he done so even he would surely have perished this time. The commentator told us that the Queen was fascinated by it all, to us her expression suggested rather extreme disinterest. But who knows. We could only reflect that a tour of the Foreign Office with William Hague did seem a modest reward for sixty years on the throne.
However the more significant news seemed to us to be the revelation that the Chippng Norton set is alive and well. On Saturday night the first of its usual series of Christmas parties took place at Merriscourt Farm, the home of Tom Astor, great-grandson of the American heiress Nancy Astor. And, yes, our dear leader was there with his special friend Rebekah. According to eyewitnesses they were deep in conversation for long periods.
Downing Street spin-doctors have confirmed that the old friends met. They at least have learned from the past. But has our dear leader? Many will find the continuing dalliance very strange indeed. Ms Brooks is facing very serious charges and the Prime Minister is widely suspected of being in cahoots with the Murdoch camp during the BSkyB bid.
Now he has re-triggered the speculation. Did he really know nothing of what was going on at the News of the World? Is he still selling his soul to win the approval of the Sun? Is it really appropriate for a Prime Minister to be so closely embroiled with people accused of serious criminal behaviour? We plebs are less than impressed.
If our dear leader continues to behave thus, he may be the next one to receive a gift of table mats!
Sharp frost this morning, too sharp for the chickens to get their beaks in. So it was another session of lugging buckets of hot water around as we codgers set about our avian duties. Funny old world, for weeks we have struggled to cope with flooding, now water is our salvation. At least our U-turn is one forced by nature, the one performed by our dear leader yesterday was undoubtedly steered by a more earthly God. Rupert Murdoch rules, OK!
It is ironic that this morning’s tabloids have not chosen to front page the Leveson report, that role has fallen to their more respectable brethren. Ironic because the so-called quality papers have done little to incur the wrath of any regulator. Leveson was quite clear about this. The tabloids, he declares, ride roughshod with no justifiable public interest. He could have added that they lie, a fact that we need to go back no further than yesterday’s settlement by the Sun to ratify.
When, during the aftermath of the Millie Dowler affair and revelations about his own personal links with Rebekah Brooks et al, our dear leader ordered a public inquiry into the behaviour of the press he insisted that enough is enough and promised to implement its findings. Yesterday he performed his biggest U-turn yet by opposing any suggestion of legal underpinning for a regulatory body to be set up by the press itself.
David Cameron is not a politician of fixed principles, he is a pragmatist always on the look out for vote-winning angles. Clearly he has decided that having Rupert Murdoch, and the other press barons, on side is the best way of ensuring positive press coverage at the next election. The victims, whose lives have been almost destroyed, are not vote winners. Throw in the press hostility that Messrs Clegg and Miliband will ensure by taking a principled stand, and there is almost a guarantee that from this point on our beaming leader will overshadow all but the page three girls.
At least everyone agrees that the present system of self-regulation is an abysmal failure, no great surprise given that it was run by editors of the offending organs. Everyone also agrees with the concept of an independent regulatory body. Cameron is opposed to an underpinning by statute, and to support his stance is parroting the Murdoch cry of freedom of speech. He is an intelligent man and knows perfectly well that Leveson’s proposals give no power to politicians, or anyone else, to interfere with what an editor publishes. The point of self-regulation being underpinned by statute is that it provides credibility and a guarantee that the new body does not allow a gradual return to the old ways. The regulators would be wholly independent of government. The point about a recourse to Ofcom for those who refuse to sign-up is a red herring, for Ofcom read another independent unit.
Leveson’s indictment of the reckless crimes of phone-hacking, computer intrusion, harassment, spying and bullying is chilling to read, just as it was terrifying for the victims. The appalling nature of the intrusions are too numerous for the recidivists to be given just one last chance. There have been many of those in the past, all have failed.
The central reality here is that today’s politicians are no more trustworthy than the tabloids. Our dear leader was quick to claim vindication of his relationship with Rebekah Brooks and the rest of the Murdoch circle. The report provides no such thing. Leveson concludes that no precise deals were struck but makes the point that intimate contact with such as Rupert Murdoch is to be damned since their sheer power is enough to ensure favours and back-scratching.
In fairness to our dear leader, he faced a difficult choice. To stand up for the victims would have won him short-term popularity, but long-term hostility from such as the Sun. That would have cost him the one advantage he holds over Ed Miliband. So he decided to go with the barons. It is a dangerous gamble. Around 70 Conservative MPs are said to be willing to vote alongside Labour and, surprise surprise, the Lib Dems. That may well lead to defeat in the Commons. He has made clear that such a vote would not be binding, but finally alienating Clegg’s normally obedient army could bring the coalition down.
There is one more danger. Leveson steered carefully clear of anything that could be said to be contempt of court, he therefore tiptoed around the serious crimes that will shortly bring the prime minister’s closefriends Brooks and Coulson to court. The fall out from that may prove far worse than anything Leveson has ventured to say.
The press do much fine work. The most recent example is the publicity given to the appalling treatment of Sgt Nightingale, support which has led to his release. MP’s expenses are another example of the media acting in the public intetrest. But Leveson’s proposal would in no way enable the establishment to block such stories.
We believe that the Leveson proposal is absolutely right. In opposing it David Cameron is betraying every victim, and is leaving the door open for more of the same once the novelty of a regulator not back by the law wears off.
He should hang his noble head in shame. Then again, if our dear leader senses that the public mood is totally against him he just could do yet another U-turn and claim that we misunderstood what he had said.
One of the largest runs on the allotments carries the label ‘Retired’. It is not a reference to the status of us codgers, but refers to hens that no longer lay. It has always been our policy to reward our old chickens for years of contributions in the form of eggs. The veterans receive the same food as their younger counterparts, with the exception of layer pellets. They have roomier coops which are disinfected daily. It is, according to Albert, a better version of the care given to many of the nation’s elderly. He regularly visits an elderly relative experiencing the dubious privilege of state-care and, on his return, often comments that he wouldn’t keep a hen in such conditions!
Even allowing for my pal’s tendency to exaggerate, there is little doubt that he is right in principle. Elderly and infirm people have paid their dues to society, in return they are obliged to dispose of their savings and to live in uncaring establishments. As we know from various investigations some of them are worse than uncaring. It sounds dramatic but many a resident takes the view that such a fate is worse than death!
Knowing this, we welcomed the investigation launched by the government into the British social care system. It apppointed Stephen Dorrell, the former health secretary in John Major’s government and now chair of the Commons Health Committee, to lead the task force. Mr Dorrell is an influential voice in elderly care and at the time sounded an excellent choice. Sadly the penchant of politicians for self-destruction knows no bounds.
Today the Daily Telegraph, which has been at the forefront of investigations into MP’s expenses, has revealed that Mr Dorrell made a large profit from a controversial deal which had not previously been publicly declared. He arranged for his friends Linton and Denise Connel to buy his flat near the Commons so that he could rent it back from them after a crackdown in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal. He had bought the flat in 2007, after which time he claimed mortgage interest. He sold the flat for £350,000, a profit of £70,000, and now rents a property from the Connels for £1,400 per month which he claims as expenses. By selling the flat when he did Mr Dorrell was not obliged to pay back any profit since the new expenses rules had yet to kick-in.
It is said that 51 MPs have been allowed to keep their rental details secret so, in a sense, Mr Dorrell is the unlucky one. But there is more to this than a grubby deal at the taxpayer’s expense. Mr and Mrs Connell are not merely friends, they are both directors of St Cloud Care, which runs a string of homes in Worcestershire providing care for 300 elderly people. No surprise that other MPs have suggested Mr Dorrell step down from his position as committee chairman which, to quote John Mann for one, is “highly untenable”.
Sadly this is not just another example of the tendency of politicians to self-destruct. It is a blow to all those desperately hoping for progress on the subject dearest to their hearts. Disgusting is the only word that comes to mind.
But politicians were not the only ones practising self-destruction yesterday. The Church of England was hard at it too. After a tortuous debate the General Synod tore up plans to ordain women as bishops despite overwheming support in parishes. Now we are told that parliament may remove exemption from the Equalities Act to enable would-be women bishops to take legal action.
A recent poll showed that the vast majority of people believe in God, but only a small minority believe in the established church. No great surprise for in recent times it seems to have become inward, rather than outward, looking. So many of us search for an understanding of the meaning of life and the reason for suffering, but we no longer look hopefully in the direction of the church. It is no longer gathering people in but is driving them out to search elsewhere, no easy task in an increasingly materialistic society.
And as if those two great demonstrations of self-destruction were not enough, yesterday brought us news that two of our dear leader’s greatest pals are to face very serious charges. Rebekah Brooks was charged over an alleged conspiracy to make illegal payments to a public official, while working as editor of the Sun. Andy Coulson is alleged to have authorised, along with the News of the World’s former royal reporter, Clive Goodman, the payment of money to get hold of confidential information about the royal family. The timetable will probably take some time and a general elction may well be looming when this becomes daily headline news. Meantime Mr Cameron has to respond to recommendations from Lord Leveson!
In many ways the plight of the prime minister is the ultimate example of the less than noble art of self-destruction but, like Mr Dorrell and the church, he will certainly look back at his actions and rue the day!
It was cold enough to freeze the whatnots on a brass monkey this morning when we released the hens. The steam from the chicken’s hot bran, and the squawking furore around the troughs, reminded us that the delights of winter await us on the allotments. But the blue skies were a welcome relief from the usual dark weeping ones.
We were cheered by the news that, according to the polls, Barack Obama has edged ahead in the key American states. It may well be that as old codgers, and British ones to boot, we are misreading the issues in the Presidential election but, to a man, we cannot shake off the suspicion that Mitt Romney might be a dangerous leader of the world’s major power. It is no surprise that Putin has welcomed his ‘honesty’ in declaring Russia to still be enemy number one. The Russian leader is rapidly pulling his country back to an autocratic isolationist position, and he needs an external ‘bogey man’. Our worry is that Romney means it! Hopefully the polls are right and we will never find out.
At least neither candidate appears to be immersed in the amount of sleaze surrounding our own dear leader. It is hard not to sympathise with anyone who has to do daily battle with Nick Clegg, the Tory right and Ed Balls, but David Cameron does appear to move in social circles hardly appropriate for a prime minister. Yesterday further soppy text messages exchanged with Rebekah Brooks emerged, this morning it has become clear that he may be sitting on a large cache of emails and texts, having passed to the Leveson Inquiry only those that actually mentioned the BSkyB bid.
According to the former Labour Europe minister, Chris Bryant, a ‘mole’ has revealed that many of them are “salacious”. Bryant makes the point that Adam Smith, former special adviser, was forced to publish every one of his emails to News Corporation and ended up resigning. It is all beginning to look decidedly bleak for our dear leader, as we plebs begin to wonder who pulls his strings. Mind you, Bryant is playing a dangerous game for should he succeed in toppling ‘Dave’ his party will find facing mad but popular Boris a tougher call.
But it is probably not the latest news of the goings-on within the Chipping Norton set that has most caught the public eye this cold November morning. If our group of codgers is any guide many people will have viewed with some horror the large ads inserted in most of the dailies by the Fire Brigades Union. It reminds us of the many occasions when the Fire Service has rescued people from fires, car accidents and floods and warns that the cuts being imposed on the service will mean that from now on we may not be so lucky.
According to the ad, the cuts to the fire service over the past two years have been as savage as any in the public service. And now the government proposes to cut another 6000 firefighters. Throw in the fact that many sub-stations are being closed and you have a scary picture. Fewer firemen will have longer distances to travel when the alarm sounds. Fire service or funeral service – the public is asked to choose. The stark reality, claims the script, is that these cuts will kill people.
The ads feature our dear leader out for a stroll, not with Rebekah, but equally gorgeous George Osborne, the man who refuses to contemplate any brake on tax avoidance which costs his balance sheet a zillion times the cost of a relatively small number of firemen.
Of course we must bear in mind that the campaign is being waged by the Union. But it seems highly unlikely that it would be making such appalling claims in so public a way if they were untrue. We certainly know that the closure of ambulance stations has cost lives, this sounds even more deadly.
In fairness it is equally unlikely that anyone intends to put the public at severe risk, but this government has a poor track record in planning, no names no Richard Bransons. At the very least it must respond to something that will have worried many a cornflake-eater this morning!
Most of us were somewhat late arriving at the allotments this morning. Last night saw us at a Halloween do staged to raise funds for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, and ancient frames require rest after such ghostly stimulation. I always feel guilty about any loss of daylight for creatures locked in unheated sheds, and have often raised the option of leaving the doors ajar. But the creatures so beloved by Chris Packham and his ‘Autumn Watch’ pals would regard that as an invitation to stage a mass slaughter. We hate foxes!
That dislike is a rational one, but the one we seem to have developed for Mitt Romney is harder to explain. On the face of it the American presidential election is none of our business, but the fact remains that Uncle Sam is a major influence on the world and the only major deterrent to extremists. So we presume to voice an opinion, and Barack Obama is our choice. He has done a good job under difficult economic circumstances, and is everything that Romney is not. He has no intimate links to big business, he clearly cares about the lot of the common people. Come to think about it he is also everything that our dear leader is not, a sentiment strengthened by this morning’s relaese of yet more text messages to and from Rebekah Brooks. “Your speech made me cry..will love working together” sounds a little too cosy for a time when the government was supposedly neutral in considering the BSkyB bid!
Which piece of gossip takes me neatly on to another crisis triggered by ‘Dave’ and his pals. An independent commission is currently conducting a study on the future of policing. It is chaired by Lord Stevens, the well-respected former head of the Metropolitan Police, and includes within its 37 members the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, two police commissioners from America, criminologists, lawyers, industry leaders and prominent churchmen such as Lord Eames. Today it has expressed “grave concern” at the outcome of a survey conducted amongst 14,000 serving police officers.
Stevens introduces the statistics by saying that: “I have never seen figures like this before in 40 years of policing”. No fewer than 95% feel that the government does not support the police. Only 15 officers out of a total of 1400 thought the coalition offered the police “a great deal of support”. 56% of all those surveyed are thinking of leaving the service. Morale is said to be at “rock bottom” and the government’s approach is said to be “confrontational and anti-police”.
For many ‘Plebgate’ was the final straw but the major issue, apart from pensions, is the big changes to how the service is run, amid budget cuts of up to 20% by 2015. The general feeling is that changes are being imposed without consultation, that politics have taken over, a feeling enhanced by the introduction of police commissioners. I can well understand the latter sentiment having just received my postal ballot form. In our patch there are four candidates labelled Conservative, Labour, LibDem and UKIP!
Few of us are qualified to pass judgement on the detail of the collapse of confidence. But we do understand the outcome. Stevens makes the point that morale is all important, and cites the example of an officer pursuing a criminal. This often involve “going the extra mile”, such as chasing someone across a roof. Officers face constant danger and they need confidence in themselves, and confidence that they will be supported. Faced with a roof chase now, officers will hesitate: “Why bother if they are demoralised?” asks Stevens.
This is really a rerun of the NHS fiasco that led to Lansley’s departure. Sweeping changes were made, consultation followed later, and too late. We all suspect that the modus-operandi of the police needed updating, but anyone with half a brain knows that before you attempt to improve an already largely successful organisation you first get the good guys on board. Once they too are alienated you have real problems.
In recent months it has become apparent that, for whatever reason, the police have lost their ability to respond to emergencies. Yesterday, at mid-morning, a vicious assault was taking place outside Boots in a local town centre. Staff called both police and ambulance. The latter arrived withing three minutes, the police responded to a 999 call by saying that no officers were available. Some members of the public intervened but that only served to inflame a dangerous situation.
Similar stories abound across many areas. Whether the cause is loss of morale, cuts, or a combination of the two we know not. But what we do know is that a very dangerous situation is developing. Given the reassurance of no police response the thugs are becoming emboldened. Society cannot function without police controls.
The situation isn’t helped by Theresa May suggesting that the police must face cuts in line with everyone else. She fails to grasp that the interest of the police are those of everyone else. And reference to saving money rings very thin on a day when we learn that the UK contributes more than £4 billion each year to an EU ‘Structural Fund’, which funds such wonders as an arts centre in the Polish city of Bialystok and a jazz festival in the Caribbean. We do receive back £1.2 billion but the EU alone authorises its allocation.
The police are clearly crushed and we will all pay the penalty. Oh for an Obama!
It was wet underfoot but sunny overhead when we trooped on to the allotments this morning. Lots of ribald comment about a local incident in which police fired a 50,000-volt Taser into the back of an elderly blind man in the mistaken belief that his white stick was a samurai sword. It happened in broad daylight, and the man was walking at a snail’s pace. Fortunately he wasn’t seriously hurt which meant that a good deal of humour could be centered around the need for Albert to walk a little faster when carrying his brolly in the town centre.
In more serious vein there was much speculation about our dear leader’s refusal to answer questions in the Commons yesterday. In defiance of parliamentry convention, David Cameron flatly refused to tell MPs any more about the copious messages to Rebekah Brooks which he did not make available to the Leveson Inquiry. It seems that Downing Street is sitting on a cache of emails and text messages between the Prime Minister and Ms Brooks, as well as communications with Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor and government spin-doctor.
This morning the Independent quotes a senior Conservative Party source as saying; “Saying I’m not going to answer a question is not acceptable. He does have a duty to answer questions. Otherwise you can only suspect that he has something to hide!”. Indeed. The close relationship between the PM and Rebekah Brooks, and other members of the ‘Chipping Norton set’, is a matter of public interest given that it covered the whole period of the BSkyB bid and the subsequent phone-hacking fall-out. Had it not been for the latter, there is little doubt that Cameron and Jeremy Hunt, who mysteriously replaced Vince Cable when he spoke out against Murdoch, were about to nod through the bid which would have produced untold riches and power to their friends.
The refusal to disclose the full story of his daily contacts with Rebekah Brooks is curious and extremely damaging to David Cameron’s reputation. It may be that he is merely protecting a close friend who is now facing serious criminal charges. What we actually know of events following the news of the hacking scandal does little to explain what is happening. We know that Ms Brooks was given an £8m payoff from News Corp, and we know that Rupert Murdoch has turned his venom on the prime minister. Last week his tweet read; “Told UK’s Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the Toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad”. So that relationship has turned sour, what about the one with Rebekah?
We can only speculate. Perhaps the release of the mass of still secret documents would lead to retaliation from Ms Brooks, or provide evidence capable of being used against her. Perhaps she, like her former boss, has turned against our dear leader and is also now in vengeful mood. Perhaps, perhaps – this is what happens when information is withheld even from parliament.
So yesterday was a bad day for any politicians desperate to restore public trust. To add to the general impression of deceit today’s Telegraph, which broke the original revelations about MP’s expenses, reveals that many members are exploiting a loophole in the new rules that allow politicians to rent their homes to one another. This ploy enables them to build up property nest eggs at taxpayer’s expense whist claiming back the cost of renting accomodation.
John Mann, MP, described the practice as a “return to the bad old days”, and added that “attempts to restrict transparency are beginning to creep in”. The comment was triggered by a letter from Speaker John Bercow to the expenses regulator warning him not to disclose the identity of MPs’ landlords for “security” reasons. What they could be is hard to fathom.
So in one day we had two examples of the culture of secrecy that now surrounds our democratically elected leaders. They have no one to blame but themselves if the people assume that they have much to hide!
In 1960 the writer and novelist Elias Canetti wrote that “Secrecy lies at the very core of power”. Clearly nothing has changed in over half a century!
Some readers have suggested that this blogsite is for men only. They have noticed the absence of women from our ramblings, not to mention their absence from the daily commentary. I hasten to assure you that our better-halves are regularly involved, even though they do draw the line at cleaning out pesky hens. And there are many women amongst our prize-winning allotment holders.
I confess that there are some subjects of special interest to women that we tend to steer clear of. Good examples are abortion and size of families, both matters of heated topical debate. The explanation is simple, we find the ramblings of men on such issues distinctly patronising given that they invariably refer to “the women’s vote”, a term which implies that there is such a thing. As with men, women are individuals with individual views, they are not members of a Borg-style collective. We codgers claim greater expertise only in regard to Van Persie’s latest goal, for us to argue the toss over such a profound issue as abortion would, in our view, be wrong since only those who bear children can speak from the heart or experience.
But men and women alike amongst our allotments fraternity are united in their dismay at what is happening to our NHS acute and mental health services. Over 300 acute hospitals are being obliged to close or downgrade mental health wards. Mental illness can strike anyone and we are all at risk here, unless of course we are wealthy enough to seek treatment in private units such as The Priory. Services are already totally inadequate, what is happening now ensures that if you are unlucky enough to be the one in three that suffers an episode of mental ill-health you are unlikely to receive adequate care or treatment.
Much the same danger is now looming for those who suffer emergency medical conditions. In a letter published today leading doctors have spoken out. Many A & E departments have already been axed or downgraded, and the likes of Sir David Wetherall, a former regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, and Peter Fisher, president of the NHS consultant’s association, have seen enough. In an open letter they have told the Prime Minister; “We are not against change. But such change must be driven by genuine improvement in clinical care and service efficiency rather than as a part of an indiscriminate cuts policy. We urge you to take seriously the concerns of many professionals over the serious risks A & E reforms pose to people’s health”.
But David Cameron has other matters on his mind. His arch-rival Boris has been obliged to release to public view details of his various contacts with senior News International figures at the height of the storm over phone-hacking. Good news for Cameron? Sady not, since the revelation has brought back to the surface his own intimate involvement with the Rebekah Brooks set. That in turn has sparked a letter from the “Hacked Off” campaign, which comprises many celebrities, 7/7 victims, and members of the Hillsborough Justice campaign.They have been told by ‘informed sources’ that he is preparing to reject statutory regulation of the press, the likely outcome of the Leveson Inquiry.
Now why would our dear leader be so inclined? Why did he yesterday talk about the dangers of “heavy-handed state intervention”? He may be right to warn of the perils to democracy of press censorship, on the other hand there may be a rather more sinister conclusion to be drawn from his rush to dismiss Leveson before he has even spoken.
Our dear leader may not be feeling overly friendly to the press after it, this morning, published pictures of him fast asleep during William Hague’s rallying speech in Birmingham. But he may have reason to be afraid of the Murdoch group.
Either way we, men and women alike, do not condemn him for his nap. William Hague is surely the nation’s long-awaited cure for insomnia!
A beautiful morning on the allotments. Blue skies, sunshine lighting up the late-flowering ‘Kaffa Lilies’, the swans and their rapidly maturing signets sailing silkily across the pond – of such rare days are dreams made. The chickens appeared to be having a mass meeting, we retired unhurriedly to the shed to have ours. Lots of praise for the series of BBC2 programmes by Huw Edwards on the turbulent history of Wales, a place never far from our thoughts when blue skies induce a spell of nostalgia.
One aspect of the series that struck me was the sense of historical passage and unending change. Things that seemed crucial at one point slowly faded and were replaced by something new. As with all history, one is left wondering why people worry given that some years down the line the issue will no longer matter one jot. But clearly some developments matter more than others given their power to change the course of destiny.
All of which led us to identify current activities unlikely to change anything, but which occupy great angst and effort. The favourite that emerged was the series of annual party conferences. Each year the various political parties expend a great deal of cash and time on staging extravagent events at which the leaders preach to the converted, whilst the rest of the nation yawns. This year has been no different from any other.
The Lib Dems kicked off the series. Nick Clegg abused the Labour Party and used all his showbiz talent to demonstrate that he also abhors the Tories. Then came Labour. Ed Miliband surprised everyone with his personal performance, but the gist of it was that you can’t trust the Tories. Now our dear leader is about to round it all off by arguing, as only posh boys can, that Labour cannot be trusted. In a way they are all spot-on since most of us trust none of them!
But nothing ever comes of any of it for there is only one aim, power at any cost. We need less yap and more action. Honesty? Nah! We decided this morning to make our dear leader an offer. We will take as read his loquacious attack on Ed Miliband, thus leaving him time to say what he intends to do about issues that, if left unresolved, could indeed be history-changers.
Clearly the economy is number one. No point in giving us the usual guff about the present Osborne policy being right, results tell us that it is anything but. No point either in speaking in strident tones of no turning back. As we have seen even in the past week, the government regularly gets things wrong, and regularly turns turtle. Ask Richard Branson!
But we will leave such mighty matters to the financial wizards who, to judge by their demeanour, do not include Gorgeous George as one of their own. We venture to point to a couple of typical ‘smaller’ issues that would seem to justify our dear leader taking time off from competing with mad Boris or yearning for a Rebekah Brooks shindig.
Something has to be done to end the Human Rights farce. The latest in a long list of outrages centres on a Romanian woman jailed for her role in a multi-million-pound benefits fraud. Lovinia Olmazu helped a gang funnel £2.9 million in false benefits claims to 170 Romanian gypsies. She was jailed for two years, meaning she should have been deported automatically. The Home Office believed it was appropriate or her 12-year-old son to return with her because he is Romanian-born. However, once again the courts have decided that deportation would infringe huamn rights and she is to stay. Tory MPs have yet again demanded a new UK Borders Act.
The other ‘minor’ issue we would like to see addressed is overseas aid. Everyone surely supports the concept of helping the needy wherever they may be, but our ever increasing budget is not being used in such a way. This blog has regularly given chapter and verse on fortunes poured into projects already awash with cash. Today we have further examples of large amounts of taxpayer’s money being presented to China, Iran and India.
Britian is the fourth biggest world wide donor to the World Bank, an organisation set up to lend money to poorer countries on interest-free terms. That is not what it actually does. This week it has advanced £30 million to China for a Confucius culteral heritage project. It has advanced £50 million to Iran for a road safety campaign, and £122,000 to India for the development of ‘reality radio’.
We would also like to hear an explanation for the continued refusal to allow the people a voice in the matter of Europe. Clegg and Miliband conveniently forgot to mention it and our dear leader will talk of the next election being a referendum. As a fob-off that is down in Division Two.
Short of Boris being caught in a compromising situation with Theresa May we shall not return to the subject of party conferences again. Next year, when the whole pointless circus begins all over again, we will doubtless again ask about the economy, overseas aid and human rights.
Membership of all three parties is plumbing new depths so it may by then be necessary for the spin-doctors to rent a crowd from G4S. Meantime we can only quote from the late, great, Eric Morecambe.
The latest survey on the so-called feel-good factor tells us that the elderly and very young are the happiest. No great surprise there, the very young leave the worrying to their parents whilst the elderly have long since learned that few things are worth worrying about. That apart, happiness is difficult to define. Albert is a self-acknowleged grump but nothing makes him happier than a good moan, the rest of us chicken-keepers get pleasure from triggering his outbursts. Complicated. But there is nothing complicated about the worry that descended on the head of our dear leader yesterday.
His rebellious MPs having departed, the Queen plus his mentor Tony Blair his guests at Downng Street and the Olympics about to start all added up to a rare day of delight for Davd Cameron. But then came the news he must have been dreading, his two best friends have been charged in connection with phone-hacking.
In some ways the situation involving Andy Coulson is the most devastating. Coulson has already been charged in Scotland over allegations of lying on oath, now he stands accused of five offences including the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone and that of Labour ministers. John Whittingdale, Conservative chairman of the Commons culture select committee commented that it is extremely embarrassing that the former director of communications is being charged with criminal offences.
Clearly he is right. Cameron hired Coulson as the Conservative party communications director in 2007, shortly after he had resigned as editor of the News of the World. When the coalition was formed the new prime minister ignored a growing sense of foreboding on the part of senior colleagues by taking Coulson into Downing Street. He declared him to be a close friend and brushed aside questionners.
For a much longer period the Camerons had been close friends of Rebekah Brooks, already charged with obstruction of justice, and the press took delight in running stories about the ‘Chipping Norton set’ to which they both belonged. We were regaled with details of parties, private suppers, ‘popping in’, horse riding and the rest. At the time the prime minister’s detractors were pointing to an inevitable connection to the support being given by Cameron, and later Hunt, to Murdochs bid for BSkyB. Friend she may have been, but Brooks as clearly a conduit between the upper reaches of government and Rupert Murdoch himself.
Up until yesterday the situation was, to say the least, embarrassing for our dear leader. Now it becomes threatening. Inevitably people are beginning to speculate as to how much he knew about the phone-hacking, which included a range of senior Labour politicians. He will now be praying for an eventual not guilty verdict. But if the opposite emerges there will be huge problems.
Both of the accused were, to quote the prime minister, very close friends. We all know that when very close friends meet they invariably open up on secrets. It is hard to imagine that something of the kind didn’t happen here. It is hard to imagine that revelations about Labour Party bigwigs were not mentioned over the coffee at both his neighbours house and his Downng Street study. David Cameron is a sharper man than many give him credit for and he must have at least asked about sources.
The court cases to come will hang like a dark cloud over everything that Davd Cameron does over the next year or so. At best he is guilty of astonishingly poor judgement, at worst… it doesn’t bear contemplation for a man hoping to win a mandate at the 2015 election. Until verdicts appear most would-be assassins will lie low, but already the vultures are circling. Yesterday senior Tory MPs were said to be confirmed in their view that Cameron was a bad choice as leader. With ‘friends’ like this who needs enemies?
Even a hundred gold medals will not restore our dear leader’s jollity!
TRAINS TOO HOT TO STOP!
I have never been able to fathom out why our trains seem uniquely affected by both seasons and weather. Those of us who regularly commute are used to ‘leaves on lines’, ‘frozen points’ and ‘ the wrong sort of snow’ but yesterday we were able to add another to our collection.
Trains were unable to stop at Stratford (Olympics) station because it was ‘too hot’. It seems that high temperatures affect the overhead power lines although why that prevents the train from stopping has yet to be explained.
Without doubt the Games will be a great success. However, will anyone manage to get there?
I noticed that the cricket buffs amongst us were somewhat subdued this morning. Seldom has any England team endured such a hammering as that meted out by South Africa at the Oval, my fellow chicken-keepers preferred to talk about local boy Bradley Wiggins as we cleaned out the quarrelsome hens. Our pet hate is the weather, but today one gained the impression that it was the absence of rain in London yesterday that frustrated those who just a few days ago talked of Jimmy Anderson striking fear into cowardly South African hearts.
Come our tea-break it was once again G4S that dominated. Today’s headlines reveal that the so-called security specialists have allowed scores of trainees, recruited at the last minute, to “cheat” their way through tests on use of the X-ray machines that detect homemade bombs and other weapons. Those who failed the test were being given repeated opportunities to get the right answers to the same questions, and were being allowed to confer with others during the exams under the noses of instructors. Recruits were being given only 20 minutes practice on the real machines that will be used at Olympic venues.
The result of these latest revelations, arising as a result of undercover work by reporters, is that police and armed forces have now been asked to “scope-out” whether they can undertake more x-ray duties, and run the CCTV monitors too. In other words yet another dangerous situation has been avoided thanks to the media. Contrast that to the attitude of politicians such as the Sports minister who yesterday described constant talk about G4S as “defeatist crap”!
Touch wood, we are now going to enjoy a disaster-free Games. That will be largely thanks to the media which has time and again exposed appalling shortcomings in the arrangements made by politicians. Such is their instinct for avoiding blame there can be little doubt that had the press been subject to gagging, the entire security of the Olympics would still rest in the hands of G4S. Not a happy thought!
All of which serves to remind us that the task faced by Lord Leveson is a monumental one. Clearly he has to find a formula for preventing the sort of behaviour practiced for so long by the Murdoch press. Today we learn that some of our dear leader’s closest friends, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, are to face prosecution. At the very least it is clear that relationships between sections of the press and both politicians and the police was highly improper. Something must be done.
But, and it is a big but, his Lordship will be well aware that to introduce the type of censorship being advocated by many would not only represent a danger to democracy, but a danger to the public at large. Given the chance to control what is reported one can easily imagine the army of spin-doctors, employed by such as Cameron and Osborne, feeding doctored versions of the truth. Does anyone believe that the expenses scandal would ever have emerged given political censorship, or phone hacking? It is equally easy to imagine a biased approach to news outlets, only yesterday Jeremy Hunt was once again banging the drum for Murdoch.
Given what happened to such as the family of Millie Dowler it seems cruel to say that even such excesses are better than censorship operated by politicians. Hopefully Leveson will find a way of stamping out actions that are not in the public interest, whilst leaving the media free to expose corruption and incompetence.
If the run-in to the Games has taught us anything it is that we need a free-press. The alternative would leave us at the mercy of the people we trust least of all – politicians!
WHY HAVE BONUSES AT ALL?
A review commissioned by the government of Britain’s stock market culture has proposed axing cash bonuses for company executives.
The report comments; “Many people doing responsble and demanding jobs – cabinet ministers, judges, surgeons, research scientists – do not receive bonuses and would be insulted by the suggestion that the prospect of bonuses would encourage them to perform their duties more conscientiously”.
Good point. Whether this government will listen to an idea likely to offend its own is another matter. Not if its latest statements about tax avoidance are any indication!
Yesterday Treasury minister David Gauke launched a tirade against those who pay plumbers in cash in the knowledge that it is helping tradesman to reduce their tax bills. No mention whatsover was made of big companies and top excutives who pay virtually no tax at all.
So bonuses for bankers are safe given that there is one rule for the masses and another for the rich-boys.