Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Murdoch’
Everything was frozen this morning -windscreens, the hen’s drinking troughs, the ponds and the bunch of grumpy old codgers whose sole desire was to clean out the chickens and escape to the warmth of the allotments ‘hut’. Oh to be with the Barmy Army in Australia, they may not have much to sing about but at least they are warm!
Once we had restored our circulation there was a good deal of ribaldry about our fallen hero, Tony Blair. It seems that he has fallen out with his buddy Rupert Murdoch, who is on record as saying that he will “have nothing more to do with Tony Blair, not ever”. According to the Mail on Sunday the breakdown is due to Mr Blair and Ms Deng staying overnight at Mr Murdoch’s mansion in California on two occasions without Rupert’s knowledge. In fact the pair also had “multiple encounters” in both London and New York.
The office of our beloved WMD predictor has categorically denied an affair, and all we scandalmongers know is that King Rupert has separated from Ms Deng, who leapt to his defence when, at the Leveson Inquiry, a fierce geezer with a bucket of custard attempted to donate it to him. But whatever the real explanation for the Blair fall from grace, it could be good news for our dear leader who is still part of the News Corp social circle. The Sun was a passionate supporter of New Labour, perhaps we can expect our rosy faced Dave to adorn the front page of every builders bible at the next election?
Alongside most of the morning paper’s coverage of the world’s richest ex-politician, there is an equally intriguing story about generous awards given to three members of our armed forces, a surprising development given that the Ministry of Defence has shown total contempt for those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. But before you break into a chorus of at last we must explain that the recipients of a cool £100,000 are female RAF recruits who incurred ‘injuries’ from marching in step with male colleagues. They have now recovered from the effects of “over-stride”, which is more than can be said for those who no longer have legs to stride on yet are struggling to make ends meet!
Meantime Parliament’s anti-sleaze watchdog has been approached by a coalition of MPs, academics and celebrities who claim that the City of London’s lobbying activities merit examination. There are, the group claims, “revolving doors between the government and powerful City interests”. It hardly surprises us but we imagine that Knacker is less than delighted at the possibility of yet more dirt-sifting.
He must have a pending caseload longer than that of the few remaining social workers, and our humble plea will not help. We believe that it is high time that bankers were held accountable for their actions which impact on so many. The latest outrage concerns RBS who, according to a report by Lawrence Tomlinson, were guilty of “stealing people’s livelihoods from them”. Mr Tomlinson last night called for jail sentences, should it be proven that firms not necessarily in immediate financial distress were “engineered” into the bank’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG), a division with the power to scrap loan deals, impose inflated interest rates and charge hefty penalties.
The report alleges that firms were forced into GRG sometimes through small technical breaches of loan terms, such as late filing of minor financial information. They were then hit with exorbitant rates and fees causing them to collapse, allowing RBS to buy their property and assets on the cheap. One such business said that it paid RBS £256,000 in fees alone whilst in GRG.
The report has reached Uncle Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who says that allegations are “very serious” and has asked the Financial Conduct Authority to investigate. We have no axe to grind with RBS and are inclined to wonder how all this happened whilst it was under the direct control of Gorgeous George Osborne. But the fact remains that time and again the banks are found to have engaged in what amounts to fraud yet the only consequence are resignations accompanied by golden goodbyes.
If only our favourite pie-eater was in charge of everything! Today we are told that Eric Pickles has solved the social implications of “problem families”. Quite an achievement. No detail is provided and we can only accept that like God and Stephen Fry, Eric moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” We live in a world where lemonade is made from artificial flavours and furniture polish is made from real lemons!”……Alfred Newman
The reaction of the allotments codgers to the sudden disappearance last evening of every blog published since November 4th was mixed. As we cleaned out the hens this morning most of my pals were sympathetic, they know just how much research and work has vanished into the ether. Others, led by Albert, view anything related to computers with great suspicion and bore an I-told-you-so air. I contented myself with wondering how such a thing can happen, perhaps Eric Pickles has tired of mockery and has had a quiet word with his fellow pie eaters in the surveillance service?
Perhaps someone up there was less than happy with yesterday’s piece on the treatment of our troops? That wouldn’t be too surprising given that we compared the public image of our wreath-laying ministers with the treatment they are applying to those who attest and swear an oath to serve the crown in wars triggered by politicians. When they do this they surrender employment rights, and place their trust in a pledge – reinforced by the Coalition as recently as last year – to be “valued and respected as individuals”.
The reality is different. More than 4,500 service personnel are being made redundant this year, and are being replaced by raw and poorly trained reservists. A lot more will be receiving redundancy notices next year. Many of those affected are nearing the end of their military career and were looking forward to well-earned pensions. Many are in shock since the M.O.D has been devious in the extreme in nominating the date for their departure.
We quoted the case of Sergeant Michael Anderson, who was made redundant just three days before qualifying for his full military pension. This meant that his entitlement was reduced by fifty per cent. So appalled were his colleagues and friends that a petition was launched. It attracted over 100,000 signatures and, faced with the resulting publicity, the Ministry changed its mind and granted Sgt Anderson his full pension. But in the House of Lords Lord Touhig warned that a vast number of similar examples of “sleight of hand” are underway.
We presumed to describe this as a national disgrace. We stand by that. Large numbers of our troops have been ordered into wars justified by lies, and many have died or been severely wounded. The politicos who condemned them to the impossible task of fighting faceless fanatics mouthing the cause of invented Gods are now covertly robbing them of what would be for a civilian a legal entitlement.
Another of their proposed victims is the BBC. Since time immemorial all of the political parties have at one time or the other accused our state broadcaster of bias, certain evidence that its news coverage is neutral. At the time of the phone-hacking scandal our dear leader and the then relevant minister, Jeremy Hunt, were about to nod through a deal with Murdoch’s News Corp which would have opened the door for their friends to emasculate the BBC, a prospect which had us turning our keyboard red hot.
Our opposition to such a concept was based on revulsion at the thought of news coverage slanted to provide political propaganda plus, we must admit, the prospect of every TV programme being punctuated with endless ads featuring a fat oaf sporting a moustache and selling something we have no wish to sample.
Sadly we have to confess that our long-standing faith in the Beeb is beginning to waiver. The world’s most trusted broadcaster seems hell-bent on self destruction. Having been once thwarted, David Cameron and the rest of the friends of Murdoch in high places are itching to find another way of destroying the BBC and its leaders continue to provide the ammunition.
We had the scandal of the enormous hand-outs given to departing executives, now we learn that there are still 245 – a number not including programme-makers, performers or journalists - who make more than £100,000 a year. Compare that with the Metropolitan Police, where Knacker has almost treble the staff, which has 53!
Today we learn that, almost unnoticed by the media, the Corporation paid £90 million for a controlling stake in Lonely Planet travel books, which once guided an entire generation of backpackers to the cheapest banana pancakes in Chiang Mai. But the company’s young customers were moving online and the market in printed guidebooks was collapsing. Seemingly unaware of this, BBC Worldwide in 2011 paid Tony and Maureen Wheeler, the founders of Lonely Planet, a further £42 million for their remaining stake.
It then spent a further £20 million on developing the acquired company, bringing the total expenditure if public money to £152 million. In March of this year the BBC sold Lonely Planet for just £51.5 million, a £100 million loss. The executive responsible for all this left in December with an £800,000 pay-off.
We take no pleasure in reporting this. Given the alternatiuve we support the concept of an independent state-owned broadcaster. But right now the number of prosecutions for non-payment of the annual £145 licence fee are at record levels. Many people are struggling financially, and the anti-BBC brigade are playing their tune to an increasingly receptive audience. Lords Patten and Hall need to get a grip and quickly before the patience of even the most ardent supporters runs out!
A taste of what could be came this week when government sources took umbrage at the BBC coverage of the Commonwealth Conference in Sri Lanka. The spin-doctors of Downing Street were upset at the inference that there are people who believe that the heir to the throne and prime minister should have followed the example of India and Canada in refusing to give credibility to mass murderers.
Given the elimination of the BBC the views of those of us who believe just that would have vanished in the manner of our missing blogs!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”We ought never do wrong when people are looking!”….Mark Twain
There was a ripple of ironic applause when I appeared on the allotments this morning. My frequent absence for hen-cleaning of late has left me as popular as a boil on a boundary rider’s bum, but hopefully a few weeks of regular attendance will restore my reputation. My explanation does not sound plausible but it is true – I have attended umpteen NHS clinics for investigation of the ‘shadow’ on my lung shown by XRay which has proved to be the result of a plastic cash card in my shirt pocket. Perhaps I should have claimed that I was indulging in trysts with Zsa Zsa Gabor.
But the codgers soon switched their attention to a somewhat younger target. Almost everyone had watched the performance of Ed Miliband at the Labour Party conference and, inevitably, people whose memories now resemble colanders were full of praise for his ability to memorise a one hour speech. How will our dear leader beat this? He could try performing whilst standing on his head, but that would serve only to turn his face even ruddier and who will want to vote for a beetroot?
Predictably the predominantly right-wing papers are wheeling out the Red Ed taunt. Hardly. For those of us whose early years were dominated by such as Nye Bevan he is at best pale pink. But he is shrewd. Although the polls show that the county as a whole is less than impressed with the idea of the two Eds being in charge of the bean-counting, the reading in marginal seats is somewhat different. There the Labour Party leads the Tories by 44% to 33%, and these are the seats that Miliband needs to win to gain the right to select the number 10 curtains. And the policies rattled off will have gone down well there.
Not least amongst these was the attack on the utilities. The announcement of a proposed freeze on prices will in reality draw few critics from any household. Prices have been rising at around 9% annually for several years and it has long been apparent that the big six are operating what is effectively a cartel. British Gas owner Centrica, EDF, Npower, SSE, E.on and Scottish Power have raised bills quickly when wholesale prices have risen yet shown a united reluctance to reduce them when they fall. Over the same time, multibillion -pound profits have soared as have dividends and bonuses.
Of course Miliband is playing the populist card, but he has chosen a good one. Most of the companies on whom we rely for our power are foreign-owned, and their commitment to the people of this county is minimal. The system is bust, there is no real competition. The tycoons will of course threaten blackouts and plague. The answer to that is to introduce new truly competitive suppliers plus real regulation.
Please don’t interpret this endorsement of the thoughts of Ed the geek as an indication of total endorsement. We were concerned at things he didn’t mention. The destruction of the NHS, HS2 and Europe were hardly mentioned and that worries us. Maybe our new stage star reasons that such things are best left to Ukip, who could do Labour a power of good in constituencies held by the coalition? But if we codgers are any guide failure to address these momentous issues will lose Ed a lot of votes amongst those who once voted Labour.
Having said all that we must express delight at the discomfort of all those who described Ed Miliband as weak and non-confrontational. He certainly demonstrated that he is not so, he even lashed out on the Murdoch-Cameron link. He also made clear his determination to be master in his own house and it was amusing to see John Prescott looking as happy as a walrus with a gastric problem. Mind you, we couldn’t help noticing the carefully placed ranks of young and televisual persons who appeared to be transfixed with the delight once associated with a Tom Jones concert.
Funniest of all were the coalition stooges who appeared on last night’s Newsnight. Miliband, they sneered, looks anything but a Prime Minister. Do we conclude from that that they believe that Mssrs Cameron and Clegg do?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” If, one morning, I walked over the River Thames, the headline that afternoon would read ‘Prime Minister Can’t Swim!”…..Margaret Thatcher
Hen cleaning in the rain is back in fashion, and the forecast suggests that we may have to wait a while for more of that glorious sunshine. But for some strange reason the codgers were in good humour this morning. The main subject for speculation was Rupert Murdoch’s latest divorce, which inevitably prompted a group of blokes about his age to wonder why anyone would wish to dispense with a wife not only half their age but more than capable of launching fearsome attacks on potential enemies.
But a rather more important issue captured our attention when we assembled for a brew. Last night’s BBC programmes carried various stories of the abuse of elderly people at the hands of carers employed by private companies, who now provide services to local authorities. One victim remarked that were it not for her family she would be long dead. The words reminded us of those distant days when families tended to live close to each other and care of their own as the norm. But those days have gone. In today’s world kith and kin spread out across the land and, in any case, the times when women were at home have also gone. Add to that the fact that people are living much longer and one conclusion emerges, in most cases frail and elderly people are at the mercy of the state.
Or, it seems, lack of mercy. Because one of our occasional allotmenteers works as a carer we have first-hand knowledge of the reasons for this. Anne – not her real name – works for one of the companies responsible for home care. She is up at 6.00 every morning and is quickly in her car for the eight mile drive that takes her to a gruelling day of work that often ends at around 10.00 pm. She has a precarious existence; a zero-hours contract that pays below the minimum wage.
In theory no one over the age of 21 should be paid less than £6.19 an hour, but her employers have hit on a ruse – to pay only for “care minutes” with a client. The result is that Anne is not paid for the time taken to drive 50 miles a day, and her hourly rate works out at less than £5. Essentially on standby, she can be called to whizz between houses in shifts as short as 15 minutes.
She is tagged with a tracking device to ensure that the time, location and duration of visits are logged. Too short a stay means no pay, as does arriving late. Unlike some staff, Anne is a caring person and does everything in her power to ensure that clients are washed, dressed and fed with a kindly touch. But given 15 minutes to spend with those she cares for she openly admits that conversation has to be kept to an absolute minimum.
Since Anne became a carer things have deteriorated considerably. Cuts by central government to budgets have been passed on to private companies, and ther first priority is to make a profit. As Anne puts it; “What’s not in your pay packet is in the owner’s.” Anne is one of 200 emplyees and knows from sad experience that anyone complaining has their hours cut to the point where their wage will not provide a living.
Unfortunately many of those willing to contemplate such a job are those rejected by other employers. Some are not as caring as our friend and regularly take out their sense of grievance on those they visit. Acts of cruelty are not unknown, but potential whistleblowers know the consequences of speaking out.
Meantime the government and public prefers to look the other way from a problem that will worsen by the year as the number of clients continues to grow. We hear a great deal about the lot of elderly people housed in residential or nursing homes but those relying on domicilary visits are even more vulnerable.
Given the increasing publicity in the media, and with an election only two years away, ministers are beginning to take notice. The Lib Dem health minister, Norman Lamb has now asked his colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to name and shame those companies not paying the minimum wage. Yesterday he chaired a summit of care providers, councils and trade unions. He called for a “piece of work showing you can improve worker’s conditions” He went on to ask; “What sort of care do you think we are providing some of the most vulnerable people in society at these rates?”
Were he to leave his office and ask people such as Anne he would quickly find out. Unfortunately there will be no improvement until the funding cuts are reversed. Yes, action by police and social workers will continue to force action in proven cases of physical abuse, but this is only the tip of a shameful iceberg. Even if your carer was kind, how would you like to be looked after by someone without a minute to spare, and who is obliged to dash in and out without so much as a backwards glance?
We once prided ourselves on being a caring society. We are rapidly becoming the least caring in Europe. The bankers and tax avoiders are happy, the rest of us are anything but!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” If this was happening elsewhere in the public service, I expect there would be much more of a public outcry”….Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Resolution Foundation
Another beautiful morning boded well for we hen-cleaners, but does it bode well for our dear leader? Chipping Norton’s favourite son seems besieged, a feeling hardly helped by the Daily Torygraph featuring a huge picture of Nigel Farage on its front page. To be fair it has also headlined David Cameron’s latest anti-Ukip wheeze which involves bringing forward legislation for an EU referendum. Nice thought but since the dreaded Nick Clegg has immediately announced that the Lib Dems will not allow it, the odds are that the hastily constructed torpedo will explode on loading.
We sat outside with our mugs of tea this morning, an experience so rare that the gang was in the sort of warm reflective mood that is usually unique to the Bull & Royal. The general view was that, given such amiable but weak leadership, Britain is back to being ruled by unelected Barons. But this time around it is not the union variety that is ruling our roost. Beer and sandwiches will not placate the new groups that turn the organ-grinder’s handle whilst monkeys, disguised as ministers, dance.
Today two groups are the equivalent of the unions of yesteryear. The first are the boardroom tax avoiders, whose corporate and individual taxes, if paid as intended, would transform the public finances from deficit to surplus in an instant. It is hard for ordinary folk to understand the grip they hold on their fellow clique of elitists at the heart of government, but it has become increasingly clear that our Old Etonians lack the courage to seriously challenge them.
The second group is the British press with its collective interest in weak government. The Leveson report, published last November amid so much hope for much needed change following the phone-hacking scandal and much else, has failed. Its 2,000 pages are history.
Today the Leveson report is to press reform what ‘In Place of Strife’ was to union reform. Harold Wilson flirted with union reform after the seaman’s strike in 1966, and then got scared off in 1969. David Cameron has done the same thing, flirting with press reform after the phone hacking scandals in 2011 before getting scared off in 2013. In both cases vested interests prevailed. In 1969 the Daily Mirror ran a front page editorial headlined; “There exists in Britain a power outside parliament as great as that which exists within it!” And so it is today, only the identity of the power has changed.
There is perhaps a slight hope that the government, backed by the all-party agreement, may stand firm on press regulation but as the general election draws nearer it is unlikely. The prime minister’s links with Murdoch et al are well known and he is unlikely to jeopardise their support. And should Ed Miliband triumph he is unlikely to want to pick a fight with the press in the difficult circumstances of a Labour government.
So we now have not union barons, but those of the boardroom and press variety. There seems no prospect whatsoever that government will tackle the former, and only a remote hope regarding the latter. The implications for us all are unnecessarily harsh austerity and continued bullying and unethical hounding by the media.
At times like this one tends to think back for examples of champions lost, of tough characters who would have said enough is enough, and meant it. Sadly it is a short list, only Thatcher and Churchill spring to mind. Perhaps a continuing success on the part of Ukip might just force David Cameron’s hand on the tax avoiders at least.
But we shouldn’t hold our breath, barons have a tradition of ruling for decades!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I’m tired of all the nonsense about beauty being only skin deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want – an adorable pancreas? …Jean Kerr in ‘The Snake has all the Lines’.
Since it was the Sun that yesterday invoked words by Churchill in its last-ditch attempt to intimidate our easily intimidated politicians, we codgers this morning presume to refer to another phrase from our wartime leader. It was, he once said, always better to have “Jaw jaw than war war”. And so it proved yesterday when David Cameron surrendered to the prospect of an inevitable defeat in the Commons on the Leveson Report.
Having decided that earning the wrath of the press barons was a better option than that of the public at large, our dear leader left it to Oliver Letwin to throw in the towel in the small hours of Sunday night. Who better to sum up what happened than Nick Clegg, who for once found the inner strength to stand up for what his party believed in; “If it looks chaotic that Letwin was meeting members of Hacked Off in Ed Miliband’s office at 2.00am to discuss press regulation, that is because it was. It was chaotic because the prime minister walked out of the talks unilaterally on Thursday rather than sitting down and having sensible discussions!”
Those sensible discussions have now taken place and the newspaper industry has lost its powers to veto appointments to the body that will replace the Press Complaints Commission. The regulator has a statutory underpin and the body will have powers to impose fat fines and direct apologies as prominent as the offending article.
David Cameron had talked about crossing the Rubicon. It seems that the real one in this matter is a shallow, muddy river. In crossing it neither Miliband nor Clegg have even wet their socks. They have won all that they demanded, the public at last has protection against intimidation and lies yet no one in their right minds really believes that press freedom has been eroded.
Predictably the barons are threatening all sorts of retribution. Equally predictable is Cameron’s claim that this is what he meant to achieve all along. Perhaps even more predictable was yesterday’s news that the Sun has paid “very substantial damages” to Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh after it admitted that it accessed text messages from her mobile phone after it was stolen. In court the Sun admitted to “serious wrongdoing” and it was revealed that hundreds of further claims are in the pipeline. So much for yesterday’s page- three girl’s lecture on Thomas Jefferson!
As we cleaned out the hens this morning, we codgers gave credit to Ed Miliband who has quietly stood firm against Murdoch, the Barclays and the rest of the overseas-based newspaper owners. To quote Churchill yet again the “whole might of the enemy will soon be thrown against him”, but that would probably have been the case anyway. As Albert put it, the boy done good.
What this debacle does to the coalition is open to debate, but for now one thing is certain. At least some of the people who supposedly run this country are prepared to stand up to the bully boys who believe that they do!
We can now expect much talk about freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility. Parts of the press have so frequently abused that maxim that they do not deserve serious attention. To quote Chris Eubank in the High Court yesterday, News International “destroyed my life and my marriage and they made a mockery of the British justice system”. They are, he said; “Liars and bullies!”
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “”Mr Speaker, I withdraw my statement that half the cabinet are asses – half the cabinet are not asses!”…..Benjamin Disraeli
According to the front page of today’s Sun this is D-Day. Hilarious tripe, but it angered some of my fellow chicken-keepers who, unlike Rupert Murdoch, experienced the Normandy landings. They were also less than impressed at the huge picture of Winston Churchill. The great man is probably spinning in his Bladon grave at the misuse of his name!
For those of you who are not Sun readers, I should perhaps explain that Murdoch’s men are using a quote from 1949 to justify the most blatent attempt to influence parliament since Guy Fawkes. Yes, Churchill did emphasise that a free press is the “unsleeping guardian of every right that free men prize”, but he was talking about the perils of a state-controlled media. He was not advocating a freedom to hack phones, to bribe policemen or to intimidate at will.
Turn to page three and the claims get even more bizaare. Topless ‘Poppy’ from Somerset is quoted as demanding that her audience pressure politicians to “remember the wise words of U.S founding father Thomas Jefferson. He said that where the press is free every man is safe”. In the unlikely event that ‘Poppy’ wrote this nonsense, she should perhaps remember that Jefferson defined freedom as every man being equal and free from unfair persecution. In today’s world he would certainly have viewed what happened to the family of Milly Dowler with outrage.
Tonight the Commons is due to vote on Leveson. Faced with possible defeat, David Cameron may well perform another of his U-turns or Nick Clegg may lose his suddenly discovered backbone. But whatever they do it would have been good to believe that it was aimed at the public interest rather than ingratiation of press barons who would prefer to influence the selection of those appointed to regulate them.
If the Sun, and some other nationals are to be believed, Britain’s press stands at a historic crossroads. One arrow points to freedom, the other to the end of all that Milton, Wilkes and Mill lived and died for. The truth is rather more mundane. MPs are being asked to choose between two versions of a royal charter – a medieval piece of constitutional nonsense that fudges the issue of statutory regulation. There are good and bad in both versions, not a straight choice between virtue and evil – and nothing in either to signal the death of press freedom.
Thetre are two issues causing so much furore. Clegg and Milband argue that the charter needs reinforcement to prevent it being unpicked by ministers without parliamentary debate. They also believe that the press should not be free to veto appointments to the regulator. The argument for parliamentary underpinning lies in the curious and unsatisfactory nature of the royal perogative – a profoundly undemocratic device which allows ministers of the day to interfere with, or even abolish, a charter without any kind of open debate. And this could happen if a powerful press baron was able to intimidate!
It is perhaps siginificant that the Guardian prefers the Lib/Dem proposal. The Guardian more than any other paper has exposed wrongdoing on the part of politicians. It sees no barrier to doing that in what Clegg/Miliband propose, and comments that; “We doubt John Milton will be spinning in his grave!”
Whether there is a vote or not we hope that our elected ones are strong enough to make up their own minds in an objective fashion. It is surely time for them to demonstrate that they, not Rupert Murdoch, are running the country.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “The difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector is that the taxidermist takes only your skin!”…Mark Twain
The rain is back. The Spring-like spell lifted our spirits and, lest we return to being a bunch of moaning and muddy old codgers, we must keep on reminding ourselves that Easter looms. It is a time set in our memory banks as one of sunny days and cheeping chicks. It is only recently that we have learned that it really was thus a few decades ago. Unfortunately a lot of ice has melted at the Arctic since then. But fingers crossed, perhaps God will be on our side this year.
He, or Rupert Murdoch as he is known on earth, is certainly on the side of Nigel Farrage. Today we learn that on Tuesday he entertained the Ukip leader to dinner at his London flat. Farrage’s cronies have let it be known that he told the great man that he has plans to join forces with the Conservatives come the election, but only if David Cameron steps down. That may well be down to our dear leader’s description of Ukip as a party of “fruitcakes” and “closet racists”.
Someone should advise our red-faced hero that bouts of temper are not always the best way to get ones points across. Messrs Johnson and Gove seem to have realised that if Murdoch’s post-dinner tweets are any indication. They, says our least favourite Aussie, are “excellent, frustrated ministers”. Frustrated? Mr Murdoch is thought to share Farrage’s disdain for our beleagured leader. Beleagured? He now faces a resurgent bunch of Lib Dems happy to contradict his every word, he has hordes of his own backbenchers yelling for his blood, and he is wedded to the Osborne recipe for knackering the economy. Now he has to read a Murdoch tweet declaring that Farrage “reflects public opinion on Europe!”. Will it be the Sun ‘wot wins it?’
But to those who, like us, pass our days in Lancashire this is all a mere sideshow. Yesterday our biggest and most highly regarded Teaching Hospital was obliged to cancel all non-emergency operations. It was bad news for patients who had counted the days to their admission. It was a PR opportunity for politicians who rushed to the cameras to cry shock and horror. How, they demanded, could one of our top hospitals reach the point where the need to provide urgent services overwhelmed it. Even our usually supportive local MP asked if this is the “third world”.
As a former chairman of that Foundation Trust I can tell them precisely who is to blame. It is them. From the day we earned Foundation status the management, clinicians and governors devoted ourselves to an intensive efficiency drive. Every system was examined and every possible saving made short of reducing the quality of patient care. By the time we had completed our work there was no scope for further savings.
Since that time the Lansley/Nicholson madness has led to massive so-called efficiency savings. Across the NHS these amount to £20 billion. But efficiency savings where there is no scope for further efficiency become cuts in funding. Apply that alongside a huge and chaotic reorganisation plus a continuingly rapid increase in elderly admissions, and you have swamping.
Of course we are told that the pressure on hospitals will be eased by the transfer of services into the community. I am not aware of a single one and, given that GP services are already inundated, cannot imagine other than that this is a fantasy.
The harsh truth is that unless hospital funding is increased every one in the country will slowly seize up. What happened here yesterday will become the norm.
The public has a simple choice. If we accept the political view that there is to be no more incremental funding, we must also accept that our hospitals will gradually lose their ability to handle increasing volumes.
And those such as the excellent Lancashire Teaching Hospitals who will not compromise on quality of care will take the only other course open to them!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one!”…..George Mikes
Miracles do happen! We arrived at the allotments this morning under blue skies and found that the overnight high winds had dried out the surface of the hen-runs. Even the chooks seemed to be walking with a happier gait. Whatever next, we have all the makings of a good-news day. But say it quietly for the weathermen are predicting a monsoon before it ends.
But in embattled Britain even the shortest break from the unrelenting tales of disaster is welcome. Unfortunately, today’s lead story failed to lift our spirits even further. To be fair to all those who believe that high-speed rail will herald an exciting new age, we have to admit that our lack of enthusiasm is in part down to the fact that none of us will be here when the first arrow-like missile shoots from London to Brum at the speed of light. And the cynics amongst us wonder what all those world-saving business wizards will do with the minutes shaved off their commuting times. And will laptops, skype and the rest not have advanced somewhat over the next twenty years, possibly to the point where they have no need to travel to carry on their dynamic deals?
Other aspects of the great Westminster train lanch also left us soemwhat puzzled. Great play was made yesterday of the reduction in travel time. But will not the next generation of locos have kicked in by 2032, making the difference much less? And what about the financial benefits? In the Commons transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, banged on about the £2 economic benefit forecast to result from every £1 spent. What? Every year? Every five minutes? To the end of time? Or what? Benefit to whom? How? It was all somewhat vague.
All we know for sure is that the capital and operating costs are estimated – and we all know what that means – at £59 bn at current costs with revenue at £33bn. This leaves £26bn to be funded by the taxpayer, a good deal of which must be found long before any revenue accrues. Presumably the £26bn must be found at the expense of something else.
Many experts claim that the end result will be a few high-speed journeys for those who can afford the higher fares, and a rail service for most almost as crappy as the one we endure today. Who knows? One thing is for sure, those politicians nailing their reputation to the concept won’t be in office when the project reaches its launch, probably in 2037.
Yesterday our dear leader made much of the fact that other countries have high-speed trains, but conveniently forgot to mention that they cover much bigger land masses. But fresh from his conquering of Aunty Merkel he was in no mood for cynicism.
Just as well for he also had to face questions about the Leveson Report. Had the super-rail excavation already started we might suspect that it had been buried, since it hasn’t we can only assume that it is somewhere in the long grass north of Watford. Certain it is that its lessons seem already buried. Last week George Osborne attended a party thrown by Rupert Murdoch in London. It is good to know that some friendships can withstand the harshest condemnation.
In fact there was some good news yesterday. Doctors announced that cancer will soon become a manageble disease rather than a death sentence thanks to a revolutionary treatment which will be available within three to five years time. All patients will soon have their tumour’s DNA, its genetic code, sequenced enabling doctors to ensure they give exactly the right drugs to keep the disease away.
There is every reason to believe that this will be the biggest step forward yet towards transforming many forms of cancer into chronic rather than fatal diseases. Prof Alan Ashworth, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, says that none of this is “science fiction”. “One would think that within five to ten years this will be absolutely routine practice for every cancer patient”, he added.
It is a pity that such startling news should have been overshadowed by what sounds to many a pricey irrelevance, a load of high-speed hogwash. But then politicians can claim no credit for findings resulting from research funded charitably. Those of us who realise only too well that cancer affects far more families that do even the fastest trains should be delighted.
Perhaps even at this moment our failing Chancellor is asking his friend Rupert why the really good news received so little coverage. Then again probably not. Tying up the support of the Sun and Times is the only priority on his list!
TODAY’S INFAMOUS QUOTES ARE ON HUMANITY: “When I looked up my family tree I found out I was the sap”….Rodney Dangerfield “Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath”……Arnold Glasgow “The worst eternal triangle is teenager, parent and telephone”……Lavonne Mathison ”I get along well with my parents. I still talk to them once a week. Its the least I can do . I still live in their house!”…..David Corrado “There are two things we can all live without – haemorrhoids and neighbours”….Spike Milligan “A neighbour is someone who has just run out of something”…..Robert Benchley “Everyone wants to save the earth. No one wants to help Mum wash the dishes”…..P J O’Rourke “Adolescence is the stage between puberty and adultery”……Denis Norden “The main purpose of children’s parties is to remind you that there are children worse than your own”…..Katharine Whitehorn
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.
Albert was singing about his tiny hand being frozen as we cleaned out the hens this morning. It wasn’t the only part of my anatomy so afflicted. In the space of 24-hours we have moved from the new flood age to the new ice variety. It is on mornings like this that I tend to consider the option of being a more typical 80-year old. Pathetic surrender? Maybe, but the thought of lying under the covers for another hour or so has replaced my long-held fantasy about walking into the sunset with Zsa Zsa Gabor!
Once we had thawed out it was time for our daily moan around the hut fire. One of our pet hates is the energy companies, all of whom now have their own debt collectors who make the Third Reich look like Mother Theresa by comparison. When the latest example of this is revealed we often wonder how on earth it came to this. We have a system designed to ensure that the consumer comes off worst, with much of our energy having been effectively nationalised by foreign firms either owned or substantially assisted by their own governments. We can blame Thatcher but shouldn’t forget that our foreign masters flourished under Blair.
But we drew some consolation this morning from the news that this government is about to camp down on so called pay-day loan sharks. Many a desperate soul has been drawn into their seemingly attractive web without bothering to check the interest rates enforced should the next pay-day come and go without repayment. All credit to our dear leader on this one!
But the news today will undoubtedly focus on the Leveson report. As if on cue the Sun – who else – has payed out £400,000 to Louis Walsh, the X Factor judge, after publishing a false story claiming he had sexually assaulted a man in a Dublin nightclub. The Sun will also pay Walsh’s legal costs of £180,000.
Speaking outside the court after the settlement Walsh spoke emotionally of the effect that the lies had on him and his family. It is not hard to imagine, it is certainly impossible to forgive given that on the day before publication he told the Sun’s Gordon Smart that the story was a pack of lies.
The Sun based its screaming headlines on a story provided, presumably in exchange for cash, by unemployed dance teacher Leonard Watters. He was jailed in July for six months for admitting to wrongly accusing Walsh of groping him in the Dublin celebrity nightclub Krystle. He lied and the tabloid cheerfully assassinated the character of an innocent man.
The Murdoch paper has now unreservedly apologised and admitted that the alleged assault was a foul fabrication. The lawyers acting for Mr Walsh have made the point that had there been a regulator with power to appeal to the story could have been stopped before publication.
It is a timely reminder of just how out of control the tabloids are. When later today we hear leading lights talking about the need for press freedom we should perhaps reflect on the damage done to innocent people by newspapers prepared to print lies about anyone and everything.
Come to think about it the Sun deserves a regulator all of its own. Mind you, such a move would do considerable harm to our dear leader’s loving relationship with the Murdoch empire!
This morning the sun had vanished behind a screen of thick muck, down on planet earth we codgers were shovelling heaps of something similarly named. Unfortunately the digestive system of chickens is badly designed in that their toilet duties are confined to the hours of darkness. The result is that large coops require cleaning on a daily basis. Thus ends the avian lesson, but we thought we should educate you lest the question comes up in your next pub quiz.
We had other things on our mind. To a man we treasure the BBC, we have always believed in its integrity and we hate mindless adverts. Suddenly we are in shock. Without doubt Britain’s most respected institution is, like us, in the muck. There can be no denying that it has failed in its duty to protect children participating in its programmes and, more recently, has made the most appalling mess in regard to editorial judgement.
In its defence it has to be said that only the BBC could have used its own top investigative journalists to expose its own failings. The Panorama programme on Monday night enabled the pontificating politicians to stage a public execution of the Director General. Mind you, something about the proceedings at the select committee left a sour taste. MPs are hardly in a position to be holier than thou. Whatever the Beeb may be guilty of, it has not allowed an expenses scandal, nor has it packed its programmes with mindless abuse or amendment of the facts on a daily basis.
But two wrongs do not make a right. It is perhaps unfortunate that the new head, George Entwistle, is an insider for that made his task yesterday well-nigh impossible. To compound that he has the air of a distracted scholar, and a light unassuming voice. It soon became clear that he is a perfect bureaucrat, for whom the rules are overwhelmingly important, however wrong they may be. Over and again he repeated that he had stuck to BBC procedures. These, he said, needed to be “calibrated more carefully”, whatever that may mean. He did not unfortunately have the demeanour of a tough new broom prepared to sweep clean. Entwistling in the dark came to mind, and it took Chairman Chris Patten to mount a real defence.
He gave an assurance that actions will be taken to weed out the culpable, and to prevent any recurrance. But he also issued a fierce rebuff to the Sky-loving Maria Miller, the culture secretary. “I know that you will not want to give the impression that you are questionning the independence of the BBC”, he said. He was right to do so for the BBC, with its quasi-familial role in British life, did not actively collude in the crimes of Savile. Nor, in all likelihood, did it engineer a cover-up of hidden predatory paedophilia. It is only guilty of the sins of omission, its senior managers seem to have been like the three wise monkeys, they chose to see no evil, hear no evil or speak no evil.
Can anyone imagine the Murdoch empire allowing its own investigators to publicly expose wrongdoing? Hardly, but that will not prevent the right from seizing on this opportunity to revisit its dream of a privatised national public broadcaster, a dream that seemed to have died when the phone-hacking scandal broke.
Now the right senses an opportunity to join a great British slag-off. The Sun, the Mail, Tory MPs and the prime minister are thoroughly enjoying the current discomfort of the BBC and all who revere it. A series of revelations – and there are surely more to come – about an odious man’s odious activities is becoming an assault on the integrity of the BBC itself.
In the view of the right an impotent little state institution dispensing righteous propaganda would be a preferable use of public money; the sooner the BBC can be broken up and privatised, the better. It is noticeable that the very same assailants give no attention to the fact that Savile should also have been checked out by the police, secret service (given his role as a friend of Prince Charles and Margaret Thatcher), the civil service (given his role at Broadmoor), investigative journalists employed by newspapers and others.
All who value the Beeb are in for a rough ride. There must be changes. But we will rue the day if we allow the friends of Rupert Murdoch to orchestrate his return to glory!
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!
Ed Miliband would have been pleased to hear the verdict of the allotment codgers when we gathered for a brew this morning. His party has both supporters and opponents amongst our gang, not to mention a majority who have lost faith in politicians of all colours. But the unanimous verdict on his unscripted speech in Manchester was excellent young man. Many of us were very surprised, having previously described listening to him as slightly less exciting than watching paint dry.
He clearly spoke from the heart, showed humour and wooed his audience. Much is made of presentation skills in politics and he proved that he has what it takes. He left the pompous Cameron, slippery Blair and grumpy Gordon trailing in his wake. A measure of just how unscripted this was is the fact that the TV producers lost their way, having no time scale or forecastable highlights moments.
Inevitably for a party in opposition it was lacking in policies, although he did make some telling points about Murdoch, the bankers et al. He was right to do so given that the bankers, city and media have infinitely more influence on coalition policy than the weakened trades unions can ever hope to have with a modern Labour administration. He also used the phrase one nation, 44 times in fact. Less secure ground there for, as Jeremy Paxman pointed out later, his party was in power for a very long time and showed little recognition of such an ideal.
But, impressive though it was, it was only a speech and we should perhaps remember that Nick Clegg is also a spouter-supreme. This morning we are back to reality, and that means the coalition. Incompetence has become its byword, scarcely a week goes by but we learn of yet another incredible cock-up. This morning we were staggered to find that the decision to award the franchise for one of Britain’s most prestigious and lucrative rail services to First Group at the expense of Virgin has been scrubbed.
When the decision to change was first announced Richard Branson immediately reacted by claiming that the calculations leading to the decision were flawed, and that the change would lead to huge losses for the taxpayer. Government ministers lined up to refute that and repeatedly told us that every assessment had been double-checked, and then checked again. There would, they assured us, be no change of heart on this. Today the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, has announced that the competition was invalid given “regrettable mistakes by my department”.
The result is that the government is in no position to face the legal action launched by the bearded one, and that all competition for franchises must be suspended indefinitely. In the short term at least re-nationalisation will be necessary. Truly unbelievable!
Perhaps ministers have been preoccupied with other things. Such as a huge advertising campaign showing Ed Miliband as a gormless schoolboy. Posters and billboards portray Miliband, Ed Balls and Grumpy Gordon sitting at desks in school uniforms, dunces all. The campaign has been designed by M&C Saachi and paid for out of Conservative Party funds.
It has been received with derision, not least from major donors. Lord Ashcroft, one of the biggest donors and recently named by Downing Street as policy adviser, has described the campaign as “juvenile” and “daft”. He called on our dear leader to start “behaving like a grown-up”, and added that “silly stunts like this do not sit easily with the qualities a party of government should be able to claim for itself”. His Lordship wishes to know how much of his cash was wasted on such “infantile rubbish”.
As his performance reached its conclusion Ed Miliband described the coalition as a total “shower”. Even the most committed Cameron/Clegg supporter will find it hard to disagree. With the exception of the Churchill war years we have never been a ‘one nation’ and, given our class structure, we probably never will be. But at least we have the right to hope that whichever motley crew of policians takes the helm, they will at least be adult and reasonably competent!
Then again pigs may fly!
Most of us held back for a while this morning, a tactic that paid off when the monsoon eased at round 7.30 and we were able to let the hens out without the risk of both us and them drowning. As the sky cleared over the allotments we surveyed the puddles in which floated the fallen autumn leaves. It seemed symbolic, evidence that our great sportsfest is over. Yesterday’s tumultuous scenes in London brought down the curtain on a remarkable experience, one that most of us will never witness again. Just or once Britain looked at itself, and it liked what it saw.
Our dear leader did his best to round things off with a triumphal note. Unfortunately he always manages to look like a God deigning to address mere mortals. But he was followed, and inevitably upstaged, by mad Boris who always manages to appear even dafter and more enthusiastic than the rest of us. But both men are Conservative politicians and consequently couldn’t bring themselves to include Tony Blair in their tributes. None of us warm to him any more but the fact remains that he drove the campaign to bring the Games to London.
But politicians have long since abandoned truth. As if to demonstrate that many of today’s papers carry full-page ads from the protest group 38 Degrees. In it the group warns Jeremy Hunt that its millions of supporters are watching his every move on the NHS. Hunt represents all that is rotten in the public life of today. He became entangled with the Murdochs at a time when he should have exercised impartiality over the BSkyB bid, he lied to the House, he sacked his aide to save his own skin. The result is promotion.
Of course Hunt is not alone. Long gone are the days when ministers such as Defence Secretary John Nott resigned as a matter of honour. The example set by today’s establishment is a shabby one.
But all is not lost as we pray for a real legacy from the inspiring Games. So many of the athletes set examples of sportsmanship and determination. Now the head coach of UK Athletics has set an even more unique example of honesty, of taking responsibility for broken promises. Charles van Commenee set a target of eight track and field medals and promised that he would “be on the first plane out of Heathrow if he failed to achieve them”.
In the event his squad delivered handsomely on the gold front with four Olympic titles – two from Mo Farah and one each from Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford. But the medal total was a disappointing six. Van Commenee has been offered a renewal of contract and few would see his reign as a failure. But he is a man who lays great store in standing by his word; “If I hold athletes and coaches accountable every day, how could I work over the next four years if I am not held accountable myself? I never understand when people who have failed to do what they promised stay in jobs, as in politics etc”.
Van Commenee has made an enormous contribution to British athletics, not least his insistence that people achieve what they commit to. He will leave with his reputation intact. In a strange way it seems a perfect last act of the Games, a final example.
If only our politicians behaved in this way! Then there would be reason to trust them when they talk of building on the legacy of a momentous summer. Sadly we have come to realise that we cannot believe a word that they say. Not a good start to what could have been a new beginning in so many ways!