Posts Tagged ‘Self Sufficiency’
This time last year we would have described this morning as cold. Everything is relative and, after the coldest December since Adam was a lad, we felt it to be quite mild. Just as well for today we were joined by Barry, who is new to the self-sufficiency lark, and so rare are new members that we have to hang on to them with might and main. Barry has been made redundant by the local authority and has decided to produce his own eggs. That sounds daft so I will rephrase it. He has decided to keep chickens. A few days ago his first self-assembly coop arrived.
Even those of us used to the perils of MFI kits tend to struggle for up to two hours with coops and we usually enlist the help of a friend. Not Barry. To our astonishment he had finished within 30 minutes. There was however a snag, he had several pieces left over and they happened to secure the floor section. Albert, not a candidate for the diplomatic service, was quick to rabbit on about more haste less speed. Bill poured oil on troubled waters by suggesting that Barry was no worse than the coalition.
When as a team we had eventually reassembled Barry’s prefab, we retired to the hut for the last of the Christmas sherry. Bill enlarged on the coalition bit. Unlike the rest of us he had read the front page of several of today’s papers and the unfortunate story of the much lauded ‘bonfire of the Quangos’ which warmed our anti-bureaucracy hearts soon after the election. You may remember the PR. Under Labour a zillion unelected Quangos had been created and the whole land was creaking under the weight of a million orders. Even worse the empire of the uneleceted was consuming billions of the national purse. They were all to be abolished within the first four months of the new Cameron/Clegg wonderworld. And before we read today’s reports of the Commons public admistration select committee that is exactly what we imagined had happened. The whole pile of red tape and waste had been hurled on to the bonfire, and good riddance.
But it seems that, as in many other things, the coalition acted with undue haste. The chairman of the committee which investigated the Clegg version of Guy Fawkes night is Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, and he had nothing good to say about what has happened. He says that “the whole process was rushed and poorly handled and should have been thought through a lot more. This was a fantastic opportunity to help build the big society and save money at the same time”. The whole project says Mr Jenkins “has been botched”.
And he hadn’t finished at that. He added that “in the short term the reorganisation will now cost more than it will save. This was put together on the hoof and needs to be much improved for future reviews”. Not surprisingly the Labour members were quick to join in the latest Clegg bashing. John Tricket talked of chaos and an irrational, unaccountable and expensive mish-mash of proposals which will do nothing to improve the quality of services.
Today’s report is profoundly critical of the Quango-vetting process used. It claims that the criteria used to test whether a Quango should survive were conflicting and inconsistently applied. An example quoted was the decision to make art funding independent of government yet film funding went the other way. This report won’t make good bedtime reading for the head muppets, the summary is best left until dawn. For it confirms the committee’s view that the project will not deliver savings or result in greater accountability.
At some stage of its work the committee called the head of the Civil Service, Gus O’Donnell, to clarify the supposed cost savings. Despite being given time to go way and organise an audit Mr O’Donnell was obliged to confirm that he coudn’t prdouce an analysis of any net savings which is probably Sir Humphfrey speak for ‘there ain’t any’.
Add this fiasco to the news that we are cutting up for scrap brand new ships and planes and it is hard to escape the conclusion that the deeds of government are straight from the script of Monty Python. And one cannot exclude the previous administration from that since they created the said Quangos, ships and planes in the first place. But we are now in a bigger mess than ever for we have work carried out by Quangos now lying unattended and we haven’t saved so much as a quid in the process.
The prime minister will probably respond to the select committee by ordering an Inquiry which wil take several years to reach a conclusion by which time the Miliband family will be ready to reinstate the Quangos. How else will they find jobs for their favourite uncles?
The next time there is talk on high of bonfires someone should perhaps suggest that they are checked for content before ministers strike a match!
ASHES TRIUMPH CHEERS THE NATION!
So excellent was the England performance down under that it is probably unfair to single out individuals. This was truly a team performance and bowlers and batsmen alike demonstrated just how far England have come under Flower and Strauss. Even the loss of Stuart Broad failed to derail the team and, by the end of the Sydney Test, the Aussies were lining up to describe the England standard as well above their own.
Sadly the series marked the end of Paul Colligwood’s Test career. And he went out on a characteristic note when he flung himself like a circus acrobat to snatch the edge that did for Ricky Ponting in Perth. Paul was a world-class fielder and a gritty performer with bat and ball. He is a man of great self understanding and has used his abilities to the fullest extent possible.
Of course we all realise that Australia are no longer the greatest, in fact they are way behind both South Africa and India. But we should relish the moment. England will surely never travel to those famous grounds again and come away so utterly triumphant.
FAMOUS CRICKET ‘SLEDGES’; Steve Waugh was arranging the field for Nasser Hussein who had just arrived at the crease. He placed Ponting at silly point and said “I want you right under his nose”. Ponting replied ” that would be anywhere inside a three mile radius”. Sadly Nassar laughed so much that he was dismissed the next ball.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The Cruel Sea 2. 1977
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which British daily newspaper closed down in March 1971? 2. Of which country was General Yakubu Gowon head of state?
The worst morning of the new ‘winter’ greeted us this morning as we arrived at the allotment. Yes, the sun was glaring from a blue sky but everything was frozen. All the chicken’s water containers were a block of ice and the stock of lettuces had turned as brown as Albert’s vest overnight despite being inside. Anyone seeking encouragement to try self-sufficiency would be ill-advised to seek inspiration right now from this gang of grumpy old men. It is on mornings such as these that buying eggs in Tesco boxes doesn’t seem quite so heinous. But at least a couple of our number were in high humour!
Bob and John are both rabid eurosceptics and have often reminded us forcefully of all the alleged shortcomings of the takeover of power by what they like to call faceless EU bureaucrats. When the news of the Irish bailout broke they were quick to remind us that the amount being handed over by Britain was equivalent to all the savings forecast to result from the cuts now decimating many of our public services. I recall John saying that maybe someone will now realise just how disastrous our membership is proving to be.
It seems that someone has. Yesterday the Daily Express became the first national newspaper to launch a ‘Get out of the EU’ campaign. Banner headlines on the front page of the Express suggest trouble for the coalition since, as it showed with its Diana obsession, this newspaper above all tends to be persistent and dogged. We may wrap our fish ‘n chips in yesterday’s edition but you can bet your muesli on those of the next weeks, even months, repeating the theme!
What interested me above all else was the identity of those who led the day-one attack. Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP and wants to see the UK out of the Union. It struck me as being a little like turkeys voting for Christmas but he is scathing in his condemnation of Brussels and all its works. He starts his assault by pointing out that the ‘Irish’ £7 billion is in addition to the £14 billion which we pay each year. For good measure he advises that there is now another £435 million to be found to help fund the increases which the EU people have decided to award themselves.
All that we knew, but his statistics on red tape are truly astounding. Internal market commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, has carried out a survey into the cost of regulation in the EU. He established the cost to be 600billion euros a year. If you then compare that with the European Commission’s own figures covering the advantages of membership you arrive at £120billion per year. In other words, Eurocrats themselves admit that the costs of the EU outweigh the benefits by five to one!
The other thing that surprised me was the information on trade with Europe. We currently have a £14.4billion deficit, in other words our purchases from EU countries exceed our sales to them. Amazingly Norway and Switzerland both sell around twice as much per head to the EU as we do. And they are thriving independent states outside the EU membership.
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, is another supporter of the Express campaign. He warns that we may be obliged to pour billions into saving failing euro economies such as Greece and Portugal and he is angry at the threat to British democracy by what he calls “meddling Brussels bureeeaucracy”. Mr Davies and other MPs also point to the destruction of our laws and commonsense by the EU Convention on Human Rights and the destruction of immigration controls due to freedom of movement laws for EU citizens.
There is a great deal more and most of it is damning. Of course up to this point anyone questionning EU membership has been brushed aside and any thought of a referendum dismissed. One suspects that the decision by the Express may trigger a more difficult problem for the government. Presumably an equally great problem will be the fact that over one hundred Tory MPs are already declaring support, leaving ministers reliant on the support of the Lib Dems who believe not only that we should be in Europe but that we should embrace the euro too.
In this daily blog I really try to be even-handed but I am struggling on the EU for I genuinely don’t understand what the avantages of membership are supposed to be. And if MEPs don’t understand there is little chance of my enlightenment. Even my self understanding offers nothing. Part of me suggests greater strength in numbers but another part suggests that we are enduring hardship here and pouring money out across the channel. Occasionally I remind myself that some of my best mates are europeans but that clarifies nothing for they too regularly rail against the idea of a single European State. They may not have our advantage of the English Channel but they do have our sense of national identity.
There is only one way of resolving this massive issue and that is a referendum. One suspects that the reason for Blair and Brown denying us one was that they expecetd to lose it. But the will of the people should surely prevail and at the very least we would have a reasoned debate in which the case for staying in could be explained.
This is infinitely more important than the referendum planned for a change to our voting system. After all if our integration into Europe goes all the way we won’t need a voting system at all!
JUST HOW TOLERANT HAVE WE BECOME?
Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has published a report on a visit he made to northern Afghanistan where he managed to gain access to a group of Taliban. He was taken to a secret location to meet the Taliban district chief who apparently acts as a sort of magistrate amongst the local population.
The reporter met a number of those engaged in the fight with American and British forces and was, to say the least, surprised to meet British citizens amongst them. One of the fighters was ” a burly bearded man with a hint of a London accent”. He admitted that he is a mini-cab driver in London and “makes good money there”. He said that he and other cabbies collect money for the jihad all year round and then travel over to join the fighting for three months of each year.
No surprise really but it does perhaps remind us not to be rude to our driver the next time we visit London! Remember that our Taliban cab drivers have human rights!
ENGLAND NEED A SWANN SONG!
It isn’t only Old Trafford that has rain. The second day of the first Ashes Test at Brisbane ended early due to a surfeit of the wet stuff. At least we nighthawks were able to go to bed!
Sdaly it was not another huge success story for our favourites and the most worrying feature for me was the ease with which the Aussies handled Swann. He could prove the real difference between these sides and we urgently need him to get into his spinning groove.
He has rightly been compared with Warne but so far has looked more like Phil Tufnell of sacred memory!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1 1976 2. Transkei
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which organisation proclaimed 1975-85 as the Decade for Women? 2.. The status of Sikkim changed in 1975. What did it become?
It seems odd to describe a large group of old blokes as a gang but that is how it feels. On the face of it we have little in common bar a discovered passion for self-sufficiency but on one point everyone on the allotment seems agreed, the coalition has proved a disaster for the Lib Dems. Of course hindsight is a great gift for when Nick Clegg stormed ahead in those TV debates most of us saw the chance of a fresh start for the discredited Britsh political scene. He would, we thought, provide the perfect middle view between powerful unions on the one hand and patronising and bigotted right wimgers on the other. Sadly he has confused partnership with obsequeous absorption and the right wing is free to pursue the very policies that the nation failed to endorse overwhelmingly.
The general recation to this is that Clegg has proved to be a lightweight and the Lib Dems are facing extinction. But there is one voice that suggests that maybe, just maybe, all is not lost. Chris Hulme was beaten by Clegg in the leadership contest but has lost none of his sense of independence. He is a highly respected economist and when he speaks others listen. And today he has spoken forcibly about the perils facing the coalition, not least the risk of cutting too fast and thus triggerring another serious depression. He believes that the present severe approach has a chance, but unlike the double act of Cameron and Clegg, warns that the government “must not be lashed to the mast with a particular set of numbers”. He suggests that there may have to be a “plan B” for it is “not sensible for governments to make speculations about what is going to happen”. Mr Hulme is the first cabinet member to insist that the Chancellor may have to rethink his cuts agenda for global growth “could be either higher than lower than we forecast”. Contrast that with Clegg’s view that the Osborne agenda of £83 billion of cuts is “the only choice”!
Chris Hulme’s chief criticism is reserved for Cameron’s suggestion, made after the child benefit row, that tax breaks for married couples should be introduced by 2015 and extended to higher earners. “I am very sceptical” he warns, “I think we need to be sure that what we do has real value for money and is not flag waving. If it is just flag waving then frankly it is not something that this government should be doing”.
Even on the vexed subject of Trident, which Cameron and Clegg have gone to some lengths to kick ito the long grass, Chris Hulme insists that the Lib Dems must hold out for what they believe in, a cheaper nuclear deterrent. And as for Clegg’s statement that working with Labour would be unthinkable, there can be no doubt about the rift opening up between the two men. Speaking of the next election Hulme demands that the Lib Dems must remain a truly independent party and then look at the result. If Labour were to emerge as a big player he sees working in coalition with Miliband and his team as ”entirely appropriate”.
I realise I am at risk of being accused of playing a tune on a broken harp, but it is at least encouraging to believe that someone amongst the Lib Dem heirarchy sees the coalition as a partnership in which they draw a clear line of this far and no farther around their principles. In a way it reminds me of the inspiration provided by J B Priestly during World War 2. He used to draw a huge audience at 9.00 pm each Sunday evening. He left the war rhetoric to Churchill and focussed instead on the post-war needs and aspirations of ‘ordinary folk’.
He talked, in that homely way of his, of a society in which the needs of all be considered ahead of selfish, individualistic concerns corrupted by money and property. In order for a new dawn to break after the war, all ordinary individuals had to come together to and stand up to the bureaucrats and vested interests. The people must not, after the crisis, “let the old hands , the so called experts, the smooth gentry, trick them into believing that ordinary citizens could not grasp the problems of the day or do anything about them”.
The great man could easily have been talking about our present situation and it is not difficult to imagine Conservatives and Labour reverting to the old ways that have brought us to this painful place. I admit that I have never voted for the Lib Dems but many did at the recent election. They were seeking a new way free of Priestley’s old hands and smooth gentry.
Thanks to the naive, dishonest even, behaviour of Nick Clegg the dream of an honest middle ground is almost dead. Is it just possible that Chris Hume could even now rescue it to the benefit of people of all persuasions and none?
THE MADMEN OF HEALTH AND SAFETY!
A few days ago we read of a Council ordering the felling of conkers for fear of their harming children when they fell. That was fairly barmy but today we have final proof that our local authorities have becom infested with the sort of loopy parrots for whom imaginary health and safety dangers lurk around every corner.
In Manchester, council workmen have been advised not to move flower tubs standing on pavements in Gorton as part of the Britain in Bloom competition. They were planted and placed there in the Spring by volunteers.
The contractor, Coolas, confirmed that their men had been advised not to move the pots for health and safety reasons and instructed them to tar around them when repairing pavements. Now the tubs have to be dug out!
It is only a matter of time before the mad ones object to cricket being played with a hard ball. The best advice we can give to the barmy army of health and safety officials is to take a very long walk off a very short pier!
JUDGE NOT THAT YOU BE NOT JUDGED!
Michael Caine has revealed, after a fifty year silence that he persuaded a doctor to adminster a lethal dose to his father who was suffering an agonising death from liver cancer. At the time his father was expected to live just a few days more.
Predictably anti-euthenasia campaigners have been quick to climb upon their soap-boxes. Alistair Thompson has described such action as cruel and unnecessary. Presumably he has never watched someone he loved suffering physical and mental torture!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The Evening Standard (London) 2. Queen
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which country did the Janata Party win a landslide election victory in 1977? 2. In which year did Jeremy Thorpe resign as leader of the Liberal Party?