Posts Tagged ‘the’
Vernon is fond of remarking that there is a hell and we are in it. I am suddenly inclined to agree. Four of us have just spent almost two hours digging paths through the snow which in places on the allotments stands almost two feet deep. Underneath it is solid ice and inside the chicken runs themselves the water-feeders could sink the Titanic. During a lifetime of keeping poultry I have never experienced such a battle. The sun is sparkling from a blue sky, but in terms of melting is as useful as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip. Clustered around the calor gas for a brew we concluded that our human rights to lie in bed are being infringed.
So crackpot is the present Act that we may well have a case. But to be serious, David Cameron should, to quote his sternest critic, stop talking and start acting over an Act that continues to cause outrage. The critic is heartbroken father Paul Houston of Darwen, Lancs. His 12 year-old daughter Amy was killed in a hit-and-run crash by Mohammed Ibrahim. He was already banned from driving, had no licence or insurance, and a string of convictions. Yet on Thursday a tribunal ruled against his being deported to his native Iraq since such an act would infringe his human rights. Clearly Amy and her grieving family have no rights, neither do all the troops who have died or been wounded fighting to restore order in Iraq!
In fairness to the Prime Minister, he told a press conference that his response is one of great anger. Here we have, he said, an Iraqi asylum seeker convicted of an offence that led to the death of a child and yet we are being told that there is no way this person can be deported to Iraq. It is wrong”. He added that Iraq should not be seen as a land too dangerous to deport people there. He added that ” Britain has spent billions of pounds and lost many, many good people to make Iraq a safer country”.
But Mr Houston is unimpressed. Before the election he received a letter from Mr Cameron promising that the present Act would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights. Being angry is for ordinary folk, Mr Cameron is supposedly in charge of the nation and, in contrast to his deputy, his word should be his bond. He should perhaps sit down and ask himself who is running the country; the EU, the Judges or the government.
The case of Amy is an appalling example of the Human Rights Act which must have been composed by Baldrick on one of his bad days. It is full of inconsistencies and scarcely a week passes but a vcitim is shown to have no rights and the perpetrator an unlimited number.
In expressing rage Mr Cameron showed that he has a heart and that he shares oiur outrage. But that is not enough. He has it in his power to scrap the bill and proceed with the replacement that he promised and which helped him to gather the votes that he did. We know that the Lib Dems are opposed to such a move but he should be prepared to take them on. He would in any case enjoy sufficient support from Labour to force the new Bill of Rights through.
Most people are sick to the back teeth of hearing about rulings from Brussels. This week the European Court overturned the 140-year ban on prisoners being allowed to vote. Enough is enough. Either the giovernment is prepared to defy, or break away from, Brussels or it should openly admit that it has no powers to bring sanity back to justice.
The tragedy of little Amy should be the trigger point for Mr Cameron and his colleagues to prove that they have spines. Will they keep their word or is Clegg now the norm?
ASHES TEST; PASS ME THE SACKCLOTH!
Which idiot described the England squad as invincible and the Aussies as the poorest Test side ever to wear the baggy-green? Yes it was me!
The Perth Test ended this morning (our time) in total humiliation for England who were twice skittled out by bowlers such as Johnson and Harris who most of us had seen as easy prey for what we believed to be a very strong England batting line-up.
Suddenly we are back to the old days when a visit to Australia was an ordeal for team and fans alike. But surely this Australian side can’t repeat the dose even on wickets that favour Johnson’s swing. Or can they?
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Agatha Christie 2. Simon Rattle
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. From which musical came the song ‘You’re the one that I Want’? 2. With which poolitician did the press link Norman Scott?
Bob, who claims to have learned to smoke several centuries ago behind the Boy Scout’s hut, has taken charge of our arrangements for coping with arctic conditions. Given his much vaunted motto of ‘Be Prepared’ it was no surprise when a large vehicle arrived bearing enough salt to stock a million chip shops. We were then ordered to store it under cover lest it froze which struck me as decidedly odd. But given our crazy gang-like performance of last week I decided to keep my thoughts to myself. Bob is a parish councillor (elected unopposed) and is extremely keen on people power so right now he is very chirpy indeed having learned of the Pickles plan to delegate powers to local and parish councils.
Bob has swept aside my doubts about the ability of him and his fellow elected unopposed councillors to set up things such as banks. You can, he tells me, get do-it-yourself books to cover everything from the local library. Incidentally that is another venture that he expects to become involved in ( hopefully he will not choose the books). But his confidence did seem to waver a little when I pointed out that the new powers will arrive together with a 27 per cent cut in grant funding over the next four years. That could, I suggested, lead to a situation where the people knocking at his door are not necessarily potential volunteers!
In fairness big Eric Pickles did talk about the newly empowered councils learning to “do more for less”. But that strikes me as somewhat deluded given the scale of retrenchment involved. Yes, Borough Councils and the like do pay their chief executives ridiculously high salaries and, yes, they are wasteful. But having dealt with such things they will only scratch the surface of the amount of savings required. They will have to do far more than tighten their belts, they will have to stop doing many of the things that they currently do.
Nick Clegg – who else – has said that a sledgehammer is the only way to de-centralise. That just might be right if there were no cuts. Given that there are, and massive ones at that, it seems incredible that central government is going to wash its hands of decisions that could literally kill people. Services such as those for the elderly and mentally ill in the community are already collapsing. Further cuts will tip them over an appalling edge. Some councils will grasp this, others won’t, so the prospect of post-code live-or-die looms large.
If you add to all this the new requirement for councils at all levels to hold referendums before raising tax rates you arrive at only one conclusion. Streamlined councils will not be able to cope even if they happen to have the relevant expertise but they, not Whitehall, will get the blame. A year or so from now Cameron – if he has survived being in bed with the cold-footed Lib Dems – will be able to answer attacks about services by simply saying that such things are not within his remit. That of course assumes that the government has not realised that the cuts need to be slowed down!
One cannot escape the conclusion that the new freedom is a poisoned chalice indeed. No wonder big Eric had a twinkle in his crafty eyes!
THE POWER OF ADVERTISING WRIT LARGE!
During the run up to the X Factor final I noticed that Mary Byrne said that she was only able to cope because she was still getting her wages from Tesco. The Sun reported that ” X Factor hopeful Mary praised the supermarket giant – slogan every little helps – for sticking by her”. Pure altruism then?
Maybe but the retail giant did enjoy a good deal of airtime-mention during the popular contest. And it may or may not have been a coincidence that the very edition that bore the tribute had no fewer than seven seperate ads from Tesco!
The decision by the coalition to sell-off the Forensic service is a disgrace. It is also extremely dangerous.
In recent times the state-owned service has, through sheer persistence and painstaking research, solved many crimes. A private company motivated by profit will not devote the time required. And use of the private sector for this type of hard-to-measure research has already been tried and found wanting.
This is another example of political dogma being placed ahead of public safety!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. A comet 2. SonyTODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. ESRO was renamed ESA. What do the initials ESA stand for ? 2. Which Cambridge physicist became well known for his work on black holes?
None of us can remember temperatures as low as these before Christmas. This morning we eventually thawed out the hen’s drinking utensils only to see them re-freeze almost at once. Even the hens seem dispirited, a large crowd stood around in the manner of spectators at Old Trafford waiting for the rain to stop. I’ve mentioned our retired bank manager Phil before, he made an appearance as we gathered for a brew. Having no animals to care for Phil only visits the allotments spasmodically at this time of the year but he likes to cheer us up with tales of banker’s perks. Today he mentioned that a former colleague has just heard that he has a record bonus this year. Hooray we cried.
In many industries bonuses are a matter of a few hundred quid at year end if results are favourable. Our bankers work to different dimensions. We have yet to see this year’s figures but for 2009 we know that 2,800 bankers each received total remuneration of over £1 million. The bulk of the amount came from bonuses in a year when the banks brought the country to its knees. And the word is that this year’s numbers are up. Alastair Darling responded at the time by imposing a one-off tax on banker’s bonuses and he netted a very handy £3.5 billion for the public purse!
But now we see a very strange development in which, for whatever reason, the two men who before the election hurled venom in the direction of the banks, are falling over backwards to remain their best friends. Just over a year ago George Osborne went on GMTV and slammed banks for paying “inexcusable bonuses”. We will, he declared, “end the big cash bonuses. If there is spare cash it should be lent out to small businesses”. Scroll forward to this week and what do you find? Osborne has referred the matter to Brussels, which is the equivalent of very long grass, and has confirmed that there will be no UK action.
Meantime Vince Cable, who had insisted that any bank employee being paid more than the prime minister would have his or her salary and bonus details published, has now decided otherwise. A government that has not hesitated to apply that criteria to senior civil servants has curiously lost its nerve. We are all in it together? It seems not!
There has also been a good deal of comment from the legal profession about the absence of prosecutions arising from what happened. It is true that several leading lights left in something of a hurry after the taxpayer’s bailout but they have re-emerged in equally well-paid positions in the private sector. Some of course, such as Fred ‘the shred’ Goodwin, have been ennobled.He may have cost us a few bob but we must remember to call him sir.
Without putting too fine a point on it there clearly is a strong link between this government and leading financiers. Bonuses are to continue at obscenely high levels, there are to be no prosecutions and the scandal of tax avoidance schemes, that rob the treasury of an amount equal to the deficit, is to continue unchallenged. One suspects that Osborne et al are gambling on the fact that few of us understand in detail what the banks did. They are right on that but we do know that their being forgiven and rewarded excessively is unacceptable. But what can we do, it is clear that the banks had Brown in their pockets and have now slipped in their old chum Osborne.
None of the wealthy clique will have heard of Doug Paulley. Perhaps they should pop along to his residential care home in Yorkshire. Doug is a 32 year-old wheelchair user, having been diagnosed 14 years ago with a degenerative neurological disorder. He and his fellow residents in the Leonard Cheshire Home are allowed £22.30 per week from their benefits. Up until now they have also received a mobility fee of up to nearly £50 a week. It was, says Doug, a “quaity of life saver”.
Now it is to be cut completely and will totally curtail the little freedom that Doug and others enjoyed so much. He has said that he hopes he is not still around when the cut happens.
The two situations are not directly connected but it is the banks that created the ruin of people like Doug. And it is their pals in both the last and this government who prefer to see the vulnerable suffer to the alternative, a quarrel with their own!
THE MEDIA TENDS TO BE POOR AT REVELATIONS!
For many years various newspapers have boosted circulation with ‘exclusives’ about the split up/ engagement/marriage of William and Kate. In reality of course they had no more of a clue than any of us commoners but that didn’t stop them from invention.
The Mail on Sunday’s royal correspondent, Katie Nicholl, was billed last week as “the writer who really knows William and Kate”. Her track record suggests otherwise. Private Eye magazine has analysed her many predictions going back to 2004. In December of that year we were told that William wanted to split up for good. But by 2006 William was about to propose. Come 2007 the couple had parted for good. But in 2008 a wedding was being planned – for 2016.
Earlier this month the friend of the Royals was at last able to brief us finally. The announcement would come as part of the royal family’s ”Christmas sojourn to Sandringham” . At least that exclusive wasn’t so far adrift as all the others! Mind you the writer is not alone. Richard Smith of the Daily Mirror wrote in October of “others who make an industry out of wrongly predicting the nuptials – we choose to get our facts right”.
But even this paragon of accuracy failed. He said that “their formal engagement will be formally announced early in 2011″!
ENGLAND FIGHT BACK IN BRISBANE!
Having once described the present Aussie attack as the worst one to ever wear the baggy green cap I feel a little less embarrassed by developments in Brisbane.
In the first innings the England batsman treated Peter Siddle and others with far too much respect. Last night I watched with delight as Strauss and Cook belted them to every corner of the ground. The result should be a draw which will not represent a disastrous start even though ny fiver on a whitewash will have gone the way of most of my punts!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Republic of Ireland 2. Afghanistan
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize 2. In which city did she do her work?
I must refrain from banging on about another freezing morning, and the problems of frozen water dispensers, lest you conclude that we allotmenteers are depressed. But I have to confess that we are sinking lower than a snakes belly. This morning it was a combination of a night spent watching the Australian batsmen belting England’s much vaunted bowling attack, followed by three of us having to chase a lot of irate hens who headed out whilst we wielded ice-picks. But when the papers arrived we discovered that, we who constantly moan about the mad political correctness brigade, have a new champion. Take a bow Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary and the Tory equivalent to two-Jags Prescott.
We are a mixed bunch on the allotments, people of all religions and none. but we all enjoy Christmas. In fact the tree will be decorated any day now, the fact that it stays in situ throughout the year makes the task an easy one. We all share another sentiment too, we loathe the busybody PR brigade who have done so much to harm race relations in this country and who have the gall to believe that they have the right to tell everyone else what they can and cannot say or do. In recent years they have targetted Christmas or Wintermass as the ghastly crew insist on calling it.
This year has seen them scaling new heights in lunacy. Birmingham’s annual festival has been renamed Winterval and Lambeth council sparked fury when it ordered its Christmas lights to be renamed “winter” or “celebrity” to avoid upsetting “other faiths”. Rochdale Council provoked more rage when it decided to celebrate Eid and Diwali also, even though those Hindu and Muslim festivals have already come and gone. The lists goes on and on.
Now at long last a minister has had the guts to speak out. Yesterday Eric Pickles said that “we should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas and not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christianity and the importance of the birth of Christ”. He went on to warn Councils that ” The war on Christmas is over, and the likes of Winterval, Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be thrown into the dustbin of history”. And he hadn’t finished at that. Eric went on to stress that shoppers want to see Christmas lights, Christmas trees, carol services and nativity scenes”.
Small wonder that John Midgely, founder of the burgeoning Campaign aginst PR, described Mr Pickles as a “breath of fresh air”. Small wonder too that his sentiments were echoed by leading church figures. The popular Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, believes that Christianity is being wiped out of public life in the name of equality. The bans on Christmas are, he believes, part of a drive to censor Christianity. And no one can accuse Dr Sentamu of being a racist!
I have yet to meet any member of the ethnic community who feels in the least offended by Christmas celebrations. They are not the people responsible for the ever growing chorus of disapproval. That is down to the nauseating busybodies who should shut up once and for all. I am sure that the vast majority of Brits treasure Christmas, and all it represents and entails.We needed a champion and big Eric is the man.
The Christmas story is the greatest story ever told. We sometimes forget that the calender we use is based on a birth that took place 2010 years ago. No story in the history of the world has influenced so much and so many. And one doesn’t have to be religious to acknowledge that irrefutable truth.
Whether we like it or not our country is now a multi-cultural one. But that doesn’t mean that we should change our treasured festivals or customs anymore than we should expect people of other faiths to change theirs. Tolerance should mean acceptance without interference and Eric Pickles may just have started a revolution in reverse. One in which we ignore totally all talk of political correctness.
In reality there is no such thing. Simple courtesy and an ethos of live and let live is all we need provided that the law is observed. And if it isn’t there should be no variation in the response of the authorities whatever the colour of the offender!
TIME TO TACKLE THE PROFITEERING POWER SUPPLIERS!
The Energy Regulator Ofgem has failed totally in its task of regulating the financial trickery of the privatised power companies. Many still remember the various privatisations of the Thatcher era when we were told that competition would drive prices down. In reality there has been an almost unholy alliance amongst the various suppliers and the customer has been robbed again and again.
At a time when many are struggling to meet their bills, and with winter here, the suppliers are announcing massive increases. Dismiss their lies about increased costs for gas, when those costs fell they didn’t pass any reductions on.
British Gas is a classic example. Its annual profit per houshold is now £90. As recently as September it was £65. Like the other suppliers they treat their customers with utter contempt and if Ofgem are not prepared to step in the government should appoint a new regulator.
BANKS ARE THE PITS OF THE WORLD!
Richard Brown is head of savings at HSBC and has staggered many by publicly chastising the public for its failure to save. Yesterday he remarked that only a minority are doing this and said that the public is “burying its head in the sand”.
Perhaps he should consider the possibility that because the rates now offered to savers are virtually zero, people have decided to hold the cash at home. The only advantage of saving with a bank is now security against burglary, there is no monetary case for saving.
I have an account with Barclays. The interest rate has just been reduced to well below 1%. I realise that, having won the green light from the government, the Banks have to find cash to fund their ever increasing bonuses and salaries, but they shouldnt be surprised when I and millions of others decide that we would rather fritter our cash away than help to fund their largesse!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The United Nations 2. One of the states of India
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; Where did Charles Haughey become prime minister? 2. Which Asian country did the USSR invade in 1979?
The first task of the day was to break the ice on the chicken’s water, an unwelcome reminder of last winter when we were eventually reduced to draping old blankets over the many coops on the allotment. Overhead the bright blue sky was broken by a few red-tinted clouds, usually a sign that it is time to place the spades in a handy position. Having done their duty most of my pals headed for home but I shared a brew with Alec and Joe both of whom were skilled mechanics who served their time as apprentices in the long-gone day when Leyland Motors had an apprentices school.
They were reflecting on the pride, skill and standing that their indentures provided and wondering whether, had they grown up in today’s world where a university education is seen as a must, they would have fared half as well. Probably not, for when it comes to dexterity and practical skills the old adage of ‘them as can’t teaches’ kicks in. Much of their time in apprenticeship was spent alongside older skilled men who made sure that they could do more than talk about engines!
It was yesterday’s student protests that triggered the conversation. The student’s frustrations are understandable but their ways of expressing them less so. Admittedly it was only a minority of louts smashing up and looting a police vehicle, but it will have further reduced sympathy from a public which contains many whose needs are greater than those of the students, and who feel that they are carrying the burden for a crisis created by irresponsible financiers who appear to be getting off with even greater bonuses.
But the biggest question of all seems to me to be why university has become a must-do for every youngster with even the vaguest idea of pursuing a career. There are certainly many examples of it being a far less effective route than specialised training or training in situ. A good example is nursing.
A few years ago I was involved in a large NHS hospital and often walked the wards to chat to the staff. I recall two young trainee nurses who, according to Sister, were well on the way to becoming excellent nurses. They had religiously pursued a course of part-time learning combined with a great deal of actual nursing under the direction of senior nurses. Sadly they had to say their goodbyes to the ward because the system now demands a degree and that entails three years at a university. Sister Patsy told me that it would add nothing to their practical skills, in fact many of those now arriving fully qualified from university were excellent at writing notes but extremely inexperienced in the art of handling patients.
In effect society has moved the goalposts. Generations of nurses took great pride in achieving their SEN or SRN’s at the hands of skilled practitioners but now, even if such a route was still open, they would be branded as non-university, amateurs. Of course there are careers that clearly call for intensive academic studies, doctors and pharmacists being good examples, but now we have created a society where posts that require equally important practical skills also involve years at institutions not suited to their needs.
I started work as an office boy and, forty years later was chief executive at a very large manufacturing corporation. It couldn’t happen now. In fact so prevalent was the growing prejudice against non-university people that when I retired I went to university to study social history. I eventually emerged with a bagful of degrees. Great fun, but none of them would have added one iota to my ability to manage in an engineering environment.
It was certainly a fascinating experience as one would expect for an old codger landed amongst scores of teenagers and tutors some whom appeared to be younger than my grandchildren. I was amazed at the low work rate compared with that of industry, even more surpirised to find that many of the staff had in fact never left education. One young chap who befriended me was studying zoology. The subject had no relevance to the career he wished to pursue but his prospective employers demanded a degree, any degree.
My conclusion was, and is, that somehwere along the line we have got it wrong. We have created an ethos where any form of education other than university is regarded as inferior. We have created a world in which every committed parent sees it their duty to get their offspring to university whatever the sacrifice. In fact, in the case of around half of all youngsters, they would be providing a better start in life by helping them to develop non-academic skills.
One of my pals is a retired cabinet maker and he recently made for me a beautiful miniature set of drawers. When I expressed delight he said that it wasn’t bad for someone who wasn’t ‘educated’. I told him that I would give everything to possess creative skills such as his, he was the true expert. But sadly even artists of his ability have lost their sense of worth.
It is society that has lost its sense!
HAVE VICTIMS NO HUMAN RIGHTS?
Fourteen years ago Learco Chindamo stabbed to death headmaster Philip Lawrence when he tried to prevent him attacking another pupil. Four months ago he was given early release from his life sentence. Today he is being questionned by police in regard to an alleged violent mugging and is expected to be recalled to prison for his potential breach of his licence.
Attempts to deport Chindamo, described by the Home Office as a risk to the public who should be deported, to his country of birth failed when he successfully argued in court that deportation would be an infringement of his human rights. Small wonder that the still mourning widow of a much loved headmaster has said that whilst the murderer “is being given every help, my family is being hung out to dry”.
In opposition Mr Cameron pledged to replace the Bill of Human rights with something more balanced. Needless to say that promise has gone into the long grass. Which perhaps explains why for the first time since 1997 the Home Secretary will not attend the annual Philip Lawrence awards!
NOT THE START WE WANTED!
My eyelids rest on matchsticks and my spirits are low! The pundits had long claimed that the first few overs of the first day of the Ashes series would dictate what was to follow. We can only hope they were wrong for, before most had settled into their armchairs, Strauss was on his way back to the pavilion.
England eventually mustered 260 and the Aussie openers put a few runs on the board before heading off to celebrate.
Bell apart, the English batting was well below par against bowlers poorer than any to wear the green baggy cap for many a season. Hopefully the bowlers will restore our hopes-if we manage to stay awake!
EU GRAVY TRAIN ROLLS ON!
50,000 European Commission civil servants have been awarded an inflation-busting 3.7 per cent pay rise – at a cost of £80 million – making each of them richer by thousands of pounds per year. And the rise will be back-dated by six months! This at a time when our own civil servants have a pay freeze and extensive redundancies
Coming as it does on top of the decision to pay over £7 billion to bailout Ireland plus another £14 billion to the EU, the news puts more pressure on David Cameron who is already aware that over 100 Tory MPs are set to challenge him over further powers being conceded to Brussels.
What do you think?
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Debbie Harry 2 It was an RAF staging post.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which year did Britain’s National Theatre vacate the Old Vic? 2. Which was the first homeland to be declared independent in South Africa?