Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’

Blair exposed and Cameron talks of a moral mission!

It is never pleasant when your hero becomes the target of ridicule in the press. Not a morning of hen-cleaning passes but we codgers sing the praises of Eric Pickles, who has emerged as the sole representative of the working class in a government of rich and overly posh characters who have suddenly developed a penchant for wellies. But we have to admit that our fellow scorner of the health promotion busybodies does seem to be developing a tendency for putting his foot in his mouth whenever he opens it, an unfortunate trend since he traditionally has given priority access to pies. We mulled this over as we gobbled our Tesco doughnuts this morning, and recognised that our campaign to install EP in Number Ten had suffered a set-back.

We know that some readers are puzzled by our obsession with the flood-controller, but the explanation is a logical one. Alone amongst all politicians EP lightens our days. We make no judgement on his political beliefs – if he has any – but laughter is the best medicine and he triggers bucket loads of it on the allotments. Just like his ancestor from Greyfriars school he lurches from one tight corner to another, and never hesitates to disown what he said just hours before the earth opened under him for the umpteenth time. But he never imagines himself to be God and via that one feature distinguishes himself from the rest of the top echelon of politicos.

And what a bunch they are. This morning anti-monarchists would do well to note the latest scandal involving the man many of them suggested as the democratic alternative to the Royals. Would anyone be comfortable with the news that President Tony Blair was so close to the Murdoch crowd that he offered guidance on ways and means of extricating themselves from very damaging accusations? Given that he was a Godparent to a member of the Murdoch family, the latest news hardly comes as a shock. But it is shocking that a former Prime Minister should be entangled in this way. His email to Rebekah Brooks also has sinister undertones. What does his reference to a ‘Hutton style report’ mean?

For at least a century our island has enjoyed an enviable reputation for many things, not least the honesty and integrity of its governmental structures. Suddenly we have cause for concern. We all know that the present Prime Minister was socially very close to the Murdochs, and that Jeremy Hunt was on the verge of nodding through the bid for BSkyB when the phone hacking story broke. We can only hope that they at least avoided the sort of astonishing toadying that has destroyed any remaining reputation of the man that took us to war by lying.

Only time will tell but meantime our dear leader has declared himself to be “on a moral mission”. He was responding from an attack by a large number of leading churchmen on the subject of benefit cuts. Of course there is a case to be made for the need to clean-up the overly complicated system, but every day brings new evidence that the total number of sanctions against benefit claimants is at record levels and conceals many actions that can only be described as inhumane. As if to prove the point independent tribunals have upheld nine out of ten appeals against the sanctions. But the process of appealing takes time and in many cases social workers are referring desperate clients to food banks or, in many instances, buying emergency food with their own money.

An example is provided by a court action against the Department for Work and Pensions by the Royal National Institute of Blind People. It concerns Robert, a man from Essex, who was forced to take out payday loans to feed himself after advisers stopped his employment support allowance and housing benefit. Robert is blind, but was only ever notified of the withdrawal of his payments by regular print letters. The deadlines came and went before Robert was able to get outside help to read the correspondence and advise him. The first he knew of the development was when his bank advised him that his direct debits were being ‘bounced’. Discrimination lawyer Samantha Fothergill, who is representing Robert, reports that she is getting complaints of this kind “all the time” and that the DWP’s system for sending out information is “appalling and not fit for purpose”.

There are countless examples of vulnerable people being treated in this cavalier fashion. A ‘moral mission’ that, however unintended, destroys honest people is a very strange one. Perhaps David Cameron et al should check the dictionary definition of morality!
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY: “The most dangerous thing in the world is to leap a chasm in two jumps!”… David Lloyd George
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God save the Queen – from politicians!

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. We soaking wet codgers – this morning’s hen-cleaning was yet another paddling experience – were genuinely sorry to read of the dire financial straits of the royal household. A report from the Commons public accounts committee has revealed that the Queen’s household finances are at an “historic low” with just £1 million left in reserve, a fall of £35 million since 2001. On the very day that this news broke we learned that the state-owned RBS has squandered yet more public money but still proposes to pay bonuses of 200%, that yet more top companies are avoiding corporation tax and that the number of management consultants and spin-doctors employed by the government has almost doubled over the past three years.

I can well imagine that some readers are already itching to point out that the Royals are privileged and undemocratic. True but to quote the Duke of Edinburgh, their greatest contribution is what they prevent. Does anyone seriously believe that having a President Blair as head of state would really be better than someone who has no political affinity? Should a scandal a la Hollande or Nixon engulf our prime minister our society would suffer none of the chaos or paranoia that would ensue were he or she head of state.

Equally important is the fact that the Royal estate is a key part of our heritage. Right now both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are in a poor state of repair. At the former, staff are now forced to catch rain in buckets to protect art and antiquities, and the 60 year-old boilers are on their last legs. In total 38 per cent of the Royal estate is in need of maintenance and repair. The Victoria and Albert Mausoleum in Windsor is in desperate need of repair and is “getting worse”according to the Commons public accounts committee.

That body is chaired by the redoubtable Margaret Hodge, and it was no surprise that she took the opportunity to metaphorically machine-gun everyone even remotely connected with the monarchy and its estate. The treasury, which is responsible for overseeing the Royal Household’s finances is, she said, failing to oversee. The Royal household is failing to exploit the tourism market, and Buckingham Palace should be open to the public during the Queen’s absences. It should also increase its “efficiency savings”. I am tempted to ask if it should follow the example of the Banks but, in fairness, Mrs Hodge has been equally critical of them.

The final conclusion of the committee contends that the Queen must learn to do “more for less”. At this point my cynicism really does take over. Those are the very words used by Messrs Lansley and Hunt of the NHS which is now on the point of collapse. Others go to great lengths to defend the EU which continues to do less for more. And only yesterday we saw pictures of residents in Somerset verbally assaulting environment secretary Owen Paterson when he called to inspect their flooded homes.

It appears that his department has pursued the policy of more for less by almost halving the budget for dealing with the impact of global warming from £29.1m in 2012-13 to £17.2m for 2013-14. The inevitable result has been that dredging has been discontinued and flood defences postponed indefinitely. The strategy of doing more for less only makes sense when there is slack in the system.

We have seen little evidence that the executives of our large companies are doing more for less, indeed the cries of rage at the proposal to make them pay an extra 5% in taxes on their multi-million pound salaries suggests that they prefer to do less for more.

It all adds up to a concern that politicians are hell-bent on damaging the Queen, despite their enthusiasm for kneeling before her . We have no way of knowing how much slack there is to cut. But we do know one thing, we respect and trust the Queen, and we have no respect for politicians and trust them less than we would a ferret let loose amongst our hens!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Buckingham Palace is not ours. It’s a tied cottage!”….Prince Philip

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Iraq – Blair’s moment of truth draws near!

There is a hell and we are in it! That sums up the general reaction when we codgers arrived at the allotments to let the hens out. The glowering sky looked close enough to touch, the rain was coming down in bucket-loads, the howling wind was as cold as a debt-collector’s heart. Not surprisingly the hens refused to leave their coops and cleaning out became as fraught as Wigan’s town centre on a Saturday night.

Never have we rejoiced more at eventually retreating to our warm hut for a mug of hot tea. Thinking about anything other than the scene outside was a relief and first up was a story from Surrey. It seems that the PC brigade have been having a field day there, and organised cricket for young children has been given their insane ‘no competition’ treatment. The kids are taught the rules and allowed to stage matches but there are no winners or losers. Just when will these mad people recognise that every sportsman is competitive, and without an outcome sport would die. What they should be teaching is the art of modesty in victory and good grace in defeat. The chattering classes are a pain in the neck!

As are all the so-called business leaders who have rushed to condemn the Ed Balls plan to restore the 50% tax bracket for those earning more than £150,000 per year. Of course he is playing politics, Labour having only introduced the level within three months of the general election. But given the financial hardship being suffered by so many families it is hard to sympathise with the indignant rich boys. Just how much money do they need? Perhaps they envy Wayne Rooney who is about to sign a contract giving him £300,000 a week. Viewed as comparison perhaps they feel great sympathy for the head of Royal Mail who is pleading poverty at a mere £1.5 million per year. Be that as it may, they all have one thing in common – greed.

But neither the do-gooders of Surrey or those able to buy honours from their back-pockets have worries to compare with the ultimate wealth accumulator, Tony Blair. He has spent the past few years as a sort of travelling expert in the art of government, a role that seems to involve extraordinarily large fees. Suddenly a cloud has appeared on his gold-dusted horizon in the form of the almost forgotten Chilcott inquiry into Iraq. Last week Twiggy Garcia, a London restaurant employee, attempted to place our hero under a citizen’s arrest. He was quickly swept aside but Chilcott may not prove so easy.

Incredibly the inquiry has dragged on for ten years, but it is showing signs of creaking to its end. It followed the first investigation by Lord Hutton but there is very reason to believe that it will be rather more critical, and key figures who have appeared before Chilcott are showing signs of nervousness.

On January 13, 2010, the day after one star witness, Mr Blair’s spin man, Alastair Campbell, appeared before the inquiry, it heard from the Cabinet Secretary at the time of the invasion, Andrew Turnbull. Now of course Lord Turnbull, he gave evidence, as did his predecessor Lord Wilson. By then the media circus had departed and what they said made few headlines. But the testimonies were devastating. Turnbull said that he and the Cabinet had essentially been deceived, “brought into the story…a long way behind” what had long since been agreed by what he described as “Mr Blair’s entourage”. The Cabinet never saw any papers at all, he said.

Lord Wilson, who left six months before the war testified that at his final meeting with the Prime Minister he had told Mr Blair that he a had “a worrying gleam of war” over military action. Lord Turnbull added that had Lord Wilson known the full picture – that a note had already been sent to president George W Bush promising that “you can count on us whatever”, he would not have described it just as a gleam.

The central charge that Chilcot appears likely to make is that the decision to go to war was the beginning, not the end, of the process; that an agreement on military action was made early, and secretly, with President Bush: and that it was done without evidential justification, proper procedures, legal advice or adequate military training or provision of equipment. All of these were later twisted to fit, most disastrously in the case of planning, which was kept secret for far too long , meaning that coalition forces were completely unprepared to occupy, secure and rebuild the country they had broken.

Parliament and the public was misled. Mr Blair’s key “sexing up” was not the statement that Saddam had WMD – but the claim that those weapons were becoming a “growing” threat, a threat so “current and serious” that urgent action, war, if necessary, had to be taken.

Twiggy Garcia has little in common with a mandarin such as Sir John Chilcott but when the young would-be citizen’s arrester said that “we all know the humanitarian angle of the war was retrofitted after the decision to go to war” he was probably very close to the findings of the inquiry.

This is no academic debate. Many thousands today lie in early graves as the result of one of the greatest deceptions in our long history.

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I was extremely uncomfortable about the way the 45-minute claim was seized on, It’s just so awful that that happened because it did refer to battlefield weapons that were no threat outside an immediate combat zone”…..Sir Richard Dearlove, MI6, giving evidence to Clilcot Inquiry.

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Austerity – what austerity?

There were puddles big enough to drown a ferret on the allotments this morning. Either we had a lot of rain during the night or the French-owned water suppliers have sprung a leak. Hopefully our new lake is not due to the latter since the record of what we still call the Water Board in repairing damaged pipes is akin to Eddie the Eagle’s in collecting gold medals. Either way we had to spend a lot of time digging holes in the vague hope that the water will drain down to Australia by way of payback for the humiliation of our superstar cricketers.

By the time we gathered in the warm hut we resembled a gang of drowned rats, and for the zillionth time asked ourselves why we do this. The question is of course a rhetorical one since we know the answer which is that the alternative is to stand about in the town centre talking about our aches and pains. In common with the rest of humanity we can’t ultimately thwart the Grim Reaper, but we have every intentionof giving him a run for his money.

Money – now there’s an interesting topic, and it occupied a lot of our attention this morning. It was an article about the chief executive of the Royal Mail that triggered raised eyebrows of Spock dimensions. Last year Moya Greene enjoyed a pay packet of £1.5 million but, according to the new chairman Donald Brydon of what is now a privatised company, is underpaid to the point where she will be tempted to move elsewhere. Her salary, he tells us, is “totally inadequate and the lowest paid to any top executive in the FTSE100″.

Once upon a time salary increases were related solely to achievement rather than comparisons with others. Were that to be today’s criteria we be wondering just what Ms Greene has done to merit earning more cash in a single year than most people earn in a lifetime. She certainly achieved privatisation, but given that it proved to be a give-away that hardly counts as a plus. She has strengthened the company’s financial state, but since that was largely due to the government taking over the pension liability that also fails to earn a tick on her appraisal form. Improved the service? We still only receive one delivery per day and the cost of postage has risen in the manner of the energy companies’ bills.

But we are nitpicking, for the reality is that Britain is now a nation divided as never before between the haves and have nots. We have heard a good deal from Gorgeous George Osborne about his commitment to improve the lot of “hard working people” but he has never defined the term. Given his reluctance to tackle tax-avoidance we can only assume that he is referring to the ‘haves’. If we are honest we have to admit that if we were in Ms Greene’s position we would be more than happy to pocket an extra million or so and merely echo austerity what austerity?.

But two things intrigue us. In our day – I can almost hear you saying here we go – the usual ratio of boss to workers on pay was five to one. I always felt that to be fair given the extra responsibilities and number of hours worked, but the employees representatives regularly described me as a fat cat, and they were not referring to my ample waistline. Now the ratio is both astronomic and indefensible.

There are still some examples of modest differentials. One of my fellow allotments codgers is related to the captain of one of our nuclear submarines. His responsibilities are truly awesome given that his is the finger that would have to press the red button, and that he is in charge of a crew of 126 which spends up to three months submerged in a ‘boat’ that could at any time malfunction some 300 metres below the surface. His pay is around the five-times mark when compared to the ratings.

Were it to be significantly greater it would probably damage morale in a unit that survives only because every man on board plays a crucial role. It would also impede the modus operandi of the captain who must lead in a disciplined manner, whilst maintaining a motivational relationship with the officers and ratings with whom he lives cheek by jowl. Irrelevant? Maybe but one wonders how the poorly paid employees of Royal Mail feel about the executive salaries. Would they go the extra mile with a glad heart?

The other aspect that intrigues us is the age-old question of how much is enough. A very serious study at Princeton University a few years ago suggested that around £50,000 was the optimum salary to bring both day-to-day contentment and a sense of satisfaction about one’s place in the world. The research showed that people are happier the more money they earn until they hit the £50,000 mark. After that point, they just accumulate more material possessions without any rise in their happiness quotient.

Interestingly, the high taxation of some Scandinavian countries, where there is widespread recognition of the fact that personal wealth does not equate to personal happiness, contributes to the sort of social cohesion that we Brits can only dream of.

The UK gap grows ever wider and one can only guess at the effect on motivation and commitment of all those who keep the show on the road. We can only hope that morale remains high since there is little chance of any change to the divided Britain. The leading members of the cabinet are multi-millionaires and Mr Blair is living proof of the fact that Her Majesties opposition is not averse to the super-rich clique.

We can only hope that Moya Greene is not too unhappy about her £1.5 million pay packet. At least she is probably spared having her grown-up children cluttering up her mansion as is the case for 3.3 million families!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Few of us can stand prosperity. Another man’s, I mean!”……Mark Twain

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Not the best of days!

Like most of our trains I am running somewhat late today. As excuses go mine is a reasonable one, having spent several hours at our local A & E department. One of my allotments pals developed unexplained pains during this morning’s hen-cleaning and Albert and I quickly conveyed him to the service that Jeremy Hunt is so anxious to close. I am delighted to report that it all proved nothing to worry about.

One only has to spend a while in the waiting area to realise just how important this service is. Whilst we were there two ambulances arrived and the staff responded instantly, calmly and compassionately. There may or may not be truth in the claim that centralised emergency centres would be more cost effective, but the extra time taken to reach them could well represent the difference between life and death. It is surely time for every family in the land to tell politicians in no uncertain terms that they have no moral right to endanger life by playing idiotic political games.

Whilst waiting for what proved to be excellent news, we thumbed through the dailies. The latest report from Iraq did little to restore any faith we once had in politicians.The nation was taken to war on the basis of a barefaced lie and many lives have been sacrificed. We tend to forget that, with the honourable exception of the Lib Dems, the vast majority of Westminster MPs nodded through the Bush/Blair madness. Since then successive ministers have told us that the new Iraq is a better place as a result of the bloodshed.

Really? Last week al-Qaeda fighters seized control in Iraqi cities. The strength of the fighting showed the extent of al-Qaeda’s resurgence across western Iraq over the past year. The militant’s reappearance has terrified local residents many of whom remember the beheadings and brutal punishments that took place when al-Qaeda last had control. The death rate has returned to more than 1,000 per month and there are clear indications that the Nato-trained Iraqi forces are in deep trouble.

Mr Blair is busy making millions these das. Many believe that he should charged with war crimes. But he was only able to do what he did with the tacit support of the majority of the political parties. They will never be forgiven by grieving families.

Of lesser moment, but revealing all the same, are the 1984  cabinet papers released to the National Archives yesterday. They tell us that there were moments during the government’s bitter year-long struggle when the nation “stared into the abyss” and contemplated the use of troops as violence reached its peak.

Here we had a power-mad Prime Minister locked in near mortal combat with a power-mad union leader. Both had hidden agendas, the former wished to destroy the unions, the latter sought insurrection. In reality no one won for the coal industry was totally destroyed and the cause of legitimate union membership likewise.

In their different ways Iraq and the coal dispute provide us with one important lesson. We are ill advised to unquestioningly accept what the likes of Blair, Thatcher and Scargill tell us.

The emergence of powerful protest organisations such as 38 Degrees is surely to be welcomed and supported. Millions have supported them in their demand for openness on issues such as the NHS. In them, not in Westminster, lies the best prospect for real democracy!

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Mission accomplished but what was the mission?

The King of all grumps, Geoffrey Boycott, is probably gnashing his teeth this morning. Some of his disciples on the allotments were inclined to do the same at the news that the all-conquering England cricketers are conquering no more, but their choppers were already engaged in chattering on a very cold morning. But we had no complaints on that score for there are few pleasanter experiences than the sound of an icy crust scrunching like a crème-brulee as one steps out under a blue sky. Whether the chickens see it that way is another matter for suddenly the worms have beak-proof protection.

Many of the morning papers have provided our dear leader with the coverage he sought in return for travelling to Afghanistan. Unfortunately for him they have chosen a somewhat negative interpretation. We believe that he was right to be positive about the role of our troops who have done their brave best in an impossible situation. But he was ill advised to echo the infamous words of George W Bush who, on May 1st 2003, posed whilst wearing a flight suit against a background of a huge sign declaring ‘Mission Accomplished’. That preceded ten years of bloodshed in Iraq culminating in a humiliating withdrawal.

Even the most optimistic believe other than that Afghanistan will suffer the same fate. Many families both in the UK and Afghanistan are in mourning and having heard the Cameron claim must this morning be asking themselves what the mission actually was. If it was to crush the Taliban and to install a Western style democracy by force of arms, the mission has been a failure. The only consolation is that our armed forces have been emasculated to the point where future intervention in any state bigger than the Isle of Wight will be beyond us.

Perhaps we codgers simply failed to understand what Bush and his pal Blair were actually hoping to achieve when they declared their intention to obliterate the forces of evil. That wouldn’t be too surprising since we regularly incur headaches as we try to understand the utterances of politicians. Every day that passes brings another mystery. Today we try in vain to fathom out the announcement by Jeremy Hunt about the NHS introducing 24/7 working.

No one can possibly disagree with the aim. The present arrangement of weekends managed by junior doctors, of overwhelmed A and E departments and GPs who have given low profile a whole new meaning is inadequate. But without substantial additional investment in doctors and nurses how can this possibly be achieved? Our local hospitals are amongst the best in the land but right now, given the massive ‘efficiency savings’ applied, they are unable to afford sufficient consultants to just about cover five days. Hunt’s threat to impose “massive fines” if they fail to man up to provide round-the-clock cover is ridiculous. Such penalties would be charged to already reduced funding and would merely serve to make the situation even worse.

At the core of the supposed plan is the promise to make GPs available at all times. My practice involves two doctors who already hold the maximum number of clinics throughout the week and, given the rocketing number of elderly patients, appointments involve significant delays. Consultations are not infinite, for any doctor whose prime task is diagnosis any increase above the present levels would be dangerous, tired doctors can easily lose their concentration. We are not talking here about stacking shelves in Tesco. One mistake and a patient could die.

Without doubt an increase in GPs and practice nurses would transform things. With appointments available at all times far fewer peo;le would feel the need to resort to A & E. In the case of my practice additional funding for an extra doctor plus two nurses and two receptionists would transform the patient experience but that would cost around an additional £300,000 a year. And there are a vast number of practices across the UK.

Unless the government is prepared to tackle the issue of tax avoidance by almost all of our big companies, plus the effective subsidy of almost £40 billion provided to Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Lloyds, there is no possibility of sufficient money becoming available. And we can forget the option of privatisation, having seen the debacle of services transferred to Serco.

As with Afghanistan this mission is one that will never be accomplished so spare us the words of spin-doctors. Only huge investment in real ones will prevent this scary winter being merely the forerunner of  even worse ones to come!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Old age is wonderful…A pity it ends so badly!”….Francois Mauriac, Nobel Prize for Literature, 1952.

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Princess Di theories refuse to die!

If our ‘mailbag’ is any indication we codgers are not alone in believing that our troops are being turned into the fall-guys for the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this mornings news of a long series of human rights investigations into alleged violations in Iraq have heightened our paranoia. As we cleaned out the hens this morning, we began  to wonder if any day now we will learn that the Taliban is to sue our commanders for infringing its human right to cut opponents into small pieces. But maybe it will hold back for fear of slowing down the talks aimed at restoring its right to resume control.

In fact it increasingly appears that the only people on earth to benefit from the wars born of political lies are the politicians. Of course we all hold Tony Blair responsible but we tend to forget that, with the honourable exception of the Lib Dems, almost the enture House of Commons supported his madness. Many of those MPs are still in office and they are about to receive a pay increase of 11 per cent. If it were not for their counterparts on the EU gravy-train we would think them somewhat greedy.

But their avarice pales by comparison with the EU’s foreign diplomatic service which, we learn today, is spending hundreds of millions of pounds on a vast empire of overseas offices staffed by bureaucrats many of whom pocket salaries and benefits totalling more than £150,000 a year. They are part of what is known as the European External Action Service which employs 3,417 staff, whose work duplicates the existing diplomatic service operated by member states.

In reality this is but the first step along the road to Brussels assuming control of foreign policy. But that is only the beginning of the next stage of the growing Superstate. RAF planes and other military assets are shortly to be handed over to European Union countries under plans for a “Euro Army”. Many Conservatives fear that our dear leader is on the verge of committing Britain to deeper military involvement with the EU and they fear that the step will be an irreversible one. They are probably right, the text issued from Brussels yesterday makes clear that member states must “improve the availability of required civilian and military capabilities”.

Bernard Jenkins, the chairman of the Commons public administration committee, says that “any Tory prime minister should be wholely opposed to what is clearly intended. To sign the UK up to this programme is not just another blow to the UK’s beleaguered defence industries but is another step towards a euro army”. Perhaps he should have a word with Nick Clegg?

But all this was somewhat overshadowed this morning when we learned of the launch of yet another police inquiry into claims that Princess Diana was murdered by an SAS hit squad. We knew that Scotland Yard had checked out claims published by Soldier N, a former Special Forces sniper. Now a new French probe is to be led by Sabine Kheris, a respected judge who has overseen many high-profile cases with international and political links. In other words the French are taking seriously the new allegations of blinding lights being shone into driver Henri Paul’s eyes.

We codgers have never believed the endless conspiracy chatter. But like an undiagnosed pain it goes on and on and we begin to worry. The implications for the establishment are too horrendous to contemplate and we prefer not to even consider it. But sometimes long-term pain cannot be simply wished away!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Building democracy as an imposition from abroad is a form of imperialism!”….Lech Walesa Nobel Peace Prize, 1983.

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Bankers deserve prison not bonuses!

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.

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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

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Experts? Bankers go to bottom of the league!

 

Britain’s spiralling cost of living will force more people into crippling personal debt which already totals a breath-taking £1.4 trillion. UK households now owe the equivalent of 94 per cent of the country’s economic output for the whole of last year. But such tributes to the much heralded economic recovery passed my fellow codgers by this morning. As we cleaned out the hens they had more important matters on their minds – can Brad Hadden stand in the way of the cock-a-hoop England bowlers when play resumes in the Brisbane Test?

Even the revelation that it was the latter-day Keir Hardie, Tony Blair, that gave the US the go-ahead to spy on millions of Britons failed to deflect them from arguments about the selection of Tremlett. In fact the only concession to what is happening in the real world the Barmy Army of the allotments made today was a chat about yesterday’s PM Question Time, possibly the only more entertainingly abusive forum than the Brisbane crowd.

If there existed a Royal College for abuse our dear leader would by now be its president. Yesterday found him at his very best. His usual attack centres on Unite’s Len McCluskey, but a new target has emerged in the shape of the Reverend Paul Flowers. Clearly David Cameron has missed the news that the 2008 bank crash was masterminded by an assortment of Moonies, Tory card sharps and Doctor Who fans.

Crocodile tears cascaded down those rosy cheeks as he implored anyone – meaning Ed Miliband – to assist his zillionth inquiry aimed at proving that Labour are a bunch of rotten eggs. The jaw-dropping hypocrisy was magnificent. Never mind that the coalition encouraged Co-op bankers to expand while regulators slept, here was a villain who had dined nightly at chez Miliband and who was a godfather to even the children that Ed has yet to generate.

At this point the Speaker called the accused. Guess what – we were then treated to a list of Dave’s dodgy dozen including such intimates now appearing in a court case that Ed was not allowed to mention. Things were getting out of hand and, as so often, it was left to brother Meacher to light the fuse. He had only reached a description of Mali having outperformed the UK economy when our dear leader cried that he had clearly been out on the town with the Reverend and had taken mind-altering substances. In truth Mr Meacher has inhaled nothing more mind-altering than Tony Benn’s dairies and he protested to headmaster Bercow who sent the whole lot of them home.

The pity is that so many of us confine our parliamentary viewing to the Abuse Show for it is the select committees that provide any real insight. Yesterday the Business and Skills version was preoccupied with the bankers, and demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the incompetent Reverend was far from unusual, he represents the norm.

The committee spent over two hours questioning senior staff from Goldman Sachs and UBS, the banks that led the Royal Mail giveaway. Based on their ‘expert’ advice the Coalition sold 60% of Royal Mail at 330p a share, thus valuing the company at £3.3 billion. Yesterday the shares were changing hands at 550p, representing a loss to the British taxpayer of £2.2 billion, enough to fund several train-loads of soldiers, nurses and social workers.

So far the banks that priced and marketed the shares have been paid £12.7 million and stand to get a further £4.2 million if Uncle Vince Cable thinks they warrant it. Staggering. Adrian Bailey, who chairs the committee, concluded that “The government, in view of what has happened subsequently, would be mad to give them yet more money”. Since it is, it probably will. In mitigation, the bankers made clear that such transactions are impossible to forecast in advance, thus consigning their Experts label into the waste-paper basket.

But all is not lost. Yesterday the identity of the next City of Culture was revealed. It is Hull, a choice we codgers have regularly advocated. How could a city that has two-Jags Prescott as its culture bedrock have been ignored for so long?

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “To reward the private sector that lost the taxpayer potentially billions and, in these days of austerity, would be a very politically dangerous thing to do!”…..Adrian Bailey, chairman of the Business and Skills select committee.

“I’m hearing an awful lot of stuff from you about how wonderful you are, and what great expertise you have. Can I, as a taxpayer, assume that all this is the cult of the high priest and meant to say you are much better at your job than you are, and you have failed the taxpayer”….Brian Binley, Conservative member of committee.  

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Is Baldrick running the NHS?

Just days ago we codgers offered prayers of thankfulness to Bert the Weather God when he spared us the wrath of St Jude. Clearly our heads were insufficiently bowed for last night he atoned for his sin of omission. We arrived at the allotments to find roofing felt scattered in all directions, and flower tubs rearranged in the manner of a modern art masterpiece. No prayers soared skyward this time, just a wide selection of colourful curses.

As we set to work we did find time to remark on the reappearance of two fallen stars. Sven Goran Eriksson has apparently published a kiss-and-tell account of his relationships with Nancy Dell’Olio, a Romanian former gymnast, a Swedish hotel worker and Faria Alam, the former secretary of the Football Association. He apparently “became tired” of them all, perhaps he simply became tired? But it is good to know that the highly paid England managers do allow themselves the occasional break from the offside rule.

The other resurrection features Michael Howard who now occupies himself by dressing up in ermine. He is hell-bent on the need for a “debate about the past”, the past of no less a star than Tony Blair. His Lordship wants us to realise that under Labour public money was strewn around like confetti. How that will help the present situation is less than clear, perhaps he believes that our dear leader has become so besotted with his former hero that he feels a compulsion to follow suit?

If today’s headlines about NHS ‘reforms’ are any indication he may well be right. At long last someone has realised that the new Commissioning groups are comprised mainly of executives that previously ran the now defunct Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). A logical development since no one in the know really believed Lansley’s nonsense abut GPs running the new creations, given that they are already rather busy and, in any case, have no desire to become bean-counters. But 489 of the PCT stars were first made redundant and rewarded with six-figure “golden goodbyes” !

As a former PCT chairman I was invited to the farewell party staged by our local body. No one seemed unduly upset, but at the time I assumed this was due to the large cheques handed to them earlier. But they knew something that I didn’t. Within weeks most if them were hired by the new ‘Commissioners’. If ever there was a scandalous waste of public money this was it!

Clearly these NHS employees should have been transferred into the new operations. I would go further and contend that the new organisations should not have been created since they are a mirror image of the ones they replaced. Each PCT had what was called a Professional Executive Committee, the majority of which comprised GPs nominated by local practices. They allocated funding to both hospitals and community services and had absolute authority to do so.

What they decided was in theory approved by the Strateguc Health Authorities which have also been replaced (by bodies carrying the NHS prefix re-employing the same people), but which in practice seldom intervened. Nothing has changed fundamentally but millions have been poured down the drain. Our headline does a disservice to Baldrick, even he would have recognised that this cunning plan was plain daft!

But even the madness of Andrew Lansley pales into insignificance by comparison with the EU saga. Today we learn that Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the ringleader of a suicide plot that could have killed 10,000 people, has gone to the Euripean Court of Human Rights to claim his rights were infringed by publicity before he was convicted of conspiracy to murder. Appeals have already been dismissed by Britain’s highest courts and now the bill for his conviction, already over the £100 million mark, will be increased. More importantly our justice system will once again be undermined.

Cue Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, who once again pledges to end the “dogma” emanating from Brussels that assumes “more Europe is always best” on everything from human rights to prisoner voting, whole-life tariffs and welfare reform. How he proposes to do this given that, like Sven, the Lib Dem and Labour parties have been seduced, is less than clear.

How about nominating Andrew,Lansley, who is currently not meaningfully employed, for the post of EU President when it becomes vacant next year? he could keep our tormentors occupied for yonks on rearranging the deckchairs on the EU Titanic, and prove once and for all that only idle hands find time for mischief!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Business is the art of extracting money from another man’s pocket without resorting to violence!”….Max Amsterdam

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Exposed: the ultimate deception!

A sunny morning marked Albert’s birthday. It didn’t seem entirely appropriate for someone of a less than sunny disposition, but the nearest thing on earth to the late lamented Compo is our national treasure and we presented him with a new anorak and a power drill for the long-suffering Mrs Albert. Speaking personally I would miss the wee man very much, he provides a sense of balance since some of my eternally cheerful allotment pals always make me wonder just what it is I am missing.

Having said that I have to report that the ex-servicemen are less than cheerful this morning. They have read with incredulity the paper produced by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) thinktank obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act. It seems that the ministry is concerned at the adverse reaction of the public to its plans to blow up Syria and has been devoting time to dreaming up ways of ‘selling’ war. Yes, even the Generals are now besotted with the art of spin!

The paper focuses on ways of convincing us that war is not in fact a gruesome thing. It recommends that the practice of staging “repatriation ceremonies” be quietly abandoned, a clear reference to the processions of hearses carrying coffins draped in the union flag that have been driven thorough Royal Wootton Bassett and, more recently, Carterton.

There is a need, the paper contends, to  “reduce public sensitivity to the penalties inherent in military operations”. It also urges that the public should be given a “clear explanation of the reasons for going to war”. It suggests that, when we are unconvinced of the relevance of a campaign we become “acutely sensitive to the level of casualties incurred”. For good measure it suggests greater use of mercenaries and the SAS which, it contends, enjoy less sympathy and attention.

The paper specifically mentions the level of public support for the Falklands conflict, and seems puzzled at the more recent reactions to Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps we can help here. The Falklands affair had a straight forward objective and was called for by a population comprising British citizens. The invasion of Iraq was based on an invented threat to these islands from weapons of mass destruction which could hit the UK within 45 minutes. And even Baldrick could work out that there was no possible end result other than a resentful culture which we simply do not understand.

The exposure of this document serves to remind us of two repulsive realities. At the highest levels of government there lurks a conviction that public opinion can be manipulated by the art of ‘spin’ first introduced by Blair, Mandelson and their motley crew. Secondly, politicians have no concern for lives sacrificed for actions that they calculate will enhance their own reputations.  

Unsurprisingly families of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have reacted with fury at the MOD’s suggestions. Deborah Allbutt, whose husband was killed in Iraq, described the proposals as ” brushing deaths under the carpet”. She was not alone. And it was not only bereaved families that reacted bitterly, large numbers of people supported the view that war is never justified unless this country or its subjects are under direct threat.

Yesterday was a black one for the MOD and government. It was also revealed that thousands of British soldiers are being put at increased risk of psychosis and suicide because the authorities refuse to stop using a controversial anti-malaria drug that has been banned in the USA. Our troops are still being given Lariam – a drug described as a modern-day “agent orange” by doctors because if its toxicity. Lt-Col Ashley Croft, who served for more than 25 years in the Royal Army Medical Corps said yesterday that; “For the past 12 years I was saying that this is a potentially dangerous drug, but my warnings fell on deaf ears”.  

Thankfully the Syrian reaction has demonstrated that the British public is no longer prepared to support the idea of sending young men and women to die in wars between madmen fighting over which has the best imaginary God. 

The callous disregard for the welfare and lives of our service personnel tells us all we need to know about our  deceitful and callous new-age politicians.

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “How do wars start? Politicians tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read!”……Karl Klaus

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY;

 


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More spin-doctors, less real ones!

Weeding is said to be therapeutic. That being the case we codgers will soon rank amongst the sanest in the kingdom since many of the allotment plots would now provide an ideal location for a Tarzan production. The recent spell of constant rain has deterred even the most ardent weeders and, the hen-run area apart, our haunt has a neglected appearance. The arrival of the weekend usually promises sport, fell-walking and lounging around. We have all agreed that this one will involve renewing our relationships with our hoes.  

Given that Bert the God of weather is apparently planning to switch Phoebus on we – with the exception of Albert who will undoubtedly develop a headache – will restore our beloved place to the standard of Eric Pickle’s larder, neat but empty. The mere thought of it has triggered latent grumpiness about the tendency of things we don’t want outgrowing the things we do.

Having cleaned out the hens and, during the tedious process, having made our resolution we gathered for our morning brew. It was then that our thoughts turned to the news of the day. We noted with interest that Digby Jones, the former head of the CBI, is due to speak today at the Ukip annual conference. As is the norm these days his speech has been released to the media in advance, a strange practice since it tends to make actually attending as pointless as a Sunderland Premiership match. Anyway, we know that our Digby intends to demand an EU referendum now on the grounds that our dear leader has as much chance of renegotiating our membership as we have of travelling on the next moon trip. For good measure he will mention that we pay billions in agricultural subsidies for France. It is perhaps fortunate that the former CBI star has already landed his peerage!

We also mulled over the increasingly ridiculous debate about use of face veils by Muslim doctors. We presume that this is true although we have never, during a lifetime of wandering NHS corridors, seen anyone so attired. But if such dressers do exist they should perhaps be asked how they would feel about having an intimate discussion with someone hidden from their sight.

But it was the talk of doctors that really fired us up. Not the real ones whose numbers are reducing drastically as part of the Hunt plan to improve clinical services, but those of the spin variety. It was the Blairites who introduced this new art, and the likes of Campbell and Mandelson who bewildered us by proudly announcing that they had mastered it. We will put a spin on the facts always seemed to us another way of saying that we will lie to you. And now no self-respecting political leader would even consider existence without a highly paid team of professional liars.

One such has hit this morning’s headlines. Damian McBride was ‘press secretary’ to Gordon Brown and the serialisation of his memoir, Power Trip: A Decade of  Policy, Plots and Spin, begins  today. The book details how McBride attacked Brown’s rivals by briefing about their sexual affairs, alcoholism or internal political rivalries. He accepts that at times he became “a cruel vindictive and thoughtless bastard”. For good measure the Blair camp, via its own ‘spinner’, Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, released counter attacks, in one of which they described McBride as “Damian McPrickface”. What emerges is that little attention was being paid to running the country whilst a great deal was invested in internal abuse and lies. Hardly surprising then that when they did find time to address the public they were, to say the least, economical with the truth.

This sort of behaviour is now at the centre of both Conservative and Labour parties. My first awareness of it came some years ago when a senior associate of Tony Blair told me that they had commissioned a major study of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, who had published a number of damaging revelations. Their friends at the tabloids had even checked through his dustbins, Sadly, said my informant, the man had no skeletons they could expose.   

 Today such practices are common. Today one of the spin merchants has spread the story that, as a boy, Nigel Farage sang ‘Hitler songs’. We codgers are relieved that they are not researching us since the songs we sang as boys would have made even Adolf cringe.

It all adds weight to yesterday’s piece in which we reflected on the collapse in public confidence in politicians. Political parties are, we argued, heading for extinction. We should have added thank heavens for that!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “We ought never do wrong when people are looking!”….Mark Twain

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WW1 centenary-there was no ‘glorious conflict!

Take a tip from me – if you are considering joining the national rush to have chickens in your garden give it some thought. I say this after yesterday’s experience when Albert - who else – left the gate to the outer hen-run open. A hundred or so hens on the rampage can do a lot of damage in one afternoon. Bang went Bob’s dream of glory in the annual show, only a demented judge would award marrows pocked-marked with what look like bullet holes. And his potentially prize-winning sweet-peas are no longer sweet.

In fact the whole allotments area looked like a war zone when we trooped on last night to lock up. Appropriate really since our chat over a brew this morning, once we had concluded our shouting-match with the world’s leading mishandler of gate-bolts, was about the plans being made for the WW1 centenary ‘celebrations’. Never slow to climb aboard any bandwagon our dear leader has spoken with his usual apparent excitement about a “truly national celebration’. Plans are afoot for an educational programme, an overhaul of the Imperial War Museum and marches by the bucket-load. The committee responsible seems convinced that the only potential pitfall is the risk of offending Angela Merkel.

They are wrong. The pitfall lies in having any celebration, in reality there was no “glorious conflict”. If you believe otherwise I can only recommend that you get hold of a copy of the recent best-selling book, Forgotten Voices of the Great War, written by historian Max Arthur. It comprises simple transcripts of soldiers remembering what happened to them, and includes long-fiorgotten interviews with both British and German troops who served on the front line, a place of sheer hell.

We all knew that neither side advanced more than a mile or so, and became literally entrenched. Chinless wonders many miles behind the action ordered charge and counter-charge, and every command of ‘over the top’ resulted in massacres as men stumbled through the mud toward the waiting machine-gun emplacements. The trenches invariably filled with water with which bodies and excrement vied to produce disease.

The recorded descriptions defy human understanding. Even through the rose-tinted glasses of history no one can read this book and find even the remotest justification of the word glorious. The battles were insane, descriptions of a fate worse than death, a state many of the interviewees saw as not only inevitable but an escape from a living nightmare.

A whole generation was slaughtered and it was only the arrival of large American battalions that finally ended the carnage. Many a shell-shocked combatant’s mind lost any sense of reality and execution was the reward for months of bravery and endurance over and above the line of duty.

Of course we should remember all those who fell, and those who lived to tell the raw truth of what happened when, on both sides, lions led by donkeys were slaughtered. Comments about “only a few thousand deaths” on daily bulletins tell us clearly that politicians and generals alike lost all sense of perspective and humanity.

There are occasions when war is the only defence of one homeland. But if politicians have ever encountered the vile reality of war they will know that it has to be the very last resort.

Several of my pals have seen active service, and to a man they recoil with horror at any suggestion of celebrations to mark the greatest example of the folly of man. They believe that any events staged to mark the centenary of WW1 should feature the revelations of Max Arthur.

Today we have wars between madmen who are prepared to kill or die as part of a debate over who has the finest imaginary God. Perhaps sanity is beyond their grasp but Blair, Cameron and all those who advocate Western intervention should study the reality, not the glorious illusion, of what really happened one hundred years ago!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY;  “Those of us involved are concerned that war will be presented as something glorious and part of our national heritage, when it isn’t. It was a total disaster that was unnecessary and destroyed a generation!”…Brian Eno, supported by  Jude Law, Alan Rickman and Carol Ann Duffy in the “No Glory” campaign.

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What happens if missile attack fails?

Most of us allotment codgers have been involved in, or observed, a series of ‘interventions’ by the British military since World War 2. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that none of them has reached a successful conclusion, and all have resulted in tragedies. In fact one has to go back to the World War to find the rationale that defence of our islands demanded sacrifice and bloodshed.

And now, as we remarked yesterday, here we go again. Tony Blair has quickly taken to the airwaves to urge an attack on Syria, that is hardly reassuring. Neither are the comments from the present and past military chiefs.

General Sir Nick Houghton, chief of the defence staff, has made clear that the military have “grave misgivings” about entering the conflict. His predecessors are more forthcoming. Lord West, former head of the Navy, has warned that “The region is a powder keg. We can’t predict which way action will go”. General Lord Dannatt, former head of the Army, has spoken out on what he calls “unintended consequences”. Amongst politicians, people like Dianne Abbott have made clear their intention to refuse to support a missile attack.

We plebs know little of the reasons for the desire to launch an attack before the outcome of the UN Inspectors report. But what is sending our worry-beads into overdrive is the clear indication that no one seems to have a plan B ready for the possibility that Assad rides out the missile attack and then continues to massacre innocents. Neither does there appear to be a plan to cope with the sudden triumph of Jihadists who, should Assad fall, will inherit chemical weapons galore since they will not be the target of missiles given the dangers to the Syrian people should they be exploded.

To add to these questions there is the distinct possibility of retaliatory strikes against Israel, and even some form of action by Russia or China. The latter is less likely but, given the unstable nature of the region, the former is definitely on the cards. And if that happens who can guarantee that Israel will not resort to the nuclear option?

No one this morning debating all this believes other than that the use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity. But many feel that a missile strike may not be enough. Having talked of a “red line”, Barack Obama is now obliged to act. If what he authorises doesn’t produce the desired result is he likely to simply shrug and walk away?

Given that we are no longer a world power there is little doubt that our dear leader is, like Blair before him, dazzled by the prospect of being America’s leading partner. But Miliband and Clegg are giving him their support on condition that the action is confined to “one strike”. It seems that they too have not considered the possible consequences. 

Those like Blair who talk scornfully of “wringing our hands and doing nothing”, seem to have no conclusion in mind other than Assad stepping down quietly, the Jihadists departing and the restoration of peace for the tortured Syrain people. We would like them to be proved right, but it sounds like a fairy story.

We believe absolutely that no action should be taken until the UN team has at least established what chemical weapons were actually used. This would demonstrate the likely identity of the users ( we mustn’t forget that the Jihadists have access to some strains). It would also provide the opportunity to call Putin’s bluff.

One final thought. Perhaps we are wrong to think in this way but it seems to us that the pressure from Washington for British involvement is not about the miniscule contribution we can make in terms of weaponry. It is about having a partner to share the blame if things go wrong.

That too has a familiar ring!   

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; A clear case will only be made if a strategic context of how such an intervention can be made is laid out clearly. First the objectives, the beginning, the middle, and the end – how it’s all going to finish”…..General Lord Dannatt, former head of the British army.  

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Now the bossy brigade wants quotas!

Study of any group of people or animals quickly enables one to focus on the top dog. Chickens provide a perfect example, in every run on the allotments a lot of pecking takes place as one of the girls uses her beak to establish herself as the undisputed head. In humans it is sometimes more subtle but the laws of nature ensure that one volunteer establishes supremacy, usually a product of a bossy trait overcoming the reluctance of most to accept responsibility or hassle. Amongst us codgers Albert has seized the unofficial crown and it doesn’t lie uneasy on the head of the world’s leading chatterbox.

This doesn’t bother the rest of us who, in retirement, seek nothing more than a quiet life. But what does infuriate us is the number of people who at a national level constantly presume to lecture the rest of us on how we should live our lives. Today we have Kamila Shamsie, the novelist, and Kate Mosse, the author and founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, demanding that parliament should be controlled by a quota system with no more than fifty per cent men.

To a man we codgers support the idea of women MPs. We are convinced that if the Commons was comprised mainly of women there would be far less ridiculous and phoney abuse, and proposals would be debated in a far more open and less partisan manner. But strict quotas are another matter altogether. For the vast majority of backbench members membership of the House has little attraction other than that of earning a decent living and long holidays. They are told by the whips how to vote, and their chance to change the lot of those they represent is near zero. Would the average woman want to devote her life to such a role?

For most women the way in which parliament functions would have to change to provide attraction. For the rest of us that is a great pity, can anyone imagine Blair duping a House dominated by women into sanctioning war on Iraq or anyone else?

To take a more up-to-date example can you imagine women having any truck with what we now know happened when officials from GCHQ entered the offices of the Guardian newspaper and proceeded to physically mangle hard drives, despite knowing that the paper had copies of the Snowden material stored elsewhere. We are here to teach you a lesson, they said. The ridiculous games that men like to play never cease to amaze us.

Another example of the bossy-boots emerged yesterday. It seems that some schools are refusing to “promote homosexuality”. One headteacher went on record to say that the staff are responsible for explaining sexuality in objective terms but not to “promote” it in any of its forms. This seems to us eminently sensible. Teachers have the unenviable task of explaining sex and reproduction of the species, why on earth would we expect them to “promote” any particular manifestation. Neither of course should they criticise, their role is to teach the facts of nature and to leave judgements to others.

We firmly believe that the big brothers, or sisters, should pipe down. Many of the appalling prejudices carried through life by many people were put there by others telling them what to think. The practice of constantly lecturing others about the importance of race relations is, we contend, a classic example of focussing attention on an issue that young people would otherwise take for granted and pay little attention to. The colour of someone’s skin is a total irrelevance, by constantly harping on about it we draw attention to a difference that doesn’t actually exist.

All men and women are created equal. If only those who presume to tell us what to think and do would desist from doing so we could all travel this journey as one. But the chance of that happening is the equivalent of flying pigs circling Big Ben!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” One way to avoid war is to give Bush, Blair and Saddam a toddler each to look after with no help!”…Rory Bremner 

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