Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’
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!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Building democracy as an imposition from abroad is a form of imperialism!”….Lech Walesa Nobel Peace Prize, 1983.
Everything was frozen this morning -windscreens, the hen’s drinking troughs, the ponds and the bunch of grumpy old codgers whose sole desire was to clean out the chickens and escape to the warmth of the allotments ‘hut’. Oh to be with the Barmy Army in Australia, they may not have much to sing about but at least they are warm!
Once we had restored our circulation there was a good deal of ribaldry about our fallen hero, Tony Blair. It seems that he has fallen out with his buddy Rupert Murdoch, who is on record as saying that he will “have nothing more to do with Tony Blair, not ever”. According to the Mail on Sunday the breakdown is due to Mr Blair and Ms Deng staying overnight at Mr Murdoch’s mansion in California on two occasions without Rupert’s knowledge. In fact the pair also had “multiple encounters” in both London and New York.
The office of our beloved WMD predictor has categorically denied an affair, and all we scandalmongers know is that King Rupert has separated from Ms Deng, who leapt to his defence when, at the Leveson Inquiry, a fierce geezer with a bucket of custard attempted to donate it to him. But whatever the real explanation for the Blair fall from grace, it could be good news for our dear leader who is still part of the News Corp social circle. The Sun was a passionate supporter of New Labour, perhaps we can expect our rosy faced Dave to adorn the front page of every builders bible at the next election?
Alongside most of the morning paper’s coverage of the world’s richest ex-politician, there is an equally intriguing story about generous awards given to three members of our armed forces, a surprising development given that the Ministry of Defence has shown total contempt for those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. But before you break into a chorus of at last we must explain that the recipients of a cool £100,000 are female RAF recruits who incurred ‘injuries’ from marching in step with male colleagues. They have now recovered from the effects of “over-stride”, which is more than can be said for those who no longer have legs to stride on yet are struggling to make ends meet!
Meantime Parliament’s anti-sleaze watchdog has been approached by a coalition of MPs, academics and celebrities who claim that the City of London’s lobbying activities merit examination. There are, the group claims, “revolving doors between the government and powerful City interests”. It hardly surprises us but we imagine that Knacker is less than delighted at the possibility of yet more dirt-sifting.
He must have a pending caseload longer than that of the few remaining social workers, and our humble plea will not help. We believe that it is high time that bankers were held accountable for their actions which impact on so many. The latest outrage concerns RBS who, according to a report by Lawrence Tomlinson, were guilty of “stealing people’s livelihoods from them”. Mr Tomlinson last night called for jail sentences, should it be proven that firms not necessarily in immediate financial distress were “engineered” into the bank’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG), a division with the power to scrap loan deals, impose inflated interest rates and charge hefty penalties.
The report alleges that firms were forced into GRG sometimes through small technical breaches of loan terms, such as late filing of minor financial information. They were then hit with exorbitant rates and fees causing them to collapse, allowing RBS to buy their property and assets on the cheap. One such business said that it paid RBS £256,000 in fees alone whilst in GRG.
The report has reached Uncle Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who says that allegations are “very serious” and has asked the Financial Conduct Authority to investigate. We have no axe to grind with RBS and are inclined to wonder how all this happened whilst it was under the direct control of Gorgeous George Osborne. But the fact remains that time and again the banks are found to have engaged in what amounts to fraud yet the only consequence are resignations accompanied by golden goodbyes.
If only our favourite pie-eater was in charge of everything! Today we are told that Eric Pickles has solved the social implications of “problem families”. Quite an achievement. No detail is provided and we can only accept that like God and Stephen Fry, Eric moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” We live in a world where lemonade is made from artificial flavours and furniture polish is made from real lemons!”……Alfred Newman
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?
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.
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!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Business is the art of extracting money from another man’s pocket without resorting to violence!”….Max Amsterdam
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.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “How do wars start? Politicians tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read!”……Karl Klaus
THOUGHT FOR TODAY;
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!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “We ought never do wrong when people are looking!”….Mark Twain
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
The need to avoid any movement capable of disturbing the stitches around my eye is rapidly making me as popular as a rattle snake in a lucky dip. As I watched my allotment pals clean out my hens this morning I heard a reference to lead-swinging from Albert, and he wasn’t discussing plumbing. But I remain as resolute as Mo Farah must have been in his training. If only I could match his speed this temporary non-driver would run to our Welsh bolt-hole.
But I did make the tea, and was able to at least join in the ensuing gossip. Not for the first time politicians were in the codger’s sights. Someone wondered how Clement Attlee or even Margaret Thatcher would have responded to the news that an old lady had bequeathed a small fortune to the government. Had retired nurse Joan Edwards left half a million quid in earlier times one thing is certain, the parties in power would not have trousered it. Last week the Conservatives and Lib Dems did just that, and it needed public outrage to see the dosh sheepishly handed over to the treasury.
The tawdry incident reminded us of comments made across the pond by Tim Stanley in the wake of revelations about the ‘charitable foundation’ run by the Clintons. “They don’t know the difference between helping others and helping themselves”, he said. He could equally have been talking about today’s British politicians who in their pathetic desire to swank around like senators, will settle for nothing less than a senatorial lifestyle.
Fifty years ago, not only were there fewer obviously greedy Conservative and Labour MPs: they also had different ways of showing it shaped by their class background. Lavish grouse shoots for the Tories; union bungs and the occasional smattering of “red gold” for the socialists. Now political greed is homogenised. ‘New’ Labour ushered in a new era of cross-party avarice. “We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich,” said Peter Mandelson.
He meant to advertise New Labour’s wish to cultivate entrepreneurs, but what he really conveyed was how relaxed all the parties have become about hanging out with millionaires, soaking up donations and hospitality. Or, to put it another way, absorbing money made by other people, be they “filthy rich” businessmen, the British taxpayer – or a politician’s own ancestors.
It is no coincidence that David Cameron and George Osborne have reverence for Tony Blair. It is not down to his having won elections, but because he created a culture in which aspiration is replaced by entitlement. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of party conferences. Barely a third of the people attending the annual Tory conference are party members. The conference glossy offers sponsorship at £20,000 for access to “Cabinet and government ministers”. The other main parties are operating something similar. The members of old are leaving in droves, the new age of luvvies has arrived.
Every week brings new stories illustrating the rapid growth of a political elite far removed from the people it supposedly represents. And it is not confined to the politicians themselves, but extends to embrace those that work alongside them. Today we learn that Whitehall departments are picking up the tax bills for perks such as official cars, first-class rail travel and rent-free accommodation. The effect of the hitherto secret deal is to increase the officials pay packages by up to £30,000 a year at the expense of taxpayers.
Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is paid £185,000 and enjoys the use of a chauffeur-driven Toyota Prius which ferries him to his town-house in Clapham. The tax benefits enjoyed by Sir Jeremy are estimated at £49,243. The knight in less than shining armour has a lead role in the government’s austerity programme.
There are no party political points here. True grass-roots Labour figures such as Alan Johnson are no longer welcome on their front benches. There are no longer champions of the less fortunate at the top, the political establishment is absorbed with its own interests and only the rustle of bank notes can draw genuine attention.
When watching the celebrations after Mo Farah’s fantastic double, I suddenly felt that the ‘them’ is slowly but surely edging away from the ‘us’. Lord Coe was interviewed, a great athlete and popular hero of Olympics past. I found myself wondering why we now have to call him Lord, the one-of-us hero Seb has been taken from us.
Sounds petty I know but my paranoia tells me that our once reasonably united nation is being sliced apart. And you know what is said about paranoia, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t out to get you!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” There ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them!”….Mark Twain
It was much cooler on the allotments this morning and as we rolled out the hosepipe we wondered if we really needed it. A glance at the forecast suggested that we did since it appears we are about to be roasted alive before the monsoons arrive. We were engaged in the less than arduous task of playng at Fireman Sam when someone mentioned that it is almost exactly ten years ago that we woke to learn of the strange death of Dr Kelly.
Most of us were able to remember where we were when the news broke. I was staying overnight in a Bristol motel. I opened the door of my room to reach for the morning paper and saw six words in bold type - ”The death of an honest man!”. Even at that moment I sensed that here was a story that would be a watershed in British political history. I was right.
It may well be that we will never know the truth abut Dr Kelly’s supposed suicide. I remember a TV interview with the paramedics who were called when his body was discovered. They said that the amount of blood was not compatible with suicide. They never appeared in the media again, a wall of silence surrounded the tragedy.
Almost a month earlier the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan had met Dr Kelly, and noted him as saying that the dossier on the alleged WMDs of Saddam Hussain commissioned by Tony Blair was “transformed wk before pub to make it sexier, the classic was the 45 mins”. This was a reference to the claim made by Blair that Hussain had missiles capable of reaching London within 45 miniutes. On the next day’s ‘Today” programme Gilligan, without revealing his source, claimed that the Blair government had knowingly “sexed up” its WMD dossier. Alastair Campbell went on air to describe Gilligan’s story as “a lie” and demanded an apology.
We now know that one week before the dossier was published, on September 18th 2002, Campbell had sent memos to its author, Sir John Scarlett, saying that he and Tony Blair were “worried” that the draft gave the impression that “there was nothing to worry about”. He later emailed Scarlett suggesting the insertion of a totally false claim that in certain circumstances, Saddam could produce nuclear weapons in as little as a year. This fabricaton duly appeared in the dossier.
We now know that other changes were demanded by Campbell. Most were accepted and the effect was to harden the document’s language from possibility to probability. Campbell lied to Parliament abut the content of this memo, giving the Foreign Affairs Committee an altered copy which omitted his comments on the 45-minute claim and played down most of his other interventions.
What we also now know is that, contrary to what he said at the time, Blair admits in his memoirs that he privately saw the case for war against Iraq as “finely balanced”. Tipping of the scales was needed or, as Blair puts it in his book, “politicians are obliged from time to time to conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it, where the interests of the bigger strategic goal demands that it be done”.
Of course we knew nothing of this at the time. Indeed, in his evidence to the Hutton inquiry, Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, described the 45 minute claim straight-faced, as a “piece of well-sourced intelligence”, two months after his own service had discredited it in internal documents.
The government knew that the dossier was falsified and this is what makes its behaviour toward the BBC and Dr Kelly so incredible. After Gilligan and the BBC refused to reveal the source of the ‘leak’, Dr Kelly came forward to his bosses as the source under a promise that his identity would be kept secret. He was effectuvely exposed when Campbell, in his own words, decided to “open a flank on the BBC” to distract attention from his difficulties over the dossier.
The Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) was conducting an inquiry but failed to denounce Gilligan. Campbell, in his diary, decided that “the biggest thing needed was the source out”. On orders from Downing Street, MOD press officers announced that a source had come forward, handed out clues allowing anyone with Google to guess who he was, then kindly confirmed it to any reporter who guessed right. One newspaper was allowed to put more than 20 names to the MOD before it got to Dr Kelly.
Once outed, Dr Kelly was openly belittled by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw. The FAC was forced by Downing Street to hold a special hearing and Dr Kelly was subjected to enormous pressure, mostly aimed at discrediting him.
The long-running Chilcott inquiry into Iraq has yet to report, but we already know beyond any doubt that the Government lied and lied again. It was prepared to hound a man of integrity, whose only offence was to expose the lies, to his death, be it by his hand or theirs.
In his memoirs Blair refers to Campbell as a “crazy person” who by that stage, had “probably gone over the edge”. Maybe, but that in no way exonerates Blair and all the supposedly distinguished knight who supported his dishonesty.
Dr Kelly has for us become a symbol. What happened has undoubtedly destroyed his loving family. It has also destroyed any lingering doubt we had about leading politicians. It may be unfair but even now we find ourselves wondering just how true are the pronouncements from Downing Street.
We also smile wryly when ministers urge whistleblowers to come forward. What happened to Dr Kelly is likely to discourage them!
We may be old but there is nothing the allotment codgers enjoy so much as a hint of nudge-nudge, wink-wink. It was therefore no surprise that there was a lot of sniggering about the latest Tony Blair story this morning. The tale was triggered by Robert Peston – who has close links with News Corporation insiders – that he had been told that “undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing his third wife are jaw-dropping and I hate myself for wanting to know what they are”. As with everything Preston says, it was somewhat hard to follow.
It didn’t take long for the internet to be awash with speculation, given that Blair and Miss Deng are close friends and he is godfather to Grace, her oldest child. So intense did the speculation become that a spokesman for Mr Blair told the Hollywood Reporter: “If you are asking if they were having an affair, the answer is no!”. We don’t believe a word of the allegations but our interpretation is not a generous one, we suspect that Mr Blair saw Miss Deng as a key link in his efforts to woo her politically powerful husband. It is high time that our leading politicians realised that close relationships of any kind with media tycoons are a throughly bad idea.
And the mention of thoroughly bad ideas brought us, on this windy morning, once again to the unending saga of wind power, a subject hard to forget since we have a long-range view of a cluster of the monsters from our allotment. To us they are an eyesore, but those who live near to them tell us that the noise is the best sales incentive for Aspirins ever invented. They also talk of the number of birds killed, and the desecration of what was an area of natural beauty.
What really puzzles our ancient minds is the issue that, amidst the endless arguments about cost and environmental impact, is so seldom mentioned in the zillions of column inches devoted to wind power. Last week our thousands of wind turbines managed to generate an impressive 12% of our total energy production. But during the cold windless days of last winter – when electricity demand was at its peak – that fell to lows of 0.1%. In other words output fluctuates wildly depending on the wind, and there is no practical way of storing it. Are we missing something or does that not render the whole concept as useful as a blunt pencil?
Meanwhile finding space to build the wind farms has created a veritable racket – landowners can expect to receive payments worth an average of £40,000 a year for each large, three-megawatt turbine built on their land.
In the 12 months until February 2013 over £1.2 billion was paid out to wind farms through a consumer subsidy financed by a supplement on electricity bills. The companies promoting turbines tell us that the cost is justified if only in terms of jobs created. Really? During that period, the industry employed just 12,000 people, which means that each wind-farm job costs consumers £100,000 – an astonishing figure.
The government has become worried about the political backlash from all this and had announced that residents will be able to stop construction of wind farms. Good news at last, say all those who hate what the monsters are doing to local beauty spots. Not really. Under the plan energy firms will be able to offer “incentives” to residents in order to encourage them to say yes to a new wind farm. Ed Davey, the Lib Dem Energy Secretary, believes that the effect of the new law may be more farms being built rather than less. In these hard times wads of money – in effect taxpayer’s money recycled – can prove very tempting!
There is a troubling possibility that the new plans may prove a golden opportunity for wind-power providers to buy their way to installing an ever increasing number of turbines. That is alarming because – aside from the damage to our countryside – the industry is expensive, passes costs on to the consumer and creates very few jobs so long as the units are manufactured overseas. It also means that we will have to rely increasingly on foreign imports of oil and gas to offset the loss of capacity resulting ftrom the closure of our own sources.
It is hard to think of a single logical reason for continuing with this project. Of course the foreign-owned energy firms can provide one – easy money and to hell with the Brits!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” The subsidy for wind farms is likely to rise to £6 billion by 2020 if the Government is to meet its target of providing for 15% of the country’s needs with renewable energy”….Renewable Energy Foundation
The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, yesterday launched a full-blooded attack on the “mad” policy agenda of the EU. It seem that one of the bureaucrats has dreamed up a plan to “reform data protection laws” which will cost UK businesses hundreds of millions of pounds. Grayling described the zillionth law to emerge out of the Brussels wonder-building as an example of the work of people “completely oblivious to the potential consequences of what they are doing”. Brussels’ officials are, said Grayling, “not living in the real world”.
He will of course be put in his place by Nick Clegg who dwells in that very world, and who believes that the EU is the nearest we can get to heaven on earth. We codgers have to admit to being occasional citizens of the unreal planet, given that we spend our days on encouraging chickens to lay eggs which we then give away. But even we can work out that young Nick’s infatuation will end in tears.
However the Brussels’ fantasists are not alone, as a quick glance at this morning’s papers will reveal. First up come those who now devote their entire lives to rabbiting on about same-sex marriage. The nation may be in dire financial straits, the human race may be destroying the planet, but people elected to run the country spent all of yesterday arguing about the possibility of staging gay weddings in the chapel in the Palace of Westminster. Speaker Bercow is said to be in favour, so that’s all right then.
Anyone inhabiting the unreal world is bound to meet up with Tony Blair. He continues to bang on about his astute decision to hoodwink the nation into going to war in Iraq. But meantime he has added a new country to his portfolio of multi-million-pound business interests. The mineral-rich backwater of Mongolia is the latest client to sign up for Blair’s diplomatic skills. Perhaps the whole world is unreal. Having fooled us lot our super-rich Labour star is fooling everyone else.
Not far behind him come the Middletons with their slogan about having given birth to the future Queen. They have brought out the first American range of their flourishing mail-order party-paraphernalia firm. Since they dwell on planet Unreality it has clearly not occurred to Kate’s mum and dad that their sudden popularity in the soap-opera loving USA may not be down to the product!
Britain’s Got Talent underlined its membership of the unreal world by screening an egg-throwing contest, which displaced the England v Australia match not to mention the worrying condition of Prince Philip and Nelson Mandella from the headlines. And this on the day when it was confirmed that six out of every ten households are now bombarded with unwanted call-centre messages about British Gas, ferret breeding and a host of other things that are of no interest to anyone other than the army of operators in Hong Kong.
I won’t go on, I’m already convinced that the unreal world exists and contains more people than inhabit the real one. But having learned from Mr Grayling that the Brussel’s mob is there I am suddenly inclined to preserve my sanity by giving it a miss.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Why does our leadership spend so much time placating Clegg when there is no way he is going to walk out? We should be doing what is right and telling him he knows where the door is if he doesn’t like it”..Tory minister quoted in todays Sunday Telegraph, page 23.
We codgers have been around a long time, but we cannot recall a time when the gulf between leaders and led has been so great. We were reminded of this when Bob brought his copy of the Express on to the allotments this morning. A new poll has revealed that voters are angry at the EU for curbing Britain’s power to limit immigration, and a majority would vote to exit if given the choice.
But our leaders take a different view. Clegg and Miliband are determined to continue membership, Cameron talks vaguely of a referendum after negotiation but makes clear that he too wishes to stay on board the Merkel Titanic. If seems to us that the old concept of the elected taking heed of their elector’s vews has died the death. Only Ukip reflect the majority view and they are hardly likely to form a government.
And the lack of control over our borders has direct relevance to the public’s greatest concern right now - the ever increasing number of enemies within. The appalling Woolwich murder has provided a terrible reminder of the depths to which our internal security has plummeted, and the ease with which yet more undesirables can enter unchallenged gaurantees that the situation will continue to deteriorate.
As on each occasion before and since 7/7, the debate in recent days has covered the usual familiar terrain. Our dear leader and all leading politicians have given grandstanding speeches about how “we will never give in to terrorism”. They speak as if there was some likelihood of getting the Queen to stepdown with a view to instituting sharia law. Next, politicians and pundits from all sides of the aisle spout whatever is their pet security grievance.
We have heard it all before. There was even someone who called for the banning of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. That is exactly what Tony Blair said he would do after 7/7 and David Cameron swore he would do when he became PM. Today – as on each occasion before – absolutely nothing important will be done. The door remains open and the national obsession with political correctness influences everything said or done.
In fairness there is one politician who genuinely wants to act. Theresa May knows the security issues this country faces. She knows the number of people under observation who plan to carry out attacks. But in every direction she is scuppered. At every turn she and those who want to keep this country safe and to defeat the enemy within, find people who are working not just against them, but all of us.
Incredibly members of the cabinet feature amongst these. Take Sayeeda Warsi. Ever since he promoted her in the interests of PC the Prime Minister has found himself stuck with the Baroness. Too incapable to have her own department, and having failed spectacularly in her role as party chairman, Warsi was given a consolation title; ‘Minister for faith and communities’. Time and again she has given sustenance to the enemies within.
In March Baroness Warsi addressed a FOSIS (Federation of Student Islamic Societies) conference in Westminister. The conference discussed the ‘demonising’ of Muslim students. Just before the Baroness spoke there was a speech by an Islamist who believes that the beheading of those who leave Islam is not only right but ‘painless’. Shortly after she had spoken, one of her platform colleagues called for the release of a convicted al-Qa’eda terrorist. This is the kind of help Theresa May gets from some of her own colleagues.
Another barrier is the civil service. In the Home Office, and across related departments, are senior civil servants who think they know best. They actively work against May. Much of the civil service work against the government’s anti-terrorism agenda, fail to implement it, implement it wrongly, or go after pet peeves of their own as a condition of doing the job they are supposed to do. Sir Humphrey lives and in this instance it is no cause for mirth.
Last, but far from least, of the Home Secretary’s obstacles is the European Convention on Human Rights. It has tied this country up in a nightmarish bind. Mrs May must by now have spent longer on the case of Abu Qatada than any other. She has flown to Jordan to get yet further assurances and understandings from the government, yet nothing is ever enough to satisfy the ECHR or our own courts, which now feel wholly subservient to its whims.
Of course we could do what the French and Italians have done, and simply ignore the ECHR. In fact the Italians don’t even bother to pay the paltry fines the court sends out to the disobedient. But the British remain honest in implementing even dishonest laws.
Since the Woolwich slaughter many people have asked the same questions. Will it change things? Is this the last straw? Sadly the answer is no. Not only are there leading figures across all parties that believe soft pedalling is the only route to good race relations, there are also many people and powers in place to stop this country doing what it needs to do.
Which is? Deport illegals, lock up radicals, restrict immigration, tell the sympathisers the game is up. Right-wing claptrap? If you think that take a look at the alternative, or simply consider the fate of a young soldier daring to wear a ‘help for heroes’ tee-shirt!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” We might get back control over the shape of a widget, but there’s no way we’re going to get back control over our borders”…Nigel Farage .
A couple of readers have asked about the fate of our hens when their days of egg-laying are over. The answer is that they are moved into what we call our retirement runs. Our reasoning is that they have served us well and we must return the favour. Hens often live for up to four years after their productive days are over and, like us, their energy levels diminish as each year passes. The result is that they are no trouble and live happily given a regular supply of corn and water. Unlike we mortals, they are not at the mercy of such as British Gas!
For that they should think their lucky avian stars. So obscenely high have Britian’s biggest energy supplier’s profits become that even they have felt shamed into announcing a price freeze for the forseeable future. In October prices were increased yet again, this time by 6%. Then came a fiercely cold winter and, hey presto, up went the profits and top executive salaries. Whilst the feeze is welcome news for the long suffering 10 million customers, it does throw into considerable doubt all the claims about tight margins. This looks like a desperate attempt to save face because of the public backlash.
But for us codgers the big news of the day is the publication of the latest Guardian/ICM poll. There has been a further dramatic rise in support for Ukip, the greatest shift since the creation of the SDP back in 1981. Ukip’s share of the ‘vote’ has risen to 18% and all three main parties have suffered losses. At 11% the Lib Dems have all but vanished, and the Conservatives have dropped to 28%. Labour still holds the lead but has fallen to 34%, a poor performance given the general impression of a failing economic policy and a coalition coming apart at the seams.
The statistics point to an inexorable rise in the popularity of Ukip, but it is the analysis of the reasons for that that will have sent shivers down many a minister or shadow minister’s spine this morning. A surge of Euroscepticism would seem the obvious explanation and our dear leader is turning cartwheels in his attempt to placate the large slice of the Tory party that is demanding an early referendum. Even the ardent Euro fans of the Labour and Lib Dem camps are attempting to climb on the fence on the matter of rule by Brussels.
But whilst there is some evidence that the new Ukip followers would like a say on Europe there is no sense of urgency or priority. Everything points to an escalating disgruntlement about a political class perceived as hopelessly out of touch. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ratings given to the various leaders.
Ed Miliband gets the thumbs down from 76% of would-be Ukip voters. David Cameron is almost as unpopular at 68%, and 55% believe that the Cameron/Clegg partnership is bad for Britain. Against this sort of competition it is not hard to shine and Nigel Farage does just that with a positive rating of 40%.
Perhaps most significant of all is the sense of disconnection between former members of the English Tory tribe and its current leadership. Many former Conservatives miss the demotic straight-talking of your Thatchers and Tebbits. They sense not just that Cameron and Osborne have no understanding of the daily grind but that they are made from the same stuff as Tony Blair, whom they hate, metropolitan and superficial.
And Labour’s travails are partly of a piece with those of the Tories, and come down to a sense that Labour politicians have become uncoupled from their voters. Despite Ed Miliband’s efforts, soap box and all, this does not look like a breach that is likely to be quickly healed.
It is the revelation that the Ukip surge is not just about Europe that should worry the political establishment. They can, and undoubtedly will, produce all sorts of promises to douse that fire, but dealing with what is clearly now a deeply rooted mistrust of established career politicians is a far more difficult proposition.
If this trend continues Ukip will rock the cosy political show to its very foundations. Gone for ever could be the cosy Buggins-turn of Tory and Labour, coalitions will become the new order. The present incumbants will comfort themselves that under our first-past-the -post system it is entirely possible for Ukip to take a third of the vote yet win no seats, but does anyone seriously believe that such a system could survive in a democracy?
It is all beginning to sound in line with Bob Dylan’s protest classic The Times they are a-Changin’: The line it is drawn/The curse it is cast/The slow one will later be fast…The order is/ Rapidly fadin’.
It certainly appears to be!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”The Tory party which was once anti-Powell is now becoming close to Powellite”…Gordon Brown, in Scotland yesterday.