Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’
It is certainly true that being at one with nature is a recipe for a happy life. Back in our working days we codgers gave little thought to the creatures with which we share this planet, but over the ten years since we set up our chicken cooperative we have become increasingly aware of their habits and habitats. Top of our pops are undoubtedly the birds. No talk of border controls for them – they come and go as they please and they regularly display powers of navigation that elude us even in the age of Satnavs. Mankind does its best to endanger them with pesticides, the destruction of hedgerows and the building of wind-farms but they adapt and continue to survive. A world minus bird song would be a very sad place.
And today comes news that even many of the species that have long been marked in our natural history books as extinct are in fact still very much alive. The blue-eyed ground dove fits that bill precisely. Pictures of this beautiful creature with its cobalt-blue eyes, dark blue wing spots and reddish-chestnut plumage have for all of our lifetimes been just that – pictures. Now Brazilian ornithologist Rafael Bessa has released a video featuring 12 of the doves. Wonderful evidence that birds have the capacity to survive come what may. Man continues to wage wars and destroy the environment but the birds of the air fly on undaunted.
It may seem strange to readers for whom the human world is the only show in town, but the news lifted our spirits considerably this morning. As we settled in the hut for our Desperate Dan-sized snack we reflected gleefully that our avian heroes survive and flourish without the help of health-promotion experts or the constant prattle of politicians. Cause, we concluded, to follow the advice of Ena Sharples to “think on”. Thus stimulated we passed the doughnut tray round again.
Inevitably our conversation soon drifted to the EU referendum, hardly surprising since the claims and counter-claims fill every news programme and daily comic. We have noticed that many of the most vociferous backers of the ‘Remain’ campaign owe their income and careers to the EU. Lord Kinnock, Baroness Kinnock, Lord Mandelson..there is a long list of daily spouters who benefit significantly. Throw in all those who in effect report to the Prime Minister – heads of the Bank of England, the NHS, the military, amongst them – and the wisdom of Mandy Rice Davies comes to mind ( “They would say that wouldn’t they?).
But that apart it is becoming increasingly clear that both camps are lying through their teeth. Osborne’s claims of Brexit costing each household £4,300 a year is laughable, as is the Brexit claim that £360m each week would be available to “build hospitals”. The actual net figure is in the region of £150m. Meantime our dear leader is telling dangerous porkies about Turkey and talking of inevitable war and genocide. In reality the only implication that anyone can be sure of is EU migration, and the inevitable consequence of terrorism and the overwhelming of our schools and hospitals.
But all that is, as they say, politics and the reputation of that art form is sinking into the dust. What concerns us far more is the clear evidence of electoral malpractice. For the first time in recent history the British electoral system is in danger of becoming corrupt.
Some of us are registered for postal votes, and yesterday we received an official looking governmental card entitled “Referendum Communication”. The cards were individually addressed so official confidential records have been accessed. The card announces that we will shortly receive our ballot papers and claims to provide important guidance. It then proceeds to provide “Important information”. What follows is blatant propaganda. Like the earlier £9 million ‘Government’ brochure issued to every household, this amounts to a breach of electoral rules, both in terms of permitted cost ceilings and use of the term ‘Government’ rather than Party.
Incidentally the list of ‘experts’ photographed and quoted includes Cathy Warwick, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives. Staying in the EU is, she tells us, “better for midwives”. No reason is included. By chance I was speaking yesterday to a group of local midwives at a seminar. They had no idea as to what a Chief Executive of Midwives does, and even less idea of the reasoning behind her claim. One robust lady suggested career prospects.
But propaganda and lies are one thing, fraud is another. We are not alone in believing that what the Prime Minister is now sanctioning is on a par with that of Tony Blair when he misled the nation via fraud.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” At the heart of Treasury calculations lies a serious attempt to deceive the British people. Its figures are garbage”…Patrick Minford, Professor of Applied Economics, Cardiff University.
The sun was still with us this morning, but there was a definite nip in the Spring air. It seems that the weather is now coming from the Arctic and it felt that way. But it was a positive so far as productivity was concerned, and the hens were cleaned out and the eggs collected at a rather less leisurely pace than is usually the case. In less time than it takes to say Eric Pickles we were in the allotments hut enjoying our breakfast around the fire.
I have to report that the air was blue in more ways than one. Our long-time hero Barack Obama is suddenly immensely unpopular, and whilst many of my colleagues identified with what he said there was a great sense of outrage at the fact that he chose to say it. At best it was a discourtesy to the Queen who he and the First Lady visited within hours of lecturing us. At worst it represented an attempt by him and our dear leader to involve her by implication in a political issue, the like of which she has devoted a lifetime to avoiding.
It was no surprise to us that the President was accused of hypocrisy. If he really believes that strength in today’s world depends on burying the false pride of sovereignty in a wider collection of nations it seems reasonable to ask why he doesn’t recommend a similar arrangement involving the United States, Canada, Mexico and others. The answer is simple – he would be howled down by his countrymen. And how they would respond to a British prime minister arriving to tell them to get on with it hardly bears contemplation.
Many people are still scarred by memories of what happened when George W Bush and Tony Blair decided to connive together, and it is hard to avoid the thought of here we go again. People on both sides of the EU debate have strong feelings, and the likelihood is that around half of them feel affronted this morning. During his period of office the President has struggled to implement the promises he made when he cried “Yes we can”, and we have sympathised knowing how difficult it has been. That sympathy has evaporated and now our inclination is to suggest that he focuses on persuading his own people before presuming to tell us what to do.
Within hours of his staged performance it became clear that many leading Americans found his claims about Britain “being at the back of the queue” ridiculous and inappropriate. Be that as it may it seems to us unlikely that his words will influence many either way. All he has done is to sully the grandeur of a state visit and destroy the admiration of many such as us. Suddenly that “Special Relationship” doesn’t feel very special at all.
Having vented our wrath we turned our attention to our usual Saturday tensions. For some weeks we have been caught up in the exciting prospect of ‘little’ Leicester City winning the Premiership without a millionaire player in sight. Suddenly we fear the worst. Thanks to an unbelievably inept display of refereeing by Mr Moss the gap has closed, and the team that just one year ago was facing relegation have lost the services of their star performer.
We hope that our fears prove misplaced, but the odds surely are that in two weeks time Messrs Moss and Obama will no longer feature on our Christmas card lists.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Obama’s election in 2008 inspired the world. But after eight years, it’s hard not to blame his abrasive style of politics for the rise of anti-politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Americans are rebelling against the emergence of an imperial presidency. As Barack Obama offers his hand to the Queen this week, and lectures the British on their place in the world, voters here might feel somewhat resentful too”….Tim Montgomerie, The Spectator, in “Obama’s overreach”.
Welcome to the first day of what the Met Office regards as the meteorological Spring! Hopefully its first morning is not a portent of things to come, for before we were even half way through cleaning out the bedraggled hens we were wetter than Darcy in that memorable scene, and a good deal less appealing in appearance. Being a superstitious bunch we decided against a monsoon laden omen, and postponed our opening of the long-awaited season to the equinox. And so another miserably wet morning became nothing more than the tail-end of a wretched winter. Like the Downing Street spin-doctors we are not averse to a U-turn.
In no time at all we were inside the warm and dry hut, which quickly resembled a Turkish bath as the steam from us, our piping hot Yorkshire tea and Albert’s foul pipe combined to produce a reminder of Dickensian films where Fagin can never see beyond the end of his false nose. We wiped the steamed up windows and gazed in despair at the mini-lakes covering the ground that was to have been the scene of our first March plantings. Perhaps it was meant to be, suggested Tom as he rubbed his aching back. It was a good enough rationalisation for the rest of us, and we sat back to devour both the daily comics and enough sugar to see us summoned before our GPs – if we still had any.
In fact the first report to catch our eye involved the medical profession, nurses to be precise. It seems that our local hospitals have over 2,000 unfilled nursing posts and right now are carrying out a recruitment drive in the Philippines. Meantime they are spending money they haven’t got on enriching agencies. Apparently the number of British youngsters taking up nursing has plummeted as a result of the decision to discontinue the Department of Health funding of university fees in favour of student self-funding. This inevitably leads to a debt on qualification of around £50,000 – a formidable burden given a nurse’s initial salary of £21,000. The subject was aired on last night’s ‘Inside Out’ programme on BBC1, but Jeremy Hunt declined to be interviewed. Perhaps he is as mystified as the rest of us.
Our attention flicked on to the latest threats of doom from our dear leader who is maintaining his record of a daily prophecy about the misfortunes that await us should the great British public decide to jump from the loving arms of Aunty Merkel. Today the farmers are in his sights. If we leave they will lose their annual subsidies of £3bn. Sadly he forgot to mention that we currently pay £6bn each year to the EU Common Agricultural Policy. Doesn’t that mean that should we leave, the UK taxpayer could still pay the subsidies and save £3bn into the bargain? Never mind, tomorrow there are to be official warnings that invaders from outer space will arrive here once we are no longer protected by the EU little green men early warning system is denied us.
It was at this moment that we spotted the coverage of a biography by acclaimed investigative journalist Tom Bower, which is this week being serialised in the Daily Mail. Entitled ‘Broken Vows’ the book does what the Chilcot inquiry into the invasion of Iraq has failed to for six years. The story it tells is a shocking one.
Bower reveals that Prime Minister Blair kept his invasion plans hidden from most of his Cabinet and senior civil servants, because he did not want his true intentions to leak out. He ignored pleas to make proper plans for post-war Iraq, saying that “the Americans have it all sewn up”. He attempted to get rid of senior military figures such as Admiral Boyce who questioned the plan. He told MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove, to bring raw intelligence straight to him as he tried to strengthen the case for regime change. He told Sir Richard, who helped to compile the notorious ‘dodgy dossier’ on Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, “Richard, my fate is in your hands”.
In March 2002, Mr Blair’s adviser David Manning briefed the British Ambassador in Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, that the prime minister favoured ‘regime change’ – and that failure wasn’t an option. Yet, at a Cabinet meeting on March 7, Mr Blair spoke only of bombing Iraq. In July Mr Blair denied to Parliament that any decision had been taken. But in private he had committed to war. He told President Bush that “We will be with you come what may”. Manning told him: “You can’t say that because you’re committing the British Army to an invasion which no one else knows about” – Mr Blair was unmoved.
Most catastrophic of all was the prime minister’s decision not to allow the military to begin planning for invasion for fear of ‘leaks’. Bower points out that British soldiers later died because of the lack of sufficient body armour and appropriate vehicles.
Clearly we cannot do justice to what is an exhaustive and lengthy book. But we are astonished that despite all the resources poured into Chilcot, it has taken a journalist to unearth so much damning evidence. Some of the people who were close to Downing Street at the time have already responded, and we were particularly intrigued by a comment from Andrew Turnbull, who was at the time about to take over as Cabinet Secretary. He looks back and says: “I wouldn’t call it a lie. ‘Deception’ is the right word. You can deceive without lying, by leaving a false interpretation uncorrected”.
Read the detail and judge for yourself. Pause to note such things as the first draft of the 2002 dossier by John Scarlett’s Joint Intelligence Committee which admitted there was “very little intelligence” about Saddam’s WMD programme. Then note a sharp shift when just two weeks later the comment had changed to “Iraq could produce more biological weapons within days…and nerve agents within months”. Then note Alastair Campbell’s demand to Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell that the first report required a “substantial rewrite…it has to be revelatory”.
Our impression is one of sickening lies, serial deceit and blood on the hands of a man holding the highest office in the land.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: “The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of the decision to do so”…..Scarlett dossier comment fed to media and not contradicted by the Prime Minister.
We had no need to carry buckets of boiling water this Saturday morning. Excessive amounts of the colder version cascaded from heaven as we cleaned out the hens and not for the first time this winter we found ourselves wishing that our co-operative had invested in ducks. Life would have been so much easier but the problem then, and now, is that none of us like duck eggs. Given that we are all developing webbed feet perhaps that will change, but it is too late to change now so the regular re-enactment of rescuing our Black Tail Columbians from their equivalent of Noah’s Ark must continue.
We were mighty glad to escape to the dry hut, where the area surrounding the fire soon resembled the Flying Scotsman under steam. We steamed, our mugs of Yorkshire tea steamed and those who resent Saturdays devoted to what has become a reserve team FA Cup steamed metaphorically. As did those who, behind a facade, of neutrality had hoped that our dear leader would be beaten to a pulp in Brussels.
Inevitably the EU charade dominated our noisy chatter. Even his greatest critics had to concede that David Cameron has worked hard at his mission. When it comes to giving an imitation of a Whirling Dervisher our esteemed prime minister has few equals. Only the unlamented Tony Blair could have hurled himself around with such vigour, and his motives were somewhat different. Yes we realise that personal ambition rather than the cause of Europe has driven him, but the effort level has been impressive. And now he has his piece of paper, his passport to a brave new world in which every citizen of these islands can look forward to a new age of brotherly love on a continental scale.
Well, almost every citizen. Already those politicians who focus on objectivity rather than ideology have broken cover and made clear their intentions to campaign to retain independence. Not least amongst them is Michael Gove, our Dervisher’s closest political ally. And Boris? He is of a more cynical bent and faces a difficult choice. If the noes win Cameron falls and he gets to ogle the Downing Street maids. But if he joins Gove and the rest and they lose, his dream of even becoming a minister will disappear at the stroke of a vengeful pen.
All of which may well have little impact on the great British public to whom the choice falls. Every survey of public opinion shows that it cares little about much of the stuff covered in the latter day Munich piece of A40. The overwhelming concern is immigration from Eastern Europe and nothing in the agreement addresses this. Adjustments to benefit rules will have little impact – the simple fact is that our economy is the strongest in Europe and the wages available, although much derided here, represent a King’s ransom to people struggling to survive. So the big unanswered question is how we going to fund huge increases in funding for our hospitals, schools, roads and local authority services as the population surges. Border controls or open doors is the simple choice.
Of course the politicians will now launch into their campaigns of spin. And one feature will be the unveiling of celebrity figures who will tell us which way to jump. Leading the glittering parade will be none other than President Obama. The Americans are anxious to see the UK in a position to influence Europe in a free-trading Atlanticist direction, and the last big act of the pre-Trump era will see them try every trick in the book to persuade us to share Aunty Merkel’s bedroom if not her bed.
We codgers have a lot of respect for Barack Obama, but we do have a suggestion. Since “unity is strength” would he like to propose that the United States should forthwith be united with all the countries in their continent north of the Panama Canal – Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama – into a vast customs union governed by a transnational, unelected civil service. Lets call it the American Union, or AU.
It would show that America is not small-minded, zenophobic, protectionist and isolationist. The sight of the new AU flag fluttering alongside the Stars and Stripes would surely lift many an American heart, and the good old USA would still be sufficiently influential to obtain opt-outs from the worst excesses of the new powerful block sending shudders down the spine of Vladimir Putin.
We apologise for being so tetchy but we really do think that before you lecture us Mr President you should perhaps put your money where your mouth is!
QUOTE OF THE DAY: ” Defending the truth is not something one does out of a sense of duty or to allay guilt complexes, but is a reward in itself”…. Simone De Beauvoir.
All the hot air rising from the Brussels talks must have reduced the thickness of the ice this morning for there was no need for boiling water on the allotments this morning. Just a flick from gnarled fingers was enough to make the hen water-troughs accessible, and with barely a thought as to what it must feel like to wake to a cocktail of water on ice we headed for our hut and a gallon or so of steaming hot Yorkshire tea.
We had expected by now to be reflecting on the greatest triumph since Trafalgar, but as I type the latest bulletin tells us that our dear leader is still locked in mortal combat with such leading world figures as the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and, with the aid of a couple of matchsticks, is preparing to look Aunty Merkel in the eye. She has the advantage of having been in bed all night so heaven alone knows what the final outcome will be. But we can hazard a guess. A watered down version of the already watered down UK demands for EU reform will be heralded as the start of a new golden age in which the headlines of the Daily Mail and Express will never again carry headlines telling us that the number of EU migrants has risen to 3.22 million.
Quite how this miraculous transformation will come about is a mystery given that analysts tell us that changes to benefit entitlements will have minimal effect, given that the bulk of our new citizens hail from Eastern Europe where wages average one fifth of the proposed UK ‘living wage’. Perhaps the answer is to abolish the National Statistics Office which persists in revealing such Farage-igniting facts. Mind you even that would not have prevented the comics from getting hold of the story of a jobless (for eight years) family, with eight children, who have been handed the keys to a new £1.3 million house in London.
To be honest all we yearn for is a deafening silence throughout the referendum campaign. No one is going to objectively explain the real, as against imagined, implications of leaving Aunty Merkel’s club and the whole affair is going to centre on personalities, none of whom we like. Leading the ‘Ins’ will be David Cameron waving and smirking and looking patriotic, and that will stick in our throats. Leading the ‘Outs’ will be the dashing Nigel and supporting him should surely be illegal if we have made any progress at all since the 13th century.
it is going to be a little like, for some. watching Manchester City play Arsenal. You spend the whole match thinking of a way that both sides can lose. And the polls will fluctuate daily as new ‘stars’ patronise us. “Ugh, Blair wants to stay in, I’m voting Out” will quickly turn into “Ugh, Duncan-Smith wants to come out, I’m voting In”.
Meantime the respective camps, sensing that the only decisive issue is immigration, will vie with each other to be more horrible to immigrants. Our dear leader will make statements such as, “Due to the success of the negotiations Romanians living in Britain will no longer be allowed in a Post Office until they have been working here for ten years. Try beating that Nigel”. And he will: “They will be stopped from using our pavements, so disputes at Post Office doors will not even arise”.
Yes we are being cynical, but in the absence of sensible debate it is hard to be otherwise. We even dare to wonder if those talks were really as described by breathless reporters on Newsnight. Perhaps the leaders wandered into the room looking like undertakers on a night out, before playing on their mobiles for a few hours and then emerging to say: “It’s been a tough night but we have finally come to an agreement that everything will be done differently from now on, even in a different font”. It would serve them all right if we voted to leave the EU and become a province of Peru.
Of course like everyone else we think of this almost exclusively in terms of population size and its affect on our already beleaguered public services. But we will be constantly warned about the loss of the sovereignty of our courts and parliament. But just how terrible would such a loss be? Yesterday we learned from the Supreme Court that the murder law has been misinterpreted for 30 years. On the same day we learned of the latest cock-ups by the Health Secretary, and the decidedly odd behaviour of the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition. Would a little supervision come amiss?
Perhaps in the absence of any intelligent enlightenment by the politicians who see this as an opportunity to advance their own careers we will gain understanding of the issues from the great British public. Perhaps but perhaps not. Last night the Beeb set out to thrust their furry ferrets under the noses of the “man in the street”. A typical response came from a bloke standing outside of what looked like a forest of upturned brooms. “Well”, said he, “We’ve put up with it for 40 years so why not go on doing that…know what I mean?”.
Not really! Stop the world, we want to get off!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily this is not difficult”….Charlotte Whitton.
So it’s farewell to the Indie. Forty years ago the Independent was launched to a fanfare of trumpets, and many liked the idea of a daily without a political agenda. But circulation has fallen to a mere 500,000 and soon the printing presses will be silenced. It’s low-cost ‘i’ stable-mate will continue, having been purchased by the Johnson group. The Indie will continue online but for how long? The, to us, sad news may well be the taste of things to come for, ‘i’ apart, every national paper is losing ground and the pundits forecast a total wipe-out over the next ten years. Somehow reading a screen with our cornflakes will not be the same.
As we cleaned out the hens, on the fourth blue-sky morning in succession, we found ourselves wondering if the prospective loss of the daily comics may be to some a happy prospect. Several stories splashed this morning are probably typical of the sort of stuff that will never see the light of day once the main news source lies with the more sedate selection of the nerds and the Beeb. Fast forward a decade and we would probably have heard nothing about the brother of Gorgeous George’s brother being struck off the medical register, or the appalling revelations about HMP Dovegate – a prison run by Serco where violence and overcrowding is the norm. Even the story about Geoffrey Cox, MP, who seemingly forgot to declare earnings of £400,000 might not merit a Huw Edwards raised eyebrow.
But as we settled around the allotments hut fire we reflected that the disappearance of the comics could have implications for other than the titillation of the older and nosier generation. If for example our dear leader had no obedient outlets for his EU campaign how on earth would he conduct it? Each day we are fed implausible stories about Vladimir Putin arriving just one day after a Brexit, of the Calais “mobs” moving camp to Trafalgar Square, of every UK business becoming a pound shop, or whatever potential disaster can be dreamed up during a spin-doctors coffee break.
In fact he would be obliged to stick to what the Beeb likes to call verifiable facts, an altogether different sell. He might even be obliged to mention the Charter of Human Rights, a legally binding agreement that you, like us, may know very little about.
This was solemnly proclaimed in 2000. It described 50 new “rights, freedoms and principles” in addition to the 20-odd rights in the European Convention of Human Rights. So the Charter was a far more sweeping document. In 2007 it was given legal force by the Lisbon Treaty. At the time Brussels loudly proclaimed that it would change nothing. Smelling a rat, the Labour government asked for – and was given – an assurance in writing that Britain would not be affected by the Charter. It was called ‘Protocol 30’. Before the ink was dry, concerns were voiced about its precise meaning and effect, Tony Blair assured the Commons that the UK had “an opt-out from both the Charter and judicial and home affairs”.
In March 2011 Ken Clarke, then Conservative Justice Secretary, said that the Charter was of “purely presentational importance”. In the English courts, however, another picture was emerging. Take the case of ‘NS’, an Afghan asylum seeker, who the UK government wished to deport. He sought to invoke the Charter of Fundamental Rights – which according to Blair, Clarke et al was legally impossible. This was referred to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg which ruled that the British opt-out has no legal force and the Charter applies in Britain in precisely the same way as in any other EU state. Mr Justice Mostyn has clarified things: “The Charter is now part of our domestic law, and will remain so even if the Human Rights Act were repealed”.
In other words so long as we remain members of the EU our courts and parliament will be subservient to EU laws. Whatever statements of intent our dear leader may produce to placate Boris on sovereignty they will have no legal standing. And the Charter has not been included in the so-called renegotiations. Whether they regard it as a good or bad thing everyone needs to understand that our courts and parliament have no powers to overrule the edicts of Brussels.
We codgers tend to the view that this legal clarification represents a somewhat larger threat to the independence of these islands than the arrival of Putin’s army.
So why has this all-important issue received no mention in the daily hoo-hah about EU membership? Probably because the bearded one believes that we should be part of Europe whatever the implications, whilst the government is too busy fighting internal battles with its own MP’s, the medical profession and local authorities.
Who knows? But one thing is now apparent. We are soon to be asked to approve a life-changing and complex jigsaw, and the largest piece is not on the table!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” The goodwill of doctors who work hours beyond those they are rots-ed and paid to do will dry up.
The Health Secretary has alienated an entire generation of junior doctors. We have no confidence in him, he must be sacked”…Dr Hannah Mitchell, daughter of former Conservative minister Andrew Mitchell.
Blue sky and dry underfoot – Thursday got off to a perfect start this morning. It says everything about the chaotic state of our weather that this felt unusual for it was in reality a normal winter’s day. But we resolved to be thankful for small mercies as the hens willingly scuttled from their coops. Amazingly egg production continues at a high level – clearly the chooks have adjusted better to the almost daily fluctuations in temperature than we humans.
Anyway the result was that we retired to the allotments hut both dry and in good humour. But the latter didn’t last long, for the news that Google-style sweetheart tax deals which HMRC reaches with international giants such as Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and LinkedIn are to remain a closely guarded secret is galling. It seems that the Google settlement only became public because the company wished it, and even they now realise that boasting about a payment equivalent to 3 per cent was not such a good idea after all.
Why these people should be allowed to negotiate their liabilities is beyond understanding, we can only hope that the new EU-wide initiative to oblige multi-nationals to pay tax at the point of profit becomes reality. Unsurprisingly the bearded one chose to castigate our dear leader at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Question Time. The response amounted to this all being the fault of Grumpy Gordon, Since he departed some six years ago we tend to wonder if this defence is now wearing a trifle thin.
Meantime we were all disgusted by the revelation that British Airways forced a disabled passenger off a flight, having realised that they would not be able to fit her specialist electric wheelchair in the hold, despite having been informed 72 hours in advance. Having ejected Athena Stevens the airline managed to damage her only means of mobility, and so far has failed to offer compensation. Just what world do these bigoted and uncaring people inhabit?
It must surely be one in which they have no regard for, or awareness of, reputation. If so they are not alone. Take a bow the supposed regulators of tax-avoidance schemes. It has emerged that PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young all operate such, despite acting as advisers to government on tax law. it seems clear that the silence of the Financial Reporting Council and the Institute of Chartered Accountants is down to the fact that they are dominated by the very firms they are supposed to police. The result is no questions asked and plenty of peerages, knighthoods and government consultancies all round. It is not difficult to understand the anger of Bedroom Tax victims who, having won their case in the courts, now learn that oodles of public money is to be spent on a government appeal.
Another resident in the reputational unawareness room would inevitably be our old nemesis Tony Blair. Yesterday he paused from his money-garnering road show to lecture us on the perils of leaving the EU. We wonder if David Cameron welcomes Mr Blair’s confirmation that what he is telling us is true. It sounds to us rather like a missionary having the Kray twins as his spokesmen.
But all was not negative as we reached our second doughnuts. We were delighted that Frances Harding has become only the second children’s author to win the Costa Book of the Year. Her novel ‘The Lie Tree’ is about a 14-year-old Victorian girl called Faith who is determined to find out the truth when her father is found dead in mysterious circumstances. It is a great read for children and adults alike, and it is good to see recognition of the importance of children’s books in an age of constantly flickering screens.
But our thoughts quickly turned to last night’s televised Holocaust Memorial event. Even after so many years it is difficult to believe the utter barbarity of Hitler and his Nazi guttersnipes. Harder still to grasp is the reality that millions of Germans cooperated or remained silent as millions were mercilessly exterminated. And still acts of genocide abound around the world, and what the so-called Islamic State is doing right now is yet another appalling example.
Religious intolerance and anti-Semitism are on the rise again. People are dying because of their religion; war is back on Europe’s doorstep. Now is the time to remind ourselves what can happen when hatred and intolerance are allowed to triumph, and ensure it never happens again.
And yesterday was a particularly bad day for a British Prime Minister to dismiss desperate people fleeing conflict as a “bunch of migrants”. When masks slip what is revealed is very sobering indeed.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do”….Anne Lamott.
It is said that talking to oneself is the first sign of insanity. That being the case the men in white coats will soon be heading for the allotments, for there was a great deal of almost inaudible muttering going on this morning as we cleaned out the hens. But perhaps this was the exception to the rule, for the seemingly deranged were Manchester United supporters. For as long as most of them can remember their hard-earned cash has bought them spectacles of blood, thunder and glory, and watching performances in the paint-drying category has unnerved them. So preoccupied were they that they probably didn’t even notice that the perpetual rain had been replaced with frost.
The rest of us did, and were grateful for the hut fire when we gathered around it. It was at this point that real conversation broke out. We had expected the odious Jeremy Hunt to resort to his spin-doctors in a last minute attempt to discredit the real ones who plan to strike this week, and he didn’t disappoint. A troll of patients wired up in intensive care departments had provided a perfect story line. Encouraged to believe that connections to life-saving equipment would be switched off the moment junior doctors exited, understandably distraught relatives pleaded for the would-be strikers to think again. Of course anyone with any detailed knowledge of hospitals knows that such care is not within the orbit of junior doctors, but as inventions go it was a good one.
It prompted a lively discussion about our yearning for that rarest of creatures – an honest politician. What followed was to an extent based on a fallacy, the belief that spin and dishonesty is the unique feature of today’s motley crew. It isn’t – virtually every government we have ever had has been tarred with the same brush, only the army of professional advising fantasy-makers represents a change. The sad, infuriating truth seems to be that the very art of succeeding in British politics requires an ability and willingness to tell lies unequalled in any other walk of life.
Yesterday our dear leader demonstrated his skill of deception. We are, he told Andrew Marr, close to an agreemnt on EU reforms and a June referendum is now probable. Perhaps even he has forgotten the truth. Which is that during an election campaign that the polls told him he was in danger of losing, he tossed in various ‘goodies’ including a vote on EU membership. At a stroke he neutralised both his party sceptics and drew the sting from the rampaging Farage. His resignation speech having been quietly disposed of as he awaited the results at Rebekah’s place, he realised that he was now committed to a public vote.
He subsequently also realised that, given his own declared preference, a ‘Leave’ vote would trigger his own untimely departure. Time for deception. Quietly drop talk of closed borders, and focus instead on benefits payments to EU migrants, few of whom actually claim them. Agree vague weasel-words with Aunty Merkel and the rest and bingo. Then warn the great British public of the perils of operating alone, and his triumphant as-planned retirement was assured. Does he really care about the EU? Probably not, but in politics personal survival transcends true beliefs.
There are of course countless examples of other deceptions by this government and its predecessor, the coalition. But it was always thus. We all know about the big Blair lie, but his election triumphs all owed much to dishonesty and distortion. I remember well travelling, together with a group of GPs, to respond to his invitation to set up a trial of the concept of Primary Care Trusts, a living example of power over healthcare being transferred to local communities. We spent two hours with him and emerged convinced that utopia had arrived. We worked our socks off, even to the extent of touring the country trumpeting our plans. On launch day we received a bouquet from Downing Street. Three years later the scheme which by then covered the whole country was dropped, and millions of pounds of public money written off. As was its successor and its successor until we ended back where we started.
Go back much further in time and the same behavioural pattern is apparent. Left-wing advocates of state-ownership never seem to grasp that it is a disaster simply because it leaves dishonest politicians in charge. As a senior manager in the state-owned British Leyland I saw at first hand the lies told over the gifting of the profitable Truck and Bus businesses to the near-bankrupt Dutch company DAF. I was present when Ministers forced through the disposal of valuable public assets such as National Bus, AEC, Scammell and others. Billions of pounds were gifted to delighted private interests, all of whom had friends in high places. British manufacturing was systematically destroyed and thousands of skilled men left without even the consolation of pensions.
I still have documentary evidence of malpractice on a grand scale. Enough to write a book, but who would read it? We now live in an age where almost no one believes that successful politicians are to be believed or trusted. No one would be remotely surprised.
But why? It cannot be the case that everyone choosing politics is dishonest. The evidence suggests that to climb to the top one has to win elections, and to do that one has to win the support of people of all persuasions, interests and none. To do this one has to be all things to all men, and that entails abandoning integrity. And because a career at the top can be short-lived it creates a desire to make personal hay whilst the sun shines.
MPs who have known Jeremy Corbyn for many years tell me that he is a conviction politician, a man committed to the truth as he sees it. The result is that he is doomed to failure. On any issue he refuses to budge one inch from his beliefs and principles, and the result is that he constantly alienates everyone who doesn’t share his viewpoint. Popularity will always elude him as the masses turn to saviours who sound as though they represent their beliefs and needs.
As someone who once graduated in political history I wish that I could quote an example of just one leading successful politician who refused to bow to popular demand, who stuck to the truth. Sadly I can’t.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is more important than the outcome”….Arthur Ashe.
Bill and I are on our way to Bacup. I hasten to add that he is driving as I hammer at these keys. We are responding to a request for advice from a group of allotment-holders who are keen to establish a hen cooperative, and we are happy to exchange the little we know for a little hospitality.
Bill was quick to volunteer to accompany me. He is a long-retired police officer and is looking forward to revisiting his beat of the sixties. He recalls that his detection rate was so impressive that within four years he was promoted to sergeant. Only now does he reveal how he single-handedly became the Sherlock of Bacup. There was, it seems, a steady flow of petty crime and as each one was reported he called at just one home. There dwelt a family of Dad, Mum and eleven children. It took but a moment to establish the culprit. Bill has happy memories of the Fagan tribe.
The journey to Bacup is hardly of the Major Tim variety and we were soon there. But no morning is complete without gripes and two occupied our thoughts as we navigated the usual M65 roadworks. The first was the appalling betrayal of our troops who served in Iraq.
Five years ago the government set aside £57 million to investigate 152 allegations of ill treatment of Iraqi civilians by the British army. Now the number of claims being examined by the 145-strong Iraq Historical Allegations Team has passed the 1,500 mark and is increasing at a rate of 20 per week. The Ministry of Defence pays an Iraqi agent a basic salary of £40,000 a year to help supposed victims, and British legal firms are funded from the public purse to work on a no-claim-no-fee basis. Any cash-strapped Iraqi family is free to ‘recall’ some injustice suffered during the invasion and occupation.
Anyone who has served on the front line in a hostile environment knows that incidents happen. Troops are constantly faced with extremely threatening situations and their choice is constantly to shoot or be shot. It is called war, something not a single minister has ever faced. Now a full scale witch-hunt is under way and, many years on, troops who were lauded for their valour are being hung out to dry.
In many cases their reward for serving their country in an unwinnable conflict has been homelessness, unemployment and life-changing injury. Now they are to be subjected to interrogation by lawyers amassing fortunes. Compare that with the lot of the man that sent them to war via a lie. Former Prime Minister Blair is busy making multi-millions as a “peace envoy” and at worst faces a slap on the wrist if Chilcot ever publishes his findings.
There may or may not have been a case for investigations in the immediate aftermath of the toppling of Saddam, but that time has long gone. Now anyone looking for an opportunity to make money is being funded by British taxpayers. It is a disgrace, a total scandal. If soldiers were allowed to strike, it would not be just the Junior Doctors who were preparing to walk out. If the present government had even a shred of decency it would call a halt now.
As we neared our destination the other subject that caught our eye was the disgraceful state of our transport services. The average cost of a ticket on the underground or bus services in our capital is £2.70. Contrast that with Berlin or Munich at £1.90. Contrast arrival times for our trains with the rest of Europe – over 10 per cent lateness compares with almost total punctuality. And commuters are paying 25 per cent more for rail season tickets on average since David Cameron took office.
And the response from government? In twenty years time we will spend £59 billion on high-speed trains geared for reduce journey times for businessmen who by then will not be travelling to hold meetings!
We’ve arrived. Time to talk of Black-Tail Columbians – chickens to you ignoramuses.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: “The meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself”….LOUISCK.
As is their tradition my fellow codgers greeted Monday morning with a fit of the blues. Some things are harder to love than others and the pain of Mondays long gone linger on. The memories of a sense of freedom lost still loom large, but today it would have been more logical to thank the lucky stars that located us here rather than thirty miles further north. The situation in parts of Cumbria is chaotic, and whilst we Brits are veterans in the art of chaos, one can only imagine that the good folk of Kendal have more to think about than Mondays of long ago. And when Tim Farron gets trapped and realises that there are even worse fates than leading the Lib Dems you know that Cumbrians are in, er, deep water.
We were more fortunate. Yes the allotments look as if a herd of wild buffaloes has passed through, but at least Operation Clean-up involves only replacing the roof of the greenhouse and returning an assortment of wheelie-bins to their rightful owners. Having restored order we cleaned out the squabbling hens and retired to the hut which stands intact thanks to Albert’s insistence on using long nails. The wee man is not, we were forced to agree, quite as daft as he sometimes appears.
Those of us who regularly visit London were somewhat concerned that the madmen of Isis seem to have decided to transfer their odious activities to the Tube. But we were pleased that the ever resilient Cockneys have responded in typical fashion. In no time at all ‘You Ain’t Muslim Bruv’ has become an international watchword – spot on. And it is surely high time that the media dropped the respectful ‘So-called Islamic State’ nonsense. ‘Violent Fascists’ would do far more to bring home to everyone just what these scumbags really are.
Over our steaming mugs of Yorkshire tea we reflected on the first piece of positive news we have received on them. It appears that growing unrest among local populations are beginning to threaten their hold on areas under their control. Reports filtering out from the Middle East suggest that adherence to a brutal view of Islam, enforced by unwelcome foreign fighters, is creating unrest among the population it is struggling to keep within its borders. Amid defections from disgruntled fighters, often unpaid because of air strikes on oil supply lines, a sclerotic economy where prices fluctuate for often non-existent goods, and high taxes, the caliphate is weakening. The brutality of life is now bringing the population to the brink of revolt and a mass exodus is under way. That means fewer taxes and vital income. It seems that even the promise of paradise with virgins is beginning to lose its appeal. Good news, so long as it doesn’t mean that yet more will take advantage of our porous border controls, and judges obsessed with the human rights of those who threaten those of everyone else.
But it seems that they are not the only ones living in a fantasy world. Tom handed round a a print-off from the salary benchmark website emoluments. Its research shows that bankers are “set for a lean Christmas”. Top-ranked managers in the struggling fixed income, currencies and commodities sector are being obliged to accept cuts in salary of up to £25,000. So at last the people that created the mess that affects us all are being brought down to earth? Not quite. Their salaries are being reduced to £265,000. Deal advisers will see their pay fall to £239,000. Only equity traders will enjoy the usual rise – 2.3 per cent will see them at £361,000.
The most amazing feature is that the rest of us are expected to applaud at the evidence that the bankers are returning to the real world. Even before you add on the inevitable bonuses these grasping, greedy individuals really do believe themselves one hundred times more deserving than the vast majority of the population. Perhaps the banks in our patch would like to set up a few libraries to replace the 40 now being closed in the interest of austerity?
But our biggest concern on this nippy Monday morning was triggered by the reminder from Royal Mail that on April 21st next it will be issuing stamps to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday. Whilst we respect the views of Jeremy Corbyn and the rest about privilege and unelected heads of state, we firmly believe that the monarchy is a valuable institution. It prevents a politician taking over the role of president, and all the potential scandal and sense of national insecurity that would surely follow. For longer than most of us can remember the Queen, and her father before her, have never once given the republicans an opportunity to ferment opposition. And they know full well that the royals remain immensely popular with the vast majority of the British public.
But no one lives for ever and the likelihood is that over the next decade Charles will ascend to the throne. The thought that he may provide the malcontents with the opportunity they yearn for worries us. The recent edicts from Prince Charles about what the media may or may not ask was tactless at best. And his seeming enthusiasm for lobbying politicians and commenting on politically sensitive issues could open the floodgates for those crazy enough to believe that having someone like Blair as head of state would be in the country’s interest.
Of course we understand why someone such as Charles feels the need to speak out. But it is dangerous. Hopefully he still has time to consider a new motto. Look before you leap, your Royal Highness!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” All human actions have one or more of these causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, greed, passion and desire”….Aristotle.
Can hell be worse that this we asked our resident sinner Albert as we squelched through the mud this morning. There was no answer for our diminutive pal was buried within his Eskimo suit as he clung to a post to avoid being despatched in the direction of Manchester airport. But it was a fair question for this was a Saturday morning like no other. The wind howled, torrential rain fell from a black sky and the main greenhouse had parted company from the glass panels that we assiduously polished just days ago. It was no surprise to learn that the UK has just “enjoyed” its dullest November in 86 years. During the past month there were just 36.6 hours of sunshine, under two-thirds of the long-term average.
The best we could manage for our hens was to place the food under the one remaining roof and to deposit half of Blackpool beach over the worst of the miniature lakes. In no time at all we were slumped in the dry hut. Perhaps those who argue that global warming is a myth were still tucked up in bed – all we know is that something is going mightily wrong.
By now Albert’s socks were draped in front of the fire, Tom’s pipe was belching smoke and the jam from many a doughnut was trickling down many a chin. The resulting aroma was in the Lady Gaga class, and a sense of stupification set in. But no one was inclined to venture out again and conversation began. Some were intrigued by our dear leader’s claim that the addition of our small number of planes to the masses already bombing Syria will in some mysterious way lead to “negotiations”. He tends to make the Isis madmen sound like disgruntled Lib Dems, sadly the reality is different. Indeed our contention that the main Islamic threat lies far beyond the Middle East seems more accurate by the day. Both the murderers in California and Paris are now suspected of having links with the UK – perhaps we are bombing the wrong country!
Looking back at the past week it seemed to us that no one on high seems inclined to grapple with the grim reality of the enemy within. Yesterday the dashing Nigel, in a fit of sour grapes after his Oldham drubbing, did prattle on about hundreds of postal votes being filled in by others given that the rightful voters speak no English. Doesn’t that suggest that integration is a distant dream? We would have been reassured to have heard so much as mention of this crucial challenge during the 10-hour Commons debate. In the view of at least some of us our elected ones were right to demand that we show solidarity with our allies, but do they really believe that abolishing the fear that now stalks our streets is so easily achieved?
Inevitably the Isis threat has dominated this weeks headlines, but one aspect of the coverage in the comics has left us bemused. The Daily Torygraph gushed that shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn “didn’t just look like the Leader of the Opposition. He looked like the Prime Minister”. The rest of the media fawned too. Commentators fell over themselves in the rush to describe his Commons speech as outstanding, historic, brilliant, electrifying and spellbinding. And that was only the more restrained summaries.
For us it is a classic example of a love of style over substance. Yes, Benn’s oratory was of the highest order but what did he actually say. That effectively amounted to “Fascism is bad” delivered in broad, impassioned brush strokes. It was an Olivier version of someone who believes in his right to rule, and that’s hugely appealing to a political and media elite cut from the same cloth. It was a polished portrayal of how Westminster image-management works – it is not what you say but how you say it. But is that really the sort of political leader we need and want?
Few bothered to comment on what Jeremy Corbyn had to say. Had they done so they might well have disagreed with him, but they would at least have been obliged to admit that his speech was one of substance and reasoned argument. But he mumbles, and is to oratory what Eric Pickles is to hang-gliding. Clem Attlee was equally poor in the oratory stakes, but he was spared the TV cameras. Yet he proved to be the greatest reforming Prime Minister of modern times. Geoffrey Howe was often compared to a dead sheep, but it was the substance of what he said that brought down the Iron Lady. On the other side of the coin, Tony Blair and David Cameron have the art of eloquence at their finger-tips. But what do they actually say?
Winston Churchill took the English language and turned it into a weapon, but the circumstances then were very different to now. We knew exactly who the enemy was, where they were and who led them. Today’s crisis calls for more than spellbinding rants. Far from demonstrating true leadership, Hilary Benn has convinced many that a very complex problem can be resolved in a very simple way. He has taken umbrage at the comparison drawn by Alex Salmond with his late father Tony. But we agree with Salmond. Yes Tony too was a polished orator, but no one could accuse him of a lack of detailed analysis!
Any sympathy or empathy within us this morning was reserved for Alan Yentob. His decision to stand down as the BBC’s creative director was surely precipitated by the announcement that the Beeb plans to investigate whether he tried to influence the reporting of events surrounding the collapse of Kids Company. Allegations that the charity mishandled millions of pounds in government and private donations resulted in him making two appearances in front of a parliamentary committee to clarify matters. Like many others, not least the Prime Minister, he was clearly discomfited and bemused by the antics of the charity’s founder Camila Batmanghelidjh. In truth he lives in a tiny, precious world of luvvies, and was totally unsuited to play chairman to someone he neither understood or could control.
Alan, however well meaning, wasn’t up to the job. But he is a brilliant programme-maker and the BBC has blundered. If he did attempt to influence the news editors he wouldn’t be the first, and he certainly didn’t succeed. He was putty in the hands of Camila and he did nothing wrong. Now he is lost to the arts where he was a giant in substance if not in style.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Corbyn’s election was a resounding vote in favour of complex political discussions that don’t present well in a slick speech, but which are necessary if we’re to participate in a democracy, rather than just clap at political theatre from the sidelines”….Rachel Shabi, Independent, 4/12/2015.
On mornings such as this it is easier to forget all the talk about ominous changes to our weather patterns. We arrived at the allotments under blue skies and had no need for wellies. A carpet of leaves of many colours covered yesterday’s expanses of mud, the beds of begonias staged their brilliant last stand against the passage of time, and suddenly all was as it should be on a November morning. Had we not seen the weekend weather forecast we could easily have believed that the freak storm ravaging Scotland was nothing more than God expressing his displeasure at the antics of Saint Nicola.
As always the Daily Torygraph provided a sense of continuity in a rapidly changing world. Each day brings another instalment in the story of the dastardly Jeremy Corbyn. If the Downing Street mouthpiece is to be believed the bearded one seems to have a major problem in the bowing department. On Sunday, despite wearing a red poppy and singing the national anthem, he failed to bow to the glorious depth displayed by our dear leader, and yesterday after kissing the Queen’s hand he scarcely bowed at all during a short Privy Council ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Since other comics have revealed that the Palace has refused to comment, and what happens at the Council is a closely guarded secret, it is hard to imagine how they know this. But even as we speak tomorrow’s headlines are being prepared, and we can expect to learn that this unutterable cad, who didn’t even go to either Eton or Oxford, has failed to bow to Mrs Corbyn on the morning of her birthday.
But at least Albert feels vindicated this morning. His lifelong ambition is to become a spy, and he has honed his latent skills by leading a one-man mission to find Lord Lucan amongst the Tesco crowds. He has always insisted that there is good money to be made from the noble profession, and today’s news has given him encouragement. It has emerged that the greatest spy of them all, Sir John Scarlett, shared £800,000 from a private consultancy company, SC Strategy, that he co-owned with the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile.
It would be nice to report that such bounteous reward was the result of Casino Royale style activities, but it appears that the only client of this sideline venture was Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. Tony Blair’s £2.5m-a-year consultancy with the Wall Street bank, JP Morgan, saw him mediate a deal between the mining giant Glencore and the Qatari Prime Minister. When Sir John left the Joint Intelligence Committee in 2004, few in MI6 expected him to return to the fold. Mr Blair thought differently. He was promoted to “C” – the chief of SIS. His appointment was seen by many as a thank-you for his support for Blair during the crisis caused by the mysterious death of WMD expert David Kelly. It seems likely that the Qatar introduction was his bonus.
Make of that what you will, but it leaves us with the uneasy feeling that even those who lurk in the shadows to guard our nation from real-life Dr No’s are perhaps not quite as self-sacrificing as 007. But we colleagues of the next head of MI6 had other matters on our minds as we settled in the hut for our mugs of Yorkshire tea this morning. We had spotted a small piece in today’s Independent which let it be known that Sir Cliff Richard has been interviewed by the South Yorkshire police.
The star met with officers voluntarily to answer questions relating to allegations that a boy was sexually assaulted in the 1980s, some thirty odd years ago. It is almost a year since the police staged a dramatic early-morning raid on the home of the absent Sir Cliff. To ensure maximum publicity they invited a BBC helicopter to film the arrival of armed policemen in a convoy of vehicles far greater than anything they have managed when dragging suspected bomb-makers from their beds. The police went to inordinate lengths to ensure that the evening news bulletins led with a story carrying carefully constructed ‘no smoke without fire’ underlying implication. It was only later that it became clear that there was no question of an arrest or charges.
It is hard to imagine what the past year has been like for the ever-young singer. The police have left the allegations hanging in the air, and yesterday his spokesman stated for the umpteenth time that the allegations are “completely false”. Once again Sir Cliff was neither arrested nor charged.
This stinks to high heaven. The police should not be above the law, and they should not be free to deliberately blacken someone’s reputation until such time as they have sufficient evidence to bring charges. Having failed to do that they most certainly shouldn’t be free to allow the implications of their bully-boy tactics to continue to trigger speculation for a seemingly unending period. This is a classic example of the police acting as judge and jury, and behaving in a way that suggests they believe that they have absolute power to do whatever comes into their seemingly vindictive heads.
We have no idea as to whether there is any substance in what one individual claims happened three decades ago. But for us time is up for the police. Cliff Richard doesn’t strike us as a dishonest man and if, as we suspect, the police still have no evidence capable of standing up in court he should sue them and oblige whoever authorised this gestapo-like affair to explain themselves.
Like everyone else we believe absolutely that victims of abuse should be listened to. But that doesn’t mean that the truth of what they say shouldn’t be verified, and it certainly doesn’t mean that those accused should be named and shamed before it is.
On most days we share the general concern at what the government is doing to police numbers. But this morning we are inclined to the view that the fewer there are the better!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Everyone in public life should be arrested at least once. It’s an education!”….Alan Clark.
It was sunny, albeit chilly, as we cleaned out the hens this morning. But some of my allotments pals were in a rebellious mood. Our local village post office closed its doors for the last time on Saturday and, for reasons I cannot entirely fathom, they were deeply resentful about what they see as the latest example of the death of local communities. I know what they mean for slowly but surely local people are being forced in the direction of the big towns and cities, and they in turn are rapidly losing their small shops in favour of a sea of estate agents, charity shops and enough coffee shops to satisfy the parched hordes of the Sahara. Plus a dozen Wetherspoons of course.
But I have to confess that Post Offices do not rank high in my list of new-age deprivations. There has never, in my book, been a less pleasurable, more Soviet-style environment in which to pass half an hour than in a British post office queue. At their peak you could conduct any of 231 types of transactions there – renew your TV licence, collect pensions and family allowances, pay car tax, withdraw or deposit money in a savings account, buy premium bonds, post parcels..the list of services on offer was varied in the extreme. All that was required of you was that you be white-haired, hard of hearing and able to spend up to an hour hunting through a tiny coin purse for a 20p piece. But I do acknowledge that old ‘uns in rural places who lack transport or online facilities are the victims here. Instead of waddling down to exchange the time of day with Mrs Biggins they now face the duel task of cadging lifts and queues growing ever longer as a result of the Post Office reducing staff in the interest of “streamlining services”.
But it was the dreaded Monday morning and by the time we settled in the warm hut thoughts had inevitably turned to the life and times of Mourinho who, it seems, stands in danger of pocketing a few more million pounds of Russian largesse. As with the Post Offices I find it hard to understand the tears shed by my pals for the Premiership managers who receive P45s every time one of their millionaire stars misses the penalty that would have secured a vital three points. Unjust it may be but if someone kept firing me from my role as chicken -keeper with the consolation of a £6 million cheque I really believe that I would accept my fate.
Whenever the chatter turns to money the name of Gorgeous George invariably surfaces before anyone can say doughnuts. And so it was this morning. A few days ago we wrote of the favourite for the Tory leadership digging his own grave, and this weekend has seen him digging deeper. Our dashing Etonian choose to announce that like his former heroine he is not for turning. He was of course referring to his plan for tax credit cuts which, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, will cost “millions of people up to £1,300 per year”.
Whilst the right-hand man to the bearded one, shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, was quick to promise not to crow should he stop digging, his fellow Tories were less inclined to offer solace. Leading the charge was the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson. “It’s not acceptable”, she told the Mail on Sunday, “we can’t have people suffering in this way”. Others followed, even ex-minister David Willetts, the reports of whose death have clearly been greatly exaggerated, emerged from somewhere to talk of an economic policy “skewed too far in favour of well-off pensioners”. In fact the only leading light we didn’t hear from over a weekend of Osborne-baiting was Boris. Perhaps he was too busy rubbing his hands?
But for those amongst us who enjoy studying the antics of politicians the highlight of the weekend was the start of the latest Blair spin operation on Iraq. Clearly he knows something we don’t, and we suspect that Chilcot is about to release his report which has taken longer that Hadrian devoted to his wall. Our former Prime Minister chose a CNN Europe interview to make his move. “Sorry” screamed the headlines of his media friends. What he actually said was that he was sorry he had believed intelligence reports that Saddam held weapons of mass destruction. He was also sorry that planning for the post-Saddam era was somewhat flawed. Considering that what he did led to the death of many service men and women and countless civilians that is not impressive is it?
Even worse in many ways, what he did undoubtedly led to the horrendous situation we face today with the butchers of the so-called Islamic State. But what we all realise is that everything that he did was driven by his desire to share with George W Bush the glory of being seen as the most powerful man in the world. If Chilcot has done his job well we will see clear evidence that Blair had committed to war long before he so much as mentioned it to the Commons.
Unlike our embattled Chancellor Tony Blair does not have the option of stopping his grave digging. His version is already overflowing with real bodies of innocents who, like us, naively believed that a Prime Minister’s word was his bond. Now he makes millions as he attempts to pre-empt the final verdict.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” A total of 179 British service personnel were killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Human rights groups say at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died”.
Those amongst us who are James Bond devotees seemed mightily excited at the news that ministers are looking into the possibility of moving the security services of MI5 and MI6 out of their expensive Thames-side headquarters. The cost of keeping them there is said to run at £35,000 per person per year and cheaper rents are the target. A move would free up two large prime central London properties, and Chinese – who else – investors are interested. The search for a new home for the spies is on, and my pals were speculating as to whether the large empty building adjoining the allotments might do the trick. Spies next door they chortled this morning, although Albert worried that they might then begin to spy on us. Either way one suspects that the real men in grey macs would be slightly less glamorous than 007.
Perhaps it was the return of the monsoons that triggered such escapist nonsense. There was certainly no pleasure to be derived from dwelling on reality as we splashed around and lifted over a hundred hens from their coops – they having shown a marked reluctance to test the waterproof quality of their feathers. But dirty coops lead quickly to infestations of Red Mites and they had to come out. Given the sensation of God pouring bucket loads on to our balding pates we cleaned out in record time and headed for the hut. The hens did their equivalent.
Our steaming rain-wear competed for space around the fire as we set to on our Yorkshire tea and doughnuts and began to put the world to rights. We were fascinated to note that the location of Her Majesties opposition has shifted to inside the ranks of the Tory MPs. Heidi Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, yesterday used her maiden speech to deliver a withering critique of Gorgeous George’s plan to cut tax credits. She warned that the “poorest and most vulnerable” would be hit by the £4.4bn package of cuts, leaving them with the “choice of eating or heating to make ends meet”. Last night a succession of Tory MPs called in the Commons for a rethink of the plans following claims that 3.2 million will see their tax credits cut. For good measure the BBC news featured various Conservative voters who struggle on in low-paid employment and described the plan as the last straw. That man of the people Jeremy Corbyn was not present, being on parade at the Palace in his white bow, and it was nice to know that the role of kicking ministers no longer rests on his sagging shoulders.
But for us the big story concerns the state visit of President Xi. Of course we understand the need to foster trade with an emerging power such as China. What we find astonishing is the ferocious zeal of British sycophancy. The pattern of behaviour during this visit speaks of something deeper than the demands of expediency. Britain has become the Basil Fawlty of the planet, switching at will between bullying or patronising the weak, and prostrating itself before the rich and powerful. And the instinctive response to this sucking up to China is exactly the same cringeful laughter that greets Basil’s desperate ingratiations to Lord Melbury.
“of course, we’ll raise all these issues,” said our dear leader yesterday when asked about cheap steel dumping, human rights abuses and the rest. That, he purred, is “what our special relationship with China is all about”. Yeah, yeah, we heard all that from Mr Blair when he donned tight jeans for the visit to George W Bush. Likewise eight years ago when Gordon Brown arranged for the Queen to host a state banquet for for Saudi King Abdullah who popped over from a land where the punishment for being gang-raped was a humane 200 strokes of the lash.
The truth is that the Chinese will respect sycophancy no more than the Americans or Saudis. Quite the reverse. It would be nice – if only for our self-respect – to imagine Britain not rolling over and hitching up her skirt at the first sniff of Chinese money. Then again what cut-price old whore ever plays hard to get.
Prince Charles showed the way. He met the President to discuss trade, he drew the line at dining with someone who demands the right to dictate who he should and shouldn’t meet. No names, no Dalai Lama. Good for Charles. He is known to be a Fawlty Towers fan!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Where every man in a country has a vote, brutal laws are impossible”… Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee, 1889.
This website has been down for almost a week. Unfortunately it’s disappearance coincided with the disappearance on holiday of the only member with IT skills, and all we were able to ascertain was that the site had suffered ‘configuration’ problems. Since the only configuration we understood was Eric Pickle’s waistline we were, as they say in the Chelsea dressing-room, well and truly stuffed.
But you may be reassured to learn that all is well on the allotments. Apart from one of the hens swallowing one of Albert’s hearing aids little of note has happened. The bean, pea and potato crops are huge so all that moaning about monsoons was unnecessary. The pond reveals that the Carp were doing more than carp during the wet Spring; a host of minors now rise to the surface at feeding time. And the pigeon population is flourishing, a product perhaps of their joining the hens around the corn troughs.
Meantime we feel even poorer than when last we reported. Everyone we know talks of being skint, but the High Pay Centre has reported that the average pay for chief executives has climbed to £4.923m, a continued rise over the levels of the past few years. But perhaps they are also feeling poorer given the news that Sir Martin Sorrel of WPP pocketed £43m in 2014. Clearly making all those irritating TV ads is hard graft. But our dear leader is keeping his promise to reward hard working families – one of them at least.
Today those members who are Labour Party members will receive their leadership voting papers, and I am sorry to report that they intend to vote for Mr Corbyn despite the advice to the contrary from that great exponent of truth and justice Tony Blair. Those of us who are apolitical hate to take sides but it has to be said that at least the weapons-of-mass-destruction that the bearded one wishes to scrap do actually exist.
Just maybe he is right about renationalising water too. For two weeks now we have had to boil every drop before ingesting it or, in the case of those who still have any, cleaning our teeth. The suspicion is that United Utilities have downsized in headcount. But shareholders such as the French government expect their dividends, and executive salaries are somewhat higher than in the days of North West Water. We simpletons simply wonder how water can be regarded as a competitive market.
Either way we will soon be back to boring you, always provided that the several thousand readers of yesteryear return. If not adieu for keying up a Blog for the sole attention of Mad Mick of Bacup is somewhat pointless.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: “You know that children are growing up when they start asking questions that have answers”… John J Plomp.