Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’
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.
At long last the growing season is underway. In our case the delay caused by months of rain and ice is merely a setback for our hobby, but for British farmers the situation is a grave one. Unless the government finds a way to offer temporary support many will go to the wall. Crop failure, combined with supermarkets paying below cost for milk, will soon see us reliant on imported products. The stakes here are even higher than the prices we will soon be paying for steaks, if ministers continue to waffle.
On the allotments we are at last able to plant our early, already late, potatoes and onions. Cabbage and lettuce seedlings are appearing in the greenhouses, so all is now well in our little world. Not really. We realise that one species has enjoyed the surfeit of wet stuff, our old adversary the slug is almost certainly preparing gleefully for an all out assault. Little Albert and his big bucket filled with salty water, will soon be in action!
We can at least be sure of one thing. If come the autumn our green crops have a skeletal appearance our pal will not be blaming it on someone, or something, else. When it comes to dealing with the slimy ones the buck stops here.
We codgers are in danger of becoming a unique, and ultimately extinct, species for the old concept of accepting responsibility for one’s own failings seems to be passing into history. At the highest level we now see constant examples of passing the buck. Ministers such as Jeremy Hunt fire aides who foul up without even remotely considering the idea that they carry the ultimate responsibility. At the other end of the social scale we regualrly meet able-bodied people who make no effort to help themselves and, without so much as a blush, see their problems as belonging to those that do.
Nowhere is this new malaise more evident than in the much lauded private sector. The security giant G4S is a classic example. Its abysmal performance at the Olympic Games forced the government to draft in the military at the eleventh hour, and chief executive Nick Buckles appeared before MPs to tell them that he regretted ever signing the contract. As foul-ups go this was up there with the charge of the Light Brigade.
But far from losing his job Mr Buckles is set to receive a pay package of £4.5 million. John Connolly, the chairman of G4S brought in after the ill-fated ISS bid – an attempt at taking over a major rival – and the Olympics fiasco, yesterday announced that the board had decided Buckles should remain in his role. “There has been no significant shortcoming in his performance, nor any serious failures directly attributable to him” he said in the annual report.
It leaves us wondering how the new national modus operandi would work in the event that we still had a navy. In days past the ship’s captain would automatically face court martial should his ship run aground, or suffer any other man-made failure. Presumably unless his hands were actually on the tiller, he would now be excused all blame.
This may all seem a quibble by old guys dreaming of a rosier past. But we believe that once you take away the concept of absolute responsibilty you destroy the sense if it. When we were taken by surprise by the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands Defence Minister Nott resigned even though he clearly wasn’t directly to blame. Fast forward to now and you have the spectacle of Tony Blair telling Ed Miliband how to behave. Iraq? Not me Guv!
Football is back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but it does get one thing right. Team fails, manager goes!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” He’s passed from rising star to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever!”…Michael Foot on David Steel 28/3/1979 (Hanzard)
Any day now we will be treated to the less than impressive sight of Albert’s bare chest on the allotments. Like so many others, our human ferret is prone to extremes. Throughout the long winter he has resembled little John Mills playing Scott of the Antartic, now the first taste of warmer weather will trigger a re-run of the pigmy often chased around by Tarzan. But it takes all sorts!
Nowhere is that more evident than in the case of Lady Thatcher’s funeral. At one extreme are the supposedly tearful ranks of the Tory grandees who choose to forget that they combined to break her heart by engineering her expulsion from Downing Street. At the other we have lunatics many of whom were in their nappies when the Iron Lady reigned, who believe that staging protests at a funeral is appropriate. One group calls itself the Bedroom Tax Alliance, a policy dreamed up decades after she bade her tearful farewell.
We codgers do not subscribe to the idea that anything that happens today is in some mysterious way down to someone who left office over two decades ago. Since then we have endured the governments of Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron – are we really supposed to believe that they are not answerable for their own actions?
By sheer chance the 19th/20th of April will bring the first ever Alzheimer’s Show, to be held at London’s Royal Agricultural Halls. The show is aimed primarily at carers, and all those who have to cope with the rocketing number of elderly people afflicted by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. That it is taking place at all is a reflection of the failure of state provision. For many families the show offers the possibility of hope and help in how to negotiate the dark and desperate days that lie ahead.
As NHS budgets are cut , so geriatric psychiatry services have suffered. Patients are now merely diagnosed and then discharged back to the care of GPs, who are not specialists and now lack access to beds on acute wards. This means that families face a nightmare as some one they love deteriorates. Tragically there are many sufferers in our fractured and atomised society who lack even family support. A study by the Alzheimer’s Society has shown that one-third of those with dementia live alone. Almost all of those questionned mentioned loneliness as their greatest terror.
One doesn’t need to be very perceptive to realise that Margaret Thatcher was herself a victim. Of course she was well looked after, but even that comfort is a small one.
All this leads up to our plea that posturing politicians and mindless protestors alike should find something better to do with their thoughts in a week that will be painful to the former PM’s family and real friends. They could resolve to join the fight for a civilised approach to dementia in all its destructive forms, a disease that threatens every family in the land.
If the present government wishes to create a lasting memorial to Margaret Thatcher it could do so by creating a service that no one would deface or protest against!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I think sometimes the Prime Minister should be intimidating. There’s not much point in being a weak, floppy thing in the chair, is there?…Margaret Thatcher n BBC1, 21/10/1993
The front page of the Daily Express, which has forsaken Diana in favour of weather, tells us that we are about to receive one month’s rain in 24-hours. That contradicts Albert’s seaweed, and so far the day has been beautiful. It made our hen-cleaning a pleasant experience, and we drew comfort from the thought that maybe the wet stuff will centre on the madrigal singers of Surbiton.
As we settled for our brew we gave the papers a wide-berth for the coverage of the blessed Margaret is becoming a trifle wearisome. And not just the written word, today’s local radio interrupted programmes to tell us that David Cameron is to read the lesson at St Pauls. We have no wish to be insensitive about what is a tragedy for her family, neither do we wish to be associated with the lunatics who plan to demonstrate. But we do resent the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a single politician who gives a fig for the lot of our troops in Afghanistan. And yesterday yet more Nato troops died.
It was politicians who initially committed young men and women to Iraq and, subsequently, Afghanistan. The original invented cause was weapons of mass destruction and we can fairly attribute that to Blair. Since then politicians have continued to talk about sacrifices being made for their country, knowing full well that the war is unwinnable and that the only implication for this country has always been an increase in the threat from fanatics.
I have just finished reading Andy McNab’s “Spoken from the Front”, a collection of diary entries by British troops serving, mainly, in Helmand province. There are hundreds of harrowing accounts, a typical example being one describing the fate of three privates on a routine patrol. Two of them were aged nineteen, the other twenty-one. All three died when a suicide bomber detonated a large explosive device strapped to his chest.
It illustrated in a terrible way the sheer impossibility of being at war with an invisible enemy. That is illustrated in a dramatic way by an entry by Ranger David McKee of The Royal Irish Regiment. He reports that ” me and my mates work with the ANA (Afghanistan army) but they are dodgy”. He goes on to say that the only people he trusts are the Taliban since he at least knows where they stood. The problem is that the Taliban wear no uniforms and David and his colleagues have regular reasons to suspect that their supposed allies in the ANA are themselves Taliban.
We all realise that the politicians are at last planning the end of mission impossible, but they are many years, and many tragic deaths, too late. Blair, Brown and Cameron have all lacked the guts to say I will not sacrifice one more young life for a lost cause. And no other politician has made any serious attempt to force their hand. Families across the UK have been sacrificed to save the face of politicians.
Next week they will read their lessons and shed their tears for a lady who at least reached old age. If they have any to spare they should shed them for young heroes sent to their death not in defence of their country but in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” I gave my life or freedom – This I know; For those who bade me fight had told me so!”….William Norman Ewer, 1885-1976
Definitely warmer this morning. If this miracle continues Albert will be divesting himself of his long-johns, which he tells us he also wears at night due to the absence of central heating in Chez Brown. His recent fall into the pond was a blessing in disguise for those who occasionally find themselves downwind of the human ferret. But I musn’t be snide for the wee man helped me clean-out my 50-odd hens this morning, having noticed that my right knee was staging a go-slow of Scargill proportions.
For us at least the topic of Margaret Thatcher is beginning to trigger ennui. No disrespect intended, but we are tiring of the seemingly endless Tory grandees telling us that this was the greatest being since Gabriel popped down for a quick lookaround. On Bumblebee’s Question Time last night it was Kenneth Clarke’s turn to eulogise. When David Blunkett dared to point out that it was Clarke and his fellow senior Conservatives that staged the coup that ended her reign, the Hush Puppy man almost blew a fuse.
We much preferred a piece written by John Simpson who, throughout the 1980s, followed her whenever she went abroad. If you choose to believe Charles Moore the BBC has long conducted a vendetta against the Iron Lady, but when you read the measured words of the Beeb’s political editor that is hard to believe. Then again, Moore is just two weeks away from publishing his book and cash-tills are ringing in his mind.
Simpson writes that Thatcher never cared how television or the press presented her. She didn’t read the press, she didn’t watch TV and certainly didn’t believe in the supposed art of PR. He recalls one occasion when he was conducting an interview with her in India. The two of them were walking side-by-side when suddenly she put her foot down a hole and fell flat. A Downing Street aide screamed at Simpson that these pictures must never appear on air. The lady climbed to her feet and said; “Oh, don’t be silly – of course he can use them if he wants to!”. Simpson wonders what would have happened with Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell.
An inconsequential tale but it does serve to remind us that for all her faults Margaret Thatcher was not interested in pretence. In her own mind she was right and those that believed otherwise could go to hell, which of course is exactly where so many went, metaphorically speaking. In so many ways she was more honest than the creation she saw as her greatest, Tony Blair.
It was perhaps inevitable that yesterday he couldn’t resist the temptation to pause from amassing his fortune to issue a lecture to Ed Miliband. He warned him not to “shift to the left” and to refrain from identifying himself with those who “oppose what the government is doing”. The current Labour leader lost little time in distancing himself from his would-be advisor.
Of course Blair will never be forgiven for the lies that he told as he bagged his place alongside George W Bush. In exchange for a supposed role as the right-hand man of the world’s most powerful, he was prepared to sacrifice the lives of millions in a war that could never be won. He was equally prepared to make Britain the target for every madman in the world.
On the domestic front, under the guise of ‘New’ Labour, he followed the Thatcher lead in almost everything. He was a smooth performer and he won middle-class support. But he left the traditional Labour support without a champion. His was a world of spin, celebrity and total lack of sympathy for the less fortunate.
I met him at the time when we were creating the first Primary Care Trusts. I went to London with a party of local GPs. He entered the room, threw his coat on to vacant chair, and proceded to have us eating out of his hand. Believe me, he said, this venture will have my support for as long as it takes. Three years later he scrapped it.
We codgers have slowly come to quite admire Miliband and would venture to suggest that just about the last person on earth from whom he should take advice is Blair. Yes, Miliband lacks his charisma or eloquence but he has sincerity. In a strange way he resembles Thatcher in only saying what he believes to be true.
Of course he knows that the day of the socialist dinosaurs has gone, but he also knows that every policy must be considered in the light of its potential harm to families. He clearly has much of his father in his make-up. Time has moved on, and people no longer sing the Red Flag, but people do count.
Who knows, the public may come to like honesty with a kindly voice. Either way we hope he will stick to his honourable guns. Right now Britain needs an effective opposition and an incrasingly rebellious public needs to feel that there is a peaceful channel for protest.
As an intellegent young man he will seek advice from many. He would be well advised to exclude Mr Blair!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” If life was really fair, Elvis would be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead!” …..Johnny Carson