Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’

A timely reminder !

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.
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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.
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That rarest of creatures !

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.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is more important than the outcome”….Arthur Ashe.
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The betrayal of our troops!

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.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: “The meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself”….LOUISCK.
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Look before you leap !

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!
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” All human actions have one or more of these causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, greed, passion and desire”….Aristotle.
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Style over substance !

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.
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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.
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A very unjust justice !

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!
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Everyone in public life should be arrested at least once. It’s an education!”….Alan Clark.
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Blair prepares for Chilcot!

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.
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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”.
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A Fawlty approach to China !

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!
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Where every man in a country has a vote, brutal laws are impossible”… Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee, 1889.
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Apologies for absence !

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.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: “You know that children are growing up when they start asking questions that have answers”… John J Plomp.
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-- Download Apologies for absence ! as PDF --


Defence expenditure figures fiddled!

A tribunal heard yesterday that the British intelligence agencies have been spying on MPs and peers in contravention of a 50-year-old convention prohibiting surveillance of politician’s communications. Dating back to the Wilson years it has always been clear that no parliamentarian’s phone will be tapped unless there is a major national emergency. But the spooks have decided otherwise. Putting aside the obvious black humour about this being the only hope of finding the truth about expenses, this bothers us. The temptation for ministers to gain political advantage will be enormous.

As we pushed the stubborn hens from their runs this morning we worried out loud about the increasing evidence that the warnings of Orwell are coming to pass. Yes, times have changed and there are now major peacetime security dangers, but are we really happy that everything we do or say is liable to be probed? The once land of the free is becoming a viper’s nest of voyeurism, and nosey people are having a field day.

Of course they had no need yesterday to tap the phone of Two-Jags Lord Prescott to hear his latest outpourings. The true-socialist turned ermine wearer was in full voice about his former boss Tony Blair who made “offensive” remarks about heart transplants and Jeremy Corbyn. Mind you he might have been better advised to leave Mr Corbyn to conduct his own defence. He simply said that it is time for grown ups to act as grown ups and to disdain “silly remarks”. We know little about the contender for the Labour Party leadership, but we are becoming increasingly impressed.

The need to believe what our so-called leaders say is rapidly becoming more important than their supposed ideology, and anyone who believes in honesty has our vote. Over the top? We believe not for it becomes ever more evident that the diet of lies we are fed very day exceeds the amount of corn that we stuff down a hundred beaks each morning. For instance?

A few days ago our dear leader announced to a roll of drums that his war against the head-choppers is under way, and the Defence budget is being increased to meet Nato requirements. Cue applause from President Obama who praised a man prepared to defy austerity in the interests of world peace. What he, and we, didn’t realise was that the new figures are pure fiction.

Unknown to almost everyone the government has decided to add the Conflict Fund to defence expenditure. The Conflict Fund has nothing to do with our armed forces but has been added to the 2 percent-of-GDP bundle. Properly named the Conflict Stability and Security Fund, it will add more than £1 billion in 2015/16 and hey presto the target is met. The money will be disbursed by “cross-Whitehall Regional boards for Africa, Americas, Asia, Middle East & North Africa, South Asia and Wider Europe”. Note cross-Whitehall, not MoD.

It is not new money, merely an internal budget transfer. Typical amongst its projects is an invitation to the Iraqi government to put in bids for “gender related output indicators” and “the promotion of social cohesion and dialogue within and between communities”. If these sound like international development rather than investment in the British armed forces, that’s because they are. In fact they were previously part of the overseas aid budget.

You can only admire the sheer cunning. At a stroke the public’s demand for more realistic investment in troops, planes and ships is seemingly met, whilst the hated aids programme cost is reduced. In reality nothing has changed and the emasculation of our actual defences can continue out of the public gaze.

All of which changes our reactions to the spooks and their listening devices. Presumably they heard chapter and verse of the Conflict Fund plotting. All they need do now to win us over is publish the text.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives”…. William James.
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-- Download Defence expenditure figures fiddled! as PDF --


Turning a blind eye to appalling tragedy!

The joy of Spring is that every morning brings fresh discoveries. The dormant primroses are back with us, the tulips are taking over from the daffodils and the birds are gathering straw left lying around near the the hen-runs. In the greenhouses the sweet peas are clambering from the compost, and the geraniums are beginning their journey toward majestic beauty. Most exciting of all we spotted a shoal of tiny fish in the allotments big pond this morning. Now we face our annual challenge of preventing the less-than-proud parents from eating them. Forget the artificial connivances of an election campaign, our allotments refuge is alive again , and we old codgers have spring in our steps. All is well!

But try as we may we cannot avoid the darkening influence of man’s inhumanity to man, and as we gathered in the ‘hut’ for our daily tribute to the patron saint of doughnut eaters, the mighty Eric Pickles we couldn’t dismiss from our minds an appalling spectacle. On Monday, 144 people were rescued by the Italian coastguard when the boat on which they were fleeing Libya capsized in the Mediterranean.  Arriving homeless and without prospects in a strange land, these were – relatively speaking – the lucky ones. As many as 400 are thought to have drowned. Add them to the tally. Thousands of desperate fellow human beings have suffered horrendous deaths trying to get to the West. It has become a phenomenon of our time.

We hear little about life in the supposedly liberated  Libya, but the fact that entire families are willing to risk the treacherous crossing gives a fair idea. Were the survivors being scooped out of the sea by the British coastguard, rather than the Italians, it might focus our minds on just how things have developed since David Cameron stood in Martyr’s Square in Tripoli and declared that Libyans had “no greater friend than the United Kingdom…We will stand with you every step of the way”. But we did nothing of the sort, it was judged to be too expensive. The new government in Tripoli failed to control the insurgent groups that flourished during our joint campaign against Gaddafi and now they are firmly established, waging bloody turf wars. The resulting chaos created the space for the beheading madmen of Isis to grow. One of its recent videos from the region showed 21 Egyptians being decapitated on the shores of the Mediterranean.

As Libya collapses into violence, its great friends in London and Washington have effectively turned a blind eye to the bloody outcome of what they started. As in Iraq, the ultimate victors look like being Islamic fundamentalists – from whom Libyans are now trying to flee in vast numbers. Italy, the closest European country, is taking almost all of the strain.

In many ways, Cameron made the same errors in Libya that Blair made in Iraq. He sent in forces to help remove a hated dictator, and did so on the premise that Britain is a country that shapes the world for the better. He trumpeted the elctions that followed, made a visit to the country he had helped to liberate – and then looked the other way as it slipped into merciless anarchy. As with Blair, initial bravado concealed a woeful lack of planning for the aftermath. The difference with Iraq is that there were no British casualties so the episode is easier to forget. We don’t have to live with the consequences. The Libyans do.

The election campaign has plenty to say about immigration from eastern Europe. Yet none of the parties have said what, if anything, they intend to do to help solve the nightmare of drowning innocents fleeing from the nightmare which we helped to create. Writing large cheques for overseas aid is no substitute for the support offered by a proper military. The Tory-Labour consensus on shrinking the military can only mean more botched jobs. Why is the Royal Navy ( and the navies of France and Spain) not offering to join the Italians in patrolling the waters and helping to save the lives of children? All these countries joined the 2011 bombing campaigns: do they not have a moral duty to deal with what has ensued?

Sadly we no longer have a navy, and these are not easy decisions to make. That David Cameron went in twelve months from proposing air strikes on President Assad of Syria to backing strikes on Assad’s enemies shows just what a quagmire foreign policy has become. But when choosing a leader we have the right to know how they will exert leadership. Cameron was right: Libya deserves friendship. Those who aspire to be Prime Minister should take just one day out from lying about their opponents to spell out just what our friendship is supposed to mean and how without adequate armed forces we propose to honour it.

It would be nice to close our eyes to those pictures of overloaded flimsy boats and the faces of bewildered and terrified children, of tiny bodies drifting in angry seas. But have we really sunk this low? If so we should withdraw from the fantasy of being a world power and stop triggering the living nightmares of others!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY:” We have heard about the renewal of Trident,  yet nothing about how the parties would approach a humanitarian problem like Libya. Why not?”…. Spectator,18/4/2105.

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GP crisis – a dose of truth would be appreciated!

It was shirt-sleeves order as we  cleaned out the hens this morning, and it seems a very long time since I last reported thus. What a difference a dose of Phoebus  makes – suddenly life seems a pleasant experience rather than something akin to perpetual toothache. Even Albert seemed happier, and his tormentors the hens seem to have bucked up if the sudden increase  in the number of eggs is any indication. We can now increase our donations to one of the food banks which our dear leader assures us are a figment of the opposition’s imagination.

But scepticism about anything that politicians say is second nature to us, and any interest we had in the election campaign has already faded. Yesterday the respective leaders flew from one part of the country to the other presumably believing that the mere sight of them will whip the natives into a frenzy. We suspect that apart from  the very odd people that lined up with placards their efforts did nothing of the sort. Who believes any of them seems to be the general mood.

However as we sat on the wall – another novelty – with our mugs of Yorkshire tea one piece of political gobbledegook did catch our eye. It seems that the Labour Party has produced a poster parodying the long-gone one of their opponents which portrayed queues of plebs seeking employment. It shows equally long snakes of patients waiting to see a GP. It coincides with a letter published by 100 top doctors which describes the NHS as weaker and more fragmented than at any time in its history. They catalogue the closure of walk-in centres, A & E units, ambulance stations and GP surgeries. And we all know what has happened to mental health services.

Our dear leader responded as he left one of his flights, and given what he said we were left wondering if he had arrived from the planet Zog. It seems that the coalition has increased tenfold the number of doctors and nurses and made family doctors available around the clock. That may be true on Zog, but it certainly isn’t true in our neck of the woods where  GPs are now as rare as hen’s teeth. The only hope of gaining an appointment is to ring at 8.30 am when the phones are jammed. If you fail in this lucky dip there is only one option – to head for the hospital A & E department. We are not making a political point here, merely stating the hard facts. Our GP services are in meltdown and the remaining practitioners have only one desire. One such now regularly joins us at the allotments, having leapt from the chaos at 55, thankful to be still relatively sane.

We don’t believe for one moment that the doctors now going public about their despair are playing politics. The vast majority of them devoted many years to studying medicine and feel a great commitment to the treatment of the sick. But the meddling of successive governments has turned a caring profession into a living nightmare of top-down bureaucracy and ever-increasing waiting times. And they are sick and tired of being used as political footballs. The failure of any political party to offer positive solutions is proving to be the last straw.

Even this morning’s news that Danny Alexander, the deputy to the Chancellor over the past five years, is predicting that child benefits for 4 million families face the axe is of no greater magnitude than the loss of the reassurance that every family has always treasured – that if disaster strikes the NHS is at hand.

Never mind, we are assured that prices of everything are going down. Clearly SuperDrug has not been told. Yesterday I bought a packet of Olbas pastilles the price of which has climbed by 30 per cent in just one month. So we don’t believe that tale either. But in the cause of truthfulness the Labour Party has brought back its greatest exponent of the virtue.

Tony Blair is back and, hey, if that doesn’t impress you nothing will!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY ; ” I’m frank, brutally frank. And even when I’m not frank, I look frank!”….Lord Thomson of Fleet.

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Quotes for today!

” Sometimes the sins you haven’t committed are all you have left to hold on to”….David Sedaris

” The Tory campaign talks of chaos should Labour win.  Think of the chaos produced by the possibility, never mind the reality, of Britain quitting Europe. Jobs that are secure suddenly insecure; investment decisions postponed or cancelled; a pall of unpredictability hanging over the British economy”….Tony Blair.

“Our research indicates that even small amounts of vigorous activity could reduce your risk of early death. The benefits of  vigorous exercise extend to people with weight problems and pre-existing cardiovascular disease”….Klaus Gebel, Cook University in Queensland.

” I appeal to Ukip voters to ‘come home’. I totally understand the frustration people have felt about issues like immigration where they want more done, and we will do more. And I understand the frustration about the EU – where the country deserves a referendum – and with me as PM they’ll get that referendum”….David Cameron.

“The best advice to people considering their pension pot is leave it there, do nothing. There are huge tax  benefits from having the money in the pension. The idea is you CAN take your money out, not that you SHOULD take your money out. There is no rush”….Ros Altmann, pensions expert.

“If you live to be 90 in England and can still eat a boiled egg, they think you deserve the Nobel Prize”….Alan Bennett.

“It’s official. I’m middle-aged. I don’t need drugs any more. I can get the same effect by just standing up real fast”….Jonathan Katz.

“I have too much respect for the truth to drag it out on every trifling occasion”….Mark Twain.

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-- Download Quotes for today! as PDF --


At least the sun is on our side!

Spirits amongst the allotments codgers are rising. The sun is out again this morning, the daffodils are back in all their glory and the greenhouses are transformed from storage dumps into rows of gleaming propagation trays all ready for every type of seed the catalogues can offer. I never cease to be amazed at the psychological effect of sunshine, even though its warmth is still far from its peak. Even Albert seemed perkier this morning, and the hens are no longer standin
g around in the gloomy manner of England cricket fans.
But outside of our little cloistered fantasy world all is far from well. For some time now Tom has been suffering from splitting headaches. Having waited three weeks for an appointment with his GP he has now been referred to a Neurologist. The waiting time to see him is, he has been told, three months and there is little doubt that the inevitable scan will involve a further wait of many weeks. The sad truth is that NHS services have collapsed in this region. And today we read headlines about yet another ‘shake-up’.

The latest gobbledegook involves a fantasy about transferring many hospital services into the ‘community’, under the care of GPs who are rapidly becoming as scarce as hen’s teeth. The simple truth is that there are no longer enough doctors and nurses to cope with a rapidly growing population. It is no coincidence that the EU rejected our dear leader’s nomination of Andrew Lansley for a top Brussels position. Neither is it a coincidence that our millionaire ministers all resort to private healthcare.

As the election campaign mounts we see more and more evidence that our politicians have lost all touch with reality. We hear little mention of the collapse of the NHS and social services, but a great deal about the ‘miraculous’ recovery of the economy. Gorgeous George Osborne is, we hear, the nearest thing to God here on earth. We are all in this together, and we all owe him a debt o undying gratitude.

But as we wiped the doughnut jam from our lips in the ‘hut’ this morning, we wondered if anyone bar us has bothered to read the analysis published yesterday by the Social Market Foundation (SMF). It reports that the average wealth of the best-off families rose by 64 per cent between 2005 and 2013-14 as they put more money aside to guard against future shock. They have average savings of £10,000 compared with £6,000 seven years ago. The proportion of people in this group with debts – apart from mortgages – dropped from 43 per cent to less than a third.

However, the SMF found that the poorest 20 per cent of Britons are less financially secure than they were in 2005, with their net wealth falling by 57 per cent and levels of debt and use of overdrafts and ‘payday loans’ increasing. Meanwhile, the inter-generational gap in incomes and wealth has widened significantly. The wages of those aged 26 to 35 fell steeply and they are far less likely to be property owners, with the proportion in this age bracket who are able to embark on buying a home falling from nearly three quarters to under one half.

On average, they have less than a week’s income in savings, owe 45 per cent more money than they did in 2005, and are increasingly running up overdrafts to pay their bills.

In other words the economic ‘miracle’ has divided Britain as never before. The rich are 64 per cent richer, the poor 57 per cent poorer. Throw in the top 1 per cent who have been allowed to turn tax evasion into a fine art and you have the perfect recipe for widespread disillusion and potential civil unrest.

Of course the findings demonstrate that the divisive trend began before the coalition came to power. But is anyone surprised to learn that Tony Blair was every bit as much in cahoots with the rich and famous as is the present bunch of well-heeled Old Etonians?

But sunshine is free, and we old codgers prefer to bury our heads in the warming sand. Unless the polling cards feature the words ‘None of the above’, we will not be voting. Our only inclination is to copy the example of the sainted Jeremy Clarkson of landing a few punches at the idiots that messed up Britain.

We suspect that we are not alone!
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Mr Speaker, I withdraw my statement that half the cabinet are asses – half the cabinet are not asses!” …..Benjamin Disraeli.
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Alternative medicine: Charles is so wrong!

Educational experts are launching a campaign to convince our schools of the need to teach charm. They argue that in today’s world, where interaction with others has been replaced with computer games, children are learning numeracy and the rest but lack the other essential for success of charm – eye contact and the ability to show interest in the opinions of prospective employers. It makes sense, but it has to be admitted that any lessons we codgers we once learned from the university of life were noticeably absent as we cleaned out the hens this morning. It was so piercingly cold that the only words we were inclined to utter were those of Titus Oates. I shall be gone some time was on many a lip as we headed for the sanctuary of the warm hut.

The combined effect of the fire and countless mugs of Yorkshire tea soon restored our circulation. Then the gripes commenced and first up, not for the first time were the antics of our future King. The new biography by Catherine Mayer paints a worrying picture of the household of Prince Charles, and reminds us of his rather hippy-dippy brimful of opinions. After so many years of quiet, uncontroversial conduct by the Queen, the book reminds us of the perils of the notion of one person seated on a gold-embossed chair, wearing a diamond hat, claiming God wants them to be Head of Everything.

That has its advantages in that it prevents some odious creatures such as Tony Blair sitting there, but what happens if that mighty and all-knowing one dabbles in controversy? Maintaining a monarchy is a fine art of smoke and mirrors, what happens if the mighty one begins to believe that his supposedly superior intellect entitles him to join in the messy claims and squabbles of everyone’s pet hates – the elected politicians?

We codgers would be desperately sad to see the end of the monarchy, which still serves to make this country unique in so many ceremonial ways. But we do fear for its future if and when Charles ascends to the golden throne. In saying that we are not unduly influenced by the work of Catherine Mayer who, under pressure, has admitted that she has spent less than one hour alone with her target. Our concern is with his constant preoccupation with alternative therapies, and the part he plays in boosting an industry worth $1.6 billion in the UK alone. Glance at its products and you will never see independent assessments of a treatments efficacy or dangers.

if you want a true measure of the man buy Edzard Ernst’s memoir ‘A Scientist in Wonderland’. Ernst has been the subject of a royal vendetta. He first worked in a German homeopathic hospital, and found that its directors believed that pseudoscience could achieve nothing beyond placebo effects. He came to England and began to publish more than a thousand papers, and received 14 medical prizes. But instead of taking a prestigious academic post, he applied for a professorship at Exeter University so that he could investigate the safety and effectiveness of alternative medicines.

Ernst and his team of researchers displayed great ingenuity in designing random clinical trials. They found that chiropractic manipulation of the spine was dangerous in itself. They tested homeopathic remedies, spiritual or distance healing and acupuncture and concluded that none had any medical benefits beyond placebo effect. His work quickly attracted the hostility of therapists. Inevitably Prince Charles raged the loudest of them all.

It was at this time that Charles promoted a diet that recommended curing cancer with coffee enemas. Professor Michael Baum told him: “The power of my authority comes with a knowledge built on 40 years of study and 25 years of active involvement in cancer. Your power and authority rest on an accident if birth. I beg you to exercise caution when advising patients with life-threatening diseases to embrace unproven therapies”.

No chance of that, as Ernst found out. He publicly warned the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health that it was promoting treatments without assessing their effectiveness. When the Prince persuaded an economist to produce a report urging the NHS to save billions by adopting quack remedies, The Times obtained an early draft. Ernst told reporters that the Prince was peddling misleading information and “over-stepping his constitutional role”.

The Prince’s private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, demanded that Exeter University discipline Ernst. After a 13 month investigation the university found no evidence to justify action against Ernst, who had by then made Exeter an internationally acclaimed centre of medical research. But royal displeasure mounted and Ernst was sacked. Britain had lost its only centre for evaluating the effectiveness of the ‘cures’ that cranks and hucksters push at the public.

It is a worrying story. An expert has lost his job and people continue to pour money into an industry that spawns an ever increasing number of ‘cures’, most of which are the product of fevered imagination and a desire to make money from the gullible. Check your junk mail!

This is a clear example of unfounded obsession backed by powerful influence. This is the action of our future King. It does not bode well.

Meantime our leading hospitals are reduced to refusing to accept their reduced budgets on the grounds that should they agree they will “no longer be able to guarantee patient safety”. This at a time when, encouraged by the Prince, people continue to pour money into alternatives that guarantee nothing.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” I see nothing wrong with power as long as I am the fellow who has it!”….Cecil King.
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