Posts Tagged ‘Ups’
Whilst I was perched up the ladder today someone suggested that it was a perfect photo opportunity. The constant nonsense talked by politicians and their minders is beginning to burrow its way into everyday humour. Frankly they are all becoming as ridiculous as Albert’s knotted hankie. Who wanted to see pictures of Ed Balls playing football, Ed Miliband carrying his youngster or David Cameron pretending to be on the edge of his seat in Warnock-style at the QPR match? Does any of this win them a single vote? Wouldn’t it be better if they attempted to make a better job of what they do?
Regular readers may sigh since we fogeys of the allotments are a cynical bunch and have long since lost any respect for any of the parties in whose hands our destinies rest. The latest party conference has done little to change our stance. The role of her Majesty’s opposition is to dissect and present an alternative view where appropriate. For well over a year now the Labour Party has turned a dozen circles in an attempt to defend the record of the Blair and Brown administrations. To add to the non-stop hand-wringing various ex-ministers have published claims about this misdeed or that, demonstrating that making money is to them rather more important than the interests of the country.
The truth is that any government that runs for over a decade does many good things and many bad ones, and it ill behoves the coalition to continue to bang on about the latter. Its gone, the present crisis requires clear thinking, not points-scoring. Of course the reason they have been able to do this is mainly the result of Labour failing to act as a dynamic opposition.
It truly is incredaible that they have only a miniscule lead over the Conservatives in the polls when one recaps on the almost endless cock-ups that have pockmarked their reign. The NHS is tottering under David Cameron’s great marketing re-disorganisation, costing £2 billion and probably more. Duncan Smith’s universal credit is at the top of the Treasury risk list, with its costly new IT system in peril, while £18 billion is cut from benefits – the disabled and children hit hardest.
The new planning laws are about to join a catalogue of policy failures, written by the property developer donors to the Tory party. Quangos have been abolished at high redundancy cost, only to be resurrected. Civil servants have been fired only for new ones to be hired and trained.The true cost of free schools, financed by cash stripped from local school budgets, will become a growing scandal as the details of the real subsidies emerge. Forests and school sports had to be rescued, and what of the fortune being spent of police commissioners, who risk turning politically explosive. Oh yes, we shouldn’t miss from our list the decidedly dodgy involvement of top ministers with the Murdochs.
Yet the opposition says little about any of these issues and continues to apologise in Uriah Heap style. It needs to return to Westminster determined to question and to propose. It could for instance propose a new approach to undertaxed wealth, something this government will never contemplate. Some original thought just might capture the public attention.
No government is all bad but one unchallenged will come close to it! And when it is at last acting as a real opposition the Labour Party of today should stop feeling embarrassed about the trades unions. The dynosaurs have long gone and the unions of today comprise nurses and essential service workers. They are not a threat but they do deserve a fair deal.
I am not optimistic. I suspect that one year from today the opposition will still be trying to defend Blair. Forget him, he is indefensible!
We inhabitants of the allotment shed like to refer to ourselves as vets, people who have seen it all and know a fair bit about animals into the bargain. Delusions come in many forms! But rightly or otherwise we believe that our once glorious age of Empire and victors of Europe has been transformed into the beer-ridden, tawdry, congested and brawling bum of the Western world. And we believe that most of the blame can be heaped on a relatively small number of people. This of course leads us into heated debates over our brew-ups as to who they are or were.
We were much assisted in our musings by an excellent first book from the parliamentary sketch writer Quentin Letts. Published in 2008, his work is entitled ’50 People who buggered up Britain’ and is both funny and, in our view, remarkably accurate. Before Albert, (our resident pessimist), first brought the book along we already had a clear consensus on the guilty halfwits who have created the land we now inhabit. And guess what, the majority of our nominees appear in Quenton’s hit list. Of course Tony Blair is right up there at the top but more of him another day. Meantime let us look at a less familiar name, one that created every traffic jam we ever sit in. His name was Dr Richard Beeching.
Early in 1963 a list, considerably longer than ones arm, of railway stations appeared in the press. They were all to be axed. The list was the product of Dr Beeching, an accountant known for his spacious three-piece suits, pencil moustache and an unswerving belief in the ‘bottom line’. He was a bean-counter to beat all bean-counters, a pompous ass convinced that the railway network shouldn’t be considered as an integrated whole but line by line. Easy he said, just cut off all the bits that fail to make a profit irrespective of the contribution they make to profitable main lines.
Beeching had arrived at this seat of power thanks to Ernest Marples, the Conservative Government’s Transport Secretary who had risen to fame by the invention of parking meters. He wanted ‘modern management practices’ introduced into the railways and he saw the human version of the Fat Controller (of Thomas the Tank Engine fame) as the man to do it. And the wearer of Savile Row’s finest weeds and a low-slung fob watch was appointed Chairman of the new British Railways Board. Profit, profit, profit scowled the Fat Controller as he toured the country’s network. He disliked passengers, a sentiment revealed clearly when in reply to a question about the cleanliness of the trains he barked that the public were filthy so what could one expect.
At a speed greater than that of The Flying Scotsman, Beeching closed line after line. He cut 100,000 jobs, closed 2000 railway stations and pulled up for ever 5000 miles of track. Protests were swept aside , indeed the archives show that in many instances false figures were used. For example in defence of closing the busy rail network of the Isle of Wight the usage totals sused excluded tickets purchased on the mainland which accounted for over half. Where the protests became politically too hot to handle Beeching would, under pressure from his political masters, come up with a grudging and unsatisfactory compromise. So, in the case of the I.O.W the line from Ryde through to Ventnor, one packed during the summer months, was cut short at Shanklin and old London tube carriages used in place of steam. To this day laden tourists have to find their own way from Shanlin onwards and the cost saving was £20,000. Even a halfwit should have seen that the intricate island steam network would one day become a huge tourist attraction and would avoid packing cars on to roads unsuited for any volume.
There are literally hundreds of examples of crazy decisions. In Abingdon, Berkshire, a two-mile pull-and-push branch took passengers from the heart of the flourishing town to a connection on the main line to London or Oxford. Judged in isolation it made little profit since most passengers had through-tickets. It was of course axed and people were told by Beeching to ‘get cars’. Now they queue all the way to the capital yet live two miles from intercity expresses. Seaside resorts were in many cases damaged beyond repair. Rail freight was ruined for thousands of small companies and commuters in the Midlands had their trains almost wiped out. Let them drive, barked the Fat Controller!
What does Quinton Letts have to say? It isn’t complimentary. Beeching was ‘ a menace, a foolish insistent slasher-and-burner who revelled in becoming public enemy number one’. He damaged our transport system so badly that it suffers to this day from his malign meddling, storms Quinton. And in the humble view of this bunch of ferreters he is spot-on, absolutely right.
Sadly Dr Beeching died in 1985 so he didn’t survive to see the late 20th century huge rise in numbers of rail users driven to rail by the gridlock that has come to Britain’s roads. It would be nice to end with a word of forgiveness but the words would choke me. One man’s vanity, lack of foresight, self understanding, or common-sense led him to destroy for ever the network with a potential to play a huge role in the functioning of a small island.
I was recently stuck in a traffic jam in Wales. Alongside the road ran the remains of a railway track. Deserted and desolate, it once echoed to the whistles of trains taking people from point A to B unhindered, unpolluted and happy with life. Few in the two-hour log-jam felt the same way.
Maybe some, like me, passed the time by sending a curse on its way to the destructive Fat Controller!
GOD HELP THE POOR!
The axe is about to fall on vast numbers of jobs and those fortunate enough to stay in low-income posts will face wage freezes, even cuts. But the cost of living is rising by over 3% and welfare cuts are in the air. Rail fares are to rise by up to 10% and the price of petrol, bread, milk and electricity/gas is forecast to rocket.
George Osborne insists that we are all in this together. Not True. Yes, those on reasonable incomes will have to tighten their belts but they will not lie awake wondering how the bills are to be met. And those at the top end of the income scales will flourish and those in the banking sector will count their ever increasing bonuses.
We all know that there have to be major economies but the Old Etonians should drop the in it together stuff. It simply isn’t true.
Ricky Ponting is forecasting a whitewash when Englnd travel down under this winter. Having seen the new-look Australian team in action recently I am happy to bet my best ferret that he will be looking a little red faced come the New Year!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1 Archbishop Makarios 2 The first solo non-stop circumnavigation under sail.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1 What was Norpax? 2 After whom were MiG aircraft named?