Posts Tagged ‘Yvette Cooper’
Three things are certain in our allotment life. Death, taxes and Albert forgetting to adjust his clock at the end of October. But so intent were the rest of us this morning on the impending hurricane that we scarcely noticed our pal’s absence. According to the weathermen it is the canticle singers south of Watford who are going to feel the worst of the wrath of “St Jude’s Storm’, but we are taking no chances. Every chicken-coop is weighted down, but like the architects of all those towering sky-scrapers we have yet to observe the effect of an 80mph wind. If only our hero Eric Pickles were here, it would take more than a hurricane to shift him!
Meantime we once again find ourselves intrigued by the spectacle of EU officials providing ammunition to all those who believe that the billions we pour in to the alternative government of Brussels are a poor investment. Who elected, or appointed, Laszlo Andor as socialist commissioner in charge of employment, social affairs and inclusion is less than clear. But two things are certain – he has the longest title in the universe, and is less than in love with things British.
Back in 2009 Piotr Kalisz, an EU migrant, decided to send a petition to the EU having failed the ‘right to reside’ test, a Labour government measure aimed at preventing anyone turning up in Britain to claim benefits such as child benefit, child tax credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance. He subsequently won his appeal and forgot all about the petition. But Laszlo Andor didn’t. As a result the UK is due in the European dock accused in effect of favouring UK citizens ahead of EU migrants. The court case could cost Britain hundreds of millions of pounds in extra payments to EU benefits claimants.
Our political establishment has united in condemnation, but it is powerless. For Labour, Yvettte Cooper has branded the commission wrong and Iain Duncan Smith has talked of “fighting this every step of the way”, code for we haven’t a hope. Perhaps they should save some of their venom to comment on the European Court of Human Rights, which is allowing a challenge to Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act which allows UK security agencies to stop and question people at airports. Sabure Malik was stopped and questioned at Heathrow in November 2010, and claims that the delay infringed his right to liberty and privacy. Earlier this month members of Parliament’s joint committee on human rights found there was a “clear case” to retain the powers, but who cares what they say.
Enough said. If we elect to belong to a club we must obey its rules, however dominating the committee. For the present at least we are still allowed to fly the Union Jack over Westminster, and there are still some issues that can be decided there. Frankly the handling of those does as much for the Europhile’s cause as the less than friendly Anton does for their opponents. A classic example is High Speed Rail.
A few days ago we reflected on our dear leader’s view that in questioning the ever-rising projected cost of HS2 , Ed the Balls was being “unpatriotic”. Since the bean-counters have already burst through the £50 billion barrier we codgers felt that for once Mr Balls was showing awareness that our national debt is already at record levels, and we ventured to ask whether there is a cheaper way to restructure our creaking rail network. We now learn that there is.
Since we seldom venture south of Wigan we hadn’t realised that the former Great Central Railway, axed by the Fat Controller in the sixties, is still all but intact except for the rails. The route goes slightly east of the proposed HS2 route and connects London to the Midlands and Manchester Piccadilly. Amazingly most of the entire trackbed is complete with intact bridges, embankments and cuttings and requires only some tree clearance and relaying of the track. Such a route would have the advantage of slightly lower speeds which would enable trains to stop at places such as Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield.
There are other plus points. Since most of the infrastructure is still there, the disruption to local residents would be minimal. The line would take at least five million lorryloads off the roads and remove north-south freight from existing lines thus dramatically reducing congestion. Crucially, the old Great Central line was built to a continental loading gauge, meaning that lorries could piggyback on its trains in a revolutionary roll-on, roll off service. Because of lower speeds far more trains could be accommodated.
But the biggest plus point if all is the projected cost of £6 billion, a significant reduction on the ever-rising HS2 cost. Behind the scheme is a consortium of supermarket groups including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer and a growing band of politicians who represent areas likely to suffer significant isolation and economic loss if HS2 goes ahead.
Of course we codgers are guilty of over simplification here, but the £6 billion does take account of some major engineering work. Our point is that all major parties have committed themselves to what increasingly looks like a white elephant, without seriously considering alternatives the advantages of which outweigh the supposed benefit of cutting half an hour or so from travel times for those able to access high speed trains on a small island.
With the EU bureaucrats and our incompetent politicians locked in battle over the right to rule over us we can perhaps be forgiven for wondering about the future. Perhaps the hurricane will sweep them all away. On the other hand it is more likely that we plebs will be the ones to be propelled skyward. We hope it isn’t both since the thought of life on a desert island with Anton and Michael Gove is not a happy one!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” A friend of mine was so fed up with the train delays and cancellations that he threw himself onto the track. He died of exposure!” ….Jack Dee
Since the cuts in police numbers, which cost us our beat Bobbie, we have a had a few run-ins with yobs from a nearby estate. The most revealing aspect has been just how inarticulate and dimwitted they are, and we allotment codgers would hardly qualify for the Brains Trust. Engaging them in conversation is pointless, their only interest seems to lie in being as offensive as possible. In fairness to the estate, which we know well, they represent a tiny minority of the folk that live there, but they succeed in making the lives of many decent families an absolute misery. Need for employment? Frankly the ones we encounter have no wish to work, and no visible signs of being capable of it.
Several come from so-called ‘problem families’. The main problem of the ones we know well is that they have no wish to act as a family at all. The parents spend more time in clink than we spend on the allotment. One household we know has eight kids, all allowed to run wild. Of course this is not a new problem, it is one that successive ministers have preferred to deny the existence of. In the case of Kenneth Clarke, punishment is not the answer but he seems remarkably unclear as to what is.
We recently read details of the initaitive proposed by the coalition to at last do something to protect the victims, usually elderly or vulnerable people living alone. What their reaction is to the detail is imaginable, ours was total contempt. It is quite apparent that Theresa May has never lived alongside neighbours from hell. She is effectively downgrading anti-social behaviour by proposing that the police respond only in the event of five different area residents making contact with them on any appeal for protection. So an old lady living alone, and afraid to go out, is supposed to call on four neighbours to make complaints. Utterly ludicrous.
Add in the fact that the police are losing 16,000 officers and the picture is complete. The yobs rule OK. Already 5000 have gone from neighbourhood teams and 999 units. And, without police support, Councils are slow to act. On the Laycock Gate estate in Blackpool the local Council did evict someone recently, but it was only after 57 allegations of anti-social behaviour. It was claimed that a five-month reign of terror included physical and verbal attacks on various neighbours, even threats to kill or burn down property.
Tomorrow Her Majesty’s opposition will at last announce an initiative. On this, and most other subjects, it has contented itself with criticising the government and apologising for the part that it played when in office. That impresses no one, least of all those who the Conservatives are content to dismiss as scroungers. If Miliband is to be taken seriously he must spell out what he would do should an early election, caused by Clegg discovering his backbone, come to pass.
So two cheers for at least one new idea. Yvette Cooper, who many believe should be the leader of the Labour Party, is to make clear that police numbers will be strengthened but on one condition. Every single anti-social behaviour complaint must be responded to within 24 hours. They also intend to maintain, refine even, ASBOs which the government plans to diliute. Senior police officers have been quick to welcome this, they contend that dilution will make it much harder to tackle nightmare tenants, violent drunks or drug abusers. And cautions will be abolished in favour of immediate court appearances.
There is also a good deal in tomorrow’s announcement about employment, having first-time offenders make it up to victims and so on. But the positive aspect is the fact that Cooper is being specific about the difference from the May approach.
Maybe this represents just a glimmer of hope to helpless victims. Maybe it shows that the Labour Party has grasped the lesson of Bradford, which is that simply banging on about how bad the Tories are is not enough. The Lib Dems were once the party for local initiatives, they are now heading for near-extinction and Labour is the only hope in town.
Many a nervous pensioner will be hoping that they have heeded the wake-up call!
NO, MINISTER! The brilliant political comedy Yes Minister, which starred Paul Eddington, is to be upgraded for today’s TV audience. But do we really need it? How can writers come up with anything as ludicrous as today’s real-life version?
We have Toff Tories pretending to eat pasties, bungling ministers whipping up imaginary petrol shortages, fatcats payng for dinner with the PM. Add in a touch of the Murdoch saga and you have enough dark comedy to satisfy every couch-potato in the land!
The threatened high winds are here. We lack sophisticated measuring equipment so I can only report that Albert’s cap was last seen heading in the direction of Manchester airport and will probably arrive there well ahead of the billion vehicles now stationary on the M60. It doesn’t take much to bring good old Britain to a shuddering halt, so stand by for endless news of late trains and blocked roads. But barehaded Albert and all the other allotment fogies battled on amongst the squawking hens with hardly a care. But there is always speculation and today’s concerned the plan to introduce Police Commissioners.
The antagonism toward this has grown since the government decided to delay their election until November of next year, rather than hold them on the day of the local council elections. This was, it seems, at the behest of the Lib Dems who demanded a fig-leaf concession to buy off their opposition to the whole idea. The extra cost of staging seperate elections will be £25 million, bringing the total cost to £100 million plus 40 new commissioners who will each be paid £120,000 per annum. The £100 million alone is the equivalent of 3000 police officers and, given that the government is hell-bent on cutting police numbers, surely qualifies the idea as the barmiest yet for the coalition.
But there is a much bigger worry. Politicians such as Yvette Cooper have warned that there could be a low turnout in a November contest. She can rest assured that there will be. The local elections are held at a time when people are supposed to wander down to the polling booth on warm Spring evenings but even then it is not uncommon for less than one quarter of the electorate to bother. Given that the level of public interest in, or even understanding of, local elected police bigwigs is likely to be akin to their enthusiasm for Morris Dancing, the likelihood is that we could well see about one in ten making the effort.
The result may well be that unknown jokers or even extremist candidates could get elected. There is already talk in one area of the BNP fielding a candidate, if this happens it could well be that their supporters will be the only ones to bother to vote. Not quite as worrrying, but equally bizaare, is the possibility of a Raving Monster Loony candidate romping home, after all a man dressed as a monkey did just that in one of the executive mayoral contests!
At the very least the probability is that a local politician will succeed. Even that is a worrying prospect for local councillors tend to be political activists with time on their hands. The result would be divisive politics between sections of the community, even though policng must be fair and impartial. Were that to happen there would be little that local communities or the government could do about it for four years! And the chief constable would be at the mercy of someone with little regard for impartiality and the rule of law.
The Electoral Commission has issued a warning. Its statement reads; “There are almost half as many daylight hours on 15 November compared with early May and there is also the increased likelihood of inclement weather. Such conditions might discourage electors from participating in the election and limit campaign activities by candidates”. It could have added that only the most fanatical with a hidden agenda will bother.
But all that apart, what is the point of the move anyway? It is said to be a part of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ but the relevance has escaped mere mortals sufficiently interested to even comment. Surely the risk is political interference, and corruption, in what a police force does and, as with the NHS ‘reforms’, the arrival of postcode policing. You doubt the corruption bit? Try reading Private Eye’s ‘Rotten Boroughs’ feature!
The only people sufficiently motivated to get involved will be either those wiith reasons of their own to control the police or those who fancy a cool £120,000 for dong very little. Either way, the idea seems to have little to commend it.
This has all the makings of another example of the lunacy that can emerge from a coalition government. The Conservatives, who have no mandate for this, seem to believe that local accountability is democracy writ large without considering that the outcome could be entirely undemocratic, whilst the Lib Dems decided to show their mettle by turning a risky venture into a dead cert fiasco.
Never mind, Albert plans to stand and, given the notoriously low turnout here even in the Spring, he might well emerge. His long held conviction that local vigilantes should take over the streets may be less of a fantasy than we have always imagined!
We felt a little like the England bowlers this morning. It was raining heavily when we arrived at the allotments and things went downhill from there. Some roofing had blown off during the night and creatures unknown had gained entry to our corn store. But life, as with cricket, is like that. Sometimes everything goes well, sometimes the opposite. With that in mind I was back at home by 11.00am to watch Sir Lanka resume their innings at Lords. England couldn’t possibly bowl as badly as yesterday. But they did!
But whatever the day’s fortunes, I always feel grateful for the things that I haven’t got. And top of the list is ME or, to use its medical title, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It is often the case that when the medical profession labels something ‘itis’ it is a clear indication that it hasn’t a clue as to cause or cure. In the case of ME it is even worse than that for there is a sizeable section of clinicians who deny its very existence despite the fact that sufferers are often weakened to the point of total exhaustion. One such once asked a friend if his walking stick was a psychological crutch. Tom answered that without it he would fall flat on his face.
I was reminded of all this when Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, chose the Hay Festival to talk about her own nightmare. The illness – also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – struck when she was 24 and working as a researcher for the late John Smith. She contracted flu one January and, in effect, it never went away. She recalls it as a horrible time; “I didn’t know when it would ever end. I couldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t even get out to buy a newspaper. All those things you take for granted like running for a bus were totally beyond me”.
Compared to some sufferers from ME, Yvette was fortunate in having an enlightened GP. Instead of ludicrously suggesting that the whole thing was simply in her mind, he said that he believed it was triggered by some sort of virus and treated her accordingly. But it was a very long and depressing experience. It was brave of her to open up publicly on this for right now there are many sufferers who are totally debilitated and endure advice about ‘pulling themselves together’. I know from my pal that there were periods when he could hardly pull the sheets on the bed!
It is estimated that at any one time the illness affects around 250,000 in Britain alone. It leaves then severely lacking in energy and struggling to recover, there being no agreed cure. I did once chair a large conference on the subject. I was struck by the brave determination of so many for whom simply getting there had been a huge achievement. Various doctors came along to lead the discussion and one particularly impressed me. She had suffered herself and was convinced that the answer lay in finding a beneficial regime of vitamins.
Other speakers included a top-class athlete who had been suddenly stricken down. One day she could run ten miles without pausing for breath, the next she needed help to climb the stairs. My lasting impression was of a condition that strikes at all ages and which takes away all hope. And at that time many GPs were dismissive of the what some then chose to call ‘yuppies disease’.
There is now an active ME association and much more clinical involvement in research and the provision of help. But the battle goes on for many and it is hard to imagine suffering from something that suddenly renders you bedridden and yet is claimed by some to be an invention.
It must have cheered many that Yvette Cooper, essentially a private person, decided to publicise her own ordeal. Knowing that we are not alone is the greatest comfort anyone suffering from anything can have.
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; HOUSEWORK; “I hate housework. You make the beds, you do the dishes, and six months later, you have to start all over again”…..Joan Rivers “Cleaning your house while the kids are still growing is like shovelling the path before it stops snowing”……Phyllis Diller “As far as I know, a single man has never vacuumed behind a couch”…..Rita Rudner “I buried a lot of my ironing in the back yard”…..Phyllis Diller “My second favourite household chore is ironing, my first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint”….Erma Bombeck “I’m 18 years behind with my ironing. There’s no point in doing it now, it doesn’t fit anyone I know’…….Phyllis Diller “I would like to marry a nice, domesticated homosexual guy who has a fetish for wiping down Formica and different vacuum cleaner attachments”……Jenny Eclair “In painting a ceiling, a good rule of thumb is that there should be at least as much paint on the ceiling as on your hair”….P J O’Rourke “Our terraced house was so small that the mice used to walk about on their back legs”…..Les Dawson “A neighbour is someone who has just run out of something”……Robert Benchley “I’m a wonderful housekeep. Every time I get divorced, I keep the house”….Zsa Zsa Gabor