Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Digging up Dirt.

The media today is full of the allegations made by a retired police officer claiming that he was asked to "dig the dirt" on the Lawrence family following the murder of their son Stephen 20 years ago.
Now it is a fact that the majority of murders are carried out by members of the family or someone close to the family, and that random murders of the type carried out by the likes of Ian Brady are quite rare.

For that reason, in the majority of police murder investigations, when the culprit is not immediately apparent as in the case of Drummer Lee Rigby, the police will investigate the family and friends as a matter of routine. Only today we read of the father of an eleven year old girl being arrested on suspicion of her murder, and almost every week we read of similar cases. A month ago, there was news of the conviction of Tia Sharp's step-grandfather for her murder and even in the case of April Jones, the murderer was someone she knew and trusted

In my view, the police would have been guilty of gross negligence if they had not looked at the family of Stephen Lawrence and at Stephen's friend Duwayne Brooks who claimed to have witnessed the murder. It took place in an area where there were numerous gang crimes, and for all the police knew at the start of the investigation, this could have been such a crime and the only witness could have been implicated.

So what is the difference between "investigating the family" and "digging the dirt"? Other than the fact that the first expression is likely to be used by a senior office, and the later by an ordinary constable, they both mean much the same. Investigations are to establish the facts, and presumably having finished "digging the dirt", the police were able to conclude that the family was in the clear, whatever else went wrong with the investigation.

What has surprised me is that everyone has again jumped on the bandwagon, from the Home Secretary downwards; the furore is likely to make life more difficult for the police when investigating future murders as it will make them more reluctant to look at the families and close friends.

I would also ask why the officer concerned didn't raise his concerns at the time of the Macpherson  enquiry. Could it have been because that what he is claiming now is a complete distortion of the facts, written in emotive language, designed to secure publicity for a book he has written?

After 20 years, it's time to let sleeping dogs lie.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Syria - The start of WW3 ?

The Mail today publishes an analysis of the situation in Syria under the heading

Could Syria ignite World War 3? 

That's the terrifying question as the hatred between two Muslim ideologies sucks in the world's superpowers.

This brought back to mind an incident which occurred some 50 years ago when I was at an Australian Government reception in London (don't ask!) and chatting to an Australian Army Officer who was on a course at Sandhurst.
At the time China was flexing its muscles and there were border clashes with Russia. The cold war was at its height and the Berlin wall had been erected. A belief among those in the military who were studying languages was that the optimists learnt Russian whilst the pessimists learnt Chinese.
I remember this young officer saying to me that he thought both groups were wrong and the language to learn should be Arabic. His view was "It may not come in our time, but when it does, it will be  a re-run of the crusades in the Middle East".
I wonder what happened to him with his views which were definitely out of tune with the general thinking at the time. Let us hope it doesn't come to WW3, but with America now deciding to supply arms to the rebels in Syria, and Russia supplying them to Assad, it seems that an uprising of the type seen in other Arab states has been taken over by the extremists of the two differing religious sects, which in turn could engulf neighbouring states. This could end up as a major conflict between the great powers by proxy and with NATO defending Turkey's southern border.
Britain needs to do all it can to try to find a peaceful solution and certainly should avoid getting involved in the supply of arms, whatever Obama decides to do. Assistance should be given as humanitarian aid for refugees, particularly in Jordan which is a relatively poor country and does not have the resources to cope.

Having written the above, I was appalled to hear on the early evening television news that David Cameron is supporting Obama's actions. I can see us being dragged into something which could be far worse than Afghanistan.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

My Catus

This rather sad cactus has sat on the windowsill of our conservatory for maybe twenty years. It has been moved, dropped, cursed, neglected, collected dust, lost most of its prickles and threatened with the compost heap. But last year it was given a new pot,which has worked magic.

So there's hope for us all!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

As I was saying - Parliamentary Sleaze

Last Wednesday I wrote (here) about the differences in the treatment of two MPs, Patrick Mercer, who was caught in a journalist's sting as being prepared to ask questions in parliament for money, and Tim Yeo Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change who holds consultancy posts with a number of "Green" companies who have paid him (according to the Mail) some £400,000 since 2009. Seemingly, the former acted against the house's rules, but the latter is quite in order as we all know the "honourable member" wouldn't allow his consultancies to influence his impartial management of the committee.

But now Tim Yeo has been caught out.
Firstly by his hypocrisy in complaining about a peer, Lord Deben (aka John Selwyn Gummer), who is the chairman of Veolia Water, which has interests in windfarms. Lord Deben is also chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, an independent body that advises the Government on the impact of climate change. Apparently, in Tim Yeo's view there is no conflict of interests in his being chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee, but it is wrong for Lord Deben to be chairman of the Committee on Climate Change. Could it be that Lord Deben is actually doing a honest job?  Talk about "pots and kettles"!

Secondly, BBC and the Sunday Times report that the "Tory MP [Tim Yeo] in charge of scrutinising new energy laws has been caught boasting about how he can use his leadership of a powerful Commons committee to push his private business interests".

Unlike Patrick Mercer, who resigned the Conservative whip, Tim Yeo  said "I intend to contest these allegations very vigorously indeed" and so remains both chairman of the select committee and in receipt of the Conservative whip.

The Telegraph now reports that Tim Yeo pulled out of two television interviews (with BBC and Sky) this morning, and has now referred himself to Parliament’s Standards Committee. Which means, of course, that his conduct will be judged by some of his mates. Surely he should be investigated by his constituents, selected from the electoral list in a similar manner to a jury, or, if corruption is suspected, by the police.

The sleaze continues unabated.

As I was saying - Hospital A&E closures

I have been banging on about the closure of the A&E departments at hospitals and I'm pleased to see that today's Mail has chosen to highlight the situation in Buckinghamshire. (here)

The Mail's graphic shows the situation;  those of us who would have relied on High Wycombe Hospital now have to travel another 15 or so miles to get to hospital. As I live to the east of High Wycombe, I would be presumably taken to Wexham Park in an emergency; the only problem there is that I don't speak the local language! It is also worth noting that neither hospital has had its A&E upgraded to cope with the extra workload.
the domino effect 

A friend of mine had a bad fall a couple of weeks ago, and although she hadn't broken anything, she was in so much pain that she was taken to Stoke Mandeville by a friend one afternoon. As the friend couldn't stay with her, she arranged to give her a phone call if she needed transport home. The following morning she rang her friend and asked to be collected, the friend asked "Are you mobile now?"  The response was "I've been mobile all b**** night, lying on a trolley being pushed here, there and everywhere because there's no room and wherever they've put me I've been in the way".

In the same issue of the Mail (here) they also publish a piece by  Nick De Bois, MP For Enfield North concerning closures in his constituency which is worth reading.

The crazy thing is that last week the NHS Confederation and Academy of Royal Colleges released a report arguing that up to 20 hospitals would have to close to keep the NHS sustainable. Can you imagine any other business using such back-handed logic. Can you imagine the management of our local Tesco, which is very busy and often short of some items, saying "This branch is far too busy and frequently some shelves are empty, so we are going to close it and send all our customers to the nearest one in Slough" ? Of course not, and because customers have choice, they would probably go to the nearby Morrisons or Asda. Unfortunately, we patients can't do the same, which is why I am coming around to the belief that privatisation of the NHS wouldn't be the disaster that many like to think. The fact that people are prepared to pay £70 a visit to a privately run Polish surgery in West London (here) knowing that there is 24 hour availability surely shows how bad things are getting with the NHS.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Al-Qaeda in Syria

I wrote a week or so ago (here) about the dangers of providing arms to the rebels in Syria and today's news reports give further cause for concern.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has taken over from Bin Laden, has called for the creation of an Islamic caliphate to take over from Assad and urged all the rebel fighters to join this common cause. The main rebel group, Al-Nusra Front, has already pledged allegiance to Zawahiri, and it now seems likely that the conflict could lead to a three way confrontation.
However, the success of the Al-Nusra Front has alarmed many of those who had avoided involvement in the conflict with the result that there is increasing support for the Assad regime, presumably on the basis of "Better the Devil that you know".
At the moment it would seem that the secular/moderate reformists are most likely to loose out as they have neither training or adequate weapons, and whilst it might be tempting for Britain and France to provide them with arms, few comentators seem to think that they will come out on top.
The biggest worry is that Al-Qaeda will achieve its objective and set up an Islamic state from which it would be able to dispatch terrorists world wide. The Assad regime is reported to have huge stocks of chemical weapons, and this country's priority should be to prevent any of these getting into the hands of Al-Qaeda who would most certainly use them both in western capital cities and against Israel.
Whilst Assad is a very nasty dictator, he has, until now, kept relative peace in Syria and not harassed other Islamic sects or the largish Christian minority. Also, apart from occasional sabre rattling, he has left Israel alone.
Much as it goes against the grain to support such a person, the fact remains that the best chance for stability in the area is for him to regain control of the country. In my view it is "pie in the sky" to think that the rebel groups, who took up arms in the hope of achieving a multi-party democracy, will ever succeed in their aims; one only has to look at Iraq, Egypt and Libya to see that our type of democracy simply does not work in these countries.
So I come back to my previous conclusion; to supply arms to anyone in Syria at this time would be the hight of madness. Any British involvement should be limited to the supply humanitarian aid to the refugees through such organisations as the International Red Cross.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Parliamentary Sleaze.

Consider these two examples.
An MP is revealed by the media as being prepared to ask questions on behalf of a lobbyist acting for a fictitious client after accepting the sum of £20,000. An MP who is then forced to resign the Conservative whip and is now the subject of an enquiry by the parliamentary authorities.
Another MP who last year made £200,000 on top of his Parliamentary salary by working for a swathe of firms making a fortune out of ‘renewable energy’ and who continues in his position as chairman of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change. An MP, who yesterday, tabled an amendment to the Energy Bill seeking faster "de-carbonisation" of our economy.

Which of these would you consider the most reprehensible? The MP who is paid to ask a parliamentary question, which would have been largely ignored both by the House and the media, or the one who works for several companies and indirectly represents their interests as chairman of a select committee?

The first is Patrick Mercer, caught by a journalist's sting; the second is Tim Yeo who's activities are declared and known to all.
The moral seems to be that provided the money is big enough, and you are sufficiently brazen about your interests and declare the income, all is well.