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?"

Monday, 30 June 2014

Rape in Slough

As I live only a few miles to the north of Slough in leafy Buckinghamshire, I have some interest in what happens in Slough. My nearest Hospital with A and E facilities is at Wexham Park since High Wycombe Hospital closed its A and E department in order "To improve the service to the public". I occasionally go to Slough to support the local bell-ringers but it really a lost cause in what is no longer a predominately Christian area.

Yesterday the news reported that a teenager had been gang raped in some woodland on the outskirts of the town, and today we are told by the Mail that "Four men have been arrested by detectives investigating the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in a secluded woodland".

The Sky report described those being sought were of "Asian Origin",  but the Mail, for once, seems to shy away from the subject. Those living locally, of course, immediately jump to the obvious conclusion, as they are fully aware of the origin of the current majority population in Slough. However, any genuinely independent observer would surely think about the Chinese, after all, they are probably the largest ethnic group in Asia.

I have considerable sympathy for all the other Asians who are lumped together with the relatively small numbers of Asians of Pakistani/Bangladeshi descent, of whom the Police, the Media and, of course, politicians collude to avoid actually mentioning by name. I'm sure if, say, a crime was committed by a Chinese Triad, the police wouldn't say they were looking for members of an "Asian Triad"!

Over the years, I have had a number of colleagues of Asian descent and I'm sure they must be upset about this constant reference to "Asian suspects". Why should those who I have known and have come from Hong Kong, Burma, Sri Lanka and India, be lumped in with this relatively small group of Asians from the north of the Indian sub-continent? Why should the couple who run the local newsagent, whom I know are Christians of Indian origin, be lumped in the minds of many with some rapists living down the road in Slough?

One thing that surprises me somewhat is that, as far as I am aware, none of the ambassadors of the countries such as I have mentioned have made a complaint to the Foreign Office about this constant slurring of their citizens. I just wish one would!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

"Disconnected" UKIP Voters

Labour's Chuka Umunna (a potential future Labour leader) claims that
‘a lot’ of people who voted for UKIP in its European elections victory were not computer literate and did not have basic online skills.
Judging by friends in my age group, this statement demonstrates the total disconnect of Umunna from the older population!

All my friends have computers or iPads and certainly know how to send e-mails and search the internet. It seems likely they are probably more clued up on the news that many younger people simply because they have time to read, not only the news on-line, but also various blogs of their choice. It is probably because of this, and the fact that they are so well informed, that they voted UKIP, not because they were disconnected!
My wife is interested in Family History Research and now does much of it on line, both for herself and friends. She also uses Facebook to keep an eye on what more distant members of the family and friends are up to. Most of our friends also seem to be capable of using Skype to keep in touch with their families in far flung places, we are an exception simply because both our daughters live locally. Another friend, who recently had a fall and is unable to drive for the time being, summoned her grandson to come and teach her about on-line shopping and has become totally converted to it, particularly when it comes to her weekly supermarket shop which is delivered to her kitchen door.
The one thing that most of us oldies are wary about is on-line banking; there is so much in the media about hacking that we'd rather be safe than sorry.

An aside,
We've just been looking at my teenage great-niece's Facebook page. It would appear that having a Great Aunt is considered to be far more prestigious than a Grandmother, of which she has both. I must remind my sister next time I see her!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

ISIS in Britain

The Telegraph reports that

The Prime Minister warned that the current crisis in Iraq must not be dismissed as a foreign problem because the same terrorists are planning to “attack us here at home in the United Kingdom”. 

Unfortunately,  other than drawing the public's attention to the problem, he gives no indication as to what the government is proposing to do about the problem.
His reported responses, at Question Time in Parliament, cast no light on what steps, if any, the government is proposing to take, other than telling us that:
British born extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria now represent the most serious threat to our security.

This, and his other answers, when examined closely, amount to little more than meaningless waffle. Clearly he believes that having drawn attention to the problem he has done his duty and the problem will go away. He tells us that:
The right answer is to be long term, hard-headed, patient and intelligent with the interventions that we make, and the most important intervention of all is to make sure that these governments are fully representative of the people who live in their countries, that they close down the ungoverned space, and they remove the support for the extremists.

What on earth has that got to do with the threat that within this country caused by returning extremists?

The United States has laws by which they can ban people from visiting proscribed countries without specific permission. Of course this does not stop anyone going to these countries, but if, on returning, there is evidence that they have been to such countries, they can be charged with a criminal offence and imprisoned if found guilty.

Surely, as a minimum, we could do the same. Were the government to declare ISIS as an enemy of this country, one would have thought that any British Citizens consorting with them would be guilty of treason, and here my only regret is that the Blair government removed the death penalty for treason.
Additionally, it would appear that many of those going to the Middle East from this country are not British Citizens, but "refugees" or "asylum seekers" with "leave to remain". This "leave" can be withdrawn and the Home Office should make it clear that this will be done in the case of anyone who visits the Middle East. If they willingly return to the countries from which they came, they are hardly refugees!

Cameron has admitted that extremists present a grave danger to this country, now he has to show that he is taking real action rather than talking about the problem.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Islamic Extremism

Tony Blair has published a defence of his actions in Iraq and is now arguing for more intervention due to the ISIS extremists taking over the north of the country. In rebuttal, General Sir Michael Rose accuses him of self delusion whilst Boris Johnson writes in the Telegraph 
" I have come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has finally gone mad".
He continues
"He wrote an essay on his website on Sunday that struck me as unhinged in its refusal to face facts. In discussing the disaster of modern Iraq he made assertions that are so jaw-droppingly and breathtakingly at variance with reality that he surely needs professional psychiatric help."
I do hope both Boris' and the Telegraph's lawyers passed what what was written!

To me, it seems quite clear that the war in Iraq served to cause those Islamic organisations and countries which never had any animosity towards Britain to become "anti-Western", and for many to adopt extremist attitudes. Not only do we have ISIS operating in Iraq and Syria but also Boko Harem in Nigeria as well as al-Shabaab in Kenya, all of which are Islamic extremists prepared to kill and maim anyone who doesn't agree with their creed.

The worrying part, to me, is what is happening in this country. There are some 3 million Muslims living here and in the past year about another 300,000 people have been given British citizenship, the majority, one must assume coming from our erstwhile colonies in the Indian sub-continent, as EU citizens coming here have no reason to take out British citizenship.

Now if just a tenth of 1% of those Muslims in this country are extremists, that would represent a considerable force of some 3,000 or so who, if ISIS is anything to go by, could cause considerable havoc.

In order to visualise what damage such a small force could do, you only have to look at the damage that the IRA caused here. More to the point, one has to remember that the IRA had very little support here, whereas Muslim extremists could readily hid amongst amongst their own sort, who, whilst they would not necessarily approve of the extremists' action, are unlikely to do anything to prevent them if only because their religion effectively prohibits them from "telling tales".

Remember also that the IRA did their best to avoid getting killed or captured and this would to some extent limited their possible targets. In contrast, Islamic extremists, have no concern about being killed fighting for their cause, believing that they will end up in Paradise.

As the Israelis have discovered, it is extremely difficult to deal with suicide bombers as any attempt to arrest or search them merely leads to them detonating their bomb.

I just hope our authorities have given some real though to what could happen here and have some viable plans for dealing with such a situation when potentially some 5% of the population could be giving tacit support to the such extremists.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Talking in Class

Both the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail have reports today about an 11 year old girl who had her mouth taped shut with a piece of Sellotape for 15 minutes because she kept chattering in class. Her father has complained to the school and demanded that the teacher should be suspended.

This shows what happens when you remove virtually all the sanctions that teachers can apply against disruptive children. In my day, parents for were invariably supportive of their children's teachers, but these days the opposite is frequently true. Suppose this girl had been given, say, a hundred lines, no doubt the father would have been complaining that it was a totally pointless punishment. If she had been suspended for perhaps a week, the father would have complained that it was excessive and disrupting his daughter's education. What the father doesn't seem to understand is that his daughter's chattering was not only disrupting her education, but also that of some thirty other children. Regrettably, it's a no win situation for many teachers many of whom enter the profession full of enthusiasm, but after a few years simply end up going along with the flow leading to many of our failing schools.

This sort of behaviour is one of the reasons that many parents who can afford to send their children to a private school do so, and why many thousands of others would do the same if only they could afford it. When you are spending good money on you child's education you expect value for money and expect your child to behave in class and try to absorb what is being taught. Thus you would be very supportive of a teacher who punished your child's misbehaviour in an appropriate manner. Additionally, other parents would not want their own children's education to be harmed by a disruptive child and would soon be complaining to the school if the disruption continued. Thus everyone favours order and discipline, and the school can get on with its main job of educating children.

The exact reverse seems to apply in state schools where everybody seems to condone bad behaviour except the teacher concerned.

Incidentally, this incident took place last December, and the father has complained not only to the head teacher, but also to the local education authority and Ofsted. He is now demanding that the teacher should be suspended, which is why it is back in the news. The father said that he was reluctant to send his child back to the school, but did so after she said she was missing her friends. So if she hadn't missed her friends, he wouldn't have sent her back to school! Personally, I think that his child should be suspended for disruptive behaviour and the school governors should give the teacher their full support. But as it is, the child now knows she can get away with almost anything and will no doubt continue to disrupt no only her own education, but also that of the others in her class.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Cameron and Apologies

I read in various newspapers that following then spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May over the Islamification of schools in Birmingham, Michael Gove was "ordered to apologise to the Prime Minister and to Charles Farr, a senior official at the Home Office".

I find this amazing. The fact that some unknown Civil Servant, believed to be the Cabinet Secretary, can order a cabinet member to make an apology is weird and to my mind throws considerable doubt on Cameron's abilities as a manager.

That aside,  how can you order somebody to apologise?
Surely a person who is ordered to say "Sorry" is unlikely to mean what they say and show genuine remorse for what they have done, and thus giving such an apology becomes a totally pointless activity. Indeed, a reluctant apology is more likely to make things worse, the one giving it resents having to do so and the one receiving it knows that it has no meaning.

But why didn't Cameron sort out the problem himself? When I was working, arguments between my staff were fortunately few and far between, but when they occurred, I had to sort them out and would have considered myself a failure if I'd had to call upon the Personnel (now HR) Department for assistance. It meant, of course, that I had to make a judgement of who was in the wrong, but that was all part of the job. Invariably I got the matter sorted out and things settled down. Certainly, I wouldn't have even thought of ordering either party to apologise, either to the other or to myself, that was left entirely up to them.

So why didn't Cameron do anything himself, after all he has far more power over members of the cabinet than I had over my staff. He could get rid of them next time the cabinet is shuffled whereas all I could do, in the limit, was to issue a formal warning or mark them down in their annual reports. To my mind this shows up Cameron more than Gove or May; a good manager should have realised that trouble was on the way and taken preventative action. Even then, when trouble occurred, why did Cameron off-load the problem to a Civil Servant? He's the boss, for goodness sake. Why not "I want you both in my office at 9 am in the morning without fail"? That's how things are done in the real world!

From my point of view, this whole affair shows how weak or lazy Cameron is. He is unwilling to face the realities of dealing with his cabinet appointees and delegates the matter to a Civil Servant. I remember reading Churchill's war memoirs and somewhere he wrote that on occasions he had "to knock heads together" when there was squabbling about priorities. I simply don't understand how someone can get to Cameron's position without the ability to manage staff - more to the point I wonder who would lead this country and inspire confidence if we had a real crisis.

Friday, 6 June 2014


The Conservatives won the Newark by-election with a much reduced majority and the Tories are shouting about it being a great defeat of UKIP.
Now I don't believe anyone except the most incorrigible optimist expected UKIP to win a seat where the Tories had a 16,00o majority at the last election. But for the upstarts at UKIP to cut that majority by more than half to 7000 is, however you look at it, a great achievement. The Conservatives threw everything they had at the seat, nearly all their ministers visited Newark, all prospective Tory candidates visited Newark under pain of de-selection, and all local Tory Councillors were told to get canvassing.

It was said that this Newark was the 44th safest seat for the Tories and in that they have 305 MPs, this would suggest that there are 261 seats which are less safe. I wonder how the MPs in some of those seats are feeling about this great Tory victory!

UKIP are here to stay, they are steadily getting more organised, weeding out the more extreme fruitcakes, and getting their candidates and spokespersons "on message". To some extent, their future is determined by what happens within the EU; Will the EU select arch-federalist such as Jean-Claude Juncker as their President?; Will the EU courts continue to interfere with UK justice? Time will tell!

Meanwhile, as far as I am concerned the best news was that LibDems were beaten by both the Greens and an Independent Candidate and they lost their deposit.

All things considered, not a bad result!