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, 31 December 2012

The End of 2012

Normally at this time on New Year's Eve, I would be meeting with the local bell ringers to start our New Year celebrations. We start early as we still carry on the tradition of ringing the bells around midnight at the Parish Church. We usually gather at one of the ringers' homes for a small party, following which we go to the tower at about twenty minutes before midnight. Following tradition, we ring the half-muffled bells for about a quarter of an hour to mark the passing of the old year, and then, a few minutes before midnight, a couple of the more agile ringers rush up to the bells and remove the muffles, getting down in time for the twelve strokes to be struck on the tenor bell at midnight. We then immediately ring the open bells for five or ten minutes to welcome in the new year. This is a tradition that has been carried out almost every year at our church since the installation of the bells in the late 1800's.
As I said, I would normally be there, but this year I have been suffering from a bad cold since Christmas Day and so I have decided to stay at home rather than inflict my cold on the other ringers in a rather small ringing room.
As a result, I have been pondering on the past year and asking myself what, if anything, will go down in history to be taught at schools in, say, a hundred year's time.  My conclusion is that apart from the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympic Games, there seems very little change in the situation at the end of the year as compared with that at the start.
We are still fighting a pointless war in Afghanistan resulting in a steady stream of deaths and  serious injuries to our Service personnel. This conflict has gone on for longer that either of the world wars and the majority of the public fail to understand why we are there.  Certainly, no-one believes the arguments about security put forward by the politicians, indeed it could be argued that it is encouraging "home-grown" terrorists, the exact opposite of the original intention.
We still remain in the EU in spite of polls showing that a majority of us would like to withdraw, the best that might happen seems to be that we might be offered a vote on whether the government should attempt to re-negotiate our terms of reference. They could do that at any time, without a vote, and so the suggestion has all the hallmarks of being a simple delaying action. All the pundits predicted that sometime during the year either the Euro would collapse or Greece (and perhaps some other countries) would be forced out of it, but once again the experts were all wrong.
At home, the financial crisis is unchanged, indeed it seems to be worsening. The deficit is increasing in spite of the so-called cuts. (A cut in the Civil Service is not getting the budget increase that you demanded, rather than a cut in the current budget, as would be understood by ordinary people). The government seems to still manage to find millions for this or that, and still we continue to waste money on foreign aid.
The NHS is deteriorating, not because of the "cuts" but largely because of poor management. I would be interested to know what percentage of the NHS budget is spent on administration, not just at hospitals, but also in all the various organisations and committees which have been set up to run and oversee various aspect of our health care (and have demonstrably failed to do their jobs in many cases). We have now reached the appalling state where hospitals are being paid to meet targets for the number of patients put on the "Liverpool Care Pathway", a scheme for removing treatment from patients whom doctors decide are going to die soon and are thus a waste of resources.
Emigration continues unabated, and the face of the country is slowly changing, but no-one in power seems to care for fear of being accused of being a "racist", now possibly the most serious crime that one can commit.
The only other matter worthy of note is the Levinson enquiry into the press. If fully implemented, this could go down in history as the beginning of the end of a free press as we know it.

So apart from the Jubilee and the Olympics, will this year go down in history?
Not as far as I am concerned; nothing real has been achieved and the whole country seems to be on a downward slope to nowhere.

So here's to 2013 and the hope that things might change for the better, although, regrettably, I can see little hope of that under our present leaders, or indeed under any of our existing politicians of any party.

Happy New Year

Friday, 28 December 2012

European Justice

The Telegraph reports (here) that
Europe’s most senior justice official has warned that David Cameron's “crazy” plan to repatriate powers from Brussels will allow paedophiles and criminals to run free if Britain opted out from 135 EU crime and policing laws.

It seems that according to Viviane Reding, the vice-president of the European Commission, if we opt out of these EU laws we will have criminals and paedophiles running around freely on the streets. 
She is the second most senior person in the EU, and in spite of her position, it doesn't appear that she can see the total illogicality of what she says. She fails to explain why this should happen which is probably as well as there is no reason why it should.

If you follow her argument through to its logical conclusion, there must be huge numbers of criminals from, say, the United States running around Europe and similar numbers of European criminals running about the US, which is blatantly untrue. One assumes the Federal police in the US and their equivalent in the EU exchange details of criminals as a matter of routine, and all this without the US being a member of the EU. In case she hasn't heard, it is possible for countries to have bi-lateral agreements on matters of mutual interest. Perhaps she doesn't know, but Interpol existed long before the EU and was quite effective if you took into account the various countries' differing legal systems.
Or is she implying that if Britain withdrew from these 135 EU crime laws (seemingly it is all or nothing), that in retaliation, the EU would not be prepared to negotiate on a replacement bi-lateral agreement covering areas of mutual interest?

In practice the existing arrangements seem to have been of little advantage to the UK, we still seem to have huge numbers of criminals coming into the country, mainly, but not exclusively from the Eastern European countries, and the laws seem to have done nothing to help us to keep them out.

Once again, it seems to me that those at the top of the EU are scaremongering; the specific mention of "criminals and paedophiles" as if later were something special in addition to the criminals, strikes me as an attempt to grab headlines rather than to logically debate the issue. 

The sooner that we ore out of the EU the better.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


I am still trying to make sense of the whole affair - was it a little spat which got out of hand or was it, as has now been alleged, an attempt to "fit up" Andrew Mitchell?

Neither option seems particularly credible to  me. Mitchell admits to swearing at the police, but not using the word "pleb". I'm quite sure that this would not have been the first time that someone had swore at the police officers concerned and I fail to see their objection to the word "pleb" - I'm quite sure that far worse words would have been used against them when they were beat officers on routine duties. Personally, I would have been more offended by the use of swear words, particularly from a a Minister of the Crown, but seemingly these was considered unimportant which I find disappointing.

The suggestion that someone is trying to "fit-up" Andrew Mitchell seems equally unlikely. As far as the public is concerned, Mitchell was a nobody; the public aren't concerned about who is Chief Whip, it doesn't affect them in any way. So why on earth would anyone want to fit him up? Logically, only someone affected by his work would have an interest in doing so, which would be one or more of the hundred or so Tories who have rebelled against the government at some point and thus had their prospective careers curtailed. But collusion with the police - this seems totally improbable even to the most ardent conspiracy theorist.

Other commentators suggest that the Police Federation is behind the whole affair, but why? Surely their target would be Theresa May, the Home Secretary, whom they clearly dislike if one is to  judge by their treatment of her at this year's annual meeting of the Federation. But would police officers lie for their Federation? For a mate maybe, but for a federation, no, I wouldn't think so.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

BBC Management Failings

Today saw the publication of the Nick Pollard (ex-Sky) report on BBC news management which has been in the spotlight since the Jimmy Savile revelations. It really didn't tell us much we didn't know, or suspect, already. It is a valuable report, however, in that it came from an outsider, and not just any outsider, but from someone who had worked in a similar line of business in a a public company. Now from my experience, most public companies generally won't tolerate excessive or incompetent management as they prefer to spend their money on their core business. They also prefer clear lines of responsibility so that an individual can clearly be held to account if necessary. The BBC, as is clear from the report, has an excessive number of managers with overlapping responsibilities, many of whom have risen from the ranks to a level of total incompetence.

Specifically, the report says that “leadership was in short supply” and that management was “completely incapable” of.dealing with the developing situation. A damming indictment, one would have thought, and one which in most businesses would have resulted in the departure of all of those concerned. Not so in the BBC, all that is happening is that the deputy head of news has decided to retire whilst three other senior managers are being moved to different posts. Just like a game of musical chairs, one falls out whilst the rest end up on different seats! No mention whatsoever of cutting back on management, and presumably, all the overlapping responsibilities with their lack of any coherent chain of command, will remain.
The report appears to be competent and thorough. The BBC's response is anything but!

The BBC trustees don't seem to have been mentioned, when clearly they are, at least in part, responsible for the debacle. They have appointed successive DGs and one would have thought they would have taken some notice of the management structure and the effectiveness of the organisation. They have allowed the top (highly paid) structure to grow without apparently even sounding any word of warning. One might ask exactly what they do, as their failures seem to have cost the licence payers a lot of money which could have been better spent on programmes. Certainly, in my view, Chris Patten's position is totally untenable and he should resign forthwith. But he won't, it's simply not a done thing these days (at least not without an accompanying bag of gold).

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Just Imagine !

Headlines in the Telegraph read:

"Syrian fighter jets bomb Palestinian refugee camp
"Syrian fighter jets bombed a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus as it tried to stop rebels winning more territory in the government heartland."

I just wondered what the media,  and particularly the BBC, would be saying if the word "Israeli" had been substituted for "Syrian". As it is this is just a short report in the Telegraph and there was no mention of it in the last BBC news I heard, I assume it is considered to be either of no importance or of no news value.

See here

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Misuse of Powers - Addendum

Following my piece earlier today, it seems that the implied threats against the Daily Telegraph for investigating Maria Miller's expenses has been elevated to a higher level, to none other than Craig Oliver, David Cameron's director of communications. Apparently, he phoned the editor to express his concern  that Mrs Miller was “very distressed” about her family being questioned over her expense claims. He reminded the editor that Mrs Miller is currently overseeing negotiations about a new system of press regulation, and said that she was considering making a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. (see here)

As far as I am aware, the Telegraph is one of the few papers which hasn't been tainted by the scandals surrounding phone hacking and  bribery of public servants, and for the time being holds the moral high ground. They state that before publication of the news items about Mrs Miller, they made sure that they had double checked all the facts. They claim that their reporter had a friendly discussion with her father who is a Telegraph reader, and it would seem to me that Mrs Miller's "distress" at her family being questioned more likely stems from the knowledge that they now know what their daughter has been doing, something that a person of my generation might find rather upsetting.

A number of those involved in the talks now suggest that Mrs Miller should withdraw from all negotiations on the Leveson report. The Prime Minister, through his press secretary has now become personally involved in the matter, which strikes me as yet another example of his  extremely bad  judgement. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to reading about the basis of her complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, as it seems to me that the Telegraph has done nothing more than carry out a piece of  perfectly legal investigative journalism. I think that this matter will run for some time yet!

But whatever happens, this further action by Craig Oliver illustrates very clearly that there is no way that politicians should have any control over our media. It may not be the best, but at least, subject to the laws of libel, it is free and can say what it pleases.

Leveson - Misuse of Powers

The Culture Secretary Maria Miller is responsible for the implementation of the Levenson report and is currently having a round of discussions with editors of our national press and other interested parties.
She has also been accused of fiddling her parliamentary expenses by claiming mortgage costs on her parents' home with the result that she has been reported to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards by the Labour MP John Mann.

What is of considerable concern is the apparent threats that were made by one of her aides against the Daily Telegraph and its reporter who was seeking to find out  more about her parliamentary expenses, which is reported under the heading (See here).
"The minister and a warning to The Telegraph before expenses story".
Among other things, her special adviser, Joanna Hindley said “Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about,” Now, if this all goes pear shaped, I'm sure tha Maria Miller will claim that her special adviser was not authorised to make, and shouldn't have made, these comments, but if you believe that, you'll believe anything.

In this series of actions, Maria Miller has demonstrated in no uncertain terms why there should not be statutory control over the media. If she can issue, via her adviser, pseudo-threats prior to introducing legislation, what on earth would she be doing if she had statutory rights to interfere?

The Telegraph  reported about her expenses (see here) under the heading
"MPs' expenses: Culture Secretary Maria Miller’s £90,000 claims for parents’ home"

Incidentally, Maria Miller is the MP for Basingstoke. My daughter lives in a village outside Basingstoke, and works in Holborn which is somewhat further from Waterloo Station than Westminster.  She often has to start work at 6am, and on occasions often leaves in the late evening. She can manage to travel on a daily basis, and when she is on a late turn often has to take a taxi from Basingstoke as she has missed the last connecting train to her village. She can't claim expenses, and her salary is considerably less than Maria Miller's. If she can manage, why can't Maria Miller?

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Another Gravy Train

I supported the concept of local Police Commissioners, but as has happened with nearly every piece of recent legislation, that to allow for the election of Police & Crime Commissioners was hastily cobbled together without much thought and has produced yet another gravy train for our politicians and their cronies.

Today's Mail just tells part of the story, and that is bad enough. Many of those appointed are already Councillors, several of who are doing virtually full time council jobs which they are keeping for the time being. But what we were never told was that they would be able to appoint deputies at salaries of up to £68,000 pa. Nor were we told that such appointments would be personal appointments without the normally accepted advertising and selection procedures. Just like the old Wild West where the Sheriff and his mates ran the town but getting highly paid as well. How long will it be before one of them appoints his wife partner as his deputy? But that is not the end of the matter, some of the deputies being appointed also have existing jobs in the public sector which they intend to keep.

But perhaps more worrying is the fact that these Commissioners can "Hire and fire Chief Constables". I just wonder whether any procedures have been laid down for this? Will they appoint them in the same way as the appoint their deputies, conceivably cronies without any police experience? One Chief Constable has already resigned after being told to re-apply for his job by the new Commissioner with whom he had previously clashed.

Yes, a very good idea, but it has gone horribly wrong due to being rushed through without any real consideration and with total lack of thought about the unexpected consequences. In my view it was a grave mistake to allow anyone who had previously stood as a party member for any elected council or parliamentary office. Certainly the legislation should have required that all appointments should be advertised and normal selection procedures should apply.

Meanwhile, the Gravy Train rolls on.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

NHS Summary Care Records

Today I received a letter from the NHS "Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Cluster" advising me that unless I object, a "Summary Care Record" will be created on my behalf. The letter suggests that this will be a good thing as information will then be readily available for my care in an emergency.
"The record will contain information about any medicines you are taking, allergies you suffer from and any bad reactions to medicines you have had, to ensure those caring for you have enough information to treat you safely"

Now, on the surface, this seems a good idea, until one looks at the detail and in particular the security detail.
"Healthcare staff will ask your permission before they look at your record, except in certain circumstances for example if you are unconscious."
To me, this means there is no security, anyone with access to the system can look up the details of any patient whose records are on the system. Logically, if they can look up my record if I am unconscious, they can also look up my record when I'm miles away.
"By law, anyone working for us or on our behalf must respect your confidentiality and keep all information about you secure".
I don't doubt that is the legal situation, but laws are frequently broken, as in the case of the phone hacking saga and the number of public officials who subsequently have been arrested for selling information to the media.
To access the data, Healthcare staff will "need to have an NHS smartcard with a chip and passcode" and "will have their details recorded". But then similar rules apply to the Police National Computer and this has been subject to quite a bit of misuse by both police officers and administrative staff in order to obtain personal details. Whilst this occasionally comes to light in the course of some other investigation, it would seem that the majority of misuse goes unnoticed. Why would the NHS be any different?
The concluding paragraph is rather disingenuous
"No matter how careful we are, there are always risks when information is held on computers as there is when they are held on paper"
No, the risks are far higher when they are held on computer. It takes a matter of just a few seconds for someone, anywhere in the country, to access records on a computer and copy them to a memory stick. With paper records, only someone at the hospital where you are being treated or at your GP's surgery could access the records, and copying requires time either at a photocopier or to make notes longhand, either of which I would suggest is a far more risky business.
Finally, regarding children it seems that parents may opt out, but "In some circumstances your GP may feel it is in your child's best interests to have a Summary Care Record". Big Brother now knows what is best for your child.

I strongly oppose these nationwide computer systems and have a strong dislike of the "Unless we hear to the contrary, we will ... " attitude. The only way you can keep your data secure is to keep it yourself, and I would have been quite happy to put a small memory stick with the information onto my key ring which is always in my pocket. My wife, who is on warfarin blood thinner, always carries her record booklet in her handbag along with a list of the other drugs she takes, and if one believes what one is told, this is all that will be on the Summary Care Record, so this information will presumably meet any emergency care needs.

Another point of interest is who outside the NHS will be given access to the information, and for what purposes?  In this contest it is worth noting that DVLA has banned more than 150 councils from accessing their database after they had breached motorists' privacy (Daily Mail). How long will it be before the NHS allows access, say, "for research" and the priviledge is similarly abused?

I have 12 weeks to make a decision but I will probably decide to opt out.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Our NHS (again)

There has been quite a lot in the news lately about the lack of compassion in the NHS, and from my limited experience these complaints are fully justified. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary has effectively acknowledged this in a recent speech when he said that he wanted "to be the health secretary who helped transform the culture of the system".
Yesterday, chief nursing officer for England, Jane Cummings, said action must be taken to ensure the values nurses stand for are not betrayed. As a result, she has begun a campaign today to "restore compassion" to nursing care.
Unlike her predecessor who believed in degree level education, she has defined what she believes to be the five "C's" of nursing, care, compassion, courage, commitment and communication. Whilst I am sure that the majority of nurses do in fact have these attributes, there is a sizeable minority who certainly don't and whom appear to have entered nursing merely by accident or mistake and have no real interest in the job. I don't blame all the problems on the nurses, far from it, the administrators would probably be first in my firing line for having put their own needs before those of the patients.

Certainly this was the view of a close friend who had to go into the hospital in Suffolk where she had previously worked as a nurse for some 30 years. Not one of the nurses who looked after her would have met the standards that she would have set when she was in charge, the cleaning of the ward, the toilets and washing facilities was abysmal and there was a general "don't care" attitude displayed by most staff. The computers at the nurses' station appeared more important than the patients!  But as one of her erstwhile colleagues said to her "if you can manage to wander round the administrative corridor, it's a sight worth seeing with its new carpets, plenty of space, latest furniture and proper cleaning".
And this is the problem, the administrators are in a world of their own; gone are the days when a hospital was run almost single handedly by the Hospital Secretary aided by the matron and a few clerical staff. Now administration is the priority, patients come last.

As the new Chief Nursing Officer has acknowledged, part of the problem is "degree level nursing" and indeed this is similar to the problem being experienced in many other fields, particularly teaching, although my own field of engineering is not exempt from such problems. Personally I believe that all those wanting to enter an occupation requiring practical skills should spend a year or so as a trainee before starting their academic studies. In nursing they would work under the supervision of an experienced nurse learning about the various day to day tasks and gaining some skills, but primarily discovering whether they actually want to be part of the profession and are prepared to clear up after an incontinent patient or help a patient with dementia to feed herself. Too many of those who obtain a degree in what is essentially a practical job don't really want to get their hands dirty but to work in an office like their friends who have degrees in other subjects.

Again, I think there are strong arguments for part time study. I had a job in my chosen branch of electrical engineering and studied one day and a couple of evenings per week. I learnt the practical aspects of the job at work, and learnt the theory behind what I was doing at technical college. In due course I obtained qualifications which were considered to be equivalent to a degree and was accepted as a member of the appropriate professional Institution.  This suited both myself and my employer, and more to the point, if I'd decided the work wasn't for me, I could have dropped out without incurring major debts. I suspect too many nurses (and teachers) are in the wrong job, but simply can't change because of the years that they spent at university getting a qualification which is of no use elsewhere, and for which they are still in debt.

I've just noticed in the Mail that Ann Clwyd MP said in parliament that her husband had died ‘like a battery hen’ in the University Hospital of Wales after her repeated pleas for NHS nurses to help him. As usual, the standard words were trotted out by the hospital’s executive director of nursing, who said ‘We will not tolerate poor care which is why it is so important that each incident is fully investigated so that we can drive up standards and provide patients and their families with the quality of care they need and deserve.’
Haven't I heard or read this somewhere else recently?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Today's News

I only tend to write anything here when there is something in the news in which I have a particular  interest, and as far as I'm concerned, even the Duchess of Cambridge's baby-to-be doesn't really fall in that category. I would merely comment that having watched my daughter's problems in the early stages of her pregnancy, the Duchess is lucky to be able to go into private care rather than suffer at the hands of the NHS. I wish the Duchess well, and hope that she has a boy, if only to upset all those feminists who wanted the rules on succession changed to permit a girl, if first born, to be the next in line to the throne.

Coming back to the news, the only other item that attracted my attention concerned the NHS where the Chief Nursing Officer has described poor patient care and lack of compassion as being a "betrayal" of the service.
Again, looking at my daughter's treatment I would fully agree. She had had a number of miscarriages, and on the third or forth occasion had to go into our local hospital to have the dead foetus removed. She was put in a ward with nine other women who had had abortions, all of whom were pleased to get rid of  what they believed to be an encumbrance, whilst she was in tears having lost yet another baby. Reaction from one of the nurses was to the effect that "I don't see what you're making such a fuss about, children are such a bloody nuisance that I can't see why anyone in their right mind would want one". Now that's real compassion for you!
Fortunately I do now have a lovely grandson, thanks to treatment given abroad whilst my daughter was on holiday in Sardinia.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Waiting for Leveson

The media today is full of what Leveson might say with Uncle Tom Cobley and all giving their views, so why shouldn't I have my say?
I feel that that the media should simply abide by the laws of the country, and that if they break these laws they should be prosecuted. Phone hacking (actually voice-mail hacking, there has been no suggestions of intercepted conversations) is illegal, so if it is taking place, it is a police matter and should be investigated. If the media finds a loop-hole in the law and manages to do something that the public find objectionable, the government should consider whether legislation is needed which should apply to everyone, not just the media.
The problem has not been the lack of laws, but the failure of the authorities to enforce them

One area where I think their might be room for change is to introduce the equivalent of the Small Claims Court to deal with small libel and slander cases, so that the ordinary person could pursue action if they wish.

Otherwise I'm opposed to increased regulation which will cost us all money and will, I suggest, merely hasten the demise of printed newspapers and magazines in favour of the internet, where the enforcement of rules will be difficult, particularly if the servers are based in  a foreign country or distribution is via "the cloud".

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Where our Money Goes

Kabul Bank was apparently hailed as proof of progress and modernisation in Afghanistan and held the salaries of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, policemen and government staff paid by international donors. However, following its near collapse in 2010, a forensic audit has revealed that it make huge fraudulent loans totalling some £540 million to a small circle of shareholders, political figures and their companies, with little expectation they would be repaid. Those receiving the money included the brothers of both the president and-vice president.

This money came from international donors, which is the politically correct way of saying the taxpayers in Britain, America and Japan. There is no hope of recovering it as it would seem that the Afghan police and justice systems are just as corrupt as the bank. No doubt the donors have written it off and decided that their taxpayers must cough up some more.

Massive corruption is a way of life not only in Afghanistan but in most so-called third world countries and nowhere more so than in their neighbour Pakistan. What always staggers me is that the donors are so naive as to hand out cash to these countries; in this case there was so much cash that it needed ten Pamir Airways pilots to be on the payroll in order to fly the loot to Dubai.

I am broadly against foreign aid as most appears to be given for political purposes rather than actual need. This country gives aid to countries such as India, Pakistan and China, all of which seemingly can afford huge military expenditure, way in excess of our own. I feel that aid should only be in response to natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods and not handed out as on a routine basis.

But if we are to give aid, in my view it should comply with the following conditions
  • It should never be cash, only goods or services
  • Wherever possible goods should be of a type that are difficult to re-sell and should be made in Britain, thus helping ourselves as we help others.
  • No luxury goods of any type,
  • No armaments or military supplies.
  • Any services (eg road building, etc) to be carried out by British companies, using directly employed local labour as necessary.
  • Where ever possible, the goods should be marked to indicate they were aid.
Some 45 or more years ago I worked for a short while as a technical assistant for the Australian government in London, and one of the jobs that I was involved in concerned the purchase of some airport radio equipment which was to be given as aid. The specification required that the main panels of the equipment were engraved with words to the effect that:
"This equipment  has been given by the people of Australia to the people of XXXX to assist in  the modernisation of their airport"
I think that this was the right approach to aid, it wasn't cash, it couldn't easily be re-sold, it wasn't luxury goods, and it was marked as aid. I wonder if the Australians still do the same in these politically correct times.

Meanwhile, I'm sure that everyone reading this will be pleased to know that while we are struggling to make ends meet, we have helped the government to make millionaires of twelve or so Afghans.

Further details in the Daily Telegraph

Monday, 26 November 2012

Nigel Farage declares war on David Cameron

According to the Telegraph
"Nigel Farage declares war on David Cameron over Ukip racism 'slur' "
This is an interesting development, and one might say "about time too".

The matter of "Racist" UKIP has been brought to a head by the child fostering saga in Rotherham and could become quite personal between Farrage and Cameron.
Cameron said back in 2006 that UKIP members were "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly". Downing Street has been trying to backtrack from this statement, but has only infuriated the party further by suggesting that this weekend that not all UKIP members are racist. Presumably those of us who are not racist are "fruitcakes and loonies", and there are a lot of us about as polls are suggesting that UKIP's support is now running at 9-10%.

Of course, it all depends on what you define as racism, the only definition that I have seen is the ludicrous one from the Macpherson Enquiry which defines it as "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person", which is an open door for any individual to claim that any other person is racist by simply stating that they perceived what was said or done to be racist. On this basis it seems that Rotherham Council, or at least some of its officials have "perceived" that UKIP is racist because of its immigration policies and because it advocates withdrawal from the EU.

A number of senior politicians from both the Labour and Tory parties have condemned this point of view and indicated that they consider that UKIP is a "mainstream" party, and whilst the LibDems have been totally silent (for once), Cameron seems the only be totally out of step.

I think that it is time for Nigel Farrage to declare war and kill of the idea that UKIP is racist. I oppose the present mass immigration into this country, but it is nothing whatsoever to do with race, my views would apply equally were the immigrants coming form Australia or America. This country is overcrowded, we don't have the infrastructure to cope and at the moment we have very high unemployment. Similarly with the EU, I object to being ruled, in effect, by unelected commissioners and not by our elected MPs. But in no way is my position motivated by race, it is motivated by what I consider to be best for my country and my family.

Nigel Farrage said that UKIP, would tackle the Prime Minister on his immigration policies in the run-up to the 2015 General Election. He emphasised that
"At a time of youth unemployment of 21 per cent in Britain it does not make sense to have an open door, I want people from all over the world to come and work in Britain, good skilled people who come here on work permits, not people who come here, compete for unskilled labour, qualify automatically for Job Seekers Allowance, that doesn’t make sense."

I don't think it makes sense to anyone except Cameron and his old Etonian friends who have never had to fight for a job in their lives and know that if they loose their present jobs, they can walk straight into others elsewhere.

The Rotherham by-election, caused by the resignation of Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister who resigned in disgrace after fiddling his expenses, is on Thursday. UKIP will be pulling out all the stops and trying to bring immigration issues to the fore.

Let Battle Commence!

Late note: It now seems that Conservative Party vice chairman Michael Fabricant, has told the Tory Leaders that they will need to come to some arrangement with UKIP or else they will be certain to lose the next election with the result that has been "slapped down " by Cameron. Meanwhile Farrage having previously said that the would want any agreement signed in (Cameron's) blood, has now said that he won't be bought off.  Interesting times!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Rotherham Council - Michael Gove Acts.

Yesterday it was reported that Rotherham Council (of recent Asian sexual abuse fame) had discovered that a couple who were foster parents were also members of UKIP, and as a result they had removed the three children currently being fostered by them on the basis that UKIP is a racist organisation. I suggested in my blog that there should be an immediate investigation by the Minister for Local Government.

This incident has caused widespread outrage from both Labour and Tory MPs as well as various fostering organisations. It has also gained UKIP some useful publicity at a time when polls suggest they have support running at 9-10%. The gist of the outrage is based on the fact that UKIP is now considered to be a "mainstream" political party and under no circumstances should membership of such a party debar a person from being a foster parent.

However, much to my surprise, Michael Gove, the Minister who heads the Government department responsible for children's services has leaped into action. Mr Gove, who is about the only Minister in the present government whom gives me any cause for hope, described Rotherham's decision as "indefensible".  He said "I will be investigating just how this decision came to be made and what steps we need to take to deal with this situation.".

This affair has somewhat embarrassed David Cameron who, in 2006,  described UKIP's members as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly", a statement from which Downing Street is rapidly trying to backtrack! There is a by-election there on Thursday to elect a replacement for the disgraced MP Denis MacShane, it will be interesting to see how this affects the Labour and UKIP votes.

I think this matter will be running for some time; the real losers will be the children who have been moved from a caring home because of prejudice by the council and its social workers.

Women Bishops (again)

The DailyTelegraph reports that
"The Bishop of Sheffield has said the Church of England’s failure to allow women bishops has damaged its reputation and has led many to consider resigning from the Church"

Who does he mean will be considering "resigning from the Church"? Well, I'm a parishioner at our Parish Church, and if I should decide that I don't agree with the Church for some reason, I wouldn't "resign" as I don't hold any post from which I could resign. I would merely stop going to Church.

So presumably the Bishop is referring to the Clergy, and possibly people holding elected posts such as Church Wardens. If any  clergy find this democratic decision to hard to live with and decide to resign, frankly I don't think they will be any great loss to the Church.
Perhaps the picture below from the Daily Mail is why many congregations aren't so keen on women priests and possibly why the Bishops and Clergy are.
The Reverend Sally Hitchiner. posing in her church this week for this photograph. I'm not quite sure whether she is an argument for or against women bishops! Whilst I wouldn't mind meeting her in any role outside the Church, I certainly wouldn't attend our local Church for Parish Communion if she was our incumbent.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Rotherham Council brands UKIP a Racist Party

Staff at Labour led Rotherham Council have decided that UKIP has "Racist" policies and that a couple who belonged to the party are unsuitable to be carers. Of course this is typical Labour thinking; UKIP, in common with, I would suggest, a majority of people in this country, want far tighter restrictions on immigration and thus by definition are "Racist".
The couple, who have been fostering children for a number of years, had been caring for three children of "European Origin" for eight weeks, when the children removed because the council were "tipped-off" that they were members of UKIP.
It would seem that, in  the eyes of these left wing social workers, belonging to an organisation which wishes to withdraw from Europe makes a person unfit to look after a child from somewhere on the continent.

Readers will need no reminding that Rotherham was where an Asian Gang exploited a number of young girls, some of whom were in council care, for sexual purpose over at least a decade without social workers considering it appropriate to take any action. They were apparently "tipped-off" about the gangs on numerous occasions, but took no action, so it would seem that tips about UKIP are taken more seriously than tips about rape.  Presumably declaring UKIP racist is part of the "Lessons learnt" and "Improvements" made to their child protection services following the gang rapes.

Surely it is time for the Minister for Local Government to order an enquiry into just what is going on in Rotherham Council and ascertain exactly why they think that wishing to withdraw from the EU make a couple unsuitable to foster children from within the EU.

Social workers told the couple, who were caring for three children from ethnic minorities, that the party had ‘racist’ policies and that their membership of it made them unsuitable carers, it was reported last night.

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Staff from Rotherham council told couple that Ukip had 'racist' policies and their membership of it made them unsuitable carers

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Staff from Rotherham council told couple that Ukip had 'racist' policies and their membership of it made them unsuitable carers

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Friday, 23 November 2012

Donating to Charity

No, I'm not asking for money!

From the Telegraph
"Nick Hurd, the charities minister, said he gives one per cent of his £98,740-a-year salary to charity and "so much could be done with that money" if everyone did the same."

Why on earth do we need a charities minister? Are there any of our daily activities where there isn't a minister earning £98,740-a-year telling us what to do? What does he actually do, after all we have a Charities Commission, with a budget of over £32 million, overseeing our charities, why do we need a minister and, presumably, a whole gaggle of highly paid civil servants? Surely it would be better if we didn't and gave the money to charity instead.

But, looking at his suggested level of donations, on the surface this would seem appropriate,
The Government gives millions each year in foreign aid, which is effectively charity. A recent report suggested that this cost every family in Britain an average something over £500 each year, which as many families don't pay tax, implies that those who do, contribute considerably more.
Either way, this £500 is considerably more than 1% of my pension before tax, so it would seem that my compulsory charitable donation is more than the minister proposes. Can I have a refund please?

It is worth looking at the website Fake Charities. They define a fake charity as one that receives more than 10% of its income or more than £1million p.a. from taxpayer funded sources, and whether you agree with this definition or not, many well known charities do receive huge amounts from the government or its agencies. For example the RSPB received some £22.6 million from taxpayer funded sources, and whilst I've nothing against the RSPB, one wonders why the various government organisations feel that it is appropriate to give so much.

We have now decided that we will not be giving any donations to charities operating abroad, however noble their cause. Any donations that we can afford will be strictly limited to British Charities operating in this country, and then only after having checked their status on the above website.


This is the first in what could end up being a long series of posts!

A heading in the Telegraph reads:

"NHS radiographer who couldn't speak English finally struck off after six years"
"An NHS radiographer has been struck off after six years working at a leading cancer hospital because his English was so poor neither patients nor colleagues could understand him"

The radiographer was recruited from India as an experienced radiographer and started work in August 2005 although it would seem he could not communicate in English. He was apparently given lessons to help him improve (presumably at NHS expense), but to no avail. He also made numerous errors in carrying out his job, potentially endangering patients.
He was eventually suspended and dismissed following a hearing last August.

I don't blame the individual, he wanted a job and the Christie Hospital in Manchester.gave him one. But why on earth wasn't he fired within six months? How long does it take management to realise that they've recruited someone who has insufficient command of our language and is also incompetent at his job? Or is this yet another case of people not doing anything for fear of the race relations legislation?
A hospital statement said:
"We are satisfied that our systems and processes have enabled us to identify this problem and deal with it appropriately.
The "systems and processes" took six years to identify and deal with the situation!
Six years!  If I were on the hospital's management board it wouldn't only be the radiographer who was fired, but also a large part of the hospital's recruitment and personnel department

The report added that the radiographer "said he had now retired and was not looking for work." Retired here in Britain, no doubt, along with all the associated benefits.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

MP's Expenses

Another MP has become involved in questionable dealings over his second home. This time it is a senior Conservative MP, Stephen Dorrel, and it would seem that he sold his second home in London to friends, and the proceeded to rent it back at public expense. Whilst this might be in order under the rules developed by Ipsa (the expenses watchdog), it would seem to be rather dodgy to most reasonable people.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that he is the the chairman of the Health Select Committee which is currently looking into the issue of care homes, and the couple to whom he sold his home, and from whom he now rents it, run St Cloud Care, a string of care homes which has been criticised by the Care Quality Commission. Common sense suggests that this is a conflict of interest, and as a result he has been reported to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner by a Labour MP.

It is interesting to compare the lax standards on expenses claims from MPs with those applied to Civil Servants some 45 years ago, in the pre-EU days, when, as a Civil Servant I had to go to Paris for a couple of days on official duty.
When I got back, I had to fill in my expenses claim form and was asked whether I had brought back anything duty-free. Being relatively new in the job, I admitted to having bought a bottle of duty-free scotch whisky, and was then told that the notional duty would be deducted from my claim on the basis that "No public servant must make a pecuniary gain as a result of carrying out his official duties". On another foreign visit, I was scheduled to come home on a Friday evening and asked whether I could have an air ticket for the Saturday evening as I was happy to pay for another night in the hotel from my own pocket, Again the request was refused for the same reason, they considered a day sightseeing was "a pecuniary gain at the public expense"

The MPs are complaining that Ipsa is far to strict; I would love to know what they would say if Ipsa applied the rules that were applicable during my time in the Civil Service.

Life Imprisonment

I read that a number of murderers who appealed against being given "Whole Life Sentences" on the grounds that their human rights were being infringed have had their appeals rejected.
I think that the Judges were wrong.
It is inhumane to lock someone up for life; they should have been executed.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Women Bishops

The media today is in a bit of a frenzy about the decision of the "out of touch" House of Laity in the Church of England to vote against women bishops. Some verged on the hysterical, with television showing women clergy crying when  the decision was announced. Predictions of the break-up of the Church, of failure to attract the younger generation and disestablishment are just a few of the apparent consequences of this "incomprehensible" decision.

But is this true? Far from being "out of touch", I believe that the laity were very much "in touch". The feeling that I get from most churchgoers that I have spoken to over the years seems to indicate that they only have a minimal interest in their bishops. With a bit of luck we might get a visit perhaps once a year from the Auxiliary Bishop for a confirmation service but only once in the past 30 years can I recall a visit by the Diocesan Bishop.  No, what churchgoers are most concerned about is the quality of the Incumbent at their local church, and they would appear to be totally unconcerned as to whether the priest is male of female, although there does seem to be a preference for married clergy.

I don't profess to understand the theological arguments over women clergy, and I have no basic objections to them at parish level or indeed as bishops. What I do find of concern are the arguments in favour of women, which seem to be based mainly on the current view of political correctness. I was unhappy about the way that the original decision was made to admit women clergy and some of the consequences. Some of the women didn't seem to have appropriate priestly qualities (not that all the male priests have them either) but I recall a scene shown on television following the ordination of the first group of women; There was about  a dozen women clergy hugging and kissing each other and one shouted, waving her arms in the air,"Hallelujah, We've got our first lesbian priest!" To me, this didn't appear a very Christian action and certainly not one which would encourage me to attend one of her Services.

So what would have happened if the synod had agreed to have women bishops? I believe that there would then have been an all-out campaign by women's organisations to have a woman bishop appointed, whether or not there was someone suitable for the post. Can you imagine what would be said if a male was appointed to the first available post following the passing of the measure? The concept of the best person for the job seems to have gone out of the window since sexual equality became the 'done thing'. But then what would be next following the appointment of this woman bishop? Yet another all-out campaign, this time to have an equal number of woman bishops, followed, no doubt, once this had been achieved, by a campaign for the first woman Archbishop.

I believe that the right decision has been made for now and that far from being "out of touch", the House of Laity is correct. A decision forced on the Church by a mixed bag of women's rights campaigners and secular liberals does not, to me, seem the right thing for our Established Church.

David Davis Referendum Proposals

With the Eurosceptic Tory MPs flexing their muscles, David Davis, a former Europe minister, has set out proposals for a two-step referendum on the UK's membership of the EU by 2014. The first question would ask whether the public wanted to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU and the second would ask whether any resulting new deal was good enough or whether Britain should quit Europe.

Whilst this seems a good idea on the surface it has too many snags as far as I am concerned.
Firstly, why does the Government need a referendum to renegotiate our relationship with the EU? Even a big majority in favour wouldn't strengthen their hand any more than a straightforward statement that they would hold an In/Out referendum following any negotiations. To me, the proposal would do little to advance the Eurosceptic cause and will simply waste time and money. Following this through, who would conduct the negotiations? Our representative in Brussels is very pro-EU, and Cameron only recently has reaffirmed his belief that he sees Britain's place as being within the EU. I don't think that I would trust any negotiatiors to get us the best deal unless they were led by such well known Eurosceptics such as Daniel Hannan or preferably Nigel Farrage!
My main objection to renegotiation is, however, that the General Public would not be able to understand the detailed implications of the new arrangements, just as they never understood how a European Trade Agreement somehow became the EU. Presumably, having negotiated the new arrangements, the Prime Minister of the day would support them as I simply can't see him returning from Brussels and saying "These were the best terms that I could get. I don't think they are good enough". No Prime Minister would admit defeat, we would have another "Chamberlain moment".

So it follows logically, that the government of the day, whether Labour or Tory, would support the new arrangements and urge that electors vote for the new agreement. I suspect that in this situation, with a large number of electors not fully understanding the detailed implications, the vote would be to stay in under the new terms on the basis that "we are assured they are better, let's give them a try" which is the usual generous British approach to such a situation.

No, as far as I am concerned we need an IN/OUT referendum now, not a postponing move.

In that David Davis would have been by choice as Tory leader, I am disappointed that he should put forward such a proposal which, far from simplifying the issues, merely postpones any real action and is likely to result us staying in the EU.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

UKIP on the Ascendancy

The Guardian this morning reports that the Guardian/ICM survey shows UKIP gaining as support as that for three main parties falls.

For me, this is good news, with UKIP support rising to 7%. I know that this level of support is unlikely to win them any parliamentary seats, particularly as the poll shows the LibDems having support of about 13% of those polled. Various other polls gave UKIP somewhat greater support of between 8% and 10%. But with Labour on 40% and the Conservatives on 32%, the UKIP support could mean the difference between the Tories winning or losing the next general election although David Cameron seems happy to ignore this possibility.

I feel that the Corby by-election will give UKIP substantial momentum. People have seen that they can beat the LibDems by a significant margin and now are beginning to accept that a vote for UKIP is not just a protest vote but that UKIP is going somewhere worthwhile. Unlike John Redwood MP, I don't believe that UKIP's poor showing in the PCC elections is of any significance as probably people thought UKIP's main aim, that of getting out of the EU, was totally irrelevant when it came to the PCC elections.

Meanwhile, I believe that UKIP will pick up more support when the details of the changes to our planning system become more widely known. Also, next year there is likely to be a surge in immigrants from the eastern European countries following the end of the EU period of limited immigration, and this will obviously be blamed on the Tories as the party in power.

UKIP is now becoming seen as the protector of British values and its views on immigration appear to have the broad support of  large part of the electorate;  attempts by their left wing opponents to brand them as "racist" have generally failed. As the European crisis deepens, and the likelihood that Britain will somehow be dragged into the mess, more and more people will realise that being a member of the EU will not be our salvation but our downfall. With the next European elections in 2014 and a General Election in 2015 (if parliament runs the full term), UKIP is making the right sort of progress to ensure that they have a say in the future.  Cameron beware!

Monday, 19 November 2012

That Stupid Woman (again)

It seems that Sally Bercow is one of those women who suffers not only from verbal diarrhoea but also the inability "to put her brain into gear before opening her mouth".  In this case, however, the word "mouth" is not totally appropriate and should perhaps be replaced by "Twitter account" as this is seems to be her problem, she just can't stop twittering!

Not content in having got herself involved in a possible libel action over the naming of Lord McAlpine and even possibly leaving herself open to aggravated damagers as a result of her subsequent conduct, she has now apparently breached a Court Order by tweeting the name of a girl who was subject to  an Anonymity Order under Section 39  of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

It seems that she can't simply understand that anything she twitters is available world wide and that putting anything on Twitter, or indeed a blog like this, constitutes publication,  just as if it were put on the front page of a major newspaper.

Some mothers do 'ave 'em!

See "Sally Bercow urged to 'turn off Twitter'" in the Telegraph

Ken Clarke and the EU

The Telegraph today reports on a number of remarks made by Ken Clarke.

Apparently according to Ken, Britain must stop having a "nervous breakdown" over Europe as it would be a economic "disaster" to leave the EU.

Sorry Ken, its you that is having the "nervous breakdown" over the fact that Britain might leave the EU. Any economic "disaster" would be for the other countries, not us, as presently we have an adverse balance of trade with the EU, and our non-EU trade is steadily expanding.

However, of far more concern is his reported remarks that
"David Cameron assures the public, he’s always assured me, that he believes, as I do, that Britain’s place in the modern world has got to be in the EU.
"It would be a disaster for our influence in global political events. It would be a disaster for the British economy, if we were to leave the EU. It damages our influence in these great critical events of the moment if we keep casting doubt on our continued membership."

This, of course confirms what we have all known for a long while that Cameron, who has promised to to renegotiate the UK's relationship with Europe, is not likely to agree to an IN/OUT referendum on the E.U.

So nothing has changed, if Cameron remains leader of the Tories, we will remain in the EU in order that, inter alia, we have "influence in these great critical events of the moment" !   I just wonder what influence that Britain or indeed the EU has over what is happening in Gaza, which is surely  "a critical event of the moment" as, in that in the limit, it could end up with a war involving the major powers.

Nothing that Ken has said will make me change my mind about getting out of the EU, and whilst friends of mine who live in his constituency tell me that he is a very good constituency MP, in this matter I feel that he his sorely out of touch with his electorate.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Why Vote UKIP?

In his blog today, John Redwood appears to argue that there is very little point in voting UKIP as there is no possibility of them getting a majority in Parliament. He argues that they didn't even manage to come second in any of the Police & Crime Commissioner elections and this shows that they don't have the support that they claim.
I tend to agree with the facts that he puts forward, but not with the conclusions that he draws from them. I support UKIP because I want Britain to withdraw from the EU and to become an independent nation once again. I have reached the conclusion that the present Tory leadership is extremely unlikely even to attempt to withdraw and are talking of a "revised agreement". I suspect that the only referendum we are likely to be offered is whether we prefer the status quo or would prefer the revised agreement.
But another reason that I will vote UKIP is because I have yet to discover what are the policies of the present Conservative Party under David Cameron & George Osborne. When Mrs Thatcher was leader it was very clear what the party’s policies were but now, I haven’t a clue when it comes to the issues that really matter.
We were promised lots of things but so far zilch! On the other hand, things that weren’t mentioned such as gay marriage are gaining prominence, and whilst they are perhaps worthy of discussion, they are of little importance in the present crisis.
“Improvements” to the NHS seem to have resulted in the closure of the A&E department at our nearest hospital requiring a journey of at least twice the distance. My GP has just retired early because, as he said to me, “I went into medicine to treat patients, now I’m expected to spend much of my time doing paperwork and the changes will make things worse. Enough is Enough”. The only Minister who appears to be doing anything is Michael Gove, but I imagine he will be ground down by the forces opposed to change and elitism.
The public finances show no signs of being brought under control, the number of quangos abolished can be counted on the fingers of one hand, others having been merged and are still effectively there. Money is being wasted in foreign aid and ending up in dictators’ Swiss bank accounts whilst the EU demands, and will no doubt get in some devious way, even bigger sums.
Now I'm not stupid enough to think that UKIP will cure all these issues, nor do I believe that they will get a majority in Parliament in the foreseeable future. But what choice do I have? I would like a true blue Tory government, and if I thought there was any chance of getting one I would vote Tory. But in the present situation where all the old parties seem to be trying to claim the leftward-moving middle ground, there is very little difference between any of them. The LibDems appear to be opportunists and like blackmailers, the more that get, the more they want. In practice, I feel in many issues they are further left than Labour.

UKIP did well in the Corby by-election, getting well ahead of the LibDems and their vote was almost equal to the Labour majority. Clearly if the Tories and UKIP had been able to agree on a suitable Eurosceptic candidate and pulled together in the constituency, Labour could have been beaten. It illustrates what could happen to the Tories at the next election if they don't reach an accommodation with UKIP. The trouble is that Nigel Farrage has made it clear that he would not trust Cameron (after his "cast iron" guarantees) and that would present the Tories with a problem.

However, under the present circumstances I think that if UKIP wasn’t there, I’d either not bother to vote, or I would vote Labour. There is no way I can support the present wishy-washy turquoise Tories.

Friday, 16 November 2012

A Rather Stupid Woman

Lord McAlpine's solicitor has sent a "letter before action" to Sally Bercow, whom we all know is the Speaker's wife. The letter apparently warns her to apologise publicly and agree a settlement or be hauled before the courts.
Once it became apparent that Lord McAlpine was not the person that they had believed was involved in child abuse, most of those of any importance who had named him fell over each other in the rush to apologise.
All except one, Sally Bercow who on being told that she was set to receive a legal letter from Lord McAlpine simply tweeted: 'gulps'. This was followed by a further tweet in which she said 'I guess I'd better get some legal advice then. Still maintain was not a libellous tweet - just foolish'.

These tweets just show how stupid she is. She should have taken legal advice the moment the news broke that McAlpine was not involved. But seemingly she didn't even have enough sense to realise that her tweet might be libellous.  Even more stupidly, she maintains that the tweet was not libellous, just foolish.
Surely every libellous remark that has ever made has been foolish on the basis that those making the remarks would never have made them if they had realised that they were potentially libellous.

The BBC has agreed to pay £185,000 in agreed damages,  but I suspect that that Lord McAlpine's solicitors didn't press the claim that hard as he had already made it clear that he didn't like the idea of taking taxpayers' money.
I hope they take Sally Bercow for all they can get along with demanding a grovelling public apology. I assume that this will be one item that her husband won't be able to put down to expenses, although as he manages the system, who knows.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Syria - UK's ever changing position

The Daily Telegraph today gives an excellent run down on how Britain's position on Syria has changed over the past 10 months in terms of quotations from William Hague.
For example on February 13th, William Hague said
"I don't see the way forward in Syria as being Western boots on the ground, in any form, including in peacekeeping form. I think they would need to come from other countries, rather than Western nations." 
I won't bore you with all the various statements by William Hague over the intervening months,  as they are well covered in the Telegraph, but on Tuesday his week he said
"We are not excluding any option in the future because ... the Syrian crisis is getting worse and worse all the time."

So we move from absolutely no intervention to "not excluding any option".

Similarly, the Military can't seem to make up its collective mind
On Sunday, the Telegraph reported that the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, claimed that 
"Defence cuts have left the Armed Forces unable to carry out all the tasks that ministers demand of them".
but it seems that he also said
"there are contingency plans in place for a “very limited” response in the case of a worsening humanitarian situation in Syria" and "The humanitarian situation this winter I think will deteriorate and that may well provoke calls to intervene in a limited way".

The trouble, which neither William Hague or General Richards bother to point out, is that limited intervention in such a situation has proved totally impossible in the past. In a Civil War, anyone trying to intervene, even for humanitarian reasons, comes under attack from both sides, and the "limited intervention" soon becomes "full scale involvement".

All politicians seem to be blessed with a very short memory when it suits them, but I would remind them that we were supposed to have "limited involvement" in Afghanistan. This "limited involvement" has resulted, so far, in the deaths of 438 of our Servicemen with many times that number being crippled for life. It was to be the same in Iraq, limited involvement, we'll just get rid of Saddam and all will be well. Even in Libya, where we supported the rebels with air power, things have hardly turned out the way we would have wished.

I think that it was Otto von Bismark who when asked whether he learnt from his own mistakes, indicated that he preferred to learn from the mistakes of others. Our politicians and, regrettably, our military leaders don't seem to be capable of learning from anyone's mistakes, whether their own or anyone else's.

Then of course there is Iran, but let's not worry about that now, that's a subject for another day!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The BBC (again)

According to the Telegraph
Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC, admitted that he gave Mr Entwistle a payoff worth twice as much as he was entitled to to so he would go quietly

The obvious question is "Why did Patten want him to go quietly?"
What was there at the BBC that he might make a noise about? Was he likely to reveal the total chaos and mismanagement at the BBC that existed when he took over, which Patten, as Chairman of the Trustees, had done nothing about? It must have been something that implicated Patten, otherwise he wouldn't have been in such a hurry to agree the payment which presumably came with a gagging clause.
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, should not be enquiring into the payment as such, but instituting an enquiry to find out what there is to hide at the BBC. She must find out what would have been said if the payment had not been made and Entwistle had gone "noisily".  There's more in the payment than meets the eye!

Monday, 12 November 2012

How can I defend myself ?

Politicians make brave announcements telling the public that they are free to defend themselves in their own home4s provided that they don't use disproportionate force.
However, when I read news reports like this, the immediate question is "How?". Here a 73 year old man was stabbed to death in  the early hours by a burglar whilst trying to defend his wife.

What can us oldies do to defend ourselves?

Even under the "relaxed" policy, it still appears that it is illegal to keep a suitable weapon in your bedroom as that would be considered to be premeditation!
Ideally, I would like a handgun, but this is clearly never going to be allowed in this country, in spite of statistics showing that the burglary rate in the US is lower than here simply because burglars are not prepared to take the risk that the householder has a gun and knows how to use it.
The next best would seem to be a spray, as issued to the police for self-defence but again these appear to be illegal, although, like guns, the criminals have no hesitation in having and using them. I could, it seems, buy one over the internet, but as I'm only prepared to use my credit card for reputable traders, this seems to be ruled out, regardless of the legality. They are available, legally, in some European countries, I would have thought under the EU that you should be able to bring into the UK any item purchased legally within the EU, but somehow I doubt it - rules only work against the citizen, not in his favour.
I can't even do what a friend of mine (RN Ret'd) does. He has his Dress Sword hanging in the wardrobe with his uniform, and as he says, it's suitable for more than ceremonial occasions.
My present thoughts are towards sprays such as aerosols or perhaps a small fire extinguisher. Which has the best range and is most likely to blind or otherwise damage an intruder? The fire extinguisher seems the best option as it could legitimately be in the bedroom ready to hand.
Any other, reasonably legal, ideas would be welcome.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Incompetence at the BBC

Anyone who has ever worked for the Civil service will be aware of the phrase about a person being "promoted to their level of incompetence". Promotion depends on your ability "not to make waves" and to ensure, as far as your bosses are concerned that all runs smoothly in your area of responsibility. Some estimates suggest up to a third of Civil Servants have actually reached their level of incompetence, and that of course includes those at the top of their departments.

When the BBC Trust appointed George Entwistle as the DG of the BBC, they obviously adopted the same approach, steady promotion through his career, a clean record and never coming to the notice of anyone for the wrong reasons. Such people give the impression that they are a "safe pair of hands" who can be trusted to do the "right thing" at all times.

The problem is that, only too frequently, such people have never been tested. Working in their own specialist area, they are highly competent, but once outside this are they frequently spell disaster. The "Safe pair of Hands" are only safe because nothing has ever gone wrong during their career with the result that they are not capable of dealing with a disaster.

When I was working as a Project Engineer, our Chief Engineer expected a weekly report from all his Project Engineers of not more than  a short paragraph, detailing progress and problems and most importantly it had to highlight if there were any aspects which might come to the attention of the media and require possible action by our PR experts.

Surely, the DG of the BBC should had had some similar arrangement in force so that he might be forewarned if there were to be any contentious programmes. If such an arrangement did not already exist, why on earth didn't he initiate something following the "pulling" of the programme about Jimmy Savile and the subsequent controversy?  But no, it seems that he had no idea whatsoever that the organisation, of which he was he head, was about to broadcast a highly controversial, and, as it turned out, poorly researched, programme implicating an innocent man in the abuse at the Welsh children's home. Why wasn't the program content reviewed by the BBC's legal department? For the man at the top to say that he did not want to interfere for fear of compromising the editorial independence of the news programmes is total rubbish; it is the job of the man at the top to know all that is going on, and when it comes to the crunch take full responsibility for what has happened.

Fortunately George Entwistle has now had the sense to resign; he may have been a good video editor, but has shown  himself to be totally incompetent as a senior manager.

Now all is required is for Lord Patten to resign as head of the BBC Trust. He appointed the Director General, he showed his own incompetence in appointing someone whom at the first test has been shown to be totally incapable of doing the job, and, it would seem, had not only reached his level of incompetence, but had probably already done so in his previous position.

Indeed, there is only one better solution, and that is for Cameron to follow Murdoch. Just as Murdoch closed down the News of the World when he saw their was no obvious way of recovering from its mistakes, so should Cameron close down the BBC which is now a lost cause in so far as its news and documentary programmes are concerned.

Friday, 9 November 2012

A Little Good NHS News

As I've mentioned before, when one gets to a certain age, one starts to take more interest in what is happening in our hospitals.

Today, the Mail provides one item of good news, They report that

"A controversial scheme to give hospitals a bonus if fewer patients die has led to nearly 900 lives being saved over 18 months.
Twenty four NHS hospitals in the north west took part in the Advancing Quality programme where they are given cash incentives to cut mortality rates for conditions like heart attacks."

Clearly from a patient's point of view, this is far better than paying bonuses to hospitals that reach target levels on the so-called "Liverpool Care Pathway" which in fact is a road to accelerated death.

But no, the Mail informs us that
"The scheme, which is used across many US hospitals, is seen as controversial by those who feel hospitals should not be rewarded for saving lives as they should do this anyway".

So under the strange NHS morality, it is apparently all right to offer a bonus to hospitals who meet targets for the number patients that die whilst in their care, but somehow it is wrong to offer bonuses for saving additional lives above the numbers that would normally be expected.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Curse of Cromwell

Yesterday evening we went to a local dramatic society production of the musical "The Curse of Cromwell". It was a good production with some very good singers and held at a local Arts Centre.
One scene sounded somewhat familiar
King Charles I was complaining about Parliament, and whilst I can't remember the exact words, he took the view that it was Parliament's job to approve and collect the taxes that he required and that they now had the nerve to suggest that they should also decide how the money was to be spent!
My immediate reaction was to think of the recent parliamentary vote on the EU subscription, and I could almost imagine Cameron thinking exactly the same - your job is to approve the taxes, mine is to spend them and I can't possibly have Parliament telling me to cut what we spend on the EU.

Incidentally, there doesn't seem to be much in the media about yesterday's visit by Angela Merkel to Downing Street, other than the Telegraph claiming she was pleading with Cameron to keep Britain in the EU and the Mail indicating that she suggested that the UK would flounder on its own outside the EU. Clearly she, and probably the apparatchiks in Brussels, are getting worried - Good, it should strengthen Cameron's hand in the forthcoming negotiations, but personally I doubt if he will take advantage of the situation.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

One-sided reports

The Telegraph today highlights a report, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, into the effects of divorce on children. It reached the conclusion that family breakdown during childhood was “consistently associated with psychological distress in adulthood during people’s early 30s”.

What they don't seem to have considered is the other side of the equation, the effect on children of parents who are constantly rowing and who ought to get a divorce.

Divorce was less common when I was young and the first time I became aware of the subject when I was about 21 and a close friend of mine told me that his parents were getting divorced. His comment was "About time too. They've stayed together 'for the sake of us children', but now my sister is 18 they feel they can split up. If they'd bothered to ask us, we'd have told them to separate years ago, as the constant rows have driven us both to despair".

The conclusions reached in this report are typical of so many reports these days, in that it examines only one side of an issue and reaches the conclusion that "divorce is bad for the children". I suspect that the reverse is true in a significant number of cases. Of course research into the psychological effects of the long term effects on children of parents who were constantly at loggerheads is probably far too difficult, but without such research the findings lose most of their value. Indeed, without such research, the whole report is largely meaningless as everyone has known for years that children are profoundly affected by parental divorce. What's new?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

What are they doing to our food?

 Mrs EP normally buys our bread from Sainsbury's, but the recent store made loaves have been very crumbly and virtually impossible to cut into thin slices for sandwiches, or to spread the slices with butter without them breaking up. Similarly, biscuits (of all makes) seem to now be quite crumbly and break up very easily.  Even Ginger Nuts, which used to be quite hard to break, are now little harder that any other biscuits and I no longer need to dip them into my coffee before taking a bite.. Biscuits also seem to have become rather tasteless unless they are chocolate coated or jam filled.
I've also noticed that the diameter of some biscuits has become slightly less, so that one gets less biscuit for one's money. I'm sure that the stated weight on the packet has been adjusted accordingly, but as few people read the weight and just take a packet off the supermarket shelf, this is irrelevant, I still feel that customers are being "taken for a ride"!

What is happening? I suspect that the crumbliness of bread and biscuits is possibly due to the manufacturers reducing the amount of fat in their products, probably under indirect pressure from the Health Lobby and in order not to get red "traffic lights" on their packets when the new labelling comes into force. The exceptions appear to be foreign produce. Mrs EP has discovered some very nice French made biscuits in Sainsbury's, they may be more expensive and as much as we try to avoid French produce, at least they have taste and don't break into bits at the slightest touch.
I'm waiting for the new food labelling to come in, I will then know that the best tasting products are probably those with all red "traffic lights" on the packets.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Cameron - Prime Minister or Arms Salesman?

David Cameron is visiting the Gulf States in the hope of selling them British made armaments. Now apart from issues concerning the morality of selling arms, particularly in that particular part of the world, it is worth asking whether that is what the Prime Minister should be doing and whether it should not be left to the professionals in that particular field. Either way, I trust that BAE Systems and not the taxpayer are paying his costs, but somehow I doubt it.

Today, however, he had to break off from selling arms in Dubai to announce that he was setting up two enquiries, one to review whether the original 1996 investigation into child abuse in north Wales was properly conducted and another into how the police handled abuse complaints during the period. In practice, I suspect that he didn't make the decision at all, how could he possibly find time to read all the relevant documents whilst wining and dining potential customers? No doubt he was told what needed to be done by a senior civil servant or political advisor and merely made the announcement.

Later this week he is meeting Angela Merkel, and again one wonders what preparation he is able to do for such an important meeting whilst he is busy in the Gulf. Or will this just be a photo opportunity whilst our pro-European civil servants are having discussions with their German opposite numbers? Surely he should be spending some time working on what to say to Mrs Merkel, especially following the parliamentary vote that we should reduce our EU contributions?

I know what I'd say if I had the opportunity - something along the lines of "We fought two world wars primarily against Germany because we did not wish to become part of Greater Germany. If the other countries in Europe have decided that they now do want to be part, just count us out"

Merkel has threatened to call off the coming EU budgetary meeting if  Cameron is proposing to veto any increase; Perhaps he should ask he whether  Germany is now running the EU, rather than the 27 members! Unfortunately, even with parliament behind him,  I can still see Cameron agreeing to an increase in the EU impost, no doubt convinced by the civil servants that it is the right thing to do.

On second thoughts, perhaps it would be best if he stayed in the Gulf States!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Scotland - Government by Assertion !

The Telegraph's Scottish Editor writes today about a speech given by Sir Philip Hampton, the chairman of RBS in which he raises a number of points that are of paramount importance to the financial community and in which he notes the failure of the SNP to give any firm answers.
Every one of the points he made has been answered in the past by the SNP with an assertion - "This is what will happen" without any reason whatsoever to believe that it will be so.
Take EU membership. Mr Salmond asserts that Scotland will automatically be a member of the EU whilst the president of the European Commission,  José Manuel Barroso, says this simply isn't true.

The SNP state that Scotland would keep the pound; that is up to them, but there is no reason to believe their assertion that they will have a seat on the UK's Monetary Policy Committee. They assert that the Bank of England will be the lender of last resort for Scottish banks. Well, lots of countries use the US dollar as their de-facto currency, in spite of having their own legal tender, but that doesn't give them any right to become involved in its management. Nor does the Federal Reserve act as their lender of last resort.

So, why on earth should the Bank of England be any different? With Independence, Scotland will have become a foreign country and thus will have lost all right to interfere in the affairs of those parts remaining within the Union.   Scotland will need to establish its own Central Bank, its own currency and all the associated institutions  just like any other independent country.   Of course, Scotland could have a major problem in achieving a decent credit rating, particularly as the two major Scottish Banks, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland,  have managed to successfully lose Scotland's reputation for financial prudence. The Ratings Agencies work on hard facts, not promises and assertions !

There are numerous other issues where the SNP have made assertions which may or may not end up being correct, one being the ownership of North Sea Oil which most certainly would not be Scottish under current international law, regardless of Salmond's assertions to the contrary.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Scottish Independence

There are a number of reasons why I, as an Englishman, favour Scottish independence and today figures released by the Treasury give me yet one more.
The Daily Telegraph reports that "Scots received £1,600 more per head in state spending last year than their neighbours in England" according to Treasury figures.
It also shows that Government cuts are hitting less hard in Scotland than in England falling from an average of £10,088 per person in Scotland – a fall of £117 from 2010 – caompared with a fall of £224 to £8,491 in England.
Of course, Salmond claims that this is only fair as Scotland produces more revenue per person that England and so deserves the extra funds. However his figures would appear to include oil revenue which comes from wells in what would be English, not Scottish, territorial waters under international law.
When it comes to the crunch in two years time, I still believe that Scots will vote to remain in the Union; as my Edinburgh born son-in-law says "My instinct is to support Scottish Imdependence, but my common sense tells me otherwise". I suspect a majority of Scots will think likewise, however attractive the concept of independence seems to be at first sight.
If Salmond wants to ensure victory, he should insist that the English are given a vote on the issue!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The "Liverpool Care Pathway" (Continued)

Today's Telegraph continues the saga of the so-called "Liverpool Care Pathway".
This time it was in Birmingham where they call it the "Supportive Care Pathway (SCP)", another example of Doublespeak which means the exact opposite of what it says.
The doctors at Birmingham City Hospital decided that an elderly lady who had been admitted suffering heart and kidney failure would not be expected to live for more than 48 hours, and put her on the SCP.  Following intervention by her daughter, the lady was given treatment and discharged from hospital only six days later.

The Telegraph reports that
A spokeswoman for the trust said: “Mrs Edwards was very ill when she was admitted to our Medical Assessment Unit"
“We are sorry to hear that Mrs Edwards’ family were unhappy with aspects of her care. "

That last sentence is the most ridiculous of the lot!
"We are sorry to hear that the family were unhappy" How would they expect the family to feel? Perhaps the family should ask whether Birmingham City Hospital being paid on the basis of the number of patients that die they kill, in a similar manner to that being paid the Victoria Hospital in Blackpool? (See my previous blog)

Surely questions should be raised as to the competence of those who prescribed this course of action, and the family should be demanding a full enquiry.

Knowing my daughters, if that had happened to Mrs EP or myself, they would not be "unhappy", they would be bloody furious. Both have good connections through their work and other interests so I am quite sure that they would be  busy contacting everybody they know who might be able to help them to get an independent enquiry and demanding disciplinary action against the doctors involved.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The "Liverpool Care Pathway"

I know that it's late in the day, but I've just got round to reading the daily newspapers!

As I'm getting on in years, I have some interest in the so-called "Liverpool Care Pathway", which seems to be a method that doctors have agreed to use for patients whom they decide are not going to live, and is said to give them a peaceful death.
As it involves the withdrawal of food and fluids as well as medical treatment, it does not seem to me to be particularly caring, and amounts to starvation and dehydration. Far from being a "Care Pathway" it seems to me more like "A Road to Death".
Now doctors admit that they can never be certain that a patient is dying, and this example from today's Mail shows that they can most certainly be wrong.

But what appalled me most was the statement in the article that
"The hospital concerned has been paid more than £600,000 in the last two years to hit targets for the number of patients who die on the Pathway, according to documents uncovered by the Mail".

So we now have a situation whereby a hospital is required to hit targets for the number of people who "die on the Pathway" that is meet a target for the number of patients who are deliberately killed by the hospital staff.

Surely this is incitement to murder and should be investigated by the police. 

We ought to know who authorised the payment of taxpayers' money to a hospital to kill people. Was it within the NHS or did the incentive come from elsewhere such as the Local Authority who didn't want to fund places in care homes, was it from the DHSS in an attempt to reduce the state pensions bill, or did it even come from the Treasury as part of cost cutting measures.

It's certainly time for some answers.