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 December 2013

From Damien Thompson's blog in the Telegraph (if it hasn't been corrected)

I never thought that I'd read that word applied to a person in the Telegraph!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Sales

Mrs EP wanted to go to the John Lewis sales. She had nothing particular in mind other than possibly getting some new bed linen, and I thought I would look round the electricals as I want a new radio for the lounge because the CD player and the cassette recorder in the existing one have decided to die on me.  On the way back, we would pop into the nearby Asda and get some milk.
So much for the plan.
We were about three-quarters of a mile from our destination when traffic came to a crawl and then almost to a dead stop. Perhaps there is an accident ahead, we thought. But realistically, traffic going to anywhere else but John Lewis was maybe a few dozen cars an hour, and after waiting for about ten minutes and moving a few cars lengths we decided that even if we got to John Lewis, shopping wouldn't be a pleasant experience.
So down the next side turning to Asda for the milk. But not only did we get the milk, but Mrs EP found a duvet set she liked, all without all the hassle of the scrum at a sale.

I still haven't found my radio; I want a FM radio with a CD player and some means of recording so that I can record programmes and listen to them later, usually in the car. The cassette recorder served me well over the years, but it seems modern radios record to memory cards, and I need one that records in a format that will be recognised by my car radio if the recording is transferred to a memory stick. Some apparently encrypt the recording in a format that can only be replayed on the original radio, and it is difficult to discover which record in MP3 format which the car radio requires (most claim to re-play MP3 recordings, but that is a different matter!). Hence my willingness to visit JL where one can normally get good technical advice, unlike some of the other majors who sell such items.

Oh well, clearly further research on-line is necessary.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Antarctic - Vessel stuck in non-existent ice!

Well, it would have been non-existent if one had believed the media and particularly the BBC during the past year or so. After all, how many times have we been told that the polar ice caps are decreasing in size and how many times have we been shown videos of huge icebergs breaking away from the ice-caps due to warming?
This is the Antarctic summer and there is so much ice that a research/cruise ship has got stuck in the ice in a normally ice free area of the Antarctic Ocean. Clearly the Captain believed the climate change models and not the conditions in front of him! A bit of an embarrassment that the global warming researchers aboard the ship had not expected!
A number of ice-breakers are racing to the rescue - I wonder whether they will get salvage money based on the ship's value, which would otherwise be a write-off if left stuck in the ice during winter.
This incident confirms what a friend told me after he had been on an Antarctic cruise a couple of years ago; the vessel was not able to go as far south as it had in the past due to ice, and they were flown off by the ship's helicopter to see the "sights".

Full details in "Watts Up With That" where they claim that the whole junket was a BBC/Guardian/ABC CAGW exercise, presumably aimed at showing how bad global warming had become.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Passive Smoking

The Telegraph reveals in an article by James Delingpole that research shows that the amount of harm caused by passive smoking is "statistically insignificant".
A large prospective cohort study of more than 76,000 women confirmed a strong association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer but found no link between the disease and secondhand smoke.
This is not a report written and published by the tobacco industry, but by no less an authority than the American National Cancer Institute.

So all that has been claimed about the dangerous effect of passive smoking is now shown to be untrue, and is the result of a statistically insignificant number of non smokers who got lung cancer. The number of people exposed to passive smoking who caught the disease was not statistically any different from those who had not been exposed to it.

Now I don't smoke, and prefer a smoke free environment. But some of my friends smoke, and as a result we are no longer able to enjoy an evening in the local pub, as popping outside for a cigarette makes it preferable for them to stay at home where they probably drink more as it costs considerably less. I never had any problems at our local, it is well ventilated and certainly I never came home smelling of cigarette smoke as I used to before smoking  was banned on public transsport.

But I am glad to learn that this exposure to cigarette smoke during much of my working life is unlikely to have had any significant effect. But I resent the scare tactics where non-smokers like myself have been led to believe, and may indeed have worried about, our lives being at risk in our later years due to exposure to cigarette smoke in our younger days.

The line now being taken by the anti-smoking lobby is basically that it doesn't matter if what was said is untrue because it has achieved its objective of reducing smoking in the country.

In other words, the end justifies the means.

Now where have I heard that before?

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


A Visitor Centre costing £27 million has just been opened at Stonehenge. It is located a mile and a half away from the stones and costs £14.90 to enter.
How on earth can a Visitor Centre possibly cost so much?
The new English Heritage Stonehenge exhibition and visitor centre in Wiltshire 
This cost £27 million ! 

It looks as if the builders left the scaffolding poles behind. If so they forgot to wrap them with the mandatory yellow and black Health & Safety warning tape! I suppose the fact that it was "Architect Designed" explains everything.

But even so £27 million! 
I can't visualise how it could cost £1 million, let alone £27 million. It is totally ludicrous.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Hospitals face fines over poor weekend care

"Hospitals could face multi-million pound fines for poor weekend care in a £2 billion plan by NHS England's medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh."
It has always stuck me as madness to fine hospitals because of the failures of those running them. All that fines do is to take away money which should be used for the benefit of patients, thus making an existing unsatisfactory situation even worse.

Surely it is those individuals responsible who should be fined, not the patients. There are sanctions which can be used against those who fail in their duties, but these never seem to be used by the powers that be. When was someone at senior management level actually fired? And what about criminal charges such as endangering life or neglect of duty in a public office?

It is the individuals responsible who need to be called to account, not the hospitals and patients.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

UKIP - A Racism Non-Story !

Headlines once again about "Racist UKIP", this time of all places in the Mail on Sunday.
A UKIP County Councillor, Victoria Ayling, is accused making a racist rant in a video in which she said that all illegal immigrants should be sent home, something, I suspect that most readers would agree with.
But more to the point, the video was made five years ago, in 2008, by her ex-husband when she was preparing a video in her bid to become a Conservative MEP. Yes, at the time she made it she was a member of the Conservative Party!

Seemingly, they had an acrimonious divorce following her husband's affair with an American ex-beauty queen, and, for reasons we can only guess at, her ex-husband has now chosen to release the original tape to the media. And as might be expected, some of the media, along with the usual gaggle of MPs and Quislings are in full cry shouting "racism" at the top of their voices. In fact there was nothing remotely racist in the published extracts as she didn't mention country, race or religion. Or has it now been decreed that the word "immigrant" is racist?

Remember that this was a video in the making before editing. I wonder how many politicians have sat down and written a speech without making any corrections or alterations. How many of those when they read it again decided to make further alterations for fear of upsetting someone's susceptibilities? I would suggest that almost every speech of any importance has been written and re-written before delivery, and that this video is equivalent of the first draft.

But, even so, if the video had been used without any alterations, there would have been no reason for offence. Looked at in detail, there is really nothing that Theresa May, the Home Secretary hasn't said, perhaps more tactfully, over the past month, essentially that illegal immigrants and refused asylum seekers should be sent back home, and that multiculturalism is dead.

Lets face it, in my opinion, Victoria Ayling said no more than what an overwhelming majority of this country is thinking, but is frequently frightened to say out loud.  Judging by the readers' comments on the Mail on Sunday website, most take the view that she has merely reflected their thinking and that she is certainly not racist. The publicity should get UKIP a few more votes at the next election!

The Telegraph takes a more reasoned view of what was said and clearly Nigel Farrage has not been bounced into denouncing what she said.
We need more politicians to discuss the issues related to immigration, not less.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Dominic Grieve QC MP

My MP is Dominic Grieve QC, the Attorney General. Until recently he was known by many of us locally as the invisible, silent MP, in that unlike other members of the cabinet he was very rarely in the news. But suddenly, he's in the news! Apart from the fact that he has appeared in person at various High/Supreme Court hearings, which seems to be rather unusual in itself, he has been making the headlines with a couple of rather contentious speeches.
First he criticises the Asian community, and specifically the Pakistani community, of being responsible for the increasing corruption in this country, and in particular for electoral fraud, for which he was roundly condemned by the PC brigade. (Reported in the Telegraph here)
Now has used a speech in Brussels to criticise the EU of a "Power Grab" against this country and warned the EU that the UK “will not shy away” from taking legal action to protect its interests.
(The Telegraph here  and The Mail here).

Now I am a person who always likes a good conspiracy theory, so I'm wondering what has brought about this change in our normally quiet, very politically correct and pro-EU MP.  He has one of the safest seats in the country, so has little to worry about in that direction. He abstained in the votes on both the same-sex marriage bill which he described as "ill conceived" and also on HS2, and thus is broadly in tune with his electorate.
So why the change? He's a QC and the sort of person who thinks carefully about what he is saying and I'm sure that his recent speeches haven't been made without very careful prior thought.
Could it be that he's looking at the possibility that the Tories might loose the next election?   
If so, the Tories would soon be seeking a new leader, and bearing in mind that a number possible contenders could loose their seats, Dominic Grieve could well be in the running. At least someone who "puts his brain into gear before opening his mouth" would be a huge change from the present leadership!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Expenses - Grab them while you can!

According to the Telegraph
Andrew Lansley, the leader of the House of Commons, has claimed £6000 in expenses for nights in London hotels despite owning a flat just a mile from Parliament.
He apparently owns a £1 million property in Pimlico, against which he had made numerous claims for furnishings, yet he still managed to claim £4,978 during the last financial year and a  further £972 so far in this financial year, for hotels in London.

MPs are allowed to claim overnight hotel expenses if it unreasonable for them to get home at the end of the parliamentary day, but how unreasonable is it to get from Westminster to Pimlico?

And MPs in general are wondering why the public dislikes and distrusts them so much.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Stop HS2

We live about five miles or so from the planned route of HS2, and up to now it has always seemed that we would not be directly affected either by the construction or by the subsequent operation of the line. Nevertheless, I have always been firmly against the construction, as I believe that it will never serve its intended purpose and will have been superseded by other modes of travel by the time it is completed.
I have also been unconvinced by the government's financial case in favour of the construction in that, among other reasons, they have quantified as income the savings in time being made by the users of the railway. No public company would be able to do this, no auditors would accept time being saved as income, all they are interested in is money. Nor will the government be able to pay back its loans with "time saved", the creditors want cash! Neither, as an engineer, do I believe the construction costs which are, I suspect, simply a guess at what might be considered acceptable. If the money runs out part way through the project, we will be faced with the usual argument that "all the money we have spent will be totally wasted if we don't now spend what is required to finish the job". If they can't run a computer project to time and on budget, what hope do they stand with a major civil engineering project where there are far more unquantifiable contingencies.

I am pleased that today a Telegraph/ICM survey published today confirms that the majority of the public think the same with just 3% believing that the project will be delivered on budget and on time. Only 5% believes that it is "Essential for Britain" and more than two-thirds want to scrap the plan.

What I hadn't appreciated until now was the huge amount of damage that the construction will cause. Ancient woodlands will be destroyed, as will 310 miles of hedgerows. Seven major rivers are to be diverted and around 1,180 buildings will be demolished. Although I won't still be around, it seems that the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will still be experiencing “moderate adverse effects” in 2086, 60 years after the line opens!
It now seems that we might be directly affected in that the more detailed “water resources assessments” raise deeper questions over the impact on drinking water supplies. For this area, HS2’s impact on water resources is described as “major”, the effect as “very large” and the duration as “permanent”. Finally, the sting in the tail. I quote from the Telegraph:
The Government is also quietly giving itself the power to allow massive building development, including on Green Belt land, bypassing normal planning controls. Ministers will be able to order the compulsory purchase of any land where they believe HS2 creates “an opportunity for regeneration or development”. 
So, at any location along the route of the line, or within a reasonable distance of it, the government is planning to compulsorily purchase land for development. This could of course be anything between a small industrial estate to a whole new town, but as usual with this sort of thing, one has to be highly suspicious of the unknown.

The official documents relating to the development now extend to some 55,000 pages and it will be a very conscientious MP who is able to spend time studying the documentation before a vote in Parliament. But perhaps that is the objective, to swamp the system with paperwork and to hope nobody notices some of the "nasties". What we really need is a genuine enquiry into possible alternatives, which are simply dismissed by the government as "We have assessed the alternatives; they simply don’t give the increase in capacity needed.” This assessment hasn't been published, so the public, and our MPs, have no idea as to what alternatives were considered. However one looks at it, it is difficult not to believe that if the same amount of money was spent improving our transport systems elsewhere, far more people would benefit and the "time saved" would be far, far greater.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Waste Disposal Site!

A friend of mine is negotiating to buy a house in Cornwall, and after viewing it and he and his wife had a good look around the area. They were therefore somewhat disturbed when their solicitor informed them that the searches had disclosed the fact that there was a "Waste Disposal Site" within 80 metres, as they had not seen anything untoward whilst walking around the area.
Further research using Google Earth showed that it was the Graveyard belonging to the local Parish Church!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Obama - Another Chamberlain?

The BBC News website reports that
"Iran agrees to curb nuclear activity"
Reading the detail one finds that:
"Iran has agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for about £4.3bn ($7bn) in sanctions relief."
And in a statement, William Hague said that
"[The] Nuclear programme won't move forward for six months and parts [will be] rolled back"
Presumably the words in brackets were inserted by the BBC to clarify the statement, but why do they  assume that parts "will be rolled back" rather than "MIGHT be rolled back"?

The agreement was reached after John Kerry, presumably acting on Obama's  orders, joined the conference and somehow managed to placate the French who opposed the previous draft.
So Iran is going to stop enriching uranium for six months, and they might roll back some of their programme, although no details are give. In exchange the West is going to lift sanctions.

In that the other day Iran declared that it "has an inalienable right to enrich uranium", this doesn't seem to be a very good deal for the West. A six month's break in a project of this nature (even if it happens) is nothing and who knows what the lifting of sanctions will allow them to acquire. As far as I can see, there is no suggestion of any inspection scheme to confirm that the agreement is being kept, so it hardly seems to be worth the paper it's written on

Israel, quite rightly in my view, is angry. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet it was a "historic mistake" and that "Today the world became a much more dangerous place".

To me, it is very much like the Munich agreement with Hitler promising "Peace in our time" with Israel being in the position of Poland. All we need now is Kerry or Hague getting off their aircraft and waving a piece of paper to provide the full Chamberlain scenario.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

"Pakistanis in UK fuelling corruption"

Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General and my MP, has been interviewed by the Daily Telegraph, which in itself is a rather unusual event, as he normally seems to keep a low profile and is always very circumspect about what he says.
Suddenly, he has given an interview to the Telegraph in which he admits that the public has numerous concerns about the EU, the Human Rights Act, and, most explosively, corruption in the UK. The Telegraph says
'The problem is growing, he says, because some minority communities “come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic. We as politicians have to wake to up to it”. As if he was not being candid enough, he cites the South Asian communities, and the Pakistani community in particular.'

My first reaction to thsi interview was "Why?. As a lawyer he has always been very circumspect about what he says and I have never ever read that he has said anything controversial, and if asked I would have said that he would have been the very last person to make such a remark. He has one of the largest Tory majorities which has increased over the last three elections, and it would need a huge landslide for him to loose his seat. He is broadly respected, by most of his constituents, and from what I hear and have read, he never makes a decision or says anything without very careful thought, unlike far to many of out politicians including the Prime Minister.

He has also been in the news more frequently of late, appearing in person in various Courts here and in Europe, not in respect of dull legal matters, but appealing against decisions which have attracted public attention and been fully reported in the media.

So "Why?". Could it be that he has something in mind and is deliberately seeking to raise his public profile. But what? Surely he's not looking at the leadership of the Conservative Party, although someone who thinks before speaking would be a novelty. Something in Europe perhaps? One thing that I am aware of that is this is a sudden change and I feel that there's no smoke without fire!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Russia and Greenpeace

I must admit that I rather like Russia's approach to dealing with the Greenpeace "activists" that they arrested following an attempt to protest about Arcric oil drilling.

They have decided to release some of the activists on the equivalent of £38,000 bail each and have indicated that they are now free to leave the country pending their court hearing.
As far as the Russians are concerned, this kills two (or more) birds with one stone. If as seems likely, they skip bail, it will cost Greenpeace something over a million pounds for the lot, and at the same time, it will effectively prevent them from returning to Russia without being arrested both for the original offence and bail jumping. Russia will also avoid the problem of trials and any adverse publicity that such trials might bring. Russia now regains the high ground by following reasonably acceptable legal procedures, albeit that they are somewhat slower than they would perhaps be in this country.

I think that Russia is right in their actions; Greenpeace needs to learn that they can't go around physically protesting at what are perfectly legal activities,  and forcing other people to incur the costs of defending these activities against Greenpeace violence. Why should the general public have to pay, through taxation, for, say, the policing of anti-fracking protesters? I'm all for the right of peaceful protest, but neither trespassing or violence are peaceful protests. It's time that our authorities took a leaf out of the Russian book and at least recovered some of their costs from Greenpeace.

The Daily Telegraph report is here

Friday, 15 November 2013

GP care for over 75s

The media is reporting to day that
"Every person aged over 75 will be assigned a GP personally responsible for their care and Mr Hunt has promised telephone consultations for them day and night."

I just wonder how long it will be before us oldies will find it impossible to get a GP if they move home or their existing GP retires. Our GP only works part-time, will she only have part responsibility for our care?

Somehow I expect this will be another victory for the "Law of unexpected consequences"

Monday, 11 November 2013

Remembrance Sunday

As usual on Remembrance Sunday, we ring the Parish Church bells, half muffled  for about 15 minutes before the start of the Service at the War Memorial. Because the bells have been used for ringing, the striking mechanism of the church clock is disconnected, and the 11 strikes on the hour have to be rung by hand. After a minor fiasco a few years ago, we've invested all of £10 on a radio-controlled clock to ensure we get the time right!

The clergy and choir process from the church to the memorial which is on the green alongside the church and we aim to stop ringing as the choir form up at the memorial. As we can't see the memorial from the ringing room window, we have a ringer watching for a signal from a colleague outside who can. It all went very smoothly, with the hour being chimed at exactly the right time, immediately following the Last Post.

As a late arrival, having had to make my way down from the tower, I was only able to get a photo by standing on one of the tombs in the churchyard, and even there I had problems with an overhanging tree.
The memorial is sited in a small garden just outside the church, less than a hundred yards from the main A40 road. Last year, the police didn't follow their usual practice of stopping the traffic on the A40 for the two minutes silence for "legal reasons", but this year, the "legal reasons" seem to have been forgotten and it was stopped as usual, making the silence even more impressive.
Not as slick as some of the ceremonies one sees on television,  the two young scouts with the yellow flags failed to lower them at the appropriate time, but who cares? We no longer have a large military contingent from the now closed military School of Languages just down the road, but even so, the crowds seem to grow larger each year.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

What are they doing to our Food?

Our food manufacturers seem to be giving into government "suggestions" that they reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar in our manufactured foods with the result that they are becoming quite tasteless.
First it was salt. Manufacturers were pressurised to reduce the amount of salt in food on the basis that it helps prevent heart problems. What they don't mention is that for older people like myself, lack of salt gives you joint pains which can make life quite uncomfortable. Is it better that I should eat some salt and still be able to walk a few miles, or give it up and be confine to the house by knee pains?

Then it was fat. Too many people in the country are obese, so we must all suffer. The net result seems to be that our ordinary loaves and biscuits have become crumbly. Hobnobs, which used to be one of my favourites, have become so crumbly that there's almost as much in crumbs left on the plate than I've eaten in the form of biscuit. Ginger Nuts have lost their crunch and aren't what they used to be. The latest company to announce a change is Nestle who are to reduce the fat in their Kit Kats, no doubt cutting costs at the same time.

Now today it is sugar, again presumably because of obesity, The government is to lower the minimum amount of sugar that must be used when making jam, and no doubt manufacturers will make full use of this reduction and substitute some cheaper alternative.  Fortunately, it seems that jam will be available from other sources; I alread buy marmalade from a lady who makes and sells it in aid of her church funds; it is far superior than any that I can get in the supermarket and is no more expensive. It doesn't come with a warning that it must be refrigerated after opening as it contains sufficient sugar to allow it to be kept in the sideboard, just as my mother did. Jams are also available from various other organisations raising funds, and already the demand tends to outstrip supply as people seek "the real thing" without added chemicals. Incidentally, when I last looked, a bag of muesli with "no added sugar" cost more at Tesco than one with added sugar!

Its time we were told to look after our own health and the government stopped interfering. If people want to get obese, that's their problem, and although it may cost the NHS money in the short term, they are unlikely to live long lives and will cost the state less in the longer term.

So, I'm going to follow in the footsteps of my parents and grandmother, eating what I fancy in moderation. My one regret is that I can't have decent dripping toast, as I had when I was a child, the modern beef has insufficient fat to produce any worthwhile dripping, although I've now been told that one can buy tubs of it at a local farm shop

My parents ate good food, with plenty of salt, fats and sugar, and both lived well into their nineties,  and my grandmother lived to 102. I'm hoping to follow in their footsteps, but some how I suspect that all the "E numbers" in my food are doing me more harm than the good old fasioned salt, fat and sugar.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The US is spying on Merkel !

Angela Merkel is in a bit if a huff because, it is claimed, US spies have been listening to her telephone conversations and several other countries have joined her in making the same claim.
It is also suggested that GCHQ is involved and it seems clear that Cameron will soon be getting some of the flak.
To me, it is much ado about nothing. It is the duty of our spies to spy, and this should include keeping an eye (or an ear) on our "friends". Of all people, Mrs Merkel, who was brought up within communist East Germany, should appreciate this situation.
But why shouldn't the US spy on her? Although Germany is a member of NATO, it refused NATO access to its facilities during the recent conflict in Libya, and it seems that they would have done the same had NATO decided to take action in Syria. She has also been cosying up to Putin recently which is hardly the actions of a good friend.
It is my view that the primary, and over-riding duty of any government is to protect the country and its people, something that many politicians and commentators seem to forget. I would be very concerned if our spies were not able to intercept communications, it is one of their most important duties. Whether they actually do intercept such communications at a particular time is obviously a decision to be made which is dependent on the current circumstances, and I suspect that most intercepts are merely a matter of who phoned who, rather than an actual transcript of the conversation. It would be very useful for, say, Cameron to know which EU leaders had been having long private conversations before an EU summit and I would consider it is in this country's interests for him to have such information.
Although it is not mentioned, such spying must be somewhat of an embarrassment for the German security services, as they have clearly failed in their duties to protect their Chancellor's communications.
I hope our security services continue to keep a watch on our so-called friends, including the US and Obama, and at the same time dissuade Cameron and his Ministers from making business phone calls from anywhere except their offices.

A brief late addition
This Article in the Telegraph "The Americans should be congratulated for bugging the phones of 35 world leaders, not pilloried" by Con Coughlin is well worth reading.

Housing Shortage - Pensioners to blame

Apparently, according to the Housing Minister, we elderly are to blame for the housing shortage. The Telegraph reports that he considers that the rise of four-generation families is the cause of the current crisis. Whether he feels we are all living too long, or failing to keep our children at home is unclear, but as usual us oldies are to blame for the nation's woes.
Perhaps he would like to consider what happened in our case.
When I retired some years ago, we tried to find a smaller home. Our aim was to find a home of similar "quality", but with less rooms and certainly a smaller garden. We didn't want to move too far as both our daughters live within half an hour's drive. Also, we also didn't want to move too far from public transport and shops, as, at our age, we are uncertain as to how long we would be able to drive a car.  After three years of searching, we gave up. Smaller houses with less land meeting our criteria were fetching almost the same price as our present home, and by the time one had paid stamp duty on the purchase, along with all the other costs, we would have been well out of pocket. So we gave up and stayed put in a family home with a large garden which is ideal for children..
Perhaps the Housing Minister should consider speaking to the Chancellor on this matter, as the stamp duty was the main impediment to our moving, To blame us oldies for the crisis won't get him many votes!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Is Treason No Longer a Crime?

Nothing can be done in this country about the thousands of secret documents stolen by Snowden, that is America's problem, but something could be done about the Guardian which has chosen to leak the contents of  many of those documents to a wider audience. As reported in the Telegraph:
Sir David Omand, who was once Britain’s homeland security adviser to No 10, said Snowden’s actions eclipsed the exploits of the Cambridge spy ring, whose five members leaked information to the Soviet Union during the Second World War and Cold War.
He also says that:
“The assumption the experts are working on is that all that information, or almost all of it, will now be in the hands of Moscow and Beijing. It’s the most catastrophic loss to British intelligence ever, much worse than Burgess and MacLean in the Fifties,”
Russia and China will keep any information strictly to themselves, certainly they won't be confiding it to terrorist organisations such as Al Quaeda, as both have problems with Islamic terrorists. However the Guardian chose to publish important items of this information to the world, and in spite of a speech yesterday by Andrew Parker, the Head of MI5 warning that the information published so far has done considerable harm in out fight against terrorists and put individuals' lives at risk,  have announced that they are intending to publish further extracts.

Yesterday in Parliament, a back bencher asked the Home Secretary about the legality of the Guardian's actions and even Nick Clegg condemned what they have done, somewhat to my surprise.

Looking at what has been considered as treason in the not too distant past, there is no doubt in my mind that there is a strong case for prosecuting the Guardian's editor and perhaps its publishers, but regrettably it seems that our establishment has gone soft on such matters.

For those who claim that GCHQ's actions in spying on us are all wrong, I would simply claim that my own human rights were being infringed if the government of this country doesn't take all possible steps to protect me from terrorists. If looking at my e-mail helps them in this process, they are welcome to do so; if mine is typical they would get bored to tears!

Guardian - One who looks after, protects, or defends something.
It would seem that the newspaper of this name prefers to protect its circulation rather than the population of this country!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Russia and Greenpeace

I am no fan of Greenpeace. Whilst I might agree with a few of their objectives, I have absolutely no sympathy for the methods that they employ, which are largely to gain self publicity.
My main objection to them is that they believe that they are above the law and should be free to interfere with anyone going about their legal business should they decree that the business might harm the environment.
Within the UK the law has generally been over-lenient towards their protesters, crimes such as climbing onto the roof of a minister's home to display banners, climbing towers at a power station or most recently opposing fracking have been treated by our judges with little more than a rap on the knuckles.
However the Russians don't take this kindly view. They view attempts to board one of their oil drilling rigs as being piracy. Apparently under international law, a mobile drilling rig is regarded as a ship, and boarding or attempting to board a ship against the operator's wishes is piracy. Having apparently taken a lenient view on a previous occasion, this time the Russians have decided enough is enough and arrested the ship and charged the members of the crew with piracy.
The latest twist to the story is that the Russians claim to have found illegal drugs during a search of the ship, something that Greenpeace vehemently denies claiming the only drugs on board would be medical supplies carried by law.
For once my sympathy is with the Russians. So far they seem to have acted perfectly correctly within international law and are investigating what happened and, having charged various members of the crew with piracy. are now considering other possible charges.
Holland has now become involved as the ship is a Dutch registered vessel and the Russians are now threatening to ban Dutch produce.
This saga will drag on and on and it will need considerable diplomatic effort to secure the release of the vessel and crew. One wonders how much effort will be made by the countries involved; this is the worse time of the year to have a confrontation with Russia who could easily cut off Europe's gas supplies just to show who is the boss. A winter in a cold cell in Murmansk might show these Greenpeace members that the law is the law and that they can't expect lenient British treatment from the Russians.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Power Cuts Are Likely This Winter

As a result of privatisation, the EU "green" policies and generally incompetent governments (both Labour and Conservative) we are quite likely to be faced with electricity power cuts this winter. We have what I understand is the most expensive electricity in Europe, and yet it seems that the authorities are unable to offer us a guaranteed supply, with the National Grid advising us that they will only have about 5% reserve generating capacity as we enter the winter.
How has this come about? Firstly, the EU decided all coal fired power stations should be closed as they produce greenhouse gasses, and that they should be replaced with renewable sources. As we have already exploited all the likely hydro-electric possibilities, the only other non-polluting sources remaining in the short term were nuclear and wind. Both have their problems; there is a vocal anti-nuclear lobby which has become louder since the Japanese disaster, whilst wind generation, apart from its visual pollution, is inefficient and unreliable.
Secondly, privatisation hasn't helped. With privatised generators competing with each other, there is no incentive to provide spare capacity; only generators that are producing electricity earn money and no-one in their right minds is going to provide something like 20% spare capacity for it to sit their idle "just in case".
Thirdly, government incompetence.  Our governments have been slow off the mark with nuclear energy as there is still a perception amongst many people that it is unsafe, although the French now use it as their main source of electricity. So in order that it appears that they are doing something, they have used subsidies to encourage the development of wind power without any consideration as to whether we are getting value for money. The figures provided for total capacity are many times the proven generated capacity simply because the wind rarely blows at the "right" speed for very long at a time. There also has to be equal stand-by capacity for the times when the wind is not blowing and the wind farm owners are not supplying this and instead are relying on the major generators to fill the gap. But why should they?  What's in it for them?
The net result of all this is that the country will have at the most 5% spare capacity during the coming winter, assuming an "average" British winter. If we have one that is worse than average, or we have a significant breakdown at any of the generators we could be in for a difficult time. It is also worth noting that a significant part of the electricity supply now comes from gas powered generators, and at one point last year the country's gas stores were down to about 36 hours demand.
Contacts in the industry tell me that we were lucky to get though the last two winters without an outage and they feel that the National Grid's estimate of 5% reserve is generous in view of the ageing equipment and the possibility of gas shortages.
I trust all those organisations, such as hospitals and other essential services, which have stand-by generators, will ensure that they are in good working order and test them out during the coming month, although I must admit my experience with diesel-powered stand-by sets was that they always started on their monthly test, but invariably failed to start in an emergency!
In the meanwhile I'm considering getting myself a small generator with sufficient capacity to drive the central heating pump, the freezer and some lights. I'd prefer it to be diesel powered as storing sufficient petrol is both unsafe and illegal.
Let's hope that we have some global warming resulting in a mild winter!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Nairobi Attack - Are We Prepared?

Following the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, surely we should be asking whether it could happen in Britain.
The Mail today reports that:
Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, a hate preacher wanted for recruiting killers warned that terrorists are planning to murder innocent Britons saying: 'You will all die'. The man, known as Makaburi by his followers which means graveyard said Britain will be targeted by terrorists to impose Sharia law across the world. 
The report also adds that:
He is accused of being part of a network that directed up to 100 British terrorists to East African training camps.
We need to take such warnings seriously as we can no longer rely on the fact that we are an island to protect us from harm. With our lax border controls, and the influx of Somalis into this country, who knows whether one of his lieutenants might even now be here organising such an attack.

Frankly, I am not impressed by our government's response:
The Prime Minister, who chaired meetings of the Cobra crisis committee last week, said he had no intelligence of plans for an ‘imminent’ attack in Britain.
But asked whether he was concerned that British-based Somalis might export terror to the UK, Mr Cameron said: ‘There is always a worry of  that and there is a hotbed of terrorism in Somalia that spills over into  other countries.’
I repeat, this does not impress me in the slightest. Surely the fact that up to 100 "British" terrorists are believed to have attended training camps is a matter of great concern, not just "a worry".  The government should be putting plans together as to how they would deal with such an attack in one of our numerous shopping malls. 

I tried to imagine what would happen if we had such an attack in our local, rather small, shopping centre. I simply cannot imagine our local (Thames Valley) police force would have the resources or any idea how to deal with it, and I expect the same applies to most other forces. Look at how long it took the Met (probably our best resourced police force) to get an armed police response to the shooting of Gunner Lee Rigby. I don't blame the police forces for this situation, but the government who is fond of holding "Cobra" meetings and talking, but doing little else.

Surely it is time that the country had elite armed police/military squads ready at all times to deal with such a crisis, along with resources such as helicopters to move them at a moments notice. Squads which have trained in shopping malls and have all the latest technology at their disposal along with such things as plans and other details of all the major shopping areas for instant reference.

There is also the question of how the ethnic British would view such an attack. Generally we are very tolerant but the day will come when we will say that "enough is enough", and there could be riots directed towards Muslims living in this country.

We may not be able to stop such an attack, but we need to be prepared and our police forces need the necessary backing to be able to handle such a crisis. The British people need to be convinced that their government has real plans and resources for dealing with such a situation and any consequent repercussions. That is far more important than  any number of "Cobra" meetings.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Why Not Now?

The Telegraph reports that

"Ed Miliband has promised to cut overall immigration if Labour wins the next election."

He said that "In our first year in office we will legislate for an immigration bill which has secure control of our borders, cracks down on exploitation of workers coming here undercutting workers already here, and says to big companies that bring in people from outside the EU that they can do that, within a cap, but they have got to train the next generation." 

But haven't the Tories been trying to cut emigration and received nothing but criticism from both Labour and the LibDems?  Surely, if Miliband is serious about what he says. he should be telling Cameron that Labour was willing to enter discussions now about reducing emigration, but no, he is only going to promise to do something within a year of his party being elected. It would certainly improve his standing as a statesman, and please his voters, if he was prepared to do something now, rather than wait. It would also put Clegg firmly in his place!

I was taught, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today", but politicians seem to prefer "Never do anything today which you can put of until tomorrow, or if possible, until after the next election".

No wonder UKIP are making inroads into both Tory and Labour supporters.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Edinburgh's Trams and HS2

The Telegraph reports that

Edinburgh's trams 'will be running by May'

We are also told that the original estimate of £375 million more than doubled at £776 million as did the planned time-scale of three years which became six. The original plans for the trams to run from Edinburgh Airport to Newhaven in the north of the city, were scaled back due to problems, and they will now only run to the City Centre.
So they've got less than originally proposed at twice the cost and twice the time-scale.

I would suggest that there are "lessons to be learnt" in respect of HS2. With far higher estimated costs and longer time-scales, I would argue that both are  likely to more than double before the line is finished, and that it will never get beyond Birmingham.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

LbbDems - Major Policy Announcement - Charge for Plasic Bags

The Telegraph reports that:
"A senior Lib Dem source said the charge, championed by Mr Clegg, would be “centrepiece” at the conference which is taking place this weekend in Glasgow."

Heaven Help Us if this is the centrepiece of LibDem policy! 

This country is still in a financial mess, with the Government continuing to borrow millions (or is it billions?) of pounds each week in spite of the so-called "cuts". At the same time, according to the Mail,  the Taxpayer is loosing around a million pounds a day due to benefits being wrongly paid out by The Department for Work and Pensions, this amount being roughly the same as the amount that is expected to be saved by the new restrictions on benefits.

Yet these major financial issues appear to be of little import to the LibDems since it seems that the best policy that they can come up with is a compulsory charge of 5p each for plastic bags.

I know that reducing the number of waste plastic bags is a desirable objective, but even their most ardent supporters must surely despair at this being the "centrepiece" of LibDem policy. I wonder just how many votes it will attract.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Global Cooling

I  have always been a sceptic when it comes to man-made global warming, mainly in the belief that whilst climate change maybe taking place, there was very little correlation with man's activities over the centuries, and that in any event, such activities are puny compared with nature.

Today, headlines in both the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Telegraph tell us that the Arctic ice cap has expanded by some 60% during the summer this year, resulting in the Northwest Passage having been blocked for the whole year leading to the cancellation numerous voyages through the passage. Some twenty yachts which were planning to sail through the passage are now marooned in the ice.

This confirms what a friend told me about the Antarctic, a couple of years ago, when he went there on a cruise. At that time the media were reporting that massive icebergs had broken away from the main ice and were giving dire warnings about the shrinking ice cover. In fact, due to pack ice, the ship, a Russian ice-breaker, failed to get as far south as it had in previous years, resulting in the use of the ship's helicopter to visit the sights. The ship apparently had to beat a hasty retreat northwards to avoid getting trapped as the ice was rapidly increasing, and in spite of it being the Antarctic summer, there was a real risk of being trapped.

This new news is, of course, most embarrassing for those scientists who predicted that the Arctic would be ice-free by the summer of 2013, and a boost for those who believe warming stopped during the first few years of this century. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was due to meet in October prior to the publication of its fifth assessment report, is now having to hold a "pre-summit" to discuss the situation, as the financing countries are suggesting some 1500 amendments to the draft report because it does not explain what is described as a "pause" in global warming.

Reading these, and other, reports, it is clear that it is no longer possible to claim that an overwhelming consensus of scientists working in this field believe that global warming is taking place; indeed quite a number are now admitting that the warming experienced during the 1980's has now stopped, whilst some of them are going further and are claiming that we are likely to be entering a prolonged period of cooling.

Clearly, this country's energy policy is in need of urgent updating. If there has been no rise in temperatures for the last ten years, a period during which world CO2 output has increased due to activities in India and China, there is now even less reason to believe that man is responsible for global warming. So instead of spending billions on panic renewable energy schemes, and in particular windmills, we need to get fracking fast in order to ensure that our population does not freeze when the world demand for gas and oil rises in the next few years and their prices "hit the roof".

I am waiting to see what the wider media, particularly the BBC, has to say on this matter. So far their has been total silence.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Syria - What will Obama Do?

After the US media has criticised the UK for not being prepared to go to was with Syria and failing to support them in their desire to bomb Syria, Obama has decided to allow Congress to debate the issue before taking action. For once I believe he has made a wise move; it was foolish of him to draw the so-called red line, and it may be embarrassing for him if Congress opposes military action, but even so, I'm sure he is doing the right thing.  In a democratic country, unless there is an immediate threat to its own peoples, no government should take military action without approval of Parliament.

What I believe is the problem in both countries is that it is unclear whether bombing Syria would make any difference. What sort of targets are being proposed that won't cause thousands more unnecessary deaths? Bombing the factories and/or stocks of chemical weapons (assuming that they have been located) will release the very poisons that we are complaining about, killing even more. The situation is made worse because media reports suggest that Assad is holding his prisoners of war at these sites as human shields. So what do we attack that will "punish" Assad, yet not cause thousands more deaths on either side?

The other problem is that if Assad is deposed, those that replace him could be far worse. We've already heard of atrocities being committed by the rebels, and with Al-Qaeda now deeply involved the situation could go from bad to worse. As with Iraq, there seems to be no real forward planning either here or in the US as to how we might deal with the situation in the event of Assad being deposed.

I'm all for action against this tyrant if someone could come up with a practical plan, but to me the mere lobbing of a hundred or so missiles at undefined sites in Syrian seems a very expensive way of achieving absolutely nothing whilst alienating even more members of the Muslim community worldwide.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Syria - No Military Action (for now)

Parliament has voted against British involvement in any military action against Syria. There is, of course, no reason why the government should not seek a further vote in due course, but for the time being we are safe. If the situation changes for the worse, the government could again seek a mandate for action, and rightly so, but at present parliament has listened to the electorate and decided to avoid military involvement.
One thing that worries me is that politicians never seem to look far ahead, and there was no discussion of the possible consequences of any involvement. Action would have worsened our relationship with Russia as well as with a number of Arab and Muslim countries and stangely as it might be seen, we would, in effect, be supporting Al-Qaeda who are now the dominant anti-Assad force in Syria.
Even worse, we would invite retaliation. Arabs tend to believe in taking revenge, if only to save face. Unless Assad were to be killed, he would want revenge, and as he has no military capability for striking at this country, I believe he could and would resort to terrorism. He has Sarin and other nasty chemicals at his disposal; how difficult would he find it to smuggle some into this country for use by a suicide bomber? No doubt we will soon be hit by an influx of Syrian asylum seekers - how do we tell the goodies from the baddies? Assad would only need one baddie who wants to go to paradise in order to carry out a gas attack on the Underground and satisfy his lust for revenge.
So we must thank Parliament for making the right decision tonight, even, as some might argue, it was for the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Syria - Why should Assad use WMD?

I have been reading the various blogs in the Telegraph about Syria, and this one by Dr Tim Stanley caught my eye, particularly as his thinking on this occasion is broadly the same as mine, only he makes the case so much better than I ever could.

Syria: why would Assad invite a Western intervention by using WMDs in a war he was winning? 

He makes the argument, as in the headlines, that there was every reason for Assad not using such weapons as he was winning the war, and it is just as likely that the attack could have been carried out by one of the various opposition groups.

Indeed, I would reiterate the question I've already asked, "Why the mad rush to take action in Syria before the UN inspectors have had a chance to publish the results of their investigation?" It has not been unknown, in the past, for terrorists to kill their own supporters if this could gain them an advantage, and it could be the same here, particularly if those in the area concerned were supporting the "wrong" opposition group or belonged to a different religious sect.

If you have already read your twenty free pages this month in the Telegraph, can I suggest that you clear the relevant cookies on your computer and try again.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Intervention in Syria

I am strongly opposed to any intervention by Britain in Syria, regardless of what has happened there.
However, I read tonight that Cameron has said  "I won't stand by over Syria", and elsewhere we are being told that it is "a moral imperative" that we should take action.
In response to these statements I simply ask "Why?". Why should we take action; we no longer profess to be a world power and have cut our military back to a bare minimum, Why does it have to be Britain? Why not Germany? Why not Spain? Why not India? Why us? More to the point as it is an Islamic sectarian war, why not the Arab states?
No other countries except the US and France appear to see any moral requirement to intervene, why are we joining the minority of countries who are proposing to take action?
The House of Commons is being recalled by Cameron to debate whether Britain should intervene, and seemingly, from media reports, the three party leaders are all in favour of action which I suspect is totally opposite to the views of the majority of the general public. So determined is Cameron to take action, that he is not even prepared to wait for the UN inspectors to report on their visit to to site of the alleged gas attack, which makes one wonder why there is this indecent haste.
I'll e-mail my MP expressing my opposition to military action, but it will really be a pointless activity as I believe the decision has already been made. Nevertheless, as he is Attorney General, it will be interesting to hear his views on the legality of taking action should he be pressed to make a statement on the matter.
Meanwhile we can just hope that there are enough sensible (ie rebel) MPs from all parties who are prepared to vote against action.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Irish women and teenager caught in Cairo mosque stand-off

The above headline caught my attention in the Telegraph, and my first thought was "What on earth are they doing in Cairo?"
Then I read the report and discovered their names were Omaima Halawa,  and her two sisters Somaia,  and Fatima,  and their younger brother Ibrihim.

With those names they are obviously part of a ancient Irish family, the O'Halawas. and are clearly within their rights in expecting the Irish Embassy to rescue them from their predicament!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Bongo Bongo Land (Part 2)

It is worth reading this piece in today's Mail outlining how some of our foreign aid is spent.
Highlights are:
Rwanda - The President has two private jets – South African-registered Bombardier BD-700 Global Expresses – costing £30million each.
Uganda - Here the President contents himself with just one jet, a 30million top-of-the-range Gulfstream G550. The country is also intending to buy six Russian made fighter planes at a cost of about £500million.
Gabon - The state bought a £85million property in the heart of Paris.
Congo - The President here has a multi-million pound property portfolio in Paris.

And so it goes on, with most Bongo-Bongo land presidents having private aircraft and properties abroad, mainly in Paris.

All the media here are interested in is one short phrase, not the rest of Godfrey Bloom's speech about the waste and misuse of our foreign aid. But, of course, with modern political correctness, if one points out what is happening in these countries, one is immediately declared racist by our self-serving politicians and media, who no doubt are wondering why they, too, should not have such luxuries.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Bongo Bongo Land

The BBC along with the usual left wing media are getting themselves worked up into a sweat because a UKIP MP, Godfrey Bloom, referred to much of Britain's overseas aid being sent to "Bongo Bongo Land". Now I can see nothing wrong with this phrase and those British who take offence should come back and join the real world. From my experience, that is how many, probably a majority, of us British feel about many African countries with names that that no-one recognises. So what is wrong with "bongo-bongo"? It is hardly a racist expression, although I suppose that the BBC will argue that the McPherson criteria of "if the listener believes it is racist, it is racist" applies here.

I believe that the use of this phrase by the UKIP MEP will do them more good than harm. People are fed up with the LbLabCon political correctness, and like to hear someone who actually says what they are thinking but afraid to say themselves. But then the LibLabCon politicians, along with the BBC, only ever talk to like minded people and so haven't got the vaguest idea of how the average person thinks or talks about. At least Nigel Farrage visits his local, our MP wouldn't be seen dead in ours.

The other interesting thing about this spat is that no-one has commented on what was actually said, just on the words that were used, presumably because they know what he said is largely true. Most of the aid money is spent on luxuries for the elite or ends up in Swiss bank accounts. The rest is probably spent on armaments, as in the case of Pakistan. Why should we give aid to a country which can afford F18 fighter aircraft?

Whilst what was said was certainly not politically correct, but it needed to be said and in terms that we all understand. Those in the Conservative party who want to "dig the dirt" on UKIP members had better be very careful as it could rebound on them, as has the recent allegation about a supporter who had in the past been a member of the BNP. This was correct, but when the truth was revealed, it turned out that he had been a member in his youth, but had then been a member of the Conservative party for 20 years before joining UKIP!

I'm all for political incorrectness if it means we get the truth and it means that ordinary people understand what is being said.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Human Rights Madness

Surely these headlines in the Daily Mail are some sort of joke They can't be serious!

Police let gypsy family stay in couple's £30,000 stolen caravan 'because moving them out will breach their human rights'

I just can't think of any suitable comment.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Explosions at Mosques

There have been a couple of explosions at, or close to Mosques in the last few weeks and the media, particularly the BBC has been very keen to lay the responsibility on "right-wing extremists", the BNP or the EDL, whichever takes their fancy at the time.
How galling it must be for the BBC to have to report that
"Two Ukrainian men have been arrested under the Terrorism Act in connection with explosions in Walsall and Tipton".
Ukraine, along with adjoining countries has a substantial Muslim population, and according to Wikipedia,  the majority of residents in the Small Heath district of Birmingham, where these men were living, are Muslims of South Asian origin.
It might be reasonable to conclude that those arrested are also Muslims and if one wonders why Muslims would attack mosques, one only has to look at Syria, where the fighting is now largely between different sects of the same religion. Could this be the beginning of sectarian battles amongst the Muslims in this country?
Meanwhile I'm not holding my breath waiting for the BBC to apologise to those groups whom they  suggested were most probably responsible for the bombs.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Independent Scotland's Budget

Independent Scotland's budget predictions were based upon  the revenue income from North Sea oil. There have always been discussions about where to draw the sea boundary between England and Scotland, as the Scots like to think it would be drawn due east from the border, just north of Berwick. This is not in conformity with accepted international law which requires sea boarders to follow the general line of the adjoining land border, and that of course runs in a more north-easterly direction from Carlisle to Berwick.
However it now seems that this doesn't matter, as the Office of Budget Responsibility suggest North Sea tax revenues are on a downward trend, having fallen from 0.7% of GDP to 0.4% this year, a very significant decrease.
The Treasury, according to the Telegraph, calculates that this would leave a massive gap in an independent Scotland's finances and thus Scotland would be financially better off remaining in the Union.
There are two sides to this argument, if Scotland is better off, England (and possibly Wales) will be worse off, as a result of having to fill the shortfall in Scotland's finances.

And there are those who ask me why I am a strong supporter of Scottish Independence!

Monday, 15 July 2013

The NHS again

As the local NHS Trust is one of those with statistically high death rates, I am naturally concerned. At my age, there is a reasonable probability that I will need to make use of there services within the next twelve months or so, and I would like to think that I would get any treatment that I might need. Thus I tend to follow the NHS stories in the media and am far from impressed.
Today there are several reports in the Daily Mail on this subject.
Firstly, a report, in which it is claimed that Professor Sir Brian Jarman has said that previous health ministers in the Labour governments had presided over a ‘denial machine’ designed to prevent criticism of the NHS. A further report, by by the NHS’s medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, due tomorrow, will apparently detail a shocking catalogue of failure at 14 hospital trusts held responsible for up to 13,000 ‘excess deaths’ since 2005. Apparently, it is expected that these hospitals will be subject to ‘special measures’, with NHS troubleshooters taking over what are described as ‘failing regimes’.
Frankly, I have no faith that any worthwhile change will be brought about by "troubleshooters" as they are simply more of a kind who have worked their way up the system, probably leaving a trail of failures in their wake, as in the case of the present head of the NHS.

Next, we have a report on the so-called "Liverpool Care Pathway" or the road to death. This was the scheme to hasten the deaths of those that doctors believed were dying by withdrawing treatment and drugging the patients so that they died of dehydration. Hospitals were even given bonuses based on the numbers of patients killed off by this "pathway". Apparently it is the intention to scrap this "pathway" within the next 12 months - why not tomorrow?

Yet another report reveals that thousands of elderly people are being denied cataract surgery by being made to wait a long period after the initial referral by a GP or are being told that they can only have one eye treated. Here I have an immediate personal interest as I have cataracts in both eyes. When I last saw my optician, she told me that my eyesight was still good enough for me to drive, which was my basic criteria for deciding whether to have anything done. But I am due to see her on Wednesday and I expect her to recommend that I have them seen to. Time will tell what actually happens.

And yet still those on the left of the political spectrum insist that we have the best health service in the world. Clearly they must go around with their eyes, ears and minds firmly closed! Perhaps they should look at countries other than the United States, where there are problems with their insurance based system - might I suggest they look at Australia, where many British are able to compare notes with friends and relatives and most conclude the Australian system is better. Or perhaps near home, look at Germany, or even Italy where my daughter received excellent treatment under the EU scheme.

We may have once has the best health scheme, probably when the NHS had just been formed and other countries didn't have such a health service, but now I suspect, in spite of all the claims, our NHS is nowhere near the best even within the EU. Its time for real change, not this marginal tinkering.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Falkirk, Labour and Unite

I have no interest in whom the people of Falkirk elect as their MP at the next general election, but I am interested in the manoeuvring that is going on behind the scenes in an attempt to influence the choice of the Labour candidate. It is claimed that the Unite union has been enrolling its members in the constituency as Labour party members, and it has even been suggested that they have been paying the membership fees, and in some cases enrolling individual  union members without their knowledge. The resultant spat has led to the resignation of Tom Watson as Labour's election organiser and also  to certain matters being referred to the local police.

The Labour party receives millions of pounds each year from the trade union "Unite" and its far-left leader Len McCluskey. Provided that this money comes from the Union's political fund and members have been given the chance to opt out, such donations are perfectly legal. However, it now appears that the union is making demands of the party such as requiring all Labour election candidates, both local and national, to be trade union members, and demanding the right to select their own candidates for some constituencies. Dependant on whom you read or listen to, it appears that McCluskey is trying, in effect, to become Labour's puppet master, pulling the strings and instructing Milliband on his policies. It should be remembered that Milliband was only elected leader of the party because of the union vote, probably because they thought that he would be more likely to comply with their demands than his big brother.

Now I have no objection in Labour moving to the left; I believe it will improve the chances of UKIP at the next election with them gaining the votes of those erstwhile Labour supporters who don't approve of the leftwards move, but would never change and vote Tory.

But suppose this was the Conservative party. The Tories receive considerable sums of money from business supporters. Let us consider a mythical company, let's call it "BigSuperShop plc" with branches in every town, giving the same amount of money to the Tories as Unite gives to Labour, and that this company uses its position to urge all its customers and shareholders to vote Tory. Let's take it further and imagine that this company demands that the Tories let it appoint a certain percentage of the Tory candidates in Tory held constituencies. Even further, it then demands that all Tory candidates should be shareholders in the company and that the company should have the right to veto any Tory policy.
Can you imagine the outrage throughout the country? But this no more than what Unite is effectively demanding of the Labour Party so why shouldn't BigSuperShop plc demand the same of the Tories?
So far the Tory response to the actions of Unite has been relatively muted, probably because what happens at Falkirk is of little interest to them. Nevertheless the Tories should respond to the events if only to highlight the indecisiveness and weakness of Milliband and his subservience to trade union power.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Digging up Dirt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 14 June 2013

Syria - The start of WW3 ?

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

Could Syria ignite World War 3? 

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

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

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

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

My Catus

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

So there's hope for us all!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

As I was saying - Parliamentary Sleaze

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

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

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

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

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

The sleaze continues unabated.

As I was saying - Hospital A&E closures

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Al-Qaeda in Syria

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

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Parliamentary Sleaze.

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

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

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

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


What happens to politicians, who have always seemed to be sensible people, when they get into a position of power?

William Hague has always struck me as being one of the more sensible politicians in the Conservative Party, perhaps because he is a Yorkshireman who attended a grammar school rather than being an old Etonian.  But something happened to him when he got appointed Foreign Secretary, suddenly the power seemed to go to his head!

Why, otherwise would he be advocating that this country gets involved in the mess in Syria? Hasn't he, or the Foreign Office learnt anything from our involvement in Iran, Afghanistan and Libya? The first thing he should have noticed is that nobody ever thanks us for our help and that when we pull out, given a relatively short period of time, the situation returns to much the same as it was before we intervened.

Now there is no doubt that Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian President, is a nasty bit of work,  but he did impose a form of stability on Syria which enabled the majority of the population to lead reasonably acceptable lives notwithstanding the fact that the methods he used left much to be desired. When the uprising started in Syria, the first reaction of European and American politicians was that this was an extension of the "Arab Spring" as in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, etc., but it soon became apparent that this was not so. Whilst some of those fighting were fighting for democracy, it is quite clear that many are attempting to settle old scores whilst others are associated with the various Islamic terrorist groups and have their own agenda which is certainly not in the British interests.

Russia has decided that it will supply more advanced weapons to the Assad regime whilst at the same time, Britain and France are considering supplying arms to the rebels. But which rebels? Are there good rebels and bad rebels? The bad rebels are presumably those that are associated with the terrorist al-Qaeda organisation, but how do we differentiate between them and ensure the arms only get into the hands of "our" rebels. And assuming that Assad is beaten, what then? Will the rebels continue the war amongst themselves in an effort to gain supremacy? Will the end result be any better than the "peace" that existed under Assad? Or that that allegedly exists in Iraq? Do the politicians really think that a western style democracy might be established in Syria? Is Hague living in "Cloud Cuckoo Land"?

I believe we should keep out. If we can give humanitarian aid to help the refugees, we should try to do so, but otherwise there is no logical reason for us to intervene, either directly or by proxy. All it will do is to provide the extremists with yet another reason for hating this country.

Our only interest in the area should be to try to ensure that the conflict stays within Syria and does not overflow into neighbouring countries, and the main area of concern must be Lebanon.  Israel has made it clear that they will not tolerate Syrian weapons getting into the hands of terrorist groups based in Lebanon, and it is thus of concern that Russia is supplying Syria with modern anti-aircraft missiles. But, no doubt the US, even under Obama, will assist Israel with military supplies should the need arise.

The other neighbouring countries of concern are Turkey and Jordan which have had a huge influx of refugees. We should give help here if we can, it is a justifiable humanitarian cause. Otherwise we should keep well out of the area and leave the wealthy Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to sort out the mess if they feel it is necessary.

As for Hague, I am very disappointed. I had hoped that a blunt, grammar school educated Yorkshireman might knock some sense into the Foreign Office mandarins who seem to live in a world of their own. Unfortunately the reverse has happened and he has become one of them.