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

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

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The French

We in England have always had a love-hate relationship with the French and one thing that becomes apparent is that the French always put themselves and their country first. In the course of my work, I had dealings with the French on a number of occasions, mainly through Eurocontrol, and one thing that became immediately apparent was that, prior to any meeting, they decided exactly what they wanted, regardless of the interests of the other parties present. If the French did not get exactly what they wanted, there was no agreement, full stop. As none of the other countries present were prepared to take such a hard line, the French invariably got their way.
As a result of my experiences, there have been numerous occasions when I have wished that the English, and particularly our government, would be more like the French!

These thoughts came to mind today when I read an article in the Telegraph entitled
"France shows us how to deal with jihadis". As it says:
"Here are two nations, both Western liberal democracies, both in the EU, both signatories to the European human rights convention and subject to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Both face threats from Islamist extremists; and yet their approach to dealing with them is dramatically different."
The article points out that, between 2001 and 2009, we managed to deport just nine alleged jihadis as compared with the French who managed to remove 129!
Seemingly, it is not the European Court of Human Rights which is the problem, but our own domestic laws. If a deportation order is made in France, it is carried out immediately. Lodging an appeal does not halt the process, whereas here, everything would grinds to an immediate halt. The French adopt the attitude that an appeal can be conducted by the individual's lawyers, there is no need for him to be present, and should the appeal be successful, he can apply for re-admittance. Gallic logic, maybe, but I like it!

There are definitely times when I wished we could be more like the French.

Racist Language

Just a few lines this morning,
Following my previous post, I simply cannot believe that the law has fallen so low, as this report in the Telegraph,  under the headline, "Woman fined for 'racist' English insult" seems to indicate.

Apparently a Welsh woman has been made to pay compensation for using a racist slur against an English woman after calling her "an English cow" !  Has the country gone mad? Seemingly it is acceptable to call someone a "stupid cow"  or even a "f*****ing stupid cow", but a court has ruled that calling her an "English cow" is racist !

Among the trivia that I remember from my school days is the Latin phrase "de minimis non curat lex"  meaning that the law is not concerned about trivial matters. Apparently this no longer applies and the Law is bringing itself into disrepute by dealing with such trivia.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Desperate Tories?

Reading the media it seems that, whilst Cameron and his Etonian friends are oblivious of the progress being made by UKIP over recent months, the rest of the party and Conservative Central HQ are becoming increasingly worried.
Yesterday, cabinet minister Ken Clarke pronounced that UKIP was a bunch of ‘clowns’ and he had met supporters who ‘satisfy’ David Cameron’s 2006 assessment that UKIP is packed with ‘fruitcakes and closet racists’. Of course, Ken's remarks are somewhat akin the the "pot calling the kettle black", as one of the biggest clowns is, of course,  Boris Johnson. And it shouldn't have escaped his notice that being a clown doesn't make one ineligible to be a politician, as a party led by a stand-up comedian has recently won about 20% of the votes in the Italian general election!

But more importantly, according to a number of media sources (The Daily Telegraph, The Mail and the Commentator) Conservative Central HQ now has a team of about 20 people at work trying to “dig the dirt” on UKIP candidates for the local elections and trying to show that some are, or were, members of the BNP or have made “racist” remarks. They are apparently scouring Twitter, Facebook, etc for such evidence and I have no doubt that they will claim some success as I am quite sure that there will be a few members who are trying to use UKIP as a platform to promote their own personal interests or extremist views. This I believe is inevitable with any party.

Equally, I am sure that there are both Tory and Labour candidates and sitting members who have previously belonged to other parties or have made racist comments, but UKIP doesn’t seem to be wasting time seeking them out. Certainly UKIP has made it clear that  they will not tolerate racist, homophobic or other ‘unpalatable' views, and whilst they do not have the finance or facilities to vet all their candidates, they have said that they will take immediate action if any candidates with such views are drawn to their attention. As a result of this policy, they have just suspended two UKIP candidates amid claims of alleged racism. UKIP also point out that they are the only party in British politics who does not allow former members of the BNP to join, even as ordinary members, let alone stand as candidates. Labour, apparently, has sitting councillors who are former BNP members, which supports the view that the BNP is an extreme left wing party as was Germany's National Socialists.

To me, the CCHQ actions suggest extreme despair, the Tories have no arguments against the UKIP policies, so they attack the candidate. Personally, I don’t believe this will do the Tories any good, particularly when it comes to accusations of “racism”, as the public becoming inured to such accusations and now seem to regard them as a standard method of attack by politicians who are unable to counter their opponents' arguments.

With every day that passes, most of us take reports of racism less seriously in view of some of the ludicrous decisions that have been made on the subject. Seemingly, if one says something like "I am proud to be English", this is a racist remark as it denigrates those who are not English, although it is apparently not racist to be proud of one's Scots or Welsh ancestry!  Opposition to unrestricted immigration was considered to be racist for quite a while, but the Tories and Labour are busy back-peddling here as they realise that many of their members support the idea. And, of course, if one is opposed to same-sex marriage, one is automatically "homophobic", so again the two main parties must have many homophobic members.

It is time that, instead of mud-slinging, the Tories tried to come up with some real policies to counteract the UKIP threat, as by all considerations, I should be a natural Tory supporter. Regretfully, however, the only place that I now feel that I am likely to find true Conservative policies is within UKIP.

Wealthy Pensioners

According to Iain Duncan-Smith, the work and pensions secretary, wealthy elderly people who do not need benefits to help with fuel bills, TV licences or free travel should return the money.
The first question is "Who are these 'Wealthy elderly people'?", as the definition will obviously vary according to one's perspective. I might be considered wealthy by someone on the basic state pension as I have an additional pension from my employment and a small amount of savings. But from my perspective, I am relatively poor in that there are many out there with far bigger pensions and receiving retirement lump sums far in excess of my life's savings.
The next question is "Why should we pay it back?". The wealthier you are, the more taxation you will have paid (and probably still are paying), so one is hardly scrounging a benefit at the expense of others.

Looking at these benefits.
My wife and I  jointly receive the winter fuel allowance; were we both single with our own homes, however small, we would each receive the full amount. With government inspired rising fuel prices due to their so-called "green" policies, we need every penny that we can get and I certainly see no reason to give it back whilst the government is pursuing an environmental policy which is contrary to my (an I believe, the country's) best interests. If I was to give the money away, I would give it to our local parish church which is clearly in need of assistance towards heating the church during the winter months. Now, if I gave it at gift-aid, they could reclaim the notional tax, now there's a thought!
When it come to the TV licence, again, we only get one free licence, and it is BBC money, rather than government's money, and I would not be prepared to pay back a brass farthing to help that bloated overpaid left wing organisation.
Finally, the free travel. This sounds good, but as far as we are concerned is of little use. The nearest bus stop is about a quarter of a mile away, and whilst the bus stops outside both the Tesco and Sainsbury supermarkets, it is of little practical use, as the uphill walk from the bus stop with our shopping would be a killer. Similarly visiting our daughter by bus is theoretically possible, but would take about two hours as compared with some 15 minutes in the car. In fact I used the bus exactly twice in the past year to visit the local hospital, largely to avoid the parking charges in the £1 per hour pay and display car park. I usually costs a fiver as the NHS rarely manages to keep appointment times, but is very ready to issue a fine if you are delayed. (perhaps there is collusion between the appointments staff and the car park manager to maximise their profits!)

No, I don't think that I am receiving unjustified benefits; all they are doing is helping to pay for some of the extra costs that result from government policies.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Another NHS Failure

The Mail today reports that at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire "Two premature babies died because staff on an NHS hospital ward did not wash their hands properly" .
The need for hygiene has been known since the days of Florence Nightingale, although the reason was not fully understood. However, these days, both the need, and the reasons, for hygiene are fully understood and there is absolutely no excuse for any staff who do not take appropriate action. It was blamed by doctors on a ‘breakdown in hand hygiene’ which, translated into normal English simply means that staff were too idle to wash their hands between patients.
But this failure is, I suspect, common to many hospitals. When my wife was in a well known hospital and recovering following heart surgery, there was a large notice on the ward door stating that "All persons MUST use the hand cleanser before entering the ward". However, although it seemed that all visitors complied with the instruction, for some reason many hospital staff didn't seem to think that it applied to them;  whilst my daughter and I were standing there using the cleanser, it was quite common to see doctors, nurses and even admin staff enter without bothering.

Hand washing should be routine for staff in a hospital just as part of my routine as an electrical engineer was to check that electrical circuits had been isolated before allowing work to take place. Failure in either case can lead to deaths for which there is no possible excuse. However there seems to be a big difference between hospitals and the outside world in terms of the action that follows such a failure. If I had neglected my duties and a member of staff had been killed, there would have been a good chance that I would have been prosecuted for manslaughter, and my employer would probably also have been prosecuted under Health and Safety legislation for failure to provide safe working conditions.

Yet when it comes to hospitals, in spite of this hospital admitting at an inquest that negligence contributed to the deaths of two babies, nobody ever seems to be to blame. The staff tried to blame the parents, but as one parent said, it was extremely unlikely that a parent unknowingly carrying any infection would transfer it to any other than their own child simply because they wouldn't go near, and certainly wouldn't touch, other sick children.

I am pleased to see that one of the families have instructed solicitors to take legal action against the trust, but in no way can this be a substitute for the criminal prosecutions which should take palace.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Comedians - You're Joking!

Yesterday evening Mrs EP and myself went to a charity event organised by some student friends of ours in aid of a very well known charity, which I won't name to save them embarrassment.
The entertainment was a number of "Up and Coming Stand-Up Comedians", and frankly, if they are up and coming, I'm glad that I'm down and going!

The main "humour" from all these "comedians" appeared to be sex-related, and none seemed to be able to complete a sentence without including a swearword or two. The worse was a female comedienne who seemed to think that discussing her vagina and other body parts was a matter for laughter; maybe it is to the youngsters, although I didn't see many of them laughing.

About half the seats were empty, although I was assured (and believe) that all the tickets had been sold. I just assume that there were many who were far more knowledgeable than ourselves about such events and saw the price of the ticket as a contribution to the charity and left it at that.

There was just one joke that I appreciated
"The main reason for the huge national debt is that Gordon Brown borrowed £100 from when he first became Chancellor and forgot to pay it back".
But it went over the heads of anyone under 60 who clearly wouldn't understand the dangers of compound interest.

Oh well! We'll know better next time!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Should these people be allowed to teach?

The Daily Mail yesterday revealed the names of two of the organisers of  the "Thatcher Death Parties". What I find disturbing about the Mail's revelations is that both of the people concerned are teachers who work with special needs or vulnerable children.

The Mail reported that:
Romany Blythe, 45, who helps troubled children at schools in Brighton, has created an internet page called: ‘The witch is dead' and encouraged thousands to 'p***' on the Iron Lady's grave.

It also noted that:
Craig Parr, a 27-year-old special needs teacher and union activist, was employed at Labour leader Ed Miliband’s old school and has worked with the youngest and most impressionable pupils there, The teacher was pictured parading with a sick placard which read: ‘Rejoice. Thatcher is dead.’

It is strange that it is only those on the left of politics who seem to bear this long term vile hatred against those of differing political views. I've never heard of anyone to the right wishing that Blair or Brown were dead and wishing to celebrate the event, although many of us blame them for the mess the country is in today and place the real responsibility for the need for austerity firmly on their shoulders. This celebrating the death of an opponent, even one that has retired from politics many years ago is purely a left wing phenomenon..

However, to me, it is totally unacceptable that people who express these views and are involved in such activities should be employed as teachers and in particular as teachers working with vulnerable children who are easily impressed.

If, as a council decided recently, being a member of UKIP renders a person unfit to be a foster parent, surely the extreme, sick, left wing opinions and actions of these two must equally be valid reasons for banning them from the teaching profession.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Why the Feminists hated Margaret Thatcher

The feminists of this world, led by the arch-feminist Glenda Jackson, hated Margaret Thatcher simply because she achieved great heights without being a feminist. This in their books is one of the most heinous crimes that a woman can commit.

She achieved what she did entirely by herself, on the basis of her own abilities. When she was selected as the parliamentary candidate for Finchley, she was selected on merit, not on the basis of an all female shortlist. When she was appointed as a Secretary of State in the Heath government, it wasn't because of the need for a quota of females in the cabinet, it was because Heath and his advisers considered her to be the best Conservative MP to fill the post. In due course when she was elected party leader in a free election by the other Tory MPs, again it was because she was considered to be the best candidate.

And this is what really rankles with the feminists; unlike most of them, she broke through the glass ceiling with a resounding bang without any assistance and entirely on her own merit. They absolutely hate such people because they remove all justification for females to need preferential treatment.

Was this Thatcher ‘a woman?’ asks Miss Jackson, in her deep masculine voice. ‘Not on my terms!

Well I've no idea what her terms might be, but every time I see a photograph of Miss Jackson, I have to look twice to make sure it is of a female! Life for us men wouldn't be worth living if she were the typical woman rather than Mrs Thatcher.

Who is the woman on your terms?
Margaret Thatcher
Feminine looks, carefully coiffured,  smart but feminine business suit and a smile

Glenda Jackson
Porcine looks, hair cut with a pair of garden shears and reject clothes from the local charity shop.

They hated her simply because she was all the things that they were not and had achieved things that they could not. They behave like spoilt children because of it.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Labour - The Real "Nasty" Party

The left would like to brand the Tories as the "Nasty Party", but looking at the behaviour of the Labour Party and large numbers of their supporters since the death of Baroness Thatcher, there is now no doubt in my mind that the real nastiness lies on the left of the political spectrum.
Looking at the special sitting of Parliament today, we see that the Labour benches are half empty with many of their MPs trying to make political capital out of events that took place some twenty-five years ago, events of which many will have very little real personal knowledge. We have also seen the left-wing scum in the streets of both Brixton and Glasgow "celebrating" the death of Baroness Thatcher, which whilst not unexpected, just shows the mindset of the left.

What these blinkered protesters refuse to accept it that what happened under the Thatcher governments was inevitable. Britain's coal mines, steel and car industries were in steady decline, partly from lack of investment by numerous previous governments and partly due to the intransigence of the Trade Unions. The death of these industries was going to happen whoever was in power, the Thatcher government merely administered a rapid coup de grĂ¢ce. The problem for the Trade Unions was that once these industries had gone, with them would go a large part of their power base, The control that the TUC had had over British politics since the war, regardless of the party in power, would come to an end.

But, nevertheless, these blinkered minds are still prepared to carry on with their class was, even now that their "hate figure" has died, and I have no doubt will continue to indoctrinate generations to come. Yet I wonder, just how many of these protesters would actually be prepared to go down a coal mine with the inherent risks of injury or death and a short life expectation due to lung disease? One could logically claim that many thousands of potential miners have been saved from that fate and that this should be the real cause for celebration.

But as I observed at the start, the events this week have shown us the real nastiness of our left wing, a phenomenon I don't believe that one ever sees on the right of the political spectrum, and certainly not in the Conservative party. Yes, Labour and its sick supporters have now truly earned the title of "The Nasty Party"
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I would like to go to London next week and see the funeral procession, but at my age I feel that fighting both the public transport system and the crowds would be too much. My eldest daughter will be there however, either as a bellringer at St Paul's if the bells are to be rung, or on duty as a Special with the Met. She will have to provide me with a full report.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013 - R.I.P.

What more can one say than just simply

"Rest in Peace"

As far as I am concerned Baroness Thatcher was the greatest Prime Minister of my lifetime, and as my parents both held the same view, I can confidently claim that in the opinion of this family she was the greatest Prime Minister since Victorian times.

Unlike so many Prime Ministers, both before and since, she knew exactly what she wanted to achieve and set about it with a single-mindedness which has never been seen since. Her phrase "This Lady's not for Turning" summed up her political career. Unlike so many politicians of all parties, she didn't change her course simply because of an adverse opinion poll or focus group report but pressed on in spite of them. I may not have agreed with all she did, but one had to respect her for doing what she believed to be right. I still believe that she was right in the matter of the poll tax, but that's another story.

Thatcher and Reagan
 The two greatest World Leaders of my lifetime.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher
Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire 

"Rest in Peace"

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Benefits - A Way of Life?

Following the Philpott case, politicians of all parties have been trying to make political capital out of the benefits system. The Chancellor, George Osborne implied that Philpott was a product of the benefits system which of course was decried by Labour as using the dead children to make a political point. Personally, I take the view that Philpott isn't a product of the system, but that he is a type that has always existed. He was simply able to use a failing system, and vulnerable women, to his own personal advantage.
This tends to be a problem with any bureaucratic system, it works according to rules which can never be perfect and rarely allow discretion to those administering them. And of course, there are always the cries of "think of the poor children" from all the liberal softies the moment that any cuts are suggested. Well the system "thought of the children" in the Philpott case, but from many reports it seems that they they were half starved at the time of their deaths.

Politicians seem to avoid looking at the past, which I think is a great mistake. Originally alms were given by the Church to the poor and needy, and in due course this was made a parish responsibility with relief provided by the "overseers of the poor". They provided it according to need, but one basic rule was that "no person shall receive more in relief than the lowest paid working man in the parish". Being administered on a local level, the overseers would know who were the genuine needy and who were the idlers, and so could act accordingly. The minutes of the overseers in some parishes (where they still exist) can make interesting reading; rarely was cash given, but arrangements were made for the claimant "to be provided with one pair of good working boots" with the overseers paying the village bootmaker directly. Clearly they wanted to ensure that the boots were bought, rather than the money being spent at the local hostelry! Hence my support for food coupons and the like.

One further twist in the present saga is that many Labour supporting working class adults are apparently strongly in favour of the proposed Tory clamp-down on benefits, something that has taken the party hierarchy by surprise. But why should this be so? It is far more likely that working Labour supporters will come into contact with benefit scroungers than someone in my position living in a middle-class home owning area. These Labour supporters can see their money being wasted, most of us only read about it!

And of course the Trade Unions, as usual, are trying to face two ways at once. On one hand, since the Tories came to power they have been arguing for "Work not Dole", now they find that they are also arguing against any restrictions on the dole.

For once, I suspect, the public are broadly on the side of the Tories as far as benefits are concerned, although many, like myself, would argue that they "could do better".

Monday, 1 April 2013

Teachers "Commit Suicide" over OFSTED Inspections

In the Mail on Sunday is a report on the NUT annual conference.
Whilst most of the report covers their usual diatribe against Michael Gove, one of the most extraordinary claims is that the school inspection regime is widely resented and is blamed for raising teachers’ stress levels and suicide rates.

I just wonder in what world these teachers are living. As an engineer, through my whole career, my work was always subject to inspection, certainly until the time when I became a project engineer and inspected other people's work. Of course it was stressful, whether one was having one's work inspected or even when carrying out an inspection. But it was accepted because we all knew that lives could be lost if mistakes were made.

Why should teachers be any different?

Would they prefer, for example, to fly in an aircraft which hadn't been minutely inspected at all stages of manufacture by outside experts and then further inspected on a routine basis when in use? Are they opposed to the routine inspection of Hospitals by outsiders? Would they prefer that their food was not inspected at various stages by government officials and did they complain when it was suggested that meat inspections should be increased? What about Cafes and Restaurants, should they be left uninspected? The list is endless!

So why shouldn't teaching be inspected? Why shouldn't our children's education be subjected to the same detailed inspection as most other occupations?  Whilst children might not get killed if their teaching isn't up to standard, there is no doubt that their whole lives can be affected by the standards of teaching at their schools.  Perhaps there should be a resident Ofsted inspector at all secondary schools, just as there was a resident government inspector when I worked at a company making electrical equipment for the Military.  Now that would really "put the cat among the pigeons"!

An afterthought. Are teachers who have either attempted suicide or are known to have suicidal tendencies fit people to be allowed to teach our children? I certainly wouldn't want my grandson to come into contact with any teacher who was known to have contemplated suicide.