A meeting is due to be held to explore ways of protecting 900 at-risk jobs at the Young’s fish plant in Fraserburgh …read more
A person’s taste in music may offer insight into the way in which they think, researchers at Cambridge University say. …read more
Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli’s future at Anfield is in his own hands, says Reds manager Brendan Rodgers. …read more
A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the Glasgow bin lorry crash, in which six people died, hears there was no mechanical fault with the vehicle. …read more
Durham’s police and crime commissioner offers cannabis users the chance to avoid prosecution in a bid to stop a “cycle of reoffending”. …read more
The Health Committee heard from key figures in NHS England. …read more
I had a dream. Last night I dreamt that I was Nick Clegg and was suffering from cramp in my toes. The second part was true, but the first suggests a worrying subconscious lack of ambition. I mentioned this to my fellow hen-keepers this morning and drew little sympathy. The general verdict was that I am simply joining the national trend of believing absolutely anything. Albert was as always prepared to add a cheering rider, he say the cramps are an advance notice from the Grim Reaper and the Clegg bit is a reminder that, despite the Pluto venture, our search for an intelligent planet has produced zero candidates – including our own. People, he proclaimed, will believe anything.
That triggered a discussion which lasted until we took tea, as they are wont to say in cricket, in the Eric Pickles doughnut hut. The consensus seemed to be that the great British public is part of a gullibility chain that starts with pronouncements by the politicians followed by faithful repetition in the media and total belief on the part of the public. Harsh? Maybe not. Amongst the examples quoted were yesterday’s outpourings about savings to be had via privatisation, and the culpability of hospital consultants in contributing to preventable deaths at weekends.
The less than happy thought of Gorgeous George Osborne becoming prime minister continues to haunt us, and yesterday he launched the latest of his lunacies by announcing that he intends to cut the cost of public services by 40 per cent. How? By outsourcing, that’s how. Now we don’t dispute that in some cases privatisation can improve service levels, although the example of the power suppliers suggests otherwise. But reduce costs? There is not a shred of evidence for this – hardly surprising since private companies exist to make profits and that means substantial mark-ups over and above state-run services operating at minimum wage levels. One day soon we will find every public service in the hands of Serco, G4S and the rest only to find that the cost is higher. And those who remember the Olympics fiasco may even wonder about the service level improvement bit too.
Our second example involved the hospital consultants. Jeremy Hunt’s degrees based on the history of Blue Peter make him an unlikely choice for Health Secretary, but when he speaks the media print the headlines. In no time at all it produces grieving relatives who say that if only the lazy consultants had been in attendance at the weekend when their relatives fell ill they would still be with us. As ever Mr Hunt has the answer, consultants must forego their golf for the greater good.
It really is nonsense born of ignorance. Consultant is not a code word for magician. Consultants are specialists in diagnosis and treatment but cannot act in a vacuum. They base their judgements on radiology, MRI, clinical laboratories and a wide range of diagnostic services. Unless all of those are available a specialist is as ineffective as a plumber without a spanner. This is not therefore merely a question of rotas that ensure the presence of a handful of experts at weekends. It is a question of whether the NHS can afford the ruinous cost of operating its full hospital services on a 24/7 basis.
And even the gullible know the answer to that. Thanks to PFI funding schemes combined with funding not based on rising numbers of patients more than half of trusts are effectively bankrupt. Any attempt to establish full-week working by all diagnostic services would be the final straw. A drive on tax avoidance, EU contributions and overseas aid just might produce sufficient cash, but that is as unlikely as my opening the batting for England.
We really do need to become less believing. Even such claims as that of our dear leader’s pledge to wipe the head-choppers from the face of the earth with seven ageing fighter planes merit less credibility than we afford them the moment the Daily Torygraph reaches for bold headlines.
Anyone who believes politicians and their press stooges will believe anything. It is an unfortunate tendency.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” The government solution to any problem is usually at least as bad as the problem”…. Milton Friedman.
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Yorkshire batsman Jonny Bairstow replaces Gary Ballance in the England squad to face Australia in the third Ashes Test. …read more
Police arrest a man after an alleged sexual assault in Powys. …read more
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Some government departments are told to prepare for a 40% cut in their budgets as Chancellor George Osborne launches his spending review. …read more
Golf has never featured amongst our favourite sports, but last night’s extended BBC2 coverage of the play-off at the Open seems to have changed that. As we cleaned out the hens this morning everyone was demonstrating a conversion of Damascus proportions. To take a putt knowing just how much hangs on getting it precisely right must require nerves of steel, a requirement not helped by a howling gale or wet turf. Expect to read more golf comments in future, particularly since our cricketers seem to have developed nerves of jelly.
But our main topic of conversation as we reached the doughnut hut was yesterday’s attempt by our dear leader to address the issue of terrorism. His support amongst the allotmenteers is limited, but the general mood was positive. For too long politicians have skated around this potentially sensitive issue. Decades of propaganda by the political correctness brigade have taken their toll, and anyone even venturing the view that the Muslim community has its faults fears being branded a racist. It is pure nonsense and the time to speak out has arrived.
There was less applause for David Cameron’s talk of Battle. Like Winston before him he evoked images of brave pilots defending these islands, in this case by withstanding the hordes of Isis barbarians. Unfortunately there is a significant difference – thanks to repeated cuts to the Defence budget we now have only eight planes. The small collection of ageing Tornado fighters on the jolly island of Cyprus are incapable of making any significant contribution to the campaign of air-strikes. In any case the idea that bombing will ever halt the insane beheaders is ludicrous. Every military expert agrees that only troops on the ground in large numbers can do that.
But given the failure to achieve supremacy in Iraq and Afghanistan there is no realistic hope of that happening. That is why my pals support the second part of the Prime Minister’s foray. Since we cannot stop the terrorists abroad we must cut off the oxygen that feeds them here, the oxygen of alienation and disillusion. In areas such as ours there is no problem. With the occasional exception of women wearing burkas – a manifestation of ‘we are different’ if ever there was one – there is no awareness of ethnic backgrounds. Human beings of every background work and play together in total harmony.
But in places such as Bradford, a city we know well, it is a very different story. In 2001 the city, once one of the most prosperous in England, endured the worst race riots in recent history – fuelled by tensions between white and Asian youths and stoked up by agitation from the far right. At the time of the last census in 2011, the city was still badly divided. It showed Bradford’s 100,000 ethnic minority population still mainly living in isolated communities. Children still went to segregated schools and there was little interaction with the city’s white population.
Since then, Bradford, like all cities, has suffered cuts in government funding and received far less support for programmes designed to promote integration. Earlier this year it was named one of the ten authorities with the highest level of school segregation.
Thus is created a breeding ground for discontent, a state of mind enhanced by high levels of unemployment and the attitudes of many so-called community leaders who cling to outdated concepts of female subjugation and religious doctrines that, in common with young people of all backgrounds, the younger generation regard as repressive. Throw in the fact that the police have failed to establish the sort of rapport they generally enjoy with neighbouring white communities and you have a toxic mix. Cue the preachers of fantasy and violence and you have the spectacle of young men and women heading off for the ‘paradise’ of Syria and its inevitable indoctrination.
Our dear leader is surely right to say that Muslim communities can no longer live apart. They must, he says, be merged with neighbouring white communities. It is only by living together as one society that integration becomes possible. It cannot be right that people can grow up and go to school and hardly ever come into meaningful contact with people from other backgrounds and faiths.
Having talked the talk we hope that David Cameron will now walk the walk. That means searching questions about social housing to avoid segregated estates. It means a new cohesive communities programme to improve job and education prospects in Muslim communities. It means an end to the divisive concept of community leaders other than those elected by everyone.
It won’t be easy, we are where we are. But if dramatic and positive action is not taken there will be more talk of the enemy within. We all have to recognise that there is only one real enemy and it lies far from these shores. And if anyone wishes to join them there should be no way back.
Two of our allotment gang are Muslims. And it pains us and them to survey the mess created elsewhere by blundering liberals and politicians. We are merely fellow human beings. United we stand, divided we fall!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” We need to put out of action the key extremist influencers who are careful to operate just inside the law but who clearly detest British society and everything we stand for”…. David Cameron, 20/7/15.
The way hospitals discharge patients is probably contributing to high levels of readmission, a year-long Healthwatch England inquiry finds. …read more
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Labour tells Ben Gummer that victims with HIV and hepatitis C feel they are being left to die in misery so costs of eventual settlement are more affordable
The government has come under fire from both sides of the Commons following delays to new compensation for victims of the NHS contaminated blood scandal.
Ben Gummer, a junior health minister, was forced on Monday to defend the government’s plans to push back the release of £25m in financial support for those affected, despite a promise from the prime minister in March that the cash would be released immediately.Continue reading...
One of Britain’s most successful Paralympians has described wheelchair services for many disabled people in England as being in “chaos”. …read more
Fifa chief Sepp Blatter was forced to halt a news conference when UK comedian Simon Brodkin threw a pile of banknotes at him. …read more
A five-year-old girl is killed in an accident in a park play area in which a tree collapsed. …read more
“Here we go again” was the usual Monday morning moan on the allotments. It does disregard the fact that most of us were here yesterday, but the old reaction to the start of a new working week dies hard. At least the England cricketers will be spared the drag of having to perform today.
And they will be spared the shame of being asked about their vital statistics by Daily Mail reporters, who apparently reserve such questions for members of the fair sex. Yesterday they posed just that query to Labour hopeful Liz Kendal, who ventured to wonder if they ask the same of the male candidates. Clearly sexism is alive and well amongst the comics, although to be fair The Sun has focussed instead on horseplay on the part of 7-year-olds.
But such trivia didn’t hold our attention for long as we cleaned out the squabbling hens. A weightier issue had fired up our grey matter. French President Francois Hollande has made a less than subtle attempt to boost the rhetoric of our resident Eurosceptics by once and for all confirming what we all suspected – France is at the forefront of the seldom mentioned plan to create an EU superstate.
By way of a start Mr Hollande has called for a “eurozone government” with its own ministers, parliament and budget. Without mentioning the land of the Cameroons by name he has called for leaving behind nations which oppose further “deepening” or “integration” of the 28-member EU. “Our biggest threat is not too much Europe but too little” Mr Hollande wrote in yesterday’s ‘Journal du Dimanche’. So it is out in the open at last – one nation, one army, one state. Since many of the prospective members are little bigger than the Isle of Wight it seems logical to assume that it will be led by the French and Germans, a situation we have on previous occasions taken more than a little trouble to resist.
It is of course entirely possible that many in this country will warm to the idea. Thanks to Grumpy Gordon we are not members of the ill-fated Euro venture and would probably be more than happy to be simply part of an associated trade agreement, always provided that we did not have to continue to pump in £15 billion each year and to welcome enough migrants to populate a dozen more cities.
Maybe Mr Hollande has opened the negotiating door for our dear leader? Maybe that is exactly what he intended, for little would please him more than to see his socialist dream free of the insidious threat of the pesky Brits with their outdated idea of individual national sovereignty.
As, oblivious to the latest government edicts on sugar, we munched through our doughnuts this morning we finally decided that we should be grateful to the man who even in France is as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip. So many of us are somewhat ambiguous about the promised EU referendum.
Suddenly the choice seems much clearer!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Jacques Delors’ 1989 plan for European integration outraged Eurosceptic and Thatcherites in the UK. The Sun famously responded with the headline ‘Up yours Delors’ “…. Independent, 20/7/15.
The prime minister will vow to tackle “failures of integration” when he unveils a five-year plan to combat home-grown Islamist extremism later. …read more
Ikea will become the first national retailer in the UK to pay its staff above the new National Living Wage from next year. …read more
Head teachers are more concerned with pupils’ mental health than any other issue related to well-being, a survey suggests. …read more
The Sun newspaper and three of its reporters launch a landmark challenge against police for accessing phone records in relation to the “plebgate” affair. …read more
Britain is committed to working with the US to destroy the “caliphate” set up by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron says. …read more
Four people who are feared dead after an explosion at a wood treatment works in Cheshire are named by police, who say they are still hunting for signs of life. …read more
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A bomb attack in County Armagh on Saturday was “absolutely designed to kill” police officers, the Police Service of Northern Ireland says. …read more
We are surprised by the extent of the widespread revulsion at the latest claptrap of The Sun. Surprised because we hadn’t imagined that after its treatment of Liverpool supporters in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy and its subsequent grotesque coverage of so many other issues, anyone takes anything it does seriously.
Faced with the need for some quick damage-limitation the Editor has claimed that the pictures of the Queen as a 7-year-old were obtained in a legitimate fashion, and were not intended to discredit the monarch. Pull the other one – it has bells on it. And does anyone seriously believe that pictures of a child horsing around is any reflection of the adult they eventually became. I still have a photograph of myself and what looks like Just William’s gang strutting around with arms raised and a finger under our noses. For its usual astronomic backhander the comic is welcome to a copy.
But as we codgers performed our usual hen-rituals this morning our attention quickly moved on to a grown-up topic. As on almost every other morning the less insane newspapers are giving the NHS their latest brickbats. Admittedly this morning brings news of a promise to cut cancer waiting times, but we didn’t give that much heed given that the promise made during the election campaign to cap self-contributions to elderly care has been kicked into the long grass.
In all the political finger-pointing about the cash crisis in our health service there is little mention about the basic cause. Yes we know about the increasing population and the Coalition’s ruinous so-called reforms, but these pale into insignificance against the horrendous impact of PFI. The Private Finance Initiative – known by us as the Politicians Foolish Idiocy – was a wheeze dreamed up by ministers as a means of keeping capital expenditure off the national balance sheet. At that moment of madness by the Blairites the seeds of the destruction of the NHS were sown. And the present government continues with the lunacy.
In our doughnut-eating headquarters of the intellectual world we keep many statistics – a habit perhaps subconsciously aimed at deflecting our minds from the England cricketers. Allow us to share one or two with you. Remember that under PFI deals, private investors take on the building and operating of new hospitals, and in return receive payments spread typically over 25 to 30 years that far exceed the original costs of the project.
Department of Health figures show that in this year alone 104 NHS trusts will have to pay private companies £1.96 billion – enough to pay for treatment of cystic fibrosis patients for 20 years. The 20 most expensive deals will cost the NHS £970 million this year. Four private companies will pocket £39 billion over the course of the PFI deals, and almost £1 billion this year. A typical example is the Barts Health NHS Trust which faces payments until 2049. The privately financed rebuild cost £1.1 billion, but by the time that the last instalment is paid over £7 billion will have been handed over.
A Sunday Telegraph investigation has revealed that one investment firm alone can expect repayments totalling almost £18 billion over the lifetime of the 18 deals handed to it. Innisfree Group Ltd employs just 25 staff. According to the latest accounts, its highest paid director, other than the chief executive, was paid more than £2 million last year – a rise of £500,000 on the previous year. Innisfree’s chief executive, South African-born David Metter, is said to be worth at least £80 million.
Many of the Trusts now handicapped by enormous PFI debts are labelled as unsatisfactory by regulators. Their debts are mounting, their numbers of doctors and nurses are heading in the opposite direction.
It may be only a small consolation but at least we know who caused the ruination of our NHS. Jeremy Hunt and the rest of the political classes should stop berating clinitions and should reach for self-flagellation equipment instead. And they should at least stop this ruinous practice right now!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Bills for PFI deals have grown so large that they would pay for the wages of all qualified midwives for two and a half years”…. Sunday Telegraph, 19/7/15.
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