Schools with substandard careers advice should be downgraded in Ofsted inspections, MPs say. …read more
Six men are jailed for a total of 94 years after smuggling drugs from Holland to the UK in fake ambulances. …read more
Nigel Farage says he is standing down as leader of the UK Independence Party following the UK’s vote to leave the EU. …read more
The chairwoman of the Scottish government’s child abuse inquiry Susan O’Brien QC resigns, having faced being sacked over “unacceptable” comments. …read more
A teenager thought to have been killed by a man convicted of murder overseas died in a sexually-motivated attack, a jury rules. …read more
On this beautifully sunny Monday morning we drew comfort from the clear signs that women are about to take over the shaping of our future. The two leading candidates for Number Ten seem eminently sensible and likely to handle the tricky water ahead in a calm and compassionate manner. Across the channel Angela Merkel has let it be known that she has had more than enough of the gloating and adversarial Juncker, and all three seem to recognise that points-scoring and hysteria are not the best way to negotiate implementation of a democratic outcome. As if to confirm the inability of men to face reality Tony Blair – just days from publication of the Chilcot report – toured the TV studios to lecture us on the need for honesty in government. Even as he gabbled, another huge atrocity was taking place in Baghdad.
Meantime the chattering classes were on the march in London. Having been disappointed at the rapid recovery of the financial markets they talked mysteriously of children in tears, imminent food shortages and the growth of a police state. Even worse several complained that it was the great unwashed of the north that tipped the scales for Brexit and World War 3. They are in no mood to listen to anyone who dares to question their own view but perhaps on that point at least we can enlighten them.
At least half of our allotments group voted for Remain, but we do understand the feelings of alienation that undoubtedly influenced many inhabitants of the imaginary Northern Powerhouse to reject anything said by the spin doctors in Downing Street. Heaven knows the Blair and Brown eras were bad enough, but it was almost worse under Cameron’s Conservatives. Headed by a man who openly boasted of being the “heir to Blair”, it has consistently focused its attention on the interests of London and the home counties. And working-class Northern socialists who voted Brexit will have felt equally ignored and betrayed by the various Labour administrations which claimed to represent their values but so obviously didn’t.
Any societal divide is worrying, and as we gathered in the hut for our re-enactment of an Eric Pickles breakfast we reflected on what now appears to be a North/South chasm. But, with the exception of Albert, we are never downhearted for long and in no time at all we turned to the old fallacy about folk being tough up North. And guess what – we have found evidence that even our feathered friends up here are also in the class of Desperate Dan.
Research in the Royal Society’s journal ‘Open Science’ this month covers the wren – that hedgerow dweller of bombastic song whose tiny frame makes it particularly susceptible to frozen winters. The research concluded that the body mass of wrens was approximately five per cent lower in the warmest areas of the South West compared with the coldest in east Scotland. Those in the North could cope with about 70 per cent more days of frost than their southern cousins. This is the principle known as Bergmann’s rule, whereby those species that reside in boreal climes tend to be of a larger size.
In short, they make them tougher up north. Of course anyone who has spent a few days of winter here knew this already. Newcastle, for example, where bare bellies turn blue on the football terraces and young women trot out for the night in skirts and strappy tops impervious to the howling gales whipping in down the Tyne. In London, meanwhile, anything below a muggy 10C is enough to make most pull on their thickest coats and hunker down in the Tube. The wren study cements these cliches in physiological truth.
At the very least the findings should cheer up the football fans who are still in mourning about getting pasted by the minnows of Iceland in the European Championships. We had already guessed that our players are so useless because of their pampered lifestyle, now we can only pray that we don’t draw Greenland next time.
To avoid the risk of offending our readers from the sunny South we hasten to say that in this age of social mobility and indoor loos we are less than convinced about our supposed Northern toughness. But when it comes to our Northern Powerhouse wrens ….!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” A person who trusts no one can’t be trusted”….Jerome Blattner.
A law firm is taking action to ensure the formal process for the UK leaving the EU is not triggered without an act of Parliament. …read more
A video has gone viral of schoolchildren slowing down to let a disabled classmate win a race. Laurence Clark, a comedian with cerebral palsy, is not sure he wouldn’t rather lose. …read more
A growing body of research suggests gardening is good for both physical and mental health. …read more
Post-Brexit battles continue to dominate the front pages, with several papers focusing on the fights to lead the Conservative and Labour parties. …read more
A group of suspected migrants are discovered in the back of a lorry travelling on the M25 in Kent. …read more
As an English town considers bringing back the stocks, which other settlements have kept their instruments of medieval correction? …read more
The Battle of the Somme has become a byword for slaughter, but how quickly did Britons learn of the true scale of the disaster? …read more
Comedian and TV writer Caroline Aherne has died aged 52, having had cancer, her publicist says. …read more
The age of women is about to dawn and we mere males are delighted. Few would deny that the world is in an almighty mess and men are responsible. It looks increasingly likely that our lives will soon be dominated by such as May, Clinton, Merkel and Sturgeon all of whom share the gender of the Queen who has long demonstrated that the female of the species is somewhat superior when it comes to multitasking, discretion and inherent kindness. Even the Labour Party may follow the trend. In our view it bodes well for the future.
We codgers are certainly pleased that Michael Gove’s demonstration of male skulduggery now looks unlikely to pay dividends. We say that as sports fans, as people who believe above all else in the capacity of sport to not only improve health and well being but to unite and inspire. If you question that take a look at pictures of rapturous Welsh folk after last night’s triumph over Belgium. Not for them moronic obsessing about Brexit – song was echoing through every valley.
So where does Gove feature in our sporting muses? As we cleaned out the hens on another non-summer morning we cast our minds back to his reign as Education minister. He had a wrecking-ball effect upon this country’s playgrounds and the health of its school sports. At a stroke in 2010, he scrapped the £162 million of annual funding for School Sports Partnerships, which had achieved a quiet revolution in pushing our sedentary youth into physical activity during school time. This was a minister who had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of a London Olympics complete with ts promise to “inspire a generation”, and still he hurled it upon the bonfire. Likewise he approved the sell-off of playing fields by the dozen, despite explicit promises to the contrary.
As we gathered in the hut for our Eric Pickles breakfast conversation was centred on sport, for we are weary of the strident voices of petulant ‘Remainders’ telling us that people such as us had no right to be involved in a decision that only they had the intellect to understand. Inevitably the Euro2016 tournament came up, but for England fans such as Albert it provides little joy. Most of our session focused on Wimbledon and the fortnight when our love affair with tennis enjoys its annual resurgence.
Sadly there is a darker side. A few days ago Marcus Willis hit the headlines by reaching the second round and rattling the cage of the great Roger Federer. Marcus had previously earned the princely sum of £285 and to do that he had to travel to an event in Tunisia, where he reached the quarter-finals. As with every would-be star his life has been a struggle, one that deters many potentially promising young players. The luck of the draw saw Marcus on centre court and suddenly he had a cheque for £50,000 – a life-changing sum for one used to a hand-to-mouth existence.
The reality is that wealth in tennis is spread nothing like so thinly as in sports such as professional golf. There the planet’s 706th best player is Jin Park who has amassed over £33,000 this year. Hardly bounteous, but enough to keep him above the breadline. In tennis for all but the stars on the ‘circuit’ existence is painfully nomadic, and almost impossible to sustain longer than a couple of years without private funds or a sudden Marcus-like lucky draw.
But the elite grow ever wealthier. If Roger Federer should win this year’s Wimbledon singles he will add £2 million to his career earnings of £73.2 million. In contrast the winner’s at next weeks Futures contests in Mozambique and Israel will barely scrape enough for a night in a motel. The gap has widened to the point where most aspiring youngsters simply abandon hope.
To give him credit Andy Murray has spoken out. “We need to improve the prize funds at Futures level”, he said this week. He is right – the future of the sport demands it. And where does the money come from? That is easily answered. Each round at Wimbledon adds obscenely high amounts that could easily be at least halved without reducing the appeal of appearing at the most prestigious world tennis event.
Marcus Willis aced Roger Federer nine time and took seven games off him. But had it not been for that lucky draw the world no 706 would still be struggling in obscurity and heading out of the game. The greed that has taken over so much of our society in recent years now casts a dark shadow over the great garden party of tennis.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: “The sport of tennis could do far more to give players on the lowest rungs a clear sense of where they are going, an incentive to move beyond their unglamorous and depressing hamster wheel”….Oliver Brown.
A few days ago we wrote that only the sainted Theresa could unite both the Tory Party and the country at this turbulent time. So we can hardly express regret at the astonishing events of the past 24 hours. But we cannot escape the thought that there is something we don’t know. On the face of it Michael Gove had a cunning plan, one with all the hallmarks of Gorgeous George Osborne. But the sudden loss of his support does not explain why Boris should suddenly decide to stand aside.
The whole affair has sinister echoes of the sudden resignation of Harold Wilson who overnight decided that he didn’t wish to continue as Prime Minister. We have never discovered the real reason, and the same probably goes for this unexpected turn of events. But what ever the truth may be we stand by our view that Theresa May is the best prospect for a country in turmoil. She has always maintained an aloof distance from the scheming inhabitants of the Westminster bubble and is widely regarded as an honourable safe pair of hands, free of cronies. And supporters of Brexit need have no fears – she is a fervent believer in the sanctity of democracy.
Presumably what remains of the Labour Party will heave a sigh of relief if the vicar’s daughter takes over given her clear commitment to not holding a snap election. Who knows – it could just be ready to face the electorate by 2020. Then again if its MPs continue to fight like ferrets in a sack it may not even exist by then.
Thus ends our less than detailed analysis of our political gamesters who seem totally oblivious to the new analysis published in a British Social Attitudes report. It tells us that 77 per cent now feel that the class divide is now “very wide” as a result of austerity which has brought huge cuts to their services and quality of life whilst allowing the rich to become even richer. The report found a “high occurrence of disenchantment among those who describe themselves as working class”.
To an extent the subject that emerged as we sheltered from the ‘summer’ weather in the hut this morning has some relevance to the Osborne lop-sided version of austerity. A report from the Office for National Statistics(ONS) reveals that nearly a quarter of deaths in England and Wales could have been prevented with better healthcare or public health intervention. Of 500,000 deaths recorded in the two countries during 2014, 23 per cent were categorised as avoidable.
Anne Campbell, of the mortality analysis team at the ONS, reports that people who die prematurely from avoidable causes lost an average of 23 potential years of life. Of course advances in medical technology and public health interventions mean that a death from a condition previously not avoidable might have become one. Equally obvious is the fact that sometimes other medical conditions meant that the patient would not have survived for many years. But the overwhelming fact is that our underfunded and overstretched health services are unable to do more than the barest minimum.
During the referendum campaign much was made by such as Osborne of claims that a Brexit vote would “endanger the NHS”. What they forgot to mention was the fact that our spending on healthcare expressed as a percentage of GDP is far below that the other leading European nations. And the clinicians running most of their services have not been subjected to endless meddling and interference by unqualified politicians.
You will probably find this as disturbing as we do. For years now our elected so-called representatives have ‘reformed’ our health services constantly, imposed irrelevant ‘targets’ and ‘efficiency savings” and refused to recognise the impact of rocketing patient numbers. And vast numbers of those unable to afford private medicine have suffered avoidable deaths.
And now the only people who can rectify this appalling situation are busy stabbing each other in the back and playing power-games.
Small wonder that disenchantment stalks the land!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Despite promises of governing for the whole nation the government’s economic policies have concentrated wealth among the few, while savaging the services that people rely on. It’s no wonder that people feel like they live in a divided country”….Caroline Lucas, Green MP.
The Queen leads events to mark 100 years since the Battle of the Somme as overnight vigils begin on the eve of the anniversary. …read more
Families remember long lost relatives who fought during the Battle of the Somme. …read more
Photos chronicling Tory MP and former London mayor Boris Johnson, who has ruled himself out of the race to be the next Conservative leader and prime minister. …read more
A century after the Battle of the Somme, see some of the key landmarks, battlefields and memorials from the air. …read more
Just weeks ago the weather gurus warned us of the dangers of sunstroke in what was going to be the hottest June on record. Sadly we have had no need for caps or panamas on the allotments, and Wimbledon has opened with enough rain breaks to more than justify the cost of roofing over the centre court. Experts of all varieties seem to have one thing in common – they invariably get it wrong.
As we cleaned out the hens this morning wearing more sweaters than an umpire at Lords, we cast our minds back just two weeks to the experts in the world of economics. Our Canadian Governor of the Bank of England and his pal Gorgeous George warned that in the event of a ‘Leave’ vote in the EU referendum the stock market would plummet to depths never before experienced, and the pound would disappear into a black hole. Yesterday the FTSE index returned to pre-Brexit levels and the pound made impressive gains against the dollar and Euro. This morning they tell us that they will not need the contingency plans that they forgot to mention previously. And dear old Mervyn King, the previous apolitical Governor, tells us that they were guilty of exaggeration and deliberate irresponsibility.
But we codgers who desire nothing more than a quiet life are grateful that the hysteria is dying down. We are of course aware of the evidence that MPs of both of our once great parties are busy demonstrating their contempt for the concept of democracy, but that is hardly a surprise. The Labour parliamentarians have effectively destroyed their party, but the Conservatives look likely to return their attention to running the country once they have decided between the sainted Theresa and Michael Gove, Boris having decided that he doesn’t fancy the staid life of a Prime Minister.
And our business contacts in Germany tell us that winning concessions of freedom of movement will not be as difficult as the bureaucrats of Brussels would have us believe. We represent their biggest export market and they are pragmatists. But like us they were less than impressed by the offensive behaviour of Nigel Farage in the EU ‘parliament’. They too dislike the Junckers crowd but whipping it up into a frenzy is unhelpful.
But as we settled in the hut for a breakfast the like of which the health promotion chattering classes assure us is an invitation to the Grim Reaper, we focused on another group of experts who need to get their act together. Hardly a day passes but the medical profession issues conflicting warnings that leave those of us who didn’t study medicine utterly confused.
Two examples come readily to mind. For a time statins were heralded as the must-go-to drug for anyone deemed to be at risk of developing heart disease and GPs came under pressure to prescribe them. Then in 2013 two articles in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested that for healthy people at low risk side effects could outweigh the health benefits of taking the pill. Prescribing dropped. But in 2014 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggested that more people should take the drug to “prevent future heart disease”. Prescribing increased.
Now we read of results of research into people who stopped taking the drug. Yes the side effects of nausea and joint pain decreased, but the risk of heart attacks or strokes has increased. And so it goes on. Dr Fiona Godlee editor in chief of the BMJ, said yesterday that it was “absolutely right that there is public debate about the benefits and harms of treatments”. No it isn’t. The public has no ability to weigh up the claims and counter claims, and GPs are totally confused. The only sensible way forward is for NICE to oversee research aimed at establishing best medical practice, and to confine advice until firm conclusions have emerged.
To an extent the same can be said of exercise. Over the past decade a whole industry has emerged. Fitness trainers, aerobic gurus and even fast-walking tutors vie with each other to make anyone who doesn’t pound the pavements or don a cycling helmet feel at immediate risk of an early funeral. But now a report from an orthopaedic specialist tells us that he is seeing a rapidly increasing number of patients aged under 30 who are in need of hip or knee replacements. He warns that if you over-strain joints and muscles they will wear out. Bones are being “pushed into premature disintegration”.
Of course one doesn’t need to be a specialist to work out that if you don’t exercise them at all they will atrophy and you will put on too much weight and strain your internal pump. The question is just how much exercise is desirable. Surely it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of NICE to commission research free of the influence of what is now a multi-million pound industry with vested interests. Yes top sportsmen have to train hard and constantly to perform well but their motive is different. But, excluding those for whom running etc is a hobby, what about the rest of us?
We do realise that the medical profession cannot be right for all of the time or for all of its patients. But the idea that it leaves us to make choices based on vague knowledge at best is surely absurd.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” The NHS has enough to do without operating on the young and fit who have pushed their bones into premature old age”…Ann Widdecombe.
A week on from the vote, how has ordinary life changed – or not changed? …read more
Home Secretary Theresa May and former mayor of London Boris Johnson are set to enter the race to become the next Tory leader and prime minister. …read more
Singer Bat For Lashes talks about her new album The Bride, a concept record about a woman abandoned at the altar. …read more
Freedom of movement will be “on the table” when the UK negotiates its withdrawal from the EU, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin says. …read more
Mountain rescue teams find some of the 24 children who got lost in the Brecon Beacons. …read more
UK shares and the pound continue to regain some of the ground lost in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU. …read more
A burglar is found guilty of raiding the home of pop star Rita Ora while she and her sister slept upstairs. …read more
As Labour MPs challenge Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, what do traditional strongholds think about the party? …read more
Passenger filmed Juan Jasso Jr being told to ‘go back to Africa’ by three youths on rush-hour tram
Two youths have been bailed after being arrested in connection with an allegedly racist incident on a tram in Manchester.
Three suspects, aged 16, 18 and 20, were questioned on suspicion of affray following what police described as a “hate incident” on a rush-hour tram on Tuesday morning.Continue reading...
A collective madness seems to have taken over our beloved country. We expected Albert to come up with a demand for independence for Wigan, but in no time at all mightier intellects have called for the same status for London, Wales, Scotland, the West Country and the North East. How they expect such an arrangement to ever work has yet to be revealed. Meantime the Labour Party is rearranging the deck chairs on its version of the Titanic and the government is focused entirely on a leadership election. And to crown it all various petitions and demonstrations are demanding a rerun of the referendum vote on the grounds that some people have changed their minds and others are unhappy with the outcome – rationales that would lead to every general election being played over and over again like an old Abba record.
In other words we Brits are not too happy with the democratic process which unlike our first-past-the-post system is based on the actual total of votes cast. But the deed is done and nothing short of anarchy can change it. What we need now is a period of calm and a sense that someone of that disposition is in charge. That is why we codgers favour the sainted Theresa, who has the ability to unite the warring Tory factions and to quietly get on with running the country. Having said that we are disappointed in our dear leader who, if he really loves the country, would have continued in office until such time as the markets had settled and the hysterical had reverted to grown up behaviour.
But as we settled in the hut for our Yorkshire tea and doughnuts we concluded that right now there is an even greater priority. We are not overly anxious about the petulant behaviour of some Remain voters who are letting it be known that they resent such a major decision being vested in the hands of inferior beings – they will in due course look in the mirror and feel only embarrassment. What appals us is the emergence of low life creatures who seem to regard logical demands for controls over population numbers as a licence for the most foul of all human traits – racism.
We are not for one moment suggesting that 17 million votes to leave were inspired by 1970s Alf Garnett racism. Of course not. But it does seem that many racist berks who voted Leave feel newly ebullient. Sparky in fact. Righteous in their legal wrongness, for it is still illegal to shout “jungle bunny” in a supermarket or “towel head” at King’s Cross Station. It is also totally illogical – anyone who believes that they are in some way superior simply because of the colour of their skin or nationality can only be as thick as two planks. And evil cowards too, for their mindless behaviour is causing great grief to law-abiding innocent people.
In fairness to Boris Johnson and his fellow ‘Leave’ campaigners there was never the remotest suggestion that people living in the UK would be asked to leave. Their demand was, and is, for controls aimed at matching population growth to the nation’s capacity to provide services and infra structure. Presumably the obnoxious minority now causing distress are either too dim-witted to realise this or are so bigoted that they cannot resist what they see as an opportunity to crawl out from under their stones.
Either way we pray that Theresa May, in her present capacity as Home Secretary, will instruct the police to clamp down immediately on any reported incidents and will remind the nation at large that racism in any form is an illegal act and will not be tolerated.
The alternative is that innocent people will be made to feel afraid and communities will become even more segregated than they are already. All men and women are equal in the sight of God. We cannot pretend to know what He thinks of Brexit, but it seems reasonable to assume that like every decent human being He abhors prejudice and unkindness.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” There is a poignancy that the Poles, who are a largely peaceful community throughout Britain and were also our crucial allies in the Second World War, are targets of foul spite and bile”….Grace Dent, Independent.
He’s attempted Everest three times and is the oldest man to have walked to the magnetic North Pole. Now actor Brian Blessed is taking on the challenge of directing his first play. …read more
David Cameron says the rest of the EU wants close links with the UK after Brexit but acknowledges “huge challenges” over immigration and market access. …read more
Electronic synthesizer built 40 years after being designed …read more
Many French soldiers died alongside their British allies at the bloody Battle of the Somme, but the conflict is overshadowed in France by Verdun, says Hugh Schofield. …read more
Bitter exchanges mark the European Parliament’s first debate on the UK’s vote to leave, while David Cameron prepares to face his EU counterparts. …read more
Four Met police officers face possible dismissal after a jury found an 18-year-old man died when he crashed his moped during a police pursuit. …read more
A teenage girl feared former celebrity publicist Max Clifford was “going to kill her” when he forced her to perform a sex act on him, a court hears. …read more
Reality Check looks at some of the claims and promises made during the campaign by Leave campaigners who now appear to have modified their positions. …read more