Earth “facing extinction”. Who cares ?

There was heavy rain over night, and the simple act of brushing against the fern bank as we entered the allotments this morning turned our trousers in to the equivalent of a wet lettuce. On the credit side the water butts were full, on the other hand there were puddles the size of Eric Pickle’s waistband to negotiate as we headed for the hen-runs. Like many a politician the weather seems to be in a state of constant confusion. Whether this has anything to do with climate change we know not, but we do find it strange that on a day when scientists from Stanford, Princeton and Berkley universities have announced that the earth is entering the sixth great mass extinction event the whole world seems to be focussed on the reluctance of the Greeks to pay their bills and the future of Top Gear.

According to the scientists a combination of carbon emissions and deforestation is triggering disaster to match that of 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs met their doom. This time, they tell us, man will be the victim with large parts of the present land mass becoming submerged. But who cares? With the exception of a few siren voices the answer seems to be no one.

Amongst those voices crying in the wilderness are the world’s religious leaders – we refer here to the sane ones not the lunatics that talk of paradise for suicide bombers and beheaders. Yesterday the Pope called the planet’s environmental destruction a sin and called on Catholics to “hear the cry of the earth”. Nearer to home the Bishop of Salisbury announced that he is to ask the Church of England’s General Synod to vote on holding a day of prayer and fasting for “climate justice” on the first day of every month. And a programme of pilgrimages to the Paris UN climate change conference in November is being planned.

Frankly that is where lies the only real hope of salvation for even the most ardent practitioner of prayer probably realises that if God was unwilling to save the dinosaurs He is hardly likely to bother with selfish, warlike mankind. But the prospects are slim at best. If world leaders are unable to resolve the ever growing crisis involving migrants so desperate that they set to sea in unseaworthy boats they are unlikely to unite in sacrifices involved in reducing emissions. When history comes to be written – if there is anyone left to write it – our generation will surely stand condemned.

But as we codgers munched our way through our morning doughnuts we exhibited smugness. Many readers were less than enamoured with our piece of yesterday in which we advocated the vacation of the Palace of Westminster to enable the builders to move in, but our view was supported by no less a voice than that of the Times. It comes down on the side of evacuation, and reminds us of the experience of anyone who has ever had a kitchen extension. The quickest and least expensive option is to get the hell out, thunders the Thunderer. Amen to that, and if the result is to dispense with the unelected archaic Lords that would be a bonus!

Meantime the case of the vanishing doctors continues to worry us. This morning the Independent provides chapter and verse on leading hospitals now operating rotas with little more than half of the doctors needed to ensure patient safety. Three in ten doctors have told the BMA that they plan to leave for Australia and New Zealand, and 92 per cent indicated that they don’t intend to return. Yes, underfunding and rocketing patient numbers are a factor, but the biggest factor of all is rocketing bureaucracy and form-filling. If our dear leader really wants to save the NHS he must sack Jeremy Hunt and strip away all the layers of interfering incompetents that are destroying it.

Never mind, it could be worse. At least none of us are customers of RBS or NatWest!
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” There are only two means by which men can deal with each other: guns or logic. Force or persuasion”… Ayn Rand.
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Of course they should move out!

Our allotments hut needs a new roof. Now that it rejoices under the name of none other than Sir Eric Pickles it is entirely unfitting to have drips falling on to the drips sitting within as they pay their daily tribute to the greatest doughnut eater Western civilisation has ever known. But there is a snag. Albert, the resident joiner, insists that we vacate the building during his reconstruction and the thought of gathering daily in the old Nissen hut is less than appealing to those who hate change.

This morning we drew parallels with the choice facing the MPs and Lords of the Westminster bubble. The Palace of Westminster is one of the world’s most famous buildings and part of our national identity, and it desperately needs far more that a new roof. To enter it is like travelling back though the centuries but everywhere you look there is clear evidence that the centuries-old structure is crumbling. Either the occupants move out and allow work to begin or they stay put and extend the process until 2060 and spend billions extra in the process.

To us it is a ‘no-brainer’ but the anti-politics culture is now so strong that many senior parliamentarians prefer to stay rather than move out and allow the contractors to finish the job relatively quickly. They fear that public hostility will prevent them ever going back to their expensively renovated premises. They are, we believe, misguided. The historic buildings must be preserved for the nation’s heritage, but what they do within it is outdated and far too costly. As a reminder of past traditions it is a showcase, but in 2015 the task of law enactment could be performed at a fraction of the cost and far more efficiently in any large London conference centre. Dressing up and performing ancient rituals should be left to the Re-enactment industry.

Come to think about it do we need the House of Lords at all? Yes we should preserve the manifestation of so much of our history, but is there really a need for an unelected chamber comprising unelected political cronies who love dressing up in ermine robes? Are we not supposed to be in an age of austerity?

With the Empire gone and the EU enacting ever more of our laws the truth is that this is no longer the ‘Mother of Parliaments’. The time for reconstruction in every sense of the word has surely arrived. In the unlikely event of politicians putting the interests of the nation before their own, they will surely opt to move out and soon.

But as we codgers failed to practice what we preach this morning by continuing to argue the toss about moving out of our shed, despite the fact that what we do in it has little to do with the reality of what we exist to do, we did at least try to see good in all men. Our dear leader yesterday took the brave step of speaking out about British Muslims “quietly condoning” anti-Western ideology. Today he will issue a stark warning to Muslim families and leaders that they most do more to combat the lure of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant among young people.

David Cameron will tell those who have lost loved ones to extremist groups to stop “finger pointing” and blaming the police and security services when their relatives run off to Syria or Iraq. The cause, he will say, is ideological. It is an Islamist extremist ideology: one that says the West is bad and democracy wrong, that women are inferior. It says religious doctrine trumps the rule of law and Caliphate trumps nation state, and it justifies appalling violence in asserting itself and achieving its aims. The question, he will say, is how do people arrive at this distorted view.

His answer will offend some. He believes that some British Muslims, whilst not necessarily advocating violence, do buy into some of these prejudices – giving the extreme Islamist narrative weight and telling fellow Muslims “your are part of this”. This paves the way for young people to turn simmering prejudice into murderous intent. To go from listening to firebrand preachers online to boarding a plane to Istanbul and travelling onward to join the jihadis and their message of paradise for suicide bombers.

It needed to be said. We have many Muslim friends and we know that they abhor violence. But many seem reluctant to speak out and feel ever more alienated from a society that is growing increasingly outraged as one shocking brutality follows another. Religion is at the heart of it, but what sort of God condones the brutal slaughter of innocents. If responsible Muslim adults fail to guide their impressionable youngsters the day will come when more outrages occur here. And that could be the spark that triggers internal strife, from which it will take decades to recover.

So it was hats off to our dear leader today. Less so for the dimwitted Jeremy Hunt who has announced his latest wheeze for our beleaguered GPs. Golden handshakes. The problem is one of top-down bureaucracy, ever increasing red-tape, committees galore. Perhaps the Blue Peter presenter turned health expert should try talking to a few real doctors rather than those of the spin variety.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through the snow!”…. Jeff Valdez.
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Quotes – who said what ?

” Since RBS has consistently demonstrated that it cannot provide continuity of service, some customers will conclude that it’s time to find a bank that can”…. Simon Read, independent.

” I cannot yet give a realistic timetable for completion of the Iraq inquiry. In a number of cases people set to be criticised have opened up new issues or referred to material that was not part of the evidence submitted to the inquiry”…. Sir John Chilcott.

” Record numbers of children were referred to social services in England last year, as 570,800 minors were identified as at risk”…. NSPCC.

” Wythenshawe Hospital has apologised ‘unreservedly’ after a grandfather was left to die by staff who mistakenly followed a ‘do not resuscitate’ order that belonged to his bed’s previous occupant”…. Charlie Cooper, Health Correspondent.

” The families of recruits to the barbaric Isis regime seem desperate to pin the blame on anyone or anything rather than accept any real accountability. This is a Muslim problem, and British Muslims have to address it”…. Daily Mail, 17/6/15.

” One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important”…. Bertrand Russell, Nobel prize, 1950.

” We are all born mad. Some remain so”…. Samuel Beckett, Nobel prize, 1969.

” I know as well as anyone that the intellectual is a dangerous animal ever ready to betray”…. Albert Camus, Nobel prize, 1957.

” Without passion there is no genius”…. Theodor Mommsen, Nobel prize, 1902.

” The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerilla wins if he does not lose”…. Henry Kissinger, Nobel prize, 1973.

” You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions”…. Naguib Mahfouz, Nobel prize, 1988.

” We cannot all do geat things, but we can do small things with great love”…. Mother Teresa, Nobel prize, 1979.

” They say the definition of ambivalence is watching your mother-in-law drive over a cliff in your new Cadillac”…. David Mamet

” Stand firm in your refusal to remain conscious during Algebra. In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra”…. Fran Lebowitz.

” The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouth they’ve been in”…. Dennis Potter.

” The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us”…. Bill Watterson.

” The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed of lost airline luggage”…. Mark Russell.

” Scientists have discovered a noise made just prior to the Big Bang that sounds like ‘oops’ “…. Cully Abrell.

” Too bad all the people who really know how to run the country are busy driving cabs or cutting hair”….George Burns.

” British company has launched an emoji alternative to the traditional 4-digit Pin code for online banking – potentially a big breakthrough in security”…. BBC
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If only we had Michelle!

A regular complaint amongst the allotments codgers is the seemingly unending number of ‘cold calls’ received via our landlines. At best they are a nuisance – except for Albert who never answers the phone – and at worst some strike us as criminal. Yesterday Tom had a call from an operator claiming that he is due a refund and all he needed to do was provide his debit card details. He of course told her where to stick it, but many older folk just might be less streetwise.

The story reminded us of the ever growing number of criminal activities centred around debit and credit cards. Many use online banking. In doing so they draw false comfort from their traditional four-digit pin code. Based on the numbers 0-9 it is vulnerable, given the limited potential combinations. That is why we welcome the news that British company ‘Intelligent Environments’ has launched an emoji alternative. Emoji is being hailed as a young person’s plaything but it is far more than that. There are far more potential combinations of the 44 emojis and, providing that one doesn’t opt for a lazy choice such as four corners or top line, it will make ‘theft’ far more difficult.

Cybersecurity expert Prof Alan Woodward shares our enthusiasm. “This is an interesting and valuable step forward”, is his verdict. Indeed it is for the rapid development of technology based on a four digit Pin code is creating a growing opportunity for the low life. Security needs to be beefed up and images could well play a major part.

It is not often we codgers spend our time discussing technology whilst herding the hens – a task akin to herding cats. But by the time we reached the Eric Pickles doughnut hut our mighty intellects had moved on to more mundane matters. We noticed that our dear leader escaped defeat in the Commons on the EU Referendum bill despite a horde of his rebels uttering no. Houdini? Not really, he was saved by the massed ranks of the Labour Party abstaining. The leaderless opposition is off to an impressive start!

But all of our thoughts on the morning’s news were not negative. In common with many we were green with envy at the performance of the American first lady when she visited a Tower Hamlets school yesterday. Whether you regard our first lady as the Queen or Samantha Cameron it won’t have escaped your notice that both can hardly be described as having the common touch, of background that impressionable youngsters can identify with. Michelle Obama grew up in a situation very similar to that of her Tower Hamlets audience and it listened with rapt attention as she stressed that every one of them can emulate her own triumph over adversity.

Addressing over 600 girls, many of them of Bangladeshi origin, she spoke frankly about their religion and urged them to oblige people to “look beyond their headscarfs to who they really are”. She was, she said, looking at prospective surgeons, barristers, women who will inspire, not just in Tower Hamlets, but around the world. “Through education you can lift yourselves up to heights we never imagined”, she concluded to a whooping, deafening, standing ovation.

Mrs Obama was promoting her ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative but she did far more than that. She was saying that young people should see far beyond what their parents say and do – they should learn and question. They should see beyond the supposed glamour of beliefs and practices handed down by unquestioning generations. It was all in sharp contrast to the reaction of Baroness Warsi who yesterday responded to the lunacy of families heading for Syria. What is needed, the Conservative peer said, is Government intervention. Wrong. What is needed is a new generation with sufficient self belief to think for itself and to accept no limits to what it can achieve.

The American first lady has no need of posh titles or regalia. She believes profoundly in the latent potential of every kid to rise above humble beginnings, and she has demonstrated her conviction in the only way that will inspire oppressed and disenchanted young minds. She talks the talk and she walks the walk.

Cynics will say that America too is a divided society. But we should all pray that both there and here she does not prove to be a voice crying in the wilderness.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” It’s all that the young can do for the old, to shock them and keep them up to date”… George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1946.
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Complication is the Great British Disease

One of our members is a retired what used to be called an Organisation and Efficiency ‘expert’. A few months ago he suggested that our seemingly chaotic daily hen-cleaning routine could be simplified, and arrived one morning with a ‘flow chart’. We gave it a go and found that we were spending more time on laying out our tools and conducting checks than we normally spent on the whole task. I wouldn’t go so far as Albert who described it as a load of the unmentionable, but it did suggest that we had discovered the origin of the great British disease – complication. Wherever you look our large companies and institutions have abandoned the old maxim of KISS, keep it simple stupid.

Have you tried ringing BT with a simple query? Negotiate your way through a ‘menu’, flirt with voice-recognition and listen to Beethoven’s fifth and eventually get to speak to a human being who refers you to a ‘customer advice’ website. In the old ‘inefficient’ days you walked into the local BT shop and asked. And so it is with virtually every other large British concern. We have to move with the times they tell us, but do we really have to turn every simple contact into the equivalent of a comet probe?

We reached the Eric Pickles doughnut emporium in no time at all this morning without the aid of a critical path analysis. We then returned to the question of the new age of organisational efficiency. First up was the BBC, which has managed to develop a management structure involving layer upon layer of expensive management supported by enough committees to turn a herd of elephants into camels. It needs to reduce its costs and what does it propose? To axe BBC3, a channel that is creatively strong and growing in popularity. No if, no buts – the latter day efficiency experts have spoken.

So where is this preamble leading? To the NHS, the access to which is rather more important to all of us than questions about our Broadband reception. At the behest of Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt – two nincompoops if ever there were – teams of management consultants have turned what was a simple organisational structure into one so engulfed in bureaucracy and red tape that the clinicians have all but abandoned hope. Yesterday it emerged that Barts – which last year spent a record £80m on agency doctors and nurses as a result of ‘efficiency’ reductions to permanent staff – are paying agency firm Maxentius the equivalent of £561,100 a year for the services of an acting finance director. Madness.

A perfect example of what has happened as a result of the Lansley ‘efficiency’ reforms is provided by GP practices. To run community services out of a GP practice used to be simple – a single lease arrangement and contract between the GPs and the local primary care trust (PCT). I chaired one such and attended a monthly meeting with each practice at which performance was reviewed, budgets reviewed, locums provided if needed, and cheques handed over. And that was it – the GPs were left to care for their patients.

Now patients have to take second place as the doctors slowly sink beneath organisational chaos. The PCT commissioning powers have transferred to clinical commissioning groups (CCG). The PCT’s interest as tenant transfers to NHS Property Services Ltd (NHSPS), which is now the direct landlord of the provider of the services and the commissioning contract is with the CCG. So now there are four parties to the arrangement to provide simple community services from the GP premises – the GPs, the CCG, NHSPS and the provider.

To review the rent, NHS England needs to give approval if the GPs are to get their rent reimbursed, and there is a knock-on effect for all the leases in the chain so all parties need to be involved. What was a simple one-meeting affair now requires the engagement of the GPs, the landlord, the CCG, NHSPS, the new provider and NHS England, and four leases and one community services contract. With each added party, there are more loops to jump through, more people on the email trails, more people at more meetings, more approval processes, more professional fees, more time wasted and greater delay.

And that is only part of the new structure. GPs now spend more time on reports to satisfy the new bureaucracy than they spend with their patients. And under the new tortuous modus operandi they are no longer allowed direct communication with hospital consultants who previously responded to an urgent phone call by seeing referred patients on their daily ward rounds.

So if your GP seems distracted and less accessible these days don’t blame him or her. Like the rest of us they are suffering from the new British disease of complication infuriata.

Perhaps the thought of Eddie the Eagle as prime minister was not quite so daft as it sounded. A man who prepared for the Olympics by jumping off his shed roof would probably have opted for the simple approach. On second thoughts the advocates of Emoji could also demonstrate that there is a simpler way of doing things.

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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” I have spent the best years of my life giving people the simpler pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse”…. Al Capone.

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Quotes to start a new week !

” As a family we would like to take this opportunity to unequivocally state that Isis are not Islam. They do not represent in any way, shape or form Islam and Muslims and we are no longer prepared to allow a barbaric group like Isis to hijack our faith”… Family of Talha Asmal.

” 42 per cent of Britons do not think foreign nationals seeking safety from conflict or persecution should be welcomed to the UK. One year ago the figure was 31 per cent”…. YouGov poll.

” If the present decline continues by 2067 the Christians who have inherited the faith of their British ancestors will become statistically invisible. parish churches everywhere will have been adapted for secular use, demolished or abandoned”…. Damian Thompson.

” It was just that Britain didn’t want   a Lbaour government – the whole blessed lot of them. So ‘what all the wise men promised has not happened’, as Lord Melbourne once commented, ‘and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass”….. Matthew Parris.

” The last notable advance in college teaching in recent times was the invention of the printing press”…. George Stigler, Nobel prize, 1982.

” Teaching is not entertainment, but it is unlikely o be successful unless it is entertaining”…. Herbert Simon, Nobel prize, 1978.

” The message I would give to young people is: Don’t be the best in your class. If you’re the best in your class you’re in the wrong class”…. James Watson, Nobel prize, 1962.

” Of all the forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness”…. Bertrand Russell, Nobel prize, 1950.

” The tendency to see oneself perpetually as a victim will lead to the evasion of responsibility and the condoning of evil”….   Albert Lutuli, Nobel prize, 1960.

” A hero is someone who does what he can”….. Romain Rolland, Nobel prize, 1915.

” I don’t believe one grows older. I think what happens early on in life is that at a certain age one stands still and stagnates”….. T.S.Eliot, Nobel prize, 1948.

” A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality or freedom”…..Milton Friedman, Nobel prize, 1976.

” A Tory becoming a Liberal.. the only recorded instance in history of a rat swimming towards a sinking ship”…. Winston Churchill.

” The House of Lords is a perfect eventide home”…. Baroness Stocks.

” I did not vote Labour because they’ve heard of Oasis and no one is goingto vote Tory because William Hague has got a baseball cap”….. Elton John.

” The most happy marriage I can picture or imagine to myself would be the union of a deaf man to a blind woman”…. Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

” Marriage is a wonderful invention; but then so is a bicycle repair kit”….. Billy Connolly.

” When he said we were trying to make a fool of him, I could only murmur that the Creator had beaten us to it”…. Ilka Chase.

” Ian Hislop looks rather like King Edward – the potato not the monarch”….. Paul Merton.

” Happiness is nothing more than health and a poor memory”….. Albert Schweitzer.

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‘Feeble’ UK defence should worry us all!

It felt as though someone had switched off the lights this morning as we cleaned out our hens. Everything is relative, and whilst we were subjected to nothing worse than fine drizzle the comparison with the past few days of brilliant sunshine was a stark one. But the runner beans, peas and carrots needed a drink so there was very little moaning. Mind you Albert was absent, having reportedly staggered home from the Red Lion in the small hours, so the break out of acceptance was not as surprising as it sounds.

Several of us watched last night’s TV re-run of the Trooping of the Colours. As always it was breathtakingly impressive. The Welsh Guards performed immaculate routines, the bands played inspiring military airs whilst on horseback and the Royals appeared en masse to the delight of the flag-waving hordes. The mythical man from Mars would have assumed that here was the most powerful nation in the world demonstrating its might.

But someone always spoils a party and this year it was the four former leaders of the Armed Forces who obliged. Admiral Nigel Essenhigh, Admiral Lord Boyce, Field Marshall Lord Walker and Air Chief Marshal Peter Squire issued a chilling warning. Britain’s defences, they said, have been rendered “feeble” in the face of growing threats from around the world. They went on to liken Britain’s unwillingness to arm itself now to the attitudes in the 1930s when it failed to prepare to combat the growing threat from Hitler until it was “nearly too late”.

These are not a bunch of Colonel Blimps, all served in Iraq and other recent conflicts. They are horrified at the effects of recent cuts, even more so at the prospect of yet more. They point to the growing security threats in the Middle East, including in Libya, Syria and the “exponential ” threat posed by the terrorists of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. They also draw attention to the real risk of being drawn into a conflict with an increasingly aggressive Russia in Eastern Europe. For good measure they point to a feature unknown in the 1930s – the threat of enemies within.

The first responsibility of any government should be the defence of the realm, not the massed ranks of tax-avoiders who are draining the treasury dry. Right now even Germany is increasing its defence budget. Perhaps the government’s strategy is to await the formation of an EU army?

If that is the unlikely case, our dear leader should perhaps consider the possibility that we may soon find ourselves out of the embracing arms of Brussels. Today we learn that over a hundred Tory MPs, plus umpteen ministers, have secretly signed up to urging a no vote in the promised referendum unless he negotiates “significant” changes to issues such as free movement. He is off to a bad start having already performed a flip-flop on his plan to crack down on dissent.

Ironically he is in a strong bargaining poistion, yet every move he makes right now is undremining it. We are the EU’s second largest paymaster, and one of only ten net contributors. On trade, too, the EU needs us more than we need them. In the very unlikely event of the rest of the EU trying to erect trade barriers against a departing Britain, their businesses would come off worse. Last year, we exported £146 billion worth of goods and services to other EU countries, but imported £218 billion.

As we gathered in the Eric Pickles doughnut hut we found ourselves wondering if our lords and masters have any overall strategy at all. Perhaps we are missing something but it increasingly looks to us as though we are heading for the possibility of an isolated nation protected by the most feeble defences in our long history. Throw in the very real possibility of a Scottish exit and it is not a reassuring prospect.

We may still be the world’s best when it comes to pageantry and palace balconies, but it increasingly looks like tinsel without a tree. Sorry – just for a moment we forgot that it is no longer politically correct to mention Christmas.

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” The quickest way to end a war is to lose it!”…. George Orwell.

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Quotes: truth and lies!

” The pursuit of truth is chimerical…what we should pursue is the most convenient arrangement of our ideas”…. Samuel Butler, 1912.

” ‘Tis strange – but true; for truth is always strange; stranger than fiction”…. Lord Byron, 1819.

” Baldwin occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened”….. Winston Churchill, 1992.

” Our old friend…economical with the actualite”…..Alan Clark, 1992.

” Something unpleasant is coming when men are anxious to tell the truth”…. Benjamin Disraeli, 1831.

” It is always the best policy to speak the truth – unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar”….. Jerome K Jerome, 1892.

” Never tell a story because it is true: tell it because it is a good story”…. John Pentland Mahaffy, 1919.

” Blurting out the complete truth is considered adorable in the young, right smack up to the moment that the child says ‘Mummy, is this the fat lady you can’t stand?”…. Judith Martin, 1985.

” I never give them ( the public ) hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell”…. Harry S Truman, 1956.

” ‘The adventures of Tom Sawyer’…was made by Mr Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There were things that he stretched, but mainly he told the truth”…. Mark Twain, 1910.

” I don’t always admit to being an MP. I I’m in a bar with people I don’t know, to say you’re a Labour MP isn’t always a good move. So I say I’m an estate agent”…. Claire Ward, 1999.

” The truth is rarely pure, and never simple”…. Oscar Wilde, 1895.

” This is the first convention of the Space Age – when a candidate can promise the moon ad mean it”….David Brinkley, 1977.

” Lady Desborough tells enough lies to ice a wedding cake”…. Margot Asquith, 1945.

” For every time She shouted ‘Fire’/ They only answered ‘Little Liar’/ And therefore when her Aunt returned/ Matilda, and the house, were burned”…..Hilaire Belloc, ‘Matilda’, 1907.

” There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics”…. Benjamin Disraeli, 1981.

” What you take for lying in an Irishman is only his attempt to put an herbaceous border on stark reality”…. Oliver St John Gogarty, 1940 .

” A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanations”…. Saki, 1916.

” I don’t think the son of a bitch (Nixon) knows the difference between telling the truth and lying”…. Harry S Truman, 1972.

” In exceptional circumstances it is necessary to say something that is untrue in the House of Commons”…. William Waldegrave, 1994.

” Untruthful! My nephew Algernon? Impossible! He went to Oxford”….Oscar Wilde.

” He would say that, wouldn’t he?”…. Mandy Rice-Davies, 1963.

” A politician never believes anything he says, so he is always amazed when other people do”…Charles de Gaulle, 1945.

” Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory”…. J.K.Galbraith.

” Politics is so corrupt, even the dishonest people get screwed”…. George Carlin.

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Participation in sport plunges!

Pinch yourself ! For the third successive morning we started the day under blue skies and brilliant sunshine. But this is Britain and the forecasters urge us to make the best of it for the monsoons are preparing to dampen our weekend. And make the best of it we did as we cleaned out the hens this morning. Even the act of digging trenches assumed a magical dimension, and the sun metaphorically melted any residual trace of grumpiness.

That is the sun with a small ‘S’. The comic with the big one is another matter. We were surprised to read its glowing tribute to Charles Kennedy. The recent editorial commented; “Charles Kennedy was principled, brave, thoughtful, eloquent and kind. He could debate with foes without thinking badly of them…he is a loss to politics and to Britain”. Quite right, we agree. But wait a moment, is this the self same Sun that in 2003 said ” Not even a glass of Bell’s would be safe in Charlie boy’s hands” and mocked up a dartboard featuring Kennedy’s head so that readers could “open fire on a traitor”.  It is indeed.

But enough of hypocrisy, we were preoccupied this morning with the news that the number of people participating in sport has fallen again. Statistics covering the period October 2014 to March 2015, show that 15.5 million adults take part in some kind of sport once a week, every week. It sounds a lot but represents a fall of 222,000 over the past six months. And the decline is continuing to accelerate. The promised legacy effect of the London 2012 Olympics has failed to materialise.

Yesterday the new Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch, was quick to blame the government ( she has only just moved in), and Sport England. We codgers suspect the long-term trend is down to more than that. The sale of school playing fields has reduced the amount of organised sport played by children, and sports such as swimming have suffered as a result of pool closures resulting from cuts to council funding – over the last six months alone the number of people visiting a local pool has plummeted by 144,200. But where there is a will there is a way, and we suspect that the desire to indulge in sport is fading.

Two of us recently visited a sports pitch in Blackburn to watch a grandson play football in a local Under-16 league. We were surprised to see a near-dozen pitches not in use on a Saturday afternoon. The groundsman told us that just ten years ago his problem was to provide a pitch for all those seeking one, now very few are used. He remarked gloomily that “they are all staring at computers or watching the millionaires”. He may well be right.

In our admittedly jaundiced view sport offers great benefits. Clearly health is one of them, but society gains from the increased sense of social involvement and the breaking down of class and racial barriers. We are cricket and football fanatics, but any sport will do the trick. The time to sprawl around watching professionals perform is when your creaking knees will permit no involvement, not when you still have the capacity to create your own fantasies.

All we know is that the trend will only reverse when our kids rediscover the joys of taking part in sport. Yes we do need more funding at grass-roots level, but above all else we need Sky and the rest to devote some of the hours they allocate to endless re-runs of past glories of the stars to programmes featuring kids in action. And we believe that the anti-competitive brigade should keep their prejudices to themselves. The whole of life is a competition, and where better than the sports field or pool to learn that learning to be a good loser is every bit as useful as finding being second hard to take.

We really worry about today’s abysmally low level of involvement in sport. If the downward spiral is not arrested our increasingly divided and unhealthy society will not be a good one to grow up in when the next generation takes over.

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QUOTES FOR TODAY: ” No one is more serious about his game than a weekend tennis player”… Jimmy Cannon./ ” Our team lives hockey, it dreams hockey, it eats hockey. Now if only it could play hockey.”…. Milton Berle.

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Royal Mail – lies and yet more lies!

Another glorious morning. We are now having to make more trips to the water butts than investigators are making to Fifa headquarters but it is a price worth paying. With the possible exception of Albert everything looks better in this golden light. The bank of rhododendrons was ablaze, the comets were flashing across the pond surface and the resident robin was celebrating its election as Britain’s national bird by puffing out a chest redder than Ed Miliband. All was hushed, all was bathed in the delight of a June morning. The winter never happened, the monsoons are but a distant nightmare, even the hens seemed pleased as they created dust-baths in the unusually dusty topsoil.

But once we reached the Eric Pickles doughnut hut the mood of my fellow codgers assumed a darker shade. For some time now they have watched with an increasing sense of incredulity the antics of the politicians in regard to Royal Mail. Gorgeous George Osborne’s decision to sell the taxpayer’s remaining 30 percent share defies the whole purpose of the privatisation and confirms what a rip-off the original sale was.

When the leader of the government body that ran the original privatisation in October 2013, Shareholder Executive boss Mark Russell, was questioned by a parliamentary committee a few weeks later, he explained that “one of the main reasons that we are pursuing this policy of bringing in private sector capital is we expected private sector disciplines to come in on the back of the private sector capital”, which in turn would increase the value of the company. So “the very reason we were maintaining the 30 percent shareholding was because we anticipated that over time there would be some movement of share price, and we wanted the taxpayer to gain from that”.

In fact the Royal Mail share price shot up simply because the sell-off was undervalued at 330p per share. The extent to which the taxpayer had been robbed became clear just weeks later when the share price reached 600p, giving a handsome profit to Osborne’s investment friends who then sold on to overseas buyers. One year later after twelve months of supposed “private sector discipline” the price fell back to 500p.

The further sale exposes two lies. First we have Mr Russell’s statement about long-term investment. Secondly we recall the reassurances from ministers that holding almost one-third of the equity would enable the government to ensure that an essential public service continued to perform as such. It is a story of an ideologically driven deception which has transferred a public asset into private hands at great cost to the public purse.

The government owned Shareholder Executive was severely criticised by the National Audit Office for selling Royal Mail shares with “incompetence, the price of which was borne by the taxpayer”. Now comes the ultimate twist in a story that shames national governance. The self same body has now acquired UK Financial Investments, the arm of the Treasury that will soon be selling billions of pounds’ worth of bank shares – an expansion of empire that the taxpayer will come to regret, whilst the tax-avoiding cronies of the government will once again rub their grasping hands in delight.

The Royal Mail saga reminds us of the increasing evidence that the public is being systematically deceived and treated with contempt. Freed of the pesky Lib Dems, the Old Etonians are becoming ever more brazen. A good example came a few days ago when the health secretary Jeremy Hunt responded to a question from the MP for Warrington North, Helen Jones, who was on the warpath on the subject of massive hospital trust debts. It is, said Hunt, all the result of the £73 billion of debt that her party bequeathed to the NHS in the form of private finance initiatives (PFI).

Nobody doubts the damage that PFI has done to the NHS. But the actual number is £8 billion. We realise that Master Hunt is not the brightest button in the box, but his willingness to make up numbers in an attempt to deceive is indicative of a government that sees itself as above the law, removed from any obligation of public accountability. Meantime the government continues to award PFI contracts.

What next? The privatisation of the army perhaps? As Mr Blatter has shown, private enterprise offers many opportunities!

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: ” Political skill is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen”…. Winston Churchill.

 

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Ukip insider Raheem Kassam: ‘We had to lock HQ doors because some people were too embarrassing to be seen’

He was Nigel Farage’s righthand man and election strategist, and even shared a flat with the Ukip leader. Forced out of the party, Kassam breaks his silence about the egos, the infighting and the hopeless manifesto

Raheem Kassam was the right-hand man who rarely left Nigel Farage’s side during the election campaign. He was there for the drinking sessions, the ups-and-downs of Farage’s mood swings and even accompanied him on a series of steam-room trips in an attempt to stop the Ukip leader looking so sweaty on television. But less than a week after the election, Kassam was pressured out of his job in one of Ukip’s periodic bouts of infighting.

So what is his verdict on eight months at the heart of Farage’s empire? “I totally regret it. Every minute,” he says. “I don’t mean it was a horrible experience. But I’ve taken a big hit for nothing. The only good thing that’s come out of this are friendships ... But have I got anything else apart from looking at much of Ukip and thinking you are just a bunch of ragtag, unprofessional, embarrassing people who let Nigel down at every juncture? No.”

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What we need is a good belly laugh!

It is said that the sun shines on the righteous. Maybe, but it also shone on us as we cleaned out our flock of hens this morning. How different life feels on such occasions, even Albert drew his lips back in an apologetic leer. Oh that every day could begin in this way. Laughter is good for the soul, so is gorgeous warm sunshine.

The mention of laughter reminded us of yesterday’s triumph on ‘The Daily Show’ in America. Nicola Sturgeon made her debut as she began a four-day trip to the US, and was erroneously listed on the show’s website as a comic. She lost no time in living up to her billing. When host Jon Stewart enquired about Scotland’s oil reserves and asked “May we invade you?” she quipped ” This is progress Jon. The United States doesn’t usually ask permission to invade an oil-producing country!”. She went on to woo her audience with tales of vegetarian haggis and out-of-tune bagpipes. Twitter went wild. Typical was Kate Pennell, a New Yorker, who said: “I had no expectation that she would be funny – politicians don’t tend to be funny.

Spot on Kate, but we would hate you to conclude that all British politicians are a la Sturgeon. In fact they are all as boring as hell. If it is light relief you need you would hardly turn to Messrs Cameron, Osborne, Hammond or Miliband would you? The mad Boris apart, our politicians excite as many laughs as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip. Come to think about it that probably explains the popularity of Cameron’s heir apparent.

As we sat in the Eric Pickles doughnut hut we worried a little that the gorgeous Nicola may have created a false impression. The reality is that it is American politics that are rich in the comedy stakes. The three-yearly Presidential elections match anything that Baldrick ever produced. We are not referring to the eventual winner, although any election that produces George W Bush is in itself hilarious. We are referring to the candidates for the White House who tend to fall before the final party choices are decided upon.

Donald Trump is pounding the bongos again for 2016. Trump is like early Nigel Farage, uncut by genuine electoral dreams. When he talks about the country going to hell under its probably Kenyan, probably Muslim president, it’s hard not to hear the clink of scotch glasses and the rustle of white hoods. Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s senator, may need to do some poll testing on his offer to make America more like Scandinavia – not a widely heard yearning south or west of his state. Mike Huckabee , governor of Arkansas, will stage his “Hucka-boom” with his opposition to gay marriage, the teachings of Darwin and any legislation limiting the right to bear arms. He will face competition from Lindsay Graham who is promising to “defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us” – that’s radical Islam folks, not Vladimir Putin.

Ross Perot, the Texan billionaire, promises to run the United States “like a business”, and declares that “War has rules, Mud-wrestling has rules, politics has no rules”. Terence Smith is an ever present. She ran against Bush with the slogan “Lick Bush” and against Clinton used “Lick Slick Willie”. The radical Youth International party will probably again field a pig named the “Immortal”, but may again experience problems with the police who object to livestock being brought into the city.

Perhaps they are all barking mad, but it does make a happy change from our succession of overly serious political stars. Why do they do it? The clue  lies in in a remark by Stephen Collett ( “The voters are desperate for a middle-aged Jesus-trumpeting alternative” ) who says that he doesn’t want to be president, he wants to run for president and there’s a “big difference”. Make the Americans laugh and you are made for life.

Back here in the good old less than United Kingdom, everyone in high office, or even aspiring to it, is mind-numbingly serious. And often daft to go with it. Yesterday, as if to prove the point, a High Court judge enraged child protection experts by ruling that “cultural context” should be taken into account when it comes to beating a child with a belt. She has to be joking, but she wasn’t.

So hats off to Nicola and Boris and any others we cannot think of. We just might respect politicians more if they revealed their inner daftness.

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Risk! Risk anything! Care nothing for the opinions of others. Do the hardest thing on Earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth. Reveal your inner self”… Katherine Mansfield.

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Quotes for a sunny Tuesday !

” We spoke to officials in Downing Street to check that what we were reporting about the PM’s threat to ministers over the EU referendum was accurate. We were   assured that it was. But roll on the following morning and Mr Cameron told us we had ‘misinterpreted’  his remarks. We may never know the full story. But at least you now know as much as we do”…. Oliver Wright, Whitehall Editor, Independent.

” The Cameron climbdown followed private warnings that dozens of ministers were unhappy and could be forced to resign over the EU issue. Senior Tory MPs claimed yesterday that more than 200 Tories have signed up to a campaign calling for a radical renegotiation – an aspiration that the PM may struggle to meet amid EU opposition to some of his plans”…. Peter Dominiczak, Ben Riley-Smith & Christopher Hope, Daily Telegraph.

” Foreign aid spending should be part of the defence budget to help Britain meet its 2 per cent Nato obligation”…. Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary.

” Wet wipes could be spreading bacteria rather than killing it in homes and hospitals. The tissues are helping to spread superbugs in NHS wards”…. Study by Cardiff University.

” Two Jags to no Jags! Lord Prescott said there was no excuse for his driving ban, especially as he had been involved in introducing anti-speeding legislation”…. Dave Higgens, Independent.

” These people have come here to hear music so if they want to put their hands in the air, let them. You put on a uniform and you think you’re Hitler – well you’re not”…. Sir Elton John at Gloucester.

” I have decided to speak out on GM technology because I now believe it to be safe and it could help to alleviate hunger in the developing world. It is, in my view, unacceptable, morally unacceptable, to stand out against these new technologies”…. Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace.

” Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the resource from which self-respect springs”…. Joan Didion.

” Guidelines for bureaucrats: 1. When in charge, ponder 2. When in trouble, delegate 3. When in doubt, mumble”….James H Boren.

” Chemotherapy feels worse than having the disease, the surgery, and even losing my voice. I hate it, hate it, hate it”…. Nick Robinson, BBC.

” I’ve seen more common sense expressed around the talk in a farm house than I have around the table in the United Nations committee room”…. Lester Pearson, Nobel prize, 1957.

” There’s zero change in human intelligence in a million years and it won’t change in the next million”…. Carketon Gadjdusek, Nobel prize, 1976.

” One must think like a man of action, act like a man of thought”….. Henri Bergson. Nobel prize, 1927.

” Politics is the great enemy of love”…. Octavio Paz, Nobel prize, 1990.

” Ninety per cent of politicians give the other ten per cent a bad name”…. Henry Kissinger, Nobel prize, 1973.

” We must learn to live together as brothers, or we shall perish together as fools”…. Martin Luther King, Nobel prize, 1964.

” Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves”…. Abraham Lincoln.

” The truly free man is the one who will turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse”…. Jules Renard.

” Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year”…. Victor Borge.

” Never put off until tomorrow what can be put off until the day after tomorrow”…. Mark Twain.

” Copulation was Marilyn Monroe’s uncomplicated way of saying thank you”….. Nunnally Johnson.

” I always advise people never to give advice”….. P.G.Woodhouse.

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It is time for call centres to become the victims!

For reasons long forgotten we codgers hate Monday mornings. Illogical now but we still harbour vague memories of returning to school or work after weekends spent kicking over the traces. Now the traces are beyond our ability and we turn to the obits, and if our names are missing we know we’re not dead so eat a good breakfast and go back to bed. But not for long, for the hens await.

This morning we were rewarded with a beautiful sunlit morning, and the sight of the flower beds ablaze with colour. Proof positive of life after death for just two months ago those self same allotment areas and banks were as bare as a newborn’s bottom. In the large pond the Comets are darting around in Bradley Wiggins style, and up above the Blackbirds are building their non-PFI residences with equal zeal. Albert apart, the whole place is buzzing with renewed vigour. Of course being gardeners we have to have something to moan about, and what better than the fact that the constant demands of the greenhouses have emptied the water-butts.

We eventually settled in the Sir Eric Pickles doughnut hut and began to scan the output of the daily comics. Our dear leader has announced that there will have to be “significant” cuts to the defence budget. He did this at the G7 summit where for reasons that escape us it was decided that Vladimir Putin is the biggest threat to world peace. To our simple minds the murderous hordes of Isis merit that accolade. Either way our ability to respond is reducing at a rapid rate. But who knows, perhaps G4S are even as we speak preparing to march to the rescue.

Forgive the cynicism. I’m afraid that our obsessive objection to the privatisation of essential services is taking ever deepening root. Today we learn that eight Merseyside private finance initiative (PFI) schools have been revealed to be unsafe. A fire at one of them has revealed significant problems with the fireproofing, after smoke spread into a stairwell. Had the blaze been more serious, the smoke would have affected children evacuating the building. A review of the eight schools built by Balfour Beatty showed that fireproofing at all of them was sub-standard. Balfour Beatty set up a PFI company called Transform Schools to run the project when it won the original privatisation tender. Surprise, surprise – it has since sold the company to an investment firm (Dalmore) for £42 million.

This latest example of the lunacy of handing the building of our schools and hospitals to the private sector stems from 2007 when the Blair government came up with PFI as a wizard way of keeping capital investment off the treasury balance sheet. It costs the taxpayer a vast amount over the period of the contract and encourages dangerous cost cutting. Yet the coalition cheerfully continued the practice, and the new government shows no sign of abandoning it. The credibility of our politicians sinks ever lower, a trend perhaps enhanced by Harriet Harman’s claim of yesterday that many of the leading Labourites were”glad that they lost”. Many of us were glad too, but we draw little comfort from the fact that we now have an equally inept bunch in charge.

But this morning, as on so many others, our main wrath was focussed on call centres. Most of us still use landlines and it is not unusual to receive up to seven or eight calls every day. Rush to the phone and sometimes you hear silence – the result of automatic routines which dial up more calls than can be handled. Either way elderly people of a more nervous disposition than ours are subjected to fear or pressure wrapped in sugar-sweet sales twaddle.

Yesterday the Mail on Sunday claimed that staff at the Listen Ltd call centre were being trained to “cynically” solicit donations from elderly people and cancer sufferers, among others. The Fundraising Standards Board said it was “deeply concerned” about the claims and said it will investigate. Too little, too late – Oxfam has suspended all operations with Listen Ltd. But they are merely the tip of a very unpleasant iceberg.

I often feel sympathy for the people that ring my number. Yes I abuse them and play games, but I do realise that they are desperate for work, endure minimum wages and zero-contracts. But every one I have spoken to has a scripted patter calculated to browbeat the gullible into making donations that they cannot afford. Frankly call centres are doing a great deal of damage to the proud tradition of British charities. Several of us work for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation which does not employ such dubious methods, and we now refuse to contemplate supporting any charity that does. We are sick of cold callers and by extension all those who use them to bully the vulnerable.

To an extent the same can be said for unsolicited mail, but in there we have the option of simply hurling them straight into the recycling bin. But they do reveal another aspect of the call centre nightmare. Tom subscribes to The Spectator magazine. Due to a typo his address shows ‘Tromas’. Many of the begging letters he receives show the same error. In other words a reputable journal sells details of its readers. As do local authorities, banks and various publications. When you pass your telephone number to them you lay yourself open to unlimited intrusion.

I occasionally visit a housebound neighbour. She relies on her telephone in many ways but is becoming unnerved by cold calls. I recently answered her phone and after subjecting an Indian gentleman to words he may not have been aware of, demanded his manager’s name and number. He rang off. I later learned that he rang back two hours later. His pitch was that my friend was entitled to a credit note from Charity X and all he needed was her bank account details. This is more than harassment, it is criminal behaviour.

It is unlikely that this or any other government will ever do anything helpful for vulnerable people. They should earn a rare round of applause by banning call centres. We know that our charities have to raise funds, but it is high time they found more ethical ways of doing it!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Would the congregation please note that the bowl at the back of the church labelled ‘For the Sick’ is for monetary donations only” … Churchtown parish magazine.

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The battle for Britain begins !

To quote the late Frankie Howard calamity, calamity, all is calamity. Well not quite but yesterday she-who-must-be-obeyed fell whilst gardening and broke her wrist. So it was off to our local A & E department. I have to report that the service was excellent and the nurse, radiographer, doctor and plasterer were as friendly and cheerful as Eric Pickles after a double portion of plum duff. Now I suddenly find myself chief cook and bottle-washer. What a week of baked beans on toast does for the constitution I know not, but we are about to find out.

But life must go on and having introduced myself to the washing machine I was only slightly late for this morning’s chores on the allotments. Having shared in the task of hen-cleaning I stayed in the hut  only long enough for a quick mug of Yorkshire tea before heading home to re-enact my once legendary skills at an RAF ironing-board. But I did linger long enough to pick up the theme of the day on a Sunday when there are no Premiership referees to abuse. It was EU membership and the news that around 100 Conservative MPs have formed a pressure group aimed at making our dear leader’s negotiations with Aunty Merkel and the rest rather more challenging than he perhaps originally expected.

The group is to be known as ‘Conservatives for Britain’, and its red-lines are very clear. At a stroke it has destroyed any hope that the Cameroons may have held about producing a few concessions before recommending that we renew our pledge to live beneath the Juncker’s thumb. Whilst many will not share their anti-Europe core beliefs, many will appreciate that open borders are a massive issue.

Yes there are many other reasons to question membership of a club which seems hell-bent on taking away the governance of its members, but there is surely little doubt that the concept of every eastern European being free to take up residency elsewhere is flawed. The ;population of the UK continues to rocket and our hospitals, schools, roads and services are under enormous strain. We have only one choice – to close our borders or to increase our investment in infrastructure significantly. Polls tell us that the majority of the electorate are inclined toward a vote for staying in, but are they seriously prepared to countenance the consequences of population exceeding capacity?

Of course if David Cameron can win agreement for restored border controls the justification for staying in will be clear, given a few tweeks to the costly bureaucracy. If he can’t we will hear a great deal about racism and the joys of a multi-cultural society. Irrelevant. This debate is about neither, it is purely one of practicalities. We codgers suspect that one of the reasons for Not-So-Red Ed’s failure was his team of Oxbridge educated metropolitan wonks whose touch with reality was that of pointy-heads, and who steered him clear of any serious recognition of the effect of unlimited immigration on working families. It left the field open to Ukip who, fairly or otherwise, are seen by many as racist.

Flooding of essential services apart there is, we believe, another reason to cry enough is enough. Because the government is desperate to stem the engulfing tide it has felt compelled to refuse to accept a quota of the victims of the Libyan nightmare. Yesterday we learned that there are from 450,000 to 500,000 desperate refugees waiting to board death boats to Europe. Thousands are suffering terrible deaths, all see their situation as so appalling that they are prepared to gamble their lives.

These are not people deciding to move for the sake of a better job, they are human beings at the end  of their wits. If the EU was to stop its residents invading each other’s countries Britain would be free to restore its once proud record of providing haven for the desperate.

All this apart the challenge to our dear leader of reversing the EU policy of free movement is being made harder by the day as left-wing internationalists bang on about staying in at any price. A famous statesman once warned of the consequences of sending him “naked into the negotiating chamber”. At the very least they should shut up so long as Cameron has a chance of convincing the EU leaders that we are serious about our alternative future role.

Surely even pointy-heads realise that the stakes are incredibly high. If we should decide to leave the EU we will also decide to end the United Kingdom. The SNP would have indisputably legal right to hold another referendum of its own!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us”… Nelson Mandella, 1993.

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Quotes old and new!

” Corruption the the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems we face around the world today. It doesn’t just threaten our prosperity, it also undermines our prosperity”… David Cameron.

” Privatising public energy would be the equivalent of committing a heinous crime at the expense of our nation, our people and our economy”…. Panagiotis Lafazamis, Greek minister of energy.

” The Union is being held together with sticky tape and plasters and Scotland may decide to leave if David Cameron does not radically change his approach to evolution”…. Carwyn Jones, Welsh First Minister.

” Inflation-plus rises over the past decade have meant billions have been generated for both rail and Tube bosses. Enough is enough. Fares should now be frozen”…. Manual Cortes, TSSA.

” Clearly looking at the calibre of our politicians, excellent exam results and entry to Oxbridge do not guarantee expertise nor quality”…. Hazel Duggan, Shrewsbury.

” Maybe next time the Leicester City manager needs to have a good long talk to his players about how to have respect for women before letting them go anywhere else”…. Viv Garnett, Stockport.

” Statistics say I should survive another five years. Given the state the country is in, is this good news or bad?”… David Andrews, Bacup.

” Visitors to London are shocked by the cost of  the capital’s hotels. Indigenous residents are priced out of the housing market. For many these days London is a foreign country, almosr literally given the rise in overseas inhabitants. Are we just striding towards a tipping point?”…. Simon Kelner.

” Bid farewell to ideologies and instead return to the truth of being human”…. Gao Xingjian, Nobel prize, 2ooo.

” Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem”…. John Galsworthy, Nobel prize, 1932.

” Much  that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power”…. Bertrand Russell, Nobel prize, 1950.

” Have you not succeeded? Continue! Have you succeeded? Continue!”…. Fridtjof Nansen, Nobel prize, 1922.

” Just take a risk. Go for it. I think if you crash and burn trying, it’s still better than if you never tried at all”…. Roderick MacKinnon, Nobel prize, 2003.

” I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed it’s beauty to them”…. Boris Pasternak, Nbel prize, 1958.

” Instead of telling girls to cover their hair, we should teach them to use their heads”…. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel prize, 2003.

” All our lauded technological progress – our very civilisation – is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal”…. Albert Einstein, Nobel prize, 1921.

” John Donne’s poems are like the peace of God; they pass all understanding”…. King James 1.

” If life was fair, Elvis would be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead”…. Johny Carson.

” An intellectual is someone who has found something more interesting to think about than sex”….W.H.Auden.

” Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week”…. George Bernard Shaw.

” Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”…. Sigmund Freud.

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