Quotes for Sunday !

” Speaking to my great-granddad has taught me never to be scared or afraid to do what you really want to do, to live up to your own expectations rather than just listen to others”…. Alfie Wood on his WW2 hero.

” Cameron needs to be less aloof. This means more than hosting periodic barbecues for colleagues  in the garden at No 10 or lasagne dinners in his Downing Street flat. He needs to learn that those who disagree with him are not intrinsically disloyal and need not be turned into enemies”…. Isabel Oakeshott.

” Samantha Cameron showed off her many styles with three new outfits in just 19 hours. They included a stunning blue dress by Thornton Bregazzi and, two hours later, a red dress from Joseph with Zara heels”….. Sunday Telegraph.

” The Labour leadership contest is shaping up to be nothing less than a fight for the Party’s soul”…. Dan Hodges.

” Our party leadership made three fatal errors in its policies on tuition fees, the NHS and the bedroom tax. The party now needs a leader who voted against tuition fees”….. Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem MP for Leeds, North West.

” Farage appears to be leaving juts at the moment when two factors underline his relevance to British politics. The referendum on EU membership will birng w new moment of opportunity for the Eurosceptic camp. And Ukip finished second in more than 120 seats on Thursday. He will be back!”…. Matthew Goodwin.

” Scotland is now closer to independence. The SNP has an overwhelming mandate from the  Scottish people to carry forward Scotland’s interests. The base of the confidence of people in Scotland is growing all the time”….. Alex Salmond.

” The financial crisis of 2008 was a banking crisis pure and simple”…. Sir Nicholas Macpherson, permanent secretary to the Treasury.

” Former paratrooper Dan Jarvis is being tipped as a :Labour leader to unite his party. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan”…. Vincent Moss.

” No one who lives in the sunshine makes a failure of his life”….. Albert Camus, Nobel prize winner, 1957.

” I wish to preach not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life”…. Theodore Roosevelt, Nobel prize winner, 1906.

” The real definition of loneliness is to live without responsibility”….. Nadine Gordimer, Nobel prize winner, 1991.

” Without forgiveness there is no future”….. Desmond Tutu, Nobel prize winner, 1984.

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

” When I see a spade, I call it a spade. I am gld to say that I have never seen a spade”…. Oscar Wilde.

” The English country gentleman galloping after a fox – the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable”…. Oscar Wilde.

” Did you ever hear of a kid, while playing, pretend to be an accountant, even if he wanted to be one?”…. Jackie Mason.

” The geatest pleasure in life is dong what people say you cannot do”…. Walter Bagehot.

” There’s nothing so improves the mood of the party as the imminent execution of a senior colleague”…. Alan Clark.

” An honest politician is one who when he is bought will stay bought”…. Simon Cameron.

” All politics are based on the indifference of the majority”…. James Reston.

” The public say they are getting cynical about politicians. They should hear how politicians talk about hem”…. Brian Walden.

” If you would know the depth and meanness of human nature, you have got to be a prime minister running a general election”…. John.A.MacDonald.

” Many journalists fall for the conspiracy theory of government. They would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory”….. Bernard Ingham.

” I’ve tried several varieties of sex. The conventional position makes me claustrophobic, and the others give me a stiff neck or lockjaw”…. Tallulah Bankhead.

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A tale of two women !

“Pass the sick bag” muttered Albert as we cleaned out the hens under skies as sullen as he. He was referring to the gushing tribute paid to Not-So-Red Ed by our dear leader yesterday. This man, said Dave, is an honourable one motivated by no other desire than to serve the people. Our resident grump has never come to terms with the fact that all politicians  are essentially false, and persisted in contrasting the words with the prime minister’s previous descriptions of a devious, dangerous anarchist. The sudden change of heart passed over the heads of the rest of us, hardly surprising given that few of us bothered to vote on the grounds that we trust none of them.

But if the Daily Torygraph is any guide we are mistaken. Under its banner headline about “The Chosen One” it carries a clear inference that our dear leader represents the second coming so long predicted by the Jehovah Witnesses who so often invade our doorsteps. The cynics amongst us noted something a little different amongst the plethora of pictures of our favourite Old Etonian within the Barclay brother’s somewhat biased organ. On one page the ever faithful Samantha is hugging her beloved, secure in her knowledge that her fortune-providing tax-evading employer is saved from the clutches of socialism. On the next page is a picture taken at yesterday’s cenotaph VE Day service. Messrs Miliband and Clegg show no expression,. but the demure Nicola is giving the born-again saviour a look that suggests that if looks could kill he would be back in the tomb.

As we gathered in the allotments hut for our daily tribute to the greatest living politician, Eric Pickles, we decided that we had had a glimpse into the future. It struck us as the tale of two women, one of whom has every intention of adding another distinction to the Cameron list of achievements; if she has her way he will become the man that presided over the break up of the United Kingdom. But for the moment that will be on the Cameron back-burner, together with a reminder from the EU bigwigs that migration is not open for negotiation. Yesterday leading Conservatives questioned whether the leadership ever intended to go ahead with all the policies it pledged during the frantic final days of the election campaign. It seems that some of them were responses to the opinion polls, and were deliberately offered to be sacrificed in power-sharing talks. The economists amongst them are particularly worried by the last minute pledge to ban tax rises for five years. In the event of another entirely possible financial crisis Gorgeous George Osborne will be up the creek without a paddle.

The other early pronouncement was  that redrawing constituency boundaries is priority number one. The changes to parliamentary boundaries, blocked by the Lib Dems in the last parliament, will be confirmed quickly and take effect at the 2020 general election. The perceived wisdom is that this would confine the Labour Party to permanent opposition – not a happy thought for Denis Skinner or whoever now emerges as its leader.

But our sympathies this morning rested with Ukip. None of us supported the fledgling party but we are appalled at the reward it gained for the impressive achievement of attracting 14 per cent of the national vote. It required more than one hundred times as many votes to win one MP than the Tories did for each one of theirs. Some democracy! Of course the Conservatives would have won even under proportional representation, but at least we would not now face the prospect of millions feeling disenfranchised. Clearly the government will have no wish to revisit this subject, but as the likes of nurses and social workers suffer yet more near-terminal cuts they may well feel even greater dismay and resentment that their votes simply didn’t count.

But everyone must grin and bear whatever happens for the people have spoken. Correction – 36 percent have, and they undoubtedly comprise those for whom the closure of an NHS hospital or public library is merely a signal to reach for a Bupa card or Amazon website. The first march to protest against our Misrepresentation of the People’s Act has been announced. We doubt it will be the last.

Never mind, our dear leader has promised us 24/7  GP services with every over-75 year old being seen within 24 hours. Given that yesterday the earliest appointment I could obtain was for June 10th that represents quite an improvement!

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QUOTES FOR TODAY : ” The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”… Albert Einstein/ “Life is perhaps best regarded as a bad dream between two awakenings”…. Eugene O’Neill, Nobel prize winner, 1936.

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Three-minute election: How did David Cameron and the Tories do it? And what happens now? – video

Columnists Jonathan Freedland and Matthew d'Ancona discuss the general election result: a bloody night for Labour and the Lib Dems and a stunning victory for David Cameron. How were the media and political class beguiled into believing that Labour could get away with being behind on the economy? And are the Conservatives as surprised at the result as everyone else? Continue reading...

Can the Union survive ?

As we gathered on the sunlit allotments for the hen cleaning this morning the election results were still coming in. Torrential rain is forecast for later, and we couldn’t help wondering if that is symbolic. As we sat on the wall with our mugs of Yorkshire tea three thoughts  dominated our ruminations. Is there any point at all to the endless stream of opinion polls? For how much longer can our undemocratic voting system survive? Can the Union survive?

The third question is arguably the most significant one. Nicola Sturgeon was undoubtedly the most appealing of the leaders, but even she is surprised at her party’s landslide victory. Almost every Scottish Westminster MP represents the SNP, a party dedicated to taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom. For how long will the Scottish people accept the prospect of its entire body of elected representatives being outvoted by a Conservative government that has no mandate whatsoever from the land of the haggis? Our dear leader has announced that he intends to “bring the UK together”. Mission impossible. The EU referendum is not the only one likely to be on our headlines over the next year or so. Alex Salmond is a wily character and every move he makes in parliament will have but one aim in mind. By pouring so much venom over the SNP over the past few weeks the English political leaders have sealed the fate of the Union.

For weeks now the nation has followed every pronouncement of the opinion pollsters with baited breath. Once again they have proved to be fallible. It will be a long time before anyone again believes any prediction they make. All twelve of them constantly told us that the final result would be too close to call. And we plebs were not the only ones to be taken in. The likelihood is that Dave, Rebekah and the rest of the Chipping Norton set were as astonished as the rest if us when the exit polls appeared at 10.00 pm last night.

Our other question  focuses yet again on our outdated first-past-the-post voting system.  Ukip won 13 per cent of the total vote, and has just one MP –  virtually no representation at Westminster. How can this be democratic?  Of course the new government will be loath to change the system, but a nation in which millions of its citizens are effectively disenfranchised is hardly likely to warm to talk of healing divisions.

Like many more distinguished commentators we codgers got this wrong, but not in every respect. Many months ago we predicted that come May the Lib Dems would be able to hold their MP meetings in a telephone kiosk. We have heard much talk of suicide notes during the campaign, but by adopting the role of David Cameron’s lapdog Nick Clegg wrote the longest of them all. Now even Uncle Vince Cable is, like Danny Alexander, free to spend more time with his family.

And what of Not-So-Red Ed? He proved a more likeable and sensible campaigner than many expected. But he never mustered the naked passion that the defence of the NHS and the vulnerable deserved. And he was the victim of more personal vilification by the Murdoch press and the Daily Torygraph than the British media has ever mustered. Believe their rubbish and you can sleep easy tonight secure in the knowledge that babies are not going to be eaten or the Queen sent to live in Tower Hamlets. In his resignation speech Ed Miliband took “full responsibility” – he forgot to mention Murdoch. In reply David Cameron paid him a glowing tribute as he prepared to yell abuse at his successor.    Had Alan Johnson led the Labour Party the result could perhaps have been very different, even Sun readers would have found it hard to believe that he is a posh geek.

But never mind, we codgers draw consolation from the prospect of another five years of our dear leader. Despite his destruction of the NHS and social services he has provided us with much amusement. The people have spoken and Burlington Bertie still rules the less than united kingdom.

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QUOTES FOR TODAY: ” If the exit poll is correct, emigration looks a very attractive option”…. Austin Mitchell/ ” If Ukip gets four million votes and a mere seat or two, that’s a reflection on how dysfunctional our political system is rather than Ukip’s tactics”…. Douglas Carswell/ “The Prime Minister will outline the basis on which we can go forward with a secure and stable government”…. Michael Gove.

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Democracy in the dust!

Thank heavens it’s over. That was the almost unanimous verdict on the tortuous election campaign, as the codgers cleaned out the disenfranchised hens this morning. It seems to have gone on for ever and the most amazing fact of all is that our superstar leaders have met fewer members of the public than the English nurse that caught Ebola. A zillion photo opportunities have featured Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg being greeted by carefully selected groups of activists issued with placards. Vladimir Putin will have been impressed, most “ordinary” voters less so. Incredibly despite the expenditure of millions of pounds of donor cash the polls ended the campaign at almost exactly the same numbers that they started it with. Only the rather more glamorous Nicola was to be seen mingling with the masses, whilst the dashing Nigel seemed prepared to meet his critics head-on over a pint or five.

The potential nightmare is that the polls are right. If so we will then endure days of wrangling in which our dear leader and Not-So-Red Ed will conveniently forget all those scripted pledges not to cohort with undesirables. All of which will end with a rerun of that infamous Rose Garden love-in. If this time around the new pairing proves to be Ed and Nicola that will need rather more careful stage-management than that sunny day when Dave and Nick pledged to love each other until death did them part. But whatever happens it will surely be final proof that our voting system represents democracy in the dust. A system of proportional representation would have produced a real reflection of the electorate’s decision. This will be nothing more than a stitch-up, with the votes of millions having no meaning whatsoever.

As we gathered in the warm hut to enact our daily tribute to the prospective Minister of Fitness, EricPickles, we dared to hope that this is the last day on which evasive politicians will dominate our thinking. Since they were already below Estate Agents in our league table of the trustworthy we cannot claim that they have appalled us. The people that have are some of our so-called newspapers. Ever since its disgusting lies about the Hillsborough victims The Sun has never appeared on the allotments, but we have seen yesterday’s edition. Rupert Murdoch has never forgiven Ed Miliband for failing to line up with his Coalition buddies who attempted to sneak through his plans to take over BSkyB. And yesterday his comic plastered its front page with pictures of Miliband messing up a bacon butty, and linked it with a story of Murdoch’s enemy ruining Britain.

The owner of the Express probably shocked his traditionally Tory readers by instructing them to vote Ukip to prevent a “class-war zealot” destroying our economy. Miliband, it declared is “trying to con his way into Number Ten”. We cannot avoid believing that young Ed has been fairly open about wanting to be PM. Other front pages talked of “Nightmare on Downing Street”, “Don’t fall for SNP make-believe” and “Miliband’s porkies”, demonstrating that even such once respected organs as The Times, Telegraph and Mail now believe that their main role is to control the country, rather than inform it. In our view only the Independent’s ‘i’ performed as a newspaper should by providing an undoctored analysis of each parties proposal.  Call us squeamish if you must, but we codgers are not enamoured with the thought of Murdoch and his ilk manipulating public opinion.

We like to believe that our view is somewhat more balanced. We feel that the Conservatives have handled the economy well, but are wrong to absolve the banks for the financial collapse. We find their claim not to yet know the detail of their planned welfare cuts less than credible, and we know at first hand that they have destroyed the NHS and social services. Labour on the other hand have seemed ill at ease on the economy, but undoubtedly offer more believable plans to save the NHS and to narrow the obscene gap between the haves and have-nots. However their refusal to consider a referendum on Europe infers a refusal to accept the right of the people to register an opinion on an issue that affects every family.

Our view of the Lib Dems is unchanged. They blandly accepted the actions of the Cameroons on such as tuition fees and the disastrous Lansley NHS reforms, and now tout for ministerial cars from whoever occupies Downing Street. Our trust in them has been destroyed. We do agree with Ukip’s views on the EU and controlling immigration, but the rest of their policies seem to have been written on the back of one of Nigel’s fag-packets. The Greens are surely right about the environment, but they too seem to have something of a hotchpot of other aspirations. In any case the first-past-the-post voting system effectively disenfranchises Ukip and Green supporters in all but a tiny handful of seats.

For us the only star of the tedious campaign has been Nicola Sturgeon. She seems sincere and unscripted. She presents an image with which young people can identify. She seems to genuinely understand the present lot of the “hard working families” that the multi-millionaire Cameron loves to bang on about. Above all else she seems like a breath of fresh air in the stale Buggins-turn political establishment. However since we can’t vote for her our love is purely platonic.

As we tidied up this morning we wondered what tomorrow will bring. Five more years of the Bullingdon boys or a vague attempt at social justice by Ralph Miliband’s lad. Or a total mess and a reminder that in a system based on more than two parties the present voting system is just about as undemocratic as it could possibly be.

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QUOTES FOR TODAY; ” To enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on excellence of character”…. Aristotle/  ” A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”…. Winston Churchill./ ” Poor President,  he can’t help it – he was born with a silver foot in his mouth”…. Ann Richard.

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Quotes to set you thinking!

“The reality: in a hung parliament, a party of the SNP’s likely size will have a considerable influence over any government. It has already played its bargaining cards in relation to Labour. Its leaders have declared that they would not trigger the downfall of a Miliband government. Therefore Alex Salmond  and co would hold more sway over a minority Conservative government. In combination with other opposition parties the SNP could defeat David Cameron at key moments. In a hung parliament, Cameron would be more vulnerable and obliged to spend more time in discussion with the SNP’s Westminster contingent”….. Steve Richards, Independent.

“If God listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished; for they are forever praying for evil against one another”….. Epicurus.

“Declining living standards have harmed efforts to drive down obesity rates among the poor. The less well-off haven’t got the money to buy the good food, often don’t know how to cook, and are evermore reliant on processed food”….. Tam Fry, National Obesity Forum.

“I realised that in all conscience I could not go on with private practice. No matter how high I set my own moral and ethical standards I could not escape the fact that I was involved in a business where the conduct of some was so venal. Private practice creates a ‘perverse incentive’ to increase NHS waiting times”….. Dr John Dean, cardiologist.

“The Tories beat rivals in fundraising through the last week of the election campaign. They pulled in £1.36m, with the closest being Labour with £131,242.”….. Independent.

“We cannot spell out which benefits will be curtailed because we have not yet done the work. As soon as we’ve done the work and had it modelled we’ll let everyone know”….. Ian Duncan Smith.

“British politics is now broken; but Miliband and Cameron talk about their right to govern alone, refusing to see what everyone else knows, so on Thursday we may have to break democracy in front of their faces so they get the message. “….. Armando Iannucci.

“Despite being 84 years old and having voted all my life, my vote has never counted. This is because I have lived in a succession of safe seats. A more democratic voting system is long overdue”….. John Porter,  Beaconsfield.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer”….. Albert Camus, Nobel prize winner, 1957.

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

“I have derived continued benefit from criticism at all periods of my life, and I do not remember any time when I was short of it”….. Winston Churchill, Nobel prize winner, 1953.

“Military cemeteries in every corner of the world are silent testimony to the failure of national leaders to sanctify human life”….. Yitzhak Rabin, Nobel prize winner, 1994.

“Everyone, deep down within, caries a small cemetery of those he has loved”….. Romain Rolland, Nobel prize winner, 1915.

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

“Governments are like underwear. They need to be changed often and for the same reason”….. Italian proverb.

“Prime ministers are wedded to the truth, but like other married couples they sometimes live apart”….. Saki.

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whisky and car keys to teenage boys”….. P.J.O’Rourke.

“Clement Atlee is a modest little man with much to be modest about”….. Winston Churchill.

“A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always rely on the support of Paul”….. George Bernard Shaw.

“A dress has no meaning unless it makes a man want to take it off”….. Francoise Sagan.

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Well past its sell-by date!

Damp and dismal. That’s the weather report done, but the words equally sum up the general mood on the allotments this morning. Albert was furious about our decision to leave yesterday’s muck piled outside of his run, even more so at the general reluctance to help him shift it. The rest of the gang usually enjoy such set-tos but there seemed little appetite for humour. It seemed that, weather apart, the incessant nonsense of the election campaign is beginning to depress a normally resilient bunch. It is hard not to sympathise for every day brings fresh contradictions of what the leading figures said on the previous day, and now we have Russell Brand, whose anti-voting views resonated with some of my pals, advising his 9.6 million followers to vote Labour.

This in turn has sent our dear leader into apoplexy, a state not helped by this morning’s reports of a long-forgotten Oxford picture of himself and the mad Boris posing with members of the Bullingdon Club – a group described by the Mayor of London as “superhuman undergraduates reeking of arrogance, toffishness, and twittishness”. And to crown it all our Bullingdon prime minister continues to bang on about a minority Miliband government being at the numerical mercy of the forecast tartan army, seemingly unaware that exactly the same fate awaits one of his own.

The truth of the matter is that our electoral system is well past its sell-by date. Over decades of a two-party monopoly the first-past-the-post system has served us reasonably well, but there is now every indication that it is going to produce democratic injustice on a giant scale.  Ukip and the Greens look certain to win a tiny handful of seats between them despite averaging 13 and 5 per cent respectively of the votes cast. In contrast the SNP could win up to 50 seats with only about 4 per cent of the national vote. The Lib Dems are forecast to win only half of the Ukip vote yet may well have ten times the number of MPs. Many millions of voters will be effectively disenfranchised. And now those who no longer identify with the Buggins-turn Tory and Labour parties are being urged to vote ‘Tactically’, to forget their principles.

The contrast between this undemocratic farce and a system under which every vote counts is a stark one. If you take the latest opinion poll forecast of the percentage of votes likely to be earned you arrive at a very different outcome. Under a proportionate representation alternative vote system – one in which every vote influences the number of seats – you would have; Conservative 219, Labour 215, Ukip 84, LibDems 53, Greens 33 and SNP 28  That would be a true representation of the nation’s verdict.

And it is not only the politicians who keep changing their minds. Only four years ago, Britain voted by 68 to 32 per cent in a referendum against a switch to an alternative voting system. In a new ORB poll published today 61 per cent now believe that the present system is due for reform. This tells us that after the election there will be millions who feel a sense of injustice. Divided Britian is about to feel even more so.

Seemingly unaware of this building constitutional storm Messrs Cameron and Miliband, who may well win little more than half of the popular vote between them, plough on with their blather. The former majors on the economy, yet today 10 leading economists warn that the incoming government must drop the Coalition’s economic policies and “not repeat the mistakes made since 2010″. The latter warns that the NHS will not be safe in Tory hands, seemingly unaware that it is already in a state of chaos with more than two-thirds of Trusts now in serious financial straits. In our local area the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals has a projected loss of £52.1 million. It has no PFI debts, and has cut staffing levels to the bone. What it and its worried patients needs is not political rhetoric but a cogent funding plan supported by all political parties.

On Friday we may well see the two main parties engaged in unseemly bartering with other unrepresentative factions. A truly democratic voting system would produce what the country desires, a parliament representing all of the people, not a stitch-up aimed at perpetuating a two-party dominance that is now reviled by so many. But it will come as the poor get poorer, and people reflect on the futility of voting at all in so-called ‘safe seats’. We badly need a sense of unity and the present system will simply not create it.

Never mind, several of us codgers won a few bob by betting on the new Princess’s name. Ladbrookes estimate that betting firms have paid out £1 million following yesterday’s announcement. Charlotte may only have been the 21st most popular girls name on the UK charts but we codgers recognise easy money when we see it. Now our deposits on a change to the electoral system have been laid.

For everyone’s sake we hope that it happens in our lifetimes!

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QUOTES FOR TODAY: ” We have to confront big business, we have to confront the people who are tearing London apart and socially cleansing it. What I heard Ed Miliband say is if we speak he will listen”….. Russell Brand./ ” Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a politician. But I repeat myself.”….. Mark Twain.

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Can we trust our greatest asset with any of them?

Until we noticed the meagre attendance for this morning’s hen-cleaning some of us had forgotten that this is a Bank Holiday. Long gone are the days when we looked forward to such occasions, and boarded coaches for street ‘outings’ to Blackpool or some other equally exotic place. The younger generation would scorn such a ‘treat’, and few of us know the people in our streets well enough to say hello, let alone spend a day together shivering outside a candy-floss stall. So those of us that did turn out reaped our revenge by piling the muck in a mini mountain rather than trenching it in. Albert will pay the price of his indolence tomorrow morning since the odorous pile just happens to bar the entrance to his run. When it comes to vindictiveness we are not dissimilar to politicians.

As we settled in the warm allotments ‘hut’ the anti-monarchists amongst us were in full voice. Much talk about privilege and posh titles for a baby who fills her nappies as mere mortals do, and great scorn for people who slept on the pavement outside the delivery hospital. But the majority of us took the view that cheerful news is better that the constant stories of lying politicians and international disasters. Good luck to her we said, a life lived in a goldfish bowl is probably not all it is cracked up to be.

At least the Royals on their ‘walkabouts’ do seem to have mastered the art of talking to us rather than at us, which is more than can be said for those who aspire to ruining – as against running – the country. We are told that both our dear leader and his Not-So-Red opponent have had constant coaching in communication techniques. They must have failed their courses for both open every sentence they utter with the words “Let me tell you what I’m planning to do”. Contrast their robotic utterances with that of a little girl who watched both parents, her sister and brother drown as her overloaded boat from Gambia capsized. Now being cared for in a Catholic charity in Calabria she wrote: ” To cross the sea is very, very dangerous. Please brothers and sisters, stop coming in this bad way. Please, please and please. I tell you this because I know what I saw and I saw many things that I can never describe”. Can you even imagine any of our so-called leaders speaking from their hearts in such a way? They lack sincerity and don’t even speak our language as they prattle on in double speak about austerity and working people.

And with the election drawing ever closer it worries us that the fate of what matters most to us lies in their hands. For us codgers that means, above all other institutions, the NHS. Tom has for some time been afflicted by crippling headaches and on December 5th was referred for an MRI scan. It is now May and he has yet to have it. Millions can tell the same sort of stories – our hospitals are swamped with referrals and as a result of a combination of so-called ‘efficiency savings’ and rocketing patients numbers are in freefall. David Cameron talks of vast increases in nurse numbers – it is a lie. Nurse numbers are determined by individual Trusts and the majority are facing technical bankruptcy.

Yesterday ‘Nursing Standard’ published the result of a survey carried out amongst 4,413 nurses. A massive 79 per cent said that patients received  a better standard of care before the coalition came to power. Large numbers spoke of being “exhausted, both mentally and physically, feeling undervalued and frustrated by the increase in paperwork”. All demanded more help, more time with their patients. Asked about voting intentions 40 per cent backed Labour, 14 per cent the Conservatives and 46 per cent said neither. Asked to name their greatest concern, over 50 per cent opted for safe staffing levels.

This morning the Independent newspaper reveals that a firm run by the Tories chief election strategist, Lynton Crosby, CTF Partners, devised a plan to lobby David Cameron to expand the role of private healthcare in Britain. A paper leaked to the paper suggests that “insufficient public funds are a strategic opportunity for private healthcare firms to enhance their size, acceptability and profitability”. But anyone with knowledge of clinical treatment knows only too well that profitability targets conflict directly with clinical work which is unpredictable in its complexity and time consumption. Combining the two means that treatment is driven by cost considerations and patients die.

We codgers hold no affiliation to any political party, but we are fearful about the future of healthcare, something that at some time or other becomes the top priority for every family that cannot afford private treatment. The most depressing aspect of the election campaign is that no party seems to really understand what has happened as a result of the costly Lansley ‘reforms’.

The population is rocketing and ageing. Not one of the political leaders seems prepared to face up to the only choice. To increase national insurance contributions and to scrap the massive bureaucracy now stifling clinicians, or to simply carry on and hope for the best. The latter spells the end of the NHS.

There are now just days to save the most important public service of them all and we fear the worst!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Insanity; doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”….. Albert Einstein.

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Quotes for a wet Sunday!

“When a man say his word is as good as his bond, always take his bond”…. Hugo Vickers.

” The less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in”…. Lord Chesterfield.

” Lawyers believe a man is innocent until proven broke”…. Robin Hall.

” I have come to regard the law courts not as a cathedral but rather as a casino”…. Richard Ingrams.

” They say travel broadens the mind; but you must have the mind”…. G.K.Chesterton.

” A passport picture is a photo of a man that he can laugh at without realising that it looks exactly the way his friends see him”…. Will Kommen.

” Life is generally something that happens elsewhere”…. Alan Bennett.

” The problem with born-again Christians is that they’re an even bigger pain the second time around”…. Denis Leary.

” I would be converted to any religion for a cigar and baptized in it for a box of them”…. Mark Twain.

” Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society”…. Mark Twain.

” What is on a drunken man’s lips is on a sober man’s mind”…. Danish proverb.

“” One can never be too thin or too rich”…. Wallis Simpson.

”  I declare this thing open – whatever it is”…. Prince Philip.

” The government’s solution to any problem is invariably at least as bad as the problem”…. Milton Friedman.

” Being President is like running a cemetary: you’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody’s listening”…. Bill Clinton.

” Fighting for peace is like sh…ing for virginity”…. Anon.

” If you would know the depth and meanness of human nature, you have got to be a prime minister running a general election campaign”…. John.A.MacDonald.

” Lift the curtain and ‘the State’ reveals itself as a little group of fallible men in Whitehall making guesses about the future”…. Enoch Powell.

” David Cameron is right. But it is not a question of whether the country is going to be run for Scotland. It is a question of whether the country is going to be run for the wealthy and powerful”…. David Axelrod.

” When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ When we opened our eyes we had the Bible and they had the land”…. Desmond Tutu, Nobel prize winner, 1984.

” I have had dreams and I have had nightmares. It is because if my dreams that I have overcome my nightmares”…. Linus Pauling, Nobel prize winner, 1954 & 1962.

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Quotes to brighten your weekend!

” I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous’. And God granted it”…. Voltaire.

” I will refuse any deal with Nicola Sturgeon to prop up a minority Labour government”…. Ed Miliband.

“Labour will never be forgiven if the party lets Tories back into Downing Street”…. Nicola Sturgeon.

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

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

” One makes mistakes; that is life. But it is never a mistake to have loved”…. Romain Rolland, Nobel prize winner, 1915.

” Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door”…. Saul Bellow, Nobel prize winner, 1976.

” You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’ “…. George Bernard Shaw, Nobel prize winner, 1925.

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

” It is precisely the stupidest people who are the most sincere in their mistaken beliefs”…. Norman Angell, Nobel prize winner, 1933.

” In every language, every culture, the most difficult words you have to say are: ‘I’m sorry. Forgive me’ “…. Desmond Tutu, Nobel prize winner, 1984.

” All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening”…. Alexander Woolcott.

” The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good deed by stealth and have it found out by accident”…. Char les Lamb.

” Graham Sutherland’s portrait of me makes me look as if I am having a difficult stool”…. Sir Winston Churchill.

” I think Iraq and Iran should be combined into one country called Irate. All the pissed-off people live in one place and get it over with”…. Denis Leary.

” The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything”…. Oscar Wilde.

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An evening of twaddle !

According to new predictions England and Wales – the haggis eaters even miss out on the weather – can expect heatwaves this year. No sign of those on the allotments this morning as we cleaned out the hens.  The old adage has it that one should “ne’er cast a clout until May is out”, but we are never sure whether that refers to the month or the blossom. Either way our two layers of sweaters remain firmly in place. Of course the prediction is intended as a warning rather than a cheering promise – a reminder that global warming is becoming an ever greater threat to human existence. But the prospect has clearly yet to register with our politicians if last night’s special BBC Bumblebee Question Time was any indication.

As someone who tries to record the reactions to daily events by what is arguably a fairly representative cross-section of the population I find it very frustrating that once again I am forced onto the election this morning. But my dozen or so fellow codgers talked of little else as we gathered in the warm ‘hut’ to recover from our daily battle with the output of a very large flock of hens. We sometimes feel sympathy for creatures locked up in coops without the diversion of TV, but today we almost envied them. They were at least spared the much-heralded evening-long ‘grilling’ of the unholy trilogy of Cameron, Miliband and Clegg. Grilling? The potential was there since the Beeb seemed to have assembled an audience comprising the most unpleasant people in Leeds, but the fact that they seemed deprived of both objectivity and intelligence turned it into an opportunity for our so-called leaders to give a master-class in the art of evasion.

According to the pollsters one in four of the audience is still undecided. If so they remained well hidden. The hall seemed to be full of rabid activists determined to abuse their political enemies and to applaud what their heroes said, however ludicrous it happened to be. One woman did remark that she didn’t want her children to grow up in a world of food banks and suicidal vulnerable people, but with that single exception there was no sign of troubled souls. Questions became rants and no one seemed remotely inclined to consider the proffered answers.

Not that the answers contained any substance, and it was no surprise to us that this morning’s papers seized on the fact that Not-So-Red Ed stumbled  as he stepped down from the podium. For the umpteenth time our dear leader waved aloft the note left by Liam Byrne telling his successor that all the cash had gone. To anyone with half a brain this represented an attempt at wry humour, to David Cameron it was a financial appraisal of the state of the nation. And for the umpteenth time we listened to the story of the tragedy of Cameron’s son. No one who has lost a child can fail to be moved by it, but how it proves that the Lansley NHS  ‘reforms’ were justified remains a mystery to us. As does the repeated claims about the 8,000 extra nurses.

It does seem to us that there was only one significant comment. This came when the Labour leader pledged that he will make no deal with the expected army of SNP MPs. He would rather, he claimed, be in opposition than consider such an arrangement. We know why he said that but surely it is going to come back to haunt him. If the polls are even remotely accurate there is no possibility of his party winning an overall majority so, short of a possible deal with the Lib Dems, he has cornered himself with going back on his word or  giving up the only options. His Old Etonian opponent kept his options open – a very wise move in our view.

Ed Miliband did mention the loss of trust in politics in general, but that apart there was little sign that the main parties have come to terms with the fact that the days of a ‘buggins turn’ form of monopolistic government are coming to an end. The most likely verdict from the electorate is that it desires collaborative governance, one in which dogma is cast aside in favour of the common good. It fears the secret Tory plans for further cuts, and it fears the Labour economic fallibility. Whether they like it or not the old main parties must resign themselves to sharing power with others.

It was with some relief that we switched our attention to the world of fantasy. Sport, the great opium of the people, tolerates no thought of austerity. This year’s Wimbledon prize money will total £26.75 million, an increase of 7 per cent. And Manchester United are planning a £100 million bid for Gareth Bale, whilst various oligarchs and sheiks are quite relaxed about similar generosity to blokes capable of kicking a ball around for ninety minutes. Perhaps sport was what our dear leader meant last night when he talked about great opportunities for our young people.

We certainly can’t think of any others!

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QUOTES FOR TODAY: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure”…. Colin Powell/  “There were many ways of breaking a heart. Stories were full of hearts broken by love, but what really broke a heart was taking away its dream – whatever that dream might be”…. Pearl S Buck, Nobel prize winner in 1938/ “In bed my real love has always been the sleep that rescues me by allowing me to dream”….. Luigi Pirandello, Nobel prize winner in 1934.

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Teenager found not guilty of raping his mother after she said it was just a dream

Mum retracted her rape allegation and blamed episode on her mental health issues and the stress of caring for her ‘difficult’ son

A teenager has been found not guilty of raping his mother as she slept after she told a jury she had dreamed the attack.

The boy, who cannot be named, was 14 when his mother woke up and accused him of trying to rape her.

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Brand’s diagnosis is right, his prescription wrong!

That spell of glorious sunshine seems to have done more harm than good. With the benefit of hindsight we were plain daft to imagine that summer had arrived in mid-April, and now that the usual mixture of rain and cold winds has appeared we feel cheated. In a normal year we would today have shrugged off the need to impersonate Eskimo Nell, instead we cleaned out the hens in a sullen mood. Albert’s claim that we have probably had all the summer weather we are likely to have didn’t help – for once he had a receptive audience. I tried to advance the view that it is only April for God’s sake, but no one seemed prepared to cheer up.

As we straggled in the direction of  the allotments hut Tom was the first to strike a slightly more optimistic note. The Lancet has published new life expectancy predictions which show that most of us codgers are already in the period when the exalted journal  tells us we should be dead. That impressed no one, but Tom’s point that we should be thankful for not being Londoners did strike a chord. Leaked documents obtained by the Independent reveal that more than 50,000 families have been silently shipped out of the capital as a result of soaring rent and welfare cuts. Many families who can no longer afford to find homes are being uprooted and dumped further and further away, cut off from their relatives and support networks. Councils are moving homeless mothers and children out of their borough at a rate of close to 500 families a week, with numbers continuing to rise.

Campbell Robb, the chief executive of ‘Shelter’ said yesterday that “It’s shocking to see in black and white  the sheer volume of homeless families being uprooted and sent miles from their local area. The benefit cap and bedroom tax have made it significantly harder for poor people to afford housing in London, and the only way to escape this crisis is for the next government to build the affordable homes we so desperately need”. One imagines that he doesn’t have mad Boris in mind, the people’s hero having vowed that the controversial welfare reforms would not lead to a “Kosovo-style social cleansing”. The truth is that large areas of the capital stand empty for much of the year as overseas speculators snap up properties at gargantuan prices. Anyone doubting the stories of an increasingly divided Britain need only spent a day or two in London.

It is hard to escape the ludicrous election campaign right now, and over our Yorkshire tea and Eric Pickles doughnuts we scanned the papers. As on most days their ‘doomsday scenarios’ centre on the SNP. The latest poll suggests that Nicola and her brood may well captue every seat in Scotland, giving them 59 Westminster MPs. It is, declared our dear leader, a dark day for democracy. How that view fits with his passionate case of last year for a united kingdom is hard to fathom. As is his stuff about a Labour ‘wipeout’, given that Tory MPs are already an extinct species in the land of the haggis.

We codgers rejoice in the prediction of the death of the old cosy two-party monopoly. Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, and it seems to us that its elected representatives have every right to penetrate the Westminster bubble, particularly since Nicola Sturgeon has given a clear commitment to not voting on English laws. And if they choose to support a Labour administration that is their democratic right. The alternative is the break up of Great Britain and few south of the border want that. The truth of the matter is  that the Westminster elite have for too long regarded  Scotland and Wales as of little interest and they are now reaping what they sowed.

Our main interest this morning was the latest artificial ‘row’ about Not-So-Red Ed’s decision to engage in debate with Russell Brand. Whether his decision was politically wise is one thing but why was it, as the Prime Minister claims, a “joke”. Brand has an enormous following amongst young people, and the idea of simply ignoring him is plain daft. His central belief rings true. He believes that “powerful elites” are really running the country, and cites such as Rupert Murdoch and bankers who have conveniently escaped prosecution for fraud. We can all add to his list – party donors who have influential relationships with ministers. Oh yes, and cash for honours is another feature of of our institutionally corrupt system.

But Brand’s prescription seems to us ridiculous. Don’t vote. How can that possibly contribute to essential reform? What this divided society needs is the involvement of its young people, a culture in which only older folk rule the roost is likely to increase the divide. A form of disengagement, anarchy even, will achieve nothing. Of course the young and idealistic will never look for inspiration to such as privileged Old Etonians, but the only way they can shake up the old order is to vote. Brand is a self-opinionated windbag but his central diagnosis rings true with us. His prescription is, in our view, woefully misguided.

We are probably not alone in wishing the election claptrap over. This morning Uncle Vince Cable has accused his Tory colleagues of five years as having a “very nasty streak”. We agree, but it didn’t take us five years to come to that conclusion!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Freedom is not a philosophy, nor is it even an idea. It is a movement of consciousness that leads us, at certain moments, to utter one of two monosyllables: yes or no”…. Octavio Paz, Nobel Prize winner, 1990.

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Quotes ancient and modern !

“Cameron is ready for action. I now expect to see him with pencil behind ear, followed by a greasy rag in back pocket. Add a couple of spanners and by May 7 he’ll be fully equipped to put the wheels back on the Tory wagon”…. Derek Tilson.

“Britain is one of the EU’s best markets. It cannot surely think that it would continue to have access to Britain if it was foolish enough to place any restrictions  on the import of British goods. We have the whole world to choose from, and increasingly Britain is trading with a rapidly growing market outside Europe”…. L.D’eath, Diss, Norfolk.

“I’m not suggesting that every builder who looks up from his copy of The Sun to whistle at a woman should be prosecuted, but it woukd be nice to think that this too could be considered anti-social behaviour”…. Simon Kelner.

“Murdoch’s edict to The Sun’s editor to ramp up the Miliband persecution in pursuit of his business interests is a reason to vote Labour. Another is the vicious, venal campaign of Lynton Crosby. Winning ugly is one thing. Winning Medusa-hideous another”…. Matthew Norman.

“To have the heart of a child is not a disgrace. It is an honour”…. Ernest Hemingway, Nobel prize, 1954.

“Women are ultimately the key to development, they are the key to eradication of poverty. Once you empower them, you empower a nation”…. Desmond Tutu, Nobel prize, 1984.

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

“Governments need enemies to frighten their people with, frightened people are easier to lead”…. Albert Szent-Gyorgy, Nobel prize, 1937.

“If sunbeams were weapons of war we would have had solar energy centuries ago”…. George Porter, Nobel prize, 1967.

“The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell”…. Bertrand Russell, Nobel prize, 1950.

“The best prayer I ever heard was, “Dear Lord, please make me the kind of person my dog thinks I am”…. Rev. Warren.J.Keating.

“I have found that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them”…. Mark Twain.

“If you look like your passport photo, you’re too ill to travel”…. Will Kommen.

“”Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even when there is no river”…. Nikita Kruschev.

“We are poised between the status quo and the very real possibility that many parties will take charge of the political agenda, that Parliamentary votes will have to be conducted across party divisions and whips’ menaces. They could be replaced by something more reflective of how we all conduct ourselves outside the House of Commons, ie, not shouting over one another”…. Armando Iannucci.

“I didn’t dare tell my Mum that I was starring in ‘The Vagina Monologues’. I told her I was in ‘The Geneva Monologues’, and it was about women in banking”…. Maureen Lipman.

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: that is the ideal life”…. Mark Twain.

“We worry about the future yet nothing can happen in the future. Anything that ever happens can only happen in the NOW”…. Ekhart Tolle.

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

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Madeleine McCann’s parents win libel damages in trial of police chief

Gonçalo Amaral, who led investigation for missing girl in Portugal in 2007, is found guilty of libelling Gerry and Kate McCann and ordered to pay €500,000

A former Portuguese police chief has been ordered to pay the parents of Madeleine McCann €500,000 (£357,953) in libel damages after accusing them of faking their daughter’s abduction.

Gonçalo Amaral, who led the botched police search for the three-year-old in 2007, has been on trial at Lisbon’s Palace of Justice over claims he made in a book about Madeleine’s disappearance.

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Contempt for the voters !

Had a brass monkey joined us this morning for our hen-cleaning, he would now be a soprano. A bitterly cold wind had the few teeth we have left chattering like a politician on the make. The overnight frost had penetrated the greenhouse and some of our tender plants were looking distinctly unhappy, and their demeanour quickly transferred itself to my fellow codgers who retired to the allotments hut with unseemly haste. And, as we wrapped our blue hands around our steaming mugs of Yorkshire tea, no one had any inclination to contradict Albert’s claim that our politicians are treating the voters with utter contempt.

The only dissenting voices came from some who feel that many deserve nothing better, a view triggered by last night’s Evan Davies interview with the beloved Nicola. In response to the hysteria from our dear leader about English votes for English laws she made it crystal clear that Scottish MPs will not vote on issues that do not affect Scotland. Moving on to the main Tory headlines about the possibility of a Labour /SNP ‘alliance being potentially the “greatest threat since the abdication” she asked why UK politics has to be like this. Why, she asked, must politics be so divisive, why cannot all parties come together to seek the best solutions? Why indeed. Contempt? It is hard to feel any other way about people who believe such hogwash as that espoused by Theresa May.

The supposed threat is pure invention – does anyone seriously believe that the SNP would endanger its massive support by bringing down a Labour administration. Since to do so would open the door of Number Ten to a Tory government it is something they would not dare to contemplate, so Not-So-Red Ed would not be “in the pocket of Alex Salmond. And in making her claim Mrs May revealed her contempt for the voters who are gullible enough to believe what she says. She did it via the analogy she chose. Only someone completely out of touch with reality could believe that the decision of an unelected King to step down was a greater crisis than the death of countless millions in World War 2. Clearly the plebs who sacrificed everything for their country do not register on the May inventory of real crises.

In all honesty there is scarcely one amongst us codgers who cares who wins the election.Every day brings fresh cause to stoke our scepticism, for in a long lifetime of elections we can never remember one that equalled this for unashamed invention and lying. Yesterday the Daily Torygraph devoted its front page to a letter from small businesses warning of the dangers of a change of government. Today we learn that the list of signatures corralled by Conservative Central Office included duplicate names and signatories who are not company owners. One firm has denied signing the document at all. One man signed the letter four times, while other signatories were Conservative Clubs.

We will now move on to yet more claims about the economic ‘miracle’. More contempt for the voters unless they happen to be  well-heeled. At the weekend the Sunday Times Rich List revealed that over the past year the chasm between the wealthy and the rest of us further widened. The total wealth of the richest 1,000 increased by 5.4 per cent, reaching a record £547.126 billion. The increase means that the UK is now home to more billionaires per head of population than any other country, and Britain shares with Italy the distinction of being the most unequal country in the developed world. One in five now live below the poverty level, and life expectancy in some areas is now lower than in many developing nations.

The director of the Equality Trust, Duncan Exley, said yesterday that : “There’s always been this idea of a trickle down – that the rich get richer and will bring the rest of the country with them. But the rising tide is not lifting all the boats. These people who are called  wealth creators aren’t creating wealth for others, they’re creating it solely for themselves”.  A report for Oxfam found that the five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the bottom 20 per cent of the entire population. Add in the fact that many are not paying taxes and you have an economic miracle indeed.

None of which serves to support some half-baked socialist concept of bleeding the successful. But at a time when the number of the  incredibly rich is matched by the growth of Food Banks we find it astonishing that there are people out there who actually believe what the spin-doctors say.

The only vote-seeker than impresses us is young Nicola. Sadly we will not find her name on the ballot paper if we even bother to trudge to the polling station.

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QUOTES FROM NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS:

” I have, despite all disillusionment, never, never allowed myself to feel like giving up. This is my message today; it is not worthy of a human being to give up”…. Alva Myrdal, PEACE, 1982.

“Work is the only thing that gives substance to life”… Albert Einstein, PHYSICS, 1921.

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing”….. Theodore Roosevelt, PEACE, 1906.

“The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning, you’re not old”…. Rosalyn Yalow, MEDICINE, 1977.

“When I cease to be indignant, I will have begun my old age”….. Andre Gide, LITERATURE, 1947.

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Quotes – topical and from Nobel winners!

YESTERDAY

” Aftershock at 1.00pm! Horrible here in Camp 1. Avalanches on three sides. Camp 1 a tiny island.We worry about ice falls below. Alive? Please pray for everyone”…. Daniel Mazur, Ne pal expedition leader from Bristol.

“Come on Boris, you’re better than that. Don’t just do what Lynton Crosby says to you. When you are leader of the Tory party you should get rid of him. He doesn’t do much for you”…. Ed Miliband on the Andrew Marr Show.

“Ofsted is outdated. The effect of judging a whole ( Social Services) department with a single word (“inadequate”) sets off a chain of events which makes the service much worse: the loss of senior leaders who are often sacked, high staff turnover, reliance on temporary agency staff, higher numbers of referrals, and unsustainable workloads. Ofsted leads to the most acute form of failure”…. Amanda Kelly, local government expert.

“The wealth of Britai n’s super-rich has ballooned over the past year, further widening the chasm between the top one per cent and the rest. The total wealth of the richest 1,000 people increased 5.4 per cent, reaching a record £547.126bn”…Sunday Times Rich List.

“As a teacher I have now reached a tipping point where I feel that my passion, creativity and commitment are tested, neglected and taken for granted to such an extent that the drudgery and stress begin to outweigh the pleasure of my work”…. Reader.

NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS

“The human worker will go the way of the horse”…. Wassily Leontief, Economics.

“All my life I’ve been surrounded by people who are smarter than I am, but I found I could always keep up by working hard”…. Glenn Seaborg, Chemistry.

“What am I supposed to be, a pompous fool because I got a medal”…. Jody Williams, Peace.

“I believe in God – in spite of God! I believe in Mankind – in spite of Mankind! I believe in the Future – in spite of the Past!”…. Elie Wiesel, Peace.

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”…. Albert Einstein, Physics.

“In roadside ditches, in washed-out trenches, among the ruins of burned houses, he learned the value of a can of soup, an hour of quiet, the meaning of true friendship, of life itself”….. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Literature.

“Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it”…. George Bernard Shaw, Literature.

“We should live our lives as if  Christ were coming this afternoon”…. Jimmy Carter, Peace.

“Nobody will ever win the Battle of the Sexes. There is too much fraternising with the enemy”…. Henry Kissinger, Peace.

“In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, women are not merely tolerated but valued”…. Aung San Suu Kyi, Peace.

“Women are ultimately the key to development, they are the key to eradication of poverty. once you empower them, you empower a nation”…. Desmond Tutu, Peace.

“To govern is to educate. A statesman is that person who tells people what people need to know. A politician is that person who tells people what people want to hear”…. Oscar Arias Sanchez, Peace.

“If you put the government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand”…. Milton Friedman, Economics.

“The first step towards the dethronement of terror is the deflation of its hypocritical self-righteousness”…. Wole Soyinka, Literature.

“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance”…. Woodrow Wilson, Peace.

“You have to fight when there is no hope of victory because it is better to perish than to live as slaves”…. Winston Churchill, Literature.

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics”…. Robert Solov, Economics.

AND FINALLY….

“A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country”…. Texas Guinan

“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”…. Unison.

“If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it”….. Ken Livingstone.

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A political trail of incompetent destruction!

On the day when we read in horror of the terrible fate of so many victims of the Nepal earthquake, and our local area roads were closed to accommodate mass protests at the sudden announcement of the privatisation of yet more hospital services, several of us drew comfort by taking part last night in the ‘Walk In the Dark’ organised by the Rosemere Cancer Foundation.  As the day had worn on it had been impossible to escape the feeling that both God and politicians had deserted us – not that anyone had much doubt already about the former – and being part of hundreds of people coming together in common cause  uplifted our spirits.

The flip-side was that we were few in numbers as we cleaned out the hens this morning. Albert, whose Sunday morning appearances are as rare as Marley’s Ghost, was missing but the absence of various possessors of tired legs was more understandable. The four of us that did appear did the best we could, but were thankful when the time came to retire to the allotments ‘hut’. Counting our blessings didn’t take long since they consisted of little more than hot Yorkshire tea and a surfeit of doughnuts. The hot drink was especially appreciated given that, although the blue skies were back, there was a decided nip in the morning air once we had scraped the ice from our car windscreens.

Not for the first time our thoughts quickly turned to the teaching profession. We are surely not alone in believing that our teachers are a key part of society – can there be a more important task than that of preparing the next generation for the task of sorting out the mess that our so-called leaders have made of today’s world? And yesterday’s publication of an open letter from 1,200 teachers tells an appalling story. A mass exodus from the profession is underway. The letter talks of ” unbearable stress, longer hours and suffocating bureaucracy” which are combining to “bleed the profession dry”. It seems that nearly four in ten teachers now quit before completing a year in the classroom. Even worse the number who complete their training but never enter the ckassroom at all has tripled in the past six years – from 3,600 in 2006 to 10,800 in 2012. Additionally, huge numbers are retiring early. And it’s all because of the pressure and stress of the job.

One of our members, Tom, is a former teacher who keeps in close touch with his former school. He tells us that the “constant monitoring of Big Brother Ofsted” and the new obsession with exam results and league tables has changed the whole emphasis of teaching. The profession has become the most observed, monitored, assessed in the country. Professionals who once dedicated themselves to the development of youngsters are now obliged to dedicate themselves to filling in forms and ticking boxes. Young teachers tell Tom that they “fear the Sunday emails and the notice board in the staff room which lists the many ‘observations’ that are coming up”. They go on to spend such free time as they have worrying about the work that they “should be doing”. Evenings and holidays are consumed by preparation for the next job-threatening visit by busybodies with clipboards. The search for knowledge to inspire pupils has been replaced by a rat-race for survival.

Yesterday Nigel Farage paid a glowing tribute to his friend Michael Gove. He is, the Ukip leader told us, a trustworthy opponent whose word is his bond. We wouldn’t know about that. All we know is that the former Education Secretary decided long ago that teachers are not to be trusted, and need to be constantly monitored and regulated. And constant monitoring involves constant checks and forms. The message is clear – produce exam results or go, devoting time to struggling pupils is not ‘productive’. Once again the message from the Westminster Bubble is we know best, just do as you are told.

Those of us more familiar with the NHS and social services know only too well that exactly the same approach is being adopted. Any GP will tell you that he or she now spends more time dealing with red-tape than with patients. And throughout it all they are being coerced into supporting an ever increasing trend toward privatisation. Latest information based on statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that 40 per cent of the contracts awarded by the new Lansley Clinical Commissioning Groups have gone to private healthcare providers. Care UK alone has received contracts worth £110m, and in an attempt to halt the erosion cash-strapped  NHS trusts are devoting countless clinical resources to preparing bids for the services that they currently provide.  As each one is lost they become increasingly less viable.

As with teachers the belief in Whitehall is that the professionals are not to be trusted, and must be guided or better still replaced by people who will jump at the sound of rustling banknotes. And the result is that every day brings promises of new initiatives, new controls. The way to win the voter’s hearts, the politicians seem to believe, is to show that we will take over day-to-day control of everything that happens. And to reinforce the implication that only they know how they lie about their supposed achievements. Does anyone really believe Jeremy Hunt when he describes the improvements he has brought about in A & E services?

Our dear leader constantly talks about the ‘chaos’ that would result from the SNP having influence in parliament, seemingly unaware that we already have chaos in every area that really matters. The first party that pledges to do less and to restore power to the people could win a landslide victory.

But don’t hold your breath. Like the Gods who allowed the Nepal massacre, only they know best! But like yesterday’s protesters let us at least try to tell them!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY:  ” No part of the education of a politician is more indispensable than the fighting of elections”…. Winston Churchill.

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Jack Monroe Twitter abuse: man re-bailed

A 22-year-old man from Yeovil was arrested after food writer, blogger and campaigner was bombarded with homophobic abuse on Twitter

A man arrested after food writer, blogger and campaigner Jack Monroe was bombarded with homophobic abuse on Twitter has been re-bailed, police said.

Monroe took a break from the social media platform after receiving messages of “hate” and “vitriol” by someone claiming to be from Ukip.

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Quotes for today!

” There was a real feel good factor when Prince George was born and hopefully people will feel that again, feel positive about the country and vote for the party that rescued the economy”…. David Cameron.

“The Conservative economic plans imply £30bn in additional cuts to a host of government departments including social care, defence, transport and law and order over the next parliament”…. Institute of Fiscal Studies.

“When we investigated the Bradford  fire three people admitted to dropping a lighted cigarette, pipe embers and a lighted match through the gaps in the seats into the rubbish below. One of those three started the inferno”…. Police Inspector Philip Balmforth.

“Of course it’s nice for everyone involved that Aidan (Ross Poldark) is viewed as a sex symbol. But it’s getting a little bit ridiculous. I think it undermines the rest of the show”…. Heida Reed (Elizabeth).

“Most women are attracted to the simple things in life. Like men”…. Henny Youngman.

“Love is a temporary insanity curable by marriage”…. Ambrose Bierce.

“A man cannot be too careful in his choice of enemies”…. Oscar Wilde.

“If Everton were playing at the bottom of my garden, I’d draw the curtains”…. Bill Shankly.

“Boxing is a lot of white guys watching two black guys beat each other up”…. Muhammad Ali.

“The last thing England did for cricket was invent it”…. Ian Chappell.

“Have you ever pondered on the similarity between a pelican and British Gas? They can both stick their bills up their arses”…. Stephen Fry.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”…. Oscar Wilde.

“Children who have difficulty with ‘cat’ and ‘mat’ have no difficulty with four letter words”…. Pam Brown.

“We didn’t have metaphors in my day. We didn’t beat about the bush”…. Fred Truman.

“Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt”…. Mark Twain.

“The best defence against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off”…. Winston Churchill.

“Going to war over religion is basically killing each other to see who’s got the best imaginary friend”…. Richard Jeni.

“If you would know what the Lord God thinks of money, you only have to look at those to whom he gives it”…. Maurice Baring.

“Fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is”…. P.J.O’Rourke.

“Queen Elizabeth is head of a dysfunctional  family. If she lived on a council estate in Sheffield, she’d probably be in council care”…. Michael Parkinson.

DID YOU KNOW THAT…..

# In English pubs ale is ordered in pints and quarts. So in old England when customers got unruly, the bartender woukd yell “Mind your pints and quarts and settle down”. That is the origin of the phrase “Mind your Ps and Qs”

# A century or so ago a new game was invented in Scotland. It was ruled as being for “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden”. Thus the name GOLF entered the English language.

(With thanks to reader G)

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The hidden welfare massacre – who cares?

The forecast for today was wrong – so far. My fellow codgers arrived at the allotments in an assortment of rain-wear but in no time at all were back to shirt-sleeve order. Say it quietly but our polyanthus and onion beds badly need a drop of the wet stuff. However, we resolved to enjoy the sunshine whilst we could and set to work in the eager manner of a bunch of Premiership footballers checking out their bank balances.

In a sign of gratitude to Bert the Weather God we sat on the hut wall to enjoy our Yorkshire tea and doughnuts, and amused ourselves by reading the latest efforts of The Sun, Daily Mail and Torygraph. The metaphorical assassination of ‘Red Ed’ is proceeding to schedule, and we wondered just how intense it is going to become over the next week or so. Undoubtedly we will read revelations that Master Miliband is a distant cousin of Vladimir Putin, and that he and Alex Salmond are in regular contact with KGB agents living in Harley Street posing as breast enhancement specialists. We should have known, for Salmond bears a close resemblance to the stereotype Russians of 007 fame.

Meantime the Independent alone is still attempting to play the role of a serious observer of the election campaign. Today’s headline reads “Tell TheTruth”,  a report of the claim by the Institute of Fiscal Studies that all the main parties are keeping voters in the dark about their economic plans. No great surprise there, nor with the response of Gorgeous George Osborne, who paused in the middle of helping to unload barrels of beer to plead that the people “will just have to trust us”. Sadly for him the people planning to stage a mass protest tomorrow about the local privatisation of  hospital sterilisation services – yet another development not mentioned in the last manifesto – seem less than inclined to do so.

The whole charade is beginning to provide us with a good deal of ribald entertainment. But our response is both ignorant and inappropriate, for right now there are millions who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to survive. In common with many areas our local authorities are once again taking the axe to the ever-shrinking body of social workers. For some time now these overstressed souls have struggled to maintain essential services for the elderly, children in distress and the mentally ill.  As their numbers have been cut and their discretionary budgets slashed, they have paid from their own pockets for basic needs for the distressed. Case loads have grown to unmanageable levels, and many have worked unpaid into the late hours to protect their ‘clients’.

Now they are being obliged to reapply for their own jobs, and at lower rates of pay. And many with years of dedcated service behind them are being shown the door with recompense so low that  they themselves are facing a future almost as bleak as those they have tried so hard to care for. Like their nursing colleagues in the NHS most social workers feel a sense of vocation, of duty of care. Their treatment at the hands of the coalition is nothing short of a national scandal. But who cares?

Lonely and vulnerable people certainly do. They are rapidly losing the only friends they had and the prospect of yet more cuts is the final straw. It is not hard to imagine their reaction to this weeks stories of huge salary rises for NHS executives and social services directors. And reports of tax evasion and multi-million pound packages for bankers and FTSE bigwigs probably leave them wondering if the United Kingdom now comprises two entirely separate species.

We codgers are the fortunate ones, but even some of us are beginning to ‘feel the pinch’ in a nation that is supposedly in the middle of an economic miracle.  We are reluctantly coming to the view that irrespective of the outcome of the election our society is heading for civil unrest. It has always been said that riots could never happen in Britain, that no one would bother to turn up. But we begin to doubt that for our country has never in its modern history so resembled an iceberg. Above the surface all is well and increasingly prosperous, but under the surface lie millions for whom despair and deprivation is now a way of life. And without a champion people are becoming very angry.

Yes there must be austerity until the books are balanced, and those who abuse benefits must be ostracised. But a  society that enriches the ‘haves’ and slaughters the almost hidden ‘have nots’ is an unjust one. And even the law-abiding Brits have a flashpoint. And it is approaching at a frightening rate.

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Some people get so rich they lose all respect for humanity. That’s how rich I want to get”…. Rita Rudner.

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The secret life of Andrew Lansley!

Another beautiful morning. Sadly the weathermen tell us that things are about to change, so we codgers took the opportunity to follow up the hen-cleaning with some spring-cleaning. We dead-headed the daffodils, transferred  the frog spawn from the big pond to our wildlife ‘ditch – tadpoles kill fish by clinging to them – and dug up the burgeoning deep-rooted weeds. We even scattered moss to help the nest-building blackbirds. Before we retired few of us had more than a passing interest in the wildlife that share our world, now we are fervent disciples of Chris Packham. Well, almost. It has to be admitted that our devotion is somewhat more selective than his.

We hate foxes who constantly threaten our flock of hens. We hate mice who dig up our beans. We hate cats who regard our carefully raked onion-beds as the equivalent of portable Serco loos. We hate magpies who spend their spring days behaving like Jihadists as they massacre the offspring of other birds. Come to think about it we are very selective in our wildlife fervour, and would be instantly disowned by Saint Chris, Bill Oddie and all if they ever came across us. But like the politicians we choose to ignore that which doesn’t fit neatly into our distorted vision. The only food-chain we subscribe to is our consumption of doughnuts, and we feel smug and secure in out little version of the world of nature.

Well, almost secure. Every now and then something happens outside of the allotments gates that causes us to pause and throw up our arthritic paws in horror. The latest example was the story told by Tom, who has just returned from a holiday in Spain. His plane was late in arriving at Manchester airport, and to the astonishment of him and several hundred other passengers the passport checkers had gone home. Everyone was free to stroll into the country without challenge. It seems that our “crackdown” on terror and illegal immigration  ends at midnight. Not very reassuring is it?

As we settled in the allotments ‘hut’ the story reminded us of last night’s Evan Davies interview with Nigel Farage. The previous leader’s sessions with Clegg, Cameron and Miliband had, we felt, been conducted fairly and thoroughly and provided BBC viewers with a chance to assess both characters and policies. Last night the mask of objective journalism slipped. Davies was clearly hell-bent on proving that the Ukip leader is a rabid racist, and what should have been a thoughtful exploration of the fledgling party’s manifesto turned into a bad-tempered row. Incredibly the subject of EU membership was never raised, and since Ukip is the only party advocating this it seemed proof positive that what Farage likes to call the “London liberal elitists” are still in the driving seat at Broadcasting House. And his complaint that his interviewer had not similarly peppered his political opponents with comments made by some of their loopy local councillors seemed well founded.

Since polls tell us that a significant percentage of the electorate harbours doubts about the cost of EU membership it was a disappointing experience. We all realise that most of the newspapers are engaged in a campaign of lies and propaganda, but we had  hitherto taken comfort from the thought that the good old Beeb was above such skulduggery. It seems that we were wrong.

Meantime with a few honourable exceptions the papers are dancing to the pipes of the Downing Street spin-doctors. It is becoming increasingly clear that we are going to hear little more about the national debt, proposed cuts to social services, defence or the NHS destruction. Instead we are to be bombarded with images of not-so-Red Ed sitting in Alex Salmond’s pocket. For those who believe in the integrity of the United Kingdom it is dangerous stuff. Childish too – yesterday our dear leader seized on a throwaway comment by Salmond about his having written the Labour Party budget. It was of course intended as a joke.

What the papers have failed to cover is yesterday’s ruling by the High Court that Government departments cannot rely on exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act to hide details of ministerial diaries from public scrutiny. The judge accused Sir Alex Allan, advisor to the Prime Minister, of a “determination to avoid directly conceding the indefensibility of things he had said”, and of a lack of objectivity. The court hearings came about after the Department of Health rejected a request under the Act for the diaries of the former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to be released. The period requested covered the period when Mr Lansley was working on the contentious Health and Social Care Act, which campaigners have long suspected was the subject of intense lobbying by private healthcare interests.

Ministers responded to the judgement by making it clear that they are now “considering next steps and will not be releasing information before the general election”. Nothing could be more certain, for there is little doubt that Lansley’s diary will reveal many an appointment with companies who have since made successful bids for NHS services.

As if on cue we have a classic example of an outcome of Lansley’s obsession with privatisation. Our local roads carry police warnings of road closures on Saturday to allow for a mass protest march by NHS staff. It seems that last week it was announced – without consultation – that sterilisation services are to be transferred to the private sector. As a former chairman of the Foundation Trust involved I am very aware of the serious implications of even the smallest failure in sterilisation. To put these in the hands of a for-profit enterprise sounds dangerous in the extreme. Presumably the aim is to reduce costs, but since a private provider has to make profit one can only assume that this will only be made possible by paying lower wages. And lower wages could lead to  lower standards.

With or without diary revelations the secret machinations of Andrew Lansley are being revealed, and all those who treasure the NHS have more to worry about than Alex Salmond’s sense of humour!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ”  Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realise that it bears a very close resemblance to the first”…. Ronald Reagan.

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IRA informer accuses police of abandoning him to die

Case of Marty McGartland, who says he survived two attempts on his life by republicans, is one of 20 being examined as part of Stakeknife inquiry

The only informer ever to have survived an IRA execution squad has accused the police services in Northern Ireland of abandoning him to be killed. The allegations by Marty McGartland, who escaped an IRA interrogation in 1991 by jumping out of a window in west Belfast, will form part of a new inquiry by the police ombudsman into one of the most controversial episodes of the Troubles.

The inquiry will focus on the role of a double agent known as Stakeknife, who ran the republican movement’s so-called “nutting squad”, or counter-intelligence section. Around 20 cases will be examined where the security forces in Northern Ireland stand accused of failing to rescue “prisoners”.

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Wake up – single party governance is history!

The psychological effect of a few days of wall-to-wall sunshine is startling. As we trooped onto the  allotments this morning it felt as though once again someone had switched on the lights in a usually dark place. The bank of tulips was transformed from a half-hidden shadow into a glorious display, and the camellias into a defiant blaze of burning reds. A sense of peace and well-being enveloped us, and even Albert had ceased his habitual moaning. Even the hens seemed less reluctant to leave their coops, and as we cleaned out it truly felt as though all as well with the world.

With horrifying numbers of desperate migrants floating in the Mediterranean, and half of the world engaged in bloody conflict that of course is a fantasy but it felt good  whilst it lasted. Which was only up to the moment when we gathered in the allotments ‘hut’ for our break, which as always extended beyond even that of the Sun-readers who are establishing a new world record for the length of time taken to dig a hole in the nearby road. We found ourselves wondering if they realise that over the next fortnight they are to be subjected to the greatest example of brainwashing since the days of Adolf.

Perhaps only the naive such as us were shocked to read in the few Dailies that retain some sense of objectivity that Rupert Murdoch has ordered his editors to orchestrate an attack on Ed Miliband capable of making his treatment of Neil Kinnock look honest by comparison. Find mud, invent mud and fling it, the Labour leader had the audacity to oppose the News Corp takeover of BSkyB and the day of reckoning has arrived. Over the next two weeks the Murdoch press and the Torygraph, acting on the orders of its tax-exile owners, will conduct an onslaught on democracy. Their friends in Downing Street will provide the ammunition, they will fire it.

And already we can see the main thrust. Stay off the slaughter of the NHS, the breakdown of planned cuts and our inadequate defences. Focus instead on the imaginary nightmare in which Ed Miliband sits nervously in Number 10 awaiting his orders from  Nicola Sturgeon. Yesterday our dear leader fired the first shots by gleefully predicting a ‘Labour wipe-out in Scotland, clearly having forgotten that he can expect at best a single MP in the land of the haggis-eaters. The story is of course a fantasy since the idea that the SNP would dare to bring down a Labour government and consequently install a Conservative one is ludicrous. If it did that its support in Scotland would melt at the speed of an ice-cube tucked into a wrestler’s jock-strap.

But we believe that there is a greater truth. The old-guard political system of a two-party monopoly is dead, single-party governance is history. Most of us watched not-so-Red Ed in his interview with Evan Davies on Monday, and we quickly realised why his opponents have abandoned the ‘Mr Bean’ line of insult. But even he is, in our view, being far too timid in acknowledging that the public is open to an entirely new approach. With the exception of a few barmy geezers in Bacup no one believes any longer that all wisdom rests with two political parties. A truly brave Ed would have said: ” I know we won’t win a majority. That’s what the public mood is, who am I to denounce it? So here’s where I agree with the SNP, and here’s where I disagree.  And here’s where I agree with the Greens and Lib Dems, and Plaid Cymru and the DLP. Here’s where I could even get some Ukip members on board”.

“Somewhere, somehow, if I get the most votes or MPs, I will commit myself to working out a proper vote-by-vote consensus that commands a majority on each vote”. And he could have gone even further by adding “And here’s where Labour and Tories agree, and where we cannot agree. If I lead the largest block of MPs I will commit to finding as much common ground with as many MPs from the other side of the House as I can”.

Crazy? Utopian? Just think about it. The public has had its fill of two-party conflict and negativity. It we are to take a fresh look at how our constitution works, this boldest of moves becomes a necessity. If the electorate is prepared to vote for a grand coalition of ideas, then the true leader is the one who offers a grand coalition that transcends parties.

Anyone with time on their hands and prepared to read through the various manifestos would recognise that all contain some good ideas amongst the make-believe. Right now the country is heading into unprecedented division and widespread disillusion. What works in many the countries could work for us, It is surely time for a new approach.

Some may respond by pointing out that we have just endured a coalition. Wrong. A coalition in which the junior partner simply nods dutifully is not a coalition of ideas. Others will talk of tails wagging dogs. But our ambition should surely be to create something better than a tailless cur.

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” No single party has the answers. The leaders won’t admit it but we need a coalition of ideas”…Armando Iannucci, Independent.

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Quotes for a sunny Tuesday!

” Murdoch has instructed The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times to be much more aggressive in their attacks on Labour and far more positive about Conservative achievements in the run up to polling day. The Labour leader is to receive a full ‘Kinnocking’ “…. Adam Sherwin, Independent.

” A death toll of 700 makes this the most statistically shocking disaster yet. You could call it a ‘tragedy’ if its roots lay less in political obfuscation and failure”…. Memphis Barker.

” What Sturgeon said yesterday was a statement of the obvious. In a hung parliament an army of SNP MPs would hold some sway. If there was a minority Tory government it would make Cameron’s life even more hellish than it is already doomed to be as he renegotiates the UK’s membership of the EU”…. Steve Richards.

” People with recurrent depression who were asked to take part in mindfulness-based group therapy sessions wee just as likely to go two years without a relapse as those taking a course of antidepressant drugs”…. Report in Lancet.

“The Royal Navy should be sent to the Mediterranean to help with the crisis, and Britain should accept refugees”….. Nigel Farage.

” The Prime Minister has shattered support for the Union in the wake of the independence referendum by raising the prospect of English votes for English laws and limiting the power of Scotland’s MPs. It is a dangerous view which threatens the integrity of our country”…. Lord Forsyth, Tory peer.

” If I were a girl, I’d despair . The supply of good women far exceeds that of the men who deserve them”…. Robert Graves.

” Definition of a gentleman: someone who knows how to play the bagpipes, but doesn’t”…. Al Cohn.

” Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home”…. Phyllis Diller.

“I believe that sex is the most natural, and wholesome thing that money can buy”…. Steve Martin.

” There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore looking like an idiot”…. Steven Wright.

” A natural death is where you die without the aid of a doctor”….. Mark Twain.

” The crowds cheered me as I passed by, but they would be just as noisy if they were going to see me hanged”…. Oliver Cromwell.

” It is easy to understand why the most beautiful poems about England in the spring were written by poets living in Italy at the time”…. Philip Dunne.

” The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”…. Winston Churchill.

” I don’ mind how much my ministers talk, so long as they do what I say”…. Margaret Thatcher.

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Children die as EU fails its first collective challenge!

There was a light frost overnight, a timely reminder that this beautiful spell of weather is unseasonable, and that it is far too early to plant out tender plants. We codgers subscribe to the theory that the high pressure over the UK is a result of all the hot air being generated by our loopy politicians. Normal weather should resume on 8th May. Meantime our inclination is to vote for any party that stops talking rubbish, and instead does something about the rubbish that lines the verges of our local roads.

Today the Daily Torygraph leads a chorus from the right-wing press about a secret plot by the SNP to hold not-so-Red Ed to ransom. Even to non-Etonian minds such as ours it sounds improbable. Were Nicola and her friends to bring down a Labour government, and in so doing install a Tory one, their support in Scotland would dissolve at the speed of an ice-cube tucked into a jockey’s armpit. Back to the drawing board for the spin-doctors!

As we cleaned out the squabbling hens this morning we wondered if there is any point in listening to anything that any of the increasingly desperate election contestants say. According to our dear leader we are witnessing an economic miracle matched only by the parting of the Red Sea. Yet we learn today that the number of people using food banks has risen to 913,138. Employment may be up, but it seems that low pay and zero-hours contracts are hitting working families hard, not to mention cuts to social security support particularly in tax credits and child benefits. Meantime the opposition has promised to bar migrants who cannot speak English, particularly those wishing to join the NHS in clinical roles. The inference is that right now there are vast numbers of doctors and nurses who speak in only their native tongue. That sounds as improbable as the economic miracle.

But by the time we reached the allotments ‘hut’ for our daily feast such twaddle had already drifted from our consciousness together with the smoke from Albert’s bonfire. Our minds had returned to the subject we write about on Saturday – the appalling plight of migrants fleeing the Isis beheaders in Libya. Little did we realise then that within 24 hours the greatest tragedy of them all would occur. Yesterday over 700 men, women and children drowned as the flimsy boat operated by unspeakable exploiters capsized en route for the Italian coast.

It seems but months ago since our TV screens were filled with pictures of David Cameron standing in Martyr’s Square in Tripoli rejoicing in the outcome of the UK’s part in toppling Gadaffi. Britain, he declared, “is Libya’s true friend, one that will stand fearlessly beside you  as you embrace democracy”. Like Blair in the case of Iraq, he failed utterly to consider the liklely aftermath, and in no time at all extremists had taken over. Cue the blind eye, cue the pictures of tiny bodies floating in a sea of despair.

Last year the UK government turned its back on the situation it had created, a decision doubtless reinforced by the reduction of our Navy to the point where we have no ships to offer the beleaguered Italians, the geographically inevitable target of the desperate and frightened. It in turn scrapped its reasonably successful Mare Nosrum naval missions because other European countries failed to contribute to the  $9.7m a month running costs. It was replaced by an EU-funded mission, known as Triton, which operates at a fraction of the cost and is totally inadequate. Libya’s “greatest friend Britain” together with most EU countries has refused to contribute, using the specious argument that rescue missions and patrols in the Mediterranean would act as an incentive to try the perilous journey. One only has to see the latest Isis video of the murders of Christians in Libya to realise that any chance of a new life is better than  the alternative.

Today the foreign ministers of the EU are holding an emergency meeting to explore the options. If the sanctity of human life has any meaning there is only one. To give a lead the British government must immediately reverse its opposition to EU search and rescue missions in the Med.  And the EU must demonstrate that it is capable of acting in unison. Does this vast bureaucratic body have any merit at all? We are about to find out. Meantime our Prime Minister must drop the illusion that we remain a world leader, a role that involves a good deal more than triumphant triggering of military intervention and then closing our eyes to the consequences. Cost? We love to boast of the largest overseas budget in the world- we should try spending it wisely.

Perhaps instead of headlining ludicrous stories about Nigel Farage refusing the challenge of a duel, we should pause to reflect on what he is saying about the EU and our inadequate armed forces?

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean, and if the EU and the world continue to close their eyes, it will be judged in the harshest terms, as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides”…. Joseph Muscat, Maltese Prime Minister.

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QUOTES FOR SUNDAY!

” I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me”…. Hunter S Thompson.

“Despite his Scottish travails and the loss of his poll lead, Ed Miliband’s chances of occupying 10 Downing Street after May 7th  still look better than those of  David Cameron”…. Prof John Curtice.

“The picture of the Queen posing with members of the most prestigious honour she can bestow in a line up of distinguished old crocks (including just one woman) makes a persuasive case for a republican future”…. Janet Street-Porter.

“The selfie is a practice that’s often extremely ridiculous and grotesque”…. Thierry Fremaux.

“The single issue that cleaves me to Labour, even this Labour, is social division. The gap between the rich and poor has grown almost exponentially and Labour is the only party with the instinct, or predilection, to address that problem” …. Rod Little.

“What do you think of Volkswagens? I’ve been in bigger women”…. Harry Kurnitz.

“Now I’m no longer President, I find I no longer win every game of golf I play”…. George Bush Senior.

“The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself”….. Charles Dickens.

“A lot of people are into body piercing. They end up looking like they’ve been mugged by a staple gun”…. Robin Williams.

“Being a Catholic doesn’t stop you from sinning. It just stops you from enjoying it”…. Cleveland Amory.

“Nothing arouses more false hopes than the first four hours of a diet”…. Nora Ephron.

“Beware of the man who picks your dresses. He wants to wear them”….Erica Jong.

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat”…. Lily Tomlin.

Life would be infinitely happier if we could be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18″…. Mark Twain.

“There, but for the grace of God, goes God”…. Winston Churchill.

“The mind is a superb instrument if used properly. The problem is that for most of the time it uses us”…. Ekhrat Tolle.

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Turning a blind eye to appalling tragedy!

The joy of Spring is that every morning brings fresh discoveries. The dormant primroses are back with us, the tulips are taking over from the daffodils and the birds are gathering straw left lying around near the the hen-runs. In the greenhouses the sweet peas are clambering from the compost, and the geraniums are beginning their journey toward majestic beauty. Most exciting of all we spotted a shoal of tiny fish in the allotments big pond this morning. Now we face our annual challenge of preventing the less-than-proud parents from eating them. Forget the artificial connivances of an election campaign, our allotments refuge is alive again , and we old codgers have spring in our steps. All is well!

But try as we may we cannot avoid the darkening influence of man’s inhumanity to man, and as we gathered in the ‘hut’ for our daily tribute to the patron saint of doughnut eaters, the mighty Eric Pickles we couldn’t dismiss from our minds an appalling spectacle. On Monday, 144 people were rescued by the Italian coastguard when the boat on which they were fleeing Libya capsized in the Mediterranean.  Arriving homeless and without prospects in a strange land, these were – relatively speaking – the lucky ones. As many as 400 are thought to have drowned. Add them to the tally. Thousands of desperate fellow human beings have suffered horrendous deaths trying to get to the West. It has become a phenomenon of our time.

We hear little about life in the supposedly liberated  Libya, but the fact that entire families are willing to risk the treacherous crossing gives a fair idea. Were the survivors being scooped out of the sea by the British coastguard, rather than the Italians, it might focus our minds on just how things have developed since David Cameron stood in Martyr’s Square in Tripoli and declared that Libyans had “no greater friend than the United Kingdom…We will stand with you every step of the way”. But we did nothing of the sort, it was judged to be too expensive. The new government in Tripoli failed to control the insurgent groups that flourished during our joint campaign against Gaddafi and now they are firmly established, waging bloody turf wars. The resulting chaos created the space for the beheading madmen of Isis to grow. One of its recent videos from the region showed 21 Egyptians being decapitated on the shores of the Mediterranean.

As Libya collapses into violence, its great friends in London and Washington have effectively turned a blind eye to the bloody outcome of what they started. As in Iraq, the ultimate victors look like being Islamic fundamentalists – from whom Libyans are now trying to flee in vast numbers. Italy, the closest European country, is taking almost all of the strain.

In many ways, Cameron made the same errors in Libya that Blair made in Iraq. He sent in forces to help remove a hated dictator, and did so on the premise that Britain is a country that shapes the world for the better. He trumpeted the elctions that followed, made a visit to the country he had helped to liberate – and then looked the other way as it slipped into merciless anarchy. As with Blair, initial bravado concealed a woeful lack of planning for the aftermath. The difference with Iraq is that there were no British casualties so the episode is easier to forget. We don’t have to live with the consequences. The Libyans do.

The election campaign has plenty to say about immigration from eastern Europe. Yet none of the parties have said what, if anything, they intend to do to help solve the nightmare of drowning innocents fleeing from the nightmare which we helped to create. Writing large cheques for overseas aid is no substitute for the support offered by a proper military. The Tory-Labour consensus on shrinking the military can only mean more botched jobs. Why is the Royal Navy ( and the navies of France and Spain) not offering to join the Italians in patrolling the waters and helping to save the lives of children? All these countries joined the 2011 bombing campaigns: do they not have a moral duty to deal with what has ensued?

Sadly we no longer have a navy, and these are not easy decisions to make. That David Cameron went in twelve months from proposing air strikes on President Assad of Syria to backing strikes on Assad’s enemies shows just what a quagmire foreign policy has become. But when choosing a leader we have the right to know how they will exert leadership. Cameron was right: Libya deserves friendship. Those who aspire to be Prime Minister should take just one day out from lying about their opponents to spell out just what our friendship is supposed to mean and how without adequate armed forces we propose to honour it.

It would be nice to close our eyes to those pictures of overloaded flimsy boats and the faces of bewildered and terrified children, of tiny bodies drifting in angry seas. But have we really sunk this low? If so we should withdraw from the fantasy of being a world power and stop triggering the living nightmares of others!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY:” We have heard about the renewal of Trident,  yet nothing about how the parties would approach a humanitarian problem like Libya. Why not?”…. Spectator,18/4/2105.

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Quotes past and present!

“At bank, post office or supermarket, there is one universal law which you ignore at your peril: The shortest queue moves the slowest”…. Bill Vaughan.

“Anyone who says he isn’t going to resign four times, definitely will”…. J.K.Galbraith.

“Fishing is a jerk on one end of the line waiting for a jerk on the other end of the line”…. Michael Palin.

“While playing golf today I hit two good balls. I stepped on a rake”…. Henny Youngman.

“You can make a lot of money out of golf. Ask any of my ex-wives”…. Lee Travino.

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work”…. Peter Drucker.

“The council election in Bolton has been done by e-mail, and was won by Click Here For Penis Enlargement”…. Armando Ianucci.

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said”…. Mark Twain.

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

“When I hear someone sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’…. Sydney Harris.

“If there is anything a public servant hates to do it’s doing something for the public”….. Kin Hubbard.

“Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s precisely the opposite”…. J.K.Galbraith.

“Governments are like underwear. They need to be changed often and for the same reason”…. Italian proverb.

“Government is to life what pantyhose are to sex”…. P.J.O’Rourke.

“Generally speaking, politicians are generally speaking”…. John Sergeant.

“If your husband has difficulty in getting to sleep, the words, ‘We need to talk about our relationship’ may help”…. Rita Rudner.

“Hegel set out his philosophy with so much obscurity that people thought it must be profound”…. Bertrand Russell.

“If I were your wife I’d put poison in your coffee. If I were your husband I’d drink it”…. Nancy Astor & Winston Churchill.

“It’s clearly a budget. It’s got lots of numbers in it”…. George.W.Bush.

“Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable”…. J.K.Galbraith.

“Climate change means that the world is heading for an unavoidable disaster that will pose grave problems for all aspects of society well before the end of the next parliament. Yet we see little or no discussion of it by any of the main political parties during this election campaign”….. Prof. Peter Wadhams.

“There’s one fundamental choice at this election. Do we carry on with the Conservative plan that says we put the richst and the most powerful first?”…. Ed Miliband.

“”Ed, we have a chance to kick David Cameron out of Downing Street. Don’t turn your back on it, people will never forgive you”…. Nicola Sturgeon.

“I believe we would be so much better off if we governed ourselves, controlled our borders. This is the chance for the most radical political change for decades”…. Nigel Farage.

“There’s someone here on this platform who wants to demonise immigrants. I want to celebrate them,”…. Natalie Bennett.

“It is a disgrace that David Cameron is not here to defend his record”…. Nicola Sturgeon.

“The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything”…. Oscar Wilde.

“it’s time to have a woman in the Oval Office”…. Hilary Clinton  “Been there, done that!”…. Bill Clinton.

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Quotes for Thursday!

“Life is full of misery, loneliness, unhappiness and suffering, and its over far too soon”…Woody Allen.

“Life is good and bad. Mostly and.”… Diogenes.

“On the keyboard of life, always keep one finger on the escape key”… Scott Adams.

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

“Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t take part in Halloween because it’s against their religion. They don’t like it when strangers come to their doors  and bother them”… Bruce Clark.

“Between me and Rudyard Kipling, we cover all knowledge; he knows all that can be known, and I know the rest”… Mark Twain.

“Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex”… Karl Marx.

“When you give a child a hammer, everything becomes a nail”… Leo Kaplan.

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t”… Margaret Thatcher.

“My deepest thought about politicians is that they are dangerous lunatics to be avoided when possible and caerfully humoured”… W.H.Auden.

“Online petitions are the modern equivalent of a mob”… Simon Kelner.

“Whenever a friend succeeds, a little piece of me dies”… Gore Vidal.

“As prime minister I would repeal Andrew Lansley’s disastrous Health & Social Care Act. His ‘reforms’ were a fatal blow to the health service Aneurin Bevan conceived in 1948″… Richard Horton.

“A warm, safe, affordable home is central to to our health and prosperity and i is a failure of politics that so many people do not have one”… David Orr.

“That Nick Clegg can have the gall to present himself as an honest broker in any future coalition shows that he has yet to confront the delusion that the electorate will actually believe any of the promises he makes”… Mark Edmondson, Lancaster.

“Well done ‘Independent’ headlining a possible Alzheimer’s cure , rather than the latest manifesto from a political party”… Maynard Hall, Cumbria.

“People with properties worth £2 million and above are fearful of any form of mansion tax, so they are sitting tight rather than moving to bigger properties. That is putting a cork in the top end of the market”… Clarke Gammon Wellers, Guildford estate agents.”

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Right-to-buy pledge is a dangerous gimmick!

The Good Life. Oh yes we all remember Richard and his back yard, indeed his fictional self-sufficiency may well have played its part in inspiring our group of retired codgers to first form our allotments group and to embark  on a new way of life centred around chickens and runner beans. At a stroke a group of former ‘grey suits’ became sons of the earth, members of the working classes. Now as we rise early to clean out creatures we had previously encountered only in the deep freeze at Tesco, we regularly ask ourselves just how good is the good life. And today we wonder just how wise is our dear leader who has, it seems, suddenly experienced a conversion of similar magnitude.

Perhaps startled by the sudden conversion of not-so-Red Ed into a creature of financial prudence, David Cameron mounted the rostrum yesterday to launch his party’s new persona. Gone were the ‘nasty party’ tales of back-stabbing Milibands, in fact the contender for the perks of power was not even mentioned. Instead we had the assurance that, like the rest of us, Old Etonians are more than capable of giving all that they have to the poor and then dwelling amongst them. The spin-doctors had earned their corn, and the glossy manifesto he waved aloft included everything that any skint soul could ever desire. How it can all be funded was left for another day, but we were assured in a manner that even Alec Guinness could never have matched that manifesto pledges are just that. Only a curmudgeon like Albert would doubt the word of a gentleman turned Sun reader.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and the part that most impressed the rest of us was the resurrection of of the grocer’;s daughter from Grantham. In the late 1970s and ’80s “Right to Buy” was arguably the single most important policy to propel Margaret Thatcher to three successive general election victories. Between 1982 and 1987, more than a million council houses were sold to their tenants – creating a generation of blue collar workers who shifted their political allegiance from Labour to the Conservatives. Faced with an election stalemate our dear leader dusted off the old triumph.

As we gathered in the ‘hut’ for our elevenses taken at nine we wondered if the back-stabbers turned economic gurus are this morning trembling in their new Hush Puppies. Admittedly the Thatcher-revisited plan this time involves housing association properties, but that nuance apart the detail is the same – tenants will be able to buy their homes at a substantial discount funded by the treasury. Sadly the idea appears to be less totemic than was once the case. Of the two million council-owned properties currently eligible for their owners to buy at a discount of as much as 70 per cent of the market value, only 33,000 have been sold since 2012. It is of course true that those who live in housing association properties have never had the option to buy them – so pent-up demand is likely to be greater.

But equally it may be that even with the generous discounts the restrictions in the mortgage market and continuing economic uncertainty may put off potential buyers, particularly those enduring zero-contract employment. But the far bigger question is whether the new policy would make the substantial housing crisis – not an issue for the ‘Iron Lady’ – even worse. Experts and leaders of the housing associations lost no time in rushing to the cameras to answer in the affirmative. It is, they cried, the “politics of the madhouse”.

The National Housing Association said that the policy could cost up to £5.8bn a year because compensation would have to be paid to housing associations for forcing them to offer housing stock to tenants at well below-market rates. Even more certain is the onward sale of the properties to landlord speculators, who would charge inflated rents leading to a sharp increase in benefits payments. There is significant evidence for this – the vast majority of the houses sold off by Thatcher are now in the hands of private landlords. The less sympathetic critics saw the plan as a way of getting more property into the portfolios of wealthy landlords.

One thing is certain. The effect of sales would be to increase the already horrendously long housing waiting lists. Talk of one-for-one replacements ring hollow for only 10 per cent of the number of houses lost as a result of the previous policy have been offset by new building. And given the projected huge increase in population, for which only the dashing Farage offers a solution, the prospect for families seeking accommodation will be bleak indeed.

Our newly converted leader of the working classes was probably feeling somewhat miffed as he tucked into his muesli this morning. No gratitude and a lot of criticism for his gesture toward his new social comrades. And to crown his wrath Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, chose to announce that the Tories had given “almost no sense at all about how they will make cuts to welfare services to pay for their generosity”. No knighthood for him.

In the interest of political balance we should perhaps add that the two Eds, the new economic wizards, also seem to be struggling in the detail department. To quote John Major, in his pre-Edwina period, it is time to get back to basics. Right now no one amongst us good-lifers is believing a single word that you say gentlemen.

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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” The broad mass of a nation will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one”….Adolf Hitler.

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No ifs or buts – drink driving is lunacy!

Come on sun, stop hiding behind those clouds. Whenever we travel by air we are reminded that just a thin layer of muck so often separates us from utopia, and this morning was no exception. Perhaps the vote-seeking politicians should add a pledge to confine clouds to the hours of darkness – it would be no more improbable than all the other pledges they are pouring forth.

It is going to be difficult to record on a daily basis the reactions of my fellow codgers to the ever more strident election campaign. Everyone on the allotments seem to have lost interest and this morning there was  scarcely a comment about the latest antics. Even the Daily Torygraph’s banner headline about our dear leader being a member of the working classes raised little more than a titter, and not-so-Red Ed’s declaration that he is ready to run the country earned less attention than the fact that Kevin Pieterson hammered the hapless students of Oxford University.

Considering that the parties today spend a zillion times the amount once devoted to electioneering  the degree of disinterest on the part of the plebs is puzzling. But finding an explanation is not difficult. Gone are those raucous public meetings where the yelling of insults was sheer joy for those who normally had to confine their wit to football referees. In their place we now have whistle-stop tours choreographed more carefully than the Phantom of the Opera. Potential audiences are studiously vetted and every word uttered  by the stars scripted and mulled over by an army of spin-doctors. What our  TV pictures don’t show  are the rehearsals. A few days ago Nick Clegg descended from heaven to dwell amongst us briefly, and that scene in which his arrival was greeted by a crowd which leapt up and down in apparent excitement was rehearsed four times.

The chance of a leader being waylaid as was Grumpy Gordon by a “bigot” is now akin to a clothes-horse winning the National. It seems to us that the chance of any of the nonsense winning a single vote is near-zero. Only a visit by the less-organised Nigel Farage provides any prospect of rumbustious scenes, and even those have been hijacked by Tory and Labour activists who seem to believe that bullying his children is fair game.

But as we retired to the hut for our daily re-creation of the Feast of St Pickles our minds were focussed elsewhere. Yesterday several of us witnessed the aftermath of an appalling pile-up on a local main road. As we  came to a halt in the traffic logjam we watched in horror the spectacle of paramedics attempting to extract small children from wrecked cars whilst dazed adults set up a cacophony of screaming. A police officer walked down the queue of blocked cars and told us that the driver of the car that triggered the mayhem had tested positive for excessive alcohol consumption. How anyone in their right mind can believe other than that drinking impairs reactions and judgement defies understanding.

By coincidence today’s Independent carries an article about  concerns expressed in a Bank of Scotland report about the “negative” effect of Scotland’s tough new drink-driving legislation. It is, say the bankers, “damaging financial growth”. The new law, which took effect in December, cut the legal alcohol limit for Scottish motorists from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood. Drivers have been warned that having “no alcohol at all” is the only way to ensure they stay within the limit – and to avoid planning car journeys for the morning after a night of drinking. The effect has been a fall in bar sales of up to 60 per cent.

Paul Waterson, head of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, is quoted in the report as complaining that the new law amounted to a “form of prohibition” which attacked moderate drinking and frightened people into staying away from alcohol altogether. “It’s far worse than the smoking ban of 2006”, he complained, “it’s probably the last nail in the coffins of independent operators”. Perhaps he prefers the coffins to be used fir innocent victims of the practice? He also seems to forget that the rule only applies to drivers.

We codgers are not unsympathetic to the plight of our pubs, and we enjoy a companionable pint or two. But we detest the mindless customers who subsequently get behind the wheel of a car. We are hardly paragons of virtue but even we have sense enough on a night out to decide in advance who is going to drive home and be tonight’s consumer of  orange squash. Of course many of those who behave so madly are not pub regulars. Young drivers can buy cheap booze at supermarkets and off-licences, and until there is legislation to ban irresponsible marketing the death toll will continue.

We confess to being Nicola Sturgeon fans, but it does seem to us that she and her fellow haggis-eaters have, as in many other things, got it right on this. Laws should reflect the interests of the law-abiding majority, not those of  influential big businesses such as the brewers.

Without doubt the action on smoking has saved lives. But those saved have been only those of the former smokers, for there is no scientific evidence to support the ‘passive smoking’ scaremongering. In the case of alcohol the victims are invariably other innocent road-users. For how much longer will English politicians hesitate to follow the Scottish example?

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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”… Homer Simpson.

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Whistling in the dark!

Old habits die hard, but not it seems the one involving pursed lips. Paul McCartney once said that he knew The Beatles had really made it when he heard the milkman whistling one of the Fab Four’s hits. But it is less likely to happen these days – whistling is on the wane according to a YouGov poll covering social trends. No surprise to us since only Albert can be heard now emitting the once popular often cheerless sound. Perhaps folk have less to celebrate these days? Who knows. Certain it is that the Conservative announcement about Inheritance Tax will do nothing to encourage a new outburst on the allotments since the number owning houses valued at a cool million is decidedly thin on the ground.

I have to admit that even if we were still whistling at the start of this seemingly unending election campaign we would have decided by now to leave the art to the blackbirds which attend daily to share the hen’s corn supply. We are sick to the back teeth we haven’t got with the daily diet of policies made up on the hoof. Yesterday our dear leader paused over his lettuce slicing to announce that his latest ‘rabbit out of the hat’ involves obliging employers to provide 3 days paid leave each year to enable workers to carry out voluntary work. If volunteers are being paid are they volunteers? Either way this is an insult to the millions of retired people who devote so many hours  to voluntary work and who see themselves as important members of the charities they are committed to. And it is yet another financial and bureaucratic burden for smaller employers.

Even more pathetic is the rubbish being churned out about tax dodgers. Does any party know what percentage by value of real estate is now owned by overseas individuals, pension funds and other enterprises with exemptions from paying UK tax on rents, and precisely how much of our agricultural, commercial and industrial activity is similarly owned, with similar tax benefits granted by Gorgeous George Osborne.

All these individuals, not to mention the Sheiks who now own most of Central London, expect the UK to protect their investments through police, fire, national defence and security, yet contribute absolutely nothing to the national bill. Oh yes, and let us not forget the overseas non-taxpaying companies that own most of our power and railway franchises.

Tax dodging is now the greatest contributor to the national debt, yet the very people banging on about their economic competence do not even know the size of the leakage. And they have the gall to accuse Nicola Sturgeon of endangering the Scottish economy. The only consolation is that every new personal attack from the Westminster mafia  sends her ratings even higher.

Even as we write the various English parties are tarting up their manifestos, which few read and even fewer believe. They could save themselves the trouble. If we codgers are in any way typical the public view is that they are truly whistling in the dark!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” If God had wanted us to vote He would have given us intelligent candidates”….Jay Leno.

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We’ve fallen in love with Nicola!

The third beautiful morning on the trot greeted us as we arrived at the allotments this morning. The daffodils are making their last defiant stand in a blaze of yellow, the Camelias a burning red and the Epimediums are appearing in an array of colours capable of making Joseph’s coat look insipid. The lower pond features frog-spawn galore, with its proud parents croaking their pride, whilst the Blackbirds are gathering house-making material with renewed enthusiasm. Only Albert was disinclined to rejoice in the illuminated evidence of the birth of a new season – perhaps he was mulling over the latest research that shows that short men are way up the risk table when it comes to heart attacks. But as we pointed out in the absence of a heart he has no need to fret.

The rest of us seem to have lost ours to Nicola Sturgeon. Yes she is that rarest of political creatures – a beautiful, demure and seemingly honest advocate but the suddenly blooming infatuation of a nation that cannot vote for her is down to more than that. We believe it’s the expression of a heartfelt frustration with the way politics is being played out nationally. It’s a yearning to vote for someone other than a member of the Westminster squadron who feel they should have complete control of every aspect of the kingdom.

For decades now, Westminster has removed more and more power from local government, under the vote-grabbing headline of freedom of choice. Housing, school curriculum and testing, transport and health standards have all been micromanaged by ministers and special advisers in London. Cuts have also reduced local government budgets by 30 per cent. More and more, what happens in Barnstaple and Leeds is determined by the priorities of the occupant of 10, Downing Street. It is no surprise to us that the further you get out of London, the moe national politics fragment into a series of diverse battles, between Labour and the SNP in Scotland, Tories and Lib Dems in the south-west of England, Labour and Ukip in the North, Tories and Ukip on the south-east coast, with the Greens darting in and out of various areas.

Is this not a healthy development since it recognises a diversity of needs for different parts of the nation? We don’t see this as some apocalyptic disintegration of the UK, but instead as each part of the country beginning to reclaim its right  to argue for its own form of politics. The more Cameron threatens Britain with the prospect of a Labour and SNP pact, the more the SNP’s vote goes up in Scotland and the more Labour’s vote climbs in the rest of the UK.  While some politicians paint nationalism as a calamity, the electorate increasingly sees co-opeation between parties as liberating.

We’re asked to view Nicola Sturgeon propping up a Labour government as a negative development  on the grounds that it could lead to another referendum on Scottish independence. But that view is just one, very Westminster-centric , view of politics. Is it too much to ask that a non-Westminster scenario would have regional MPs of all parties starting to demand more power for their regions too as the price for allowing the SNP any say in the running of the UK?  If that were the case, and we arrived at a more equitable UK, power-sharing across the four nations could yet give us a more interesting, content and stable united kingdom.

As we sat on the wall with our mugs of Yorkshire’s best we began to see the increasingly strident attacks on Ms Sturgeon from the all-male cast of Cameron, Miliband and Clegg as what may hopefully be the final attempts of the Westminster bubble to hang on to centralised power and to perpetuate the belief that it is better to abuse those who hold different views than to jointly explore ideas.

Scotland is unlikely to become a completely independent nation any  time soon, but the UK’s favourite wee lassie has struck a chord with millions. If independence means freedom for individual countries and regions to run their own affairs what is wrong with it? Does anyone seriously believe that whoever enters 10, Downing Street in May really understands the priorities of areas they only deign to visit for the purpose of photo-opportunities?

But as the tide of Sturgeonism  gathers pace we can expect a last-ditch stand by the Westminster mafia. They have already tried inventing alleged comments by her in regard to the abilities of Ed Miliband. When that was disproved they brushed it aside as “part and parcel of electioneering”. Now the whole weight of the spin-doctors is being devoted to claims that she wishes to leave us “defenceless”, something the massive military cuts by the coalition have already achieved.

Our new heroine has dared to question the wisdom of reducing our armed forces to near zero,  whilst maintaining Trident nuclear submarines which cost zillions. But her question seems to us a reasonable one. The threats we will face are unlikely to be nuclear ones, and does anyone imagine other than that the massive American deterrent will always be enough to deter any nuclear madmen that emerge. And if not why would our relatively tiny fleet do so?

We don’t believe that the majority of Scottish people will ever decide to leave the United Kingdom. We do believe that they strongly demand the right to manage their own affairs and to maintain their own unique identity. And they are not alone!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY : ” Patriotism is the conviction that your country is superior to all others because you were born in it”….George Bernard Shaw.

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GP crisis – a dose of truth would be appreciated!

It was shirt-sleeves order as we  cleaned out the hens this morning, and it seems a very long time since I last reported thus. What a difference a dose of Phoebus  makes – suddenly life seems a pleasant experience rather than something akin to perpetual toothache. Even Albert seemed happier, and his tormentors the hens seem to have bucked up if the sudden increase  in the number of eggs is any indication. We can now increase our donations to one of the food banks which our dear leader assures us are a figment of the opposition’s imagination.

But scepticism about anything that politicians say is second nature to us, and any interest we had in the election campaign has already faded. Yesterday the respective leaders flew from one part of the country to the other presumably believing that the mere sight of them will whip the natives into a frenzy. We suspect that apart from  the very odd people that lined up with placards their efforts did nothing of the sort. Who believes any of them seems to be the general mood.

However as we sat on the wall – another novelty – with our mugs of Yorkshire tea one piece of political gobbledegook did catch our eye. It seems that the Labour Party has produced a poster parodying the long-gone one of their opponents which portrayed queues of plebs seeking employment. It shows equally long snakes of patients waiting to see a GP. It coincides with a letter published by 100 top doctors which describes the NHS as weaker and more fragmented than at any time in its history. They catalogue the closure of walk-in centres, A & E units, ambulance stations and GP surgeries. And we all know what has happened to mental health services.

Our dear leader responded as he left one of his flights, and given what he said we were left wondering if he had arrived from the planet Zog. It seems that the coalition has increased tenfold the number of doctors and nurses and made family doctors available around the clock. That may be true on Zog, but it certainly isn’t true in our neck of the woods where  GPs are now as rare as hen’s teeth. The only hope of gaining an appointment is to ring at 8.30 am when the phones are jammed. If you fail in this lucky dip there is only one option – to head for the hospital A & E department. We are not making a political point here, merely stating the hard facts. Our GP services are in meltdown and the remaining practitioners have only one desire. One such now regularly joins us at the allotments, having leapt from the chaos at 55, thankful to be still relatively sane.

We don’t believe for one moment that the doctors now going public about their despair are playing politics. The vast majority of them devoted many years to studying medicine and feel a great commitment to the treatment of the sick. But the meddling of successive governments has turned a caring profession into a living nightmare of top-down bureaucracy and ever-increasing waiting times. And they are sick and tired of being used as political footballs. The failure of any political party to offer positive solutions is proving to be the last straw.

Even this morning’s news that Danny Alexander, the deputy to the Chancellor over the past five years, is predicting that child benefits for 4 million families face the axe is of no greater magnitude than the loss of the reassurance that every family has always treasured – that if disaster strikes the NHS is at hand.

Never mind, we are assured that prices of everything are going down. Clearly SuperDrug has not been told. Yesterday I bought a packet of Olbas pastilles the price of which has climbed by 30 per cent in just one month. So we don’t believe that tale either. But in the cause of truthfulness the Labour Party has brought back its greatest exponent of the virtue.

Tony Blair is back and, hey, if that doesn’t impress you nothing will!

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QUOTE FOR TODAY ; ” I’m frank, brutally frank. And even when I’m not frank, I look frank!”….Lord Thomson of Fleet.

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Quotes for today!

” Sometimes the sins you haven’t committed are all you have left to hold on to”….David Sedaris

” The Tory campaign talks of chaos should Labour win.  Think of the chaos produced by the possibility, never mind the reality, of Britain quitting Europe. Jobs that are secure suddenly insecure; investment decisions postponed or cancelled; a pall of unpredictability hanging over the British economy”….Tony Blair.

“Our research indicates that even small amounts of vigorous activity could reduce your risk of early death. The benefits of  vigorous exercise extend to people with weight problems and pre-existing cardiovascular disease”….Klaus Gebel, Cook University in Queensland.

” I appeal to Ukip voters to ‘come home’. I totally understand the frustration people have felt about issues like immigration where they want more done, and we will do more. And I understand the frustration about the EU – where the country deserves a referendum – and with me as PM they’ll get that referendum”….David Cameron.

“The best advice to people considering their pension pot is leave it there, do nothing. There are huge tax  benefits from having the money in the pension. The idea is you CAN take your money out, not that you SHOULD take your money out. There is no rush”….Ros Altmann, pensions expert.

“If you live to be 90 in England and can still eat a boiled egg, they think you deserve the Nobel Prize”….Alan Bennett.

“It’s official. I’m middle-aged. I don’t need drugs any more. I can get the same effect by just standing up real fast”….Jonathan Katz.

“I have too much respect for the truth to drag it out on every trifling occasion”….Mark Twain.

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Quotes for Easter Monday!

“The Conservatives have swithered around from one thing to the next. Cutting corporation tax, introducing the marriage tax allowance, the shares for rights scheme, cutting the 50p rate. They are now trying to take the credit for raising the tax-free allowance, something that only happened because the Lib Dems put it on the agenda”….Danny Alexander.

“The fact that the Labour Party, a party that campaigned for the Union in the referendum, is contemplating an arrangement with the SNP, who want to break up the country, is deeply disturbing”….George Osborne.

“When politicians pillory bishops and others for daring to invade the territory they regard as their private preserve, they are suggesting that there are some areas of God’s world that are out of bounds to Him. That is as absurd as it sounds”….Dr John Sentamu.

“We want to go back to that original vision of a Sandhurst for head teachers., talent-spotting and supporting people to take the step from deputy to head”…..Tristram Hunt.

“There have been so many martyrs in the last year”….Archbishop of Canterbury.

“The costs of dealing with Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia, has risen to a staggering £26bn a year. But this is a drop in the ocean compared to obesity which is estimated to cost the NHS nearly £47bn”….Stefano Hadfield.

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside”….Mark Twain

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When Friends Fall Out!

God is going to have his work cut out. In his Easter sermon the Archbishop of Canterbury prayed for peace in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, the Congo and Nigeria. No one could disagree, but we codgers have long held to the view that God helps those who help themselves, and we hang on to the hope that the UN will discover its backbone. The only answer to the barbaric madmen of Isis is a worldwide force capable of smashing them out of existence. It is also worth noting that today Lebanese Muslims and Christians, though still politically deeply divided, are protecting each other. Why? Because they value education, knowledge and books. And from education comes justice. It is no coincidence that Isis and their ilk regard schools as their greatest threat.

As we cleaned out the hens on this Easter Monday we found ourselves mulling over for the umpteenth time the possibility of a powerful UN-led ‘police force’. Should the miracle occur the UK would be unable to contribute, so drastic have been the cuts to our armed forces. We find it amazing that defence is scarcely earning a mention in the fatuous election campaign.

Arguably this is down to the unprecedented sense of disillusion with politicians and the supposedly democratic process. With that in mind we loved the report published yesterday by the Institute for Public Policy Research. It recommends that young people should be forced to vote in the first election after they turn 18, thus establishing a habit for life. Better still it recommends that the ballot paper should carry the added option of “None of the above”. The Institute believes that elections are being increasingly decided by older, better-off voters. A truly democratic government would seriously consider both proposals – if only one existed.

By the time we had settled in the allotments hut to finish off the last of the hot-cross buns, we had decided that the Archbishop is right – the chance of any Churchillian leadership from the present motley crew of earthly leaders is akin to a miracle of New Testament proportions. The view was rapidly reinforced by the spectacle of the Lib Dems attacking the partners they have sustained in coalition for five years.

This morning we read of an interview given yesterday by Danny Alexander, the seemingly faithful companion of Gorgeous George Osborne. He accuses his erstwhile hero of “breath-taking hypocrisy”. He claims that both Osborne and the prime minister are privately arguing for tax cuts for the wealthy. He quotes one of them as telling him; “Listen, you take care of the workers and we’ll take care of the bosses”. That, declares the suddenly born anew Lib Demmer, is where the Tories real priorities lie. When friends fall out the real truths emerge!

We also couldn’t help noticing that yesterday the dashing Osborne refused on four occasions to rule out cutting the top rate of tax paid by people earning over £150,000. Neither could we help but notice that he has accepted a £50,000 donation from Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, the banker described as “ignorant and grossly incompetent” by the parliamentary committee investigating the Libor scandal.

Perhaps Mr Clegg and his colleagues should have asked the Archbishop to include them in his list. Their task of reinventing themselves in just five weeks is truly an almighty one!
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory”….J.K.Galbraith.
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