Tag Archives: andrew neil

Our entertainers give us facts while our politicians have nothing to say

Speaking their mind: Rufus Hound and Kate Nash had the courage to speak their mind about the NHS and education - but they don't have enough influence to change government policy. What will it take?

Speaking their mind: Rufus Hound and Kate Nash had the courage to voice their opinions about the NHS and education – but they don’t have enough influence to change government policy. What will it take to make that happen?

This could have been designed to follow my rant about politics being about perception: In response to a news report that NHS doctors’ surgeries have been found to be filthy, radio listeners were treated to a lengthy monologue on why the media are running down the health service to make it easier for the government to sell it out from under us.

This lesson was delivered, not by an eminent politician, but by the comedian Rufus Hound. He was speaking on Radio 4’s The News Quiz.

And he said: “Does this not scare anyone, though?

“There are a lot of stories coming out at the moment about all the ways that the NHS is failing. At the same time there is privatisation by stealth. Now, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, maybe those two things just resolve themselves. If you’re a normal person, you’ve got to become a conspiracy theorist, haven’t you?

“The number of contracts being put out to private companies has gone up through the roof. All of the pre-election promises of no privatisation of the NHS, and that the budget would be ring-fenced – it was ring-fenced but not in real terms, so it is a cut in the truest sense…

“The NHS is being sold out from under us, and yet all the stories that come out from the powerful oligarchs who run the media are either about how it’s failing and how much better off we’d be if it was privatised, or why privatisation can’t happen quickly enough for any one of a number of other reasons.

“The reason those surgeries are filthy is, there’s not enough investment to keep them clean and tidy. The argument isn’t ‘privatise’; the argument is ‘invest more’.

“In the Olympics, there was that big moment where they had ‘NHS’ and everybody stood up and applauded, and I think it was Norman Lamont who said, ‘The nearest thing the British people have to a religion is the NHS’ – and we’re just letting it go.

People should be on the streets.

“And I realise that, for this to make the edit, it should have a punchline.”

He knew, you see. He knew that this great speech was in danger of being lost if it wasn’t sufficiently entertaining.

Thank goodness producer Sam Michell kept it in, but it should not be up to an entertainer like Rufus to tell us these things. Such matters are the province of politicians. The simple fact that our representatives aren’t “on the streets” with us about this says everything we need to know about them.

Here’s another example: Education. I was in the unfortunate position of having to sit through Andrew Neil’s This Week on Thursday evening. I’m not a fan of that show, but it meant I was lucky enough to see former pop starlet Kate Nash, there to talk about her film (The Powder Room) and modern manners, slip in a quick observation about education that undermines everything ever said by Michael ‘rote-learning-is-the-only-way’ Gove.

She said, “There are certain things we need to be addressing, that are being completely missed – and that’s to do with education being inspiring and interesting for young people, rather than just about purely passing tests and pressure.”

She hit the nail on the head without even looking; Gove couldn’t find it with a map and a guide.

Again, she is an entertainer; she should not be having to say these things, but we should be glad that she did. The moment was glossed over entirely in the BBC News website report of the debate. Perhaps we should be happy that they didn’t edit the comment out altogether (it starts around two minutes, 15 seconds into the video clip).

We are left with politicians who refuse to do their duty and defend our services from those who would destroy them, and celebrities who are left to pick up the slack – if, with a biased media, they can find a way to keep their words from ending up on the cutting-room floor.

What hope can we possibly have that anyone with any clout will defend our beloved, but beleaguered, taxpayer-funded services?

Worst of all is the fact that it falls to people like myself to even write about these matters, and we all have lives of our own. Rufus and Kate made their speeches on Thursday; it is now Sunday, and I could not have written this article any sooner.

We’ve all heard that a lie can travel around the world several times before the truth has got its boots on. This is because the liars own the media, and those of us who are interested in the truth have small voices, are easily ignored, or can be dismissed because “it’s only entertainment”.

At least high-profile figures have a better chance of being heard. There will be those telling Rufus and Kate and who knows who else to get back in their box and shut up, but I won’t be one of them. I think we should be “on the streets” with them.

I’m wondering if any more members of ‘The Great And The Good’ will have the bottle to speak their mind.

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Police: ‘To protect and serve’ their own interests?

Unfit to wear the helmet: How deep does corruption run within our police? Do most officers still uphold the law without prejudice? Or do they use the uniform to pursue their own personal vendettas against innocent members of the public?

Unfit to wear the helmet: How deep does corruption run within our police? Do most officers still uphold the law without prejudice? Or do they use the uniform to pursue their own personal vendettas against innocent members of the public?

When did you lose faith in the British police?

Was it after Plebgate, the subject of a considerable controversy that has resurfaced this week? Was it after Hillsborough? Do you have a personal bad experience with officers whose interpretation of their duty could best be described as “twisted”, if not totally bent?

The Independent Police Complaints Commission says that the row involving whether former Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell used offensive language against a policeman who stopped him from riding a bicycle through the gates of Downing Street should have led to disciplinary action for the officer involved, along with others who supported his story.

IPCC deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass questioned the “honesty and integrity” of the officers involved and said that West Mercia Police, who investigated the affair, were wrong to say there was no case of misconduct for them to answer.

Now, there is plenty of evidence that this police complaints commission is anything but independent, and that it provides verdicts as required by its superiors – either within the force or politically. But the weight of the evidence that we have seen so far suggests that, in this instance, the conclusion is correct.

The Plebgate affair began less than a month after serious failings were identified in the police handling of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. It was revealed – after a 23-year wait – that serious mistakes had been made in the policing of the infamous FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, during which events took place that killed 96 people and injured a further 766.

In addition, post-mortem reports on the deceased were falsified and the police tried to blame Liverpool fans for the disaster.

These were both events that received national news coverage – but what about the local incidents that take place all around the country?

Sir Hugh Orde, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers said, “130,000 police officers are delivering a good service” – but are they really?

This blog has already mentioned the experiences of several people here in Mid Wales who have had unsatisfactory experiences with the police, including victims of serious physical, psychological and sexual abuse who were told to go back and suffer more of this personal hell by policemen and women who either couldn’t care less or were complicit in the crimes. Years later, attempts to get justice fell on the equally deaf ears of officers who didn’t want to know.

And this week the front paper of my local newspaper (the one I used to edit) carried the headline ‘Hello, hello, what’s going on here then?’ over a story about two local police officers who, while on duty, seemed more interested in having sex than upholding the law.

One was an inspector; the other a (married) constable. The inspector, prior to her promotion, had been instrumental in sending a friend of mine to prison on a particularly unsavoury child sex charge. There was no concrete evidence and the case hinged on the opinion of a doctor that was hotly disputed by other expert testimony. But my friend’s path had crossed this policewoman’s before and she had failed to gain a conviction on the previous occasion. It seems clear that she had not forgotten him.

I have always believed that the jury convicted my friend because its members were worried that he might be guilty – despite the lack of evidence – simply because he had been accused. “There’s no smoke without fire,” as the saying goes. It seems likely now that this conviction reflects the policewoman’s preoccupations with sex, rather than any criminal activity on the part of my friend.

It also seems to be proof of the fear raised by Andrew Neil on the BBC’s This Week – that police have been sending innocent people to jail and letting the guilty go free.

My friend is still inside, by the way. He has maintained his innocence throughout the affair but, having been released on parole and then dragged back to jail for a breach that was more the fault of the authorities for failing to give adequate warning against it, he is now determined to serve his full sentence rather than face the heartbreak of having his freedom stolen with another excuse.

Who can blame him?

“Unfair, incompetent and completely out of touch” – the chance(llo)r’s autumn statement

(Please note: This is a first-glance appraisal; it may contain inaccuracies, gloss over parts that you find important or miss things out entirely. Feel free to mention anything you feel important in the ‘Comments’ column)

In May 2010, the Conservatives asked us to judge them by two yardsticks. The first was that they would cut the deficit – completely – by the 2015 election. The second was that they would protect the National Health Service.

We all know what they did to the National Health Service, and everybody living in England who must now rely on a now-corrupted and degenerate system has my complete and utter sympathy.

Now we know that they have completely failed with the other measure as well. The deficit will not be eliminated by 2015 and the national debt is unlikely to be falling.

That was the main message from Gideon George Osborne in his Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The announcement adds validity to predictions that the UK will soon lose its AAA credit rating.

Estimates for government borrowing over the course of this Parliament have – of course – risen and it is now estimated that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition will borrow £212 billion more than stated after the 2010 general election.

Austerity is therefore likely to continue until 2018 and the deficit in 2015 – when it was supposed to reach zero – is now expected to be £73 billion. The message here is that the government will eliminate the deficit in five years’ time.

Wait a minute! Isn’t that what Gideon said in 2010? Have we been taking welfare cut after welfare cut, pay cut after pay cut, attacks on public sector pensions and cuts to economic investment for two and a half years, only to be told that we have been standing still?

This is not just incompetence; it is endangerment. This government is harmful to the UK economy. International readers should note that this entails a knock-on effect, dragging the world backwards as well. You are all endangered by this disaster.

It’s also a breach of a Conservative manifesto promise from 2010 – thanks to the BBC’s Paul Mason for this snippet.

Let’s have a look at the growth forecast from the Office of Budget Irresponsibility. You may recall that in 2012 the economy was initially expected to grow by 2.8 per cent. Don’t laugh! Now the OBR has downgraded that, by a massive 2.9 per cent, to show a contraction of 0.1 per cent. We’re expected to go back into recession for a TRIPLE-dip.

It’s supposed to be the economy, Gideon! Not a rollercoaster ride!

He blames the woes of the Eurozone countries, even though I am reliably informed that it has been comprehensively proven that our economic woes are NOT in major part due to the Eurozone.

So what’s going to happen? Well, millionaires are going to get a tax cut. That’ll help, won’t it? £3 billion, going to the people who need it the least, as Ed Balls said in his response to the Statement.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the 1,000 richest people in the UK are now worth a total of £414 billion – up £155 billion in the last three years. If you were wondering where the money that could stabilise our economy has gone, wonder no more.

What about taxing businesses? We know that the biggest corporations have been hiding their cash in tax havens – is Osborne doing anything about that?

Apparently he is. He’s planning to close tax loopholes and he’s bringing in 2,000 more HM Revenue and Customs staff to do it. Let’s just remind ourselves that he cut HMRC by 15,000 a little while ago.

In the meantime, we have Corporation Tax – is he increasing it? No. He’s cutting it by a further 1 per cent. This means that this tax has been cut by a quarter – 25 per cent – since the Coalition came into power in 2010. And he still can’t get firms to pay up!

Incidentally, Osborne would like us to believe Corporation Tax is keeping the economy weak. However, the US rate is 40 per cent and the economy there is growing.

Where’s the business investment bank we were promised?

Oh! Here’s something: tax relief on pensions slashed for the very high earners. £1 billion expected revenue. Be still, my beating heart.

So: tax cuts for the rich. What do the poor get?

The rise in working-age benefits will be frozen to 1 per cent for the next three years. RPI inflation is currently 3.2 per cent. This means the poor will get six per cent poorer over that period. The Liberal Democrats were crowing about defending inflation-related increases to benefits last year; I notice they have nothing to say today.

The majority of people losing from cuts to tax credits will be people in work.

Disabled people were no doubt completely unsurprised when Osborne wheeled out his tired old line about working people looking at their neighbours’ closed curtains during the ‘scrounger-bashing’ segment of the speech. Let’s all bear in mind that sickness benefit fraud is 0.4 per cent while the government is eliminating 20 per cent of claimants from the welfare bill. That’s 19.6 per cent of claimants who deserve the cash, even if the fraudsters are caught and weeded out (and they probably won’t be).

Disability benefits will be exempt from the freeze, he said, trying to make it seem that the disabled won’t take a hit. This was a lie. Employment and Support Allowance will be affected, and since two-thirds of those who claim ESA long-term are also on the disability benefit, DLA, those most disabled will be hit the hardest.

Scrapping the worse-than-useless Work Programme and Universal Credit would save more than £10 billion, but apparently this won’t happen for fear of upsetting Iain Duncan Smith. As Ed Balls pointed out, though, “You can’t have a successful Welfare to Work programme without work!”

Child benefit remains frozen at the moment, but will increase from 2014. We all know why, I hope. Electioneering. Osborne is hoping that families with (two or fewer) children will support the Tories in the 2015 elections, because of this increase. Pathetic. And anyone who falls for it will be even worse.

Hardly any new infrastructure projects were announced; no new road schemes, no new housing schemes. There’s no repeat of the bankers’ bonus tax.

I could go on and on. You’ll probably hear more about the Statement than Kate’s baby over the next day or so, though; therefore I’ll stop.

One last point: Osborne’s 1.2 million figure for new private sector jobs is a complete fiddle. He is including jobs that have been reclassified from the public to the private sector, also part time jobs and people on the work programme/Workfare, who are working for no pay other than Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Oh, and the government’s borrowing figures may have been fiddled as well; according to Andrew Neil on the BBC it could be £56 billion higher than claimed, by 2017-18.

In March, we had Pasty-gate the day after the Budget Statement. I wonder what we’ll have tomorrow?