It is not UKIP who are the biggest threat to to the Tories but a small minority of backbenchers who are hell bent on destroying Cameron. It is time the silent majority howled with indignation

12 Mar 2013 at 15:21

If the future of the Conservative party lies with Theresa May, Philip Hammond and Adam Afriyie, would the last person to leave the country please turn off the lights? I don’t wish to be unkind to Hammond, but I was rather amazed to read how ambitious he is. I always regarded him as someone who might aspire to be chairman of his local rotary club and do quite well in freemasonry. But apparently he has set his sights on being Chancellor and perhaps even….( this really is so daft that I can’t bear to finish the sentence).

But ice maiden May is quite a piece of work. Because of 24 hour news we have probably all forgotten the fuss she made about being reported in the Sundays (in particular the MAIL) about her plans to tear up the Human Rights Act. Unfortunately this had not been cleared by Number 10 as it rather put the PM’s post Eastleigh Telegraph piece in the shade. As she had such damp gussetted rave reviews I was rather surprised that her dogs of war were putting it around that this was a plot by her enemies. Until I read her speech to Conservative Home pledging to tear up the Human Rights Act; a week later. I once asked Michael Heseltine why on earth he wasn’t mounting a challenge to Thatcher and if he had lost his ambition. His reply was instructive. “Dear boy, the most important thing in politics is not ambition, but timing”. A week later he threw his hat in the ring.

So what May was most upset about was that she believed that her enemies had got wind of her speech and tried to dampen its impact. Blimey, I don’t think she’s paranoid but have a sneaking suspicion that she thinks everyone is out to get her.

And then there is Chris Grayling, the Goyle to Her Malfoy. He too is committed to tear up the Human Rights Act so he didn’t want to be sidelined so he wittered support. So it looked like an operation when it was really a cock up.

But Grayling as Lord Chancellor (why do I burst into hysterical, maniacal laughter when I write those words matron?) should know how unwise it is to mix with undesirables, was spotted at a Westminster hostelry breaking bread with David Davis, Liam Fox and Bernard Jenkin amongst others who are on Parliamentary ASBOS. What on earth did he think they were going to discuss? The price of fish,The Bill Cash Book of Jokes, great recipes from the Andes air crash cookbook? Or what a total pinko shit that Cameron is and how he should be cast into the seventh circle of hell. Shock, horror it was the latter. So some nifty footwork was required from Grayling. Sadly the poor chap has all the political tap dancing skills of Long John Silver with woodworm. So rather than keep his mouth firmly I shut his hounds put it about that not only was he there, but he told them all to get a grip and vigorously supported the PM. So delightfully incompetent that one does know whether to weep or laugh uproariously. I can guess what Cameron did.

So the Tory Dementors are on manoeuvres. It gives a whole new meaning to mission creep. The rather splendid Nick Boles got it right when he savaged those MPs with safe seats who had their own agendas and didn’t give a stuff about the destabilisation which could lose most of the new intake their seats. Are people so dim that they cannot see that the real threat to the Conservative party is not the Kippers but a small number of vocal backbenchers who are hell bent on destroying Cameron at whatever cost. It is time that the silent majority began to howl with indignation.

To some the election is already lost. Time to regroup. Time to have a leader with real vision. Time to have a leader who will promote those policies that sent the Conservative Party into the political wilderness for a generation.

“The fault, dear Brutus, in not in our stars but in ourselves”. Well the Ides of March aren’t all that far away.

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If the Ministry of Justice gets its way in twenty four months the independent criminal bar will cease to exist and 75% of solicitors firms will disappear forever

8 Mar 2013 at 13:04

This is a story that will never make the front pages. It will not excite the indignation of backbenchers cowed by their constituents. It will not even raise a flicker of concern in the pubs and clubs. But it is of fundamental constitutional importance, threatens the rule of law and places the vulnerable and weak at the mercy of a powerful executive.

If the Ministry of Justice gets its way in twenty four months the independent criminal bar will cease to exist and 75% of solicitors firms will evaporate from the high street. Forever.

As I have written so many times before the MOJ is a nest of vipers and nursery of traitors. Traitors to a criminal justice system that is creaking at the seams and is in danger of total collapse. Sadly, we have a Lord Chancellor (who has never practised in the courts) and a raft of ministers new to the job who are sleep walking into civil servant driven schemes that will make our justice system worthy of Putin’s Russia.

Oh, you may say, these are just the dying gasps of an over paid vested interest biting and scratching like ferrets in a sack to preserve their rich pickings. If only it was.

Let me set the scene. Contrary to what may appear in the papers, criminal legal aid fees have been drastically cut. Uncomfortable as it is for me personally, in this economic climate I can’t really protest. What I do object to is waiting so long for fees for work done. A few years ago we took a pay cut so that we would be paid within twenty eight days. The system of calculation was done by the court clerks in the Crown Court where the case was tried. It cost nothing. But Jack Straw, despite the Justice Committee concluding that the Legal Services Commission was not fit for purpose stripped court clerks of this and handed it over to a new LSC tier of bureaucracy. It is costly, incompetent and takes a good three months to pay us, provided they don’t mess the figures up, which they invariably do. There have been bankruptcies, suicides and a flotilla of repossessions. I am fortunate to have a good practice with high profile cases. I have been paid £1,000 in the last two months.

But that is history, or rather a very unwelcome present.

The real horror which should put the fear of God into everyone who believes in democracy is the MOJ’s plans to introduce competitive tendering into the criminal justice system. This again started under Jack Straw, and put on ice and then resurrected by Ken Clarke, who delayed it. We were promised by Chris Grayling a consultation in the Autumn. This week he has brought it forward to April. For eight weeks. And then in words that would cheer Mr. Mugabe, the first contracts will start rolling out. Like all consultations with the MOJ they are not even window dressing. They know what they want to do and nothing will get in their way.

What competitive tendering means is a race to the bottom. The lowest price wins. Quality is not even a factor. Economies of scale is the answer. Large Corporations will replace family solicitors who will disappear. The chambers system, where specialist and experienced barristers defend and prosecute will end to be replaced by low paid, low grade nine till fivers. Are these sort of people going to put the hours in that we do at weekends (unpaid) to strive to ensure that our clients whether it be the CPS or those accused of a crime are properly represented? Who have the experience and skill to cross examine victims of rape and abuse sensitively? Of course not. Welcome to Wonga Law.

At the bar we have made it clear that we will put forward proposals to make the system cheaper and more efficient. There are unnecessary hearings that can be dealt with by email or video link. We will lose money, but it is sensible. Will anyone listen? Well, Grayling won’t even talk to Michael Turner QC who is the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association. Why? Because he is straight talking and tells it as it is. Grayling had told leading politicians that he wants Turner silenced.

Well, we are not going to be silenced. There is going to be a bloody great row. The public have a right to know how their rights are going to be affected and if it means joining with solicitors and taking industrial action then I’ll be the first on the picket line.

This is not about pay, those arguments were lost years ago. This is about access to justice. It is about protecting the weak and the vulnerable. It is about ensuring even the most wicked have a fair trial. It is about preserving the great British tradition of equality before the law.

The mood in the robing rooms has turned from despair to a very real anger. Some of us are prepared to stand up and be counted and fight for our well respected system of justice.

First they came for the lawyers……………..

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Most of the young would find it less embarrassing exiting from the rear of a sheep than the rear of a Conservative battle bus. This must change.

3 Mar 2013 at 13:34

It is one of the great British traditions that after a by election defeat our weekend television screens are filled with jumpy backbenchers calling for their parties to listen to their grass roots, go back to traditional values and get the message across. I remember one memorable occasion when the splendid Kenneth Baker as party chairman was despatched to Number 10 to inform Thatcher that she should dictate less and listen more. Well, I don’t know what they talked about but when she was interviewed about Ken’s statement that she was now in listening mode she looked rather startled growling, “really?”. And that really rather said it all.

Eastleigh has highlighted the problem shared by both the Tories and Labour; we don’t have too many grass roots to listen to. The days of mass membership parties are long gone. Like so many Conservative associations Eastleigh had been allowed to rot away. Worse, this phenomenon is not uncommon in safe seats. And where are the equivalent of the young Conservatives? Too busy squabbling over meaningless titles and not prepared to do the donkey work. And not too many of them at that. Why they were so successful in the fifties of sixties is that they provided a forum for sex with a bit of politics thrown in. An excellent opportunity for swathes of former public school boys to have the unusual experience of having sex with someone without a penis. And in between shags and hectic social life they manned the barricades in the constituencies.

We really could learn an awful lot about campaigning from the Lib Dems. Alright they play really dirty and are about as trustworthy as a Peter Mandelson mortgage application, but they do know how to make politics fun. That is why they attract so many more young people. Compare them to Labour. Earnest, elderly and bitterly divided over their most successful electorate asset, Tony Blair. And the Tories? Earnest, elderly and bitterly divided over their most successful electoral asset, Margaret Thatcher.

What a bloody turn off.

It is quite interesting that Grant Shapps has hardly received any serious stick over Eastleigh. I am not surprised as on the telly he comes over as a human being, which for the the ghastly job of being Party Chairman which is toxically partisan, is a rare gift. He is also the Tigger of politics, bursting with energy and enthusiasm. What he has got to do is run a health check on associations, particularly those with bedblocking MPs who could pop their clogs at any moment. And then try an make politics at a grass roots level attractive to the young. If the Lib Dems can do it so can we. Sadly, being stuck at fundraisers where elderly, middle class white people just drone on about Europe and gay marriage is about as enticing as a dose of the clap. I suspect that many of the young would find it more embarrassing exiting from the rear of a sheep than the rear of a Tory battle bus.

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Sensible Tories will realise that Eastleigh was a catestrophe for Labour and good news for the Coalition

1 Mar 2013 at 09:40

If only the Tories would stop behaving like Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army and took a moment to reflect on the how de do at Eastleigh they might realise that the real catestrophe was for Labour. Four thousand votes and fourth place is not a ringing endorsement for the two Eds, nor does it allow for a claim that a fight back has begun.

What I find so remarkable is that the Conservatives treated Eastleigh as its own property. This was a serious error of judgement. Eastleigh is a Lib Dem fiefdom with every ward occupied by the yellows. It was theirs to lose. And if they had the Coalition would be in meltdown as the wolves would not just be at Clegg’s door but ripping him to pieces. So now the silly talk of dumping him will temporarily subside. To win when the last MP faces jail and the party in turmoil over Rennard is nothing short of miraculous. Sensible Tories should realise that this was a good result for the Coalition.

This weekend the papers will be full of the bile and hatred of that small minority of backbenchers who genuinely despise Cameron.They will anonymously vent their spleen. There will be dark talk of signatures, stalking horses and Adam Afriyie. I am reliably informed that he is very serious about a leadership bid. The question is when. Oh dear, someone ought to tell him that the assassin never gets to wear the crown.

And of course there will be the usual primal screams for a change of course. More traditional policies, anti Europe, anti immigrant anti union and an abhorrence of same sex marriage. The delightful irony was that Maria Hutchings represented all of these things. She was the standard bearer of the Amish wing of the Tories. The electorate had no doubt what her views were. They were not remotely Cameroon. So when the usual suspects demand that the party drifts to the right and abandons modernisation they should be reminded that voters were offered all that they consider to be a masturbatory dream and rejected them.

And then there is UKIP. Why is anyone remotely surprised that they hoovered up protest votes from all parties? They have taken over the role from the Lib Dems at the national spittoon. They are not an alternative Conservative party at all. They take the Alf Garnet vote from the Tories, the right wing union bigots from Labour and anyone else who is just pissed off with the world and his wife. They will do well in the locals, clean up at the European elections and bomb at the general. People will vote UKIP in droves when it doesn’t affect their lives.

Statistically there will probably be a couple more by elections before May 2015. I wonder whether Farage would have the courage to stand himself? He is a rather vain man and the thought of any form of defeat horrifies him. If he hadn’t worn the chicken suit at Eastleigh the Kippers would have probably won.

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Years ago that wily old chief whip, John Wakeham, gave me some very good advice. " if you are in a fix don"t get anyone to lie for you". It's as good now as it was then

25 Feb 2013 at 13:11

That wily old chief whip John Wakeham gave me some very wise advice many years ago. " If you are in a fix don’t get anyone to lie for you." It is as good now as it was in the 1980s. The Lib Dems have got themselves into an appalling and needless muddle over the allegations against Rennard. What shocked me was the total lack of coordination between senior media appearances by the likes of Clegg, Farron, Browne and Cable. Surely someone from the centre should have worked out a line to take and briefed those who were going to appear on the airwaves? Apparently not. The result makes them all look as shifty as hell when they may well be (shock horror) telling the truth. But the damage has been done just days before the most important by election of this Parliament. The legendary Lib Dem spin guru, Olly Grender, would never have allowed this to happen. The media are going to have a field day and poor old Cleggy will face even more panicky calls for his defenestration. And will it affect the outcome at Eastleigh? I doubt it. The punters thinks most politicians have their snouts in the trough and their hands where they shouldn’t be. Terribly unfair and mostly untrue, but the political classes don’t help themselves. The key to Eastleigh is pretty obvious. Whoever persuades those who promised to vote (and this will shock you, some people tell porkies) to actually brave the weather and tick the box. I have no doubt that there will be the usual post mortems showing that the dogs and the dead have been allowed to vote via our deeply flawed postal system. But hey ho. Anyway, if you are infirm, pissed or on class A drugs you can listen to me and the delightful Owen Jones report on it live from the count on Nolan at 5 Live.

Not surprisingly in the light of our Moody downgrade the usual suspects of the right are calling for George Osborne’s head. Unless he presses that magic button for growth ( which doesn’t exist) and slashes public expenditure even more to fund tax cuts he’s brown bread. To be replaced by…….? Well, General Pinochet is dead and Imelda Marcos is washing her hair.

This analysis of course is quite daft. The message from Art Laffer (always ahead of the curve), Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Roy Greenspan is very clear. Tax cuts do not pay for themselves and must not be funded out of borrowing. The trouble is that a lot of Tory backbenchers don’t like to read economics. And poor old Adam Afriyie rather than keep a low profile is fast becoming a Nadine Dorries with brains. “The government is in the last chance saloon!” his Mail on Sunday piece screamed. Yes matey, where they used to shoot everything that moves. And you are being rather dangerously mobile.

Why don’t these people read The Plan for Growth, updated regularly by the BIS and the Treasury? It sets out how the Coalition is cutting red tape for SMEs, expanding and improving apprenticeships and have approached £310 billion of infrastructure spending, up £45 billion on last year? Too much to hope for.

But the interesting story of the weekend is the report that Michael Ashcroft is no longer going to contribute to the Conservative party. This is rather worrying. His marginal seat campaign was invaluable and his polling of great interest. He is reported to be concerned that the Tories need an extra ten points to win an outright majority and hasn’t a clue where they are going to come from. It would be of serious concern if his army of well placed columnists should turn against Cameron.

A charm offensive is called for.

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Save us from patronising Guardian columnists who think that only clever people should be on juries. What happened at the Pryce trial was a one off aberration

22 Feb 2013 at 10:01

I was wondering how long it was going to be before someone started screaming for the end of jury trials. I was expecting at least a “Juries give you cancer” scare from the Mail", “Juries, just another blow from Brussels” from the Express and “stunning, blonde divorcee juror halts Pryce trial by performing sex act during judge’s summing up”. I was wrong. The prize for the most out of touch, out of mind, sphincter rattling, gonad clenching piece of ignorant nonsense graces today’s Guardian. What makes it so depressing is that it was written by the normally thoughtful Simon Jenkins (Onan Professor of toss pottery pure and applied).

I have been prosecuting and defending at the criminal bar for thirty five years. What happened before Mr Justice Sweeney was so unusual as to be unique. I have wracked by brains and cannot think of another example of a juror asking such literate but daft questions. I am beginning to wonder whether there were wind up merchants determined to wreck the trial. We will never know.

But back to Mr.J. He quotes the killer jury question in full.
Can a juror come to a verdict on a reason not raised in court which has no facts or evidence to support it?

He then comes to the bizarre and totally inaccurate conclusion that “everyone knows that juries do that all the time”. This is dangerous nonsense. Each juror swears an oath or affirms that they will try the case on the evidence. It is the compulsory and standard direction that a judge tells them that they must not speculate about anything that they have not heard in the court room.

Jenkins then comes out with another whopper gleaned, he claims, from the work of Cheryl Thomas (who she?) from UCL. She has reached the conclusion that " finds barristers googling jurors to discover their weaknesses and jurors googling the accused and witnesses". How on earth can we google jurors if we don’t know where they live? Sheer fantasy. And a dangerous one at that as it is totally untrue. Unlike in America our jurors are not screened and interrogated, they are randomly chosen. And before the evidence even begins the judge gives Jurors a very stern warning not to access the internet, nor social media to research anything to do with case on pain of being sent to prison. But the Jenkinsion legal Disneyland seem to know no bounds. “A majority of criminal cases now depend heavily on technical knowledge of DNA and financial law. Conscientious jurors are bound to research such matters. That is why courthouses are full of people gazing at their little screens.” Yeah, on pain of being chucked in the chokey. And Simon, old chum, all mobile phones and laptops are confiscated from jurors.

And just to show that the old boy has finally flipped we have this little gem. “The Huhne case is outrageous ……it is about switching. People do it all the time…..that he should go to prison is crazy”. No Simon, you are the crazy one here. The case is all about lying to evade a criminal prosecution. We quaintly call it peverting the course of public justice. Parliament took rather a dim view of it and legislated that the maximum sentence be life imprisonment.

And the conclusion? “For ordinary citizens to be pressed into services to supply an audience for a legal parlour game is not sensible.” There are no parlour games in court and there haven’t been for many years. The jury system really is the cornerstone of British justice and a protection of the citizen from an over powerful executive. We have highly professional judges who explain the law in a simple way. Then twelve men and women from all backgrounds make an assessment of whether witnesses are telling the truth, lying or just doing their best. But of course, Jenkins, with a brain the size of a Katie Price mammary, looks down on them all. They are too dim. Lawyers are just there for fun and to confuse the dribbling and gurning peasants. How much better it would be for clever people to decide the lives of their inferiors. Clever people like Mr Jenkins who earns a living patronising everyone who is not up to his academic standard.

Personally, I have always like Jenkins. But to read uninformed bollocks written by someone who has as little understanding of our judicial system as I have of astro physics is profoundly depressing.

A few years ago Jenkins asked the grizzled old historian and Mail columnist Paul Johnson, why he thought he was getting more radical with age. Johnson just growled, “perhaps because you are a cunt.”

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We can't go on sending mixed messages about immigration

20 Feb 2013 at 15:48

I have absolutely no evidence for this nor even a snippet of tea room gossip, but my waters tell me that there looks like the beginning of a turf war between Number 10 and the Home Office. Let me explain why.

The control of immigration, or rather lack of it, is an issue that is high on the public’s worry list. It is that, rather than Europe, why the Kippers skim some of the soft Tory vote. Theresa May is all that a Home Secretary should be. Decisive, focused and determined to make her traditionally dysfunctional department do what it says on the tin. She, as a former Party Chairman, understands very well that the public want tight controls. UKBA is a disaster area and she was right to read the riot act to those civil servants who changed policy against her orders. And she is sensible and ambitious enough not to take her eye off the ball of that little nest of vipers.

The trouble is that industry needs skilled and semi skilled immigrants to function efficiently. Add that to the fact that David Cameron is in India trying to encourage their best and their brightest to come over here and you have some mixed messages.

And then there is Gavin Barwell. I have known Gavin for years. He is one of that new breed of Tory backbenchers whom when you chat to him you are not worried if there is a full moon and not concerned at all that you don’t have that string of garlic, crucifix or wooden stake that are a necessity when talking to some of them. And speaking of Nadine Dorries, isn’t silence golden and blissful? Withdrawal of the whip when it is soon to be resection time concentrates the mind wonderfully.

But back to Barwell. He doesn’t shoot from the hip, has common sense views and is rather thoughtful. No wonder he appears on the dart board of the green inkers. Today he has written a well argued piece in the Telegraph about mixed messages over immigration. Since May’s populist views on radically cutting the numbers back he has shown that the number of talented students from India has dropped as has investment. This is a serious problem.

Gavin is no ordinary backbencher. He is the PPS to Michael Gove, another effective and decisive minister who knows what he wants and is determined to get it. He also has a department that has traditionally been hand in glove with the teaching unions and whose civil servants aren’t necessarily the most loyal or obedient. He too is sorting them out to squeals of indignation and horror. Good God the bloody man wants to make exams tougher, raise standards and put children before teachers. The swine.

So for an aide to write such a piece he must have had the blessing from Gove, a man who would rather bite off his right arm than undermine his friend Cameron. So far I have not read any counter briefings. But these are early days.

We all know what is wrong with immigration but feel uncomfortable saying it. We don’t want people coming over here purely as economic migrants, disappearing into closed communities who don’t share our values. And we don’t want hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians flocking to our shores for the sole purpose of collecting handouts or become health service tourists. We want the best, the brightest and the hardest workers who can enrich our cultural lives, work hard and pay taxes. And we don’t want unskilled workers sending child benefit back home. It is insane, unfair and desperately unpopular.

A balance must be struck and a clear policy must be agreed. Quickly. Number 10 and the Home Office must be at one.

Then there is the problem of primary legislation regarding Article 8 (the right to a family life) and criminals. May has been very badly advised on this one. To take a swipe at the independence of the judiciary is bad politics. They just interpret the law that Parliament makes. Former Lord Chief Justice and Master of the Rolls Harry Wolfe is a brilliant jurist and not some mad leftie. He is right to point out that judges don’t just act on what is said in Parliament but the law. The guidelines are the law. They were introduced as delegated legislation on July 15th last year. Primary legislation won’t make a difference at all.

May stated that Criminals have “an unqualified right to remain”. That is just plain wrong. It is worth quoting Article 8 in full:

" 1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Those are my italics. Pretty clear eh?

God they are an absolute shower at the Home Office. Poor old Dominic Grieve, who understands these things rather well, must be tearing his hair out.

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The casual homophobia of David Jones is very depressing. To say that gay couples as are incapable of providing warmth and affection as parents will cause great hurt to a lot of decent people

16 Feb 2013 at 09:33

Some of you may not of heard of David Jones MP. Apparently he is the Secretary of State for Wales. He first crossed my radar on the Stephen Nolan show on 5 Live last night. He is the fellow who quite casually, live on air, uttered the rather chilling words that gay couples are unable to provide “warmth and affection” should they chose to parent children. Surely, not even the most knuckle dragging of our government would utter such offensive nonsense? But Nolan played the tape and that is what the guy said. To be fair he did qualify it by saying that he did not object to gay marriage, which I thought was a little odd as he voted against it.

Imagine if he had said that black couples were unable to provide children with warmth and affection? The world and his wife would be screaming for his resignation. I don’t think that Jones should resign; just get out a bit more.

What saddens me is that intelligent people can have genuinely held beliefs which are so obviously wrong. The gay men and women of Wales who have adopted children and offer them love, affection and a stable home must feel rather hurt. Why does a cabinet minister feel that they are incapable of bringing up a child?

Does Jones think that Elton John and David Furnish don’t love their kids? And if so why? It may well be that Jones is a creationist and genuinely believes that the World is four thousand years old and that we are not descended from apes. It is the delightfully tolerant British way of dealing with things to comment that “we respect those views”. I’m afraid that I don’t. Jones will have caused great hurt to many decent people who have not chosen a lifestyle but just happen to be born the way they are. They have love to give and shouldn’t be denied the opportunity of giving it.

Children desperately need to feel loved and secure. End of story. Why this isn’t so blindingly obvious is a total mystery to me.

Sometimes I look round parliament in total disbelief at the wide range of quirky views and sometimes I think that I inhabit another planet from some of these people. God knows what the electorate think.

Sometimes it is very hard to be a Conservative. But like David Cameron I struggle on.

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That bloody omnivore "I'll eat anything" Paterson better keep away from my cats

15 Feb 2013 at 09:33

Imagine the scene. David Cameron is chill axing in his study at Downing Street. He has just finished a challenging hour of zapping angry birds and has given up trying to slice those pesky coconuts on Fruit Ninja. His PPS pours him another refreshing glass of General Galtieri 1981.
“I say Sam, this Owen Paterson fellow, what’s he actually for?” A frown passes over the handsome ebonied features of the young Oxford graduate destined for higher things. Perhaps one day he would be a parliamentary under secretary in the Welsh Office. Such dreams. But back to the matter in hand.

Paterson? The name did ring a bell. Not that heartthrob vampire? No,no. Hang on, wasn’t he the PPS to Iain Duncan Smith who Cameron had to give a job to to keep the right wing happy? Of course,he’s a bit dim, so he was put in Northern Ireland as he couldn’t do too much harm and then things got a bit iffy and was reshuffled into DEFRA to replace someone even dimmer but was there to keep the quota of women round the cabinet table about right. And then the bloody woman decided to to sell off our forests to the French but forgot to tell us. Jesus!

“I remember”, says Cameron. “He’s the chap who is supposed to keep an eye on what people eat. Didn’t he tell the Daily Mail that he would happily eat a horse, that he is an omnivore and would eat absolutely anything? For God’s sake stop him going on the telly chomping on some pony burger. And don’t let him go to Korea.” The thought of the twerp tucking into puppy fricassee was too much for the Prime Minister. What would the Chipping Norton Pony Club think?
“Best not let him go to China either, I think they eat babies out there. The WI wouldn’t approve at all.
And Sam just tell him to actually do something about our food being contaminated.”

Now O.Patz can’t help being a hoof short of the full horse, but he does have some very bright advisors. What on earth has he being doing since his appointment in September? DEFRA knew there was contamination of the food supply way back in March 2012. You’d have thought they would have asked some very searching questions of the Foods Standard Agency, told them to get grip and perhaps slip in a statutory instrument on a wet Thursday night (nobody would have noticed) to give them more powers.

And what about the big supermarkets? Did anyone call them in, tell them to check and double check how their meat was sourced? Did any officials start inspecting slaughter houses? God knows. It all sounds horribly complacent.

I have a sinking feeling that ministers were terrified of what would happen to the meat industry if this ever came out. They all remember Edwina and eggs and shudder. Yet at least she told the truth.

Most depressing of all is this is just another breach of trust. Can we be sure what we are eating? Do we know what is in our food? Can we be certain that it is safe? I just don’t know.

I suspect that everyone has been so obsessed with salt, fat, sugar and obesity that eyes were taken off the ball. Two years ago it would have been unthinkable to suggest that meat from some drugged up horse could appear in our lasagne. Just how long has this been going on?

And don’t blame the recession and the need for cheap food. The line, which is a gross insult to the poor, that if you pay a few pence for a sausage don’t be surprised if it contains a load of crap. This is fraud and complacency with the whiff of cover up. And it is a national disgrace.

So yet another institution has joined the sorry list of MPs, bankers, the church and the NHS who have lost the public trust. No wonder people are so cynical.

And as for omnivore Paterson? Well, the bloody man better keep away from my cats.

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Jeremy Hunt has learned an important lesson in politics; Who Cares Wins. He must now put it into practice

10 Feb 2013 at 16:05

When Jeremy Hunt was promoted to Health Secretary I was one of the first to write that this was an inspired appointment. Rather a lot of people tweeted suggesting that this was proof that I should be sent off to the Priory for a long holiday. But I might just have been right.

The contrast between Hunt and Lansley is stark. Andrew is a thoroughly decent man who cares about the NHS, but he is a technocrat and speaks like one. His is the world of outcomes, management structures and bureaucracies. On planet Hunt the emphasis is rather different. Care, compassion; getting better. I watched him on Marr this morning. Calm, professional and believable.

Hunt’s great asset is unflappability. A few months ago he was written off as an almost certain piece of reshuffle road kill because of his closeness to Murdoch during the SKY bid. For a while it looked like curtains. But he kept calm, behaved with dignity when the press goat fuck was in full cry and most important of all, kept the heat off of Cameron. Who better humanise the health service?

The trouble is that we have all worshipped at the feet of the NHS for so long that we have become blinded to the harsh reality that in some respects they are made of clay. What horrified and shocked me about the Francis report was an almost an endemic institutionalised lack of compassion. That the old and the frail were left begging for water and being left to fester in the indignity of their own filth is nothing short of a national disgrace. And now it has come to light that this was not just at Staffs but far,far more widespread. Churchill once said that a measure of society’s civilisation was the way they treated their prisoners. That yardstick has changed. If we as a nation were judged on the way we treated our old and vulnerable we would be in the stone ages.

The left would argue that this is because nurses are under resourced because of government cuts. This is a very dangerous lie. The Staffs scandals happened at a time when Brown was throwing money at the NHS with the gay abandon of a drunken sailor. What snookers Andy Burnham the charming but rather ineffective shadow health secretary is that this all happened on Labour’s watch.

I am still of the belief that our health service is wonderful. The care that my ninety two year old mum receives up in Scotland is a model of good practice and compassion. But it is a post code lottery for many.

I suspect that there is no simple solution to the problem unless the ethos is to hire people who put care and compassion above everything else. There is too much box ticking to feed the insatiable Whitehall monster’s lust for statistics. And now for something which will cause the left to squeal and howl and condemn me from the roof tops. So let me take a deep breath. There are too many overseas nurses who regard nursing not as a caring profession but as a handy means to send money back home. They must be weeded out.

I suspect that it is no coincidence that on the back of the Francis report the government has finally plucked up courage and put forward sensible plans to ensure that that our elderly no longer have the fear of losing their cherished homes which they wish to pass on to their loved ones. Why Labour ignored this very obvious reform stills fills me with incredulity.

So what do people want? It really is a no brainer. They want and deserve a health service that works for them when they need it. That they don’t have the terror of finding the cash to pay for it. And that the old and the vulnerable live out the rest of their lives warm, well fed and with dignity. But no matter what policies are put though and no matter the good intentions of ministers, a health service is not worthy of its name unless every thought and every deed of every day and every night has care and compassion at the forefront.

Jeremy Hunt has understood an obvious but long overlooked certainty in politics. Who cares wins.

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