Wednesday, October 31

Happy Birthday to Hector

Hector - a (very) British Spotted Tabby - is 17 years old today (77 in human years) after a day spent sleeping in his favorite chair he sprung to life (slowly) when the smell of grilling pork chops reached his feline nostrils . Not content with a birthday treat of pork chop he went after the editor's well done steak. Clearly nothing wrong with his appetite these days. Hector was a poorly kitten when only six weeks old he was rushed to the Vet only to emerge with two drips on attached to two ting front legs. The sickly kitten was not expected to survive - his brother Alexander had died only a few hours prior. Yet Hector did survive to grow into a bagpus sort of cat.

What does Hector owe his long life to? Probably leisurely contemplation. Well he once caught a rabbit (whilst living on the North Yorkshire Moors) though the consensus of opinion is that the rabbit was suicidal. He has never caught a mouse or any rodent for that matter. Bird lovers need not concern themselves he talks to the birds showing no interest in catching them. The summer residents of the farm, a family of Swallows, are in no danger from the resident tabby moggie.

Hector has always enjoyed a comfy chair, open fire or knee, totally ignored the one time resident hound. He once persuaded a publican (Three Tuns in Thirsk) that he was a stray of no fixed abode and enjoyed a double life as the pub cat whilst also a resident of 21 Finkle Street until he could no longer fit through the cat flap. Hector is in fact a very laid back British cat. Happy Birthday indeed.

Monday, October 29

Patient Power Failure

From the Editor's Desk.
When Blair's legacy is assessed from a distance in time where spin can no longer distort the facts the Government's Patient Power Initiative (launched in 2000) under which the troubled Patientline company was awarded contracts to provide hospital bedside TV, Radio, Internet and Telephone services the full scale of the distress this iniative caused to sick people in over 150 British hospitals will be revealed.

Seven years after the launch the Department of Health has distanced itself from the debacle of the poor service that Patientline is providing in its terminal decline. Following numerous complaints from constituents to their MP's Ben Bradshaw MP the Minister for State for Health Services has recently confirmed that when Patientline goes into administration the Government will ensure the continuity of service to patients. That help would emphatically not include the financing of the troubled company under any conditions.

Thus when Patientline ceases trading in a few weeks, as inevitably it must, it can only get better for its customers. Non-profit making companies should replace Patientline and provide the bedside entertainment and communication service - a contingency plan that was considered when the original licenses were created.

So why do I continue to post on Patientline? Why bother? The answer is simple. In the eighteen months I was contracted to the company I witnessed first hand the distress that this company caused to sick people with it's greedy incompetent service. I worked with some truly wonderful people who were committed to providing a first class service whilst paid a little more than the minimum wage and plagued with faulty equipment and impossible sales targets. On many occasions I wrote to Patientline at senior level advising of the actuality of the stress the company was causing on the wards and indeed to its own staff. Their reaction was that of First World War Generals - ignoring the intelligence reports from the front in favour of their own propaganda. It is only fair that the truth be told.

The provider of 'phone and TV services has rightly been heavily criticized for charges dubbed “bedside robbery” with critics which include this blog saying its cheaper to phone Australia than to call a sick friend or relative in a local hospital on a Patientline system. Earlier this year it raised prices by 160 per cent to 26p a minute. It was condemned by patient groups and later scrapped the increase under media pressure.

I have received many emails from volunteers on hospital radio services (I was one once) complaining of Patientline's service. The company's next wheeze is to charge patients £1 for headsets that it was hitherto providing free. The very same headsets that can be purchased for 20p on market stalls and are mostly faulty. How nasty!

Nick Winks, Patientline’s chief executive, who earns almost £230,000 a year - not bad for managing a failing company that has become known as a national disgrace - should hang his head in shame. However as Geoff White, Patientline’s chairman, who recently proved when he said the future was “very challenging, we cannot continue year after year with the minimal level of investment in new equipment” that Patientline's Director's will continue to spin the truth for as long as they are able to pay themselves their fat salaries.

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Sunday, October 28

Referendum Demand

On Saturday - 27 October - a Pro-Referendum Rally "in support of British Democracy and against the creation of an undemocratic EU superstate" was held outside the Houses of Parliament. The event was organised largely by Bob Spink, the Conservative MP for Castle Point, in Essex. The orderly but enthusastic demonstration was held at Old Palace Yard, directly opposite the House of Lords.

Speakers addressed the demonstrators from an impressively decorated open roof bus included Roger Helmer MEP, Daniel Hannan MEP, Tom Wise MEP, Bob Spink MP, Nigel Farage MEP, Jens-Peter Bonde MEP. A full account is posted on EU Referendum.

That's not nice Darling.

In response to the Pre-Budget Report, by the Prime Minister's puppet Chancellor Alistair Darling and the announcement of firm plans to raise the Capital gains Tax threshold from 10 to 18 per cent, four of the country’s business organisations – from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Institute of Directors, and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) – have come together to challenge the decision.

In a meeting with Mr. Darling last week the representative group urged him - which is in practice all they can do - to scrap the huge 80 per cent increase. At the meeting ''he agreed to give it consideration'', which is of course quite meaningless. David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said in a press release after the meeting:

“The Chancellor can now be in no doubt of the views of business towards the changes he made to Capital Gains Tax in the pre-budget report. The Chancellor has agreed to work with business on measures to stimulate enterprise in the UK and seek ways to find a way forward on the issue of CGT.”

John Wright, FSB National Chairman, (and a former NEC Member of The Militant Trade Union NALGO) in his press release reflected the comment of the BCC adding: “This was a constructive meeting and we hope that there is scope for a compromise that will meet the aims of the Government without damaging the many entrepreneurs across the country. The current proposals to change taper relief on capital gains tax go in the wrong direction and need to be changed.”

Fine placatory words from these two gentlemen, which together with other media comments will raise the issue in the minds of business people but will have no effect on any significant change to Darling's plans. It is all too little and too late the Chancellor's latest tax hike is all but a done deal.

A piece in The Times, introduced the hope that the Chancellor has left the door open to alternatives; though there is actually little sign of any evidence to that effect. This is confirmed by HM Treasury which has denied any reversal on the proposed policy, and Mr. Darling has insisted in a Treasury communication that he will not back down; the change in CGT will raise an extra £900 million a year. So much for his ''consideration''.

In a letter to the Chancellor last week regarding the proposal which will see small businesses and investors facing almost double the amount of Capital Gains Tax come next April, Richard Lambert, Director General at CBI, said it “undermines the 10 year effort by this government to promote enterprise and risk-taking within the UK” and will “hold back investment”. Which to say the least is something of a very British understatement.

Only when the present or any future occupant of 11 Downing Street asks his senior advisors how will the representatives of the nations business community react to the latest tax wheeze and worries about their response will any really effective direct pressure (forget lobbying) have had an effect. In the mean time all that is happening, as the media reports, is that representatives of the business organizations are merely responding - not reacting - to the latest government erected barrier to business growth.

For over 20 years the business community has suffered the well documented accumulative effect of increased regulation, interference and tax. Time is now right for direct action; it can only get worse. Placatory words abound as to how the burden of less regulation can be applied to businesses, but detailed examination shows that in reality UK businesses have in fact been further inhibited by government.

The time is approaching when Businesses, should perhaps follow the example of the Trade Union movement when furthering their cause by direct action a Tax strike could eventually be the answer!

To Celebrate or to Regret

“Slavery has without doubt poisoned the relationship between Europeans and Africans completely” That controvercial comment was just one of many heartfelt statements expressed in the raw at a well attended debate held in Stockton-on-Tees last week to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.

More than 100 people took part in a vociferous verbal exchange, chaired by broadcaster Tony Baker, that lasted for over two hours at Stockton Arc to consider whether or not the landmark legislation of 1807 was a cause to celebrate or regret. The event was part of Black History Month, a national series of events.

The debate laid bare the deep-rooted sense of injustice felt by black people to the entire issue of slavery which many in attendance felt had shaped a two-tier world in which white people had denuded Africa and the Caribbean of both their citizen’s independence and their wealth. In turn, it had created, many at the event felt, a rift between people that was immensely difficult to bridge.

Erskine Grant, a member of the Northern Complainant Aid Fund which fights racial and sex discrimination cases, sat on the panel of four experts. He argued that slavery had poisoned relationships and perpetuated ‘ideologies’ about black people which persisted to modern times. He said: “Black people still face extreme discrimination in this country. Ideologies still exist in this country today. Deep down inside, it comes out in the most hideous way.”

Fellow panellist Julien Kotze, a researcher at Durham University, had earlier argued the abolition was a cause for celebration, saying: “It took a long time and very, very serious work from several devoted individuals to start this (abolition) process. These individuals spent their lives doing this. Human nature is such that shifts do not take place immediately, but it does take place. That, for me, is cause for celebration.”
Linda Ali, a researcher on Black History and an executive member of the Set All Free committee, had a different take on it: “We haven’t won the struggle as yet. Far too many people remain in a state of slavery today. We still have work to do.”

Wendy Shepherd, project manager for the charity Sexual Exploitation of Children on the Street, lifted the lid on slavery of a different sort – the immoral or illegal abuse of people, particularly youngsters. She said: “Let’s not think that the UK is not part of the slavery of modern day human trafficking.”

The debate sparked an incredible amount of audience participation with panellists at times being reduced to mere bystanders in a dialogue that waged across the auditorium. Those who had turned up to watch the debate argued with great passion about their experiences and views of the legacy of the slave trade which continued to dog black people. One person recounted how this week she was the victim of racial abuse on the streets of Stockton as she hurried to a meeting – one member of a gang of three white men shouted “run, nigger, run” as she passed by.

Another participent decried the only written accounts of the slave trade as being written from the “white man’s perspective” and failing to grasp the full horror of the persecution of slaves. One audience member called on people to dispel the myth of “slavery mentality” which he believed was dragging people down. Another recognised the need to create positive change – “We need to leave a legacy for our children that Is better than what was left for us”.
The thorny topic of recompense for the financial, moral and emotional impact of slavery was hotly contested, with Linda Ali arguing: “We don’t want cheques paying out to Tom, Dick and Harry. That’s not what reparation means. Reparation means going back and helping to restore and repair the countries affected by the slave trade – the Caribbean and Africa.”

Large corporations were criticised for propagating repression in modern times and exploiting labour to feed capitalist greed in the West.

Event organiser Sade Sangowawa, Managing Director of Cultures, aided by a well known Publicist later called for a celebration that people had acted in the first place to bring about the abolition of the slave trade. But, she added: “For me, the biggest issue is what does that mean? There are no chains, no whips, hence it is not so obvious and it becomes very easy to overlook or ignore. As a black person, it is very, very hard to succeed. It is a struggle and it is a fight.”

A second debate at Durham University in Stockton-on-Tees in May 2008 will examine 'The role of Black people in modern day British society' . Details to follow.

They Did Not Come For Me

Tempting as it may have been the authorites did not actually take me away as indeed one reader suggested being the reason for my recent period of uncharicteristic silence. Some very demanding business activities, my appointment as Chapter Director (Chairman) of The Warriers Chapter of BNI, together with a need for some robust legal representaion to defend my (and this glorious Blog's) reputation has somewhat diverted the limited resorces of this Blogger. So for the second time in a few weeks I now confirm that 'normal' service will contiune; this time it will be.

The Sunday Quote

''So let us have less talk of this narrow nationalism. It is not a matter of just any union, it is a matter of what are the effects of the union. Is it an aggressive one? Is it a damaging to others ? Is it selfish? Is it inward- or is it internationally minded? Is it power-hungry or is it satisfied? Does it erect barriers as well as pull them down? All these questions have to be asked, if we are to be honest, before we can decide."

Speech by Hugh Gaitskill leader of the Labour Party 'The end of a thousand years of history' on Britain's status within a converging Europe . Labour Party Conference 3 October 1962.

Saturday, October 27

EU Injustice

We must now expect stories of injustice to become more commonplace as the tentacles of European Law wrap themselves ever tighter around the principles of British fairness in judicial matters and further infringe the rights of British citizens to adequate protection by our state.

How concerned is the government about the abuse of process? Comment is posted on The Waendel Journal, follow the links to Dr North's post - the story is an utter disgrace and an insult to all British Subjects. The problem is we can do nothing about it untill we leave the European Union.

Sunday, October 14

''Ready for anything''

Congratulations are due to Rachel Loynes who's tandem freefall parchute jump with the Red Devils (the freefall display team from the famous Parachute Regiment) has raised over £2,000 for the Butterwick Hospice Care in Stockton-on-Tees. The cost of the jump was paid for by Carterbar Financial Services, where Rachel is a Mortgage Advisor. Sponsorship came from business as well as private indivuals inculding collegues from the Chapter of the business networking group BNI that meets in Seaton Carew where Rachel is the Secetary/ Treasurer.
Note: Image - curtesy 'Red Devils'. The moto of the Parachute Regiment is Utrinque Paratus - Ready For Anything.

Interuption of Service

The Editorial team in response to many enquiries apologises to its many and regular readers for the lack of postings last week. There never can be an excuse to ignore our readers but in mitigation we have been seriously distracted by other matters which are:
The Editor has had an exceptionally heavy business work load as well as being involved in a particular nasty and important piece of civil litigation which when it is prudent to do so shall be revealed on this Blog. The blog desk has also been refitted with state of the art technology which like all technology needed some 'bedding in'.
Additionally and sadly our trusted retainer Hector - see picture - has suffered a bereavement this week. His niece Ginny lost the last of her nine lives and is assumed to be in the happy mouse hunting ground were all cats eventually go.

Shortly, in fact very shortly, we shall post more in our well established style. There is much to write about; not least is the details announced last week by the puppet Chancellor who has made life even worse for small businesses. Then there is those who by now should know better yet continue to talk about 'European money'. As we all know the country's mail service (and not just because of the strike) is getting worse, in consequence one blogger ended up in court (yes, you've guesses correctly). At last the parachuting mortgage adviser went into free fall and raised over £2000 for charity (whilst interest rates rose). So for now it is off for a touch of Sunday Lunch, back to the keyboard in time for tea.

The Sunday Quote

" Ninty per cent of the politicians give the other ten per cent a bad reputation."

Henry Kissinger, United States Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977.

Monday, October 8

Election Fever

Letter Published in The Journal today.
Everyone and his dog in the media is now claiming credit for breaking the news that the general election is off, though the actual truth is that it was never really on. It was all hyped up by political hacks in the national press bereft of something to write about once they no longer had a daily dose of the Blair-Brown soap opera.

For sure, speculation will now turn to a Spring election - which I suspect remains extremely unlikely, as the amendment to the European Communities Act (otherwise known as the 'Reform Treaty') will be going through Parliament. To hold a general election then would delay ratification of the new treaty. It is unlikly that that Gordon Brown would not want to do that, especially as it would catapault EU issues to the top of the political agenda.

Ruling out 2009 - which is when the EU parliament elections will be held - the best bet from this political pundit is that that our Gordon will "go to the wire" and hold the election in the Spring of 2010.

Peter Troy

Sunday, October 7

From The Farm

Christopher Booker's column in The Sunday Telegraph today concerns the plight of the sheep farmers who are about to see "huge quantities of perfectly safe meat, from animals in Scotland, Wales and parts of England.... incinerated, at further cost to farmers, who will see most of their year's income go up in smoke." Posted on Warmwell is a ''take'' on Booker.

The Sunday Quote

'' An important art of policiticans is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public.''

Charles Maurice De Talleyrand-Perigord (1754-1838)

Saturday, October 6

One Sunny Afternoon

From the Editor's keyboard.

''Your call is important to us'' is a common statement on commercial corporate telephone voice mails or holding systems. Most companies have long since learnt that ignoring calls from their customers will lead to failure. The British Police Service (once known as a Force) in the experiences of this (and I suspect other) writers have yet to understand this basic lesson.

Since Durham Constabulary apparently do not wish to take my statement I post as follows (actually it will probably be more effective):

This afternoon was a sunny and warm; a pleasant autumn afternoon. I was walking from the local convenience store with my early editions of the local newspapers to a tea shop, Sedgefield is that type of place. My short walk took me past the Black Lion Public House which has two bench style tables and seats on the pavement. As I walked passed I felt a thud and splash as a water bomb thrown by one of the drunken customers hit the ground just behind me. As I turned round another landed at my feet followed by taunted cries of ''all right mate'' from the drunken water bomber and his noisy mates. Two more water bombs thrown at great force one landed on the table of two ladies sitting out side the tea shop covering one of them with water. A fith missile landed on a vehicle with haled threats aimed at myself of: ''we will get you next time you bastard.'' A sixth was thrown inside the doors of a bus whilst unloading a group of senior citizens near the tea shop.

Being a typical middle-aged person I called the local Police on my mobile to reported the incident. I advised the Police control room that no less than two CCTV's were only a few yards away and if turned on to the troublesome group they could be observed until an officer arrived. My name and details were taken and I patiently waited on a bench nearby for a boy or girl in blue or possibly even a Community Support Officer to arrive. From my slighly phyisical (and perhaps moral) high ground accross the road I watched the group binge drink and occasionally harass passers by and eventually drive off in two vehicles in a clearly drunken and erratic state.

Ninty minutes later I recalled the Police Control room and was told by a somewhat abrasive controler that officers had attended but no one was available to give details. When I queried this I was called back a few minutes later by a senior control person an informed that the CCTV (which is apparently operated by Sedgefield Borough Council and not as we all assume the Police) had not recorded any thing adverse and that the one Police Officer on duty in Sedgefield had been dealing with other priorities and was not available. Clearly I was regarded as somewhat of a nuisance for perusing the incident report and repeating that I had waited and the scene with two other witnesses for a Police response.

The key issue here is that this is not the first time that both the CCTV and the local Police have lost the confidence of this particular tax payer at the exact same location. Back in June a young pregnant Romanian Big Issue homeless magazine seller was systematically abused by kids from the local school and disgracefully spat at by older individuals - it was only when I reported a particularly nasty incident and pointed out that the CCTV would have been focused on the 'crime scene' did the Police seek the evidence; but apparently took no action for reasons they never bothered to tell either myself or the hapless young victim despite a number of requests.

A week ago I witnessed a yob in brazen disregard for any decency stagger out of the troublesome Black Lion expose himself and eventually urinate in a nearby gift shop doorway in full view of passers by and indeed the CCTV (which by this time had two remotely controlled units on its 30 foot pole) which without doubt would have recorded the offence.

So in summary, three key points: One, what is the point of local CCTV's if they do not record anti-social behaviour so that the Police can act (do they just exist to record illegal car parking perhaps) ? Two, Sedgefield has 1,999 less police officers on duty as a routine in the town than on the sunny afternoon when one G W Bush visited, exactly four years ago. Three, I got a very strong impression that the Police (ok civilian operators working at police HQ) regarded my call as a nuisance, they did not call me back when the Police could (or would not) respond with out my prompting them with further calls; clearly my call was not important to them.

One wonders, since my experience this afternoon is not I know unique, if Police's Public relations attitude (or a basic understanding of who their customers are) would be improved if the Chief Constables were elected and democratically accountable by those they seek to serve.
Update: This evening I received a call and visit from a very pleasant and good looking (a deliberately un-PC comment) young female PC who apologised profusely for the delay in the response but stressed she was the only officer on duty in the locality and had a serious incident to deal with this afternoon. I could not complain she was far too sweet and professional. Apparently the CCTV did record the yobs but the index number of the vehicle that they drove of in a drunken stupor was unreadable owing to the reflexion of the sun - funny that never happens when one is driving at 45 MPH in a 40 limit early on a week day morning on an empty road - I wonder why?

The ''Reform'' Treaty

The new draft of the constitutional "reform" treaty is up on the EU Council site – in all the Community languages. Officially, its title is the "Draft Treaty amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community" and it comes in four parts. See the Post on EU Referendum.

Friday, October 5


On the day the London's Olympic Park received the official go-ahead (last Monday), clearing the way for construction of the main venue complex for the 2012 Summer Games. The pride of our nation, the world-famous Red Arrows were told they have been banned from appearing at the 2012 London Olympics because, say the Olympic Delivery Authority, the Red Arrows are 'too militaristically British' and might be too 'offensive'.

The Red Arrows have been excellent ambassadors for British overseas trade, as they display their British-built Hawk aircraft all over the world. The Arrows performed a short flypast in 2005 when the winning bid was announced, their flypast at the Games was to have been (as it always is) truly spectacular. Thus is the thinking of those that are 'delivering' the 2012 Olympics and a truly phenomenal cost to the British Tax payer; an issue that we shall comment on regularly.

The End of Week Quote

''It was the theatre of sincerity, heavily contrived to look like it wasn't contrived.''

Melanie Phillips, in a piece 'Spinning from the Heart' .