Wednesday, November 28

Patientline Sinking Fast

Patientline - who has well earnt the title of probably the most hated company in Britain - the hospital bedside telephone operator that provoked outrage by hiking the price of calls to patients last April has reported widened first half losses prompting fears for its immediate future.

Patientline which said two months ago it was in danger of collapse, is in the midst of restructuring its £85.7 million debt and warned that its shares are about to become worthless. Patientline's operating loss has trebled to £11.2 million, while loss before tax doubled to £15.3 million, in the six months to 28 September. Revenue for the year fell 22 per cent, led by a 31 per cent decline in revenue from incoming calls.

The company has confirmed that its liabilities exceed assets by £43.1 million. Today the company is continuing talks with its patient bankers to yet again reschedule its mounting debt, though as the debt is increasing faast and the revenue falling sharply it is likely that the company will command as much confidence with its bankers as it does with hospital patients and staff.

The companie's revenues plunged following patients outrage at the 160 per cent increase in the cost of calling patients on the companies bedside units introduced in April as well as an increase in the cost for older patients to view tv. The fallout from the Director's crassly stupid decision to upset the life blood to its business is well covered on this blog.

Various management speech statements from the company  Chairman Geoff White detailing structural changes in the troubled company this week would win the 'Rearranging Deckchairs on the Titanic Award' of 2007.

Jobseekers who are considering applying for any of the vacancies currently being advertised by Patientline are advised by this blog that they will be better of by not doing so.

Sunday, November 25

The Failure of the Met (MPS)

Sir Ian Blair the Commisioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) held on to his job on Thursday only because of support of Labour Party members on the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA). Members of the Authority voted 15-7 against the motion of no confidence in the Commissioner which had been tabled by Conservative members and supported by Liberal Democrats. The vote was taken in the wake of the Stockwell shooting trial at which Scotland Yard was found guilty of serious failings under the Health and Safety Act in the operation that led to the death of the innocent Jean Charles de Menezes.

Bob Neill, a Conservative supporter of the no confidence motion, said, quite rightly, the failures in Stockwell had been "so grave and so catastrophic" that Sir Ian should step down. Lord Tope, a Liberal Democrat, said that Sir Ian should follow the example of Paul Gray, who stood down as head of HM Revenue & Customs this week after the loss of the child benefit database by his staff.

A separate report presented to the MPA revealed that the cost to the Met of defending the Stockwell case was £600,000, bringing its total bill for the trial – including a £175,000 fine and prosecution costs – to more than £1.1 million. So as a result there is even less money to fight crime efficiently in London than at the start of the fiasco, what a paradox.

The authority was also told that an amazing £4.7 million of expenditure by Senior Metropolitan Police Officers on corporate charge cards was not 'properly' accounted for. A quarter of that money was made up of cash withdrawals, usually by officers on assignment overseas. What a disgrace.

In support of Sir Ian, Richard Summary, a magistrate member of the authority, said: "This is about more than Stockwell; people are out to get the Commissioner." Well actually he is quite correct it is about a lot more than the killing of Mr de Menezes, the cover up and the deliberate misleading of the media by some senior officers in the Met in the days immediately afterwards. As horrific and as serious a failing of systems and duty the vote of no confidence in Sir Ian Blair as head of the Metropolitan Police Service and the UK's most senior Police Officer it is also about the failure of a Police force (or Police Service as it is now misnamed).

The Magistrate's comments begs the question, what would Richard Summary's response be if an otherwise law abiding motorist were to speak out in his court in defense of a charge of being caught driving at a few miles an hour over the prescribed limit by a gatso roadside tax collecting camera: Imagine the defense by a hapless motorist '' This is more than about speeding your Worship. People are out to get the motorist'' An extra fine and penalty points would no doubt be the reaction rather than a vote of confidence from the Bench!

Anyway to return to the point of this posting. Most criminals in London no longer regard arrest, let alone imprisonment as an occupational hazard. The Met only sends a policeman to the scene of a burglary if the intruder is present. Of the 97,000 burglaries that were reported in the capital in the accounting period 2006-7 64,000 were not investigated. So, in effect Londoners need now only dial 999 if they can persuade the burglar to wait the arrival of the Police! Indeed of all the offences reported in London during this period the police did not even carry out a cursory investigation into 53 per cent of them.

At the present time less that 6 per cent of Mets 30,000 plus officers are dedicated to local policing, compared with over 31 per cent in North Yorkshire and over 30 per cent in Essex. Petty crime in London is flourishing due to the Met's incompetent management.

Whilst considering statistics it is worth noting that the Audit Commission noted that the quality of the Mets sats have been downgraded to only 'fair', the penultimate of four grades. So even at compiling statistics to show that its performance in just about every aspect of its work getting worse - the Metropolitan Police Service is failing.

For any of the reasons stated Sir Ian Blair as head of the dysfunctional, fragmented and increasingly unaccountable organisation should be sacked. However, he remains in post because he has the political support of the Labour party, not his own officers, not the media and most importantly not the public.

Sir Robert Peel the great Statesman who founded the force in the 19th century (remember not so long ago when it was a force not a service) once said: ''The Police are the public and the public are the Police.'' The sentiment is as true now as it was then - without the willing co-operation of the public the Police cannot function efficiently. The Met are losing the confidence of the public hence they are losing the ability to function efficiently. The arrogant Sir Ian Blair and the members of the Labour party who are keeping him in office - but not in power - have forgotten that principle; in consequence it can only get better for criminals in our Capital City.



Finally, a year and ten months it was first formally finished, we receive the IPCC investigation into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes (PDF). What once would have been explosive and damning reading has been rendered, both by the leaks and the trial of the Met under health and safety legislation, into something almost familiar. It documents failures at all levels, from the officers conducting the surveillance on the morning all the way up to "Sir" Ian Blair himself. .

One of the IPCC recommendations is that there should have been a public debate prior to the implementation of the shoot to kill policy-Kratos- but that it wasn't thought necessary, or even worthy of discussion in parliament is an indictment of the secretive way of which the police continue to operate.
Even though Kratos was not in actual operation, de Menezes' fate may well have been sealed by the briefing delivered to the firearms 'officers' at Nightingale Lane police station'. The individuals involved in the bombings were described as being "deadly and determined" and "up for it" (section 11.11); never was it mentioned that they might encounter those who were entirely innocent in the course of the day. The two officers who shot de Menezes, referred to as "Charlie 2" and "Charlie 12" in the report both said how they believed it was very likely that they would be asked to "intercept deadly and determined terrorist suicide bombers," in the words of Charlie 2 (section 18.21).

The report asked the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether the actions of of Charlie 2 and 12 amounted to murder, given their justification for shooting de Menezes (section 20.74). They decided against.
Commander (now DAC) Cressida Dick's abject failure to properly either know what was being sent to Room 1600 from the CO12 team, or to make clear to the SO19 team that she wanted de Menezes arrested and not shot, something she failed to make significantly clear, was of no help.

One witness from within Room 1600, at Scotland Yard, - as had been leaked - claims that Dick added "at all costs" (section 12.36). Whether, if true, it would have made any difference we'll never know. The report does possibly help clear up some of the initial eyewitness reports given to the media which were so horribly wrong. Many of the witnesses mistook "Ivor", the officer first on the scene and who grabbed hold of de Menezes for an Asian man, and with him also being thrown and a gun pointed at him, he could have easily been mistaken for the man who was shot.
There are a few minor points in the report that are interesting or indicative of what already was happening on the scene in the aftermath; the pathologist who was on the scene by 13:33 on the 22nd of July was apparently briefed that de Menezes had vaulted the ticket barrier (section 14.16) and ran down the stairs before being shot after tripping, and included those "facts" in his report. It also notes how officers took statements from some of the witnesses inside nearby pubs while music was playing and with the news of what happened on the TV.
One of the witnesses described how an officer tried to influence her statement (section 14.8):
“You have to be careful what you say in this sort of situation, or it will be just one more copper with a family losing his job or worse”.
It also shows how the firearm 'officers' were allowed to draw up their statements on what happened together and come to a general consensus, whereas the witnesses were denied any opportunity to do just that.
The IPCC report really ought to have marked the end of Sir Ian Blair's term as head of the Met. The most damning condemnation is really reserved for him. The IPCC was not allowed any access to Stockwell tube station until the Monday, following Blair's order that the IPCC should be refused access, sent to the Home Office within an hour of the shooting. If we are to believe that Sir Ian Blair didn't know until the following morning that an innocent man was shot, it can't even be said he was trying to instigate a cover-up; he was simply opposed to the IPCC doing the job they was set up to do.
Nick Hardwick, in his statement on the issuing of the report, made clear that the delay in the IPCC being able to investigate led directly to much of the "difficulty" that has faced the Met since then. The fact alone that Sir Ian Blair worsened the situation that the police has faced since the tragic death of de Menezes is reason alone for the Commisioner's resignation or sacking.

The Sunday Quote

Oil of Dr William Battie by an unknown artist. Courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians

Style is when they're running you out of town and you make it look like you're leading the parade.

William Battie (1703 -1776) a physician who published in 1758 the first lengthy book on the treatment of mental illness 'A Treatise on Madness’, and by extending methods of treatment to the poor as well as the affluent, helped raise psychiatry to a respectable specialty. He was the first and only psychiatrist to become President of the Royal College of Physicians. He gave his name (unlwillingly perhaps) to the slang term 'battie'.

From the Farm

The EU likes to refer to "competent authorities" but this is now a contradiction in terms. Europe's massive one-size-fits-all mentality needs some trenchant downsizing. We need a panel of independent experts who understand the science and technology, can manage people and funding and who are not allergic to change. Such a new kind of group to keep things grown-up, rigorous and efficient is long overdue. Its members must be seen to be independent of the government ......... Mary Critchley continues on Warmwell.

Saturday, November 24

About that Referendum

Dr Helen Szamuely's opinions matter. She is head of of Research at the Bruges Group, co-author of EU Referendum blog and author of Conservative History blog as well as editor of the Conservative History Journal. She is also the co-author with Bill Jamieson of A 'Coming Home' or Poisoned Chalice? and with Dennis O'Keeffe of Samizdat, both published by the Centre for Research for Post-Communist Economies (CRCE). She has also written briefing papers on enlargement and other matters to do with Eastern Europe for the CRCE and has appeared on the media, including internet media, to speak on subjects to do with the European Union and post-Communist affairs. At times, she has worked and still works as a researcher and brief writer in the House of Lords.
''We are'' writes Helen today ''going through another period of fussing about referendums and it seems to me that I should try to weigh in on this subject. What with one thing and another, I have written and spoken about referendum – need for one and justification for it in a supposedly functioning representative democracy a few times."
The full piece ' About that Referendum ' is posted on EU Referendum.

Unprecedented Attack

The political importance of the "unprecedented attack" on the Prime Minister by no less than five former defence chiefs in the House of Lords yesterday can be read on Dr North's Blog Defence of the Realm.

Friday, November 23

The End of Week Quote

London is the second most expensive city in the world, and while billions are made in the City, ordinary Londoners often struggle to pay for the basics - housing, energy and transport. Being Green is about believing in a fair share for everybody, so I'm determined to cut the astronomical cost of living and make a fairer, greener London.
The somewhat daft comment from Sian Berry, the hitherto invisible Green London Mayoral candidate. Read the full piece on posted on One London.

Tuesday, November 20

Patientline - An Expensive Blot

Yours a twice monthly national magazine for mature Ladies (not on line) picks up on the issue of hospital patient groups who are becoming increasingly angry at the strangle hold Patientline continues to have on calls made to and from patients using bedside phones. This is not a new issue but one that continues to irritate.

Examples are provided from all over the country on page 21 of the issue published today (click above to read) of very unhappy patients and relatives. A particularly sad case is told of one elderly couple far too frail to visit their 30-year old son in hospital for the six weeks treatment for a brain injury. Unable to visit their sick son they telephoned him briefly every morning and evening to keep in touch. The poor souls ended up with a phone bill of £450.

The failing Patientline is exposed as the most expensive bedside phone provider - they operate in 150 or so hospitals. No doubt the company will respond with its well spun message about not costing the NHS any money to install and Mrs Peters the ultra loyal Pantieline Manager from North Tess Hospital will yet again wax indignant in the comments section below but the basic fact remains that Patientline continues as a blot on the landscape of the NHS.

It has already been suggested that the Editor of the Blog was 'connected' with the production of the article. Many may well well think that; we could not possibly comment.

Monday, November 19

Many People Assume

It really is very hard to tell whether our Prime Minister Gordon Brown, when he originally made his pledge to create "British jobs for British workers" at the September Labour Party conference, was attempting to deceive, or genuinely did not know that any such pledge would contravene EU law. Many people tend to assume that our masters ............ Dr North continues on EU Referendum.

From the Farm

Poor old farmers. Can there be a more smeared and sneered at group in Britain - or one that has had so much thrown at it in so short a time? And are journalists really unable to see a difference between farmers (people who farm) and those grotesque agri-barons who treat animals as mere parcels of protoplasm to be crammed behind the high walls of factories? Comment is posted our posted on one of our favourite sites Warmwell.

Sunday, November 18

The Sunday Quote

''All progress is based upon the universal desire on the part of every organisation to live beyond it's income.''

Samuel Butler 1835 -1902

£4,000 every houshold

The case against big government is simple and devastating. Politicians have big ambitions, but low competence. This is not an issue of party political rhetoric, it is a matter of numbers. The Taxpayers' Alliance has suggested that every household in Britain has £4,000 taken each year in tax. A detailed comment on this is posted on the excellent blog, The Purple Scorpion.

Friday, November 16

End of Week Quote

The End of Week Quote is a Speech given by Major General John Sutherell at the medal parade for the Royal Anglians on Thursady.

There is no doubt that the tour you have just completed is the most demanding operational tour experienced by any Royal Anglian Regiment since its formation in 1964. For those involved this will live forever in the memory.

In spite of the heat and privations you have taken on a hard and fanatical enemy on their own grounds and driven them back. The fighting has been remorseless in its intensity and often at very close quarters.You have shown courage, endurance and professional skill and comradeship of a very high order.

But you have also shown the intelligence, restraint and humanity to discern between those who have been trying to kill you and the people we are in Afghanistan to help.

As a result you have made a very important contribution to a campaign that is strategically hugely important to the UK, its allies and all the countries in that region.

This considerable success has come at a cost. We are all mindful of the nine who died and so many of you who have suffered the pain of wounding, including the unseen wounds that are so hard to bear.

But the families that stayed at home, separated from their loved ones, also deserve a medal. No one who experienced this year shall forget it. This year, our regiment has come of age.

You all have served our country, our regiment, your families and each other magnificently.

Thursday, November 15

A European No-Brainer

Channel Four News reports that: ''Financial support for Europe's regions will be suspended unless national authorities tighten controls against euro-fraud and mismanagement, the European Commission has warned.'' Europe's regions yes indeed really - that is actually quite true there are 12 European Regions in the UK.

The latest threat from Brussels was announced after after the EU's financial watchdog refused for the 13th year running to give the Union's annual spending a clean bill of health this week. The Commission oversees the handling of the £75 billion-a-year euro budget, but the member states are responsible for distributing the bulk - almost 80% - of EU spending, most of it in grants and subsidies. In fact a whole industry has developed around the misnamed ''European money'' handouts. The UK of course gets back, conditionally, each year about two thirds, of the billions that it pays over to the EU each year.

One wonders where the billions in grant money will go if the EU suspends payments to some or most of 'its regions'. At this point we must spare a thought for all those dependent on EU regional funding in the European Regions of the UK. Many poor souls in such hither too ever expanding organisations such as the Regional Development Authorities would be cast adrift on the job market - many would clearly suffer long term hardship since finding work in the private sector could be too huge a cultural shock for them.

So in summery the EU regions in the EU province of Britain - created primarily (at the time of the Single European Act of 1988 when few knew what was really going on) for the complex funding arrangements of the EU may not in future be funded with the the money that British Taxpayers unwittingly pay over (in ever increasing amounts) to the EU Commission because, say the EU, the EU system of funding for it's dear regions is not fit for purpose. This failing is blamed by the EU officials on the regions in the EU's member states. Oh dear what a sorry (member) state of affairs.
Well now, to use modern parley it is a 'no-brainer' to conclude that it would be a lot more efficient and indeed beneficial if in the future we in the UK distributed our own funds to our very own own counities (some quite well establshed) and metropolitan and other unitery authorities (they are a tad more modern) on a national bases. Sounds very simple to me. Are we on this blog missing the point ?

The Admiral's Retreat

As Admiral the Lord West swims away from Downing Street with a large naval dirk sticking out between his shoulder blades, government policy on the issue of how long it wants to be able to hold suspects, is, as the retired sailor now appreciates, all at sea, he knows politics is no place for gentlemen. The detail of the Admiral's embarrassment is posted on the excellent blog, The Huntsman.

Wednesday, November 14

The Decline of the British High Street

Comments are bouncing around the inside pages of the newspapers this week concerning the all too obvious decline of our high streets in recent years. The connection that commentators and others are not making forcefully enough is between the draconian and expensive parking restrictions in most towns and city centres and the decline of our traditional high streets.

Quite deliberately planners have favored for mostly 'environmental' reasons out of town shopping centers with their huge free to use car parks Such locations by and large favour the larger retail chain leaving the independent retailer to struggle on in high street shopping locations that are well past their prime due to under use by more affluent shoppers.

Combine the growth of out of town shopping with the increasing mighty power of supermarkets who now retail far more than groceries the outlook for the independent specialist retailer - once a dominant business sector is looking grim. The solution is not easy though a cry of use us or loose us not only sounds pathetic it will not encourage consumers to return in droves. Maybe a general tax break for independent smaller retailers is a way forward to encourage their growth?

The independent food retailer has been particularly badly hit during the past 10 years. Ahead of the long awaited publication of the findings of the Commission's inquiry into whether the growth of the UK's grocery giants is hindering competition, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said certain tactics employed by large retailers must be dealt with. Though the difficulty is precisely how smaller businesses can respond to the march of the giants.

Selling items priced below the cost of production, bullying small suppliers and paying them late, spiraling high street parking charges and property speculation through land banks are among the corporate methods which the FSB claims supermarkets use to exert unfair dominance over independent shops. An all-party group of MPs recently estimated that by 2015 there will be no independent food high street retailers.
The Commission's latest inquiry, the findings of which will be published later this week, is the third investigation into supermarkets in seven years; yet as far as small retailers are concerned the national solution to the problem of the slippery slope of overall declining sales remains elusive.
A reversal of expensive and restrictive parking policies (a part of a strong anti-car philosophy) in our declining town centers by our cash hungry local authorities- encouraged by central government - would make a significant improvement to the fortunes of our High Streets. Two hundred years ago Napoleon commented that we are a nation of small shop keepers alas we are now a nation of expensive parking zones and four monster supermarket chains. I feel a campaign coming on.

The Wrangling of Car Emisions

The wrangling between EU institutions continues over the setting of medium and long-term emissions limits for cars, with the outcome likely to have very serious implications for Britain's specialist car-makers and the tens of thousands of people they employ. In a European Parliament resolution of 24 October 2007, MEPs responded to the EU Commission's aspiration. Fellow blogger Stuart Coster makes some valid points over on Pro-car.

Monday, November 12

The Remembrance Parking Fine

As most people in the UK and Commonwealth stopped what they were doing yesterday and stood in respectful silence at 11 o'clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in due dereference to our Nations 'Glorious Dead'. Halifax Parking Wardens in blatant disrespect were handing out fixed penalty parking fines actually during the two minute silence to vehicles while the drivers were attending the local war memorial service.

The vehicles were parked in a residential street with reserved parking for residents. Many cars had been used to transport elderly and infirm people and had for obvious reasons parked a short distance from where the service of Remembrance was being held.

The owner of one vehicle Malcolm Walker was furious about the incident and told BBC Radio Leeds that amazingly the fixed penalty notices were actually being affixed to vehicles during the two minute silence.

As reported on the BBC Leeds website Mr Walker said to the Council Parking Warden :

"I said, do you not realise why these cars are actually parked here? They've come to remember the fallen could you not just go round the corner for five minutes and cut them some slack?'' He added ''could you not hear the bugles playing and the bank marching. She just looked at be blank. ''

The Parking Warden responded ''A, I'm doing my job, and B, I didn't even know there was a parade on.''

An unnamed spokesman for Calderdale Council who employed the inflexible local parking tax collector commented that it had responded to "numerous" complaints from residents in Dispensary Walk. He said to the BBC:

"Residents living there are frequently unable to park close to their own home because of other motorists parking illegally in their residents' parking area, and this causes them a great deal of difficulty, particularly if, for example, they need to load or unload from their cars. This is a regular ongoing problem for these residents, not only a once a year event."

The spokesman added (completely missing the point) ''the parking area for residents was clearly signed and there were more than 200 alternative spaces available so there was no reason for any motorist to abuse the residents' parking area".

Unfortunately incidents and official comments like this are not uncommon. Whilst the actions of one ignorant and inflexible parking warden can be put down to crass stupidity the response of Calderdale Council is by any standard quite disgraceful. When the authorities, Police and politicians complain of the lack or respect given to themselves or the lack of cooperation they should not commission yet another focus group or consultation exercise in an attempt to understand the problem they should simply examine their own working practices of which this incident in Halifax yesterday is but one example.

It is the earnest hope of the editor of this blog that if the officials at Calderdale Council insist on enforcing the £30 fine (which if left unpaid will increase to £60) Mr Walker and his fellow parkers refuse to pay and attend Halifax magistrates court in mass and present a verbal case of mitigation. Lest the Councilors at Halifax meanwhile remind their officials that Nelson once put his telescope to his blind eye for a reason.

Sunday, November 11

The Remembrance Sunday Quote

The Sunday Quote today the 11 th November - Rememberance Sunday - reflects on a little referred to meeting on the Day that Winston Churchill was appointed as Britain's War time coalition government Prime Minister. A meeting between the incumbent PM Chamberlain, Foreign Sectary Lord Halifax and Churchill then First Sea Lord. Churchill's uncharacteristic silence during a key moment at the meeting that day a reflection of his political genius.

I have had many important interviews in my public life and this was certainly the most important. Usually I talk a great deal but on this occasion I was silent . Mr Chamberlain evidently had in his mind the stormy scene in the House of Commons two nights before, when I had seemed to be in such heated controversy with the Labour Party,. Although this had been in his support and defense, he nevertheless felt that it might be an obstacle to my obtaining their adherence at this juncture. I do not recall the actual words he used, but this was the implication. As I remained silent a very long pause ensued. It certainly seemed longer than the two minutes which one observes in the commemorations of Armistice Day. Then at length Halifax spoke. He said that he felt that his position as a Peer, out of the House of Commons , would make it very difficult for him to discharge the duties of Prime Minister in a war like this. He spoke for some minutes in this sense, and by the time he had finished it was clear that the duty would fall upon me.
Extracted and abridged from: 'The Second World War Volume 1 - The Gathering Storm' by Winston S Churchill.

The two minutes silence that Churchill refers to at the meeting at number 10 Downing Street was on the morning of 10 May 1940 and has since been described as the most important two minutes in British History. If Halifax had emerged for that meeting as Chamberlin's successor as indeed the latter had intended without doubt the UK would have made deal with Nazi Germany who that very day had invaded Holland, Belgium and France.

Thus, this is how the the war time Leadership of Winston Churchill started with an assement of a situation that had the great man mishandled the political result would clearly have led to the and early end to the War with the appeasement of Hitler's military dominance of Europe. A policy that would have led to a Europe of unchallenged fascist domination.

Not before or since that short meeting in the famous terraced house in central London has the future of the western world hinged on a well calculated silence; if anyone doubts the vital contribution of Churchill's leadership to Britain and world civilization during the early years of the Second World War they need do no more than consider the alternative politician that could have led the nation from May 1940 - the appeaser Lord Halifax.

Saturday, November 10

From the Farm

The Reform that dare not speak its name
by Dr Richard North

Keen though they are to call the EU constitution a "reform" treaty, the “colleagues” are distinctly reticent about applying the word “reform” to yet another round of er… reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy. Indulging in their love of circumlocutions and constructive ambiguities, this time they are calling it a "health check".
Agriculture commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel tells us that the process underway is a more "nuanced" approach aimed at a way of achieving "a better way of handling available resources." This "nuanced" approach is an extension of what is known in the business as "modulation", creaming off subsidies paid to farmers and diverting them to rural development.
The "modulation" level now being proposed is €100,000 which means, according to the IHT that amongst the losers will be the Queen (ours, that is) and the owners of East Germany's Communist-era collective farms. The EU commission is suggesting "by way of example" that payments above €100,000 could be reduced by 10 percent, those above €200,000 by 25 percent, and those above €300,000 by 45 percent.
The plan, of course, must be approved by member states, and there they might have a little difficulty. In 2002 a plan to cap farm subsidies at €300,000 was blocked by Germany and Britain. And while the UK does, in principle, favour reform, the current scheme adversely affects British farming, which has the largest average farm size in Europe.
However, the plan may be more "nuanced" than it appears. Jack Thurston, co-founder of, calculates that the current proposal would affect only 1.7 percent of spending on direct farm aid. Given that total subsidies paid amount to €55 billion out of the total EU budget this year of €116 billion - and direct aid is less than half - this does not make a serious dent in the system.
No wonder the EU Commission does not want to call their plan a "reform".

Friday, November 9

The End of Week Quote

'' Every day that Sir Ian Blair clings to office seriously damages the Metropolitan Police and its ability to provide safety and security in the capital. By undermining public confidence in the police force, it makes another terrorist atrocity much more likely.''
The first paragraph from the Leader in todays Daily Mail.

The column ends:

'' If the Commissioner hasn't the decency to resign by the time the Metropolitan Police Authority meets next Thursday, they must sack him.''
Which is in line with the comment that the editor of this Blog made in a posting last last week-end.

Wednesday, November 7

Move on Sir Ian

A vote from the members of the London Assembly calling on the Home Secretary to sack Sir Ian Blair the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was carried this afternoon after more than two hours of demanding and sometimes angry questioning. Members of the Assembly repeatedly clashed with Sir Ian as they demanded to know why he would not step down over the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Sir Ian Blair has restated his suborn determination to remain in his post dispite beeing told elected London representatives have no confidence in him - but has insisted this evening that he will not resign.

The unprecedented move by the London Assembly was designed to pile fresh pressure on Sir Ian in the wake of last week's guilty verdict at the Old Bailey over the Stockwell shooting. But the Commissioner said he retained the support of senior politicians, which for the moment is true though his fellow senior officers officers and the majority of Londoners are increasingly concerned that Sir Ian position is untenable.

As regular readers of this blog will know we called for Sir Ian to resign or be sacked shortly after the killing of Mr de Menezes. Tomorrow the Independent Police Complaints Commission publishises its Stockwell One report. It is unlikely that Sir Ian Blair will retain the support of the Prime Minister beyond Friday; his arrogant attitude will be far too much of an embarrassment even for Gordon Brown to tolerate.

Head over the EU

Fed up with unwillingly advertising the EU on my 'Driving Licence I have come up with a simple protest to the offensive ring of stars that we all carry and display on ever increasing demand. I have affixed a postage stamp on the top right hand corner. With a bit of trimming the Queens Head nicely covers up the EU Flag; as indeed it should. In the absence of a suitably sized Union Flag sticker it's a cheep and easy to apply protest. Here is one I made earlier ..........

Brown's BNP Moment

If one was to cherry-pick two moments from yesterday’s encounter in the House of Commons between Messers Brown and Cameron, then Cameron’s highlighting of the Prime Minister’s BNP-style sloganeering and Brown’s taunting of Cameron over the issue of whether he will promise a referendum on a ratified EU Constitution are self-selecting. Today's post by a fellow blogger on The Huntsman makes the best point of the day.

Tuesday, November 6

The Queen's Speech

Entirely predictably, but nevertheless an important milestone in the passage of the EU Lisbon treaty from a draft to becoming part of the British constitution, the Queen's speech today, which was also entirely predictable, included provision for a Bill to ratify the treaty.

This drew a response from David Cameron that his Party would table an amendment to "give the British people the referendum they were promised".

Sunday, November 4

Scared to Death

Never before have so few (Christoper Booker and Richard North) disturbed so many with a new book; well not since their last one.
Today, The Sunday Telegraph publishes a whole page on a new book, Scared to Death, the latest from the Booker-North stable. James Delingpole wrote ''This brilliant expose of some of the most destructive delusions of our time should be compulsory reading for everyone (particularly journalists and politicians) and if people took heed the world would suddenly become a better place."
The article in the Telegraph however, is a shorter version of that which Booker originally submitted, the full version of the article is posted on EU Referendum.

Follow the links to read more and to order the book.
Christopher Booker & his colleague, Richard North, are courageous opponents of scares. They ought to be national treasures ... they are relentlessly unfashionable. Their unwillingness to run with the pack makes them sceptical of conventional wisdom and sets them apart from mainstream journalism, which is unsettled by their diligence and their originality.And then - like all sceptics - they are sometimes embarrassing even to their friends. They will insist on checking the facts of the matter ... this excellent forensic book ... Every politician, every journalist, every consumer of journalism should read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it.
Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday.

What did you do ......?

Peter Hitchens in The Mail today has a tilt at the European Union and takes a swipe at the Tories as well. Of them, he writes:

When it comes to action, the Tory Party will continue to support the EU because they have been committed to it since the Sixties, and cannot admit that this was a mistake.But they also recognise how unpopular it is, which is why they pretend to be hostile and invented'Euroscepticism' to console disgruntled voters. The longer this goes on, the harder it will be to unscramble. My advice is not to be diverted by campaigns for a referendum that will get us nowhere.It is to consider, very carefully, whether you will be able to look your children and grandchildren in the face when, 20 years hence, they ask: "What did you do to stop the country being taken over by a foreign power?"
He adds that he will continue, week by week, to suggest ways in which you might be able to ensure that they never need to ask that question.

Pakistan's State of Emergency

Pakistan's President Musharraf announced a "state of emergency" that has all the appearances of a full military takeover and the imposition of martial law. In Vegas, a move like this at the craps tables is known as the "dead man's roll", a last shot with whatever chips you have left to win or lose it all. An excellent analysis of the implications is posted by fellow blogger on Joshuapundit.

The Sunday Quote

''The best indicator of a man's honisty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjustment on his bathroom scales.''

Sir Arthur C Clarke

Saturday, November 3

Parking Fines

Now if we were telling you that a theft had been reported to the Police but the Police were refusing to make an arrest until the thief contacted lawyers to see if stealing was a crime then you would think the world had been turned upside down. Now consider this > Posted on Neil Herron blog.

We Do Not Tolerate Death Squads; Resign

When a business fails those who run it lose their jobs. Whether it is a Bank or a small business serious failure costs the livelihood of those in charge. It is a reflection of the difference between the public sector and the business world that when there is serious failure in the public sector those in charge of public institutions and indeed their sympathizers, think they are justified in clinging to their highly paid jobs.

Without doubt the failure of the Metropolitan Police over the shooting of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes as confirmed when the 'Met' was found guilty at the Old Bailey last week of serious health and safety charges, has been well documented in the national media. The court heard how there was a ''catastrophic'' series of blunders which led to surveillance teams believing they were on the trail of a suicide bomber rather than a totally innocent electrician going legally to work. The Police were fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £385,000 costs.

The events were without doubt born out of appalling communication failures, human error and neglect of duty which were compounded by the response and reaction of Sir Ian and other senior officers in the hours and days after the tragic shooting. Further facts will be detailed in the publication of the Independent Police Complaints Commission 'Stockwell One Report ' published next week.

The report is particularly critical of the Commissioner for the manner in which he attempted to keep independent investigators away from the scene of the killing in the immediate aftermath. The Metropolitan Police Authority will be meeting within the next ten days to hold vote of confidence on Sir Ian Blair as head of London's Police.

The intense pressure of the situation in London following the 7 July bombings in 2005 is frequently put forward as mitigation of the killing of Mr De Menzies. In fact detail of the events of his killing that are already well established in the public domain dismiss such arguments. The Police and the Security Services failed through unacceptable and basic neglect of duty to the public. Further more black propaganda issued to the media on the character and behavior of Mr DeMenzies immediately following his killing compounded the failings of the authorities and particularly Sir Ian Blair.

As we stated on this blog in the months after the horrific events in London in the Summer of 2005 the terrorists must not win the war on terror - for a war is what it is. If the huge errors and failure of duty by the authorities are allowed to go unchecked, if standards of Policing are allowed to fall, if it becomes acceptable to turn a blind eye in the name of 'security'; then public confidence in the Police will fall to even lower levels than it is now.

The British public sector is fixated in believing that lessons learnt is the silver lining in the black clouds of public disasters. If there is a lesson in the tragic killing of Mr. De Menezies it is that we do not tolerate death squads in Britain. Not then, not now not ever.

It is thus for all those reasons that Sir Ian Blair the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Britain's most senior Police officer the person in ultimate charge of the events that led to the death of Jean Charles De Menezes must resign. If he will not resign the Home Secretary Ms Jacqui Smith should sack him; if she won't then the Prime Minister should sack them both. The alternative is the contempt from the majority of thinking Britons of the Police will have serious implications on the future security of our great nation.

The End of Week Quote

The end of week quote this week is a copy of an email complaint and reply sent to Edinbrough Police and copied to us by a reader. The reply from a Police Constable is so very typical. The emails are reproduced on this Blog because the problem is also very common in other locations in the UK. The crux of the matter being that the Police are losing the confidence of the public in ever increasing amounts; though British humour apparently remains firmly in place.

Dear Sir/madam/automated telephone answering service

Having spent the past twenty minutes waiting for someone at Leith policestation to pick up a telephone I have decided to abandon the idea and try e-mailing you instead. Perhaps you would be so kind as to pass this message on to your colleagues in Leith by means of smoke signal, carrierpigeon or ouji board.

As I'm writing this e-mail there are eleven failed medical experiments (I think you call them youths) in West Cromwell Street which is just off Commercial Street in Leith . Six of them seem happy enough to play a gamewhich involves kicking a football against an iron gate with the force of a meteorite. This causes an earth shattering clang which ringsthroughout the entire building. This game is now in it's third week and as I am unsure how the scoring system works, I have no idea if it willend any time soon.

The remaining five walking abortions are happily rummaging through several bags of rubbish and items of furniture that someone has sothoughtfully dumped beside the wheelie bins. One of them has found a saw and is setting about a discarded chair like a beaver on speed. I fear that it's only a matter of time before they turn their limited attention to the bottle of calor gas that is lying on it's side between the two bins. If they could be relied on to only blow their own arms and legsoff then I would happily leave them to it. I would even go so far as to lend them the matches. Unfortunately they are far more likely to blow uphalf the street with them and I've just finished decorating the kitchen.

What I suggest is this. After replying to this e-mail with worthless assurances that the matter is being looked into and will be dealt with, why not leave it until the one night of the year (probably bath night)when there are no mutants around then drive up the street in a panda carbefore doing a three point turn and disappearing again. This will of course serve no other purpose than to remind us what policemen actuallylook like. I trust that when I take a claw hammer to the skull of one of these throwbacks you'll do me the same courtesy of giving me a four month headstart before coming to arrest me.

I remain sir, your obedient servant ..................


Mr ............

I have read your e-mail and understand you frustration at the problems caused by youth playing in the area and the problems you have encountered in trying to contact the police. As the Community Beat Officer for your street I would like to extend anoffer of discussing the matter fully with you.

Should you wish to discuss the matter, please provide contact details(address / telephone number) and when may be

Regards PC.............

Dear PC ...........

First of all I would like to thank you for the speedy response to my original e-mail. 16 hours and 38 minutes must be a personal record for Leith Police.

Secondly I was delighted to hear that our street has it's own communitybeat officer. May I be the first to congratulate you on your covertskills. In the five or so years I have lived in West Cromwell Street , I have never seen you. Do you hide up a tree or have you gone deepunder cover and infiltrated the gang itself?

Whilst I realise that there may be far more serious crimes taking place in Leith such as smoking in a public place is it too much to ask for a policeman to explain (using words of no more than two syllables at a time) to these persons that they might want to play their strange football game elsewhere. The pitch behind the Citadel or the one at DKs are both within spitting distance as is the bottom of the Leith Dock.

Should you wish to discuss these matters further you should feel free to contact me on ......... If after 25 minutes I have still failed to answer, I'll buy you a large one in the Compass Bar.


P.S If you think that this is sarcasm, think yourself lucky that you don't work for the cleansing department.

Thursday, November 1

Sir Ian Blair - He Must Resign

The Metropolitan Police has been convicted of a serious crime, albeit, as the Trial Judge, said, one that was born of “an isolated breach brought about by quite extraordinary circumstances”. Notwithstanding this unprecedented and astonishing turn of events, Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, clings by his fingernails to office. We recomend the piece by a fellow blogger posted on The Huntsman.

A Whinging in the Valleys

Welsh small businesses are yet again to loose out on a £1 billion of so called ''European Money'' (allocated by our true government in Brussels) to provide, so we are told, a shot in the arm to small businesses.

Although the aim of the so- called " EU Convergence Funding", which West Wales and the Valleys qualify for due to their low GDP, is to help small and medium-sized businesses to grow, there is serious whining in the valleys that once again the cash will be allocated to just every project other than those that could actually create real long term jobs.
The Brussels approved 'Programme Monitoring Committee' (PMC) in Wales has 24 members, 10 appointed ''economic experts'' and 14 reserved for Welsh organisations only one of the 14 slots has gone to any one with business experience. Though Ann Beynon, a corporate Director for BT in Wales is not a person with with small experience.

The whole distribution programme risks repeating mistakes made in spending during the last seven-year round of EU cash handouts (then known as Objective One). Although Brussels declared itself happy with the way the Assembly Government had run that scheme, there was widespread criticism that it had been a missed opportunity, because the true engine room of economic growth small and medium sized businesses were excluded from support from the fund.
Janet Jones, the voice of of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Wales, said in the Western Mail this week: "If the aim of the programme is to transform the Welsh economy, don't you think it would have been a good idea to involve more businesses. It's a travesty that out of all of 14 places available on the Convergence Funding PMC which were allocated to organisations, only one place was given to the private sector. There is also no dedicated small business representation on the PMC, despite the stated aim of the whole programme being 'to help progress the region's transformation into a sustainable and competitive economy by investing in the knowledge economy and helping new and existing businesses to grow', which is taken from the Wales European Funding Office's own website.''

John Wright the FSB National Chairman made similar comments which attracted a headline in the Welsh press during September about ''European money'' in Wales being in danger of failing to reach the small Businesses who are best placed to stimulate the local economy.

Well both the FSB 'chairs' (as they like to be referred to) are undoubtedly quite right to join in the criticisms. However, making a lot of noise about the issue is all that regrettably can be done. Meanwhile Welsh entrepreneurs will for the 8th year in succession fail to receive funding which would transform the economic life of Wales if it were properly allocated. No wonder there is much so whining in the Welsh Valleys

The actual long term remedy is of course simple. It is to stop paying ever increasing billions of pounds of British tax payers money over to ''Europe'' and await patiently for some of its conditional return from Eurocrats to whom we are supposed to be very grateful. Why not simply demand that our own accountable politicians (and we have enough of them) spend our money in a way that can be held accountable to the British people? It sounds really quite simple and preferable. Which is why the grass routes representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses have twice voted to leave the EU.