When I heard about his resignation on the radio this morning my first thought was surprise that he was still an MP. I always remembered him as being one of the Tory wets who Maggie took pleasure in publicly humiliating, but he went further and committed the equivalent of an own goal when it came to humiliationy trying to publicly force force feed his reluctant, and somewhat surprised, daughter a burger at the height of the BSE scare.
I was even more surprised when I heard the reason:
The Conservative ex-cabinet minister John Gummer has said he will step down as an MP at the next election to focus on the campaign against climate change.
The Suffolk Coastal MP said he made up his mind following the “disappointing” end to the Copenhagen climate summit.
Now that I find really hard to believe. Some political nonentity steps down just as his party is about to end 13 years in opposition and there is the chance of more ego boosting publicity? Something stinks.
A quick google of the phrase mps expenses john gummer reveals some interesting finds, most notably this one:
John Gummer, the former environment secretary, used the parliamentary expenses system to claim more than £9,000 a year for gardening.
Mr Gummer also received hundreds of pounds to meet the costs of “treating” moles, removing jackdaw nests, tackling insect infestations and an annual “rodent service” contract. He claimed more than £100 a year for the mole treatment alone.
Letters seen by this newspaper show that officials in the House of Commons fees office were concerned that Mr Gummer was not producing receipts to justify many of his claims.
Therefore, the former Cabinet minister produced several almost identical annual statements from cleaners, gardeners and other people working for him which he submitted as receipts.
One read: “This is to acknowledge the receipt of sums in excess of £9,090.00 from The Rt. Hon John Gummer for outside maintenance, wood chopping and gardening at [address] during the year 1 April 2004-31 March 2005″. The following year a similar statement was produced for the same services for “sums in excess of £8,000″.
Haha, he’s a piggy extraordinaire and he appears to have been at it for a long time.
Now I have a pet theory about the next election, I reckon that the fattest piggies, of any party, are going to face a lot of serious challengers from well known independents. We are already seeing some signs of this with that awful woman Esther Rantzen threatening to stand against another piggy, Margaret Moran, in Luton South. So, I wondered if there was any high profile candidate in Gummer’s area making a noise? That was a bit harder but I did find this:
Terry Waite could stand as an independent candidate at the next general election after blasting the two main parties amid the MPs’ expenses scandal.
The former Beirut hostage launched a scathing attack on the political system as he branded Labour and the Tories ‘moribund’.
Mr Waite, 69, said independent MPs had a vital role to play in helping to reform Parliament as public anger and outrage rises.
He admitted he could be part of the ‘revolution’ by joining the likes of Martin Bell and Esther Rantzen as maverick candidates who could appeal to fed-up voters.
Mr Waite, who lives near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, said: “I am considering standing for Parliament and it would probably be in the Suffolk area.
Not conclusive, but I’ll bet someone is sniffing around the area and I wouldn’t mind a small wager that Gummer has had a gypsies warning.
But what of the timing? Copenhagen failure? Really? Gummer is hardly a leading light the warming camp. A few more minutes digging around:
By announcing his decision before the end of the year, he has ensured that the Suffolk Coastal Conservatives will not have a shortlist of three candidates imposed upon them by CCHQ. Will there be any more retirements announced before tomorrow night?
Now, I’m not a regular at Conservative Home but I do know from reading other blogs that not all is well when it comes to the selection of Tory PPC’s and local associations are up in arms at having outsiders imposed on them. So I’m just going to float a little theory about a conversation between the local party Charmian and Mr Gummer:
Chairman: John, your a teiving twat and we could lose the seat to an independent if you stand.
JG: No I’m not, I obeyed the rules, it was the rules wot did it and everyone understands. I’ll win easily.
Chairman: Get your head out of your arse, you’re damaged goods, always were, but if some twat like Waite stands you’ll lose. Now, be a good boy and stand down now so that we don’t have to accept some political drone from Central Office and we’ll keep quiet about ….
Our headlong descent into a society of humorless zombies unable to utter any comment or take part any pastime lest we offend someone continues apace:
A bingo caller has been advised to stop using phrases such as “two fat ladies” for fear of offending his audience.
Your probably thinking that these bingo player must be very highly strung people nowadays and like me that it was always just bit of fun, a bit of banter. Indeed when I have seen it played everyone seemed to enjoy the banter, no matter how toe curling. Still, got to please the punters, eh?
Mr Sayers said no-one had complained before, but now players moaned his new numbers-only style was boring.
What, nobody has complained, so why ban it?
A town council spokeswoman said it was “sad” they had to give the advice but they had to be “politically correct”.
And that, dear reader, is my definition of political correctness, somebody taking offense on someone else’s behalf even though they haven’t taken offense. So in this case the council hasn’t been besieged by fat ladies objecting to be likened to the number 8, some prodnose official has done it on their behalf.
But it get worse:
The 75-year-old, a member of Sudbury Town Council and former town mayor, said the clerk advised him to cut the traditional comic calls in case the authority found itself facing legal action.
So this isn’t some cheeky chappy, from the East End with offensive patter, but a rather upstanding member of the council and local signatory by the sound of it. So why is he acting as a bingo caller in the first place?
John Sayers, who runs charity games..
Right, so this is good natured fun in which people volunteer to participate to raise money for charity.
And the council says:
A council spokeswoman told the East Anglian Daily Times: “In particular with John being a councillor we have to be politically correct.”
She added: “It is very sad because it is part of the fun of bingo but unfortunately in today’s society people take it literally.”
Wrong answer, luv, this is what you should say if anyone complains:
1. Get a life.
2. If you don’t like it, don’t go.
3. If you still don’t like it stand against the guy in the next elections and make your point to the electorate. If they think you have a point they’ll elect you then you can change it.
If there is one message that we need to get across it is that nobody has the right not to be offended.
Traffic is queuing between Junction 5 at Stokenchurch and Junction 4 at Handy Cross while the agency removes potentially dangerous icicles from the junctions’ bridges.
And just to add insult to injury all that traffic leaves the motorway and takes the A40 past the end of my road which the council, in their infinite wisdom, has decided not to grit.
Result: utter chaos.
I’m sure Tony Blair, like all politicians, wants to see his premiership as one of success in historical terms, with him being placed alongside some of great international statesman whose contibution to mankind can be placed such as Chruchil, Roosevelt, Washington, Mandela and other such notables. Even before the history is written it is becoming ever more obvious that he was just an opportunist, grasping, self serving politician who has brought one of the great offices in the world in to disrepute.
There are only two reasons why any country can morally go to war: when its own security is at risk or it is has a mutual defence treaty with another country whose own security is under threat. Any other reason is aggression and interfering in the internal affairs of a State and sets a very dangerous precedent, no matter how many UN resolutions are passed.
When Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, took us to war in Iraq we were assured that our bases in Cyprus and elsewhere were only 45 minutes away from attack by WMD. This implied, of course, that Cypriots were in danger as were the Greeks and Turks as well as the Israelis. As I said at the time, despite personal animosity towards him, we have to believe that at times of war our Prime Ministers rise above their own egos and self serving party politics. That they will listen to all advice, from all sides, and weigh up the consequences and if necessary conclude, with a heavy heart, that war is a price that we have to pay. A price not just in money but the lives of some of our finest young men and women. If those consequences don’t put doubt in to the mind of the Prime Minister we are in serious trouble.
So it was that we went to war because the threat was deemed real and I supported that decision. It wasn’t long before it became obvious that the war was in vain because, for political reasons, nobody had prepared for the aftermath. That we would win the military battles, even against WMD, was never doubt; how we dealt with the aftermath was going to decide whether the war was a success or not. This isn’t a history lesson so I won’t give links as the descent in to civil war is well documented. It happened because there wasn’t any planning.
It wasn’t long before we learned that the 45-minutes was a politically motivated headline and that it was from a dodgy dossier. We were, in effect, taken to war on the flimsiest of evidence which had been sexed up.
For that alone Tony Blair deserves the opprobrium of history. Some think he should be brought before an international court but that isn’t going to happen. National leaders won’t submit easily to that process, t is too open to abuse they will claim.
If only that was the end of the story we might, just might, have allowed it to rest. But now for some reason Tony Blair has given it a stir and exposed another turd by admitting that WMD weren’t the reason for going to war, just the excuse:
Tony Blair is facing strong criticism after he said he would have gone to war in Iraq even if he had known there were not any weapons of mass destruction.
We now know that there weren’t any and that Hans Blix, the former weapons inspector, was vindicated:
Mr Blix added that the weapon inspectors were “pretty close” to showing that after 700 inspections, that there were no WMDs.
Seven hundred inspections. Surely the PM had access to the reports and could have waited a while longer if they were that close to a conclusion ?
So we can’t claim that self or mutual defence was the reason, so why did we go to war?
Speaking on BBC One’s Fern Britton Meets programme, Tony Blair was asked whether he would still have gone on with plans to join the US-led invasion had he known at the time that there were no WMD.
He said: “I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat.”
This is getting worse. All those deaths and he would have just used different arguments. What argument can trump mutual self defence? None that can think of and I don’t buy the argument it was about oil. We could have a done a deal with Saddam and we do deal with equally obnoxious regimes like Saudi Arabia and Libya.
He added: “I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons still in charge, but it’s incredibly difficult.
The problem with this argument is that it morally obliges to remove every despot and totalitarian regime that abuses its people, including Mugabe and the Chinese, and that ain’t gonna happen. So then the argument falls down and we are no better than those we attack.
And its our regular guy is not the least bit contrite about the deaths and mess he left in Iraq:
“That’s why I sympathise with the people who were against [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, you know, in the end I had to take the decision.”
Its not those who were against the war, no matter what there reason you should be apologising to. Its those who supported you at this time you led them to believe was one of grave danger. Those of us who believed that we had a duty to put personal animosity and party politics aside to support our Prime Minister when he makes a really difficult decision to go to war, believing that he has risen above personal politics in making this decision. Well I now know better; and more fool you for trusting him in the first place some would say.
It is said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned; well I can assure that this scorned man hopes that Tony Bliar’s new found God is a vengeful God and when his day of reckoning comes that His judgement condemns him to pass through purgatory into the deepest bowels of hell, never to be released.
At a risk of over simplifying the a difficult subject a recent news story from the BBC sums up the whole global warming debate, why there are so many skeptics and why they won’t go away. Please note that in this post I use the term skeptic in its proper context of someone who does not accept everything they are told at face value and applies critical thinking:
This decade ‘warmest on record’
Screams the headline from the BBC. What does it mean and why are they using quotation marks?
The first decade of this century is “by far” the warmest since instrumental records began, say the UK Met Office and World Meteorological Organization.
Their analyses also show that 2009 will almost certainly be the fifth warmest in the 160-year record.
OK, so now we have the boundaries of the headline but who is noticing? And what do they make a point of using the term “instrumental records”? Warmists can point to it and say “told you so” and that we are about to boil Gaia. But, but, but that’s only the past 160 say the skeptics.
To the warmists this is just further proof of the famous Hockey Stick graph that first kicked off the whole man made global (Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)) warming argument in the ’90s that the increased temperatures wer mostly driven by CO2 emissions from energy production using fossil fuels.
(For the avoidance of doubt all graphs that I use here are for illustrative purposes, there are many available on the web each with ts own nuance. There are many versions that vary in detail and these were chosen to get the gist of the main points across.)
As you can see from the Hockey Stick graph shows that the world has been cooling for a 1000 years and then just around the time we started industrialising temperatures took off. The implication being that the temperature rises are all man made, the earth has never been warmer and we are setting dangerous precedents. Indeed, at the start of the AGW debate proponents of AGW claimed that current (1990’s) temperatures were unprecedented. This meant that something must be done because we were entering unexplored territory in terms of the earth’s climate, they claimed. That something was the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which brought us the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of CO2 emission and is now leading to an updated protocol at Copenhagen
But, but, but…. what about the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) skeptics asked ? Prior to the great climate debate the MWP was something studied by school children and humanities graduates. During that period, we were told the earth was much warmer, Greenland was green and there was a massive increase in population and trade in the northern hemisphere. Since the start of the great climate debate it has become quite a popular subject.
A good paper on the skeptics’ position on the MWP can be found at the site of Anthony Watts, Watts Up With That (WUWT), one of the leading skeptic sites. The warmists position is summed up by the hockey stick graph but a Google search leads to over 200,ooo pages on both sides of the argument. This is the skeptics’ temperature hypothesis of the past 1000 years or so:
So what? Well, if the Medieval Warm Period did exist and to the extent that skeptics claim then the temperatures we are experiencing today aren’t unprecedented and may not be all man made. None of the skeptic sites I have read deny that CO2 is a “warming gas”. However the term that it is a “greenhouse” gas is misleading as that isn’t how it works. If the MWP did exist then it implies that the earths climate is relatively stable and not subject to the positive feedback that some of the more alarmist warmists claimed would lead to massive temperature increases.
The next period the skeptics looked in the Hockey Stick reconstruction was the the Little ice Age (LIA). There is no argument that it was abnormally cold by moder standards in this period as paintings from this era are available that show the Thames in London frozen. Now, if you go back to the hockey stick graph you will see that temperatures start to rise at in this period, the implication being that it is all the cause of man. Skeptics claim that the rise is due, in large part, by the natural variations n the earths climate, some of them driven by the sun and that the LIA was caused by a drop in the suns activity.
Human beings are pretty good at processing images so I am sure that by now you will have drawn a mental line, what is often referred to as a best fit or trend line, from the minimum temperatures up through the blip around 1800 and onwards up to today. You will probably have also projected it into the future and conclude that something must be done? But if the MWP does exist to what extent should we be beating ourselves up and restricting our wealth? And what of the longer term natural variability of the earth’s climate? Skeptics point to ice core analysis that shows that the earth does go through a long term temperature cycle:
So that, in a nutshell, is the background to some of the arguments and why skeptics have been banging on for the past few years. It all boils down to: did the MWP period exist or not? Here are some of the questions that skeptics raise:
1. What data did you use to create the temperatures during the period that skeptics claim as the MWP? The answer is Bristle Cone Pine tree rings. Unfortunately it really isn’t that simple. There is also a debate over how many trees constitute a good data set as in some cases only 12 trees have been used, skeptics claim.
2. How do you get from CO2 causing about 1.2deg C of warning for each doubling in the atmosphere to the claims of higher temperatures of up to 8 degC warming? Positive feedback claim the warmists. That doesn’t make sense its been hotter (see above) without runaway warming, and, claim some skeptics, even the IPCC recognise the case is falling apart.
3. But those skeptics aren’t climate scientists? The work of reconstructing the temperatures is more about statistics than climate science. More frustrating for the climate scientists one of the leading skeptics is a retired Canadian businessman called Stephen McIntyre who runs a site called Climate Audit and he just won’t go away.
Finally, that question of the temperature reconstruction around the MWP is what the so called Climategate emails and data files are all about. If I get time and the inclination and people ask for it I’ll do a Simpleton’s guide to climate
As we all accept that need to make savings why don’t we ever hear a discussion about cuts in our EU budget? Why is it always nurses and teachers and police and defence?
From the Times we have another example of the police abrogating its role:
The Times has learnt that Westminster Council, in Central London, is seeking to become the first local authority to have its own staff issue penalty notices to cyclists for breaking the law. The council’s city inspectors — who enforce regulations relating to licensing, noise and waste — would be given the power to stop cyclists and issue penalty enforcement notices.
I don’t know if this is a serious problem or not. Certainly I’ve never had a problem visiting or driving around London but I’ve mentioned it to cabbies a few times and judging by yesterday’s R5L phone-in its a very emotive subject. The problem with this story isn’t the cyclists, its the way that yet again policing isn’t addressing local needs and we are giving local bureaucrats the right to Lord it over us, determine who is guilty and issue fines. Its not like this is new but it won’t be the last:
Under the new scheme bouncers and security staff will have the authority to stop cars for checking and issue fines and penalty notices.
We have to stop this descent in to a society where we are being policed and found guilty by prodnoses who haven’t been properly trained in the law and Peelian Principles. The link between police and the those they police has been and should be one of mutual trust and the British people instinctively distrust bureaucrats, and for good reason. Anyone who has travelled widely knows that the more powers we give bureaucrats the more likely we are to suffer from corruption. The also know that the sort of people who will apply for those jobs are the ones who are likely to be jobsworths who see it as an opportunity to feed their over inflated ego’s and sense of importance. The sort of people who would be the classroom sneak, always sucking up to teacher believing they are loved, but really they are despised.
It is time to restore the link between the police and the people. For the people to decide what problems should be the polices’ priorities and for them to give local commanders direction. The only way to snatch control of the police from central dictat and targets and to free us from rule by bureaucrat is to have elected police commissioners, and you won’t be surprised to learn that this is Libertarian Party policy:
When this was raised by the Tories recently Sir Hugh Ord a police commissioner said:
Police chiefs in England and Wales may quit if a Conservative government forced directly elected commissioners on them, Sir Hugh Orde has said.
Sir Hugh, head of the chief constables’ association, told the BBC police independence was “absolutely critical”.
The Tories want elected officials with powers to hire or fire police chiefs, set budgets and policing priorities.
But Sir Hugh said any idea the police were under “political influence” could undermine democracy.
How having locally elected police commissioners undermines democracy we are left to guess, but it reveals an interesting state of mind of senior police officers. He later said on the radio that chief constables need to be able to prioritise resources, not local people, because issues like terrorism wouldn’t always get the necessary funding. I’m sure that the people of Truro don’t really care about terrorism and don’t see a threat. Equally, the people of Westminster might decide that they prefer to have their police chasing terrorist ghosts rather than Lycra clad louts on bikes, but it should be their choice.
But what about free loading? Don’t the people of Truro get free protection from terrorists at the expense of Westminster tax payers? No. We have the security services, MI5 and MI6, to fight terrorism, the police should be addressing local issues and following the Peelian Principals. How the police implement the priorities should be up to local commanders who are accountable to local people and if they fail, out they go.
A STAGGERING 250 people are dying of starvation a year in British hospitals – a national disgrace that costs the taxpayer a whopping £7 BILLION.
Official figures show that the number of patients suffering from malnutrition in NHS hospital beds has been getting worse since Labour came to power – with a 16 per cent rise in deaths since 1997.
If this was a private company we would have questions in the House, angry statements from Number 10, headlines on all the BBC news broadcasts, TV and Radio, national and local, outrgaed calls in to the various radio phone-ins and calls for “something to be done”. But we blindly accept it because it is our beloved NHS and we have been conditioned to believe it is the best healthcare provider in the world and the envy of all. So surely it is because it is proven to be the very best “free at the point of delivery” system available? Better than, say, Sweden:
Sweden’s entire population has equal access to health care services. The Swedish health care system is government-funded and heavily decentralized. The health care system in Sweden is financed primarily through taxes levied by county councils and municipalities.
Sweden regularly comes top or close to the top of worldwide healthcare rankings.
France, like other countries in Europe, has a system of universal health care largely financed by government through a system of national health insurance. In its 2000 assessment of world health care systems, the World Health Organization found that France provided the “best overall health care” in the world. In 2005, France spent 11.2% of GDP on health care, or US$3,926 per capita, a figure much higher than the average spent by countries in Europe and less than in the US
Germany has Europe’s oldest universal health care system, with origins dating back to Otto von Bismarck’s Social legislation, which included the Health Insurance Bill of 1883, Accident Insurance Bill of 1884, and Old Age and Disability Insurance Bill of 1889. As mandatory health insurance, these bills originally applied only to low-income workers and certain government employees; their coverage, and that of subsequent legislation gradually expanded to cover virtually the entire population.
Do these countries have similar problems of patients starving to death? I don’t know because I can’t speak their language well enough to read the detail of their news stories, just like 99.99r% of this country, but I’m betting they don’t because if they did we would be told about it often and loudly ad nauseum by those who claim the the NHS is the only way to deliver health care.
What I do know is that we have too many vested interests in this country who cry “privatisation” every time the subject of the NHS is raised. These vested interests are aided and abetted by the Labour Party and, worst of all, the BBC.
We need a serious debate about the best way to deliver health care which includes informed discussions on how other countries deliver health care . To give one personal example of how poor our grasp of reality is: I recently had a row with a good friend who unthinkingly defended the NHS when I suggested it could be done better. His defence, like many, was emotional because the NHS saved his sight. As it happens his sister is married to a Swede and lives in the north of Sweden so when he calmed down I asked if he would have got the same or better health care in Sweden? He accepted that he would and having seen their heathcare first hand even conceded it might be better.
For a long time I thought that we could do better and with Labour in the pocket of the producers, Tories too scared to raise the subject and the LibDems never being coherent but held to ransom held like the Tories, none of them could never be the agents of change. Healthcare delivery is too important to be managed by politians and is one of the many reasons I decided that the Libertarian Party offers the best chance of genuine and long standing improvements in the delivery of healthcare:
Our aim is to enable people to hold their healthcare provider to account and, if found wanting, have the freedom to take their business elsewhere. This cannot be done while the State is the monopoly provider who takes payment, commissions, runs and administers that monopoly. We do not envisage a mass sell-off of State assets, but a switch to independent not-for-profit and private entities competing openly.
There are a number of ways to effect the migration from State monopoly to an insurance-based system, and the available options are currently being reviewed by the Party.
The Libertarian Party believes strongly in honouring commitments, and this will extend to long-term care for the elderly and mental health services.
We will commission an investigation into existing PFI contracts to ensure that they are legal and were entered into with due diligence and in the interests of the taxpayer.
How many people does the NHS have to kill before the scales are lifted from our collective eyes?
Fresh from the Climategate abust of the Freedom of Information Act (search FOIon the post) we have a real cracker from the Home Office, as reported in this weeks Economist* (my emphasis):
STRETCHING the law on the disclosure of public documents has been a competitive sport among civil servants ever since the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act was passed in 2000. It requires public bodies to reveal information on request, but provides 23 get-outs, designed to protect secrets that ought to stay under wraps because they threaten national security, personal privacy and so on. The rules are often interpreted in a creative way.
Now The Economist has discovered a contender for the most inventive interpretation to date. After thinking about it for nearly two years and trying out various exemptions, the Home Office has refused to release a confidential assessment of its anti-drugs strategy requested by Transform, a pressure group. The reason is that next March the National Audit Office (NAO), a public-spending watchdog, is due to publish a report of its own on local efforts to combat drugs. The Home Office says that to have two reports about drugs out at the same time might confuse the public, and for this reason it is going to keep its report under wraps.
That’s right, they’ve made up their own excuse that we are too stupid to understand the data and might get confused. There really is no answer to that otherthan the customary call for hanging the bastards.
But surely they can appeal? Well, yes, and this is the response:
Sir Alan Beith, the chairman of the parliamentary Justice Committee, which oversees the FOI act, was sharply critical of the Home Office’s excuse. “That’s really scraping the barrel. On those grounds you would have to ban the various hospital reports that are coming out at the moment [see article] because the public are confused about that too. It’s not an argument for censorship, it’s an argument for an even more open and clear debate.” The Home Office was making “a quite ridiculous attempt to hide from freedom of information,” he said.
But wait, it get better. Those civil servants who are there to follow the law, offer best advice to Ministers and implement the wishes of the Government didn’t bother with any of those tedious niceties:
The legality of the decision is also in doubt, after the department admitted that its refusal to release the document had not been approved by a minister, as is required by law. A Home Office spokeswoman called it an “administrative error”. Retrospective ministerial authorisation was being sought as The Economist went to press.
Good, so it will get released then? Well, no because don’t forget civil servants draughted the FoI in the first place so a bit of criticism and illegality is water off a ducks back to them:
Legally or not, the Home Office will be able to hang on to its report for now because the FOI act takes so long to enforce. The commissioner’s office is said to be ready to order the release of the report now. If it does, the Home Office has 28 days to launch an appeal, which could take a year. In the meantime, drugs policy will continue to be shaped—or not—by research that the public paid for but may not see.
I quoted Jim Hacker in an earlier post, but is worth repeating it:
The opposition is the Government in waiting, the real enemy is the Civil Service.