Showing posts from May, 2006

Prescott Memorial Acronym competition

The competition is still open for anyone who wants to send me a humorous "real meaning" for any of the acronyms, initials and alphabet soup sent out by John Prescott while he had a department to run. Final close of entries will be midnight on Thrusday 1st June. The prize will be a copy of "The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze." However, I gather that copies of this strongly recommended book are selling fast and there are only 500 left from the original print run, so the winner may have to wait for the book's second print run. And if you were thinking of buying a copy of the first printing of this book, sure to become a collector's item, you had better hurry. Copies are available on Amazon at The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze Mind you, the rate the Labour government is going, there will have to be a second edition within a few weeks which will be twice as long. Just to take one example of disgraceful conduct since the book went to print. To have a


Two stories which came out concerning the NHS in the past few days – a woman suffering from cancer who has been refused a potentially life-saving drug costing £5,000, and an NHS Trust which asked its staff to do an audit of how many gifts such as boxes of chocolates they have received. For many people these two stories will have summed up what is wrong with the NHS. The NHS will never be an easy organisation to run. On a recent visit to my in-laws I read an account in an Irish newspaper of the controversy surrounding the man who is trying to sort out the health service in Ireland. He was quoted as repeating a comment made by Enoch Powell, then Health minister, that everyone in the NHS said how dreadful it was until the moment he proposed radical reform, at which point everyone suddenly said the existing system was excellent. Over the past 25 years both Conservative and Labour governments have increased spending on the NHS, both in cash terms and in real terms after allowing for inflat

No, Deputy Prime Minister

John Prescott had a torrid time at the dispatch box last week. Needless to say the line which got the most attention was the attempt at support from a Labour backbencher - I won't call her a toady for fear of inviting a class action from toads - who asked if he would still be "hands on". However, what was truly amazing was his attempt to claim that he was doing more than Michael Heseltine, the last Conservative holder of the post. Heaven knows Lord Heseltine has his faults, but the idea that Prescott would look good by comparing himself to Hezza was possibly the most ill-judged comparison since Dan Quayle made the mistake of comparing himself to John F Kennedy in his debate against Lloyd Bentsen. I wish that the rules of debate in the Commons could have permitted one of those present who could make such a claim to respond with "I know Michael Heseltine, I worked with Michael Heseltine; Michael Heseltine is a friend of mine. John Prescott, you're no Michael Heselt

The Da Vinci Code and Ruth Kelly

A recent humorous item in “The Times” newspaper on “Ten reasons not to see 'The Da Vinci Code'" included a reference to the difficulty of imagining Ruth Kelly as part of a sinister and evil organisation. The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction, and there are plenty of things in the book and the film that I find impossible to take seriously. However, imagining a minister in the present Labour government as part of a sinister and evil organisation is not one of them. For the benefit of anyone who has spent the past few months in a monastery, the new local government minister Ruth Kelly is a member of the religious group Opus Dei, which is presented in the film as a sinister conspiracy which will stop at nothing including murder to achieve its ends, such as preventing the exposure of supposed 2000 year old secrets concerning an imaginary marriage between Jesus and Mary of Magdalen. However, perhaps “The Times” has a point in that ministers in the present government certainly

The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze

Now out - a compilation of articles detailing a hundred instances of corrupt, anti-democratic, or inappropriate behaviour by Labour politicians. This was written by internet bloggers, organised by the founder of Politico's bookshop, Iain Dale, with "Guido Fawkes" one of the best of the iconoclastic internet commentators on current British politics. I must "declare an interest" in this book (that expression is the code which councillors and MPs are supposed to use when admitting to not being impartial about something), as I wrote one of the articles myself. Nonetheless I strongly recommend it. If there is anyone left in Britain who believes that Tony Blair has kept his promise that his government would be "whiter than white" then The Little Red Book is a good antidote. An advert can be seen on the internet at The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze (URL is


I should probably start this entry by making clear that the pro-nuclear views expressed in it are my own and not necessarily those of the Conservative party. My own position could hardly be a secret – nobody who had any doubts about the safety of nuclear reprocessing would have moved his family three hundred miles to within a few miles of Sellafield in order to fight the Copeland constituency and nobody with reservations about civil nuclear power would have made substantial personal sacrifices in the attempt to become MP for a community where about 17,000 jobs depend directly or indirectly on the nuclear industry. David Cameron has announced a review into the party’s policy on energy policy which I believe to be a genuine exercise in the sense that he has not predetermined the outcome. Because I also believe that the argument for a balanced energy policy in which civil nuclear power plays a role is overwhelming, I have every hope that those of us who support nuclear power will be able


At a meeting of councillors last weekend, someone accidentally referred to the UK government department responsible for local councils by its former title of “ODPM.” It was pointed out that as this department had been taken away from John Prescott, it was no longer the “Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.” “OK” asked a colleague, “what’s it called now?” While trying to answer this question I came across a suggestion from one wag that, following the appointment of Ruth Kelly, this department should still have the acronym ODPM but this would now refer to “Opus Dei Promoted Minister” To mark the long overdue end of John Prescott’s disastrous tenure as minister for local government, I am offering a small prize for the best suggestion for the real meaning of any huge number of acronyms introduced by the OPDM during the Prescott era emailed to me at by the end of May. This may sound like a joke, but the serious aspect is that during his term of office John Pre


In my post after Blair’s botched reshuffle I mentioned my mixed feelings that Margaret Beckett, who richly deserved the sack for her inexcusable failure to pay Britain’s farmers the Single Farm Payment cash they were due months ago, had instead been promoted. At least as Foreign secretary she can’t do so much damage to Cumbria’s farms and rural areas. Incidentally I am pleased to see that the MP for Copeland has recently made sure the local newspapers knew that he was demanding action when a company was late paying its workers. I hope he will be even more vigorous in demanding that his own government pays out promptly the millions of pounds due to farmers, especially small farmers in this constituency. I learn from the “people” diary in The Times that the new agriculture and rural affairs minister, David Miliband has appointed a new head of the rural payments agency. Apparently, “almost the instant” he arrived in DEFRA, David Miliband gave the job to Tony Cooper. It’s a small world – T

So when does John Reid become Prime Minister ?

I see that after Labour’s poor results in the local elections Mr Blair has swung the axe, sacking Charles Clarke, removing John Prescott’s department, and moving many ministers including Jack Straw and Hilary “I need an abacus” Armstrong. I have mixed feelings about the promotion of Margaret “sheep’s brains” Beckett – she deserved the sack even more than Charles Clarke did, but at least she cannot do as much damage to Cumbria’s farmers as Foreign Secretary as she did while in charge of rural policy. The new secretary of state for the Environment, David Milliband, will take over responsibility for this area. The dwindling faction of people loyal to Blair say that Milliband is very talented: if he wants to prove it a good start would be to pay our farmers the money they should have had months ago. Forget his private life – John Prescott was a disaster as a minister. It is of course an outrageous waste of public money to allow the benefits of office - including the car, the salary, and tw

Royal College of Midwives Conference

Next week the Royal College of Midwives are meeting in Torquay for their annual conference. Almost all of us owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the midwives who helped bring us into the world: I have of course no memory of the midwives who assisted at my own birth, but I have very positive memories both of those who assisted at the birth of my own children, and of those midwives I met while serving as a Health Authority member. In both cases I was impressed by their professionalism, knowledge, and common sense. Obstetricians have the most glamorous role in delivering babies but, after the mother, midwives do most of the work, and the rest of us would do well to listen very carefully to what they have to say. Which makes the recommendations of the RCM conference on all aspects of birth, including pain relief, very important. I shall be watching what the conference says about Epidurals and other forms of pain relief with great interest. Earlier this year the Education and Research Com

Missing the point ...

Amazingly, I heard one comment over the bank holiday weekend from someone who was even more out of touch than Labour ministers ... This was the lady who rang a BBC phone in programme and complained that the released prisoners were being regarded as a threat to the public because they are foreigners. No madam, the fact that some of these people are regarded as a serious threat to the public has nothing to do with the fact that they are foreigners. It is because they have either pleaded guilty, or found by a court to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt to be guilty, of serious crimes including murder, rape, drug dealing, and child abuse. I am every bit as concerned about the threat posed on their release by British nationals who have committed serious offences, either in this country or abroad. Clearly we do not have the option of deporting the former group, and the countries where British criminals have committed offences are fully entitled to deport them back here. But then the au