‘4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire…’ – the ramblings of a grumpy old man

30 03 2011

The trusty Flymo 330 has had its first outing of the year and it’s still only March!

Is it just my imagination or is the lawn mowing season getting longer year on year?  These days, grass cutting seems to extend well into November and I swear I heard the tell-tale whirr of a hover mower, emanating from a neighbour’s garden, in mid-February! It will soon be a year round occupation.   

While I’m in grumpy old man mode, what about the 2011 Census?

Ok it didn’t take long too complete on-line and ping it off but I resent heavy-handed threats of a fine for failure to comply. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a carrot rather than stick approach for a change, for instance free entry into a one-off national lottery for all those who submit their return by a given closing date?

Of course I understand the need for a national data base (as much for future generations of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ researchers as anything else) but to claim it will “help plan and fund services for your community” is a sick joke in the current climate of cuts!        

‘How is your health in general?’ Is an analysis of highly subjective responses based on a five point scale, from very bad to very good, really going to inform future spending on the NHS?

How would you describe your national identity? Does it really matter? Anyway there are insidious undertones of Spitting Image favourite Norman‘on your bike’ Tebbit and his controversially irksome ‘loyalty question’.

In a 1990 interview with the LA Times, Norm, the ever sensitive Tory Rottweiler, proclaimed, “A large part of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It’s an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you come from or where you are?” 

As for the voluntary ‘What is your religion?’ question, hopefully most people exercised their right to take the ‘none of your business’ line and left it blank. That being the case the incomplete data collected will be pretty pointless other than highlighting the intrusive nature of questions of this type and that such personal and potentially sensitive data should never have any part in a national census.

While I’m on the soapbox, and on a roll, a few thoughts on Britain’s largest demonstration for eight years.

On Saturday, Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ had its say on the Coalition’s slash and burn approach to reviving the economy. Close on half a million peaceful demonstrators from all walks of life, from far and wide across the nation and of every political persuasion deserve to have their voices heard following Saturday’s march through the streets of London – the Piccadilly Protest!

Unfortunately the reprehensible and indefensible behaviour of a few hundred violent anarchists has predictably grabbed the headlines allowing Cameron and Clegg to take the moral high ground, blaming the ugly behaviour of an extreme minority on the resurgence of militant unions, New Labour (who created the economic mess in the first place don’t you know? – wish I had a pound for every time that one has been trotted out) and over indulged, over protected public sector workers (‘fat cat’ teachers, nurses and police!)

The vandal anarchists are despicable and need to be severely dealt with. Anybody hiding behind a mask or full face balaclava is clearly up to no good. These individuals should be asked to reveal their faces (the police already have that right) or forcibly removed from the demonstration – it’s not brain surgery. The vast majority of reasonable, peaceful demonstrators would welcome such police intervention and protection.

We should not allow a poisonous few to detract from the heartfelt deeply held concerns and convictions of the majority. A ‘YouGov’ poll for the TUC claimed 52% of people were sympathetic towards the aims of the protest including 20% of Tory supporters.

DC was quick in his response to cries for assistance from the Libyan rebels but will he listen and act on the growing concerns of his own people?  No, I fear not, we are caught in an ‘80s time warp, and like the handbag swinging lady, DC and his ‘Conservative coalition’ is not for turning!

In the words of quick stepping Business Secretary, Vince ‘Strictly…’ Cable, on the Beeb’s Politics Show, “No government would change its fundamental economic policy in response to a demonstration of that kind.”  Whatever happened to the, much trumpeted, listening government working in partnership with the people?

Abiding by that old political adage, when government popularity is at a low ebb it’s not a bad idea to turn the spotlight away from the domestic agenda by getting stuck into foreign affairs, DC has jumped at the opportunity presented by the Libyan crisis.

Fresh from his aborted mission to drum up business (including arms trade) in the Middle East, and having squirmed on the sidelines as Foreign Sec. William Hague made a dog’s dinner of evacuating our nationals from Libya, ‘Call me Dave’  was soon pushing hard  for a UN resolution to provide a no fly zone, vociferous in his anti Gaddafi rhetoric, portraying himself as a man who would never have countenanced any cozying up to such a murderous despot, unlike a certain former Labour PM, and making the most of every opportunity to promote himself as a big player on the World stage. 

I confess to having extremely mixed feelings about our involvement in the Western led coalition air strikes, ostensibly protectionist actions that are increasingly paving the way for the rebels to march on Tripoli. It’s seemingly only a matter of time before a loophole is found in the resolution, which will allow weapons to provided on the ground to support the rebels in ousting their tyrannical dictator (who will of course be fighting back with arms previously provided by the west). No doubt the arms dealers will be rubbing their hands in anticipation.

I’m not sure we will we ever heed the lessons of history. Weren’t  Osama Bib Laden and his freedom fighters provided with US arms, in order to repulse Soviet Union troops, before turning to bite the hand that fed them?   

Okay, Libya and the World would be better off without their deranged leader and there is a strong argument for international intervention to prevent reprisals and bloodshed, but then again similar involvement might be equally justified in the Yemen, Syria, Burma and Zimbabwe…  However these countries are missing an important ingredient, oil. It is very hard to believe that the black stuff is not the crucial motivating factor for our current engagement.  

Talking of which don’t even get me started on last week’s Budget; petrol duty ‘slashed’ by 1p, the usual 2% above inflation increase mandated by the beer duty escalator, and crucially, £100m to be made available for pot hole repairs – wow!

“I read the news today oh, boy

4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire…”   

(‘A Day in the Life’ – Lennon & McCartney)

The Beatles may have been getting high on pot (and the rest) while the Coalition’s economic recovery plans are simply going to pot!

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