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Wednesday 31 July 2013

A Few Thoughts On The Health Service

I'm pretty sure that many of those who choose to read the likes of the Daily Mail on a regular basis must have a pretty poor opinion of the NHS and many of those who work within it, after all the startling revelations that particular publication has chosen to highlight over the past few months, ostensibly as part of its own national campaign to uncover multiple and widespread instances of horrifying healthcare, which people might expect to receive if they are ever unfortunate enough to become seriously ill and require hospitalisation in the UK.
It's important to note from the outset that I don't work for the NHS, never have; and apart from a few days spent in an observation ward, following a heart attack, I actively avoid having anything to do with doctors, nurses, medical consultants, clinics, surgeries or hospitals, as they make me extremely nervous and uncomfortable, not because of what they are, or what they do, but simply because you're asked to hand over control of your body, your health and sometimes your dignity to a complete stranger, which I would rather not have to do.
Even though I am a comparative stranger to the NHS, on those few and rare occasions that I have had to put myself into the medical expert's hands, for the most part, my overriding memory of the experience hasn't necessarily been the exceptional standard of care provided by the nursing staff, or the encyclopaedic medical knowledge of the doctors, but rather the generally piss-poor behaviour of a minority of patients, who sometimes seem to behave as though they're paying guest's staying in a swanky hotel; and that the nursing staff are little more than paid servants who are supposed to be attendant to their every need and whim.
Because of campaigns lead by the likes of the Daily Mail; and a number of other supposedly outraged publications, we now seem to have handed huge areas of control of our national healthcare system to the patients themselves, or in some cases to their relatives, neither of which are in anyway qualified to know what they're doing. As a result, we now seem to have a situation where nurses, healthcares, doctors, matrons and managers are occasionally having their decisions made for them, or forced upon them by a small number of patients, or relatives, who happen to know their "rights"; and threaten to make a formal complaint, or worse still litigate, if their express wishes are not followed to the letter, by the nursing staff who are actually supposed to be in charge of the ward.
Knowing someone who works within the nursing profession, in an extremely busy hospital, I am often astonished, even occasionally gobsmacked at some of the incidents that occur on our hospital wards, mostly as a result of individual patients or their relatives playing the system, or just knowing their rights. There are those who demand to be given the use of bedpans or commodes at all times of day and night, even though they're fully mobile and perfectly capable of using the ward's normal toilet facilities. There are the patient's who deliberately and regularly wet or soil themselves, just because they can't be bothered to ring the bell and ask for a bedpan, commode, or to be taken to the hospital toilet. Then there are those patient's who can't get up to use the bathroom, but are still mobile enough to go outside for a cigarette; or the patients who are too weak to go to the bathroom, five yards away, but can somehow summon up the energy to walk well over two miles to go and buy themselves a burger from the local McDonald's, still dressed in their pyjamas, slippers and dressing gown.
And then there are the concerned relatives who loudly berate the nursing staff for allowing Aunty Flo, or whoever it is, to sit in a comfortable bedside armchair for more than half an hour at a time, noisily demanding that the poor dear be put back to bed, even though she's been lying in the bed for so long that she's begun to develop sores. Then there are the relatives who demand that their disruptive uncle, who refuses to stay in bed, must be attended by a member of staff during all of his waking hours, in order to prevent him from falling over and hurting himself. And of course there's the relative who insists that their feeble or dying, mum or dad, aunt or uncle should be practically force-fed by a member of staff, because they happened to notice that there was some food still left on their plate. And then there are those occasions where an entire ward's timetable and procedures are suspended, just because the nursing staff are forced to monitor a single troublesome patient, at the behest of a concerned relative, who has made it quite clear to the hospital's management that she knows her "rights" and is quite prepared to enforce them, should she not get her own way.
What a complete and utter shambles some of our NHS services have become! We not only have A & E departments and Ambulance Services dealing with cases like dog mess on people's shoes; and cat scratches that could easily be treated by the individual themselves, but we also appear to have some our busiest hospital wards being run by patients and their relatives; and all because the NHS and those that run the service seem to be terrified of being sued by this new army of timewasters who purport to know their "rights".
On top of this, A & E Departments around the country are being massively overstretched by wave upon wave of patient's many of whom should not be there in the first place, or would not be there if other healthcare professionals were doing their jobs properly. Thanks to both the Labour Party and the current Coalition government, we have arrived at a point where the newly privatised "111" Health Help-lines are tasking Ambulance crews to increasing numbers of non-emergency calls, whilst GP patients, unable to see their family doctors because of new working practices, are voting with their feet and making the choice of visiting Accident & Emergency departments, often for the most spurious of reasons.
To add to the growing frustrations, we now have a situation where one of the main providers of the "111" service, NHS Direct, is seeking to withdraw from its numerous emergency helpline contracts, simply because the commercial viability of such contracts are largely unsustainable, given the increasing level of demand generated by the British public. In the meantime, GP's, who are typically being rewarded with salaries of £100,000 per annum for a rapidly diminishing medical role in British life, have seen some of their members exhibit the barefaced cheek of suggesting that patients should be charged for each appointment, with the suggested fee range being in the order of anything between £5 and £150 per consultation, despite the fact that these doctors are already being paid for their time and expertise by the NHS in the first place.
Although nobody doubts that problems have occurred at the likes of Stafford and Tameside hospitals, which were highly regrettable for those who lost loved ones; and should not in any way reduce an injured parties right to seek fair and equitable compensation. However, thanks in part to the likes of the Daily Mail and their often questionable revelations, aren't we seriously in danger of "throwing the baby out with the bath water", so to speak. Having created an almost endemic climate of fear within the NHS amongst those who work there, the healthcares, the nurses, the doctors, matrons, consultants and managers, haven't they essentially given the whip hand to every man and his dog who wants to take advantage of this very precious health commodity, the NHS. To have created a situation, where the lazy, the mean spirited, the malicious and the selfish minority can put their own needs and demands above those of the less demanding majority, is an unsustainable absurdity. We vehemently demand that our healthcare workers show us kindness, respect and courtesy whilst we stay in hospital; and yet no similar demands are made on the patients themselves, leaving them to freely abuse, mistreat and occasionally physically assault our care workers, generally on the basis of "they're too ill to know better". This excuse is such a "crock of shit", as for the most part, those who are committing these verbal and physical assaults are perfectly aware of their own actions, but because they're in hospital they seem to think that the normal rules don't apply; and they should! So when our politician's come to have a rethink about how we might create a better, more equitable NHS, perhaps they might consider introducing a set of enforceable rules and regulations both for the patient's, as well as the staff.
As for other matters, such as the recent overcrowding of our local A & E Departments, with "emergencies" such as dog mess on the shoe, or cat scratches, or severe hangovers, perhaps the government and NHS England might like to consider fining those private companies, who consider such events to be so serious that they require an ambulance in the first place. Maybe by targeting the actual bottom line, the profits, of such companies, might make them a little more careful about how they use such precious resources. At the same time, maybe the current government should consider renegotiating the extremely generous GP contracts that Mr Blair's former government apparently signed off without any regard for future consequences. A £100,000 of anyone's money is a significant sum, even today; and it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect GP's to actually earn their vast salaries by actually treating most of their patients in their surgeries, rather than forcing them to rely on the local A & E Department instead. In the event that government and GP's can't reach an accommodation on any new contract, then perhaps the most obvious solution is simply to remove any GP that doesn't wish to sign a new contract from the national NHS list; and use the money saved to employ a new group of doctors, who are generally more amenable to the fresh terms, or alternatively simply use the funds to try and bolster existing A & E services, thereby filling the gap left by the newly unemployed family doctors. 

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Playing The Victim Card, Unless You're British

It seems funny to note that up until recently most British people had been reluctant to publicly air their personal views on such thorny issues like immigration, race, or religion, for fear of being reported to Tony Blair's "thought and speech police", by some neighbouring earwigger, who probably shouldn't have been listening to someone else's conversation in the first place. But hey!, whose pretending that basic good manners, or for that matter, the principle of "minding your own goddamn business" actually exists in the UK anymore?
Unfortunately for us, following the introduction of Comrade Blair's, Brown's, Clegg's and Cameron's New Britain, with it's compulsory and supposedly progressive multicultural social mandate, backed up by some of the most illiberal laws in the world, most British people are now too afraid to have an opinion on the subject of immigration, race or religion, let alone express it in a public place.
After all, there can't be a single nationality, ethnicity, race, religion or a gender that can't be insulted under the terms of Britain's new multicultural and all encompassing legislation, or indeed a "jobsworth" who will feel that it's their duty to report a wholly private conversation, if they believe that some sort of infringement of these new progressive laws has taken place. It's perhaps hardly surprising that our country is in such a dire state, when our police officers, teachers, council officials and politicians are so busy looking for instances of perceived and real racial or religious intolerance that they forget to do the job they're paid to do, like catch criminals, teach students, run local services and govern the country. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" was once a popular expression some years ago, but now seems to have been supplanted by a much more worrying victim mentality, with its "Ooh! someone's hurt my feelings, better get the law involved" approach.
In fact, there doesn't appear to be that many people who can't become a victim in modern Britain! If you happen to be an immigrant of any sort, then you're automatically guaranteed victim status; and it doesn't seem to matter much whether or not you're in the country legally, or illegally. Most people of colour can be victims, but it tends to work best if you're Afro-Caribbean, or from Asia, as they're the ones we native Brits pick on the most, apparently! And if you happen to be a Black or Asian Muslim, then you've hit the jackpot, because from the day that you're born to the day that you die you're virtually guaranteed to be a victim of some sort of British racial or religious intolerance, of the types that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron, along with their various governments have fought so hard to eliminate from our society. If you're gay, you can be a victim! If you're a foreign criminal, you can be a victim, but only if you can prove that your human rights are being threatened! So if you happen to be in danger of being deported simply find yourself some old slapper to get pregnant and you're safe from being expelled. Failing that, pinch someone's cat or dog, claim that you've built yourself a new life around the abducted moggie or pooch and you're sorted!
Sadly, as with most systems and laws there are losers, as well as winners! If you happen to be a heterosexual white native Briton, who has worked every day, not been in trouble with the law and paid every dutiful levy that you're obliged to pay, them you're plum out of luck! You cannot be a victim, as you're not allowed! However, as a bonus, you are entitled to be arrested if you publicly bemoan your fate, especially if that involves you publicly attacking or insulting any of the aforementioned individuals on the grounds of their colour, race, religion or sexual preference. Apparently, native white heterosexual Britons cannot be victims of cultural, sexual, religious or racial intolerance because according to the likes of Mr Blair, Brown, Clegg and Cameron, such infringements cannot and do not exist under their newly invented laws, so you're completely and utterly out of luck I'm afraid!
Just quite how long the majority of the native British population, the white heterosexual, hard working, wage earning, tax paying, law abiding and much discriminated against will choose to put up with being denied their rights to complain, remains to be seen. Almost inevitably, every dog that's kicked often enough will eventually turn and bite its abuser; and there is no race of people who have been more put upon and abused than the native population of the UK, so it is not really a case of "will" the British people bite back, but rather when. 
What other supposedly civilised country would deliberately welcome international war criminals, organised crime figures and stock market manipulators, whilst at the same time cutting benefits and services to some of its own poorest and most deserving citizens? What civilised country would increase its own overseas aid budgets, at a time of national austerity, only to allow some of that same foreign aid money to be used to buy arms for illegal militias? What civilised country would even consider the idea of arming religious militias that are diametrically opposed to our own rule of law; and who would quite happily attack our country given half the chance?
What other country in the world would welcome a refugee and his eight children to their shores and then provide him and his children with thousands of pounds in welfare benefits and a multi-million pound house to live in? What other country would allow an illegal immigrant to make a mockery of their judicial system at a cost of millions of pounds to the taxpayer? What other country would allow their Parliamentary democracy to be usurped by a foreign government? What other country would allow its national culture and shared history to be undermined and destroyed by foreign influences? What country would allow its national tongues to be diminished and adulterated by numbers of foreign languages? What country allows its national borders to become fragmented and porous, to the extent that that country no longer controls them fully?
What country obsessively controls the conversations and language of its native peoples? What country simply pays lip service to the very concept of free speech? What country appears to give precedence to the social, religious and cultural practices of ethnic minorities before those of its majority indigenous peoples? Which country in western Europe has a capital city where the indigenous white race are now deemed to be in a minority? What country has a political elite that is quite relaxed about national wage levels being driven down by a massive influx of cheap migrant labour? 
Of course it goes without saying that all of these questions are fairly obvious and that the answer to each and every one of them is the UK! And although they may not seem to have any sort of relationship to the main subject of the piece; that of certain people being almost statutory victims in the modern Britain created by Tony Blair and his successors, for me, all of the subjects mentioned above are somehow symptomatic of the same failed political ideology and social experimentation. One could be forgiven for thinking that all of our political leaders over the past few decades have deliberately pursued a policy of social fragmentation and division, currying favour with some, but not with others, rewards for some, but nothing for others, depending on which particular socio-economic group the party in power wished to pursue, or alienate, at that specific moment in time. As a result of these various policies, British society has probably never been so divided, with the rich indifferent to the poor, the poor jealous of the rich, the native suspicious of the migrant, the migrant threatened by the native.
Most sensible British people are quite rightly alarmed by the massively increasing numbers of foreign migrants, but do not necessarily blame the migrants for wanting to come to Britain to make a new life for themselves and their families. First and foremost, most British natives blame the political classes for the malaise that now confronts our society, as they were the ones who signed the treaties and opened our borders to unregulated numbers of foreign workers, without appearing to recognise the tensions that such a wave of immigration would inevitably cause. For their part too, Briton's have every right to expect that foreign migrants should try and merge with the indigenous population, rather than trying to bring a piece of Poland, Iraq, Pakistan, India or Afghanistan with them and preserve it here on the British mainland. Quite rightly, the British attitude is, if you don't like our culture, our laws, our country, our language, then go back to your own country and just leave us be. However, rather than that; the most obvious solution being used, the likes of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron have tried to fundamentally change Britain itself, including through the use of the law, with the result that they have divided migrant and native communities to an even greater degree.
The point is that you can't really regulate an entire population into compliance, unless you're prepared to undermine the very idea of democracy and free speech that our country has been built on. Who is Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg or David Cameron to decide what is acceptable to the public ear? Just because a single Muslim believer might be offended by what a non-believer might say in public, does that automatically make it unlawful? If a person walked down the street clutching a toy golliwog and a single black person was affronted by the sight of the toy, does that make it unlawful to carry such a thing? Why should a court have the authority to punish a guesthouse owner who chooses not to rent a room to a homosexual couple, especially if the booking offends the owners personal religious beliefs? What's more important, the gay couple's right to book a room, or the guesthouse owner's religious beliefs?
It's perhaps little wonder that we've allowed our country to decline to such a degree when we have so enthusiastically swallowed the mantra of "where there's blame, there's a claim", to the point that anyone with a personal axe to grind, or a highly spurious claim, or a personal agenda to pursue doesn't have to look to hard, to find some shyster lawyer, politician, judge or peer to take up the legal fight on their behalf. And as a consequence we have become a laughing stock of the world, allowing our courts, our councils and our parliament to be used as public platforms by every carpetbagger, shyster and conman we can possibly imagine, often at a huge cost to the public purse.
We now have business owners needing insurance to cover any flat-footed copper that needs their eyes tested, or is incapable of using a torch. We're probably going to need polling stations in every prison before very long. We're going to need two plastic surgery teams to do every breast implant operation, one to put them in and one to take them out when the patient changes their mind. We're going to need a lot more two million pound mansions in London for future foreign immigrants with half a dozen kids. We're definitely going to need an awful lot more public money to pay off all of the victims of hospital mistreatment (judging by the Daily Mail anyway) and no doubt a few million more will be required to pay off all those victims who have been denied justice, but who we've yet to hear from.
Happily though, the British people themselves, the white heterosexual working class, tax paying, law abiding citizens won't cost anymore than usual, because fortunately for all the other professional victims, they're just the ones who usually end up paying the bill. 

Wednesday 24 July 2013

From "A Doomed Marriage" By Daniel Hannan MEP

A brilliantly insightful piece written by British MEP Daniel Hannan offering his view on the faults and failures of the European Union. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the dangers posed to Europe's independent nation states by the dangerous behemoth that is the EU. I was so impressed by this particular piece, I just had to reproduce it for my own blog, in order to allow other people the opportunity to read this excellent extract.  
"There is a popular joke in Brussels that if the European Union were a country applying to join itself, it would be rejected on the grounds of being undemocratic. It’s absolutely true - and, believe me, it isn’t funny. Or, if it is, then the laugh is on you and me.
Democracy is not simply a periodic right to mark a cross on a ballot paper, It also depends upon a relationship between government and governed, on a sense of common affinity and allegiance. It requires what the political philosophers of Ancient Greece called a ‘demos’, a unit with which we the people can identify. Take away the demos and you are left only with the ‘kratos’ - a state that must compel by force of law what it cannot ask in the name of patriotism.
In the absence of a demos, governments are even likelier than usual to purchase votes through public works schemes and sinecures. Lacking any natural loyalty, they have to buy the support of their electorates. And that is precisely what is happening in the EU.
One way to think of the EU is as a massive vehicle for the redistribution of wealth - though not in a way that many of us would consider fair or beneficial. Taxpayers in all the states contribute money to Brussels through their national taxes. The bureaucrats then use this huge revenue to purchase the allegiance of consultants, contractors, big landowners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), corporations, charities and municipalities. In other words, all the articulate and powerful groups they rely on to keep themselves in employment.
Unsurprisingly, the people running the EU have little time for the concept of representative government. The (unelected) President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, argues that nation states are dangerous, precisely because they are excessively democratic. ‘Decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong,’ he claims, without a hint of irony.
The plain fact is that the EU is contemptuous of public opinion — not by some oversight, but as an inevitable consequence of its supra-national nature. The EU is run, extraordinarily, by a body that combines legislative and executive power. The European Commission is not only the EU’s ‘government’, it is also the only body that can propose legislation in most fields of policy.
Such a concentration of power is itself objectionable enough. But what is even more terrifying is that the 27 Commissioners are unelected. Many supporters of the EU acknowledge this flaw — the ‘democratic deficit’, as they call it — and vaguely admit that something ought to be done about it. But the democratic deficit isn’t an accidental design flaw: it is intrinsic to the whole project.
The EU’s founding fathers had mixed feelings about democracy — especially the populist strain that came into vogue between the two World Wars. In their minds, too much democracy was associated with demagoguery and fascism. They prided themselves on creating a model where supreme power would be in the hands of ‘experts’ — disinterested technocrats immune to the ballot box.
They understood very well that their audacious scheme to merge Europe’s ancient kingdoms and republics into a single state would never succeed if each successive transfer of power from the national capitals to Brussels had to be approved by the voters. They were unapologetic about designing a system in which public opinion would come second to deals stuck by a bureau of wise men.The EU’s diffidence about representative government continues to this day. When referendums go the ‘wrong’ way, Eurocrats simply swat the results aside.
Denmark voted against the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, Ireland against the Nice Treaty in 2001 and Ireland (again) against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008. Their governments were all told just to go away and try again. When France and the Netherlands voted against the European Constitution in 2005, the verdict was simply disregarded. As an MEP at the time, I well remember the aftermath of those last two votes. One after another, MEPs and Eurocrats rose to explain that people hadn’t really been voting against the European Constitution at all.
They had actually been voting against Anglo-Saxon capitalism or the French leader Jacques Chirac or against Turkey joining — anything, in fact, except the proposition actually on the ballot paper. As in any abusive relationship, the contemptuous way in which Eurocrats treat voters has become self-reinforcing on both sides. The more voters are ignored, the more cynical and fatalistic they become. They abstain in record numbers, complaining — quite understandably — that it makes no difference how they cast their ballots.
Eurocrats, for their part, fall quickly into the habit of treating public opinion as an obstacle to overcome rather than a reason to change direction. To get around the awkward lack of enthusiasm for their project, the Euro-elite of Brussels claim the people are being misled. If only they weren’t hoodwinked by Eurosceptic media barons and whipped up by unscrupulous nationalists, if only there could be an informed and dispassionate election campaign, then the people would surely see that deeper integration was in their interests. But, the argument goes on, because people are unable to make an unclouded judgment, Eurocrats are therefore entitled — indeed obliged — to disregard their superficial desires in pursuit of their true preferences.
In his final interview as prime minister, Tony Blair stated: ‘The British people are sensible enough to know that, even if they have a certain prejudice about Europe, they don’t expect their government necessarily to share it or act upon it.’ Got that? According to Blair, we don’t want our politicians to do as we say: we want them to  second-guess our innermost, unarticulated desires. From the point of view of the politician, this is a remarkably convenient theory. Not all Eurocrats are cynics. There are some committed Euro-federalists who believe it is possible to democratise the EU without destroying it.
Their ideal is a pan-European democracy, based on a more powerful European Parliament. The European Commission would become the Cabinet; the Council of Ministers would become an Upper House, representing the nation states; and the European Parliament would become the main legislative body. Give MEPs more power, runs the theory, and people will take them more seriously. A higher calibre of candidate will stand, and turnout will rise. Pan-European political parties will contest the elections on common and binding manifestos. European democracy will become a reality.
The problem with this idea is that it has already demonstrably failed. Turnout for the 2009 elections to the European Parliament was a dismal 43 per cent - compared to 65 per cent in our 2010 general election, a figure that was itself considered embarrassingly low. In other words, less than half the population could be bothered to vote - despite voting being compulsory in some member states and Brussels spending hundreds of millions of euros on a campaign to encourage turnout.
One of its gimmicks was to send a ballot box into orbit - the perfect symbol of the EU’s pie-in-the-sky remoteness. The plain fact - which Brussels chooses to ignore - is that over the past 30 years, the European Parliament, like the EU in general, has been steadily agglomerating powers. Yet people have responded by refusing to sanction it with their votes.
Turnout at European elections is far lower than at national elections for the obvious reason that very few people think of themselves as Europeans in the same sense that they see themselves as British or Portuguese or Swedish. There is no pan-European public opinion, there is no pan-European media. You can’t decree a  successful democracy by bureaucratic fiat. You can’t fabricate a common nationality.
But MEPs respond to this by blaming the electorate. They demand better information campaigns, more extensive (and expensive) propaganda. Europe matters more than ever, and, they argue, voters must be made to see it! It never occurs to them to infer any loss of legitimacy from the turnout figures, nor to devolve powers to a level of government — the nation state — that continues to enjoy proper democratic support. On the contrary, those nation states find themselves in danger of being subverted by the Brussels machine and its sympathisers.
Ireland used to have exemplary laws on the conduct of referendums, providing for equal airtime for both sides and the distribution of a leaflet with the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ arguments to every household. When these rules produced a ‘No’ to the Nice treaty in 2001, they were revised so as to make it easier for the pro-EU forces to win a second referendum. Henceforth, the free publicity would be divided up in proportion to each party’s representation in parliament. There is no pan-European public opinion. You can’t fabricate a common nationality. And since all Irish parties — except Sinn Fein — were pro-Treaty, impartial information was replaced by State-sponsored propaganda. Worse, the result was that all subsequent Irish referendums, not just those to do with the EU, are fought on an unbalanced basis.
There are many other examples of Brussels’ influence undermining the democratic processes of its member countries in order to sustain the requirements of European integration. Croatia dropped the minimum threshold provisions in its referendum rules in order to ensure a result in favour of joining the EU in 2011. When the president of the Czech Republic declared his reluctance to sign the Lisbon Treaty into law, senior Brussels Eurocrats called on their Socialist allies in the Republic to threaten the President with impeachment, even though he was trying to stick to a promise he had made to his people in the run-up to his election.
Meanwhile, in Britain, successive party leaders have had to abandon their pledges of a referendum on one aspect or another of the EU. Each such betrayal damages their credibility with the electorate, yet it seems they are prepared to pay that price for the sake of Europe. However, British party leaders have got off lightly compared to others.
In Ireland, the ruling Fianna Fail party found its support slump from 41.6 to 17.4 per cent in last year’s general election, as voters turned against a government that had meekly agreed to the EU’s loans-for-austerity deal, turning Ireland into a vassal state.
In Athens, George Papandreou’s mistake was to call for a referendum on Greece’s austerity deal - a move which was to prompt fury in Brussels where, as we have seen, the first rule is ‘no referendums - unless we can fix the result’. Papandreou was not a Eurosceptic. On the contrary, he fervently wanted Greece to stay in the euro. His ‘sin’ was to be too keen on democracy, and so he was out.
Silvio Berlusconi, too, got on the wrong side of the EU. His pronouncement that ‘since the introduction of the euro, most Italians have become poorer’ was factually true, but sealed his fate. The European Central Bank’s sudden withdrawal of support for Italian bonds, verbal attacks from other EU leaders and a rebellion by Europhile Italian MPs combined to see him off.
Both Papandreou and Berlusconi were already unpopular for domestic reasons — just as Margaret Thatcher was when EU leaders and Conservative Euro-enthusiasts brought her down in 1990. Had any of these leaders been at the height of their powers, they would not have been vulnerable. Nonetheless, to depose an incumbent head of government, even a wounded one, is no small thing. It shows the hideous strength of the EU.
With Papandreou and Berlusconi out of the way, Brussels was able to install technocratic juntas in their place — unelected administrations called into being solely to enforce programmes which their nations rejected. The most shocking aspect of the whole affair was that so few people were shocked.
The Brussels system was undemocratic from the start, but its hostility to the ballot box had always been disguised by the outward trappings of constitutional rule in its member nations. That has now ceased to be true. Apparatchiks in Brussels now rule directly through apparatchiks in Athens and Rome. The voters and their tribunes are cut out altogether. There is no longer any pretence. In place of democracy, we now have the tyranny of a self-perpetuating, self-serving elite, all wedded by self-interest to the European project.
They are, it must be said, a worried and tetchy bunch. Ever since 55 per cent of French voters and 62 per cent of Dutch voters rejected the European Constitution in 2005, the Eurocrats in Brussels have been noticeably defensive. They have given up trying to win round public opinion. Their primary interest is keeping their well-paid positions.
Before those ‘No’ votes, they could convince themselves that Euroscepticism was essentially a British phenomenon, with perhaps a tiny off-shoot in Scandinavia. Now, they know that almost any electorate will reject the transfer of powers to Brussels. So they concentrate on wielding power in the way they know best — through influence and money.
It is a shock to discover just how extensive the EU’s reach is. Take its claim in 2003 to be ‘consulting the people’ about the draft of a new constitution by inviting 200 ‘representative organisations’ to submit their suggestions. Every single one of them, I discovered, received grants from the EU. If you scratch the surface, you find that virtually every field of activity has some EU-sponsored pressure group to campaign for deeper integration, whether it  be the European Union of Journalists, the European Women’s Lobby or the European Cyclists’ Federation.
These are not independent associations which just happen to be in receipt of EU funds. They are, in most cases, creatures of  the European Commission,  wholly dependent on Brussels for their xistence. The EU has also been active in spreading its tentacles to established charities and lobbying groups within the nation states.
The process starts harmlessly enough, with one-off grants for specific projects. After a while, the organisation realises that it is worth investing in a ‘Europe officer’ whose job, in effect, is to secure bigger grants. As the subventions become permanent, more ‘Europe officers’ are hired. Soon, the handouts are taken for granted and factored into the organisation’s budget. Once this stage is reached, the EU is in a position to call in favours.
When he introduced the Bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, made a great song and dance that it was backed by a whole range of independent organisations including the NSPCC, One World Action, Action Aid and Oxfam. Yet every organisation he cited was in receipt of EU subventions. In a single year, Action Aid, the NSPCC, One World Action and Oxfam had among them received €43,051,542 (£33,855,355).
Can organisations in receipt of such colossal subsidies legitimately claim to be independent? Hardly surprising that they should dutifully endorse a treaty supported by their paymasters. In much the same way, the Commission pays Friends of the Earth to urge it to take more powers in the field of climate change.
It pays the WWF to tell it to assume more control over environmental matters. It pays the European Trade Union Congress to demand more Brussels employment laws. The EU hoses cash at these dependent organisations, who then tell it what it wants to hear. It then turns around and claims to have listened to ‘The People’.
Here is the swollen European behemoth, its interests utterly tied into the European project. And I fear it’s not going to stand aside for a cause so trivial as public opinion or democracy. And here’s the clever bit: millions of workers linked to these groups are thereby drawn into the system, their livelihoods becoming dependent on the European project.
Meanwhile, big businesses see a way of manipulating the EU system for their own purposes, grasping that they can achieve far more in the Brussels institutions than they could from administrations whose legislatures are dependent on public opinion. Between 2007 and 2010, the EU banned several vitamin supplements and herbal remedies and subjected others to a prohibitively expensive licensing regime.
The reaction from consumers to this attack on alternative medicines was overwhelming as millions of Europeans found that an innocent activity they had pursued for years was being criminalised. I can’t remember receiving so many letters and emails on any question in all my time in politics. It turned out these new restrictions were pushed strenuously by big pharmaceutical corporations. They could easily afford the compliance costs; their smaller rivals could not. Many independent herbalists went out of business, and the big companies gained a near monopoly.
The lesson here is that whenever Brussels proposes some apparently unnecessary rules, ask yourself, who stands to benefit? Nine times out of ten, you will find there is a company or a conglomeration whose products happen to meet all the proposed specifications anyway, and is using the EU to its own advantage. Thus are businesses, as well as charities, drawn into the Euro-nexus. Thus are powerful and wealthy interest groups in every member state given a direct stake in the system.
These days, the EU’s strength is not to be found among the diminished ranks of true believers or the benign cranks who distribute leaflets for the Union of European Federalists. Nor, in truth, does it reside primarily among the officials directly on the Brussels payroll. The real power of the EU is to be found in the wider corpus of interested parties - the businesses invested in the regulatory process; the consultants and contractors dependent on Brussels spending; the landowners receiving cheques from the Common Agricultural Policy; the local councils with their EU departments; the seconded civil servants with remuneration terms beyond anything they could hope for in their home countries; the armies of lobbyists and professional associations; the charities and the NGOs.
Here is the swollen European behemoth, its interests utterly tied into the European project. And I fear it’s not going to stand aside for a cause so trivial as public opinion or democracy."
Extracted from A Doomed Marriage by Daniel Hannan, published by Notting Hill Books at £12. © 2012 Daniel Hannan. To order a copy (p&p incl) call  0843 382 0000.

Monday 15 July 2013

When Looking Backwards Is The Right Thing To Do!

It was interesting earlier on today, watching a video of Nigel Farage giving Tony Blair a public dressing down in the European Parliament, at the end of the British Prime Minister's period of office of the Presidency of the EU, reportedly in 2005. Clearly not very happy at being publicly rebuked over his handling of Britain's interests, good old Tony tried to make light of the attack launched by Mr Farage, but very quickly responded angrily by pointing out to the UKIP leader that Britain and Europe were now living in 2005 and not 1945; and that Britain and its European partners were all friends and allies now, not bitter enemies and adversaries, as Mr Farage might have them all believe.
Presumably the entire tenet of Mr Blair's response was that keeping your eyes fixed to the road ahead, looking to the future; and not looking back, is and was entirely the right way to govern our country, a political philosophy that his Conservative counterpart, David Cameron, clearly shares with the former Labour Leader. In all likelihood, it will also be the same philosophy that will inevitably be pursued by future political leaders, be they Ed Miliband, Theresa May, Michael Gove, Ed Balls, or any of the other countless unimaginative morons that the British people are forced to choose from now, or in a few years time.
Quite why Mr Blair was so dismissive and rudely alarmed about the "past" per se' is hard to understand, when you consider that it is often history that informs us. Unlike the future, which can be uncertain, threatening and obviously unknown, the past is clearly marked and completely understood, allowing us to learn from previous mistakes; and create pathways to a much brighter future. "Failing to learn from past mistakes, condemns us to repeat them" said George Santayana; and Winston Churchill, so the fact that Tony Blair, a politician whose long term political legacy and reputation deteriorates by the day, advises us to ignore the past, perhaps speaks volumes about the wisdom of his personal thinking. Bearing in mind that it was his administration that deliberately set out to gerrymander the entire British population, by flooding the country with low wage migrants from the EU, sacrificed part of Britain's European rebate for absolutely no purpose; and involved this country's armed forces in bloody conflict for no apparent gains, suggests that Mr Blair was the very sort of person who should have looked backwards, if only to avoid the very sort of abject screw-ups that he lead the country into.
Of course, Tony Blair's principle argument was that we, the British people, should see our European neighbours as our allies, our friends, our trading partners; and that we should be prepared to make substantial sacrifices, in order to help them create the European "Shangri-la" that had been the continent's dream since 1945 and that everyone can benefit from. The question is of course, how much do the Greek people feel they have benefited from their EU membership, or Ireland, or Portugal, or Cyprus now that their countries are entirely dependent on the financial goodwill of their European neighbours and the IMF? How much do Spain's millions of unemployed workers feel they have benefited from the influx of low paid migrants and the shattering collapse of their construction industry? How much do Cypriot savers feel they have benefited from membership, after having some of their hard earned money taken away by Europe? How much benefit have British workers gained from the EU, especially those men and women whose jobs were lost after Bombardier failed to win the contract to build train carriages, or the Ford Transit workers whose jobs were transferred to Turkey, which isn't even a member of the EU?
Such events are hardly likely to build a collective spirit amongst European neighbours, or indeed their disparate peoples. History teaches us that, assuming of course that unlike John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron our leaders choose to look backwards every now and again, if only to ensure that we're not likely to get smacked up the arse by a danger we were completely unaware of, or to make sure that one of new European friends isn't ready to stab us in the back, as and when it suits their own particular nationalistic purpose. Sadly though over the past few decades we've been unlucky enough to have lumbered ourselves with a series of wholly myopic Prime Ministers, who have been so focused on following Europe's yellow brick road to a federalised union that they've missed the fact that the road is fast running out and we're heading towards disaster.
One of the UK's biggest trade union's is reported to have commissioned a secret report that bemoaned the increase in right wing political parties throughout Europe, including UKIP in mainland Britain, which the author regarded as a potential danger to their own left wing agenda. Clearly though, it never occurred to the author to ask the most obvious question to his own conclusions....why? Why has there been a worrying increase in sometimes radical right wing political parties in continental Europe; and why have other less radical parties, such as UKIP in the UK, suddenly found their memberships booming? After all, it's hardly a difficult question to answer, provided that such authors, commentators and politicians can actually be bothered to look backwards, into Europe's earlier history.
Widespread unemployment, poverty, political indifference and the offer of easy solutions are popular topics for a needy national population, especially one that feels threatened or aggrieved by a bigger near neighbour, who they have had problems with before. Sadly, it makes a bad situation even worse if that bigger near neighbour happens to be lead by another one of those myopic political leaders, whose sole concern appears to be their own national interests, rather than those of smaller, less affluent neighbouring states. It could well be argued that countries like Germany and France have not only benefited from their much more developed economies, but also from their own nationalistic tendencies, which sees them intentionally protect their own natural resources, workforces, industrial capacity and higher living standards, at the expense of their poorer continental neighbours.
It is perhaps worth considering that some of the bloodiest and most brutal ethnically based armed conflicts to have taken place since World War II have occurred on the European continent, so any suggestion or belief that modern day Europe is somehow too "civilised" or settled for such events to happen again is totally absurd. Europe is awash with various ethnic groups, who are only too happy to blame their misfortune on someone else, particularly if that person, or people happen to be the subject of some long standing antipathy. Even some seventy years after the end of World War II, there remains significant intolerance of Germany and its peoples, despite the fact that Germany has completely repudiated any suggestion that it might once again take up arms against its continental neighbours. The trouble is, as recent events have shown, bitter long lasting memories from seven decades ago can quickly resurface when apparently arrogant German politicians begin throwing their political weight around, whether that be with a cheque book as opposed to a gun. As Hans Frank noted during his trial for war crimes "A thousand years will pass and still Germany's guilt will not have been erased.", which will undoubtedly prove to be true, regardless of how much good successive German leaders do in Europe.
One wonders just who is being more naive, the politician who believes that further economic and political integration is the answer to preventing future European conflicts, or the politician who believes that strong independent nations, backed up by their own force of arms, is the right solution to maintaining peace and tranquillity on the continent? The Bosnian War that raged between 1992 and 1995 cost the lives of an estimated 100,000 people and put paid to the suggestion that the European Union is or can be a breakwater to any sort of ethnically inspired military aggression. As has always been the case since the Second World War, ultimately it was the assembled might of NATO that helped bring sanity and redress to a conflict that had both territorial and religious differences at its heart.
On more than occasion and following on from various European conflicts, British politicians have regularly depleted the ranks of our armed forces, in the mistaken belief that peace would reign from that point onwards, only to find that within a generation or so that the country was forced yet again to recall its fighting reserves to rescue Europe from yet another of its own military follies. Another return to radical right wing nationalism in Europe might be some years away, but the more European Union fails to deal with the real impact of its failing political experiment, the greater the chance that struggling countries will begin to lose patience with Europe and its more mainstream leaderships, preferring instead to follow the voices of nationalistic intolerance, because as we all know, for a struggling indigenous population, it's always someone else's fault. We've already seen incidents of foreign migrants being attacked by local people in a number of EU states, as well native citizens being attacked and killed by legal and illegal immigrants; and that's within a comparatively short time scale. Currently, Romanians, Bulgarians, North Africans, Turks and others are commonly being blamed for everything that goes wrong in particular countries, whilst other states, including the UK are finding that both racial and religious intolerance are on the rise, with off-duty soldiers being butchered and mosques being attacked with improvised explosive devices. And these are still early days! No great radical right wing message, or leader, has yet emerged to consolidate all of these disparate nationalistic groups, as was the case during the 1920's and 1930's when Europe last tore itself apart with unrestrained nationalist fervour; and we all know how that ended up!
Surely, it must be obvious to most European politicians that none of the continent's native races play that well with one another? Our shared histories prove that and no amount of gerrymandering native populations, creating European identities, enacting new laws, usurping national Parliaments, or creating false hybrid cultures is going to change or alter each country's latent nationalism. Tony Blair and his crooked cohorts may well have bought into the fairytale future of Europe, ostensibly for their own financial and political benefit, but ultimately each of Europe's sovereign states are made and shaped by their individual histories; and no amount of refusing to look backward, refusing to learn from such events, will ever change that. 

Saturday 13 July 2013

Questions, Questions!! - So Many Questions!!

Even though it would be quite easy to become highly despondent with the state of the UK's national politics, considering that the three same old political parties have made such a royal cock-up of our country during the past fifty years or so, it still comes down to the same old question about what we voters should do, when it comes to voting in elections? Do we settle for one of the three usual suspects, those mainstream parties who have already proved, time and time again that they couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery? Do we just abstain from the entire electoral process; and simply pretend that whichever party gains power would probably have won anyway, with or without our participation? Or do we think "nuts to it" and let the outsiders have a go at running the country, based on the premise that they couldn't do much worse than the usual bunch of charlatans.
It's a tough choice anyway you look at it. We can have Cameron and his motley crew, either with or without his dastardly sidekicks the Lib Dems, who are currently celebrating the departure from our shores of Abu Qatada, the radical cleric who has helped make a mockery of our judicial system over the past decade, at a cost of £ 2 million to the British taxpayer. Even though Cameron and his hapless Home Secretary, Theresa May, would have us believe that they were entirely responsible for his eventual deportation to Jordan, it is perhaps worth recalling that it was the illegal immigrant himself who chose not to fight the latest efforts to deport him, thus resulting in his final departure, so Mr Cameron's claim for credit is somewhat misplaced in that particular instance.
The question is, would I want to vote for a political party which is in the process of selling off the NHS, the Royal Mail; and that has made tens of thousands of public sector workers redundant, thereby crippling our already struggling economy even further? Do I want to vote for a party that puts an already redundant 19th century railway system ahead of our national defence, or a party that leaves our country without a working aircraft carrier, let alone the aircraft to use it, assuming that the Queen Elizabeth class carriers ever appear in the near future? Would I consider voting for a political party that could even countenance the historic fracturing of the British Union, by allowing one of its most important components, Scotland and its native peoples, to finally take their leave of us? Do I consider David Cameron to be worthy of the honour bestowed on him, to lead and to represent our great country on the international stage; and to defend the rights and privileges that the British people have fought and died for over hundreds of years?
The very fact that Cameron has been outwitted, out-thought and out-manoeuvred every time he has crossed swords with foreign adversaries should tell us all we need to know about this particular Tory leader's complete inability to defend our country's national interests. When is a veto not a veto? When it's wielded by David Cameron! Another question then! Would I trust our current Prime Minister to defend British interests in any future renegotiation with Europe? Do I believe that Cameron will live up to his promise of a British referendum on Europe in 2017, assuming of course that he's re-elected in 2015? Do I think George Osborne is in any way qualified to be this country's Chancellor of the Exchequer? Has our economy benefited from George Osborne's policies; or has he simply made a bad situation even worse? Given that most Conservative minister's are millionaires already, do they really give a "monkeys" about what happens to the country anyway?
Although along with most people I tend to regard the Lib Dems as largely irrelevant, given that they have chosen to share government with their Conservative allies, it seems only fair to question their ability to administer the running of our country. After all, do I want to vote for a party that originally promised to abolish Student Fees, only to actually triple them once they got into office? Would I choose to vote for a party which has been in the vanguard of the almost wholesale sell-off of health services, whilst at the same time making little effort to ensure ongoing patient safety at the hands of the new entirely for-profit healthcare operators? Do I want to give my vote to a party which would quite happily hand even greater powers to the un-elected bureaucrats in Brussels, making our own national parliament even more powerless than it currently is? Finally, do I want to vote for a party which is in thrall to the greedy environmental lobby, which would have every citizen of the UK pay hundreds of pounds in energy levies, in order that our natural landscapes can be defaced by the ugliness and inefficiency of the super tall wind turbines, most of which are built and owned by foreign corporations?
Then there's the Labour Party, those supposed guardians of the poor, the downtrodden and the dispossessed, whose former leaders are now so despised and ridiculed by most of the British voting public that it beggars belief that they could realistically be considered fit for high political office ever again. Despite having replaced the highly unpopular Gordon Brown, with the fairly uninspiring Ed Miliband, some commentators choose to believe that the younger Miliband sibling has benefited directly from the toxicity of David Cameron's personal brand of Conservatism, to the extent that the two "Eds", Balls and Miliband, simply need to do very little, in order to find their way back into Downing Street come May 2015. That said however, why would a voter such as myself choose to vote for a party that virtually bankrupted the country during their last period of office? Why would I vote for a party that's lead by a man, who apart from never having held down a real job in the real world, owes his position almost entirely to the union block vote, rather than ordinary Labour Party members and elected MP's. Why would a person vote for a party that has singularly failed to apologise for their past failings; that would happily surrender more of our national sovereignty to the European Union, which allowed 4 million immigrants to swamp our country's labour markets, passed some of the most draconian surveillance laws in the entire world and virtually did away with our inalienable right to free speech?
Considered to be a deep and thoughtful leader, how confident could the country be that an elected Ed Miliband, as Prime Minister of the UK, would help guide Britain back from the precipice of disaster that he and our current crop of politicians have driven us to? Or would a Miliband government mean more personal and national debt, more EU interference in our national life, more legislation to curtail our civil liberties, more foreign immigrants to test the limits of our beleaguered jobs market, schools, hospitals, housing stocks and benefits system?
For those of us who would be uncomfortable with casting our vote for any of the three failed mainstream parties, the possibility exists to either absolve ourselves from the entire process, by not voting at all, or to freely give our vote to one of the other smaller parties, in the almost certain knowledge that our chosen candidates will be unsuccessful in a national ballot. The decision not to vote at all, although attractive to many British citizens, is perhaps the worst of all options, if only because it helps to perpetuate the failed political system that has helped to stifle our nation for the past half century. There is little doubt that both Conservative and Labour parties have directly benefited from people's indifference, to the extent that any number of council and parliamentary seats throughout the UK are filled by candidates who enjoy a minimum of public support, which in turn leads to a dangerous democratic deficit; and the potential for deliberate political manipulation by outside bodies. The fact that recent cases like Falkirk can arise at all should be a warning to us all that a true democracy is an extremely fragile thing and requires us all to safeguard it, if only by using our right to vote every chance we get. Millions of our ancestors have died for our right to enjoy the freedoms we hold most dear and it is an insult to their memories every time we choose to forego our duty to participate in an electoral ballot.
It's not for me as an individual to tell people how to vote, or who to vote for, after all that's down to every single person who has the legal right to do so. For me personally, it's all about the questions I want answered, such as which party is likely to put Britain and its people first and foremost? Which party will help end the nightmare of our European membership and restore true sovereignty to the UK? Which of the parties standing at the next national elections will seek to end the madness of unfettered inward migration, by imposing a points based immigration system that will see Britain attract the brightest and the best, not anyone with a sad tale to tell, or a European passport? Which of the parties standing for election will put Britain's deserving people before those in the rest of the world, especially those in nuclear armed third world countries, which prefer to buy guns and missiles, rather than food and education for their native populations? Which of the parties will use Britain's armed forces to protect our national and international interests, rather than concerning ourselves with bickering neighbours in faraway states, spilling our service personnel's blood over someone else's arguments? Which of the national parties will tear down the forests of wind turbines that blight our nation's landscape; and bring some sort of rationale to our country's energy industry? Which party will help make our politicians accountable to the public once again by introducing a recall system for our MP's and Councillors, so that those which break their oaths or the law of the land, can be sacked by their constituents? Which of the parties would make it possible for the people of Britain to hold referenda on highly important national issues, such as the reintroduction of the death penalty for high crimes, etc? Which of the parties standing for office want to make our emergency services more localised, more accountable to the people that they purport to serve? Which party is offering political representatives who are generally untarnished by the sleaze of recent years, who have lived and worked in the real world, rather than being university educated political appointees, whose closest experience of British life is the bus or train journey from home to university each day?