Monday, January 31, 2005

anti-Semitism and New Labour

First there was the "Fagin" jibe by Labour's Chairman Ian McCartney directed at Oliver letwin - a Jew. It was quickly forgotten because by all accounts Mr McCartney is not an intellectual titan and a man of his intellect could not be expected to realise the significance of what he was saying. But then along came Home Office Minister Mike O' Brien with an article for Muslim News in which he asks how Muslims could trust Michael Howard (another Jew) on issues such as Palestine and allowing Turkey into the EU. In case the point was lost on its readers the article criticises a little known Liberal Democrat MP called Evan Harris who just happens to be Jewish. If this was not deliberate you would have thought that the spin doctors in Millbank would be going to some trouble to make sure that further allegations of anti-Semitism could be avoided.

Not so. This week Labour unveiled election posters depicting Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin on pigs bodies - did they really not know the significance of the pig to members of the Jewish faith? Of course they did, but the really clever bit is this: Labour will deny any anti-semitism but will still have achieved their aim of garnering anti-Jewish votes. How very astute. Knowing the devious way they operate in Millbank it wouldn't surprise me one little bit if they had run around briefing the papers about the anti-semitic nature of the posters and articles themselves before fiercely denying it. Thereby ensuring that not only do they get the "anti-racist" vote but that also they pick up votes from the worryingly large number of people who hold anti-semitic prejudices.

Of course the Labour Party leadership isn't anti-Semitic, but some of its supporters are. The Labour Party is power mad and playing to these prejudices just before an election makes perfect sense - electoraly. The morality of doing so is another question entirely.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Torfaens "gender mapping" priority

A sense of anger filled Ponthir village hall yesterday as parents and villagers vented their anger at Torfaen Council who are pressing ahead with their decision to close the local school. The main reason for this seems to be money - the school is on a valuable site - raising educational standards is clearly not a factor as last year the school had the best set of SATS results in the whole county.

If money is the motive Torfaen should start thinking about their priorities. Their website proudly boasts about a gender mapping exercise involving consultants which recently took place followed by a day long conference in the Cwmbran Stadium. If this is how they choose to spend tax payers money it is not so surprising that they are having to close down schools and sell of land in order to make ends meet.

Monday, January 24, 2005

How to cut taxes not services

Wayne David MP challenged me on air this morning to state how the Conservative Party could cut government spending without affecting frontline services. No problem Wayne! here are just a few suggestions that would save millions of pounds in Wales alone.

1. Scrap plans for "free" school breakfasts which could cost up to £80 million per year.

2. Get rid of the "Welsh Embassies" which are being opened up in exotic cities across the world and which will no doubt be visited by Ministers on a regular basis.

3. Scrap the NHS Equality Unit. This is an organisation funded out of NHS money which looks for examples of "homophobia and racism" in the NHS. If the NHS is a racist organisation it has
certainly escaped people's attention. I suspect that most patients black white and Asian would rather see NHS money spent on doctors and nurses.

4. Stop funding politically correct organisations which claim to stick up for minority groups. Here are a few examples: Stonewall, the Ethnic Business Support Programme, the Minority Ethnic Women's Network, The Black Environmental Network, the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association. (there are plenty of others) At the same time cancel funding on other ridiculous projects such as the £100,000, given to a theatre group who toured Wales, with a play about a single parent mother from West Wales who wanted to become a plumber but met with sexist attitudes and a like of bi-lingual child care facilities.

It took me less than 5 minutes to think of the above examples - there are many many more!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

School breakfasts - a dogs breakfast

Ever since the Labour party in Wales announced that they were going to provide free school breakfasts to all primary school pupils I have been trying to find out how much they expect this cost. The answer is that if everyone takes up the offer it will cost around £80 million per year. That is a good £14 million more than the unnecessary Welsh Assembly Building. The information released under the Freedom of Information Act to Western Mail reporter Martin Shipton suggests that the Assembly Government are fervently hoping that there will not be a wide take up describing this as a "worst case scenario."

Labour produced this idea as a manifesto gimmick without thinking it through let alone costing it properly. If they keep their promise then we will be spending £80million a year which could be used to keep open some of the many village schools which Labour Councils are intent on closing, or employing more teachers.

Still, if past performances are anything to go by, it seems likely that this commitment will be quietly forgotten along with all of the others.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Surprise surprise no nukes in the desert

The above link speaks for itself.

There was no great enthusiasm in this country for war in Iraq from anyone outside of Westminster, and not that many inside. But to war we went - on the basis that there were weapons of mass destruction pointing at us.

Thousands lost their lives as a result, including a respected scientist who apparantly committed suicide, after pointing out that the evidence upon which we based our causus belli was completely wrong.

The excuses offered after the event about ridding the World of evil dictators are an insult to our intelligence. The world is full of dubious dictators and evil regimes. How many others are facing military action? Millions have died in the Congo alone and while we send the troops into Iraq the Government allowed our cricket team to tour Zimbabwe where millions of black farmworkers face starvation as a result of policies followed by Mugabe.

The real mystery is this - just how has this Government got away with it?

Friday, January 14, 2005

New Health Minister new policy?

Every day brings more complaints about the Health service in Wales. With the permission of the writer I have reproduced one of them having removed anything that might identify the person concerned.

A complaint about the health service. I'm sure you are neck-deep in them already but thought you may like to be aware it can take around 3h 40m to see a doctor..... even if you are in pain.
The story...

After suffering pain over Xmas - attempted to hang on to see a doctor tomorrow.
1.50pm. The pain got worse

.........Last time I had such pain it was a ride in the ambulance to hospital with gas and air (kidney stone).
Phoned local surgery ( I'd tried to ring NHS Direct but gave up after 22 mins as no answer)

Local Raglan surgery not open. Advised to ring Usk.

Rang Usk. Doctor not available until 3pm and not contactable.

Surgery sister advised me (through receptionist) to go to Neville Hall Hospital as gave her my previous history.
Husband and daughter (aged 8) drove me to Neville Hall.

Went in Accident and Emergency by mistake. Cross receptionist certainly ticked me off for making such and error (I'd never been a patient there before).

Seen and processed by 3pm ish - sample a nurse. Told was cause for concern but as my doctor had not admitted me I would have to go to Usk for doc to refer me. I could not be seen by doctor. Doped up with pain killers.

They had on a number of occasions sent patients back to their doctors to be boomeranged back to NH shortly afterwards.

Husband drove me to Usk.

Waited 1hr 25m to be seen.

5.25pm Saw Doctor Jarrett who diagnosed kidney stone. He thought it odd – as I did- that as they have all the equipment at Neville Hall, that I wasn't seen.

Left with heavy-duty pain killers and a letter to Ambulance Service if they have to be called out in night.

The question is Why? Why would anyone in pain be sent back to a doctor, who I hadn't seen before and had no notes. Is it 'The System?'

If the pain returns tonight, and it is worse it will be another ambulance trip.

Incidentally.. a good tip if you want to be seen quickly... Drink a few pints, fall down, call ambulance. Dr ..(name removed by dd) told me glue-sniffing is an equally successful manoevre. You will be welcome in Accident and Emergency with no tiresome waiting in doctor's surgeries, and very likely not in pain.

I hope our new Health Minister Brian Gibbons will be more prepared to act on complaints like this than his predecessor.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Holocaust - no laughing matter

People are right to want an apology from Prince Harry for his choice of fancy dress outfit. We should also have an apology from Mike O’Brien MP who recently wrote a shameless article for the Muslim News, urging its readers not to vote Conservative because Michael Howard, a Jew, could not be trusted to do anything for British Muslims. Harry is young, foolish and probably didn't know what he was doing, Mike O'Brien is a Government Minister and did.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

MRSA cover up

Back in July of last year I tried to obtain data from Health Minister Jane Hutt on MRSA outbreaks in Wales but the information was withheld. This air of secrecy is exclusive to Wales, anyone wanting to know the figures for England need only log on to the NHS website to find out. Over the next few months other opposition politicians joined in calls for more openness and Jane Hutt agreed to set up a panel of experts to look at ways of publishing the data. Maybe I am cynical but I suspect that this could be a way of kicking things into the long grass for a while.

However two events have encouraged me to have another go at getting the figures. Jane Hutt has been sacked as Health Minister and replaced by Brian Gibbons, and the new Freedom of Information Act has come into force. I am now in the process of trying to obtain the figures using the Act. If this Act is really going to force public bodies to be more accountable, and if MRSA cases are as low as the Government says then it should be relatively straightforward. We will see....

Saturday, January 08, 2005

I have a dark secret which I must confess to my wife. According to Europe Minister Dennis MacShane, those of us who oppose the single currency and the European Constitution are xenophobic little Englanders. I am utterly opposed to both and to the idea of a single European state run by an unelected elite in Brussels which is the inevitable outcome. This must made my very xenophobic indeed.

The OED defines xenophobia as "an irrational fear or dislike of people from other countries." I had better own up quickly to this as my wife's Hungarian parents are arriving tomorrow to spend a few days under our roof! She may also want to cancel the Hungarian lessons I am taking. I am comforted slightly by the thought that she might also have to confess to dark feelings of hatred towards foreigners since she persists in thinking that her native land would be better governed from Budapest than from Brussels.

Maybe instead we could simply agree that Mr MacShane "yn siariad lol" as we Welsh speaking little Englanders are wont to say.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Religious discrimination and double standards

The BBC will go ahead and broadcast "Jery Springer the Opera" tonight in spite of all the protests from Christian organisations angry at the blasphemous way in which Christ is portrayed. As a believer in free speech I respect the right of artists to make criticisms of religion. But as a believer in fair play I know very well that the politically correct BBC would not have dreamed of allowing on air such a grossly offensive portrayal of any other religion.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The arrogance of education authorities

Last night I spent several hours with campaigners in the village of Ponthir who are trying to save their local school. The school is being closed down by the Education Authority on the grounds that education of an "equivalent standard and diversity" (what that last word means I don't know) can be offered elsewhere.

"Elsewhere" is likely to be three or four miles away, too far to walk, and a long way to send four year olds by bus meaning that many parents will take to the roads adding to problems of traffic congestion.

I strongly suspect that this is all being done to make some money for the Council by allowing them to sell off the land on which the school is situated.

The whole outrageous situation demonstrates the need to rid ourselves of the arrogant bureaucrats who run the Local Education Authorities and hand power back to teachers and parents. How can this be done? Very simple. It costs the Council around £5000 per annum to educate each child. If parents had the right to access that money and use it to educate their children elsewhere if they wanted, then the LEAs would have to listen.

If this system were in place then parents in Ponthir could take their children out of the state system and have them educated privately or even, if their were enough of them, to set up their own local school using the money.

Of course the beauty of a voucher system like this would be that in general these situations would not arise. The mere fact that parents could go elsewhere would encourage LEAs to treat parents like valued customers, rather than an inconvenient obstacle to their grand schemes.