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28 April 2009

More on "New Labour" .. some credit?

Yesterday I was pretty churlish about the present Labour Government, and I do not detract from anything I said. But in my enthusiasm to criticise I had forgotten that there have been two or three good aspects to the Labour era.

Looking back at a number of governments and Prime Ministers it seems to me that each one can only be remembered favourably on one or two counts, whilst everything else they did was either neutral or negative in effect. For example, Winston Churchill was a great war leader, and his ability to inspire not just us, but those who were persuaded to join the fight against the German Nazis, cannot be disputed. And yet his record as a peace-time Prime Minister was distinctly underwhelming.

The Post-war Labour government of Clement Attlee can be remembered with pride for the creation of the National Health Service. It is still with us, and God help anyone who has the temerity to suggest that it should be dismantled.

The Conservative Administration of Margaret Thatcher or (as the late great Clement Freud called her) Attila the Hen can be remembered as the government that destroyed the tyranny of the Trade Unions and democratized them. Having done that she might as well have packed her bags, because in my opinion she did nothing else memorable except to cause misery and divisiveness: she was an arrogant, self-opinionated fanatic who (together with her buddy Ronal Reagan) sowed the seeds for the financial disaster that we are now experiencing.

Some governments are memorable for having nothing good to be memorable for, such as the Conservative Administrations of Ted Heath and John Major, and the Labour Administrations of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.

And so we come to our present Labour Government: yes, they have done one or two good things and should be given credit. One was the National Minimum Wage, something the Conservatives fought tooth and nail against and would never have introduced such a thing. Another was devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (though only 8 our 10 for this because there was no devolution for England). Then there have been the annual Winter Fuel Payments for senior citizens, and also free bus travel for them, again a couple of measures the Tories would never have introduced.

So, one and a half cheers for New Labour. But alas, it will still be farewell some time next year.

27 April 2009

Bye-bye New Labour

I've said it before, and (because I'm a boring old fart) I'll say it again .. Opposition Parties don't win elections, Governments lose them.

I think it's becoming clear enough to most people in the UK that come the next General Election (due in 2010) the chances of Labour getting back in for a fourth time are approximately zilch.

This is not because David Cameron's Conservative Party have anything particularly inspiring on offer; rather it is because Gordon Brown's Labour Government is becoming a bit of a laughing stock in much the same way that John Major's government was towards the end of the last Conservative administration.

All power corrupts, and in recent years we have seen that amply demonstrated. Tony Blair swept in on a tide of enthusiasm in 1997 promising to be whiter than white after the Conservative government's embarrassing "Cash for Questions" scandals, and miscellaneous scandals of a sexual kind.

Then we had, under New Labour, the Iraq debacle, donations to secure exemptions from legislation, donations to "buy" peerages, and more recently under the Gordon Brown administration, the infamous e-mail sent by his senior political adviser to a colleague suggesting various ways of running personal smear campaigns against Conservative front-benchers (and their wives). Gordon Brown - in a statement somewhat reminiscent of a Communist dicatorship - said "I accept full responsibility, that's why the person who did it has now gone".

The rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer, whilst at the same time women's wages continue to be lower than those for men for doing similar work; therefore it is clear to me that Labour has failed miserably, since it's whole reason for existence has always been to produce a fairer society.

We have also become the Surveillance State with more CCTV cameras watching our every move than anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile the government is also intent on forging ahead with an expensive and intrusive national identity card scheme (which, to the Conservatives' credit they promise to abandon .. if they are to be believed). Now there are plans to force communications companies to store records of all phone, text, and e-mail messages from everyone in the land. Some Local Councils are using anti-terrorism regulations to enforce ridiculous rules about how much, and what exactly, you are allowed to put in your waste disposal wheelie bins, and using underhand tactics to monitor your activities in this regard.

Well, Gordon Brown, I'm sorry to say this as an ex Labour Party Member and fervent adherent to left-of-centre politics, but come the next Election we shall surely be saying good-bye to you. God knows what we'll get in your place, and our crazy "first-past-the-post" electoral system will, as usual, ensure that the country's fate will be decided by a couple of dozen marginal constituencies.

I have no idea who I'm going to vote for, or even if I'll vote at all. Good grief - I can't believe I just said that!

20 April 2009

Vine House Hotel, Paulerspury, Northamptonshire

During a recent visit to Northamptonshire we stayed overnight at the Vine House Hotel, Paulerspury. The proprietors describe it as a Restaurant with rooms.

This is fair enough because the restaurant and food is excellent, prepared by a very fastidious Chef, but the accommodation could only be described as adequate. You have to be prepared for the fact that this is one of those restaurants where the Chef takes it upon himself to know and to dictate exactly how much his dishes should be seasoned, and you will not find salt or pepper shakers on any of the restaurant tables. Whilst I had no complaints about the food whatsoever I still feel uneasy about not being given the simple choice of adding further seasoning should I wish to.

Holden House B & B, Shardlow, Derbyshire

If you are in need of overnight accommodation in Shardlow, Derbyshire, next to the Trent & Mersey Canal and the river Trent, I can recommend Holden House. It is very popular and nearly always full, so you need to book well in advance.

The accommodation is good, and so is the breakfast. We stayed there the other night and got a warm welcome, a good night's sleep, and a first class breakfast to send us on our way the next day.

11 April 2009

Trains getting better!

We spent a few days in London the other day, and were pleasantly surprised to find that not only was our train from York to London running on time, but every surburban train we caught in London departed and arrived exactly on schedule. Our six-year year old grandson enjoyed riding on the London Underground ("The Tube") and was quite disappointed when he saw daylight again.

Our train back from London Kings Cross to York was non-stop and did the journey in 105 minutes, i.e., an average speed of 114 mph. A Scottish businessman was sitting on a seat behind me conducting a prolonged conversation on his cellphone; he started the call immediately we left Kings Cross, which was a stupid thing to do because there are at least five longish tunnels as you leave London on the East Coast main line, so his conversation was constantly interspersed with "Can you hear me? .. can you hear me?" followed by long pauses, only to be repeated again at the next tunnel.

Anyway, as a result of our recent travels I should like to thank and congratulate National Express Trains and South West Trains on their efficient and pleasant service.

03 April 2009

American Giants at the G20 in London

Shouldn't they have given the Queen a box to stand on?

02 April 2009

G20 .. "Anglo-Saxons" versus The Rest?

Well, the great and the good, the bad and ugly, are all gathered in London today for the G20 summit that's intended to put the world to rights.

President Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany have formed an unholy alliance against those they see as the Anglo-Saxon originators of all the world's financial troubles, i.e., the USA and the UK.

They want more regulation rather than more spending boosts. I am tempted to agree with them. It is hard to avoid the fact that the present troubles did arise from the lightly regulated, laissez-faire kind of capitalism espoused principally by the United States and the United Kingdom. I am inclined to agree that we need more, not less, regulation; and as for delivering financial stimulus we are already up to our ears in hock for generations without borrowing even more to spend our way out of the crisis. We need to expose and close down all these tax havens as well.

Naturally the gathering has encouraged the appearance of thousands of protestors in London, some of which managed to break the windows of the Royal Bank of Scotland and gain entry to smash up a few computers. Since we own most of the RBS these days, I suppose these guys were pretty much breaking into their own premises!

There have been anti-war protesters, anti-globalisation protesters, anti-capitalism protesters, anti-nuclear arms protesters, environmental protesters, socialist worker protesters, trade union protesters, communist protesters, anarchist protesters, and for all I know anti-protest protesters. Apart from the break in to the RBS these huge gatherings have been largely peaceful and handled quite well by the Police. (Update 20th April .. there have since been 90 complaints to the Police Complaints Commission about some Police Officers hiding their identity numbers, and physically assaulting protesters, allegededly causing one death.) City of London bank workers who took it upon themselves to wave fistfuls of £10 notes to the assembled crowds probably cannot be described as the world's greatest practitioners of tact and diplomacy!

I wish the G20 gathering well in their endeavours.