The murmurs are turning into shouts

A comment on the blog of the previous post. Hands up everyone who wishes (a) the first past the post system was dead and (b) that they had voted for someone else in the last local and general elections?

The comment:

“The appointment of Douglas Hogg to this bloated and unaccountable insult to democracy is simply the Prime Minister’s way of saying **** to all members of the public who expressed disbelief that we were expected to pay for duck houses, toilet seats, wisteria trimming, Ian Duncan-Syndrome’s £39 breakfasts, garlic presses, etc, etc, ad nauseam.

Taxpayers are expected simply to keep their mouths shut while people like Lord High on the Hogg run the country for their own benefit. If he had any sense of decency, he would have withdrawn in shame from public life, but shame no longer seems to be felt in political circles, alas, so instead this man will grow old and fat on his £300-per-day attendance allowance. All while his party gets on with their noble task of harrassing thousands of sick people who are at the mercy of the state.

How the hell can we have ended up with this Banana Republic system of government?

Remember that Lord Hogg is already Viscount Hailsham – this new “honour” just means he gets new robes and new expenses!

“The Lords and reality have parted company”

Who broke the House of Lords? When 600 years of the institution’s history is finally written, who will be the peer who might finally be reckoned to have dealt the killer blow in the decisive summer of 2015? Will it be John Buttifant Sewel with his bra and prostitutes and cocaine? Or perhaps it could be the newly ennobled Douglas Hogg and the 44 other peers on last week’s list of dissolution honours – even the name is prophetic.

The smart money is on Hogg, whose expenses claim while he was an MP didn’t just include £2,115 for moat cleaning, the fact that has lodged in the nation’s collective memory, but also £18,000 for his gardener, £40 for his piano tuner, £200 for his Aga maintainer and £611 for his mole catcher.

This was the week that the House of Lords finally left the plane that we call reality. Because this list wasn’t just the normal roll call of cronies, donors, butt-lickers, flunkies and has-beens who make up the average honours list. There wasn’t just one expense-scandal MP on it, there were three. There wasn’t one special adviser, there were seven. And there wasn’t just the prime minister’s selection of cronies, donors, butt-lickers, flunkies and has-beens; Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg got to nominate theirs too.

What’s more, it wasn’t just lefties kicking off in complaint – it was everybody. The House of Lords has now moved into a realm beyond parody. For where is there left to go when Polly Toynbee of the Guardian and Quentin Letts in the Mail find themselves in perfect agreement? What strange twilight zone have we entered when the Morning Star and the Financial Times share an editorial line?

Which is when, well, you have to suspect that something is up at the quantum level. That we have now entered the multiverse in which the Conservative party, the party of fox hunting and the Bullingdon Club and John Major’s old maids cycling to holy communion through the morning mist, is now out to destroy the House of Lords. And if that sounds like the ravings of an unhinged conspiracy theorist, it’s not my unhinged conspiracy theory. It belongs instead to one of the leading constitutional experts in the country. Meg Russell, a senior research fellow at UCL’S Constitution Unit, points out that in any rational sense, the list is “inexplicable”. “It was widely anticipated that Cameron wanted to use these new appointments to strengthen the Conservatives’ position in the Lords,” she says. “But this is not actually what he has done. His list of 45 new appointees includes 26 Conservatives, 11 Lib Dems and eight Labour nominees, giving him an increased advantage of just seven.”

So why not, she asks, just appoint seven? “The net outcome in terms of Lords votes would have been the same and the media outrage could have been avoided. Given how strange this seems, is it possible that the media outrage is actually part of the strategy?” And suddenly, the penny drops. Because the stink coming off this list is in a special category of stinks. It’s the Great Stink, an August phenomenon of two centuries ago, when the filth and excrement in the Thames finally became too much to bear and the putrid stench led to one of 19th century’s greatest reformations: indoor plumbing.

Is this list simply the last wave of sewage down the pipes? The final great tsunami of crap that will sink the upper chamber for good? Because to spend time googling the names on the list is to descend in a Putinesque bathysphere to new lows. Nick Clegg literally seems to have run out of Lib Dems to nominate. After Vince Cable and Danny Alexander – Danny Alexander! – turned down peerages, he was left with Lorely Burt – who? – and Shas Sheehan – who? (In fact, the Spectator helpfully clarified that she had failed not once, but twice, to be selected as a parliamentary candidate and was described by another party member as “one of the least qualified people I’ve ever encountered”.)

In what world does Simone Finn – who? – deserve a peerage? She’s been a special adviser to the Cabinet Office for the grand total of three years. And she’s friends with Frances Osborne. But then, who isn’t friends with Frances Osborne? Kate Rock, vice chair of the Tory party, is also on the list. And also the owner of the £1.7m Klosters chalet where George Osborne stayed shortly after delivering his “we’re all in this together” speech. “The two families socialised together,” his spokesman said at the time, “because Mrs Rock had been friends with Mrs Osborne since the age of 15.” Is it my imagination or are George Osborne’s fingerprints all over this list? Media outrage doesn’t just happen – not across every publication, across every political stripe, in the country. If you wanted to discredit an institution, how would you go about doing it? Flood it with nobodies? Dredge up a star of the expense scandals and give him a peerage? What happened? Did Sir Peter Viggers of duck house fame turn it down?

Because one’s first reaction to the news was to wonder what on earth Douglas Hogg has that could possibly be worth a peerage. What cards does he hold that could be worth risking the kind of outrage that erupted across Friday’s papers? The mind boggles. Photographs? Videos? Some sort of incident involving an orange, a pair of fishnet stockings and a young David Cameron? The truth is that there can’t be anything, can there? Douglas Hogg is simply an old-school Tory venal enough to want the public to pay for his mole catcher and vain enough to accept an honour that the whole of Tory central office knew would be splashed across the papers. He’s been played. We’ve all been played.

Meg Russell points out that the Conservatives have no intention of reforming the Lords. The most likely upshot is that it becomes “a moribund and discredited institution, as existed in the 1950s, with ever weaker ability to hold the government to account”. Because while it might be comforting for the left to think that the Conservatives are just a bunch of public-school boy thickos out to ruin the country, the truth is that they’re actually rather brilliant at it.

Cranbrook to become a “health town” to cut NHS burden?

The head of the NHS has had this bright idea and Cranbrook is mentioned as a possible pilot town.

The chosen towns will emphasise active travel, parks, table tennis, more sheltered housing for elderly people, mobile and accessible health services, no fast food restaurants close to schools, GP monitored technology in homes, no kerbs, non- slip pavements and symbolic signs to help dementia sufferers.

Good luck with that one, with a fish and chip shop opening near the school and a row already going on about the school playing fields having no floodlighting making it inaccessible at night and cars parked half-on kerbs because there isn’t enough parking. Not to mention – so far – zero provision for specialist housing for the elderly.

The article mentions that Cranbrook is expected to have 20,000 new homes which seems to imply that all the 17,100 homes claimed as being required in the Local Plan will be sited there along with another 3,000 for good measure.

Source: Sunday Times 30/8/15, page 15

“Crony donors win a peerage and then disappear”

An article in today’s Sunday Times reports that five generous donors to political parties who were given peerages attended the House of Lords for less than 12 days each in the following year:

Tory donors Lord Wolfson £555,650) attended for 2 days
Tory Lord Bamford (£101,249) – 5 days
Labour Lord Haughey (£1,740,000) – 7 days
Tory Lord Glendonbrook (£2,110,000) – 12 days
Labour Lord Drayson (£1,110,000) – 12 days

The 23 peers who have donated more than £100,000 each attended for an average of 52 days, six of the top donors attended less than 14 times.

The article goes on: “The presence of party donors is worrying enough for the public. The fact that … some of them don’t even vote adds to people’s suspicions that the Lords is a cosy club for political retirees and hangers-on.

Later on, in the same newspaper, columnist Adam Boulton makes the point that some of the peers are removed by parties from their safe seats, allowing new leaders to parachute in their favourites.

He goes on to say that, in the 1960s, a proportional ratio of peers to MPs was suggested but that an unlikely alliance between Michael Foot and Enoch Powell put paid to it, lading to one of them saying it would be “A second chambet selected by the Whips. A seraglio of eunuchs”!

Straittgate Farm Quarry – DCC consultation

Under the latest draft set out by Devon County Council (DCC), Straitgate Farm near Ottery St Mary is one of just two proposed new areas for quarrying.

This site is the subject of a controversial application submitted by Aggregate Industries to extract sand and gravel, which has been met with opposition from Ottery residents and civic leaders.

Now DCC is consulting the public about this for a new Minerals Lical Plan.

The document will eventually replace the existing Minerals Local Plan of 2004 and covers the period up to 2033. Following this process, the plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State, together with all responses. DCC anticipates it will be adopted by the end of 2016.

The consultation runs until Monday, November 16. Visit Residents can also call 01392 383510 or email

Your house is in fire? Press 1 for credit card payment …

Apologies for the (censored) bad language … a passionats blogger got carried away and it IS satire – something now largely missing from modern politics:

“Do you remember the old days? You remember… the old days. When businesses did just the one thing and they were good at it? Butchers, bakers, candlestick makers. Ahhhh, the good old days. You knew what you were getting in the good old days.

And when your house was on fire, you’d call 999 and you’d say “I’m awfully sorry to bother you” (for you ARE British after all) and then “I’m afraid I may have a fire in my house, would it be too much of me to ask whether you could, possibly, I don’t know, pop round and have a look at it? I really hope I’m not disturbing you.”

And they would say “Yes, indeed, we could pencil you in for – erm – let’s say in 5 minutes’ time?” and you would nod and say “let me check my diary…” before pausing, and looking at an empty page, say “well, I was due to meet Doris for a cup of tea but I suppose I could put her off, if you could be quick…” and they would acquiesce.

The good old days. When a fire was dealt with. Well, Brandon Lewis, who apparently is an MP, and also government minister for Local Government, whatever that means, is calling for new laws that would “enable fire and rescue authorities in England to contract out their full range of services to a suitable provider.”


He had the audacity to KEEP ON SPEAKING:

“I appreciate that the proposals are not without controversy. However, these changes will help remove barriers and to increase choices that fire and rescue authorities have to contract out their services.”

Let us translate this for you, because we fear that it’s come through in Tory-speak…

“I know I’m a c***, but what we really want to do is give Capita the chance to earn more money from tax payers.”

Because we all know it’s going to be ***ing Capita, don’t we. The company that managed to F UP the court translation services by, erm, well basically NOT OFFERING court translation services, much as they say “oh we’ve leveraged improvements and efficiencies and maintained a yadiyada percentage increase in the number of satisfied court clients for event horizon leveraging operationalization.” Or something like that. I don’t know. They speak another language.

Yeah, Capita. The company who took the 999 service itself, and the National College, so you’re talking to them now, which means when you’ve got a fire, you call up and say:

“Oh hello, I’m afraid I might have a fire in my house, so sorry to disturb you.”

“Good morning, madam. Your call may be recorded for training purposes. How could we help you potentially operationalize the out-putting of this fire in a leveraged, efficient manner?”


“Well, if you could four-box that for me, what we really need to do is a SWAT analysis of the fire – what are its strengths, for example? Do we let the fire spread throughout the house in order to improve it? What are its weaknesses? If you could pop that over in a powerpoint to us by, erm, let’s say, some time NEXT QUARTER, we’ll think about convening a meeting by Quarter 3 and maybe action that next year?”

Perhaps. I don’t know. This is Capita, after all, the great “do-all” and “get-paid-for-any-old-***” company the government turn to when it can’t be bothered to do anything.

Like putting out fires. Brandon Lewis seems to think that helping people stay alive is something that should be handed over to a company who do things for profit. Their aim is to make more money to keep shareholders happy. And before you go all “oh you lefty” on us, we think that’s fine. Making money is fine. Keeping shareholders happy is fine.

But doing so comes with certain restrictions. For example, how do you make more money? Employing fewer people and making them work harder, for a bit less. That’s how businesses stay alive. And that’s fine. We have no problem with that. In business.

But in the fire service, do we really want our firemen and women to end up with rubbish pensions and employment rights? No, we want them to be happy at work so that they put out fires.

And let’s be frank – your record with outsourcing and privatisation is ****. National Rail? *ocks. G4S? F s. The list goes on. If you cared about the end consumer, you’d stop. But you don’t. You care about Capita and your other friends.

So Mr Lewis, we’re talking directly to you. Putting out fires and rescuing people is NOT something that you can hand over to people whose primary interest is making money for shareholders. Or making money at all, in fact. Putting out fires is something that WE, the electorate, would like YOU, the government, to sort out yourselves. We want you to do it well, and we’re happy to pay our taxes so that you do it properly.

We don’t want you gaily skipping through the meadows hand-in-hand with your buddies from Capita, Serco or whoever else you’re sleeping with this month. This is a democracy, not a business plan, you daft ****.

You may or may not be financially involved with these companies, we don’t know and we don’t care, but when it comes to safety, you’re responsible. Now, off you pop, and come back with a sensible suggestion instead.”

Housing Minister “hurt” that people criticise him for £150 per night hotels when he could go home

“The government’s housing minister has defended claims of almost £31,000 for London hotel stays, despite owning a home in Essex.

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis spent nearly £15,000 last year on 99 overnight stays and about £16,000 the year before, The Sunday Times reported.

Mr Lewis opted to stay in the capital rather than travel home to Essex, the paper said.

In a statement, he said all the claims complied with parliamentary rules.

A spokesman for his office said: “Every expense claim is entirely in accordance with the rules and approved by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).”
Privately, he is said to be “hurt” by the allegations.
Nearly all the stays were at the Park Plaza hotel, near Parliament, for which Mr Lewis would typically claim £450 for three nights and £750 for a five-night-stay.”


01404 814157:

Plan attendance at important committee meeting at County Hall on 14th September
Join a free coach in Ottery or West Hill

A number of local residents, concerned that the inpatient beds and minor injuries unit at Ottery Hospital are to be closed, are to seek a Judicial Review to contest the decision taken by the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). They are working with others who have similar problems and are keen to link with other groups, including the League of Friends of Ottery Hospital, and local councils.

James Goddard, who has led the Ottery campaign from the beginning, said “we must demonstrate to the CCG and others involved in taking decisions which ignore the wishes of local people and undermine their interests, that they are blatantly wrong. Community hospitals must be saved, not least to prevent bed-blocking and Black Alerts at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital. The closure of the Minor Injuries Unit means that people will have to travel further, thus creating additional demand on hospitals already under pressure from those who are ill.

“We have done all we can so far and owe it to the 2,000 people who signed a petition in favour of sustaining Ottery Hospital to take this important step. We not only strongly disapprove of the outcome but also feel profound dissatisfied with the CCG process which led to this decision. Indeed, many of us believe that the decision to close the inpatient beds was taken before the “consultation”. One scenario in which more money would be spent on local hospitals still saw the Ottery Hospital lose all its inpatient beds. A report from the Stakeholders Group, set up by the CCG, recommended a positive change which would have allowed all inpatient bids in the five hospitals in the local area to remain. However this study was ignored. The CCG also failed to send it to the Devon County Council Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee. So we are doing all we can to mobilise support from the local MP, councils and other groups. This might well be our last chance to save our hospital.”

The intention is to demonstrate that the decision was not in the public interest and that the process was flawed. The group, backed by professional experts, is considering how best to proceed in the limited time available to activate a request for a review and some considerable preliminary work has already been done.

Meanwhile, the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee of Devon County Council will examine the decision to close hospital beds in East Devon at its meeting on 14th September. It is hoped that many members of the public, from the affected areas, will attend this session, which begins at 2.00. Philip Algar, a fellow campaigner on behalf of the hospital, said that if many local people attended this meeting, it would show the committee the depth of feeling and the importance of sustaining the inpatient beds and minor injuries unit locally. “As the population of Ottery is expected to increase by a quarter in the near future and Cranbrook continues to expand, we cannot understand why it is necessary to close the facilities at a modern and geographically well-located hospital. The “justification” offered by the CCG flies in the face of common sense and defies logic.“

To ensure that as many critics of the CCG attend this important meeting, a coach has been arranged for those in Ottery who wish to go to County Hall. It will leave the Land of Canaan at 1.00 and will call at the British Legion Hall in West Hill at 1.10. Those who wish to book a free place on the coach should ring John Giblin on 01404 815815 or email him on

END: 27.8.15