Sunday, May 03, 2020

The sick man of Europe

When this terrible crisis is over, I sincerely hope the National Health Service will not come out of it unchanged.
We have all been full of admiration for the doctors, nurses and other health workers who risk their own lives to care for others.
This should not blind us to the terrible failings in the NHS. Its organisation, management and infrastructure should not be allowed to survive unscathed.
For individual workers, this may well have been their finest hour. Never was so much owed by so many.
But this has not been the NHS’s finest hour. The selfless heroism of many health workers should not blind us to the bureaucracy’s fatal - literally fatal - ineptitude.
From before the crisis became a crisis, the NHS bureaucracy in all its bewildering variety has proved itself time after time to be inefficient, bungling, complacent, aimless and incompetent.
Of course, supporters of the status quo will argue first that the NHS has been a victim of cuts and austerity for so long it’s no wonder it wasn’t prepared. They will then claim the crucial decisions were made by politicians, as if that lets the bureaucrats off the hook.
The truth is, funding for the NHS has rocketed while efficiency has plummeted. Every extra £1 spent on the health service these days yields about 10p’s worth of improved services.
On almost all measures, we have one of the worst health services in the developed world.
Yet in the past few months Boris Johnson’s Government has been led entirely by the advice it receives from experts who work in the NHS directly or in one of its many service industries like Imperial College, London.
And that advice has been mixed, to say the least. First, there was no cause for alarm. Then there was a policy of herd immunity. Then there was lockdown.
These contradictory policies were based on flawed and contradictory expert advice. As a result we must endure the devastation of the British economy, with petrifying long-term consequences.
Meanwhile cancer patients and others with potentially fatal illnesses don’t even get to see a GP.
We were told testing was the ‘game changer’. Once we knew who had suffered the illness and who hadn’t, all would be well.
It turned out there were few reliable tests and the NHS had centralised the entire system in one location thus ensuring it would take forever to get any results.
To make matters worse, private companies and universities queued up offering help and were ignored. Possibly this was because of the inadequacy of the NHS bureaucracy, possibly because of a doctrinaire refusal to deal with ‘the private sector’ but, most likely, it was the result of a collective instinct to command and control everything even if it cost lives.
The slow and inadequate testing regime was blamed on Ministers yet they have given the NHS a blank cheque and complete freedom to deal with it. The failures lie at the door of the NHS’s overpaid executives.
The same applies to shortages of personal protection equipment. Why were there shortages?
It is more understandable the NHS might be tripped up by a shortage of intensive-care respirators but its attempts to acquire more were chaotic. Ministers, aware of the need, appealed to private businesses to make them. Many responded. Alas, again, the NHS failed to react.
Where, you might ask, were the highly-paid executives responsible for NHS procurement?
The health service employs more than 4,000 people in purchasing jobs, some of them being paid well over £100,000. Why did these executives fail to secure an adequate supply of PPE for their colleagues?
Of course, part of the problem with the NHS is the way jobs are dished out to superannuated politicians who get to sit on trust boards and pocket hefty salaries for doing nothing but attend a few board meetings to rubber-stamp the decisions of their managers. And the managers themselves have little or no experience of managing anything outside the health service.
That means they are often quite incapable of behaving in a businesslike fashion and plod on without imagination, ingenuity, creativity or any real interest in medical or financial improvements.
The entire lockdown was thrust upon us not so much to protect us from the virus as to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed with sick patients.
That’s understandable up to a point but, as a result, thousands of people with other illnesses are being neglected and driven to an early grave.
An adequate health service would ensure the cure does not cause more fatalities than the disease. Thanks to NHS failures, it is quite possible lockdown will eventually be seen as the greater of two evils.
At the moment, the whole country is in love with the NHS. We applaud and thank its workers every Thursday evening. We donate money. We admire health workers for putting their lives at risk to save ours (though the Covid-19 mortality rate among NHS staff is actually a quarter of what it is for the population as a whole).
But if and when this is all over, we must not be afraid to criticise the NHS. It led us into this war without adequate weapons to fight it and thousands of lives have been sacrificed as a result.
That is not the result of ‘austerity’ or ‘the cuts’. It is due to a whole catalogue of issues including, let us not forget, the health service’s success in keeping us all alive for longer than at any time in human history.
But the organisation has failed its staff and patients throughout the coronavirus crisis. If things get back to near-normal, we need to learn from our mistakes.
Above all, given we have one of the worst coronavirus mortality rates in the world, that means learning from other countries which do things better than us.
However much we revere it, the terrible truth is the NHS is the sick man of Europe.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Covid-19 is Green

For Greta
Things are getting better.
Is positively Green.
We can’t fly anywhere
Which means cleaner air.
It’s almost illegal to drive
So dandelions thrive.
We’re grudgingly free to take a walk
But don’t sunbathe or talk.
The police
Won’t let us out on day release.

Capitalism’s in shock:
Supermarkets are out of stock,
Food’s in such fashion
It’s rationed.
We aren’t allowed out
To shop, eat or otherwise flout
The incarceration
Of the nation.
So many people dying
Might stop the earth frying
And at least you can see
More whales in the sea.
The average woman or bloke
Is broke.
Jobs are being lost
But maybe it’s worth the cost
For Greta’s mission
Is lower emissions.
Now she’s got what she’s after:
Global disaster.
It’s obviously the solution
To international pollution.
This is the aim of environmental sages:
A swift return to the Middle Ages.



Friday, March 27, 2020


Not at all.
A bugger.
Is a menace.
A sticky wicket.
Makes you sick.
Riding a horse
Is worse.
You can’t drive far
In a racing car.

All we can do is talk
Or go for a nice long walk
And call it golf.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Wuhan Clan

The Chinese sneeze
Is such a tease.

You don’t know if it’s just a cold in the head
Maybe until you’re dead.

Panic-buying’s a necessary reaction.
At least we’re taking action

While Boris and co look panic-stricken
And several of their advisers sicken.

There is some refinement
To solitary confinement,

We’ve got whatsapp and such
To keep in touch

And from the cities to the sticks
There’s always Netflix.

Even so
There’s nowhere to go,

The Government says it’s best you
Stay at home or they’ll arrest you.

We have to eke out the days as a matter of course;
Unhappy couples contemplate divorce

And nasty germs spread and spiral
Like a Twitter tweet that’s going viral.

The Chinese sneeze
Has brought us to our knees.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Lying, cheating, money-grubbing bastards #9 Talktalk

Years ago it was decided that, to improve competition between broadband providers, customers would be able to keep their email addresses even if they switched to a new company.

It turns out you are subject to blackmail. We were originally with Tiscali, who became Talktalk. We were happy with Tiscali, increasingly unhappy with its new owners.

We switched to BT and later to Sky as getting decent broadband seems to be hard to achieve. But kept our original Tiscali email addresses rather than going through the rigmarole of changing them whenever we switched broadband provider.

Now Talktalk have held us to ransom and any saving we may have made moving to Sky is lost because we have to pay these Talktalk bastards £5 a month for the privilege of retaining our email addresses. And we can’t use Sky instead because they no longer apply email addresses (why? Who knows?).

The following exchange with what I assume is a person, not a machine, called Nobule brings you up to date:

Why are you still sending me threatening blackmail emails warning my email account will be axed if I don’t pay your ransom money when I am already paying and I have already complained once and received an assurance it won’t happen again?

Good Afternoon Nigel You are through to the Customer services and billing team , I do understand however please be advised that these emails are automated , please kindly disregard emails that do not apply to you .

Why can’t you turn off the automation? How can you justify this maltreatment?

Unfortunately I am unable to do so , Please advised if these emails are regarding the TalkTalk mail plus ?

They are although where the plus bit comes from I can’t imagine. Though you cannot be unable to turn off the automation, I do not believe you entire organisation is incapable of doing so and, if it is incapable, that is another good reason why I switched broadband provider some time ago though that decision was made because your service was so terrible.

Some time later....

I was talking to someone called Nobule about a complaint but she seems to have cut me off.

No reply.


Thursday, February 06, 2020

I dreamt last night I listened to 'Today'

Top Royal Shakespeare luvvie Greg Doran claims young actors need to learn about the iambic pentameter, the basis of most Shakespeare plays, because it is now so alien to them.
I dare say he’s right to claim young people have ‘less experience with classic texts’ but this prompted BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme to ask if that meant the iambic pentameter in particular was in decline.
In reality, we all use it every day. It is the natural rhythm of our speech. To demonstrate it, here is a list of lines from popular music all in iambic pentameter (you could argue these are all old songs, and they are, but I bet more recent examples would not be hard to find).
I saw her today at the reception – The Rolling Stones
Please allow me to introduce myself – The Rolling Stones
Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields – The Rolling Stones
I met a gin-soaked barroom queen in Jackson – The Rolling Stones
I was born in a cross-fire hurricane – The Rolling Stones
If you start me up, if you start me up – The Rolling Stones
Everywhere I hear the sound of marching – The Rolling Stones
Childhood living is easy to do – The Rolling Stones
It’s only rock and roll but I like it – The Rolling Stones
Sup up your beer and collect your fags – The Jam
I’m down in the tube station at midnight – The Jam
A police car and a screaming siren – The Jam
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls – The Jam
Struggle after struggle, year after year. – The Jam
And the public gets what the public wants – The Jam
But I want nothing that society wants. 
If I never ever see you again. – The Jam

Really don’t mind if you sit this one out – Jethro Tull

It's been a long time since I rock and rolled – Led Zeppelin

There must be some kind of way out of here – Bob Dylan

One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock rock – Bill Hailey

I bet that you look good on the dance floor – Arctic Monkeys

We’re Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Beatles

When I find myself in times of trouble – Simon and Garfunkel

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song – Beatles

Dirty old river got to keep rolling – Kinks

When you’re weary, feeling small, when tears… – Simon and Garfunkel

Hey Mr Dream-Seller where have you been – Lindisfarne

We come from the land of the ice and snow – Led Zeppelin

It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled – Led Zeppelin

Well I dreamed I saw the knights in armour – Neil Young

Of all the love I have won or have lost – Beatles

I can see clearly now the rain has gone – Johnny Nash

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night – Fleetwood Mac

What crumbs of joy can I steal from this day? – Squeeze

Love is a stranger in an open car – Eurythmics

In the day we sweat it out on the streets – Bruce Sptingsteen

Of the runaway American dream

 Let me take you down ‘cos I’m going to – Beatles

I’m not in love, it’s just a silly phase – 10CC

Well good morning judge, how are you today? – 10CC

I was sick and tired of everything – Abba

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of – Adam Ant

I’m your top prime cut of meat, I’m your choice – Alice Cooper

We’ve come a long way since we last shook hands – Loudon Wainwright III

Set the controls for the heart of the sun – Pink Floyd

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash – Pink Floyd








Monday, January 20, 2020

Brum's barmy Bolsheviks plan a no-go zone

Image result for car banBonkers Birmingham’s barmy Bolsheviks plan to ban cars from the city centre. They think we’ll all commute by tram or cycle down the Bristol Road on their toytown cycle lanes which at the moment are largely unused.
Admittedly they have been deliberately turning the entire centre of Britain’s second city into a giant car park already, with roadworks more or less everywhere.
That’s why it takes twice as long to get into the city centre as it used to only a decade ago.
It’s nothing to do with the volume of traffic or a growth in prosperity; it’s all about the measures taken to make life as awkward, time-consuming, inconvenient and even dangerous for the average motorist as possible.
This is because the city’s burgers, aided and abetted by the supposedly-Conservative elected Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, want to reduce air pollution, greenhouse gases and all the noxious fumes which they presumably blame for their own delusions.
The best way to reduce emissions from cars is to keep them moving. The worst source of air pollution from vehicles is when they are waiting with their engines idling in long queues.
Birmingham has made pollution far worse than necessary by deliberately setting out to make driving in and out as tedious and slow as possible.
There are queues caused by traffic lights, fatuous 20 mph speed limits and bus lanes everywhere. They are closing down some of the main routes in and out of town. Broad Street is to become a tram-road. They are demolishing the Perry Barr flyover. Now they want through traffic to stick to the ring-road which is clogged and dogged with traffic lights.
They say there will be a public consultation. This is nothing but a sham. Whatever the public thinks, the council’s ‘experts’ have already decided what will happen and no amount of public opinion will change their minds.
After all, they are squandering millions on their cross-city metro system which, far from making Birmingham the ‘modern European city’ of their hype, is calculated to thwart and deny motorists any access to the centre.
Fine if you happen to live there. Fine if you usually take the bus, train, bicycle or even walk into the centre of Birmingham.
But public transport is overcrowded, unreliable and slow. The vast majority of Birmingham commuters - 62 per cent or 222,000 people - travel by car every day.
The anti-car enthusiasts want to force people out of their cars and onto trams, buses or trains. They claim these will be so dramatically improved and it will be such a wonderful new experience we won’t want to go back to our cars even if we could.
Does anybody really believe that? It is far more likely motorists will simply go elsewhere if they possibly can, especially with ‘clean-air charges’ and workplace parking taxes on the way.
It may seem desirable to force motorists to by-pass Brum. If drivers avoid it altogether it would reduce pollution and reduce traffic jams.
But it would be economically disastrous. If motorists avoid the centre if Birmingham it will mean less money is spent in shops, restaurants and theatres.
Worse still, it will force some of the city’s big employers to move out. After all, if their employees can’t, or won’t, travel into the centre any more, they will struggle to recruit and retain staff.
They will move to cities where they are welcome.
We are told everything will be fine thanks to HS2, the high-speed railway line. But a car-ban will make it almost impossible for many people from the Black Country and elsewhere to the West of Birmingham to get any benefit at all from this grossly expensive white elephant.
And, in any case, there is still a chance Boris Johnson’s Government will finally see sense and scrap the whole thing because it will never pay for itself, it will be a railway for the rich only and the place which would benefit most from its development is London.
This is the opposite of what the new Government says it wants to achieve, which is the revival of the ‘left-behind’ Midlands and the North of England.
You could argue that banning traffic from Birmingham will benefit the rest of the region. But closing down the West Midlands’ capital city is a short-sighted, panic-stricken, badly thought-out policy being imposed as an experiment by politically-correct planners.
They clearly dislike cars and the people in them. They think we should all conform to their vision of a car-free city. In their la-la land, loads of smiling people skip in and out of quiet trams onto their bicycles and the sun is always shining.
Reality is not like that. This car-crash policy will destroy Birmingham and take the rest of the West Midlands down with it.
It’s particularly disastrous given that, in 20 years’ time, we’ll all be driving in non-polluting electric cars anyway.
How many serious cities deliberately, methodically, and with malice aforethought go out of their way to destroy their own economies? Only in bankrupt Birmingham could they dream up such nonsense.