Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Gordon tells the party what to believe

One of the great differences between the Labour Party, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is the way that they make policy. The Liberal Democrats debate and vote at conference. Today (29th Sept) Gordon Brown announced new policy in his speech to conference.

I was expecting an announcement about care of the elderly because of the difference between the support given to the elderly in Scotland and those who live in England. It just doesn't seem fair that if you live in England and need to live in a care home then you have to sell your house. In Scotland you don't. Who is right? The English under Gordon Brown will say they are right, but if you are Scottish, like Gordon Brown, then they are right. It is the discrepancy which is not fair. Do we have a migration to Scotland for those who live near the border? The headlines will today will claim "free personal care" for those who are cared for in their own home. Read past the headline and you will find it is only for those with the highest need. How many will apply and fail and be embarrassed? How many will be too embarrassed to apply at all?

At the Labour Conference Gordon also announced that there would be no compulsory ID cards. Unfortunately for Peter Mandelson the cameras were on him. He wasn't smiling. I presume he was thinking about how he would spin this one.

I did not see all of Gordon's speech but I did hear him mention changing the world three times. Perhaps he reads this blog.

Change the world

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Top lawyers win their cases

There are so many stories about expert lawyers winning cases for their clients and if a lesser lawyer had taken the case then the same verdict may not have been achieved. These lawyers tend to charge a lot for their services so only the very rich are in a position to receive their help. There is one expert who works for the rich and famous when they have been driving too fast. This may seem like a minor offence and not worthy of spending a great deal, but it may be the difference between keeping or losing a driving licence. It sounds like a two tier system of justice but in a capitalist world I suppose it is the way of the world. The haves beat the have-nots again.

In the case of Steven Gerrard, a serious assault took place in December 2008 in a Southport club. Coverage was seen on TV of this assault because of the CCTV cameras in the club. There was a suggestion that the man who was sitting down stood up and was repeatedly punched. Everyone is not guilty. Gerrard and others were acting in self-defence from the aggressive way that this man stood up. I don't know if not guilty is the same as innocent but I don't think the person being punched could afford the same calibre of lawyer as those doing the punching.

If there is any good news to come out of this it is that Steven Gerrard is humble about this experience. He has changed his ways and will no longer celebrate in public, presumably because people may stand up near him after he marches over to them.

Of course I will remove this blog if any top lawyers ask me to do so.

Change the world

Monday, 28 September 2009

Debate with the BNP

Should we debate with the BNP? The Labour Party decided that they should not share a platform with them. They don't want the BNP to have the oxygen of publicity. We don't have to be specific and talk about the BNP as it could be any group or individual whose opinions we don't agree with. Even if their opinions are abhorrent, how do you persuade others that they are loathsome? Option A, just say they inspire loathing and hope people believe you. Option B, debate the issues in public.

Jack Straw has now gone for option B. On the 22nd October he will be seen along with the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP. Mr Straw's decision has angered some party activists. You cannot please everyone but I am sure that he has made the right decision. His reasoning is that if you fight them hard then the BNP are defeated. Of course the BNP will not agree and will argue on policies.

The BNP work on xenophobic fears and thus highten them. Foreigners take our jobs and Europe make all the decisions. Well some foreigners take our jobs because employers wish to take a difficult route to get good workers, and Europe will have an increasing role in making decisions. Do we want to be part of that decision making process? This is the debate that we must have. The trouble for Jack is that if he emphasises Labour policy then he will highlight a split in his own party. The Tories have a similar if not greater dilemma. That is their problem. In the meantime well done Jack Straw for going against party policy and joining in with the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.

Change the world

Sunday, 27 September 2009

How not to tackle illegal workers

I wrote about Baroness Scotland on the 19th September. Since then we find that she is guilty of breaking her civil law but she thinks it is like failing to pay the congestion charge. Even if you accept her explanation that she forgot to take a photocopy of the passport, it would still be much more like Ken Livingstone not paying the congestion charge.

Now (26th Sept) it turns out that the illegal worker, Loloahi Tapui says she never showed her passport to anyone. The Attorney General maintains her defence and calls Ms Tapui a liar. The problem I have with this is if the passport has an attached visa then this tells you whether employment is possible. If the passport was seen then so was the visa.

Regardless of whether civil or criminal law has been broken, there is a much more significant aspect to this for the Baroness and that is her credibility which was wearing thin before these latest revelations.

Change the world

Saturday, 26 September 2009

We want good local schools

If you live in an area with grammar schools then you may think of this as a wonderful option. It allows for streaming and a better use of resources where like-minded individuals will gather to the improvement of all.

You may take an alternative view that grammar schools limit streaming. Selection takes the flexibility out of streaming. Those who struggle at the grammar school cannot join a lower stream. In all the other schools the higher achievers cannot stream upwards. The biggest criticism is that most children may be labelled as failures at the age of 11.

If you are anti-grammar schools you can argue that making children travel many miles to get to school does not make sense. It may even be the case that the majority of pupils don't go to their nearest school, which is not good for the children and not good for the environment.

Opposition to grammar schools is not looked on favourably. Every child who gets to grammar school will be pleased along with all their parents. Those parents who failed to get their children into grammar schools will also support the system because they have become part of this system. Grammar schools will not be high on the agenda for those with no children.

What everyone wants is a good local school not the pressure of separating their child from their primary school friends.

Change the world

Friday, 25 September 2009

How to chew the fat

Was Gordon Brown snubbed by President Obama? The UN security council is meeting in New York and five requests by the UK government for a private meeting between the two leaders were turned down. I read that it was President Obama himself who made these decisions. So not only has he personally turned Gordon down once, he has done it five times. It sounds like a snub to me.

The White House say there is no snub. Barack did see Gordon in the kitchen of the UN so it was not quite the private meeting that Gordon was hoping for but at least they were able to chew the fat. Maybe the answer is for Gordon to ask ten times and then Barack will realise that it would save him time to just see him. I have seen Bart and Lisa Simpson use the same technique when they want to go to Mount Splashmore. If it can work for them then it can work for anyone. However this gives a new twist to the phrase 'special relationship' which nnow resembles the relationship between a dog and its owner.

Change the world

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Bias is everywhere

It is important to recognise bias when listening to public debate. Sometimes our views are clouded by previous knowledge of people, parties or the media. When you read a newspaper headline the prime motivation is not always to inform and educate. In fact it is commonly to sell newspapers.

Wouldn't it be nice to hear something and know that the person means it and they don't have an ulterior motive. I am watching Manchester United playing Wolves. In the first half Nani has just tripped a rather large Wolves defender who fell. The commentator said there was nothing wrong with it. Alright there is contention in football and people see different things from different angles. It's the same with politics. I have heard three times that the Manchester United player who was sent off was "unfortunate". I am not sure what they mean because the defender made a deliberate rugby tackle to bring down the Wolves forward. It didn't look like fortune played any part in this foul.

In politics there are examples of cross-party agreements but this does not mean that all politicians think in the same way or have the same motivation. Knowing the character of your candidates in any election may be more important than any individual policy, but at least with a party label you have a general view of their opinions.

Change the world

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Cut costs everywhere

Can we tell what is going to happen to the economy? Well we know it is shrinking and we know our national debt is increasing. So what is the response? Gordon Brown tells us we are going to be making cuts. Where are these cuts? Is it in health or education? Will ID cards be cancelled? This will save money and it will knock the wind out of the sails of the opposition parties who have been campaigning on principle but also saying how we will save money.

There is another answer - borrow more. It is what the Conservatives did this year in Lancashire County Council. This goes against my way of thinking. If we can employ people to do good work for society then they will have money to stimulate the economy. If we borrow more then it takes a little longer to show how the economy is hurting us. This crisis may have been caused by excessive borrowing and we have spent more money than we have. So really we now have to look at where cuts may be made.

My school had no computers. Now it seems that everyone in the public service needs one. I was taught to count the pennies and I still do, but when it comes to spending the pounds on computers we have decided that this is essential. We now have much more information saved on computers but why do we need so much information? Is it to defend ourselves in court? I have written about lawyers recently and the way that they win regardless of the court case. Now we need to cover our backs for legal reasons. Nothing gets thrown away.

It doesn't matter whether we are talking about the NHS, local government or any national government department. We cover our backs, pay for computers, store everything away and then worry about whether we have enough information or whether we are going to lose it on a train.

Change the world

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Another victory for the lawyers

A Sikh police officer in Greater Manchester, PC Singh, has been 'deeply offended' by being told by his colleagues to remove his turban. He claims he was humiliated and is now claiming £200k in compensation and this humiliation was caused because he could not wear his turban for riot training. He was told to wear a helmet.

Greater Manchester Police defend themselves by saying that this police officer was not forced to go through the riot training. However PC Singh also says he was barred from riding a bike because he would not remove his turban. It seems a little strange that Sikhs should be exempt from wearing a helmet on a motorbike but the GMP compels Sikhs to wear helmets.

Now my knowledge of law is fairly basic and I expect a police officer to have a much greater knowledge, but the way I see it is they should look at PC Singh's contract. If he signed a contract that says he has to wear a helmet then he has to wear one. The debate may be about whether he was able to exempt himself from riot training. It seems so easy to me. If you have a contract that exempts you then you don't do it. Both the employer and employee should know the score without going to court and without any possibilities of payouts of hundreds of thousands of pounds. If there has been a breakdown in communication then both parties have some responsibility for this. What is sure is that the lawyers will win this one.

Change the world

Monday, 21 September 2009

Where to look for spending plans

George Osborne, the Tories’ shadow chancellor, is in hot water because he claimed that Labour has secret plans, revealed in leaked treasury documents, to raise another £50 billion in income tax by 2013/2014. In fact, the supposedly confidential figures were actually published in last spring’s budget.

This shows how clever the Labour party has been. They did publish their plans, but in a place nobody would ever think of looking at. Who in their right mind would think of looking in a budget for spending plans?

George Osborne made one other mistake. He assumed that, because Labour plan to raise another £50 billion, they must intend add another £2,770 a year to the average family’s bill by the end of the next parliament, and that this would require tax rate increases. In fact, the increased revenue will come from another bit of Labour cleverness: the magic of recovery. By 2013/2014, they reckon, we’ll all be so much better off that we’ll happily be paying that extra £50bn out of the huge disposable incomes we’ll all have by then. It really is very clever. There’s just one minor loophole. What if, by some million-to-one chance, we aren’t all actually swimming in money in 2013/2014?

Change the World.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Does Lancaster have Morecambe?

UK Censuses are usually held every ten years, in years that end with a '1'. So, the next census is due in 2011. Sixty-five thousand households in Lancaster will soon be receiving census questionnaires. No, the city hasn’t slipped into a time-warp. It’s going to be a ‘guinea pig’, testing out approaches for the real UK-wide census which is still scheduled for 2011.

While I understand the need for testing things out in advance, I do wish that Glenn Watson, the man in charge of this mini-census, could have phrased things slightly differently on the Radio Lancashire news when he was saying why Lancaster had been chosen for this honour.

Lancaster, we are told, is a “dynamic vibrant city”. Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. So far so good, but ... “it’s got a seaside town”. That presumably is a reference to Morecambe. I don’t think Morecambe people think like that. Lancaster hasn’t “got” Morecambe any more than Manchester United has “got” Manchester City.

Change the world.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

On Petards, and Hoisting

Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, has received strong support from Gordon Brown following the revelation that she has been employing an illegal immigrant as a cleaner at her family home. He insists that critics should wait for the outcome of an investigation. Perhaps he is hoping that she, as the government’s chief legal adviser, will find a good loophole which will let her off the hook.

However Baroness Scotland herself is the person who steered through “draconian” legislation on this very issue, imposing harsh penalties on anyone who employs illegal immigrants. Somehow I find myself hoping that she did such a great job on that legislation that there can be no possibility of an escape clause. Wouldn’t that be appropriate?

Change the World.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Expect human error

I used to work at Accrington Victoria Hospital. It made the local and national news on Thursday 17th September so I know where the camera crew stood. It made the news because 14 (or 17 or 18 depending on which reports you read) women were told wrongly that they did not have breast cancer. This is not a good situation for those concerned, but correct diagnoses are given to patients on a much more regular basis and this information may be equally devastating. Individuals have to come to terms with what life throws at them and this attitude is not restricted to our health but to every aspect of life.

There may be suggestions that this failure is evidence that the screening process for breast cancer is not up to scratch. I would not like to think that these errors affected attendance at screening sessions as it seems to me that this was an individual error. There may be suggestions that the checks in the system were not good enough but whether it is an individual or a system then errors will occur. Whenever you get human systems you get human error and it is something we have to live with. Errors occur all the time. Fractures are missed on x-ray. Swine flu is diagnosed over the phone. Drugs are not prescribed for those who need them.

If these women choose to follow a litigious route then the chances are that they will gain compensation, but why? Our great legal minds will be united in that they want legal processes to be followed as that is their bread and butter. We need to look at that other great mind Lionel Hutz from the Simpsons when he takes up Bart's case in court. If there is a payout for emotional turmoil then it pays to be upset. As it turns out Bart just has to get on with life. However we are teaching people to emphasise disruption and to keep lawyers in employment as generally there is a payout.

However long we have on this earth, life is too short to spend it arguing. Let's not make matters worse by supporting disruption. It is much more important to live life happily. Expect human error and you will never be disappointed.

Change the world

Thursday, 17 September 2009

A time and place

Two teenagers were cleared today (16th September) of planning a Columbine type attack on their school in Greater Manchester. The prosecution had based their case on the teenagers' diaries and the case began when this 'fantasy' was mentioned in a phone call to a friend. there were no weapons and the defence did say that at no time was anyone in danger.

So where does danger start? There is a joke when someone is cautioned (and what they say may be taken down and used in evidence) by a police officer and the answer given is "trousers". An alternative is "please don't hit me again officer". Both these replies may not be so funny to the police officer. We all like to laugh but the basis of a joke is very often at the expense of others. The banana skin may physically hurt. A joke about foolishness may mentally hurt. In 2002 there was a competition to find the world's funniest joke and the winning line concerned someone making a mistake and shooting someone to death. Conversations may be misunderstood.

Now put this in a Columbine context. When do the police get involved? If we locked up everyone who said "I'll kill him" then everyone would go to prison. So words on their own are not good enough. Prevention is better than cure but court cases need a little more evidence. Maybe the CPS was right to take these boys to court even though in this case it doesn't look like it, but what would have happened if Columbine II had taken place in Manchester?

We have to be wary of the sensitivities of our police officers. We have to consider our jokes about carrying bombs when entering airport security areas. Let's enjoy life and have a joke but there is a time and place for everything.

Change the world

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Is a healthy lifestyle healthy?

Keith Floyd was a colourful character who died on the 14th September aged 65. The cause of death was a heart attack. He was a smoker and liked a drink. He never looked like he was in perfect health and he did have a stroke in 2002. I remember that I nearly got to see him in Morecambe but his show was cancelled for health reasons, but he did live life to the full and his last meal included Morecambe shrimps. His doctor had told him to stop drinking but he had still managed a glass of wine.

The Government advises us to live healthy lives. This message is confirmed by our doctors and other health professionals. In the next breath the Government tells us we are living too long and pensions are costing us too much. Are we going to have the pension age raised?

I have recently read that the number of heart attacks has fallen greatly since the smoking ban came into place. Should we be a little less healthy and enjoy life? Floyd may have endeared himself to his audience for his cookery and travel programmes, but should we consider his affable flamboyant character one that we should copy?

Change the world

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Why do counts take so long?

I have always been keen on election nights. There is excitement mixed with fatigue that leads to more excitement. However there is a limit to this great drama which unfolds in the early hours of Friday morning. If fatigue becomes sleepwalking then this is not a good experience. In July this year there was a by-election in Norwich North and the council there decided to count the votes on the morning. It seems that many other councils are now following suit.

Now what generally happens is that the polls close at 10pm and there are exit polls telling us who has won within minutes. To get the actual results you have to wait a little longer and in the meantime the politicians who are losing tell us that we will have to await the official results.

Around about 11.30pm we get the first results and there is a race to win this race which has ususally been won by Sunderland South. This is not a marginal constituency. If it were then you would expect counting to take longer. I think they do use traditional methods of counting but they could count by the bucket full and still get the correct result.

An increased postal vote and the checks that go along with this have delayed voting but I have been up till 5am waiting for my result. I heard Radio Lancashire saying that they don't know why my constituency takes so long and one person guessed that it was because some polling stations were at a distance from the count. I have heard today that they are going to begin the count on the following morning, but why should there be such a difference in the time it takes to count the votes? I can drive anywhere in this constituency within 30 minutes especially at 11pm on a Thursday night.

It looks like most of the population are losing interest in general elections and this dramatic loss will not help their apathy.

Change the world

Monday, 14 September 2009

Help unemployment and help Morecambe

The headline in today's Sunday Times is 'cut public spending say voters'. It seems that if we are to solve the problem of public debt then the public wish to cut spending. This may not sit well with the Conservative Lancashire County Council who recently increased borrowing in order to balance the books. Equally Gordon Brown will be feeling uneasy about any furthe tax increases.

In my experience of knocking on doors I very rarely hear requests to cut expenditure. I frequently hear requests for better services. Why are our roads in such poor condition? Why don't the council cut the grass more often. Why can't our bins be collected more frequently? This sort of question is heard much more frequently than make job cuts in the council but these thoughts must be becoming more popular.

We know that unemployment is a blight on our society. If we leave our young men and women unemployed for long enough then they may become institutionalised and not fit for work. Where I live on Broadway in Morecambe the road was built to help with unemployment in the 1930s. Similarly the building of Morecambe Town Hall helped create employment.

People in the 30s had vision to help the population and get things done that had to be done. If we had the vision today this would be building a new town hall and a Morecambe link road to the motorway. One thing is for sure. If I had a business I would not choose to place it in Morecambe. Unless we have the infrastructure to connect us to the rest of Lancashire and the country, then Morecambe will slowly die.

Change the world

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Give motorway workers a fighting chance

I am just writing a brief blog today as I have had a full day taking wedding photographs. On my drive back from Manchester I passed two sets of roadworks that told me to slow down as there was a workforce in the road.

My thoughts on speed limits are that we should adhere to them. They are there for a reason. In fact I would lower the national speed limit. If we are serious about lowering our carbon footprint and using less energy then this would be a really simple way of doing it. Some people would say that they are quite safe to break the speed limit and it is their money if they want to buy more petrol.

To feel you are safe is one thing. I hope we all feel safe when we get into a car otherwise we shouldn't get in. However mistakes happen and if they happen at speed then the consequences are much worse. To get back to my first paragraph, all those drivers who feel they are safe should consider the workforce. If you were the person working on the motorway what limit would you like? Driving at 100mph when the limit is 40mph is not good. I think that drivers should give those working on the motorway a fighting chance.

Change the world

Saturday, 12 September 2009

CRB or not CRB that is the question

I have written about Ian Huntley in an earlier blog but I am going to write about him again because of a government initiative which has been driven by his crimes. In October we will have a new vetting and barring scheme which relates to people who are employed and work with children or vulnerable adults and it doesn't matter whether the work is paid or voluntary.

There are changes that have been implemented already because of Ian Huntley and checks are being carried out. You are required to undergo an enhanced CRB (police) check if you wish to work in paid employment with these groups.

So what is my problem with this? We need protecting don't we? Well the first problem I see is that the changes may be necessary but it is doing nothing to stop a repeat of the Ian Huntley situation. the girls that he killed were known to his girlfriend Maxine Carr. It is almost as if the people who looked into the changes that were needed have forgotten the original problem.

My main concern is that the checks that are being carried out are fundamentally flawed. I consider this system expensive but let's say it only costs a pound. If a million people have to have checks that are not needed then it has cost a million pounds. Why aren't they needed? Simple, because one has already been done. The checks are only relevant to the work that they relate to. If your work demands a check and then you are a member of three voluntary groups then there are three unnecessary payments. The second fundamental flaw is that once your are in position then no further check is carried out.

Whatever benefits anyone may mention about the changes that will take place in October, if these flaws have not been dealt with then you can hardly be surprised if they are criticised. How can our great minds come up with this ridiculous situation then add to it and say that it is good?

Change the world

Friday, 11 September 2009

Let's have some control of the market

Back in 2004 Terry's of York's factory in York was closed by its American owners Kraft. No longer do you get your Chocolate Orange from York but it comes from cheaper factories on the continent. This is one example of how the world is getting smaller it's also an example of globalisation. This week Cadbury turned down an offer of £10.2 bn from Kraft, but with this sort of offer I wouldn't be surprised if Cadbury were sold in the near future.

Companies are sold when their shareholders say it is time to sell. In a free market sales are nothing to do with governments although it is not unknown for the state to step in to prevent sales. The point is that the decision to buy, the decision to sell, the decision to relocate away from this country are all decisions made by the company and their shareholders. Let's stop blaming the government or Europe. If anything the national and European governments can help protect our businesses.

Change the world

Thursday, 10 September 2009

When to break preservation orders

I used to live in Great Harwood and my house backed onto a water treatment centre. It became a small housing estate while I lived there. I saw the houses being built and I saw trees come down that had preservation orders on them. It seemed that they were too close to the houses but the trees had been there a lot longer than the houses. I don't know if the builders suffered any reprimand for breaking this prevention order but I didn't hear about it.

This week I spoke to someone whose house backs onto the land where Morecambe Football Club are building their new ground. It seems that a similar process is occuring. Trees have preservation orders and trees are coming down. In this case it may be much more important to have a screen because there will be floodlights at the ground as well as strong lights for the training area which will be even nearer to the houses.

I knew the details of the preservation orders in Great Harwood because they were sent to me by Hyndburn Council. I don't know the details here but at the very least it is poor communication when local residents are thinking that they will have bright lights and noise next to them. There may be an easy answer to the trees but I can't think of an easy answer to the lack of communication.

Change the world

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Congratulations to Michael Shields

After four years in prison Michael Shields has been released. It seems that new evidence has come to light which means the decision to keep him in prison may be reversed. I know about the reports in the media. I know that Michael has always protested his innocence and said he was asleep when the attack on a Bulgarian barman took place. I have always thought that his conviction was questionable, but I cannot say anything for definite because I am not in posession of the full details of the case.

What I can say is that a serious attack took place. There is a good chance that quite a few Liverpool fans know who is to blame. One person came forward and confessed to the attack but later retracted his confession. Was he the attacker? Is he simply someone who tried to help Michael Shields? At best he is someone who has wasted a lot of police time.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in this saga. Is the new evidence so strong that it overturns the previous decision by Jack Straw? Are investigations continuing to capture the criminal? What happened to the person who gave the confession? Who pays the compensation for the last four years of a "living hell". Who is acting to secure justice for the attack on the Bulgarian barman? All these questions need answers but today is a day for congratulating Michael Shields and his campaign team.

Change the world

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Afghan votes - something not quite right

You may recall that just a few days ago there were concerns about the low turnout in some areas of Afghanistan, for their presidential elections. Of particular concern was the Babaji district of Helmand province. "Operation Panther's claw" was launched in Helmand in June, with a primary aim to make the area safe for voters. Twenty-two British servicemen have lost their lives in that operation, ten of them in the Babaji district, where it appears that 150 people cast votes, out of an eligible population of 55 thousand. See

However, it may be that concern was misplaced, since other areas appear to have cast many more votes than there were actual voters, so it all balances out in the end; except, that is, for the wholesale ballot-stuffing in favour of incumbent president Mohammed Karzai.

The New York Times reports both senior Western and Afghan officials saying that there were as many as 800 fake voting sites, existing only on paper. Also, "we think that about 15 percent of the polling sites never opened on Election Day,” the senior Western diplomat said, “but they still managed to report thousands of ballots for Karzai.”

Besides creating the fake sites, Mr. Karzai’s supporters also took over approximately 800 legitimate polling centers and used them to fraudulently report tens of thousands of additional ballots for Mr. Karzai, the officials said. See

Most of the reported ballot-stuffing for Mohammed Karzai appears to have been in his home province of Kandahar. However, in Shorabak district the local tribal leaders had decided to endorse challenger Abdullah Abdullah, leading to some anticipation of an opposition landslide there. Instead, those tribal leaders say, all of the district's 45 polling stations were closed down on polling day; and at the end of the day 23,900 ballots were shipped to Kabul, every single one of them marked for President Karzai.

Gordon Brown has had a lot to say recently in defence of his Afghan strategy. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about this.

Change the world.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The value of ID badges

Following on from yesterday's blog, when I pass hospitals I see a lot of people who wear identity badges. They are not just near hospitals - they are everywhere. Now these badges only have a photo on one side. Another recent blog concerned the disabled driving badges that have information on one side only and it is an offence to place this badge upside down.

I started writing this blog because I was thinking why do we have so many people wearing these badges. These are people, many of whom have gone into the same office for years. Many of them may not come into contact with the public but only see work colleagues. So why do they wear them. The answer is simple, because terrorists have won. We are all running scared so managers feel that something has to be done in order to say something has been done.

I am not too old to remember when people used to say "hello my name is..." and there was no need for a badge. If you want to test how worthless these badges are then just check on the number of people who wear them the wrong way round. This is partly because there is no control over which way the ID badge hangs, but I have heard many times that it is deliberate because they don't like their photo. It is a useless piece of jewellery that is costing us in financial terms but more importantly leads of to a sense of insecurity. We cannot trust anyone.

Change the world

Sunday, 6 September 2009

NHS gives out mixed messages

I know that smoking is becoming less and less popular. I have worked in many hospitals and over the years restrictions on smokers have gradually increased. At one stage the only people who could smoke in hospital were psychiatric patients and the terminally ill. How did they break the news that you could smoke and was it good or bad news?

I don't have a good word for smoking. I don't like the idea of putting smoke in my lungs. So many conditions are related to smoking and I think everyone knows this, hence the NHS restrictions along with warnings on the packets, TV adverts and many other methods to stop people smoking. However this must be something to say for it. I have heard that it helps people relax. Then find something else that helps you relax. If there is a good feeling to smoking then find something else that feels good.

For all the advertising there are still people who take up smoking. Well if you were a Martian and landed near a hospital you would see people in NHS uniforms smoking on the main road. It seems that someone has decided that you can't smoke in hospitals (that's OK) or hospital grounds (no secondary smoking possible so this is a strange decision). What it means is that hospitals now have the image that everyone smokes who works there. You don't have to be a Martian. If NHS workers are so visible when they smoke then you can't blame people for thinking that it can't be all bad!

Change the world

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Sky get it right

I wouldn't normally go out of my way to support any initiatives by Sky TV, but I was sitting near the television (4th Sept) and by chance I overheard an advertisement on Sky asking people to sign an online petition, one inviting party leaders to take part in a televised debate prior to the next election. I looked at their website for more details.

The initiative appears to be the brainchild of John Ryley, the head of Sky news. He has written to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to invite them to take part in a debate. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have already accepted, so the purpose of the petition is presumably to shame Gordon Brown into following suit, although we are told that if he declines then he "will be represented by an empty chair", which might actually be more representative of the current Labour leadership.

I know that parties are not just their leaders. I don't think that the political system in Britain should become any more presidential than it is now. However, I believe that the party leaders are well positioned to represent their own parties' policies, and I think they should be required to do so in an atmosphere that is not completely stage -managed and spun by their own subordinates. They should be allowed to spar, to show up what they consider to be the flaws in opposition policies and get meaningful and honest answers.

According to Nick Clegg, "People are really in a state of despair after the expenses scandal. It's important to do something different." The petition is at

Change the world.

Friday, 4 September 2009

If you don't have anything then nobody will steal from you

When I went to school in the 1970s I used to take a briefcase and very often I would have a PE bag. I could leave them in a corridor in the morning and pick them up at any time during the day. Today pupils all have lockers. We are a security conscious society and there seems to be an ever increasing need for greater security.

We are also a wealthier society. In the early 70s nobody had a video and it was common to have just one television and maybe one car per household. go back a few more years and cars were really quite rare. Now we have many televisions in a house. There is more than one car in many households.

If we become wealthier then we have more to lose. We become more security conscious and spend more money to protect ourselves. There must be a link between increasing wealth and an increased need for security. I would suggest that there is an irony here because the need for greater security makes us feel less secure. You don't need to worry about thieves if you have nothing to steal. My mother used to joke that if any thieves broke in she would share it with them if they found anything. Perhaps if we thought about reducing the class divide we could all feel more secure.

Change the world

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Council workers set to revolt?

I was listening to the news on the radio this evening (2nd September) and heard that Rochdale Council are scrapping a scheme which meant that people who work on higher floors of their council offices get more time given to them to use the lift. If you worked on the second floor you got two minutes of work time. If you worked on the tenth floor you got five minutes. This may not sound like much but it is 25 minutes per week. Should the workers feel aggrieved?

This made me think of NHS workers who are obliged to change at work. At a similar time to Rochdale Council starting its lift scheme around twenty years ago, Oldham physiotherapists were starting work by getting changed and finishing five minutes early so that they could be changed for home time. I don't think NHS workers get their changing time now but should they have had it in the first place?

When we are at school we need to get changed for P.E. This time is taken out of the class time, not out of lunchtime. Pupils don't go early to get changed. On this basis we should feel aggrieved. Our expectations have been raised by going to school and then lowered by working. According to Marx the proletariat would revolt on this basis, or maybe he was referring to Rochdale Council workers.

Change the world

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Keeping in touch with County finances

When the Conservatives won the Lancashire County Council elections in June, I have to admit that I was sceptical about their claims to freeze council tax. My reservations were based on the need to increase taxation in line with inflation just to stand still. If you want to freeze tax you have to make cuts at least by the rate of inflation and there were no details about where the cuts were coming from.

Well now we hear that some vacant posts are not being filled. That is a start to balancing the books but I am not sure if this means that these vacancies are for people who did nothing or whether a phone is ringing somewhere in County Hall and nobody is answering it. However there are two really clever moves. Firstly the Conservatives have identified areas where spending will increase and this makes up most of the press release. Theoretically if two areas of spending are increasing and the books are balancing with a frozen council tax then this means that many other areas are being cut. The second clever move is to borrow an extra £40 million. What is the odd £40 million if it means you can honour an election pledge?

I have gone back to my County Council election leaflet from the Conservatives and you may have guessed it - there is no mention of increased borrowing. Incidentally, my leaflet is called "In Touch" and it tells me that my Labour County Councillor has become a Conservative candidate. So much for keeping in touch.

Change the world

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Non-branded products may be just as good

There is an advert on TV for dog food and this company can trace all the meat in their products back to the farm where it came from. I am not sure how useful this information is. You see I don't know anything about farms so I don't want this information. Are they trying to tell us that when things go wrong they are going to do something about it? Well that's nice to know, but don't all the other companies have to follow health and safety procedures? I don't expect the quality of dog food to be such that it is fit for human consumption, so this must mean that this company can tell your where the second rate farms are.

A friend of mine used to work for a large producer of beer. Yes I am getting jealous just writing this. He told me that the company would produce beer for supermarkets. It was essentially the same beer with a different label. It's not just beer, it can be any product but it is the way of the world. Sell what you can at a price that gives you further profit. It may well be that branded products are distinctive and you may feel that they are better, but that non-branded product may be just as good without the advertising.

Change the world