Sunday, 31 January 2010

Mr Loophole loses a case?

A couple of days ago I saw the Manchester United footballer Darren Fletcher on the local news because he had been fined for a motoring offence. In fact it was his father who had been driving faster than the speed limit but I noticed that when Darren was walking into court 'Mr Loophole' was there in the background. It sounds like he should be a Mr Man character but he is in fact a lawyer who usually manages to avoid convictions for celebrities or anyone else who can afford his services.

How can this be? How can Mr Loophole be involved and fail to get an acquittal for a speeding ticket when this person wasn’t even driving? I looked up the story on the internet and it seems that Darren managed to forget to speak with the police on a few occasions. I am not sure which is worse, a speeding ticket or showing contempt towards the legal system.

You may be pleased to know that an appeal has been submitted against the conviction. Then again, you might feel irritated that someone can do so many things to upset the police and try to say they are not guilty.

Change the world

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Polite Politics

Many years ago I read the autobiography of David Sutch, otherwise known as Screaming Lord Sutch. The main thing that I remember from it is his politeness. You don’t need to have read the book to realise that he was polite as he would warmly applaud each candidate as their number of votes were read out.

Unfortunately not all politicians are as polite. In fact some are quite rude, but this is nothing compared to holding views that are disagreeable. A rudeness of manner is much more preferable to an extreme point of view but if you can persuade enough people then you may even get elected even if you have a rude manner and extreme views.

In a previous blog on the 15th November I wrote that the BNP had voted to change their constitution. Something must have gone wrong since then as the BNP has been given one more chance to change its policy on its whites-only membership. Nick Griffin had told us that he could amend their rules but it must have been more difficult than he thought.

There were scuffles yesterday as Nick tried to speak with reporters. In fact a few anti-fascist protestors probably gave him more publicity than he could ever have achieved on his own. Perhaps he will orchestrate his own protestors in future.

I don’t mind anyone with weird or wonderful or xenophobic ideas expressing them. It is much better to listen than suppress opinion. Some people with extreme views may even get elected. It is worthwhile remembering Lord Sutch’s comment when the BNP gained their first councillor He was able to tell them that the Monster Raving Loony Party already had six.

Change the world

Friday, 29 January 2010

Sometimes you don't need lawyers

Lord Goldsmith the former attorney general has told us that it is "complete nonsense" to say that he changed his view on the legality of the war because of political pressure. This news comes a day after we heard that Sir Michael Wood gave consistent advice that the war was illegal. It may be that the security council resolution 1441 was considered sufficient by the Americans to justify war but it was not the case here.

Lord Goldsmith went on to explain the allegation of being pinned to the wall by Lord Falconer as "complete and utter nonsense". It may be his view that there was no pressure put on him by Lord Falconer but this doesn't make the allegation nonsense, it makes the allegation false. It makes a lot of sense to me that if you want to force someone to give an answer then you lean on them.

You don't need legal advice to remember that millions objected to the war. Hans Blix was looking for weapons of mass destruction but was told to pull his team out of Iraq so that we could start a war to look for them. You don't need a lawyer to tell you that this isn't right.

All the apparent difficulty that the few people like Lord Goldsmith had in deciding whether war would be legal or not obscures the fact that it isn't exactly rocket science. According to the UN charter "All Members shall refrain .. from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state". Article 51 of the charter says "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations," but nobody could credibly claim that Saddam had attacked, still less that the Iraq war was an emergency response to such an attack. No UN resolution authorized the war. Certainly resolution 1441, which George Bush and Tony Blair said they were relying on, gave no authorization for war. By any conceivable measure, the war was illegal and it was clear beforehand that this would be the case.

Change the world

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Morecambe link and motorway traffic

Yesterday evening I visited my son who lives in Knutsford. In order to get to the motorway I need to drive through Lancaster and although I have written twice in the past week about the need for a link road I am going to write one more blog on the subject. It took me 43 minutes to get to the motorway for what should be a 10 minute journey at most. I am used to traffic through Lancaster so I always give myself 30 minutes to make this 10 minute trip. It was ironic to hear Radio Lancashire tell me that there were no delays on Lancashire roads just before I got on the motorway. It may not be ironic as everyone may now expect to take 45 minutes to get through Lancaster.

I'd like to share two more observations on this trip with you. Firstly there are drivers who ignore the average speed cameras on roadworks. This may be because they know that the cameras are not working which seems rather illegal. They may have good lawyers who would get them out of trouble which may not be illegal but certainly looks like one rule for the rich and one rule for the poor, but worst of all, these drivers may not mind breaking the law and being caught. I don't particularly want to be near those who drive with this kind of mentality.

Secondly there were two occasions when the matrix signs were quite simply wrong. On the first occasion I was told that there was congestion at an exit road. There was no car visible when I passed this exit which was about 30 seconds after I had seen the sign for congestion. The second sign told me to slow down as there were pedestrians in the road. As it turned out there were no pedestrians. I know that it is only right that there is a delay between the removal of a hazard and the removal of a warning sign but the worst aspect of this for me was that some drivers were travelling not at the recommended 50mph but I would guess it was more like 80mph. Give pedestrians a chance!

Change the world.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Liberté, égalité and fraternité

Yesterday I wrote that I wanted to treat commentators in the way that I would like to be treated. I want my comments to be heard and so do they. If I don't like them telling me what I should be doing then they won't like me telling them the same thing.

The news yesterday included a report from a French parliamentary committee that recommends a partial ban on women wearing a Muslim veil in public buildings. Furthermore opinion polls suggest that a majority of the French want a full ban. I can apply the same logic from yesterday's blog to this news story. A couple of days ago I saw a nun in Lancaster. She wasn't wearing a veil but maybe some do. Then I saw two women in Muslim dress which included a veil. Would you want the same law to apply to a nun as it does to a Muslim? Would you want it to apply to you if you wanted to wear a balaclava or fancy dress mask?

I believe that the French are right when they talk about a challenge to their republic. It is not a sign of égalité or fraternité. Liberté is debatable but on the whole I would say that the individual liberté to choose to wear what you want should overide any talk of possible oppression. There are rules of uniform and safety that need to be followed. We also need to dress appropriately so that we can carry out our work or social activities, but if someone wants to cut themselves off from the rest of society, even though I disagree with them, I still don't want to be tell them what they should be wearing.

Change the world

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Why write blogs?

Last Wednesday I received a comment about my motivation for writing blogs. I replied that I like to give my opinion on anything and everything and I also like to receive kind comments. I am definitely a carrot rather than a stick person. However there are some people who like to write negative comments and some like to tell me what I should be writing. I don't reply by telling them that they shouldn't be telling me how I should write my blog.

Sometimes I am told that I should justify particular comments. I don't complain. I don't tell them that I don't need justification for any of my opinions. I feel that there is nothing wrong with anecdotes or opinions although I try give sound reasons as the basis for my views. However anecdotes often make good stories.

I also like to use the basis of a joke as a 'truth' that I can build on. If I ever gave a "none of your business" reply then I would be falling into the trap of giving the sort of reply that I am objecting to. I would be telling others what they can and can't do.

I try to reason with commentators even those who are anonymous. I do prefer to deal with real people as I like to give personal replies and giving a real name may lead to more thoughtful comments. However, whether you wish to remain anonymous or not, do feel free to comment.

Change the world

Monday, 25 January 2010

Link Road letter

As promised, here is my letter to The Visitor which was published on Wednesday 13th January.

I used to live in East Lancashire and I started to work in Morecambe in 2001. Within a year I had moved here because the poor road system meant that it was difficult to travel here on a daily basis. Well it is actually a good road system but we all know about the problem getting through Lancaster.

Since then I have spoken to local businessmen who would rather not be based in Morecambe. It seems quite obvious that if you have a business that relies on a link to the motorway then it would save an hour on every journey if you move to the other side of Lancaster. If your business relies on tourism then tourists need to get here. We should back the link road if we want to stop Morecambe’s economic decline and we may also attract prospective employees from further afield.

Any business based on tourism including The Winter Gardens must have the link road as an integral part of their business plan. This is why I was surprised by one point made by Ian Clift (Letters 6th January) that the Morecambe Bay Independents are asking for the link road to be looked at again. I thought this political party supported Morecambe’s economy and had links with the Winter Gardens. It should be fully behind the road.

Ian Hughes in the same letters page wrote that MP Geraldine Smith said “ don’t get funding if you look divided and not sure whether you want to go ahead”. He was referring to the Council’s attitude towards the Winter Gardens not the link road. If we don’t get the road I wonder how history will look upon Geraldine’s role in Morecambe’s decline.

Change the world

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Morecambe Link Road

I read in yesterday's Lancashire Evening Post that a second public inquiry is to be held into the Morecambe link road to the M6. The plans for this road have been dragging on for years but recently we have become the priority for Lancashire County Council. I am not surprised about this as I certainly agree with a comment that I heard a couple of years ago that traffic between Morecambe and Lancaster must be the worst outside London. However, since the congestion charge came in then we must have the worst traffic.

I hope that this inquiry is just part of the due process of road building because Morecambe and Heysham and many surrounding areas are desperate for this road. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about it to the local paper and I'll let you read that letter tomorrow. I haven't seen any reply to it yet but there is a letter writing team that opposes the link. I expect a concerted effort from them following this announcement. Let's see what happens.

Change the world

Saturday, 23 January 2010

A question for Tony Blair

There was a question on Any Questions yesterday (or today if you listen to the repeat) which asked for a question that could be posed to Tony Blair when he attends the Chilcot inquiry next week. The answers were apathetic. He will just evade any question that suggests he was wrong to take us to war. He acted on the best information possible, and even if his information was flawed, he genuinely believed it to be true and he genuinely felt that we had to go to war. He will tell us that he did nothing wrong. We have already had a preview of his answers by listening to Alastair Campbell. I got bored listening to Alastair after about ten minutes. I felt we were not going to learn anything from him, so I was not disappointed when we learned nothing.

Somebody has to be responsible for accepting flawed information that was passed on to the House. Somebody has to be responsible for misleading the House. If a deception is so grave that it commits us to an illegal war then someone has to accept responsibility for that. If you ask Tony a question about whether he lied to the House then you will get the answer “Oh no I didn’t”. It sounds like a pantomime, unfortunately it is a deadly serious question.

So my question to Tony is this: who is responsible for passing on the flawed information that led us to war? If I get a subsidiary question it would be how should this failure of responsibility be punished? If he evades this question or gives an ambiguous answer then I would ask the same questions to the man on the Clapham omnibus.

Change the world

Friday, 22 January 2010

A pale imitiation of Margaret Thatcher

In April the health agreement with the Isle of Man finishes. If you live in the UK then your first thought may have been that you will have to take out insurance if you want to go there on holiday. However residents of the island are to face a similar challenge to their travels to the UK. It may well hurt them more than it hurts us so you won't be surprised to hear that it was Westminster who decided to end the reciprocal agreement. After all, it is a way for the government to save money. The same costs will be there (if people still choose to go on holiday, visit relatives or do business with the Isle of Man) but they will be paid by insurance companies or private individuals. The agreement with the Channel Islands ended some time ago even though it was not well publicised and travel agents weren't clear about it. I wonder if the government can break agreements anywhere else.

The costs of insurance premiums go up with age and illness. The effect of this cost cutting may well be that families can no longer visit each other. This is a Labour government that is acting in this way. Of course it is New Labour, the pale imitation of Margaret Thatcher.

Change the world

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Marriage and tax breaks

On Saturday I wrote that the best blogs are written about times when you want to throw things at the TV. Well a close second comes when one person on radio or TV strongly opposes the views of another. Yesterday I was listening to the radio and one person thought that tax breaks for marriage were good and the other didn't.

Is marriage something that is good and should be supported? If you are religious then the answer is yes. Many social commentators will also support marriage on the grounds that two incomes are better than one, or one income and one person staying at home will be beneficial to children. The problem with this view is that if you support marriage then you do so to the detriment of those who possibly need more support like single-parent families. Many examples were given as exceptions to the rule. Children can do well without married parents. Income is not always greater with two adults in the household. Why give tax breaks to two people with no children?

There is an old joke about a man who would never leave his wife because he loves ... his house too much. There has to be an element of truth in this and financial incentive must play some part in the strength of a marriage. Money would not change the opinion of those who truly love each other. Money would not prevent the divorce of those who truly hate each other. However giving money to support marriage sends a strong signal that marriage is held in high esteem.

The problem with the Tory proposals is that it looks like they are only promoting family units where one parent works and the other stays at home. The original proposal to give tax breaks to all couples didn't help that aim and was too expensive. I suspect the second point is why they changed to proposing tax breaks only to couples with young children. The problem with this is it is a bit like child benefit, but only the people who earn enough to pay tax can gain from it.

My view is that marriage is important and tax breaks are appropriate. If other factors change circumstances like the non-payment of maintenance or low income families, then these are separate issues that need to be addressed but have no bearing on the central issue of whether marriage is a good thing. I agree that supporting marriage is fundamentally unfair. What matters is whether you want to show bias because you support marriage.

Change the world

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Google In China

Yesterday I blogged about confidentiality. I have written about keeping secrets when I wrote about Tiger Woods and what he must have told his wife. The common defence is that the truth hurts so we are protecting others. It may be that the secret simultaneously hurts and protects. Hurts because that is the cause of the secret, and protects because the truth hurts. We would all prefer secrets to limit embarrasment. If you are not sure then ask any celebrity.

What if a regime is corrupt? Then the best remedy is publicity. If we live with the expectation that there are no secrets then behaviour would change. Think of the MPs and their expenses. Would there have been any claims for moat cleaning if everything had been in public?

In China Google are ending their censorship of search results. They may get closed down because of this and if Google's motive is to make a stand against government censorship then that is a good thing, but why did Google initally accept censorship? China says it is a victim but it would be a nightmare both for Google and for Chinese dissidents if the Chinese government did get access to private GMail accounts and used them to identify dissidents and round them up.

Change the world

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

When confidential means confidential

If you are talking to a professional and you mention things that are personal to you then you expect them to keep this information confidential. I don't think anyone would be interested in my medical records but I would not expect them to be made public.

I read in The Sunday Times that a leading cancer specialist had diagnosed Mo Mowlam's brain tumour as malignant. According to the paper he has 'decided to break his silence for a Channel 4 drama'. I don't know how and when a doctor may break confidentiality. I presume the law changes if someone is dead. There was no report of consulting her family and no mention of Mo's wishes.

There may be times when confidentiality should be broken but even then the confidentiality should only be broken in a real emergency, such as when the outcome of a murder trial depends on it. I'm imagining a scenario where a murderer has used confidentiality to divert attention from himself by falsely implicating an innocent person. That sort of thing.

I can't imagine a scenario where a doctor should breach the confidentiality of a patient. In this case the patient is already dead. To cash in on the celebrity of the dead patient by making a sensational drama for channel 4? No, definitely no.

The doctor has got the permission of the late patient's partner, but that partner too is conveniently dead. I find that suspicious, and to me the whole thing stinks. The effect will be to stop seriously ill patients from confiding fully in their doctors for fear that they too will have their secrets dragged out in public posthumously. People will die, for a bit of channel 4 entertainment.

Change the world

Monday, 18 January 2010

Uses for a riot shield.

Last week Youtube made the news because a Thames Valley police officer was pushed down a steep snow-covered slope by his colleagues using a riot shield as a sledge. It looked like fun but was it wise for an officer to be seen having fun whilst on duty? Superintendent Andrew Murray, their superior, said "I have spoken to the officers concerned and reminded them in no uncertain terms that tobogganing on duty, on police equipment and at taxpayers' expense, is a very bad idea should they wish to progress under my command". The sledging officer could easily have hurt himself, and then there'd have been all sorts of repercussions and questions being asked.

Fortunately nobody was hurt. The members of the public who witnessed the event thought it showed a good side of the police, with the one who actually filmed the clip, Rick Latham, saying "you don't always build up the most positive image of the police but they broke the mould. They were chatty and pleasant. It was just nice to see them in that situation".

In other circumstances, the police would have to work very hard to build up the positive PR that this clip has generated. And they were on duty, but the impression I get is that they had been called out to investigate a possible threat to public order - other sledgers using other impromptu sledges such as a Kayak. The other sledgers were certainly a threat, if not to the general public, then to themselves.

I hope the officers aren't too severely reprimanded and this use of a riot shield is much better than their usual use.

Change the World!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

When comedy isn't funny

I think that you have to be clever to be a comedian. You need to understand what you are talking about to such a depth that you can make a joke about it. I think this is why Shappi Khorsandi was on the Question Time panel this week. I wrote about her yesterday but thanks to the comment from John, I feel I should spend a little longer on this subject. John called her comments outrageous and I agree.

She commented that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would have led us into war just like Tony Blair did. I think her comment was based on the idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The trouble with Shappi's thinking is that the opposition have not had chance to be corrupted by power. The deeper question is how do you stop power corrupting. I think she is clever enough to work this out herself. You have checks and balances in place. You have a meaningful democracy where every vote counts. You have decision makers at all levels of society. You don't have a prime minister who is presidential. You don't allow one man (or woman) to take us to war. You allow information to be passed on to as many as possible. I know there are some reasons for privacy but there is no doubt that if I am asked my opinion then you need to allow me enough information to make it, especially if it means sending soldiers to war.

So you see Shappi, there is a huge difference between the Liberal Democrats who marched and voted against the war and those who voted for the war. The greatest outrage for me is that Shappi tried to keep her allegiance secret. How dare she get on Question Time under the title of a comedian and turn out to be another Labour voice? How dare she complain about secrecy and the information received by our MPs about going to war (she didn't complain but she should have done). She wasn't there on the Question Time panel as a comedian who has political insight but she was there to promulgate Labour dogma. No wonder she was embarrased.

Change the world

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Question Time blog

Question Time is back and I enjoy listening to the programme for inspiration for these blogs. The best ideas come from the moment when you are ready to throw something at the TV screen. This happened with the first question of the evening which concerned Alistair Campbell standing behind every word of the Iraq dossier. He knew the country was going to war well before Peter Hain knew. Mr Hain admitted that he didn't know but then tried to defend the cabinet decision even though they didn't take part in it.

It is the role of a cabinet minister to show a united front but Peter Hain's defence of something he didn't know anything about verged on the ridiculous. He was sure "beyond doubt" that Saddam had the weapons. The truth of course is that the weapons investigators were told to pull out of Iraq, and the more they investigated, the more they thought that there were no weapons. Peter Hain is clear that he should have taken the opposite view and he still defends this view. The question was about Alistair Campbell who defends every word. Well he has to say that doesn't he but who actually believes him? The cabinet minister's defence was so weak and nobody is in a better position to defend the actions.

The comedian Shappi Khorsandi looked embarrassed to admit that she supported Labour and tried to say that all other parties would have come to the same conclusion if they were in power. I think she was trying to say that power corrupts, but it was quite clear that the Liberal Democrats were not of the same opinion and would not have gone to war.

The other moment when I was ready to shout at the television was when Peter Hain told us that the country was split down the middle. I only remember public outrage.

Change the world

Friday, 15 January 2010

David Cameron III

I couldn't help it. I said I would give you two blogs on this poster but I will just add one more. I know you can probably think of many other possible manipulations but I am not adding any beards or moustaches.

I promise no more overlap between and but if you want to see some good uses for photographic manipulation you could take a look at

I can recommend the work (well it was me).

Change the world (and a few photographs)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

David Cameron II

And so for blog number two on David Cameron, or should I say the slimmer face, slimmer nose and more hair version of him. Today I have cropped the image so that it fills the whole of the photograph. Before cropping I distorted it so that it now looks like I am stood in front of the billboard. It is now clearer how the rule of thirds applies. Personally, I would have left him his normal shape and made the image slightly larger so that his eyes, not his forehead becomes the focus of attention.

I have combined my politics and photography blogs because this is an obvious example of how the two are linked. Mr Cameron will not cut the NHS. It strikes me that there are many Conservatives who do not like the idea of giving something away for nothing. Why should we give the same priority (based on need) to someone who has never worked a day in their life. This is not my view. I think something like illness and injury is more important than ability to pay and this is the NHS. If you don't think Conservatives will think like this then I have added some graffiti on the right. It is a quote from Daniel Hannan the Conservative MEP. I know that David Cameron described his views on this and other matters as eccentric but I do think that a lot of Conservatives think like this. Hence the graffiti.

As for the photographic technique, simply add some text in a handwritten style and just to make it look a little less like a computer manipulation just tilt it slightly to on side.

Change the world

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

David Cameron I

Today and tomorrow I am going to combine my two main blogs, politics and photography. This billboard is outside Morecambe Football Club and has been displaying the heavily manipulated photograph of David Cameron for about a week. The weather has taken its toll on the advert but there are principles of photography that I want to discuss.

The first photograph is the original. The second is simply a 6"x4" crop. I used flash which means there is slighly more contrast than a photo taken without flash. I could have taken the photo directly in front of the billboard. There are three problems with this. Firstly any reflective surface will send back the flash. Secondly I want to show you tomorrow a manipulation that straightens the board. You can't always stand in exactly the right position to take your photo. Thirdly I would have been in the middle of the road.

I have written blogs about the rule of thirds and how our eyes move through a photo. We tend to look at a photo in the same way that we read a book - from left to right. So the most important subject is on the left and then our eyes move to other things. Mr Cameron's forehead is obviously very significant in the rule of thirds. The message comes after this. The image has had a lot of work done to it. There are no skin blemishes and it looks like he has lost a little weight. Maybe Mr Cameron's weight does vary but check this image with other photographs.

The main message is about the financial deficit. There have been minor Conservative proposals so his quote is not incorrect but it is a message of image not of content. As for the message on the NHS, well I will come to that tomorrow.

Change the world

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

American Football

I like American Football. I think that taking part in team sports can help you in life and individual general fitness is not a bad thing to take through life. The things that I like in particular about American Football are that you have the chance to plan tactics which are quite advanced. So too are the laws of the game. I was a physio to an American Football team in Blackpool and Manchester when the game was big in this country. In fact I have been following the game for over 25 years and I take pride in telling you that I know around half the laws of the game.

You can see members of the team working for each other. There is great athleticism and skill to be seen and spectators can take part by guessing the tactics. Players may be penalised and the penalties matter so there is great discipline within the game. The crowd don't shout abuse at each other or at the teams. A game of football is a family occasion. If none of this convinces you that it is a great game then you may appreciate its violent nature. If you want to increase your interest in any sport then it is worth having a favourite team. Mine is the New York Jets. I have made a tenuous link between sport and life (and politics) but at least I can tell you that the Jets have had two great wins in the last two weeks.

Change the world but let the Jets continue to win.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Salt or Sand

I know the weather is terrible but we live in a wonderful technological age and my blogs continue to be published from the comfort of my armchair. There is a connection between the technological age and the weather in the sense that my green garden waste bin was not collected week and the council website told me that it will not be collected this week. This is fair enough. I don't think anyone is prioritising work in the garden. I think that we need to concentrate on keeping the roads clear of ice. The great thing is that I have not had to ring up the council or listen to local radio but I know about the delay in collections.

The internet also tells me which schools are open today. I can also find out about traffic jams, road works and so many other things. There are many advantages with the internet. Unfortunately computers can't shift the snow and we don't have enough grit or salt. One answer in Scarborough has been to use sand from the beach but I can tell you that we won't be using Morecambe sand because it cost too much to move it here. The bottom line is that providing safe roads costs money so we will continue to hear excuses, but maybe in the next few days we will hear of more coastal sand being used on our roads.

We haven't prepared for the bad weather. We have an alternative that is readily available but it would mean removal of sand from the coast. I wonder what the Green Party would say. I think they would prefer sand to remain where it is rather than preventing people and vehicles slipping on the ice.

Change the world

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Why the snow continues to irritate.

I am sorry to harp on about the weather because my main theme of a few blogs is that we weren't prepared for the snow but we should have been. What is so irritating is that a local government spokesman is now telling us that we are too ready to criticise. It has been an unprecedented winter and an unprecedented event and we have to take extraordinary measures. My big problem with this is that we weren't prepared from day one.

We are told that councils were well prepared by having six days worth of salt ready. Could I make a suggestion for next year? Bad weather may last for longer than a week. Unfortunately I am too late with this advice. The AA told the government that we would have a problem this winter and now we need salt imports. Unfortunately the imports won't get to us for another ten days.

The headline in yesterday's Guardian is 'councils asked to go easy on grit spreading as supplies dwindle' (well it was over two pages). I am sure that councils will feel relieved that they can blame someone else. Of course the real plan is to save money and you do this by telling people to stay at home if it is freezing.

Change the world

Saturday, 9 January 2010

A mandatory interview question

Here is a mandatory question for interviews. How would you get to work if it snowed? Maybe the gritting policy will change now. Maybe we will not say we are fully prepared for bad weather and then everything stops. However I think that we can still expect confidence and still expect excuses.

A newsreader yesterday put forward a hypothetical question about professionals getting hold of shovels and getting rid of the snow. It was a stupid question so it wasn't answered but why are we so happy to accept that people shouldn't do what they are capable of doing? It must be because we can exploit brain surgeons and other professionals because we would get them to dig out snow all day. It was a stupid question. We should pay professionals to stay at home when the weather is bad.

If I walk in snow in my shoes then it is slippy. If I put on an old pair of trainers then I can run with the dog. It doesn't have to cost a lot to keep mobile.

Change the world

Friday, 8 January 2010

Who pays for time off?

Did you manage to get to work through the snow? Did you manage to get to work but then find out that you had to take the day off because your child's school was closed. I have written about the cost of snow to industry, the NHS and to the individual but what happens in these examples? Unions will work hard to get employers to pay for parental leave and for time off for bad weather. Employers will work hard to only pay employees when they are working. It strikes me that some people will strive harder than others to get to work but how do we repay this effort?

There is a general feeling that if the company is large then it doesn't matter if employees receive greater benefits as the company can afford it. A small company will struggle to pay for someone who doesn't manage to get into work. Should a fairer system not rely on the size of the company.

Each job is different but employers object if they are subjected to unfair bias if they have to pay when others don't. The same goes for employees if they too are treated with unfair bias. One answer is that if it is possible then a flexibility should apply. Get paid for your shift but do it when you can. There are some who will not like this idea. We get used to our own terms and condtions of employment and if this means they go worse then complaints follow.

The essential problem is that we have too easily accepted inability to get to work or school on the grounds of health and safety. If the school can't get food deliveries then pupils can take sandwiches. If journeys take three times as long then employees can start their journeys three times as early. Pupils can't play on school grounds because it is too risky. The school closes and pupils find hills to sledge down instead. I don't blame the lawyers for this situation. Could it lie with the law makers?

Change the world

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A disaster waiting to happen

Who would have Gordon's job? I heard Patricia Hewitt on the radio and she wants to "get this matter sorted out once and for all" or at least until the next time the Labour Party are not happy with their leader. I don't mind politicians calling for a new leader, after all it is a sign of democracy. It does seem strange however that these calls should come within six months of a general election.

I don't think it takes much political knowledge to realise that a leadership challenge will damage the Labour Party. I will mention it anyway because the blog is called politics for novices and also because it doesn't seem to have occurred to the rebels that they are harming their party. One labour MP Greg Pope who is retiring at the next election has also called for Gordon's resignation. He thinks that Gordon is “disastrously more unpopular than our party”, but if this disaster is obvious then why does the prospective Labour parliamentary candidate for the same constituency not agree with him?

The answer is that the disaster is obvious to all but there will be a disaster with or without Gordon at the helm, and that is why the Labour Party is divided.

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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The cost of snow

I am sure there are more comedians who have told this joke, but I remember Tommy Cooper apologising for laughing because it was the first time that he had heard that joke. Yesterday my blog finished with the thought that funding for gritting could be linked to the cost of treating injuries caused by the ice. I know there are difficulties with this. Did this person slip on ice in their drive or on ice on the road? Would they have fallen anyway because of other factors?

The reason that I am revisiting this idea is because, like Tommy Cooper, it is the first time that I have heard the suggestion. Spmthing else made me think about it too. There was also traffic chaos yesterday which has taken up most of the news on TV and radio and one person thought the cost to his large business could run into millions of pounds. Does anyone think about this prior to the snow falling?

The cost for a lack of preparation is difficult to estimate even for something as simple as treating injuries that are caused by falls on ice. There is the cost to the NHS but there are so many other costs of social care and the cost of missing work. There are surely many other costs too. Shouldn't we be improving our preparations for snow?

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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Resources need to improve

Last week I slipped while I was walking the dog. My excuse is that it was icy. Three nights ago my wife slipped on ice, again while walking the dog. The two common themes are dog and ice. Let's blame the dog even though we have never slipped without the link with the ice.

I have read about so many complaints about ungritted roads and the defence from the council rests with the fact that they are fully prepared and are working flat out. It seems so obvious to me. They may be fully prepared and they may be working as hard as they possibly can, but the result is not good enough. Resources need to improve.

In the eighties I managed to get some gritting bins in Great Harwood. It did go in the Focus leaflets. You don't see many bins now. they must not be fashionable but they still might help.

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P.S. I wrote this a couple of days ago and yesterday I heard on Radio Lancashire that there are still some gritting bins in East Lancashire. Unfortunately they are empty and it is not a priority to refill them as the main roads have to be gritted. What a shame that councils can't get the public to do the work for them because they don't have enough staff. I'll also mention that the roads are getting slippier. Someone saw a lady fall and she looked like she was in her seventies. Now wouldn't it be a good idea to have the funding for the gritting linked to the accidents caused by falls on ice?

Monday, 4 January 2010

The importance of the individual

Arsene Wenger was "infuriated" yesterday when the game was stopped because a West Ham player was injured and the referee stopped the game. How dare he stop the game when Arsenal had an extra player on the pitch? Ironically Arsenal got their winner with ten men on the pitch but the point is that we have lost our sense of the importance of the individual. It doesn't seem to matter at all that a player was injured. When I was a sports physiotherapist the great advantage in American Football and in rugby was that I could go on the pitch without stopping the game. Treating the individual was welcomed.

Over Christmas I saw the film Joyeux Noel which is about the Christmas truce in World War I in which the Germans, French and Scottish soldiers played football in No Man's Land. As soldiers it was not in their job description to fraternise with the enemy. The senior officers of all nationalities were united in their fury. How dare the soldiers stop the war in order to act in a friendly way towards the enemy. It doesn't matter that they were killing each other because politicial leaders had created the war

Bill Shankly famously said that football is more important than life or death. If you lose sight of the importance of the individual then injuries are not important and war becomes more important than peace.

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Sunday, 3 January 2010

Should you watch The Simpsons?

One parent recently told me that they didn't let their child watch The Simpsons because it contained adult humour. I'm afraid that I let all my children watch this programme and I haven't found a problem with it. I suppose a new year is a time for re-evalutaing and I have thought again about this programme. The Simpsons is about a family that argue, they behave badly and are not good role models, except that is not my opinion. I think that they are good role models as the programmes always end with the family on good terms.

You could object to the humour of The Royle Family or any comedy programme. In fact I am watching Liverpool versus Reading and I can hear the chants from the fans. It seems that I can only watch football when there are better sound engineers. If you slip on a banana skin you might get hurt. Base a joke on ethnicity, disablility or nationality and the pain may be deeper. In these times of political correctness it is hard to think of a joke that may not be offensive to someone. In Ben Elton's early years I thought he was just giving political rants. I couldn't see why people were laughing.

So one person's political comment is another person's joke. One person's insult makes others laugh. Where do you draw the line? If an Irishman tells a joke about the Irish then you know that he is not being vindictive and this is how you draw the line. Tell any joke you like as long as you don't set out to hurt people. How you prove that is another matter.

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Saturday, 2 January 2010

The problem with capital punishment

A few days ago the British man Akmal Shaikh was executed by the Chinese. There were many calls for clemency. They said that he was a sick man and his illness should be taken into account. They also said that the Chinese should show compassion for a man who was mentally ill. Now I don't know how ill this man was. The Chinese version is that he had 'no previous medical record' and the British version is that he suffered from a bipolar disorder. I don 't know any details about his crime. However I do know that it is much easier to show records than it is the absence of records so the defence should have had an easy job. All the British opinions have been united against the execution.

Was he criminally guilty of smuggling four kilos of heroin into China? The Chinese say so but I don't hear any British voices saying the same thing. If this is the case then what Britain is saying is that we don't trust China's judicial system. This is quite an insult and then Gordon Brown showed his anger by calling the Chinese premier.

I am sorry to read about Mr Shaikh's execution. I believe that we should be more civilised in our punishments. I don't think that our judicial system is perfect and I guess the Chinese version could improve but I hope this is a lesson to those who would call for a return to capital punishment in this country

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Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

Well it is a new year so Happy New Year. If you have made resolutions let's hope you keep to them and in the best Miss World tradition I will work towards world peace and harmony. Alright that is a bit challenge so let's go for working hard to make a little change each day. If we all did that it would be a big change.

This morning I have wished quite a few people a happy new year and one person wished me a happy new decade. I didn't go into great explanations but I did speak with my family about it. As far as I am concerned the decade finishes after ten years. If you give someone ten cards you don't stop at nine. 2000 years ago nobody knew they were living in the year 10AD and there was no year zero, which makes it even more obvious to me that without a year zero decades should end at the end of year 10. I'll wish you a happy new decade next year.

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