Friday, 30 March 2012

Who are these good people?

I know I have just written about a question on Question Time but I have to write again about party funding. Anna Soubry, a Conservative MP is under the impression that any donor to a political party may have no influence over that party. I find this incredible. If anyone had funded her personal campaign then there would be no question that she would be influenced. She admits that she would like to meet large donors but if they want to influence her then they would be "sent packing".

Anna needs to know that we all influence each other by our words and by our actions, not just by saying "here is some money now do as I say". If someone is kind enough to support me then doesn't it make sense to see how my further actions may lead to further support? Of course it does. The Tories know it and this includes Anna Soubry. It's just a pity she doesn't say it.

Sarah Teather is also of the opinion that money should not influence policy. If this is the case then why do Liberal Democrats criticise Labour for being funded by the unions and the Tories for being funded by big business? Edmund Burke said something about all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Who are these good men? It sounds more and more like you can only be good if you are an MP.

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Thanks for the sensible advice

There is a lot of talk about using 'common sense' in buying petrol and using 'sensible precautions'. Maybe a sensible precaution is to buy as much petrol as possible, and according to Francis Maude this includes filling up petrol cans and storing them at home. Maybe common sense is to act in a way that may appear as panic. Maybe I need to buy a few of these petrol cans, as who knows what the future holds and it would be sensible to prepare for strike action.

Sarah Teather was on Question Time last night and she was repeating this sensible advice. She used a lot of words but I didn’t hear her say that Francis Maude was wrong and she was asked this question specifically. I didn't quite follow how the unions were totally to blame for the mess we are in, but that's not my fault as she didn't tell us. Sarah did tell us that strike action was unjustified, so it must be so. She also told us that ACAS had been asked to intervene. I would normally say this is good advice but what is the point if the Government has already decided the result of arbitration or does conciliation just mean letting the unions know how wrong they are?

We know that there are problems getting petrol which have definitely not been caused by a strike because there hasn't been one. Sarah may say that we don't need to rush out and buy petrol but David Dimbleby was quite right when he replied that we do need to rush out because there are queues everywhere.

Sarah had to emphasise that even if a strike is called they have to give a week’s notice. It sounds like she is on solid ground here and nobody could argue with that. Well to me this just reinforces the idea that I have to go out and make sure my car is full of petrol now as well as for the rest of the week. Thanks for the sensible advice.

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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How to promote a petrol shortage

In the 1970s there was a shortage of sugar. I used to help in my parents' grocery shop and I remember some customers coming in very regularly for their bags of sugar. I also remember stories of people with kitchen shelves full of sugar.

The Irish potato famine was caused by crop failure but the famine was exacerbated by political failings. It isn't good if you allow the free market to export some of the remaining crops and there is no control over getting essential food to those in most need.

Earlier this week I was reminded of environmentally friendly advice such as turning off the tap when cleaning teeth, and not filling the kettle when you only want one cup of boiling water. These things make clear sense to me, and similarly, if we are able to drive with half a tank of petrol then we will save energy when compared with those who drive with a full tank simply because we are not carrying the added weight.

However there is now talk of a petrol shortage if a strike by tanker drivers goes ahead. David Cameron's advice is to top-up the tank and to fill any petrol cans that you can store in your garage. The trouble is that I can't see the difference between this sensible advice and panic buying. If we all take this advice we will have queues at petrol stations and then they will run out of petrol. We will have waste by queuing, waste by driving with extra weight and waste by those without petrol cans having to make alternative arrangements. And let's not forget all the added fire hazards throughout the country.

I'd like to finish on a positive so those who can afford to store petrol really safely for a few weeks (just in case a strike does actually go ahead) will do really well. It doesn't matter if it sugar or potatoes or petrol, but it would be nice to have the right advice at the right time.

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Sunday, 25 March 2012

The rich can look after themselves

Andrew Marr is questioning Danny Alexander about the effects of the budget. Danny tells us that the rich are going to be taxed more and Andrew comes back saying there is no way that Danny could know that, and how much the rich pay will depend on the skills of the accountants. Danny counters that the figures have been independently verified.

If Andrew had asked about the revenue from an income tax rise then he may feel that such a raise produces a definite amount of Government revenue. However it could also be the case that an increase in taxation causes more people to be unemployed, so whenever there is any change in raising revenue there is some guesswork about the actual amount of revenue and where it is coming from.

Danny has accepted a compromise which he feels will raise more tax from the rich and this was independently verified. Andrew has a valid point - the rich get more assistance in tax avoidance. The Rolling Stones are famous for avoiding tax and the system should not be weighted in favour of the rich. The rich can look after themselves.

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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The line between health and illness

If you ask a metallurgist to test drive your car then be careful as metallurgists test to destruction. Different people have different definitions of how to test. How do you test health? Well there are plenty of ways. Height and weight will tell you your body mass index which may well be the most important factor in preventing cancer, but that doesn't mean there aren't people with cancer who have a perfect BMI. You don't get perfect answers by screening.

I remember Daley Thompson while he was at the height of his athletics career saying that his peak performance always bordered on illness. As he pushed himself to his limits his body's resistance to illness would be pushed to its limit. He was talking about things like colds and flu but in fact it was a hamstring injury that ended his career, and you don't get many of those by watching TV. When an athlete is training they are looking at performance and also things like cardiovascular fitness.

Now if a footballer is looking for peak performance (and the business demands it) then they will be close to illness or injury by the very nature of their actions. It is no surprise that occasionally players like Fabrice Muamba collapse during a Premiership game. It happens all the time on UK sports fields but you are unlikely to hear about it if it happens to Joe Bloggs. Roberto Mancini is in the news calling for better screening and it may be that such tragedies occur less often in the top flight, but we should all expect things like this to happen again.

I wish Fabrice a full and speedy recovery but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the demand for better and better football will not have consequences. Our thoughts and prayers can be with Fabrice or with Joe Bloggs but some prayers have already been answered when fans and players from all clubs are united in a caring attitude.

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Sunday, 11 March 2012

Anger at bird cull

There were two news items this week that involved the shooting of geese. In Darwen six ducks and a goose were shot dead in a park. The main response was one of outrage. Well it is a contemptible action. One councillor comments “I can’t believe the mentality of people who would do a thing like that...Why has he (the culprit appears to be male) gone out to do a thing like that? His IQ must be zilch"

The second item in the news was about the culling of Canada geese on Windermere. I watched the local TV report and the main argument for a cull was that these geese produce a lot of muck and someone has to clean it, particularly in the tourist areas. There are other arguments for a cull like damage to crops but I didn't hear anything like this for the cull at Windermere.

From the bird's point of view there is no difference to being shot in a cull or being shot illegally. If the only reason for a cull is bird muck then all the contempt from news item one could transfer to news item two.

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Saturday, 10 March 2012

It's only a goal when the referee tells us

"It went in didn't it?" was the remark from the Sky pundit when QPR's Clint Hill heads the ball into the Bolton net by at least a foot and the goalkeeper hits the ball against the crossbar and out again. In the next five minutes the same pundit tells us again and again how bad the linesman is and how he is going to lose his job.

I check the BBC website and Jimmy Armfield has written ""It's in, we've seen a reply. It is over the line and Adam Bogdan has pulled it back. Unless my National Health glasses are letting me down that was a goal". Wait a minute Jimmy. You are only so sure of yourself after seeing a replay.

There is a large element of support for goal line technology to be used and even as recently as last week Sepp Blatter came out in favour of it. This is the same Sepp Blatter who wasn't keen on any change even for a short time after Frank Lampard had his goal disallowed against Germany.

The big problem for me is that nobody respects the officials. They may make mistakes but we all do. Now Clint Hill (I write while the game goes on) is openly showing disrespect to the referee, so why shouldn't all the fans show their disrespect even when the referee is right. The commentator tells us that Bolton should be a goal behind and they have just scored. No they shouldn't because to be a goal behind then the referee has to say it is a goal.

It's not about goal line technology, it's not about referees being right all the time, it's about respect.

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Friday, 9 March 2012

Blackpool Prom Revamped Again

Blackpool Prom has been revamped. I was there around a year ago and the changes I saw looked really good but there was still plenty to do. A few months ago I heard that there were no kerbs near the Tower and there was a danger that pedestrians and vehicles would mix when they shouldn't. No distinction between pavement and road is bad enough if you have all your senses but I would hazard a guess that some people who walk along Blackpool Prom may have had a drink, and what happens if they are blind?

I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago and mentioned the lack of pavements. One person replied that he had seen the tram tracks being taken up again at great cost all the way up to Fleetwood. How can the planners get things so wrong?

It may look good in the news to read that planners had carried out an audit and Blackpool Council had listened to complaints but basic errors are being made and I don't hear any apologies.

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