Modern mores

wild child










I took an old friend to the shops the other day to buy some new shoes (he is 76).    We decided to grab a bite at a snack bar    I noticed he was watching a teenager sitting next to him.   The teenager had spiked hair in all different colours – green,   red, orange and blue. My friend kept staring at her.  The teenager kept looking and would find him staring every time.   When the teenager had had enough, she sarcastically asked: “What’s the matter old man, never done anything wild in your life?” Knowing my friend, I quickly swallowed my food so that I would not choke on his response;    I knew he would have a good one!  In classic style he responded without batting an eyelid …. “Got stoned once and had sex with a parrot. I was just wondering if you might be my kid.”

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Mediterranean misery

Med immigrantsThe television images from the Mediterranean are truly horrific but the solution being pressed on European nations by charities cannot be the right answer.  They seem to want a return to the Mare Nostrum but at an enhanced level. All this will do is to encourage more and more immigrants to make the journey.  We might as well charter a stack of cruise liners, line them up at ports along the southern Mediterranean and ferry boatloads of exiles from the African continent to mainland Europe.  What would happen then?  I think we all know.  European countries could not cope with that level of inward immigration.

What then, is the answer?  I am no expert but I think there are two stages.

In the short term, we need to increase the naval military presence to prevent the traffickers from plying their trade.  This has to involve not just ships but marines to board boats with immigrants, arrest the traffickers and return the passengers whence they came.  The traffickers need to be locked up for a long time.

In the longer term, we need to work out how to eliminate the horrendous pressures that are forcing huge numbers of Africans to risk the Mediterranean rather than stay in the country where they lived and had jobs.  For a starter, perhaps we could target our overseas aid spending better?  What we can’t do is to open up the whole of Europe to huge numbers of Africans fleeing their own land.  Some may have skills we can use;  many will not.  The UK does not need any more pressures for cheap homes and we can’t afford a burgeoning benefits bill.

I may be accused of cruelty in the face of what we have seen and, no doubt, there will be those who say we should not have destroyed Gadaffi but would Libya have been any safer and any better for its citizens if he was still running the show?

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Living in a Green world

Natalie Bennett

Natalie Bennett

I am not prone to nightmares but I come closest to suffering one after seeing Natalie Bennett, the leader of the UK Green Party, on TV. What sort of world would we find ourselves living in if UK electors were seized by a lemming-like madness and voted in a Green government?  I know it is not going to happen but I am trying to understand why any sane person would cast a vote for the Greens, given their insane policy manifesto.

Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas

I have seen the Greens at first hand.  Caroline Lucas was an Oxfordshire County Councillor for a single, four-year term from 1993 to 1997. She was certainly clever, well to the left and slightly mad in terms of her attitude to life and politics.  She was hugely brighter and better than the current leader of the UK Greens and quite why she stood down, I will never understand.

I also visited Brighton Council while I was Chairman of the SE Regional Assembly and met the Green leader of the council. This council has instituted the full panoply of anti-car, anti-private sector measures and they introduced a revolutionary method of allocating children to schools by drawing names out of a hat!  Few issues can be more important to most parents than securing a good education for their child and to relegate the process to a lottery must have been mind-numbing for those who care about their children’s future.

However, let us see what a majority Green government would inflict on the UK.

It goes without saying there would be an immediate return to tax, borrow and spend that would put any memory of Gordon Brown in the shade.

The Greens clearly hate the private sector and view the profit motive as inherently evil. Their 2015 manifesto promises to increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020. This would close community arts centres like the one I run in Banbury. I suspect it would close many small retailers and pubs that rely on the use of low cost casual labour. I suspect many people value the opportunity to work flexible hours for a low wage to supplement household income and to match childcare needs but the Greens would deny them this. As for the rural pub, I suspect this would be another Green casualty pretty soon except for those able to sustain themselves with a customer base that could walk or cycle to and from it. I will return to this theme.

The Greens clearly do not understand that only the private sector can generate tax revenues to pay for public sector services so they will drive out enterprise with a wealth tax.  They propose the creation of one million public sector jobs while implementing measures to destroy many private sector jobs.

They are paranoid about what they call the “privatisation” of the NHS and promise to drive out private sector involvement. If they could unravel the PPI schemes that have bedevilled the NHS and that were introduced both by Labour and Conservatives, they will be remarkably clever but I suspect this would be beyond their collective intellectual capacity. Equally, I don’t know what they plan to do about the GPs, most of whom are independent, private sector, profit making partnerships? I suspect they have not thought this one through, either!

On the environmental agenda, they will ban fracking and run down coal, oil and nuclear power plants! Let’s hope they subsidise candle manufacturing and plenty of warm pullovers and blankets because we are going to need them!

On education, the Greens will abolish university tuition fees although how this will be funded is not clear but we are in La-La land, after all. They will promote a return to the bog standard comprehensive that has so comprehensively dragged down standards and failed generations of British children who deserve better and are getting it through free schools and academies which the Greens will suffocate.

On housing, they plan to build acres of social housing but are unclear how they will finance this. They will tie up private sector landlords in myriads of rent controls and market restrictions that may well cause a flight out of property and reduce the size of the rented sector.

On transport, they will re-nationalise the rail industry. Can you remember the last public rail service? It was a joke. They will encourage walking and cycling. Ho, ho!  This works if you are fit and live in a town, close to work or the bus and train station. Elsewhere, it is a disaster if kid’s school is 5 miles east and work is 10 miles west. It is also a disaster in hilly areas which make cycling or walking exhausting. It also does not work if you need to get the week’s shopping home. You can’t balance a family’s shopping on a cross bar!

Mad, bad, impractical, unaffordable and economically illiterate but it gets worse!

The Greens will destroy our agricultural industry and our home-based food supply by introducing ever tighter animal welfare rules that will wipe out most of our UK livestock in time rather than improve their welfare!

They will also destroy our world class horse racing industry by banning the Grand National and, I suspect similar events that horses, riders and the majority of the public love.  They certainly won’t scrap the hunting ban and I suspect game shooting will also face the chop on grounds of elitism and cruelty!  This only leaves fishing and I suspect the Greens would have this in their sights ere long?

Thank goodness but I think the voting public has more sense. This year’s Grand National featured 19 million bets. Four million UK residents went fishing in the last two years. Half a million people follow the hunt.

Parties of the left will seek to grow their client base through the benefit system and through unlocking immigration from poorer countries. Those of us who value the work ethic, economic independence and personal pride have to oppose any measures that seek to grow dependency and a growth in a client base with their hands held out and a vote for economic madness and ultimate devastation.





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The irony of health and social care

Prime Minister

Prime Minister

David Cameron has upped the election stakes over NHS funding by guaranteeing to fund the £8 billion deficit the NHS is predicting. Labour are struggling to follow suit. Inevitably, the Liberals have already committed, knowing they will never form a government but may be a small part of a coalition.

If Labour had their wits about them, they would have an answer but it is a hard one.  A lot of NHS money is wasted paying for old people to occupy expensive hospital beds that they do not need. What many old people need is social care in a safe environment, either their home or a residential care home. The problem is that hospital care is funded by the NHS while social care is paid for by local government. While the NHS budget has increased every year, local government funding has been cut horrendously.  This leads to several serious problems.

Firstly, should responsibility for social care be shifted to the NHS, making it a national social care service?  I don’t think so. This is the sort of service that is better run locally and I think local government has generally done it well under adverse financial circumstances.

If social care is to remain local and is to relieve the NHS of unnecessary costs of so-called bed-blockers, it will need more cash – and quite a lot more – because social care funding is already at crisis point. Clearly and in the long-term, this should come from the NHS budget but life is never easy in the short-term!

Shifting large numbers of old people from hospital to social care will not happen overnight but, when it is achieved, will have a significant impact on the capacity needs of many hospitals.  This creates two further problems.

There will need to be transitional funding during what will be a fundamental service shift. However and much more challenging, the process may question the need for hospital  capacity in the longer term. I cannot think of a MP of any party who has ever been able to support a hospital closure in their constituency.

I am quite sure the issue of health and social care lies firmly in the hands of Members of Parliament but I am not convinced any of them have the courage to face up to reality and support the necessary resource shift that is the only solution in the long-term.

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Green Belt no help to North Oxon

Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles

imageDavid Cameron and Eric Pickles have both promised to keep the Green Belt and have hinted that Labour will build over it.  People living in my old County Council Division (Adderbury, Bloxham, Bodicote, Milcombe and Milton) may believe this is good news for them but they would be totally wrong.  The reverse is almost certainly true.  Preserving the Green Belt in Oxfordshire can only increase the pressure on the green fields surrounding villages in North Oxfordshire and elsewhere where there is no Green Belt protection.

Saturday’s Daily Telegraph reported this recent election announcement from the Conservative Party and managed to muddy the position in the process.  The Telegraph says “The Prime Minister will say that the Tory manifesto will commit to ensuring greenfield land around towns and cities will not get any smaller.”  Cameron is on the record as having made a similar claim in 2012 in the following statement: “Our vision is one where we give communities much more say, much more control. The fear people have in villages is the great big housing estate being plonked down from above.”

Absolutely right DC and it is happening in my old patch in spades and keeping the Oxford Green Belt safe will do absolutely nothing to protect Adderbury, Bloxham or Bodicote from more and more ghastly, urban housing estates on the green fields around these wonderful old Domesday villages.

Oxford's Green Belt

Oxford’s Green Belt

Let’s be clear.  The only Green Belt in Oxfordshire is a broad circle of land surrounding Oxford City and extending into the rural districts that surround the City.  It is approximately five miles wide.  I am afraid many residents of villages well outside the Oxford Green Belt believe that the green fields around their own village are Green Belt.  They are not.  All of those green fields around villages like Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote have very little protection and are currently vulnerable to development precisely because of the current planning policies which are designed to accelerate house building.

Oxfordshire has wonderful economic potential.  It is a functional economic area. It has the City at its centre with vibrant market towns like Banbury, Bicester, Witney and Didcot.  It has a good and improving transport network.  At its heart are two universities with a global reach and capable of seeding exciting high-tech businesses.  There are some hugely successful businesses like BMW, Siemens, Oxford Instruments, Travis Perkins and Stagecoach. House prices are threatening Oxfordshire’s economy with even relatively high earners unable to afford a home in or near Oxford.  It is self-evident that it is time for a review of the Green Belt similar to that carried out very successfully in Cambridgeshire some time ago.

A release or swap of Green Belt land around Oxford City would stimulate the county’s economy and would take the pressure off many villages around our market towns, including Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote.  So I am afraid preserving the Green Belt will do nothing to prevent the continuing disfigurement of many fine Oxfordshire villages.  It is time for local politicians to recognise this fact and be brave enough to tell David Cameron and Eric Pickles that they have got this wrong, at least in Oxfordshire.


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Blair rides to the rescue

Tony Blair

Tony Blair

It is fascinating to see Tony Blair apparently riding to the rescue of the Miliband election machine today, supported by his wife Cherry.  The family warfare between the Miliband brothers, David and Ed, was about the political direction of the Labour Party.  David Miliband represented the Blairite tradition of taking the middle ground that won Labour  election after election.  Ed Miliband represented a lurch to the left, with a pro-union and anti-business stance offering a return to the Michael Foot era.  With a little help from his union friends, Ed defeated David and seems to think he could be Prime Minister after the General Election!  God help us, particularly if he has to rely on the Scottish Nationalists or the loopy Greens to deliver increasingly left-wing policies that will destroy our economy, add to our debts and grow back the client state with its dependency culture that came close to destroying this country.

Today, Blair applauds Miliband for denying the British people a referendum on European

Cherry Blair

Cherry Blair

Union membership and claims the Conservative promise of a referendum will lead to chaos and uncertainty. While he was always pro-European in his outlook, Blair must have had to hold his nose while expressing support for a Labour Leader who represents the antithesis of his Blairite reforms.

I can’t help wondering what the Labour Party had to offer him in return?  It can’t have been money because they would not be able to afford Blair’s millionaire tastes!  So what was it?  A job from the Labour government?  Ambassador to the United States? Or a role for Cherry – equalities ambassador at large?

Whatever Blair’s role, I think the Labour Party has made very clear its position on business – hostility.  Miliband responded to the 100+ business leaders who wrote in support of Conservative economic policy by promising a crackdown on casual employment.  Many businesses depend on casual labour to pick up on the peaks and troughs of customer demand.  It is a nonsense to seek to legislate against flexible labour contracts.  Ask any Italian business person if you don’t understand this.


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Milton’s got its pub back

Black Boy Milton

Black Boy

This is Milton in North Oxfordshire and the pub is the Black Boy.  It has been my local for 30 years and I have seen almost as many landlords.  There is a story to tell about many of them but it looks like we have light at the end of the tunnel with the departure of Marco Pierre-White.  In place of MP-W, we have a family who have bought the Black Boy and moved into it as their home. The landlord is Pete with a successful background in building which he is already applying to rectifying the ruination that MP-W brought.  He is supported by his wife who is as enthusiastic as him and a son who is a chef.  There is a dog called Shamus and they seem to have plenty of friends and followers to support their venture.

Marco acquired the Black Boy through the Wheelers group and brought with him an entourage of advisers with a mission to transform the Black Boy into a high-class eaterie.  He made the bar so small that the staff could not stand behind it if they needed to access the cellar.  He made the drinks offer miniscule and the tables and chairs uncomfortable and unattractive to make it clear the Black Boy was somewhere to eat his food and not to enjoy a pint with local friends. He filled it with incredible objets that did nothing for this lovely old inn and then, once he had “transformed” it, he disappeared.

Well he is gone and good riddance.  If he runs his other businesses like he ran the Black Boy, I wonder that they survive which is all the more amazing given my memory of Wheelers Restaurants in London which were high quality and customer-focused but that was some time ago.

Luncheon today saw a full pub with people enjoying a drink with friends; plenty of people enjoying an Easter luncheon; people turned away who had not booked (but wait for the back part of the pub to be re-opened); a few dogs running around and enjoying themselves and a few children who might have learned to have been as well behaved as the dogs!

My best wishes to Pete and his family.  Milton is a delightful hamlet;  the Black Boy is a beautiful building with huge potential as a pub and eaterie and it deserves a chance to succeed after a chequered history of chancing landlords and landladies.  I think the new team have the capacity and enthusiasm to do this.

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