The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

Archive for the 'UK' Category

21 March
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The Left Says People Are Stupid So Government Should Tell Then How to Spend Their Pension Pot

I have never been a great fan of George Osborne. Like Cameron he is comes from a background of extreme wealth, never really had a proper job and has the charisma of a roll of felt. I also cannot really forgive his omnishambles of a budget in 2012 when he deftly kicked the ball into his own net several times.

But I will give him credit for giving pensioners greater control of their own pension pot

The centrepiece of yesterday’s Budget was a plan to allow people to withdraw their pension pot as a cash lump sum instead of investing in a pension plan, which ministers claim will give people choice to spend their money how they wish.

Laughably an assortment of financial “experts” (you know, the ones who so failed to foresee the 2008 recession) and Labour politicians waxed lyrical about the dangers of allowing people to spend their savings how they want.

The BBC, which spends taxpayers money like a drunken sailor on steroids, naturally joined in the chorus of doom.

These people really do think they know what’s best for you and me – better than we do ourselves. They devote their lives to filching money from our pockets and purses in order to do us good – and their schemes almost always end up in failure. They do not know how to generate money – only how to spend other people’s money

Above all they think we are stupid and need to be told what to do.

Then they wonder why more and more people outside the media/political/cultural elite are turning to a party of outsiders like UKIP…..

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18 March
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That’s Enough Of Benn & Crow – Time To Dump Them Into The Dustbin Of History….

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The sycophantic twaddle being pumped out from all points of the political compass about Bob Crow and “Tony” Benn simply beggars belief. Fact is they were both disciples of  the writings of that old German charlatan Karl Marx – which is why, of course, the former student “revolutionaries at the BBC  went hyper over their deaths.

I don’t know about you but I am sick and tired of all the weeping and wailing.  It really is time for it to stop and for them both to be consigned to the dustbin of history where they both belong….

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03 March
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New Motto Of The Daily Telegraph – “Keep It In The Family”

With the sacking last month of editor Tony Gallagher the transformation of the once staid Daily Telegraph is now complete. Almost all the experienced (and expensive) hacks have gone, most of the “reporting” is being done by inexpensive and inexperienced novices, there is a lot of filler masquerading as  “comment” by a mixture of spotty youths and weird eccentrics and, of course, plenty of “lifestyle”

Which brings me to Jenna Zoe.

Earlier this year the DT began pushing this

Light Bites & Tasty Treats

Don’t miss 30 natural recipes from Jenna Zoe, including nutritious breakfasts, delicious party snacks, cookies and bakes. Free inside The Telegraph Saturday, January 18 and Sunday, January 

A few days before we had been told that Jenna Zoe was “The Complete Woman” in one of those vomit inducing puff pieces the broadsheets love so well. The idea is to give we ordinary folk a voyeuristic glimpse into the life of the beautiful people who are the movers and shakers of style.

- What you put on your body is important, so I pick organic products. I go to Content Beauty & Wellbeing in Marylebone, London, where the owner, Imelda Burke, is like an encyclopedia on the topic.

- I use Live Native skin products, which are raw and vegan. I love Oskia day moisturiser, and use coconut oil as a body cream and make-up remover. For nails,Zoya is great.

The reality is that it’s an advertising vehicle pretending to be an interview. Presumably it is hoped that we shall all be so entranced by Jenna that we will rush out and buy the stuff that makes her life so glamorous.

Normally I ignore such unsubtle garbage  – but I my curiosity was aroused by this pimping of someone who was obviously hip and cool but totally obscure…..was she a culinary Susan Boyle suddenly exploding from  nowhere by virtue of her own talent?

Alas, the truth is more mundane. Her real name, according to Lord Gnome, is Jenna Zoe Barclay and she is the daughter of DT supremo Aidan Barclay.

As they might say at Tesco “every little helps”……

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20 February
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The Big Cheeses At The Telegraph Seem To Be Whistling In The Dark About UKIP – So Why Won’t They Read Their Own Paper?

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I must admit that when I heard that the Daily Telegraph was going to post a regular blog called UkipWatch by two political scientists, Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin, my heart did sink. Academics are often characterised (not always unfairly) as left wing and the Telegraph has a history of being sniffy about UKIP.

I have been pleasantly surprised. Every piece so far published has been exceptionally fair. Ford and Goodman don’t do a whitewash but they have treated the party and its members and supporters with respect and not as a fringe group of nutcases and loons.

If only more of their DT colleagues were as fair-minded. Two, Tim Stanley and Damian Thompson, never reluctant to throw cutting barbs at their selected targets, have both scribbled quite heavily laboured so-called “jokes” about UKIP and appeared very indignant and hurt when people responded in kind – proving, I suppose, that they can dish it out but can’t take it hurled back at them.

A callow youth called Will Heaven (look at his picture) claimed that UKIP was imploding, a theme picked up by Benedict Brogan who, with several others, saw the Wythenshawe by election result (“UKIP fails to beat Labour”)as a justification for Will Heaven’s view that Cameron’s masterly handling of the floods had gone down well with the public and undermined Nigel Farage – unfortunately polling appears to indicate that the Cameron Flood Mastery image remains just that, an insubstantial image only in the eyes of Westminster’s political hacks desperate for 900 words to fill a column.

Ford and Goodman also shot the Heaven/Brogan Wythenshawe fox with some actual facts (as distinct from wishful thinking)

If anything, what is striking about the result is that Ukip saw a five-fold increase in their level of support despite these harsher local conditions. Think about it for a second. Despite a three week campaign. Despite a well-oiled and ruthlessly efficient Labour machine. Despite Farage’s allegations of local intimidation and “nasty tactics” by Labour and the BNP. Despite never having had any local active presence in the seat. Despite a striking turnout figure of 28%, reflecting by-election apathy and the storms, which may well have further suppressed the Ukip vote further. Despite all of this, Ukip still rocked in to this Labour area, took almost 18 per cent of the vote, moved from fifth to second place and added more than 14 points to their share of the vote in 2010. It is not a spectacular success in the same tradition of other campaigns that we have witnessed over the past two years, but make no mistake – this is still a solid advance. In fact, this was Ukip’s fourth best by-election result in their entire history.

But never fear. Another Telegraph big cheese, Iain Martin (“one of Britain’s wisest and most learned political commentators”) backs the Will Heaven line

Ukip looks as though it has hit a ceiling in terms of attracting support. Its attempts to eat into the Labour vote are, so far, misfiring. The party was also running third in a recent poll on the Euro elections, and the Tory claim that a vote for Farage is a vote for Miliband and a Europhile Labour government looks increasingly potent.

Indeed the biggest of all the Telegraph cheeses, Peter Oborne, sees this as all part of a Tory Cunning Plan

playing an expert game of expectations management, playing down its own chances and setting unfeasible targets for Ukip. This clever wheeze worked well at Wythenshawe, meaning that Ukip’s strong showing looked like a minor disaster for Farage, while everybody overlooked the dreadful Tory performance. They are now trying to repeat this in the forthcoming European elections. With their political strategists at last firing on all cylinders, the signs are that the Tories might even get away with it.

Losing votes and coming third is a strategy?

Ford and Goodman, however, dashed a bucketful of cold water over the frenzied musings of Martin and Oborne

But then things are never quite as simple as they often appear in Westminster.

It may well be true that Farage and Co could improve their expectation management, as George Eaton has argued. The easy thing would have been to avoid making any prediction about the European elections and then look surprised at a first place finish, but Farage never follows the easy path. Yet there are good reasons why we should not read into current polls or the result of one by-election where – to be frank – Ukip did well to poll over 17 per cent and push the Conservatives into third.

 

They make several key points.

 

  • In the 2004 & 2009 Euro elections UKIP benefited from late surges in the polls.

 

  • Today UKIP is starting from a higher polling base than before – over several months a steady 12%

 

  • The party now has stronger local roots – hundreds of elected councillors and a flourishing branch level membership

 

  • UKIP now has a regular and substantial presence in the news cycle

 

What’s the Telegraph up to? Is it acting as a conduit for Tory HQ? Who knows? But it’s beginning to strike me that the paper and its mates at Central Office are whistling in the dark in the face of UKIP’s growth.

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14 February
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Govt Wants To Know Why Auditors Cleared Dodgy UK Bank – So They Send In The Clowns…

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Great news…

Britain’s accounting watchdog has launched a formal investigation into KPMG’s work as the auditor of the Co-op Bank ahead of the emergence of a £1.5bn capital shortfall at the lending arm of the country’s largest mutual society.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said it would look at the way the Co-op Bank’s accounts were prepared, audited and approved in the years leading up to the discovery of a the capital black hole that threatened to put the lender out of business.

 And it’s not just the FRC…

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) are undertaking their own investigations that could lead to formal action being taken against current and former senior managers and directors of the Co-op Bank.

Were there dodgy deals between beancounters and clients? We don’t know but at least with the FRC and FCA on the case if there was a lack of due diligence we should find out because an FRC/FCA investigation will be relentless….

What’s that? The boss at the FRC is Sir Win Bischoff, a former big cheese at Citigroup?

The City veteran is a contentious choice because he presided over astronomical ‘golden goodbyes’ to failed bankers during his two years on the Citi board. 

This included an eyewatering £40million payment for failure to former Citi chief Chuck Prince when he was forced out in 2007, despite steering the bank headlong into the toxic debt mire. 

Bischoff succeeded Prince on a temporary basis, then moved into the chairman’s job just months before Citi was bailed out by US taxpayers. 

 Surely this is not a case of the higher the title the weaker the talent pool?

Most people were underwhelmed when Sir Win Bischoff, former Citi chairman, was appointed as chairman of the Lloyds Banking Group to replace Sir Victor Blank. Bischoff never seemed to get to grips with Citi’s problems and gave the impression of hobbling along behind the bus rather than sitting upright at the steering wheel

After Citigroup Bischoff became chairman at Lloyds and was involved with the controversial sale of 600 Co-op Bank branches known as Project Verde.

Hmmmm

Still John Grifiths  Jones  at the FCA should be a safe pair of hands….shouldn’t he?

Questions have been raised about Mr Griffith-Jones because until last year he was chairman of KPMG, which is the Co-op Bank’s auditor. Last week, the Co-op Group launched an investigation into the bank’s £1.5bn capital shortfall including a review of “the role of the independent auditors”.

Tony Shearer, former chief executive of Singer & Friedlander, said Mr Griffith-Jones was “conflicted” as chairman of the banking regulator due to KPMG’s involvement with banks. The firm was also auditor of HBOS, Bradford & Bingley, and Kaupthing, all of which failed. Similar questions were raised in April about KPMG’s HBOS audit, by Mr Shearer and others.

 Are these really the men who should be investigating the KPMG/Co-op Bank affair?

 

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13 February
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Cameron Insists “Money Is No Object” Re Floods…..Yeah, Right…..

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 The man who always leaves the restaurant just before the waiter brings the bill……

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12 February
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Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband Told To “Flood Off” By Angry Villagers….

Wealthy Labour Party leader Ed Miliband visited a village hit by floods in order to show how much he cared for ordinary people and to do something about the rising waters…

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But the villagers were not impressed

there was anger among some locals, including the deputy mayoress of Windsor and Maidenhead, Margaret Lenton, who accused the opposition leader of seeking a photo opportunity and blocking volunteers from doing their work of rescuing people from rising waters.

As Miliband gave an interview to Sky News from the school hall, Lenton called out: “You people get out,” and Miliband and his entourage were ushered away.

“I am really angry,” Lenton told the Guardian. “What is he doing here? Where have they been all this time? He was standing in the middle of a working organisation where we are trying to get people rescued. He turns up for a photo opportunity when we are now down to hard cases of rescuing old and vulnerable people.”

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11 February
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Farage And The Floods – Somehow He Steals The Show Again…..

While the government’s floods “strategy” appears increasingly confused UKIP’s Nigel Farage scores points

  • Actually dresses like a countryman and wears waders rather than wellies from Harrods
  • Chats to a Sikh chap who has brought down some mates from his temple in Slough to help the locals rather than give PR puff to selected hacks
  • Suggests  we pay for massive works to lessen flood risk by not sending taxpayers money to corrupt third world regimes via bloated “charities” led by fatcat troughers

Strange how a man totally outside the Westminster bubble of the chattering class is able to hit the spot while Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, surrounded by legions of spin doctors and “brilliant” young interns fresh from Oxbridge  often appear to be 2/3 steps behind…

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28 January
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BT Broadband Still Acting Like A Complacent Nationalised Style Monopoly Sloth Whenever It Can…..

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This is a response from BT to a customer re broadband pricing

 

Our pricing varies depending on where you are. In areas where there’s competition from other broadband providers, our prices are lower than in areas where BT Wholesale is the only broadband supplier.

Exchange areas 1 & 2 means that we’re the only service provider in the area.

 

Yes, that old pre privatisation BT spirit is alive and kicking outside the urban areas. No wonder that rural broadband pledge is yet another Cameron broken promise….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 January
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MYTHS ABOUT THE FIRST WORLD WAR

A must read for all those who want to separate myth from reality about the Western Front in The First World War 1914-1918

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These quotations are from Mud, Blood and Poppycock by Gordon Corrigan

The popular view of the First World War remains that of BLACKADDER: incompetent generals sending brave soldiers to their deaths. Alan Clark quoted a German general’s remark that the British soldiers were ‘lions led by donkeys’. But he made it up.

Indeed, many established ‘facts’ about 1914-18 turn out to be myths woven in the 1960s by young historians on the make. Gordon Corrigan’s brilliant, witty history reveals how out of touch we have become with the soldiers of 1914-18. They simply would not recognize the way their generation is depicted on TV or in Pat Barker’s novels.

 

The perception of soldiering in the Great War is of a young patriot enlisting in 1914 to do his bit, and then being shipped off to France.  Arriving at one of the Channel ports he marches all the way up to the front, singing ‘Tipperary’ and smoking his pipe, forage cap on the back of his head.  Reaching the firing line, he is put into a filthy hole in the ground and stays there until 1918.  If he survives, he is fed a tasteless and meagre diet of bully beef and biscuits.  Most days, if he is not being shelled or bombed, he goes ‘over the top’ and attacks a German in a similar position a few yards away across no man’s land.  He never sees a general and rarely changes his lice infested clothes, while rates gnaw the dead bodies of his comrades.

MARCHING

The original BEF, composed of pre-war regulars and reservists, did do quite a lot of marching, but they would have been very unlucky to have to tramp all the way from Boulogne to Belgium.  As far as possible men moved by train until they were a few miles from the front, and as the war went on and motor lorries became available these too were used to speed up movement.  As early as 1914 London buses were shipped out to the front for use as troop carriers.

TRENCHES

French and German ideas on trench construction differed according to the military philosophy of the two nations.  The French military doctrine was of constant aggression: the offensive was what mattered, and their works reflected this.  They were largely earthen, used little concrete and were often without revetment (zigzagging).  Their main purpose was to provide a launching pad for the French attacks.  German defences. On the other hand, were stoutly and meticulously constructed.  Concrete was used and deep dugouts were built; in some cases so well built and so deep that no Allied artillery could affect them, as the British would learn to their cost on the Somme.

The design and dimensions of British trenches were based on a good British compromise.  The British adopted much from the French methods, but they also used concrete and revetting when available.  Unlike the French, the British were not wedded to the idea of constant attacks.  Indeed, in private some British commanders and politicians thought that Britain should stay on the defensive until her New armies were ready and then intervene massively, end the war and dictate the future shape of Europe.

HYGIENE

Despite the tales of rats, lice and general filth, cleanliness and hygiene in the trenches were strictly enforced.  The paid a great deal of attention to its latrines, as indeed it had to.  Disease caused by poor hygiene had dogged armies throughout history and dysentery had always been a big problem.  By now the army was well aware that if human waste was not disposed of properly, unnecessary casualties would follow.  The average made produces 2.4 pounds weight of faeces and urine per day.  In the average company defended position this in a ton a week.  In the forward areas latrines were constructed just behind the trenches at the end of a communication trench and out of view of the enemy.  They were usually deep pits with wooden seats on top.  Disinfectant was provided and when full the latrine was closed.

A general lack of cleanliness made worse by food left lying about, particularly in andaround horse lines and abandoned ration dumps, could of course attract rats.  They did scamper around in no man’s land and bodies left uncovered did provide food for them.  Bodies were always buried whenever humanly possible and taken to the rear for temporary burial, before being given a proper funeral.  Bodies left lying around where the fell were not good fore morale; they were never left in the trenches or buried in the parapet as was the practice in the French trenches.

RATS & LICE

Good discipline got rid of rubbish and edible scraps, and rats were rarely a problem in the trenches, although lice, inevitable when men cannot wash properly, sometimes were.  On coming out of the line troops had their uniforms fumigated, laundered and ironed, and if necessary exchanged to reduce the risk of infestation.

TROOP ROTATION

British soldiers did not spend four years of the war in the firing line, or even at the front.  Men were regularly rotated from the firing line to the support and reserve trenches and then back to billets, usually well behind the battle area.  With a division having two brigades in the line and one out, and with each brigade having two of its four battalions in the line, a battalion could expect on average, to spend just ten days a month in the trenches. It was unusual to find any battalion spending more than four or five days a month continuously in the firing line.

TRENCH FOOT

 The winter of 1914 –15 was exceptionally cold and wet, and flooding of trenches was a problem.  Initially this led to large numbers of men contracting trench foot, caused by lack of circulation in the feet and legs and. If untreated, leading to gangrene and amputation.  Most cases were caught before recourse to the knife but, before preventative measures were enforced, many soldiers suffered from bad feet.  The remedies were the issue of whale oil and thigh high rubber waders, the loosening of puttees, regular changing of socks, and drainage of the trenches.  At first drains were soak pits dug into the floor, but mechanical pumps would later be provided.  By the middle of 1915 trench foot had all but been eliminated, except in battalions new to the front.

DIET

It is now recognised that a fit, active and athletic adult male needs a daily intake of between 3,000 and 2,500 calories.  Heavy physical work or exceptional cold increases the requirements.  The British army aimed to give its soldiers at the front a daily intake of 4,193 calories.  This was less than the French and more than the Germans who aimed for 4,466 and 4,038 calories respectively.  Soldiers rarely went hungry except in the most extreme circumstances.  Soldiers did not complain about lack of food, although they did complain about its monotony.

Where possible fresh meet was bread were issued, even in the firing line when a hot meal might be brought up at night, but there were many times when the fighting meant that the men had to survive on corned beef and biscuits.  Nevertheless, while hardly appetising, this was a far better diet than many had been used to at home, where in poorer households meat was eaten once or twice a week, and it was healthy and filling.  The tea issue was enough to provide each man with six pints of army tea a day, and British soldiers have always loved their tea!

MORALE

It has generally been considered that one indicator of morale and discipline in a unit is its sick rate: that is the percentage of men reporting sick with ailments due to causes other than enemy action.  Before the war it was considered that 0.3 daily, or about three men a day in an infantry battalion of 750 men was a reasonable sick rate for an army in the field.  Te rate for 1913 was in fact 0.12 percent and after the war, 1929 to 1928, it was 0.17.  On the Western Front, with total war in full swing, the sick rate for August to December 1914 was 0.26, declining to 0.24 percent in 1915 and 0.13 percent in 1016.  Throughout he war the sick rate was well below acceptable peacetime rates.

 

H/T John D Clare

 

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