Friday, 30 November 2007

Political funding

When the Save Bedford Hospital party registered with the Electoral Commission, it was made absolutely clear to us what the rules are, and what the penalties are for not following them. I (as party treasurer) get a letter every three months reminding me to update our declaration on both donations and loans, and another reminder if we don't respond to the first one.

The Electoral Commission has a web site which explains all the rules very clearly. The staff, if you phone them, cannot be more helpful.

In summary, it is not possible to get things wrong "by mistake".

Our party is run by a small bunch of amateurs, and we can get things right without too much bother. If they can't run the Labour party, can they actually be trusted to run the country?

Wednesday, 28 November 2007


I haven't updated the website for a few days, not because there is no news (there is plenty), but simply because I have been very busy.

Rest assured that I'll keep you all informed.

Meanwhile thanks to Riseley Cricket Club for having me as their guest speaker last Thursday. It was amost enjoyable evening.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Terracotta army

I have recently been to the excellent exhibition at the Britsih Museum. You do wonder what sort of mad despot surrounded himself with fake supporters; but then I started wondering about Gordon Brown, and how he feels when he looks at his cabinet.

Perhaps he would do better if he found a team who were actually able to think for themselves and to speak up when things are going wrong.

Just so...

This is from SJ Howard's web site: I think he sums things up perfectly

They’ve lost half the country’s bank details, can’t keep track of our cars, publish doctors’ intimate personal details online, drop customs documents in the street, misplace laptops with personal data on them, and don’t even bother with passwords on their computers.

They lost this most recent data by sending it on couriered CD-Roms, which is certainly against policy, and possibly illegal. It’s also the way they lost Standard Life and another banks’ customer details earlier this month, and UBS’s customer details in 2005.

Of course, we already know that Government can’t learn from mistakes, since they rehired the company behind the ‘not fit for purpose’ MTAS computer system.

Now they want us to trust them with our health records and even our identities.

Is this Government serious?

Thursday, 22 November 2007

And so to bed

Hospitals across the east of England have been placed on "black alert" as staff and wards are overwhelmed by high patient numbers.

Non-urgent cases have been sent home after up to 10 ambulances were left queuing outside one hospital.

Few or no beds are free at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, and the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, both in Norfolk.

People with minor injuries have been urged not to attend A&E.

Beds blocked

The alert status means plans designed to enable staff to cope with major incidents, such as terrorist attacks and train crashes, are put into action.

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), which announced it had reached the emergency status on Wednesday afternoon, managers worked with other agencies to discharge non-urgent patients from the 1,000-bed hospital to create space.

However, the hospital said that between 60 and 70 beds were still being blocked because patients who were medically fit to leave had no where to go.

Paramedics treated patients in ambulances outside the NNUH on Wednesday evening.

'Diarrhoea and vomiting'

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said: "Most things we can manage - it only becomes critical to get someone out of the ambulance and into the hospital if someone is bleeding to death or in full cardiac arrest needing resuscitation.

"There were serious condition patients but they were being treated at the NNUH by hospital staff."

NNUH spokesman Andrew Stronach said there was no single incident that brought on the beds crisis.

Amber alert: Early warning of pressure increase in the normal activity.
Red alert: Escalating pressure in one or more part of the system continuing to increase.
Black alert: Contingency measures are exhausted and pressures are not sustainable.

"It's just general run of the mill problems, like chest pains, collapses, diarrhoea and vomiting."

The James Paget hospital and the Queen Elizabeth in Kings Lynn said there were sufficient beds, but a sudden change in the weather was putting extra pressure on them.

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, said the hospital was regularly well above the safe occupancy level of 85%.

He said: "If there was to be a flu epidemic this winter then we've got a major crisis.

"Across the country we're seeing occupancy rates increasing. There's also evidence that you run an increased risk of hospital acquired infections if you've got a hospital that's literally full.

"This is a serious problem and yet there appears to be nothing being done to increase the capacity to ensure that there's enough beds to treat patients."

Lack of staff

Milton Keynes and Hertfordshire health officials have said they are not on alert, but Bedford Hospital has been on red alert since Friday.

In Suffolk, Ipswich Hospital said it had very few beds but was managing the situation and a spokesman for the West Suffolk Hospital said its alert had been caused by sickness bugs.

In a statement Addenbrooke's Hospital said it had been on black alert, but by Thursday morning it was no longer on high alert, and a bed managing scheme had been implemented.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

For sale

On E-bay

Open Government

Gordon Brown promised us more open government; I had not appreciated that that extended to everyone's bank details being available.

Well I suppose it is the pantomime season.

Monday, 19 November 2007

This is worth reading...

...From today's parliamentary debate on Northern Rock

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): I do not know whether the Chancellor has been singing in the bath, but he does bear an increasing resemblance to the former Conservative Chancellor, Norman Lamont, who presided over a comparable financial disaster.

I want to focus on the £24 billion loan—£900 for every taxpayer—which is over and above the £18 billion deposit guarantee, which is less controversial and which we all support. The former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was widely criticised for advancing £800 million for the millennium dome. In the past few weeks, the Government have provided the equivalent of 30 millennium domes to this bank, without even the prospect of a decent pop concert at the end of it.

The key question, which I put to the Prime Minister last week, is this: is the lending secured? He said that it was. Will the Chancellor confirm, however, that that is not the case? Of the loan, £13 billion has a first charge security, although at a more relaxed standard than is normal; £11 billion, however, is wholly unsecured. Half the assets of the bank have been packaged up by a company called Granite, which is registered in the Channel Islands and has the first claim on the assets. The remainder is a collection of mortgages, many of which were advanced at the peak of the property market and are now of declining value. I therefore return to the question that I put to the Prime Minister, and that has been partially put to the Chancellor already. Will he stand up and give an absolute guarantee that the loan will be repaid in full, with full interest, within the lifetime of this Parliament?

Will the Chancellor also comment on the management of the company? Does not Mr. Adam Applegarth, who has just been dismissed, now have a pension pot of £2 million and various bonuses, which are underwritten by the taxpayer? Will the Government explain how they got into a position in which they have entrusted £24 billion to a management team that was discredited, that led the bank into its present crisis, and whose chief executive showed such contempt for his own bank that he sold his own shares to invest in a country estate and a Ferrari for his wife?

That is not the only conflict of interest. An attempt is being made to sell the bank, led by the company. The company has a clear conflict of interest. It is in the interests of the directors and the management to maximise the taxpayer’s contribution. The taxpayer’s money is being used to prop up the bank, and to provide a profit opportunity for spivs in the City.


Asked if the Prime Minister was going to be at the England v Croatia game on Wednesday, the Prime Minister's Spokesman said that there were no current plans.

Asked why that was, as he had gone to the Scotland game at the weekend, the PMS said that the Prime Minister could not go to every match but obviously these things were kept under review. The PMS went on to say that some people had argued that the Prime Minister had not necessarily been the best of omens so far but he would let others make that judgement.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Nice work if you can get it

Adam Applegarth, Chief Executive of Northern Rock did pretty well out of Northern Rock shares in the year before it collapsed. He has trousered many millions over the years, allowing him to enjoy an Aston Martin with a Ferrari for his missus parked in the driveway of his mansion. His confidence in his bank's business model long term is demonstrated by his selling of £1.5 m of shares in two days. (25 Jan 2006 sold 52,253 at 957p for £500,061.21 and the next day he sold another 111,426 at 957p for £1,066,346.82).

His faith in the business was shown by his purchase last April of just 262 shares worth a little under £3,000. Not a lot of faith in the business from the boss was there?

Enron's crooks were massive financial supporters of the Republican party. Northern Rock gave half-a-million to Labour's favourite think-tank, the IPPR. It also employed Gordon's personal pollster, Deborah Mattinson, as an adviser. Of all the pollsters to seek advice from, why her? Why give money to that think-tank? Nowadays it is very rare for publicly quoted companies to make politically partisan donations.

Friday, 16 November 2007


From today's Guardian:

The NHS chief executive yesterday said he was "scandalised" by the £250,000 awarded to the manager of the hospital trust responsible for Britain's deadliest superbug outbreak.

David Nicholson also warned that health bosses risked losing touch with the real world. He told NHS leaders yesterday that he had been "scandalised" by the episode and said it created a powerful impression in the public mind of health service managers feathering their own nests after 90 people were killed by Clostridium difficile bacteria linked to failings in infection control at the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust in Kent. Nicholson told the boards and senior managements of health trusts to reconnect with popular opinion: "One of the things that came out of [the Kent case] for me was that sometimes we lose perspective in the NHS about what our public really think about us."

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Just like that

With thanks to my friend Dr Rant

Thursday, 8 November 2007

If I suddenly disappear

Gordon Brown makes much of his Presbyterian upbringing, but what happens in his brave new world to non-believers? I think that I have just found out.

I make no secret of the fact that I have been critical of some aspects of the implementation of the new Labour project for the NHS. I have, for example, criticized the rather reckless way that the extra funding for the service has been squandered (although here my views have recently been endorsed by Sir Derek Wanless and the King’s Fund); I have criticized the massively overspent NHS IT programme (where my views have been endorsed by the House of Commons Select Committee on health, and by the National Audit Office); I have criticized the relentless pursuit of targets as an end to themselves, and have pointed out some of the incidental casualties that this policy has produced. I have also pointed out the destabilizing effect on a hospital such as Bedford of putting all the medical secretaries on redundancy notices.

What I have said has never been less than the truth, even if at times it has been a harsh truth for some officials of the Department of Health and for government politicians. My intention has never been anything other than to open up public debate on the conduct of a vital public service.

A few weeks ago (5th September to be precise), I was summoned by the chairman of Bedford Hospital NHS Trust, Ray Rankmore, to his office. Mr Rankmore has a reputation for speaking frankly so I was interested to hear what he had to say. “In business” he told me “ if management think there is someone who isn’t 100% behind them, they get rid of them; they call them in and they get rid of them, just like that”. He repeated the “just like that” for added emphasis. “In the NHS, we can’t do things quite like that, so we have to do things somewhat differently.”

So there you; make up your own mind. But if I mysteriously disappear you might just ask Mr Rankmore where I’ve gone.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


Yesterday the price of gold went even higher (Gordon Brown sold our reserves off at a rock bottom price), and the Northern Rock share price went down by another 7%

So much for financial prudence; if this is prudence, give me a touch of recklessness any time

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Cameron's bullseye

This was David Cameron in today's debate on the Queen's speech:

It is all short-term tricks instead of long-term problem solving. Let me take just one example: the Prime Minister’s pledge to “deep clean” our hospitals. Here is the headline from one newspaper—it is just what he wanted:

“I’ll wipe the wards clean—PM’s amazing pledge on MRSA”.

When we look at it more closely, it certainly is amazing. The Prime Minister said that “deep cleaning” would happen in “every hospital”, but listen to what the Department of Health said:

“There are no plans to centrally monitor the deep cleaning of hospitals. Arrangements for the programme are entirely a matter for local determination”.

[Interruption.] Wait. The Department of Health went on:

“Undertaking deep-clean is just one of a number of approaches trusts may take in tackling healthcare infections.”

It gets worse. The Prime Minister said that deep cleaning would happen “over the next year”, but the Department of Health said that

“no specific date has been set for either the commencement or completion of the deep-clean programme.”

The Prime Minister said deep cleaning would be repeated “every 18 months”, but the Department of Health said:

“The success of the first programme of deep cleaning will be fully evaluated before a decision is made about whether to repeat.”

Then it said:

“There are also no plans to assess the effectiveness of deep-cleaning.”

Therefore, all the things that the Prime Minister told us—that it would happen in every hospital, start immediately and be repeated every 18 months—turned out not to be true.

What a complete shambles. People are worried about going to hospital and catching a disease that might kill them, and all they get from the Government are short-term tricks. I will tell you, Mr Speaker, what needs a deep clean: the culture of spin, deceit and half-truth that we get from the Government.


We are constantly told how prudent Gordon Brown has been with our finances.

Yet it was Gordon who sold 60% of our gold reserves at $260 an ounce, when today's price is $800
and it was Gordon who wrecked the pension industry, not to mention the Northern Rock sage.

If that is prudence, let's have a touch of recklessness.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Feeling sick

Look at the purple line on the graph; it shows the number of people of working age who are on long term incapacity benefit.

In 1984 it was about 1million, now it is 2,700,000.

So thanks to all the medical advances we have made, an additional 1,700,000 adults of working age are too ill to work.

We may be hitting the performance targets, but it doesn't say much for our ability to restore people to functionality.

And for those of us bearing the enormous tax burden, well it's enough to make us feel ill.