Wednesday, 17 April 2013

All Prime Ministers should be treated equally

If there is one day in all our lives on which we are entitled to expect unqualified praise, then surely it is the day of our funeral.

Who amongst us would anticipate, on that day, people to say ‘he was a nice chap, but made some stupid decisions and not many people liked him’ or ‘nice woman, but she was really rude and screwed up badly at work’?

So let it be for Baroness Thatcher. This is not the day to examine her record as Prime Minister, about which anyone who lived through the era will have strong views, either for or against. That’s not to say I won’t return to this at a later date.

No; what I want to consider is the appropriateness of her ceremonial funeral, with military honours, largely funded by the nation (us). I have read, but failed to grasp, the distinction between what happened this morning and a state funeral.  It was certainly the only funeral of a former Prime Minister attended by the Queen since that of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, and few would begrudge Sir Winston the unique honour of his state funeral.

However, I believe that the decision taken by the Queen upon the advice, we are led to believe, of Gordon Brown, to grant Lady Thatcher a funeral of the same status as that of the Queen Mother and the Princess of Wales, raises a serious constitutional issue.

There have always been great Prime Ministers, average Prime Ministers and some who frankly will scarcely trouble the computer keyboards of future historians, and hopefully, as long as we have a democracy, there always will be. We, the voters, will decide which is which.

And that’s the point. The voters, not the monarch, are empowered to discern the wheat from the chaff. As soon as the sovereign head of state starts to decide that one Prime Minister is greater than another – in this case greater than all but one – we are on a slippery slope. One of the principal justifications of a constitutional monarch is her/his political neutrality, their ability to deal with Labour and Conservative leaders and to ‘treat those two imposters just the same’. I felt the same unease at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, when Tony Blair – Prime Minister for a decade – was disgracefully omitted from the guest list when all other serving Prime Ministers were invited.

Once the Queen gives the appearance of being politically biased, it must fundamentally change the relationship between her and future Prime Ministers of all hues. And that would be bad for the country.

Now that the pomp and circumstance – immaculately executed as always –is  over, a protocol needs to be drawn up on how the deaths of current or former Prime Ministers should be handled in future. I don’t mind particularly what send-off is decided upon by those democratically elected to make such judgments, but what is essential is that they all get the same treatment. That’s what democracy is about.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Shirker or worker?

I spent most of this afternoon filling in a 20 page ATOS medical questionnaire, on the basis of which a decision will be made whether my wife, who has advanced dementia and epilepsy, should stop getting DLA and be told to look for a job. Shirker or worker? ATOS will decide.

While doing this, I had to listen to my wife shouting angrily and incomprehensibly to no-one in the next room. Then I had to break off to comfort her as she sobbed when the reality of how ill she is occasionally dawns on her. And again to take her to the toilet because she can't remember where it is or what to do when she gets there.

There must be a better way. A diagnosis of dementia and epilepsy, supported by a GP's letter, should surely be enough to enable ATOS to do Iain Duncan Smith's dirty work?

It doesn't surprise me that so many people drop their benefit claim rather than go through a stressful assessment, but please don't assume it's because there's nothing wrong with them.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

I've got a little list...

Here's my list - please add your own or suggest improvements.

If some day it should happen that a bastard must be found,
I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list
Of coalition partners who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed;
They’d none of them be missed.

The irritating Gove whose features all desire to slap
Who interferes with schools and is a most annoying chap
He thinks he’s mastered teaching more than those who qualified
He chops and changes subjects so that all are mystified
But he backed down on the E-Bacc when all others did insist.
He never would be missed, I’m sure he’d not be missed.

He's got 'em on the list — he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed. 

The poor thank Iain Duncan-Smith for having much less cash
They say they feel much better as they share their ‘tater ‘ash
As they’re queuing for the food bank they all have a sense of doom
About what to do with Granny now they don’t have a spare room
Then they limp off for their medical as the Government insist
He never would be missed, no he never would be missed

He's got him on the list — he's got him on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed. 

The new health secretary the egregious Mr Hunt
Is generally perceived to be a nasty little man
He’s selling off the NHS to  private sector mates
So expect far fewer treatments and some much much longer waits
And just hope and pray the doctor will still put you on HIS list
That Hunt will not be missed, I know he won’t be missed

He's got 'em on the list — he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed. 

The number two at Downing Street is really rather thick
Does anybody now admit to “I agree with Nick”?
He sold out all the students and he gave up on the sick
While David Laws was fiddling and Chris Huhne went off to nick
He used to have some principles but they didn’t get too far
But now he has a title and a most impressive car
But it’s ‘on your bike’ the voters up in Sheffield will insist
He’s going on the list, he’s right up on the list

He's got 'em on the list — he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed. 

And over the Treasury young Gideon can be found
Struggling on his trust fund which is worth four million pound
He tells the poor they should be looking for a better job
While cutting back their cash and giving tax-cuts to the nobs
As he criticises skivers for not doing the right thing
He might have been a king-maker but never will be king
‘Cos off with him the country is considerably pissed!
He’s straight upon the list, he’s deffo on the list

He's got 'em on the list — he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed. 

And finally the man who sits in charge at number ten,
Through Eton, Oxford, Bullingdon, he is a prince of men
He’s never had a proper job, or paid a mortgage bill
And with him in charge you’d better hope you never do get ill,
Or unemployed or injured or summarily dismissed
Yes he’s heading up the list, at the top of any list.

Well that’s my little list, what a shower of a list,
And they’d NONE of them be missed, they’d none of them be missed.