Friday, October 30, 2009


Considering the Evidence Means You Must Consider Your Position

A Government position is newly vacant this evening: and for the first time, it’s explicit that only liars* need apply. For Labour Government Ministers, of course, the requirement to lie is only implicit.

This case is very simple. Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs Professor David Nutt told the truth, and was exasperated with Labour Government Ministers lying about their findings. The last Home Secretary said the carefully considered scientific evidence didn’t matter: cannabis was more harmful than tobacco and alcohol because, er, she said so, fingers in ears, lalala I am not listening to you.

Yesterday, Professor Nutt made it clear that she had not told the truth (and who’d have thought, when Jacqui Spliff was such a model of probity she, er, had to resign for being a crook and made the most grudging unpology about it?).

Today Alan Johnson, the current Home Secretary, sacked him (and who’d have thought that Alan Johnson would make a nakedly lying political point when he knows the evidence is completely against him?).

So, it’s official: under Labour, telling the truth is now a sackable offence.

It’s the obvious joke, but you know who the nuts are here.

Obsessive Ideology Over Evidence and Bossing Everyone About – the Labour Way

The evidence has piled up by the decade and the sackload. Cannabis does some harm; it does nothing like the harm it’s made out to; it does nothing like the harm legal drugs tobacco and alcohol do. But this Labour Government can’t even keep to the – brace yourself – lone liberal twitch by David Blunkett. They’re so desperate to sound ‘tough’ that their policies bear no relation at all to reality. Again and again. When Professor Nutt said that you’re more likely to die horse-riding than taking cannabis or ecstasy, to wails of horror from Labour hypocrites, he was simply looking at the facts of risk. Yet even that’s not really comparing like with like: unlike Professor Nutt, I support legalisation, which would enable proper quality checks (as well as destroying the criminal trade) – no-one gets on a horse, trots half-way along the path, then finds the ‘horse’ collapsing under them because they suddenly discover the beast is in fact half-gerbil.

One of my key memories about the harm caused by illegal drugs came about a decade ago. I left home one afternoon just after hysterical national news headlines about a single tragic death allegedly caused by ecstasy (whether the drug itself, or the impurities allowed in because it’s illegal and can’t be regulated)… And arrived at my Grandad’s a couple of hours later, to see a minor headline in his local paper that another single tragic death had come about because of an allergy to nuts (not to be confused with the Labour Government’s allergy to the truth, of which an inability to tolerate Nutts is merely a symptom). Guess which substance causes far, far more deaths, to an almost complete lack of media interest? Yep – the one you buy safely in the shops, not dangerously on street corners. Another win for prohibition.

On Radio 4’s PM programme tonight, Professor Nutt has just said that:
“This is about the difference between evidence and policy… Everything I’ve done has been evidence-based.
“…Gordon Brown made a series of irrational statements that cannabis is lethal, which of course it isn’t.”
Asked about the Labour Government refusing to take his former committee’s advice on cannabis and ecstasy, because they weren’t interested in any evidence, just in making a political point that he described as Luddism, the interviewer mouthed the meaningless tabloid platitude that these were the “controversial” drugs:
“They’re only controversial if you want them to be controversial – the Government’s views have, they’ve said, had nothing to do with science… I am not prepared to mislead the public about the harm caused by drugs.”
Good for him, and good luck to whoever next gets the job – it had better pay well, because by definition they’ll have to kiss their scientific reputation goodbye to take their position as official Labour Government Liar.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to calm down by eating a large amount of chocolate cake. Bad news: it doesn’t have any dope in it. Good news: it does have lots of chocolate in it. That was once banned as a dangerous, addictive drug by a nutty Westminster Government bent on scarifiying the populace too, you know.

If No-one Agrees With Alan Johnson, Will He Have To Sack the Whole Country?**

I’ve added rather more updates than usual below, as a lot of people seem to have something to say (none of them ‘The Home Secretary was right’). Even ultra-loyalist former Labour minister Lord Falconer said Mr Johnson was wrong on Any Questions.

Starting half an hour later: posts already popping up worth reading from Dr Mark Pack and Duncan Stott (who ironically shares a name with a drug enforcement officer from Doctor Who).

And yay for Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary Chris Huhne in the 7 O’Clock headlines for calling the sacking “disgraceful”:
“What is the point of having independent scientific advice if you’re going to sack the person who’s giving it to you? You may as well have a committee of tabloid newspaper editors advising you on drugs policy.”
Incredibly, the Tories have gone along word for word with the Labour Government.

Continuing the next morning, Mr Mark Reckons has kindly linked to me in a thoughtful post which also has an interesting set of comments. He’s also called attention to the Tories’ ludicrous knee-jerk photocopy of Labour authoritarianism in a far more memorable way than I did above.

Liberal Vision has also linked to me, encapsulating the spirit of my post in a far more memorable headline. Again, I’m just not tabloidy enough. One of the British Medical Journal’s bloggers doesn’t link to me, but finishes on a particularly appropriate request from his friend Kate. You might also glance at Darrell, Jonathan and Jennie.

*Or pot-heads, ironically, as only someone with a distinctly loose grip on reality would believe in the Government’s policy.

**Fortunately for Mr Johnson, he does turn out to have the support of: the Conservative Party; spin-poisoner columnist Amanda Platell; and the Daily Mail, the paper that spits on much-loved dead people and refuses to apologise. And, er, that’s it.

Unfortunately, these are the handful of hate-filled obsessive ideologues who are running the country, whatever the sensible majority of us think.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 29, 2009


The More Things Change…

Are you watching The Sarah Jane Adventures right now? With Doctor Who himself guest-starring? Then get to it!

But meanwhile, did you see Andrew Marr’s The Making of Modern Britain last night? Not bad, but it didn’t half demonstrate his own political prejudices – and did you spot the three things the Liberals got right and one thing we weren’t terribly impressive on a century ago, and the very same today? Not that there was an awful lot on the Liberals, as our Edwardian landslide dominating last night’s ‘era’ didn’t fit into Mr Marr’s very old Labour narrative of history: Tories are wicked, the rise of Labour’s a great thing, and the Liberals are to be mentioned as little as possible.

Much of yesterday’s opening episode, which itself was opening the Twentieth Century, was a critique of the Tories and the upper class. I was right with him on our disgusting invention of concentration camps in the Boer War (though I notice he omitted Mr Campbell-Bannerman’s famous denunciation of the “methods of barbarism”), of a piece with the rise of eugenics in showing the seeds of what we now recognise as Nazism rising in Britain… But little was made of the socialists supporting eugenics, and – as Richard observed – while Britain offered ourselves the choice of fascism, we didn’t take that choice.

Similarly, attacking Mr Balfour because he wasn’t really up to being Prime Minister but, Bob’s your uncle, and he suddenly was – well, that’s all right. But delighting in constant repetition of what sounded very like homophobic jeers against him from a century ago? Not so much. And the same with his approving hail for the creation of the Daily Mail, not yet infamous as the paper that spits on much-loved dead people and refuses to apologise when he recorded his voiceover, but still a vile rag, his encomium considerably lacking in any alternative view to the wonderfulness of tabloids. I enjoyed his class-warrior proclamation that posh Mr Rolls having to visit engineer Mr Royce rather than the other way round was proof that power was shifting massively in Britain. For some reason, though, he omitted the photos of the Rolls-Royce cars standing outside every humble tenement that would have proved his case. Can’t think why.

Andrew Marr and the Invisible Liberals (Just Like Bedford All Over Again Before)

As for the Liberals – on the rare occasions he mentioned them, and there was considerably more about violence-inciting imperialist turncoat Joe Chamberlain (hiss) than of any Twentieth-Century Liberal, with Mr Marr seemingly rather admiring of his protectionism and landslide victor Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman not even getting the courtesy of a name-check, despite technically being Britain’s first Prime Minister – when we were mentioned, it was generally in passing, as an afterthought, with the big story of 1906 election not a Liberal landslide majority but half a dozen Labourites who were all lovely, apparently.

What I did notice, though, was that the Liberals were right – not that you’d notice from Mr Marr’s commentary – on: How things change, eh?

Why I’m Not Watching The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith (I Might Cry)

Sarah Jane Smith is right at this very moment, thrillingly, engaged in a whirlwind romance and at some point (I’m not looking) to be joined by the Doctor himself, David Tennant diving in for a guest appearance before he hangs up his coat at the end of the year – but I’m recording rather than watching The Sarah Jane Adventures on BBC1 and BBCHD, as Richard’s not home yet to watch her with me. If you’re not doing the same, catch it on iPlayer and umpteen CBBC repeats this week.

This first part of The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith and tomorrow’s concluding episode are both written by Gareth Roberts, one of Doctor Who’s most entertaining authors, and tomorrow’s will be the first Doctor Who broadcast on my birthday since I was five, when my favourite story of all time premiered: so, no pressure, then. And read Richard’s review of last week’s as a taster.

PS Ooh! And there’s the third series of Bleak Expectations starting on Radio 4 tonight at 6.30. Harrumble for Mr Gently Benevolent!

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Ex-Liberal Democrats in the News (including two you may not have spotted)

Much heat and little light has exploded in the Liberal Democrat Blogosphere over Sith Lord of Liberal Vision Mark Littlewood’s becoming Director of the Institute for Evil Acquisitiveness. I quite like Mark, despite frequently thinking he gets it wrong, and the party’s worse off for losing a talented individual (I’m with Mat on this) – just as it’s a shrewd move for an often Tory-associated thinktank to pick a non-Tory, all the better to stand up to a potential new government. But outside of our own little enclave, two much less recently ex-Lib Dems have been in the ‘proper’ news – one the party can, I think, feel does us credit to any extent that we influenced him, and one whom we’re probably well shot of…

Martin Lewis

I’ve just heard a heated exchange on the Today Programme’s truncated Yesterday in Parliament early slot where consumer champion Martin Lewis gave evidence to a Select Committee yesterday about lenders’ virulently anti-competitive practices, while bankers and credit agencies offered weasel words and refused to give any figures. Who’d have thought? Yes, when in these credit crunch days it’s even more vital than ever to shop around and compare prices, the money-saving expert (TM) reveals that banks and other lenders are brilliantly penalising anyone who does that when it comes to getting a loan – meaning that, under the guise of ‘protecting’ themselves, people blindly have to take the first rate offered to them, or they’ll be punished for looking around by being forced to take one that’s even higher. Hmm, protectionism giving consumers a raw deal… Again, who’d have thought?

The first time I met Martin Lewis, though, he wasn’t a well-known financial expert; in 1993 or so, he was a bright and rather well-turned-out students’ union president, at a Student Liberal Democrat Conference or an NUS Conference (he may even have attended both). I was the much less well-turned-out students’ union president for Essex University, and although I was a far more active Liberal Democrat, when I few years later I spotted that good-looking young chap on the telly I instantly remembered when he was involved. So, well done him.

Elizabeth Truss

In other news this week, though, you may have read about Elizabeth Truss, a newly selected Conservative candidate who’s been picked for a safe seat and is now ‘in trouble’ with her local party after she was done over by a scabrous rag for – shock horror – having had sex some years ago. Something a scabrous rag had already criticised her for years ago. Now, my views on this sort of ludicrous attack are firmly on record: I’ve suggested the slogan, ‘Liberal Democrats – the Party That Says Sex Is All Right’, and not only is it no-one else’s business who you have sex with or don’t, but it’s a bloody stupid reason not to vote for someone. Of course, it’s a century and a half since John Stuart Mill observed that the Conservatives are the stupid party, and that’s not changed since, but – durrhh, when something’s already been in the public domain for several years, it’s really stupid to say ‘but we didn’t know’. If you vote for a candidate without having done a thirty-second Google check on them, you can’t very well complain that you don’t know everything about their lives: it’s your fault, not theirs, if you believe in prying through your net curtains but don’t bother looking!

If, on the other hand, any dyed-in-the-wool traditional Conservatives would think any worse of Liz Truss if they knew that, again in around 1993, she was a self-styled radical Liberal Democrat who kept attacking me when I was Chair of the Liberal Democrat Youth and Students because I wasn’t left-wing enough, and whom I once held a meeting with to try and get her to work with anyone else in the organisation because she was a complete and utter egomaniac pain in the backside incapable of working in a team, that would be entirely a matter for them. I hope she’s as well-loved and effective a teambuilder for the Tories as she was in the Liberal Democrats.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 26, 2009


David Owen Goes Nuclear Again

This morning’s “Coming up in the next hour” special for why you should shortly switch off the Today Programme: Lord Owen is to talk about Britain’s 1970s nuclear secrets.

My beloved, on his way to the shower after we exchanged exciting fifteenth anniversary presents:
“Is it to be revealed that Lord Owen split the atom?”
This is one of the many reasons why I love Richard.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Masterchef – The Professionals With India Fisher

To split up two long fulminations about things named “Mail,” I have a confession: I’ve become addicted to the BBC’s prime food porn. I remember when Masterchef was endearingly amateur and Loyd Grossman was entertainingly imitable… But then it became blokeish and rather more like The Apprentice, so despite the gorgeous voiceovers from Doctor Who’s India Fisher (of whom more in a minute), I’d left it. A few weeks ago, though, Richard put the latest version on in the background for something neutral while we cooked, and I’ve been glued to it ever since. Particularly for posh egg and soldiers.

I won’t, in fact, be posting my fulmination about the Daily Mail for a few days at least, nor many others I’ve half-written and probably let go off in the last few weeks, as I’m about to dive off up north and I don’t know where the Internet cafés are in Stockport and Manchester. What excitement is this? Seeing my parents; hopping on the train with old friends to brave the October winds at Blackpool and visit the Doctor Who Exhibition before it finally closes, like the beloved one of our youth; and to have my teeth drilled. Well, I hope the rest’ll make up for that (and hush, Lib Dem Conferencegoers who claim you’d rather have your teeth drilled than return to Blackpool. I bet you wouldn’t).

There are two key differences between Masterchef – The Professionals and the ‘ordinary’ Masterchef: first, it features young, ambitious professional cooks rather than members of the public doing it for fun; and second, and this is the key for me, they’ve got the balance of presenters right. Rather than two ‘blokes’, rough Gregg Wallace is now joined by smooth Michel Roux Junior, and they make a persuasive combination. Gregg is, if anything, a little too overawed by the famous chef: he hardly ever brings himself to disagree with him, so you can imagine how frightened the competitors are. For me, Michel is a great combination of steely disapproval and warm encouragement, with the most amazing grin when – rarely – he’s taken off-guard and delighted by something, though I suspect I’d find his style of meat very underdone (he likes it pink; I like it charcoal), and almost every dish before him seems to need more acidity. One of my few disappointments with the series has been that we didn’t see him introduce his father uncle [oops!] at the Michelin-starred high tea restaurant; Roux Senior, sitting wizened but authoritative and wielding absolute power over the pastry chefs, surely deserved younger Michel looming over the finalists to intone, ‘I hope these fancies will be perfect, for your sake. My father uncle is not as forgiving as I am’. You’ll not be surprised, I suspect, that the scariest bit about the competition for me is the way they have to do everything precisely to time…

Anyway, we’re now into the extended final all week, between Steve, Daniel and Marianna. The unceasing parade of determined, slim young men (is it just me who never quite trusts a thin chef?) finally ceased with no slim men in sight in the last round. I rather liked some of the ones who fell, though. The chunky, slightly dour French guy with the rare but nice smile who played it too safe and lost his flair in the semi-final; the tiny chap with the messy hair, rustic food and desperate eyes; the lean French-African guy with the amazing eye for invention, who I suspect Michel didn’t pass through to the next round because he wouldn’t follow the rules… And the one that really scared me, the cold-eyed epitome of the ambitious young man, who evoked the Terminator when he promised that all his work would be perfectly executed.

My money’s on Steve, who not only delivers exquisite food but is inventive with it. Despite all the scary encounters with Michelin chefs (one who cooks by touch and refuses to use timings, another who goes by the gram and the second and measures lines on the plate…), the dish that’s looked most interesting was his inspired reinvention of egg and soldiers, involving poaching, twisty concoctions and a smoke machine (with a dessert based on an exquisitely cooked ‘bag of sweets’ last night, his speciality seems to be supercharged versions of childhood treats). It was only last week, so it’s probably still on the iPlayer if you want to look. Though my favourite single moment was Marianna, praised, declaring it was “Heaven. Total heaven” – if only because I misheard it as “Potato heaven,” which just sounds fabulously surreal. Besides, you can tell Steve’s a perfectionist: look at his knifework on that designer stubble. Daniel’s beard growth varies, but Steve always looks like he’s just got out of bed.

India Fisher

And finally, the lovely India. I must dash, but Doctor Who listeners for Big Finish and BBC7 will know her as Charlotte Pollard, Edwardian adventuress, introduced in Storm Warning for many travels with Paul McGann’s Doctor, then latterly – if anachronistically – with Colin Baker. And she’s lovely. I’ve met her a couple of times, and she’s unfailingly intelligent and fun (for politics fact fans, she’s the daughter of Mark Fisher MP).

So what does she do on Masterchef?

She’s the voice. She narrates it with the perfect vocals – low, sexy, like chocolate pouring.

And there I must, literally, leave it: I don’t want to miss my train, but look out in a few days for an anecdote or two, my theory of why she doesn’t appear on TV much despite being heard so often, which of her final Doctor Who adventures is best – oh, look, it’s Paper Cuts, and it’s brilliant, but the others aren’t bad, either – and the effect she has on the straight boys…

In the meantime, you can always read the interview with her in the latest Doctor Who Magazine.

Update: …And, several days later – after seeing my parents, having another stage of root canal, and making obeisance to Kroll – I’m back, so it’s back to India. She’s an incredibly talented actor, and it’s certainly worth catching up with some of her Doctor Who work: the earliest ones with Paul McGann or her later ones with Colin Baker are probably her best, though if you snap up her final trilogy with Colin (Patient Zero, Paper Cuts and Blue Forgotten Planet) you may be surprised to find her not exactly playing Charlotte Pollard. In that, and in Masterchef, you can admire her marvellous voice… But it’s a shame you rarely get to see her.

The only time I can remember seeing her on TV, in fact, was in a dodgy wig impersonating one of the Eastenders cast on Dead Ringers shortly after Dirty Den and the Mitchell brothers had each made increasingly improbable returns from the dead (or from other channels) to the East End: wondering which villain from the past would be next for a preposterous reappearance, there was an ominous droning sound from above. India looked up and delivered a line that corpsed me completely:
“It’s the Luftwaffe! They’ve come back!”
Now, as well as having to admit that I’d call her voice sexy, and she’s one of the few women who, when I’ve met her, I can see exactly what the straight boys see in her. She looks fantastic from head to toe, as well as being witty, intelligent and awfully nice (each of which helps, I usually find). At a mini-convention a couple of months ago, I met her for the third or so time and, queuing for her autograph, told her that it’s always an enormous pleasure to hear her voice when I switch on at the end of Masterchef (“The gift that keeps on giving,” she described it on stage, adding that she refuses to read out menus for her friends). “The end of Masterchef? You cheeky sod!” she exclaimed, laughing, so I reassured her that it’s because Richard’s often not in until nine, and if I watch it I’ll already have given way and eaten before I cook for him. I’m forced, again, to admit that – having now watched most of the latest Masterchef – The Professionals series – this has turned out to be all too true. It mollified her, though, and after she’d signed for me, I was able to observe at first hand the India Effect on the heterosexual chap next in the queue. Returning to our seats and another friend not so bothered by autographs, the one who’d been behind me wailed, “How is it you could just speak to her, and I was right behind you and I melted?” You’ll be amazed that my reply involved a mime in which I talked to her by making eye contact, while [name excised to protect the guilty] stammered to two lower parts of her anatomy, which I suspect had something to do with our respective ability and inability to sound coherent. On the other hand, Gordon Warnecke was a guest on the same day, and as he played just about the first sexy gay role I saw on TV and fancied when a shy teenager, I probably gibbered a bit when I met him. Particularly as he still looks gorgeous.

The point of that little sexual reverie was to wonder just why, although India does have a very sexy voice, her voice seems to be all of her that the telly uses. Yet she’s a superb actor both vocally and physically, and – as this is often the determining factor for TV casting – I know very few straight men who’ve met her who’ve not found her fantastically attractive. So why doesn’t she get on the telly more often in person? I’m afraid the only answer I can think of is not one that reflects well on casting directors: she isn’t a stick. Like, oh, how can I describe them, real women, she has curves. And I suspect that it’s very difficult to be cast as a beautiful woman, probably, unless your ribs are showing.

Oh, and finally: Steve did win a well-deserved victory in the competition (another one with a rare but very sweet smile), and I think I was right about his speciality. In the, er, final parts of the final, too, some of his most distinctive and imaginative creations were exquisite reimaginings of things he’d loved when he was a boy. As well as being a great USP for a chef to open a restaurant on, you probably don’t have to look very far through this blog to work out why that might have a special appeal to me. How long before the Doctor Who production team commissions him to cook for them, I wonder?

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


When Postal Strikes and NHS Bureaucracy Collide

Everyone has their own reason for being completely pissed off with the postal “service”. Is it missed birthdays, post simply dumped, your business suffering (I’ve lost count of the apologetic calls I’ve made asking for undelivered subscriptions when I know it’s not the companies’ fault) or simply lying posties stealthily delivering ‘Sorry you were outs’ while you’re in because they can’t be arsed actually bringing your parcels, so you have to wait extra days and go extra miles instead of them doing their jobs (yup, I’ve also had to complain about that recently)? Well, they’re bad for your health, too – and I don’t just mean giving you apoplexy with all the complaints and lost post thanks to the selfish indulgence of all those local strikes.

Regular readers may have noticed that there’s regularly been nothing for them to read recently; I’ve been more unwell than usual over the past few weeks, and – like many people who rarely get out – I depend quite a bit on the post (thank goodness for e-mail). Am I a big fan of the Post Office management? No. I’m sure they’ve got a lot of things wrong. But I know, and so does every other person who glares at the letterbox, who’s been causing so much misery. The CWU may have a case against some of the Royal Mail’s actions… But months of insufferable strikes before they even treat us to this week’s ‘official’ one have shot away every vestige of public sympathy. ‘You can’t deny us our right to strike!’ they bleat. That’s not what complaining we hate strikes is, fuckwit – it’s you who are trying to deny the rest of us our right to tell you all to fuck off for doing so.

What new self-deluding cant will the CWU come up with this week? Complaining that just because they’ve been doing no fucking work for months and actively boast that millions of items of post will never, ever be delivered, it’s “provocative” that bosses are getting in extra help over Christmas? When you’ve already said that we all have to post for Christmas in October, but that you probably won’t ever deliver any of it anyway? Gee, what an inducement! Is the CWU actually taking enormous bungs from private postal companies to destroy the Royal Mail?

Incapable of Simple Humanity Towards the Poor and Sick

Many of the people that all the many postal strikes have been hurting have been the weakest in society – people far, far worse off than the comparatively rather cushy terms and conditions of postal workers. People for whom a lost or even late piece of post can destroy their life chances through poverty or ill health. Let me give you just a couple of examples from personal experience.

A favourite big fat lie from despicable right-wing toe-rag politicians in both Labour and Conservative politicians is that there are too many people on incapacity benefit living the life of Riley (go on, let them take a sixty grand pay cut to try it) that nobody ever checks up on. As I’ve said before, despite the media reporting it uncritically*, this is a big fat lie. Everyone on incapacity benefit annually gets a twenty-page questionnaire to fill out every aspect of your illnesses in excruciating detail, followed by a medical check-up from a government-appointed dodgy private company (which no doubt has targets for removing people from the list).

If you don’t send back your questionnaire, and if you don’t turn up for your medical appointment, you will be struck off incapacity benefit – and these days, it’s now impossible to get back on. Yet both the questionnaire and the appointment are sent, just once, by post.

Imagine how petrified seriously ill people are that the postal strike could remove their benefits, with no appeal, and the first they’d know about it is when their poverty-line money suddenly vanishes.

I’m on incapacity benefit. A couple of years ago, my twenty-page form – and it’s quite daunting for me to fill out, despite being pretty intelligent and able to string a sentence together – went missing in the post, and it was only because I realised it should have arrived that I rang up and was able to get hold of another from a disapproving minion before the deadline. And that wasn’t a strike, you understand, with millions upon millions of items left to rot, just ordinary incompetence. Last month (a couple of months since sending off my latest depressing questionnaire in which every part of my health had either stayed the same or deteriorated since the last one), worried sick that I’d missed the appointment letter, I rang up and was told that they were running late this year – but how do I know how late, and when to ring again just in case? And how many people do you think will be doing what I did and making sure?

So, do you reckon the CWU are getting bungs from the Benefits Agency, too, to aid in kicking people when they’re down?

My current fun involves a hospital appointment. I have lots of them, so I’m aware of the bureaucracy that’s designed less to help sick people than to kick as many of them as possible off the waiting lists. Just like with benefits. Again, you get a single letter in the post, and if you miss an appointment, “Your co-operation is most appreciated. Failure to do so will result in patient discharge”. Yes, just like with benefits. Two and a half years ago, ringing to say I couldn’t make an appointment because I was ill led to my being discharged and told I could try and get on the list through my GP again when I was better. I could only use the hospital if I was completely well. No, you couldn’t make it up, could you?

As it happens, I had an appointment at the beginning of August for two of the bits of me that had up until now been in that rare category of ‘working’, and have now joined the more common ‘painful and not working properly’. I was told a follow-up appointment would be sent to me, usually for a fortnight or so’s time but, as the bloke responsible would be on holiday, probably more like the end of August.

I got the letter yesterday, telling me that I have an appointment today at 2 pm and “Failure to do so will result in patient discharge”. And, of course, not only have I been more ill than usual, but I spent much of yesterday – unusual one for me, this, and not my favourite – vomiting. So today I feel particularly ghastly, and I have to ring and tell them I can’t make it. But if I ring after two, I’ll automatically be discharged.

Was it the NHS bureaucracy sending out a letter very late? Or the posties delivering it a month after it was sent? I don’t know. But I do know that, after nearly three months of waiting for an appointment, if the letter had arrived a day later, I’d have had my entire case cancelled simply because of the post.

Gee, thanks, either way.

While I’ve been typing this, incidentally, I’ve been ringing the direct line at the hospital every two minutes for the past two hours. It would be a lie to say it’s been constantly engaged: twice, the phone’s actually rung, and rung. No-one’s answered, of course. Well, honesty compels me to correct that, too: after about seven minutes, one routed to the switchboard. They couldn’t take a message (after all, it’s nearly three minutes’ walk from the switchboard to the bit of the hospital I need to contact, and they only have paper and computer facilities: it’s practically impossible for them), and gave me the direct line. Which I’m still ringing.

Again, gee, thanks. Wish me luck for getting through before two o’clock.

And if some of that rant sounded like the Daily Mail, the newspaper that spits on the dead and refuses to apologise, don’t worry, I’ll be hitting them with a bigger baseball bat shortly.

*Almost all the time. The best interview of the Conference season for me (better even than mine) was Teresa May on The World at One just after she and David Cameron had prated that a quarter of the people on incapacity benefit (handy number, no scientific method) would have it cut easily by introducing medical check-ups, being asked in what way, precisely, these would differ from the medical check-ups that already take place. I wish I’d been up to writing about it and linking to it at the time, because her utter and total failure to have any answer deserved more than a swiftly-forgotten two-minute slot on Radio 4 when the Tories were making it the key to their new policy of kicking the poor and ill in the face.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, October 09, 2009


I Can Has Peez Prys?

Surely I have the same qualifications? I’m an American citizen, and – most importantly – I’m not George Bush.

Oh, all right, I’ve not been elected President (a technicality), but President Obama hasn’t had the chance to do much in international peacemaking yet, either.

I suspect this is most accurately viewed as a prize for the American people for not electing another Republican warmonger who despises the rest of the world and is despised in return… Yet this won’t do him any favours with those Americans who already think their President is too much other people’s President, will it?


Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?