What We Think    
    Nationalist comment on the month's news    

Government and health: a descent to sick farce

Is Tony Blair in the slightest way serious about bringing Britain's National Health Service up to scratch? This would seem doubtful from his placing of ‘Doctor’ John Reid in charge of the service. Reid, who takes the job following the resignation of former health secretary Alan Milburn, is not, incidentally, what he sounds. He obtained his doctorate in economic history and, from all accounts, knows almost nothing about medicine nor the administration of medical services. His essential qualification seems to be that he is a fiercely loyal ‘Tony Crony’ who has got himself known as the Prime Minister's principal bully boy in the House of Commons. With his latest appointment included, he has now held five Cabinet jobs in the past two years - which rather sounds as if he has been useless at all of them, otherwise he would not have been moved.

Simon Heffer, writing in the Daily Mail on June 13th, summed it up well:-

‘When he wished to show his utter contempt for the government of Rome and his people, Caligula made his horse a consul. The appointment of Dr. John Reid as Secretary of State for Health - surely the iconic change in yesterday's Cabinet reshuffle - suggests that we have now entered the Caligula's Horse phase of the Blair Government.’

Perhaps, though, we should not put the spotlight excessively on Reid, for government as a whole in this country has long been a matter of putting unqualified amateurs in charge of departments that have called for the expertise of professionals. We have always said that Trade & Industry should be in the hands of someone who has a sound record of experience and achievement in business; that Defence should be run by a former high-ranking serviceman; that Transport should be supervised by a successful ex-manager of some large road or rail transport concern, and so on. This is how it is in a number of countries around the world, but here in Britain experience and competence seem to matter nothing beside the musical chairs of party politics and the need to appease lobbies and satisfy egos.

In the case of health, never has there before been such an urgent need to place this vital public service under the control of someone of proven knowledge and competence, but what do we get? Tony's favourite thug.

No wonder this country is a shambles!

No hope from the railways

Meanwhile, the news from the nation's lamentable rail network is that, after six years of Labour Government, train delays are not only as bad as ever but worse! Last year they rose by the staggering figure of nine per cent, and rail chiefs are resigned to their going on indefinitely.

When added together, the accumulated delays endured by travellers in 2002-03 amounted to 14.7 million minutes - or nearly 28 years. Network Rail, which has registered losses of £290 million in the year ending March 2003, has admitted that any prospect of a decent service at an acceptable cost was several years away.

Just what is it about Britain that create paralysis in this and other vital sectors of the national life while overseas, such as in countries like France and Germany, problems are overcome and efficient rail system provided at far lower cost? This is the land that gave railways to the world, starting with Stephenson's Rocket on the Stockton-Darlington run in 1825. But today, despite the fact that everyone has known that we have had sub-standard railways for several decades, nothing improves.

Perhaps if we had political leaders less preoccupied with poverty in Africa and the dictators in Iraq there might be a sign of the will to do something, but not at the moment.

Mothering children ‘not on’

This Government gets crazier and crazier. Last month Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt issued a call for more mothers to go out to work rather than stay in the home looking after children. One of Miss Hewitt's departments, the ‘Women and Equality Unit’, published a policy paper on the subject, saying that the economy needs more rather than fewer, working women. And contained the world-shattering revelation that: "The employment rates for women with dependent children have remained consistently below those of women without dependent children."

The paper suggested that mothers who stay at home are failing to pay the state back for the cost of their time at school or university, and that mothers going to work meant maximising returns on public and private investment in education and training.

Well, if you have heard of a more inane pronouncement emanating from Westminster in recent times please let us know about it. It seems not to occur to the likes of Miss Hewitt and her colleagues that women who bear ample children and stay at home bringing them up pay the nation a thousand-fold by providing it with young people able to take over from the present generation as the latter grows old and retires. Indeed it is a shortage of just such young people right now that is causing growing headaches to successive governments as the burden of more and more pensions is not being counterbalanced by corresponding numbers of younger folk whose economic activity is needed to maintain them.

But Miss Hewitt's department does not seem to see things that way. Its paper says the economy needs more women in productive work but not necessarily more people as a whole in productive work. According to the paper, more men should be encouraged to work in childcare and other sectors in which they are ‘under-represented’!

So the problem seems to be, not an inadequate workforce, but a workforce in which the sexual balance does not satisfy the canons of political correctness that clearly obsess the Blair Government. What we need, so it appears, are more nannies in trousers and more ladies at factory benches, fighting fires and doing police riot duty!

Surely, the time has come to call for the men (sorry, men and women) in white coats.

The cost of Iraq

When the war in Iraq was over quickly some simpletons imagined that that was the end of the matter. Not so, as we always knew. It was revealed last month that British troops will be stuck in that country for at least the next five years in a peacekeeping role which would cost the taxpayer more than £200 million.

According to a report in The Mail on Sunday (June 8th):-

‘Military insiders have now dubbed Iraq "the second Ulster" as, like Northern Ireland, it will require a long-term commitment in a country where danger lurks around every corner from snipers.’

The report went on to say that one of the reasons for this heavy British burden is that a number of other countries have failed to keep provisional promises to help in the peacekeeping. These include Poland, Germany and Turkey. France, on the other hand, never made any such promise in the first place.

Which just shows that they have a great deal more good sense than we have. These countries look after their own interests - of which they do not see Iraq as one. But Britain continues in the illusion that it somehow has an ‘international responsibility’.

So our lads - an estimated 15,000 of them - are going to have to go on sweating it out in this hot and dusty land with no gratitude from the locals, and enduring constant danger and courting probable loss of life. They say it will be for ‘at least’ five years. That means clearly that it will be for a great deal longer - though to expect politicians to be honest with us over this would be to ask much too much in this day and age.

And of course the parallel with Northern Ireland is singularly appropriate. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and it is imperative that it remain so. Our troops there, in other words, have been defending vital British interests and, of course, British people. In Iraq they are defending nothing more than Tony Blair's vanity.

What future for BAE?

It should cause no surprise. Last month brought news that BAE Systems, Britain's main manufacturer of aircraft and defence equipment, is planning a merger with one or other of its main American rivals, Boeing or Lockheed Martin.

According to a report in The Sunday Telegraph of June 15th, BAE had "made it clear that its future lies in North America." The report went on to say that a transatlantic merger was expected later this year. The report continued:-

‘Boeing is said to be the preferred partner of Sir Dick Evans, the chairman of BAE, although BAE would be very much the junior in such a relationship. Boeing's £22 billion valuation dwarfs BAE.

‘A deal with Boeing would also create a serious conflict of interest: BAE owns a 20 per cent stake in Airbus, the European commercial aircraft company that is Boeing's arch rival.’

It went on to quote the chief executive of EADS, the majority shareholder in the Airbus project, as saying that BAE would have to dispose of its stake in the European aircraft should it merge with Boeing.

All this sounds very much like an application of the rule that "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." It looks as if the ultimate intention is that BAE will effectively go out of business as a major manufacturer in its own right, being allowed to remain in existence, perhaps, as just a supplier of a few parts for its new American owner - if it is that lucky!

All this, of course, will no doubt be welcomed in government circles as ‘sound economics’. We have a more blunt term to describe it: national treason. To remain any kind of independent power in the world Britain needs to retain companies like BAE and, moreover, expand them. And if overseas partnerships are thought to be necessary for greater viability why has no one so far suggested partnerships between UK companies and equivalent industries in Canada and Australia, which both suffer likewise from American domination of the civil aircraft field and which also, because of their great geographical size, rely on aircraft for much of domestic travel, and thus provide assured home markets for aviation products?

Don't forget the bogyman!

Education Secretary Charles Clarke, with whom we often disagree, came up last month with something sensible. He protested that far too much time is spent in British schools telling the pupils about Hitler and the Nazis, and far too little about their own history.

In a report in The Sunday Telegraph of June 15th it was stated that:-

‘In recent years pupils have tended to repeat the same periods of history - particularly the Second World War or Soviet Russia - at each stage of their education, to such an extent that it has been called the "Hitlerisation of history"...

It is the first time that the Government has acknowledged concerns that the history curriculum is leaving children with little or no sense of the history of their own country.’

Dead right! But Mr. Clarke is being rather naive if he does not know why there is the imbalance of which he speaks - or else he does know and is just being coy about it. It was his own Government which deliberately instituted ‘Holocaust Studies’ as an integral part of the school curriculum whereby teaching in the alleged evils of Hitler and the Nazis would be compulsory. Of course, that period of history should not be ignored - though it would be far preferable just to give schoolchildren a balanced presentation of facts and ideas and allow them to make up their own minds, then or later. Needless to say, to hope for that under present conditions would be to anticipate the coming of Santa Claus. But at least, if a wholly negative interpretation of the Nazi episode is going to be the rule, that episode should be placed alongside other such episodes in history, whether in Britain or elsewhere, in some kind of proportion.

What Mr. Clarke should surely know is that there are certain powerful lobbies and interests in this country determined not to let that happen. A wholly one-sided presentation of the Hitler era is, to them, an absolutely indispensable part of the process of preparing young people for the Brave New World that our rulers and opinion-formers are preparing for them - a world without nations or races in which white people are a despised, guilt-ridden and powerless minority. That is what ‘history’ is all about.

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