So David Miliband has resigned from politics to run the International Rescue Committee charity in New York. He has described the job as his “dream job” and many have begun to eulogize a political career that was relatively brief at only 12 years, ending at the relatively meagre age of 47. This is itself reflects the increasingly youthful nature of politics with Cameron and Clegg both in their mid-40s and looking set to end their frontline political careers in their early 50s at the latest - a time when politicians used to begin their careers.
There have been plenty of reports recently, mostly on the Daily Telegraph, about how the BBC finds it more difficult to employ right-wing comedians than left-wing, with the institution stating that there simply weren’t as many right-wing comedians around as left-wing ones. This admittance has attracted various complaints centring on the accusation of BBC bias – of course the BBC is not supposed to have any political bias. A list of the most mocked politicians has also been released with Michael Gove coming top ahead of the Etonians and the lamentable Nick Clegg, while only Ed Miliband and former PM Tony Blair feature prominently from Labour in the BBC’s comic repertoire.
A lot of this can be put down to the fact that the Tories are currently in power and therefore more likely to attract scorn as the in-place contentious decision makers. Indeed, when Labour were in power, the likes of Cameron and Osborne received clamour for their perceived poshness, but comedians were more obliged to take the micky out of Gordon Brown’s dour smile, John Prescott’s loud mouth, Tony Blair superficial niceties and David Miliband eating that banana. Should Ed come into power then he will almost certainly attract plenty of comic scorn and that not many Labour politicians attract the same at the moment is as much to do with the lesser public awareness of the them – people are always more aware of the politicians in power because they make the headlines as decision makers while opposition politicians are often only afforded refuting soundbites by the media. Looking back to when the Tories were not in power, public knowledge of now well-known politicians like Michael Gove and Theresa May was not as strong, and let’s remember that BBC comedians are only likely to make jokes about people their audience know something about.
Indeed, when Labour were in power, there was certainly a fair bit of Labour bashing by various comedians. The leading satirical shows of the Labour era like Bremner, Bird and Fortune and The Thick of It were pretty much obsessed with the public perception of Labour spin while other shows like Have I Got News for You and various radio programmes are usually pretty equally critical to all governing politicians, whatever their background. In this current era it has so far been difficult to beat the last Thick of It series which was as much satire on the largely futile and self-destructive nature of politics as anything, while the reboot of Yes Minister lacks the intelligence of the original (it’s largely just an exercise in smugness),Have I Got News for You has begun to become slightly formulaic in its scathing, and Mock the Week is perhaps the most prominently left-wing TV show.
Shows like Mock the Week, and indeed much of this particular political comedian oeuvre (spanning into Channel 4 with comedians like David Mitchell and Jimmy Carr et al) are all very much indebted to the alternative comedy movement of the 1980s which was itself a largely left-ist movement, coming out of anti-Thatcher sentiment among much of the working class. But, while the BBC’s declaration that there are more left-wing comedians than right-wing ones owes a lot to this, it’s not that surprising given that comedy often deals in subverting our traditions and habits - this is always going to go against a party that largely stands for these mocked traditions.
Given all this, it is perhaps, if anything, slightly surprising how much right-wing politics does pervade British comedy. For example, take the most popular show on the BBC – Top Gear. Formerly a motoring show, the Clarkson, May and Hammond trio are now constantly performing comedians (just a side-rant: Top Gear is now just a slightly trite attempt by three presenters to be ‘daring’ comedians every week) and their jokes usually play upon the kind of bravado and tastelessness found in any Public School JCR. There’s the constant presence of Oxbridge comedy found on shows like QI while there are of course various ‘posh’ comedians who exploit their ‘poshness’ in a mocking, but endearing way – think Jack Whitehall and, to an extent, Alexander Armstrong. While the likes of Stephen Fry are certainly not banner-bearing Tories, they reflect the myriad nature of comedy in that if all comedians made the same jokes, they’d get very boring very quickly.
But ‘show business’ (the tackiest entertainment label that still owes too much to the town-hall shows of the 50s) has always largely been a more left-wing segment of society and that is for various reasons: often the working class demographics allow for comic intelligence to thrive as there is more of a need to embrace humour in their less luxurious lives (something like that, but perhaps less demeaning than that is what I said here!) and because, as already said, comedy often centres on mocking the traditions that fuel the ‘elite’ – the elite that are supposed to make up much of the Tory support-base.
And let’s face it, looking at this current Tory-coalition government, you can see why they make the butt of so many jokes – Cameron is as cringe as any politician around (his public dispute with The Smiths particularly amusing from my point of view), Osborne plays the role of an Etonian austerity chancellor perfectly, Michael Gove looks like a fish and, let’s not forget, the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, is pitied to the extent that it is funny, such is his position as the junior party fall-guy. Let us never forget this tumblr blog: http://nickclegglookingsad.tumblr.com/. This says all you need to know about modern politics.
I remember throughout my childhood that my parents were kind of proud of being less cautious than the parents of some of my schoolmates when it came to getting ill. I thought this odd (though I never doubted their love for me) and put it down to my being the third of their sons so they were probably a bit bored of the OTT caution and also aware of what was actually going to get me ill by that stage having practised for bringing me up with my two elder siblings (competitive younger sibling syndrome?)
What they were in effect doing, as a side-effect of my being exposed to various illnesses, by not having not crawling with mittens on or not being given antibiotics for every single scratch and graze, was they were building my immune system up. I’ve never been a particularly sickly child, but most of my schoolmates who were on an endless drip of antibiotics were largely more often ill than me - allowing them more sick days off school which I was envious off but hey-ho there’s only so much Top Gear on Dave you can watch.
On another but unrelated note, Professor Dame Sally Davies has described our growing resistance to antibiotics as a “ticking time bomb” as threatening to us as terrorism.
"If we don't take action, then we may all be back in an almost 19th Century environment where infections kill us as a result of routine operations” she decried. “We won't be able to do a lot of our cancer treatments or organ transplants."
All in all, we are become too used to antibiotics, we are becoming immune to them such is our reliance on them in everyday usage and as such they becoming less effective. Dame Sally has urged to develop new drugs despite antibiotics not being viewed as sufficiently profitable.
"We haven't had a new class of antibiotics since the late 80s and there are very few antibiotics in the pipeline of the big pharmaceutical companies that develop and make drugs," she said. "We haven't as a society globally incentivised making antibiotics. It's quite simple - if they make something to treat high blood pressure or diabetes and it works, we will use it on our patients everyday.”
She made these galling announcements while releasing the publication of the second volume of her annual report into the burden posed by infectious diseases. Death rates have fallen for infectious diseases because of improvements to hygiene and sanitation, but the side-effect of this, it can be deduced, is that if we are becoming less sensitive to responsive to antibiotics and not developing our own immune systems, then the bugs that slip through the net of improved hygiene and sanitation will be increasingly dangerous. Indeed, infectious disease still accounts for 7% deaths in England and account for one in five days of work.
We are, in effect, by using too many antibiotics, loosing our two biggest defences against aggressive microbes - our own immune system and the effectiveness of our artificial defences in antibiotics. This implications could become global and very serious.
Perhaps we should at the least learn to put up with daily illnesses more organically and learn to maintain and improve our own bodily immune systems. Maybe everyone needs parents like mine!
Former British cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce have been sentenced to jail for perverting the course of justice today in London.
They were both convicted after she took speeding points for him following an incident on the M11 motorway in 2003. Huhne resigned as the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire after finally admitting the charge last month.
Pryce, who had claimed the defence of marital coercion, was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court last week. The Pryce verdict, after 12 hours of deliberations, came in a retrial.
The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney sentenced Huhne ND Pryce to sentences of eight months each while the Crown Prosecution Service said it would try to recover costs.
The CPS is understood to have run up about £78,000 in costs and the police have a bill for £38,000 for the former Minister after Huhne attempted to have the prosecution against him thrown out before the trial began. CPS lawyer Malcolm McHaffie said before sentencing: "Chris Huhne made sustained challenges against the prosecution before pleading guilty at the last minute. This was expensive for the CPS and we will be applying for costs."
So why all the fascination over a few speeding points?
Actually, it’s perverting the course of justice that matters most.
Huhne and Pryce were charged last year over an incident in March 2003 when Huhne's BMW car was caught by a speed camera on the M11 between Stansted Airport in Essex and London. He was an MEP at the time. It was alleged that between 12 March and 21 May 2003, Pryce, a prominent economist, had falsely informed police she had been the driver of the car, so Huhne would avoid prosecution.
He was in danger of losing his licence having already accrued nine penalty points.
The prosecution alleged that Pryce had chosen to take the points but later plotted to expose Huhne after he revealed he was having an affair with a bisexual aide and ended the couple's 26-year marriage. The court was told Pryce later told Sunday Times journalist Isabel Oakeshott what the couple had done and was persuaded that a carefully written story could expose the politician.
Pryce wanted her former husband Huhne, who she still loved, “nailed”.
Not only did Pryce nail her former husband and destroy his political career. She also managed to publicly destroy her own reputation. Huhne is understood not to be on speaking terms with his children. All in all, his affair was hugely costly yet the bisexual aide, who is now Huhne’s partner, called Carina Trimingham, is nothing to do with the punishments or the trials.
The Eastleigh by-election caused by Huhne's resignation was won by Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton with a reduced share of the vote, ahead of the UK Independence Party in second, on 28 February.
UK The Eastleigh by-election on February 28th resulted to UKIP garnering 28% of the total votes, 4% behind Lib Dems who won the race, but pushed the Tories to third place by a 3% margin.
The outcome of UKIP’s performance proved detrimental to all main parties concerned, but in all probability affected the Tories most. Ukip did better in Eastleigh than in any prior parliamentary elections, and that should be kept in perspective in future by-elections.
By-elections are the best venues for protest parties. Voters with issue grievances could shift their allegiance to another party without fear of severe repercussion relevant to political clouts, and with the Lib Dems in government, UKIP is the obvious choice for protest voters, The Guardian reported on March 1st.
Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, said “The party had really connected with voters because we’re talking about issues the other parties would prefer to brush under the carpet, as reported.
Farage, still vexed with the PM over his description of UKIPs as “loonies”, stated “David Cameron is going to be pissed off. Traditional Tory voters in this constituency don’t believe he’s a Conservative, that’s why he’s done badly”.
Geoff Bulleyment, 79, a retired Royal Marine, concurred saying “I’d always been a Conservative until about three years ago. David Cameron is not a Conservative but a social democrat, a Lib Dem. The big local issue here is unemployment which he failed to address”.
Eastleigh was the first electoral test for the PM since he tried to neutralize the UKIP threat, when he pledged to hold an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership with the EU, and the outcome was rather unfortunate for the Tories.
Eastleigh was one of the 20 Lib Dem seats cited by Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, essential to his party’s victory at the next general election, and since its creation in 1955, the Tories never won a general election without winning Eastleigh, The Guardian reported.
In the famous second Christopher Nolan Batman film, ‘Batman: The Dark Night’ Batman famously visits our city to accost a Hong Kong businessman, handing him to the police for the crook he was following a particularly impressive and intricate operation. That film itself started with a collection of Batman impersonators who were dismissed by criminals before being outdone by the real thing, the real Batman. Later on Batman impersonators are used by the film’s villain, Heath Ledger’s ‘the Joker’ as a way of luring Batman to his attention as he tortures them on screen.
UK George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer since May 12, 2010, following the loss of the country’s AAA credit rating, said the country needs to address its debt problem. He pledged to pursue his plan to cut the UK’s deficit and likewise further reduce tax for businesses, as reported by the Telegraph on February 23rd, Saturday.
Moody’s, the credit rating agency, which downgraded the UK one notch to Aa1 on February 22nd, Friday, pointed to “subdued” growth prospects and a “high and rising debt burden”, and expects the “period of sluggish growth to extend into the second half of the decade”, as reported on February 25th, Monday.
Credit ratings assess a government’s capability to repay its loans and instrumental to determine the interest rate to be applied on borrowings.
Osborne, facing calls from Labour to resign from his post, was forced to issue a statement saying “We will continue on the economic plan that has brought the deficit down by a quarter and the government will now re-double its efforts to overcome its debt”.
He accused Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, of being the “architect of the mistakes that gave Britain its debt problem”.
Ed Balls, describing the Moody’s downgrade as a humiliation for the government, retaliated by saying “Osborne made maintaining the AAA rating a key benchmark for his stewardship of the economy, but failed in the first economic test he set himself”.
Osborne is expected to utilize next month’s budget to assist hard-pressed businesses and further government cuts to be implemented, report said.
The main rate of corporation tax will be further reduced from 21p, the special rate for smaller enterprises would be decreased from its present level of 20p, and Osborne aims to achieve at least L.10 billion extra savings from welfare spending in 2015 – 16, the Telegraph reported.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron, despite the downgrade, has insisted that “The government’s economy plan is working that is why we believe the economy is healing”.
British, French, Hong Kong and Japanese nationals are among 19 tourists reportedly killed in a hot air balloon crash near the Egyptian city of Luxor.
The balloon was flying at 1,000 ft (300m) when it caught fire and exploded, plunging onto fields west of Luxor, officials said. One witness told the BBC people were jumping out of the balloon, "from about the height of a seven-storey building".
Two people, including the balloon's pilot, reportedly survived the crash. Luxor lies on the banks of the River Nile and is home to some of Egypt's most famous pharaonic-era ruins.
The crash happened on one of the many dawn hot air balloon flights that give tourists an aerial view of Luxor's famous sites, such as Karnak temple and the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.
Sources have been told that a gas cylinder exploded on board the balloon, bringing it down in an agricultural area just outside Luxor. Cherry Tohamy's balloon was landing when she heard an explosion and saw flames from a balloon above.
"Our pilot told us that the balloon had hit a high pressure electrical cable and a cylinder on board exploded," said Ms Tohamy, an Egyptian living in Kuwait who was on holiday in Luxor. "People were jumping out of the balloon from about the height of a seven-storey building."
She said ambulances were at the scene within 15 minutes. Another witness, US photographer Christopher Michel said his balloon was just about to land when he "heard an explosion and saw smoke".
NBC News quoted a Luxor health official as saying that the victims include nine from Hong Kong, four from Japan, two from the United Kingdom and two from France, with two yet to be identified.
The British foreign office told the BBC it was making urgent inquiries with its colleagues in Egypt to confirm reports of British casualties. A spokesman from the Hong Kong government confirmed that nine Hong Kong residents were in the crash balloon and a team of immigration officers was being sent to Egypt.
Hot air balloon crashes have happened in Luxor before. Two British women were among 16 injured when their balloon came down in April 2009. Luxor, like many other parts of Egypt, has seen a sharp downturn in visitor numbers since the uprising in early 2011 that forced long-time President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s steadfast move to rule out a referendum evoked concerns among many of his MPs. Last month, Prime Minister David Cameron committed his party to the re-negotiation of the UK membership in the EU for an in/out referendum, which Miliband opposed saying “I do not support a public vote. My position is NO – we don’t want an in/out referendum”, as reported.
Just nearly two weeks ago, Labour gained a 12-point lead over the Tories in the opinion polls survey conducted by The Guardian/ICM, the biggest lead the party attained since May 2003, amid tensions in the ranks of Labour Party.
Another survey by YouGov poll for The Sun gave Labour a lead of 11-point against the Tories, and likewise revealed that voters favor Labour on the economy issue, at 28 points against Tories’ 27 points.
Edward Michael “Ed” Balls, a 45-year-old Labour Party politician, MP for Morley and Outwood since 2010, and the current Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer since Jan. 20, 2011, in contradiction to Miliband’s comments made a remark recently in a Yorkshire Post interview that Labour would be “stupid” to fight the next election opposing a referendum on the European Union.
He said “As long as we don’t allow ourselves to be caricatured as an anti-referendum party which we’re not, we’ve absolutely not ruled-out a referendum. And if we permit ourselves to be the status quo or anti-referendum party in Europe, then we’ve got a problem”.
Douglas Garven Alexander, a 45-year-old British Labour Party politician, MP for the Paisley and Renfrewshire South constituency and current Shadow Foreign Secretary, said the Europe and Labour’s opposition on a referendum will not be the main issue at the next general election.
Alexander stated that the Conservatives’ failure to deliver economic growth in the country would be the dominant issue and he was not worried Labour’s referendum standing could affect the party in an electoral campaign, in an interview with the Guardian recently.
Labour Party settled on a compromise position, being opposed in a referendum but not ruling-out support for it in the future. Meanwhile, If Labour Party wins in the 2015 election and forms its own government, it would hold its own referendum, despite Miliband’s recent comments, as predicted by Labour MPs.
UK Sir Bruce Keogh, 58-year-old, is the Medical Director of the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK since 2007 and National Director of the NHS Commissioning Board since 2012.
Following Stafford scandal, Sir Keogh, on the first week of February, announced launching of investigations on five hospital trusts over mortality rates.
Further investigations on nine more hospital trusts were recently announced, and United Lincolnshire Hospital Trusts (ULHT), was among those 14 trusts currently investigated, BBC reported.
Gary Walker, former chief executive of ULHT, who was sacked for gross professional misconduct in 2010, defying legal gag orders, broke his silence in an interview and claimed he was forced to quit for refusing to meet Whitehall targets for non-emergency patients, which resulted to a gag order as part of a settlement deal allegedly for L500,000, as reported by Birmingham Mail on February 14th, Thursday.
Walker, the whistleblower, likewise alleged that Sir David Nicholson, the first chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board since 2011, ignored him when he raised concerns relevant to patients’ safety in 2009, as reported on Mail online on February 21st, Thursday.
Unite the Union, the biggest British and Irish trade union formed on May 1, 2007, citing that Sir Nicholson presided over a “culture of fear and bullying” in the health service, repeatedly called for his resignation, to no avail, as reported online.
Following Walker’s interview, solicitors from ULHT wrote and demanded immediate repayment for breach of the settlement agreement of his unfair dismissal claim.
NLHT lawyers added “The agreement we reached with Mr. Walker was not about concerns raised relevant to patient services but related to his employment proceedings”.
MPs wanted NLHT to cease on pursuing legal action against Walker, to enable Walker to disclose evidence pertaining to his dismissal.
Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the House of Commons Health Committee, wrote to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, for his appropriate action. He also said that the culture of gagging whistleblowers in the NHS was “corrupt”.
The Health Secretary, for his part and in response to the letter, criticized the trust’s action.
Stephen Phillips, the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, said he would call on the Parliament to conduct investigation on the issue and pledged that all related- evidence would be made public.