The Charge of the White (Haired) Brigade

For a long time now, the inactive dithering position of successive governments on care for the elderly has been nothing short of a national disgrace. As life expectancy has increased, so has the manifestation of greater numbers of elderly people requiring residential nursing care as their bodies become frailer. Since the second World War, particularly in the last thirty years, the number of private care homes in the U.K. has exploded from almost a peripheral side-line catering for the mainly well to do, into a lucrative burgeoning industry.

As the care industry has blossomed, so has the ducking and weaving by governments on how, and who pays for care of the elderly. In the political vacuum of home care costs, increasing numbers of elderly care home residents have been forced to sell their own homes to pay for their care, albeit there being supposed laws preventing this from happening which are conveniently never enforced. It is claimed that in the last year alone, people have been forced to sell a staggering 24,500 homes to pay for elderly care costs.

The present weak coalition government has now issued a White Paper, (a discussion document), outlining their thoughts on home care cost. Although the government are suggestion that a financial cap be placed on the amount anyone individual will be expected to pay, because coalition governments always lead to weak consensus policies, they have so far refused to say what  the individual financial level should be set at. It appears the Government is attempting to procrastinate by leaving that decision to whoever wins the next election. It is only my opinion but it does seem that a government that is unable to make decisions is not a government at all. Does not the word “govern” imply just what it says, an administration bold enough to make decisions instead of group of politicians acting like naughty school boys creating mischief and running away from hard decisions.

The main issue being overlooked by proponents of policies that financially squeeze every last drop of monetary blood from the elderly is that they have already paid for their care during their working life. The vast majority of elderly people that own their own homes are far from wealthy, hence the saying property rich but penny poor. Most have never received benefits but have spent a lifetime of paying for those who do. Even in retirement they still pay taxes for those claiming benefits while often being denied any form of entitlement themselves.

Something that cuts many elderly people to the quick, most  who have scrimped and saved to own their own property, is to see the money they are paying out in taxes being shovelled into the pockets of “Benefit Tourists” who come to this country in the full knowledge and expectation they will receive financial benefits often denied to them in their own countries.

Something often conveniently forgotten by politicians is they do not create wealth, governments spending policies only exist by taxing the wealth others have created.

Another thing often overlooked by politicians until election time comes knocking on their door is the all important X that each elector will wield like the sword of Damocles hanging over the ballot paper. As life expectancy has increased, so has the number of elderly people who can and will use their vote. As a movement, the “silver voter” has now become the most powerful of all electoral blocs in the U.K. It is a bloc that will not hesitate to show no mercy to politicians of any party that believe the elderly can be treated as a convenient cash cow any longer. Governments should also not forget, that however they twist words to justify any form of financial charge on the elderly to pay for care, whether it is capped or not, it will still be viewed as as Death Tax whether the politicians like it or not.

Yeovilton Air Show 2011

Yeovilton Air Show 2011The Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton adjoining our property once again staged its spectacular annual air show on 9th July. Participant aircraft and their pilots from around the world enthralled spectators with flying displays made perfect by flying skills honed to a peak. The air show always gives us the opportunity to invite friends to our home to watch the display from part of our garden and enjoy a long leisurely barbecue throughout the day.

The ever popular RAF Red Arrows display team gave a dazzling performance that lasted nearly 20 minutes and never fails to impress everyone that watches them.

The last flying Vulcan Bomber accompanied by a Sea Vixen gave a display of both grace and power. Although the Vulcan is now a historic but awesome weapon of war, it still remains a crowd-puller at air shows. The Vulcan is now owned by a private trust but cost of maintaining this mighty beast is however high. Public donations can be made at

Being a naval air base, the grand finale gives the navy the opportunity to display their unique mixture of sea, land and air skills. A set piece of Marines attacking an “enemy” stronghold using massed helicopters to provide transport for both troops, artillery and transport is always a favourite. Air cover for the marines was provided by conventional land based aircraft. Until last year this was provided by Sea Harriers but a short-sighted purely monetary based policy by an insipid coalition government has now left the seriously UK denuded of both aircraft carriers and sea based air cover. As an individual, I suspect most people would prefer our defence capability to be based on a well-trained and well equipped military with real kit rather than the sabre rattling, parliamentary gas-bag variety.

The number of participants was to great to mention them all but I have added below a selection of photographs I took of the show. Click on a picture for a larger image.



Yeovilton Air Show 2011

Yeovilton Air Show 2011

Yeovilton Air Show 2011 

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The Great State Pension Fiasco


There is a saying that a week in politics is a long time meaning that often events and circumstances can change so rapidly that it can be difficult to predict longer term trends. The UK still has a relatively new coalition Government busy slashing costs to the bone and then coming back for the bone itself. Trying to predict who is likely to win the next general election which could still be another four years away may seem like an impossible crystal ball gazing task. This coupled with a poor choice of political parties, none of which at the moment appear fit for purpose.

However it would appear that in the last few days, the coalition government has already sown the seeds of its own destruction by announcing the creation of a new two-tier old age state pension system. The new pensions to be introduced in 2015 or 2016 will only apply to those individuals that retire after the introduction of the new scheme. Anyone retiring even 24 hours prior to the introduction of the new scheme will not be eligible. The problem being that new retirees will get about 50% more pension a week that existing pensioners many of who are desperate need now. Apart from saying that existing retirees will not be eligible, no other announcement has been made about their already paltry pensions.

It  is not be difficult to see this will create massive resentment from those already retired and living on state pensions that woefully lag behind most other European countries. With its usual blinkered approach, the Government appears to underestimated the massive voting power of the “Grey-vote”, and it is the grey-vote that is likely to decide the outcome of the next election whenever it may be.

It is more than likely the Government will find itself faced with an ever-increasing dilemma the nearer the next election approaches. It does not take a soothe-sayer to forecast that the political party that promises to extend the new state pension scheme to all will be the party that will win the next election.

The Conservative Party will be in great difficulty promising this as they are the ones proposing the two-tier system. They have already done many U-turns in their less than a year in power, however to do a U-turn on state pensions would be an admission they were completely wrong. The Liberal Party would also be in great difficulty promising the same state pension for all following the University fees debacle. Having made an election pledge which their leader even signed only to break it within a few weeks of coming to power is likely to mean the electorate will never believe any Liberal Party promise again. This only effectively leaves the Labour Party who at the moment have remained silent on equal new state pensions for all.

My guess is none of these blinkered politicians have not yet foreseen anything past their next week in politics and their forthcoming extensive holiday break, but my guess is the penny will soon drop on this election winning promise with the Labour Party soon climbing on the band-wagon.


Alternative Voting System


Do you believe in Universal Suffrage, the principle of one man, one vote? To anyone living in a democratic country this principle is not only something to be treasured it is also something that many have given their lives striving to attain. However in the United Kingdom, attempts are now underway to dramatically distort even this long cherished right. The present voting system in the UK is quite beautiful in its simplicity and understanding. Often known as the first-past-the-post system it means that whichever candidate attains the most votes from the electorate is the person to be elected.

Although this seems a pretty fair and just voting system, there are political parties that either never get elected or achieve too few candidates to ever hope forming a national government. I suspect most people would reason that more voters preferred the policies of the winning candidate than those of the losing candidates. However after years in the national government political wilderness, the party that always comes third  in national elections  is proposing through smoke and mirror arguments to introduce a voting system to ensure that the correct political candidates are elected. Somehow the last paragraph conjures up thoughts of George Orwell’s nightmare visions.

Now that it cleared the parliamentary process, a referendum is to be held in May 2011 to decide if people would prefer a new voting system under the grandiose title of Alternative Voting. Under this system, voters will be required to number all candidates in order of their personal preference. It is not yet clear whether it will be mandatory to list candidates in a preferential order or risk having ones vote disqualified. Any candidate not securing at least 51% of the electorates votes even though they may have secured the majority of votes will have their name thrown back into the ring and the candidate who was at the bottom of the preferential list will be removed. As I understand it, the votes of the removed candidate will be added to the next lowest candidate on the list. This process will continue until one candidate attains more of these second, third, fourth votes etc than the remaining candidates. This is the person that will be elected. Does this seem confusing to you, it’s certainly confusing to me?

Although there are numbers of political parties in the UK, there are effectively three main parties and I will call them parties A, B and C in a thinly disguised attempt to avoid showing political bias.

To me the logic and consequences of this nonsensical system seem clear. There are people who will always vote for party A but never for party B. If the voter is required to cast a secondary vote the only other realistic alternative they have is Party C. Likewise there are people who will always vote for party B but never for party A. Again these voters will only have the effective alternative of casting a secondary vote for party C. If candidates representing parties A or B fail to secure 51% of the cast votes, then the secondary votes are counted. It will come as no surprise that candidate C who perhaps the majority of electors did not vote for has more secondary votes than anyone else and is therefore the person elected.

Has anyone guessed who Party C is yet?

If this system were applied to the Olympic games, there would be no guarantee that the winner of an event would be the person standing on the top step of the winners rostrum receiving a gold medal.

I find the current UK government to be a weak one as it is a coalition government with consequential internal opposing views on many subjects. I for one do not like weak governments. Each week the Government announces a plethora of new proposed policies only for them to be either drastically watered down, or abandoned the following week using insipid political arguments to justify their position. One thing that does not seem to figure highly in governmental policies is national defence with essential military equipment being taken out of service and military personnel being made redundant.  Expensive AWAK aircraft destroyed before they ever flew and aircraft carriers without aircraft but to mention a few. It makes one wonder if the Government has ever considered that the laws they make are only effective while they are in government and not some hostile aggressor being in charge instead. Perhaps they do and pray harder each night to get through the next 24 hours. Churchill must be turning in his grave.

No one would ever call me a fan of Margaret Thatcher but this would be because I disagreed with her policies rather than anything on a personal level. As a leader of the government and her political party I can only admire her dogged determination. The majority of the electorate clearly recognised this dogged determination appealed to them too and not only voted her party into power once, but also again in the following election. To me this indicates one of things the electorate seek is strong leadership irrespective of the political party.

Alternative voting is more likely to produce a string of coalition and consequentially weak governments. I do hope the electorate can see through all the spoof arguments and reject it in the forthcoming referendum.


Quote: Sir Winston Churchill 

 “AV allows democracy ‘to be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates”

February 2011

February is not my favourite of months during the year, however snow drops are in full bloom and daffodils shoots are growing furiously heralding an ever nearing Spring. Lighter evenings are now becoming more noticeable creating a general feel the sap will soon be rising even in myself. Even as I write the outside temperature gauge which sends a signal to my indoor weather station is showing 53° farenheit (11.7° C) which is remarkably mind for this winter month. This is something of a welcome respite after the recent savage weather conditions that the county has experienced. Those who use the centigrade scale must forgive me for still using Farenheit, it is however what I grew up with and to myself, I find Centigrade temperatures do not convey any real purposeful meaning when visualising external weather conditions. I am certain there are many more old-codgers like me who do the same.

Little is going on in the garden at the moment but I must soon start annual hedge trimming before new greenery starts to appear and birds start building nests in the hedges.

South Somerset where I live is mainly comprised of small villages. Even the local District Council logo is made up of a depiction of rural villages. One of the benefits of this scattered residential habitat is most villages have at least one or two public houses within their small communities. Over recent years this has give rise to many fine small restaurant developments as part of a public house, many of them are reliant on this business for their main trade. Unlike many large cities, my small part of the world now has the choice of numerous restaurants all serving well prepared meals at a very reasonable cost and with personalised attention. Given the rural nature of this area, driving to a public house/restaurant is still a necessity but again, most serve non-alcoholic beers allowing for an equally enjoyable time to all concerned.

 6th February 2011

Our bi-monthy community news letter recently arrived through my letter box, I would think that many of the villages in Somerset have something similar. My newsletter covers the villages of Ilchester, Limington, Northover, Podimore and Yeovilton which are naturally bound together by geography. I recall when I first arrived in Somerset to be pleasantly surprised the first time the newsletter arrived. London where I previously lived although a large a city, is still never-the-less comprised of groupings of many communities that merge into each other. In the 45 years I lived in London, I never once saw a community newsletter in any of the districts where I lived. It is hardly surprising that outside of adjoining neighbours in London, many people are complete strangers to each other.

I find our local newsletter very informative with details of forthcoming local events, local council decisions and issues with planning applications and outcomes. There are usually a number of well written articles, some covering local events and history while others are much broader based in both content and location. The local CoE also devotes time to broadcast local church news without sounding like a sermon. Advertisements for the butcher, baker and candlestick maker as well as many other sundry local undertakings abound throughout the news-sheet. I find the advertisements very useful in not only subsidising the cost of the free newsletter, but also useful for a first point of contact should one require an external service. Somerset I have found is an area if one needs advice about a subject ranging from building work to good restaurants, one only has to ask a friend or neighbour for an entire chain of helpful knowledge and contacts to be forthcoming.

National crime maps is a subject recently in the news, These can be found at These maps give a breakdown of actual or reported crime both by an area and a street by street basis. I could not get through the link on the first day of operation as apparently the computer crashed due to overwhelming demand nationally for information. Now that things have settled down a bit, I was pleased to see my own village showed a zero in every category of crime. Out of curiosity I looked at my previous London location to find the streets around the previous district where I lived littered with markers indicating burglaries, street crime and other types of offences. I wonder if these new crime maps will have an impact on houses prices in districts that show high levels of crime?

Prior to the online availability of these new crime maps, another Government/Police based crime map was available. I however found this map most unhelpful and meaningless. The previous map showed the entire county of Somerset to be “average” in crime. Bristol was the only location showing above average. To me this posed the question of what “average” crime meant? Did average mean two garden sheds broken into over a period of a few years or, did average mean several murders a day on the same street? I suspect on that on that national crime map a broad-brush of statistics were applied that left a pointless outcome. I did ask about the meaning of average crime on this map at a meeting of local Neighbourhood Watch representatives with the Police. Unfortunately as they were not the composers of this particular national crime map, although they understood the points raised, they could not answer the question.


11th February 2011

Yesterday, the leaders of the three main political parties visited the West Country with two coming to Yeovil. The pleasant small market town that comprises Yeovil only takes ten minutes or less to drive through and is where I do most my shopping. Historically, Yeovil was the glove making centre of the UK producing up to 95% of all gloves made. Like many industries, times change and glove making is now all but past history. Augusta Westland in now the major employer that dominates the town and is always a magnet for visiting politicians and notables. It was also the same location which became known as the Westland Affair in the 1980’s which led to the then Defence Secretary Michael Hesletine walking out a cabinet meeting and announcing his resignation.

The West Country is traditionally Liberal Party country but the recent debacle over increased university student fees has more than ruffled a few feathers. Apparently Nick Clegg the leader of the Liberal Party found the visit a little uncomfortable as people voiced their thoughts. I wonder how much forward thinking consideration was given to the effects of breaking an unbreakable pledge so soon after coming into power in a coalition government.

At the turn of the 20th century, there was effectively  only two political parties capable to forming a government, The Conservative and Liberal parties then known as the Whigs and Liberals. With the formation of the Labour Party, voters who traditionally vote Liberal moved their voting allegiances in droves to the new Labour Party effectively leaving the Liberals in the national government wilderness ever since. Due to the electorates intense dislike of the Labour Party, recent election results left the Liberals in the position of King Maker who threw their hat into the ring with the Conservatives. After only a few short months in shared government, the firmest of election pledges was broken for which I suspect they will pay a high price at the next election. Excuses for broken promises may be fine for politicians but not the electorate. Most politicians weasel their way out of political promises with feckless excuses. European, Union and Referendum are words that spring to minds in recent times. But to break such a firm pledge is such a short time means that any other undertaking that may be given will be viewed with immediate distrusting scepticism by the voting public. It’s like making a rod for your back for life.

I am not certainly not knocking any particular political party as personally I do not think any of them are fit for purpose at the moment. It will probably take a few more politicians to fall on their swords before one credible party rises like the Phoenix from the flames.

As for the visiting politicians, they left as rapidly as they came following their whirlwind visits, leaving the people that really run the country to get on with their lives.



24th February 2011

 The connection between Somerset and the Middle East may seem somewhat remote but the recent troubles sweeping through that region arouse not too distant memories. In 2006 similar troubles arose in Lebanon which involved the rapid evacuation of British nationals from that country. The response of the Government of the day was swift. Naval ships including aircraft carriers, (we still had both in service at that time), moved into that area of the Mediterranean Sea. I also recall watching from my garden, a flight of Sea King helicopters from the Royal Naval airbase at Yeovilton which adjoins my property, leave in formation on a 24 hours flight to Cyprus. At that time the Sea King helicopters were about 25 years old but have proved to be an immensely reliable workhorse. The flight involved a number of refueling stops in various Nato countries but despite the long distance, the Sea Kings managed the flight with ease. The following day the helicopters were involved in ferrying stranded British nationals from the troubled shores of Lebanon.

Now only five short years on and again we have need to evacuate British nationals but this time from Libya currently being torn apart by internal strife. What is the Government response this time? It is a very weak, swift on words but short of action response as one might expect from a government constantly trying to appease its coalition partner. Other European governments took immediate steps to evacuate their nationals while our government was still trying to charter aircraft. Five years ago troubles abroad were foreseen and an aircraft carrier was moved into the area in advance to assist in evacuation. Now we have reduced aircraft carriers with no aircraft and a reduced naval fleet. We still do have large transporter aircraft which could be used in an emergency although the government is closing some of their bases. However, being stranded at Tripoli Airport as upheaval and bullets tear the city apart does not appear to be deemed a sufficient enough emergency to use the transporter aircraft.

I do hope this Government never have to deal with a real national crisis, but I do foresee if the Alternative Voting system (AV) is accepted in a forthcoming referendum, we can constantly expect similar indecisive action from a string of coalition governments that will be inevitably be elected as a result.

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