Yours faithfully, Second Tent to the Left

There was a letter in Wednesday’s “Times” about the need to produce proof of identity  –  in this case at the British Library.

The letter was signed by Liam T Kirk, Press Officer, Occupation of the London Stock Exchange, common ground adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Disregarding the fact that The Times appears to have relaxed its rule about providing a genuine address for letters to the Editor, it would seem that, in our brave new world, tented protest encampments have become part of the establishment, writing letters to The Times.   Many of those who complain that their frequent letters have never been published will be convinced that the novelty of this “right on” address was what ensured its publication.

When will they get the message!!

On the day that Shell announced it is to stop guaranteed pensions linked to final salary for new recruits, (it’s the last FTSE 100 company that still does provide them), the public service union Unite said that it was rejecting the Government’s latest pension offer for NHS workers.

When will these public sector unions, and their workers, get the message.  Final salary pensions just cannot be afforded any more.  The private sector has accepted it, and the public sector will have to as well.

It is invidious for private sector workers to have to go on paying towards gold-plated pensions for the public sector when they don’t get them themselves.

A young woman of 19 should not be called a “teenager”

Reading the news about the young lady who was tragically and shockingly murdered whilst baby-sitting her niece and nephew in Borehamwood has made me think about the way people are described in such stories.

Both newspapers and television headlined the story as “teenager murdered”.   When an arrest was made by the police, it was said to be of an “18 year old man”.   So the murderer, aged 18, was a “man”, but the victim, who was actually 19, was called a “teenager” which makes her sound about 13 or 14.   Why the difference?

The age of majority in this country is 18, so those of that age and above are regarded as adult not teenagers.

New Year Resolution

Generally, I don’t make New Year Resolutions, but I am conscious of the fact that I have hardly written anything on this blog in the last year.   So I am going to try to do better in 2012.  Happy New Year anyway.

Christmas Wishes

Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year

100,000 Voices for England – Campaign for an English Parliament

English parliament

“Guest Archbishop”

My experience of the “Great Archbishop Debate” is that his supporters are quite happy to give out criticism, but don’t like taking it.

Meanwhile, Charles Moore, the distinguished former Editor of the Daily Telegraph, and still one of its columnists, wrote today:-

“Please could a journalist become guest Archbishop of Canterbury? I am available.”


The Alice in Wonderland world of the NHS

Here’s a little story I heard today, first hand from the people concerned.

A Primary Care Trust is going through a structural reorganization because it has run out of money.   (Even though on the 1st April it is to “merge” with another Trust and will probably go through something similar again.)   Morale is at rock bottom.  The basic grade administrative/clerical workers are being made redundant.  Meanwhile, the highly paid Managers remain.  

These admin workers are people like clinic clerks.   Most of them are married women working part-time because of their family responsibilities.  Those who are being kept in employment are being allocated to different clinics, at some distance from their homes;  are being told that they are no longer part-time, they must work full-time, and similar changes.   Then they are told if they don’t like it, they will have to leave without redundancy.   They are told there can only be one person in each clinic each day.

And the result for the patients is…………………..    There are some clinics without receptionists at all on some days.   There are Health Visitors, District Nurses, Chiropodists, who are not receiving any ‘phone calls from patients because there is nobody to answer the ‘phone at the clinic.   There are patients ‘phoning the clinics whose calls are just not answered.  There are elderly patients walking some distance to the clinic to renew their hearing aid batteries, and finding no staff present to give them to them.

These, bear in mind, are not GPs’ surgeries;  they are PCT-run NHS clinics.

Meanwhile, on one day recently all the health visitors from across the PCT area were summoned to a meeting.   It turned out to be a training afternoon, and was conducted by some trainers hired in for the occasion.   And the subject  –  how to keep a tidy desk.

So the health visitors were taken from their real work for a whole afternoon;  their patients were not seen;  and the PCT which has no money to pay its staff spent money on hiring in a couple of trainers to teach health professionals how to keep a tidy desk.

What an Alice in Wonderland world we live in. 

Reduced insurance premium – you’ve got to be joking!

What a strange world it is.

Today I ‘phoned to renew my car insurance.  I told them some changes of details that I thought would reduce the premium.   Not a bit of it, the premium increased.

Here’s the background.   Up until June 2009 I was driving a 1600cc car that was 17 years old.   I had made the mistake of falling in love with it, and couldn’t bear to part with it.  Until then my comprehensive insurance had been under £300.   That June I changed it for a perfectly normal hatchback car that was three years old, but had “sport” in its name, and was 2000cc.    Of course, I had to pay a bit of extra premium to cover the time from June to my normal insurance renewal date in November.

At the beginning of September 2009, when I had only had the car for two months, I was driving along a winding, narrow country lane when a tall-sided lorry in front of me knocked a branch off a tree, which hit my car and dented the bonnet badly.  I got the registration number and the name on the side of the lorry, but the insurance company could not get them to admit liability   –   I don’t suppose the driver even knew he had done it.

I have protected no claims discount so was not too worried.   But come November and renewal time, the premium shot up to well over £500.   When I asked why I was told bigger, more powerful and newer car  –  fair enough  –  and an own fault claim.   You might well ask how I was supposed to stop a branch being knocked off a tree and hitting my car, but as far as the insurance industry is concerned it is an at fault claim.   What a farce, my no claims discount is protected but the insurance premium still shoots up.

So what happens this November renewal?   The premium quoted, which I am assured is the best available, goes up to £623, nearly £100 increase.   Today I ‘phone them, and tell them that I am now completely retired so they can change my occupation, (was self-employed), and take off the “use by the policyholder in person for his or her business”.   This, I am sure, will reduce the premium as there is no more business use.

NO, NO, NO  –  “we must recalculate as your details have changed”.   And the result is the company I was with will no longer insure me because they only deal with people who are working!!  And the lowest quote increased to £660, more than the ordinary renewal quote.   Then the nice lady on the ‘phone says, “wait a minute, there’s no protected no claims discount with that.   To get protected NCD it will cost you well over £700.”

Well, here’s a funny thing.   When I bought my first car, which was a brand new, shiny Triumph convertible, it cost me £699.  Now I am being asked to pay the same amount to insure my car for one year.

The nice lady worked hard on my behalf, and managed to find a discount, which I suspect is her discretionary allowance to cope with people who look as if they are going to cancel and go elsewhere, and got the premium with protected NCD down to £650.   So I paid up.   There is one small chink of light, the excesses levied on claims are less on this policy than they were on the previous one.

When I was little, it was explained to me that insurance works by lots of people paying a premium, and only a small number claiming in any one year.   With a different lot of people claiming in the next year.   And so claims were covered from other people’s premiums and the insurers still made a profit.   That has now all gone out of the window.   Insurance now means that we all pay vast sums towards the insurer’s profits, and, when we have to claim, we just have to pay an even larger premium the following year.

The Dark Prince hogs the front page for three days

So today The Times is back to normal, with a news story on the front page, and a selection of short pieces on the right hand side.

For the previous three days the only item on the front page was a sensational highlight from the Dark Prince’s diaries.

Now, I’m prepared to accept that the Mandelson diaries are of interest, and contain delicious stories that we love and the Labour Party will hate.   But surely there must have been more important stories on those days bearing in mind all the major events that are happening in this country and across the world.   Surely some of them must have been more worthy of being on the front page, or at least sharing the front page, on at least one of those three days.