Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Monday, 31 August 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup, bees and humans.

Mrs Rigby always liked the idea of having bees in her garden, because she and all the other Rigbys eat quite a lot of honey. Like so many good ideas, nothing ever came of it, but it doesn't mean she isn't interested in what happens to honey bees.

Bee-keeping seems to be beset with problems these days, with whole colonies being wiped out by the nasty little varroa mite, but there were other things going wrong.

Some clever scientists in America think they might have worked out another reason for bees dying - it's the food they're being given by their well-meaning keepers.

Mrs R spotted an article in a newspaper and promptly lost the link, so spent a couple of minutes searching the net to find it again. She's managed to tracked down the source, which is the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. This is what it says
... high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has become a sucrose replacement for honey bees and has widespread use as a sweetener in many processed foods and beverages for human consumption. It is utilized by commercial beekeepers as a food for honey bees for several reasons: to promote brood production, after bees have been moved for commercial pollination, and when field-gathered nectar sources are scarce. Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is a heat-formed contaminant and is the most noted toxin to honey bees. ....
There's more of the article, but unfortunately Mrs R isn't a special enough person to be able to read it, so she looked somewhere else and found this
The scientists measured levels of HMF in HFCS products from different manufacturers over a period of 35 days at different temperatures. As temperatures rose, levels of HMF increased steadily. Levels jumped dramatically at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yes, that's all fine and dandy, they've found something that kills bees. It's a solvable problem because they can be given something else to eat. Sounds like good news to bee-keepers and good news for honey-eaters too, because it might mean that British honey is safe after all.

There's a extra bit
Because HFCS is incorporated as a sweetener in many processed foods, the data from this study are important for human health as well,” the report states. It adds that studies have linked HMF to DNA damage in humans. In addition, HMF breaks down in the body to other substances potentially more harmful than HMF
So we're eating this stuff too? And it can alter DNA?

Where are the banner headlines telling us all about the health risks? There were some only a few days ago telling us that ham sandwiches might give us cancer, but zilch, zero, nothing at all about this - so mebbe it isn't really dangerous at all, unless you're a bee.

Mebbe, though, if you eat some hot High Fructose Corn Syrup and then give a DNA sample ...?

Nah! Silly idea!

Unhealthy buildings?

It's reported here that a charity is refusing to share a building with certain other businesses.

Apparently Cancer Research UK is refusing to share the £50million Angel Building in Islington with the likes of fast food outlets, tobacco firms or pubs, and the developer, Derwent London, has agreed to enforce the restriction.

Director Paul Williams said:
“Cancer Research UK didn’t want to be associated with certain types of business.”
Mrs Rigby had a quick look around and found this
Angel Building is the re-invention of an early 1980’s commercial property on a prominent but under-used site on the corner of St John Street and Pentonville Road, Islington. Award winning property company Derwent London have pre-let 13,000 sq m as the new headquarters for Cancer Research.
St John Street will see a newly landscaped public realm set around existing mature trees and the introduction of shops and restaurant will bring activity to this important frontage in the heart of Islington. Angel Building is currently under construction and will be completed during 2010.
Mrs R also found a 2007 press release here, but she can't find anything that refers to rules that exclude certain groups of commercial tenants, and Mrs Rigby wonders if such a restriction (which would have to be a restrictive covenant in the lease) is against free competition.

She would be interested to know what MacDonald's thinks about this too, more especially because they are mentioned in the article and their menu includes what they call "healthy options".

Mrs Rigby also wonders if the selection of suitable business tenants would extend to the dictating the menu in the proposed restaurant? Would Cancer Research UK try to insist it is a vegetarian or vegan restaurant? Would they also try to restrict what people can eat and drink in the courtyard area - will they try to ban ham sandwiches?

Mrs Rigby is intrigued by the whole thing and wonders why any lessee thinks it has the right to make these demands.

Cancer Research UK is a charity that does a lot of good, its remit is research. Its website says :-

Cancer Research UK is the world's leading independent organisation dedicated to cancer research.

We support research into all aspects of cancer through the work of more than 4,500 scientists, doctors and nurses.

Maybe their research (which won't be carried out at Angel Building) has shown you can catch cancer from being in the same building as a corporate group that represents somebody, or something, you don't like?

Aside from that though, Mrs R wonders if we are truly reaching the time when the so-called 'good guys' can demand almost anything - and get it?

And if so, is this the world we want to pass onto our children?

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Did Gordon get his timing wrong?

Mrs Rigby hasn't a clue whether this is good timing or not, but she has a feeling the overall impression will be that Mr Brown was trying to beat Mr Cameron to a PR opportunity - and it won't help the troops one little bit.

From the Mail

Mr Brown flew to Afghanistan yesterday to meet British troops and military leaders just 48 hours before Mr Cameron was scheduled to make an identical journey.


The Tory leader scrapped his own visit – which has been in his diary since July – to avoid an unseemly cat-and-mouse game and wasting overstretched military resources.
Mrs Rigby thinks that if Mr Brown had kept out of it he might have been able to ask why Cameron had gone to Afghanistan, he could have claimed it was a vote-gaining political stunt, he could have asked how much it had cost and so on. He might have been able to make some capital out of it all - especially when we all know that the MoD is strapped for cash.

But, he's lost that chance, and it looks too much as if he merely scurried out there so he could get in first and, somehow (at least in the Rigby household) Cameron looks like the good guy who has called off his own planned visit to the troops because,

‘We were conscious of the military resources required for our trip and chose to reschedule.’

While I don't have a lot of time for Mr Brown, mainly because he likes to hide behind his sofa when the going gets tough, I think he's been badly advised and this is yet another PR calamity.

But is it deliberate?

In the end, assuming all the various polls are right, when Labour is trounced at the next election the blame will no doubt be laid solely at Gordon Brown's door - and none of his so-called advisers will get an ear-bashing.


Is this an "Oops!" moment?

The Times reports :-

The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release.

The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.

and The Mail picks up another issue :-

The Lockerbie row took another twist yesterday when it was revealed that a public relations company owned by one of Lord Mandelson’s close friends has opened a branch in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Brown Lloyd James (BLJ), whose partners include the friend, ex-Beatles manager Peter Brown, has been conducting a campaign to promote Libya’s business interests for the past nine months.

The firm’s favoured position with the oil-rich regime has now raised questions about the PR guru’s connection to Peter Mandelson, whom he has known since the Nineties.

Mrs Rigby was sure Mr Brown said the Megrahi release was nothing to do with trade, that it was a Scottish decision, and was nothing to do with Westminster. Maybe she misunderstood? It seems to happen to her quite a lot lately - these 'senior moments' are coming thick and fast!

The Sun, Mr Brown, and firing blanks whilst paying tax.

The Sun doesn't pull any punches in this piece about the Army, Afghanistan and the MoD.
The Sun is proud to be the Forces' paper. We admire their astonishing courage and weep for their dead and injured.
But they need the right kit. They need money. They need to feel their Government is behind them.
Our heroes have been abandoned and are dying. This Government must remember that there is a bloody war on. A war that they chose.
If the Prime Minister will not take charge and take responsibility for the war, he should resign and be replaced with a Premier who will lead from the front.
Gordon's response is make a "surprise" visit to Afghanistan, where during the two hours he spent at Lashkar Gah he hinted that more troops may be sent to the front line.

Mrs Rigby thinks it's a pity that many of these troops will have been using blank ammunition during their training

British soldiers are being forced to train with blanks rather than live rounds to save money.
Apparently ...
The bullet ban is the result of a £700m cut in the money available to run the army in the UK.

Mrs Rigby wonders what ARRSE will make of this!

She also wonders what they will make of Lance Corporal Dean Byfield's question,
"Why do we have to pay tax while we are out here?"
Mr Brown told him it was ...

because the soldier was a British employee, his income was taxed back home while he was stationed overseas
I wonder what soldiers actually get in return for their taxes?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Mike Perham and Laura Dekker.

Mike Perham, arrived back in Portsmouth today, 29th August, and is lauded as being the "youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo with assistance."

Mike is 17. He was the youngest person to sail the Atlantic single handed, which he did when he was 14.

Mike left Portsmouth in his Open 50 racing yacht on November 15 last year.

During the 30,000-mile voyage he battled 50ft waves, gale force winds, numerous technical difficulties and his own fear of heights when he had to climb the mast for essential rigging changes and repairs.

The previous youngest person to complete a similar voyage was American Zac Sunderland who was two months older than Mike when he completed his voyage last month.

13 year old Laura Dekker would like to sail round the world single handed, she would like to be the youngest person to achieve this feat. She would like to break the Mike's record.

Unfortunately for Laura the Dutch authorities don't like the idea and have made her a temporary ward of court, while "psychologists assess her capacity to undertake the risky voyage."

Apparently Laura spent the first four years of her life sailing round New Zealand, which sounds quite a nice thing to do - but Mrs R wonders how this sets her up to sail round the world?

Mrs Rigby doesn't know Laura Dekker, she doesn't know how capable a sailor she is, although she has read that when she sailed across the Channel she was stopped in England whilst her parents were brought to accompany her home - but she managed it on her own. Mrs R notes that Laura hasn't sailed the Atlantic single-handed, and there's quite some difference between crossing the Channel and sailing all the way round the planet.

Mrs Rigby has some experience of 13 year old girls, she knows they can be moody, she knows they can be irrational and she also knows that they tend to grow fast. Mrs R remembers reading some time ago that teenage girls grow so fast that even the Royal Ballet School acknowledges that they lose some co-ordination and muscle control whilst the nerve fibres catch up with the bone growth, and adjust their practical training accordingly.

So, although Mrs Rigby admires Laura Dekker for wanting to sail round the world (and thinks her parents are bonkers for encouraging her), she isn't entirely sure that it's the right thing for her to do until she's finished growing - even if the Dutch psychologists decide she's mentally capable of enduring the stresses of the risky voyage and, presumably, time spent alone and all the other things associated with being a young teenage girl.

Mrs R thinks Laura should wait a while and maybe try to beat some of Ellen McArthur's records instead of just wanting to be "youngest".

Richmond Council doesn't like Lynn Barber

In an article in the Telegraph outlining why"Lynn Barber, the writer and interviewer, has withdrawn from a literary festival after the local council refused to use a publicity photograph which showed her smoking a cigarette", Mrs Rigby noticed that a spokesman for Richmond Council said this :-

As a local authority we are responsible for encouraging good health habits in the area ...

Mrs Rigby thought local councils already had enough to do, what with running car parks, enforcing anti-litter laws, policing rubbish collections and so on, without taking on a job that should be the responsibility of the local health authority.

Or maybe some councils are trying to make themselves look very busy, to explain why they cost so much to run?

Friday, 28 August 2009


I've tried, believe me I've tried, but I can't shed a single tear for Edward Kennedy.

I keep remembering Mary Jo Kopechne and how she died at Chappaquiddick, and how he left her there whilst he went to talk to his "aides" instead of calling the Police. I keep remembering that he was lucky not to serve a custodial sentence, and that the truth of the incident will have died with him.

Mr Brown, as my Prime Minister, is meant to speak on my behalf. He said this
"Senator Edward Kennedy will be mourned not just in America but in every continent.
There probably are people on every continent who have mourned his passing, and I know Mr Brown is meant to say nice things about our "friends", and it's bad form to speak ill of the dead. But even so Mr Brown didn't seem to worry too much when he said the recession started in America, and he didn't seem too bothered that America was irritated when Megrahi was let out of jail to go home to Libya.

Maybe Mr Brown didn't think, for even a fleeting moment, of all the people in Britain whose lives were badly affected by Teddy Kennedy's links with NORAID - who gave money to the IRA, which they spent on explosives, which they then used to blow up civilians in both Ireland and on mainland Britain.

So, no tears in the Rigby household for Teddy Kennedy, the last of the dynasty, and no tears that he didn't collect his honorary knighthood either.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Nanny designs a new pint glass

When, oh when, will Nanny realise it isn't the glass's fault - it's the person who breaks it who is responsible.
there are ... around 87,000 violent incidents involving glassware each year, which costs an annual estimate of £100m in NHS, police and court costs.
So what is Nanny doing about it?
The Home Office has called in a team of designers to create a safer beer glass in a bid to reduce the number of violent assaults.

Database breached by at least 34 local authorities

Henry Porter in the Guardian discovered a little-read report in Computer Weekly, which he reported in his article "Nine sacked for breaching ID card database"

Computer Weekly itself reports that staff from at local authorities have accessed the DWP site and that:-

Computer Weekly has established that staff from at least 34 local authorities have misused the Department of Work and Pensions' (DWP) Customer Information System (CIS) database to look up personal details of the public.

The database, which holds 92 million records on the population, underpins the government's ID card programme. It stores sensitive data such as ethnicity, relationship history and whether someone is being investigated for fraud.

Nine staff have been quietly sacked from their local authority jobs for abusing the database, nine have been given official warnings, two have been suspended, four resigned and six had their database access privileges removed, Freedom of Information requests lodged by Computer Weekly have revealed.

But none of the local authorities have chosen to bring prosecutions against their staff for abusing their access to the CIS database.

So if you illegally access the database to find personal information about your friends, neighbours or celebrities you should do it during working hours, because the worst penalty you can face is losing your job.

In case you didn't spot the link to the list of breaches it's here

These people looked at the personal details of
* friends,
* neighbours,
* work colleagues,
* celebrities,
* acquaintances,
* "someone I knew"
* benefits claimant
* family

There is also an instance of an individual looking up "friend's father's address" - with goodness knows what consequences.

Also picking up the story is www.PublicService which reports that :-
The CIS database holds 92 million records on the population. It stores sensitive data such as ethnicity, relationship history and whether someone is being investigated for fraud. As part of its terms of use, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – which is the lead department for the system, warned that it may prosecute staff who access files they are not entitled to see. The DWP can also remove access to any council who is considered to be abusing it too much.
Let's play the last bit again :-
The DWP can also remove access to any council who is considered to be abusing it too much.
Too much?

Too much!

They shouldn't be "abusing it" at all!

Could a violent misogynist avoid prosecution by saying, "I didn't abuse my wife too much!", or a paedophile get away with, "I didn't abuse the child too much!"?

No, of course they couldn't, and DWP should be ashamed.

Any data we give the government and its' many agencies is provided on the understanding that it's kept safely. It shouldn't be copied onto CDs or datasticks and left on the train, and nor should anybody's personal information be picked over by government employees who've got nothing better to do with themselves when they're "at work"!

This "secure" database has developed more holes than the Jumblies' sieve!

Woman's Hour?

The BBC has a programme called Woman's Hour, which is for "celebrating, informing and entertaining women".

The programme is broadcast between 10-11 am Monday to Friday and on Saturday between 4-5 pm - which assumes women will be at home, or within earshot of a radio, at those times.

Mrs R can't find a BBC programme so specifically aimed at male audiences.

Why not?

Friday, 21 August 2009

Police help the BNP.

The Telegraph mentions

In a statement, Dyfed-Powys Police said: "We can confirm that the two people arrested as part of a joint investigation with Dyfed-Powys Police and the Information Commissioner's Office in relation to alleged criminal offences under the Data Protection Act have been charged with Section 55 Data Protection Act offences.

"They will appear in Nottingham Magistrates Court on September 1. The arrests followed an investigation into a complaint received about the unauthorised release of the BNP party membership list."

Okay, so Mrs R isn't a fan of the BNP, but they've got a couple of MEPs who have been legally elected and are there in Strasbourg to represent those who voted for them. So she thinks they ought to have the law behind them, rather than obstructing them.

She is still rather bemused by the ruling that those in the Police Force can be members of the Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, UKIP, Green, Marxist, Trotsky and so on political parties. She's sure they could be paid up members of the Monster Raving Loony Party too, but they aren't allowed to be in the BNP. Odd that, because once they put their uniform on the Police are impartial

Miliband statements. Compare and contrast.

Less than a week ago we read this :-

Mr Miliband was speaking on BBC Radio 4's Great Lives programme, where he paid tribute to anti-apartheid activist Joe Slovo. Mr Slovo, a friend of Mr Miliband's academic father Ralph, was one of the leaders of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed military wing of the ANC.

The group carried out a number of attacks during its campaign, including the Church Street bombing in Pretoria in 1983 where 19 people were killed and more than 200 wounded. Many victims were civilians.

Asked by presenter Matthew Parris whether such terrorism was ever justified, Mr Miliband said:
"Yes, there are circumstances in which it is justifiable, and yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective."
At the time he said this Mrs Rigby wondered whether he gave a thought to those who had died in Pretoria and how it was the non-violent groups who won power in the end. She wondered if he would care to justify terrorism to a group of still-traumatised survivors of 9/11, to those whose loved ones died in the Twin Towers atrocity, or were killed at Omagh, Brighton, Manchester, Lockerbie or London.

She didn't actually upload the post, and didn't imagine he would make another faux pas quite so quickly, and without thinking back to what he so recently said.

This little PR disaster was not directly of his own making because it was Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill who freed Megrahi and Tony Blair who did the groundwork for the release a couple of years ago.

Here we go!:-

Downing Street has also said that Gordon Brown had appealed to the Libyans not to give Megrahi a hero's welcome on his return.

Megrahi, the biggest mass murderer in British legal history, flew home to Tripoli on Thursday after being freed from jail on compassionate grounds by Scotland's devolved adminstration.

A large crowd gathered to greet his return, and he has been feted as a national hero. ...

... David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said ,

""Obviously the sight of a mass murderer getting a hero's welcome in Tripoli is deeply upsetting, deeply distressing,""
You bet it was "deeply distressing" Mr Miliband!

But you see, Mr Miliband, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and you have witnessed the hero's homecoming of somebody we in Britain call a terrorist and who has been released from prison to die at home - something he denied to his victims, all 270 of them.

Lord Foulkes questions General Dannatt's spending.

It's being reported that Lord Foulkes has tabled Parliamentary questions about General Dannatt's use "of public money and military helicopters".

Foulkes is reported as saying,
“Why is it wrong to ask questions? They’re perfectly proper questions. It is perfectly proper for members of parliament to table questions asking for information about the use of public money and resources.”
Of course he's right.

We do have the right to know where our money is being spent, and we were understandably irritated when we discovered that the political classes, of all colours, are being rather free with our hard earned cash. Some of us continue to be annoyed, and ask why those who spent rather too much of our money on themselves are still in their jobs.

And that's where the comparison stalls.

Lord Foulkes needs to understand that the military have a very rigid set of rules that cannot be manipulated, bent or broken - unlike the parliamentary Green Book's flexible regulations that appear to be very flexible, more especially if there's a few quid left in an individual MPs "allowances" account.

A General is not a Member of Parliament. A General is a senior officer in the Army. A General is selected for promotion simply because they are the best person for the job - end of.

This may be something that our politicians, and especially Labour politicians, find terrifically hard to understand and relate to - because so many of them have reached their own position of authority not because of what they are capable of doing but because of what they look like, where they grew up, who their best friends are, which God they worship, and even which gender they prefer to have sex with.

It's increasingly rare for a politician to be chosen because of their outstanding ability, intellectual capacity, background knowledge, suitability for high office or love of their country. In fact these values can be, and often are, derided and scorned as being snobbish or "Upper Class".

Mrs Rigby thinks that people like Lord Foulkes and his as yet un-named supporters, might be looking at their own experience in an attempt to undermine the character of somebody they don't like. Maybe they don't know why they don't like him - beyond knowing that General Dannat has asked some questions about defence procurement and the provision of suitable, and adequate, equipment for his troops that have made them look bad.

It is sometimes said that the best form of defence is attack, but it's surely best to choose the right weapon.

To use the weapon of "personal" spending against a General may be rather unwise.

If they took a moment to stop and think they might realise that it isn't his spending at all, it's spending he is required to make because he is a General and as part of his job he is required to be in 'x' place at 'y' time to meet 'z' people to discuss whatever they are meeting to discuss - a meeting that will have been arranged by the Foreign Office, NATO and so on. General Dannatt's meetings won't ever have been month long fact-finding missions to Mauritius.

General Dannat is not, and will never have been, allowed to make personal gain from his expenses - because it is all regulated by the MoD - and we know how tight-fisted the MoD is, because they won't spend the money to make sure our troops have the right equipment.

I wish Lord Foulkes, and others, well in their quest to undermine those at the head of the Army, but I think they would be wise to listen to Corporal Fraser, because I think their quest is "Doomed, I tell you, doomed!"

And in the meantime, whilst they expend so much energy in finding ways of avoiding having to provide equipment for our troops, another two soldiers have died.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Mrs Rigby is angry.

Mrs Rigby wasn't going to say anything more about the horrible mess that's being made, or that is appearing to be made, of supplying our troops with the equipment they need, but she read something today that made her very angry.

General Sir Richard Dannatt has, it is reported in the Mail,
"Pleaded for more resources to defeat the Taliban and said British forces could not operate 24-hour surveillance in the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan"
This means, at least I think it means, that the Taliban can take their time to plant their explosive devices, which then blow our young men to smithereens.

The newspaper goes on to report that Lord Guthrie, former Chief of the Defence Staff, said,
"Bob Ainsworth appears to be a thoroughly decent man who is miscast as Secretary for Defence, particularly at a time when the nation is involved in war.'
Seems quite a polite way of putting it to me, nothing offensive there.

So what do our esteemed politicians do in return?

Do they rush off to do the decent thing and do their utmost to try to hurry along the equipment that might save some soldiers' lives?

Do they heck!

The newspaper tells us in glorious detail that,
"Senior Labour MPs have submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests - urged on by an MoD minister - hoping to expose wining and dining bills at the Army boss's home in Kensington, West London.
The minister behind the smear this week branded Sir Richard a 'complete b*****d', after repeated clashes with the Army boss, who has 20 days to answer the questions."
So, rather than searching for ways of ensuring that our troops get the gear they need, our senior government ministers have decided to expend time, manpower and effort to find out what General Dannatt eats and drinks, and what he gives to his guests, in the hope that they can use his shopping bills as a weapon against him!

They give him 20 days to answer their questions, or ... what? Will he be subjected to a stop and search by by a PCSO? Will he be given an on the spot fine? Maybe he'll be thrown in the Tower?

It took these same ministers months and months of obfuscation and legal challenges before grudgingly letting us taxpayers see how they spend our money on themselves, their homes and their families. But even then they crossed out the bits they wanted kept secret - they were too late, we'd already read it all in the Daily Telegraph!

Ooh look! Bob Ainsworth claimed almost £6k for getting his house done up. His second house that is, the one we pay for. He had some nice beams, a lovely new fireplace and got rid of some walls and some nasty artex. He should have asked the Army, they've got a really clever way of getting rid of artex, and walls too, something called explosives.

These poor, stressed-out, government ministers (who swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown - the same sort of thing soldiers do, aged 16) must have been really, really, badly bruised by having their own expenses - oh sorry, they're called "allowances" otherwise they're taxed - published in the newspapers.

They must have been so terribly traumatized by being criticized and made to look like scoundrels for milking the public purse - to buy bath plugs, fancy porches, packets of crisps and DVDs - if they think it would hurt the feelings of any General for us to know how much he spends on a few of bottles of wine and a chicken or two. More especially when he, and we, know that the MoD wasted £259million on buying a load of fancy helicopters that won't work because they forgot to pay for the important computer bits.

These unhappy politicians were put on suicide watch, and were given counselling - paid for by the taxpayer - when details of their expenses were published, so it's hardly surprising that they think somebody who is only a General will be equally emotionally scarred by such an terrifically frightening experience.

Maybe they'd like to be a General? It sounds good, and it takes longer to say it than "MP". Trouble is, the rank isn't just dished out to your chums like sweeties after a birthday party or a seat in the Lords.

Let's see how easy it is to be a General. Simple! First you have to get into Sandhurst, by doing a bit more than turning up at the gate. Then you get trained as an Officer. Trouble is, it isn't a case of just attending a lecture or two and getting a shiny badge. If you're not good enough you do the training again - or go home and do something else with your life. I have a sneaky suspicion it's all a bit more difficult, and a lot more complex, than being able to sit on a bus.

Let's see what General Sir Richard Dannatt KCB CBE MC ADC Gen, did after he left Sandhurst. First of all he joined the Green Howards in 1971. Two years later he was awarded the Military Cross, which is for:-
"an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land to all members, of any rank in Our Armed Forces…"
There's more about him here, including details of his service in Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo etc.. He doesn't seem to have had a lot of spare time to sit on a yacht in the Mediterranean!

It also looks as if General Dannatt has had a bit more than mere words thrown at him as he worked his way from Lieutenant to General, using a combination of discipline and determination, along with a huge pinch of bravery. Real bravery that is, harder stuff than appearing on the X-Factor.

Have any of these high-ranking, money-grabbing, politicians any idea of what it's really like in the Army these days? Have they been near anything that makes more of a bang than a party popper?

Have they heard of horrid little bits of hard metal called bullets, or sharp, pointy stuff called shrapnel that can tear flesh apart? It's made worse if you aren't wearing body armour, or are in a vehicle that's badly designed and not fit for purpose.

Have our ministers heard of big explosive things that do more than go whoosh and make pretty patterns in the sky on bonfire night? They must, surely, have heard of bombs and rockets - and not just the big, posh, rockets that take men to the moon, or the little ones that come down to earth as an empty bit of cardboard on a stick and throw the Health and Safety brigade into such a panic.

There are bombs that are much, much bigger, and make much more noise - and they are being used against our young troops. These bombs make holes in the ground, holes so big that the Elfin Safety mob would have to have special meetings to formulate a strategy for dealing with them. These bombs make so much mess that fixed penalty fines for littering would generate enough cash to pay for the Olympics.

Our ministers should learn that while these bombs make their big, untidy, holes in the hard-packed ground they blow anybody unlucky enough to be nearby into lots of little pieces. Sometimes the little pieces have to be picked up, by people, and have to be carried back to the base and sent home in a box called a coffin.

Maybe our politicians should make a law against standing too close to an IED. That'd do the trick, it'd be cheaper than sending protective equipment and then they could fine the lawbreakers instead of having to pay compensation for injury.

Mrs R is truly astonished, and quite disgusted, to learn that the country is being run by individuals who will happily debase themselves by searching for what they think are dirty details, in an attempt to undermine the character of a General whose worst crime appears to be that of asking for more equipment for his men.

General Dannatt isn't somebody out of Oliver Twist, to be beaten by the Beadle for saying the wrong thing.

General Dannatt is trying to save lives, and he is also trying to get a job done properly because he's been told - by politicians - that it is important.

General Dannatt is, in fact, merely attempting to follow orders - something so alien to too many people these days, when doing as you're told seems to be an option, not a requirement, and behaving decently is something to be derided.

Mrs Rigby reckons the politicians should spare just four short minutes of their lives to see the impact their penny pinching policies and political posturing is having on the people they are paid to represent.

They should watch this short video, and afterwards they should take a moment to think that John Thornton had been doing the job he was being paid for - and doing it unquestioningly, without thought for himself, as have more than 200 other young men and women whose lives have been lost in Afghanistan.

I'm coming to realise that I should not be surprised that none of our government ministers have the courage to go to and stand alongside members of the British Legion at Wooton Bassett!

Hat tip for video: Jonathan Isaby

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Mr Ainsworth says criticizing the MoD is unpatriotic.

Mrs Rigby notes that recently promoted to Secretary of State for Defence Mr Bob Ainsworth says that "criticism of the MoD is unpatriotic", and claims the public's "defeatist" attitude is letting troops down.

Mrs Rigby thinks that, as a politician, he should know better than to use the "patriotism" card against those he is supposed to represent.

Mrs R reckons she is as patriotic as they come. She is intensely proud of being British and staunchly defends Great Britain against all comers. She'd probably fight too, if necessary, but isn't suitable material for the military. But none of this means she thinks that everything about Great Britain, and the way it's being run, is perfect.

Here's an analogy.

The Rigby children know we love them dearly and are incredibly proud them - because they aren't drug-taking, hoodie-wearing thugs; because they are polite; because they study hard and have time to play; because they are reliable and, well, because they are nice and have nice friends too. Sometimes we pat ourselves on the back too, because we reckon we're doing a fairly good job of parenting.

The junior Rigbys know there are times when their behaviour is criticized. As they grow older they realise that this is because we love them so much, rather than the opposite, although it's sometimes tough love and causes arguments - that we all learn from.

They are coming to understand that all this is part of the learning process, part of our attempts to guide them in the right direction, so that as adults they will make a useful contribution to their country - and so that they will also be able to accept praise with dignity and learn from constructive criticism.

They are learning that praise means what it says, that they've done good, it isn't an empty gesture intended to placate.

They are also learning that nobody ever truly stops learning from others, that they too have a role in shaping the attitudes and opinions of us, their parents, and our own outlook on the world.

Some of our childrens' friends are planning to join the Army, others are planning to join the Navy, Air Force or Territorial Army. These are young people we have watched grow up alongside our own flesh and blood.

When we and these children's parents question the behaviour of government departments and politicians it isn't being unpatriotic, far from it, it's voicing an opinion intended to help make things better and improving the way the country is being managed. It is also done in the hope that somebody, somewhere, will listen to us and make sure they take appropriate action to ensure our young people are kept as safe as possible.

Those who join the military are not the dregs of society. Few, if any, of them would ever presume to be a burden on the state in civilian life and each and every one of them has sworn allegiance to the Crown, indicating a willingness to fight to the death for their country if need be.

The least the country can do in return is ensure that they are properly provided for, and offered the best possible equipment to do their job effectively and efficiently.

In May 2009 a court ruled that military personnel were protected by the Human Rights Act, even in battle.
The ruling means that sending soldiers on patrol or into battle with clearly defective or inadequate equipment could breach their human rights.
We are now in August 2009.

Military chiefs, politicians and members of the public continue to voice their fears that the MoD is failing to supply front-line troops with the right equipment at the right time. Here are some of the things that have gone wrong.

* They have failed to supply enough bulletproof vests - a third are without protection at any one time.

* They have failed to supply enough helicopters - so supply movements are overland rather than airborne.

* They have failed to supply the new vehicles designed to withstand roadside bombs - even though those in use have known deficiencies and have resulted in loss of life. Some vehicles are held in Kuwait, awaiting transportation - but apparently there aren't enough British helicopters to carry them.

* They have failed to supply the right colour uniform - wearing sand-camouflaged gear some of our soldiers are sitting ducks, so they try to dye their own.

Mrs Rigby has read of other supply failures, but is satisfied that these examples are enough for now.

Mrs Rigby is sure that Mr Ainsworth took the time to read the letters from 19 year-old Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher to his family, published after his death in July. She would like to know if Mr Ainsworth read Ian Sadler's article, in which he tells how his son begged him to send a helmet that fitted. Trooper Jack Sadler died, aged 21, in December 2007. Did Mr Ainsworth read how Sally Thorneloe felt after her husband, Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, died in July?

Last week a terribly injured soldier died from wounds, he was the 200th to die as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan. That his death marks this numerical milestone will not ease or reassure his grieving family and friends.

Today we learn that three more soldiers have died whilst on patrol.

Those who have died overseas are repatriated through RAF Lyneham, their flag-draped coffins pass through the small town of Wootton Bassett, where townsfolk silently line the pavements in honour their sacrifice. During the summer many holidaymakers have taken time to do the same. If Mr Ainsworth has taken a break from his three month holiday from Westminster to join them it hasn't been publicised.

Mrs Rigby wonders if either Mr Brown or Mr Ainsworth have taken a moment to think beyond party politics to try to relate to the emotions of bereaved families when they learn that essential equipment, held in Kuwait or in storage here in UK, might have saved their sons or daughters lives or may have saved them from suffering terrible injuries - or have these men become too desensitised because so many have died, and are they too concerned about their own political future?

It is an unequivocal right of the electorate to question our parliamentary representatives, irrespective of their political persuasion, more especially if it appears that they are getting it wrong and failing in their duty to protect the interests, and lives, of those people who have signed on the dotted line - and whose job involves risking far greater injury than RSI of the wrist.

It is, surely, the duty of a responsible politician to listen to both the electorate and experts, and offer significantly more than platitudes or condemnation in return.

Mrs R cannot understand why the government isn't hurrying things along to respect the Human Rights of our troops - as is their right - in the same way as they ensure that people like this are properly provided for, and protected, by the state.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Hazel Blears says teenagers are bored.

Hazel Blears' car has been vandalised. She is reported as saying it was targetted by some disaffected teenagers who had "... nothing to do on a hot afternoon".

The Telegraph carries more details in its' article "Hazel Blears's Car smashed up while she speaks to voters."

Mrs Rigby took a moment to remind herself of Hazel's Parliamentary career.

Hazel Blears was first elected in 1997, as MP for for Salford. A mere four years later, in 2001, she was given the role of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Health. From 2007 she was Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. She resigned from the Cabinet in June 2009.

Mrs R wonders if Hazel has suffered a lapse of memory. She seems to have forgotten that for the last two years it was her responsibility to ensure our "Communities" work properly - which should have included making sure our youth are not so bored on a hot summer's day that they resort to smashing cars for fun.

Mrs R isn't the least impressed that Hazel also said, "This is what a lot of people in my constituency have to put up with."

These young people have grown up during the twelve years of New Labour. What a terrible indictment of her own government's policies!