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)

Thursday 26 August 2010

Breeding Apostrophes.

When Mrs R was at primary school, where she shared her classroom with various species of literate dinosaurs, she was taught about apostrophes. It doesn't seem to happen these days, ever, otherwise how can so many adults splatter their writings with random apostrophes?

Take a look for yourself. Once you've spotted one of these creatures in the wrong place you'll notice even more - they seem to be secretly breeding. Incorrect use is no longer restricted to the Greengrocer and his/her "sacks of potatoe's"* or "Christmas Tree's for sale"* (suggesting that there is an unknown something belonging to Christmas Tree for sale).

A few bloggers do it, but not very many of those in Mrs R's blogroll, so Mrs R doubts this post will be of interest to any who also link to her site. She wonders if bloggers have better grammatical knowledge than the 'interested/disgusted/annoyed of Britain' commenters in newspapers who seem, these days, to be adding apostrophes to words - just because there's an 's' at the end.

Anyhow, if anybody who happens to be reading this post wants to learn how to use apostrophes properly there are sites which can help. Here are a few :-

The Apostrophe Protection Society.
Apostrophes – how to use them.
How to use an Apostrophe.
The correct use of the apostrophe.

Having digested and understood all that difficult stuff, and having had a lie down, perhaps some practice might be a good idea? Take a look at these :-

BBC Skillwise

From Bristol (University?)
Using the apostrophe #1
Using the apostrophe #2.
Who's or Whose?
It's or Its?

From "Teaching and Learning Resources"
Using apostrophes to spell shortened forms of words
Using the apostrophe to show ownership 1
Using the apostrophe to show ownership 2
Using the apostrophe to show ownership 3
It's or its?

It seems that thirteen years in full time education doesn't allow enough time to learn about such tricky little things as apostrophes, plurals and so on, so maybe it's time for the newspapers to teach their readers some basic grammar?

Should be :-
"sacks of potatoes"
"Christmas Trees for sale."

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Labour's 3,000+ new laws.

The Mail seems to have got the title wrong, these 3,000 'new crimes' weren't just to catch out businesses.
The Law Commission said that during the past two decades, breaches of red tape that should have been dealt with by civil fines and bans had been elevated into crimes that affected millions of people and thousands of businesses
These crimes were, Mrs Rigby thinks, intentionally or not, a means of giving authority to power-hungry individuals - who then used these laws on ordinary folk who've never had so much as a parking ticket, and whose 'shame' at being handed an instant fine for a supposed misdemeanour (along with the threats of what would happen if the 'ticket' was challenged) would make them pay their 'fines' quickly and quietly, and without too much fuss. It means that everybody is indeed a potential criminal, even unwittingly, because few people would know all these laws and be able to avoid breaking at least one of them.

What this has also done is turn the due process of law (and law enforcement) on its' head. The individual who issues the 'penalty notice', and who often works alone, is prosecutor, judge and jury combined - and generally without even five minute's legal training.
Since Tony Blair came to power in 1997, the [Law] Commission said, more than 3,000 such crimes had been created.

New crimes brought in since 1989 fill three volumes of the criminal law record, Halsbury's Statutes of England and Wales, taking up 3,746 pages.

All the crimes established in the 637 years between 1351 and 1988 fill only one volume.

Monday 23 August 2010

Getting recognised.

Is Mrs Rigby the only person in the world who is uneasy about this software and how it might eventually be used by those who like to exercise control over our lives?

Friday 20 August 2010

On the verge of ...

John Prescott today warns the Labour party that it is £20m in debt, "on the verge of bankruptcy"
John Prescott is, by the way, hoping to become Labour party Treasurer. The introductory piece in the Guardian is here, the main article here.

Mr Prescott seems to blame Gordon Brown for the Labour Party's problems, although he doesn't seem to condemn him for the state of the country's economy. He says,... the so-called "election that never was", in 2007, cost the party £1.5m in preparation costs ...

Prescott also thanks the various backers who are, currently, keeping the party afloat, namely,
... party staff and volunteers, trade union contributions, high value donations and the goodwill of the Co-op bank ...
Iain Dale highlights Unite's cost-cutting efforts, which somehow managed to increase the Union's 'surplus' by more than £9million in a mere twelve months - a truly astonishing sum of money in these cash-strapped times. And Bob Crow's salary has been increased by 12%. So it would seem that, at the moment at least, the Unions are flush with funds.

When an organisation is deep in debt it's easy for it to be pressurised by those with a bit of cash to push their way and because of this Mrs R thinks the next few months in the life of the Labour Party will be more than a little interesting. She thinks it's not only on the verge of bankruptcy, time will tell.

Mrs R hasn't the time to write more, so suggests you read what other bloggers have to say about this - John Ward in Medway "Labour almost Bankrupt" and Raedwald "Thieves operate in this area".

Edit : And Iain Dale has an idea that might help save Labour from bankruptcy.

Thursday 19 August 2010


I don't know what Mr Brown is on but this news about him lecturing on economics is the biggest
laugh since he led Al Gore into the broom cupboard at the Copenhagen climate conference.

From comments here.

h/t Subrosa

Wednesday 18 August 2010

A form of tax relief?

It's in the Mail!
Tony Blair could claim tax relief of almost £1.75million as a result of his plan to donate the proceeds of his memoirs to a charity helping injured British soldiers.... and ... ... the multi-millionaire could lessen the blow to his wallet thanks to 'Gift Aid' rules brought in by his government ten years ago.
Maybe all those new rules were a good idea useful after all.
... under current tax rules, he faces a tax bill of £2.3million on the sum, as he pays income tax in the 50 per cent bracket.

This would mean the entire cost of the donation for Mr Blair would be the £4.6million advance plus the £2.3million paid to the taxman, adding up to £6.9million.
Wow! That's a lot of cash to give away. Seems remarkably generous.
But once he makes the donation, the former PM is perfectly entitled to claim back a large proportion of this original tax bill in the form of tax relief. Under Gift Aid rules, the Royal British Legion can first reclaim the basic rate portion of the tax already paid on the £4.6million by Mr Blair at 20 per cent. This amounts to an extra £1.15million and will swell the actual donation to £5.75million.

But under rules governing charitable donations, Mr Blair is also then entitled to receive tax relief equivalent to 30 per cent on the total donation of £5.75million. This would equate to a potential clawback of up to £1.72million.
So, if you give away a load of money you don't really need the uber-generous tax office will give you a third back - cash in hand - for being so benevolent. And, naturally ... Mr Blair's spokesman last night insisted that the former Premier would 'not benefit' in any way from the donation.

All this might, though, be idle speculation, because the Telegraph tells us that
It is not clear whether the offer to the charity includes the advance or whether the donation will simply be “proceeds” accumulated on top of the advance, which is usually repaid to the publisher.
So, if the book doesn't sell as many copies as anticipated the publishers might want some of their advance paid back - and, of course, they'll look churlish for taking cash destined to a well-deserving charity.

What a mare's nest - and quite clever too.

All this might mean that nobody really knows how much might end up being given to RBL - and the whole thing will prove to have been yet another empty gesture, nothing more than spin and free publicity for a book that's, pre-release - being offered at half price on Amazon. The Guardian tells us that this free advertising (some via the country's publicly funded state broadcaster, the BBC) seems to have worked too. Who'd a thought it!

The Metro refers to the possible donation as Blood Money, and Adnan Sarwar in the Guardian reminds us that when ...
... Sir John Chilcot [Iraq War Inquiry] asked Blair if he had any regrets. After initially dodging the question, Blair answered with a confident "No". In the audience were families who had lost their children in the wars. I was astounded by Blair's arrogance. Given the most public platform since he left office and a perfect opportunity to show some respect, he decided not to. ...

... I have heard people say if Blair was being genuine he could have donated anonymously and out of the public eye. I don't care if this is genuine or more spin – what I do care about is helping soldiers. ... I won't be buying Blair's book though.
And nor will Mrs Rigby be buying the book. If she wants to donate to the Royal British Legion she will do so directly, either via their website or by putting some money in one of their collecting boxes. She sees no need whatsoever to channel any donation through a third party.

Mrs R also wonders if, maybe, in the long run it's best to take the mickey as does The Daily Mash, and we should accept that
... the RBL should keep the money, it will do far more good with them than it will in Blairs pocket ...
We are all mortal, no matter how clever, how clean-living or how rich we are, it's the one certainty of being human - and there are no pockets in a shroud. A few months ago Mr Blair was looking quite frail which is why, thanks to ARRSE, Mrs R will share a verse from Bob Dylan's Masters of War
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.

Tuesday 17 August 2010


Way back here Mrs Rigby mentioned that Portugal decriminalised the use of some drugs. On 1st July 2001
... a nationwide law in Portugal took effect that decriminalized all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Under the new legal framework, all drugs were "decriminalized," not "legalized." Thus, drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm. Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offence.
And the results of this innovative law were looked at not only the Cato Institute but also by both Time Magazine and Scientific American five years later, in April 2009. According to the Cato Institute
The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.
Now, it would seem that there may soon be a sensible debate about decriminalising drugs in Britain. The Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Green Q.C. fired the opening salvo, followed by a supporting article from Professor Sir Ian Gilmore who suggests that Cocaine should be legal. Mrs Rigby is interested to see that Lord Norton has taken the time to make a comment, writing on Lords of the Blog and, within the comments there it would seem that Baroness Murphy accepts that
We simply haven’t got our response to drugs right yet.
Britain isn't alone in 'not getting it right yet', if we were then there'd be no need for the EU agency, called the EMCDDA - European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction - which is in Lisbon. The agency's site tells us that
Illicit drug use and trafficking are worldwide phenomena that threaten health and social stability. Statistics show that around one in three young Europeans has tried an illicit drug and at least one of our citizens dies every hour from a drug overdose. ...
This gives an indication of the scale, and the tragedy, of modern drug use.

Mrs Rigby's gut instincts accept that prohibition doesn't work, except to drive money towards the unscrupulous and encourage illicit, illegal and sometimes dangerous trading in banned items. History tends to reinforce this opinion - beginning with (as Mrs R recalls from a comment somewhere or other) what was supposed to have happened in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were told they could do whatever thy liked - but must not to touch the apples.

Britain has the strictest gun laws in Europe - but these laws haven't kept illegal guns from our streets, with tragic consequences. We know that the Puritans were unhappy with the way Britain was being run, so went off to America and then we got a Puritan regime led by Cromwell who was so, umm, successful in enforcing strict rules and regulations that
By the end of his life, both Cromwell and the 11 major-generals who helped to run the country, had become hated people. The population was tired of having strict rules forced onto them.
And, of course, in the last century "Prohibition" in America gave the world Al Capone - referred to as
America's best known gangster and the single greatest symbol of the collapse of law and order in the United States during the 1920s Prohibition era.
Maybe he was 'liked' because
He was the first to open soup kitchens after the 1929 stock market crash and he ordered merchants to give clothes and food to the needy at his expense
These days, a little more than 80 years after Capone was charged with tax evasion, the modern prohibitionists are having a field day. We're heckled and harangued, bullied and threatened, by so-called 'health professionals' who tell us we should all be eating, drinking and living 'healthily'. Yet, despite all the rules and 'advice', we're also told we're in the middle of an 'obesity epidemic', cancer rates aren't exactly plummeting and nor are deaths from so-called 'lifestyle' illnesses - which now includes diabetes.

The latest wheeze to make us all behave in such a way that we'll all live for ever is to threaten withdrawal of medical care from the 'unhealthy' - completely forgetting that 'healthy people' don't tend to see a doctor until they stop being healthy by falling ill or breaking something, and every single thing we do is a lifestyle choice.

So, when the same 'professionals' tell us off for taking naughty drugs not many people listen - especially kids, who know they're immortal. There's overload, it's all too much and anyway for some people taking drugs might be the only way they think they can actually control some aspect of their lives.

If education were the key then there would be no drug problem, because schools have been preaching the anti-drug agenda for donkey's years - starting when children are infants.

Prison doesn't seem to be the answer either - long jail sentences don't seem to deter either dealers or users. One gets put inside, another swiftly takes their place.

So, maybe it is time to be innovative, and follow Portugal's lead. It's worth looking at, surely?

Mixed-sex - no thanks.

In 21st century Britain, where few children share a bedroom with their siblings and many homes have as many bathrooms as bedrooms, it is a terrible indictment that our 'world class healthcare' - much praised by the Labour government - should insist that sick, incapacitated and/or terminally ill people are forced into wards alongside total strangers, sometimes alongside strangers of the opposite sex.

Labour promised these mixed-sex wards would be closed but, as with many of their manifesto promises, it was nothing more than empty words. Let's hope the current lot will make it happen, but Mrs R has a feeling they'll be up against very important hospital administrators who want to retain control of their empires irrespective of the needs, or wishes, of their patients.

"What's wrong with mixed-sex hospital wards?" ... is the title of this CiF piece. The comments are, as usual, quite revealing and seem to indicate clear differences of opinion - possibly separating those who have been in-patients and those who've never been hospitalised.

Mrs R has experienced in-patient care in a mixed-sex ward, and it was horrible. She was the only female in an eight-bed area/bay. Despite pleas from both her and the rest of her family it's where she had to stay because the powers-that-be said there were no other available beds. Mrs R is more than a little convinced that her wish desperate need to escape led to her being discharged too early - swiftly followed by emergency readmission (to a different hospital further from home) less than 48 hours later.

Although Mrs R has no medical training whatsoever she is fairly sure that men and women deal with illness and incapacity differently. She does know that, if we're taken ill and taken away from our immediate family, it's bad enough having to share a room with a load of strangers, let alone total strangers of the opposite sex - with the illusion of privacy being provided only by a flimsy and rather grubby curtain with a lower edge no nearer the floor than the average kneecap.

One of the men in this particular mixed ward was an absolute gent - but was it fair that he felt the need to try to be 'decent' (in word and deed) in front of a woman who was in an adjacent bed? Was it reasonable for that long-retired man to have to sleep in the same room as Mrs Rigby, and have to discuss his medical problems with staff knowing she could hear every single word?

The other occupants of the ward? Well, umm, the least said about them the better! Man-to-man conversations are sometimes obviously very, err, mannish, and aren't really the sort of thing many women want (or need) to listen to. Oh, and there was the one who thought using the ward's communal washbasin was a clever trick, because it saved him having to walk along the corridor. The nurses never noticed, and nor did the cleaner who gave the sink a cursory wipe once a day.

These wards might have been a clever idea, once, but they were never the right thing to do. They might have saved a bit of space, the same as open-plan offices, but in the long run Mrs R is convinced that they compromise patient care and, in some cases, delay recovery.

So, she wishes the government the very best of luck in their plans to get rid of mixed-sex wards - by the end of the year.

Monday 16 August 2010

Dr Kelly

Taking a breather from family stuff Mrs R has had a quick scan of the online newspapers and noticed that the Mail seems to be maintaining the pressure with regards to the possibly mysterious death of Dr David Kelly. It would seem that more and more 'experts' are calling for a Coroner's Inquest, something that was denied the family at the time.

Some seem to think the Hutton 'Inquiry' was better than an inquest, but fail to acknowledge that, at the time, Mr Straw was calling for secret inquests that not even the family of the deceased would be able to attend, with results hidden for ever. None of those satisfied with Hutton have ever offered more than the most risible of explanations outlining the need for the 70-year embargo imposed by Falconer.

So, maybe, it shouldn't come as a surprise to read this small paragraph - which seems to have nothing to do with Dr Kelly.
Tolstoy’s defence against the libel action was seriously hampered when the Ministry of Defence removed vital papers from the Public Record Office which Tolstoy needed to fight his case – while Aldington found his access to war records unimpeded.
It would, Mrs R thinks, be interesting to know how often 'public' records are (or were) quietly removed from the public eye to suit the needs of one agency or another.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Family and friends - it's time.

The Rigbys are spending the summer holidays visiting, and being visited by, as many of the multitude of Rigby relatives and friends as possible in the few weeks between now and the end of August.

Because of this Mrs R doesn't expect to be either near her computer, a newspaper or a television very often - which will actually be quite a nice change. She's sure the world will carry on turning and, maybe, the sun will keep shining too.

Just think, last August the Libyan was sent home to die - but didn't. Teddy Kennedy did die, and the government of the day was telling us we were unpatriotic to criticise the MoD ... and ministers and their chums tried to dirty the character of General Dannatt and, of course, Mr Brown went to Afghanistan for a photo-op.

It all seems a million light years away.

One of the nicest things about this summer is that it is Mr Brown-free. It makes quite a nice change really. Mrs R wonders, sometimes, if he'll ever get his book written - he does seem to have 'missed the boat' a bit, because others have got their word in first and whatever does end up being published is likely to look either a bit jaded and weary, or as yet another attack, designed to wound and hurt others whilst he tries to retain the upper hand. But, frankly, Mrs R doesn't care, and she has absolutely no interest in reading a single word of his memoirs. Why bother? We've all lived through those thirteen years and are suffering the consequences of his 'prudence'.

And that, really, is why all the British Rigbys are spending the summer visiting each other and staying for a few hours, or a few days - long enough to talk without embarrassing silences, but not long enough to be in the way. You see, without exception all the Rigbys and Rigby-friends are a bit strapped for cash these days.

One thing that would be nice, a bit of a sweetener in these stony-broke times, something small to help make a lot of people feel as if they count - even though Mr Clegg has already dismissed the idea - is to revisit the smoking ban. You see, although not many Rigbys smoke tobacco there are enough who do to make going out in a group a bit of a chore. It's no longer 'fun' when some need to get up and walk outside a pub, and it's not nice to be sitting in a beer garden having a natter with friends only to be accosted by moaning non-smoking total strangers who complain that their 'fresh air' is being polluted by a whiff of smoke. They could, after all, go inside where there's a guarantee, enshrined in harsh laws, that says the insides of pubs and clubs have to be totally smokeless. It's what they wanted, but now, because of the sunshine, they want the outside too. It spoils things a bit, even for the non-smoker Rigbys and Rigby-friends.

It would be nice, don't you think, if the coalition could offer pubs and, maybe even eating places, the right to choose whether to be smoke-free or not. Then people could choose whether to go to those places, or not.

Mrs Spelman said, only yesterday, that all women should be free to choose the clothes they wear, even though others might disapprove of, or are even fearful of the look of, certain items of clothing. Her thoughts were endorsed by Mr Damian Green. They said it's about choice. It's also, Mrs Rigby thinks, about living with the consequences of making certain choices - because women who wear face-hiding burquas might find they can't go into a bank, or can't go and talk to an MP - they might have to get somebody else to do it for them, which could sometimes be a bit awkward. But, it's their choice.

The coalition has hinted that nobody should be heckled or nagged or legislated and fined into submission. So, if a pub or club chooses to allow smoking it could quite easily have big signs outside, same as places in many other European countries, and people can choose whether to go through the door - or not. That's the grown-up way, isn't it?

So, let's hope, that along with the sunshine and the other 'freedoms' we're all meant to be getting back, let's see the government treat grown-ups like grown-ups.

It's time.