has also presented a programme called
the AirColumn. The material was taken from a book written by Robert
MacGregor, and brilliantly illustrated with some of the most wicked
cartoons by a genius called Martin Wallace. The book is called "I
can't take any more Crap". That title again ... I can't take
any more Crap, by Robert MacGregor.
to Buy your copy of;-
I Can't Take Any More Crap! - By Robert MacGregor.
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with any other on-line book-seller you might know about, such as
WHSmith - and you can place an order directly through the publishers
at ...www.troubador.co.uk, I Cant Take Any More Crap
again to the AirColumn - but as from this month, a change to the
approach and something of an experiment. For a long time now I've
been observing and writing about politics in Britain, and I've now
reached the point where I need to share the view I've developed
- and see if I can provoke a response from you, the listener. If
you're listening to this, I want your opinion. And if I don't manage
to elicit much of a response, it will tell me that I'm wasting my
time and my breath because you don't care. You damned well ought
to care, but I can't make you. If you want to respond, send an e-mail
and it'll be passed on to me. Then, next time, I can incorporate
some views other than mine, whether they coincide with mine or not.
At the last General Election, chances are that you didn't go the
polling station, did you? For that matter, you probably didn't vote
in recent local elections either. Why'm I so sure of this? Because
average turnouts at any elections in Britain these days run at a
lot less than 50 percent - and that means that half of the people
who're entitled to use this precious democratic gift just can't
be arsed - and it's fifty percent on a good day. Usually, it's down
around thirty percent and lower in local elections. So I'm on a
good bet if I say that you couldn't be bothered to vote. But why
is this happening? What is it about politics in Britain today that
is such a damned turn-off for us, and especially for younger people
who are supposed to be the front-runners in the race to the future?
Why do we not seem to understand that modern Government plays such
a central, dominating all-consuming role in the lives of every one
of us, every day, and that we'd better find a way to re-connect
with the way things work politically because if we don't, our Government,
whether that's national or local, will just keep on doing what it
wants to do and to hell with what we feel about any of it. Have
you taken stock recently of the mess this once great country is
in? We're in real trouble. And let me just emphasise, in case you
miss the point - every single aspect of everything I'm about to
remind you of, is in the hands of a Government department. The Government
is in direct control of every one.
This is an area where our current Government loves to tell the world
How Good We Are At World Affairs. And where are we? We go to "war"
with Iraq because President Dubya and the British Prime Minister
(whoever that may be) are still, understandably and rightly, furious
about 9-11 and are looking for someone, anyone, on whom they can
exact revenge – and because 50% of the world's known oil reserves
are under Arab sands, which is very bad news for the USA. WMD? There
were none, but our Parliament was fooled into endorsing that non-war,
from which there now seems to be no escape. Saddam was a piece of
filth, but no worse than several other brutal dictators around the
world who deserve to be binned along with him, but going to "war"
because he posed a threat with WMD that didn't exist? Political
nonsense, intrigue, cover-ups, lies, distortions, and worse. With
no end in sight for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, do we have
any clear British home-grown thinking as to what the solution might
be in the Middle East? Does our Government have any idea how our
Army's presence in Iraq and Afghanistan adds fuel to the Islamic
extremist fire and puts British citizens in the front rank of the
extremists' targets? No, none, apparently.
Our health service is in permanent crisis with many Health Trusts
effectively bankrupt, still-long waiting lists despite Government
protestations, incomprehensible and self-defeating targets, this
kind of hospital, that kind of hospital, while doctors're overworked
and fed up despite being overpaid - and with near revolt by the
same doctors as a result of sheer bloody incompetence on the part
of Government in making desperately unfair training arrangements.
Nurses can't find jobs and when they do, they too are shamefully
underpaid. Hospital consultants call all the important shots in
hospital management while being utterly unqualified to do so - and
no-one has any clear idea as to where it's all going. Tuberculosis,
once widespread and dreaded, then conquered, is back with a vengeance.
MRSA. Imported American obesity becoming a British epidemic. Life-saving
medicines not available because a collection of accountants have
their hands on every purse string in the NHS which isn't about medical
attention any more, but about money. And so on and on and on.
Every kind of education's in a constant state of shambles and experiment.
University top-up fees, AS, A2-levels, more targets, Ofsted causing
ulcers and resignations. If you've never been on the receiving end
of an Ofsted inspection by the way, think Gestapo. Paperwork, more
paperwork, league tables, performance payments, and our overall
standards of literacy and numeracy going down, not up. Shed a tear
for the teachers who have to cope with mountains of maddening, time-wasting
red tape, all originating in Whitehall.
Transport is a national joke. Railways never likely to recover from
the disgrace of a horribly badly-managed privatisation, road networks
in a terrible state of repair on the most congested roads in Europe,
more and more cars on the road every year despite one of the highest
levels of fuel price in the world, plans to widen motorways without
proper thought about the consequences, hardly any advance in public
transport, airports a constant cause of local antagonism, plans
to charge us per mile for using cars when we have no choice, even
when almost two million people object to the idea. No overall strategy
The Scots have one kind, the Welsh another, the Northern Irish have
... well, what exactly do they have? And the English have – nothing
English MP's at Westminster can still vote to overrule decisions
of the Scottish Parliament, or the Welsh Assembly, while Scottish
and Welsh MP's can also vote on matters which are purely to do with
places or problems in England. There's talk of regional assemblies
for England, but there's no clear idea as to where, if at all, they
might happen, nor when, nor even why. Some people, and I'm among
them, have serious doubts about the creation of yet another layer
of government, particularly if it spawns yet another series of local
With the rare exception in the form of a very occasional amazing athlete,
we are the world's also-rans, with pathetic financial support from
central Government for the sports where British winners in every sport
ought to be making us proud. We seldom win anything in any major team
sport in the world, and most of them were invented and developed in
Britain, where we still have more people per head of population than
almost anywhere else, actively participating – but the system
is throwing up no stars. Frankly, I am not at all sure that I want
any Whitehall fingers in the sports pie and there's a lot to say that
the post of "Sports Minister" ought to be abolished forthwith,
but where we have national teams which are supposed to be there to
bring kudos and prestige to the nation, then maybe some real Government
action needs to be taken. Oh, and while I'm on about money and sport
- is there anything good we can say about the 2012 Olympics? Does
anyone actually know what it is going to cost?
IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM
We have no idea how to handle this mess, with one lot of politicians
telling us that immigrants are good for us, the others trying to cut
down on the numbers because immigrants and asylum seekers are a drain
on our resources, and no-one able to establish any kind of sensible
control. Meanwhile, as the Americans' doors are closed and even France
seems to have some sort of policy, Britain is seen as the place to
be if you want to escape from where you are, whatever the reason.
And if it is true, as it almost certainly is, that immigrants are
essential to our economy to do the jobs we Brits won't do, then we
ought to have a Government policy to handle that. But we don't.
An increasingly poor old-age stares more and more people
in the face – Britain isn't a place where you should be content
to be growing old, because the state pension will be worth less and
less, and private pensions schemes are fast becoming a very bad joke
for millions of us, managed it seems by very sophisticated crooks.
Is Government making any real progress towards sensible changes ?
No, none. At the other end of the scale, Britain is not a good place
to start life either - our children are measurably worse off than
those in every other civilised country.
There seems to be a new Inspector of Prisons every five minutes, and
every time we hear from them, they tell us that British prisons are
disgusting, filthy, overcrowded and breeding grounds for criminal
activity of every kind - while whoever is Home Secretary today or
Minister of Justice tomorrow keeps creating more and more offences
which require custodial sentences in those same disgusting, filthy,
We're all paying more and more every year, mostly through taxes no-one
talks about. Since 1997 when the Bright Shining New Labour Government
took over from the Cons, the amount of tax we pay in total, per person,
has increased by a massive percentage, while the Lab politicians keeping
making it look as though taxes have hardly moved up at all. Compared
to every other country in Europe, we pay more tax than their citizens
do, whichever way you measure it. And are we getting better value
for our money – our money, remember? Not at all. RED
It's strangling our businesses, our schools, our hospitals - and it's
getting worse. Ask anyone who runs a school, or any kind of enterprise
large or small, and they'll tell you that they're drowning in verbiage,
produced by the ton by bureaucrats whose job is to create bureaucracy,
nothing else. Accountants, lawyers, consultants all get rich on the
proceeds of trying to help people untangle the net as it tightens
around them, and even the accountants, lawyers, consultants etc.,
etc are starting to complain that their jobs are being made nightmarish.
When that happens, we really are in trouble. And every year the politicians
tell us they are aware of the problem and are tackling it. Such lies.
PARLIAMENT, AND THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN PARTICULAR
A disgraceful snake-pit of bad temper and low standards, with a Commons
chamber empty so much of the time that one wonders what it's for,
other than having fun at someone else's expense. The chamber fills
at Prime Minister's Question Time, when everyone can indulge in or
watch their favourite Parliamentary game; "Bait the Prime Minister".
Much fuss was made about reforming the Commons, but when it was done,
it was all about making the lives of MP's more comfortable. No more,
no less. And as for the House of Lords ... well, there'll never be
agreement on reforming that plush and posh club because too many members
of the club are very comfortable thank you, so just leave us alone,
OK? And, frankly, seeing what an elected lower house of Parliament
is like, who can blame the Lords for wanting to be left alone?
You're listening to the AirColumn on Celtica Radio with John Grierson
- and that's the end of Part One of our new experiment to get you
thinking about the way Britain in governed in this third millennium.
Time for a short break, but I'll be right back.
back to the AirColumn on Celtica Radio, and now to Part Two of our
new-style AirColumn. So far, I've talked about a dozen or so key areas
of our lives where politics and politicians have their fingers in
the pie and are making a mess of it ... but there's more, starting
THE HONOURS SYSTEM
A cynical and disgusting display of gongs for the boys, with the whole
thing run by the politicians and especially by the Prime Minister,
whose power to distribute titles has become a sick joke – but
handing out titles and medals is just another weapon in the armoury
of a politician who knows how to keep the party faithful in line and
to keep money coming into the party coffers. What chance does Britain
have while this terrible and corrupt system prevails? And as if this
isn't bad enough, we now have a clear-cut situation where the awesome
power in the hands of the Prime Minister results in the Police - the
Police! Questioning the same Prime Minister about giving away titles
in return for cash into the party coffers.
This greedy breed is allowed to get away with putting up two fingers
to the rest of us, while they negotiate colossal rewards either for
failure or for shuffling bits of paper, and they keep lying to us
about the need to pay "international rates" for top jobs.
They're paid as much as a good lottery win, every year – and
the Government, which could and should be putting reasonable controls
on how much any human being can be paid, does nothing at all, because
many members of the Government know that, come the end of their careers
in politics, they'll be offered and they will accept precisely the
kind of over-paid jobs they ought to detest. And that goes for all
FARMING AND FISHING
Recent crises in animal farming were handled so badly that no-one
appears to have anything good to say about what happened, and when
it cost millions more than necessary to bring things under control;
weeks more time than was necessary; the loss of hundreds, possibly
thousands3 of businesses and jobs - gone forever. Meanwhile, many,
many small farmers struggle under mountains of debt to stay in business,
and lose the battle every day to huge agri-businesses and the supermarkets,
none of which is good for our countryside, or for our future as a
nation - while a frightening number of those farmers commit suicide
at worst, or at best, leave farming for good. And what about fishing?
Spanish, French, almost any boats from anywhere rape our fishing grounds
while the British fishing fleet disappears, fish are getting scarcer
and more expensive, and centuries of fishing expertise is going down
the plug-hole with each crew forced to give up and every boat broken
up for scrap.
OUR ARMED FORCES
Our service-people are equipped with things that don't work, after
the Ministry of Defence had spent millions on developing tanks which
hated sand, boots which melted, rifles which jammed, radios which
received nothing and transmitted nothing. And while we watch our armed
forces withering away, (don't take my word for that - several of our
most senior Generals, both retired and active, are saying so) our
arms manufacturers supply every despot and tyrant in the world with
tons of high quality arms of every kind.
FOR POLITICAL PARTIES
We appear to be edging towards allowing the parties to poke their
sticky fingers deep into the public purse so that elections are funded
by the very taxpayers who are the voters. That's bad enough, but meanwhile,
the parties also push their massive begging bowls in the direction
of hard-eyed businessmen and/or trades unions who do nothing for nothing.
So, in exchange for great lumps of cash (loans? gifts? both? when
is a loan not a loan and a gift not a gift?) the donors expect something
in return and they get it in the form of titles, chairs of quangos,
or frightening amounts of influence over government decisions and
Systems keep throwing up abysmal failure to watch out for abused children,
old people at risk or families under siege in tower-block no-go areas.
New and costly collection and payout systems are almost constantly
being "developed" and then failing to work - and while this
is happening, the taxpayers' bill for so called "benefits"
goes up and up, with new handouts being invented almost weekly, sapping
our national will to work.
THE "MANAGEMENT OF THE ECONOMY"
The Treasury is run by a Chancellor who is neither more nor less than
an ambitious politician, who takes credit for anything good that happens
in what is called "the economy" while he runs for cover
as soon as "global conditions" cause problems over which
he says he has no control. And, in order to create an illusion of
"wasn't me, guv, honest" the Bank of England is awarded
a form of utterly dishonest so-called independence (from the Treasury)
while the reality is that the Bank does whatever the Government thinks
will play best with the money-markets, the banks, and with the political
party in power. Why do we believe this independence rubbish? When
Bill Clinton ran for the Presidency of the USA and reminded himself
daily that ... "It's the economy, stupid", he said everything
that has to be said about the relationship between politics, politicians
and economic management. They will remain inseparable for as long
as Britain continues to elect party political representatives who
are then promptly given control of the important economic levers.
Everywhere in Britain, in every opinion poll or survey taken in recent
times, we Brits feel that crime has got worse and that our streets
are a lot less safe than they used to be. The truth is that crime
overall has gone down in some categories, but violent crime involving
guns and knives has increased whichever way it's measured –
and guess what people are scared of. Bent accountants? Computer hackers?
Persistent parking-violators? No – they're scared of muggings,
burglary, abduction of their children – all violent crimes which
people are entitled to be scared of, and that's precisely where crime
is on the increase.
While small local industries soldier on despite, not as a result of,
Government interference and the imposition of horrendous bureaucracy
and taxation, Britain loses one large industry after the other until
this country rapidly becomes an industry-free zone, where we import
everything that actually has to be manufactured, export nothing that
anyone actually makes, and create "service" industry jobs
because we can't do anything else.
I need to go on? No, I didn't think so - you've got the picture.
And the categories I've singled out as examples are just that -
examples from a much, much longer list of disgrace and decay. Britain
is in a mess, and the mess stinks from the top down. Now - is there
a problem somewhere right at the core of this mess, something that
has to change if we have any hope of seeing real improvement in
the way we're governed? Yes, there is. It's the fact that British
politics is being strangled by political parties - and more specifically
by the terrible boring, nothing to offer, my-turn-your-turn rubbish
that gives us a choice - some choice - between Labour going as Tory
and Tory going as Labour.
Oh, and before I go on, let me make something totally clear, OK?
I am not just having a go at the Government we have at the moment
- the Labour Party Government. If the Conservatives had won the
last General Election, we'd be no better off, and if they win the
next one, we won't be either. Every one of the disgraceful piles
of crap I listed earlier would still be there. The problem isn't
whether this party or that party is better or worse than the other.
The problem is that we've reached a point in Britain where our system
of government is past its sell-by date, and desperately needs to
be changed. And the changes that I believe we need to make do not
constitute anything remotely revolutionary. I despise revolutions
because they always end up giving power to people who are even worse
than those they revolted against - and we don't do revolutions in
Here are the two legs, if you like, on which British politics can
stride with confidence into a more efficient, better respected and
effective future, and where British voters will again feel that
it's worth going to the polls. By “going” I mean going
metaphorically speaking, because those polls had better be electronic
polls, too. Persisting with nineteenth century polling booths in
draughty school halls also helps to explain why so many people think
that voting is a nuisance and a chore, and we have to make it possible
for everyone to vote either by phone or internet.
First, we need a Parliament where political parties play either
no part at all, or are consigned to tiny minorities. We need a House
of Commons where, ideally all 646 members are independent, non-aligned,
un-attached, and can follow an agenda for genuine reform where they
do not have to be constantly watching their backs and watching party
whips whose very job is to stifle independent and original thought.
Second, we need to sever, completely, the connection between Parliament
and Ministerial jobs, so that MP's have just one job - to be MP's,
representing their constituencies on the national political stage.
And this would mean that Ministers who run the great departments
of state would be recruited from among the best qualified and brightest
in their fields, instead of our having to rely on amateurs who get
their jobs because they have been up the arse of the party leader
for the required number of years. Would this mean the end of accountability
where Ministers can be held to account for their actions by Parliament?
No it would not. There's already a very good system in place where
Parliament can summon anyone, absolutely anyone at all, to come
before either select committees or other Parliamentary bodies to
account for their actions.
Is it possible, feasible, to make this kind of change happen? Yes
it is. Over the next weeks I'll have some questions to ask and some
answers to suggest. For example ...
Do we need to elect governments, or would it be better if we just
elected people to represent us instead and appointed governments
responsible to them? What are political parties for? Do we need
them in the third millennium when the world has changed but they
haven't? Why should our national Parliament be dissolved whenever
the leader of the political party in power decides to do so? Who
really controls the political parties at ground level? Are there
any systems anywhere in the world where we could learn things about
creating a democracy that really works? There are plenty of questions
we had better start asking soon, and answers we had better start
You see, my complaint, and it's a complaint I hear all the time,
is this: Britain is the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world.
We are, as a people, most of us, intelligent, resourceful, energetic
and inventive. We are also, most of us, tolerant, forgiving, decent
and caring and the point is that we, the citizens of once-great
Britain deserve a lot better than we are getting. We shouldn't have
to put up with substandard anything, as if we were Albania or Zambia,
Turkmenistan or Columbia, whose unfortunate people are grateful
just to be alive. So let me say it again - we deserve a hell of
a lot better than we are getting.
And let me sound a serious note of warning. You may be bored with
politics and bored by it. But the current crop of politicians are
not bored at all - they're as ambitious for power as they've always
been, and they're depending on your boredom because it suits them
down to the ground to have you nice and fat and lazy, politically
speaking. So listen up, and start thinking. That address if you
have something you want to say by way of response .......
Until next time, goodbye.
if you have any comment on anything you have heard from me, I'd
love to hear from you. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.