Monday, 29 November 2010

The Minister for Hunting - letter in Cambridge News

Dear Editor,

Mr James Paice, M.P., has written (or had written for him) a quite convincing article with regard to his and the ConDem government's concern for animal welfare. The trouble is that, whilst much is said in the article, much is unsaid.

I refer in particular to Mr Paice's own place in the government. He is officially Minister of State at the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, but one of his 'sub-titles' is 'Minister for Hunting.'

Mr Paice has pledged to vote to repeal the Hunting Act 2004. Repeal would re-legalise the indefensible (to my mind) so-called 'sport' of hare coursing, against which I have fought for a lifetime. Mr Paice was given a chance at one of the election hustings meetings (Bottisham Village College on the 30th of April) to explain why he was (and is) so keen on repeal. I challenged Mr Paice to justify his pledge to vote to repeal the Hunting Act 2004. He didn't respond.

I don't see how this squares with real concern for animal welfare.

Yours sincerely,

Geoffrey Woollard.

I've already had enough of the ConDem coalition

Numerous newspapers and other media have reported Sir John Major's support for the idea of the ConDem coalition continuing beyond the next election. I disagree with Sir John.

One of the newspaper reports was in the Cambridge News at -

I have commented on-line as follows:

"I've already had enough of the ConDem coalition and for a former Prime Minister whose principal 'achievement' was the institution of the National Lottery - a voluntary tax on the poor to enhance the interests of the rich and cultured few: I wish that our country and its people had never had this iniquity inflicted upon them - to suggest that the ConDems ought to continue for ever and a day is not an acceptable idea.

And, besides, millions of Conservative supporters are hacked off with ‘Dave’ who, they believe, is not a Tory at all; millions of Labour supporters are hacked off with their losses that stemmed in the main from the charmlessness of Brown; and millions of Liberal Democrat supporters are hacked off by being betrayed by their so-called ‘leaders.’

We can’t go on much longer with such a substantial proportion of the whole electorate being hacked off.

John Major should back off."

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ark Royal on her way to being scrapped - shame!

I have seen today on TV Her Majesty’s Ship Ark Royal, soon to be on her way to being scrapped. It made me feel ill.

I know that Ark Royal and the Harriers are a bit dated, but surely it makes sense to keep the carrier going until a replacement is ready and surely it makes sense to keep the Harriers going even longer?

The ConDem government must be crazy.

(This rather puts the Blair government’s retirement of the Royal Yacht Britannia into perspective, doesn’t it?).

Here is the link to more pictures of H.M.S. Ark Royal from the Daily Telegraph.

The caption to one of the pictures reads:

"The cost-cutting decision to scrap Britain's fixed-wing capability from aircraft carriers caused consternation and puzzlement on board the ship, which some say carries the most famous name in naval history. The ship saw active service in the Balkans and the second Gulf War. HMS Ark Royal leaves Newcastle after paying a visit to the city in which she was built as part of her final farewell."

Here is a cunning plan to solve Ireland's problems

Here is a cunning plan that is designed to solve Ireland's Euro problems as well as other ongoing worries:

1. Ireland should leave the Euro zone and should rejoin the British pound 'zone.'

2. Ireland should rejoin Great Britain (within the wider E.U.).

3. The Church of England should be disestablished.

The above would solve Ireland's Euro problems, would facilitate a united Ireland (within a United Kingdom), and would remove the Catholic Church's concerns that a United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland would still have the C. of E. as part of its parliamentary and governmental structure.

As to Dáil Éireann, it could become another assembly similar to those at Cardiff, Holyrood and Stormont, and with similar devolved powers.

As to the Irish Republic, maybe the Irish would accept again the British monarchy or - admittedly an unlikely event in today's climate - the English, the Welsh, the Scots, and the people of Ulster might themselves be receptive to the idea of a republic.

Speaking for myself only, I would.

It might be worth adding that the British flag - the Union Jack - contains within its design St. George's Cross, St. Andrew's Cross and the so-called 'St. Patrick's Cross.'

Sunday, 14 November 2010

"Britain's top soldier says al-Qaeda cannot be beaten"

Here is the link to an article in the Sunday Telegraph -

The article, based on an interview with General Sir David Richards, 'the head of Britain's armed forces,' speaks for itself and is well worth reading, even if it causes pause for further thought on this day of all days, Remembrance Sunday.

I have picked up an excerpt from the article and have commented on-line as follows:

"However, he said the sacrifice being made by the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, where 343 soldiers have been killed since 2001, "has been worth it"."

I don't go along with that at all. We, Americans and Brits, are wasting men, money and matériel on a now-pointless and wasteful mission, still attempting to do what George W. Bush said he would do - "smoke him (bin Laden) out." We should take more note of history. All of the empires, including the British and the Russian, have failed to 'tame' Afghanistan. Let's get Bin Laden with special forces and/or drones and let the Afghans have the Taliban if that's what they want, but let's be out now and bring our armies home. I want no more dead Brits for a cause that's been lost for a long time.

P.S. Will we remember them?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

I was surprised to see this in today's Cambridge News

This must be the Mr Brian Hicks, who is East Cambridgeshire District Council's 'Travellers Liaison Officer.'

 As I say, I was surprised to see this in today's Cambridge News.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A Friends of the Earth meeting at Swaffham Prior Village Hall: it was a bit better than the telly - just!

As a son of the soil and a lifetime friend of the earth, I thought that I ought to attend my first meeting of Friends of the Earth, especially as it was at Swaffham Prior Village Hall, a mere four miles from my home and in 'my' parish. Public transport being non-existent in Swaffham Prior Fen and it being wet for a Shanks's pony night out, I went by 'unsustainable' means - my car - and thinking that a suit would be unsuitable, I donned an old pair of cords and an equally old tweed jacket. There wasn't time to grow a beard and I couldn't find my sandals - besides, as I said, it was wet - so I bearded those present in 'neutral' clothes and 'sensible' shoes so as not to appear too out of place.

It transpired that the principal speaker was Mr Tony Juniper (above), the tireless eco-campaigner, friend of Charles Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (alias Windsor) and unsuccessful Green Party candidate for Cambridge.

The audience of about fifteen persons - at least four officials of the 'Friends,' two Liberal Democrat District Councillors and their spouses, myself and a handful of others mostly unknown to me - was shown a film about the clearing of forests in Brazil to grow soya beans and it was both interesting and somewhat horrifying in parts. The horrifying parts implied that people with what looked like tumours and/or livid rashes on their skins were the victims of pesticides used by the soya bean farmers. It was unfortunate that the chemicals mentioned in the commentary were glyphosate and paraquat, both widely-used herbicides. I pointed this out.

The meeting was intended to drum up public and Parliamentary support for a Private Member's measure called the 'Sustainable Livestock Bill' being promoted by Mr Rob Flello, M.P., and to be discussed in the House of Commons on the 12th of November. The Bill suggests 'producing linseed, beans and other crops to cut down on importing soya [beans] from South America, which is leading to the destruction of parts of the Amazon rainforest.' Mr Juniper emphasised that pigs in this country are being fed genetically modified soya as protein and that, consequently, pork eaters are effectively supporting forest clearance in Brazil. I pointed out that I had started keeping pigs nearly sixty years ago, that in those days the principal protein source for pigs was dried fish meal, further that I was of the opinion that it was probably preferable for pigs to eat GM soya and not the world's allegedly diminishing fish. Moreover, I said, aside from the doings of certain 'Tea Party' people in the United States, the use of GM foods in America for many years seemed to have had little ill effect. This point was also noted.

I also stated (others present did get a look-in, too) that the growing world population - nine billion people by the year 2050 was mentioned by Mr Juniper - was a very major problem, aggravated in the countries of South America by the teachings of the Catholic church. We had to be careful how we dealt with this as I had been criticised for drawing attention to it at an election meeting at Stretham, where a Catholic lady said that she had wanted to hit me (she didn't, in fact). Mr Juniper then commented, 'You'll like my new book.' I don't know what is in his new book but, presumably, he has had some sort of a dig at the Pope. This, if so, is intriguing, and it may conceivably mean that the heir to the throne has been persuaded after all to be 'Defender' of the faith of the pro-family-planning Protestant Church.

As others' questions soon ran out, I also raised one of my pet points. I said that I assumed that Mr Juniper and his colleagues were in favour of reducing this country's food imports. 'Yes.' I said that I assumed that they were in favour of British farmers growing a larger proportion of British food. 'Yes.' I then said that this didn't square with Mr Juniper's support (along with Charles Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, alias Windsor) of the vast expansion of the National Trust's Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve through buying up and letting go to waste thousands of acres of fine food-producing farm land including that in Swaffham Prior Fen. Mr Juniper responded by dodging the issue and then, as is his wont, wittering on about food waste. As the hour was getting late and as I had been given the impression that the organisers wanted to get to the pub, I let it go by saying that I opposed wasting food and also opposed wasting good farm land. At the conclusion of the meeting I remarked in a stage whisper that it had been 'better than the telly - just.'

As our M.P., Mr James Paice, the relevant farming and hunting minister in the ConDem government, was not with us, those who were present were requested to contact him about Mr Flello's Bill. I'll think about that.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

I shouted at Congressman John Boehner who was on TV here yesterday. The man is very seriously mistaken

The U.S. Speaker-designate, Congressman John Boehner, said yesterday that what he and others on the right of the Republican Party term 'Obamacare' would 'ruin the best health care system in the world.'

I recall Senator Bob Dole saying something similar during an earlier campaign. I shouted at the TV then and the reason for my shouting was simple. The U.S. may have the best health care in the world but that great country does not have the best health care system in the world. Our British system may not be perfect and I don't want to brag, but we have had a comprehensive and practically free National Health Service since 1948. Of course, it's not truly free, for we pay our taxes, but, at the very least, nobody need worry themselves to death - literally, in some cases - that they will not be cared for in sickness and in health.

My wife and I (though we could afford insurance and are perfectly free so to do) both support and use the NHS. Contrary to what the 'Tea Party' people and others tell their fellow Americans, it is not 'socialised' medicine over here. We choose our doctor, who works for us. We choose our local surgery, which is excellent. Our local hospital, Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, is one of the best in the world.

Just to give an example, a good friend of mine was called in by his doctor because he had reached a certain age (60), for a prostate check. Though he felt no symptoms, he was found to have a slightly higher than normal PSA level. He was asked to come in again soon and the PSA level was higher. The same happened a third time. Tests and biopsies were then done at Addenbrooke's and, as a consequence, he underwent chemo-therapy and radio therapy for several months. He hopes now that they have 'zapped' it and he has been asked to go back to Addenbrooke's for a check-up in six months. All of his treatment was free and nothing would have been done for him until it was too late unless that initial call had come. In addition, my wife has had major surgery recently, and it, also, was absolutely free of charge on the NHS without an insurance company making a profit out of her or me or anyone else.

And I shouted at Congressman Boehner again yesterday. The man is very seriously mistaken.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

I'm thinking of starting a Tea Party over here ...

I'm thinking of starting a Tea Party over here. I'm not Alice. I'm not the March Hare. I'm not the Dormouse. That leaves ...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Some very good news in today's 'Torygraph'!

I didn't think that I would read the following very good news in the 'Torygraph' so soon after the election, but here it is as published in the newspaper that ought to know about these things:

"Fox hunting ban set to stay as repeal campaign 'falls off political agenda'

A ban on hunting with dogs is likely to remain despite the change in Government because worries about the nation’s finances have forced the issue off the political agenda, campaigners admitted.

The impact of the economic downturn has meant attempts to change the controversial law have become a low priority, the Countryside Alliance acknowledged.

As the traditional start of the season gets under way today, the Alliance conceded it was keeping a low profile because it was foolhardy to make hunting a priority issue when country was just recovering from a recession.

Officials admitted that for many living in the country, the issue was “not at the top of the agenda” as many families struggled financially.

Earlier this month, the new head of the Countryside Alliance Alice Barnard, 33, told the Daily Telegraph that David Cameron needed to “right a great wrong” by overturning the ban on hunting with dogs.

But within Tory ranks, traditionally seen as pro-hunting, dissent to overturn the ban, introduced under the Hunting Act 2004, appears to be growing.

On Sunday it emerged that only a minority of MPs – 253 out of 650 – are committed to repealing the Act with at least 22 Conservative MPs are among more than 300 who would vote against repealing the law.

Opponents of hunting claim that less than one in five people would support a repeal of the ban.

A YouGov poll for the League Against Cruel Sports (Lacs) found that 37 per cent believe the ban is an infringement of civil liberties while 17 per cent want to see the hunting ban properly enforced.

The Alliance contested the findings but a spokeswoman admitted that negotiations for a change in the law were now being undertaken more “behind the scenes”.

“At the moment certainly with the economic situation we are facing, the countryside is more concerned about having a job and ensuring they have enough money to put fuel in their machinery than how we kill a fox,” she said.

“The priorities at the moment have changed and we understand we are not top of the pile in terms of those priorities at the moment.

"But we are still actively undertaking discussion with people as to why this is a bad law and we are doing that more behind the scenes.”

She added: “Maybe if Labour had not spent 700 hours talking about this law then the economy might not be in this state in the first place.”

Douglas Batchelor, the chief executive of Lacs, claimed that attempts to reverse the ban were a "pipe dream"."

I have posted an on-line 'comment' as follows:

"That's very good news for those who think as I do, but I advise my friends to be on guard, for those who want the return of the so-called 'sports' of fox hunting, hare coursing, stag hunting, etc., are a cunning, determined and resourceful lot and they have powerful allies in the ConDem government. The 2004 Act was a major advance for civilisation. I write this as a farmer and as a countryman, born and bred."

Here is the link to the Daily Telegraph report: