Friday, 17 November 2017

Pass Me A Handkerchief

The debate on the National Health Service goes on and from the Left we are given the impression that they are the "defenders" from the forces of change who must be wrong if they wish to change anything. In the meantime medicine and medical problems move on.

We learn more and more and realise much better the complexities and difficulties of many conditions. But the Left want to just remind us of the past, indeed the long past, as though nothing could or would change.

A choice example is this tear jerker in The Canary from Harry Leslie Smith about the indeed tragic loss of his sister, Marion, who had tuberculosis, TB, at the age of 15. He says she was denied medical treatment nor were the family given a wheelchair.

There are one or two problems here. The three towns given for his family are Barnsley, Bradford and Halifax. All of these had local authority hospital facilities plus provision for the poor, advanced for their time, and for those signed up with friendly societies. Also, Marion had been diagnosed, who by and what were his parents told or asked?

In December 1943 an uncle of mine, much loved and respected died young from TB, he was not in hospital nor was he given medication. But he had been one of the rare men working as a nurse in an isolation hospital, where no doubt he had contracted TB. He opted to die at home with his family.

The drugs that beat TB, the antibiotics were not available then. The hospital beds were for any potential survivors, most likely who had the condition spotted early, for whom long months in an open air ward might just help them beat it.

And you did not want the serious cases on the ward. The only two options were either a managed death facility, more or less an annex to the mortuary, or being at home and told to stay at home.

So contagious was the disease and so dangerous you did not want victims being wheeled around the shops or any other public place or even up or down the street. It was not just a death sentence, it was being put into isolation as well.

The local Medical Officers of Health had TB as a major priority along with other bad ones, for example Typhoid. I recall one school I attended before the NHS was created where a pupil was found with TB and they came in like the cavalry at Waterloo to deal with it.

Go home, stay at home and wait for the results parents and pupils were instructed. Parents who did not take heed were told that if they were not careful their children would be taken into isolation for months. My parents were far from happy but obeyed.

The creation of the NHS occurred at the same time as major advances in pharmaceuticals, treatments, surgery and in other fields of medicine, notably training and functioning of family doctors. It was never simply "private" and never had been.

The problem in the late 1940's arose mainly from the effects of two world wars within thirty one years, other crises, all the industrial and employment conditions on the rise, the ex-service injured and the increasing numbers of births etc. The greater movement of people added to this.

Clearly some central policy thinking and direction would be needed in certain fields, also how to give stimulus to improvement and to even out the differences between local authorities. What it did not need was the wipe out of so much of the local and charitable provision and imposition of detached bureaucracies regardless of function.

We now have the transformations possible in the digital age and other major challenges. Does the Left seriously think that these can be dealt with by people sitting in offices in London being directed by committees of politicians with poor degrees in PPE?

Back To The Land

Digging in for Labour on rural matters comes up with some strange ideas. This is a party for whom food begins and ends at the supermarkets, especially those who come up with the contributions to party funds.

Quote from last week:

Speaking in Lincoln on Saturday, McDonnell will say that tens of billions paid to shareholders should have been used to bring prices down for consumers. “These figures show what could have gone into investment in these public services in order to expand and improve them or keep their charges down,” he will say at the event to mark the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, which, in 1217, enshrined the rights of people to the lands they lived and worked on.


The Charter Of The Forest has a Wikipedia article which explains it briefly. Let us say it seemed a good idea at the time.

Over the centuries much of the Atlantic Isles became deforested. Then  the common land was over grazed to the point of failing to sustain animals for meat and industry. Then it was not possible for the land to grow much in the way of crops. Harvests were scant at best, and often total loss occurred.

Last but not least, in the common lands the rule of law failed as groups of individuals and families came into violent conflict over whose rights were paramount. The failure to keep records of the past and decisions of the relevant bodies or courts made this a great deal worse.

So when Kings who believed in Divine Right came to rule and with them group or tribal leaders who had major following they began to carve up the land for their own benefit. At least in some it gave rise to improvements in agriculture and greater productivity.

The end came with the mass migration from these lands when weather conditions turned adverse over long periods. Notably from the uplands worse affected.

McDonnell appears to be saying that any surplus from an industrial or agricultural source of production should not be applied to that or others that promise a surplus but should be redirected to State spending. That is we should have an economy that will be largely static in a world of global trade and finance.

Neither he nor his comrades seem to realise that the world they grew up in has gone and cannot be recreated by committees of the brothers and laws passed in Westminster.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Riding The Money Go Round

When in West Germany first, before we were fool enough to allow it sovereignty, being sent to save the world from the Soviet hordes, the money question was of key interest. Not only did we have little of it but neither did the locals.

There was actual sterling coin and notes for the better off, then Army scrip, bits of scrubby paper valid only in particular British outlets, but which might used with people who could access these, the then Mark, distrusted, inevitably cigarettes and in addition anything which was desirable and could be bartered.

Both we and the Germans were used to barter. For all of us the 1940's had been a time for the resurgence of barter, for those in the UK, to get our hands on things not available or rationed and for a time for the Germans to survive in the collapse of its state.

How did we manage? The answer is that we did because we all knew the basic rules of this money game and if we applied common sense and straight dealing we would both benefit. It could apply to services. I dig your cabbage patch because I have boots, you clean my windows because I do not like ladders.

So when the government permitted the making of more cigarettes it was not just a health matter, the medic's then insisting it was good for us, or helping our sense of identity or social mixing, it was in effect money creation given the multiple effects of the ensuing transactions.

All this began to go in the 1950's and it became the norm to have a cash economy for the great majority of transactions. As our two main political parties in the UK were closely matched the electorate had to be bribed, which meant promises and therefore spending and that meant flows of money and credit.

The theoretical basis for much to this was alleged to be Keynes, albeit the convenient parts. The inconvenient were skipped. Sometimes our rulers got it wrong and other times they took the risks, hoping they could evade the consequences. Inevitably we began the long era of persistent inflation with occasional surges.

Half a century further on as the tribes of economists stalk the land and the statistics, we are still no wiser. Allegedly, a good many have been better off, but whether that has been better technology allied to greatly increased productivity plus greater reliable trade is something we could debate without coming to any real conclusions. There has been the property boom which has entailed transfers of wealth to some.

The losers, acutely aware that the winners have had a great deal of help from the State, directly and incidentally in many ways, understandably want assistance and support as the economy rapidly changes and their futures are uncertain. They also have a lot of votes in key areas.

We have on occasion nearly come off our money go round. But might the next time the gear wheels fail, we all fall off?

Monday, 13 November 2017

Question Of The Day?

On the subject of tax havens I saw in the Telegraph on Sunday that Daniel Hannan, Member of the European Parliament has had something to say.

He has an ability to attract coverage in the media, has commented in favour of the function and purpose and tax havens claiming that they are perfectly legitimate. Does this apply to all their customers?

My quibble with all this row at present is that it is far too simplistic. There is tax manipulation. There is the tax politics, who actually pays and who doesn't re the structure and working of the many different tax authorities.

Also, who these answer to, are guided by and who are integral to the determination of general taxation. So there is also Tax Theft as well as those away with the fairies who live in the Magic Money Trees.

Dan boy has stated that there is nothing wrong with tax havens and they fulfil a much needed purpose for business and those with lots of spare.

It would make an interesting question to answer on an examination paper in political philosophy.

"Define perfectly legitimate".

Saturday, 11 November 2017


                      NOVEMBER 1914 

                      NOVEMBER 1916

                      NOVEMBER 1948


Thursday, 9 November 2017

Stranger In Paradise

The release of The Paradise Papers has put a bucket of blancmange into the air conditioner. Wikipedia has an article on them giving lists and some information. Unluckily, Her Majesties investments on behalf of her maintenance costs have taken the main headlines. This distracts from the other questions that need to be asked.

Such as what are the big firms out there up to, why, where and to what effect for the rest us scrambling around with our lottery tickets, Premium Bonds and interest free government investments? The official line is that government spending will rise because it has to rise but how that is to be managed is difficult to explain.

Having done a lot of tax avoidance in my time, sadly grubbing away at the lowest levels rather than anything big or bountiful, to be complaining about others who have more money and are much better at it could seem a tad hypocritical. But when taxes are levied if allowances are made or some things excluded on political or other grounds then necessarily they are not entirely what they seem.

In my day however, it was all done on paper, claims for this, costs for that, this type of loan tax beneficial that type of spending free of tax and so on. Eyes crossed, tees dotted as we used to say to put some humour into the endless form filling. Send off or hand in the form and the chits and hope you got the figures right.

Today is very different. Technology has moved on. I do not even have to sit at a desk, I can deal with things almost anywhere, indeed even there, if you know what I mean. It is done in seconds and in only minutes complex transactions can go on moving money around to get the best deal or arrangement.

The big firms in the money game have not only got the latest in technology, they can afford to use it to the full. The result is that money can be moved, changed, reshuffled etc. in very large amounts. This can be done globally in series to avoid the crooks, or maybe the police and worse than them, the taxman. We call it money laundering.

How HMRC, our tax collectors, working with older, slower machines, short on critical information and not up with the latest ways and techniques; just that bit too far behind, can keep up with it all is very doubtful. Especially, if the teams of lawyers etc. employed by the big firms are able to win at the margins and beyond them muddle the difference between avoidance and evasion.

For a government needing taxes to pay for all those election promises made in haste and sometimes in anger, it has become impossible to get this by the traditional tax structure. That means either austerity way beyond our present imaginations, or heavy taxation where it would be least popular.

Not just property of all types, but food, a major import, all those goods more or less critical to our functioning and comfort that flow in from global sources, vehicles, essentially anything that moves or is consumed in the UK. Almost back to the 1960's.

This would be very unpopular, the best thing a party could do if an election came along would be to finish up as the opposition. The one who had to form a government would need to scour their benches for sado-masochist politicians who would enjoy becoming the fall guys for the bad times to come.

The trouble is that when a country is in this kind of fix and democracy cannot deliver because it cannot raise the taxes in the way it wishes to, then populations tend to look for alternatives. We have been here before in the past and it all ended very badly. It is the story of too many states in recent centuries.

The word "Paradise" refers to those tax havens located in warm and welcoming places around the world, welcoming that is to those with money. For the locals and the poor it is not the case. Much of the money goes through the City of London.

Perhaps Paradise Gardens in Bethnal Green might be made an outpost of The City and include within the enclave Barnsley Street and Cudworth Street.

For the money men it would be essential to include the "Smarty Pants Dry Cleaners and Laundrette" on the Bethnal Green Road, see the picture above.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Kicking Into Touch

William Shakespeare, as ever, has something to say on the subject of touch. When taking time off from his property investment and speculation in the City on gold prices as we know he put on plays at The Globe, much as the money men of today support the theatre. From the play "Troilus And Cressida", we have "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin".

This is not about sexual predation of the unpleasant groping and grabbing that occurs never mind the worse that can be done as some use this to exert their dominance over others. It is about ordinary touch and those for whom contact is a part of communication in the ordinary business of life.

The current scatter gun coverage of the issues of who might touch whom and to what effect is bringing out many and various joining in the publicity and coverage. One is the elderly celebrity, Michael Parkinson, late of Cudworth by Barnsley, Yorkshire now in retreat in Berkshire.

One of his characteristics was a hands on approach to the job. Who can forget the lean forward, the smile, the inflected Yorkshire accent and the "Eh up me duck" when with the lovelies who smiled, if only for the fees they earned for doing so. His grandfather, I believe, worked at a pit that had a major disaster.

He is not the only one. There is also Brian Blessed, born down the road from Parkie eighteen months later. His family has been at Hickleton Main, I knew a lady whose husband had been killed there. Brian is an actor who is known for his hands waving and going all over the place. Seeing him both on TV and on stage I have often muttered, "For the sake of Zeus, stop waving them about."

But they were not alone. If anything they were men of their time and place. It was not just men, it was women, it was people of all ages and it was a common feature of their lives. So why did some be like this and why was it so common among many groups of people?

The answer is simple. It wasn't sex, it was work. When the masses left school at 14 and before and went to the factories, mills and mines, it was in the same places as their parents and other members of the community. It was a very different world in structure and purpose.

Also, it was noisy, often very noisy. Literally, you could not hear yourself speak. To take Brian and Parkie, both from mining families, they will have known what the effect was as a consequence of working in the concentrated noise that occurred. What is was like in the past could only be imagined.

For those growing up in industrial areas, some places had noise, just about tolerable and allowing speech to be heard. Some were not. At one shoe machinery factory, most of the engineering was loud but manageable. But the tacking shed was a horror, the acoustic scrambled the brain never mind the ears.

The answer to the obvious difficulty in communication and gaining attention was touch and the movement of hands. People learned this at an early age, it was necessary to the job and inevitably carried into ordinary life and living. The workers touched because they needed to and were used to it.

In the offices and the professions, however, touching and hands were generally regarded as no go, do not, it is not proper or polite. In those classes and higher, you had to know the etiquette and the detail of that defined what touch, when and how between persons. Hands off was more or less the rule, unless etiquette required it. And very often you wore gloves.

In the 21st Century we have a different problem. Many have things now constantly plugged into their ears or have head phones tuned in to something or other. Also, many are now paying the price in hearing loss for the loudness thought essential to modern living. So we are back to hands on again, but touching is becoming a risk.

So if I want to attract your attention, it might have to be the shillelagh.