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18 December 2021

Postscript (4)

Tag(s): Politics & Economics, Current Affairs
I began my final blogs in 2017, 2018 and 2019 with the following:

“This is my last blog through 2017/18/19 which has been a momentous year in which the speed of change in many areas accelerated and most political leaders failed to keep up with it. In writing a blog I try to reach a definitive conclusion on an issue, but such is the speed of change that soon events have also left me behind. Here are a few afterthoughts on issues I addressed during the year, but where new information has come to light.”

Last year the speed of change was so great that even this approach seemed redundant so instead in my final blog I published an edited version of my annual family newsletter. That usually records those things we’ve done but last year I recorded those things that we didn’t do. Indeed, much of the first half of this year was the same, nevertheless I am reverting to this format as I do think there have been some issues that have not been properly resolved.


Towards the end of the year there was considerable controversy in the House of Commons when it became apparent that individual MPs had ignored regulations relating to external work done during their period as an MP. At first this controversy related to an individual who does appear to have broken the rules but an attempt to defend him by Boris Johnson’s government led to terrible difficulties and Johnson was forced into one of his many U-turns and Owen Paterson resigned. That perhaps should have been the end of it but instead the controversy mushroomed into an ill-informed debate about whether MPs should be taking external work for income at all. This debate seemed to focus on whether in fact this external work might be seen as for the public good such as an MP keeping his medical skills up to date or whether it might be seen simply for individual financial gain.
What nobody seemed to discuss was the fact that at least 112 MPs are allowed under British law to take an additional job while serving as an MP and be paid for it by the state. I am, of course, referring to the 109 ministers of the Conservative government, the Leader of HM’s Official Opposition and the Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip of HM’s Official Opposition. All of these people do an extremely demanding job as well as seeking to represent their constituency as an MP. If that is permitted, how can it be objectionable for the other 500+ MPs who do not have such advantages to seek additional employment.


There was considerable discontent around the country over specific examples of violence against women.  I am not for a minute going to suggest this discontent was not justified and some of the cases were indeed quite horrifying, particularly those involving criminal misbehaviour by the police. However, 75% of the people in this country who are murdered are men.  Men are far more at risk of physical violence of most kinds, particularly knife crime. The great majority of prisoners in jail for all sorts of causes are men. And the biggest cause of death among young to middle-aged men is suicide. Again, far more men than women commit suicide. My point is not that we should not be upset about some of the terrible behaviour to women, but we should be more balanced in our views because there is plenty of terrible behaviour to men.

Social media

I’m delighted that Facebook is being sued in the United States and is likely to be sued in the United Kingdom over its appalling behaviour to minorities in various parts of the world. Facebook has been allegedly guilty of fomenting civil war and even promoting euthanasia. Of course, Facebook is so rich that even the very substantial suits that are being brought against it may just be regarded as a cost of doing business, as indeed I think most of the tech giants regard those that have already been imposed on them by authorities all over the world. Is it too much to hope that as these cases are covered in newspapers that popular opinion may finally start to change as people realise that they are the product? The combination of Facebook and Google earned nearly all of their money through dominating in a monopolistic way the digital advertising markets.


In a recent blog I complained about the government’s foolish commitment to phase out petrol driven vehicles in favour of electric vehicles. This policy can only work in the sense of reducing carbon emissions if the source of electricity from which the vehicle is charged is renewable and most of it is not today. But there is a further problem, and that is that we will also need to increase the capacity of these sources of electricity. Today we can assume that the average vehicle has a tank of petrol or diesel that is half full. When these have been discarded then there will have to be a huge increase in our capacity to produce electricity from these renewable sources and there is simply no plan to do that.

In a similar way the Prime Minister announced just before the conference his “confirmed ambition” to eliminate all new fossil fuel boilers over 14 years. It is true that domestic heating is one of the main sources of carbon emissions in a country like the UK, many times that of air travel, for example, which gets so much of the criticism. So, what then is the plan to replace the gas and oil boilers that now heat most UK homes? When he launched his 10-point Green Revolution Plan a year or so ago the Prime Minister had set a target of installing heat pumps in at least 600,000 homes every single year by 2028. At present only 5% of that target is being achieved while still 60,000 new oil boilers - double the number of heat pumps - are being installed each year.[i]

So, what should people do to find out how they should make their building more energy efficient? Well, before you buy or rent any building (residential or commercial), by law you must be given an Energy Performance Certificate. In the second quarter of this year 455,000 of these were issued. The energy surveyor who produces the certificate is obliged to suggest useful improvements, such as upgrades to the boiler or lighting more insulation for roof and walls.

Last month the government was asked how often over the past two years this advice had included installing a heat pump. They had to admit that no surveyor had ever recommended installing a heat pump. They are at least four times more expensive than installing a high-efficiency condensing boiler and by law the advice must stress the cost effectiveness of its proposals. Further while it is indeed possible though highly expensive and inefficient to install heat pumps in the domestic house with a garden, it is simply not possible in houses with no outside property under which the heat pump can be installed or for those living in flats. Yet again we have a so-called plan that is simply not a plan but just a statement of wishful thinking.


While I complain about many things this incompetent government does, on the whole I am largely in control of my life and can cope. But one area that none of us is completely in control of is our health. We can take care of our life-style, our diet and our exercise but we may still need help at some time, often without warning. In the past couple of years I have had a number of personal health issues, none of them life threatening but all requiring attention. In every case, when the NHS was involved the experience and the results were unsatisfactory, sometimes unresolved and on one occasion a serious error in diagnosis. In every case when the private sector was involved the result was completely successful and the experience stress free. Yes, I pay a lot of money for both medical insurance and in some cases straight forward fees. But I also pay a lot of tax and a huge part of that goes to the NHS.

One example. In August I needed a test. In September I got the letter dated 7th September saying “This has been reported as normal.” But at the bottom of the letter was an instruction to the Appointment Department saying “Please book a new URGENT clinic appointment.” This URGENT appointment was set for 26 October over six weeks later. So I called the hospital and after ringing six different numbers finally found a human being to talk to. I asked her two questions:
  1. “If the report is normal why do I need an urgent appointment?” She couldn’t answer that one.
  2. “If I need an urgent appointment how is it that it’s taken over six weeks to set it?” She said “I can answer that one - that is urgent.”
A bit later I did need an urgent appointment with my GP. The surgery gave it for exactly the same time as my urgent hospital appointment even though they have a copy of the letter. So again I rang the hospital and explained the situation about the first URGENT appointment and was given a new URGENT appointment, this time on 25 January 2022, nearly 5 months after the original test which was reported as normal.


In my blog entitled Lockdown Easing – Step Four published on 10th July[ii] I wrote:

“Some scientists and epidemiologists seem to think we should aim to get rid of Covid-19 but countries like Australia that have closed their borders and enforced strict quarantines are still finding the so-called Indian variant has turned up. It seems probable to me that just as influenza circulates every year usually with new variants, so it will be with Covid-19. The emphasis should be on demonstrating that we have highly effective vaccines, encourage everyone to take the vaccines, and root out the evil machinations of those who spread false information, particularly in the disadvantaged community, that these vaccines are somehow dangerous. …
…a new epidemic does not come along every year. One thing is certain - that either this one will come along every year and/or a new one will present itself in the not-too-distant future. …
…The U.K.’s successful researching and licensing of vaccines and getting them delivered rapidly was indeed well done but I know that Dame Sarah Gilbert, one of the leaders of the Oxford team, was motivated by the desire to develop it quickly and will have learnt lessons with her team of how it could be developed and rolled out even more quickly next time. She and others should be supported in that endeavour. It is clear too that we need more capacity in vaccine production and key areas like PPE.[iii] We have made one important step which is to allow challenge trials, again ahead of other countries, and if we had had that in the first place, we perhaps could have had the vaccines several months earlier and if the production facilities had been in place, perhaps we could have all been inoculated by the end of 2020. In other words, we should not be resting on our laurels because we had a comparatively successful vaccine programme. We should be targeting an even more successful one for the next time. “

But they didn’t and now we’re again prioritising panicking measures to deal with this completely predictable emergency so there will be even more problems with other very serious diseases not being treated in time and so the number of deaths will rise - not deaths from Covid so much as deaths from the leading causes of death in this country which are all related to smoking.

It only remains to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a New Year in which you and yours get more of what you wish for and less of what you don’t need.  Thanks to all those who give me feedback which I really value. I’ll be back in 2022 if Peppa Pig does not get me first.

[i] Further heat pumps are notoriously inefficient, use considerable electric power and do not reach the levels of heat required in the British winter.
[ii] Lockdown Easing -Step Four 10th July 2021
[iii] I find it particularly galling that the Lateral Flow Test kits that I use several times a week are made in China.

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