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Saturday, 31 May 2014

England must rediscover Public Health

It was the Cholera outbreaks in Soho in 1854, and the work of a London doctor John Snow, that gave impetus to the application of the first Public Health Act. Rapid industrialisation and growth of urban populations, frequently in overcrowded housing lacking sanitary facilities, also saw casualties from Cholera and Yellow Fever reach epidemic proportions. Clean water, sanitation, sewers, the collection of domestic refuse, the provision of public baths and de-lousing facilities were basic measures to control disease, infection and parasite infestation in crowded towns and cities. 

Last week I saw a young woman get off a bus in Lewisham in a singlet that exposed the back of arms completely covered in angry red bed-bug bite marks, like a cartoon version of measles. It's not only Cimex lectularius that has gained new life in England; body and head lice, scabies and other parasites are thriving. More dangerously, London has equivalent multi-drug resistant TB infection rates to those in Asian, South American and Russian Federation areas. In Sheffield Hallam, as the Mail reports today, Roma overcrowding has allowed threadworm, hepatitis and rickets to thrive alongside TB, with children exhibiting signs of malnutrition. Those immigrants - several a day - making it through Calais are also walking infection dumps, infested with scabies and other parasites and diseases. 

Let's be quite clear. These things thrive alongside poverty, overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. They are concentrated in immigrant communities not because immigrants are dirty or bad or careless but because of the conditions they live under; if you housed white English families ten to a room with forty sharing a toilet and with no money to maintain clean bedding and towels you would get the same result. 

The critical thing is that poor public health affects us all; a solicitor taking the bus because her car is in for a service can pick up head lice, the guy ahead of you on the central line escalator can cough or spit and infect you with TB, and a brush with the M&S fitting room can leave you with scabies. If you live in a big town or city you can't insulate yourself against poor public health - like bees in a hive, there's just too much cross-contact. The only way is draconian public health measures - modern workhouses, disinfestation of public transport, delousing stations, breaking up the slums, compulsory TB testing, school hygiene, fumigation of slum houses and bedding. 

Yes, all of this costs money. But without it our urban peoples will become so loaded with disease and parasites that business and the economy will suffer.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Those Lord Rennard apologies in full

Lord Rennard has apologised for various incidents which were the result of inadvertent groping contact with young women; surely our sympathy must go out to this poor man who is so clumsy and so little in control of outlying portions of his anatomy that they act independently when in close proximity to young women.

MPs are of course particularly subject to this unfortunate condition:-

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Controlling the narrative

That talk of the 'narrative' has now become so commonplace as to become cliched also demonstrates that what was once considered the secret of PR gurus and spin merchants has gone mainstream. Blair and his team were so skilled at control of the narrative that they became over-confident and started making stuff up. Brown was so clumsy at it that it didn't work. Cameron was quite good at it in the early days, when people still believed what he said. Having control of the narrative means telling the story your own way, to your own advantage - and works so long as the story is essentially true and you're not exposed as a liar. 

On Ukraine, despite the most sterling and concerted efforts by the combined media and political class, the 'West' failed to control the narrative, the people of Europe stubbornly clinging to the notion that this story had two sides. More importantly, on the EU, the political establishment has failed to maintain a narrative that goes The EU is benign and a force for good / peace / prosperity, most people don't care about the EU as a political issue, the EU has integrity and probity. Even voters who haven't just voted for an insurgent party don't trust the EU - some 60% of us, according to a Eurobarometer survey. 

The thing is, once you've lost control of the narrative, there's no way back. Once Blair lost it, no-one believed a word he said, and still don't. There's nothing Blair can ever do to win back that credibility - except perhaps 'fess up to his manifest improprieties and offer himself for incarceration at Scheveningen Prison at the Hague. Cameron is going into a general election with a litter of so many broken promises behind him that he's now got about as much credibility as Blair. And the people of Europe are becoming more and more receptive of a drip-drip of counter-official EU stories - from a multitude of little sources, including ourselves - that cements their loss of trust and belief in the EU establishment. For the EU, too, has no way back; the view in Berlaymont today that the 2014 Euro results were a one-off and things will soon be back to normal is deluded and wrong. There is no way back now. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

BBC unfit to report elections

Lord Reith's vision was of a politically neutral national broadcaster funded by government but not the government's slave, owned by and talking to one-nation Britain, to all our people, and not just to a particular cohort who share the political views of the broadcasters. An organisation that could be trusted by all parties, all election candidates and all voters to report neutrally and without fear or favour. It saddens me that the BBC that we've got in 2014 is so far from the Reithian ideal that it's become unfit to report elections. 

Neutrality is not the same as that self-promoted BBC term 'balance'. 'Balance' the way the BBC define it means being able to say the Tories are w*****s, UKIP are t*****s and Labour are dipsticks. It means broadcasters are able to express and include their personal opinions and evaluations so long as they do it for all parties. It's very different from a standard of corporate impartiality - impartiality means refraining from making personal statements and including personal opinions about any of the parties. 

The BBC has gone for 'balance' because it imagines that it's in competition with a commercial press and media that operates under no such restraints. No-one who watched any of Nick Robinson's sneering belittling references to UKIP before the elections, or has seen Guido's exposure of BBC producers and executives including Jasmine Lawrence, Sally Challoner or Rosemary Baker who have made nasty, partisan and public statements about their hatred for the 4.3 million Brits who voted for UKIP, can be under any illusion that the BBC is impartial.

The BBC has failed in its political reporting function. It must be reformed. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Ruritanian Walt to be next EU President

A Ruritanian 'Walt' from Luxembourg with a liking for the dressing-up box is set to be appointed (not elected, of course) the EU's next President. Luxembourg, a tiny corporate low tax haven. has a history of producing unelected officials for the EU who then spend their time preventing other EU members from becoming, er, corporate low tax havens.

In return for his services to corporate tax, Jean-Claude Juncker has so far collected a Grand Cross of the Order of St Henry, Grand Officer of the Legion d'honneur, Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania, Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, Grand Cross with Star and Sash of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Knights Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Grand Decoration with Sash for Services to the Republic of Austria, Holder of the Order of the Three Stars (First Class), Holder of the Order pro merito Melitensi. In support of his candidacy, he addressed the European Heads of Government:-
"I have all my own costumes and uniforms and over 60 pairs of shoes for dressing-up. I offer a full social programme in Brussels with plenty of dressing up and lashings of show tunes. I still have room for some more medals - ahem, Mr Cameron, I appear to have nothing from the UK so far, and from Spain the Order of the Constipated Elephant is one I also covet. In return I won't ask any tough questions and will continue to seek increases in EU budgets, salaries, allowances and expenses for all!"
Mr Juncker in his self-designed Breakfast robes
Mr Juncker's appointment is expected to be announced shortly.  He is expected to launch a new costume of his own design for the occasion. 

Multiaxial politics - establishment suffers deep wounds

It's like one of those dot-pictures; either you can see it or you can't. This morning a bewildered political establishment and its press is still trying to make sense of a new multiaxial politics in Europe using the old monoaxial analysis; it's a move to the far-right, they aver, except in Greece, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and several others in which left-liberal parties trounced the incumbents. It's an anti-austerity protest, they claim, except in Britain. The reality, which at least some are able to make out, is more that it is an anti-establishment insurgency, a plea for more democratic control, a signal to the political establishment that they have lost popular consensus. It's beyond left or right. UKIP's success in Labour heartlands should surely demonstrate that what's happened in Europe is beyond the old tribal politics. They weren't voting for the 'far right' in Rotherham.

And the foregoing is very important to remember when, as soon as the Dags have woken up, had their muesli and filed their opinion pieces, they claim this is the 1930s all over; that jackboots are crashing on the cobbles and torchlit processions have split the night. Risible nonsense wholly unsupported by the facts. Can you imagine even three UKIP members marching in step? Still, if you're a journo of no great talent or intelligence and with only a superficial understanding of politics and history, this is the story you will file this morning. 

You can't deny Nigel Farage the credit for facilitating the insurgency in the UK. Nor the thousands of committed members who went out on the knock over the past few weeks - several readers here included. Well done all. And cautioning Mr Farage against hubris this morning would be about as pointless as counselling a pretty girl to avoid mirrors. There are plenty of problems to come in the weeks ahead - but for today, rejoice in victory, congratulate yourselves, treat yourselves and enjoy.