BY rebuking David Cameron so explicitly over his plan to cap the number of EU migrants entering this country, Jose Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European Commission, simply played into the hands of Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party and all those who want national sovereignty to return to these shores at the earliest possible opportunity.
Instead of trying to understand the reasons why Britain’s relationship with Brussels has become so strained, and what can be done to protect the trade and business links that are so critical to this country’s future and the finances of the wider Eurozone, Mr Barroso’s intransigence justifies Mr Farage when Ukip says the Prime Minister is wasting his time entering into negotiations.
Yet it was also significant that Mr Barroso said that too many voters in this country do not understand the role of the European Union, why it is a force for peace in the world and why a number of criticisms about its management are totally false. However this is not the fault of British voters – it is a tacit admission that the EU has patently failed to explain its mission or respond to legitimate concerns about the free movement of people and the impact that this has on key public services like the NHS and schools. It is because of this that Shipley MP Philip Davies has called in Parliament for the DNA and fingerprints of foreigners to be obtained at airports so it is easier to deport such individuals if they commit a criminal offence, and why many will support this view.
This is why Mr Barroso’s visit to London has been so unhelpful. If he, and his colleagues, want Britain to stay in the EU, they need to show some humility and start considering the issues from this country’s perspective. If they don’t, the Ukip bandwagon is only going to gather further momentum – irrespective of the economic repercussions for this country.
Ministers risk losing obesity fight
LIKE so many political organisations, the clunkily-named All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Health Childhood believes an even more bloated government is the answer to the nation’s woes after calling for a Cabinet-level minister for children to be created in order to tackle obesity.
Floella Benjamin may have been a talented children’s TV presenter, but the Lib Dem peer is somewhat naive when it comes to issues of political substance. Yes, it is embarrassing that London – the Olympic city of 2012 – has some of the worst levels of obesity in the world, but the answer rests with the existing Cabinet ministers responsible for education, health and sports policy being challenged to work together more closely.
They should not have to be ordered to do so – one of the many justifications for the Olympics was that the inspirational performances of Britain’s sports stars would lead to increased rates of participation in all forms of physical exercise. Yet, while this has been the case in many instances, such as the sheer number of runners who lined up for the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon 10 days ago, too many people are leading sedentary lifestyles and are in danger of becoming the next generation of couch potatoes at increased risk of conditions like diabetes.
Yes, schools and GP surgeries do need to play a more active role in persuading people of all ages about the benefits of taking regular exercise, but a way also needs to be found to implore the young and old alike to eat healthier food, follow a balanced diet and enjoy the great outdoors. This, however, should not require a new Minister being appointed.
Mum to the nation
Lynda Bellingham’s legacy
LYNDA BELLINGHAM was not just an acclaimed actress. After playing vet’s wife Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small and starring in a long list of TV dramas she became ‘mum’ to the nation in the fondly-remembered Oxo advertisements.
Her passing – she died in her husband’s arms – is even more poignant because of its suddenness. Just two weeks ago, the 66-year-old spoke so candidly about the difficult decision she had taken to curtail her chemotherapy treatment for colon cancer as she did not want her family to witness her suffering. She did, however, hope to spend one final Christmas with them – a wish cruelly denied.
Yet no one could fail to be moved by the Bellingham family’s anger at the failure of a succession of doctors to inform them of the prognosis. With cancer care coming under the political microscope, it is a salutary reminder that empathy with patients and their families is as important as any government target.