THE fact that Britons are a happier bunch this year – according to the latest wellbeing survey – has been causing particular problems for the BBC and the Labour Party this week. Just how do you respond to good news?
First the BBC. Its home editor Mark Easton took to the airwaves to explain, at great length, that an individual’s wellbeing was probably linked to their personal employment prospects. I agree – simple common sense.
But then Easton seemed to be surprised to learn that unemployment had fallen in the past year while the number of people in work had actually increased. To you and me, this is basic economics.
Yet the presenter’s snearing and condescending manner suggested he was suspicious of the data published by the Office for National Statistics. How typical of the patronising, left-leaning BBC.
He’s not the only BBC senior staffer to have been wrong-footed – its sports editor David Bond, him with the waving arms, explored how Britain had changed in the past 12 months since the Olympics.
He cited the recent birth of Prince George – and pointed out, with a characteristic snigger, that even the economy had showed some signs of improvement.
Quite what this had to do with a report on the Olympic legacy is still beyond me, and probably you, but I suppose it would not be a typical BBC day without one sly dig at the Government.
As for the Labour Party, their silence on the happiness survey speaks volumes about the paucity of their political position – apart, that is, from veteran Leeds MP George Mudie who has accused his party of having a “confused” and “hesitant” stance on key issues.
If the economy continues to pick up, it undermines their attacks on the Government’s cuts to rebalance the nation’s books after the public sector became so bloated – and it makes Ed Miliband sound even more churlish and out of touch as Labour look for financial credibility.
As for the great British public, their increased mood of optimism is not solely due to the Olympics or new Royal birth in my opinion. It’s an appreciation that the country’s prospects will only improve if everyone rolls up their sleeves and exemplifies the work ethic demonstrated by our sporting heroes – Andy Murray only won Wimbledon after a decade of sacrifice in order to transform his fitness, agility and stroke play.
But there is one thing that would make Britons even happier – an end to the public sector gravy train, encouraged by Labour, that continues to see so much money go to waste because so many executives are rewarded for failure.
Starting with the BBC.
THANK you to those readers who have responded so favourably to my suggestion seven days ago that the NHS needs seven-a-day-week staffing rotas to ensure patients are not neglected in evenings – or at weekends.
This week’s disturbing revelations about the crisis-hit 111 non-emergency service are further proof that out-of-hours care services are no longer fit for purpose – a consequence of Labour’s disastrous decision not to put in place sufficient safeguards when they renegotiated GP contracts.
If Ministers have any sense, an assertion that cannot be made with confidence, they will reread North Yorkshire MP Anne McIntosh’s harrowing account to Parliament when she described how the failings of the 111 service exacerbated the death of her father, a respected GP.
I’m afraid telephone operators reading a Department of Health script – and then tapping the answers into a pre-programmed computer which will then recommend a care option – is simply not good enough.
If this means Ministers cutting short their holidays to tackle this crisis, and silencing those GPs who now want to charge patients for their services, then so be it.
It is what they are paid to do and they had sufficient warning about the looming crisis – Miss McIntosh outlined her concerns to Parliament on June 5 and then asked a follow-up question on July 16.
UNLIKE some, I have no problem with David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s holidays clashing. Both have young families eager to get away as soon as the school term finishes.
Both the Prime Minister and his deputy are easily contactable by telephone – while William Hague and Theresa May are more than capable of running base camp. Both are preferable to John Prescott who used to stand in for Tony Blair. My only problem is the number of pictures of holidaying politicians. They’re not necessary.
IT’S not just pay-offs to failed executives that should be troubling the BBC’s top brass – scrutiny also needs to be given to the number of retired sports “stars” now masquerading as TV interviewers at major events.
The worst, by a mile, is former high hurdles champion Colin Jackson who was on duty at the Anniversary Games at the Olympic ceremony. One of his long-winded questions to Usain Bolt, the phenomenal sprinter, contained the phrase “I think” on two occasions.
Sorry, I do not pay my licence fee to hear what Jackson thinks. I do, however, expect to hear what Bolt, the great Jamaican thinks about the recent drug revelations to taint athletics.
SHAMELESS. This is the only word that does justice to broadcaster Clare Balding’s nauseating interview with retired footballer Michael Owen after his horse Brown Panther won the prestigious Goodwood Cup.
After the usual banal questions, she asked Owen about his plans that evening. He replied that he was attending the launch of the new BT sport channel where he will be an expert pundit.
With Balding also due to host her own programme on the fledgling network, it would be interesting to hear the views of Channel 4 bosses, for whom she was working, on this unprofessional and gratuitous plug. I’m surprised – I had expected better of her.
LET me get this straight. Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles wants double yellow line parking restrictions to be relaxed – while Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker wants to increase fines for inconsiderate parking from £70 to £130.
Just who is steering this particular policy while David Cameron is on his holiday? I’m all for any policy that revives the traditional high street, but a parking free-for-all is only likely to exacerbate tailbacks in already congested areas and make motorists more inclined to drive to the out-of-town retail park, further strengthening the financial grip of the major store chains.
How about Pickles and co trying to come up with economic incentives – and planning rules – that make it easier for independent stores to open in the thousands of empty shop units which now blight so many of Yorkshire’s town centres?
After all, policy in this sphere should extend beyond hiring retail guru Mary Portas in a blaze of PR – and then ignoring her input.
FINALLY, I will be prepared to hail the Government’s clampdown against spitting a success if the arrogant golfer Tiger Woods does not take part in this despicable practice at next year’s Open.