Monthly Archives: October 2006

Welcome to the Real World Kiddies:Top-Up Fees

Felicitations to all who enquired as to Morag’s health and whereabouts this past week. She has been in Devon walking the moors and contemplating the state of the universe. Back in town and all fired up! Firstly……………

I am sick to the backteeth of all this whingeing about top-up fees. Dragging themselves around Central London in their £400. worth of scruffy mufti, with their £200 iPods sticking out their backpockets. These students petulantly drone on and on about whether or not it is right to be asked to contribute towards the costs of their education – lazy little so-and-sos!

Welcome to the real world. It is about time they grow up and learn that in life you get what you pay for and there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Why the H-E-hockeysticks shouldn’t they be paying for their education? Because their parents didn’t? Sorry that is not a good enough reason. We now live in the 21st century. Degrees are 10 a penny; everyone (just about) has one and frankly they are almost not worth the paper they’re printed on. As someone who has spent the past month trying to find a decent plumber who doesn’t charge £100. an hour I would suggest that if money is so important to some of these kids that they take a pass on Media-Studies in Pan-African Nations and learn how to wrap their hands around a stop-cock………

So we all need to have a degree – fair enough – but what’s wrong with paying for it. Should I stroll into Harvey Nicks and demand a new £4,000 Balenciaga handbag for £40 and say ‘Well that’s how much mummy paid for hers?” I don’t think so……..

Get with the programme Young People. Yes some of the best things in life are free but that mainly applies to rainbows and puppies’ noses and smiles and all that folderol. An education is now a necessity and you’ve got to pay for it and that’s that.

A recent survey of world-class educational establishments determined that Harvard University in Boston is number one. Yearly costs are approximately $37928 – or £19995.78. The Number 2 and 3 are Cambridge and Oxford Universities on our own fair shores where the tuition fees are between £3,300 and £5,000 per year. Do you get the feeling that top-up fees should probably be £10k rather than £3k (but that’s another conversation entirely). Keep in mind that we are talking about Cambridge and Oxford not (and no disrespect intended to any graduates of the about-to-be-mentioned establishments) Guadalajara University or K-Mart Home Studies Diploma Course.

When I first moved here about 15 years ago I used to think what a blessing it was that the top education was on offer to all and sundry for such a paltry sum. Now that I’ve lived here long enough to observe student life under a microscope I say get the lazy so-and-so’s out there and make them pay for it. They will think nothing of being in TopShop spending 3k in a year. They will nothing of spending 3k in a year at the local Bull and Bollocks pub. They will go on holiday twice a year and spend a total of 3k on booze, babes/boys but pay for part of your education!! Boo-hoo don’t ask us to do that it will ruin our lives. No it won’t and welcome to The Real World………….

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KELLY HOLMES & DAME EDNA : Portrait of the NHS

Picture Dame Edna Everage and Kelly Holmes doing a three legged race and you’ve got the NHS in one. Half of it fleet of foot and pure of spirit; half a plodding, over-fed, over-padded behemoth that can barely walk never mind run.

There’s nothing wrong with the NHS that an efficiency expert couldn’t sort out in a tick. I know you don’t call them ‘efficiency experts’ here as efficiency is akin to a curse word in certain strata of UK culture. The concept of something working ‘to the best of its ability in a timely and effective fashion’ smacks of behavior most exhibited by those God-awful Germans or their even stranger bedfellows the Japanese.

Of course this is nonsense. Things are supposed to work or run properly or why have them in the first place. That is what efficiency is all about. And frankly if you were ever going to want to see efficiency somewhere the place you would most want to see it in is a hospital.

A few years ago Morag was stuck in the hospital (no it was not because she was fat) for the better part of 6 months. I spend all my time kissing the ground for the care I received there; it was in a Central London hospital in an ok-ish postcode. Except for one jumped-up little intern who said on the first day that he couldn’t understand why time and money was being wasted on my situation (Morag still chuckles when she remembers how she sorted out his bedside manner) – the care was impeccable. And yes this was before anyone might possibly have recognized Morag from out-and-about; this was just the care that was on offer.

I was once one of those dreaded ‘efficiency experts’ – went into businesses, highlighted plusses and minuses – upped one, eradicated the other. So I can tell you as someone proficient in sorting out operating systems; and someone who has also been inside the NHS and observed it at close quarters for an extended period of time – it is a mess. An absolute, unadulterated, Grade A MESS.

Being in the hospital for that length of time gave me an opportunity to observe how things are run in an average NHS hospital (and this one is rated as one of the best). The waste is indescribable. The slipshod monitoring systems, beyond the pale. What is killing the NHS is the beaurocracy not the lack of money.

Get some proper efficiency experts in there, not just a group of people who are friends of whichever government is currently in place – and sort it out. The last time I looked I think the figure was in the neighborhood of 7 to 1 for administrative to medical staff. In what sort of business would that make any kind of sense. And I have seen what these people get up to. Nurses and doctors working all the hours that God sends while the office staff are strolling around with clipboards and cups of coffee. Enough to make your blood boil. Yes you do need administrative staff, yes some of the currrent staff are excellent but there are too many of them and what the hell are they doing anyway.

So here’s the prescription: Give the NHS administration a high colonic and flush out all the unnecessary backroom staff. Update the systems so that it is run like a 21st century entity then take the newly-found surplus and update the facilities.

The NHS cannot continue to lumber on in the state it is now in – it will die, plain and simple. With the best will in the world Kelly can only drag Dame Edna a short distance before she just kerflapses. The NHS is something for this country to be proud of. If the Conservative Party wants to solidify its position as the party that gets the job done it could do worse than sort out the NHS .

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TELEVISION FRIEND OR FOE : From JFK to Cameron

We’ve come a long way since one got elected by hiking up your toga and handing out grapes from the back of a chariot. A rousing speech in the Coliseum for the general citizens and a slavegirl or two for the hard-to-reach councillors. When the likes of Morag was young politics was live. Then newspapers became a bigger part of the process and you relied less on the oratorical skills and more on the written word.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy changed politics forever because we then realised that we could have visual with our rhetoric. We could combine the joys of going to the movies (looking at handsome young heroes and their princess brides) with the joys of social engineering and tax policy. That, of course, was the beginning of the end. Here in the UK we held on longer but we finally fell foul of the Kennedy-curse as well. I remember arguing with people about William Hague and being told ‘We can’t have a Prime Minister who is bald’ – for heavens sake we used to have Prime Ministers with no teeth and wigs.

We have become obsessed with appearance and are suffering greatly for it. And sadly no one seems the least embarrassed by it. “Is he media-friendly?” is a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘are his teeth crooked and is that his hair’. Someone once called to enquire about Morag and the question was ‘she sounds brilliant on the radio but what does she look like, could she be on the telly?’ What difference did it make what I looked like? I wasn’t going to be on in a bit of sequins flipping letters. But that’s where we’ve come to and as much as we might like it there’s no going back.

This week has shown us just how dangerous television can be and I think it would behove us to take a serious look at the problem. Forget about Labour and the Lib Deems, as-yet-unformed policies, disenchanted voters and donations. The biggest enemy facing us today is television. We can ignore it as much as we like but we will do so at our peril.

Everyone wants to be on television because we now know that a good appearance on the GMTV sofa will influence more people than a good showing in the polls. But most people do not understand the ruthlessness of television. Gone are the days when television needed us – we now need it.

The channels can pick any till-checker from obscurity and turn them into a nations’ darling and they delight in doing nothing as much as taking the high and mighty and crushing them under their heel. An Italian television program decided this week to interview some Italian Mps. As egos now go all and sundry rushed forward for a chance to be seen and adored by the nation. While pretending to put makeup on them the production company were really swabbing their foreheads to test them for drugs. So instead of getting a chance to inundate us with their opinions we found that 12 of them had recently consumed cannabis and 4 of them cocaine. Was that fair of the television company to do? Not in my opinion but that is the nature of the beast. And if you think all these fake-sheikh tabloid stings are bad, trust me – telly stings will be much worse.

Television can make or break you and as someone occasionally on the inside my opinion is that we (as Conservatives) are not going about taming this tiger in the right way. Combine the ruthlessness of television – makes the Fleet Street lot look like Sneezy, Dopey and Grumpy – with the accessibility of all and sundry to the medium and you have the makings of a disaster on your hands. “We” went on Jonathan Ross – an extremely ill-advised move in my opinion (my phone didn’t stop ringing for the days before with media insiders howling their heads off because of what they knew would happen – and of course it did). And the Tom & Sion show – which was beyond a disgrace (poor production values, in extremely poor taste – and worst of all not even funny). These things are happening because we are not approaching television with the fear and respect it deserves. If we are not careful television is going to crucify us and we’d better do something fast.

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THE 978 REASONS THAT TAGGING DOESN’T WORK

Let’s try : 1 murder, 4 manslaughters, 56 woundings, 700 assaults, 100 cases of possessing an offensive weapon, 100 cases of obstructing a police officer and 16 other violent attacks. That means almost 1000 reasons why this ridiculous system needs to be scrapped.

What part of ‘You’ve done the crime now pay the time’ does this government not understand? Gerry Sutcliffe (Home Office Minister) and his ilk will tell you that saving £70. a day per prisoner is worth keeping this farcical scheme in place. But you know what – it isn’t.

When are these people going to learn how to see beyond the edges of their noses to understand that these ridiculous ideas are just pennywise – pound foolish. You may save 70 pounds a day now but how much more is it going to cause you in victim compensation, legal aid, and court fees when these miscreants go back out on the street and reoffend.

Sutcliffe says that less than 4% of the 130,000 out on the Home Detention Curfew scheme have reoffended. Well whoopedy-doo. Tell anyone of the 978 people who have been on the wrong end of one of these detention-dodgers that “Hey, sorry mate but the other 96% of them were ok………..”

Wouldn’t make me any happier, and frankly I don’t believe those figures anyway. I’d bet big bucks that these 978 just happened to be the ones who got caught. These wallies don’t even know for sure if these prisoners are sticking to the rules of their curfew or not so who knows how many of them are getting up to God only knows what. This tagging system is no good and it needs to be scrapped.

Morag is a HUGE fan of bringing back National Service and mentions it as often as she can – often to loud booing or raucous laughter. People seem to think she’s kidding – well guess what? She isn’t!

Of course this entire prison system of ours is not working. It is now approaching disaster stage. We’ll be putting them up at the Ritz next. We already pay our hard-earned money to cart them around by fancy chauffeur driven private car hire (I know this for a fact because someone who regularly drives Morag told her recently). So at a cost of sometimes hundreds of pounds these men get to hunker down in the back of a plush Merc while on their way to various appointments. Now I’m sorry, Morag hunkering down in the soft leather is one thing – some wee fella who is in prison for bopping my granny over the head and loping off with her pension money hunkering down is another.

I know it is a complex problem but we really do need to solve it properly instead of covering it in sticky plasters. We need to stop trying to please all the do-gooders. Prison is not supposed to be good. It is supposed to be awful and overcrowded and miserable, with bad food and boredom, and no sex and all the things that we now seem determined to eradicate.

In the 1800’s the reformer John Ruskin said about the British prison system “Let us reform our schools, and we shall find little reform needed in our prisons”- what have we learned over the past century? Seems like not very much from where I sit………….

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Twitchin In The Tesco – How Hamza Made Me Cry

RIGHT….we all know that Morag is a bit of a ranter. Always been that way. Papa Dearest said “If you’re going to have an opinion make sure it’s a strong one” and Morag has made a career out of it. However every now and then something happens and it goes behind the normal ‘let’s debate this point’ facade and just slams you right in the gut. Abu Hamza did that to me tonight.

I ran out to the Tesco to get some bananas for the porridge and go for a wee drive in the drizzle with the convertible top down – keeps me calm. Wander in to the local Tesco to greet the screaming headlines “Hamza’s Buy-To-Let Scandal Is Exposed”. Immediately I start twitching. Real Estate is a very sore subject with me nowadays as the Mindbender household has decreased by one and Morag wants to move with the sprog to an area where a cappuccino is within easy reach and there are pretty people strolling by. It might also be nice to live close enough to the child’s school that his school bag doesn’t come round on a conveyor belt and he doesn’t get served a meal and a snack on his journey. In good Conservative tradition Morag plans on solving this problem herself. She will work harder, invest better. She will pray, Cosmic Order and go on one less exotic holiday to provide the kind of home she wants because she believes you’re supposed to take care of yourself.

WELL WHY THE HELL BOTHER. Why the hell am I doing all this if the likes of Abu Hamza can sit in prison wheeling and dealing with all the panache of a Channel4 property guru? Why am I working all the hours that God sends trying to stand on my own two feet when this b*st*rd gets to come to our country, try to blow it up and kill its citizens, oh and let’s give him a wee investment fund as well. Supposedly his family collects almost £700. a week of my money? What is that about? I have to say that this one has gotten Morag where she lives………..or maybe where she doesn’t live.

I don’t know who is responsible for this travesty but I intend to find out. And when I do I am bringing them down………….Morag is mad and in true warrior style she doesn’t get mad – she gets even. So for all the reasons why we want Labour out the rest of you can campaign for and against taxes, Iraq, interference, NHS, whatever you like but leave Herr Hamza to me. He and whoever allowed this has made me cry and Morag doesn’t do ‘cry’ ……….

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Of All the Cockamamie Ideas This One Takes the Biscuit

Once a year Morag goes to Paris and buys a yearly agenda. The covers there come in all sorts of fancy leathers and beautiful colours and somehow the chi-chi-ness of it all chirps her up. The only problem is she sometimes goes awry with the days and months and has been known to show up on Dimanche for meetings that are really on Lundi ! So this morning when she heard John Reid’s new pronouncements she can be forgiven for thinking that against the odds Octobre might somehow mean April and that the Home Secretary was playing a fantastic April Fool’s Joke.

I called around to a few of the faithful and was told, nope, cannabis has not been legalised, it’s not April Fool’s, the drinking system at Westminster hasn’t been spiked and yes John Reid is dead serious.

So let me get this straight now. If you come from a country that is not an EU country, and you commit a crime we (as in you and me the taxpayer) will pay you (as in the criminal) £2,500. so you can go back to wherever it is that you come from where most likely £2,500 is equivalent to £50k. No catch. Well I’m seeing a business opportunity here. I was disheartened that I wouldn’t be able to participate in the new “Let me pretend I’m you and take your driving test for you – £1,500 please” as my driving skills are quite splotchy – besides they fail women three times on purpose.

But this government initiative I like – I go out – get convicted and you pay me £2,500. I go ‘home’ for a couple of months, swan about buying drinks at the local (I’d better not use a particular language or ethnicity or the PC brigade will jump down on me). When the money runs out I come back to Blighty, re-offend get another £2,500 and so on and so on. Sounds like it has possibilities. Of COURSE they are telling us it won’t work that way but I’ll bet you dollars to dougnuts, as they say in Yankland, that is exactly how it will work.

The estimated total for this exercise in stupidity is approx £20 million (pounds not pence). I don’t know about the rest of you but I can think of loads better ways to spend £20million of my hard-earned money (no sniggering from the peanut gallery) than on this kind of foolishness. To add insult to injury, whilst I would say that all criminals belong in the same boat if I were a UK miscreant and found that I was only getting £47. (yes that’s how much the locals get) – and my fellow cell member was getting £2,500. well I would not be best pleased. I understand the adage ‘Treat your guests better than your own family’ but somehow I don’t think this is what the fathers of etiquette had in mind.

There is a theory called Social Control Theory which in layman’s terms means that who you are and what you believe in, where you come from etc. determines your morals. Basic common sense. What Mr.Reid is proposing is that people who come to our shores from distant climes (like Morag) but who are not well-behaved (as is Morag) – should be rewarded for operating within our society with a moral code that is diametrically opposed to ours. AND we should pay them for their pleasure.

When I was out and about this weekend, getting stroppy with my newly found political nous and doing battle with various Leftie friends, I said said look “Say what you like about David Cameron but at least he’s not Gordon Brown”. “Oh no, we’re thinking of ditching Brown” I was told. I snorted and said “For whom????”…..”Oh John Reid for sure, he could do it”. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Kaaaaaaaaaaaay. If this is the same John Reid they were speaking about then DC can order in the crew to install Downing Street Webcam because he’ll be moving in. Anyone idiotic enough to come up with an idea such as this deserves a slap (in the proverbial sense of course – Morag does NOT advocate violence).

Prison reform has been around as long as there have been naughty people. There was a fabulous woman I came across (in books not in person Morag is not that much of an age) who floated around in Victoria times who was into teaching prisoners a trade. In about 100AD Plutarch said “The very spring and root of honesty and virtue lie in good education”. Now I suspect as Conservatives we’re not supposed to be thinking that but as someone who has been having a ‘mare of a time finding a decent plumber lately I’m thinking we should start teaching prisoners how to be brickies, plumbers, thatchers and whatever trades we’re low on down at the Job Centre. Things used to be better when they knew that time in prison meant banging out license plates, digging roads not all this lollygagging about watching Trisha and Sky Sports.

As for John Reid….keep up the good work. If this is the best Labour has to offer then we’ll have no trouble sweeping back in to where we belong.

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“BOURNEMOUTH – I HAVEN’T HAD THAT MUCH FUN SINCE THE 14 SHOTS OF TEQUILLA”

Despite rumours to the contrary Morag is actually a card-carrying grown up person. As a Conservative at heart she believes in doing it herself, whatever ‘it’ she turns her hand to therefore she is taking this going from Leftie to Rightie business very seriously. This means research, research, research. Well what better opportunity to learn about The Conservative Party than Conference?

There was mention of Morag packing a couple of quarts of absinthe in her leopard carry-all and heading to Bournemouth but in normal Scout-style she decided she needed more experience under her belt before she sallied forth in public. You see a fair few might know Morag from other quarters, her presence might be noted, and she didn’t want to make a total twit of herself straight away. So in the Mindbender household Conference 2006 was designated time for ‘observing the animal in its natural habitat’ from the safety of her study. With this in mind Morag went to M&S, loaded up a trolley, put the phone on Message, then settled herself in with notepad and pen in hand to observe her New Best Friends at work.

Well where do you start really? What a difference between this group and the lot who were recently in Brighton! From a Behavioural Observationist point of view Morag can tell you that contrary to what the other side would have us believe there is a huge range of people in the Conservative Party. Yes you do have your middle-aged, Middle England contingent – and there’s nothing wrong with that but you also have all other sorts present in their glory. Very young, very old and all points inbetween. People who looked like they arrived in the back of a Bentley, people who looked like they arrived in the back of a bus. Captains of industry, busdrivers and all points inbetween.

If you had to say what the face of the Conservative Party looks like in 2006 you’d be hard put to decide. It could be any colour, either gender, any age and any bank account – if I were involved in Party Profile that is one of the first things I would address. Getting the Undecided to see that the Conservative Party of today has (in street vernacular) ‘a lot more going on’ than the Leftie-media leads us to believe.

The other thing that struck me, I mean Morag, was the difference in mood. Other than Gordon Brown’s baring of fangs there really wasn’t a lot of smiling going on in Brighton. These Conservatives know how to have a good laugh I can tell you that – oh that’s right you already know that. For obvious reasons I have always been a huge Boris fan – even sent away for a Boris For PM t-shirt 🙂 but it was a joy to discover the likes of Theresa May (note to self – arrange a meetup), thrilled to see Matthew Parris front and center (have been a huge fan for years) – and of course my role model Miss Widdecombe who I once had the pleasure to meet in the Green Room of a morning television programme and have been inching towards tweed ever since. There was laughing, lots of laughing – now some might say there’s no room for laughing, politics is a serious business – Morag doesn’t agree. If you are having a good time while you’re doing your job you’ll do a better job.

Also there wasn’t that ‘clutch onto your handbag and cover your back’ feeling so present in Brighton. There was an overwhelming sense of a group of people banded together who could possibly accomplish something if given the chance. There was an infectious spirit, none of that whining, moaning Labour bleat. And a feeling that there was room for everyone. That no matter what your interest or inclination there would be something there for you to get your teeth stuck into. Manners, lovely manners. None of that screaming and shouting foolishness – you disagreed with someone, you came up to the microphone and said what you had to say.

Some of the highlights (Light Entertainment) : Anything Boris did :);Mark Menzies (twice) lightbulb presentation to a blushing Miss Widdecombe and lassooing Oliver Letwin in spectacular form; closeups of Theresa May’s shoes

Some of the hightlights (Inspirational) : Cheering for Cameron; anything by William Hague; Camila’s speech on what we need to address re all our youth not just some; Rosie Boycott’s from the heart discussion of the effects of alcohol in our society. And the general abundance of future leaders of our country – something I did not see while watching the Labour conference. And who could forget the old dear who stood up during the “Is Jamie Oliver a National Treasure” debate and waxed eloquent about the joys of water (?). What was inspirational about that? The fact that we let her. That we listened to her, we respected her, we responded to her. That showed me more than anything what the Party is really all about – a voice for all.

We were informed/entertained/our horizons broadened by the likes of William Hague to the likes of Zac Goldsmith. I’ve warmed towards IDS (who would have thought), most importantly I have FINALLY figured out how best to put my profile and experience to work for the Conservatives. I now know who to call and what to volunteer for, huge relief. And I now believe, beyond any shadow of a doubt – that I’ve made the right choice by coming to join you. More importantly I now have the ammunition to defend my new stance. So if anyone is listening – Morag is ready willing and able – she works hard, has a good heart and will be a good soldier. Private Morag T. Mindbender reporting for duty………………..

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