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  1. Here we are approaching a snap General Election intended to give Prime Minister May the opinion-poll-predicted landslide majority she needs for negotiating Brexit.

    On becoming Prime Minister, Mrs May assured us several times that she would not take political advantage of her massive lead in the opinion polls but has. Now, she and her advisors have so cocked-up her election campaign that Labour's previously 'unelectable' Jeremy Corbyn is closing the gap sufficiently to allow the Scottish Nationalists to hold the balance of power. How on earth did we arrive in this unintended situation? 

    Gordon Brown inherited the Labour leadership from Tony Blair but failed to win a majority at his first General Election. That let in a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition under David Cameron; a coalition that virtually wiped out the Lib Dems. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown's heir-apparent, David Milliband, was stabbed in the front by his brother, Ed, who became Labour's new leader; but Ed was a political wonk, lost his first General Eleciton and David Cameron was returned with an overall majority. Ed then resigned leaving Labour with a leadership crisis - it had no obvious leader - and so the 'you-cannot-be-serious-ultra-disloyal Labour maverick', Jeremy Corbyn, became a 'no-hoper' Labour leader. The Tories licked their chops.

    David Cameron then called a Brexit referendum intended to shoot UKIP's fox and shut up his own euro-sceptic backbenchers, but the great British public had other ideas. They voted for Brexit; so Cameron had to resign as Prime Minister. The Tory pro-Brexit conspirators then stabbed each other in the back, front and sides leading to the anti-Brexit Theresa May unintentionally becoming Prime Minister and having to lead the Brexit charge.

    Now, she has so mishandled her snap General Election that the 'unelectable' Corbyn now seems to be electable with the anti-Brexit Scottish Nationalists holding the balance of English power.

    As Robert Burns famously remarked: 'The best laid schemes of mice and men, gang aft agley (to cock)'

     

  2. The older one gets, the more fascinating life seems to become. I happened to be in France today and watched the inauguration ceremony of the new French President, President Macron. At thirty-nine he is the youngest President since Napoleon and is clearly a man on a mission. He created his own centrist party, En Marche, only a year ago - most impressive.

    Two things marked the difference between such a ceremony in France and the equivalent in the United Kingdom. The first is that France being a Republic and having decoupled the state from religion, there was neither the serried ranks of aristocrats who would pack out Westminster Abbey at a coronation nor was there even a church service. This was a purely political ceremony with the military very much to the fore - the President is their Commander-in-Chief - with pride of place being given to military veterans.

    The second peculiarly French difference was that of the President's love-life. The outgoing President Hollande had not believed in marriage. He had four children by a female politician from his own party but dumped her in favour of a Paris Match journalist when he moved into the Elysee Palace. Then he two-timed her with a young actress, his infidelity being exposed when he was caught riding pillion on a scooter, like a pizza delivery boy, to his secret love nest. (Goodness knows where the nuclear button was)! President Sarkosy before him, divorced his wife whilst President to marry Cala Bruni, an Italian pop singer. Before that President Mitterand had a mistress and a secret love-child etc etc.

    President Macron has brought a new dimension to the presidential love-life saga. He has married his former drama teacher, a schoolboy crush. She is twenty-five years his senior and divorced her husband to marry him. She arrives as First Lady at sixty-four. So that's one up to the cougars! However, it seems to me that the Macron marriage is one of the great love affairs of history; I don't see him having a-bit-on-the-side; he is clearly madly in love with his wife. I heard one Frenchman proclaim unkindly that he was the first President to take his mother to the Elysee Palace.

    No one batted an eyelid over seventy-year-old President Trump having a wife who is twenty-five years younger than he; so why is it so strange the other way round? Older woman are so much more interesting. 

  3. In an earlier blog, I mentioned the uplifting sight of a lamb being born in front of my kitchen window. There are now about twenty lambs in the field and tonight they were joined by a fox; I saw it from my window and phoned the shepherd.

    So who is for the fox and who for the lambs? 

    I eat meat and cannot deny that animals are killed to feed me (occasionally) but I cannot comprehend the mentality of people who take pleasure out of killing animals; who even call it 'sport'. That to me is sick.

    This fox was shot. Alas, it was only wounded and escaped to die a slow death somewhere else. Would it be better had it been pursued by a pack of hounds and ripped apart? I think not.

    Life  is tough.

  4. Arrived in France today, the day of the French presidential elections. Monsieur Macron won handsomely in a straight fight between the Centre and the Extreme Right Nationalist candidate, Mme le Pen. Macron is only thirty-nine and is the youngest French President since Napoleon.

    He is certainy an impressive man and has the fairly unique distinction of having married his former school teacher who is twenty-five years his senior. President Trump has played it the other way, His wife is young enough to be his daughter. Best wishes to both wives.

     

     

  5. Hooray. Have just signed publishing contract with Casemate Publishers.

    Signing a contract suddenly makes all this writing effort frighteningly real. I've had to sign for liability for all sorts of things like being sued for defamation of character by my 'victims'. Mine is only an honest tale about submariners. I shudder to think of the problems for kiss-and-tell autobiographers. Thank goodness we submariners don't do kiss-and-tell. What happens on the middle watch stays in the middle watch.

  6. On Saturday, I visited a friend who has just had major open-heart surgery at the Royal National Jubilee Hospital at Clydebank, the national centre of excellence for heart surgery in Scotland. The operation involved sawing open the rib cage, pulling it apart, removing veins from the arms and stitching them into the heart in place of weakened arteries. There, that just rolled off the tongue. The operation, although 'routine' in that hospital, is simply miraculous and a superb example of NHS professionalism at its very best - and many operations like that are carried out daily. To put this operation into perspective, wounds like that sustained on the battlefield would be fatal.

    Therefore, it pains me to hear almost nightly on the BBC TV News that the NHS is about to collapse because elderly folk in need of care have to wait on trolleys in Accident & Emergency units etc. The BBC seems to specialise in picking out flaws in the crust of an enormous NHS pie and can always find a victim to support their case. Balanced reporting is not required: '10,000 successful operations today' does not make a headline. 'Old lady wets pants while left in trolley,' does (distressing though that is).

    So, how good is our NHS? Who knows? How long is a piece of string? The NHS, along with the military, is one of the few remaining nationalised industries. It is mind-blowingly enormous, has a budget greater than many countries and has the  inescapable problems of any state-run monopoly. It is a political sacred cow so large and sensitive that no political party dare attack it. Three of its greatest problems are over-expectation by the public, abuse of the system and the endemic instinct to cover up mistakes. Heaven help an NHS whistleblower. (I know. I once blew the whistle).

    So is privatisation the answer? This week we learned of a surgeon in private practice who was conducting on an industrial scale, unnecessary mastectomies on cancer-free women, his motive apparently being to make money. That could not have happened in the NHS, one hopes. But the offending surgeon had worked in the NHS and had been under some sort of scrutiny there for his medical peformance. His escape route was private practice where scrutiny seems to be less rigorous.