Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on June 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm

“Beautiful Game?” or just a cash trough?

I can’t say I take a great deal of interest in football – and have no interest whatsoever in the antics of prima donna football stars or the multi-millionaire owners of Premier Division clubs. Any fleeting attention I pay to the game is in the lower ranks of the league. For example, I’ve long kept abreast of the precarious progress of Bristol Rovers – don’t ask, it’s something that dates back to when I was a young dinosaur – and keep an eye on clubs as diverse as Forest Green Rovers and, because I have a soft spot for the underdog, Accrington Stanley (I like the name, and the fact that the club fought back from bankruptcy to gain re-admittance to the league a few seasons ago).
 
And, of course, we should all applaud those who formed FC United – the former fans of Manchester United who broke away in protest against the autocratic rule of the American Glazier Brothers, to form their own club. Supporters have a vision – it’s run as a co-operative and is making steady progress through the non-league divisions of the game.
 
So all the allegations of bribery and corruption at FIFA came as no surprise to me. At this kind of level, football, the so-called “beautiful game”, is about two things: money and prestige. And the same seems to apply throughout much of the Premier Division.

The NHS – as seen through “Casualty”

Mrs Thatcher never liked the NHS. But her strategy for cutting it down to size was somewhat different from that of the present Government. It was based on encouraging the private health care sector whilst starving the NHS of funds, with the long term aim of reducing it to a second rate”safety net” service for those who couldn’t afford to go private.
 
Recently I’ve been spending some time glued to the box, watching DVDs of early instalments of the BBC hospital drama, Casualty. This popular series first saw the light of day in 1986, at the height of the Thatcherite attack on the NHS. And it pulled no punches.
 
What was portrayed was the night shift at the tightly stretched casualty department, fighting for funds and equipment against a management only concerned with reducing budgets. Dramas are set against the crumbling infrastructure of the city descending into nightly chaos – leaving the night staff at Holby City Hospital to try to mop up the casualties.
 
The St. Pauls’ riots are anonymously re-captured in one dramatic episode, when police swoop and seal off an entire black community in “drugs bust” which becomes a grotesque piece of over-kill. And when the night shift at the casualty department is threatened with closure, the campaign to save it is dramatically portrayed.
 
Thatcher’s attack on the NHS was, of course, fairly blatant. She knew what she was doing, and so did everyone else. The NHS survived – but at a cost. The attack now being mounted by Cameron and his cohort Andrew Lansley has been rather more subtle – but it’s just as dangerous for those of us who care, and don’t want to see our health service in the hands of money-grabbing, privateering health companies (many of them based in the USA).

Buying in private education:

Another nasty sign of the times came my way, courtesy of a piece in the Guardian. It seems that many schools have been sending letters to parents, inviting them to buy in private tuition for their children.
 
This tuition is provided by a course of DVDs supplied by a private company called the Student Support Centre. Parents who go along with the scheme, under the illusion that their children’s school is recommending it, may find themselves paying out thousands of pounds for a scheme that turns out to have little or no value. One such letter from a school told parents that the Student Support Centre’s programme “may be of interest to you and of benefit to your children”.
 
The scheme, it seems, costs parents £65.50 a month – and those who commit themselves to the entire programme could find themselves paying out over three thousand pounds. And other private companies are also getting in on the act. – aided and abetted by letters from head teachers written on school headed notepaper! And to soften them up, those schools that get involved receive donations on the basis of the number of parents who sign up for the scheme.

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