Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on December 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm

So, who’s in charge of the NHS?

…and will he turn the lights off when he leaves the room, please?

I must confess that I blinked – twice – when I heard that Andrew Lansley had claimed that he never had a legal duty to provide a comprehensive Health Service – merely to promote it.

Oh, really? So what does that mean? We’re talking about a man who’s the Health Minister in this government for goodness sake. So why has he decided to shift himself on to the sidelines?

Does he see his new role merely as telling us: “I say, chaps, I think we should all go and see a doctor from time to time. I’m sure you’ll find details in Yellow Pages. And I’m told that hospitals are a damned good thing to have around. I believe that there’s plenty of private companies running them if you want to try one for yourself. I really do recommend regular health care. If you want more details, I’m sure we can let you have a leaflet.”

As far as I know, no other Health Minister has made this mind-boggling claim – and we’ve had quite a few since the halcyon days of Nye Bevan. Some have been good, others not so good – and some downright abominable. But they all knew that they were meant to be in charge when it came to providing for our health care.

There’s a pawnshop on the corner…

One sure sign of the slump years in the 1930s was the proliferation of pawnshops. They sprang up like mushrooms in depression-hit towns across Britain, as desperate families pawned their belongings just to make ends meet.

This was Love on the Dole Britain. But in the years after the war, many pawnshops closed their doors. There was no longer any need for them in a welfare state with full employment. But more recently they’ve been making a comeback.

They don’t call them pawnshops any more, of course. And they don’t display the three golden balls outside their premises, to remind folk of the poverty and degradation of past times. Now they’ve been re-branded as “cash converters” – but they became quite popular amongst consumer-driven folk who’d extended their credit and wanted to download their impulse buys. But now, in Cameron’s Britain, they may be reverting to their original role.

I see one has even opened its doors in Lydney. On the sign over the shop it urges folk to “recycle your jewellery and goods for cash.” The message is clear. If you need the money, that’s the place to hock your family jewels, your telly or even the kids’ play station. These are hard times for many folk.

A boundary too far:

Proposals for re-drawing our constituency boundaries have brought some raising of eyebrows.

In particular plans for the Forest of Dean. It seems that our constituency could end up joined to the Westgate ward of Gloucester. We’d find ourselves sharing an MP with those good people living in the shadow of Gloucester cathedral, the city’s docks – and of course the Guildhall.

To say that this notion of constituency representation has led to controversy would be an understatement. The Tory MP for Gloucester is livid. Foresters are highly indignant at losing their electoral identity, and folk in the affected areas of Gloucester have made it quite clear that they want to keep the Forest at arm’s length, thanks very much.

Now, I’m told that the general idea behind the proposals is to reduce the number of MPs by fifty, whilst trying to make all constituencies roughly equal in terms of their electorate.

The only trouble is that you end up undermining the one saving grace of our present electoral system – that of representation.. How can an MP be seen to represent a large sprawling area whose voters have been unwillingly yoked together and have no sense of common interest?

So, guess who’s the Government Minister responsible for the Boundary Commission’s proposals? Why, it’s our own Mark Harper of course. Oh, dear. He’s not going to win any popularity contest at this rate, is he?



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