Saturday 30 November 2019

The Saturday List #243 - My top ten London Smells

The sense of smell is the one we seem to least talk about, but it is perhaps the one which is most powerful, in it's ability to transport us. I was inspired by this as I was walking down Woodlands Way, on the way home from work yesterday. I happened to catch a whiff of burning coal from someones home fire. This always gives me a great feeling of happiness. It got me thinking, what are the smells I associate with London. Here is my list

1. The smell of Burgers as you approach Loftus Road. This used to be the smell of football, but as our grounds have been gentrified, the burger vans have been pushed out. However if you get the tube to QPR, it is one ground where you still get the experience. It is always a very reassuring one.

2. The smell of the Thames outside the Tate Modern. I used to have to walk from Blackfriars Station to my office on Park St, by Borough Market. I'd often pause by the Tate Modern to take a look at St Pauls and smell the River Thames. It is best early in the morning.  Try it.
3. St Pancras Station. In my youth, St Pancras was a dirty smelly station, with diesel locomotives spewing out diesel fumes. Oddly these fumes always smelled far sweeter than the diesel from buses and taxis. The East Midlands trains are still diesel Inter City 125 units with Paxman diesel engines. They will soon go and I'll miss them. I used to love a pint in the pub on the concourse. It is deffo a nicer station, but I miss the Travellers Fayre bacon butty and the pint of Greene King IPA, especially whilst reading the evening standard.

4. Chestnuts on Oxford Street. I rarely bought these, but they always smelled amazing. I worked for a while in Windmill Street, off Tottenham Court Road, at this time of year, I'd get the tube from Oxford Circus to St Pancras, just to smell this.

5. Brick Lane. When I worked in Aldgate, we'd often adjourn to Brick Lane for a curry. The smell was divine as you walked the street. I went back recently and it has been commercialised beyond recognition, but there is still the odd whiff, which makes it all worth while.

6. The Bakerloo line at Baker Street. I've no idea why, but this station has a unique and timeless smell. I've no idea what it is, but it is worth a journey just for a whiff.

7. Borough Market. Just as Brick Lane has a marvellous smell of curry, Borough Market is a kaleidoscope of marvellous smells. The food court is an amazing place to walk along, but if you are hungry, it may cost you!
8. Outside the King Neptune in Deansbrook. We always have our favourite chippy. I went out with a girl for a while who lived around the corner from the King Neptune. It is almost impossible to walk past a fish and chip shop and not feel hungry, but I think the King Neptune smells the best of the lot. I don't know if it's the oil or the location of the extractors.

9. Liverppool Street station on the Met Line. When I worked in Aldgate, you'd always get the whiff of bacon sarnies in the morning at Liverpool street. Very nice it was too!

10. Mill Hill Park after the grass has been cut. The smell of cut grass is perhaps the smell of summer. When the sun is shining, you are walking the dog and the grass has been cut, all is well with the world. 


Please join us on Friday 13th December at 8pm at The Midland Hotel, Hendon, for the Barnet Eye Community awards and annual Xmas party. We are also looking for nominations for our community awards, click here for details. Free admission


Friday 29 November 2019

The Friday Joke - 29/11/2019 - Don't mess with Mum!

The teacher gave her fifth grade class an assignment:

Get their parents to tell them a story with a moral at the end of it.
The next day, the kids came back and, one by one, began to tell their stories.
There were all the regular types of stuff: spilled milk and pennies saved.
But then the teacher realized, much to her dismay, that she had missed Janie.
- "Janie, do you have a story to share?''
- 'Yes ma'am. My daddy told me a story about my Mummy. She was a Marine pilot in Desert Storm, and her plane got hit. She had to bail out over enemy territory, and all she had was a flask of whiskey, a pistol, and a survival knife. She drank the whiskey on the way down so the bottle wouldn't break, and then her parachute landed her right in the middle of 20 Iraqi troops. She shot 15 of them with the pistol, until she ran out of bullets, killed four more with the knife, till the blade broke, and then she killed the last Iraqi with her bare hands".
- "Good Heavens", said the horrified teacher. "What did your Daddy tell you was the moral to this horrible story?"
- "Stay away from Mummy when she's been drinking".

Please join us on Friday 13th December at 8pm at The Midland Hotel, Hendon, for the Barnet Eye Community awards and annual Xmas party. We are also looking for nominations for our community awards, click here for details. Free admission

Thursday 28 November 2019

The NHS is not safe under Boris Johnson

Normally on Thursday, we do local news. Today I am writing a personal blog, because I believe that this is the most important issue facing every single person in the UK. The NHS is in the news. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson is claiming that the NHS is safe under him. I cannot possibly stand by and not comment. There are three reasons why this is clearly not the case. Let me put my cards on the table. Since 2011, I've been under the care of the NHS for Prostate cancer. My treatment to date has cost approximately £50,000. Tomorrow this figure will go up again. The London Vaccination clinic, which I use to get vaccinations when I travel to India for business charges £200 for a PSA test.

I have several of these a year. I also have an MRI (approx £750) every year and have had four biopsies. The figure I found for a Prostate Biopsy was in the US and stated that the national average is around $2,600.  I also had Prostate Hifu treatment. The cost of this appears to be around $25,000 in the USA. Then there are countless GP visits etc. The cost of a private visit is around £60 a pop. Then there is the consultant visits at around £250 a pop.

As someone living with cancer, I am uninsurable. So the bulk of this would have come out of my pocket. Could your household budget take a £50,000 hit? I know mine would struggle and I am reasonably well off. I'd certainly have made different decisions, which may well have been life changing. Having a life threatening disease focuses the mind.

But how can I possibly state that all of this would change if Boris gets re-elected. There are three reasons.

1. The record of the Tories. My cancer journey started shortly after David Cameron got the keys to number 10. Since then, I've spent many hours in doctors surgeries, clinics and hospitals. Between the creation of the NHS in 1948 and 2010, the NHS budget was increased by approx 4% per annum every year, regardless of whether the Tories or Labour were in charge. This ground to a halt under Cameron. What has been the effect? There is now a crisis in nursing and when I went to get my blood test appointment earlier in the week, people were being told that there were no appointments for weeks at the Millway clinic. Then there is the PSA test. In 2011, when this detected my Prostate Cancer, it was a standard part of the NHS well man screening. That is what caught my cancer early and meant that in 2015, when it started to become aggressive, I was able to have treatment before it developed. That saved my life, but it was removed as it wasn't deemed value for money. Tell my kids that. I think it was the best £200 I ever spent. But the Tories have starved the NHS of money and people are dying as a result.

2. Boris's plans for Brexit. Boris and Donald Trump have talked about a trade deal. Jeremy Corbyn yesterday publicised the plans. The UK does not have a strong hand here. There is no secret at all that the US hates the NHS. My sister lives in the USA, she is a nurse and her husband is a doctor. They both understand how both systems work. There is no doubt at all that the US corporations want a piece of the NHS. I know this because the corporation of which my Brother in Law was an executive has had talks with Tories about making the NHS "more efficient". The US private medical corporations see the NHS as ripe for carving up and the US pharmaceutical companies see the NHS as a huge block to their income streams. There is absolutely no way that Donald Trump will sign a deal that protects the NHS and there is no way that Boris will be in a position to turn Donald Trump down, even if he wanted to. Donald Trump was elected on an "America First" platform. He will not be doing any foreign powers favours, especially when they are economically vulnerable.

3. The Conservatives are not telling the truth.  Watch this clip with health secretary Matt Hancock. I don't believe anyone who has seen this can possibly trust him.

Can you trust Boris? Many have tried and many have been disappointed. I have already spoken to senior people involved with the government who told me that there is a need for more efficiency in the NHS and that they see private companies as the best way to achieve that. I believe that this is a Trojan horse. Free market, right wing Conservatives believe the NHS to be an anathema. I don't doubt that they would enact some sort of safety net for the poorest, whatever their plans, but the truth is that when you remove the concept of Universal coverage, those like me, who have chronic illnesses will be exposed. Whilst some may say that I should be means tested and it is only fair that if I have to sell my house to pay for my medical bills, as it isn't their problem, I disagree. I think a civilised, welathy society can afford universal health care and that is a basic human right.

Make no mistake, Brexit will be a game changer for the NHS. In a years time, Boris will be perfectly comfortable taking us out of the EU with no deal and into a hastily cobbled together deal with Donald Trump. I've spent many months in the USA in my life. When you watch the coverage of politics on channels such as Fox News, they talk about the NHS as if it is a killing machine run by the gestapo. On many occasions I've been shocked at the sheer untruth of their claims.

Sooner or later everyone needs the NHS. I was I guess lucky in that my Mum was born in 1925 and she took the trouble to tell us what healthcare was like before the NHS. One thing that always stuck in my mind was her story of how my Grandmothers 18th birthday present was to have all her teeth removed at the dentist. I was bemused. My mother explained that this spared her a lifetime of dental bills. Dentures were cheaper.  Sadly such knowledge is dying with her generation.

I implore everyone to vote for the candidate that has the best chance of stopping this. My own personal view is that in Finchley and Golders Green and Hendon, there is absolutely no chance of a Labour victory. They lost in 2010 and in 2015, when there were no issues with anti semitism. I sincerely believe that they will come second if the opposition unites around them. There are many sane, rational Conservative voters who do not want to see the NHS wrecked. I believe that if they believe that the Lib Dems can win, they may well cast their votes for them in this election. I know that for many readers, this is not something they want to hear. The only way to save the UK and the NHS is to prevent Boris having a majority. I believe that we all have a civic responsibility to work as hard as we can to ensure that Boris does not achieve this.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

An amazing film detailing our local industrial transport history

Check out this film, detailing how the BedPan line was modernised in the late 1970's-early 1980's. This is the line that serves Mill Hill, Hendon, Cricklewood and West Hampstead. It is fascinating to see the attitude to health and safety. Navvies working in bare chests, no protective helmets, balancing ladders precariously on wires etc, as trains thunder by. There is some nice footage of Cricklewood, Hendon and West Hampstead. A great piece of local industrial history.

Hat tip to and for the tip

Monday 25 November 2019

General Election - Are we falling victim to a massive con trick by the media?

I'm not one normally given to wild statements or accusations, but it appears that I am not alone in thinking that there is something extremely dodgy going on with the way the media is covering the current general election. The BBC charter requires it to be impartial in its coverage, and on the face of it there are strict rules.  There has however been some very strange editing of news stories, which have given a completely false impression of what actually happened.

This tweet gives one example.
The response from the BBC was highly unsatisfactory. I am not at all impressed. Checkout their response to this post by respected Journalist Peter Obone. What do you think?

In the past we've seen all manner of claims of bias, audiences being stacked with activists, questions planted on QT, but this is a little bit different, in as much as the job of the BBC is to tell us what really happened and they've done nothing of the sort.

A cursory glance at todays BBC Twitter feed is actually rather alarming, they posted this

I find it hard to believe that the BBC are engaging experts who are stating that the population don't notice and don't care about manifestos and policies. The job of the BBC is to inform us and to make us care. Having people on telling us that everyone is apathetic is highly dangerous. I think there are major trust issues with manifestos and politicians, but that is a totally different thing.  The concept that people don't care whether there are qualified doctors and nurses available to treat them when they have cancer or whether their childrens schools have decent teachers and are safe and warm is truly ridiculous.

What has happened is that the Conservative Party has released a manifesto that is light on detail and has no answers to the problems Britain faces, they are lead by a man who people laugh at when he gives ridiculous answers. The BBC is faced with a terrible dilemma. To retain balances, when people are not laughing at Jeremy Corbyn or Jo Swinson is something that presents a challenge. When a highy dodgy manifesto that is designed solely to avoid the pitfalls that scuppered Theresa May at the last election is released also presents a challenge. In an effort to show no bias, they feel they can be no more forensic and no more aggressive than they are with the opposition, so a very bad and uninformative manifesto will receive the same level of scrutiny as one that is detailed and proposes solutions.

Laura Kuenssberg tweeted at the lack of detail, so the BBC clearly know what the Tories are up to

So are we falling victim to a massive con trick being lead by the BBC to fool us that  the Tories are safe, reliable and trustworthy? Is the dodgy editing and the pundits selling apathy part of  a grand scheme to persuade the unwashed masses that it doesn't matter and Boris and his mates are a safe pair of hands, when the opposite is clearly true and they know it?

I have spent the weekend trying to work this out. There are several conclusions I've drawn. The first is that the Tories have clearly put a lot of resources into 'playing' news organisations and especially the BBC. When #BBCQT audience members ask difficult questions, huge effort is made to try and discredit the questioner and cow the BBC by claiming it is a sign of bias. Labour try and do this as well but aren't as good at it and they don't have The Sun and The Daily Mail onside, reinforcing such stories with news coverage. There is no doubt that the BBC's analysis of the Tories manifesto was stunningly unambitious and there was little effort to get sensible answers from spokespeople at the lack of detail and vision. It seems to me that Tories are restricting the way their spokesmen and candidates are allowed to interact with the media. When they do have car crash interviews, of which the likes of James Cleverly have had a few, they seemingly disappear. The Chancellor Sajid Javid, usually the most high profile of all politicians apart from the PM, is the invisible man. Can you imagine Gordon Brown, as Chancellor being invisible during an election campaign? If you look at the Chancellors Twitter feed, he's tweeted more footage of John McDonnell speaking than he has of himself -

Labour under Jeremy Corbyn have no such 'discipline' with the relevant spokespeople being put on TV no matter how good or bad they are. I'm really not sure if it is the fault of the BBC if Labour put up politicians who are well known for giving car crash interviews, whilst the Tories lock them in the cupboard and don't let them near a camera. I suspect that by the end of the campaign, the only Tory we'll see on telly is Boris Johnson, as for reasons I cant fathom, with every porkie and every mis-speak, his ratings go up.

The Conservatives learned a big lesson in the 2017 election. The less you tell the public, the less about you there is to hate and mistrust. I think there was a general feeling in the Labour party that Boris would implode under the bright lights of a general election campaign. It hasn't happened yet and our timid media are unlikely to do anything to make it. There is a lot of talk of Social media being a liberating force, but all that happens is we end up in an echo chamber, with groups of our friends liking everything we say as they agree with us. The bloke next door with a different view has a completely different network.

So to sum up. What have we learned? Lets just say this. If you are going for a job as a news editor for the BBC, here are a few rules it seems wise to follow.

1. Always use footage of Boris where he's smiling as the British public likes to think of him as a jovial chap.
2. Always use footage of Jeremy Corbyn when he's looking like a rather unworldly geography teacher on a birdwatching holiday, because that is what the British public expect to see.
3. When choosing footage of Jo Swinson, always use the five seconds when she's looking most vacuous as that is what blokes like to see when women are on TV.
4. When filming Boris speaking at election rallys, don't pan to far back as we don't want the empty room to be seen.
5. The public want to hear about Anti Semitism in the Labour Party, not Islamaphobia in the Tory Party

6. Under no account mention the Lib Dems or the Greens except as an afterthought.
7.  Always remember, the job of the BBC is to show no  bias, rather than tell the full story.


Sunday 24 November 2019

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 24/11/2019 - Ten reasons to be cheerful!

It is cold, damp, gloomy and the country has seemingly gone bonkers! But never fear, there is a dedicated army of tweeters in the London Borough of Barnet fighting hard to make us all look on the bright side of life!

1. Many thanks to the Mill Hill Historical Society for reminding us of the massive role Edgware played in the music insudtry

2. And thanks to Time_NW for reminding us about those neon bright lights of Colindale

3. I'm sure we'll all be pleased and grateful to the Burnt Oak Police for taking these off the streets.

4. And some good news for Colindale residents. Plans are afoot for improvements.

5. I am gutted I missed this, it looks amazing. I hope that they do it again soon!

6. If like me, you rather enjoy standing on the terraces at @HadleyFC (Great win yesterday lads), here's a great feed to follow for all of the news from the Essex Senior league

7. Thunderbirds were out in Cricklewood this week, rescuing a derailed train! We all sometimes get fed up when these services don't work, but the staff work hard to get things back on track

8.cDespite everything, the Borough of Barnet is still a great place to live and some of the best bits are free!

9. A celebrity bus visited Mill Hill this week. I saw it as I was dog walking and wondered what the story was. Thanks to Billo for clearing up the mystery. I travelled on that bus many times to and from Burnt Oak with my mum, buying jellied eels from the fishmonger back in the 1960's

10. Ever wondered what the inside of our local recording studio looked like?

That isn't all this week folks! Here's a little clip to cheer you up.


And finally, a little plug. Please come along and also please nominate our local champions!

Please join us on Friday 13th December at 8pm at The Midland Hotel, Hendon, for the Barnet Eye Community awards and annual Xmas party. We are also looking for nominations for our community awards, click here for details. Free admission

Saturday 23 November 2019

The Saturday list #242 - My Top Ten Demolished buildings in the London Borough of Barnet

Here's a question for you. How often do you look at the buildings in your street or on the way to the shops? Last week, I was out with Industrial Heritage expert Mark Amies making a short film about the former Airco factory on the Edgware Road at Colindale. I am still editing this, but it got me thinking. What is my favourite structure in the London Borough of Barnet. As I went through, I started to realise just how many iconic and important buildings have been demolished and replaced with absolutely awful, soulless blocks. Occasionally there is a good reason for this, but the redevelopment of St Pancras Station and Coal Drops yard has shown what you can do when you take magnificent structures and repurpose them. Sadly in Barnet, planning does not mean sympathetic architecture or imagination. I often wonder if Barnet deliberately recruit town planners who came bottom of their class. Anyway, here are a few and why they are important to me.

1. The Sacred Heart Church in Mill Hill Broadway.
This building was a centrepiece of my youth. I was baptised in the church, I had my first communion in it, I had my  confirmation in it. My fathers funeral was held in it, as were numerous other family members. There were also many weddings etc in it. As a kid, I attended the youth club and the film club. But it was deemed not fit for purpose and replaced with a nice modern church that isn't drafty and completely lacks any great feeling of timeless spirituality. It breaks my heart. The picture is of my parents outside the church in 1974. When you remove the building, it makes such images painful. In the planning process there is no value at all placed on the hurt the demolition of such places of important heritage may cause. To me it is cultural vandalism. Can you imagine how it feels looking through the family albums in the knowledge that the backdrop to my life has been systematically erased.

2. The National Institute for Medical Research.
I went to school on The Ridgeway and the NIMR loomed over us. I had no love of the building, having worked there and seen the animal experimentation but it was a heinous act of cultural vandalism to destroy it. We used it as a backdrop to this video that my band made. It's demolition being a metaphor for what is happening to our country. Capita manage planning in Barnet. We made the video for the Kick Out Capita Campaign, but if you watch it you can see the destruction of the building taking place.

3. The National Newspaper Archive in Colindale.
When I learned that this was being demolished, I was flabbergasted. This was such an iconic building. I couldn't believe that Barnet Council didn't fight tooth and nail to save it. I was shocked that they didn't even bother to try and keep and iconic institution in the Borough. I despair, I really do.

4. The Copthall Diving Pool.
My daughter was a national youth swimming champion. Copthall swimming pool was a centrepiece of our family life for a decade. She was a member of the diving club for a while and this was as fantastic and inspirational element to the club. Barnet spent a lot of money redeveloping the pool, but in a scandalous act of destruction of a well respected club, they decided that diving wasn't value for money. Short sighted and stupid. If you ever win the lottery, please give a couple of million to the diving club, so we can reinstate this.

4. Hendon FC.
The field of dreams. The FA Cup tie against Newcastle. The local football community. Count's for nothing in Barnet. Hendon FC's ground was an outstanding example of a non league ground. It should have been listed, not demolished.
5. Barnet FC Underhill.
If Hendon was a crime, Barnet FC was a tragedy. The club fell foul of a war between the local Labour and Conservative parties. The local Conservatives hate football and did everything they could to force Barnet out of the Borough. This was maainly driven by spite, as the former Labour/Lib Dem adminstration had been proud of the club and given them a great deal on the stadium to stay. This is one of the things that has constantly inspired me to write blogs.

6. The Methodist Church, Goodwyn Avenue NW7
Sadly I have no photo's of this small church. I'm not a Methodist, but I was exceptionally fond of the place, as it had a youth club. As a boy I'd play table tennis there. Iconic British Rockabilly band The Polecats used to rehearse on the site. The congregation fell. The Council wouldn't allow a redevelopment, so the new owners left it open with a can of petrol and a box of matches in the porch, metaphorically speaking. It burned down and is now housing. Another communty asset for young people lost.

7. The Finchley Gaumont Cinema.
I could  make a list of the demolished cinemas in Barnet, but the Gaumont was the finest example and for me the saddest loss. When I was at FCHS I would wait for the 221 bus to Mill Hill at the bus stop next door. We'd be taken to the cinema to watch educational films, and bunk in to watch Confessions of a Window Cleaner (that was what passed as pornographic for teenage boys in 1976).  It was an amazing business. The Arts Depot is a great resource, but it is ugly and soulless and lacks the style that the Gaumont had. They should have built the Arts Depot in Burnt Oak, an area that needed a boost, not on the site of the Borough's best cinema
8. The Bald Faced Stag, Burnt Oak.
The list of lost pubs is long, sad and depressing. I could have chosen any one of a dozen, but I chose the Stag as it was a pub my band had a residency at in 1984. It was a hard, working class pub that had a reputation, but was a vital part of the community. When such establishments are demolished, no one ever thinks about the people who need a place to meet friends. Ordinary people

9. The Barnet Tardis!
This was a real landmark. When I was a kid, my Dad would take us out for a drive looking for Dr Who. It was demolished in 1980, things were different then, but I really don't know why we have to erase every little oddity when it becomes redundant. I was rather chuffed finding this picture of it.

10. The Victoria Park Lodge.
Our local heritage counts for nothing. Aesthetics count for nothing. There are thousands of ugly, sub standard buildings in the Borough, yet they chose to demolish the lodge. There is a reason. The luxury flats which replace it will overlook the park and therefore command a premium. This is not about housing provision, it's about profits. It is sickening.

Sorry to post such a miserable blog at the weekend, but sometimes it has to be said. I do wish I didn't give a F...

It may amuse you to note that whilst I was writing this I was interrupted by an urgent call from the Save The Midland campaign. Lets hope that there won't be an eleventh building on this list.


Please join us on Friday 13th December at 8pm at The Midland Hotel, Hendon, for the Barnet Eye Community awards and annual Xmas party. We are also looking for nominations for our community awards, click here for details. Free admission

Friday 22 November 2019

The Friday Joke 22/11/2019 - The final destination

This made me snigger!
It's Friday so it's joke day. Lord knows we need one today. I've seldom felts so bleak about the situation we are facing. But it's Friday, I'm going for a curry and then for a boogie watching The Silencerz at The Butchers Arms in Barnet, so today I will eat, drink and be merry!

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson are on the way to the TV debate in an Uber and sadly a meteorite falls from the sky, instantly obliterating them and half of Kensington. They make their way to the pearly gates, along with the other poor souls caught in the terrible calamity. As they approach St Peter, Boris strides to the front of the queue. St Peter eyes him up and down and says "Name". Boris, rather indignant at not being recognised says "I'm Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom". St Peter replies "Matthew 20:16 - Back of the queue". Boris looks nonplussed. St Peter, rather patronisingly states "The First shall be last and the last first".

Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson look at each other, and not wishing to suffer such an indignity, make their way to the back with Boris. After what seems like an age, the queue is processed. Jeremy Corbyn, hoping to make a good impression says "Ladies first". Swinson steps up. St Peter gives her a rather world weary look and says "Name". Swinson nervously replies "Jo Swinson". St Peter replies "And why should I let you in here? It's where the good people go". Swinson replies "Well I tried my hardest to stop him getting elected" pointing at Boris. St Peter, with a rather pained expression says "Well I suppose I can't argue with that, in you go". Next up is Jeremy Corbyn. After St Peter has heard his name, he says "Ok Jeremy, this is a bit complicated, you spent your life and your career stating that the boss was a figment of the imagination, why on earth should I let you in?". Corbyn looks horrified. Gathering his thoughts, he said "We'll I spent 20 years campaigning for the Beirmingham six and The Guildford four, who were good Catholic boys and totally innocent to be freed from prison". St Peter, with a very pained look says "Ok, you can go in to, but for your own sake keep out of the way of the boss". This leaves Boris on his own. St Peter warmly grins and says "Well thats the shmucks out of the way, your welcome to come in, but for special people, we like to give you the choice, before you make your mind up, the fella downstairs has offered you a guided tour to see what you think. Contrary to popular belief, if you like enjoying yourself, it can be a bit of a hoot down there. If you don't like it, then you can come here".

Boris, rather flattered that he is being treated so specially says "Well it can't do any harm to have a look". St Peter ushers him to the Big elevator in the sky and he descends to the dark depths. As he opens the door, he's amazed, there's a sumptuous feast, a whole bevvy of those busty blondes hes so keen on, and even a #Brexit poster. He soon notices a whole bunch of his best friends. The dark lord makes his way over and says "Well Prime Minister, what do you think? Not like the books at all, is it?" Boris is very impressed. The Dark Lord then  hands him a piece of paper and says "this is what you get if you choose here, this is the place for people like us". Boris looks at it and it says "Guarantee, Party every night, fine food, the best wines and all the girls you can imagine". Boris says "Yes I think I'll take it". The Devil says "Ok, just nip up and tell Pete and come straight back". So of fgoes Boris in the Elevator. When he  gets back, St Peter says "Well what did you think?" Boris said "well thanks for the offer up here, but down there seems far more like my sort of place".  St Peter says "Are you sure you don't want to change your mind?". Boris says "No, I like it more there". He descends down and when the doors open, he's greeted with a blast of heat and three monstrous demons grab him and drag him for an eternity of torture. As Boris passes Satan he says "Whats happening, where's the party, where's the blondes?". Satan replies "Oh come on Boris, surely you, better than anyone know the difference between the promises at the pre election rally and what happens when you get the vote".

As Boris is lead away, he asks "Is this it then for ever, tortured by demons". Satan replies, oh no, we're not that cruel, we'll let you out for five minutes when Donald Trump comes down for his tour!

**** Please note that this joke in no way implies that I think any of the said individuals will end in the destination listed. This is a joke! I've no idea where any of them will go.

Please join us on Friday 13th December at 8pm at The Midland Hotel, Hendon, for the Barnet Eye Community awards and annual Xmas party. We are also looking for nominations for our community awards, click here for details. Free admission

Thursday 21 November 2019

How Boris Johnson will dismantle the NHS in all but name

Back in June, when Boris was merely a candidate for the Conservative Leadership, I published a blog detailing how one of his team had explained how Boris will deliver #Brexit by holding an autumn general election. Re-reading this is fascinating, as it more or less spells out everything Boris has done. Huge fiscal giveaways, a divorce from the Maybot Tory years and a general election as soon as possible. At the time of writing, I wasn't convinced, but I am now. So imagine my delight when the chap who gave me the information it was based on asked if I fancied meeting for a pint in town.

I love a bit of good political intrigue, so I was well up for a chat. You may wonder why anyone would want to speak to me. Well there is a perception that I have my ear to the ground and the Tories are quite intrigued to know what is going on in the Barnet constituencies. I could tell them that in my conversations, I've not spoken to anyone over 30, apart from committed, die hard Labour supporters who are voting Labour. I suspect that the core Labour vote will hold up well and it is possible that the 18-30 vote may swing it for them, but I consider it to be extremely unlikely. Many Labour voters have said they will be voting Lib Dem and there are quite a few Tory #Remainers who are also tilting towards the Lib Dems. I can't really say too much about Chipping, as I've not been out and about there, but in Hendon and FGG I genuinely believe that the Lib Dems will come first or a close second. In Hendon particularly, the hard #Brexit stand of Matthew Offord and his opposition to equal marriage has made a huge dent in his natural support. There is also a trust issue for many with Boris. I felt comfortable sharing these insights as this is what I am happy to say on my blog. My friend looked rather glum and asked about the Jewish vote. For me this has been especially interesting. Generally this has been rock solid for Offord in previous campaigns. This time it is less so. Whilst it is still overwhelmingly Tory, quite a few people have told me that if they thought Labour had zero chance, they might, just might vote Lib Dem. As it appears this is the case in Hendon we may well see some surprises. As for FGG, many people within the community would love to see Luciana Berger elected to stick two fingers up to Corbyn and her treatment of her. As a candidate, she is certainly a game changer. This news was met with a degree of agreement.

So I asked, what juicy plums of blogging info can I get in return? I was shocked at the response. What is your view of the NHS and how efficient it is? I am a big fan of the NHS. As a cancer sufferer, I am at the coalface. But I noticed the nuance in the question. How efficient do I think the NHS is? There are three ways to answer that. Firstly, it delivers universal health care at a far cheaper price than a non universal system in the USA, so it is clearly pretty efficient. That was my first response. But the question was then asked "You are a business owner, when you go for treatment, do you ever see examples of where it could be more efficient?". The answer to that is, yes all of the time. This is not a criticism of the NHS, but I spend my life walking around with bits of paper in my hand, which is clearly a pretty bad way for such an organisation to manage itself. So, yes there is clearly lots of scope for money savings and efficiency. The third question, the lynchpin was "Do you think the Private sector could deliver the services more efficiently then?". That is a really interesting question. Lets look at the evidence, as best we have. I live in the London Borough of Barnet, which signed an enormous deal with Capita, on this very basis. Has it delivered savings and better services? The answer to me is clear, no, it has been a disaster and even the Tories know it. Or there is the privatisation of the Railways. To get into town, I took a Thameslink train. Has privatisation delivered a better service than British Rail? Anyone who has seen the complete farce of Thameslink over the last few years, would be hard pressed to claim it has worked better than BR. The public subsidy paid to the railways is six times higher than in BR days. Of course we've seen a completely new fleet of trains on Thameslink and the service, when it works is good, but it just doesn't work on far too frequent a basis. So the answer has to be "Not based on the evidence I've seen". My friend was a tad disappointed "But what about BT, surely you can't support Jeremy Corbyn's plan for a nationalised Broadband service".  I had to concede that of all the privatisations, the BT one was the most successful. I worked for BT shortly after it was privatised and it was still hugely bureaucratic, but the liberalisation of Telecoms services has, I believe, delivered a better service, but this is the exception and not the rule.

I asked "So are you saying that a BT style privatisation of the NHS, with everyone getting a few free shares is part of your plans?". My friend laughed and said "no, of course not, that would never be politically achievable". So I asked "What do you think would?". He said "There are many companies in the Private Sector that do things the NHS do, but far better and cheaper. For instance, it is cheaper to buy incontenance pads from Boots than it is through the NHS, surely you can't argue that hospitals are spending money wisely buying these through the NHS, when the savings could be spent on cancer care". This is where running a business is useful. I understand the economics of this "Yes, but if every hospital has to manage its own supply chain, the pads may be cheaper, but they will have to have a whole department to manage the purchasing, gobbling up any savings". So my friend said "well that is just one example that is easy to explain to the man in the street". I replied "But it is incorrect isn't it". So my friend explained "What people care about is getting treated, not the ownership of the hospital they are treated in. If you needed further treatment for cancer to save your life, and the NHS sent you to a private clinic, as they are the only people who have the equipment, wouldn't you be happy?".  Now this is a difficult question as if that was the only option, I can't say I'd be happy but it would be foolish and churlish to complain. Then he asked "There are many failing hospitals in the UK, don't you think it would be wise to let the private sector turn them around, if the treatment was still paid for by the NHS".Again, this is, on the face of it a fairly simple question to answer. If a hospital is failing, surely it should be fixed and if the Private Sector can do it and give better patient outcomes, who would object?  It is an appealing argument. However I live in the London Borough of Barnet. We have an administration who believed that privatisation and outsourcing was the cure to all of the issues within the public sector and it has gone spectacularly pear shaped. If there are failing hospitals, we need to look at why? There are also outstanding hospitals as well. Generally the ones that are failing are in trouble as they are not properly funded. There has been chronic underfunding of the NHS and the stress and strain of this causes things to go wrong. Brexit has seen a huge loss of migrant specialists in the system and the rules around nurse tuition fees have driven away many potential recruits. So what I would like to see, before anything is privatised, is a proper audit of such failing hospitals and an understanding of why the situation was allowed to develop. We've had nine years of Conservative government and I can't help but think that the starvation of funds has been a deliberate policy to soften us up for a change in the way the NHS is run, with private companies becoming the core providers of service.

I asked whether Boris really would sign a trade deal with Donald Trump that would allow US companies to run hospitals and other medical services. The answer was instructive "There's no reason why he wouldn't if it provided better services at a lower price to the taxpayer". At that, our pints were finished and we said our goodbye's.

I have been thinking about this conversation all day. It is clear to me that Boris wants the NHS to be run on the Barnet Council model, with there being a small commissioning division, with private companies delivering all of the services. It seems that the lessons of British Rail have not been learned. There were no savings for the taxpayer and can anyone honestly say that the system is more reliable? It is pretty clear to me that the Tories have plans for the NHS. In the forthcoming weeks, the opposition really needs to nail him down on this. When he says he won't "sell off the NHS" what he means is that he's quite happy for it to be run by private companies, but the government won't be getting a lump sum payment. What they will be doing is giving private companies lucrative contracts to manage it and deliver services, in the hope that they'll do a better job of it than Capita have done with Barnet Council. What could possibly go wrong?

General Election Commentary - #SaveLondonMusic Campaign - How both the Tories and Labour are failing the UK music industry

There is a General Election in less than a month. I am disturbed by the complete lack of discussion about how either the Tories or the Labour party are going to make our economy fit for purpose for the 21st century. None of the party leaders have any experience of running a business or generating wealth. My expertise is in the music industry. I have first hand experience of how the music industry can generate prosperity/

You may ask "what does a dyslexic, punk rock guitarist from Mill Hill know about such matters?".  I would answer that as I've directly created fifty jobs in Mill Hill, a little bit. You may ask "What are these mythical jobs?". The answer is quite simple in 1979 I started a music studio business, that has grown into one of Londons largest music studios. I was extremely lucky that my parents were in business and had spare workshop space. This meant that I was able to rent suitable space cheaply. By 2008, I was employing eight people directly at the studios. We realised we had to change with the times. We invested a million pounds in a new, purpose built studio block. What happened next? It transformed our business. We now employ 14 people directly. However that is nowhere near the whole story. We have a ballet school that operates from the site, which also employs 4 people. We have a violin school which employs 4 people. We also have two vocal coaches associated with the business, as well as two drum tutors, a sax tutor, two piano tutors and a guitar tutor. We also have people doing private lessons for dancers, pilates and general fitness. These are all people directly working with or through us. We also have several organisations that have set up using us as a base. They use the studios for all manner of purposes and take advantage of the free wifi we provide. In total, there are around 50 people working with the studios, this is not including the business based in the space above us.

What has this got to do with the General Election and economic policy? Well creating 50 jobs in Mill Hill is no mean achievement. It was not the result of the governments economic policy or the council having a plan to make Mill Hill a world class music hub. In fact I can honestly say that everything we've achieved has been in spite of, rather than helped by government policy. When we hear about the Conservatives saying they are the party of business, I nearly fall off my chair laughing. They have done absolutely nothing for the music industry in the UK. By definition, the sector is high risk. The percentage of artists that become millionaires is minuscule. The vast majority of working musicians live a fairly precarious existence. Money is earned at small gigs in grassroots venues. Last year I contributed to a Parliamentary enquiry into live music. Many of my suggestions were noted, but nothing at all has happened. Venues are still facing the same pressures, many being lost to 'luxury flats'. Every one of these that shuts loses the local musicians a wage. Music Week reported that the UK Music Industry had grown spectacularly in the last year
As for Labour? Well We've had a Labour Mayor for three and a half years. He has shown zero interest in the London music scene. He appointed Amy Lame as a nighttime Tsar, but she has morphed into the invisible woman. She's not even bothered to get in touch with the Save London Music campaign, to see what we can do to improve the situation. Our friends at Bally Studios wrote an excellent article for our website explaining why Ms Lame has not been effective.

It really wouldn't take much to radically transform the situation. The Save London Music Campaign has a manifesto for preserving London's venues.

1. Special protection for important London music venues from redevelopment. This should take two forms. The first should grant important venues the same protection as listed buildings. The second is that where large infrastructure projects destroy venues (such as the Astoria), the venue should be re-sited elsewhere in equivalent or better premises at zero cost to the operator.
2. Established venues should be protected from noise and disruption complaints from neighbours. Soundproofing etc should not be the responsibility of the venue, where the venue is an established music site.
3. As creative industries are a key component in the UK economy, tax breaks, planning assistance and grants should be made available to any company or individual investing in infrastructure to support creative industries.  This should be done with a view to ensuring the UK maintains its leading position as the centre of world music.
From a music perspective the following should be available.
* Capital Tax allowances for investment in venues and studios
* Free or discounted planning costs for studios,  music venues and other music related companies (such as instrument manufacturers etc).
* Rates holidays for start up businesses involved in the music and creative sector. A six month period of zero rates and a six month period of 50% rates would give businesses a great
opportunity to get off the ground and generate employment
* Offer grants to creative industries to assist with the costs etc of starting a creative business, specifically for assistance with the cost of consultants for noise control and other issues which
are specific to the music industry.
* Enact legislation to ensure that major new developments include an element of light industrial space suitable for creative industries and studio space at low rent.
* Offer mentoring and assistance to young people wishing to set up SME’s focussing on the creative sector.
We are also working to actively set up new grassroots music venues across London and support other individuals and organisations with the same aim

We've shown that in Mill Hill, music can be a key part of the local economy. When will the political parties wake up to this and start supporting the industry.


Please join us on Friday 13th December at 8pm at The Midland Hotel, Hendon, for the Barnet Eye Community awards and annual Xmas party. We are also looking for nominations for our community awards, click here for details. Free admission