“Are some of you natives of Ilfracombe not aware that a fair few visitors actually arranged their holiday to coincide with 'Victorian Week'? You should be proud you have such a beautiful 'Victorian' town. Well done to the people who stand up to being proud of where you live. We found the weekend to have been one of the best we have spent in your beautiful town.”
Actually, I suppose I had better comment on that referendum. Some of the disappointed Remain camp have called those who voted Out “racists” or “little Englanders” or similar. This is as offensive as it is inaccurate. To be sure, there may well be some among those who voted Out who are racist and bigots, but you should not tar 52% of the British population with the same brush, simply because they voted the same way as those sad creatures. After all, I can assume that Corbyn voted the same way as Cameron, but this does not mean that Corbyn is a true blue Tory, nor does it leave Cameron on the left of the Labour Party.
Having talked to many who voted Out, it is clear to me that many did so with some degree of reluctance or even sadness. What started in hope in the 60’s with the Common Market, many of us now see as turning increasingly authoritarian, anti-democratic and corrupt. If the EU-philes see it differently, they have failed to convince us; indeed, from where I sit it looks as though they have not even tried. Did unelected “President” Juncker argue that we had it wrong and show us the error of our ways? No, he merely said we were trouble-makers and, if we voted Out, we were “deserters”! These are the words of a dictator, not a democrat. For 40-odd years, we have tried from the inside to reform the EU in its various guises. Every such attempt has been spurned, contemptuously in the case of Cameron’s Grand Tour earlier this year.
There is a reason why people are called Eurosceptics, rather than, say, Europhobes -I suspect many Eurosceptics are, in fact, greatly disappointed Europhiles. A union of European nations which recognises and, importantly, accepts the differences in law, culture, history and attitudes between the different nations would be a grand thing and could achieve all of the benefits which the Remain camp claimed for the EU (but which it has not, in fact, always delivered) but without the bureaucracy, expense and apparent corruption of the existing EU. It is obvious from the reactions of many in other European countries that the feelings which drove British Eurosceptics also exist in those countries and may well cause the EU many problems in the future. The leaders of the EU could have made some real concessions to the British Eurosceptics which might well have alleviated their scepticism, as well as that of those of a similar mind-set in other European countries. However, they flunked it with the result we now see.
My vision of Europe, which I hope and believe is shared by many Eurosceptics, is looser and less regimented than the present EU. It is less authoritarian and more democratic. As for corruption, it is, like Caesar’s wife should be, above suspicion. Given that younger people are far more Eurofriendly than their older compatriots, we might well ultimately see "ever closer union", but it would evolve naturally and without the animosity which the forced amalgamation of our different nations is causing today.
However, maybe, as the song says, I’m just
“a cockeyed optimist
Immature and incurably green”
According to the Western Morning News “The Chancellor George Osborn and Justice Secretary Michael Gove swept into the Westcountry” the day before referendum day “to make a last minute appeal to …. voters". I assume it was a question of which one do you revile least.
How important is your health? Come on, think about it realistically. Think about something that is very important to you and then compare it with your health. How about your job? Your job is important. Without it, you could not maintain your lifestyle. You would have to rely on government benefits, with all that entails. But what if you became disabled or suffered a debilitating disease? What then? You might lose your job. So, how about your family? Family is important, right? But what if you died? Or, and possibly worse, if you were permanently disabled so that you needed constant care and, far from being a support to your family, you became a drain on them? I could go on, but, whatever I think of that might be important to me, I come back to the fact that good health is one of the most important things there is.
My life and the life of the NHS are more or less coterminous – I was, in fact, born just two years before the NHS. During my life, the health of our nation has improved out of all recognition. No longer do we have children crippled by polio – there was a lad on my street, and this was not uncommon. Infant mortality is minimal. We are all living longer (this brings its own problems) – what we regard as middle age is now some decades greater than when I was a child. Then, if a man lived more than a handful of years beyond retirement, he was extremely fortunate and a rarity.
All of this is down to better health care.
Okay for the individual, but why should the State fund our healthcare? Well, at bottom, the health of the individual affects the whole community. To take an obvious example, if one person gets an infectious disease, it soon spreads, so effective prevention and prompt treatment are both in the interests of the whole community. If someone becomes disabled or so debilitated they are unable to work, then, unless we are content to let them starve to death or go on the streets as a beggar, they become a drain on the finances of the community.
So, a healthy population is an efficient and productive population.
This is why there was a post-war consensus that the NHS was a good thing. Health affects us all, Conservative, Labour, Green, LibDem, UKIP or Anarchist. Whatever your political beliefs, you all need the community you live in to be healthy. Even if you are a millionaire and able to afford private health care, if an epidemic is raging in your community, you WILL be affected.
This is why it is so important to support our local hospitals. If we have to travel to Exeter for treatment, people will die and some will be crippled who might otherwise not be. So do what you can. Write to your MP, to the Health Minister. Chain yourself to railings, sit down in the street. Join protest marches. I did. Last year, for the first time in my life, I took part in a protest rally against the loss of beds at the Tyrrell.
Get out and protest. If, instead, you decide to stay in your bed, one day, you might find yourself confined there forever due to some preventable disease.
The North Devon Journal reported a rally in Barnstaple attended by representatives of most political parties. I was, however, disappointed to see that one notable absentee was our MP, Peter Heaton-Jones. To be fair to Peter, he has been most vocal in support of our hospitals, including in parliament. However, there comes a time when mere talk is not enough. Peter, you have shown you can talk the talk; now is the time to walk the walk! There are many things that need doing in North Devon, after the neglect of the last few decades, and you have been assiduous in representing our interests in these. However, I believe that the continuing existence of our hospitals is the most important issue facing this constituency at the moment. I am sure I am not the only person in North Devon who thought that the NHS was safe whichever party was in power but who is now having serious doubts.
We have asked our MP for many things, dual the A361, better broadband, and I do believe he has listened and is doing his best for our constituency. However, important though these are, they pale into insignificance when compared to our health.
Like Brian Greenslade, I do not believe there is a £400-odd million deficit – it is simply the result of years of systematic under-funding. If we had been funded on a par with the rest of the country that deficit would not exist.
This has been a rather gloomy blog, so let’s move on to something lighter. I mentioned last week that I had an advance copy of Oliver Tooley’s new novel “Children of the Wise Oak” (Blue Poppy Publishing, paperback £10, hardback £20). You can pre-order it at Amazon on the Kindle (£3 in Britain – I gather it is also available from Amazon in other countries) and I believe it will also be available on other e-book formats. Physical books will be available from Amazon from the day of publication, Friday 1st July. As from Monday 27th June, those fortunate enough to live in North Devon can purchase the books in paperback from our three independent bookshops:
Walter Henry's, High St. Bideford,
Tarka Books, Bear St. Barnstaple, and
Ilfracombe Bookshop, High St. Ilfracombe.
The hardback may be obtained directly from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OK, with that out of the way, what’s the book like? To start, it is a handsome volume, printed on good quality paper, with a reasonable font size and a nice cover picture. Unlike Mr Tooley’s Time Tunnel books, which were clearly for pre-teens, this is clearly a Young Adult book. Now, I have not been a young anything for a few years, so maybe I am not the best person to review the book, but I am what you’ve got, so here goes. It is a fantasy set in a period when plucky little Britain is in danger of being engulfed by a European super-state. No, no, it’s not that blasted referendum again. It is set in the last years of the Roman republic, before Caesar’s assassination, and the beginning of the Roman Empire. From a clue cunningly inserted three quarters of the way through the book, it is plain that the events in the book take place in the couple of years leading up to 84BC. Rome has extended its influence into Gaul, and the Celtish tribes, or, at least, some few in them, are now afraid that they might be next to be gobbled up.
Mr Tooley says he has tried to be as accurate historically as is possible, given the little known directly about the Celts, and, from my very limited knowledge, I could not see any glaring inaccuracies. This is not, however, the Rome we know from history books – there is magic and a few dragons – if you did Latin at school, you never read about those in De Bello Gallico! The story is about three brothers from a Celtish tribe and their induction into the secrets of Druidic magic. The three boys are all very different, but believable, characters, and there is some character development during the couple of years covered by the book. Given that it is just the first in a projected 9 volume series, I expect that, like Harry Potter, the boys will grow up in the course of the series. The book is largely well written, although there were a couple of points where I felt the words did not flow quite as fluently as they should. This should not affect the reader’s enjoyment. I also was not entirely convinced by the father’s death, which seemed merely the author’s device to get the boys off their backsides and get the adventure started.
There is no need to be put off by the prospect of another 8 volumes – the story in this book is entirely self-contained and you need not read the sequels if you choose not to.
All in all, I believe that the target audience would be well satisfied.
Disclosure – I know and like the author. However, as I told him, if I hated the book, I would merely keep quiet about it.
I have a couple of copies of the book to give away. If you would like one, please say so in a comment below.