NHS fail: British boy with cancer forced to travel to Germany for lifesaving operation
A mother yesterday flew her son to Germany for a lifesaving operation after two NHS hospitals delayed his treatment for lack of beds. Fearing another 11th-hour cancellation, Sam Knighton has spent £10,000 taking Zac abroad for immediate treatment for neuroblastoma, a form of cancer.
The seven-year-old will be operated on tomorrow at the University Hospital Greifswald in an attempt to remove three diseased lymph nodes.
Last night, Miss Knighton, 43, told the Daily Mail: ‘I feel like Zac’s country has let him down. ‘I have had to fight, argue and question everything along the way to help my son. ‘I just hope we’re in time – it could already be too late. ‘I dread to think what would have happened if we’d stayed in England.’
Zac began showing symptoms of the disease in October 2008. He saw two GPs, both of whom missed the neuroblastoma, passing the swelling off as a stomach upset. Finally, a third GP referred him for tests.
Zac was diagnosed with grade four neuroblastoma, a cancer of the developing nervous tissue. There was a 5in-long tumour in his stomach.
Miss Knighton said: ‘The specialist came in to examine Zac. He lifted up his T-shirt and said: ‘How in God’s name did two doctors miss that?”
Zac was referred to Leicester Royal Infirmary where he began chemotherapy in March 2009 and then a procedure to remove the tumour.
The hospital told Miss Knighton and her partner Bob Smith, 42, a forklift truck driver, there could still be ‘residual disease’ around the tumour site.
More chemotherapy followed but a delay for a separate illness meant Zac missed the deadline for a vital course of antibody therapy.
The NHS paid for this in Germany where doctors removed a tumour near Zac’s heart that surgeons at Leicester had deemed too dangerous to treat. Incredibly, the UK medics had not told Zac’s family about it.
Miss Knighton added: ‘I feel the NHS has let my son down at every stage. It is incredible that I have to go to Germany. ‘It is disgusting that this country doesn’t offer everything it can to save these children. It’s like we live in a third world country.’
Although Zac was given the all-clear in February 2011, a follow-up scan in May in Germany showed three diseased lymph nodes in his abdomen.
Drug treatment failed and the family was told last month that Zac needed another operation. Although a surgeon was available at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre on December 22, no paediatric beds were free until January 19.
Miss Knighton’s complaints saw her offered an operation at Leicester on January 4. But this was cancelled barely half an hour before Zac left for hospital. Again, a bed shortage was blamed.
‘I phoned the consultant in Germany and he could do it right away,’ Miss Knighton said. ‘I just got straight on the phone to book flights. It was my son’s life and I didn’t care how much it cost. ‘Every day counts with this disease and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if the NHS delay cost him his life.’
Johannes Visser, a consultant paediatric oncologist at Leicester who has been caring for Zac since 2009, said: ‘Unfortunately, our unit was extraordinarily busy with critically ill children needing help to breathe, so his operation was rescheduled.’
A spokesman for Nottingham University Hospitals said: ‘The first date we offered for Zac’s operation was January 19, which the family have chosen not to accept, and therefore we haven’t cancelled any surgery.’ [Pompous prick!]
Nurses ‘are losing their sense of compassion’
Nurses in the NHS too often lack ability, compassion or even the simple desire to work in the profession, a report warns.
In some cases staff lack basic skills, have a poor grasp of maths and do not understand the values of the health service, according to the NHS Future Forum.
The independent advisory panel, set up by the Government last year to examine the NHS, says there is “almost universal concern” about the “huge variations in quality” of education and training for nurses and midwives across the country.
NHS hospital managers are failing to take responsibility for the poor quality of some nurses, it says. It also accuses nurse training schools of failing to recruit the right type of student to ensure patients receive a good standard of care.
The report adds to growing concerns that nurses’ training has become too academic to prepare students properly for the realities of the job and makes them less willing to carry out practical care.
Prof Steve Field, a GP and chairman of the forum, said that nurses needed to be “more than a set of GCSE and A-level results”. Patients’ groups who had argued that nurses’ training had become too academic welcomed the report.
It comes days after the Prime Minister said it was time to “speak up” about problems with nursing, and chided politicians for having “hidden away concerns” about the profession in the past.
There have been a series of warnings from NHS watchdogs that patients — in particular the elderly — are suffering from poor standards of nursing care as they are ignored or mistreated on wards.
The Future Forum identifies the recruitment of student nurses as a key problem. “Selection in nursing was a particular issue, with a sense that the focus has moved away from selecting students on their ability, capacity for compassion and caring and desire to work in nursing,” the report says.
“This has led, in some cases, to significant dropout rates and issues with basic skills such as numeracy.”
Newly qualified nurses are sometimes not offered “any further training or induction”, meaning they fail to understand the values of the NHS or “have the right basic skills”.
Warning that hospital managers must get a grip on the situation, the report concludes: “There was support [from members] for a more rigorous selection process for nursing school places and a strong belief that employers need to take responsibility for the quality of those trained in their locality.”
From next year, anyone wishing to become a nurse will have to study for a full degree in the subject under new standards introduced by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. While the main nursing bodies support the change, patients’ groups are worried it will lead to less caring nurses.
Prof Field said: “Sometimes students are being assessed purely on an academic basis rather than also on their social skills and how they relate to people. There’s no doubt that to be a nurse in the modern world you need to be at a certain intellectual level, but that should not be at the cost of being able to treat patients with dignity.
“After all, the core part of nursing is caring for people when they are at their most vulnerable.”
He concluded: “We are not saying that university degrees are the problem, but we do think that a nurse is much more than a set of GCSE and A level results.”
Julie Bailey, the founder of the Cure the NHS campaign, set up in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire nursing scandal, said: “Nurses’ training is already too academic, with little thought for the basic needs of patients.
“Compassion and attitude just don’t come into it any more. When nurses come and work in the wards, they don’t seem to want to care for people any more. It’s all about their self-worth and self-esteem.”
Ms Bailey’s mother, Bella, died at Stafford Hospital, one of at least 400 mainly elderly patients thought to have died due to poor nursing at the trust between 2005 and 2008. She said a “clear message” from the recent public inquiry into the scandal was that the selection of nursing students was too lax. “Nursing schools take on almost anybody because that’s how they are funded,” she said.
Welcoming the report and Mr Cameron’s intervention, she said: “For the first time there is recognition that something has gone wrong with nursing.”
Monica Dennis, from the group A Dignified Revolution, which campaigns for better treatment of elderly patients, said while nurses needed to be highly skilled “this should not be at the expense of the fundamental but essential aspects of nursing care and compassion, which often seem to be disregarded”. Lead members of the Forum called for potential nursing students to be interviewed.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said: “This report highlights exactly why the Prime Minister set out our plans last week to improve the quality of nursing, and ensure that nurses can spend more of their time concentrating on caring for their patients. Our plans are based on established best practice, which we want to spread throughout the NHS, driving out poor performance.”
First new British selective school in 50 years on the way: Tory council takes advantage of official rule changes
The first new grammar school for 50 years could soon be opening its doors thanks to changes introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove. Tory-controlled Kent County Council wants to set up the school in response to demands for more selective places in the Sevenoaks area of the county.
Mr Gove’s rules do not allow for the creation of entirely new grammar schools, but they do enable existing selective schools to set up satellite sites to cater for extra demand in areas of rising population. Kent is one of the few areas in the country to retain a state selective system, but Sevenoaks does not have one of its own.
More than 1,000 pupils who have passed the 11-plus have to travel to Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and even Folkestone – 50 miles away – to attend a state grammar. The situation will get worse because of a large growth in the number of school-age children over the next few years.
A petition demanding a new grammar has now garnered 1,300 signatures. The only Sevenoaks alternatives are a private grammar school, although this costs £17,388 a year, and a non-selective state academy school.
Campaigning parent Caroline Watson said: ‘It’s ludicrous you have to put your child through the tests with no guarantee of a place and even then if they get one, they have to travel 12 or 15 miles every day.’
Her son Patrick, 11, has to travel ten miles to Tunbridge Wells Grammar School. ‘It is a wonderful school, but he has been taken away from his friendship groups and has to travel nearly an hour each way by bus,’ she said. ‘My hope is by the time my daughter Emily is 11 she will be able to walk to a school in Sevenoaks.’
Derry Wiltshire, head of the local Amherst primary school, said: ‘The popularity of Kent grammars means that Sevenoaks children compete for places with children in comprehensive systems as far away as Brighton, Eastbourne or London.’
Councillor Mike Whiting, Kent’s education spokesman, said he would meet the headmasters of the county’s selective schools this week to discuss which would be willing to open an annexe, which could cater for 120 pupils a year.
Michael Fallon, a former education minister and Tory MP for Sevenoaks, said: ‘This is not an ideological issue. Kent has a duty to provide enough secondary places.’
But opponents of selection criticised the plans. Michael Pyke, of the Campaign for State Education, said: ‘Parents in Sevenoaks should be campaigning for an end to selection so their children can go to a local school. ‘The ones signing the petition are the ones who think their children will benefit by getting grammar places. What about the ones who don’t?
‘They should bear in mind that Kent does not do as well as comparable authorities such as Cheshire, which is totally comprehensive.’
Another group, which includes a local priest, is trying to set up a Christian comprehensive in the town under Mr Gove’s free schools initiative.
Military-style cadet forces to be introduced in all British High schools
Military-style cadet forces are to be introduced in every secondary school in Britain, it emerged today. Education Secretary Michael Gove believes the Combined Cadet Force could bring a major improvement in standards of classroom discipline.
Today more than 200 independent schools, but only around 60 state, have CCF units, according to the Ministry of Defence, which sponsors the organisation.
Teenagers, aged 13 to 18, learn drill and are trained to fire weapons. Among its famous former members is Prince Harry, who was the most senior cadet in Eton’s 140-strong volunteer force.
Mr Gove told the Sunday Express that the CCF would ‘build patriotism’ in the country’s troubled youngsters, giving them skills to succeed later in life. He recently attended a cadet awards ceremony at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, where he met a 17-year-old Afro-Caribbean who had joined the CCF. He said:’I met this amazing guy who told me how it had transformed his life. He was just the perfect advertisement for what it can do.
Mr Gove has asked the Childrens Minister Tim Loughton and the MoD to ‘roll it out’ at all schools
More than 300,000 pupils are suspended each year for violence and bad behaviour and police are called to violent incidents more than 40 times each day.
Mr Gove’s move was backed by one of his senior advisers, Schools Commissioner Dr Elizabeth Sidwell, who is leading the expansion of the Government’s academy schools programme. She said that many extra-curricular activities like the CCF, debating societies and music tuition should no longer be the ‘province of the middle classes’.
Dr Sidwell told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘These wonderful extra-curriculum elements did originate in the independent sector but for a number of years they have been there in City Technology Colleges, strong comprehensives and grammars. ‘Good state schools have these things. We must not say we can’t afford it, we’ll find a way.’
In other proposals, she signalled schools could face much tougher academic targets, with 80 per cent of children in state primaries and secondaries expected to reach required scores in exams and tests. It would mean far more schools being classed as inadequate and subject to intervention from the Department of Education.
Meanwhile, Mr Gove wants children to learn history in class and be fluent in English. He said: ‘It’s important that the sorts of activities that build the sense of togetherness, whether it be sport or the combined cadet force or orchestras and choirs, are encouraged in schools and help people feel part of one country.’
Human carbon emissions could put OFF a lethal new ice age, say scientists
There is no evidence that CO2 causes warming and a lot of evidence against it but it is fun when Warmists admit that warming could be beneficial: Rather a case of being hoist with their own petard
Cambridge University paleoclimatologist Luke Skinner says that even if carbon emissions stopped today, levels would remain elevated for at least 1,000 years, and stored heat could prevent the next Ice Age from happening
Cambridge university scientists say that a new Ice Age is due to start within 1,500 years. But due to human carbon emissions, the lethal ‘big freeze’ could be put off.
Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere could actually insulate against a catastrophic ice age which would see glaciers advance over Europe and north America.
The scientists admit that we would be ‘better off’ in a warmer world – but caution that this is ‘missing the point’.
In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, Cambridge University paleoclimatologist Luke Skinner says that even if carbon emissions stopped today, levels would remain elevated for at least 1,000 years, and stored heat could prevent the next Ice Age from happening. Instead, things would cool down, but not quite so severely.
Thanks to elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the earth would not experience ‘glaciation’ – periods of severe cold where glaciers advance.
The current level of carbon dioxide is 390 parts per million. Scientists believe that level would need to drop to 240 parts per million to allow glaciation to take place. ‘It’s an interesting philosophical discussion. Would we better off in a warm world rather than a glaciation? Probably we would,’ says Dr Skinner.
‘At current levels of CO2, even if emissions stopped now, we’d probably have a long interglacial period,’ says Dr Skinner.
‘Interglacial’ periods are warmer periods between periods of glaciation. The last ice age ended 11,500 years ago, and scientists debate over when the next one is ‘due’. The cycle is dictated by tiny variations in Earth’s orbit around the sun.
Ice ages are marked by glaciers advancing over continents. At the peak of the last ice age, large areas of Europe, Asia and North America were covered in ice. The effects on human civilisation would be catastrophic.
He says, ‘This is missing the point, because where we’re going is not maintaining our currently warm climate but heating it much further, and adding CO2 to a warm climate is very different from adding it to a cold climate.’
Wind power is expensive and ineffective at cutting CO2 says British think tank
Wind power could actually produce more CO2 than gas and increase domestic fuel bills because of the need for “back up” power stations, a think tank has warned.
A study in the Netherlands found that turning back-up gas power stations on and off to cover spells when there is little wind actually produces more carbon than a steady supply of energy from an efficient modern gas station.
The research is cited in a new report by the Civitas think tank which warns that Britain is in danger of producing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than necessary if the grid relies too much on wind.
Wind turbines only produce energy around 30 per cent of the time. When the wind is not blowing – or even blowing too fast as in the recent storms – other sources of electricity have to be used, mostly gas and coal.
However it takes a surge of electricity to power up the fossil fuel stations every time they are needed, meaning more carbon emissions are released.
“You keep having to switch these gas fired power stations on and off, whereas if you just have highly efficient modern gas turbines and let it run all the time, it will use less gas,” said Ruth Lea, an economic adviser to Arbuthnot Banking Group and the author of the Civitas report.
“If you use less gas in a highly efficient gas turbine you use less carbon dioxide than having wind backed up by gas.”
The Dutch report, published at the end of last year by retired physicist Dr C le Pair, also points to the carbon emissions produced in building wind farms, that last a relatively short period of time compared to conventional power stations.
It concludes: “The wind projects do not fulfill ‘sustainable’ objectives. They cost more fuel than they save and they cause no CO2 saving, in the contrary they increase our environmental ‘foot print’.”
The UK Government want to build up to 32,000 wind turbines over the next 20 years, of which at least 6,000 could be onshore.
The report also found that wind is “horrendously expensive”, especially offshore wind, because of the cost of taking the turbines out to sea and installing the structures. The fact that the power source always has to be backed up by fossil fuel stations also increases the cost.
Civitas cite official Government figures that warn green policies will add up to £400 to electricity bills over the next two decades.
The report concludes: “The most cost-effective technologies are nuclear and gas-fired. Onshore, and especially offshore, wind technologies are inordinately expensive.”
But Dr Gordon Edge, Director of policy at the lobby group RenewableUK, said much of the information was gathered from “anti-wind farm cranks”.
He explained that modern gas plants are not required to provide back-up for wind. Instead, wind is “integrated” into the existing system [And how does he think that happens?] to act as a fuel saver, enabling the UK harness a free electricity source from the weather when it’s available. Some additional investment is required, but Dr Edge said “credible analysis” makes clear it will cost less for consumers than relying on fossil fuels, that are rising in price all the time.
“It is surprising that a think tank such as Civitas has published a report based on the work of anti-wind cranks, repeating the same discredited assertions. The UK’s energy policy over the next ten years will play a critical part in our economic success – offshore wind in particular has the potential to revitalise our manufacturing sector, with the promise of over 70,000 jobs,” he said. “This report, based on outdated and inaccurate information, does nothing to advance the debate.”
Make-believe from official Britain
The Government’s latest report on our future energy supply is a tissue of unproved assumptions and wishful thinking
If a ministry were to publish a completely dotty and misleading 220-page report on an issue of the highest national importance, one might at least raise an eyebrow. If it appeared under the names of David Cameron and Nick Clegg, one might even be rather worried. But if one then saw that it was also signed by Chris Huhne, as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, one could become seriously alarmed.
At the beginning of last month, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published two documents purporting to solve the riddle of how Britain will meet its obligation, under the Climate Change Act, to cut CO2 emissions by 80 per cent before 2050 (the UK being the only country in the world committed by law to do this). One document was a lengthy report entitled Carbon Plan: Delivering Our Low-Carbon Future. The other was an interactive computer model on the DECC website called 2050 Pathway Calculator, produced under the aegis of the DECC’s chief scientific adviser, David Mackay (and with a puff from Friends of the Earth).
After Christmas, various newspapers showed some belated interest in these publications. It was shown, from Government figures, that to meet the statutory target would cost every household in Britain nearly £5,000 every year until 2050. Other analysts then made rather more detailed critiques, led by the blogger Tim Worstall who, under the heading “Lying with numbers”, pointed out what seems a fundamental flaw in DECC’s toy computer model.
Worstall was startled to discover that relying on “renewables” to generate our electricity would, according to DECC, be significantly cheaper than relying on conventional power sources, such as nuclear and fossil fuels. As everyone knows, renewable sources such as wind farms are far more expensive than conventional ones, hence their need for massive subsidies. But the model had been designed on the assumption that, with wind power, Britain would require much less energy, because we would have become more “energy efficient”, by insulating our homes and so forth. Using conventional electricity, on the other hand, would be much more expensive because we would be less “energy efficient” and would therefore need more power. As Worstall put it, the model thus contrives to show that renewables, instead of being twice as expensive as conventional power, would mysteriously cost only half as much.
Another flaw Worstall noticed was that the model nowhere seems to allow for the dramatic effect on the cost of gas already evident in America thanks to the “shale gas revolution” – the new technology that is enabling vast quantities of cheap gas to be extracted from shale and coal beds.
What emerges from reading the DECC report in full is how heavily almost every page of it relies on wishful thinking and unproven assumptions. The report babbles on, for instance, about how we will have “zero carbon homes” and a “zero carbon waste economy” and how we will build “33 gigawatts” of zero carbon nuclear power and “45 gigawatts” of wind power (without, of course, pointing out that 45GW refers to the capacity of the windmills, not the 15GW or less they might actually produce, due to the intermittency of the wind).
The report does recognise that we would still need 28GW of the fossil-fuel electricity which currently supplies nearly 80 per cent of our needs. But this brings us to perhaps the most glaring example of wishful thinking that runs right through the report: its insistence that gas and coal-fired power stations can only be allowed if they are fitted with “carbon capture and storage” (CCS), the immensely costly equipment that is supposed to pipe away CO2 and bury it in the ground.
It cannot be stated too forcefully that, as yet, the technology to do this has not been commercially developed, for the simple reason that, as various scientific studies have shown, it cannot work. There is no way in which vast quantities of CO2 can be injected into rock at the high pressures necessary without fracturing the rock to the point where no more can be injected. Yet it is on this make-believe that the dreams of Cameron, Clegg and Huhne ultimately rest.
It is ironic that the shale gas bonanza, now offering the world its greatest energy revolution since nuclear power, depends on a rock-fracturing process that does work – indeed, it already provides 25 per cent of all America’s gas, cutting its cost to the lowest winter level in a decade. In Poland, the first homes will be heated by shale gas this winter.
Britain too, it seems, is sitting on huge potential reserves of shale gas, which could supply us with cheap energy for centuries to come. Yet because it is a fossil fuel, our Government refuses to take it seriously. When I asked DECC, last week, why all its projections ignore shale gas, I was given the truly astounding reply that, even if we do begin to produce gas from shale, “it will all be exported”.
Nothing in the DECC report is so forlorn as the way its final pages list the hundreds of bureaucratic steps that our Government plans to take in the years ahead – its Green Deal, its Green Investment Bank, its work with our EU partners on “establishing standards for a smart grid”, and how a UK Climate Security Envoy will “engage with the US, Canada, Japan, the African Union and Australia on national and global security risks of climate change”.
I was reminded, after reading the report, of the closing scene of the Marx Brothers’ film At the Circus, where a symphony orchestra is sitting on a raft moored at the end of a Big Top at the seaside. The brothers cut the moorings and the raft begins to drift gently out to sea, with the orchestra playing on regardless.
Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Huhne, Mackay, and their subordinates, blithely saw away at their violins while the raft of our national energy policy is carried away into the sunset. For anyone wondering how we are going to keep Britain’s lights on and our economy running, make-believe on such a scale is truly terrifying.
Does Letwin really hold the all-time regulation record?
There was a time when, if we wanted to know what those who rule us had planned for the year ahead, we would read the Queen’s Speech to Parliament. Nowadays, however, we should attend to the European Commission, which announced, on the day after Boxing Day and quite unreported, 129 “initiatives” it is planning for 2012.
A huge proportion of our legislation now comes, as we know, from this strange system of government centred in Brussels, and is turned into UK law by means of “statutory instruments” (SIs), over which our own elected politicians have no control. There was a time when this column used regularly to report on the rising numbers of SIs. Just over 20 years ago they began to grow inexorably, from an average of 2,600 a year in the 1980s to well over 3,000 a year in the 1990s and more than 4,000 a year in the Blair era. This coincided with a dramatic drop in the number of Acts of Parliament, reflecting just how much of our law was coming from the EU.
Last week, when I checked on the latest figures at the National Archives website, I was startled to see that the whole system has changed. The totals given for SIs issued in earlier years have been revised very drastically downwards – as have the numbers given for Acts of Parliament. When I asked for an explanation of a change which has made it impossible to make historical comparisons, National Archives told me that, since 2010, the figures now show only “those SIs which are published on our website” – so that many of those formerly included in the totals for earlier years have vanished.
They conceded that this change in methodology should perhaps have been explained, and that a statement to this effect may be added to their website. But I also pointed out, as an unfortunate consequence of the change, that the new figures seem to show the numbers of SIs issued in 2010 and 2011 as very much higher than those for any years previously.
Whether Oliver Letwin, our “red-tape czar”, would wish it to be thought that his Government has been responsible for issuing far more regulations than any in history, I doubt. But such is the misleading impression given by the peculiar way in which these statistics are now presented. Perhaps he should look into it.
A wretched ‘reform’ that could put a lame-duck into the British Prime Ministership
Precisely because the two most boring words in the English language are ‘constitutional reform’, people tend to ignore the subject. This is a pity, because such reforms normally have huge implications that are very far from boring.
For example, until a few weeks ago, if the Prime Minister chose to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament and call a General Election, he could easily do so.
This was a vital power — particularly at times (like now) when the country was ruled by an unstable coalition, with Cabinet members at each other’s throats to some degree or other.
However, as a result of the new 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act, a prime minister has lost that device. For this most offensive and self-serving law of modern times has removed the Queen’s prerogative power to dissolve Parliament. Instead, the power has been placed in the hands of Parliament itself.
Parliamentary terms are now fixed at five years. This means that the next General Election is scheduled to be held in May 2015. Of course, there are circumstances in which an election could be called earlier, but they are dependent on a complex set of events.
For example, Parliament can be dissolved if two-thirds of the House of Commons votes to do so on a no-confidence motion. But unless 434 of the 650 MPs currently in the House vote for the end of the Government, that won’t happen. Even the Blair government, after its landslide in 1997, did not have support on that scale.
Alternatively, the government may resign at any time: but an election is triggered only if, after 14 days, no one else can form an administration.
This could be a means of David Cameron getting an immediate election. However, the process would be messy. It might accidentally put a lame-duck, unelected Miliband government into power.
What’s more, trying to engineer an election in this way would be construed as an act of cynicism and would damage the Conservative Party hugely.
The truth is that very few people seem to be aware of this new Act, and that a major constitutional change has happened. Certainly, no one voted for it.
The new law — which can keep a government in power long after it has passed its sell-by date — has put a sizeable hole in the hull of the glorious ship that used to be called British democracy.
It could, one day, mean this country is ruled — and I use that term advisedly — by a succession of rocky minority governments, or coalitions, that try to stagger on to complete the requisite five-year term. That would be a travesty of democracy.
However, lumbered as we are with five-year Parliaments, we must get used to the notion that when a government runs out of steam it cannot be removed by a simple Commons vote of confidence (as happened to Jim Callaghan’s decrepit Labour government in 1979).
Nor can it resign and ask the country for a new mandate (as Edward Heath did in February 1974). Instead, Britain can become saddled with incompetent, and unrepresentative, governments until the five-year term elapses.
Tragically, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act is but the latest example of the inevitable problem that comes with any attempt to change, or rig, the British constitution: that such changes, or riggings, always have serious unintended consequences.
Often, these are plain to see; but another feature of constitutional reform is that the politicians who legislate for such changes are usually acting out of cynical motives and care little about the effects.
Must not mention small breasts
“Mrs Mensch is said to have ‘hit the roof’ and complained to David Cameron after Sarah Vine, wife of Education Secretary Michael Gove, said she had ‘pert, but modest-sized breasts’.
Ms Vine had responded to an interview in GQ magazine in which Mrs Mensch was photographed looking glamorous, but complained women politicians were judged on their appearance, according to the Sunday Independent.
Writing in the Times under the headline, ‘Are you a Jordan or a Mensch?’ Ms Vine said: ‘Mensch is 40, but has the face of a 25-year-old. Who knows she may have great genes. Or not.
‘Whatever, her look is typical of countless women her age of similar social status and means. ‘A smooth face and clear complexion, pert but modest-sized breasts, a lithe and toned body – pure Made In Chelsea.