Hospital apologises to 38 families for appalling care that saw a patient starve to death

An NHS hospital has apologised to 38 families after a patient starved to death and it left other dying people screaming in pain.

Alexandra Hospital in Redditch is writing to 38 families after a massive legal action that exposed years of bad practice, ranging from nurses taunting patients to leaving an elderly woman unwashed for 11 weeks.

In one of the worst cases, a man had starvation recorded as the cause of his death after being treated at the hospital for two months.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said last night that he was “disgusted and appalled” by what the families had been through, and that the Government was acting to ensure that failings in care were detected more quickly.

Bereaved relatives had told how vulnerable patients were left to starve when trays were placed out of their reach, while others were left in soaking bedsheets.

Many of the families are to receive compensation for cases that their lawyer described as “appalling”.

The hospital is to admit its failings in each case in the letters.

The move will serve to intensify debate on why some nurses and doctors are treating patients without compassion, and will add weight to the warning by Mr Hunt that patients can experience “coldness, resentment, indifference” and “even contempt” in NHS hospitals.

He warned that in the worst institutions, a “normalisation of cruelty” had been fostered.

Concern over the issue is mounting, and on Friday the Prince of Wales made a direct plea to doctors and nurses to listen to their patients and to show them “human kindness”.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the prince said there was an urgent need to restore “a climate of care and compassion” in the health service.

The catalogue of failings uncovered by the mass legal action is one of the worst ever exposed at an NHS hospital.

It included:

* A former nurse whose son told how she died after being left unwashed for 11 weeks, and was put on medication so powerful that she could not speak;

* A 35-year-old father-of-four whose family told how he wasted away because staff did not know how to fit a feeding tube;

* A pensioner who was left screaming in pain when his ribs were broken during a botched attempt to hoist him;

* A man who could not feed himself whose daughter described how he was taunted by nurses who took away his food uneaten;

* A great-grandmother left permanently unable to walk after doctors failed to detect a hip fracture.

In total the hospital has paid out £410,000 in 38 separate cases, five to people who survived, the rest to those whose relatives died.

The largest settlement is £22,500, and most are of about £10,000 for each family for the appalling conditions endured by patients from 2002 to November 2011.

The hospital did not admit liability — but crucially, and unusually, agreed to apologise fully to the families.

Lawyers said the NHS trust had left patients facing “shocking” indignities and the most basic failings in care, and that the poor care had continued for years, despite repeated assurances by trust managers that the problems were being tackled.

Emma Jones, a lawyer from Leigh Day & Co, who represented victims and families, said: “The failings we uncovered were appalling — vulnerable patients were left starving and thirsty, with drinks left out of reach, buzzers ignored and people left to sit in their own waste by the very people meant to be caring for them.”

Some of the families who have received compensation have been fighting for a decade for an explanation over failings in care by Alexandra Hospital, which is run by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

Others joined the group action, the second biggest the NHS has ever faced, after a report in October 2010 by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulator, showed that care of the elderly at the hospital had broken the law.

One of the worst cases involved an 84-year-old man from Redditch who starved to death at the hospital in 2009.

The official cause on his death certificate was “inanition” — the clinical term for starvation, as a result of being left without food or drink.

The pensioner was admitted to the hospital in June 2009 after suffering a fall. While in its care, he was prescribed a special diet as he could only manage certain foods. However, he was not fed properly and died two months later.

His relatives did not wish for him to be identified.

Later the same year, regulators warned that so many patients were left at risk of dehydration at the hospital that doctors were forced to prescribe water for patients.

The warning was contained in a report that condemned the quality of care of the elderly across the NHS after spot checks at 100 hospitals. It found “major concerns” at Alexandra Hospital and at Sandwell General Hospital in West Bromwich.

Official statistics show that death rates at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust were 10 per cent higher than the national average in 2010-11, when the CQC report was published, meaning there were 239 deaths more than would be expected.

Since then, mortality has improved but the trust still has 6 per cent more deaths than would be expected.

Mr Hunt said there was “no excuse” for the way in which patients had been treated.

He said the Department of Health would be closely monitoring care at the hospital, and would take further action if needed.

“I am disgusted and appalled to read these accounts of what patients and their relatives went through,” he said. “I know that most NHS staff — including many at the Alexandra Hospital — will be shocked to hear these stories.

“I want to support them in making sure these awful experiences are not repeated.”

He said the department would be bringing in ways to measure patients’ experiences so that the public could judge the quality of hospitals.

In a statement, the trust said: “Prior to the CQC inspection and as a consequence of rigorous clinical governance within the trust, the need to improve certain aspects of patient care had been identified and active steps had been taken to rectify shortcomings.

“The trust accepted the findings of the CQC report immediately and continued to implement improvements on relevant wards to ensure that standards were raised quickly.

“The subsequent CQC inspection in September last year confirmed that the trust met every CQC standard, and the focus now is to ensure that those high standards are maintained and built upon. The trust is committed to delivering the very best care to its patients.

“The trust has accepted that certain aspects of the care afforded to some patients fell below the standard that they were entitled to expect and which this trust now provides.

“We do not consider it appropriate to comment further on the care afforded to individual patients, some of whom were treated as long ago as 2002. Claims were pursued on behalf of a group of patients as a consequence of the CQC report.

“These were dealt with swiftly, amicably and without recourse to litigation, and the trust will shortly be writing to all concerned with full and unreserved apologies.”

Colin White 73, was another pensioner who was often left without food and water, after nurses placed his tray out of reach. He was one of several people on his ward with a red tray, which indicated that he had to be helped to eat.

His daughter, Kim, said the nurse on duty would say ‘not hungry today then?’, before taking the food away, without waiting for an answer, despite the fact that he was often too confused to answer.

Mr White was prescribed a high-energy drink but it too was left out of reach. Miss White said that if it was still there when nurses did their rounds, they would throw it in the bin before marking on his chart that he had taken it.

After witnessing the treatment, his family made sure Mr White was never left alone at the hospital.

He spent his final few days in extreme pain as he was not given any morphine, she said.

“One of the last things he said was, ‘Get me out of this hellhole’,” Miss White said. “For those to be the last words of someone you love was devastating.”


Hospital apologises to dead baby’s parents after doctors failed to notice he was being starved of oxygen during labour

What good are f*** apologies?!

A hospital trust has apologised to the parents of a baby who died after medics failed to spot he was being starved of oxygen during labour.

An inquest into the death of baby Lucas Fermor recorded a narrative verdict after concluding at Warwickshire Coroner’s Court.

Deputy coroner for Coventry and Warwickshire Louise Hunt heard that before Lucas was delivered, maternity staff at Warwick Hospital failed to correctly interpret data monitoring his heart rate and a trace, showing Lucas was in distress, was missed.

She was also told that foetal blood samples which could also have identified Lucas was in distress were not taken.

Health bosses at South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust have already carried out their own internal investigation, identifying failings in the level of care it provided to the Fermor family.

Mrs Hunt, giving her verdict, said: ‘Lucas died from hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE) caused by asphyxia during labour which went undiagnosed and untreated before birth as a result of a failure to correctly interpret the CTG (cardiotocography) and undertake a foetal blood sample in accordance with the Nice (National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines.

Lucas was born on May 29 but had been starved of oxygen for so long that he sustained irreversible brain damage.

He was born white and floppy, according to his parents Natasha and Kent Fermor.

Lucas, who was the couple’s first and to date only child, was later transferred to Leicester Royal Infirmary but despite treatment, including a medical procedure to cool his brain, nothing could be done to save him.

Mr and Mrs Fermor requested a christening be held at the hospital, following which he was taken off life support, dying in his parents’ arms at 9.30pm on May 31, just two days after birth.

In a further blow for the family, Mrs Fermor, 40, has since been diagnosed with breast cancer and is now undergoing chemotherapy.

Following the inquest, the family’s lawyer Guy Forster of Irwin Mitchell LLP urged the trust to do all it could to share the results of ‘the series of failings’ it identified in moments leading up to Lucas’s delivery.

He said: ‘While nothing can turn back the clock for Natasha and Kent, the fact the trust has now admitted liability is of some comfort and hopefully the civil claim can now be quickly resolved.’

Mrs Fermor, a technical liaison director with a marketing agency, said: ‘The hospital had already identified that because of my age, my pregnancy was ‘high risk’ and as such I should have been carefully monitored during every stage of my labour.

‘I was in so much pain because of the drugs they were using to induce the birth, but I was told that everything was fine and as a first-time mother I put my trust and the life of my unborn son in the doctors’ hands.

‘Even when they realised that Lucas was, in fact, in distress, there seemed to be endless delays taking me into theatre for surgery, where he was finally delivered.

‘Kent kept dashing back and forth between me and the doctors who were desperately working on Lucas trying to get lines into him and resuscitate him.

‘When he was transferred to Leicester to undergo cooling therapy in an attempt to limit the brain injury he had suffered, I was still recovering from surgery and wasn’t able to travel with him.

‘I had only seen Lucas for 10 minutes after he had been born and at that point I wasn’t aware just how poorly he was.

‘When Kent and I saw him in the neonatal intensive care unit, we realised the enormity of the situation. The doctors admitted he was so poorly that the only thing keeping him alive was the life-support equipment.

‘We knew we had to say goodbye to him and we quickly arranged a christening service at the hospital and invited close members of our family who came to support us.

‘Taking the final decision to turn off his life support is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do but we knew we didn’t have any option and Lucas passed away peacefully in our arms.’

Mrs Fermor added: ‘The battle to cope with Lucas’s tragic and untimely death has been made even worse by the news that I have advanced breast cancer.

‘Despite this, we are determined to remain focused on our battle for justice to ensure the hospital has indeed learnt lessons from what happened to Lucas so that no other couple has to suffer the heartache we have endured.’

Glen Burley, the hospital trust’s chief executive, said: ‘The trust has accepted there was a delay in the delivery of Lucas, which we sincerely regret.

‘We have fully investigated events leading up to the delivery and have taken action in a number of areas to make improvements.

‘On behalf of the trust, I would like to apologise and offer my condolences to Lucas’s family.’


British parents defend five-year-old ‘angel’ who kicked teacher in face

Defending his behaviour is probably the worst thing they could do

Parents defend five-year-old “angel” who has been permanently expelled for kicking his teacher in the face, claiming the school has “thrown him on the scrap heap”

Logan Steed was expelled from school after stealing fruit, throwing school equipment and hitting, biting and punching pupils and staff. On one occasion he forced the evacuation of an entire classroom at Powers Hall Infant School in Witham, Essex, for the safety of other children.

But the final straw came when Logan was sitting on a chair and kicked his teacher in the face as she bent over.

His parents, who are separated, say he is an “angel” at home and claim the school has “thrown him on the scrap heap” rather than give him the special attention he needs.

His Father, Cameron, 27, said: “They said they had to exclude him to ensure the safety of the staff and other pupils. “But I don’t understand how a five-year-old can pose so much of a threat. “The school deserves some credit because they have worked with us, but they should not have given up on Logan. Not so soon. He is only five.

“They must have been able to help us find an alternative. Once you expel such a young child it is with them for their whole life. “It feels like the school has not stuck to their end of the deal. “At home Logan is a happy, polite kid. He helps me with the cleaning. He is a happy little lad.

“Logan used to come home and tell us about what he had enjoyed at school that day – now he has been thrown on the scrap heap.”

Logan’s unruly behaviour became apparent on his first day at primary school in September 2011 when he was aged just four. During his first year he was suspended four times after being accused of violence and throwing fruit around the classroom.

The boy, who splits his week between his parents’ homes, was placed on a report system with daily monitoring emails exchanged between the head and home.

Logan’s parents took him to psychologists on the advice of teachers. He was tested for a number of conditions including Asperger’s Syndrome, but the results were all negative.

He was also sent to doctors when teachers feared his preoccupation with fruit was related to hunger. But medics found no problem with his health or diet.

A headteacher’s report dated November 20 states: “Logan’s recent behaviour has involved him kicking, biting, pinching and punching adults and children and throwing school equipment or threatening to throw school equipment at staff and children. “School records show that on the first day in our school (06/09/11) he hit, kicked and pushed other children and threw things around the room.”

The letter also explains that Logan had a good relationship with his reception teacher, but she could no longer be in charge of him when she fell pregnant for her own safety.

The school took several steps to avoid expulsion, including one-to-one support from the head teacher, sticker charts, allowing him to do his activities in any order. But Logan was permanently expelled after kicking a female teacher – who has still not been identified to the parents.

Logan’s mother, Laura, 22, said: “Before Logan started school we did no know he had this side to him. It is like we are talking about two completely different boys. “At home he does exactly what he is told and we have never seen him do any of the things that school say he did. “He is a really clever boy and now that is being wasted. We would do anything for him.”

Logan is now receiving just one hour of tuition a day at a specialist school. But his parents believe he should be at a mainstream school, learning to socialise properly with other children his age.

They have the right to appeal the decision to expel Logan but plan not to because they are worried about the reception he would now receive at the school.

Headteacher Claire Edwards yesterday said her staff and pupils “deserve to work and learn in a safe place.” She said: “The decision to permanently exclude a child is never taken lightly and one I take with great sadness.

“This school takes a firm stance on the safety of pupils and staff and assaults on either cannot and will not be tolerated.
“The school has been supportive of this child’s needs and we have tried to work with the parents of this pupil to accommodate his behaviour. “However, I have a duty of care to all the pupils and my staff, and they deserve to work and learn in a safe place.”

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said: “Essex County Council cannot discuss individual cases, but there is a specific team who work with schools and parents to resolve concerns and seek the best possible support and provision for every child and young person.”


What DOES it take to get jailed? Father who abused and punched a headmistress only has to pay £100

A thug who launched a violent assault on a headmistress when she told off his son for racial abuse walked free from court yesterday. Paul Stratford punched and swore at Zita McCormick after she told him his eight-year-old son Brendan would be excluded for a day.

Flanked by colleagues, the teacher told the 31-year-old to calm down. Instead he made for her, punching her and pushing her backward.

Despite the gravity of the offence, magistrates decided to impose only a community sentence, telling Stratford to pay his victim £100. In another astonishing case yesterday, a Romanian thief who ran a £3million cashpoint scam with 9,000 victims also escaped jail. Leonid Rotaru was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence.

Last night, an education expert said law and order seemed to have ‘gone out of the window’. Another said Stratford, who already had a conviction for violence, should have been jailed to deter others from attacking teachers.

The incident took place in June after Brendan was accused of a racial outburst against a Somali boy at Seven Fields Primary in Swindon.

He also swore at pupils and staff, in what Mrs McCormick said was his third act of bad behaviour that week at the 222-pupil school.

After calling the boy’s mother to ask for him to be picked up at 9.30am, his father arrived and launched his attack in the foyer.

A court heard he demanded of Mrs McCormick: ‘Why have you called my son a f****** thug?’

After being asked to calm down, he repeated: ‘You called my son a f****** thug’ and ordered the teacher not to wave her finger at his boy. He then launched the attack that was ended only by the intervention of the caretaker.

Mrs McCormick said before the sentencing: ‘It was very frightening but you work on adrenalin. ‘I could not let this man get into the school.’

She revealed she has even asked parents to take anger management classes: ‘They can’t control the anger they have. The school is where they vent anger at public servants who are there to protect and educate their children.’

Stratford, who was found guilty of common assault, was given a nine-month community order by Swindon magistrates. Chairman of the bench David Sinclair told him to pay £400 in costs and £100 in compensation to his victim.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said Stratford’s behaviour was totally unacceptable.

‘Sometimes heads need to make tough decisions and they need to have society’s full support to make such decisions for the sake of all their pupils,’ he added. ‘These types of attacks against public servants doing their jobs should be punished very severely.’

Chris McGovern, a former headmaster who chairs the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘This assault happened in a school and that should make the offence more serious. If schools aren’t safe then there is no hope.


‘Brussels sprouts should come with a health warning’, say doctors after man admitted to hospital

They are the Christmas vegetables that split opinion and now doctors say Brussels sprouts should come with a health warning after a man was admitted to hospital by eating them.

The leafy green vegetables contain vitamin K, a chemical the body uses to promote blood clotting, and it counteracts the effects of anticoagulants (blood thinning medication).

The man, from Ayrshire, was prescribed anticoagulants after suffering heart failure last year and his dose was monitored once or twice a week to prevent blood clotting.

When his blood started to clot close to Christmas last year, the man was admitted to the specialist heart unit at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire.

Doctors could not work out why the medication was not keeping his blood thin until they discovered he had been eating too many sprouts.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Roy Gardner said: ”Patients who are taking anticoagulants are generally advised not to eat too many green leafy vegetables, as they are full of vitamin K, which antagonise the action of this vital medication.”

The case was reported in a festive edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.

Jill Young, chief executive of the Golden Jubilee Hospital, said: ”Whilst we think this is possibly the first-ever festive admission to hospital caused by the consumption of Brussels sprouts, we were delighted that we were able to stabilise his levels.”


Britain’s Electricity bills up by 50% in surge to go green

Think-tank blames Government

MILLIONS of households will see electricity bills rise 50 per cent as the Government goes green.

Think-tank experts last night forecast the massive increase by the year 2020. And they put almost HALF the blame for it on ministers’ own policies.

Financial information provider Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted bills could soar from £454 to £699.

Around 40 per cent of the increase is due to Government “green charges” such as a new carbon price that takes effect from April. This levy hits operators of coal-fired gas power plants generating the electricity, making it more expensive.

Another 28 per cent of the increase will be down to higher wholesale market prices.

Bloomberg did not give a forecast for gas bills but said it did NOT think “fracking” for underground shale gas would have a significant effect in bringing down prices. The controversial procedure, already widespread in America, got the go-ahead in Britain on Thursday.

Think-tank spokesman Brian Potskowski said: “There are a lot more planning issues here than in the US and there seems to be a lot more local opposition.”

The report comes five days after E.ON became the last of Britain’s Big Six energy suppliers to up residential charges.

Average dual-fuel gas and electricity bills are now at record levels of more than £1,300.


Britain’s Labour Party gets tough on immigration, in policy as well as rhetoric

It looks as if Labour really are preparing to walk the walk on immigration. Last week Ed Miliband delivered a speech which – while measured in tone and delivery – laid out some of the hardest policy lines ever drawn on the issue by a Labour leader. A language test for public sector workers. Cuts in translation services. Transitional controls for new EU members. And boldest of all, the prospect of support for an immigration cap.

Then yesterday, the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper followed up. The focal point of her announcement was uncontroversial, a call to allow Afghan interpreters who have worked for British forces in Afghanistan to settle in the UK. But alongside the compassionate commitment to our allies in the war in terror, she again unveiled a hardening of Labour’s immigration policy prospectus, this time in the area of enforcement.

Too little action was being taken to tackle illegal immigration, she said: “People who have entered illegally, absconded from airports or broken the rules undermine the rule of law and badly damage confidence in the entire system. Illegal immigration can also involve criminal exploitation and modern day slavery. Rightly the public feel strongly about this and think it should be the priority for action.”

To tackle this, Labour would provide new powers to the UK Border Agency. They would establish a new, dedicated enforcement task force. And they would give the power of immediate arrest to UKBA compliance officers.

This represents more than warm words. And it certainly goes beyond the agenda of inclusion Ed Miliband was outlining last Friday. Yvette Cooper’s agenda involves arrest, incarceration and deportation. Not One Nation, but a one-way ticket out of Britain.

This is brave stuff for a Labour shadow minister, especially one with long-term designs on the leadership of her party. But again, it is illustrative of the fact that Labour really has decided to grasp the immigration nettle.

Over the coming months Labour is going to try to seize control of the immigration debate, and reshape it. The plan is a simple one – to begin to draw a distinction between “good” and “bad” migration.

The case will be made forcefully for the benefits of skilled migration: “Bringing more talented students from China or Brazil to learn at Britain’s top universities not only brings in substantial investment in the short term,” Cooper said yesterday, “it also helps Britain build cultural and economic links with the future leaders of the fastest growing economies on earth. In total foreign students bring in £8bn a year.”

But at the same time Labour will also be moving to recast itself as the hammer of the illegal immigration industry, the scourge of the people traffickers and the nemesis of the 21st-century white slavers. The message will be “The more illegal immigrants we deport, the more capacity we will have to bring skilled migrants into the country, and effectively integrate them.”

Labour believes they will be helped to shape this message by the Coalition. Shadow ministers regard the Government’s migration cap as too blunt an instrument, and one that will be seen to have failed as net migration begins to rise again in advance of the election.

But they also recognise the benefit of caps and targets for reassuring a nervous electorate that ministers have immigration under a semblance of control. Which is why, Labour insiders say, Ed Miliband has finally been won round to the case for some form of migration limit. “He’s basically there,” said one source close to the Labour leader, “Ed is definitely looking at caps and limits for the manifesto.”

In the past Miliband has adopted a Hokey Cokey approach to issues he feels run against the ideological grain of his party. A speech in which he indicates a shift in stance has invariably been followed by backlash which results either in a period of prolonged silence, or a briefing or article indicating everyone got the wrong end of the stick, and Ed is sticking doggedly to Labour’s traditional policy position after all.

That doesn’t appear to be happening this time. Miliband and Cooper are starting to deploy a consistent narrative over immigration. It hasn’t created uproar within Labour ranks, which is testament to the trust Labour activists have in their leader, and also a recognition of the sensitivities surrounding immigration issue on Labour doorsteps. And for once Miliband is actually aligning flowery rhetoric with hard policy.

Labour’s leader is starting to walk the walk on immigration. If he can start to do it in other policy areas, we could yet see him walking all the way to Downing Street.


Christianity being ‘airbrushed’ out of Christmas cards in Britain

I have found even worse in Australia. My local supermarket has had only cards with non-religious themes for some years now. I have to go to the el-cheapo Indian shop next door — run by a Hindu — to get cards with Christian themes

High Street retailers have been accused of “airbrushing” Christianity out of Christmas after market researchers found just over one per cent of cards feature the birth of Jesus.

Out of almost 6,000 types of Christmas card on sale in supermarkets, card shops and convenience stores sampled, only 34 featured nativity scenes.

Even when cards with other vaguely religious images, such as choirs or church pews, on the front were included, the total amounted to only two per cent.

Some shops had no Christian-themed cards at all on sale while others had only a handful, with the rest dominated by images of Father Christmas, snowmen or Christmas trees.

A team of mystery shoppers from Nielsen brand auditors visited the card aisles in branches of supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Morrison, as well as smaller card shops for a study commissioned by The Bible Society. Overall they sampled 5,706 designs, of which only 34 had nativity scenes on the front. Overall there were just 66 designs which could be classed as religious, including in boxed sets.

The report concluded that cards depicting the Christmas story appeared to be disappearing from the High Street.

It comes after a poll earlier this week found that most people do not know the all words to well known Christmas carols.

And a test involving 2,000 adults and children found that while basic knowledge of the Christmas story is still strong, some people mixed up the Shepherds and Wise men with Father Christmas.

Official census figures published last week showed that the number of people describing themselves as nominally Christian plunged from almost 72 per cent 10 years ago to less than 60 per cent.

Ann Holt, a director at the Bible Society, said: “Do we really want to see Christ being airbrushed out of Christmas, the festival of his own birth. “People love the Christmas story – it stays with us precisely because it is visible and popular. So how come it’s so hard to find a picture of it in the shops?’

“If you’ve got a home where you have pictures of the nativity around for three or four weeks of the year – particularly if you’ve got a home with children, its gives you a fantastic opportunity to tell that story and so pass it on – and people do.”

Danny Webster from the Evangelical Alliance said: “Taking Christ out of Christmas is becoming all too commonplace. “Cards that ignore the basis of the Christmas story encourage us to have peace without the prince of peace and joy without the giver of joy.

“The relentless pursuit of profit means the true meaning of Christmas is lost beneath whatever sells best.

“For most people in the UK the Christian faith still has meaning, and that should encourage us to put the commercialism aside and reflect on how and why God came to earth.”

Out of 24 stores visited by the mystery shoppers, all of them in Birmingham, one – a Sainsbury’s Convenience Store – had no visibly Christian cards on sale at all. Two other larger branches of Sainsbury’s in the city had a handful of nativity or Christian-themed Christmas card designs on offer.

Waitrose had seven Christian themed cards on offer, out of 88 in the store visited, a much higher rate than average.

Tesco also had larger than average numbers of Christian cards on sale. Two years ago the company said it had doubled its range after letters from shoppers. A spokeswoman said: “We listened to what our customers were telling us, and have brought in some new card designs to make sure we’re offering lots of variety at Christmas time.”

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We offer a wide range of Christmas cards – they offer a choice and reflect what our customers want to buy from us.

“Ten per cent of the retail price is donated to our charity partners Comic Relief and FareShare”.


Another bungling British regulator rapped

Why can’t they get it right in the first place? Shades of the Tschenguiz bros. and Mohammed Taranissi, to name two disastrous failed prosecutions that shook the British prosecutors concerned to their foundations. And the Jubilee Line prosecution is a collapsed fraud trial that SHOULD have sunk the British prosecution service involved (See also here)

The Office of Fair Trading has suffered fresh embarrassment over one of its most high-profile investigations after Tesco overturned a ruling that it fixed the price of cheese with other retailers and suppliers.

The supermarket group was fined £10m last year for price fixing in 2002 and 2003 following an OFT investigation that began in 2004 and has cost millions of pounds. However, the Competition Appeal Tribunal on Wednesday rejected more than half of the OFT’s findings. It said there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude that Tesco was part of concerted effort to fix the price of cheese in 2003.

It concluded that Tesco was guilty of communicating its pricing to rival retailers via a supplier three times in 2002. But five other allegations were rejected and the CAT said it would need further evidence to determine whether these were isolated incidents or a concerted price-fixing effort in 2002. The ruling means that Tesco’s fine is likely to be significantly reduced in a hearing next year. Since launching the investigation, the OFT has already been forced to scrap investigations into milk and butter pricing and make a £100,000 libel payout to Wm Morrison.

In a statement, Tesco said: “It is common ground that the industry faced unprecedented public pressure to increase the price received by farmers for their milk. We have noted the CAT’s findings about three isolated communications in 2002. We have of course updated our compliance practices since that date.”

The OFT said it “welcomes” the CAT findings that Tesco “infringed competition law in relation to certain anti-competitive exchanges of its pricing intentions”.


Scottish racism

Scots have hated the English since at least the 14th century

By James MacMillan

I read in the Scottish press recently of the outgoing director of the National Theatre of Scotland, Vicky Featherstone, disclosing that she has endured anti-English bullying to such an extent that it briefly left her unable to do her job. I also read that this bullying had “really, really upset” her and left her “paralysed” artistically. At a time when Scottish police figures are showing record racist attacks against “white Britons”, politicians are warning about anti-English rhetoric “creeping” into Scottish society, and leading voices of our parochial chateratti are railing against artistic colleagues from down south as “colonists,” I would like to take the opportunity at this time of goodwill to offer a hearty Scottish welcoming embrace to the new director of the NTS, Laurie Sansom, who is also English.

The writer Alasdair Gray sparked a furore at the weekend with an essay for a book on Scottish independence, describing English people living and working in Scotland as “settlers” or “colonists”. He also asked why so few Scots were given senior arts administration jobs in Scotland.

Another independence supporter, writer Kevin Williamson – who famously published Irvine Welsh’s first novel, Trainspotting – has demanded a “social audit” of senior administrators and mounted a staunch defence of Gray.

I think people, north and south, will be astonished that these comments have come from intelligent people, let alone prominent artists. This is now beyond politics. Personally I would rather not get involved in the political debate as I have friends and family on both sides of the “independence” issue, and the whole thing has become quite toxic.

I have written about anti-Englishness before, for Scottish and English readerships. There is always argy-bargy about it up here, because Scots are, rightly, embarrassed about this development in our society and having it explored under an English microscope. Although partisan voices will disagree with me, I know that this problem is now significant. Artists should not be fanning the flames, and politicians, of whatever stripe, owe it to their electorates to calm these troubled waters.

The fact that Mr Sansom is also English will no doubt be a source of annoyance to the usual incoherent bar-room Scrooges in these parts. Some might want to use this Christmas period as a time for examination of conscience, to feel the appropriate shame for their lack of hospitality to Ms Featherstone and others, and move on in a more generous spirit in the New Year.


Plebgate: the blindness of the posh bashers in class-obsessed Britain

Thanks to anti-posh prejudice, too many were willing to believe that Tory ex-minister Andew Mitchell called police officers plebs

On 19 October, the UK government chief whip and Cabinet member Andrew Mitchell, resigned. At the time, it was hardly a surprise.

A month prior, Mitchell had reacted badly to being told to walk out of Downing Street, rather than cycle, by two members of the Diplomatic Protection Unit. (That’s the police to you and me.) It wasn’t just Mitchell’s intemperate response that did for him. It was the language he used, a testament, or so it seemed at the time, to upper-class entitlement. ‘Best you learn your f*cking place’, he was said to have barked at the two officers. ‘You don’t run this f*cking government’, he continued, before uttering the killer line, ‘you’re f*cking plebs’.

Sadly for Mitchell, the officers, frightened by Mitchell’s parting line – ‘you haven’t heard the last of this’ – logged the explosion of poshness in their notebooks (which were quickly passed up the chain of command), presumably to protect themselves against the wrath of the Tory scorned. Not that they needed to, given the fact that a member of the public was there to witness the flare-up. He subsequently emailed his account of what happened, which almost exactly corroborated the police officers’ version, to John Randall, the deputy chief whip and no friend of Mitchell’s. He then eagerly passed it on to the prime minister, David Cameron, who was annoyed.

If Mitchell’s name was turning to mud within parliament, he was faring even worse without. First, the Sun had the story leaked to them by persons unknown, and then, incredibly, a few days after the altercation the Telegraph revealed details from the police log of the incident. For the following four weeks, Mitchell was lambasted for being a rude arrogant posho in the press, and attacked for being a rude arrogant liability by his own party. The police, through its de facto trade union, the Police Federation, also got in on the act, issuing offended press releases and parading around the Tory Party conference in Birmingham wearing ‘PC Pleb’ t-shirts. As well they might: having been at loggerheads with the government over pay and conditions for the best part of two years, this was payback time.

Cameron tried to stick by Mitchell, who always acknowledged he’d sworn at the officers but denied using the word pleb. To no avail; the interminable focus on Mitchell was too much. So, after clinging to Mitchell for weeks, Cameron finally let him go. As I wrote at the time: ‘So, in short, a minister resigns because no one believes he didn’t use a rather dated pejorative. What on earth is going on?’

The revelations of the last few days have made that question a little easier to answer. Thanks to the work of Channel 4’s Dispatches team, it is now alleged that the witness, the person who corroborated the police officers’ account with uncanny accuracy, was not actually a witness. He wasn’t even there. He was in fact an off-duty policeman (who has since been arrested over the incident). Also, CCTV footage of the incident throws a bucketload of doubt upon the police version of the events, especially the contention that passers-by were shocked. There were no passers-by.

In fact, the more details that eke their way out, the more it looks like Mitchell might well have been telling the truth. The police, who are now investigating the matter, claim there is nothing to make them doubt the story of the officers Mitchell allegedly insulted. Yet with it now effectively being a case of one person’s word against another, Mitchell’s own account gains in plausibility. A few of Mitchell’s parliamentary allies have even gone so far as to call him the victim of police stitch-up.

What is slowly emerging, then, from this turbid pile of political excreta is a snapshot of the state in something of, well, a state. That’s because driving this weird palaver over Mitchell’s police persiflage is a set of competing vested interests within the state itself. On the one hand, the Police Federation clearly saw an opportunity to win public support in its own fight with its governmental paymasters. This it did by positioning itself as every bit the victim of Tory poshos’ arrogance as those at the sharp end of welfare cuts. So we have the strange sight of the state’s armed body of men turning against one of those in whose name they act.

But the fracturing and subsequent backstabbing doesn’t stop there. It is eating into the Tory party itself. What became clear from the start of Mitchell’s travails was that many in his own party were quite happy to hang him out to dry, including his deputy chief whip, John Randall. Seen as one of the Cameron clique, Mitchell simply didn’t have the support of other Tories. Hence the endless off-the-record stories in the press about how abrasive Mitchell was, how much of the public-school prefect he was. Mitchell’s problem at the gate became an opportunity for office politics to get nasty.

There’s more to the unfolding Mitchell scandal, however, than the fissiparous nature of the contemporary state. The successful removal of Mitchell didn’t just depend on those actively, albeit allegedly, conspiring against him. It relied on the determination of other, both colleagues and commentators, to believe the story. For this constituency of the credulous, from opportunist opposition politicians to leftish journos, Mitchell’s faux pas was perfect. That is, it fitted the tedious anti-Tory narrative of the past few years, in which posh Bullingdon bullies wage war against the poor and the needy. This wasn’t and isn’t true, of course. The trouble with the Tories is not that they are some nineteenth-century caricature, but that they exhibit all the incompetence and lack of purpose of contemporary politics. Today’s Tories are clueless, not callous.

But the prejudice against the Tories, based on the fact that some went to public schools, was too strong. It was just obvious that Mitchell called the officers plebs; he’s posh. So, according to one Guardian commentator, when Mitchell called the two police officers plebs, he revealed the ‘class-based bigotry’ still lurking beneath the new Tory brand. Or as John Prescott wrote in the Mirror, ‘this incident is typical of this government’s out-of-touch and stuck-up attitude towards working people’. In the words of a columnist sympathetic to Mitchell, the allegation ‘confirmed every ghastly suspicion that the Tory Party is led by people who really do believe themselves born to rule and therefore regard the police as no more than proletarian shock-troops at their beck and call’.

And it is that shallow, anti-posh sentiment which sustained the story for so long, and prevented anyone until now from questioning its veracity. Following in the wake of other explosions of inverse-snobbery masquerading as class war, such as the fuss around whether Cameron or chancellor George Osborne had ever eaten a Cornish pasty, Plebgate was too good not to be true. Which, as looks increasingly likely, it was not.


ODD NOTE: This is the only *gate scandal that actually concerns a gate!


About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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