Monday, 12 January 2009

A Family Man

Say what you will about Bill Blunt, but there are few people in the world he would hesitate to urinate on if they were on fire. Common human decency, together with a bladder that’s not as functional as it used to be, mean I would rarely pass up an opportunity to extinguish the flames if a fellow human being were suffering in anguish while being burned alive.

There’s always an exception that proves the rule, however. In the case of the Honourable Member for Darlington, I’d keep my legs well and truly crossed.

What can be said about Alan Milburn that hasn’t already been said? He started out his political career working in a Socialist bookshop in Newcastle, peddling Marxist tracts to anyone who accidentally stepped over the threshold of Days of Hope - rising, inexorably, to a place in Tory Blair’s cabinet as Secretary of State for Health. Whilst in office, he oversaw the introduction of the so-called Private Finance Initiative – for which read letting the private sector construct hospitals, which they’d then lease back to the NHS at huge cost to the public purse.

In a little-appreciated annexe to his career, he also abolished Community Health Councils, the last vehicle for democratic influence in the health service (which, for more than a quarter of a century, had kept the worst excesses of NHS managers in check).

As Wikipedia so succinctly summarises:

“Following his resignation as Secretary of State for Health (to spend more time with his family) [in June 2003] Alan Milburn took a post for £30,000 a year as an adviser to Bridgepoint Capital, a venture capital firm heavily involved in financing private health care firms moving into the NHS, including Alliance Medical, Match Group, Medica and Robina Care Group.”

Whatever Milburn’s real motives may have been, his family clearly thought better of them since, in September 2004, he returned to Blair’s government as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – a role he renounced once Gordon Brown was appointed as Prime Minister in June 2007. Since then, he’s continued as a constituency MP for Darlington. He might have gained some solace when he accepted Pepsico’s offer of a £25,000 a year ‘to attend a handful of meetings and offer advice on health, nutrition and the company's "strategic direction"’.

Now, it's been 'reveled' (sic) that Milburn has been invited to head up a ‘new commission’ on social mobility. We can only presume that Gordon Brown would much prefer Mr Milburn to be inside his tent, rather than outside.

Now, there’s a tent I’d rather not be near to if it was on fire...

Monday, 5 January 2009

Back in The Saddle on The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Young Justin was on the blower to me today. He could hardly contain his excitement, having spent the evening analysing my stats, courtesy of Statcounter.

'Pa! Pa! Pa!' he exclaimed. 'Seems like you've got your audience back!'

I can't pretend I wasn't pleased. Over the last six months, my blog has been dying a slow death, the victim of infrequent postings and the ramblings of a mind which (I don't mind confessing) has been frequently addled by a cheaper whisky than the one I was used to in my days at the top of my profession.

The weekly reports from Justin have made for depressing reading. The glory days when my simple blog could pull in thousands of readers a month have long gone - Bill Blunt was a busted flush! Quite how grim the situation had become can be glimpsed from this graph, which shows the readers who've visited Bill since I made my debut on the internet in 2006...

My theory that there was an audience out there desperate to Read It Like It Is about Sainsburys bargains, Wetherspoons pubs and cheap Ryanair flights to Europe had clearly not held up to scrutiny. If this blog was a listed company, the vultures of the administrators would be circling overhead even as you read these lines.

But no! According to Justin, old Bill's still got a bit of life in him, so those vultures can just pitch themselves off in the direction of another victim.

It's all down to the turn of the year, apparently. My simple, humble New Year Wishes posting drew an unprecedented number of visitors. Every picture tells a story...

Justin furnished me with the full data and, as you can see, a steady stream of visitors (mainly from the Indian subcontinent, it has to be said) found me by Googling 'New Year Wishes'.

There's a lesson in there, somewhere and, once I've worked it, out I'll be back on course to make this blog the first port of call for anyone looking to pick up a cheap ready-meal at their local Sainsburys after a pint or two in a nearby Wetherspoons.

In the meantime - नया साल Wishes to all my readers in Mumbai, or elsewhere.