Not at all NICE

November 29th, 2013

The government’s pompously named ‘National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’ have just made a quite stupid edict on smoking which disregards all the evidence. They propose banning smoking by all patients anywhere near hospitals, including patients in mental hospitals. They  further propose that nurses should be banned from smoking.

These proposals are NOT based on any scientific evidence.

Science has clearly established that smoking helps manic depressives manage their condition, whatever the effects on their physical condition.

Science also causes us to ask why many nurses smoke but so few doctors.

Doctors are the cornflake that rise to the top of the pack, in Boris Johnson’s world.

Nurses are relatively poorly paid. But they are the people in the front line helping patients cope with their problems.

Smoking perhaps helps them to cope with the  stresses of their job.

The loneliness of the long lived Queen?

June 6th, 2012

The strapline of this morning’s Guardian on the Jubilee finale was: ‘Without her husband, the essential loneliness of the Queen’s role was movingly evinced.’ This is a classic example of what psychologists call projection. The only lonely people over the last few days have been the British republicans, who only managed to muster a hundred or so is their demo near the former County Hall building on the South Bank. And, of course, the Guardian which is the only British national newspaper to come out for republicanism. This weekend the Guardian  did not flaunt its republicanism; it carried all the pictures of the hundreds of thousands around the Mall, though it did not produce a souvenir Jubilee edition. Instead it dutifully reported that The Times had put 125,000 onto its circulation with its Jubilee special. (In fact, the present owner of The Times was a republican long before the Guardian. But he is far too canny a businessman it insist that his newspapers wave the tricolour flag.)

The Queen was visibly moved at the climax of the Monday night concert, when she was called by Paul McCartney (All my loving) to join the stars and address the thousands in the Mall and the millions watching on television screens. Amongst them was Sir Elton John who composed the elegy to Princess Di in the most horrible year of her reign. But on Monday Di was forgotten and the Queen was supported by Charles and his new spouse. The royal box was full of her children and grand-children and on the back row was her present Prime Minister. No sign of Tony Blair who took to television screens and whipped up emotions after Diana’s sudden death.

Far from being lonely Elisabeth II has more support than even Queen Victoria at her prime, and still has a husband to support her. She may outlive Charles and even if she  does not Charles, judging by his speech on Monday may not be the disaster that has been predicted. Since we live in the age of opinion polls, he knows how unpopular he is, and just how many of his  subjects think he should do the decent thing and abdicate in favour of his eldest son and the woman in the designer red dress.

But republicans should not lose heart. The jubilee events are a triumph for royal public relations but they are rooted in the past. The royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, Churchill’s country home, reminds us of past achievments. And should also remind us that Winston was a card carrying member of the British aristocracy, who did his best to get Edward VIII to keep the throne. (If he had succeeded he might have done for the monarchy years ago.) Far from being a Commoner Princess Di was a member of the same family.

Prince Charles in his Monday night speech spoke out for those suffering the effects of the recession, much as his uncle the Duke of Winsor spoke out for the Welsh miners. He still spoke with a plum in his mouth.

But then so do most of the cabinet. Posh boys mostly, apart from Baroness Warsi, who is due for the high jump. The case against the monarchy is that it helps to perpetuate the existing elites. But this holiday weekend it is the elected Prime Minister who looks more out of touch with the people than the monarch.

Wrecking the NHS

February 8th, 2012

David Cameron is backing his health minister on the proposed reforms to the NHS.  These reforms mean that the profit motive irs going to affect decisions that should be made on medical grounds. and they undermine the essence of the NHS. Which was to make health care available to all, rich or poor.

The NHS is not perfect. Never was, never can be. But it is the jewel in Britain’s crown. It is the best health service in the world and the envy of other countries. I owe my life to the NHS, because in 1954 I contacted a fatal illness, tubercular meningitis. My life was saved by my mother’s doctor, Dr Pitman, a scion of the Quaker shorthand family. She came to to see me when I arrived home one Friday evening at the end of the university term with a terrible headache. She came to see me severa9l times that weekend. She came to see me several times that weekend.

Because she cared. The Cameron reforms turn GPs into businessmen.

TB meningitis was incurable until a new drug, izonasid was discovered by an American scientist. I was one of the first to benefit from it in this country.

I could equally say that the NHS nearly killed me. Because the university doctor had told me, that I was suffering from exam stress and should take a couple of aspirins.

Since then I have nearly died three times.

First in the 1970s, when I got pneumonia, treated at home by my GP, Donald Grant, of the Caversham Practice. Because he visited me regularly he realised that I had a nasty disease called strepocochous. and whisked me off to UCH hospital one Sunday afternoon.  Donald apologised for nearly killing me.

I told him that he had saved my life.

Second time was in the US in 1980 when I was employed by City University. I had a terribly irritating rash by the time I got to New York. I went to accident and emergency at the hospital, but was refused treatment on the grounds that my insurance did not cover the costs of hospital treatment. My life then was saved by the GP of the friend with whom I was staying. Who correctly diagnosed anphlactic shock. He pumped me with adrenilin.

And I lived to tell this tale.

Third time was a few years later. When I realised that something was terribly wrong. My breathing was very slow and I was thinkly about Keats’ ‘Now more than ever seems it rich to die.’

Instead of dying, I rang the Caversham Practice. And at 2 AM their duty doctor, one Rachael Miller got out of the bed she shared with Jonathan, and came to see me.

She immediately dosed me with adrenalin. She also told me that I should have an emergency pack, in case I was hit by this again.

So that’s why I think Cameron is wrong.

We need GPs who are motivated by their professional concerns.

Not by the profit motive.


Guardian blunder on pic of riot-free Britain

August 15th, 2011

Some whizz at The Guardian decided last Thursday to give readers a rest from the pages and pages of pictures of the riots that have been sweeping the country. They sent one of their regular photographers, Graeme Robertson, down to our neck of the woods. He produced this splendid photo which evokes the tranquility to be found here. People looking for 185m. fossils, long before the advent of 24-hour news. Children bathing in the sea, matched over by Golden Cap. ( Note. The Cap is only Golden when the sun  is shining on it.)

The caption, however began, ‘Visitors comb the cliffs at Lyme Regis……’. Lyme Regis is in fact  two  miles east of Charmouth, as was admitted in the correction column the next day. But the photo was taken about a mile further east. Charmouth beach has a lot more people on it in the middle of August, which I hope to show by a pic of my own below.

Meanwhile I can confirm that society is not broken around here. Dorset police reported to our Neighborhood Watch, also on Thursday, that despite the National Disorder, they had made just three arrests. For incitement to riots. The local youths apparently are reading the social media but not taking to the streets. No shops have been trashed on our streets.

I would have blogged on the riots were it not for the fact that my daughter got married on Saturday, 6 August, the day the riots took off, and I have been busy since then with visitors who stayed around because Dorset is a good place to take a holiday.

Just found a pic I took myrself in 2010 from the same spot.  It was taken in May before tthe holiday season getsr started.

This is the first blog that I have written called Letter from Lyme Bay. It is now five years since I started blogging under the banner of I changed the name after a few weeks, because I thought Xcity was meaningless to anyone who did not know the journalism course at City University London.

The Daily Novel name came out of my ruminations about the origins of British journalism, particularly Charles Dickins, and how novels frequently tell more of the truth than much journalism.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, especially when I found that the domain name was still available. But it now seems pretentious. And worse, missleading. Because I have not been writing fiction.

I am trying the new name on for size. It will evolve alongsride  some changes in style and direction.

The men who knew nothing

July 19th, 2011

Rupert Murdoch and his son James appeared before the House of Commons select committee to answer the allegations of phone hacking. Continually they claimed they knew nothing about what had been taking place at the News of the World. Murdoch said that he had been let down by people he had trusted.

This from a man who was born into the newspaper industry. Hhis father  Keith Murdoch ran Australian newspapers and he was interduced to the best of popular newspapers when he went as in intern to the Daily Express tutored by Ted Pickering on Fleet Street tactics.

He worsted Robert Maxwell in 1969 in his bid for the News of the World because he convinced British opinion, including myself and my colleagues at The Times that he understood newspapers.

Then he was an unknown factor in Fleet Street. But he appealed to many because he was critical of the British establishment.  He was bidding nfor the News of the World, whose editor had delivered a disgraceful attack on Maxwell with an editorial which described the News of the world as ‘British as roast beef’.

In fact the News of the World owes its popularity to appealing to the public appetite for the juicy court reports of those cases which detailed sexual misdemeanors and the like. Rupert Murdoch carried on that tradition.

His second acquisition was quite different. The Sun was a rebadging of the Daily Herald, a celebrated Labour supporting paper. It was an attempt by Hugh Cudlipp, the Mirror newspaper boss to provide a popular newspaper similar  to the News Chronicle.

Murdoch transformed it into a down market tabloid, boosted by Page Three unclothed babes and good sports coverage. Combined with trenchant political coverage at election times.

Thus the famous front page when Neil Kninnock was fighting an election as leader of the Labour Party – ‘Will the last person leaving Britain turn off the lights.’

Subsequently Murdoch supported New Labour under Tony Blair. Since those days Murdoch has enjoyed access to whoever occupied Downing Street.

Under cross examination today Murdoch was asked by his visits to David Cameron via the Downing Street back door. He declared that he had many such visits when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister.

But both he, and his son, James, claimed they knew nothing of the phone hacking by the News of the World. They said that they had turned over to the police evidence when they found it.

Their stance was that it was the job of the police to conduct enquiries.

Meanwhile the police were being interviewed by another House of Commons select committee. John Yates, the assistant commissoner whose job it was to look again at the hacking allegations, was blaming Rupert Murdoch’s men for not coming clean with what they knew.

Yates revealed that he had asked David Cameron’s chief of staff whether he should talk to the Prime Minister about these matters. The reply from the Downing Street offical was that he should not raise the matter.

So David Cameron became one of those who knew nothing.

The performance in the House of Commons has been totally transparent. The popular press will no doubt focus on the shaving foam comedian, demolished, not by the police, but by Murdoch’s third wife Wendy, who felled him with a right hook.

Perhaps she should be made chief executive of the Murdoch empire. Rupert is clearly long past retirement. James Murdoch was squirming claiming he knew nothing.

Neither is capable of managing such a large company, where control is held by the Murdoch’s though a devious arrangement whereby some shares have votes and others don’t.

A practice which should be outlawed.

Today’s performances demonstrate that the Murdoch era is over. And that the Met Police has much to answer for.

So the sooner we get a new head of the Met the better.

Bob Jones is at home……

June 17th, 2011

………but having techincal problems with his blog.

Normal service will be resumed ASAP.

Whenever that is.

Why Bob Jones has been away

April 12th, 2011

He will explain a.s.a.p.

Shock, Horror, yet another untold 2011 Maxwell anecdote

February 23rd, 2011

Since, I’m fixing  a jolly party

In late April or in May

In Marriott’s pad in London,

I thought I’d better tell him

To make sure he could be there.

So I rang his house in Yorkshire

In case he hadn’t yet left,

For his first ever world cruise

On oceans far and wide.

The voice that answered told me

Was sure he’d already gone

But he did not know for certain

Which ocean he was on.

But he did know, that Oliver

Had his mobile phone

In one of the huge pockets,

Of his coat, so long and thick.

I could text him, he told me

At little cost to me.

And then he told me politely,

That I had rung his number old

And my dear friend, Ollie

Now lived in the house next door.

It was of course his son-in-law

Whose wife I had first met,

When I held her in my arms,

Just outside the ward’s big door.

So I rang off in shame.

And I heard a booming voice

Inside my very head.

‘Now, surely, you must admit

You always get it wrong.

You stupid twit.’

The voice, I’m sure was Captain Bob’s

Because it was followed by a chortle,

Louder, longer and more chortle like

Than ever I had heard before.

It took me back many years

To when I had lunches three

With the disgraced tycoon and would-be MP.

Always when we parted at the door

He warmly shook my hand, and said.

‘Now, Bob, I’m sure you must agree.

You got it wrong in chasing me.’

Speechless,  I would pat

His shoulder big and broad.

A friendly pat.

‘Cause, he was quite the most amazing bloke

I had ever  met, before, or since.

I am still not sure what made him tick.

But to know the facts, you must read

The book by Bower, Tom to me.

The world will  never ever see anyone,

Just like him.

Which makes me less fearful for my grand kids two.

I could have said three, which rhymes.

But decent journalists don’t lie, even if it makes a better story.

How Maxwell inspired academic research

February 23rd, 2011

(This is a Maxwell anecdote never told before because it happened on 23 Feb 2011. Yes, 2011.)

I rang my bank early this evening and got  through to a man, not in India.

To pass the time of day I asked him if he had heard of Robert Maxwell.

Oh yes, he said, I had to wade through a 90,000 word Ph D thesis on Maxwell’s accounting fiddles when I was at uni.

So I told him he could learn much more about Maxwell’s many and various skills, by reading Bower’s book, which he could buy for a couple of quid from Amason. No need to plough; it reads like a thriller. He would stay up all night reading it in bed.

But, I told him, that if Bower had got any vital fact wrong he would have been bankrupt years ago.

I waited while he slowly wrote down the details:

Maxwell. The Final Verdict by Tom Bower.

He checked to make sure he had got it down right.

I was so gob-smacked that my bank employed such an intelligent man, who was still to learn the possible pitfalls ahead in his trade, that I quite forgot what I had rung about.

So I told him I would have to call back in an hour or so.

Robert Maxwell’s greatest crime

February 23rd, 2011

His ghost has bewitched Bob Jones and made him think he is a poet. See below. Read it aloud to yourself trying to fit the metre which is a bit uneven.

A Hack’s Lament

Maxwell watchers go on watching

Til their dying day.

‘Cause that Czech so very bouncing

Made their lives seem quite like Hell.

Writing to Lord Thomson,

Pearson, and O’Reilly too.

Blackening their reputations.

‘Conducting their own vendettas

Obsessed and full of spite’.

But most of those Maxwell watchers

Did not hate at all.

Like Bob Clark his merchant banker

They knew Bob’s personal fate.

Exiled by the Nazis

From his native mountains so far away

To the Oxford plains where the people spoke so posh.

Bob Clark he most wanted

To reform and train the Czech

How to prosper without cheating

And reign in his nasty bullying.

Poor Bob, he failed, not once, but twice.

But if there was a more decent merchant banker

Him I did not know.

And better to have tried and failed

Than never to have tried at all.

The watchers, like the bankers, did not want

To put Bob Maxwell in to Wandsworth Jail.

They only wished to stop, his very rouguish ways.

Like stealing from the pockets

Of the Mirror workers’ fund.

All the watchers loved him

When his empire twice collapsed.

Because it got them front page headlines

And brought them passing fame.

Now he is not buried

But certainly drowned and dead

They have no longer

A vendetta to pursue.

But they want all young tycoons now living

To know that, yes, though, sometimes charming,

He really was a crook.

And if they try to use

His very clever tricks

Though they may fool the bankers.

They will have to face the watchers of today

Who are learning the journo trade

The old watchers are quite busy doing other things.

But they do have time to tell


That they must not change

What is clearly

A  tale, so very, very black

To one a lightish shade of grey,

Where the wily Czech is just  ‘alleged ‘

To have stolen five hundred million quid.

And the watchers do have time to tell

Their jolly Maxwell stories

To young journos in the pub.

With many years to learn just

How to stop, those would-be Robert Maxwell’s

Robbing pensioners today.

They’ll tell the youngsters

That they must learn to be ready for

Attacks on  characters and skills

By those super rich and holding power.

Paying thousands to PRs

To make their lies look just like facts.

If they really learn our humble trade

They’ll get some passing fame.

But better far than fame or wealth

Will be the welcome they receive

When they go into journo pubs.

Because all the blokes around them

Will know what they have done.

And though our trade is often grubby.

When we sometimes get it right.

Chaps like Richard Nixon have to

Leave that house so White.

And journos world wide over

Raise a jar to Bernstein and his buddy

And old Ben Bradlee too.

And any journo who does journalism

Even near as good as that.

Will have what is most worth having

Not praise from Rupert or Lord Rothermere

But smiles on the faces of the journos

Drinking in the pub.

Which is just what academics call.

‘The esteem of one’s colleagues’.

It does not rhyme.

Nor fit the metre.

But that’s academics, folks.

Hurrah, for journalists.

Another round, anyone?