The French Get it Right

@sarahbaxterSTM had a good article in today’s Sunday Times about streamlining the #NHS. Perhaps she could add the following suggestion to her list?

A friend who needs blood tests in France tells me that he has the tests at 9 a.m at his local hospital. He spends the morning shopping and gets home at 12 noon to find an email waiting for him with the test result.

In the U.K. the result might not be ready for several days. Then it would be sent to the GP instead of directly to the patient. Then someone from the medical centre would either telephone the patient to say that a further consultation was necessary, or he would be told that if he heard nothing within a few more days he could assume that all was well.

The French system is plainly superior. Can anyone suggest any reason against its adoption?


Humphrys for Ermine

It was, as so often, disappointing to hear @JohnHumphrysr4 on #BBC4Today. nagging his guest, constantly interrupting and very nearly spoiling the interview with his determination to expound his own views. Perhaps as a child he was told not to interrupt grown-ups and has never got over it.

This time the guest was @PhilipHammondUK, one of the few Ministers who seems able to do some real work instead of plotting all day long.

Perhaps the answer is for Humphrys to be elevated to the #HouseofLords, where he could sit as a Cross-Bencher and interrupt members of all parties to his heart’s content.

Follow me on Twitter. @ChristoHill3

Lest We Forget

While the “Fudge, Waffle and Fog” (a wonderful phrase, suggesting an ancient firm of solicitors, which I owe to @sarahludford) swirls on over the #Khashoggi murder, let us not forget that our #Saudi friends behead people every Friday. Among the latest, according to South Africa’s @DailyMaverick, was an Indonesian woman, executed for killing the employer who was raping her.

I have no spotted any mention of the case in our press.

Follow me on Twitter  @ChristoHill3

BBC’s Indecision

It was odd that last night’s BBC programme on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office could not make up its mind between calling Sir Simon McDonald the Permanent Secretary or the Permanent Under Secretary.

I am almost certain that the latter is correct, but that the heads of some other Departments are correctly referred to as Permanent Secretaries.

Can anyone say why this is? Perhaps Sir Simon himself will answer, without, of course, saying anything he shouldn’t.


Church and Lords: united in unfairness

I hesitate to disagree with #LordPannick QC, but when he says that #LordLester was uniquely badly treated by the #HouseofLords commissioner for standards I think he must have overlooked the #ChurchofEngland and the late #BishopBell.

Lester was not allowed to cross examine, and of course Bell could not because he died in 1958. But there would certainly have been eminent lawyers ready to act, had it been permitted.

Instead Bell’s reputation fell into the hands of a committee (they called it a Core Group) whose members, judging by Lord Carlyle’s account of its procedures, seem barely to have known how to operate a committee.

Is it not strange that TWO of our great institutions should hold fairness at arm’s length?

@Justice4Bell  @JustinWelby  @ChurchTimes  @MartinWarner @HouseofLords

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3

Arron Banks’ Diamonds



The excellent South African email newsletter, Daily Maverick points out that the South African end of Aaron Banks’ affairs has dropped out of the SA news (as it has in Britain).

DM reminds us that last year a former business associate of Banks, Chris Kimber, alleged to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) that Banks had been involved in illicit diamond buying in “various African countries”. He also alleged that Banks, having bought into the Newlands Diamond Mine in Kimberley in 2014, had not only seeded the underproducing mine with diamonds obtained elsewhere, but had also sought to involve the Russian state diamond producer, Alrosa, in the deal.

According to DM, the Hawks said in July this year that the investigation into Banks had been escalated to its “head office”. Yet when DM recently sent an email query, Captain Lloyd Ramovha, Section Commander Corporate Communication and Liaison, requested Daily Maverick to “kindly provide us with the case number in this regard and the police station at which it was opened.”

This certainly confirms DM’s assertion that the SA investigation is dozing, if not sound asleep.


RED Alert for Brexit

Those who are concerned about civil disturbance after Brexit need worry no longer. A maximum of three #ResilienceAdvisers (yes, really) are being sought by the #ResilienceandEmergenciesDivision (RED) of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG).

The most recent statement I can find (2013) of RED’s responsibilities starts with Mass Fatalities Planning. It’s other duties sound less clear-cut, and seem to consist mainly of liaison with other bodies.

The new advisers are to provide “EU Exit Readiness and Response Support to Local Preparedness”. That is the exact wording, but what it means is anybody’s guess. The salary is £50,000 in London and just on £46000 elsewhere. Yet London is not among the fifteen locations listed.

“The new roles are for nine months (to June 2019), with the possibility of extension or permanency.” Yet the end of June is only eight months and eight days from the closing date!

RED’s purposes sound sensible: to help local communities to be ready for, respond to, and recover from civil emergencies. How the newly appointed officials will spend their time is less clear. If they are not already expert in dealing with civil emergencies they are going to need training, and in real emergencies their 37 hours work per week will be only a drop in the ocean.

It sounds as if their main functions will be to know what other bodies, like the police and fire service are doing, to liaise with one and all, and to report to Cabinet Office. If they are going to cover the whole country, except London, much of their time will be spent travelling.

What type of advice these Resilience Advisers are to give, and to whom, remains unclear. The interesting point is that MHCLG foresees that Brexit will produce the civil emergencies which RED is meant to alleviate.

Follow me on Twitter : @ChristoHill3

Or at

@Kateco @elisled @J_amesP @Villavelius @GarethSimkins @BrexitForDummie

Bad News from Zimbabwe

Three days ago two litres of cooking oil cost eleven Zimbabwean bond notes (the nearest Zimbabwe has to its own currency, and very unpopular). Yesterday the same bottle cost eighteen.

The US dollar to bond note rate is escalating by the day. Yesterday the US dollar, nominally at parity with the bond note, cost 3.2. Five days ago it was 2.2.

It is not surprising that shops are closing and fuel is scarce. The word quickly goes round of which filling stations have supplies, and at those there are long queues.

In the rural areas life is less severe because reliance on cash is more limited. Most people do not pay rent, nor have electricity. Their main needs are mealie meal, chickens, home-grown vegetables. So, although they do need to pay school fees and buy necessities like cooking oil and sugar, President Mnangagwa is less unpopular in the rural areas than in the towns

For the Zimbabwean diaspora in South Africa sending money home is desperately difficult, because US dollars are virtually unobtainable. Money can be sent through an agency called Makuru, but the exchange rate it gives is unfavourable and the commission high. The only emigrants for whom it is easy to remit are in Britain, the US, Canada, and other countries where US dollars are readily obtainable.

Bad News for Mosquitoes

The government of Zambia is working with the Japanese company Kansai Plascon to eradicate mosquitoes in Zambia by 2021. Between 2014 and 2017 the Zambians halved deaths from malaria, but drugs are losing their effectiveness.

Plascon are now launching the first mosquito repelling paint, which is expected to eliminate the survivors.