Tag Archive: Switzerland

NHS – No Hope Society?

As with freedom of speech – following events Charlie Hebdo – so the subject of the NHS has hardly failed to be discussed and written about; almost on a daily basis. (In fact Ed Miliband can’t stop himself talking and writing about it – together with mntion of ‘the few at the top’), Not to be outdone, we have Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer also joining in with his ‘take’ on the subject – countered somewhat with a different ‘take by Bill Cummings writing on the Spectator Coffee House blog.

This article by Rawnsley must be one of the most stupid, ill-thought-through pieces ever to appear in print. Of course the elderly may well use the health service more than any other section of our society – their bodies are reaching the end of their existence. Rawnsley would do well to remember that he too will eventually reach that stage and he too will no doubt be a ‘frequent user’. Blaming the elderly for the fact that our health service is in crisis leads one to question the number of elderly dealt with compared to the number of 18-24 year-olds who also use the same public service due to what may be called their childish wish to get ‘rat-arsed’ every Friday and Saturday night.

Neither is it fair of Rawnsley to lay the blame at the door of the elderly without apportioning blame to our political class who have known for decades that the elderly population has been steadily increasing – not forgetting of course that unlimited immigration has also placed additional requirements on not just the NHS but also other public services – and who appear not to have made provision for these factors.

The cynic in me says that if this piece is but a convoluted way to support Ed Miliband’s latest bandwagon of getting the young too vote, then all he need have written was: I support Ed Miliband’s ‘Get the young to vote’ campaign. This would have reduced the amount of crap we were required to read.

As cattle are considered sacred in world religions such as Hinduism, so with the Labour Party is the NHS considered sacred. We are reminded, ad infintum. that they invented it, but it is now, in its present form, well past its sell-by date and no longer fit for purpose. Of course, had politicians realised long ago that the NHS was to be an ever open hole into which public money would need to be poured, the NHS would not now be in the situation it is – and neither would we have to suffer the interminable political arguments about funding.

A simplistic view it may be but if every individual had to take out ‘health insurance’ it would have negated what can only be described as a mess today. As this informative piece by Civitas on the Swiss system of health provision shows; there is another way. I do not suggest that the Swiss system be ‘copied and pasted’ – it does have some negative aspects  – but even if it were we would not be in mess we are. Yes, it would take decades to filter through before public expenditure on our health service via taxation would fall, but for heavens sake: let us do ‘something’ now?

Reorganisation of our health service is but one matter that could and would be reformed by the adoption of The Harrogate Agenda – and until the latter is adopted it will mean, for sure, the NHS (No Hope Society) will be with us for eternity.






Hardly surprising?

From Swissinfo comes three interesting articles, all related where the subject of democracy is concerned.

  • It appears that the  reputation of Switzerland has suffered a set-back, if we accept what we are told. Apparently, in a survey commissioned by the Swiss Foreign Ministry, it was found that the perception of Switzerland has suffered notably in neighbouring Germany and France as well as in Spain. However, Switzerland’s reputation has improved in Poland and in Britain over the past five years. Respondents said they associate Switzerland primarily with chocolate, mountains, banks and watches.
  • A large majority of citizens is apparently in favour of introducing a nationwide ban on burkas for Muslim women in Switzerland and more than 60% of respondents said they would outlaw the Muslim religious garment in public spaces.
  • The rightwing Swiss People’s Party appears to be losing support among citizens, according to the latest opinion poll ahead of next October’s parliamentary elections. A survey commissioned by two Sunday newspapers, SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche, found the People’s Party taking 23.8% of the vote, down from 26.6% in the previous elections in 2011. The other main political groups of the political left and the centre-right – the Social Democrats, the Radicals and the Christian Democrats – were narrowing the gap slightly but trailing behind with 19.8% and 15.7%, respectively 12.4%.

The cynic in me finds it hardly surprising that a division of the Swiss Foreign Ministry manages to produce a finding that an isolationist tendency of the Swiss people is cause for concern among the Swiss political class who, left to their own devices, would willingly further integrate Switzerland into the European Union. It is hardly surprising, either, among the British people, that for which Switzerland is renowned does not feature democracy.

Why should not the people decide what is and what is not permissible in their community?

So Switzerland is by this finding, of right-wing leaning; but what does this matter when, on important subjects, the people can dine a la carte under direct democracy, rather than a table d’hôte which they are forced to do under representative democracy. Plus of course in Switzerland the people are sovereign, as against in the UK they are but serfs of the then current ruling caste. Consequently it is logical to assume that the power of opinion polls to influence the electorate is greatly reduced.

Where electoral power is concerned, given the choice and financial capability, I know where I would rather live.

Never mind HS2, we now have HS3

With the launch of the report: One North: A Proposition for an interconnected North, George Osborne has promised the creation of a ‘Northern Powerhouse‘. Encapsulated in the FT report is the fact that Liverpool feels neglected once again – and where that city is concerned, understandably they may well feel that today was indeed a day when things definitely went from bad to Warsi.

Beside the FT, the Guardian has two articles here and here (the first making its author’s heart sink, the second detailing a Eurotunnel-style line – the so-dubbed HS3), while The Journal cites Osborne promising that he is ready to commit new money, new infrastructure, new transport and new science, along with real new civic power (whatever ‘real civic power’ means). The Manchester City Council  website provides a handy summary of the main points in the report together with supportive statements from local government leaders in Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Liverpool. That summary can only be described as one hell of a shopping list – and no doubt has a price tag to go with it; with the Guardian proffering a price tag of £15bn. What will be interesting to see, in the years ahead, is whether the EU decides to ‘chip-in’ or whether the entire cost of yet another home grown ‘grand project’ falls on the taxpayer. (Oh and the timing of this project and Osborne’s promise has nothing to do with his party’s re-election prospects, natch. Presumably Osborne will deliver his Autumn Statement in the hope that it is not the Autumn of his hold on power).

Lest we forget, it should be remembered that ‘transport’ (in all its forms) is an EU competence, so we can presume our ‘pretend government’ has received the green light from our real government in Brussels. While it is understandable that the ports of Teeside, the Humber and Liverpool are ‘talked up’, it is necessary to remind ourselves that the EU has already published its 9 ‘core networks’ (scroll to map at bottom) – and the Humber and Teeside are not part of them. It also has to be pointed out that large sums of money have already been spent on Felixstowe and Southampton, upgrading rail freight lines (both of which meet at Nuneaton) and where Felixstowe is concerned, road networks, in order to provide ‘gateways’ to the continent (page 35). Backtracking (apols for any pun, which unintended), while on page 35, Liverpool should note the listed ‘upgrading and electrification’ with Manchester.

Reverting to George Osborne’spromise of ‘real civic power’, I am agog to know exactly that which he envisages. Are the people of the North to be offered the same opportunity as those in Switzerland where rail schemes are decided by those that would have to pay for them? For example, this particular project received a thumbs down in a referendum.

This latest pronouncement is another ‘one to watch’, methinks.

Update: Hear the man himself talking about his Northern Powerhouse’ here.






Cameron’s ‘brick wall’

On 30th of last month there was a ‘Major’ statement in which the great man stated that David Cameron had a good chance of renegotiating the EU’s fundamental immigration rules after the rise of populist movements across Europe. He continued by stating that people might be surprised about what Cameron manages to achieve in terms of a new settlement with Brussels.

According to Swissinfo Switzerland plans to impose fewer limits on workers from the European Union than on those from other countries in a proposal for a draft law on immigration curbs. In a statement on Friday the Swiss government said: Admission for nationals of EU and EFTA states should be less restrictively regulated than for persons from third countries, This brought a swift rebuttal from the Commission, whose spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, said: Quantitative limits and national preference are contrary to our treaties. Negotiating them is not an option for the Commission.

It would seem therefore that what Major called the EU’s fundamental immigration rules have taken on the appearance of a rather thick brick wall, one having ‘concrete’ foundations; and against which Cameron seems intent on banging his head. Of course this raises the question of which is the thicker: the brick wall or Cameron’s head.

Meanwhile, the Swiss government’s plan was criticised by the recent referendums chief backer, the rightwing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), who accused the government of deliberately provoking the EU with a hard line approach in the hope that its rejection might pave the way for a new vote. Under no circumstances will the People’s Party accept that the new law is thwarted in such a manner, said the party. The SVP, which is now the largest party in the Swiss parliament, may well state that they will not accept the result of the referendum being thwarted, but at the end of the day it is the people that will decide such.

This entire ‘battle of wills’ twixt the Swiss and the EU is promising to boil over into a most intriguing situation – and it is one that we need to keep an eye on in the future.

Democracy at work

While we in Britain had no voice about changes being made to our armed forces; how we wish our health service to operate; whether we should have a minimum wage and at what level it should be set; or who can and cannot look after children, the people of Switzerland have just had that privilege today.

They have voted to boost the status of GPs by 88% to 12%; stopped the purchase of the Swedish Gripen fighter by 53% to 47%; decided against the introduction of a national minimum wage by 76% to 23%; and banned pedophiles working with children by 63% to 36%.

Three of the issues are self-explanatory, but for those readers unsure of the background to the GP question a handy explanation can be found here.

With typical Swiss efficiency a useful graphic (which was available almost immediately) can be viewed here with a breakdown by canton on each issue.

Now who, among the electorate in Britain, would not wish to have the privileges of the Swiss?




Cause and effect.

Readers will recall the recent post about the Swiss Air Force only working ‘office hours’ and will remember that for every action there is a reaction.

Sure enough there is now a re-think taking place in Switzerland with a view to the Swiss Air Force making plans to become operational 24 hours a day in a few years at an estimated additional annual cost of $34 million.

One can’t help but think that by the time the Swiss become fully operational, our government would be coming to the end of an impact assessment, consultation with their ‘partners’ and have spent many hours increasing CO2 emissions within the House of Commons.

Swiss Efficiency – making time for lunch

When this article was forwarded to me my initial reaction was that it had to be a joke – another of these unfounded rumours that quickly become fact.

However further digging uncovered an article authored by Nina Larson of AFP, together with one from 20 minuten and another from swissinfo – all of which in fact confirm that the Swiss Air force does indeed operate office hours – in which is included an hour and a half for lunch. From the latter report:

While Italian and French military aircraft were scrambled to accompany the plane,  no Swiss fighter jets were deployed because Switzerland does not have round-the-clock fighter jet intervention capability.
Air force spokesman Laurent Savary told Geneva’s Le Temps newspaper that Switzerland did not have fighter jets available 24 hours per day because of budgetary constraints and noise restrictions.
Switzerland’s air bases also only operate between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. and from 1.30 p.m. to 5 p.m., except on Monday nights when training exercises are held, a fact that was met with some irony on Monday.

As Tyler Durden writes on ZeroHedge:

Our sincerest condolences aside to any nation that relies on France to protect it from airborne attack, any and all aspiring European dictators with delusions of grandure [sic] and hopes of taking over the continent will surely want to know when they can land their entire airforce in the Swiss country unimpeded. …….Then again, now that Switzerland has lost the one main industry that made the country the envy of the entire world, namely its banking industry which was a juggernaut during the “secrecy” years which are now over and done with, who really would bother invading some green alpine meadows and a few Milka cows?

On the other hand Switzerland is safe from invasion because, as any cynic of direct democracy will point out, the Swiss people would no doubt have a referendum to ascertain whether they would allow such an event.


‘Marr’ing* the news


Apparently our television screens were ‘Marr’d’ somewhat this morning with the appearance of Jose Manuel Barroso on them – but it was nice of a member of our real government to give up his time to share his thoughts. (starts 44:13)

He made plain that Cameron’s wish to limit one of the four founding principles of the European Union, the freedom of movement, was not up for renegotiation, while also failing to give any assurance that Cameron will be in any position to hold his ‘In/Out’ referendum by 2017. It was also noticeable that he confirmed the plans for deeper integration will require treaty change, something he said was a very involved process. (now where have we heard all that before?) On the question of Scotland joining the European Union Barroso said it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible for an independent Scotland to join the European Union on the basis that any application has to have the agreement of all the existing member states – in other words Britain would have a veto.

It was interesting that also on Marr’s programme was George Clooney, obviously taking the opportunity to promote his new film The Monument Men. a film about the vast looting of national treasures by the Nazis and the job of the Allies to get it back and return it to their rightful owners. (starts 37:08) In that film Clooney says Its exactly what we are fighting for; a culture, a way of life. You can wipe out a generaation of people, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll come back, but if you destroy their achievements, their history, then its like they never existed. Is that not what both the EU and our national politicians are attempting – to change our way of life, our culture, our history – and all without our agreement?

Leaving to one side arguments about whether, economically, it is in this country’s interests to be a member of the European Union, is that not what makes a country what it is – remembering its achievements and its history and learning from those? The same argument can be made against the system of representative democracy wherein national politicians can decide such matters and, as with the European Union, without any recourse to public agreement. I suppose the most obvious example of ‘refashioning’ history is the EU meme that it is the EU that brought and has maintained peace in Europe for the last 60 years.

It is worth repeating something that I have written on a number of occasions: a country does not belong to any politician, or group of politicians – it belongs to the people; and therefore where ownership of a country is concerned, it is the people that are the ‘masters’.  That is the beauty of direct democracy wherein it is the people who decide what happens within their own country – witness the recent referendums in Switzerland at which the people decided to put a cap on immigration and not to allow the building of any more minarets. One can call this ‘mob rule’ if one wishes, but is it not right that the people, albeit by majority vote, decide their – and their country’s – future? 

Another appearance worth mentioning was that of Philip Hammond discussing the flooding crisis in which he stated that the Environment Agency’s policy on dredging needed ‘looking at’; that there was a need to balance expenditure bearing in mind the cost/benefit factor; and HS2. Neither Marr nor Hammond once acknowledged the ‘EU element’; not once did Marr raise the point about which is more important: Overseas Aid weighed against the needs of this country’s own people; and as for transport, not once did Marr or Hammond acknowledge that transport per se is an EU competence and that, as a result, any national policy is constrained by the EU. Never mind ignoring the elephant in the room, methinks we had an entire herd of them present in that Hammond interview!

Where our media is concerned I cannot but re-pose the question: and we are not being ‘conditioned’?

*Marring: present participle of ‘mar’ – impair the quality or appearance of; spoil.


Swiss boardrooms – preference for targets, not quotas

It will be recalled that the European Union wishes to impose a requirement that 40% of corporate boardrooms will be comprised of women. During the process the Norway Model of Boardroom Quotas was studied, plus of course La Viviane lost no time in helping the process along. She may well believe that: Governments have a responsibility to improve and facilitate work-life balance so people can combine a family and a career; but this smacks a tad to me of a nudge towards social engineering and state ordained at that. Is it not up to people to work out what balance they want where family and career are concerned? In which case why are quotas required?

During November 2013 a press release was made available on boardroom quotas for women and the matter was on the agenda of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting held on 9/10 December, at which the United Kingdom was represented by Ms Esther McVey Minister for Employment, Department for Work and Pensions; and Ms Jane Ellison Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, Department for Work and Pensions. The conclusions reached at this meeting can be read on page 8 of this document. The Progress Report mentioned in the conclusions on page 8 can be read here.

Contrast the attitude of ‘you will do’ from our EU Government with that of Switzerland and the process adopted there. In summary, the  cabinet has agreed in to introduce a 30% women boardroom target for companies with close links to the Swiss government, with the guidelines, approved last November, applying to 29 companies with a total of 264 board seats and are to be implemented by 2020 which include the Post Office, the Swisscom telecom company, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, the Skyguide air traffic control, the financial and nuclear safety regulators and the Ruag armament firm.

In fact from the article we learn that while this approach might not seem exceedingly ambitious, it is however in line with recommendations by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which in its latest country survey on Switzerland, the organisation supports a soft approach such as voluntary targets, disclosure requirements and a so-called Comply or Explain policy – a corporate governance code, allowing companies not to comply with certain provisions, but they have to explain the reasons and provide an alternative solution. Boardroom quotas may not always be economically efficient and are therefore a second best option, says Richard Dutu, economist at the Swiss desk of the OECD in Paris.

And being Switzerland, the people of Basel City will be the first to decide on a similar project at a cantonal level – for the boardrooms of its state bank, public transport and utilities in February.

Coercion or choice? Where life-balance is concerned, at least those in Basel City will get the latter option.

Housing enters Swiss immigration debate

The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has introduced the subject of housing – rents and house prices – into the debate and referendum due on 9th February. It is reported that Swiss government has acknowledged that there is a link between strains on the housing market and the free movement of people.

While the result of the referendum had previously been judged as being on a knife-edge by opinion pollsters, now the SVP has introduced the subject of housing – and the reported percentages of people who stated that the housing shortage was a worry – it may well be the SVP will be successful and gain the result they want. Such a result will obviously create a real problem viz-a-viz relations twixt Switzerland and the EU.

Should the SVP initiative fail there will be another bite of the cherry for those who do wish to limit immigration as another referendum is due to take place in November with the “Stop Overpopulation” initiative sponsored by the environmentalist group Ecopop; the initiative favouring the protection of the environment and natural resources by limiting immigration to 0.2% of annual population growth.

It is difficult to imagine the sense of satisfaction one might have in forcing ones politicians, against their will, to undo something to which they have agreed.


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© Witterings from Witney 2012