Diary: Drive out the sick and boost property prices


John Butcher, a Conservative councillor from Cobham, in Surrey, has worked out a brilliant scheme for pushing up property values in the county – by driving out everyone who is fat, takes recreational drugs, gorges on junk food or has self-inflicted health problems of any kind. As a member of the county's health committee, he has sent an email to staff suggesting a two-speed NHS in which "patients with self-inflicted morbidity (mainly smoking, alcohol, narcotics, obesity) and injury (dangerous activities) are, following due warning, placed in a much slower-moving queue."

This, he says, "would encourage the self-inflicted to move away from Surrey to areas where there is no differentiation between patients on the grounds of their contribution towards their condition. And it would deter the self-inflicted from coming to live in Surrey ... This factor would attract more 'other' patients to come to live in Surrey – and that would push up house prices here."

Councillor Butcher could not be contacted yesterday because he was in France, but he has told the Surrey Comet that "this country needs an honest debate on how the NHS can be saved" and if fewer people inflicted health problems on themselves, it would be a start.

Telegraph is first with the old news

The Daily Telegraph is often first with the news, notably in its coverage of the MPs' expenses scandal. But yesterday's edition scooped the entire world with a photograph of Venus passing across the face of the Sun early on Thursday morning, an event – the paper said – "not witnessed since 1882" and which will not be seen again until 2117.

But here is a peculiar thing. You can find a photograph on the website of the Royal Observatory of Venus passing across the Sun, not in 1882, but in June 2004. According to the Observatory, who you would think might know, the event occurs in pairs, eight years apart, and then it is not repeated for more than a century.

The Observatory is all set up to watch Venus doing it again next Tuesday night, 5-6 June. They will be disappointed if they believe what they read in the Telegraph – that it has already happened.

Legal eagle Hayes flies to damsel's aid

During his 14 years as a Tory MP, Jerry Hayes, never rose above the rank of unpaid parliamentary aide to a middle-ranking Northern Ireland minister. But now that he is back in his old profession as a barrister, hats off to him for a blog he wrote on 4 February, headed: "Will 'Marital Coercion' be Vicky Pryce's Defence?", in which he suggested that her lawyers study that little know piece of legislation, Section 47 of the 1925 Criminal Justice Act. And they have.

QC's privacy action a sign of the times?

The strain of having to act for the Murdoch media empire through months of litigations seems to be telling on the organisation's leading barrister, Michael Silverleaf QC. In court yesterday there was a fairly routine case management hearing. As David Sherborne, representing hacking victims, stood to address the bench, Mr Silverleaf turned to his junior counsel and made a hand gesture that implied his rival is – well, how shall we put it? – someone who pleasures himself. It was meant to be a private communication between lawyers on the same side of the argument, obviously, but it was not private enough. Many lawyers and journalists present in court witnessed it. Several lawyers are said to have complained in writing to the judge, Mr Justice Vos, that the gesture has brought their profession into disrepute.

After he had discovered that his gesture had been visible to others, Mr Silverleaf rang Mr Sherborne's chambers to apologise. It could be described as a soaraway silk in hand sign shocker.

Bright enough to be an alien, PM?

According to yesterday's Daily Star, a tenth of the population believe that David Cameron is an alien. Yes, they really think the Government that has brought us six major U-turns in one week is run by a member of a species intelligent enough to do space travel.

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