The Diary: What's the difference between an objective and a target?


Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has drawn much flack for his highly contentious proposed reforms of the NHS. But let us not overlook what he is doing to reform the English language.

On Monday, the Labour MP Hazel Blears tackled him in the Commons about the future of Salford Royal hospital, visited last week by David Cameron.

"The hospital has cut 200 posts this year and is about to cut a further 200 posts over the next two years as a result of having to take 15 per cent out of its budget," she revealed.

To which Mr Lansley, below, replied: "You're confusing a cost-improvement programme with a cut."

The end of the week brought us another Lansleyism. The arrival of the Coalition Government was meant to end Labour's "target culture" in the NHS. "Outcomes not Targets" was the title of their 2008 health policy document.

Yesterday, the Health minister, Simon Burns, announced that the Government is launching a new campaign to reduce the incidence of killer bugs in hospital.

The intention is to reduce incidences of MRSA by 29 per cent, and C.difficile by 18 per cent.

When these figures were revealed at the morning briefing for political journalists, an alert correspondent from the Daily Mail asked whether they were a "target".

"No," said the spokeswoman from Downing Street, "it's not a target, it's an objective."

O'Mara pays price of keeping it real

Respect to the veteran soap actress Kate O'Mara for her thoughts on "reality" television, as reported in the Western Daily Press.

"I've been asked to go on Strictly Come Dancing, Hell's Kitchen, Celebrity Come Dine With Me, I'm A Celebrity... but I refuse to go along with this ghastly new trend.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not a so-called celebrity – I'm a jobbing actress."

Wisely said, but not good for her bank balance.

Rentaquote Dan's living the dream

An old dilemma for political journalists is quoting the comments of anonymous politicians. It can be instructive, because MPs will say what they really think when protected by anonymity, but it is easily abused because of the temptation to invent quotes, or to take them from people with no real influence and quote them anonymously as if their opinions mattered.

Four years ago, on days when nobody else in the Labour Party was calling for Tony Blair to resign, political journalists could always turn to an anonymous "senior Labour figure", one Dan Hodges, who had no status in the party other than that his mother is an MP, but was very free with well-turned anti-Blair quotes.

Hodges has been born again as a "Blairite" commentator whose speciality is ridiculing Ed Miliband. Yesterday, he posted on the Daily Telegraph website a piece of political analysis based on an experience he claimed to have had when he woke up laughing from a dream. The dream, he wrote, was based on a "real conversation" with an anonymous Labour MP who, he said, was laughing hysterically about Ed Miliband. It was published under the heading: "Everyone's laughing at the left." Seriously.

Nothing compares to men with no belts

With her powerful voice, shaven head, and tirades against child abuse within the Catholic Church, Sinead O'Connor, right, has to be one of the best things to come out of Ireland at the end of the 1980s.

But she has not been going through a happy patch. She got married in Las Vegas five weeks ago, but the marriage – her fourth – wason the rocks by Christmas.

On Wednesday, she sent out an alarming series of messages on Twitter. One read: "Does any1 know a psychiatrist in dublin or wicklow who could urgently see me today please? im really un-well... and in danger." Later that day, she was in hospital with a broken ankle.

Yesterday, she posted a statement on her website blaming the Irish press for making her "very depressed".

She went on: "The behaviour of one particular paper resulted in very serious damage to my husband and myself personally and consequently made the marriage untenable so that it's now over and I hope the media will kindly leave the poor man alone to get on with his life. I'll never again associate myself romantically with anyone as I could not bear to see these things done again to someone I love."

The good news is that yesterday her mood had improved. She was back at work and tweeted from an airport to say she could see "tonnes of men removing their belts at security! Sexiest place on earth. What is sexier than a man taking off his belt?"

But if her complaints are even partly true, it seems the UK is not the only country that needs a Leveson Inquiry.

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