Richard Ingrams' Week: From shots in the arm to a shot in the dark

Share

As one of the vulnerable oldies, I am glad to reassure readers that I have been given my annual flu jab. But thanks to the shortcomings of the Government in the person of Patricia Hewitt, many others have not been so fortunate.

We are often told how valuable it is to our democratic processes to bring businessmen into the Government. It is claimed by their supporters that they bring much-needed expertise to offset the amateur bungling of the full-time politician.

For that reason it may seem curious that on this occasion Mrs Hewitt has not called upon the services of a highly successful businessman with a great deal of experience in this very field, ie the manufacture of flu jabs. He is Lord Drayson of Kensington, a young and thrusting entrepreneur who for many years ran a highly profitable business in the town of Speke on Merseyside producing those very vaccines which are now said to be in such short supply.

But Lord Drayson, who has given more than £1m to the Labour Party - a fact, he assures us, that has nothing to do either with his peerage or his government job - is not employed in the Ministry of Health. He is charged with the equally responsible job of buying weapons and equipment for the British Armed Services.

One possible reason for his redeployment is that his experiences as a manufacturer of flu jabs was by no means successful. The Speke factory was found by American inspectors to be substandard and thousands of jabs ordered by the US government had to be destroyed.

I know all this because the story was told by the BBC's Money Programme a week or so ago. It just seems strange that when invited more than once by the BBC to put his side of this particular story, Lord Drayson steadfastly refused to be involved. One can only hope that his experiences in the armaments business will not give rise to similar unwelcome publicity.

Resigned to making mistakes

The Government's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, has said that he "considered resigning" when his recommendation for a total ban on smoking in all pubs was rejected by ministers. Instead he decided to stay on.

The professor would have been better advised to say nothing about his dilemma. Because people might say that if he felt so very strongly about smokers being banned from pubs he should have resigned. To announce that he considered resigning but didn't only makes him look a bit of twit.

Very few people resign in the modern world because very few people have principles and in any case they need the money. The furthest they are prepared to go is to offer their resignation, having first made sure that the offer will be rejected.

This was where the former director general of the BBC, Greg Dyke, made his mistake. Criticised by the lamentable judge Lord Hutton in his report on the Dr Kelly affair, Dyke offered his resignation to the BBC governors, having received assurances that they would beg him to stay on. Not surprisingly he was put out when his resignation was accepted.

Exceptions to the non-resigning tradition are few. One was Lord Carrington at the start of the Falklands War. Another more recent is Mr Martin Newland, pictured, who resigned as editor of The Daily Telegraph when his management started making editorial appointments without consulting him. The final straw came when he was not allowed to print a leader supporting David Cameron as Tory leader. The fact that yesterday the paper printed just such a leader made the management look even more foolish and discredited than they did before.

* One of the confusing things about the modern world is the way everything is brought forward before it is due to happen. Politicians' speeches, for example, are reported in advance before they are delivered, making it rather uninteresting for the audience, who know beforehand exactly what they are going to say when they finally get around to saying it.

The principle applies in all sorts of other fields. George Best's obituaries were being printed about a fortnight ago when the old boy was still struggling to stay alive. His death, when it came eventually, seemed almost an anti-climax.

You can put most of this down to commercial greed. Newspapers in particular are terrified that their rivals may steal a march on them. Better to get in first, even if it may offend the relatives.

Greed also lies behind the way in which Christmas has been brought forward, thus depriving it of its allure for many of us. It starts in October while the leaves are still on the trees. Cards and decorations are in the shops well before Hallowe'en. Television commercials featuring snowmen and Father Christmas coincide with Bonfire Night which itself starts well before 5 November.

Christmas parties will be starting any day now. Many shops are already promoting their New Year's sale. And the result of all this is that when Christmas Day finally dawns, people will have become bored by the whole idea and will long for it all to be over and done with.

We will soon start to hear the big stores complaining that sales are down and shoppers are staying away. But it is their own fault for being so keen to cash in. The fun has gone out of Christmas.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre Scho...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£17900 - £20300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic Marketing Assis...

Recruitment Genius: Chef / Managers

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This contract caterer is proud ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, arrives with his son Prince George at the Lindo Wing to visit his wife and newborn daughter at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, west London, Britain, 02 May 2015  

Prince George's £18,000 birthday gift speaks volumes about Britain's widening wealth inequality

Olivia Acland
Nicky Clarke has criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having grey hair  

Letting one’s hair turn grey would be the most subversive Royal act

Rosie Millard
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'