Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Hunt

Has There Ever Been A Worse UK Government Than This?

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I am a member of the Conservative Party – just.  My annual subscription is due and I feel physically sick at the prospect of doing anything that is supportive of the appalling collection of third and fourth rates that presently sit round the cabinet table.

The Conservative Party has Lost Its Way. We Need To Get Back To Being Tories.

We need to re-focus on our fundamental principles: individual liberty, individual responsibility, small government, free markets, evidence-based policy and a benevolent, responsible, one-nation approach.

Let’s face it, we’ve had a privileged toff, little more than a ponce on the nation, who from his position of wealth found it very easy to impose austerity on people with whom he was totally out-of-touch. Throughout his political career he vacillated and dithered on policy because he has no principles except self-advancement.  Now we have some fake Tory, an authoritarian bureaucrat with big government, nanny state instincts, daughter of a high Anglican priest stuck in some 195os delusion of what Britain is today.

Meanwhile, a socialist activist but a man with integrity, courage and vision has stolen our place.  Jeremy Corbyn provides more leadership in the UK than the entire Conservative cabinet put together.  He was magnificent at Glastonbury, seizing the hearts and minds of not just the young but the young at heart – seizing the future!  Where is the Tory alternative? There is great excitement, belief and enthusiasm for Brexit, 17.4 million people voted for it!  Where is the Conservative spokesperson passionately declaiming this?  The party has been hijacked by Remainers, determined to undermine the referendum result, interested only in the ambitions and concerns of the Westminster Elite.

When I try to talk to my MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, formerly number three in Cameron’s cabinet, although I am talking to someone a few months younger than me, I feel I am talking to my father’s generation – and to someone particularly old-fashioned and out-of-touch.  My local Conservative Party branch, charming though many of the members are, is like an episode of Last of the Summer Wine, as disconnected from the rest of the UK as Cameron is from anyone on less than £250k per annum.  At 59, I’m a youngster.

It’s outrageous really that my party has got itself into such a state with years of weak opposition, popular support for non-socialist policies and, until Corbyn, an absence of effective alternative leadership.  It’s nothing less than disastrous and unless we change now we are doomed.  The membership is old and dying.  If we don’t get a grip within five years we will be gone forever.

A Perfect Storm Of Failure, Corruption And Arrogance.

I’ve been fascinated by and active in politics since the late 1970s. Never in my lifetime have I seen such a combination of mistakes and scandalous cock-ups. Brexit has been sabotaged by dithering and delay – and I’m quite ready to believe this is a calculated deceit.  With the BBC, the bankers and the Twitterati renewing Project Fear on a daily basis, is it any wonder that the going is tough?  Cameron resigned because he said we needed a Leave supporter to take charge but instead we have a Remainer, one of the worst performing government ministers ever.  How, after six years of persistent failure at the Home Office, she became PM is beyond belief but even more incredible is that after her terrible election performance she is still in No. 10.  It is ridiculous!

The failures are all too easy to see but let’s list them to be certain that the huge scale of this crisis is understood.

Brexit – Total failure to plan, perhaps deliberately, best illustrated by the absurd spectacle, just last month, of the Home Office commissioning analysis of the economic and social contributions and costs of EU citizens in Britain.  Surely something that should have been done years ago?  Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have both proved themselves to be lacking in courage and leadership skills.  The bumptious fool Dr Liam Fox, who does seem to stick to his principles on Brexit, shames us by his foreign adventures, recently praising the murdering thug President Duterte of the Philippines as having ‘shared values’ with Britain.

NHS – Persistent deceit from ministers, including the utterly in-credible Jeremy Hunt, about how much money in real terms the health service is receiving.  Scandalous failure to keep multiple promises about mental health having parity with physical health.

Democracy – The UK’s system of government is now a joke compared to other modern democracies.  Our electoral system is primitive.  Conservative and Labour parties conspire to keep the system as it is because it keeps them both in power.  It is obvious that we should be moving towards some form of proportional representation, online voting and a radical shake-up of the House of Lords.  MPs also need to be much more accountable.  The terrible murder of Jo Cox has let too many of them off the hook that the expenses scandal put them on.  Recently they have been whining about the abuse they get online. In general they deserve it for the terrible job they are doing. Also, they get protection from the police for such abuse.  The police are useless when it’s a member of the public under attack.  We need a job description for MPs, rights for constituents and a complaints procedure with teeth.

Social policy – I am ashamed at how Conservative ministers in reality are indistinguishable from the populist caricature of the ‘arrogant, uncaring, effing Tories’.  The Grenfell Tower tragedy encapsulates everything that is wrong with the high-handed view that they take of the people who pay their wages.

Justice – After food, shelter and health what is more important than justice?  The destruction of legal aid is one of the most dreadful developments in my lifetime.  All governments delight in making more and more law but what use is it if it cannot be enforced?  There is no justice if it is not available to everyone.  I am delighted at the Supreme Court’s ruling that makes legal aid available once again for employment tribunals  Without it employment law was literally useless and thousands have been deprived of their rights.  And for his disastrous, destructive, incompetent and thoroughly nasty attitude the man who defines injustice in modern Britain is Chris Grayling.  No other minster has more disgraced our party.  He is unfit to be in government and why he remains anywhere near ministerial office is unbelievable.  No one individual better epitomises the nasty, arrogant, incompetent Tory.

Prisons – There is no greater truth than that in a free society we are defined by how we treat those we send to jail.  This is a terrible condemnation of Britain.  Our prison system is a production line for turning petty criminals into alienated, aggressive, violent repeat offenders.  There is no one who deserves the additional punishments we impose on top of deprivation of liberty.  I would make an exception for Chris Grayling who really should be made to experience a taste of his own medicine.  The Netherlands is closing prisons because it doesn’t send enough people to jail.  We should swallow our pride and copy their system exactly.

Technology – As the nation that has led the world in virtually all new technologies, we are now falling a long way behind.  The government has failed miserably to give enough priority to high speed internet.  We will never catch up now and our children and our businesses are forever disadvantaged.  Progress is hampered in development of new energy sources, transport and infrastructure by bureaucracy, endless bickering between special interest groups and weak strategic management.  The EU has magnified all these problems and prevented progress in GM foods and other technologies that are essential to our future.

Transport – With Chris Grayling at the helm and the farce that is HS2, there is no hope for a sensible transport strategy.  I simply don’t buy the argument that a slightly faster journey time between north and south will do anything to create a better future.  Train fares are ludicrously high.  The conditions commuters are expected to travel under are ridiculous.  The Southern Rail scandal is a microcosm of government incompetence and inaction.  It should have been re-nationalised at least a year ago and there should be massive fines and penalties on those responsible for the chaos, including individuals.  I see no conflict with Conservative principles in re-nationalising the whole network.  The mess that has prevailed since privatisation could not be any worse and compare us with railway networks and service on the continent for a true picture of our national shame and decay.

Environment – Technology and transport converge with environmental policy and this is a difficult, challenging area of policy.  What we need is strong leadership – no, not the empty claims of Mrs May but the real leadership of Mrs Thatcher.  Even the despicable Tony Blair showed more leadership than we have had from any current Conservative politician.  We need to take bold decisions and act on them.  Ecology and controlling pollution must be a real priority but we must not be distracted by the greeny loons and their endless prevarication and delays.  I have no objection to fracking as long as it is strictly regulated and in recent visits to Ireland I have seen how forests of wind turbines do not destroy wonderful countryside and can have their own beauty, just as we now revere Victorian aqueducts and civil engineering.  Most of all though we should racing ahead with tidal power.  As an island it has to be our future and its potential is unlimited.

Northern Ireland – I hope one of the by-products of Brexit will be a united Ireland.  There is no longer a real majority of unionists in the six counties and it only ever existed because of immigrants from Scotland.  The UK’s shameful history in Ireland places a heavy obligation on us.  We are one and the same people and the damage inflicted by the English Parliament on our neighbours must be put right.  We are far closer to the Irish than we are to the French, the Dutch or the Belgians.  As independent nations, with Ulster properly restored, we could be closer than ever and if Ireland wishes to remain in the EU, we should respect that.

Drugs Policy – No policy better demonstrates the incompetence, prejudice, cowardice and corruption of government ministers from all parties. Deaths from drug overdose have reached an all time high. There has been an explosion in highly toxic new psychoactive substances and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has increased harms, deaths, associated crime and potency, exactly as was predicted, warnings the government chose to ignore.  The government has refused to consider or take any expert advice on introducing legal access to medical cannabis, something that virtually all other modern democracies are moving forward on. Its continuing policy on cannabis defies scientific evidence and real-life experience from places where reform has been implemented.  It also supports the criminal market, encourages street dealing, dangerous hidden cannabis farms and the production of poor quality, low-CBD, so-called ‘skunk’ cannabis.

Defence – A catalogue of cock-ups, dullards in charge and weak, indecisive leadership.  In my view we should cancel the renewal of Trident and  spend more on conventional weapons and defence measures which we may actually have to use.  We should retain some battlefield nuclear weapons but invest more in our soldiers and their technology. We should also look after them far better when they leave the service

Foreign Affairs – The UK is the world superpower in ‘soft power’.  Our culture, language, history give us more influence than any other nation and we should be proud to exercise it. We should have the courage to stand for our principles, independently of the USA and Europe.  The £12 billion we give in international aid is far too much when there is real poverty at home but even if we halved the present budget we would still lead the world.  We are responsible for the injustice perpetrated on the Palestinian people when we facilitated the seizure of their land in the 1940s.  We should be standing up to Israel which has become an out-of-control monster.  We created it and we must take responsibility for bringing it to order and helping it to live alongside its neighbours respectfully.  Its conduct is unacceptable and we should be pursuing war crimes prosecutions against Netanyahu and many of his cronies.

Housing – The housing crisis needs a courageous, radical solution, not the pathetic, sticking plaster gimmicks and gestures that is all we have had for 50 years.  Massive investment in social housing would create jobs and boost the economy all round.  We shouldn’t hesitate.  We shouldn’t fear a dramatic fall in house prices caused by massive extra supply. We have to get real and government must stop shirking its responsibility for a strategic role that only it can fill.

Boris is the only one with a brain

I have not yet decided whether I shall renew my membership.  I’m not even sure if there is any future in the UK for me.  Brexit was a great opportunity which has been sabotaged, perhaps fatally.  Britain may well become a tourist destination, fascinating for the way such a small nation led the world for centuries.  We are being led by weak, ineffectual, self-serving, out-of-touch and out-of date politicians.  As the Conservative Party is dying, it is dragging Britain down with it.

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UK Department of Health Has Neither Requested Nor Received Any Advice On Medicinal Cannabis.

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“I know nothing. I ask nothing. I understand nothing.”

This is the astonishing reality of the way the UK government is responding to the national outcry for access to cannabis as medicine. They are doing absolutely nothing.

Across the world a revolution is taking place as more and more jurisdictions are introducing legal access to medical cannabis. Medical professionals and patients alike are realising the huge benefits to be gained from re-opening access to this most valuable of medicines. Scientific research is proving beyond doubt that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine for a wide range of conditions. Many pharmaceutical companies are investigating different cannabinoids, extracts and therapies. Most of all, citizens are demanding access to a medicine that has been denied to them for no good reason and that can improve, even save the lives of people of all ages, from the baby with severe epilepsy to the grandparent suffering the effects of aging, even dementia. Cannabis can help improve and maintain good health in all of us.

Yet the UK government is not considering the evidence. Despite even a year long Parliamentary inquiry which recommended permitting access, the Department of Health has not considered nor even asked for any expert advice. My Freedom of Information request has established this beyond doubt. See here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/395319/response/965315/attach/html/2/1078680%20Reynolds.pdf.html

I have been pressing my MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, on this issue ever since I became his constituent two years ago. Early on he was an extremely powerful cabinet minster, generally recognised as number three in the government after David Cameron and George Osborne but he was swiftly sacked when Theresa May became prime minister.  He has already announced he will not stand for re-election to the next Parliament.

Meeting with Sir Oliver Letwin MP

To be fair, Oliver has always listened to me politely and attentively.  We have met on about half a dozen occasions and we frequently exchange emails.  He has been more responsive to me than I had hoped and to begin with he told me he was investigating what was happening in government about the subject.  His answer was that the evidence has been considered, expert advisors have been consulted and ministers have concluded that there is not a good case for reform.

I have pressed him again and again, shown him reams of evidence, shared stories with him from across the world, both of scientific research and patient testimonies.  While always courteous towards me he has remained resolutely opposed.  I could have given up long ago.  Indeed, when I asked him why can’t we simply leave it to the professional judgement of doctors whether to prescribe it or not, he gave me an answer straight out of a ‘Yes Minster’ script.  He said: “But then they would prescribe it.”

At the beginning of this year I asked him once again for assistance in putting me before a minister to advance my case.  He replied:

“We have discussed this issue before, but I am happy to set out the reason why I will not support your proposals. The Department of Health have, as you know, considered this issue, have taken advice on it from their professional public health advisors, and have concluded that the gains in healthcare arising from the legalisation of medicinal cannabis (as opposed to cannabinoids) would not be sufficiently great to outweigh the risk of abuse.”

It seems that, at best, Sir Oliver is mistaken.  I have written to him again asking for comments on the FOI response.

Whatever reply I now receive, I urge everyone to get on to their MP about this.  It is a scandal.  There can be no doubt that it is irresponsible and negligent that the Department of Health is so clearly failing in its duty to the country.  That’s not to say how very cruel and inhumane this failure is or how much money legal medical cannabis could save the NHS.  Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, must be called to account for this.

After A Vote For Brexit We Cannot Have A Remainer For PM.

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Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom

Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom

It’s obvious isn’t it?  It would be an insult to the electorate and a subversion of the democratic vote if our new PM was not a committed supporter of Brexit.

The most disastrous choice the Tory party could make would be Theresa May.  Not only is she a remainer who hid away during the referendum campaign and didn’t have the courage to stand up even for her own side, she is also a deeply divisive figure. All Home Secretaries are unpopular but few are reviled like Theresa May.  She is intolerant, authoritarian, illiberal (some Tories might like that but not the rest of the country) and she has a diabolical record of incompetence at the Home Office.

#NotTheresaMay

#NotTheresaMay

She has presided over the complete collapse of our border controls. Even despite the incompetent policy making on immigration, Theresa May has allowed our borders to fall into uselessness.  On the other hand she has also been responsible for some of the most cruel, inhumane treatment of genuine refugees.

She was responsible for the disaster at the Passport Office and for other policies which prevent the partners of British citizens living here unless they earn a minimum amount. These are un-British, cruel and spiteful policies that seem to characterise the mindset of Ms May.  She would be a disaster for Britain and for the Tory party.

Stephen Crabb is an interesting, young, up and coming politician – and he’s Welsh (which is always an advantage in my book) but he’s a remainer.  He cannot be our next PM.  Neither can Jeremy Hunt, Nicky Morgan, Justine Greening, Robert Buckland or any other remainer who puts their name forward.   It would be an insult, the greatest disrespect to the electorate.

Personally I regret that Michael Gove is not standing. Other than his support for the war criminal state of Israel which I deplore, he is, in my view, one of the bright lights in Parliament: fiercely intelligent, a reformer and  a skilled media spokesperson.  I suspect he may be keeping his powder dry for the next opportunity.

I believe there are only three possible candidates for our next PM: Boris Johnson, Liam Fox or Andrea Leadsom.

Cameron, The Warmonger. How Did Saving Refugees Turn Into Dropping More Bombs?

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Kobane, Syria, Hometown of Aylan Kurdi, Just One Boy Who Drowned.

Kobane, Syria, Hometown of Aylan Kurdi, Just One Boy Who Drowned.

It’s amazing and frightening.  Two days ago, Cameron wasn’t interested in the plight of the refugees.  He and his crony government didn’t even have the decency to recognise them as refugees, they were migrants.  They weren’t leaving the sort of desolation and destruction seen above, they were ‘economic migrants’ about to “swarm” onto our shores and “swamp” our hospitals, GPs, social services with nasty, dirty foreigners.

Walk On By Dave. You Know That's What You Really Want.

Walk On By Dave. You Know That’s What You Really Want.

Then, with the tragic picture of a little boy dead on a Turkish beach and, unusually, the supine, brainwashed, British public actually getting off their backsides and signing a petition in massive numbers (now over 400,000), he had to do something.  Democracy and public opinion is not a force that can be allowed to gain strength in the UK.  It is the very opposite of what the increasingly corrupt Tory government wants. Its new petitions website is biting back hard.  Its been a major mistake.  More than 200,000 want cannabis legalised, nearly 220,000 want a vote of no confidence in the Health Secretary, over 100,000 want the war criminal Netanyahu arrested when he arrives in London.

This all sounds frightfully like democracy and it has to be nipped in the bud!

So now he’s posturing with weasel words about the millions of refugees but simultaneously ramping up for war on Syria and IS, just as the USA confirms that Russian jets are fighting on behalf of Assad.

I think Cameron is a puppet: an anodyne, oleaginous creep with a shiny face for inane grins into the camera and a Goldilocks wifelet (not too gorgeous, just enough) to portray the mythical British family that we’re all supposed to aspire to.  Who is pulling his strings?A conspiracy of bankers, arms manufacturers, the alcohol industry and press barons.

Fleet Street Fox makes frightening predicitions about war today.  It comes to something when a tabloid like the Daily Mirror presents more challenging, insightful reporting than what used to be called the quality press, now disgraced by the Murdoch and Barclay Brothers comics.  The Times and The Daily Telegraph now represent vested interests, mainly supportive of Tory repression but ready to exercise their own muscle when inconvenient subjects like press regulation or BBC charter renewal come along. Fleet Street clears its throat and Cameron succumbs. Big Booze complains about overregulation, Cameron drops his trousers and says ‘How do you want me?’

I am horrified about the reality of Britain.  The disgusting cover-ups of wrongdoing in high places that we now know has been going on forever.  We have laughed about Nigeria, about tin pot South American regimes but we are every bit as bad, worse in some ways, more secretive, deceptive, corrupt and rotten to the core in police, civil service and throughout the establishment.

It’s a truism that it is the internet that has let all this truth out.  That’s how we know that cannabis is pretty much harmless for 99% of people, while Big Booze is responsible for 1.25 million hospital admissions each years. That’s how we know that the Israeli regime is composed entirely of brutal, sadistic war criminals intent on becoming the new Nazi power and igniting nuclear conflagration in the Middle East. That’s why your internet connection is increasingly censored, monitored and everything possible is being done to turn it against you, to become an instrument of oppression rather than a gateway to truth and knowledge.

I have no answers. What I know is that increasingly often, as I chat with my 80-year old mother, we say to each other how glad we are we won’t be around to see it.

Written by Peter Reynolds

September 5, 2015 at 9:49 am

The Minister For Government Policy On The Strange Case Of Medicinal Cannabis.

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Oliver Letwin MP

Oliver Letwin MP

Oliver Letwin MP is, according to The Independent, “probably the most powerful person in the government after the Prime Minister and Chancellor”.

He is the Cabinet Office minister with responsibility for the implementation of government policy.  He holds the ancient title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.  He is a member of 13 of the 14 Cabinet committees and chair of three of them, more than anyone other than Cameron.  He is now chair of the most powerful of them, the Home Affairs committee, which Theresa May would have expected to chair and he also sits on nine of the 10 new “Implementation Taskforces”. Cameron is said to have told him “I need you with me every day”.

An extraordinarily powerful and influential man.  I met with him last week to put the case for reform of policy on medicinal cannabis. He listened attentively, asked searching questions, evidently has a good understanding of science and medicines regulation.  In the end, he agreed to ask Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, to meet with me and a delegation of medicinal cannabis users.  We agreed that the Home Office is no longer the route to reform.  The word is that if the Department of Health calls for a new policy then the Home Office will comply.  Theresa May has been sidelined on this issue.  Her minister of state for drugs policy, Mike Penning, seems to be nothing but a mouthpiece for Home Office civil servants.  Quite properly and at last, medicinal cannabis is being seen as a health issue and not one of law enforcement or criminal justice.

So we could not have a more important opportunity.  Mr Letwin has now confirmed to me in writing that he will “..investigate the question of prescription cannabis for relief of medical conditions.  I will start the process of talking to people in MHRA, Public Health England and so forth to try to get a sense of the pros and cons.”

Although he has not yet indicated to me that he supports our cause, he seemed particularly perplexed that cannabis is a schedule 1 drug whereas heroin is schedule 2 and may be prescribed by a doctor.  It is clear that he recognises there is medicinal value in cannabis.

To have Oliver Letwin pursuing our cause through government is great progress.  Although the loss of our Liberal Democrat allies has been a setback, it seems that the issue of medicinal cannabis has momentum. We need to keep on keeping on.  Nothing works better than getting in front of government minsters and showing them that most people who use medicinal cannabis are responsible members of society, doing the best they can to contribute, holding down a job where possible, looking after their families and trying to maintain their health.

I sense that the optimism we felt before the election was not misplaced.  Engaging with government, turning away from irresponsible protest and putting our arguments forward with courtesy and evidence is what will achieve our goal.

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 3, 2015 at 3:41 pm

A Fundamental Problem At The BBC

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I am very close to being the BBC’s biggest fan.  It is a remarkable and entirely unique institution.  Somehow it occupies a place between the state and the people which I can find no comparison for.  It would be easy to define it as some sort of socialist idea but it is genuinely independent from the state.  I do, however, have some concerns about its accountability.  I am very concerned about the way it handles complaints.

No Complaints Accepted Here

I have grown up with the BBC and I trust it.  In fact, I think that it’s done a better job of maintaining Britishness and values of integrity, tolerance, fairness and justice than any UK government of any political complexion.  That’s why the curmudgeons in all political parties turn against it.  I think Jeremy Hunt’s recent attacks and comments were particularly poorly judged.  He hasn’t a had a good start in government at all has he?

I made a complaint to the BBC recently and I am very, very unhappy about the way it has been handled.   The subject is not relevant here.  I shall write about it in future but for now it would distract from my point.  I am horrified to discover that the BBC does not handle complaints itself.   They are outsourced to Capita in Belfast which describes itself as “the UK’s leading outsourcing company…at the leading edge of redefining and transforming services to the public.”  For me that needs a huge pinch of salt, a mountain in fact and even then I’m choking on it.

Handling complaints should be at the very heart of an organisation.  It is the essence of your brand.  There is no more important management function.  Contracting them out is an abdication of responsibility.  More than that, it is a complete failure of integrity, a massive mistake.   If an organisation is truly committed to meeting its customers’ needs it must be as close to them as possible.  This irresponsibility strikes at the very heart of everything I value about the BBC.  I am deeply disillusioned.

If this disastrous decision had resulted in a well administered service then that might be some consolation but not a bit of it.  It is dreadful.  Every bit as bad as any horror story you’ve heard about British Gas, BT or yes, even a bank.  This is the British consumer experience at its very worst.

Not What It Used To Be

In sharp contrast to the rest of the BBC’s websites, try making a complaint online.  It’s like something from the very early days of the internet with clumsy, badly aligned fields and an archaic feel.  I almost expect to hear a modem whistling away in the background.  From a complainant’s point of view it’s quite useless.  You don’t get any option to save a copy of your complaint or email it to yourself.  You don’t even get an acknowledgement once you’ve completed it so you’re left with a completely unsatisfactory feeling of uncertainty.  Did they get it or not?  Will I get a reply?  When?

It gets worse.  Complaints are lost.  They don’t get answered at all.  They certainly don’t get answered within the 10 working days promised.  One answer I received was just laughable in its anodyne, crass simplicity.  It was nothing more than an patronising acknowledgement of what I was “unhappy about”.

Useless

I could go on even further but I won’t.  It does get even worse and it becomes embarrassingly so when Capita start to trot out the oldest excuse of all about “system problems”.  It is an excruciatingly bad, defining example of appalling customer service.  I’d say it takes the biscuit.

All this is the inevitable result of outsourcing your complaints procedure.  That aspect of business that should be one of your most important tools.  What’s worse is that Capita are absolutely useless at doing the job.

It is no exaggeration to say that, for me, this rocks the very foundations of everything I believed about the BBC to the very core.  It is not the organisation I thought it was.  I feel betrayed.  I am “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”.   In fact,  I am very, very, very disgusted of Weymouth, Dorset.