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THE Minister for Patriotism is off to a model.start - he's given, up his official limo to save the taxpayer £50,000 a year.

Instead of the chauffeur-driven car that normally comes with a ministerial job, Michael Wills, the man in charge of Gordon Brown's Britishness' agenda; uses public transport and taxis - setting an example that his colleagues will come under pressure to follow.

The annual bill for ministerial cars and their drivers is around £7 million, or £70,000 per Minister.

Ministers justify the perk in a variety of ways. Some cite security, while others say they need a car to transport their red boxes containing sensitive documents.

However, Mr Wills's sacrifice proves they can do without.

He uses the Tube, buses and taxis to get around London. And he takes the train to visit his Swindon North constituency.

Officials say the annual cost of his work-related journeys is around £20,000 - a net saving of £50,000. A friend of Mr Wills said: 'Michael was offered the car, but he saw it as a waste of money for the taxpayer and he reckons he can get around just as easily by other means.

Junior Ministers usually use Toyota Priuses, Ford Mondeos or Rover 75s. The perk comes on top of a generous £100,000 salary.

Mr Wills, 55, a former diplomat, was made deputy to Jack Straw in the Justice Department earlier this year.

He recently announced plans to consult the nation on a statement of ’British values'.

(From the mail on Sunday September 30, 2007p. 10)

Counting the Costner

Star admits: I’ve blown £20m on inventions that I thought would save the world

HOLLYWOOD actor Kevin Costner has squandered more than £20 million of his fortune on doomed investments to save the planet, he admits today.

The Oscar-winning Dances With Wolves star plunged the cash into 'green technology', forming two companies to develop his passion.

His first venture championed a revolutionary method to clean up major oil spills and the second tried to develop a successful non-chemical battery. But both projects failed and he lost the entire investment. He says in an interview in today's Live magazine: I've invested enormous amounts in technologies I thought would help the world.

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’There’s nothing to show for the millions I’ve invested. My God, most people would want to die if they lost $1,000 or $100,000. I’ve lost $40 million plus.

’But I knew that if I was right it would change things in an incredibly positive way. Do I regret that? Yes. Has it changed my life one bit? No, because I haven't been moved by money. Costner, 52 - whose 1994 divorce from first wife Cindy Silva cost him £40 million - was first moved to action by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, when the tanker struck a reef and lost 11 million gallons of oil off Alaska.

Horrified by the primitive methods used to battle spillages, he set up Costner Industries Nevada Incorporated with his brother Dan. They discovered a technology used in the nuclear industry to separate chemicals by centrifugal force and set about adapting it. But the project failed.

Next, he created a subsidiary to launch a battery with a flywheel that could store four times the energy of an ordinary one. The firm even had a contract to make them for Nasa, but the deal lapsed.

Costner's movies, which also include box-office smashes The Bodyguard and Field Of Dreams, have grossed more than £1 billion.

But he has suffered bad luck in other ventures as well as his green projects. How­ever the star remains philosophical. Tm not the shrewdest businessman, he admits. ’I’m more of a dreamer.'

Read our full interview at

fFrom the mail on Sunday September 30, 2007 p. 41)

Is this really what it’s like to be elderly in Brown’s Britain?

By Polly Dunbar

THE Government spin machine was accused of peddling a false view of old age last night after it was revealed it had paid a PR company to portray all pensioners as happy and carefree.

Organisations involved in the first UK Older People's Day tomorrow have been instructed only to use promotional images in which elderly people look affluent and active.

Out go pictures reflecting the reality of life for the majority of older people, including an older man and woman slumped in armchairs, presumably in a care home, and an elderly woman appearing distressed.

In come photos such as a youthful-looking couple laughing as they run across a beach, a woman about to work out in a gym, another woman happily gardening, a couple cuddling on holiday and a man enjoying a game of tennis.

The approved images are marked with a large tick, while those to be avoided are marked with a cross.

The instructions form part of a guideline pack sent to organisations involved in the Department of Work and Pensions’ Generation Xperience UK Older People's Day, which include the charities for the elderly Help the Aged, Age Concern and The Beth

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Johnson Foundation, as well as retail giants John Lewis and B&Q. The Government booklet, produced by PR company The Red Consultancy, urges: 'Any imagery used should be consistent with the upbeat, celebratory nature of the campaign. Avoid using images that reinforce incorrect stereotypes about older people's lifestyles.1

It continues: 'Contrary to common misconceptions, the UK’s over-50s now have greater opportunities to lead healthy, active and fulfilling lives than ever before, largely thanks to improvements in services and pension reforms.’

But critics said the chosen images were a far cry from reality for most older people at a time when more than a fifth live in poverty.

Nigel Waterson, Tory spokesman for pensions and older people, said: 'This just shows spin is alive and well under Gordon Brown.

’Lots of older people have no reason to look or be happy - two million are living in poverty, 125,000 have lost their pensions due to the Government and many are facing penury in old age.’

Some of the organisations backing the day have also criticised the images. Alan Hatton-Yeo, director of the Beth Johnson Foundation, said: ’I would not have chosen these pictures because they are clumsy and we are not using them.

'The Red Consultancy clearly didn't think carefully enough about the implication of the pictures. All the ones they have chosen seem to show middle-class people enjoying activities a lot of elderly people cannot participate in.'

Paul Bates from Help the Aged added: 'There’s nothing wrong with showing positive images of old people but at the same time, it must be recognised that many old people are not fortunate enough to have the finances or physical abilities to do active, fun things and take holidays.'

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: 'Generation-Xperience UK Older People's Day is about celebrating the huge contribution that older people make to society.

'Part of that is about tackling negative and outdated stereotypes of older people, the majority of whom see age as an opportunity - not a barrier.’

{From the mail on Sunday September 30, 2007 p. 42-43)

Rudeness rules... even the credit card man says I’ve got Alzheimer’s

THE words ’zero tolerance' were uttered at last week's Labour Party conference, a phrase we haven't heard since the Government’s first term in office.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was referring to a tougher stance on crime, but I think it's high time we applied that same edict to the soaring levels of rudeness which have infected this country.

Is it me, or has it become almost impossible to go about your daily business without being sworn at, or tooted at because you were one millisecond late in respond-

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ing to an amber light on a Sunday? Unless you are an on-call heart surgeon, really, what is the problem?

Another idea, also mooted last week, was that foreigners learn how to form an orderly British queue before they can feel fully integrated into our society.

Have the people who come up with these daft schemes ever tried to board one of London's No 38 bendy buses on Piccadilly?

Never mind the scrum; that's the easy part.

Persuading the driver, hellbent on mowing you down, to please wait while you purchase a ticket at the kerbside machine always seems to elicit a stream of invectives before the doors are slammed in your face.

Taxis aren’t much better. I know I will never be picked up by a black cab again if I write this, but aren't all the notices inside, telling you off, a bit much, given how high the fares are?

1 always make the mistake of thinking the driver is talking to me when I hear him chirruping away and I politely try to join in, only to be told crossly he is 'on the phone'. Ah. Sorry.

In my local Sainsbury's, which I visit every morning to buy newspapers, I see the same trio of young women sitting chatting behind their tills.

Although I am sure they must vaguely be able to recognise me by now, they can never be bothered to interrupt their conversation to say ’hello', or mumble 'thank you' at the end of the transaction.

The only mantra they unfailingly recite, not once looking me in the eye, is the annoying: 'Do you have a Nectar card?'

I feel like screaming: ’No! I don’t! I didn't have one yesterday, and I haven't rushed out and applied for the wretched thing, whatever it is, in the brief passage of time since!'

Perhaps I am feeling particularly fragile having spent the past three weeks at fashion shows in New York, London and Milan,

But at least that exercise, where I have been made to 'step away from the red carpet’ by innumerable stony-faced morons in dark suits with walkie-talkies (and that was just the glossy magazine editors), has allowed me to conduct my own survey of which country really is the rudest in the world.

And I am afraid to say it is Britain.

Politeness is the glue that holds our society together, but it seems we have all retreated, clam-like, into our own tiny worlds, solicitous only of those we are frightened of. Anyone else is treated with contempt.

Why do people you live next door to fail to smile, or say hello? I'm sure new technology is a factor. How many times have you sat next to someone in silence while they fiddled with the Blackberry in their lap, or sent texts like a demented teenager?

How can anyone be that busy, unless they are the Prime Minister?

And whatever happened to the customer being king?

After keying about a million digits into a phone before you can speak to someone who has a pulse, why do they always respond as if they are a robot?

I recently phoned my credit-card company to complain about two suspicious items on my bill, and the man on the other end told me I could be suffering from 'early-onset Alzheimer's'.

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I would have been flattered at the 'early1 had he not been so shockingly out of order, although I have to admit my case doesn't quite hold water because a few days later I remembered I had bought two aromatherapy candles for precisely those amounts; they were supposed to make me less stressed, not more.

AND don't get me started on how rude children are these days. Parents should be worrying less about whether their offspring has inhaled a peanut, and more about whether or not he or she has sent a handwritten thank-you note, ever.

Mums and dads. If someone gives your child an expensive outfit, make sure he or she is wearing it the next time you see them. It's as simple as that.

This new culture of rudeness must be stamped out.

The other night, I tackled a woman who had the temerity to steal my cab. I ran after the vehicle, opened the door and politely told her to get out.

She disembarked sheepishly, the cabbie looking on in disbelief.

I am, if Justice Secretary Jack Straw is to be believed, a have-a-go hero, standing up for good manners.

I suggest you become one too.

(From the mail on Sunday September 30, 2007 p. 28)

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