Angels dancing on the head of a pin

Baroness Murphy

Earl Howe

The Health and Social Care Bill committee stages started last week and will continue this afternoon. We haven’t got past clause 1 yet. It was probably the most frustrating debate I’ve ever attended. It is all about whether the Secretary of State for Health should ‘provide’, or ‘promote’ and or ‘secure’ a comprehensive health service. In essence the Secretary of State (and Department of Health) has not provided a service directly since the late 1980s but there has been no change of wording of his role to reflect the status quo. The opposition (quite rightly) wants to be reassured that the change of wording does not reflect a change in the accountability of the Minister for the NHS to parliament. Amendments were tabled, words were scrutinized, lawyers were quoted and in spite of clear evidence that the bill contained the assurances needed and an offer from the Minister to examine the wording yet again we had a four hour debate which did not reach a conclusion because we were adjourned early!

Lord Norton of Braintree (former Minister of health Tony Newton MP) spoke for many of us in the Chamber when he commented  “These debates are beginning to induce in me a feeling of considerable intellectual inadequacy…. I constantly feel that I am in the presence of angels dancing on the heads of pins. I hear the noble Baroness, Lady Jay-I hope she will not mind my saying this-saying, “We might as well retain this, because it has always been there”, even though we know it has never been the reality. At that point, we stop being angels dancing on the heads of pins, and we start dancing round a totem pole. On the whole, if we are going to dance round a totem pole, I would like a totem pole that reflects what we want to happen, not what was written into a Bill 60 years ago.”

Lord Newton of Braintree

I have a horrible premonition that the same debate will continue today…grandstanding all round and lots of political point scoring. Improving the NHS won’t come in to it at all. I don’t know how the Minister Earl Howe keeps his cool…but he does, with persistence and charm, an example to everyone. (And the photo of Earl Howe at the top is specially for our regular commenter Maude Elwes!)


18 comments for “Angels dancing on the head of a pin

  1. Croft
    02/11/2011 at 12:12 pm

    Having heard part of the debate some members seemed to be pretending that the NHS hadn’t changed since 1948. Even they can’t believe the nonsense they were arguing. I tend towards you view on the wording which seems frankly a pointless debate wholly divorced from the present reality or the ongoing changes to the NHS.

    As to Lord Howe he does from what I’ve listened seem that rare thing a likeable and courteous minister who understand his brief. If only a number of his fellow Lords’ ministers could manage both – (or even one!)

    • maude elwes
      03/11/2011 at 9:58 am


      How dare they compare the utter devastation we see today in the NHS with that of the civilised past.

      The nation should sue governments and their spokesman independently for fraud. And they should be held personally accountable for the deception in all the spin on this, as well as take action on the horrendous decisions taken to remove from the tax paying people of this country, the NHS as it once was, to replace it with the disgrace we have now.

      The most striking representation in this video of the health service of yesterday, was the cleanliness and care the patients received and expected. Today, a hospital looks akin to a bomb site. And it isn’t the lack of money that is causing it.

      And do notice how clearly the presenter explains the proceedure as it takes us through it on this video. Today you can only hope to grasp one word in a sentence let alone feel reassured of the care you will get.

      Here is an eye opener on private health care.

      And now we see today, where it hasn’t changed a bit since the 1940’s. Well you could have fooled me.

      And here is a small and simple explanation of what is happening with this bill.

      • Lord Blagger
        03/11/2011 at 11:47 am

        What devastation? Billions have been thrown at the NHS. They are still killing 10s of thousands of people a year.

        I think you have a rather rosy tinted view of the NHS, particularly what it was like in the past.

        • maude elwes
          03/11/2011 at 7:04 pm

          No not a rose tinted view at all. However, what I do have is a very up to date view of what it is today. And I also know it is not short of money. It’s the managers who are out of their depth. Those who run the show are paid too much and can’t do the job. It’s that simple. They are useless and none of those around them will face it, because that will mean facing their own inadequacy.

          My family had their children in the UCH hospital, when it was spotless, had single sex wards and mothers spent a minumum of ten days being cared for properly on spotless wards. When the nursing staff, matrons and almoners, were washed and wore starched clean uniforms and made sure you were well enough to go home with your baby in your arms. Not passing out as you tried to find a cab having just given birth, as they do today.

          So my glasses are very clear and clean.

          Today, mothers giving birth are treated like animals, by staff who act like simpletons. The mishaps are as close as you can get to a third world delivery. It won’t be long before we are asked to stoop and deliver on the floor and then told to get up and strap the newborn to our backs before being sent home to work a few hours later.

          These idiot, so called feminists, have taken feminine out of society altogether. And for what? What did they trade it for? A so called career? What a thrill that is. Join the man movement and be as macho as he is.

          And one more thing about these so called feminists is, the habit they have of convincing the fools who are willing to listen, that women don’t want to hear or see men in government or on TV or radio, as their preference is for ‘women.’ Oh please, give me a break, women are sickened by the over representation of these clones they pick, who have no connection to, or, awareness of what real womanhood is.

          In fact, all these harrindans who tell us we want to hear, see and smell them, look, speak and perform like robots. And nothing could be further from what women want, than those crones.

          A chivalrous man, with a good voice and an air of strength is what we are all gagging for. Don’t be swayed by the witches of Macbeth into believing they are our dream viewing. They couldn’t be further away from it. And it’s sickening us to death.

          What we need is men who can stand up and be just that, men.

          • Gareth Howell
            04/11/2011 at 5:41 pm

            Miles toads don’t do things like that below.

            mothers giving birth are treated like animals, by staff who act like simpletons. Are they not? and are they not?
            they do say that Vets would do much better to swap jobs with NHS surgeons and the outcome would very good indeed. Are we not the highest of the animals according to most, but according to me, insects?

            The mishaps are as close as you can get to a third world delivery.

            That would be a very big difference, with about 1/2 of African women south of the Sahara dying in childbirth. It is the biggest factor in the mortality rates between the first world and the undeveloped one. Mother and baby going together, makes a very big whack on them indeed.

            The reason they die is that they do not contra-ceive,and by the sixth or seventh, at age 38, it is jolly easy for things to go wrong, eh?Eh?

      • Croft
        03/11/2011 at 1:06 pm

        Hmm usual hyperbole.

        Most other major western health care systems use private sector provision as part or most of their front line service. Last time I looked Germany/Sweden/Netherlands have not brought about the apocalypse by doing so, indeed by many measures they have better health care outcomes than we do. Most of the changes are but minor steps on from those under the previous government and frankly little more than has been underway in one form or another for 25 years.

        As to the videos, choosing good health (1949) is ironic as that was the year Labour was forced to abandon the ‘free’ NHS and introduce prescription charges. NHS was changing in 1949 and in financial loss. It was ever so.

        • maude elwes
          03/11/2011 at 7:32 pm

          And so what are you suggesting should take its place? Tell me your idea of a super futuristic view for the UK?

          Because, you so glibly tell us others have it better. Yes they do, and it isn’t as a result of it being funded by the tax payers insurance or the state NHS. For, a change in that would make no difference to their capability of care. Of course it would make a lot of moeny for those who invest in it, like the Blair partnership in crime, who can’t wait to cahs in on their insider trading.

          Are you suggesting that if the money comes from insurance companies it will be better for the patient as the improvement to their care will be as it is in say, Germany, Switzerland or France, etc.. Because if you are trying to sell us that line, you are barking up the wrong tree.

          Ask those who have returned from that wonderful frontier of health care, the USA, and find out just why they are coming home. How they have been cheated and exploited by the system of insurance in health care and that they will never be covered again, because now they have that dreaded beast called ‘a pre existing condition.’

          Admittedly this is not the situation in Europe. The health care there, in the main, is very good. But, it is due to the people who run it, Not the insurance companies who pay for it via their patrons. And you will find many still have to pay huge amounts when leaving hospital and retunring to work, as the insurance policy didn’t cover them for the full amount.

          So, you see, you will not get better treatment in this country no matter how we pay for it, unless the people who do the job are fit for purpose. And the present stndard of many in the British NHS is way too low for that to transform it here.

          And the worst of all situations, is for those who are dedicated and genuinely caring health workers, to have to stay closed mouthed and work beside what they know and see is horrendous behaviour toward those who are very sick.

          • Lord Blagger
            04/11/2011 at 11:24 am

            Tell me your idea of a super futuristic view for the UK?


            What ever I wish, won’t happen. For the simple reason that the muppets in power have run up debts of 7,000 bn, and that doesn’t include bailing out the feckless or incapable with no savings. At current rates, another 12 bn on top.

            As for the NHS. The main problem is that they have the same organisation running the insurance, the supply and the regulation. Huge conflict of interest to getting anything done, plus you add in the unions being in control.

            Admittedly this is not the situation in Europe. The health care there, in the main, is very good. But, it is due to the people who run it, Not the insurance companies who pay for it via their patrons. And you will find many still have to pay huge amounts when leaving hospital and retunring to work, as the insurance policy didn’t cover them for the full amount.

            Not true in Switzerland, the place where I’ve personal experience of the system.

            So all roads lead back to government debt. Greece is just a foretaste of what’s going to happen in the UK. You’ve can’t stop it, because the debt is already here.

            So is it correct what’s happening to people who are sick? No.

            Is it correct that lots of people abuse the IB system and the tax payer? No [At least this part is finally being fixed]

            Is there anything that you can do about this?

            No, the debts are there.

          • maude elwes
            05/11/2011 at 5:52 pm

            So, this little eye opener is what you feel is the way to go in order to make our health cover more comprehensive is it?

            Well, bless you govn’er. You will be the saviour of us all.


            This is what the Tory’s have up their sleeves for their mates. And the Corporations with whom they conspire, sell the myriad of necessary bits and pieces a giant health care system like ours needs, to those friends who then get a kick back of some kind. Doubling or trebling the cost to the funder, us.

            The pretense at this as the way forward is so fake it nauseates.

            The staggering revelation when you look it up, is the wealth of the Tory governnment individuals and their hangers on in the Lords.

            Check out how many of the Lords, for example, are related or connected to each other by marriage or family tree. You will be astounded. Boy, did I have it right when I said they were an incestuous bunch. That was an understatement if ever there was one.

            And they are bringing in more by the day. All to be kept on welfare benefits from the tax payer, as it being a job is purely a charade. Sort of like the disabled man with a stick, who uses it only when he can be seen. This is my ‘job’ is the same claim.

            The ‘job’ and the affiliations to certain charities and organisation is simply a complex cover up of family nepotism. It takes the breath away when you really dig into it and realise how clverly they hide the facts.

  2. maude elwes
    02/11/2011 at 4:47 pm

    @Baroness Murphy:

    Witchcraft –

  3. Gar Howell
    03/11/2011 at 1:50 am

    My very good former friend Lord Tony Newton has a way with words and medicine is in the family.
    It surprises me some times how people have been reincarnated over the years, and he is no exception, but “angels dancing on pin heads ” takes the cake. Even for them, perfect as they are, it would be painful.

    At that point, we stop being angels dancing on the heads of pins, and we start dancing round a totem pole
    He certainly knows how not to mix his metaphors but to use two,
    whereas taking the cake either from an angel or from a totem pole
    is just crass!

  4. MilesJSD
    03/11/2011 at 4:09 am

    Unless you majorly increase our national investment in Health-Building

    your increasingly feverish and wasteful big and ‘comprehensive’, ‘artillery-like barrages’ against Sicknessers, Poorlinesses, Off-colournesses, Illnesses, Diseases, Impairments, Disabilities and Casualties
    are doomed to further failure.
    I spend hours trying to get NHS professionals to just read the blurb on the backs of new health-building advances, but they seem to first need me to ‘scientifically’ define every one of these advances, ultimately dismissing my attempts as ‘mere unsubstantiated anecdotal wanderings’, and ‘consequently’ not even bothering to read the blurb on the back of one such pujblished advance.

    GPs and Alternative therapists alike, never even heard of
    “Awareness Through Movement” (Feldenkrais) – the more body-parts awareness you build the better your self-control, and thereby the better your health and strength both “now” and long-term.

    “Somatic Psychology” and its forerunner “Wisdom of the Body Moving” (Hartley)

    “Somatics” (Hanna) – contray to established medical, educational, and cultural tenets, sensory-motor-amnesia, even in the very elderly, is reversible;

    “STR – stress tension release”

    “Trigger Points”

    “Natural Vision Improvement (Goodrich) – many natural and non-invasive-interventional ways of both reducing even obviating vision-impairments, and in many ways also continuing to improve your vision capabilities;

    and a long list of equally successful advances in not just health-building but, as are all of the above, know-how for doing so as lone self-help, independently from the NHS and the Open Private Marketplace within each of which you risk both iatrogenic injury by commission or omission, and covert-charlatanism.

    The Social Care Service by Local Government is not about Health – they say “you must go to your doctor for that”.

    The NHS is not about Healthy-habits supporting-and-improving, either.

    It is like one of your Civil Service top-secretarial witnesses answered to your scrutiny-question “If we ask any civil-servant ‘what would be the best way of doing (‘health’) what would they answer ?”
    tol which the Civil-Service chief replied “They wojuld say ‘well, the way we are now doing it would be best'”
    (Laughter; then a supplementary answer was volunteered by one of the three top civil service witnesses):
    “That is because they have never known or tried any other way !”. (Further laughter, this time noticeably uneasy).
    To your “how many angels can dance on a pinhead ?” and “at what point do we need to switch to dancing around totem-poles ?” you should seriously consider adding

    “how many toads does it take to block all of the accessible fountains of health and life ?” and
    “how big a toad does it take to block just one such life-fountain ?”

    • Twm O'r Nant
      04/11/2011 at 7:48 am

      Awareness Through Movement” (Feldenkrais) – the more body-parts awareness you build the better your self-control, Used extensively by transexuals to give them the gait of the other gender.Not heard of it, in any other context.

      Is it going to be on the NHS a la JSD?

      • MilesJSD
        05/11/2011 at 8:56 am

        Opportunity knocks, if you please, thanks to Tym O’r Nant’s challengingly obtuse and clearly anecdotal “oeuvre” (above following milesjsd);
        so let us have a little go at invoking the three principles of good-communication and honest-argumentation, please ? :

        1. Clarity:
        (a) JSDM advocates a Healthy-Habits-Building-Britain in its own major right, and as a Lifeplace Sector distinct from all Workplace Sectors especially distinctly from the National Illnesses, Medications, Hospitals, and Disabilities Sector (NHS)****;
        (**** such wellbeing-building sector to be distinctly separated from the 1948 National ILLNESSES Sector (which since birth has been mis-christened NHS (“national HEALTH service”),
        and from the 1978 British Primary Health Care also since birth mis-named and mis-governed under the coverted historical ‘totem-pole’ of Medical Primary Care (qua Treatment).
        (b) “Awareness Through Movement” and “Critical Thinking Skills”, and JSDM’s longer list of other such healthy-educational advances for self- and mutual- help in body-health and mind-functional competency,
        are primarily people-generic and do-it-yourself essential ‘know-how’,
        as distinct from being primarily, or even secondarily, medical-illness patient or unwell-client specific.

        (c) “Awareness Through Movement” along with a general list of Health-building advances
        – as distinct from various stuff about illness-curing or chronic-long-term impairment*- managing
        ((*such as the imbalanced (and ‘imbalancing’, I would argue) extreme-of- “Transexuality”** seeking to adopt the “gait” of the opposite sex))
        (**Transsexuality has to be taken in a separate context from the innate dual-gender fact-of-life (women are not the only human gender to have nipples and genitalial erectile tissue for instance; and such researchers as C.G. Jung have shown that the human mind has feminine and masculine functions (in the female) and masculine and feminine functions (in the male);
        and subsequently has to be seen in its ‘grades’, ‘levels’, or ‘intensities’ – for instance when a woman wears trousers is she being ‘trans-sexual ? or a man choosing to wear his shirt outside of his trousers or kilt rather than tucked-inside being ‘transexual’ ? –

        (d) When Twm goes on to stand witness that he has never heard of “Awareness Through Movement” in any other context than transexual, opposite-sex gait imitation ‘know-how’, he makes a further error***: Feldenkrais was not, nor is his published know-how intended to be, a teacher-of-opposite-sex-gait, nor indeed of any sort of ‘transexuality’.
        (*** if Twm is truly interested in unbiased and professional differentiation between male-or-masculine and female-or=-feminine movements, he should have cited “Effort” and “The Mastery of Movement” by Rudolf Laban & F.C. Lawrence, and Rudolf Laban and Lisa Ullmann. (respectively); and in the latter would find two pages showing what ‘impairment’ is possible to set-in if one over-uses one or more of the eight movement-elements (e.g. too-habitual use of Firmness/Strength, as distinct from its ‘opposite’ Gentleness/Lightness, results in CRAMPEDNESS).

        (and there is more under Clarity but we can break off here)
        2. Charity:
        Since Twm
        (God bless him still, for bravely being a voluntary ‘guinea-pig’ hereunder)
        has not overtly recognised mucb if any of the good-intention in the JSDM-original submission he so summarily and unilaterally ‘rubbishes’,
        the third principle needs to be called-into-court, and awaited

        3. Self-corrigibility.

        If the above proves too long to be published by Lords of the Blog, kindly feel free to go to or to .

        • MilesJSD
          07/11/2011 at 10:26 am

          for “latter” read “former”

          (The expertise-publication having pages showing how the human-being can become eight-foldly “movement-impaired” is
          “Effort” buy Laban & F.C. Lawrence (pages 43 to 50, 45-46 showing the eight ‘exaggerations’ – that I have called potential ‘abuses’).

  5. baronessmurphy
    03/11/2011 at 8:37 am

    Croft, Yes Earl Howe is a delight to work with whether one supports or opposes the Bill. He is currently hosting special meetings for peers the day before each day of committee to ensure that every part is thoroughly understood and that peers have an opportunity to question the Bill team of civil servants in detail. This is relatively rare but I notice Lord Freud has adopted a similar style of closer engagement as the Welfare Reform Bill is proceeding…and thereby achieving better consensus.

    This ‘extra-curricular activity’ does improve the quality of the debate in Chamber because peers have an understanding of the underlying policy intention and the reasoning behind the changes.

    We had a second day in committee on the Health Bill yesterday and we agreed to leave the contentious bits of Clause 1 to further negotiations outside the Chamber, bringing back at Report Stage the final debates and no doubt votes. There is a small chance of consensus being reached that way which is worth attempting.

  6. baronessmurphy
    03/11/2011 at 8:41 am

    I have just noticed that in my blog I called Lord Newton of Braintree Lord NORTON of Braintree by mistake. Not to be confused with Lord Norton of Blog.

  7. Gareth Howell
    04/11/2011 at 5:46 pm

    I am not suggesting that the insect population should have Cesarians but I think I should tell you that Queen bees are certainly artificially inseminated these days to excellent effect.

    A queen bee Cesarian would be tricky, and why bother she is only laying eggs, up to a 1000 a day at peak times?

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