I STOPPED off for a quick pint in the Woodman Inn on Wednesday evening – one of the very few reasons anyone I know would have to visit Batley Carr these days, unless their house was on fire, their mobile phone was out of credit and it was quicker to run to the new fire station.
Batley Carr WMC, the last redoubt of my old pal Dennis Trotter is long gone. The Henry VIII and Albion pubs, from which my grandma used to wobble home to her sheltered housing at Trinity Court after a couple of bottles of Guinness, even in her 80s? I’m not even sure how many people will remember them.
Ditto for the Cherry Tree and Shoulder of Mutton further up Upper Road.
Today’s column isn’t a Batley Carr thing though, except insomuch as I used to be a very bad man in those environs (and no, I’m not talking about the Monday night ‘strip shows’ at nearby Pickwicks nightclub, which is now a funeral parlour – and which says it all, really).
Occasionally, picking the kids up either from my mum’s flat, St Paulinus Infants, Flatts nursery or the wonderful Eversleigh pre-school nursery on West Park Street, I might just park up for 10 minutes outside the Woodman.
“Where you going daddy?” might warble one or the other tots. They knew the answer. “To see a man about a dog. Won’t be a minute.”
A big white fib. I’d be 10 or 15 minutes (one pint), a quick natter with mine hosts Mick and Alice Ingham and if by any chance Mrs L rang and, white-faced and busted I had to answer, the assembled throng would start barking.
I can’t even imagine doing that today on so many levels (although, in mitigation, I could see the kids through the pub window). That’s not a Woodman/Batley Carr thing though – that’s a ‘different world today’ thing.
Those were the early days of The Press. Our office was just round the corner on Commercial Road, courtesy in part of the benevolence of the late great local businessman Jeffrey Burrows.
Back then I was on first name terms with the divisional police chief and the chief executives of Kirklees Council and the hospital trust. I don’t think I’m being too misty-eyed in saying we were all generally working towards similar goals even if my job occasionally meant friction – the fact is that talking, communicating, was better for all of us.
Not now though. Not now at all.
You’ve probably seen our front page story today. On average men in Dewsbury die five years younger than men just a few miles up the valley, in the same (Kirklees) local authority area. Ladies – you’re quids in! You only have 3.6 years less!
So. A question. Why would that be?
If I was writing this 50 or 100 years ago, and Dewsbury blokes were still scratting in the bottom of coal mines, towing their wotsits off in unsafe mills, breathing in asbestos and eating/drinking their own weight in beer and lard every week, while the posh burghers of Holmfirth were walking in the hills, living like lords and breathing God’s own fresh Pennine air, then I might get it.
But that is not West Yorkshire – let alone Kirklees – 2018. So what’s occurring?
The fact is that I can’t tell you. I have some pretty clear ideas, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this – but I can’t tell you, for the simple reason that no one dare tell me, and by extension, tell you.
That bare fact of life, about the huge discrepancy in life expectancies, was a one line entry in the annual report of the North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group.
Dr David Kelly (who I don’t think is any relation to the dodgy Iraq dossier whistle-blower that Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair’s MI5 henchmen murdered) is the Chairman of the NKCCG. He is where the buck stops.
Heck, he gets £135,000 a year, which is quite a lot of bucks. Quite what he does to earn it, I’m not sure.
I may be being unfair to Dr Kelly, although if I am it’s his own fault – because I tried to ask him a simple question about that ‘Dewsbury men die five years younger’ this week.
Shouldn’t be too difficult should it? Local paper publisher asks to talk to local health boss. It’s not as though I’m asking the Queen if she wipes her royal bum with her left or right hand, is it?
But it might as well be.
Kelly’s media/PR watchdog swatted it over to Kirklees Council’s beleaguered press staff, saying it was a “health inequalities” thing.
Really? Dying? Call me a cynic. Call me Shirley Temple if it floats your boat, but I’m not sure Coun Martyn Bolt or KMC Chief Exec Jacqui Gedman would be my first choice to tell me why I require open heart surgery.
But I digress, because what this is, is the exemplar of everything wrong with British public life in 2018. No one wants to answer the question, or address the problem.
Digging down through the report I noticed that one of the NKCCG committee members Dr Nadeem Ghafoor pockets between £70-75,000 a year. That’s up £5,000 in a year from the financially failing trust. Yet it seemed Dr Ghafoor only made 60% of board meetings and a paltry 42% of his specific committee.
What was occurring? Was he busy prescribing life-saving tramadol doses to his local addicts, trousering even more cash for a bit of out of hours private work – or was he actually out on the streets dispensing real charity and mercy to the needy?
The fact is, I can’t tell you. The NKCCG won’t say, despite me specifying that I really did not want to misrepresent Dr Ghafoor.
So am I a mischievous or malicious journalist – or have Dr Kelly, Dr Ghafoor and their failing cabal really have something to hide?
So long as they refuse to answer, they stand convicted by their own guilty silences.
SO, WHY do Dewsbury men die unacceptably earlier than some Huddersfield men? I still can’t say, but I can hazard a guess – the first being that the more healthy living, socially mobile Dewsbury men have left town.
One of the clever deceptions, smokescreens if you like, of that NKCCG report was its reliance on the 2011 census – in real terms approaching 10 years out of date – about the size of this area’s ethnic community. I’d say it’s massively understated.
Those ‘health inequalities’ Dr Kelly’s PR functionary referenced is code for ‘huge health problems amongst the South Asian population’.
It’s the same reason that Dewsbury (and Batley) have among the very worst infant mortality rates in the UK (and civilised world) and why the NKCCG is overwhelmed by a variety of ilnesses and conditions not witnessed in the vast majority of similar districts.
I can go back 20 years to a story exposing that the health trust was in crisis because there was a 10% diabetes rate among south Asian communities.
The genetic problems of inter-marrying within families, compounded generation by generation, is a politically dynamite subject that I suspect Dr Kelly and his friends just won’t put their heads over the parapet and discuss.
I could go on, but I won’t, because I might be miles out. For now, let’s wait and see if I get a response – and hopefully an interview – with Dr Kelly for next week.
I can’t say that I’m holding my breath.
ACTUALLY, YES I TOLD YOU SO...
I’M not one for ‘I told you so’s’ but I told you so. The decision by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, to quash the decision and draconian sentence handed down on Tommy Robinson didn’t quite call his trial judge Geoffrey Marson “vindictive, malicious and ignorant of the law” but he might as well have. That’s how Marson will be feeling right now however, and if there’s any justice in the system, he won’t be presiding over any other trials for a while – hopefully not again.
Robinson was freed pending a re-hearing, which given the gravity of Marson’s basic wrong-doing, and the criminal treatment handed down to Robinson, is the Lord Chief Justice perhaps trying to save Marson’s blushes.
Here’s the point though – if a layman like me could see the holes in the Crown (and Marson’s) case and actions, and clearly Lord Burnett and his fellow judges could from the evidence at the appeal hearing, why did they send Robinson back to rot in solitary confinement for another couple of weeks?
They could have given a man subjected to a mockery of the law bail pending their laboured considerations. That they chose to prolong his punishment as long as possible underlines the ongoing agenda of the state.