Sacked for joking about the Queen

A musical response to the absurd sacking of the radio DJ Tom Binns

As we prepare to enter 2010 here's a candidate for most absurd sacking of the year. The radio DJ Tom Binns has been dismissed after interrupting the Queen's Christmas message on air, saying: "Two words: bor-ring."

The humourless directors of BRMB, a Birmingham radio station, took fright after a handful of listeners complained. That the station had not planned to broadcast any of the speech (it mistakenly picked up a feed) was not, apparently, grounds for leniency.

Binns's sacking is indicative of the post-Sachsgate climate of fear and of the extraordinary deference the media continue to show to the royal family. We have grown used to the subservience adopted by the BBC when reporting on the monarchy and, depressingly, this attitude now seems to infect the commercial sector, too.

Binns's swangsong was distinguished by at least one decent gag. As he segued into Wham's "Last Christmas" he quipped, "From one queen to another . . ."

Had the voice of Elizabeth Windsor invaded my broadcast (in my student days I anchored a show, Clash, Fuse and Amplify, on Radio Warwick), I would have retaliated with something far stronger.

So, as an antidote to the apologists of the airwaves, here are two of the finest republican songs, the Stone Roses' "Elizabeth My Dear" and the Smiths' "The Queen Is Dead". Enjoy.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.