Monday 26 December 2022

Who we really are: HM the King

 I like to think that the royal Carol Service in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve and the King's broadcast on Christmas Day itself gave a clear message as to who we really are , or at least should be aiming to be.  These were  in sharp contrast the nastiness of this article in one of the Sunday Papers, complaining of an alleged shift of the Tories to the centre(stress on the "alleged") and treats from one of their chief donors and other supporters to pull their funding unless they put a stop to migrants  crossing the Channel and sent  those who succeeded on to Rwanda or back to Albania.

The Christmas Eve carol service was put together by the new Princess of Wales, stressed the work of organisations designed to be helpful and come to the rescue of people in need. In particular it included, apparently be order of our our made-it-at-last King Charles, the reading of poem:Malcolm Guite’s  poem Refugee:

 We think of him as safe beneath the steeple,

Or cosy in a crib beside the font,

But he is with a million displaced people

On the long road of weariness and want.

For even as we sing our final carol

His family is up and on that road,

Fleeing the wrath of someone else’s quarrel,

Glancing behind and shouldering their load.

Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower

Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,

The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,

And death squads spread their curse across the world.

But every Herod dies, and comes alone

To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.

I can’t comment on the quality or the poetry (to me it seems a bit “gushy” – especially the bit about Christ’s “fingers tightly curl. . .” but the sentiment is clearly: ”Up yours, Suella Baverman.”


The royal onslaught on the current values the Tories feel compelled to adopt continued  with the King's Broadcast  on Christmas  Day, in which Charles stresses his  continuity with his mother and their shared support of the values of human togetherness and helpfulness.

 A strong contrast to what increasingly seems to be the Tory belief in "come and join us by pulling yourself up by the bootstraps if you can, and grab a bigger share of the pie.  

And, if you can't, tough."

I know what vision I want to be part of.  The next election will tell us which has got it right, the Royals or the Tory donors.


Friday 23 December 2022

A Brexit Opportunity

Government cheerleaders frequently boast of how we are poised to take advantage of the opportunities available to us now that we are released from the constraints of membership of the EU.

Soi far they have been pretty damp squibs: a few minor trade agreements organised by Liz Truss when she was the responsible minister and were merely "roll-overs" of agreements we already had within  the EU.  There was  an allegedly more major one for trade with Australia which analysts claim makes far more concessions to Australian farmers than it doses of ours, leaving British farmers feeling let down and likely to make minimal impact on our GDP.

This morning's newspaper reports an "opportunity" of a different kind. The UK has 3 651 "water bodies" - including rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters.     All are in danger of pollination, the two main polluters being untreated sewage discharged into them by the Water Companies, and  chemical and animal "run off" from agricultural land.    While we were still members the EU required that all of them would be brought to a "good" state of chemical and ecological status by 2027.

Only 4% of them are actually on track to achieve this status.

So Brexit Opportunity 1 was to reduce the target from "all of them" to 75%.

However, even this looks as though it will be unachievable so:

Brexit Opportunity 2 is to put back the target year  to 2063.


For for further an better particulars see see:

Friday 16 December 2022


Nurses' Pay.

Why don't the leaders of the nurses' union point out that, as a result of Brexit, the NHS is receiving an additional £350m per week?  That works out at around £18bn a year: ample to pay the nurses what they deserve and plenty left over for other matters. Strange that his argument has not surfaced, or if it has I haven't noticed.

 Public Sector Pay.

The government spokespersons repeatedly argue that public sector pay offers are made by Independent Review Bodies and, in the nurses' case, the government has accepted the recommendation.  We need to look carefully at the designation "independent.  As this article by Polly Toynbee makes clear:

the eight Bodies  are appointed by the government, must award pay rates within the funding package already determined by the government, and of the 80 or so members, according to the TUC only two represent the employees.

According to Wikipedia the chairpersons receive £330 per meeting, and the members £300.  Even if the meetings last all day that's not a bad screw.  Maybe they should value on a similar scale  the services of those for whom they make determinations.

Ex Prime Minister Johnson.

Johnson is to appear before the Parliamentary Standard Committee who will decide whether or not he broke parliamentary  rules in responding to "Partygate."  Apparently he has engaged lawyers to represent him.  Not only that but the government will pay his bill  -  strange for a political party usually so anxious to see that public (ie taxpayers') money is spent necessarily and wisely.   If Jonson thinks he is fit to be our prime-minister, why can't he present his own case?  And if he can't why doesn't he pay for professional advocacy himself?  We are told that he has been paid over £1million for speeches he has made since his defenestration, so he can well afford it.

Voter ID 

 New laws  will apply in next year's council elections in May which will require electors to produce photo-ID before they are allowed to vote. This will not be a problem for most people, but there are a considerable number, particularly among the poor and the young, who don't have photo-ID.  The range of acceptable ID cards is curiously limited.  For example, my pensioner's Bus Pass is OK but a young persons Oyster Card or Travel Card or student card  isn't.  This looks like a blatant attempt to make it easy for the (Tory voting?) wealthy and elderly to vote and more difficult for the poor and young (Labour voting?).    It is a piece of voter suppression, similar to that  that  attempted by the Republicans in the US. 

Earlier this week the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords tried to put a stop to it.  The attempt failed because the Labour Party failed to support it. (I repeat, the Labour Party failed to support it.)  A contact in the Lords tells me that this is not unusual.  "Labour always expects us Liberal Democrats to support their motions, but they never support ours."

Shades of Labour's failure to support  electoral reform  during the 2010 -2015 Coalition, even though the measure was in their manifesto, and failure to support the Liberal Democrat attempt in that same Coalition to reform the House of Lords.  

To make progress Labour must grow out of this fixation  good initiatives only come from them, and learn to work with others.



Sunday 11 December 2022

Things can't possibly get any worse: and then they do.

Such has been the refrain ever since the referendum result, and this week has been no exception.  In the one week the government which last year presided over the COP26 conference to tackle the climate crisis has sanctioned the creation of a new coal mine in Cumberland, despite the promises made to reduce the use of fossil fuels and  the sanctimonious demands to poorer countries to play their part.

Then in the same week it is announced that the safeguards erected as a result of banking crisis of 2008 which brought the world's monetary system to the brink of collapse are to be relaxed.

Yet again the language seems inadequate to express a sufficient response: outrageous? unbelievable? bizarre? incredible?

 The "coal-mine" decision further trashes Britain's international  repudiation and credibility, and shows scant regard for future generations.  Strange how the Conservatives are so keen to cut public services so as not to  "burden" future generations with debt,(which isn't actually true) but are so sanguine about leaving these same generations with an uninhabitable planet.

The second is wrong for three reasons.

1.  Britain's involvement in he 2008 financial crash happened through the under-regulation of our banking sector resulting from the "Big Bang" introduced under Margaret Thatcher.  Reducing the regulations now increases our vulnerability to  any future crash, and next time there may be no-one of the calibre of Gordon Brown to ameliorate its effect.

2.  The measures  are "sold" under the  pretence that we are taking advantage of the "freedoms" gained from leaving the EU.  This simply isn't true. The principal features of the regulations, particularly the ring-fencing of "high street " banking funds  from "merchant " (ie speculative) banking can be changed in or out of the EU

3..  We need to reduce the UK s reliance on financial services and allow our other services (the arts, education, design, tele-communications, technology, music, marketing, to name but some - and especially those outside London).

4.  Much of the banking sector's work is of dubious value, indeed of dubious morality.  It seems to be devoted less to long term investment in potentially profitable and useful ventures and more to shuffling paper  in the hope of a fast financial gain.

As pointed out among this blog's 22 suggestions for what the next government should concern itself with, there as a strong case for public enquiries into the UK's participation in money laundering and in the maintenance and use of tax-havens in "British" territories (perhaps including Britain itself)