Lock Down

Locked down, on my own, no one but me

No hello, no why? No, just not anything.

How I wish I were with someone, anyone, especially you

But I’m not, I’m locked down with me.

I’m locked down, what does this mean? Lock down.

A lonely prisoner locked down on my own

I don’t even like myself, at least not too much

I am afraid of myself if I let myself go and scream!

I wish I could be locked down with you

I don’t know who you are, but it’s you I want

I want to be free, to be with someone I know but don’t

So I can be surprised by our startling face ups.

If I was locked up with you, would you be nice to me?

Would you be nice enough, to be nice to.

Being in lock down on my own, is good, it’s cool

Because I know I am alone and free.

Boing in lockdown, I can pray, and write a poem

I can wish, to meet all my other me’s.

I can imagine, imagine this and that

And be in love, with whoever I may want to be.

What do you think Brexit means?

–The European Union has developed from a trading bloc concept post second world war to the political union institution of today. It started as a trading proposal and then developed into a political union. The treaty of Lisbon 2007 replaced the EU’s key treaties — the 1957 Treaty of Rome primarily and conceptually a trading agreement, and the treaties of Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1996) and Nice (2000) Each step following on from the treaty of Rome has moved closer and closer to a federal Europe. Indeed the treaty of Lisbon is the accepted foundation of a Federal European Constitution.


The idea of a political and eventually a federal Europe has above all been the most effective way of keeping the peace in Europe, and in many ways expanding the idea of democracy to former communist and totalitarian states. This has undoubtedly been an enormous boon to the peaceful advance of Europe as a whole. The other benefits are that Europe has a much stronger voice in world affairs and much more clout when it comes to both soft and hard influence.


The Lisbon treaty has laid down the primacy of the European institutions over, (though shared in some limited issues), national sovereign governments. The European Union’s exclusive decision making encompasses the customs union, competition rules, monetary policy over euro members, common fisheries policy, commercial and international policies. This effectively means that the EU centre has primacy over all things regarding the internal market including, social policy, territorial cohesion, agriculture and fisheries, environment, consumer protection, transport trans-European network energy, freedom security and justice, public health.
Individual states are left with a much modified freedom of legislation. The greatest change has been the introduction of the Euro as a common currency, a massive operation that was implemented in a political euphoria that resulted in catastrophic economic consequences for the PIGS, (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain). Portugal has been the first to begin recovery from this catastrophic politically motivated financial change. The desire to spread the economic unity of a single currency remains one of the most intransigent issues which the EU faces. There are eleven currencies in the EU presently and all except two, UK and Denmark are bound to accept the Euro as their currency. The European Central Bank will therefore hold sway and all the member states who will eventually have to accede to fiscal union, i.e. The ECB will have the last word on budgets and thus austerity or expansion.


There are rules which govern the translation of national currencies to the Euro. Hopefully lessons of the past (Greece et al) will be learned. This is where many Euro sceptics shy away from the Federation idea, clearly to have a currency union will require the surrender of national decision making (sovereignty).


The other argument that is a worry to some, is the overall primacy of the EU in commercial policy. In the interests of the common customs union and other trading matters, the EU is defensive as well as enterprising. The EU whilst protecting its internal market, restricts access to other external markets and insists on unity of trading principles from all its members. Membership restricts members’ ability to exploit their individual specialist skills or knowledge – another Euro sceptic objection. Defence and Food industries (agriculture and fisheries) are two which are particularly sensitive to non-European opportunity.


Whilst the Pound Sterling remains outside the Euro, and the UK dominates the defence scene in Europe (which is quickly changing), the issues of international defence relationships are also vexed questions, particularly to the UK, which with France, is a permanent member of the Security Council. . The relationships of NATO and with the United States are confused with the EU aspiring to flex its own muscles on the world stage. Good or bad? Probably the former in the longer term, but there are serious issues with some member states who seem not prepared to invest in defence but still want the collective protection.


Many of the European states are keen to accept the democratic ideal, though several still have autocratic and populist aspirations. Here membership of the EU is an undoubted force for progressive good. However, the cumbersome nature of many national ideas is also a hindrance to unity and deftness to respond speedily in a very dangerous world. The strong will need to surrender their leadership international roles and be more sensitive to consensus politics. Leadership of the EU is now vested in France and Germany, how long will that be comfortable for the smaller nations.


One of the great planks of the European idea is freedom of movement and this was one of the emotive issues when the UK held its in/out referendum. The awareness of the good of immigration, has since dawned on the British public, and perhaps this has become a lesser-issue for many, but not for all. Control of our borders is a cry not only of the UK but many EU countries in the light of mass migration from the Middle East and Africa. This issue is not going to go away and seemingly will affect all nations for the foreseeable future.


The European Court of Justice is clearly an important pillar of European integration, there is much confusion in the minds of many that the Court is involved in minor admin, (e.g. the price and shape of bananas) and whilst no doubt the Brussels community is a humungous beurocracy the Court plays an essential role in the furtherance of judicial rules across the EU.


In this blog I have tried to draw attention to some of the pros and cons of the European dilemma. Not the British dilemma, which courts division, the breakup of the union, and much risk besides. One thing is for certain that if the UK leaves the EU it will have a detrimental effect both in the UK and the EU. There will be a shrinkage of the EU economy, and the UK which currently makes up 17% of the EU economy,will certainly find, at least in the short term, some very difficult issues in the financial services and agricultural industries in particular.


The possibility of the reunification of Ireland is a problem that nobody wants to face, yet it may be the only answer to the Irish problem. That would prove a detrimental financial blow to the Republic of Ireland and there is no real support there for such a move. The UK on the other hand, could foresee the unification of Ireland as a boon, since Northern Ireland has a substantial fiscal deficit running into billions of pounds/euros.

Scotland also may opt to have another vote for cessation from the Union, which if granted in the earlier days of withdrawal from the EU, could swing away and cause a huge uproar in constitutional and legal affairs in the UK. The Welsh who have the greatest fiscal deficit (per head of population) may well agitate for independence, but reality makes such an aspiration unlikely to succeed.


So there are great risks on both the EU and UK sides. Whist there have been many divisive shrieks from both sides of the Brexit arguments, no one can prophesy the future with any certainty.


In sketching the threats and opportunities that face us all, I hope some will be given food for thought.

The magic money tree and other delusions of the great British revival.

Brexit, here we go again, why?  Boris and Jeremy are both promising to take UK out of the EU, no matter what. (respecting democracy they say). Additionally they are both promising all sorts of goodies in the form of  giveaways such as tax reductions,  National Insurance thresholds, not to mention corporation tax.

What complete nonsense! We need to take note of these wild promises, not only because they are undo-able, but because both candidates have a warped idea of what leaving the EU means and where on earth the promised money is to come from. 

We know for sure that the consequence of the UK leaving the EU will result in further confusion, even worse if we have a ‘no deal’ exit.  So how are these guys going to shake the magic money tree?

Well of course they could save money from areas such as defence, overseas aid, abandoning our nuclear submarines and withdrawing from our overseas missions.  Where else are we to find money to improve education, law and order, the NHS, Social care etc etc.

There is confusion here.  Are we leaving the EU so that UK can trade freely, generate growth in the longer term and remain a first class power, retain our seat on the UN security council, remain a nuclear power in defence terms, remain a leading partner in NATO?

At the same time we are to suffer, certainly in the short term a decline in national wealth.  If Boris and Jeremy want to put the Great back into Great Britain then they have to square the circle.  Both candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party are either fibbers or magicians.

Neither has been brave enough to say, “Look, we’re going to take a substantial hit, but it is going to be worth it in the longer run. What we want to achieve is a new UK which will surely lose its hard power because we can’t afford it, but we can recover and attain soft power through trade and a limited international presence. There is no magic money tree, we all have to work and aspire to become the future independent and prosperous UK”

What is the vision?  I wish they would tell us.  No wonder we say Bah! to politicians!

Boris for a day – it’s dark out there!

Telling the future is always hazardous, but I am prepared to bet that Boris the boorish philanderer will be come Prime Minister of UK. Happily though, it will only be for a day or two at the most. Surely, if Boris gets in, and the blue rinse Tories are daft enough to get him there, there will be a vote of no confidence and a general election will follow.

The bad news is the chaos that will follow that. It is hard to imagine, but the options are not pretty. A hot bed of Lib Dems, the Brexit party run by Nigel Farage, the tail end of Labour, or maybe the resurgence of a more moderate Labour, an active and insurgent SNP and a minority of Tories of whatever hue. It seems most likely that the mother of parliaments will become the home of a huge mix of political variations with a coalition being paramount. The key issue of ‘Brexit’ will remain the elephant in the chamber, it depends if the Brexit alliance can hold the rest at bay.

The numbers, that’s the issue. Despite the apparent huge changes the UK will be in the same boat. The one item/personality that can change all this is not Boris but Nigel Farage.

The next general election will be fought as another referendum on Brexit, like it or not! Let us hope the electorate vote decisively one way or another. This is where my future prophesying lapses.

The prospect of Nigel Farage is one I might contemplate down in the Pub, but not for more than a millisecond, who else do I see on the horizon. It’s dark out there.

 

The blind leading the blind.

Having watched last night’s debate with five conservative hopefuls to fill the hapless gap left by Mrs. May, I am astonished that not one of these candidates has the foggiest idea how to deliver what they promise.

Boris Johnson was clearly the best, at not answering questions at all, he just bumbled along assuring us it was completely unimportant that he condemned Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe to a double term in an Iranian jail. In fact, he said, it was the Iranians fault in the first place and what he said as Foreign Secretary was neither here or there. Can you believe that?

Believe it or not, not one of his opponents picked him up on this. How can they possibly tolerate such clear idiocy from Boris or anyone else. I was hugely disappointed that Jeremy Hunt did not pick up on this.

It seemed to me, they all, with the exception of Rory Stewart, were toadying to Boris as the inevitable winner and next prime minister for places in his cabinet.

What a complete farce, nobody knows how to deliver Brexit, and nobody will tell us what they are going to do to manage the UK’s EU exit.

On other policies, they were all suitably vague and united, again except for Stewart, on giving away loads of money on tax breaks.

I don’t know if they turned out just to show how useless they all are, but they certainly succeeded.

Boris, backwards to the ruling class.

So, we really do need a posh bullshit merchant to bluster our way to Brexit! So it seems, if you believe the results of the first conservative election results. I think it speaks volumes about the Conservative MP’s who are scared to death of losing their jobs. Dear Boris launched his campaign saying nothing except possibly “Tally ho! follow me!”

He followed this baloney with claims of his success as the Mayor of London, carefully avoiding some of his positively gargantuan cock-ups. He then took questions which he entirely ignored with one exception, and continued his bluster about what a good man he is . Tally ho! Bullingdon Club lads to the fore.

I can never forgive Boris for his dreadful betrayal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, by a total disregard for his responsibility, his off the cuff stupidity and his downright arrogance.

If the conservative rank and file are stupid enough to support this nomination I for one will never vote Tory again.

Israel Folau – free speech?

Israel Folau has been fired by the Australian RFC for making his thoughts known about homosexuality. Firstly this is very bad news for the Australian team preparing for the upcoming IRU World Cup. That aside, the issue here is not what Folau said but what Folau is allowed to say as a citizen of the free world.

I understand he made a comment that folk who conduct themselves in a way that is prescribed in his religion will go to hell, where ever that is? I am not knowingly a member or of a behaviour type to receive Mr Folau’s wrath, nor can I remember the full list of those condemned to hell. Nor am I concerned.

What does concern me is that this excellent athlete has stated his religious views and everyone is free to agree with or disagree with him. Personally I disagree, but I absolutely believe he has the right to express his religious views if they do not incite hatred or encourage malevolence.

Going to hell, seems not the most desirable place to end up, but hey, you believe what you believe. The statement does not imply any other imposition of punishment of any form on this earth – so what is the problem? The statement he made says much about Israel Folau, he is a religious man who lives by strictly defined values. He may be at at odds with some of us, but surely that is not only acceptable, it has to be his right to express himself.

I hope the Australian Rugby Football Union relent and practice what they preach which is an inclusive organisation, both for ideas, free speech as well and sexuality.

Brexit, failure or ambition.

David Cameron has tucked his £800,000 advance up his shirt and walked away from the biggest political upheaval the UK has ever seen. I sincerely hope that as few as possible buy his book which no doubt will point to his genius and integrity in creating this major cock up. Whilst not mentioning Libya (another huge mess) he will no doubt point to his achievements as he sees them. How anybody can be remotely interested in this failed ‘has been’ is beyond me.

Nevertheless, President Macron’s impassioned plea for the goodness intrinsic to the idea of the EU is a compelling one. He does not labour on the failures such as the PIGS bankruptcy and unemployment, but he does claim the Euro has been a success with which I heartily disagree.

What went wrong then? Now we have no end of dissent about both the purpose and the practice of the European idea. The Brits are clearly fed up, many for the wrong reasons. The Austrians, Hungarians and Poles have perniciously right wing governments and dissatisfaction with the EU is widely the rule.

There is a clear disconnect between the ‘man in the street’ and the European Union as a consciousness of belonging to something of worth. Brussels appears as a nightmarish bureaucracy populated by greedy politicians who are profligate in the extreme. Easily dis-likeable and easily pilloried.

Cameron recognised the dis-like and the dissent but he washed his hands of the whole affair and committed to a referendum nobody (except perhaps Nigel Farage. ) wanted. He presumed, I think, that remain would win and all would be well. That they did not, came, I’m sure, as a a complete surprise, and off marched DC the victim of his own innocence and naivety.

Is it too late to turn back the clock? Since the referendum no one has a solution to a problem nobody wanted. Impasse!,

Please will somebody – anybody – attempt to clarify what is good about the EU and what is bad about the EU, and what would be needed to improve the institution. The idea of the EU – unity, peace and concord, – good. Practice – graft, gravy train, issues with borders, law and order, defence, unification of standards – vary from very good to very bad.

Why is the reversion to so called sovereign status good, why is nationalism bad?

All I know is faffing about doing nothing is bad.

Brexit means Exit!

We know what we know, we are aware of some of what we don’t know, and we don’t know what we don’t know.  So why does everyone say “now we know what happens when we leave the EU.” Oh no we don’t – sheer fantasy like the Boris’ big bus.  

As I have said many times before ‘he who tells the future tells lies’.  Actually, he tells what he wants us to believe and he, whoever he is, is seldom right. 

The fact remains that the idiot Cameron allowed the uninformed to make a choice that was, and is, very unclear.  He offered the in/out option and the people in vast numbers voted, the majority for out.  Oh what a bugger!  Not what David of the shiny face wanted!

Enter stage left the dreaded Blair the man who misled the country so wilfully into Iraq.  He’s now mincing around Europe canvassing the EU to make our exit so difficult we’ll have no choice other than to cancel after what he says will be a positive peoples  vote.

If ever there was a motive to stick with the majority this is it, this deplorable truth spinner who’s made vast sums parading his ego as the saviour of the centre ground.  He has much in common with Macron who also has a ‘God’ syndrome.

No my friends, we voted out, no way back, out without a deal or with a deal, the people have spoken. It might be they spoke rubbish but it doesn’t matter its called democracy.  If you have another idea, maybe a Trump PM, or the loony left, take your pick. Me, I’m for believing in democracy even if the direction might be flawed.

Anyway who knows? I for one don’t know what I don’t know!

There’s none so deaf that will not hear!

The UK is transfixed with Brexit which is understandable, but just take a minute to look around and see what chaos rains across the European Union.

France is in chaos, Germany uncertain, PIGS broke, the Euro uncertain, the world environment being trampled over by not only Trump but several of his kind in the EU, and we worry about Brexit!  Even worse a range of people who should know better keep on prophesying doom and gloom and no one seems to think there can be any upside to leaving the EU.

It’s time for calm thinking.  The EU dream is all but dead, coming apart at the seams, and it is fair to say that the UK is one of the main causes or at least one of the main  manifestations of this unravelling.

The Brits for all their faults, are smarter than many think.  There is no doubt that the EU will suffer enormously from the British exit, far more that the UK.  In areas like technology, research, defence and intelligence the UK is miles ahead of its peers in the EU.  In terms of finance and banking London holds sway and will continue to do so. Yes there will be short term disturbance of all the markets but it will settle and the UK will be substantially better off without its levies to the EU, with opportunity to trade fairly and widely inside and outside the EU.

Hopefully the vicar’s daughter in Downing Street will be replaced by a leader of imagination and charisma that can exploit the great opportunities that will doubtless come.  It will not be too long before the gigantic bureaucracy that is Brussels will be knocking on the UK door seeking advice and succour on any number of fronts from defence to technology.

The French always resisted the entry of GB into the European fold.  There is little to choose between the posturing Macron and the elegant but strutting de Gaul.  Their attitudes remain unchanged, in wanting to see the resurgence of an imperial France as a joint European leader without the Brits who have always retained more soft power. The french dig up the streets in protest the Brits just wring their hands. 

The real disadvantage of the unravelling of the EU is not so much the UK’s withdrawal as the rise of populism throughout Southern Europe. The stability that the EFTA and EU  imposed has been comforting, but the rise in the uneven material wealth in Hungary, Roumania, Greece and say Germany has given rise to enormous dissatisfaction and the rise to this uneasy populism. Instead of de-emphasising nationalism the failure of the EU’s fiscal system has exaggerated it.  The whole political ideal of Delors has been or is being turned on its head.  

In the UK referendum many people voted to leave for the reasons they perceived to be the most crucial.  Those who have least feared they would lose most and voted primarily against the free movement of people which they saw as a strain on the UK welfare and NHS.  Now that the reality of world economic migration is striking home everyone has a much more reasoned view of migration in general.  Immigration is no longer the issue it was. Nonetheless the great majority of Brits are loath to change their minds.  The population seems at odds with Parliamentarians who are as ever more cautious and unadventurous than the great majority. Democracy strikes again!

The question is should MP’s vote as their constituents tell them or vote according to their conscience. An impasse!  How the French love that word – but the people say “Let’s go, the world awaits.”

Brexit – we arrived exactly as this blog predicted.

The chaos that passes for our parliamentary democracy is the direct result of the dreadful political error in allowing a binary choice in a grossly over simplified referendum.  This has been compounding by the dogged but narrow minded Prime Minister May mismanaging the consequent negotiations to leave the European Union.

I wrote about what to expect back in May 2016 see my blog “Cameron – democracy what a chancer”  I then prophesied what was to happen and by and large I was almost precisely correct.

What I could not prophesy was that Mrs. May would call a disastrous election and then personally manage the negotiations with the EU from the view point of the vicar’s daughter she is.  That is to say, she set off by seeking to agree to what the EU wanted because she was sorry we were to leave.  Perhaps, it would have been better to have set out by adopting the stance that the UK was leaving and this is what the UK expected to happen.  I am not suggesting that the difference in the two approaches are apocalyptic but the nuance and difference has proved to be crucial.  She has allowed the EU to turn the screw and now we find ourselves with a deal that nobody except the PM finds palatable.

I have a feeling that many people will want to see the ‘May’ proposal rejected by Parliament and negotiations reopened after an extension to the article 50 period.

The EU will say no, of course, as they will try to press their advantage, but they may be chastened by the closeness of opinion and the growth in the likelyhood of the ‘no deal’ option.

If the PM prevails then we can only hope that in the fulness of time things will move on to new ideas and new partnerships. This is a big ‘what if’ issue the preliminary agreement is seeded very much in the EU’s favour. The current negotiations are preliminary but the EU has seeded them with one sided options which are the main object of disdain and revolt that has emboldened the Euro-sceptics. If these one-sided issues could be made less one sided and more equal then there would be far fewer opposition to the May proposals.  This may force the UK governments of the future to be in permanent state of angst against the EU.  Not an attractive proposition.

If it is not too late, Mrs. May has to be more assertive and go back to the table and negotiate away these one-sided  EU impositions, then she may became the saviour of the piece.

In the meantime the EU has plenty of problems of its own. Brexit will hurt both the departing and the depleted. Many feel the Euro and all that that implies will tumble and that the Brexit question will become in theory and practice much less crucial in the great scheme of things.

Not so surprising, Saudi Arabia?

I’ve been around a bit, and one of the most vivid memories was of my first visit to Jeddah in the 1970’s.  I was stuck by the strangeness of it all and even had a booking foul up which meant I was marooned over the weekend in Jeddah (Friday).  I wondered about and my curiosity was peaked by the crowd outside the rear of the Red Sea Palace Hotel.  I chanced upon the most revolting dehumanising thing I have ever witnessed, namely a public execution.  I did not tarry but scuttled off, shaken to the core.

Since then the Saudi regimes of the various so called royal rulers have continued to routinely chop off heads  of anyone who they disagree with or those who are deemed to have offended the religious beliefs of the Kingdom’s rulers.

Human rights have been and remain the last thing Saudi royal family consider.  They rule by fear and have no truck with the idea of self determination or even self expression.  The  idea of the noble Arab raising from the desert tribes is truly nonsense, and without oil Saudi Arabia would be nothing.  With oil it could be one of the best educated and progressive countries in the world, alas that has not turned out to be the case.

Are we surprised then when the Saudi regime bumps off in the cruellest way a dissenter. Sadly we are not, which begs the question of why does the West espouse the Saudi regime. The reasons are many, including not allowing China/Russia to have control over an important energy source, the biggest pocket book in the world to buy anything from fighters and bombs, as well as hospitals and luxury goods and property in London and Paris.  Also I believe an honest desire to influence these primeval Saudi rulers towards democracy and the respect of human rights.

Clearly this last objective has failed miserably.  The issues of the pocket book remain.  Who cares if the Saudis kill and maim and starve children in Yemen?  Nobody if they can make a buck from selling the Saudis militaria.  Should we care?

Please, I hope we do, and we should lobby our Parliamentarians to stop this trade no matter what the cost.  A Yemeni child or a Saudi journalist or those Saudi citizens  awaiting a barbarous beheading should be given the chance to live. What price on them?

Imagination vs Fear of the unknown. Brexit is certainly unknown.

There we have it, stay in Europe or strike out on our own.  So far we’ve had umpteen warnings of the catastrophes that will beset the UK if we come out of the EU, so far they haven’t happened.

I wrote two years ago that what has come to pass has indeed happened, quelle surprize! However the lack of leadership from all political parties has added immensely to the conundrum.  “He who tells the future tells lies.” (old Arab proverb) Bare it in mind and accept that we have no idea of what is going to happen.  Absolutely no idea.

There are some out there who feel that launching into the unknown is a crazy thing to do.  They have a point.  There are others who argue that independently the UK will be better off, controlling our trade, taxes, laws and borders.

The worst offenders in irrational arguments are the regional players in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who keep barking on about the financial support they’ve received from the EU ignoring the fact that the UK as a whole is a net contributor.  The aggregate of their argument is that they get a better deal regionally from Brussels than they would from Westminster.  This is a curious argument from those who seek more local power and yet want to bow the knee to an unelected European commission.

The other great argument is about the motives of the Brits to leave the EU.  It is argued, probably authentically, that the great majority of voters voted for Brexit based on their xenophobic attitude toward immigration.  This sad but reflects the oversimplification of a yes/no referendum.  It also reflects poorly on the British sense of values.

We would all do well to go back to the core of the argument, i.e. Do we want to be ruled by an unelected council of ministers whose credo is ever more integration into their idea of a United States of Europe.

Me, no!  That’s it, you may want that, OK if the majority want that, that’s OK with me too.

Just keep in mind that if we leave we have to stride out and do our best to thrive. I hope in so doing we continue to welcome friends of every colour and creed.  I want to see my country thrive as an example of skill and adventure for the good not only of the UK but the world at large.  I just happen to believe that we will do this best as we Brits have done over the centuries.

 

A false injection of nationalism.

The elections are done, and the United Kingdom remains united for now. Boris the buffoon has consolidated his hold on the majority of the former working class ‘so called’ red wall, whilst Scotland and Wales have remained largely unchanged with the SNP and Welsh Labour firmly in control.

All in all, the electorate felt their leaders were doing a good job especially when it came to managing the Corvid pandemic and the immunisation programs. That the supply of vaccines was almost entirely the responsibility of the UK government went largely unnoticed, while Sturgeon and Drakeford lauded their management of the pandemic. In reality they doled out the vaccines and followed the Westminster lead with occasional minor initiatives of their own.

What we have witnessed is a weirdly shallow response that has taken no interest in the sharper and more important issues facing the British democratic model. No mention of fiscal deficit from either Scotland or Wales. No mention that Johnson is a superficial wit who will say anything to get a vote or a laugh. Both seem equally important to him and surprisingly to the electorate too. No mention of the nature of the union, no real response to the blunders in the results of the Brexit compromise.

All the political leaders gained from the national pandemic, all were praised for their leadership, when all that’s really changed is that they appeared on TV at least once a week. Every time their primary concern has been their personal commitment to the safety of those in their care. ‘I’m looking after you.’ has been the mantra of all those in power. All those aspiring to challenge have been at a huge disadvantage, since any criticism has taken on the impression of treasonous, selfish ambition.

It has always been the UK prime Minister Johnson’s way to say whatever comes into his head. Some ideas are good, i.e. reform of social care, (not yet thought through) some less good at least to some, i.e. leaving the EU, (definitely not thought through)and some definitely bad such as his throw away remarks condemning Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe to years in jail.

All these so called leaders Johnson, Sturgeon and Drakeford have one thing in common, – power in the time of adversity. Their personalities are all different, but they have all received masses of exposure to a scared electorate.

No wonder then we got the results we did. It shows that the electorate votes not for ideas but for illusions. Illusions about who will lead us to a better place. The characters who come into our homes every day and tell us what a great job they are doing. The heroism ascribed to the regional (national) leaders is largely circumstantial, it is only in Northern Ireland that a national leader has lost the patina of leadership, where real political fervour has been exacerbated by Brexit mistakes that really make a difference.

Both Wales and Scotland have massive fiscal deficits with the Westminster Government, it must be time where it is obvious to all that the United Kingdom has resources that need better distribution, not separation in to smaller units. Yes, the South East of England has the largest economy, the greatest wealth and the most people. That wealth though is used to support all areas of the United Kingdom. All the three national entities Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are supported from Westminster, all have massive fiscal deficits.

Scotland’s drive for independence seems to pose more questions than answers, Wales determines to stay at arms length stubbornly declining initiative to open up, these are illusions of tribal grandeur. We all have our nationalities of which we are rightly proud, but voting for braggarts and eccentrics is no way to enhance our futures.

No, it won’t be alright! Ireland will return to troubled waters.

When Boris once again, sold the DUP down the river, he assured Arlene Foster that it would all come good. Nothing to worry about, after Brexit it will all settle down.

Well it’s all going predictably pear shaped, the Northern Ireland situation is teetering towards mayhem once more. The Brexit so called compromise resulted in a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Boris as ever bumbled round the situation and claimed it would all settle down and return to normal (whatever normal means). Of course it has not. The whole of Northern Ireland properly feels affronted by being treated differently to the rest of the UK. The Unionists are about to be caught in a vice between Sinn Fein and their own disenchanted followers. Violence and insurrection are almost inevitable.

It is obvious to everyone that the Peace Process is and has always been imperfect. Now the the apparently sacrosanct promise that there will never be a hard border between the North and Ireland is proving an impossible hurdle. The original peace agreement chose to ignore the possibility of Brexit. There has never been a solution which satisfies the EU, the Unionists and the UK Government.

There are only limited options 1) the unification of Ireland, and 2) An agreement between the EU and UK that all destination documents and taxes are carried out in UK ports, according to the overall Brexit agreement.

Either solution needs early and urgent attention, if Boris and his crowd of chums don’t hurry up it will be back to mayhem. Boris will bumble on.

The Downing Street Flat – Who cares? – Ask Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe!

The common herd, which excludes the Bullingdon Boys and their like, apparently don’t give a toss about Boris’ complete disregard for rules whether he tells lies or bends the system. After all he’s full of charm, wit, and comic bluster. Those qualities are apparently just what we need in a Prime Minister.

Not a week ago, David Cameron was in the spotlight for his dishonesty in using his position as an ex-PM to influence his former buddies. (Not breaking the rules mind you!) The stories go on and on, whether its track and trace or Healthcare supplies. As far as Boris is concerned, no one cares as long as his Government achieves their goals which includes lining the pockets of their chums.

We can all understand Boris’s thinking, I can do what I like as First Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister, or even as Foreign Minister when his unprepared gaff, committed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to more years of savage imprisonment. The Tory party didn’t give a damn they voted him in to lead and everyone then were so pleased he got a thumping majority.

What does it tell us about ourselves as a democracy? Well, firstly poor old Mrs. May was hopeless, secondly we wanted out of the EU, and thirdly Bonhomie counts more than substance.

Well, we had better wake up or Boris and Cameron and their like will soon be running an autocracy where honesty doesn’t matter a jot. I am a life long Tory who believes in conserving what is good and improving where we need to, but enough is enough. Get rid of Boris or lose my vote.

Rules, are for crooks, whilst honesty and integrity should be the rule.

Sleaze seems to be the order of the day for those in Government, be it contracts for chums or decorating your flat at someone else’s expense. Cameron and Johnson are cut from the same cloth. A cut they believe is above the common man.

Does it matter that the PPE and track and trace were corrupted by contracts for chums, the tendency is to forget it because at the time of emergency speed was of the essence and desperation was the order of the day.

Was it Ok for Cameron to use his influence even if he was turned down. By the way he didn’t brake any rules, so that’s OK then.

No, No, No none of this is OK. If these men in power do not treat the system as if they were one of “us” then it will not do. Privilege has to be a matter of integrity, not a matter of what the half baked rules say. I know it, they know it. They also know they will get away with it because their privileged status is beyond the law.

The British common law that is the staff and stuff of the United Kingdom.

Rules are cast to protect the weak, and they are there to denominate the lines over which the least of us should not transgress. Shame then on Cameron who claims to have broken no rules when in fact he has behaved disgustingly trying to pickpocket those in need.

This plain enough. Enough is enough.

Me Boy – You Girl, it was ever thus!

Trying it on, we used to say. This could mean anything from summoning the courage to speak to someone of the opposite sex, to stealing our first kiss. For the adolescents of this life, these are precious and unnerving episodes.

The one thing that is common about the pairing of boys and girls is sexual attraction. In our early years, the emergence of our awareness of our hormonal development is common to us all, but varies in intensity both conditioned by nature and nurture.

We now learn that there are many many, too many, sexual assaults in our schools system, public or private. This saddens us for a number of reasons, that include fear, sexism, and the loss of the romantic ideal. It might be worth examining whether this surge in assaults is a real contemporary difference, or is it a modern and differing view from our evolutionary norm? Who of an older generation, can forget the cartoons of our cave man ancestors, club in hand dragging a female of the species to her fate? Since those times attitudes have changed , and rightly so. Nevertheless these perceptions of male and female were and are real, exemplified by the male heirs to thrones, to the idea of female homemakers.

Going back to the ordinary boy girl connection, then the cartoon ‘club’ still exists albeit metaphorically, namely that males make the first move. Make the first approach, whether its to speak first, to have the courage to ask for a first date, to kiss, to feel the different anatomy of the opposite sex. It is inevitably the agreement, sometimes hesitant, between the parties that defines the permissive bond.

Some would argue that the permissive society, where pornography and violence are perceived as ordinary day to day happenings, has emboldened the male of the species to be less tentative and more self-centered about his sexual gratification, and in so doing is devaluing the bond of the sexes.

There is truth in that the more permissive the society the more the selfish will flourish. If we are males we should still admire the beauty of the opposite sex, it is in our nature. Let us hope that in our nurture, we are brought up to know that affection, love and the physical aspects of our difference, are treasured and respected.

Half wits and hideous behaviour.

When life is difficult we need strength and sense, goodwill and cooperation. By and large that’s what the majority do, they behave in a sensible way and they care for others as well as themselves. The Brits should be proud of the like of racer Billy and many, many others who have shown selfless support for others, others they often don’t know.

What then, of the minority of idiots who smash windows, deface property, burn police cars and worst of all delight in physically harming those charged with keeping us safe?

There is no doubt that there is a reasoned argument that riles against any infringement of our civil liberties. Our right to freedom of speech, the right of free assembly, our right to demonstrate peacefully, are all very dear to those who believe in our democratic way of life. The key tenets of our belief are the ideas of freedom and peace. The assumption being that we are free to argue peacefully against change believed to be detrimental to our freedom.

The Police and Public Order Act now under consideration by parliament is seen by many an an infringement of our basic rights. Those for the changes have to consider the many complexities of the Bill, however the majority see the Bill as a consequence of the Corvid plague. They see keeping us safe is more important than our right of undisciplined assembly where social distancing is ignored. Of course disciplined assembly where social distancing is maintained is a different matter. Clearly the police should act in favour of peaceful socially distanced assembly even if it is to protest.

The complication arises where the protest incites to a breakdown of social distancing and to a breach of the peace. When does a peaceful protest become an incitement to a breach of the peace, and who is to judge the moment or the action and respond accordingly? Where the use of freedom of expression endangers the safety of the majority or even a minority then surely those charged with keeping society safe must act.

The Public Order Act 1986 was arguably one of the three great reforming pieces of criminal legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. Along with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Public Order Act 1986 recognises the change in policing that occurred in the UK. During this period, there was an evolution from “policing the margins” of society to control of large blocks of the populations, The Act was passed after a prolonged period of public unrest and radically reformed public order offences in England and Wales.

Britain has a long history of rioting; sometimes as a form of political protest, other times in the context of industrial disputes or as a reaction to feelings of disconnection between different parts of the community.

During 1984 and 1985, the long running miner’s strike saw a significant number of serious public order incidents as strikers fought running battles with the police The general common law powers that were relied upon to combat public order, were felt to be inadequate to deal with the modern world. This contention was and remains hotly disputed.

The need for a new act came at the time that the nature of public order policing in the UK was undergoing a radical change. Until the late 1970s, the police approached tackling public order without any specialist training or equipment, preferring to rely on the image and reputation of the “British Bobby” to encourage compliance with the law The mass disorder during the miner’s strike led to the government concluding that this approach could no longer be relied on.

Instead they oversaw a new regime where specialist uniforms, helmets and riot shields, as well as other equipment, were available to the police and significant training was developed to help officers control public order situations. This new style of paramilitary policing rapidly became the norm, and this modernised style of policing needed a new legal structure to support it.

Even prior to the Miner’s Strike the Law Commission had recommended that the law on public order be modified, and following the strike the Government introduced a Bill into Parliament that in due course became the Public Order Act 1986. The Law Commission had concluded that public order laws as they currently stood, comprising a mix of common law and statutory offences, was inadequate and ineffective, and that a comprehensive statute was required to bring the law up to date The Public Order Act 1996 was the result.

Key Sections

The Act as originally drafted contained five main offences relating to public order, which are set out below. Although there have been some modifications since these continue to be the main framework for public order policing. The five offences are riot, violent disorder, affray, threatening behaviour and disorderly conduct.

Section 1 of the Act creates the offence of riot. For a riot there needs to be at least 12 people involved who must be present together and must be acting with a “common purpose”. They must use or threaten unlawful violence and this must be of such a level as would cause a person of reasonable firmness to fear for their personal safety. This is a test that occurs on a number of occasions in the Act. Riot is an indictable only offence and carries a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment. It is the most serious public order offence under the act.

Violent disorder is created by Section Two of the Act. This requires the involvement of at least three people and again has the requirement that there is a use or threat of unlawful violence. The reasonable person test again applies.

Violent disorder can be tried either at the magistrates or the Crown Court and has a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

The most serious public order offence that can be committed by a person acting alone is affray under Section Three of the Act. This is an offence that can be tried at the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court and has a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment.

The second part of the Act contains a number of rules relating to public processions and demonstrations.

These required that the police are given six days written notice of any procession and also give the police the power to impose conditions on processions including specifying the route that it shall take or prohibiting it from entering a particular area These conditions may only be imposed where the police believe that they are necessary to prevent serious public disorder or damage or where there will be serious intimidation of people.

They also permit the police to apply to the local authority for an order banning public processions for a period of up to three months.

Part three of the act contains a number of provisions relating to behaviour likely to stir up racial hatred.

As set out above there had been significant race riots in the UK during the early 1980`s and the Act prohibits behaviour intending to stir up racial hatred or where it is likely that racial hatred will be stirred up.

Since the passing of the Act there have been a number of amendments made.

Of most importance are the addition of an offence of intentional harassment, alarm or distress under s4A of the Act and the removal of insulting behaviour from the ways that an offence can be committed under s5.

This latter campaign was unusual in that its supporters included both the National Secular Society and the Christian Institute, and reform was championed by the Liberal Democrat political party who were part of the coalition government between 2010 and 2015.

However the Act has stood the test of time and the structure of offences that it introduced remain in effect today.

The effect of the corvid 19 plague has been to induce parliament or the Government thereof to impose what they perceive to be in the best interest of the UK population at large. The right to enforce these rules impose on personal liberties in several ways. Whilst most of us live comfortable under the 1986 act and all its implications, a few now feel that the police are being given powers that really do lessen our individual freedom of choice.

In the opening paragraph of this blog, strength, sense, goodwill and kindness are the described as the keys to a long lasting democracy. That remains the case and those who riot against the perceived safely of the majority are half-wits who fail to see the greater good.

Love in the time of Corvid.

In these dreadful times thousands have died prematurely, and yet in the UK the majority of the country were moved in their thousands by the death of one beautiful young lady apparently at the hands of a Metropolitan Police Officer. I was moved as were many. A lovely young person lost to the ravages of a perverted mind. And Yet?

Hundreds of lives have been lost through the unguarded and selfish so called libertarians who decline to wear masks and decline to social distance. Many of those folk who feel strongly about their rights of assembly and their other constitutional rights such as their freedom of expression turned up for a vigil for the sweet murder victim on Clapham Common. Some, not all by any means, were determined to exercise their ‘rights’ rather then attend a peaceful vigil.

In so doing, they put the police in an impossible situation. A ‘Policeman’ was identified as the cause of the savage murder, and yet honest and duty bound ordinary coppers were tasked with enforcing the law, which now enshrines the need of limiting social gatherings and maintaining social distancing.

It is impossible for the majority to understand in detail of who behaved provocatively, who responded inappropriately, but suffice it to say, this was a sad and unseemly outcome. Particularly adding to the grief of those close to the murder victim. The press issued photographs which by their very nature were abhorrent, but as with all news these photographic images showed the extremes. It is hard to resist a cry of foul, heavy handedness, brutality et all.

However, it is time to take a breath, be sad and remember that our shock and collective shame for the murder of this sweet woman, is good and kind, but unconsciously causing the death of someone unknown by standing to close, or shouting the odds without a mask is the opposite, evil and unkind.

Remember how important it is to love everyone, known and unknown in the time of Corvid.

Cricket the old man’s friend.

You have no idea how good I was.  Yes, yes, sitting on my settee watching these well paid television idols making a complete hash of the Indian series, it is easy to forget.  Oh yes! I can tell when the umpire gets it wrong on TV.  My mind goes arrow straight and sharp to the certain ball flight, how smart am I?

It is all true except in some small details.  I do have an idea how good I was, and I wasn’t.  In fact, I was a hopeless cricketer whose only talent was shouting appeals from long on, which, more or less, summed up my vulgar knowledge of the game.

Since those long off days, (forgive the pun) I have graduated to days out, from Lords to the Rec Antigua, from Sophia Gardens, Cardiff to the Wanderers Johannesburg, I have shifted gallons of lovely beer and snook a bit of shut eye, I have even left early and missed a collapse or two. But now at eighty I am in my prime, I can prattle on with the best of them.

I miss John Arlott and Brian Johnson, to name but two, I find some of the present-day smartie-arses a bit much to take.  After all, what do they know? Don’t answer that, it is just that they seem to make a meal of even the slightest move, a twitch here, a dart there, a tweak and a turn, and excitement knows no bounds.

My decisions are much simpler, when to stagger to the kitchen either to make tea or slip an early whiskey into play. Then and only then, do I get down to team picking for the next match.  Astonishingly, my choices are seldom adhered to, I know not why.  These selectors clearly have no idea.

My emails, (yes, I am technically brilliant for my age) contain crisp messages which are received with secret disdain by those who are, by necessity, younger.

As I edge to my journey up the chimney, cricket becomes one of my best friends.  They program five days from nine till four and I am delighted that the pink ball promises introspective excellence. One and a half days simply will not do.  Don’t they know they are depriving a legion of old dogs of the peaceful fullness of otherwise empty days?

 I can watch and dream, such wondrous promise that my hapless cricketing persona has been elevated to the pantheon of greatness.

 Cummon’ lads, more than two days please.

Prejudice; Tribe, class or colour?

The polarisation of poverty involves not only the colour of one’s skin, but the context of your tribe and its relativity to others in that tribe – its called ‘class’. Like it or not, there are classes in every aspect of tribal life. I may be of the European tribe, sub-tribe of say France, and therefore superior to other sub-tribes like, for example, the Greeks. My place in the wider world is determined by my tribal wealth and consequent influence. Few would argue that the bankrupt Greeks carry the international influence of the French.

Within any sub-tribe there are classes, also determined by wealth. Even wealth, passed, now perhaps depressed, can confer a lasting ‘class’ aura despite its fading. The self image of former wealth and influence is frequently distorted as in the case of once Great Britain, now the UK. The clinging to past glories has caused an incredible introverted re-examination of British values that have influenced everything from Brexit to tribal nationalism and class consciousness. As UK becomes relatively poorer its internal class systems become more exaggerated and sub tribal influences increase. The United Kingdom becomes less united every day.

There are ranks even in the classes, e.g. even in the criminal classes. In each tribe, the over reaching or social climb is mostly driven by acquired wealth, which in turn bestows the benefits of education and consequent culture. There are of course tribal cultures and belief systems that transcend wealth, however they seldom influence ‘class’. As materialism and science increase the agnosticism of the tribe, so wealth becomes more a marker for ‘class’ as it is now, not what it once was.

What then of colour? It seems that the wealthier an individual becomes, especially if he or she is of colour, then the poorer of the tribe resent that success. Colour prejudice is driven most by the poorest in society because colour is the easiest difference to spot in the tribal closet. In America and Europe the consequence of colonialism and immigration have traditionally place those of colour outside the tribal group and therefore became the object of class indignity. Now as wealth becomes the increasingly appropriate judgement instead of class, then colour becomes less relevant. My friends are doctors, bankers, professionals first, cultured second and coloured third , a very distant third.

If I was poor, then it is likely that these perceptions would be in a different order. Hence today we see a good deal of overt colour prejudice expressed about wonderful athletes who happen to be well paid footballers, some of who are exceptionally articulate, bright and compassionate. It is not the wealthy or the comfortable that express disdain, it is that poorer element of the jealous and ignorant poorest sub-tribe who shout their prejudice the loudest.

The elimination of the very poorest in all communities is perhaps the common aim across all tribes, be they totalitarian or democratic. All leaders profess to have this universal aim as their goal. Sadly the natural greed of man, sometimes called the enterprising spirit is at odds with the idea of social equality, sometimes called totalitarianism. Colour is becoming less an issue overall, unless of course you are coloured, and suffer everyday from the prejudices so deeply rooted in the white tribes of colonialism.

The fight is against racism and against poverty, it is against class and unequal wealth. Ignorance and poverty walk hand in hand no matter what tribe you belong to. Creating a wealthy and cultured community is ultimately the only way to eliminate the class system and with it, colour prejudice.

A false injection of nationalism.

The elections are done, and the United Kingdom remains united for now. Boris the buffoon has consolidated his hold on the majority of the former working class ‘so called’ red wall, whilst Scotland and Wales have remained largely unchanged with the SNP and Welsh Labour firmly in control. All in all, the electorate felt their […]

No, it won’t be alright! Ireland will return to troubled waters.

When Boris once again, sold the DUP down the river, he assured Arlene Foster that it would all come good. Nothing to worry about, after Brexit it will all settle down. Well it’s all going predictably pear shaped, the Northern Ireland situation is teetering towards mayhem once more. The Brexit so called compromise resulted in […]

The Downing Street Flat – Who cares? – Ask Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe!

The common herd, which excludes the Bullingdon Boys and their like, apparently don’t give a toss about Boris’ complete disregard for rules whether he tells lies or bends the system. After all he’s full of charm, wit, and comic bluster. Those qualities are apparently just what we need in a Prime Minister. Not a week […]

Truth, democracy and social platforms.

If our Government feeds us lies, we rightly complain, but if we are continuously fed on lies it soon becomes apparent that society finds it hard to define the truth. The growth of populism, has underlined this frailty in our society. Populism often takes true premises and then twists them through hyperbole or conspiracy theories.

To the so called ‘rational liberal’ these issues are simple when based on absolute truth, i.e. electoral issues are decided on the assumption that the voters (all with equal merit and rights) have free choice and that the system works without fear or favour. Vaccinations are good and technical efforts are the best available. We trust the monitoring institutions. Both issues boil down to trusting institutions. All institutions are built not necessarily on present day knowledge but often on beliefs and mores of the past. Even technical developments like vaccines are developed on ‘science’ which is in itself, human discovery. Belief systems are many and varied, from benign forms of Christianity to ever more extremes say from blind belief in the State, as in China, or blind belief in extreme Islam practice in Daesh.

The difference between free societies and totalitarian ones is that individuals in the free society are allowed to think for themselves. There is freedom for all sorts of ‘influencers’, even distorters of the truth, even people who tell lies because they are unqualified or have little or no knowledge of the subject, or indeed knowingly spread untruths for what ever purpose. This has become a major problem with vast numbers of individuals receiving their perceived facts and news via social media.

For those who consider themselves democrats (in the widest sense) then the issues of Freedom of speech versus the spreading of distorted information is a huge problem getting more acute each day. Indeed even the more benign belief systems have very fundamentally different ideas for example, regarding the sexes. Even in the most democratic nations there are extremes of views and beliefs in say ‘abortion rights’ or ‘right to life’ campaigners.

These belief systems are the consequence of religion that is often the bedrock of society, even if religions are challenged by the science of hard fact.

The question: Is it right? Is often framed in belief systems of centuries old religions. In some ‘so called’ West African democracies religious sects believe in FGM, the Saudi Arabians believe it’s OK to routinely chop off heads in public, these are just a few of the more obvious differences in the definition of ; Is it right?

The key to sustained democratic development is to have the freedom to respect belief systems, and at the same time to challenge these systems with truth supported by science and knowledge. The adjudication of what is true remains a vexed question. In the end social media or no, it is what the majority in a free society agree.

Beware, populism is on the march, fascism may seem a distant threat, but conspiracists and liars like Trump bring the demise of freedom ever closer.