Across the pond, another world.

As Europeans we watch the American elections with disbelief. The whole process is outside our view of political normality. The American way seems more than foreign, more than alien even, it really is another world.

Dollars, the mighty dollar is the root of everything. No £150 pounds expenditure on election expenses here, on the contrary the more dollars a candidate raises the better chance he/she has of election. I don’t want to appear naive here of course all political parties everywhere tout for funds but the American ‘way’ is off the scale.

You see Americans are obsessed with their idea of freedom. Being successful in America is all about how many dollars you’ve accumulated, and with those dollars you can purchase influence, advertise more, be free and use those dollars to get your way.

Frankly, I am astonished that America elected a misogynist, philandering, ignorant, liar to be their Head of State. But they did, and astonishingly may do so again. Why?

Examining the Constitution and Bill of rights of America is an exercise in discovering the wondrous light of democratic independence. Where did it all go wrong?

It may be that those freedoms expressed have been commandeered by extreme elements and literally applied. The whole nation was founded on hope and the freedoms of escaping a brutal colonialist empire.

The great paradox of the present holder of POTUS is that a braggart who boasts about his great wealth (real or not) is supported largely by those who are without education or wealth. All Trump supporters are what they style as anti-socialist, socialism and a sharing society is an anathema to them.

The Constitutions first words “We the people” affirms that the Governments supports the individual folk who are members not subjects of the state. Yet the fear of interference of the federal state remains acute. The gun toting republicans want to repeal the affordable care act (Obamacare)despite the fact that it will be the core of the republican voters who will benefit, if not most, then certainly very many in the rust belt will . These are massive issues which this side of the pond we do not and perhaps cannot understand.

That the POTUS is allowed to plant rank lies and innuendo about postal votes and actively encourage right wing gangs to intimidate free voting is another astonishing misuse of his power. Yet all Americans seem to put up with it.

What a mess, We hoped when Trump came to power that perhaps he would be unorthodox but use that unorthodox attitude in a positively creative way. How wrong we were.

I devoutly hope the American people see the errors of this choice and choose instead an aged, ordinary but decent man called Biden.


Civil service, consultants and politicians – who is running what?

I see the government is blowing a huge amount of money on consultants on everything from Test and Trace to Brexit. My own experience of consultants does not fill me full of confidence. I should know, because I was one for a while.

The business of leadership is to look after the present, foresee the future and plan accordingly. Then deliver, to sustain growth and wellbeing. Whether it be a political party, or a commercial enterprise (indeed anything in between) then these criteria are self evident. If however, something interrupts these steps, such as corona virus – then certainly the planning for future activity becomes infinitely more difficult.

Should we expect Government to augment its own thinking capacity with a host of outside consultants. By so doing I believe they are confessing that they (the Government) are not very good at planning in a more difficult scenario. Their permanent administrative support comes from the civil service which surely must include planners for this very purpose.

However it seems that the present Government has drafted in hordes of consultants at huge costs. Can the consultants know more about the logistics of International trade than our export logistic contractors combined with our civil service? Yet £88 millions on consultants has already been spent and much more is to follow. I understand that external support is being sought to plan contingency for health product requirements in light of a no deal. Doesn’t the health service and ministry know?

I vividly remember expensive consultants telling my bosses that which the lower echelons already knew. We suspected then and I suspect now that the bosses (Boris and Co) need advice not because they need it but because they are afraid to make decisions that they know will end in difficult dilemmas.

Consultants I believe have been heavily involved in Corvid track and trace in England, it has proved to be shambolic and very expensive, it has been a complete Hancock. But still the Government does not learn.

They are either afraid or incompetent. Take your pick.

Watchdogs need support.

Whilst we’re all submerged in the massive issues of economic collapse and the spread of Corvid 19 it is easy to forget the wonderful gifts right on our doorstep. Not my doorstep but everybody’s. Whether it be our rivers, wetlands, country and marine reserves or ancient monuments.

It is natural to respond to the immediate crisis and hard to keep in mind the things we take for granted. Successive governments have cut and slashed support for virtually all our national watchdog institutions. Sadly our response has been to let things slip. No one responds to farmers who are killing off rivers, no one responds to stop destructive trawling, in a word the people’s representatives have applied resources to the more immediate issues of human needs, school meals, homelessness, law and order, these are just examples.

It seems to me that these watchdogs underfunded as they are, are neither fish nor fowl, neither under local or central Government. Rather a kind of Quangolated agency where no one has a strong enough voice. The problem is not an easy one to solve, after all ultimately neither local or central government has a magic money tree.

I know that a number of these watchdogs already rely heavily on voluntary support, should they be made entirely charitable entities like the RNLI or similar? Or like the hospice movement part Government funded?

We should not stand by and see our environment wrecked simply because Government is short of money. Someone somewhere needs to look at structure, funding and teeth, if we are to sustain our beautiful environment.

Go harass your MP!

Marcus Rashford, on our team.

What a fab guy. I am mightily impressed as I know are many others. He is an example to us all and I am only mildly ashamed that the Government lobbed him an MBE. Beefy Botham a perfectly all round good egg got a peerage – good for him, but hey! relative values and relevance????

What Marcus has shown us is generosity of spirit that has inspired many other people in England to help feed poorer kids during the holidays. Maybe this is what Boris wanted all along, heaven knows the voluntary sector keeps this country going.

I am sorry but I see the flip MBE as a Boris ‘off the cuff’ throw away gesture, when really Boris should take Marcus seriously and engage him and people like him to a real conversation about social need.

I am not saying for one moment that Marcus does not deserve recognition on the contrary an audience for serial discussion would have been more value to Marcus as well as society at large. Who would not support a more note worthy award for a truly fine contributor to our voluntary sector and our national conscience.

Whilst the Tories broke through the red wall they seem to being their best to rebuild it. Rashford has pointed the way to a compassionate society that Johnson professed to support, but who has since done the opposite. No question here that Boris is managing the un-manageable, but nonetheless his thick-skinned response to young Rashford has sorely misread the national response, (the Scots and Welsh are watching too).

Marcus Rashford cares about kids, we all do, even as Boris, on his meagre salary surely must too. Cummon’ Boris, sharpen up, and take the example of our man Rashford, he is showing you the way.

Black Lives Matter.

Of course they do, it’s obvious, all lives matter. What most folk don’t understand is that people of colour whether American or not, have suffered and continue to suffer, because of the colour of their skin. They suffer because of us, not because we are penitent for passed insult and injury, they suffer because of the history imposed upon them. They suffer because of the legacies of that history.

We cannot wipe away the sins of the past nor can many of us clean our minds of prejudice. We all live with the burden of our ancestry and the tribal instincts and behaviour patterns bequeathed by them.

There are many levels of prejudice, of nation against nation, of neighbour against neighbour, of age group against age group, there is no end to our prejudice. However we are by and large able to hide most of our fears, for fears are what prejudice is. We are afraid of differences which we do not understand.

If I were born as a brown baby the same time as a white baby and we were brought up together without a mirror, the first image, on discovering a mirror, would be myself. I would be afraid because I was not the same as my companion since birth. Without external tribal influence that perception of difference would soon fade.

Yet, the world is full of prejudice, and prejudice against the colour of one’s skin is held the most widely. History has shown time and again that invading civilizations inevitably dominate and adopt a superior attitude from those they have conquered. It is in the nature of the deed – to conquer, to subjugate, and to profit from.

The Conquerors; from ancient times of the Indus Valley, China or Persia, to the European discoverers of the New World, these so called civilizations have laid waste and slaughtered tribes and races without number. It has ever been thus, even to today, where tribal friction continues in Messopotamia (The Middle East) where it all began.

Throughout modern times the world has struggled with religious and ethnic conflicts, the use of physical force being the most common but often fruitless method of resolution. There have been other forms of revolution which have been idealistic where folk for one reason or another have separated out, the Mayflower passengers hoping to escape religious persecution is just one example. Yet the Pilgrim fathers and the Puritan rulers of New England were slavers too, as were native Americans who enslaved other tribesman and women as well as European settlers.

Since the fifteenth century Europeans have enslaved Africans, often with the connivance of African leaders. Even Columbus had slaves from Africa amongst his ships company.

In the following years the European slavers hideously exploited the black slave market to the Americas, this is not the place for historical detail, but suffice it to say that millions of black Africans were exploited and on their backs, the British Empire was built. Over four centuries until the time of Wilberforce in the nineteenth century this hideous trade in human life continue unabated. The sheer numbers of the abhorrent trade and treatment of Black African slaves is only equalled by the slaughter and attempted genocide of the European Jewish Holocaust. In our modern day we’ve seen many other outrages from Syria, Rwanda to Srebrenica, all, when considered in the calmness of the moment, – hideous and beyond imagination.

The British during the days of Empire famously exported convicts, men women and children to the colonies. Irish indentured slaves were sent to the Caribbean, and so on and on. There seems little limit to man’s inhumanity to man.

The question arises of tense, of evolution of the human awareness. What was matter of fact in the sixteen hundreds, slavery, public executions, extremes of poverty are now abhorred, and in our twenty first century mindset it seems more than obvious.

The cessation of UK rule in the American continent signalled a huge change, at last, a democracy without class or prejudice. The American Constitution in 1789 and the consequent BIll of Rights, shone as the great new instruments that were to found freedom and democracy.

However, with disparate states in America and the universal greed of man, slavery continued, until the end of the Civil war in 1865, when the 13th amendment to the US Constitution said that no man shall be enslaved or constrained in involuntary servitude.

Essentially 400 years have passed when the great powers of the new and old order grew their economies on the backs of African slaves. So too, did the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the South.

In these brutal 400years there grew the pernicious belief that those enslaved were inferior to those who enslaved them. Economies were built on these beliefs, education, health and welfare were reserved for the slave masters who were almost exclusively white. Since that time and the heroic efforts of Lincoln, Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi, Luther King and Mandela and many others, the huge momentum to change attitude and to hold up the mirror and ‘not be afraid of each other’ has moved sluggishly on.

Attitudes pervade many so called democratic societies, the caste system in India, the rank prejudice in Europe and America exacerbated by mass migration, the fear of immigration from Australia to Azerbaijan. Ignorance and fear still dominate so that we fear the difference of colour. As we grow to know our brothers and sisters of whatever colour, our fear will subside and our societies become more equal.

Can we not share these blinding injustices, and find it impossible to tolerate the rate of change? My friends of colour want yesterday as well as tomorrow to be their equal day. Until that happens, let us hope that BLACK LIVES MATTER stays in the hearts of us all.