18 January 2019

Headline of the day

From Le Monde (here):
Brexit : les Britanniques bientôt en manque de papier toilette ?

Yeah, it means what you think it does ...



97 years old but still allowed to drive on public roads?  A danger to himself and others.
The Duke of Edinburgh has escaped unhurt after the car he was driving was involved in an accident close to the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.


Tit for tat

Like children in the school playground (here):
US President Donald Trump has postponed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's upcoming trip to Brussels and Afghanistan, asking her to stay to negotiate an end to the partial US government shutdown.
The president was able to halt the trip by denying the use of military aircraft to Mrs Pelosi and a delegation.
On Wednesday Mrs Pelosi had urged Mr Trump to postpone his State of the Union address, amid political deadlock.
 And the pettiness is not confined to the USA (here):
Such is the anger with the Speaker at senior levels of government, it has been suggested he could be blocked from getting a peerage when he retires.
Ministers are furious at what they see as John Bercow's "bias" during Commons debates on Brexit.
The move would break a tradition dating back 230 years, that former Commons speakers are automatically offered a seat in the House of Lords.
You might think that they had more important issues to address.


17 January 2019

Flogging a dead horse

Kuenssberg of the BBC casts some doubt on the Prime Minister's motivations anent Brexit:
Meetings, on their own, are not a Plan B. Conversations, are not by themselves, compromises.
Before she decides which way to tack, or how far to budge, she may need to ask herself if the talks she wants to hold with other political parties are occasions when she is really open to ideas - or just ways of managing the political situation.
Does Mrs May have the imagination (or the inclination) to step beyond her red lines?  Or is she thirled to the deal she has reached with the EU, perhaps with a minor modification or two?  Even though that would never command the support of parliament.

Can you see a way forward from the "conversations" with senior parliamentarians? 

No, me neither.


09 January 2019

Failing Grayling

Image result for chris grayling picture

Odd that the parliamentary sketch-writers focus on the Transport Secretary's physical tics (as well as his manifest incompetence):

The Times:
Mr Grayling’s left cheek started to twitch, as it did during the Northern Rail timetabling fiasco.
The Guardian:
Grayling’s only outward sign of sentience is a twitch in his left cheek, and this nervous tic was in evidence well before he was called upon to answer an urgent question about his decision to award a £13.8m contract to a ferry company with no ferries. The cheek is Grayling’s last remaining centre of intelligent life: when it wobbles, it’s a sure sign he’s in danger. Even though he isn’t aware of it himself.
The Independent:
The tell for when not just the world but Grayling himself knows Grayling has cocked up is an occasional twitch in his right eye, as if the lower eyelid is determined to scratch an itch in the upper one.
And as Labour’s Andy McDonald filleted, seasoned and served up the full horrors of the Seaborne Freight contract with a spectacular precision that can only be described as Salt Bae-esque, the transport secretary’s right eye socket danced like a dying fly on a halogen hob.
Steering inexorably towards a disastrous no-deal Brexit is not the best time, perhaps, to have an utter incompetent as transport secretary.  Nevertheless, no need to focus on the man's physical disability ...


05 January 2019

When the cat's away, the mice will play

From The Guardian (here):
The prime minister may have been regretting her decision to give parliament two weeks off for Christmas at a time of constitutional and political crisis. If only because it’s given so many members of her cabinet the chance to prove not just how hopeless they really are but also how anxious they are to replace her.
Sajid Javid cut short his South African safari to personally deal with the “national emergency” of a few dozen refugees getting washed up on Kent beaches by talking tough on immigration to any passing TV camera. Long after his leadership bid has bitten the dust, Sajid will be getting grief from his family for ruining their holiday. Good.
Not to be outdone, Gavin Williamson, the fireplace salesman also known as the defence secretary, used the break to announce he would establish new military outposts in the far east. Because the empire worked out so well last time. He then hastily diverted some warships to the Channel to crack down on rubber dinghies and was last heard of planning a pointless raid on Dieppe.
For the pièce de résistance, we had Chris Grayling – who else? – awarding a ferry company that had no boats and seemed to specialise in pizza deliveries a £13m contract on the grounds that it was British. The stupidity bar has never been lower. 


31 December 2018

So much for the Red Duster

It speaks volumes for the state of the British merchant shipping fleet that, of the three businesses contracted by the UK Government to fulfil "no-deal" ferry arrangements, the first was Danish, the second was French and the third was a UK company that has neither ships nor any trading history.

Britannia used to rule the waves ...


30 December 2018

African affairs

The Sunday Times appears to be more concerned about the opulence of the Home Secretary's holiday accommodation than the migrant crisis:
Sajid Javid was last night forced to abandon his family holiday at a luxury safari hideaway in South Africa’s Kruger National Park after a growing backlash over his handling of the migrant crisis.
The home secretary came under fire after he declared a “major incident” over the surge in Channel boat migrants while he was staying at one of the most luxurious safari lodges in sub- Saharan Africa.
Javid, his wife and children were staying over Christmas at Dulini, a lodge that charges £840 per person per night. It offers guests private plunge pools and in-room massages to relax after game drives spotting leopards, lions and elephants by the water hole.
 Perhaps if Javid had remained at home, The Sunday Times wouldn't have bothered with the story?


24 December 2018

Do you ever wonder if the police know what they are doing?

The Guardian reports:
Detectives were examining a damaged drone for clues on Sunday night after they had to release two people who were exonerated over the incidents that have repeatedly brought Gatwick airport to a standstill.
Confusion deepened as a senior police officer in the case said it was “always a possibility that there may not have been any genuine drone activity in the first place”. DCS Jason Tingley added that although the damaged drone was a significant line of inquiry, wet weather could have washed away evidence. He also noted that there were no pictures or video of the drone incursions into the airspace around Gatwick . He said there was “no available footage and [officers] are relying on witness accounts”.
Tingley later clarified that police did believe the drone sightings were credible as there had been a large number of witnesses. “We are actively investigating sightings of drone activity at Gatwick airport following 67 reports from the evening of 19 December to 21 December from the public, passengers, police officers and staff at the airport,” he said.


22 December 2018

Theresa and the drones

This is the kind of thing that destroys governments.  The Times reports:
Chris Grayling shelved plans to introduce laws regulating drone use in Britain despite being warned on multiple occasions about the risk they posed to airports, The Times has learnt.
Gatwick was forced last night to shut for the third time in three days after another drone sighting, causing further misery for thousands of passengers. It reopened after about 90 minutes. A man and woman were later arrested by police.
The army and police had appeared powerless to stop drone operators despite deploying a counter-drone system that they said was capable of jamming the devices.
This year the Department for Transport quietly ditched plans for a draft bill aimed at controlling drones and developing technology to prevent them from being used near airports. The legislation, which had been due for publication in the spring, was dropped amid pressures on the department, with civil servants diverted to work on Brexit.
Issues like Brexit. like homelessness. like social care. are complicated.  Voters understand that and may forgive a government which fails to deal with them adequately (although the present bunch of tossers has hardly made a decent fist of trying).

But when the government stands by, impotent in the face of what is little more than a toy disrupting the lives of many thousands of citizens, there will be an account to be settled.  It will not be forgotten.


19 December 2018


Smells like panic?

The Times reports:
Theresa May is to start culling Tory manifesto commitments after her cabinet decided yesterday to accelerate planning for a no-deal Brexit.
David Lidington, who is in effect the prime minister’s deputy, will start in “short order” to identify policies to be shelved to free resources for the no-deal, a senior figure said.
Reforms to social care have been identified by one minister as a likely casualty of yesterday’s decision, which escalated preparations across Whitehall. A Department of Health aide confirmed that some staff had already been diverted from social care to prepare.
With 100 days to go until Brexit day on March 29, businesses were told to start their own contingency plans. Households will be given further instructions on issues such as travel, medicines and banking in the coming weeks. HM Revenue & Customs will email 80,000 businesses this week to explain the impact and provide 100 pages of updated advice online on possible changes at borders.
Philip Hammond, the chancellor, announced an extra £2 billion for no-deal planning, with the Home Office, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and HMRC receiving the lion’s share of the cash.
Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, said that 3,500 troops were being “held at readiness” to cope with disruption at ports and elsewhere. Civil servants will be working through the Christmas break as 320 no-deal “work-streams” are fully activated.
Or perhaps it is just the illusion of panic, in order to persuade MPs that no deal can only be worse than Mrs May's deal ...


17 December 2018

Motes and beams

This would appear to raise some questions:
Theresa May will urge MPs on Monday not to “break faith with the British people” by demanding a second referendum, as she faces intense pressure to give parliament a say on Brexit before Christmas.
“Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum,” the prime minister will tell MPs. “Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver. Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last.”
Was "the integrity of our politics" enhanced when, after three days of debate and countless denials, the Prime Minister chose to dodge a vote she was certain to lose?  Was "the integrity of our politics" improved when she called a general election after weeks of denying that she would do so?

And as for the ability of our democracy to deliver, the obvious failure of the government to produce a negotiated settlement of Brexit is hardly s sign that all is well.  While the bickering over party leadership continues to do little for good government.


14 December 2018

Huniliation? Or just incompetence?

The Times blames the EU:
Theresa May was humiliated by European leaders late last night after they rejected pleas for any further concessions to get her Brexit deal through parliament.
France and Ireland led a move to strike out a compromise agreement that would have given the prime minister “political and legal assurances” that Britain would not be trapped in an indefinite Irish backstop.
Instead EU leaders took an uncompromising stance, refusing any form of binding guarantee and deleting a pledge that the backstop “does not represent a desirable outcome” for Europe.
The Independent has a different take:
After arriving in Brussels with promises to help the prime minister, European leaders were left amazed when she turned up without any developed requests or ideas.
The 27 heads of state and government subsequently decided to delete lines from their council conclusions saying the EU “stands ready to examine whether any further assurance can be provided” and that “the backstop does not represent a desirable outcome for the union”.
Accounts of the meeting suggest the prime minister’s speech, in which she called for help to get the agreement “over the line”, was repeatedly interrupted by Angela Merkel asking her what she actually wanted from them.
Senior UK government officials admitted that the prime minister did not bring any documented proposals with her to the meeting.
Either way, Theresa received no Christmas prezzies from the EU Santa ...


13 December 2018

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
May’s morning hadn’t got off to the best of starts with the announcement the ERG had finally managed to count up to 48 and rapidly went downhill with an endorsement from David Cameron, tweeting from the comfort of his £25,000 shed. The last thing she needed was the support of someone even more useless than her. Just. The battle to be the UK’s worst post-war prime minister is going down to the wire. Her car couldn’t even get into the Commons at the first attempt as the gates were locked and she had to circle Westminster Square. The second time in two days when she’d been trapped in a back seat. Write your own metaphors. These are the moments when you realise you’d have been better off staying in bed.
Not for the first time, prime minister’s questions provided May with 45 minutes’ respite. Anyone visiting from another planet might have thought the UK was in robust shape, rather than staggering towards self-immolation. Jeremy Corbyn had begun in shouty mode – someone must have been tampering with his allotment – but the Labour leader seemed genuinely unaware there was a Tory leadership contest going on. It’s almost as if his body clock is set 48 hours behind everyone else’s. As an Arsenal fan, he’s going to be mighty pissed off when he finds out that Spurs drew with Barcelona.

01 December 2018

Paragraph of the day

From The Guardian (here):
It’s right up there among the worst moments of my life. On the way home from a night out at the opera – a first-rate, if not stellar, production of Verdi’sSimone Boccanegra – the Northern line tube train was crowded. Rather gracelessly, my wife pushed me aside and made a beeline for the only available seat. Just as I was glorying in my heroic selflessness, a young man of about 30 got up to offer me the priority seat for elderly and disabled passengers. At first I blanked him, unable to believe he was actually talking to me. But he wouldn’t give up and asked again if I would like the seat. I hastily said I was fine, that I was only travelling a couple of stops but – through gritted teeth – thank you so much anyway. It then turned into a face-off. He kept insisting and I kept saying I was fine where I was, until I caved in and sat down. My wife looked at me and burst out laughing. I just wanted to disappear. I am now officially that old person to whom the more polite offer their seats. That person I somehow never thought I would ever be. It’s all downhill from here.
I know the feeling.


30 November 2018

Deal or no deal?

When you begin telling fibs, you have to remember which ones you told.  According to The Guardian, President Trump seems to be floundering:
Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about a deal he pursued on Trump’s behalf to build a Trump tower in Moscow.
Court documents revealed Cohen was in contact with top Kremlin officials about the prospective tower; that Trump was closer to the negotiations than previously acknowledged; and that the deal was alive as late as June 2016 – six months longer than Cohen told Congress.
The court filing appeared to expose multiple and repeated public lies by Trump about his links to Russia. “I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away,” Trump said at a press conference during the presidential transition. “I have no deals … because I think that would be a conflict.”
Confronted with the contradiction outside the presidential helicopter on Thursday morning, a visibly agitated Trump said “this deal was a very public deal – everybody knows about this deal”, then denied there was ever a deal, then said if there had been a deal it would have been no problem.
“This was a deal that didn’t happen,” Trump said. “That was no deal. If you look – this was an option. To my way of thinking, it was an option that we decided not to do.”


28 November 2018

Beyond the call of duty

It must be 1 April?  The Guardian reports:
A team of doctors who swallowed Lego and timed how long it took to pass through their bowels say the results of their research should reassure concerned parents.
In a paper published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, six researchers from Australia and the UK swallowed the head of a Lego figure – roughly 10mm by 10mm – in the “noble tradition of self-experimentation”.
Toy parts are the second most common foreign object that children swallow, and frequently cause anxiety among parents, but usually pass in a matter of days without pain or ill-effect.
They developed their own metrics: the Stool Hardness and Transit (Shat) score and the Found and Retrieved Time (Fart) score.
The Fart score – how many days it took the Lego to pass through the bowels – was between 1.1 days and three days, with an average of 1.7 days.
Using the Shat score, the researchers also found the consistency of their stools did not change. They compared Shat and Fart scores to see if looser stools caused quicker retrieval but found no correlation.
Sounds like a load of crap ...


27 November 2018

Reductio ad absurdum

The Times has a means of cutting short the Great 5-day Debate:
There are essentially three points that all MPs now make: a) this isn’t great but it’s as good as we’re going to get; b) this is dreadful and we should leave right now on Canada +++ terms; and c) this is terrible and we should have a second referendum.
They could just rise, say “argument B, Mr Speaker” and Mrs May can reply “I refer you to the answer I gave earlier”. It would save an awful lot of time.


24 November 2018

It is of little consolation

Brexit realities revealed by The Independent:

Your fellow citizens are deluded racists who read the Sun and the Mail, fetishise two World Wars (and one World Cup) – get used to it
Brexit might be “the moment” when you simply have to come to terms that the folk you share this sceptred isle with aren’t as clever/open-minded/tolerant/humane/woke/whatever as you are.  But you’re lumbered with them. Even the shift in opinion since 2016 hasn’t been that dramatic, and, while Remain would probably win now, and a Final Say is the right thing to do, a solid quarter to a third of your fellow citizens just want out of the EU whatever the cost, and would probably personally volunteer to bomb Germany. Worth acknowledging if nothing else.


22 November 2018

Compare and contrast

From The Guardian:

Denise Coates, the multibillionaire founder and boss of the gambling firm Bet365, paid herself £265m last year in a record-breaking pay deal for the chief executive of a British company.
Her pay is more than 9,500 times the average UK salary, 1,700 times that collected by the prime minister and more than double that paid to the entire Stoke City football team, which Bet365 owns and which was relegated from the Premier League last season. Coates’s pay is also 27 times that earned by Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, the world’s most valuable company.
And here:
The quadrupling of child problem gamblers to more than 50,000 in two years has been branded a “generational scandal”.
Gambling Commission audit due for release on Wednesday reveals that the number of problem gamblers aged 11 to 16 rose to 55,000 over two years. It also found that 70,000 youngsters were at risk and that 450,000 children bet regularly, the equivalent of one in seven children aged 11 to 16.
The audit, reported in the Daily Mail, said the youngsters were staking an average of £16 a week on fruit machines, bingo, betting shops and online games, which are all illegal for under-18s.