22 July 2017

Music of the week

Proving my point

See yesterday.  The Guardian explains:
The prosperous countryside of east Dorset is home to Britain’s longest living residents, with the average male at birth expected to survive 82.9 years. Maybe it won’t make too much difference to their financial futures that the government said this week that it would raise the state pension age to 68 sooner than planned. They will still be collecting their state pension for nearly 15 years after retiring, picking up around £124,000 assuming the new state pension stays at £159.95 a week. They are certainly getting good value from their national insurance payments when they were working. Along the way they will also enjoy a £3,000 winter fuel bonus and once they reach 75, as they nearly all will, the TV licence is free, saving £147 a year.
Now compare that with the deal for someone born in Glasgow. It has Britain’s worst longevity figures, with the average male expected to live just 72.6 years. The new retirement age of 68 means our typical Glaswegian male will pick up a state pension for only four to five years, pocketing just £38,000 in total. That winter fuel payment, more needed in Glasgow than Dorset, will be more like £800, while on average they cannot expect to ever get the free TV licence.

21 July 2017

Work it out

This young lady has got it all wrong:
If I were granted one wish for old age, it would be to avoid the horror that is early retirement. Please God, anything but that. Anything but waking up in the morning with no particularly urgent place to go, and no particularly obvious thing to be. Channel 4’s new series How to Retire at 40 – which largely seems to involve two decades of fanatical self-denial, all in the name of spending the next decades worrying about running out of the money saved – looks to me like the worst sort of dream.
What are these people going to do for the next 40 years? Won’t couples simply run out of things to say to each other when they’re spending two-thirds of their marriage under each other’s feet day and night? For every one in retirement smelling the roses there is surely another grieving for the loss of an identity and a purpose, sinking into depression as the walls close in. Barring dementia, or getting too arthritic to use a keyboard, all I want is to die typing.
But you can’t bar those things. And that’s why the government’s decision to raise the state pension age to 68 (phased in from 2037 onwards rather than from 2044) is frankly scary even for the lucky few in adored jobs that can be done sitting down, let alone for those who hate their jobs, are frankly knackered or dying to stop. It fuels the fear that something will make us give up work before we can afford to do so. No wonder the announcement was slipped out while the nation was busy arguing about whether the BBC’s Huw Edwards should be paid more to read the news than Laura Kuenssberg gets to find it out in the first place.
I retired early at the age of 54, some 13 years ago, and have never regretted it for a moment.  There is nothing more delightful than "waking up in the morning with no particularly urgent place to go, and no particularly obvious thing to be".  Read a book, engage in day trading. watch the Tour de France on the telly, even blog a little.  Especially if you have few financial worries.

The real objection to the raising of the state pension age is that it discriminates against the poor as they have a lesser life expectancy (for all sorts of reasons), particularly in the post-industrial areas.  Whereas the wealthier home counties set are more likely to be less reliant on the state pension even although their longer lifespan means that they will derive more pension benefit than those in less fortunate circumstances.  Time for regional variations in state pension age?


Onwards and upwards

It has only taken some 13 months but, at last, some common sense appears to be breaking out.  The Guardian reports:
The British cabinet has accepted that free movement of people for up to four years after Britain leaves the EU will be part of a Brexit transition deal, according to a senior source.
As the EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, underlined the need for clarity on the British side at the end of the latest round of exit negotiations, soft Brexiters in the cabinet are now confident they have achieved a consensus about an “off the shelf” transition deal.
The claim that a collective view has been reached comes after weeks of a brutal briefing war over competing visions of Brexit since the general election wiped out Theresa May’s majority, culminating in the prime minister’s admonition this week that there is “no such thing as an unsackable minister”, and sowing confusion in Brussels about the reliability of the British negotiating position.
But as David Davis concluded Brexit talks in Brussels on Thursday, the senior cabinet source told the Guardian that the mood has shifted significantly and that ministers now hoped to agree a deal as soon as possible to give certainty to British business.
Admittedly, this is only one aspect of the negotiations.  But still, even modest progress is to be welcomed.

Provided, of course,  that this clown is kept well away from the negotiations:
Liam Fox has said a post-Brexit free trade deal with the EU should be the “easiest in human history”, but insisted that the UK could survive without one.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, the international trade secretary said: “The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.


20 July 2017

Money for old rope

It’s showbusiness, innit? Just because Chris Evans (£2.2m pa) is a DJ who has never shown any particular interest in music or because Gary Lineker (£1.75m) has prostituted himself for potato crisps, that should not mean that they should be prevented from maximising the financial returns from their meagre talents. You may think that Jeremy Vine (£700k) is an attention-seeking creep, that  Alan Shearer (£450K) is a less than articulate football pundit with the tactical acuity of a barn door and that John Humphrys (£600K) is a sexist boor well past his sell-by date, but it seems inevitable that they should nevertheless be entitled to screw the BBC for as much as they can get.

It’s not rocket science, is it?


19 July 2017

A cheer for the ladies

Good luck to the Scottish women's football team who opem their campaign in the Euros today against the auld enemy.

At least the women qualified for the finals, unlike their male counterparts.

Update:  It's on channel 4 live at 7.45 pm.



While I admire the Pro12's ambition and while it will be interesting to see South African teams playing regularly in Scotland, I am far from sure about this agreement.  The BBC website reports:
A deal to expand the Pro12 to 14 teams from next season has been agreed, BBC Scotland understands.
The South African sides Cheetahs and Southern Kings will join the league after losing their Super Rugby status.
The six-year deal is likely to benefit the league to the tune of an extra £6m per season from the South African Rugby Union and additional television income.
All elements of the deal have been agreed and, once legally ratified, could be formally announced next week.
The new Pro14 league will kick-off in the first week of September and will comprise two conferences of seven teams. Each conference will have one Scottish side, one South African side, one Italian side and two each from Wales and Ireland.
But it's an awful long way from Edinburgh to Johannesburg - a 12 hour flight, requiring substantially more recovery time than, say. Glasgow to Dublin.

Furthermore, although the BBC suggests that each Scottish team will benefit from an additional £500,000 in income, it will cost a pretty penny to send a squad of 23 players plus assorted officials to South Africa by business class once or twice a year.

But I assume that the SRU have done the sums ...


18 July 2017

Theresa and her playlist

From The Times (here):
I need a summer playlist.
The thing is, prime minister, that’s just not going to work.
What? Justin Trudeau has just released his one on Spotify. Barack Obama had two. The British public need a Theresa May summer playlist, surely?
Well, it’s just that Barack and Justin, they’re kind of . . . cool. Trudeau includes REM’s Everybody Hurts in his list, and everyone just thinks he had his heart broken in the 1990s. With you they’d make Brexit jokes. Trudeau puts Mad World on his list and bearded men around the world listen in respect, doing that little fake nodding that music nerds do. With you they’d make Brexit jokes. Trudeau puts Now We Are Free on his, with you they would make . . .
I haven’t even told you what I listen to. Brass band medleys spliced with the inspirational proverbs you get on tea towels in the gift shops of British cathedrals . . .
I don’t need to hear it. See, prime minister, there’s something else. Yes, women become world leaders, but equality can only go so far. Women don’t make mix tapes. It’s a guy thing. Nothing we can do to change it. It’s the law. Sorry.

Quote of the day

Alex Massie in The Times (here):
... at the weekend ... Kezia Dugdale, the Labour leader, and Jenny Gilruth, the SNP MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes, announced they were in a relationship together. This really is a new Scotland. Not because there is anything unusual in couples differing politically, but because the news was met with nothing more than an oh-that’s-nice rumble of niceness.
Admittedly, there is something unusual in love across the aisle when both parties are serving politicians in the same legislature. You do wonder, too, if this will have a subtle but discernible effect on how Ms Dugdale, in particular, talks about the SNP. It might be more difficult for her to castigate SNP failings in quite so sharply personal terms as she has, of late, been wont to do. Still, there is something refreshing about this too; a necessary reminder that politics is only politics, that there’s more to life than bloody politics, and that politics should know its place.
[my emphasis]

And a damn good thing too.


17 July 2017

Quote of the day

Burning his boats.  HuffPost reports:
Brexit Secretary David Davis is “thick as mince” and “lazy as a toad”, according to the brains behind the Vote Leave campaign.

Dominic Cummings launched the astonishing attack on the Brexit Secretary just hours after Davis returned from crucial talks in Brussels.

Cummings, the campaign director of Vote Leave, also claimed Theresa May “does not understand” the Brexit Bill unveiled last week, and it has a clause allowing the Government to drop everything in it if the EU demands it.

The comments are the latest rant from Cummings, who in recent weeks has admitted leaving the EU could be “an error” and said quitting Euratom is “unacceptable bullshit”.
I wonder if he was sober ...


16 July 2017

Out of touch

They never fail to amaze.  The Sunday Times reports:
Philip Hammond has declared that public-sector workers are “overpaid”, as a bitter cabinet war erupted over austerity.
At a heated cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the chancellor refused to lift the 1% cap on wages for public-sector workers on the grounds that they earn more than those in the private sector, along with generous taxpayer-funded pensions.
But Hammond left his colleagues thunderstruck at the language he used. “Public-sector workers are overpaid when you take into account pensions,” he declared. The chancellor then described train drivers as “ludicrously overpaid”.
Tell that to the nurses, to the firefighters, to the prison officers, to the junior civil servants who man the desks at social security offices.

Note:  According to Wikipedia, Hammond's personal wealth amounts to a mere £9 million.

It's a bit of a mess

We do not appear to be making much progress on Brexit.  The Observer reports:
When the EU’s suave chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned last week that he could hear the clock ticking down on Britain’s time to secure a comprehensive trade deal, his deliberately anxiety-inducing imagery played into a fear growing in the minds of many in Whitehall, the government and Brussels.
The concern gripping some involved in the saga of Britain’s extrication from the bloc is that a mixture of political indecision, a lack of leadership and a Whitehall machine struggling with the size of the task, will lead to the UK stumbling out of the club on bad terms, almost by accident.
After a week of posturing on both sides, Monday will see the second round of talks between Barnier and David Davis. Yet more than a year since Britain voted to leave, ministerial, official and Brussels sources told the Observer that the UK urgently needs to produce clarity on its demands in order to dodge a Brexit calamity.
The current timetable envisages that Brexit will happen at 12 midnight on 29-30 March 2019, a mere 20 months ahead.

The UK government is in a state of utter unpreparedness. Its leading ministers are unable to agree on what terms they should be seeking, so there is no plan for the negotiations with the EU. Even if they knew what they wanted, they might not be able to secure parliamentary approval for any such plan. And even that pre-supposes that the EU might be prepared to accept whatever our government proposed.

As for the negotiations with the EU beginning again on Monday, it is hard to see any progress being made on the three initial issues under consideration - the rights of EU residents in the UK, the divorce bill and the Northern Ireland border.

So what happens next. Well, nothing actually. Parliament goes into recess after this week and will not resume until 5 September.   Ministers and MPs will be off on holiday and, when they come back, their minds will be focused on party conferences.

Yes, it's a bit of a mess alright.


14 July 2017

Wall games

At first, it was going to be a big beautiful wall.  Now, it's going to be a shorter transparent wall.  Soon there will be no wall there at all.


13 July 2017


Corbyn gives Barnier an Arsenal football shirt.

For those with nothing better to do

If you are really keen (or a legislative nerd), you can study the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill here, together with the associated Explanatory Notes and Delegated Powers Memorandum.

It is, to say the least, heavy going.


Headline of the day

From The Times (here):
Three Tory MPs a week get death threats and vile abuse
Only three?


12 July 2017

Quote of the day

The son is the father of the man.  Politico reports:
Donald J. Trump Jr. tied an implicating email chain around his throat this morning and jumped off the deep end of the pier. He’s not dead yet. Nor has a suicide note been found. But his demise is certain.
Junior’s leap came after several failed attempts to deceive the New York Times about the nature of his meeting with Kremlin-associated attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. First, Junior said the session’s topic was primarily Russian adoption. Then, he allowed that Veselnitskaya had dangled political information about Russian funding of the Democratic National Committee. Finally, on Tuesday, when he learned that the New York Times was about to publish the emails that organized the meeting, Junior preempted the paper by publishing them on Twitter “in order to be totally transparent,” as he put it.
Oh what a tangled web we weave / when first we practise to deceive.

As The Independent explains:
... this is clearly an important moment in the investigation. Why? Above all because it reveals that senior members of the Trump campaign, including Trump Jr, knew very well that Russia was attempting to corrupt the electoral process and damage the Democratic candidate as long ago as June of last year and that every time they said otherwise when questioned by the media or others they were lying.


11 July 2017

How we value education

What they say about the teachers'  1% pay award:
Announcing the award, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “We recognise and value the hard work of teachers, which is why we have accepted the pay deal proposed by the independent School Teachers’ Review Body, in line with the 1% public sector pay policy. This will ensure we continue to strike the balance between being fair to public sector workers and fair to taxpayers.”
What they mean:

We don't give a toss about the hard work of teachers.  Which is why, once again, we are cutting their pay in real terms.  We don't care how it impacts on teacher retention and recruitment nor about its effect on children's education.  Our own kids are in private schools and they will be all right.


10 July 2017

Graph of the day

From Bloomberg (here):

(Olive oil and strawberry jam in a fry-up - I don't think so ...)


08 July 2017

New balls please ...

Quote of the day - from The Times (here):
This never looked like being a good year for Wimbledon. The best players are all heading towards 40, nobody young is coming through, and it promised to be another hoedown involving the stumpy Spanish guy with the rat eyes and the jamon iberico for a left arm, the ostrich-necked Serbian robot, the metronomic Swiss watch salesman and the Scottish guy who spends his whole life shouting angrily at his own fist (put a policeman glove-puppet on that hand, Andy, and you’ve got a whole second career).


Music of the week

06 July 2017

Quote of the day

From The Times (here):
People Mike Ashley isn’t. “I’m not Father Christmas, I’m not saying I’ll make the world wonderful” (up before MPs in July last year). And now, in court for the Jeff Blue case: “I’m not Obi-Wan Kenobi in charge of the Death Star.” So who does the Sports Direct founder think he is? Apart, of course, from the bloke who pukes in the pub fireplace.


And another British company falls to overseas ownership ...

The BBC reports:
US payment processing giant Vantiv has agreed to merge with its British rival Worldpay in a deal valuing the company at about £9.1bn.
Vantiv has offered to pay 385p a share for Worldpay, or £7.7bn, plus £1.4bn to cover debts.
In a joint statement, the two companies said that both boards of directors had reached an "agreement in principle" on the deal.
It may be described as a merger but you can bet the decisions will be taken in Cincinnati rather than in the UK.

I suppose that this signals that the government's plans to intervene in foreign takeovers are little more than hot air ...


04 July 2017

Photo of the day

It's not the socks that the Canadian PM is wearing.  It is the brown shoes with a blue suit to which I object.

No taste.


03 July 2017


The Guardian reveals the contradictions in Trump's assessments of Putin:

Donald Trump has spoken, sometimes gushingly, about Vladimir Putin on more than 80 occasions in the past few years. Putin has been far more tight-lipped with just a few references to Trump
“Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?” June 2013
“I do have a relationship with him” November 2013
“When I went to Russia with the Miss Universe pageant, [Putin] contacted me and was so nice” February 2014
“He could not have been nicer. He was so nice and so everything. But you have to give him credit that what he’s doing for that country in terms of their world prestige is very strong” April 2014
“I own Miss Universe, I was in Russia, I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success” May 2014
“Putin is a nicer person than I am” September 2015
“I will tell you that I think in terms of leadership [Putin] is getting an A, and our president is not doing so well” September 2015
“Yes [we met], a long time ago. We got along great, by the way” October 2015
“I think the biggest thing we have is that we were on 60 Minutes together and we had fantastic ratings. One of your best-rated shows in a long time … So we were stablemates” October 2015
“I have no relationship with him other than he called me a genius” February 2016
“I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I’m a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin” July 2016
“There are a lot of killers … Do you think our country is so innocent? Do you think our country is so innocent?” February 2017
“And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia. President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election” February 2017


Off his head

President Trump is losing the place:
Donald Trump was on Sunday accused of encouraging his supporters to attack journalists, after he tweeted a video of himself at a pro-wrestling event throwing to the floor a man with a CNN logo for a head.
The video, sent as CNN broadcast its Sunday talk show State of the Union, came the morning after an appearance from Trump at an event in Washington honouring veterans, in which he used his speech to further his attacks on the press and broadcasters. “The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I’m president, and they’re not,” he said.


30 June 2017

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
Yeah, but no, but maybe yeah eventually, but no right now. To paraphrase Little Britain’s gormless teenager Vicky Pollard, that’s roughly where the government stands, at the time of writing, on whether public sector workers are going to get a decent pay rise. Although by the time you read this, who knows?
Hours after suggesting on Wednesday that “we understand people are weary” of austerity and that the cap on public sector pay might thus be lifted, Downing Street was backtracking, squeaking furiously that actually nothing had changed. Yet all the time, Tory MPs were getting fat hints that, so long as they voted down a Labour amendment to the Queen’s speech which called for the scrapping of the cap right now, something might well be worked out come the autumn budget.
Officially no, but maybe yeah before too long. And if Westminster is struggling to work out what all this actually means, God alone knows how teachers and doctors and police officers, and the firefighters so recently lionised for risking their lives in Grenfell Tower, are supposed to make sense of it.
This Tory Government does not appear to realise that the political games they play affect people's lives.


She made a difference

Well done to Stella Creasy for demonstrating that politics matter.  The Guardian reports:
A decades-long struggle to give Northern Irish women access to terminations on the NHS in mainland Britain was unexpectedly won in the space of 24 hours on Thursday, as the UK government dramatically changed its policy in an attempt to head off a damaging Tory rebellion on the Queen’s speech.
Dozens of Conservative MPs were understood to have expressed to Tory whips their support for an amendment by the Labour MP Stella Creasy to allow Northern Irish women access to NHS-funded abortions in Great Britain. 
Women from Northern Ireland are currently charged about £900 for a termination if they travel to have the procedure in mainland Britain, a policy upheld by a supreme court case earlier this month. Northern Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and it is almost impossible for a women to have a safe, legal abortion there.

29 June 2017

Like ferrets in a sack

Rudderless.  The Guardian reports:
Government hints at a possible end to the cap on pay rises for public sector workers have descended into utter confusion after Downing Street rapidly changed tack, insisting that the policy of limiting annual rises to 1% would remain in place.
Hours after a senior Conservative source indicated that ministers would review the cap at the next budget, saying people were “weary” after years of belt-tightening, Theresa May’s spokesman said this was not the case. “The government policy has not changed,” he told a No 10 briefing, repeating the phrase or variants of it 16 times as he was pressed on how this could tally with the earlier comments.
Not waving but drowning.

Down the pan.


28 June 2017

Quote of the day

From The Red Box:
When the Tory attack on Labour is that its Brexit policy is not clear, it would help if the government position wasn't also mired in confusion.
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, came to The Times CEO Summit and said Philip Hammond, the chancellor, says "a number of things that are not quite consistent with each other". Hammond, meanwhile, went to Germany and gave a speech mocking Boris Johnson's claim that Brexit would allow Britain to "have our cake and eat it". 
There are also splits on how long a transition deal might last, what new customs arrangements might look like and the speed with which new free-trade deals could be struck. Thank goodness these people aren't running the country or anything.
Indeed ...


24 June 2017

Music of the week

I don't know what the world is coming to ...

Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper at Glastonbury:

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Cabinet Ministers can be pretty stupid.  The Independent reports:
Calls by a Cabinet minister for broadcasters to be "patriotic" over Brexit have been branded "sinister" by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.
Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom drew fire after making the remarks in a heated TV clash.
"It would be helpful if broadcasters were willing to be a bit patriotic," she told BBC Newsnight. "The country took a decision, this Government is determined to deliver on that decision."

22 June 2017


The Times attends the state opening of parliament:
This may have been a depomped ceremony but everything is relative. Yeomen with bouncing plumes still marched along the Royal Gallery; there was parping brass at the monarch’s arrival; and the leader of the Lords carried forth on a stick the Cap of Maintenance (not to be confused with George Osborne’s Hi-Vis Jacket of Construction). Up in the gallery we reached for our Biros of Whimsy to scribble upon the Notepads of Irreverence.
The crown, too heavy for the Queen on such a hot day, had been sent ahead in a separate car and was sitting there on a cushion. The royal head was instead covered with what appeared to be the flag of the European Union: a blue floral number with a circle of yellow dots. You can take the girl out of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha but . . .

It is time that we got rid of all the nonsense: gold sticks in waitng, ladies of the bedchamber. Lord Maltravers Poursuivant and all.


20 June 2017

So far, not so good ...

I rather doubt if this sort of language in The Guardian is justified:
British negotiators have capitulated to key European demands for a phased approach to Brexit talks, agreeing to park discussions on free trade until they have thrashed out the cost of the multibillion-euro UK divorce settlement.
Putting a brave face on a concession that may further strengthen the tactical dominance of the EU, the Brexit secretary, David Davis, insisted his initial retreat remained consistent with long-term government strategy.
To desribe a tactical reverse as capitulation verges on hyperbole.  If Davis has his wits about him (which I accept is sometimes doubtful), he will know that all the issues are interlinked.  It is thus impossible to come to an agreement on the divorce bill without reference to future payments associated with membership of the single market; nor can the position of EU nationals in the UK be separated from the question of the movement of labour from the EU post-Brexit.  And over all hangs the question of the future jurisdiction of the ECJ.


17 June 2017

The lads done good!

Terrific stuff.  Scotland beat Australia by 24 points to 19.  Outstanding team effort, but Fiin Russell and Johnny Gray immense.

Wayne Barnes and his determination to be the centre of attention is a pain in the arse.


15 June 2017

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
Leadership requires courage, imagination and empathy. In the two long days since the first flames licked up the newly fixed cladding on Grenfell Tower in west London, the prime minister has failed to show any of these qualities. On Wednesday, the first day, she said nothing at all until 6.30 that evening. On Thursday morning she ventured out to the scene of the disaster, where she rightly congratulated the emergency services on their inexhaustible efforts. But she made no contact with the shattered survivors, nor the faith workers and volunteers who have poured in to the area with such compassion. Less than an hour later Jeremy Corbyn arrived. He listened to people, he hugged them, he promised to find out the truth and told them he would speak for them. Theresa May could have said and done all of those things, but she did not.


14 June 2017

Finkelstein's logic

The Times explains why we are up a gum tree:
To understand the nature of the position we are in, there are two things that need to be appreciated.
The first is that Theresa May does not want the so-called hard Brexit that is associated with her. If we crashed out of the European Union without a deal, it would represent failure to her. The reason she says that “no deal is better than a bad deal” is because she wants a deal. Her attitude is that, just as there is no point paying for Trident and then saying you would never use it, you should not unilaterally disarm before talks.
It was because she believed it would be a bumpy ride on the way to a negotiated settlement that she needed a proper majority in parliament. Without one, brinkmanship with negotiating partners would not be credible. And she felt she did not have one.
Now she certainly does not. Indeed, it’s far worse than that: she would be attempting to persuade the EU to agree a deal that they would be able to see would not get through parliament.
The main reason it would not is that Labour has designed its position to allow it to vote down virtually everything. Its stance is a classic of opposition policy-making. Labour insists any deal must deliver leaving the single market while guaranteeing all the benefits of the single market; it must put jobs first, protect workers’ rights and end free movement. Without a deal like this they would not be in favour of leaving — but they want to emphasise that they are indeed in favour of leaving.
There is basically nothing remotely achievable that they can’t oppose. You can call this shrewd, pragmatic, muddled, infuriating, understandable, irresponsible, reasonable in the circumstances — you can call it what you like. It is what it is.

Which leaves us up the creek without a paddle.  Cameron with his referendum has a lot to answer for ...

13 June 2017

The Laurel & Hardy strategy

The Times reports:

Theresa May bought a stay of execution as prime minister and Tory leader yesterday with a display of contrition before MPs, declaring: “I’m the person who got us into this mess and I’m the one who will get us out of it”.

Don't hold your breath ...

12 June 2017

Quote of the day

From The Times Red Box:

Good morning,

I don't like to worry you but overnight Theresa May again promised to bring stability. Who knows what forces of chaos this will unleash.

Judging by the prime minister's track record, by the end of the day the lights will have gone off, the Queen will have abdicated, and we will find ourselves at war with Narnia.

I plan to retire to the Second World War air-raid shelter we have in the garden. I may be some time.

And so, even the Tory press is mocking the Dear Leader.

It's a bit of a mess

Whither Brexit now ...   The Guardian reports:
Britain’s EU partners were left baffled by the result of the general election, and no wonder. The Conservatives campaigned for the right to strike a hard bargain and failed to get it. The Liberal Democrats campaigned for a second referendum and failed to get that either. Labour perhaps best captured the confused mood of the voters by insisting that while the result of the referendum should be honoured, the aim should be to continued membership of the single market. Some voters want a clean break. Some voters want Brexit in name only. Some voters want to have their cake and eat it.
Difficult to see a path leading to a satisfactory conclusion to the Brexit negotiations, whatever you deem that satisfactory conclusion to be.

The present government's objectives in the negotiations (exit from the single market and from the customs union) may have changed; on the other hand, thay may remain the same.  And the government will struggle to remain in office to fulfil whatever objectives they set themselves.

I would refer you to the wise words of Sir Richard Mottram, former permanent secretary at the DETR:


09 June 2017

Quote of the day

Politico reports:
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “the president is not a liar” after former FBI director James Comey blasted the White House for telling “lies, plain and simple” about the circumstances surrounding his firing last month.
Then why are his pants on fire? 


08 June 2017

Interesting ...

Watching the BBC coverage of election night.  Dimbleby and the rest of them seemed to have missed the fact that a hung parliament might just - possibly - hand to Jeremy Corbyn the keys to 10 Downing Street'

OK, it's a stretch, but it is far from impossible that the Tories will fail to command sufficient support in the Commons.

Which would really be a turn-up for the books.

07 June 2017

Quote of the day

From Bloomberg (here):
For a few hours on Sunday, Ariana Grande, a 23-year-old pop star from Boca Raton, Florida, was the leader of the free world. ...
Two weeks after 22 people were killed and more than 60 injured in a terrorist attack at her "Dangerous Woman" concert in Manchester in the U.K., Grande returned to the city to hallow the ground and soothe the survivors. In the process, she rededicated her generation to the proposition that all men -- and women, most definitely women -- are created equal.
While President Donald Trump gutter-tweeted argle-bargle and played another round of golf, Grande delivered what will likely stand as the official American response to the bombing in Manchester and to another terrorist attack, the night before the concert, in London.
Trump's White House is as culturally barren as it is politically toxic. Given a president who spreads division at home and abroad, it's especially important to have visible counterpoints in politics, sports, business and the arts. At a crucial hour, the pint-sized Grande showed that America is still big. It's the White House that's gotten small.


Where does this lead ...

May is sounding tough:
Theresa May has declared she is prepared to rip up human rights laws to impose new restrictions on terror suspects, as she sought to gain control over the security agenda just 36 hours before the polls open.
The prime minister said she was looking at how to make it easier to deport foreign terror suspects and how to increase controls on extremists where it is thought they present a threat but there is not enough evidence to prosecute them.
The last-ditch intervention comes after days of pressure on May over the policing cuts and questions over intelligence failures, following terror attacks on London Bridge
She said: “But I can tell you a few of the things I mean by that: I mean longer prison sentences for people convicted of terrorist offences. I mean making it easier for the authorities to deport foreign terror suspects to their own countries.
“And I mean doing more to restrict the freedom and the movements of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they present a threat, but not enough evidence to prosecute them in full in court.
“And if human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change those laws so we can do it.”
Human rights legislation is there to protect the public from an overweening government.  The kind of government that says it is entitled to take legal action against individuals because it thinks those individuals may be dangerous, without having to prove its case in court.  So the government can lock up or penalise anyone it chooses.  Throughout the centuries, the dream of totalitarians.

And it is wholly unlikely to discourage malcontents from using vehicles or knives to injure innocent bystanders.


06 June 2017

Return of the Maybot

The Guardian continues to poke fun at the Prime Minister:
The Supreme Leader had never been more clear about anything. The country was talking about one thing and one thing only. Brexit. So she had come to the same library in the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall where she had launched her leadership campaign almost a year earlier, to talk about Brexit. That’s what the public was demanding and that’s what the public would get.
There were a few puzzled faces in the audience. They were under the impression that what most people had been talking about over the past couple of days was Saturday night’s terrorist attack in London and they had reasonably assumed that the Supreme Leader might have something to say about it. Apparently not. “More than ever, the country needs strong and stable leadership,” she said. And that was why she was calling on everyone to strengthen her hand so her leadership could be even stronger and more stable. The Maybot was back up and running.
Mistaking the groans of resignation and despair in the room for confirmation that her message of reassurance was getting through, the Supreme Leader went on to deliver much the same non-speech she had repeatedly given over the previous seven weeks. The same sentences that never quite made sense even on their own. Let alone when they were connected to all the others.
She alone had a Brexit plan. A plan she couldn’t fully disclose, other than to say no deal was better than a bad deal. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t have a plan because his plan was different to hers. “We will show leadership, because that is what leaders do,” the Maybot concluded, her algorithms no longer fully operational. “There is no time for learning on the job.” This was the closest she came to saying anything heartfelt. She’d been trying and failing to learn on the job for 12 months.
She is making Corbyn look better and better.

05 June 2017

A knave or a fool

Either Trump knowingly misconstrued Mayor Khan's statement or he failed to understand it:
Donald Trump has criticised the mayor of London, hours after seven people were killed and 48 injured in a terror attack in the centre of the city.
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack,” the president wrote on his personal Twitter account, “and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’
In response, a spokesman for Sadiq Khan said the mayor had “more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks”.
Khan commented on the attacks in a statement overnight and in a television interview earlier on Sunday. In the interview, he said there was “no reason to be alarmed” by an increased and armed police presence in the city that day.
 Either way, Trump is a disgrace.


31 May 2017

Silly old buffer

I'm not old - I'm a not so active adult?  The Guardian reports:
People should not be called old until they are seriously frail, dependent and approaching death, one of the UK’s leading social scientists has told Hay festival.
Sarah Harper, a gerontologist who is director of the Oxford Institute of Ageing, proposed a different approach to the language we use about ageing, suggesting that people in their 60s and possibly 70s and 80s should still be considered active adults.
“We should not even be calling people old until they reach what [the historian Peter] Laslett calls the fourth age; that time where we will become frail and enfeebled,” Harper said. “Old age should be the fourth age. Everything else should be active adulthood.”
She said there was a danger of neglecting what true old age should be: a time of withdrawal and peace and reflection. It can be a difficult time but “it is a time we need to claim as a special time because we are finite beings … we will die”.
I rather doubt that we wrinklies give two hoots as to the label used to describe us.  But a little more care and consideration on the part of younger members of society would not go amiss.