31 October 2018

Deja vu again

The Independent records:
Theresa May has denied she is preparing to hold another general election, stating that another vote would “not be in the national interest”.
Aye, that's what she said the last time, up to the point when she decided that it was in the national interest.


30 October 2018

The do-little budget

No change in

  • income tax rates
  • corporation tax
  • inheritance tax
  • capital gains tax
  • dividend allowance
  • ISAs

28 October 2018

Quote of the day

Will Hutton in The Observer on Sir (for the moment) Philip Green (here):
Green was a foul-mouthed, amoral deal-maker with an ego the size of a house who could only float to the top in the crazed world of credit-driven, property-bubble Thatcherite and Blairite capitalism, aided and abetted by an unsavoury cast list of loan sharks, fraudsters, indulgent bankers and fawning journalists, notably the former Sunday Times business editor Jeff Randall to whom he regularly fed gossip in return for admiring write-ups.
He had a talent for cutting costs, but his greater talent was creating the reputational halo that allowed him to get finance to acquire the next business and then using every available loophole to direct as much money as possible to himself – from the £1.2bn tax-free dividend to his wife in Monaco in 2005 to the attempt to avoid his responsibility for the BHS pension fund after he had knowingly sold it to a bankrupt. Under intense public pressure last year he finally inserted £363m into the fund.

27 October 2018

Music of the week

1.  The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody

2.  How The Beatles rocked the Kremlin

3.  Sergeant Pepper's Musical Revolution



Why not just hit it with a hammer?

When my desktop computer starts acting up, my less than fail-safe solution is to turn it off and start again.  It seems that NASA takes the same approach to the Hubble telescope.  The Guardian reports:
The Hubble space telescope is close to resuming full operations after Nasa “jiggled it around”.
The telescope was sidelined earlier this month after a gyroscope failed, leaving it unable to point in the right direction during observations....Nasa has said Hubble is expected to return to normal science operations soon after it performed a “running restart” of the gyroscope on 16 October, which turned the device off for a second. The intention was to clear any faults that may have occurred during a restart on 6 October.
The wonders of modern technology.



25 October 2018

The law is an ass, but ...

So Lord Hain has taken it upon himself to name the individual businessman at the centre of the Me-Too allegations.  He did so by using parliamentary privilege to overcome the application of a legal injunction forbidding the media to reveal the businessman's identity.

We may consider the businessman's behaviour deplorable (and I do).  We may think that the decision of the courts was legally and morally questionable (and I do).

But this is the legal system we have.  Like any legal system, from time to time it may throw up 'wrong' decisions.  But is it right that any maverick parliamentarian may choose to subvert that system, just because he happens to be in the House of Lords or Commons?



According to the BBC:
President Donald Trump has called on people to be more civil in politics, after a series of suspected explosives were sent to high-profile US figures.
Speaking at a Wednesday night rally in Wisconsin, the president vowed to catch the perpetrator and called on the media to "stop endless hostility"."Those engaged in political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective," he said.
Some might think that President Trump has done more than most to coarsen the political discourse of our times ...

23 October 2018

Some rustic charm ...


Quote of the day

Theresa May, lost among the backstops.  The Guardian reports:
As expected, the final 5% was the Northern Ireland backstop, which the EU had managed to deceive the UK into signing last December by sprinkling magic dust in the government’s eyes so that no one bothered to read what they had signed up to. May was outraged that the EU had reservations about the UK’s insistence on reopening the negotiations.
Their lack of trust over our own proven untrustworthiness merely proved that they basically couldn’t be trusted. And because they were now asking for a backstop to a backstop, she was going to up the ante by demanding a backstop to a backstop to a backstop. Or something like that. Basically she had no idea how to resolve the matter but expected that sooner or later she would make some kind of compromise that she would try to pass off as a gain.

19 October 2018

Getting found out

In my time. I have done plenty of public speaking, and it's never easy.  So I can sympathise with the Prime Minister in her difficulties:
Theresa May had 15 minutes to impress European Union leaders with a new way out of the political morass that has become Brexit.
Instead, the British prime minister came across as nervous, speaking too fast for an audience of non-native English speakers. At the end of her pitch in Brussels, no one was any wiser as to what the U.K. was bringing to the table other than a familiar serving of warm words. May left her confused counterparts to dissect her presentation over a fillet of turbot.
Nevertheless, you expect better of a Prime Minister.  I cannot imagine that Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown would have been similarly troubled.


18 October 2018

Clear as mud

The Prime Minister's lexical tick offends The Times:
Theresa May has long believed that clarity begins at home. Or in the House, anyway. “Let me be clear” is the prime minister’s motto. Clearly it isn’t working. The more she tells MPs that she wishes to be clear, the deeper grow the furrows on their foreheads. Her explanations cut through the fog of Brexit like a guttering candle.
When Mrs May used the C word four times yesterday in a brief answer to Steve Baker (C, Wycombe) — let’s give three clears and one clear more for the hardy captain of the Brexit bores — I searched Hansard for how often she uses this crutch. And let me be very clear: the prime minister has said “clear” 98 times in the Commons since June. In second place, with 64, is Dominic Raab, her Brexit secretary. Keep saying it, chaps, and one day the mist will lift.
Or maybe not ...


16 October 2018

The danger of not thinking things through

Deeper and deeper into the mire.  The Guardian reports:
Theresa May faces a frantic 48 hours to try to save her Brexit negotiating strategy after she admitted talks had ground to a halt because of the EU’s insistence upon a Northern Ireland-only backstop.
The prime minister is expected to plead with EU leaders to drop their Irish backstop proposal at a make-or-break summit dinner on Wednesday night after seeking the support of members of her cabinet on Tuesday morning.
With time running out before Wednesday’s meeting, May used an emergency Commons statement to say the EU’s plan “threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom” because it could lead to the creation of a customs border in the Irish Sea.
She should have thought of that last December when she formally committed the UK to no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.  Because that meant either that the UK remained in the single market/customs union or that the hard border was set in the Irish Sea.


And from elsewhere in The Guardian
May appeared to have forgotten she had already agreed to a Northern Ireland backstop last December and was now asking the Commons to share her outrage that the EU wasn’t prepared to rubber-stamp the UK’s attempts to renegotiate the backstop agreement with another that included the whole of the UK. Confused? You ought to be. When May started talking about “the backstop to the backstop”, a little piece of everyone died inside.
By now the prime minister was running on full Maybot. She wanted the backstop to be temporary but we shouldn’t get too worked up about finalising an end date because she hoped there would be no need ever for it to come into operation. Basically, she was waiting on a miracle. “No deal is better than a bad deal,” she concluded. “But a no deal outcome is one that no wants.” So something no one wanted was somehow better than something else that no one wanted. At which point logic died and her circuit boards melted.

15 October 2018

Lost in a maze

Jeremy Hunt entertained European counterparts at his official residence in Kent, tweeting that the Chevening maze made Brexit talks “seem more straightforward”

Just like Brexit.  The Foreign Secretary and his European counterparts wonder how they got into this mess and how do they get out ...


05 October 2018

Blown away?

This seems a doubtful prescription:
Doctors in Shetland are to start prescribing birdwatching, rambling and beach walks in the Atlantic winds to help treat chronic and debilitating illnesses for the first time.
Patients will be nudged to go hill walking on Shetland’s upland moors, and directed towards coastal paths to watch fulmars, to beachcomb for shells, draw snowdrops in February, and spot long-tailed ducks, oystercatchers and lapwings.
Helen Moncrieff, the area manager for RSPB Scotland, said that during winter the prescriptions would be “elemental”, where strong Atlantic winds would be the main feature.
Some people may be asked to take their hoods down and stand still and silent for three minutes, in a form of open-air mindfulness, for instance. The NHS leaflets were entitled “Nature your soul”, Moncrieff said.
Really?  Is it actually possible for fully healthy Shetlanders (never mind those with debilitating illnesses) to stand still for three minutes in the teeth of an Atlantic gale on the windswept upland Shetland moors?