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.