Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from September, 2019

Who are the puppet masters?

Members of Parliament are supposed to represent our interests. We elect them, and we hold them to account at general elections. Many MPs have outside 'interests', and some get paid handsomely for them. This inevitably creates a conflict of interest.  It begs the question: whose interests do they serve?

The former cabinet minister Owen Paterson has declared that he receives a total of £112,000 a year from two firms, on top of his parliamentary salary of £79,000.

Owen Paterson charges them £500 an hour.

Let's put that into perspective. The national 'living' wage is just over £8 an hour.  The 'living' wage is what Mr Paterson receives for each minute he is advising these companies!  I wonder to whom he gives priority time: to a constituent on a living wage or the company that pays him so handsomely for that time.

Whether or not Mr Paterson has ever misbehaved regarding these interests is not a question we can answer.  But what we do know is that a conflict exi…

Deal or no Deal? That is the question.

The problem with Boris Johnson's strategy on Brexit is that he has closed his options.  His government have devoted so much attention convincing Brexit supporters that Britain would do great if it left the EU without a deal, that it is now difficult for him to justify a deal.  Why bother with an agreement if 'no-deal' is such a good proposition?

The answer, of course, is that a deal is necessary, and even if the UK left without one, a trade deal with the EU would have to be negotiated.  Just as the UK would need a trade deal with the USA, so also it would require an agreement with the EU.

So, none of this political mess is really about a deal or no deal.  A future trading arrangement with the EU will take time to agree.  That is so for all trade deals.  They are years in the making.

The argument, now, is about the "backstop"; the arrangement that would kick in if a trading arrangement isn't forthcoming.  The backstop is necessary to keep the border with Irel…

Time to back Jeremy Corbyn?

Boris Johnson is accused of using divisive language and stirring up hatred.  He doesn't care, because the division is precisely the current Tory strategy.   The Johnson strategy is the country will divide on Brexit lines; yes, he could lose some soft-Brexit Tories, but they hope to sweep up those who voted for The Brexit Party.  It is a strategy of going for broke.  What they lose on the swings they hope to gain on the roundabouts.

The LibDems have also gone for broke.  They hope to gain from the division on Brexit lines, with Remainers deserting Labour.   Labour it is feared will be squeezed in the middle.

Labour's only hope in a general election is that a sufficient number of remain voters will see that the only way to stop Brexit is to have a people's vote.  For that, a sensible and credible deal is needed.

So, currently, the proposition for voters is:

Vote Tory for a no-deal Brexit; vote LibDem to stop Brexit; or vote Labour for a negotiated deal and a people's v…

Did Remainers want a "people's vote"?

The sovereignty of parliament is at the heart of the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom.  It is the key element of our democracy as it has evolved.  We elect our representatives to hold the government to account, and the government is accountable to parliament for its actions.   Parliament is our legislative body.  Governments are formed from parliament and are answerable to it.

This is not an invention to thwart Brexit.  It is how our democracy works.  At the last election, all the major parties campaigned accepting the vote to leave in the EU referendum, but they also were committed in their manifestos to doing so with a deal that would protect jobs and our security.   The majority voted for parties committed to a Brexit deal.  Labour's was a customs arrangement and alignment with the single market.   The LibDems offered a similar approach.

Accepting the EU referendum result and outlining the type of arrangement we would have with the EU was a sensible approach.  Even …

Leave voters are entitled to be angry

Those who voted Leave in the EU referendum are entitled to be angry.  They have been repeatedly misled.  But their anger is directed at the wrong side.  They should be mad with Leave politicians who have either used Brexit for their own political advantage, as with Boris Johnson or with those who told them Brexit would be smooth: "Brexit means Brexit".

Nobody discussed the need for a deal with the EU during the referendum.  Yet, as the Prime Minister has acknowledged, an agreement is necessary.  It is needed for a variety of reasons, not least to resolve the problem of the border with The Republic of Ireland and the Good Friday agreement.

A deal is necessary to protect supply lines for businesses and for jobs.  It is essential to ensure vital cross border collaborations on security and other issues.

Above all, Leave voters should be angry with politicians who asked them to vote but made no preparations for the likelihood that they would vote to Leave.  That, in a nutshell, …

Greta Thunberg to world leaders: 'How dare you? You have stolen my dream...

Corbyn's sensible position on a Brexit deal?

Jeremy Corbyn's position on a Brexit deal is a sensible one, whether or not people agree with it.  But no doubt it will be criticised from all sides.  Corbyn is set to frustrate those who wish for an entrenched position on either side of the fence.

They want it all to be simple.  Either you are in or out.  Corbyn now asks an interesting question: shouldn't we wait and see what deal can really be achieved with proper negotiation?  He also dares to suppose that, with the right kind of arrangement with the EU, we "could be" better off out.   Note that he doesn't say we would be.  He simply thinks we should consider it.  After all, if we could get a "good" deal, it might make it possible to heal a divided country and rescue the United Kingdom from a constitutional crisis.

Today on BBCs Marr show he teased out the distinction between those who support the EU as a matter of principle and those who want to remain but do not like the move to an  'ever close…

Retailers warn of food shortages from No-Deal Brexit

More concerns are being expressed about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.   Top UK retailers are having urgent meetings with the government expressing their concern that a no-deal Brexit will lead to food shortages. Commenting on the newly released Yellowhammer documents, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The Yellowhammer document confirms what retailers have been saying for the last three years – fresh food availability will decrease, consumer choice will decrease, and prices will rise. This isn’t good for the British public and this isn’t good for British retailers."
The retailers say a no-deal Brexit in November represents the worst possible timing for the retail industry and for consumers. 
They warn that warehousing availability will be limited as retailers prepare for Black Friday and Christmas, many fresh fruit and vegetables will be out of season in the UK, and imports will be hampered by disruption through the Channel Straits that c…

The Global Climate Strike

Greanpeace have put together a video that comes from people who want to see climate action. The unity across ages, ethnicity and backgrounds represents the change we need to see. A movement of all people united to stop the climate crisis before it's too late. Watch and share the video.

Tick Tock



Alas poor Boris I knew him well

Former Prime Minister David Cameron, who fled the scene following the Brexit vote in the referendum in 2016 has now rejoined the fray.  He rode into battle waving his new book and stating what we all knew, that Boris Johnson doesn't believe a word of what it is that Boris says about Brexit. 
David Cameron knows Boris well, alas. They were at Oxford together in the notorious Bullingdon Club, noted for its wealthy members, grand banquets, boisterous rituals, and somewhat destructive behaviour, including the vandalisation of restaurants and students' rooms.  Wrecking things is for them a strategy, good fun for the elitists they feel they are.  I suppose that is why Boris has set about wrecking our constitution.  
Meanwhile, students at Boris Johnson's former Oxford College have launched a petition calling for him to be banned from College grounds. 
I have no doubt, if I were a student at Balliol, I would support this motion…well almost…I would, however, question its legality…

Johnson's dangerous game

Our executive is answerable to parliament. That is how our system works. We meddle with it at our peril. Boris Johnson has stepped over a line by preventing Parliament from holding him to account, while his government make momentous decisions that will affect all our lives for decades. Boris is not a President, and we are not a Republic. This is why behaving like Trump is unsuitable for our system. Boris is not a President. He is not a head of state. No MP and no Prime Minister should be above the laws made by parliament. Looking for technical dodges to circumvent the will of parliament disrespects our constitution. Whatever our views on Brexit are, we must not allow them to destroy the legislative principles so many have fought for in the past.

The United Kingdom has been plunged into a constitutional crisis.   A minority government with no mandate to govern, propped up by the DUP, has effectively stymied debate.  Proroguing parliament for no other reason than preventing it from hold…

Johnson's forked tongue

If you listen to Boris Johnson speaking in the Republic of Ireland today you would think he was doing everything to avoid the 'failure' of a no-deal Brexit.   The UK Prime Minister now says a no-deal Brexit would be

"a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible."

Yet, he still panders to the 'no-deal' lobby back home.  Those who always say 'leave means leave' or that they voted for no-deal.

Boris Johnson's position is disingenuous.  He has presented no new ideas for a deal, yet he says 'a deal can be found'.

Boris is deceiving the British people, which is why today he is proroguing parliament so he cannot be found out.

The 'failure of statecraft' has already been made.  It is made in the failure to address the very real issues arising from Brexit and our relationship with the EU moving forward.   It follows from the consequences of no-deal, with delays at ports leading to the insecurity of food supplies and medic…

No, Mr President!

Boris Johnson is learning the hard way that the United Kingdom is not a republic, and he is not a President.  In recent decades Prime Ministers have increasingly acted as if they hold all the power.  It is difficult to pinpoint precisely when this took hold.  Prime Ministers have different styles.  Harold Wilson, in general, acted with his cabinet, who at times inflicted defeat on him.   Even Margaret Thatcher consulted her cabinet colleagues, although certainly she towered above everyone and stopped listening.

Tony Blair adopted a more presidential style of governance, which led to one of the more trenchant criticisms of the decision to go to war in Iraq.  But Prime Ministers are  'first among equals'.  Of course, they hold power through the patronage they wield.  They appoint and dismiss ministers, and through the leader of the house, they control the legislative agenda.  

Taking control of the House of Commons, MPs have reminded Boris Johnson that he governs only with thei…

Mushrooms lower risk of prostate cancer?

If you go down to the woods today you're sure of a big surprise.  Mushrooms.

A new study published in the International Journal of Cancer has found an inverse relationship between mushroom consumption and the development of prostate cancer among middle-aged and elderly Japanese men, suggesting that regular mushroom intake might help to prevent prostate cancer.

A total of 36,499 men, aged 40 to 79 years who participated in the Miyagi Cohort Study in 1990 and in the Ohsaki Cohort Study in 1994 were followed for a median of 13.2 years. During follow-up, 3.3% of participants developed prostate cancer.
Compared with mushroom consumption of less than once per week, consumption once or twice a week was associated with an 8% lower risk of prostate cancer and consumption three or more times per week was associated with a 17% lower risk.
So what to look out for? Is there any particular type of mushroom that produces a better outcome?

“Since information on mushroom species was not collected…

Dishonest Boris

Brexit negotiations have begun?  That seems an odd question after three years of negotiation and a deal that was struck.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks of non-existent reopening of these talks.  Yet, nobody in Brussels has seen any plan.  No details have been offered, other than a demand that the EU 'drop the backstop' for the Irish border, and this is all typical of the deception that is Boris Johnson.   He blusters in the House of Commons accusing others of 'betrayal' or 'surrender'.

The problem is not that politicians lie to us. The problem is that they have not the courage to tell us what we don't like to hear. The government knows Brexit will hurt millions of people in the UK, but they won't acknowledge it. They know it is set to seriously harm our economy and competitiveness in the world but won't tell us. They can't tell us the reality because it would destabilise the markets. So we are stuck in fantasy land.

We go on with the belie…

Austerity was morally and economically wrong

When the Tories returned to power in 2010, backed by the LibDems in a coalition, they imposed an austerity programme of cuts in spending. That programme is said to come to an end today, with the announcement of a new expenditure round by Chancellor Sajid Javed. 

What was 'austerity' to achieve? It achieved very little for the many, and it drove so many into poverty, homelessness and debt. It forced people into poverty wages and zero-hour contracts. It closed libraries up and down the country. It has driven local authorities towards bankruptcy, with failing social and children's services.   
The government said it was aimed to 'cut the deficit', but austerity was always more than pure economics. It was fundamentally political. They did more than impose cuts across the social sector. They created a narrative of the 'undeserving' and the 'deserving' poor.
The Conservative Party adopted an aggressive set of campaign advertisements targeted at 60 constituen…

Psychoactive drugs in rivers affecting fish

Scientists are increasingly warning that prescription drugs can affect wildlife and ecosystems when they find their way into the environment. In a new Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry study, investigators found that the anxiety and depression drug Escitalopram—at concentrations similar to those measured in the environment—can inhibit fish foraging and eating behaviour.

Interestingly, the team noted that the two sexes respond differently to the drug. Specifically, the inhibitory effect of the drug was more pronounced in males than in females.


“It is disturbing that psychoactive drugs affect vital life processes in aquatic wildlife,” said corresponding author Erik Baatrup, PhD, of Aarhus University, in Denmark.
These psychoactive drugs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) have been found in natural waters around the world and have been found to inhibit fish feeding behaviour. 
These researchers monitored the effect of escitalopram on zebrafish swimming patterns, showing a more …