Exit Opportunity

As both sides of the Covid restrictions debate put their cases to either end or extend it is clear that any choice will cause an outcry from someone.

The steady increase in new case numbers is ammunition for the extenders while the low hospital admissions and deaths encourages those hoping for an end to the restrictions. With five days to go until the decision day for England the current favourite looks to be a compromise that lifts some of the restrictions but keeps the politicians in control – and in the media spotlight. So most likely indoor venues such as theatres and cinemas will re-open as planned – but with face masks as a requirement until a further review in another five weeks.

gettingajob1Despite this easing overseas travel will remain problematic – since so many destinations are not ready to accept foreign tourists. An issue that the UK media seems to have gone quiet about in recent months. In fact many British sun-seekers seem oblivious to the conditions in their chosen destinations.

Some anti-government figures have expressed opinions that the UK Covid death toll is the worst in Europe because of government mishandling of the response. And it is true that 127,854 UK deaths is a shocking total. But after some digging into the international statistics the actual wider data is eye-opening.

Italy is recorded with 126,767 Covid deaths just one place behind the UK in the available statistics. While France is two places lower with 110,137 deaths reported. So in total reported numbers the UK is the worst nation in Europe. However … UK death statistics include cases where Covid was not the actual cause; a different approach to many other countries’ health stats.

If instead we look at deaths per million of population the national positions are much different. And the European counties with the worst figures are –

Hungary 3,101/million
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2,902/million
Czechia 2,815/million
Gibraltar 2,791/million
San Marino 2,647/million
North Macedonia 2,624/million
Bulgaria 2,589/million
Montenegro 2,541/million
Slovakia 2,276/million
Belgium 2,153/million
Slovenia 2,112/million
Italy 2,100/million
Croatia 1,985/million
Poland 1,967/million
UK 1,874/million

So relative to population the UK is far from being the outlier in Europe. It would, of course, be far better if the UK was more like New Zealand – with just 5/million!

At least our vaccination programme has mitigated the consequences of infection and greatly reduced the death rate. With almost 60% of the population (77% of adults) now having at least one dose the mass rollout of vaccine has broken the link between infection and serious illness. A programme that has also been successful employed by Gibraltar, Malta, Isle of Man, San Marino and Jersey, amongst others, to cut the risks for both the locals and tourists. In Gibraltar they have gone so far as to have vaccinated more than 100% of its population – by extended its coverage to the EU workers that commute in from Spain.

So will the UK nations be allowed the opportunity to exit from the Covid emergency powers? Or is that old observation that governments take emergency powers but never fully give them back still holding true? We shall soon see …

Rock Bottom

It was not a difficult prediction to make but the UK entry in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) did indeed end up in last place. And not getting any points from any of the 38 countries in either the jury vote or the public vote was harsh but hard to complain about. The UK entry was just not up to the task.

Man1902And as long as all the best UK singers and song writers have such little regard for the competition we will remain sub-standard performers. The BBC and its various helper organisations seem unable to do anything other than repeat the formula of spin-doctoring a low cost candidate as the next big thing with a fighting chance of stardom. Only for reality to strike when the young hopeful (or faded star) sees the other countries in rehearsals.

We really have reached the point where it is better not to enter rather than waste everyones time. The 8 hours of live TV can still grace the BBC schedules – but without the pretence that a UK entry will do well.

For the record these are the most recent UK Placings in the Eurovision Song Contest
2000 Nicki French 16th out of 24
2001 Lindsay Dracass 15th out of 23
2002 Jessica Garlick 3rd out of 24
2003 Jemini Last place
2004 James Fox 16th out of 24
2005 Javine 22nd out of 24
2006 Daz Sampson 19th out of 24
2007 Scooch 22nd out of 24
2008 Andy Abraham Last place
2009 Jade Ewen 5th out of 25
2010 Josh Dubovie Last place
2011 Blue 11th out of 25
2012 Engelbert Humperdinck Last place
2013 Bonnie Tyler 19th out of 26
2014 Molly 17th out of 26
2015 Electro Velvet 24th out of 27
2016 Joe and Jake 24th out of 26
2017 Lucie Jones 15th out of 26
2018 SuRie 24th out of 26
2019 Michael Rice Last place
2021 James Newman Last place

Just Like Old Times

In a sign that things are starting to return to their old ways this week sees contestants in Rotterdam busy rehearsing for the Eurovision Song Contest next week.

ESC2021As before the UK will get a free pass to the Saturday final – thanks to tax payers funding it with the biggest fees. The UK entry will be James Newman performing ‘Embers’ – a song where he is one of five co-writers. Let’s hope his efforts are not wasted.

And perhaps 2021 will be the year that the UK does well. But perhaps not. The latest betting puts France, Malta, Switzerland, Italy and Iceland as the most likely winners – with support for the UK down in 23rd place. However in recent years the UK betting support has been more bullish than the actual support amongst voting countries.

Anything better than a place in the bottom five will be an achievement. But there is a real chance that irrespective of the quality of the song the UK will end up in last place – given the attitude of our European friends. It has happened before …

But don’t despair just remember the motto of our returning compere Mr Norton OK… That’s three minutes we’ll never get back, but look at it this way: We’ll never have to hear that song again.

By George

Despite misguided folk trying to put it profoundly beyond the pale St George’s Day remains a source of national pride for many.

Yet today the national flag of England has been all but censored out of existence. And even the Union Flag has now become a target to be dragged down – by vested interests and even sad elements within the BBC.

But without pride in your country, region, town or family we  become drones living pointless lives in a grey world. So tomorrow we will remember, fly the flag and kill the dragon …

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Russian Expansion

With Germany dependent on Russian gas and looking for Russian vaccines while experiencing a new wave of Corona Virus infections the chances of meaningful actions by the EU against any Russian military action in the Ukraine look mighty slim.

EU_Army_Badge1wAdding to the EU’s strategic weaknesses are its lukewarm support for NATO, talk of a EU Army but without any boots on the ground and the obvious incompetency of the current leadership – as witnessed by events in Brussels over recent weeks. Imagine what a EU-lead military response would be like!

From the Russian standpoint the West’s struggle with Covid, the EU’s resentment of all things British since Brexit and the fact that now is the Easter Weekend make this an ideal time for Russia to improve its grip over the East. [Russian Orthodox Easter is not until 2-May-2021]

If Russia does make a move then it will hardly be a surprise given that some EU politicians have been poking a stick at the Russian Bear for years – in the belief that the threat of NATO would stop any Russian response.

Let us hope that Russia limits it ambitions – and backs away from a full-scale conflict. Adding World War 3 to the planets troubles would be a step too far …

You Heard It Here First

In a surprise move the SNP have announced changes that they claim will strengthen Scotland’s case for EU membership.

Schuko-plug1The first change being the immediate adoption of the Euro electrical plugs and sockets in all homes and offices. A government spokesperson stating that the adoption of the Schuko design was far superior to the old English models and brought Scotland in-line with its future EU partners.

The second change being a switch-over to driving on the right and banning the sales of English right-hand drive vehicles. The reasons for this being driving on the left or right does not apply on the many single-track roads, the plentiful supply of second-user left-hand drive limos available in Brussels and to bring Scotland in-line with its future EU partners.

The final change announced this morning being the surprise embargo on the importation of Yorkshire Puddings – on the grounds that such English products do not comply with the EU rules for batter-based food products that come into effect today. Rules that are routinely adopted by the Scottish Parliament to bring Scotland in-line with its future EU partners.

Interestingly these changes were published online in English, Scots Gaelic .. and French. Yes – to bring Scotland in-line with its future EU partners.

The Grass Is Greener

The EU’s Green Pass vaccine passport should be in place between 17-May and 1-June 2021 according to reports quoting Eurocrat Margaritis Schinas – the European Commission Vice-President assigned to the Promoting our European Way of Life Department (that is not a joke!). Being an EU scheme it does not cover the UK – or indeed anywhere else.

Get-Away-300So after the threats to block vaccine supplies are played out the next revenge move could well involve the EU requiring travellers to have one of their new passports – while making sure that all UK applicants are either restricted, blocked or forced to pay dearly for the privilege. A move that could make places like Israel, Gibraltar, Australia etc move further up every desirable holiday destinations list.

However quite how travel to the Irish Republic from the non-EU world would work is not clear – and could prove a further problem for the citizens of Northern Ireland. A part of the UK that is being forced to act as a purgatory between the evil UK and the heaven that is the EU. [Do I get my EU funding now?]

Meanwhile the UK news media report that a Covid Status Certificate is being considered for the UK. But also reporting opinions that any UK domestic vaccine passport would be discriminatory and that discriminating on grounds of jabs would be illegal.

Looks like travel companies will have to tread very carefully if they are to avoid expensive litigation …

Viral Threat 2021

Twelve months ago the new Wuhan virus was very much a Chinese problem. One that would not spread worldwide and, like earlier infectious, such as Ebola or SARS,  would be contained before it infected us in the UK. Wrong!

Man1We now have the prospect of UK Covid-related deaths reaching 100,000 before too long. And this is against a backdrop of almost 93 million cases and 2 million deaths world wide. But vaccines have been developed, approved, mass produced and started to be distributed – so deaths and serious infections should start to decline by summer time. If the promises hold true.

Then we, like many countries, will have to assess how our nation gets back to something approaching normal. This is going to be difficult after so much disruption to both the economy and our daily lives. If the Government spends billions to boost business then it could be a catalyst for a new Roaring Twenties. A period where the young and rich party like there’s no tomorrow, the stock markets boom and many old fashions are discarded.

But having already spent billions of borrowed money spending even more restarting damaged businesses might just burst the bubble. And the Roaring Twenties could be followed by an almighty crash … just like the 1920s.

Frantic Finish

It’s evening and the House of Lords has been passed a parcel. Not as a game to cheer up the holidays but in the form of that elusive deal with our former overlords – the European Union. They need to pass it on to our head of state for the final stage. And that needs to be quick so that the Queen can retire at a reasonable time – she is 94 after all.

Cunning_Plan_160Tomorrow should start out with all the legal steps completed and just one more day of transition before we are out of the EU. The predicted last-minute fait accompli bill did get through Westminster. But at least some of the politicians did make a big effort to search for any serious issues – and their green light helped it get through with a massive majority. Now for seeing how the deal works in practice … and how our European Friends treat us.

Just to add to frantic atmosphere reports of rapidly increasing Covid cases triggered the Heath Secretary moving all Tier 2 regions into Tier 3 – and many Tier 3 into Tier 4. While the Education Secretary rushed to push back the start date for school attendance back by one or two weeks. At least the other rushed announcement was good news – in that another vaccine had passed the approval process. And this one will be usable with room temperature storage …

So a lonely New Years Eve for most of the UK – but some rays of hope that summer 2021 will see the start of a new Roaring Twenties.

Tides’s In Time’s Out

Well our Westminster MPs have been packed off to their homes or constituencies without seeing anything resembling a trade deal with the European Union. Despite another fifteen days having passed little has changed in the mass media headlines and opinion pieces despite lots of talks and briefings.

Grandad3And the few changes that have happened don’t add up to much. At the bookies the sentiment has swung from deal to no deal and amongst EU politicians the stress levels have jumped with each day that passes.

Meanwhile out at sea the EU trawlers seem to have upped their policy of scooping up all marine life – whether saleable or not – to leave nothing in the waters that the UK gets back. A very short-sighted policy and one that confirms they expect to face UK controls shortly. Surprising the BBC seems to be trying to ignore what is happening – despite claiming a leading role in ecology issues. Yet Trawler-watch is one programme they have not scheduled.

So New Year 2021 is just two weeks away and the Brexit saga still drags on .. Will some last minute deal appear? Will MPs get recalled before year end? … Will we all wake up to find 2020 was a bad dream? .. Pass the port and mince pies I need to forget …

For seniors and grumpy old men everywhere