Not Much Choice

In most democracies the majority of those that vote get their choice of candidate or policy. And the Scottish part of the United Kingdom did quite clearly vote against leaving the European Union – as did Gibraltar and Northern Ireland.

NotMuchChoice3_315However the campaigning in Scotland did also show that the voters with any party loyalties had little choice but to vote remain. In order to vote leave party members faced the prospect of being branded deserters – as was said by President Juncker no less. In short every party, except UKIP of course, directed their supporters to vote to stay in the EU. And quite happily posed for selfies together to reinforce the point.

So Scotland’s people did have a choice in 2016 – vote remain or suffer the consequences. Amazingly around 38% did oppose the party they would normally support and voted to leave. And in one region just six voters tipped the local majority vote into the remain camp.

But now the SNP’s policy of pressing for independence from the UK – while also pledging to give their independence away to Brussels – is starting to unravel. Catalonia has shown that the EU does not support any nation or region that wants true independence. The only route forward for them is for Scotland to be just another cog in the European machine. Perversely the SNP seem likely to get more powers for the Scottish parliament with a successful Brexit than with remaining in the EU. It’s funny old game!

Rare Alignment

StGeorge-240Yesterday was, for some places in England. their warmest April day for decades – with Sheffield claiming to have had its highest maximum temperature in April since 1882.

So things look set fair for that rare event – a dry and sunny St George’s Day weekend. True by Monday, the actual patron’s day, the weather may have reverted to type but at least we will be able to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

The weekend starts here …

Monster Mash

Unless you have studied the Second World War it is becoming increasingly unlikely that you will have even heard of Martin Bormann. In summary he was a dedicated Nazi party member who worked his way up the ranks until by 1933 he was chief of staff to Deputy Fuhrer, Rudolf Hess. By 1935 he had become Hitler’s personal secretary. When Hess flew to Britain he became the Deputy with control of all areas of government. He stayed in Hitler’s inner circle until bitter end. It was not until 1972 that his remains were uncovered during construction work near Berlin’s Lehrter station. He has since been called the secret administrator of the Third Reich.

martin4Now we have another Martin that has gained great political influence though insider dealing with the party in power. Except this time it was through being first campaign manager and then chief of staff to the European Commission president, J-C Juncker. A post which enabled him to exercise control over his leader. However Juncker’s term as president will end in June 2019. In response Selmayr positioned himself as the sole candidate for the post of secretary-general. A position that he gained after performing so well as deputy secretary-general. Not too difficult – since he had only been appointed to that post less than ten minutes before.

Initially this blatant nepotism was deemed valid by the Commission but in recent weeks there has been growing pressure to rerun the entire appointment process. However the chances are that this will lead to the same result – with Juncker and Selmayr being absolved of any malpractice. And so us commoners will be given another large squirt of air freshener to hide the stink coming from the Brussels swamp. But one day the monster will have to be slayed ..

Model Solution

Electrification of the Midland Main Line railway route – connecting London, Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield – was first proposed in the 1970s. But only the southern section to Bedford was implemented. Plans for the rest of route were abandoned in the 1980s.

By 2009 a reassessment of the rail electrification options concluded that the Midland Main Line (MML) had the best business case of the remaining main lines coming into London. But the Great Western Lines (GWL) to Wales and the West were selected instead. But that is another story.

HornbyInterCity125In 2012 it was announced that MML electrification from Bedford to Sheffield would be completed by 2020. However this project was paused in 2015 and the completion date pushed back to 2023. Then in 2017 the uncommitted elements of the project were simply cancelled – leaving a wiring gap from Kettering to Clay Cross in Derbyshire even when current work has finished.

Then in February 2018 came the news that the Government wants every diesel train in Britain to be scrapped by 2040. A policy that would require all routes to either be fully electrified or to have developed and implemented some new and non-polluting power sources. [Or the route is closed?]

Given that slam-door InterCity 125 diesel units were first introduced over forty years ago – and are still in main line service today, the prospect of battery or hydrogen powered trains replacing all the UK’s diesel units within twenty-two years seems far fetched. It does, after all, require the development and manufacture of new designs of locomotives and powered carriages. A prospect made even more unlikely by the fact that there is not enough money to complete our proposed electrifications even when using existing technology.

Only in the world of model railways do InterCity 125s run solely on electricity – so perhaps the Government should call in Hornby to advise …

Are We There Yet?

Scoreboard6_630

As the relentless peck, peck, peck removes more flesh from the bones of Brexit the dominant sentiment for many of those commenting on-line is disappointment at how long the process is stretching out. Even though leave now is the feeling the chances of this happening are close to zero.

One factor that has been claimed to be a cause of the slow progress is the number of EU rules imposed over our decades of membership – estimated at around 12,000 regulations and 8,000 statutory instruments. And it is true that work on reviewing and amending these rules, in preparation for leaving, seems to be a low key, limited effort at best. Possibly because current negotiations are taking so much of the available resources.

However another reason could be the fact that the actual EU Withdrawal Bill is still not finalised so limiting the effort that can be spent on what is currently a speculative result. And with parliament on holiday until 16-April – plus taking two more breaks during May – it may be that this vital legislative step does not get passed before the summer break – which this year starts 24-July. In which case March 2019 is starting to look very close.

But then a more Yes Minster scenario might be that delaying the EU Withdrawal Bill could therefore stop, or at least cripple, Brexit. The logic being that by adding more and more complications to the process the chances of failure will be greatly increased. Sadly we, the people, will never really know what is happening and why .. so nothing new there then!