Category Archives: UK Politics

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 …

What About Us?

As the SNP prepare for a non-binding vote on leaving the UK next year – they have also put in a demand for another £98,000 million from the UK Treasury to fund regional business recovery.

Before going any further lets just have a basic fact check to put things in context.

Man3Scotland has a population of 5.4 million – exactly the same as Yorkshire. So that extra £98,000 million equates to £18,148 more for every adult and child in Scotland. A huge amount that has to be paid by us all out of UK-wide taxation. Note that this is in addition to a range of other benefits, some unique to Scotland, that are paid out of UK-wide contributions.

For those Grandads with grandchildren hoping to get to university – it is only those families resident in Scotland that will get their tertiary education for free. The tens of thousands paid out or borrowed by students in England will – in Scotland – be funded by … UK-wide taxation.

And for anyone who currently has to pay for prescription medicines the fact that Scotland uses tax income from the UK to give them out for free does not go down well.

This generosity is sometimes claimed to be justified because Scotland’s tax payers pay more than in the rest of the UK. But this claim is clearly shown to be false because the scale of the benefits received is far higher than any marginal tax variations.

Take the example of the BBC. The 2.5 million households in Scotland are able to receive not just additional national programs but also have a dedicated channel – BBC Alba. The fact that BBC Alba often has tiny audiences does not matter since the TV Licence payments that fund it are UK wide. So no need to live within their income limits.

Meanwhile in England the regional content for our same-sized example – Yorkshire – is being cutback from a level that was already well below that of the Scottish services. A situation repeated in local government. With Scotland having a very expensive modern parliament building and a full house of MSPs plus their support staff while poor relation Yorkshire has to make do with a few elected mayors, no building and minimal funding.

Just to add icing to the cake it was announced yesterday that Scotland has become the only country in the world to provide free and universal access to period products. It is estimated to cost about £8.7m a year and will not be means-tested. Not a big cost – if accurate – but then it’s just one more little extra for the tax-payers to fund.

The budget estimates for any newly independent Scotland are going to need to be very creative to cover all of this expenditure with no more than 2.5 million households to tax ..

Update 30-Nov-2020 Untroubled by having to worry where the money will come from the SNP have agreed to fund free breakfasts and lunches for all primary school children – all year round. [Who needs parents?] And because the UK Government intends to reduce overseas aid the SNP have increased theirs by £2 million – despite still not having overseas aid as a devolved power. But their big idea for a golden future is for everyone in Scotland to move to a four-day working week while keeping their full five-day pay. So that’s 100% pay for 80% work … An interesting approach that has its advocates and lobby groups – to quote one of them One day in the future, hopefully soon, when the full-time working week is four days or less we’re going to look back on this period and think what on earth were we doing. Too true – but for quite a different reason…

Nightmare On High Streets

It’s Halloween – and as darkness fell the latest political response to the Covid pandemic was being prepared for broadcast to the nation; with suitable scary effect.

BoJo2After repeated delays the announcement came of closures of all non-essential retail venues and we took another step towards our town centres becoming ghost towns. The aim is to improve the situation in time for Christmas – but in practice the four weeks of closure will blast a big hole in the viability of many retailers. It will, after all, fall in the pre-Christmas shopping peak – a time that would normally see them through a quiet February and March.

Restaurants, clubs and pubs will all be closed – despite them spending millions on providing extensive virus security measures. The office Christmas lunch is most likely cancelled. True the furlough scheme will be extended but that will not save many retailers from collapse.

However with schools, colleges and universities still open the virus still has a route out to infect new victims – and may prove to be a big gap in the lock-down plans.

This year has been bad but 2021 will start off worse ….

Another Broken Promise?

Here we are at another deadline in the EU relationship saga. And it is sobering to reflect that there are eight year-olds who have spent their entire lives with Brexit on the national agenda.

MunsterManToday’s question is will the UK government, that is the Prime Minister, walk away from the fraught trade negotiations by midnight tonight – as promised? Or will they allow the EU politicians to impose their timetable instead?

By tomorrow we should find out.

But there is a feeling that this is a critical tipping point. Anything other than the UK landlord calling last orders tonight will show everyone – on both sides – just how weak and ineffective the UK leadership has become …

Update 19-Oct-2020
The cynics win again. Bluff and bluster but the deadline is not enforced and so the talks continue …

It’ll All End In Tiers?

It’s autumn and already the supermarket shelves are being stacked with Christmas specials while the British media tries to generate the false impression that there are shortages of essentials due to panic buying. For this Grandad mince pies are high on the essentials list – but with the raw materials to make them already stockpiled there are no concerns on that front.

Man38However taking a somewhat broader view there are plenty of things that could go badly wrong for Britain. First the infamous, but non-existent, trade deal with the European Union is needed by both sides – but not at any price. And those that expected the EU to take a pragmatic and fair approach have been rudely shaken out of their dreams. We have to hope that the politicians can stop playing their political games and come to a sensible solution. But it’s not something that has happened very often, or very quickly, in the past – and the EU has a worse than average track record; mainly because there are so many different countries trying to come to a common consensus. What suits Spain does not suit Germany, etc, etc.

With just three months remaining before the end of transition and just a few weeks before the next final deadline any businesses relying on importing or exporting across the Channel must be crying out for definite border policies and procedures. The optimistic view is that exports from the EU to UK will be VAT free and cheaper but the pessimistic view is that something as simple as buying an item on Amazon will involve extra processes that increase the final price significantly. Who knows? Certainly not Joe Public. And most probably not Joe Public’s member of parliament either.

Then a close second comes Covid-19 – or rather the various attempts by our leaders to solve a health pandemic by issuing random rules, laws and slogans. Today’s news that even if a vaccine is found and approved by early 2021 it will take all of next year to treat most people. So we face starting 2021 with both Covid lock-downs and massive hold-ups at all the ports. But our government has things under control, it says, and is looking to make things clearer by putting Covid restrictions into three tiers …

Some distance behind these two we have threats of political rebellions in Scotland and Ireland – plus even within Scotland – and an increasingly unstable situation within British royalty. With the head of state being in a high-risk age group, the heir apparent being past retirement age, the Duke of York being tangled up in US litigation and Harry, formerly known as Prince, having become a minister of the Woke-ist religion there is a minefield of potential disasters not far ahead for the House of Windsor.

Interesting times …

Spring Has Really Sprung

The last day of Spring marks the end of a quarter the like of which no one living today has ever seen before.

SunBaby1aThe virus that escaped from somewhere around Wuhan in China has been devastating. Not in the way that the two world wars were – but in its impact on our economies and way of life. It has become the unseen threat that could be hiding on every person and point of contact. The silent bullet that is not felt until days after it has hit its random target.

The nature of the virus and its infection process has fed two contradicting fears – huge death tolls and – overreacting to a minor health issue. And even though the 38,000 UK deaths to date are a shocking statistic the economic impact of the government measures – such as paying the wages of millions to stay at home – will hold the nation back for decades. So arguments are rife that lock-downs are being lifted too soon or not quickly enough. And that the virus is either a major threat to the nation or nothing worse than seasonal flu. Arguments that have now taken on political dimensions. With Labour supporters generally taking the opposite view to the Conservative ones. Hardly conducive to achieving the best outcome.

But politics, rules and regulations aside Mother Nature seems to taken notice of the lack of emissions from factories, motor vehicles and aviation. With reduced exhaust gases and the absence of con trails clouding the skies Spring has been a new experience for everyone here in middle England. Record sunshine hours, number of dry days and above average temperatures have pushed the time at home to new levels of outdoor activity.

It’s just a pity that most of us have not been able to share the glorious weather with friends and relatives …

Welcome Break

Coming back after a month’s absence we find that the British political map has been redrawn. Now many of the changes were widely predicted – or at least hoped for – but perhaps few thought that so many would be realised so swiftly.

The Labour Party were shown to have fallen for their own spin that the traditionally industrial regions would always vote for them no matter how little notice had been taken of their opinions. In the real world seats like Bolsover were full of voters fed up with the Islington doctrines. One typical result being that Dennis Skinner was ousted after 49 years of being the MP for this rock-solid labour constituency.

Donkeys-270

And many of those MPs that had pushed their own agendas, rather than serve the people that they were elected to represent, got what they deserved. They wont be amongst those being sworn in to the new parliament next week.

Meanwhile the Brexit Party failed to get any of their candidates past the post in first place. This is not what many had hoped for – yet their effect on the result was far greater than either Labour or Conservative supporters – and the BBC – would admit.

Take our own constituency. The Conservative vote was up by less than 1.5% yet the well-liked sitting Labour candidate had a vote fall-off of almost 18%. Why? Because the Brexit Party took almost 14% of the vote. Not enough to do better than third overall but enough to sink Labour. So much for people who voted to leave the EU in 2016 having changed their mind, having died off or having been replaced by more intelligent first time Labour / Remain voters.

What next? A Conservative government with 162 more MPs than a leaderless Labour opposition certainly changes the game plan – especially after replacing dissident Conservative MPs with loyal party supporters and getting a new Speaker. Changes that should remove many of the obstacles to progress. And ones that will have already been noted by our European partners.

The May-Robbins-Johnson treaty with the EU is far from ideal – or even being desirable – but in practice the WTO option for leaving looks as dead as remaining. So neither side of the EU membership debate actually gets a clear victory. The outcome is coloured neither blue nor red but a muddy brown shade of compromise. Typical!

No More Nominations

It’s 4 pm so nominations for candidates in next month’s general election have closed.

Corbyn2016

And after a short delay a full list of potential members of parliament for all 650 seats should be available to the voters. A list that should be notable if only because of the number of changes since the last national vote. Even without all the schemes for tactical voting – ie voting for someone you don’t like so has to disadvantage someone you like even less or just not fielding a candidate – there were around seventy seats where the previous MP is not standing.

Given that there are also seats where the previous MP is standing but has changed allegiance the total number of new MPs must be approaching a hundred. And that does not allow for the fact that the Labour Party has switched from – at best – neutral to firmly pro-EU. A move that that will change voting patterns that have been in place for decades in some pro-independence constituencies.

With the political turmoil of the past few years the 2019 result is going to be hard to predict – but it is quite possible that Friday the 13th will see the no end to the unrest …