Observations on politics and world events
A wise person would probably steer clear of commenting on politics.
2nd January 2020
It's the start of a new year and new decade; an opportunity for people to come together and make a fresh start. The Archbishop of Canterbury says in his Christmas message from Dover RNLI lifeboat station, to quote:
This is good advice; wouldn't it be better if all people and countries cooperated in a spirit of friendship to overcome poverty, famine, disease, natural disasters and the issues of climate change.
Roundup of 2019
Prime Minister Theresa May hangs on but the labour party block the BREXIT bill with help from Tory remainers such as Anne Soubry and Dominic Grieve MP, and Tory dissenters from the European Research Group such as Steve Baker and Jacob Rees-Mog, wanting a cleaner break with the EU. It's stalemate and Theresa May is eventually forced by her own party to resign. The main candidates for PM are Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt MP and Boris Johnson is elected PM in July 2019.
The Labour party commit a tactical error by agreeing to a General Election on 12th December 2019 despite the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which could have kept the Conservatives powerless and in a weak position until 2022. Both sides make grossly exagerated claims, but it is an unexpected landslide victory for the Conservatives with a majority of 80 seats. Why was this? Jeremy Corbyn was seen as a weak unpatriotic leader leaning too far to the left, few people believed he could deliver his promises, and the party went back on its manifesto promise to deliver BREXIT.
As 2019 ended Boris Johnson has a sufficently large majority to make BREXIT happen, President Trump in the USA is campaigning for reelection despite continued attempts by the Democratic Party to bring him down, and forest fires of unimagineable ferocity are burning across Australia, the worst being in the states of Victoria and New South Wales, while other countries are ravaged by either flooding or drought induced famine. Could this be the start of the Climate Emergency forecast as a consequence of Global Warming by young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg? Only time will tell.
In our day it was Rachel Carson who warned of the dangers of pesticides and environmental pollution in her book 'Silent Spring'.
15th November 2018
It's about six years since we first posted on this page. The Conservative government got re-elected in 2015 without the help of the Liberal party, and in 2016 the Scottish Referendum narrowly resulted in Scotland remaining in the Union.
It seemed Prime Minister David Cameron had a clear road ahead, until in 2016 the public voted in the EU Referendum to leave. Cowardly Cameron immediately resigned and left to write his memoirs and go on lecture tours.
Theresa May became Prime Minister and accepted the difficult challenge of negotiating the exit of the UK from the EU. George Osborne was replaced as Chancellor and decided to leave politics and become a 'journalist'.
Theresa May called an election in July 2017 hoping to get an increased majority in order to push BREXIT through; however she was badly advised and her majority was reduced resulting in a hung parliament; but she was able to hang on with support from the DUP.
The Brexit Draft Withdrawal Agreement is published. It's a compromise, and neither leavers nor remainers are happy.
A few days later Dominic Raab resigned as UK Brexit Secretary; he had only been in the job 4 months. Replaced by Stephen Barclay MP.
The newspapers say MPs will vote down the proposals and the PM may be forced to resign. Remainers call for a Peoples' Vote.
The Labour party is saying very little. Its members want another General Election.
Murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi embassy in Turkey to obtain papers for his marriage, but he was murdered by lethal injection and his body cut up. It is alleged senior members of the Saudi establishment may have authorised this.
This event suggests how thin the line is between 21st century politics and those of the Middle Ages. In 1170 AD priest Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered by four knights in Canterbury Cathedral, believing that this act had been verbally sanctioned by King Henry II.
Brexit negotiations with the EU are proving hard work. One wonders whether the UK will ever leave the EU. Boris Johnson appears to be posturing with a hope to becoming Prime Minister, but we don't think he stands a chance.
Boris Johnson resigned as Foreign Secretary in July 2018 and was replaced by Roger Hunt MP who moved from Health.
At the same time David Davis resigned as UK Brexit Secretary and was replaced by Dominic Rudd.
Theresa May puts forward her version of BREXIT known as the Chequers Plan. It's a compromise and probably the reason why Boris and David Davis resigned.
Prime Minister Theresa May calls a snap election. Jeremy Corbyn does much better than expected and the Conservative lead is reduced requiring the help of Northern Ireland MPs.
The Conservative party campaign is very badly run.
The Grenfell Tower disaster
On the 14th June 2017 there was a horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in London. The entire building was incinerated and tragically many people were burnt alive. This should not have happened and all the people involved in the building and maintenance process and associated legislation should be called to account. A year on this event has largely passed from the headlines. It's disgraceful the government does not appear to be pursuing the matter with great vigour.
Click for summary of The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt; its purpose was to make recommendations that would ensure a sufficiently robust regulatory system for the future; published May 2018 - wonder what subsequent changes have been made to these regulations, and other tower blocks to make buildings safer?
Little more than a year after the Grenfell disaster a tragedy of even great magnitude unfolded in California as forest fires raged across thousands of acres rapidly destroying homes and complete towns leading to significant loss of life and causing 250,000 residents to flee.
The year 2016
This was a momentous year.
Prime Minister David Cameron disgracefully attempted to discredit Sadiq Khan, elected Mayor of London; it's disappointing our elected representatives sometimes show such disrespect.
Infighting in the Labour party was astonishing, and perhaps that can be put at the door of Ed Milliband who introduced a reformed procedure to elect the leader of the party. This seems to have resulted in attempts by the extreme left wing to take control of the party - which we think will make the Labour Party unelectable.
Scottish Independence Referendum; Scotland to remain in the Union.
EU Referendum; people vote against government advice to leave the EU.
The year ended with businessman Donald Trump being elected President of the USA. Unlike his predecessors Donald Trump is not a professional politician and his tenure has been controversial to say the least.
This blog started on Friday 13th April 2012 and this is what we jotted down and were pondering then; you may seen things differently.
OK, the Conservative Liberal Coalition government has been in power for two years and what has it achieved?
The financial crisis continues. It used to be all Gordon Brown's fault, but now it is a world problem according to the Coalition.
The Conservatives said they had no plan to put up VAT before the election, but of course they put the rate up from 15% to 20% immediately on gaining power.
Interest rates have been very low, so pensioners don't get any interest on their savings, while fuel and energy costs have soared.
Mortgage payments have been lower, which has benefited working families.
Lorry drivers on strike. Angus Maud MP suggest we stash petrol in cans in our garages.
News of the World and other newspapers hack in to celebrities' voicemail. Surely if people want privacy they should set their passwords.
Lord Leveson conducts inquiry and makes recommendations.
News of the World closed down.
Prime Minister David Cameron does not implement the recommendations presumably because newspapers are giving him a good press and slagging off the Labour party.
By 2010 David Cameron had emerged as the leader of the Conservative party, after William Hague and Ian Duncan Smith had failed to win elections and widespread support. By now Labour was in its death throes bickering amongst themselves. Gordon lacked charisma and it was time for a change. Neither party set out a clear agenda apart from agreeing there were hard times ahead due to the world financial crisis.
Conservative politicians slated Labour for the economic situation and the poor state of hospitals and schools, but locally we had seen the opposite happen.
The Conservative party got the most votes and formed a coalition government with the Liberals. Labour took a pause to lick their wounds and elect a new leader - Ed Milliband was the choice of the Trades Unions. His brother David would probably have got more votes from middle England.
Big scandal over MPs claiming excessive allowances.
The country was tired of the Conservatives who had been in power for 18 years and Tony Blair led a big election victory for New Labour. He was the new young man on the block, always willing to come on TV and explain what was going on, and he seemingly got on well with politicians of other countries.
He led a strong response to the genocide in Bosnia and carried peace negotiations through to a successful conclusion.
In Malvern the infrastructure of state schools improved markedly. Pupils no longer had to share books and the use of IT equipment became widespread.
The new Royal Hospital was built in Worcester, and the Malvern Community Hospital which people had lobbied for, for so long, was built.
In early 2001 there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease which was due to the bad practice of dealers transporting animals around the country; it caused huge damage to the farming economy and associated businesses. A lot of animals were buried in pits on the old airfield site at Throckmorton
The attack on the World Trade Centre on the 11th September 2001 changed everything. We watched in real time on TV as the second airliner hit the tower. And so the UK became involved in the war against terror in Afghanistan.
The British public were not keen on the invasion of Iraq and when weapons of mass destruction were not found Tony Blair lost credibility.
Gordon Brown eventually took over from Tony. One of his first tasks was to deal with the 2007 outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease which was handled well.
Then the Economic crisis of 2009 struck.
Failure of the banking system would have been disastrous for the UK economy and individuals, so Gordon and his Chancellor Alistair Darling had to rescue 'Northern Rock', RBS, HBOS and support the other banks.
Gordon did away with the 10p tax band which he himself had created. This got him some bad publicity, which his press office should have neutralised.
Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1979.
She and her Conservative government closed down coal mines, privatised water, gas, electricity and the railways, stopped school milk, sold council houses, cut benefits, under funded state schools, introduced the poll tax but then had to withdraw it after riots in London. The government took its eye off the ball leading to the invasion of the Falklands by Argentina, and Norman Lamont lost a lot of money trying to support the exchange rate. During her term inflation peaked at nearly 15% and at one point unemployment was high.
Hang on that's a lot of negative stuff; so what was positive.?
'Cometh the moment cometh the man'. The unions had become too strong following WWII and were holding the country to ransom. Margaret stood up to them and weakened their power. She also fought the IRA, and authorised military action to retake the Falklands. Though worshipped by many she was deposed by her own MPs who were concerned they would lose seats under her leadership at the next election.
Notes and ramblings
This is intended to be a secular and non political blog.
The influence of the press, social media and TV
When we question our own views and those of others it seems to us that opinion is largely formed by the press, social media and television, and it is sometimes debatable whether or not we are being told the whole truth, or presented with fake news.
In Britain, the news media sometimes makes a huge issue out of minor concerns such as minor changes to tax, wages and prices, while hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, diseases, and civil wars, are causing havoc in other countries.
The economic crisis
The economic crisis which started in 2008 was not foreseen by experts in government and the banking world, even though it was clear to us that the profligate lending by the banks and surge in house prices caused by the cheapness of loans was at some point going to end in trouble.
Between 2008 and 2010 we listened carefully to politicians and economists on the radio, and television and there seemed to be no coherent understanding of what is going on and what needed to be done to put matters right.
There was an extended financial crisis in Greece following the financial crisis of 2008. It seems billions of euros were lent to the Greek government who spent the money unwisely and were never going to be in a position to pay back the loans; now there are concerns about Spain and Italy. One suspects the bankers must either be incompetent or lack integrity.
Given that the banks ran out of money, the only way to keep the financial system working would seem to be for the central banks to 'print' money and pump it into the banking system. Nowadays they seem to call that Quantitative Easing, and it seems to be done electronically. That in the longer term might be expected to lead to inflation and rising prices, but as of 2016 that does not seem to have happened.
About workers' pay and unemployment
Working families were in a difficult position during the financial crisis. Pay for many has been frozen since 2010 while inflation measured by the RPI has risen by more than 10 %.
Steeply rising council tax bills were a problem for retired people a few years ago; other problems have been steep rises in the cost of energy for heating and transport.
Due to the Coalition government's cutbacks unemployment rose to almost three million of which about one million 16 to 24 year olds had no job. This was brought home to us by one extremely well qualified member of the family who had great difficulty finding a job and two who lost their jobs. It seems wrong to us to have a large section of the workforce standing idle, yet that is what the austerity programme did. By 2018 unemployment had fallen to about 1.4 million.
Government suggestions that we will get out of trouble by manufacturing more doesn't stack up well with the fact that people will have little spare money to buy the goods, including our European neighbours whose economies are also in the doldrums.
It seems to us that someone needs to do some deep thinking to come up with a credible plan to stabilise the economy and world banking system.
The interpretations and opinions expressed are our own
Last updated 5th January 2020