Observations on politics and world events
A wise person should probably steer clear of commenting on politics.
An occasional diary and commentary on things happening in the world around us.
14th November 2023
UK Cabinet Reshuffle
Following media speculation that Home Secretary Suella Braverman might be sacked, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unexpectedly announced a Cabinet Reshuffle.
The table below summarises changes over the last year.
Of late, Suella Braverman has been a divisive figure and replaced with 'sounder' James Cleverley.
While Steve Barclay has not distinguished himself at Health, one wonders what qualifications Victoria Pentice has for overseeing the NHS and the integration of care for the elderly.
Bringing back David Cameron as Foreign Secretary surprised everyone. Margaret Thatcher had done something similar, appointing Lord Carrington Foreign Secretary in 1979.
With the Labour Party 20% ahead in the opinion polls, the country thinking it is time for a change, and infighting within the Tory ranks, one assumes that Labour will have a landslide victory at the next General Election expected in the Autumn of 2024; many Tory MPs must be worried about losing their seats.
Theoretically, in order to seal victory, Sir Kier Starmer just needs to avoid gaffs and come up with some sensible popular measures in the Labour Manifesto differentiating Labour from the Tories. Possibly easier said than done.
During the next 12 months both parties will be setting out their stall, fine tuning their leadership team and canvassing support.
It will be interesting to see what policy differences emerge.
The Gaza war
Following the attack by Hamas, Israel has shelled and bombed Gaza in preparation for troops to go in after the terrorists. Thousand of civilians have been killed leading to demonstrations calling for a ceasefire.
28th October 2023
It's three weeks since Hamas' surprise attack on Israel from Gaza resulting in the massacre of 1,400 men women and children.
The attack will be seen as both a serious failure of Israel's Intelligence Community to foresee such an attack, and failure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ensure the security of Israel's border with Gaza.
Netanyahu will almost certainly be held responsible for the security failings that led to the surprise attack and will eventually have to resign.
Meanwhile Netanyahu has declared war on Gaza bombarding the city with artillery and air launched munitions, which according to Hamas has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians.
Muslims and the Arab world amongst other nations are now pointing to Israel as the monster in the room, and calling for a ceasefire.
Hamas's attack has stirred up strong feelings on both sides with the possibility of the hostilities escalating into a larger Midle East conflict. Perhaps that is what the Hamas leadership wants?
We'll have to wait and see what happens, hoping that calmer voices lead to dialogue and a cooling of tempers.
14th October 2023
Party political conferences
It's the time of year when MPs attend annual conferences. Things are different this year as a General Election is expected in 12 months time and Labour currently has a 20% lead over the Tories.
The Liberal party conference was held in Brighton, the Conservative party conference was held in Manchester. The Labour party conference in Liverpool was largely overshadowed by events in Israel.
The popularity of the Scottish Nationalist Party appears to have peaked and could be in decline.
7th October 2023
Surprise Hamas attack on Israel
It's the 50th Annivesay of the Yom Kippur War and a Jewish holiday.
Hamas terrorists in Gaza launch a well-planned large scale attack on civilian settlements in Israel.
The IDF is taken by surprise and is slow to respond.
260 music-lovers at the Supernova music festival are reported to have been slaughtered and many others massacred. As many as 1,300 men, women and children are eventually thought to have been slaughtered, and possibly 1,500 Hamas gunmen killed.
Later BBC reports described how Hamas neutralised surveillance and communication towers with bombs dropped from drones and breached walls and fences with explosives and bulldozers.
The attack is declared a huge failure of Israeli Intelligence.
There are rumours Eygypt warned Israel something was brewing 3 days before the attack.
30th April 2023
This is a page we rarely use as events are well covered in the media.
It's been 6 months since Rishi Sunak was elected leader of the Conservative party and the war of words between MPs seems to be rising into a crescendo. More time and thought seems to be going into bashing each other than running the country.
The reason for this is partly the local elections on 4th May 2023 when if you listen to Any Questions and Any Answers on Radio 4, or BBC Question Time the Conservatives can expect a hammering.
The next parliamentary election must by by December 2024 so there is a year to go. Anything could happen in that time but perhaps after 13 years of Conservative leadership we should let the other team have a go and see how well they do.
Changes in appointments
The media continues to hunt down its next victim, as it has done for decades.
Discounting Prime Ministers, recent casualties have been:
Gavin Williamson, over bullying allegations
Nadhim Zahawi, for not fully disclosing his tax affairs
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, accused of bullying staff
BBC Chairman Richard Sharp for not disclosing his small part in facilitating a loan for PM Boris Johnson.
We wonder who will be next?
The war in Ukraine
The cost of living
Rents and housebuilding
The leap in energy and food prices triggered by Putin's war in Ukraine, allied to the Conservative government's attempt to hold down wage increases to dampen inflation has led to a waves of strikes by postmen, railwaymen, teachers, doctors, nurses and paramedics.
26th October 2022
Rishi Sunak's new cabinet
On Monday 24th October Rishi Sunak was appointed leader of the Tory party and consequently the new Prime Minister of the UK.
Boris Johnson decided not to stand and Penny Mordmaunt just failed to achieve the 100 nominations required for candidates to be selected by Tory Party members.
Rishi Sunak's first cabinet is not very different to that of Liz Truss, but Dominic Raab has been brought in as Deputy PM and takes over Justice responsibilities from Brandon Lewis; Steve Barclay replaces Therese Coffey in Health, a job he had previously after Sajid Javid resigned; Oliver Dowden replaces Nadhim Zahawi; Gillian Keegan replaces Kit Malthouse, only briefly in Education; Mark Harper replaces Anne-Marie Trevelyan in Transport which had been run by Grant Shapps.
Therese Coffey has been moved sideways to Environment; Michael Gove comes back as Secretary for Levelling Up; Nadhim Zahawi has a job as Minister without Portfolio (perhaps he will be used as a troubleshooter); while Gavin Williamson, who performed poorly in Education, has been brought back as a Minister without Portfolio.
Table summarising how political appointees have changed
A full list of appointments can be found on the government website.
20th October 2022
House of Cards
At lunchtime Liz Truss resigned as Prime Minister of the UK after only 44 days in office.
Only yesterday at Prime Minster's Questions Liz Truss had said she was a fighter and bravely stood her ground, but the resignation of Home Secretary Suella Braverman after a row with the PM, and fractious voting over fracking seems to have done for her.
The future of Grant Shapps as the new Home Secretary, in post for only one day, looks uncertain.
Tory MPs plan to choose a new leader within one week, this time without consulting the Conservative Party membership.
Meanwhile Labour Leader Sir Kier Starmer reasonably calls for a General Election.
The Conservative party seems hell bent on self destruction and unable to work as a team. Tory MPs are worried about losing their seats and therefore their income at the next election. They think choosing a new 'manager' will fix things when possibly it is the whole team that needs replacing.
Democracy is letting the people choose who to represent them. The Tories have had a good innings and perhaps it is time to let the other team bat.
Who would want to be PM with so many difficulties facing the country?
The promise of a substantial income for life for every retiring PM is a considerable attraction plus power and a chauffeur driven car, but who has the judgement, charisma and leadership talent?
We'll learn in the next few days.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunts says he will not stand again, and Ben Wallace wants to remain as Defence Secretary.
Rishi Sunak seems the obvious choice as he was runner up to Liz Truss at the fifth ballot on the 20th July 2022. Penny Mordmaunt who was third in the running might also stand as could Boris Johnson who many MPs regret dislodging.
2nd October 2022
A perfect storm
Prices have been rising steeply during 2022 and many families are now finding it difficult to make ends meet.
It's only natural that this will result in a clamour for large pay increases which if granted could stoke inflation and make the situation worse.
Then there are the huge loans the government has taken out to fund furlough during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsidise energy bills which will eventually have to be repaid through a greater tax take.
There seems to be no easy way out of this crisis, pointing to hardship and discontent this winter.
It's a funny old world. Six months ago Tory MPs and the media were plotting to oust PM Boris Johnson for obfuscation about PartyGate, and now according to the BBC some are already plotting to get rid of the new PM Liz Truss who has only been in post 4 weeks.
These days MPs and the media appear more concerned about spin and headlines than doing the right thing.
Prime Minister Liz Truss has been handed a poisoned chalice. It's hard to imagine she can solve the economic woes of the country before the next election, so Sir Kier Starmer will very likely become the next Prime Minister.
This week it's the Tory party annual conference in Birmingham and it will be interesting to see how PM Liz Truss is welcomed.
Many say politicians are puppets whose strings are mostly pulled by world events; read more below.
The financial crash
In 2008 there was a financial crash essentially caused by American and European banks lending to people who could not pay the money back. Both lenders and borrowers were at fault. Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown bailed out the banks to preserve democracy and the economic order.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne then reigned in government expenditure to bring the Balance of Payments into line with the income from taxes. This meant a virtual pay freeze in the public sector and cuts to services, which as in the days of past Labour governments was exceedingly unpopular.
Around 2008 the Labour Party and some economists were suggesting the country should borrow to kick-start the economy.
The Bank of England 'printed' money to lend to the banks and interest rates were kept artificially low so that businesses could recover.
This has meant over the last 14 years people who had mortgages have had a mortgage holiday, while pensioners have had virtually no interest on their savings.
Now the tables are turned. Interest rates are beginning to return to normal levels, and mortgage holders are complaining that they will have to pay more.
We can say the next issue was of PM David Cameron's own making. Disquiet over uncontrolled immigration led to calls to leave the European Union. In order to snooker the UK Independence Party Cameron held a referendum in 2016, but to his surprise and dismay the vote, by a very narrow margin, was to leave the EU. A wise bird might have said either that was an advisory vote or that that leaving should be subject to a certain threshold being reached such as 60%.
Negotiations with the EU were difficult. Voters and MPs were split. Certain MPs worked very hard to stop BREXIT.
In 2019, Boris Johnson was elected to get BREXIT done; he wins by a large majority. Boris gets a deal of sorts through parliament but there are loose ends, particularly customs arrangements with Northern Ireland which will be left for another PM to fix.
The COVID-19 pandemic
Just a few weeks after Boris Johnson was elected PM the COVID-19 pandemic struck and in March 2020 the UK was put into lockdown. The Chancellor Rishi Sunak came up with a furlough scheme to pay people not to work and stay at home. This involved the country in huge debt and we wonder how the loans will be paid back.
Because of the pandemic factories have been slow to resume production and there has been for example a world shortage of computer chips from China, affecting production in the UK.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine
The UK was just emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic when on 24th February 2022 President Putin of Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine. This has disrupted fertiliser supplies to farmers, supplies of grain from Ukraine, and fuel oil and natural gas supplies to the West.
The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia which hurt Russia but rebound on the EU.
One of the chief consequences has been a huge increase in the cost of gas.
Now as a result of the green lobby and gas fired power stations being cheaper to build, private companies have turned to generating electricity from gas fired turbines. In turn the price of electricity is now largely linked to the price of gas.
In 2022 the price of gas and electricity doubled becoming no longer affordable by many people and businesses, and was to have increased further on 1st October 2022, but for government intervention. A huge worry for homeowners and businesses alike.
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine annual inflation has risen to about 10%. A huge concern to those on low incomes.
Spiralling energy prices
Failure of government policy in not developing a resilient energy industry has led us to where we are and the problem cannot be fixed overnight.
Energy should not cost more to be produced, but bidding on exchanges for a limited resource aggravated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused energy prices to rocket by almost a factor of four in a year.
A change is needed to how energy markets work, and either the nationalisation of the energy industry or firmer government direction of private companies.
In summer 2022 it had already become clear a windfall tax on energy producers and help for businesses and consumers would be needed.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak set up some help before he and Sajid Javid brought down Prime Minister Boris Johnson, ably assisted by the media, over the PartyGate issue.
As the summer of 2022 went on it became apparent further help would be needed for both the public and businesses.
The mini budget
It was left to the new PM Liz Truss to clear up the mess on taking up office on 6th September 2022.
She and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced a number of measures:
Electricity was to be capped at 34 P per KWH and gas at 10.3 P for 2 years (double the price last year).
This would be funded by borrowing which essentially boils down to averaging the cost of energy over a number of years.
That will hugely increase the government debt that will have to be repaid.
So far so good, but then the Chancellor spoke about reversing the National Insurance increase to fund Social Care, cutting the basic rate of tax from 20% to 19% next April, eliminating the top 45% band for high earners and reducing corporation tax in order to get the economy growing (rather like the Labour Party had suggested in 2008); plus dropping the cap on bankers' bonuses.
The bankers had already got round the cap on bonuses by paying higher salaries so that was no issue.
Hang on though. If furlough and energy subsidies were to be repaid surely higher taxes would be needed?
We are guessing that Liz Truss's view is that if productivity and GDP can be increased then there will be more income from taxes to repay these debts.
However there was no analysis from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) to back up this view and the markets were spooked. The exchange rate temporarily dipped and fixed term mortgage rates have since ramped up.
There were now rich opportunities for the Labour Party to criticise the Tory government:-
Of the tax breaks proposed, reducing the 45% rate to 40% was a small part, but it sounded bad. With regard to higher mortgage rates, rates were already rising in the US and this was bound to follow in the UK.
The rail unions want a big pay rise to compensate for inflation and do not agree with changes in work practices proposed by rail company managers. There have already been several one day strikes, for example during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this year, and more are planned.
There could be a lot of industrial strife this winter as families find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
25th September 2022
The Labour Party held its annual conference in Liverpool and that seemed to go well for opposition leader Sir Kier Starmer.
19th September 2022
State funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey followed by a later service at St George's Chapel Windsor. The weather held dry; blanket rolling coverage on TV channels remembering 70 years of service to the nation.
17th September 2022
The Queen lies in state at Westminster, while TV channels live streams the public queueing to walk past the coffin to pay their last respects.
World leaders begin gathering for the state funeral on Monday.
11th September 2022
In the days following the death of the Queen, Charles III was proclaimed King, and it was announced that his wife Camilla would become Queen Consort, and that Charles and Diana's eldest son William, the next in line to the throne, would become the Prince of Wales.
The state funeral will be on Monday 19th September 2022, which King Charles declared to be a public holiday.
8th September 2022
Death of HM Queen Elizabeth II
On Thursday 8th September the energy crisis was being debated in parliament, when on the lunchtime news Hugh Edwards wearing a black suit and tie announced doctors had concerns about the Queen's health and that Prince Charles and William would be travelling to the Queen's bedside. Then rolling news footage and discussion began about the life of the Queen before it was finally announced at 7 pm that Queen Elizabeth II had died; it seems likely the Queen actually died around 4:00 pm.
We wondered if the Queen had chosen to die at Balmoral as a final gesture to help save the Union.
6th September 2022
Changing of the Guard
Liz Truss elected Prime Minister
It's seven weeks since Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were the finalists in the Tory leadership campaign to replace Boris Johnson.
We endured one of the hottest summers on record while Liz and Rishi campaigned against each other - it was a long drawn out affair and by the end we were sick of it.
On Monday 5th September after MPs returned from their long summer holiday it was announced that Liz Truss with 57% of the vote was elected the new leader of the Tory party and would become the next Prime Minister. It was a close run thing.
Queen Elizabeth, aged 96 years who had become 'fragile' was residing at Balmoral so on Tuesday 6th September Boris Johnson flew up to Scotland to tender his resignation. Later in the day Liz Truss attended Balmoral and was pictured shaking hands with the Queen.
It was notable that some commentators were already slagging off Liz Truss before her first day in office. Give the woman time to prove herself we thought.
The new cabinet
In the evening Liz Truss announced her new cabinet. Most of the old guard had gone. No jobs for Rishi Sunak (ex Chancellor) and Sajid Javid (ex Health) who 'stabbed' Boris Johnson in the back.
A full list of appointments can be found on the government website.
Media talk was about measures for subsidising spiralling energy prices (which Liz Truss said would be announced on Thursday 8th); the difficult Northern Ireland border arrangements following BREXIT, and the crisis in the NHS.
18th August 2022
Rising inflation and the spiralling price of gas are top of the political agenda and people are worried they won't afford to heat their homes this winter.
The new Prime Minister will have to take some very bold decisions within days of entering office on 6th September.
For several months the chief item on the political agenda has been the rise in the cost of living caused by the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The cost of petrol has risen from about £1.35 a litre in the middle of 2021 towards £2 a litre; a rise of 48%. The rising price of fuel oil puts up the costs of farmers and transport companies, increasing the price of goods in the shops. However in recent days the price has dropped back a bit so perhaps this will not be such a big issue.
Those using fuel oil for central heating have also seen a sharp hike in prices.
Inflation which the Bank of England had been instructed to keep to 2% rose to 9% in July and 10% in August and is anticipated to rise to 13% in October when the price of gas is expected to double. The media speculates inflation could eventually hit 18%.
The absence of cheap fertiliser from Russia is putting up farmers' costs, while the reduced supply of grain and sunflower oil from Ukraine is putting up the price of flour, bread, pasta, and processed foods.
The drought in England has aggravated the situation; there has not been grass for cows to eat, there will be a reduced crop of potatoes and other vegetables, and the yield and quality of cereals is down.
The cost of heating an average home which was about £1,000 is expected to rise towards £4,000 this winter, while the cost of food could rise by another £850 per annum.
MPs who are well paid should be able to absorb these increases, whereas families living on the breadline won't have £5,000 to spare.
Whoever wins the Tory leadership contest is going to be faced with an immense problem. The Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi says options are being evaluated for the new PM to consider on 6th September.
What is clear is some form of Energy Price rebate will be needed plus increased benefits for the less well off if significant excess deaths are to be avoided this winter.
Say 10M families need a £5,000 subsidy, the government ideally needs to find of the order of £50 Billion pounds this winter to support the poorest.
Putting it another way if the poorest half of the population had to be subsidised by the richer half then the richer half would have to pay £5,000 extra for their own energy and food plus a further £5,000 in taxation for the poor; and few would be happy with that. The more likely alternative will be to increase borrowing.
The media suggests the government has already borrowed a huge sum, about £500 Billion, during the 2 years of the COVID pandemic, and it is our children and grand children who will have to repay the loan and interest.
Baling out 'hard working families' might be the easy part.
So far there has been little mention of the effect of spiralling energy costs on businesses for whom prices are uncapped. For some the effects will be crippling and jobs will be lost.
In the 1960s the nationalised electricity industry was struggling to meet winter demands. It maintained security of supply by depending on a mix of coal, oil and atomic power stations.
The privatised companies decided gas fired power stations where cheaper to build and turn on and off. The green lobby has led to the demolition of the coal fired power stations and politicians have been reluctant to invest in atomic power. That has led us to the situation we are in today - a right mess caused by the inability of successive Labour and Tory governments to get a grip and develop a long term resilient energy framework.
The British atomic power stations are on their last legs, French reactors need remedial work, while Germany and Japan mothballed their atomic power stations following the Fukishima nuclear disaster.
In principal there is no reason for energy prices to rise so much. For example it still costs the same to get oil and gas out of the North Sea.
Prices are being bid up by a surge in demand following the COVID crisis when production was run down due to lack of demand and Russian gas being cut off. One imagines the situation could stabilise in one or two years time. In the meantime producers are making whacking great profits taking advantage of world prices.
There is therefore a strong case for a windfall tax on UK energy producers and reviewing how the market operates.
This winter there will be pressure to ramp up supplies of north sea gas, keep British and French reactors going through the winter instead of putting them off-line for either maintenance or decommissioning, while Germany and Japan could bring their reactors back on-line.
The government and opposition need to agree a long term resilient energy policy.
Some suggest plans need to be made to better distribute water supplies across the country. We doubt the water companies operating in their individual silos can do this.
You can understand why rail workers strike to get a better pay offer - that cooperative spirit during the COVID pandemic has evaporated and we are no longer all in it together. Rail Union leader Mick Lynch does not care about disrupting other peoples' lives.
Refuse workers strike in Scotland
Now refuse workers are striking in Scotland and refuse is piling up in the streets of Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival. That will be a nice treat for visitors from abroad. Apparently First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is powerless to act.
Royal Mail Strikes
Not to be left out, Royal Mail workers are planning to strike, as are BT and Openreach members of the Communication Workers' Union.
This could lead to spiralling inflation as has happened before.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine
Putin is continuing his war in Ukraine and so the Ukrainian people have much more to worry about. The opposing forces appear deadlocked with neither side being able to advance, and neither side considering a truce. So the war looks set to continue into next year with further loss of life.
The COVID Pandemic
Barring surprises the COVID epidemic in the UK appears to be all but over with deaths and hospital admissions falling.
Life appears to have returned to normal.
We'll have to wait and see whether there is any upsurge in the winter.
The Tory Leadership Contest
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss continue to speak at 'private' events hoping to gain the votes of member of the Tory party and become Prime Minister. We take what they say with a pinch of salt. Once in post the victor will need to deal with reality such as spiralling gas prices, the economy disrupted by striking workers, and the crisis in the NHS.
8th August 2022
Thoughts on the NHS
The topic of the day on this morning's Radio 5 breakfast programme chaired by Colin Murray was the dreadful state of NHS dentistry - not the treatment, but the fact many can't get any.
Some of us will be old enough to remember that the root cause of the crisis was Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It was Maggie who instigated an unpopular payment regime which caused a lot of dentists to drop out of the NHS scheme and go private.
Margaret Thatcher was also the one who said 'we don't need all these Maternity Nurses' and sold Nurses Hostels. Short term fixes contributing to the problems we have today.
We are told that we have a marvelous NHS, and we have been fortunate to benefit from that; but dental treatment should be available to all and the plain fact is there are not enough NHS dentists and there haven't been for years.
It's a scandal that this problem has not been fixed by either Labour or Conservative governments; and we doubt based on present form that neither Rishi Sunak nor Liz Truss will do anything about it. You can be sure they are on large salaries and can afford private treatment.
During the leadership contest, would be a good time to ask Rishi and Liz how they propose to solve the NHS dentistry crisis.
7th August 2022
An approaching financial crisis at home
We have idly watched media reports of Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak slogging it out to decide who will be the next Prime Minister. Both are making wild claims they are unlikely to deliver while some Tory activists are wishing Boris was still PM. Well he is actually, at least, until September 5th.
In the last few days a media frenzy has been developing about the emerging cost of living crisis and there are calls for the recall of parliament to agree an emergency budget, led by ex Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
However MPs have gone on their summer holidays and Boris and his new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi are abroad so that's unlikely to happen.
Either Liz or Rishi will inherit the poisoned chalice on 6th September and, whoever is the winner, one or the other will have to make some very difficult decisions. Having over-promised during the leadership contest they could have a 'rough ride'.
The chief decision will have to be about the rapidly escalating cost of energy.
As September draws to a close people would normally be turning on their central heating but, without government action, many families will not have the cash to heat their homes this winter.
A windfall tax on energy companies making excessive profits is needed, where the market price of energy far exceeds production costs, but this can only be part of the solution. Universal credit will need to be increased to fill the gap, unless the power suppliers themselves are subsidised.
Gordon Brown is right: someone needs to be doing the sums in August in order for support arrangements to be put in place before October.
It would be better for the country for Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to be sitting round a table with Nadhim Zahawi drawing up a 'first aid' plan, rather than going round the country slagging each other off and making promises they are unlikely to keep.
We venture a guess that we are largely in this mess due to Europe's over reliance on Russian gas and successive UK governments allowing overdependence on gas for the generation of electricity and failure to develop modern nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, fixing the problem is likely to take years.
Where has that inflation come from? Basically scarcity of resources. Oil refineries cut back production during the Coronavirus pandemic and haven't kept up with soaring demand now the crisis is over. Factories in China have not recovered to meet the demand for products such as computer chips. The war in Ukraine has also had a big impact. Grain imports from Ukraine stopped pushing up the price of animal feed, flour and sunflower oil. Supplies of cheap fertilizer and gas from Russia have dwindled and we may have to pay to replace the weapons and ammunition given to Ukraine.
The rich may be able to tighten their belts but the poor will need support.
In some ways home-owners have had it easy over the last ten years with relatively low interest rates, while pensioners have had no interest on their savings, but that won't bring much comfort.
In England the weather has been incredibly dry this summer and reservoirs are emptying. A hosepipe ban has only just been imposed in the south and southeast.
Farmers are harvesting beans and cereals earlier than usual and crop yields are likely to down due to the absence of rain.
The leadership contest
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are touring the country talking to groups of Conservative party members, and sound-bites from their supporters are occasionally broadcast on radio and TV. It's not clear to us who is going to win.
20th July 2022
Tory election - result of fifth ballot
It looks like most of Kemi Badenochs votes went to Liz Truss.
So the two finalists chosen by MPs are Rishi Sunak ex Chancellor of the Exchequer, who together with Health Secretary Sajid Javid 'stabbed' Boris Johnson in the back, and Liz Truss Foreign Secretary.
There will be a postal ballot of Conservative Party members in August to decide who will be the new leader of the Tory party and Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson will handover to the new PM on 6th September after visiting the Queen to offer his resignation.
19th July 2022
Tory election - result of fourth ballot
There will be another ballot on Wednesday to decide the final two with the result being declared at 4 pm.
Tom Tugendhat's votes seem to have been distributed very roughly to:
Rishi Sunak 10%
Penny Mordmaunt 38%
Liz Trust 52%
The question now is who will Kemi Badenoch's 58 votes be transferred to?
Tobias Ellwood, a supporter of Penny Mordmaunt, has lost the Tory Whip for missing a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson's government yesterday - he was in Moldova. This means he will not be able to vote in the leadership election.
The leadership vote is likely to be very close. The pundits suggests Liz Trust will likely go through and Penny Mordmaunt wil be eliminated.
18th July 2022
Tory election - result of third ballot
There will be another ballot tomorrow to reduce the candidates to three, and another on Wednesday to decide the final two.
Suella Braverman's votes seem to have been distributed very roughly to:
Rishi Sunak 45%
Liz Trust 25%
Kemi Badenoch 30%
The question now is who will Tom Tugendhat's 31 votes be transferred to?
Kemi only needs 13 votes to overtake Liz Truss, and 24 to overtake Penny Mordmaunt.
Rishi only needs 5 more votes to guarantee being in the last three. To all intents and purposes he is home and dry.
Any of the three remaining women, Penny, Kemi and Liz could make it into the next round. For them it's all to play for.
15th July 2022
Tory election - leadership debate
In the evening there was a leadership debate on Channel 4
Rishi Sunak came across as level headed and willing to listen to the views of others.
Penny Mordmaunt seemed keen on growth, targets and plans but we wondered whether she was a good listener.
Liz Truss looks tired and old for her years; the audience did not warm to her.
The previous day Liz had got lost and appeared confused while attempting to leave her leadership launch event; we wonder about her health.
Kemi Badenoch spoke up for herself and was well received.
None of the candidates answered the question - is Boris Johnson a liar, although the audience took Tom Tugendhat's smile and shake of his head as agreement.
The audience warmed to Tom Tugendhat but he will likely go out at the next ballot on Monday.
The financial crisis in Sri Lanka
There is turmoil in Sri Lanka, once called Ceylon, as the economy crashes, the population riots and the Prime Minister is called upon to resign. It's worrying how quickly a country can become unstable.
It's important a financially savvy leader is elected by the Tory party. With massive debts following the Coronavirus Pandemic we don't want the same thing happening here.
The Grenfell Tower inquiry
It's now more than 3 years since Prime Minister Theresa May called for an inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster and we are still waiting for answers.
The Ambulance Service Scandal
Ever increasing ambulance response times has become a national scandal which both the government and NHS managers have failed to do anything about.
Today, as a result of the forecast heat-wave the NHS has been asked to offload patients from ambulances within 30 minutes.
When there is a will, there is a way. Perhaps the NHS could pull their finger out and extend this to other times of year.
14th July 2022
Tory election - result of second ballot
The remaining 5 candidates will be able to lobby and hold press conferences prior to more ballots next week to decide the two finalists, before MPs go on their summer holiday.
It was amusing but unfortunate that when Tom Tugendhat sat in front of his banner for a press conference his chair blocked out some of the letters, so you saw Tom surrounded by letters saying A TART.
Lord Frost has launched a stinging attack on Penny Mordaunt. Interestingly Boris Johnson had taken Lord Frost into his cabinet to negotiate BREXIT; Lord Frost was a former diplomat but not a Member of Parliament. He resigned in December 2021, unhappy with the direction the government was taking, and was replaced by Liz Truss.
Liz Truss was a Remainer in 2016 but has since switched to supporting BREXIT. Now Suella is gone, Iain Duncan Smith is supporting Liz Truss and says she deserves to be on the final ballot paper. She is also supported by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries.
Penny Mordmaunt who is supported by David Davis and Adrea Leadsom can expect to come under intense fire from Truss (and possibly Sunak) supporters, tomorrow, and over the weekend.
Ricki Sunak could yet face negative publicity from the Daily Mail for precipitating Boris Johnson's downfall.
If either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss is elected, it will probably be more of the same, not the fresh start Tom Tugendhat and the public were hoping for. Keir Starmer and Vladimir Putin may yet rejoice at mismanagement within the Tory party.
13th July 2022
Tory election - result of first ballot
It's been an interesting 2 days. A person on Sky News described events as a political parlour game; so in that vein let's review the outcome of the first ballot.
The number of candidates has been reduced to six:-
Surprisingly Nadhim Zahawi (25 votes) and Jeremy Hunt (18 votes) were both eliminated, making 43 votes to redistribute. Jeremy Hunt says he will now support Rishi Sunak who's campaign is being assisted by Gavin Williamson, Mark Harper and Matt Hancock.
The previous day Grant Shapps stood down and said he would support Rishi Sunak. Sajid Javid and backbench MP Rehman Chisti failed to gain the necessary 20 supporters to stand in the first ballot.
The media was surprised Penny Mordaunt did so well, but an opinion poll puts her well in the lead with Tory voters. She is supported by Andrea Leadsom who stood against Theresa May and Dangerous Davis.
Were Penny Mordmaunt to make the final run off with Ricki Sunak opinion polls are predicting Penny Mordmaunt could win. Likewise Truss might beat Sunak.
11th July 2022
There is some excitement in the country.
It's Monday the 11th July and the Conservative 1922 committee is to set the rules for the election of the next Prime Minister. The media is relishing the competition. So far 11 candidates have declared their hand.
The bookies favourite Ben Wallace says he will not stand hoping to continue as Defence Secretary in the new cabinet. The rest are a motley crew from Boris Johnson's old cabinet and outsiders such as ex soldier Tom Tugendhat chair of the Foreign Affairs committee, who is calling for a fresh start.
What's needed is someone with a vision for the future of the country, a personality that will stand up to Keir Starmer and presentational skills and charisma that will appeal to voters. A person who wants the best for the country and is not in it for reasons of personal prestige.
All those standing have qualities so there is a good pool to choose from.
Who might stand
In alphabetical order by surname (11):
Kemi Badenoch Levelling up and Equalities minister
Suella Braverman Attorney General
Rehman Chisti backbench MP
Jeremy Hunt ex Health and Foreign Secretary
Sajid Javid ex Chancellor and Health Secretary (resigned)
Penny Maudant ex Defence Secretary (85 days)
Grant Shapps Transport Secretary
Rishi Sunak ex Chancellor of Exchequer (resigned)
Liz Truss Foreign Secretary
Tom Tugendhat Chair Foreign Affairs Committee
Nadhim Zahawi ex Education Secretary
Applicants must have 20 supporters.
Applications close on Tuesday 12th July 2022 at 5 pm.
First round of voting on Wednesday 13th July. Candidates with less than 30 votes must stand down. There will be voting for the remainder on successive days until only two candidates remain. Hopefully this will be decided by Monday 18th July before MPs go on their summer holiday.
The House of Commons Summer Recess is 21st July to 5th September.
The two finalists then have the chance of holding hustings before the 200,000 rank and file members of the Tory Party vote by postal ballot on who will be the next leader; the plan is for this to be announced on 5th September when MPs return from holiday.
8th July 2022
Very sadly ex Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, was killed by an assassin using a home-made gun while speaking at an election rally.
7th July 2022
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is forced to resign
Harold Wilson said 'a week is a long time in politics'. And so it was for Boris Johnson when his colleagues suddenly turned on him and forced the Prime Minister to resign.
On Monday 4th July there was a newspaper frenzy over allegations that Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher had got drunk at the Carlton Club and made improper advances. The PM had been asked what he knew about previous allegations. Number 10 initially put out statements he knew next to nothing but it soon became clear he had been told about an earlier incident.
On Tuesday 5th July Sajid Javid the Health Secretary resigned, swiftly followed by Rishi Sunak the wealthy Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The next day many more MPs resigned from junior government posts and it became clear that support for the PM had largely vanished.
At midday on Thursday the 7th July Boris Johnson announced he would be standing down once a new Prime minister was appointed.
So what brought about Boris Johnson's downfall? Basically it seems public opinion largely turned against him because of Partygate. The damning charge was he attempted to cover up what he knew. If he had been more honest and the Number 10 Press Office had been more professional maybe his downfall could have been avoided.
Boris Johnson was 'stabbed in the back by' his own side, just as Margaret Thatcher had been ousted as Prime Minister in 1990 due to concerns about dwindling voter support.
David Cameron voluntarily resigned because the public voted by a whisker for BREXIT.
Theresa May was ousted because she could not get BREXIT done. That was not her fault as both the country and MPs were split over the issue. Possibly the majority of MPs were against leaving the EU.
Boris is a maverick with charm and charisma, but people say he did not always pay enough attention to detail and was not always truthful. Likely he will stand down at the next election and pursue a new career.
Deputy Chief Whip of the Conservative party, Chris Pincher MP for Tamworth had been suspended as a Conservative Party MP over allegations he got drunk and groped two men at the Carlton Club in London on 29 June 2022.
Rather like Jimmy Saville there had been previous allegations about making improper advances but little was done about it.
Innocent until proved Guilty, the allegations are to be investigated.
19th June 2022
Inflation and the cost of living crisis are hitting the headlines. Ex Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a guest on the BBC TV Sunday Morning programme and gave his views; he sounded very statesman like - unlike members of the present Labour party who slag off the Conservatives but sadly seem to have few ideas of their own.
Railway workers are seeking an 11% pay rise and striking on Tuesday 21st, Thursday 23rd and Saturday 25th of June to press their case. They do not care this will disrupt other peoples lives. They have forgotten the government paid for them to keep their jobs during the COVID crisis. They do not care if this pushes up inflation further. It looks as though the history of the 1960s and 1970s is about to be repeated.
Numerous holiday flights were cancelled at the last moment over half term, upsetting many travellers. The cause seems mainly to have been a shortage of baggage handlers who airports sacked during the COVID crisis and have found difficult to replace. The government has warned airlines to give good notice of flights being cancelled. Hopefully by the time of the summer holidays things will have improved.
The first flight of refugees to Rwanda was postponed due to legal challenges. The country appears split over the policy. Meanwhile illegal immigrants and refugees continue to cross the channel in inflatable boats.
Two By-Elections are due to be held on 23rd June which will be a barometer for Boris Johnson's popularity and the damage inflicted by Partgate.
In Wakefield West Yorkshire, Imran Khan's majority was 3,358. It seems fairly certain that seat will swing to the Labour party.
In Tiverton and Honiton Devon, Neil Parish's majority was 24,329. It would take a big swing for the Conservative's to lose, but there are concerns Conservative voters switching to the Liberals could result in the loss of this safe Conservative seat. In 2010 the Conservative majority had been only 9,320.
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry
The 14th June marked the 5th anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. It's amazing how such a tragedy drifts from public consciousness - except in the minds of those who were there.
The phase 1 report of the public inquiry was published on 30th October 2019.
This was a factual narrative of the events on the night of 14 June 2017.
Phase 2 of the Inquiry examines the causes of these events, including how Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition which allowed the fire to spread in the way identified by Phase 1. It looks like the phase 2 report could be published towards the end of 2022 at best.
Survivors are upset that 5 years after the fire nobody has been called to account.
Conclusion of the separate criminal investigation by the police will follow publication of the phase 2 report.
6th June 2022
It was the 78th anniversary of D-Day, a fact the Conservative Party and media chose to ignore instead focussing on a vote of no confidence in PM Boris Johnson arranged by the 1922 committee following Sue Gray's report into Partygate. The vote declared confidence in the PM by 211 votes to 148 which was a fairly narrow majority.
Beth Rigby of Sky News reported the event with scarcely concealed glee. Of course she herself broke the lockdown rules by attending Kay Burley's 60th birthday party in a Soho restaurant in 2020.
Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer is waiting to see if he and his deputy Angela Rayner are fined over Beergate; if so they will resign.
26th May 2022
The Australian federal election was held on 21st May. Morrison's Liberal coalition was dislodged by Anthony Albanese's Labour Party.
This could result in more attention to climate change. One wonders how this will affect Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP) one of Australia's biggest companies.
Morrison was criticised for his handling of increasingly fierce forest fires.
Partygate has smouldered on for 5 months with occasional flare ups largely caused by the media.
On 25th May Sue Gray published her report on alleged gatherings on government premises during COVID restrictions.
The PM answered questions in the House of Commons and held a press briefing. He does not plan to resign despite calls from opposition parties and a handful of Conservative MPs. He still faces a vote on whether he knowingly lied to parliament and could yet be deposed by Conservative MPs worried about their re-election prospects.
The PM's former adviser Dominic Cummings appears to hate the PM often fanning the flames.
Let's hope we can all now move on.
Sir Kier Starmer is himself being investigated by Durham police over an evening beer and curry gathering on 30th April 2021 during an election campaign. He says he will resign if he is fined. The restrictions were loosely worded so we assume as a lawyer he would challenge and avoid any fine and if he did resign he would be immediately reappointed as leader of the Labour Party.
Inflation has suddenly soared from 3% to 8% with the cost of energy rising steeply and expected to rise further in October 2022. The poorest families are finding it hard to make ends meet. During the summer not much gas will be used in homes, but next winter there could be serious problems.
Excess deaths in the 70+ age group can be expected next winter if pensioners can't afford to heat their homes.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is likely to be the chief factor. Sunflower oil which is used in the manufacture of foodstuffs and in the home, imported from Ukraine, is disappearing from supermarket shelves. Shortage of grain could push up the price of bread and pies.
Interruption of supply chains due to COVID has created a shortage of computer chips, holding up manufacturing.
The price of diesel, fertiliser and animal food is rising steeply putting up production costs for farmers.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced plans to soften the blow:
This will be partly funded by a 25% levy on the extraordinary profits of oil and gas companies, otherwise known as a windfall tax.
Brexit is hampering the dispatch of goods to Europe so some small businesses have given up exporting.
The DUP are unhappy with onerous checks on goods entering Northern Ireland and a pragmatic solution needs to be found with easier checks on goods for consumption in NI and not going to the Republic.
The poor availability of NHS dental treatment is a scandal. Margaret Thatcher started the rot and it's something Sajid Javid and the PM need to sort out.
West Midland Ambulance Service
The response time of the ambulance service has gone downhill during the last 12 months. It's another scandal that needs to be sorted out.
Click link to read report in the Malvern Gazette:-
BBC cost cutting measures
The BBC is proposing to take BBC4 TV and CBBC off the air and make them an Internet only service on Iplayer.
Likewise the BBC plans to take BBC Radio 4 Xtra off the air so you may in future only be able to listen using BBC Sounds on the Internet.
Some pensioners may not like that.
In our opinion the content of Radio 4 Xtra has gone downhill so no great loss.
About 100 cases in the UK but we are told it's nothing to worry about.
To all intents and purposes the epidemic seems to be over.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine
Despite taking heavy casualties the Russians are continuing to advance slowy. They have captured the south, look set to capture the whole of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, and are fortifying the captured territories which will make them difficult to retake. Some farmers just want the war to end; they don't care who is in charge.
1st May 2022
Local council elections
On 5th May 2022 many people will be voting in Local Council Elections; these are happening in England, but not in all areas.
Politicians view this as a test, first for Boris Johnson to see to what extent the Conservative party has been damaged by Partygate; second for Kier Starmer to see how many seats Labour can gain under his leadership compared to his predecessor.
The Labour and Liberal parties hope flogging 'Partygate' will be a vote winner, but many voters will be more concerned with local issues and the rising cost of living.
For a while Partygate had dropped from the news but a fortnight ago the media and Kier Starmer whipped up another storm; but some are getting sick of the issue, and for the time being it has disappeared from the headlines.
Conservatives say the PM has handled the big issues well. Dealing with BREXIT; development and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine; and support for Ukraine. Nevertheless the PM did not get support from all Conservative MPs; for example those in marginal seats who are aware of the febrile atmosphere raised by Partygate and Steve Baker.
The fact is the public were not aware of some MPs and government officials breaking COVID lockdown rules at the time that it mattered, so people mostly obeyed the rules slowing the spread of COVID-19.
We imagine many of those who now rant about Partygate lost loved ones during the epidemic. Given about 600,000 people die annually of all causes and assuming each death involves say 5 loved ones then roughly 3M could have suffered the trauma of either not visiting loved ones in hospital or not being able to arrange the funeral service they wanted. Add to that delayed weddings, children missing school, other celebrations and not being able to visit parents in care homes there must be least 10M who were badly affected by the lockdowns, and in fact everyone was affected in some way.
Logically, the issue of Partygate did not affect the outcome of the COVID epidemic, but it's natural many will feel aggrieved.
The biggest issue remains the sharply increasing price of food, fuel, and gas greatly exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine which could affect prices for at least the next two years.
In recent years Britain has relied mainly on gas for the generation of electricity and now a world shortage is pushing up prices. The government will no doubt be looking at whether supplies form the north sea can be upped. Britain once a leader in nuclear power has fallen well behind with only 16% of energy being nuclear compared to 70% in France.
North sea gas does not cost more to produce so companies are making large profits by selling at world prices, and there could be a case for a windfall tax on gas producers once any losses during the COVID pandemic have been made good.
Parliament is a soap opera and this week's episode is about the bullying of people employed by MPs and male sex pests.
An ex MP talking on Radio 5 has suggested the root cause is MPs working away from home, voting into the night, and too many bars offering cheap drink. He says little will change until this is dealt with, for example by restricting the working day from 9 am to 6 pm
Neil Parish a Conservative MP has resigned after being seen by two female MPs looking at porn on his smartphone in the House of Commons.
19th April 2022
Parliament returns after Easter break
The PM was once again challenged about Partygate and could face a vote on 'whether to investigate if he misled parliament' on Thursday. This was brought about by Sir Kier Starmer who like many opposition MPs seems more concerned about a birthday cake in Downing Street than the dire events in Ukraine. The focus on petty matters by Sir Kier, Sir Ed Davey and Ian Blackford is disturbing. In our view it's time to move on.
There is though some discontent in Tory ranks.
Conservative MP Mark Harper suggested the PM should resign.
Last week media reports suggested MPs Craig Wittaker and Nigel Mills also think the PM is in a 'weak' position.
Justice Minister Lord David Wolfson had resigned from the Cabinet over the 'issue' on 13th April.
However it seems likely there will be no inquiry for now as the Conservative party has a large majority - expect more huff and puff on this once Sue Gray's report on Partygate is published. The post-mortem into the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic is a much more important issue.
There was a Defence Committee hearing at 3:00 pm about the situation in Ukraine, the state of the UK armed forces, and the preparedness or otherwise of NATO (see Ukraine war blog).
Priti Patel made a Migration statement about the plan to 'offshore' some asylum seekers to Rwanda, which was criticised by former PM Theresa May and others. Earlier the Archbishop of Canterbury had also raised concerns.
14th April 2022
The government announces a daft plan to deport single men, arriving in the UK illegally, to Rwanda. This is an attempt by Priti Patel to stop people-smugglers sending migrants who can afford to pay across the channel in inflatable craft, and is sure to raise howls of protest from the left.
Home Secretaries of all parties have been attempting to control migration for more than fifty years with little or no success.
12th April 2022
Partygate rears its head once again.
Thirty more retrospective fines to be issued to people attending gatherings at Downing Street and Whitehall breaking COVID lockdown regulations, bringing the total to about fifty.
Amongst these are Prime Minister Boris Johnson for attending a birthday party in the Cabinet Room, his wife, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.
The media, commentators and opposition MPs work themselves into a frenzy and call for the PM and Chancellor's resignation, but parliament is closed for the Easter holiday, they have apologised and are unlikely to go.
4th April 2022
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is adding to inflation and poorer households are likely to find budgets stretched this year.
We have noticed the price of supermarket food products increasing across the board in the last fortnight.
Reduced supplies of wheat from Russia and Ukraine may increase the price of flour and bakery products.
75% of our sunflower oil comes from Ukraine and supplies are almost certain drop leading to higher prices for all edible oils and shortages affecting both shoppers and those manufacturers using sunflower oil in their products.
Russia is a major producer of fertilizer. Fertilizer prices have been rising steeply and headlines in the media suggest the price of milk could in consequence rise 50%.
Attempts to cut use of Russian oil and gas could push prices up further. On the other-hand the US is releasing strategic oil supplies to calm the market.
The ONS has just produced a report on challenges in the food industry.
The BBC reported on 3rd April quote:
Police have issued fines to some people who attended an event in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral, sources have told the BBC. The gathering on 16 April 2021 was a leaving party for the former No 10 director of communications James Slack. Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not attend the event and has so far not been issued with a fine.
The media were able to whip people into a frenzy; who were these people? Notionally their names are secret until someone leaks them to the press. According to the Dail Mail Helen MacNamara was one of these.
Russian invasion of Ukraine
The war in Ukraine continues to hit the headlines, see our blog.
23rd March 2022
The world continues to be pre-occupied with Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Chancellor's Spring Statement
Rishi Sunak the British Chancellor of the Exchequer borrowed billions of pounds to pay people 'not in work' during the COVID lockdowns. Not to worry too much while interest rates are low, but at some time we will have to pay that back.
Then a world shortage of natural gas emerged pushing prices up sharply. Home owners were cushioned a little, but businesses were hit hard as home owners are likely to be next winter.
Next Russia invaded Ukraine sharply pushing up fuel prices.
Possibly some price rises as a result of BREXIT.
Lastly National Insurance is going up in April to benefit the NHS and subsidise care in old age.
Suddenly the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 6.2% in the 12 months to February 2022 and there is concern those on low wages will be unable to afford to both eat and heat their homes.
At least Spring is here and people will be turning off their central heating until September and perhaps by then prices will have settled down a bit.
In the meantime Rishi Sunak is reducing the tax on petrol by 5p which won't make much difference as petrol has already risen to 180p a litre; the income threshold for the point at which people start paying National Insurance will rise to £12,570 in July, which could be a tax cut for employees worth £330 a year.
It looks like we will all have to tighten our belts, particularly the poor.
Second anniversary of first Coronavirus lockdown
It's 2 years since the first COVID lockdown was announced. Everyone is back at work and has had the opportunity to be vaccinated. People are still getting sick but by far the majority will get better.
15th March 2022
Cases of Coronavirus have been soaring in the last week and a lot of people we know have been getting it. Hospital COVID bed occupancy has started rising. The government appears unconcerned.
24th February 2022
The Russian Invasion of Ukraine
On the 24th February 2022 Russian troops launched an invasion of Ukraine which President Vladimir Putin described as a 'Specialised Military Operation'.
Putin clearly wants to 'decapitate' the leadership and impose a puppet government under the control of Moscow.
See our new blog:
22nd February 2022
It has been almost two years since the attention of the world was first drawn to the COVID-19 virus which originated in Wuhan China and rapidly spread around the world, inducing pneumonia, and killing millions of people. The development of the Astrazeneca and Pfizer vaccines provided a way out of the pandemic and on 21st February 2022 the PM announced the removal of all legal restrictions in England.
We had 'tracked' events with our blog Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic weekly update for Malvern Seniors but now the usefulness of that is declining we are returning to our blog on politics and world events.
Four topics have hit the headlines in recent months:-
An attempt by the left wing to destabilise the Tory government and to get Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign. Photos of social gatherings at Downing Street a year ago, possibly in contravention of COVID legal restrictions were drip fed by the press. Some speculate that ex Tory adviser Dominic Cummings might be behind the leaks, seeking revenge for being sacked by the PM in November 2021.
On 8th December 2021 the PM asked the Cabinet Secretary to investigate the allegations and report back, but as he himself had been involved Civil Servant Sue Gray took over the investigation. She in turn passed information to the Police who have issued questionnaires to some 50 or so individuals; who could face a fine if they clearly broke the COVID lockdown rules.
Sue Gray has published an update on her investigation but the final report may be delayed until the Police investigation is complete.
The media is waiting with bated breath to see if the PM is fined for breaking his own rules!
National insurance increase
National Insurance payments are increasing in April 2022, to fund social care in England and help the NHS recover after the pandemic.
The government hope the tax will bring in £12Bn but its not clear exactly how the money will be spent. Read this BBC report and see if you are any the wiser.
The Labour party say the tax will hit 'hard pressed' working families.
Successive governments have failed to come to grips with the problem of care for the elderly who can no longer look after themselves. There is little time left for this government to make much headway so if Sir Kier Starmer wins the next election he could inherit the challenge of creating a National Care Service.
In February 2020 at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic petrol was £1.23 a litre. Very few vehicles were on the road that year and prices fell to £1.11 a litre in the following November.
During 2021 as COVID restrictions began to relax, and traffic increased, the price of petrol rose to £1.48 a litre.
The increasing possibility of war between Russia and Ukraine is forcing up the price of oil and pundits are suggesting petrol could soon rise to £1.70 a litre.
The media has heralded a steep increase in energy prices for some weeks, but the reality was brought home to us by Scottish and Southern Energy raising our direct debits by 45% for electricity and 65% for gas. Despite government plans to soften the burden for some, for example by averaging prices over 5 years, such increases will be a severe burden for those on tight budgets.
War between Russia and the Ukraine will only make matters worse; we could be in for a very difficult year.
After WWI and the establishment of Communism in Russia, Ukraine became one of the Soviet Socialist Republics. In broad terms, in the 1950s Kruschev gave Ukraine a degree of independence. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became a truly independent state.
Ukraine remained aligned to Russia but began to look increasingly westwards. In 2014 Putin was unhappy with the pro-western leadership and invaded the Crimea, also supporting rebels in the Russian speaking eastern Donbass region of Ukraine where fighting has continued ever since.
Russian troops started building up near Ukraine's eastern border once again in April 2021 raising concerns and peace keeping talks.
In October 2021, Russia began moving more troops and military equipment near the border with Ukraine, reigniting concerns over a potential invasion.
Russian troops then moved into Belarus along Ukraine's northern border further raising concerns of an invasion.
Russian troops and equipment are now being inserted into the rebel held areas of eastern Ukraine, after women and children were bussed out, so it would appear Putin has given the green light for the invasion to begin.
Click for Channel News Asia:-
President Biden has said the USA will not put boots on the ground and to date only financial sanctions are being floated by world leaders. Putin will see this as being given the green light.
The situation sadly mirrors the rise of Hitler leading to WWII.
Only the threat of a NATO imposed no fly zone and air attacks on Russian forces in Ukraine will cause Putin to back down.
19th July 2020
Our Coronavirus blog, which was getting a bit lengthy, has been moved to another page (see link at top of page).
The British government has announced it will remove equipment supplied by the Chinese firm Huawei from the UK G5 telecoms network by 2027 due to security concerns and intense pressure from US President Trump.
11th February 2020
The UK government gives the go ahead for the HS2 high speed rail link between London and Birmingham. In our view, the situation regarding the extension of the line for example to Manchester and Leeds and integration with Transport for the North's ideas for Nothern Powerhouse Rail remains fuzzy and still to be worked out.
31st January 2020
The new Conservative UK government finally voted to leave the EU and we are now out, but continuing under the old rules for another year while new arrangements are worked out.
Jeremy Corbyn who lost the election and always looks unhappy remains leader of the Labour party until the end of March. The principal candidates to replace him are Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy. The result of the Labour Party leadership election is due to be announced on 4 April 2020.
Companies called to give evidence to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry are asking that any evidence they give won't be used to prosecute them. This is not ideal, but what's most important is finding out what went wrong at all levels and seeking to prevent such a disastrous fire happening again.
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 the new leader of the Tory party and therefore 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 mostly 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 was 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 rampant 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.
Exit from the European Union
We are told that politicians do not largely drive the agenda, but are puppets pulled by the strings of world events. This one does however seem to be a self inflicted wound which cost Prime Minister David Cameron his job. There had always been some mutterings of discontent about the EU driven by the fact we are an Island Nation. Perhaps unwisely David Cameron held a referendum and the public voted by the thinnest of margins to leave.
The Coronavirus pandemic
The Coronavirus pandemic came out of the blue hot on the heels of the UKs exit from the EU and has left the UK deeply in debt.
The Russian Invasion of Ukraine
This might be described as another self inflicted wound. The West took it's eyes off the ball and reduced defence spending. President Obamah seemed to think Russia had become our friend. Putin thought the West was weak.
The interpretations and opinions expressed are our own
Last updated 18th November 2023