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 A wise person would probably steer clear of commenting on politics.

5th April 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

Information for Malvern Seniors

The increase in cases continues, but the UK government is taking steps to increase hospital capacity and slow down the spread of the virus by maintaining a LOCKDOWN so while people are experiencing varying degrees of 'cabin fever' there is no need to panic.

The government's plan is working and deaths are much less than they would have been if the virus had been allowed to run wild. However we need to continue to take great care to avoid catching the virus and passing it on to others.

Number of cases

Today the cumulative number of confirmed hospital cases in the UK rose to 47,806 and the number in Worcestershire to 350. Most of these are likely to be patients with acute symptoms and there will be many others with the virus self isolating at home - so the actual number of cases could be perhaps 5 to 10 times the present number of confirmed cases making the percentage of the British population so far infected by the virus about 1%.

The cumulative number of deaths has risen sharply to 4,934 of which the Malvern Gazette reports 45 deaths at hospitals in Worcestershire.

Matt Hancock the Health Minister has returned to work, while the Prime Minister rather worryingly is still suffering from the effects of Coronavirus and has been admitted to hospital this evening. Sir Keir Starmer has been appointed leader of the Labour party replacing Jeremy Corbyn.

Click for Coronavirus Dashboard

Forecast of cases to 12th April

The cumulative number of hospital cases has recently been advancing more slowly, roughly doubling every week so could reach towards 90,000 in a week's time. However it is to be hoped the number of cases will be less than this, the degree depending on how effective the lockdown introduced on the 23rd March has been.

The cumulative number of hospital deaths has been rising more steeply, quadrupling every week, so could reach 20,000 in a weeks time. However if lockdown works we should soon begin to see the daily number of deaths due to Coronavirus plateau and then begin to fall. Deaths outside hospitals, for example in the care sector, are not currently being gathered, but will be reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in due course.

The government says it is too early to give an indication of exactly how Coronavirus will be managed in the months ahead, but we are guessing the present lockdown may continue to towards the end of May.

It is impossible to forecast how fast the virus will spread during the remainder of April; it will first depend on the public continuing to obey the lockdown, despite the sunny weather, and doing our best not to catch or spread the infection to others; secondly the NHS increasing testing in order to keep doctors and nurses in the front line, and help track the spread of the infection across the country; thirdly officials tracing and isolating contacts in order to keep infections down to a tolerable level until a treatment is introduced.

It may become clearer by the end of April how the Coronavirus epidemic can be managed in the UK, and hopefully world wide, in the medium term.

Our thoughts go out to the families of the 'fallen' of the NHS who have died from Coronavirus while treating patients. We did not initially imagine NHS staff would themselves be casualties.

Hospital beds and equipment

The Nightingale field hospital at the Excel Centre in London opened this week and other facilities are being created at Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Harrogate and Glasgow. Matt Hancock said today that the NHS had 9,000 ventilators and additional ventilators would be arriving from a number of sources to increase the total to 18,000. The governments says capacity is increasing faster than the number of cases, so the NHS though stressed should not become overloaded. That said there must be tremendous pressure on those medical staff having to comfort the dying.

Symptoms

We were initially told most people would get only mild symptoms and should recover within 7 days, yet there are many accounts of people having high temperatures, feeling rottten and very weak for up to 2 to 3 weeks after. In more severe cases, after about 7 days, patients can have difficulty breathing and need to be hospitalized.

If you have symptoms and can't count from one to ten out loud due to shortness of breath, you should call your GP for advice.

There is no cure for this virus. Treatment at home is isolation, paracetamol, plenty of fluids and rest. A hospital nurse thinks 'last ditch' intubation with a ventilator to provide extra oxygen to those with pneumonia is currently only saving one person in two.

This does not sound like a mild illness - Seniors should definitely take all reasonable steps to avoid it.

Shopping

During isolation you may want to take advantage of home deliveries by local supermarkets.

 The Waitrose website is back to normal, though stocking a reduced range of products, and priority for home deliveries is now being given to those aged over 70, and the vulnerable. It looks as though delivery slots currently can't be booked more than 10 days ahead and most of those are full, but if none found Seniors are being advised to log on the next day, as new slots are being added daily.

The Morrisons website is still overloaded - you are forced to wait in a queue before being offered a 10 minute window in which to logon.

 ASDA, Sainsbury and Tesco also deliver locally - do tell us whether you have been able to book deliveries with them.

Many shops in Barnards Green are now opening at 10:00 am and Lloyd's Pharmacy is limiting customers to two; possibly one at the Post Office.

For the young and fit, the risk of infection while shopping in large county supermarkets is likely to be low this week. The number of people infected with Coronavirus in Worcestershire is probably no more than 3,500 possibly rising to 8,000 representing about 1% of the county's population.

We assess there is currently a 50% chance there could be one person with Coronavirus in a large supermarket, and if social distancing is observed, as is now being operated for example at Waitrose, and you don't touch your face and wash your hands thoroughly on getting home, the likelyhood of being infected is small. The hazard is likely to be from an individual who doesn't observe the signs, coughs over others and may leave virus on either a shopping trolley handle or checkout key pad.

Seeking help

Worcestershire Count Council has a Here 2 Help web page where you can enter your details to ask for help:

http://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/here2help

scroll down the page a little and click on the ‘I need help’ button. From here you will be able to enter your details.

You can track Coronavirus cases and obtain further advice from the government Coronavirus Dashboard.

Please do let us, or the Malvern Gazette, know if you hear of Coronavirus cases locally.

Take care, hunker down, and stay safe

29th March 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

Information for Malvern Seniors

The expected surge in cases is now apparent, but the UK government is actively taking steps to increase hospital capacity and slow down the spread of the virus by implementing a LOCKDOWN so while people are experiencing varying degrees of inconvenience there is no need to panic.

The government's plan seems to be working and deaths to date are much less than they would have been if the virus had been allowed to run wild.

Worcestershire is a rural county and the infection rate is thankfully much lower than in London where there is greater person to person contact.

That said we need to continue to take great care to avoid catching the virus and passing it on to others.

Number of cases

Today the cumulative number of confirmed cases in the UK rose to 19,522 and the number in Worcestershire to 126. Most of these are likely to be patients with acute symptoms who have gone to hospital and there will be others with the virus self isolating at home. So the actual number of cases could be perhaps 5 times the present number of confirmed cases. Even so, the percentage of the British population infected by the virus is still very small.

We are slightly disappointed the local Health Authority is not publishing where cases are occuring, but possibly this is to prevent panic.

The cumulative number of deaths has risen by 209 to 1,228 of which there has been just one death announced at Redditch and a second at Worcester.

A couple of days ago it was revealed that the Prime Minister and Health Secretary had both been tested positive for Coronavirus, as had Prince Charles. Unexpectedly the chance of stepping up the succession ladder has significantly increased! Some ask, jokingly, who is the Designated Survivor?

Forecast of cases

According to the government's Coronavirus Dashboard there has been an exponential increase in cases since early March, but in the last week we detect a slowing in the rate of acceleration, possibly due to the social distancing measures introduced on 16th March, and a further slowing can be expected due to the LOCKDOWN introduced on 23rd March. However we are still predicting the number of confirmed and unreported cases in the UK could reach 100,000 by the end of March.

We extrapolate that the cumulative number of deaths could increase by almost a factor of four over the next week towards 4,000 but if LOCKDOWN works we should soon after begin to see the daily number of deaths due to Coronavirus decreasing.

It is at present impossible to forecast how the virus will spread during the remainder of April; it is firstly dependant on us, the public, being responsible and doing our best not to catch or spread the infection to others; secondly the NHS increasing testing in order to keep doctors and nurses in the front line, and help track the spread of the infection across the country; thirdly officials tracing and isolating contacts in order to keep infections down to a tolerable level until a vaccine is introduced.

It should become much clearer during April how the Coronavirus epidemic is likely to progress. This Battle of Britain is likely to be fought over Easter with the NHS supported by the army in the front line. Supermarket checkout operators should not be forgotten, many of whom would rather be at home with their families rather than facing sometimes abusive and possibly infectious customers.

Our thoughts go out to the families of Dr Adil El Tayar aged 64 who died of Coronavirus on 25th March and Dr El Hawrani aged 55 whose death was reported today.

Hospital beds and equipment

The government has bought in beds from the private sector, ordered more ventilators and test kits, and the army is setting up a field hospital at the Excel centre in London for 500 intensive care beds initially, expandable to 4,000 and similar field hospitals are being considered at the Birmingham NEC, Manchester Central Convention Centre and the Cardiff Principality Stadium. Meanwhile beds have been reorganised in NHS hospitals to better cope with the expected surge in cases in April.

The BBC reports a temporary mortuary for 1,500 bodies is being set up at Birmingham Airport which will be part of a nationwide network capable of dealing with a 'reasonable' worst case scenario.

It has been suggested, with a favourable wind, the national UK death toll due to Coronavirus could possibly be as few as 20,000 of which Worcestershire as a small percentage of the UK population might suffer up to 200 deaths.

Another commentator has suggested that the probability of dying from Coronavirus is little different from the probability of dying from natural causes in that age group during the year - the inconvenience being people in the worst case might die within a couple of weeks instead of spread over 12 months.

Retired doctors and nurses are being invited back to help during the crisis and 750,000 members of the public have applied to be NHS voluntary responders.

Symptoms

We were initially told most people would get only mild symptoms and should recover within 7 days, yet there are many accounts of people having high temperatures, feeling rottten and very weak for up to 2 to 3 weeks after. In more severe cases, after about 7 days, patients can have difficulty breathing and need to be hospitalized.

If you have symptoms and can't count from one to ten out loud due to shortness of breath, you should call your GP for advice.

There is no cure for this virus. Treatment at home is isolation, paracetamol, plenty of fluids and rest. A hospital nurse thinks intubation with a ventilator to provide extra oxygen to those with pneumonia is only saving one person in two.

This does not sound like a mild illness - Seniors should definitely take all reasonable steps to avoid it.

Shopping

A week ago social distancing was not being observed in supermarkets, stocks were running low due to panic buying, and home delivery slots ran out.

A neigbour told us the situation is better this week, and staples can of course be bought at smaller shops, such as in Barnards Green.

The Waitrose website was back to normal last night, and giving some priority for home deliveries to those aged over 70, but the Morrisons website was overloaded.  ASDA, Sainsbury and Tesco also deliver locally.

As mentioned above, special measures are being introduced by the government to supply those the NHS has notified as being at especially high risk; possibly individuals in this category will be marked as a priority for home deliveries on supermarket databases.

Sadly there are reports of people abusing shop staff when they cannot get what they want. We can support them by showing kindness.

For the young and fit, the risk of infection while shopping in supermarkets is still relatively low. We assess there is currently a 10% chance that there could be one person in a large supermarket who has or has had Coronavirus, and if social distancing is observed, as is now being operated for example at Waitrose, and you wash your hands thoroughly on getting home, the risk of being infected is small. The greatest risk is likely to come from an individual who doesn't observe the signs, coughs over others and may leave virus on a shopping trolley handle and checkout key pad.

Help and advice

In some areas neighbours are getting together to support those with special needs and popping notes through letter boxes.

Worcestershire Count Council has a Here 2 Help web page where you can enter your details to ask for help:

http://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/here2help

scroll down the page a little and click on the ‘I need help’ button. From here you will be able to enter your details.

You can track Coronavirus cases and obtain further advice from the government Coronavirus dashboard.

Fitness

After those cloudy wet days of winter we have enjoyed getting out in the garden in the Spring sunshine. Many others have passed our gate enjoying a walk round the block with their dog.

We were entertained by Mr Motivator on Radio 5 the other day and later listened to a young fitness coach Jo Wickes who would appeal to families with young children - Google for his Youtube video.

A doctor said on TV that regular exercise should help boost the immune system.

Sadly most dentists, opticians and shops have closed down making it difficult for example to buy materials for DIY projects and plants for the garden.

Please do let us, or the Malvern Gazette, know if you hear of Coronavirus cases locally.

Take care and stay safe

22nd March 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

Social distancing measures were introduced on 16th March causing bars, pubs, cinemas and the like to close down and on 20th March schools were closed 2 weeks before the end of term. A spate of panic buying has left supermarket shelves empty and supermarket home delivery slots have run out.

Today the confirmed number of UK Coronavirus cases has risen to 5,683 of which 7 are reported in Herefordshire and 19 in Worcestershire. The cumulative number of deaths has risen to 281, which is well below the annual number of deaths from other causes of 615,000.

The government's policy is now to use 'social distancing' to slow down the escalating rate of infection; in addition 1.5 million especially vulnerable people are being contacted and recommended to hunker down and go into isolation for a period of at least 12 weeks.

The purpose is to reduce the rate at which seriously ill patients arrive at hospital to a manageable level. The distressing images of patients gasping for breath in an Italian hospital powerfully indicate how serious the disease can be for some.

These 'social distancing' measures will increase unemployment and the government has put in place an aid package. An emerging worldwide ban on air travel could put many airlines out of business. Stock markets worldwide are depressed.

So what does this mean for the elderly in Malvern?

Vulnerable individuals will be contacted by the NHS and advised to isolate themselves at home for a period of 12 weeks. The government will be offering help with obtaining food and prescriptions.

Healthy over 70s should likewise isolate themselves, but can go out for walks and mix with a few others subject to maintaining a distance of two metres.

Expect doctors to stop walk in surgeries and offer consultations over the phone.

Supermarkets have suggested giving priority to the elderly and their carers as follows:

Waitrose: 1st hour after opening

M&S: Monday and Thursday 1st hour

Morrisons: no known special arrangement

Tesco (Worcester): Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 1st hour

You would have to be up early to take advantage of this!

Home delivery slots are currently very hard to come by, but try ASDA, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose.

Hopefully panic buying will cease in a week or two and the supermarkets will increase home delivery slots.

Exit strategy

You may be wondering when the Coronavirus epidemic is going to end, but nobody seems to know.

If it is assumed the NHS would not be able to cope with cases leading to more than 400 deaths a day, and a 1% death rate, that gives a maximum capacity of 40,000 new cases per day; even at that very high rate it could take 4 years for the whole of the UK population to be affected. If social distancing were to reduce the rate of infection drastically, it is just possible that with better testing and contact tracing the epidemic might start to be brought under control in 3 months time, as in China. However relaxing the control measures early could lead to further outbreaks amongst remaining susceptible individuals, until a vaccine becomes widely available.

We must hope that the situation begins to ease by the summer, whilst being prepared for it to last a little longer.

Here are some links to further information:

Link to UK Government Coronavirus page

Link to Coronavirus Dashboard for number of cases in UK

Link to BBC News Coronavirus explainers page

Link to Scottish Government website

A new Battle of Britain has begun; the enemy is unseen and we are beginning to enter the thick of it; it may yet be a close run thing.

15th March 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

Events are beginning to move more rapidly with lockdowns in Italy, Spain and France, and travel bans and quarantine restrictions introduced restricting movement within and between countries such as the USA and Australia.

Today the number of cumulative UK cases reported by Public Health England has risen to 1,372 of which 35 people have died. In comparison Italy has had about 24,000 cases and 1,800 deaths. Though this is a big difference, the UK is possibly lagging behind Italy by just 14 days.

We are now estimating that the cumulative number of UK cases, both recorded and unrecorded, could be as high as 100,000 (0.2% of the UK population) by the end of March, and possibly even as high as 10 million (16% of the UK) by the end of April 2020, but control measures taken by the public could lower these numbers significantly.

We estimate the number of people infected per day could reach its peak between the end of April and mid May.

The Health Minister, Matt Hancock, said on Sky TV this morning that the most significant control measures were:

  • To wash hands thoroughly

  • Individuals with a fever and persistent cough should isolate themselves for 7 days

  • At risk people over 70 and those with underlying health conditions should isolate themselves during the peak of the epidemic which could last for up to 4 months - starting from a date yet to be announced.

Where contact with others is unavoidable distancing  by 2 metres from others has been suggested.

The minister went on to say that the government would be announcing new control measures next Tuesday to be enacted on Thursday. Possible measures could include banning large gatherings and advice on closing schools.

The risk in Malvern currently  remains low with 2 reported cases in Worcestershire and  1 in Herefordshire.

We recommend the elderly, those with underlying health risk conditions, and care homes should prepare plans for isolating themselves from early April or as otherwise advised by the government.

Think about shopping, cash, dealing with doctor's and hospital appointments collecting prescriptions etc. Consider what to do if you catch the virus, how you will communicate with family and friends, and plan activities  to occupy yourself during quarantine.

See the links below for further information on Coronavirus

12th March 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

The epidemic is now being widely reported in newspapers, on radio, and television. The outbreak in China now seems under control and cases are declining, whereas cases in europe, started by travellers, are increasing, particularly in Italy where a countrywide lockdown has been introduced and the health service is having difficulty coping. The WHO has declared the infection a Pandemic.

The cumulative number of confirmed cases in the UK, while still relatively small, has been roughly following an exponential curve with a total of 596 cases reached today of which 10 have died. Our 'extrapolation' forecasts that the number of confirmed cases could reach at least 6,000 by the end of March, rising to 50,000 by the end of April, but there is great uncertainty about such numbers. It was reported at today's Downing Street briefing that the actual number of cases in circulation could be up to ten times the number of confirmed cases detected by the NHS.

We wonder if the real number of cumulative cases could potentially reach several million by mid April especially if control measures were to be ignored. It is therefore most important everyone follows government advice.

The government's stated intention is to slow the rate of infection so that hospitals are not overwhelmed and can treat the most seriously ill, but over time the majority of us are likely to be infected.

As the percentage of the population that has recovered, and has immunity, increases the transmission rate should begin to slow; currently there is no information when this will happen, but perhaps towards the autumn?

Management of the disease is today moving from the 'Containment' to the 'Delay' phase and perhaps the NHS will gradually lose track of the cumulative number of infections and only report hospital cases. However, as a rule of thumb, the number of cases is likely to be roughly one hundred times the number of deaths reported.

In China transmission has been halted by enforced quarantine but as only a small proportion of the population has been infected it is possible there could be a second outbreak, for example reintroduced from europe, prior to widespread deployment of a vaccine.

Today president Trump announced visitors from the EEC, excluding the UK, would be banned from entering the USA for 30 days. Could some leaders be taking decisions thought to be popular with voters, rather than scientifically based? Some journalists are asking why the UK government is not copying 'popular' measures taken in other countries.

Here are some useful links:

Click here to read about UK Government response

Click here for new COVID19 dashboard showing reported cases

Click here for cases identified by NHS region

Click here for COVID19 advice from NHS 111 online

Confirmed Coronavirus cases in England by local authority (withdrawn)

Until yesterday there had been no cases recorded in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, but one person who visited the job centre in Worcester for a training course is recorded under Birmingham and another case has been recorded in Herefordshire. We should be mindful that there are many care homes in Malvern and the elderly and those with health conditions are likely to be much more seriously affected by the virus. Think about what we can do to protect them.

The Malvern branch of the U3A has postponed its monthly meetings at the Cube.

At present schools remain open which appears sensible bearing in mind children do not suffer serious illness and their parents could well be providing vital services.

Locally, supplies of face masks and 70% alcohol based hand gels ran out days ago. However face masks have been said to be of doubtful value, while hand gels are not required at home.

Stock market crash

The FTSE100 index fell sharply from about 7,100 to 5,994 on 9th March following concerns about the impact of Coronavirus on the world economy and a price war between Russia and the Saudi's flooding the market with cheap oil.

After a slight rally the FTSE100 index fell further to 5,273 today making it the biggest stock market crash since the 1980s.

15th February 2020

Chinese Coronavirus 2019

The outbreak of this highly infectious flu like illness started in Wahen province, China. So far, isolating suspected cases in the UK has prevented spread.

The illness is said to be often fairly mild, but more serious in about 20% of cases, with an overall mortality rate of about 2%. That means, were the illness to become rife in the UK, in the very worst case, up to one million people might die, given there is currently no vaccine or treatment.

The disease is said particularly to affect older people and those with weakened immune systems and long term conditions. In the most serious cases it causes damage to the lungs, pneumonia and death.

Click this link for UK government advice to the public on coronavirus

Click this link for estimated number of coronavirus cases worldwide

Click this link for information on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak

The disease is thought to have been transmitted from an animal in a Chinese market where all sorts of strange and exotic animals are sold for meat, such as the Pangolin or scaly anteater.

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.

Grenfell Fire

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:

.. Every time we reach out and connect with someone, it is an act of heroism. Don’t underestimate it. It could be someone you know. It could be someone you’ve always wanted to connect with but never have. It could be someone you really disagree with.  Let’s go for a heroic New Year’s Resolution. Let’s resolve to reconnect. To reach out to just one person we don’t know, or from whom we have drifted apart. Pick one person. Pick up the phone. Send them a text. Meet them for a cup of tea. Make that connection. Let's begin cementing our unity one brick at a time.

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

Brexit

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.

October 2018

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.

September 2018

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.

July 2018

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.

June 2017

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

PoppiesOn 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 Grenfell Tower Inquiry website

Click for Wikipedia account of Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Click to go the the BBC website for daily accounts of the ongoing Grenfell Tower Inquiry

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.

Archive

April 2012

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?

Finance

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.

Petrol crisis

Lorry drivers on strike. Angus Maud MP suggest we stash petrol in cans in our garages.

Phone hacking

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.

2010

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.

2009

MP's expenses

Big scandal over MPs claiming excessive allowances.

1997

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.

1979

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.

For a list of British Prime Ministers since 1952 click here

 

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.

 

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The interpretations and opinions expressed are our own