Monday, 23 December 2019

Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker

Episode IX was released last Thursday and I went to see it, obviously. I still remember sitting in the Forum Cinema Lime Street in 1977 watching the first film, episode IV and saying to my friend next to me, "I don't remember the first three!" to which she said with a smile on her face "They haven't been made yet".

George Lucas has not made a Star Wars movie since Revenge of the Sith, but that has not stopped him from imagining where his franchise might have gone. As long as there has been a Star Wars series, Lucas has talked openly, even after selling Lucasfilm to Disney, about how his version would have wrapped up. The story of the Skywalker Saga, which will end with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, has been in the planning for the better part of 50 years, and for most of those, the only person that could see the whole picture was George Lucas.

According to Lucas, there were always plans for a Star Wars sequel trilogy. But the conception of the story only started in earnest as he prepared to sell Lucasfilm, the idea being that he could send whichever conglomerate bought his company in the right direction on a new set of films.

Along with a return from the original cast, which we got in Disney’s sequel trilogy as well, Lucas’ sequels supposedly covered the stories of Anakin’s two grandchildren, who were supposed to be around 20 in the films, so it was not "Phantom Menace again". In the book, The Art of The Force Awakens, one of the characters, a Jedi named Kira, is described as a "loner, hothead, gear-headed, badass." The other teen was most often referred to as Sam, and mostly appears depicted with a blaster, which seems to indicate that he did not have Force powers himself. Kira and Sam eventually morphed into Rey and some of Finn, which makes sense: Lucas had been developing his sequel movies with the help of screenwriter Michael Arndt [Toy Story 3], who went on to receive a writing credit for The Force Awakens, the first of Disney’s trilogy.

Lucas has always had a difficult relationship with Star Wars fandom, and classifying The Force Awakens as a movie it will like is not exactly an endorsement. According to the filmmaker, he has always been disappointed that fans did not really, in his estimation, understand Star Wars, and to him Disney and J.J. Abrams’ film was a reaction to that fact.

For all his struggles with Star Wars fans, particularly their reaction to the prequel trilogy. It does seem that George Lucas wanted his version of the story told. As much money as the Lucasfilm deal made him, it is hard not to see Lucas as a little bit disappointed. Lucas himself may have summed his feelings up best in The Story of Science Fiction.

Myself, I still prefer the books.

Monday, 16 December 2019

GE 2019 Result

Party                                    Seats    Vote share
Conservative                         365     43.6%
Labour                                  203     32.2%
Scottish National Party          48       3.9%
Liberal Democrat                  11      11.6%
Democratic Unionist Party     8        0.8%
Sinn Féin                                7        0.6%
Plaid Cymru                           4        0.5%
Social Democratic                 2        0.4%
Green                                    1        2.7%

It started with the exit poll broadcast at 22:00 at the end of the voting day as everyone tuned in to their particular favourite media channel, the shock was real, could this be true, everyone started to play down the fact that there could be a conservative landslide.

However as the night rolled on the reality began to dawn. One of the markers that had been set by the media was the great red wall, an imaginary line between North Wales and York. Some of the counts in this area were notorious for being the first to reveal their result and as some of these seats that had been Labour since the beginning, the fact that they were now turning blue set the pace.

At the end of the night it was realised that the people had their say, they were fed up with three years of prevarication by politicians and they wanted #Brexit to finish.

You might say that it was Boris’s finest hour. This is the beginning of the end for the Remainers, but it is the start of something that could be extraordinary for Britain. The faction for remain wanted another referendum, if it had happened, the result would have been this overwhelming no. No to that insufferably arrogant Remainer Parliament blocking the referendum result because they knew better. No to Jeremy Corbyn whose antisemitism knows no bounds and has gone out of his way to circle the issue rather than confront it. He could not even accept his responsibility for the failure of the day and fall on his sword and decided to stay on and reflect!

Boris Johnson has acknowledged that a huge swath of Labour voters have 'lent him their vote' and it is now down to him to satisfy their needs.

Monday, 9 December 2019

GE 2019 Final Week

The general election for 2019 is this Thursday 12th December.

Parties involved and current poll standings:-
43% Conservative
33% Labour
13% Lib Dems
 4% Plaid Cymru
 4% SNP
 3% Brexit
 3% Green

Election analysts have long projected the number of seats for each party by assuming a “uniform national swing”. This is calculated by taking the difference between each party’s share in current national polls and the results at the last election. This figure is then added to the party’s results in each constituency in the previous election. However these are forecasts and not results.

Surprisingly these figures have not changed much over the last twelve months, and I wonder if the usual theme of elections has been lost this time round, such as health, education and defence because #Brexit has such a strong hold on everyone, mainly because it didn't happen on the 29th, March the 22nd April or 31st October.

The 2017 actual result was:-
42% Conservative
40% Labour
 7% Lib Dems
 3% SNP
 1% Green
 1% UKIP
 3% Others

What will it look like next Friday morning?

Monday, 2 December 2019

GE 2019 Manifesto Week


Boris Johnson has launched the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto, with the slogan Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain's Potential. The 59-page manifesto comes 18 days before the general election. Speaking at its launch in Telford, Shropshire, the prime minister said the choice facing the country in this "closely fought" contest had "never been starker".

Here is an at-a-glance looks at the key commitments:
The NHS and social care
50,000 extra nurses to be recruited
50 million extra GP appointments a year
£34 billion extra funding a year for NHS
Cross-party agreement sought to solve social care crisis
40 new hospitals
Free hospital parking for selected patients and staff

Labour has promised an "investment blitz" across England to bring "wealth, power and prosperity" to communities. The party launched regional manifestos for each part of the country on Friday, including pledges on transport, housing and jobs. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the announcement would "bring our country back together".

But Tory minister Jake Berry said it was "a clear distraction from Corbyn's failure to set out a Brexit plan".

Launching the manifestos in the East Midlands, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the plans would "make sure we deal with the climate crisis", but "harness opportunities at the same time".

"Labour will govern for the whole of Britain, handing wealth and power back to every community and giving everyone a better life... rebuilding our public services and kick-starting a green industrial revolution that will bring prosperity to every region while tackling the climate and environmental emergency head on."

Liberal Democrat:-
Stop Brexit...
Stop Brexit and invest the £50 billion Remain Bonus in public services and tackling inequality.

Tackle the climate emergency by generating 80% of our electricity from renewables by 2030 and insulating all low-income homes by 2025.

Give every child the best start in life by recruiting 20,000 more teachers as part of an extra £10 billion a year for schools.

Build a fairer economy by providing free childcare from 9 months and giving every adult £10,000 to spend on skills & training throughout their lives.

Transform our mental health services by treating mental health with the same urgency as physical health.

Green Party:-
The Green New Deal will invest in our shared future, funding improvements in:

including the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy.

including the provision of better insulation for all homes that need it, the delivery of major heating upgrades for 1 million homes a year and the creation of 100,000 new energy efficient council homes a year.

including the delivery of a public and sustainable transport revolution, which will allow people to travel cheaply and safely on new trains, buses, cycleways and footpaths.

including support for businesses to decarbonise and the provision of training to give people skills to access millions of new green jobs.

Food, Farming & Forestry:
including the planting of 700 million trees and support for healthy and sustainable food and farming systems.

including the creation of a Universal Basic Income, paid to all UK residents to tackle poverty and give financial security to everyone.

New green homes, new green transport and new green jobs will get us on track to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 and provide new opportunities for everyone to live happier and more secure lives. This will be a combined investment of over £100 billion a year in the Green New Deal, with an additional investment in Universal Basic Income.

The Brexit Party have confirmed they will not be releasing a manifesto.

Monday, 25 November 2019

GE 2019 The ITV Debate

Last Tuesday the ITV held a 'debate' between the PM Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

It was not a debate in the real sense more like two individual interviews glued together. There was an audience with questions, which were longer than the answers, but every time one of the two prepared a response, it was cut short by the host. I am sure the 50 minutes could have been used more prudently to allow each side a chance to get their statements across.

Hosted by news presenter Julie Etchingham, the head-to-head marks the first time since 2015 that both the Labour and Conservative party leaders have taken part in a TV debate. It is telling on how well leaders perform in these kinds of debates, which can make or break their popularity with voters.

Boris Johnson faced dismissive laughs when confronted over whether politicians respected the truth as both party leaders struggled to convince a sceptical audience during the programme. Mr Johnson started off strongly as Jeremy Corbyn was unable to give a convincing answer on his Brexit policy for the first 10 minutes, but both were then hit by moments of disdain as they moved onto issues of the union, anti-semitism and the toxic debate that plagues politics. Jeremy Corbyn was mocked over his Brexit policy by a live television audience after he refused nine times to say whether he thought Britain should leave the EU or remain.

The final audience question was "What Christmas present would you give each other"? Jeremy Corbyn joked he would leave a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens under Boris Johnson's tree. Boris Johnson had the audience and ITV Leaders' Debate moderator Julie Etchingham grinning with his response. The Conservative leader said: "I would probably leave a copy of – since he made a literary effort – my brilliant Brexit deal which allows us to come out.

It was too short and interrupted [by the host too much] to say whether one side or the other had come out on top. However, a draw at least allows Jeremy Corbyn to give a sigh of relief as their polls fall ever lower and could be considered a win!

Monday, 18 November 2019

GE 2019 Who is leading?

One of the threats to a Conservative majority is the Brexit party standing in the other seats after saying they would not stand in the 317 seats held by the 2017 conservative. There is a chance that the Brexit party will take seats from the Lib Dems where there is a strong leave base, as the Lib Dems are fully remain.

There are no threats to the Labour majority as it will not happen, not while Jeremy Corbyn is leader, however, just changing the leader is not enough for any party just to sweep the board. The Labour party are not working for a majority they are working specifically to stop the Conservative majority.

In 2015 the Brexit party took one seat from Labour and three seats from the Conservatives. What Nigel Farage would like is to have enough seats to be a bridge between all parties like the DUP are now. This is still unrealistic but there is a real chance that the Brexit party can damage all the others which will create another hung parliament.

One of the crucial statistics currently being shown is that 60% of leavers in Labour seats will vote conservative and 40% of leavers in Labour seats will vote Labour. this if true will be a huge help to the Conservative campaign.

Who is going to grab the 'new' vote? This time round there are those who could not vote in the 2016 referendum or the 2017 election because of age, they have been witnesses to the Brexit scandal, how will their vote affect the overall picture, are they keen enough or are they more interested in the environment and climate change?

More questions than answers but there is plenty of time to get them over the next four weeks, which are going to be very difficult for pollsters to predict.

Monday, 11 November 2019

GE19 - Battle Lines

If there is to be one winner, what needs to be done by the parties to achieve this?

One phrase flying round is "The Red Wall" this is an area across the North West that extends from North Wales all the way across England to Yorkshire. If the Conservatives can win more Labour strongholds here a majority is possible.

One conundrum at present is what effect the Brexit party will be during this election, will they devastate the Labour party or the Conservative party, if the Brexit party does well, there is a good chance that there will be no majority for anyone.

The Lib Dems have their eyes on moderate Conservative seats in the South where the Conservatives are becoming tired with the Brexit mantra. In London, the Lib Dems might have more success without trying because Labour are struggling in the capital, not just because of Brexit.

What can Labour do to gain a majority in GE19?

There are about 40-50 seats that the Conservatives hold that are considered marginal and Labour need to work hard to pull these seats towards themselves. Another example is where Conservatives are standing down this time. The capitol is going to be difficult for Labour this time round. Of course all Labour really need to do is stop the Conservatives getting a majority, and frankly that should be a no brainer.

The Lib Dems have agreed a deal between the Greens and Plaid Cymru covering 60 seats which is 10% of the total, no one knows how this will pan out, however, if the three control these 60 seats it will have a crucial effect on a Conservative/Labour majority position.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

GE19 - Plot Twist

If you thought Tom Watson standing down as deputy leader of the Labour party was a shock to the system, this morning Ian Austin a Labour MP and party member for 14 years has made a plea to the general public to vote Conservative!

Ian Austin announced on BBC radio 4 Today program in an emotional statement that he will not contest the Dudley North seat he has held since 2005 over fears that he could take votes off the Conservative candidate and hand victory to Labour.

Ian Austin actually left Labour last February and has held the seat as an independent.

The Labour party has been spoiled by racism, extremism and intolerance under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, the deterioration under Mr Corbyn and its [laughable] stance on Brexit has left them unfit to run the country.

Ian Austin said "The country faces a big choice. There are only two people who can be prime minister on 13 December: Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson and I think Jeremy Corbyn is completely unfit to lead our country, completely unfit to lead the Labour Party."

Monday, 28 October 2019

Can Trump policies finally fail

When he is not raving about how the deep state is conspiring against him, Donald Trump loves to boast about the economy, claiming to have achieved unprecedented things. As it happens, none of his claims are true. While both G.D.P. and employment have registered solid growth, the Trump economy simply seems to have continued a long expansion that began under Barack Obama.

But now it is starting to look as if Trump really will achieve something unique. He may well be the first president of modern times to preside over a slump that can be directly attributed to his own policies, rather than bad luck.

More recently, the [mini-recession] of 2015-16, a slump in manufacturing that may have tipped the scale to Trump, was caused mainly by a plunge in energy prices rather than any one else's policies.

Now the U.S. economy is going through another partial slump. Once again, manufacturing is contracting. Agriculture is also taking a severe hit, as is shipping. Overall output and employment are still growing, but around a fifth of the economy is effectively in recession. But unlike previous presidents, who were just unlucky to preside over slumps, Trump has done this to himself, largely by choosing to wage a trade war he insisted would be 'good, and easy to win'.

The manufacturing slump is more surprising. After all, America runs a large trade deficit in manufactured goods, so you might expect that tariffs, by forcing buyers to turn to domestic suppliers, would be good for the sector. That is surely what Trump and his advisers thought would happen. But that’s not how it has worked out. Instead, the trade war has clearly hurt U.S. manufacturing. Indeed, it has done considerably more damage than even Trump critics like yours truly expected.

For the past few months he has been trying to portray the Federal Reserve as the root of all economic evil, even though current interest rates are well below those his own officials predicted in their triumphalist economic projections. However, the Fed-bashing will prove ineffective as a political strategy, not least because most Americans probably have at best a vague idea of what the Fed is and what it does.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Brexit Deal

Today has been labelled "Meaningful Monday" after "Super Saturday", so what happened?

The idea for Super Saturday was to allow a debate about the new deal that the PM Boris Johnson had put before the EU last week and it had been accepted by them. Parliament would have the chance to scrutinise this and then vote. 'Presumably' if the vote passed we would leave with a deal, and if the vote failed we would leave without a deal.

However, the first sticking block was the Letwin amendment had to be voted on, and this required the PM to ask the EU for an extension no matter whether the vote passed or failed.

It all comes down to numbers and the biggest faction with what could be called a block vote was the DUP, they had 10 MPs and they would all vote the same way. Would it be for or against?

The day started with rumours of a for vote from them after what had been said during the week, comments were seen to be favourable towards the governments position, however, as the day progressed they held a meeting in a side room and then the rumours were that they would abstain. This made calculating the result very difficult for forecasters. In the end they voted against, and the Letwin amendment won by 322 to 306. as a result the PM called off the main vote until Tuesday, which was changed yesterday to Monday [today].

A lot of MPs spoke against the Letwin amendment during the session, but it made little difference.

Monday, 14 October 2019

North West Syria

Last week Turkey launched an aerial and ground assault on northern Syria targeting Kurdish-controlled areas.

The offensive began Wednesday, just days after President Trump ordered U.S. troops to fall back from their positions on the Turkish-Syrian border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports dozens of Kurds have been killed so far.

Turkey is claiming the death toll is far higher. The Trump administration has faced widespread criticism from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers for abandoning the stateless Kurds who had helped the U.S. fight ISIS. Turkey is also claiming the assault is needed to establish a “safe zone” in northern Syria where Turkey could relocate Syrian refugees who fled over the past eight years of fighting, but the Kurds [and the rest of the world] see the offensive as part of a decades-long attack
by Turkey to crush their attempts at greater autonomy.

The Kurds have been responsible for holding over 10,000 ISIS fighters and their families in detention. While Trump has claimed Turkey will take control of the makeshift jails, there is growing concern many former ISIS fighters will be able to escape during the Turkish assault. At least one Kurdish prison has already been shelled.

What we saw over the weekend was the long-promised invasion by Turkish President Erdoğan. Many people have said, as there is a consensus all around the world and with public opinion, is the consequences of this will be grave. It is not only that it is essentially threatening a Kurdish genocide, it will create and cause the resurgence of ISIS. It will add to the international refugee crisis.

However, in a shift in alliance, Kurdish forces have announced a deal with Damascus that the Syrian regime will send troops to the area, specifically the border. Now this means Turkey a NATO ally will face Syria which is backed by Russia and Iran.

This is disconcerting.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Brexit position

All day we have heard reporters saying "Our position has not changed" and what they are referring to are EU leaders not journalistic reporters.

For example the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a telephone conversation with the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this morning [Tuesday 8th October, 2019] and used the phrase "We think the chance of a deal for Brexit is extremely unlikely" and the reason is "Our position has not changed".

I do not want to single out the German Chancellor specifically as it stands for all 27 EU countries as they are repeatedly saying "Our position has not changed". Each and every one of the EU members has started to fall behind the rhetoric organised or dictated by someone in Brussels that negotiating is no longer available.

The point is the EU is no longer willing to compromise on the current situation and perhaps they have not been willing to compromise for some time, so when they say it will be Britain's fault we leave without a deal, they are lying through their collective back teeth.

They [the EU] have had the audacity today to accuse Britain of playing games, Donald Tusk tweeted "what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?"

If the EU have no intention of negotiating a deal, it will not be Britain that is playing games.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Operation Midland

Operation Midland was a British police investigation into alleged abuse, conducted by the Metropolitan Police in London from November 2014 to March 2016. The operation focused on the investigation of several high profile British politicians, military officers and heads of security over alleged claims of child sexual abuse and homicide, against a number of high profile British citizens, consisting of politicians, military chiefs and heads of security. The eighteen month operation failed to find sufficient evidence to support the claims, and an inquiry into the police investigation afterwards concluded that the people involved had been falsely accused, with detectives and officers having committed several errors in the course of their work.

The Henriques report was initially released heavily redacted. A fuller version of it will be released today and will say the issue of police allegedly misleading a judge to gain search warrants as they investigated prominent figures was the most serious police error of the 43 he identified during his inquiry. Police omitted to tell the court of inconsistencies in the account of the sole witness they were basing their investigation on.

The scathing report accuses Britain's biggest police force of being too ready to believe the extraordinary claims of fantasist Carl Beech and failing to identify the glaring and obvious inconsistencies in his extraordinary allegations. In 2014, Beech told senior detectives that he had been abused by a group including Sir Edward Heath, the former Prime Minister, Lord Brittain, the former Home Secretary, Lord Bramall the former head of the army and Harvey Proctor MP.

The report says there were numerous opportunities to spot his lies in the early stages of the inquiry and shut down the case.

In response, Scotland Yard's deputy commissioner Sir Stephen House admitted mistakes were made but said the force does not agree with everything Sir Richard wrote in his report, however most if not all of those concerned are either retired or dead.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Party conference

Yesterday the conservative party conference started, which is happening while parliament is in session, unusual as this has never happened before and because last Tuesday the Supreme court said prorogation was unlawful!

The agenda:-

Building a Safe and Prosperous Britain
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Delivering Brexit

James Cleverly opened proceedings as party Chairman, and told the hall that he and Johnson had signed the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the Conservative party, while other pre-briefed announcements were left to outside the hall.

There is the row about whether Boris Johnson failed to declare a conflict of interest over his relationship with tech businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri. He insisted on Marr Sunday morning, that there was 'no interest to declare' following the latest allegations that the pair were not just enjoying [technology lessons] together. The story here is about money, and whether it was right that Arcuri received public funds while Johnson was Mayor, and whether she got access to trade delegations which she had not been deemed eligible to go on as a result of those technology lessons.

Every party conference starts with briefings that aides 'want to focus on domestic policy' rather than the rows about Europe. That has been going on for long enough for all of us to know that this just is not how things often work out. But today will be a very domestically-focused day. The big speech of the day comes from Chancellor Sajid Javid, who will presumably want to suggest that he is not just the guy who signs the cheques written by Boris Johnson, but someone with an authority of his own.

There are also speeches and panel discussions on welfare reform, education, infrastructure and business. We will get announcements on planning, infrastructure spending and employment.

Today's agenda:-

Boosting Our Public Services
Creating a World Class Education System
Spreading Opportunity Across the Country

Growing Our Economy and Protecting Our Environment
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Building the Infrastructure Britain Needs
Remember the MPs have to travel 200 miles south to vote!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

The House Returns

After Tuesday's surprise and unanimous verdict from the Supreme Court Parliament started again yesterday at 11:30, and everyone rushed back to the house to see what was going on.

The Prime Minister gave his statement on the Supreme Court's verdict, and then responded to points from MPs.

He repeatedly goaded the Labour leader, accusing him of 'sheer political selfishness and political cowardice', and claiming he was being held hostage by his party, crying to the chamber: 'Free the Islington One!' Conservative MPs broke into applause. This was mainly due to the fact that the PM has repeatedly said we will leave the EU on 31st October with or without a deal, tried to call for a general election, which none of the opposition parties want as they are remainers and seem convinced that the public will once again vote to leave, only this time it will be a bigger majority.

However their tactic now is to accuse the PM [only] of using disgraceful language in the house to bolster his case. James Cleverly conservative party chairman explained on BBC Radio 4 Today programme that language on all sides of the house had been intemperate and violent. The rhetoric can be deescalated if both sides calmed down and compromised.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox described this parliament as 'dead' and insisted that his legal advice about prorogation had been correct, but that the judges had created new law. Obviously this little episode has a long way to go even though the Supreme Court has made a ruling, which was unanimous.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019


Prorogation [pronounced 'pro-ro-ga-tion'] marks the end of a parliamentary session. It is the formal name given to the period between the end of a session of Parliament and the State Opening of Parliament that begins the next session. The parliamentary session may also be prorogued before Parliament is dissolved.

At the beginning of September 2019, Boris Johnson the Prime Minister Prorogue'd parliament, a decision that caused a furore among MPs as they thought parliament was being stifled. The act is normal when a Queens speech is enabled usually before a term of parliament, but the length was what caused the commotion as it left very little time for a debate about Brexit.

People were so incensed that the matter was taken to court lead by Gina Miller using the label "fight for democracy", it was very quickly shuffled up to the high court.

Three of the most senior judges in England and Wales dismissed her claim that the prime minister acted unlawfully in giving advice to the Queen to suspend parliament from next week at a time of momentous political upheaval. The lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, the master of the rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, and the president of the Queen’s bench division, Dame Victoria Sharp, granted permission for the case to be appealed to the Supreme court.

That day has arrived as we all now patiently await the Supreme courts decision.

Lady Hale in the Supreme Court has stated that the Prorogation was unlawful and therefore is no longer running AND this was a unanimous decision by all eleven.

Link to Lady Hale's summary:-

Monday, 23 September 2019

UK Labour position

The party conference season is in full swing and this week is the turn of the Labour party, an opportunity to showcase policies.

It actually started last Friday with the announcement that the position of Deputy Leader was being abolished! As it happened Tom Watson managed to keep his elected position, however it was obviously the start of movement to cement Jeremy Corbyn's position this week.  Remember as the unions hold 50% of all votes, it only really matters what they vote for.

Of course, the big row at this conference was supposed to be on Brexit, and there's plenty of potential for things to really kick off tonight and tomorrow, when the party will vote on what its position should be. Members were last evening locked in a private room doing 'compositing', which is one of those words you will only ever need to use if you find yourself attending a Labour conference. Just one extra vowel away from composting, which is one of those activities you would probably rather spend your Sunday doing, this verb entails people sifting through all the motions and amendments submitted by local parties and coming up with a motion that conference can then vote on. But expectations are that the meeting will not be successful in reaching a compromise.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr McDonnell said he would support Remain in any future vote as he thought it was the "best option", but he believed other members should be allowed to "exercise their own judgement". He added: "This is an honest, democratic debate and that is what our party is about - making sure that people can express their views democratically and be honest about their assessments. "People have high emotions on this because they feel it is important, but people are respecting each others views as well. "Do not mistake democracy for division. It isn't. What we are seeing is an honest debate."

John McDonnell also summed up the debate that will take place, unfortunately it still sounds as though Labour want to place a question before people in a referendum that sounds like A) a new deal from the EU or B) remain, however the new deal from the EU would be remarkably similar to staying in that the paper might as well say A) remain or B) remain.

Tomorrow at Labour conference
08:30: Policy Seminars
09:45: Morning Plenary Session: New Economy John McDonnell's Speech
12:35: Votes
12:45: Break
14:00: Afternoon Plenary Session: New Internationalism
16:20: Votes

Friday, 13 September 2019

Friday 13th

The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, "originating from the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion" in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.

It is possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, contributed to disseminating the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

A suggested origin of the superstition Friday, 13 October 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar, may not have been formulated until the 20th century. It is mentioned in the 1955 Maurice Druon historical novel The Iron King, John J. Robinson's 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, Dan Brown's 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and Steve Berry's The Templar Legacy [2006].

A study in the British Medical Journal, published in 1993, attracted some attention from popular science-literature, as it concluded that "'the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent' on the 13th"; however, the authors clearly state that "the numbers of admissions from accidents are too small to allow meaningful analysis". Subsequent studies have disproved any correlation between Friday the 13th and the rate of accidents.

On the contrary, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics on 12 June 2008 stated that "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500."

Fortunately for me, nothing remarkable or bad has happened to me on Friday 13th.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The global financial system

Are we at the beginning of the biggest global financial meltdown yet to be recorded in human history?

The American president Donald Trump is focused on and obsessed with the fact that we bought $543 billion worth of stuff from China last year, and we sold $120 billion. It is not because of bad trade deals The Donald thinks that his predecessor made, or because the Chinese are the worst kind of trade cheats in world history. The reason is the economic differential [the economic cost and wage gap between the two countries is so great], that we have this huge imbalance. The Fed is the partial cause of that economic and cost differential.

If you look at manufacturing, the average wage is over $30, which includes the cash wage plus the health benefits, retirement, and Social Security taxes, and all the rest of it. In China, it is about $5. When you have $30 versus $5, it tells you all you need to know.

So, we have this huge gap overall, which is $423 billion, in other words, exports minus imports. Now almost 55% of that is accounted for by two trade code categories that really focus on smartphones, laptops, desktops, other computer equipment, electronics, and so forth.

Apple iPhones and the whole rest of it [the supply chain has been entirely transplanted to China. That’s because of a wage arbitrage. Last year, in those categories, the US imported $275 billion worth of stuff, including about $90 billion worth of cell phones] and then exported to them only $27 billion worth of stuff. So, there is a massive 10-to-1 ratio of imports to exports, and it is due to wage and cost differences, not because the Chinese cheat. The point is you are not going to negotiate that away.

Donald Trump has identified the problem of $423 billion merchandise trade deficit of one country. He is only going to blow up the global trading system and supply chains with these idiotic tariffs. They are really getting pretty serious.

After the 2008 crisis, the Fed kept interest rates artificially low, as a “temporary” measure. All this did was create easy money and pump up the stock market. The Fed’s attempt to normalize interest rates caused the stock market to tank. They’ve since capitulated and ended the tightening cycle.

You could say they will go to quantitative easing [QE]. I doubt that. The QE experiment has failed entirely. We have had massive increases in the Fed’s balance sheet, which went from about $850 billion on the eve of the subprime crisis to a peak of $4.5 trillion. Ben Bernanke promised at the time and said it over and over: This is an emergency. It is the 100-year flood. It is a one-time thing. We will normalise as soon as the economy has stabilised.

There is no doubt that this is not going to stop anytime soon.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Parlimentary politics

On Monday 2nd September, 2019 the PM announced in front of Downing Street:-

Chancellor Sajid Javid is going to set out the most ambitious spending round for more than a decade
We are recruiting another 20,000 police officers.
We are doing 20 new hospital upgrades in addition to the extra £34 billion going into the NHS.
More funding for primary & secondary education.

He then went on to talk about #Brexit.

The PM said he could see three reasons for a deal:-
They [EU] can see we want a deal
They can see we have a clear vision for the future
They can see we are utterly determined to strengthen our position

He then pointed out the vote on Tuesday 3rd September, 2019 where he recommends that MPs should vote with the government against Corbyn’s pointless delay.

He then added "Without that sword of Damocles over their necks." clearly stating that any conservative MP not voting with the government would be severely dealt with.

On Tuesday 3rd September, 2019 the vote went...

On their first day back after summer holidays, rebel and opposition MPs voted in favour of seizing control of the parliamentary agenda for the following day in order to introduce a bill forcing the prime minister to request a Brexit delay until January 31, 2020 - unless legislators approve a withdrawal agreement, or vote in favour of a so-called no-deal departure by October 19.

There was a debate that started in the afternoon and lasted until the vote, the rebel MPs and opposition parties won by 328 to 301.

There were 21 conservative rebels including two ex chancellors Kenneth Clark & Philip Hammond, and all 21 have now been expelled from the party and are no longer allowed to stand as conservative MPs at the next election.

To add drama to the day [as if that was needed] the PM walked into parliament on Tuesday with a majority of one, which he lost even before the vote when the Conservative MP Phillip Lee defected from the party and crossed the floor to join the Liberal Democrats.

On Wednesday 4th September 2019:-

TLDR:- The PM Boris Johnson gets his second defeat in parliament.

Boris Johnson threw down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn to call a general election in his first Prime Minister’s Questions at lunchtime.

Agenda for the day was MPs vote to block PM's call for an election, then the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn rejects general election [even though they have been calling for a GE for almost two years] to break #Brexit deadlock.

There are apparently MPs wandering round Westminster looking like zombies as the last two days has felt like two weeks.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Hong Kong Protests

The Chinese government has rejected all five demands of the Hong Kong protesters, while police in the special administrative region have begun rounding up pro-democracy leaders. According to Reuters, the Chinese Communist Party has ordered Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam not to bow to any of the protesters' demands, including the full and final withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill that sparked the unrest in March. Beijing was initially relatively restrained in its reaction to the protests, which have seen millions take to Hong Kong's streets. But as the movement persisted, the Chinese government has become more vocal regarding what it has described as riots and "near terrorism."

Nonetheless, Reuters noted that the Communist Party is believed to have been directing the Hong Kong's government's response to the unrest. Lam submitted a report on the protests some time between June 16 [when Lam announced the suspension of the proposed withdrawal bill] and August 7, Reuters reported citing two of its three sources. Chinese government officials analysed Lam's report at a meeting on August 7 in the border city of Shenzhen, where Chinese military and paramilitary troops have been gathering in recent weeks. Reuters reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping was aware of the report and the meeting to discuss it.

The protesters have five central demands: the full withdrawal of the extradition bill, an independent inquiry into the protests, fully democratic elections, dropping of the term "riot" in describing protests, and a general amnesty for all those so far arrested.

The extradition bill would have allowed the region's government to extradite criminals to China for trial. Opponents feared it would allow Beijing to target political opponents in Hong Kong and undermine the "one country, two systems" accord under which the island has been governed since it was transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong police have arrested multiple pro-democracy figures as they prepare for what will be the thirteenth weekend of consecutive marches. Among those detained was Joshua Wong, who came to prominence during the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests, in which activists demanded full democratic elections in the territory. Wong was arrested alongside fellow activist Agnes Chow on Friday. Both belong to the pro-democracy 'Demosisto' movement, and have now been released on bail, the organization said. Following his release on bail, Wong wrote on Twitter: "My arrest shows the government answers our request for a dialogue with batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrest. Our freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights are eroded."

Police have arrested more than 900 people since the mass demonstrations began in June, CNN reported. As the unrest wears on, clashes between police—occasionally backed by alleged pro-Beijing gangs—and anti-government activists have become increasingly violent.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Lonely Millennials

22% Of Millennials Say They Have No Friends:

A staggering 22% of millennials [aged 23 - 38] surveyed by YouGov [in America] say they have no friends, while less than 1/3 say they have at least 10 friends. Meanwhile 30% of Millennials say they 'always or often feel lonely.'

Even if younger Americans are overstating their isolation, the jarring numbers reflect long-term rising trends in loneliness. Studies have indicated that loneliness has myriad negative mental and physical health effects. “Strong social relationships support mental health, and that ties into better immune function, reduced stress and less cardiovascular activation,” Debra Umberson, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas, told Time magazine in 2015.

Oddly, 25% of Millennials surveyed also said they don't have any acquaintances.

Is social media to blame? As the Daily News points out, "a 2018 study out of the University of Pennsylvania linked usage of apps like Facebook and Instagram to social isolation. “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness,” the study’s author, psychologist Melissa Hunt, said at the time."

Meanwhile, according to Vox, many 30-somethings have a hard time making new friends as they get older, as their lives become busier and friends move away.  More recently, in a 2016 paper, researchers in Germany found a peak of loneliness in a sample of 16,000 Germans at around age 30, another around age 50, and then increasing again at age 80. “We don’t quite know why this is happening,” said Maike Luhmann, a psychologist who researches loneliness at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and co-authored the paper. -Vox

Is loneliness hazardous to your health?

According to a 2015 meta-review of 70 studies, loneliness has been linked to higher blood pressure and heart disease - and increases risk of dying by 26%. "As long as we then do what we should do — reconnect with people — then loneliness is a good thing," said Luhmann, adding "It becomes a bad thing when it becomes chronic. That’s when the health effects kick in. And it becomes harder and harder to connect with other people the longer you are in the state of loneliness."

Monday, 5 August 2019

NHS Boost

After the announcement of an extra £1.8 billion, the Prime Minister has pledged that the sum to be paid this year, will immediately hit frontline services by boosting beds and providing new equipment. The funding is in addition to Theresa May's £33.9 billion yearly increase to go to the health service by 2023/24. Mr Johnson's latest spending pledge is expected to be used to upgrade wards, repair buildings and boost capital spending.

Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said the money falls far short of what is required, hinting at the £6 billion which has been mentioned before. The Nuffield Trust health think-tank said the sum will "only be a fraction" of the cost needed to upgrade 20 hospitals as Mr Johnson pledged on his first day as PM.

Labour, however, seized on the spending and said it "falls significantly short" of the amount needed to reverse Tory cuts. Labour accused the Tories of "smash and grab raids" by diverting money away from capital spending, used for equipment and repairs in order to plug funding holes elsewhere in the NHS. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "This announcement, even if it's ever delivered falls significantly short of what's needed to provide quality, safe care to patients after years of Tory cuts.

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Baroness Jolly said Mr Johnson's pledge "will not be worth the paper it's written on" when a no-deal hits.

Cancer Research UK said the investment would go "some way to address the immense strain" the NHS is under but stressed that funding in recruitment and training is essential to meet rising demand. Policy director Emma Greenwood added: "Upgrades to hospitals are welcome but the NHS is experiencing a staffing crisis. And it's impossible to diagnose more cancers at an early stage without the right staff.

He has faced continual criticism over his referendum battle bus claim that leaving the European Union would allow the UK to take back control of £350 million a week, some of which could be used to boost NHS funding. Obviously as we are still in the EU and still paying the EU, the pot for the NHS is smaller than everyone would have liked.

Monday, 29 July 2019

General Election

What would be the main reason to call for an election, to boost the majority of seats in the house of commons to allow bills an easier ride, however, on the 8-June-2017 Theresa May found out that it was not that easy.

If Boris Johnson asked parliament on 19 September for an election on 24 October, the last Thursday before the expiry of the Brexit extension, it could happen if two-thirds of MPs vote for it.

The opposition could force a general election only by bringing down Johnson’s government. Corbyn would have to pass a motion of no confidence and wait for 14 days. That process would normally have needed to start on 25 July, the last day before the summer recess, by tabling the motion of no confidence, to be voted on 3 September, the day parliament reconvenes after the summer recess.

Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour is ready to fight an election campaign against Boris Johnson but refused to express a preference between leaving with a Labour-negotiated deal or staying in the EU. The Labour leader said he was “absolutely” gearing up for an election, with a summer campaign plan, new policies on a green industrial revolution and candidates already selected in almost all marginal seats.

When this was first mentioned after the announcement of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, I did not think it would be a good idea and would detract from the business of Brexit. However, considering the past few days since then it now appears that the knives are out for Jeremy Corbyn and therefore I have changed my mind as I believe that Boris Johnson would defeat Jeremy Corbyn a lot easier in an election than his replacement, whoever they may be.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Boris Johnson's cabinet

Sajid Javid – Chancellor
Priti Patel – Home Secretary
Dominic Raab – Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State
Stephen Barclay – retains role as Brexit Secretary
Ben Wallace – Defence Secretary
Amber Rudd – retains role as Work and Pensions Secretary, also becomes Minister for Women and Equalities
Liz Truss – International Trade Secretary
Matt Hancock – retains role as Health Secretary
Michael Gove – Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Theresa Villiers – Environment Secretary
Gavin Williamson – Education Secretary
Nicky Morgan – Culture Secretary
Andrea Leadsom – Business Secretary
Robert Jenrick – Housing Secretary
Robert Buckland – Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary
Alok Sharma – International Development Secretary
Grant Shapps – Transport Secretary
Alun Cairns – retains role as Welsh Secretary
Julian Smith – Northern Ireland Secretary
Alister Jack – Scottish Secretary
Baroness Evans of Bowes Park – retains role as Leader of the House of Lords
Geoffrey Cox – retains role as Attorney General
Rishi Sunak – Chief Secretary to the Treasury
James Cleverly – Minister without portfolio and Conservative Party chairman
Jacob Rees-Mogg – Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
Esther McVey – Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Brandon Lewis – Home Office minister, and will also attend Cabinet
Jo Johnson – Minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Education, and he will also attend Cabinet
Oliver Dowden – Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office
Kwasi Kwarteng – Minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and he will also attend Cabinet

This is no longer the Conservative party, it is the Brexit party.

New back benchers.
Philip Hammond – resigned as chancellor in the last hours of Mrs May’s premiership
Jeremy Hunt – Boris Johnson’s former leadership rival announced he was returning to the backbenches after serving as foreign secretary
Penny Mordaunt – departs after a brief spell as defence secretary
Rory Stewart – leaves the international development department after already saying he would not serve under Mr Johnson
David Gauke – the ex-justice secretary made no secret of his disagreements with Mr Johnson
Damian Hinds – leaves the Department for Education
Chris Grayling – departs after a much-criticised spell as transport secretary
David Lidington – had been Mrs May’s de facto deputy
James Brokenshire – the close ally of Mrs May had served most recently as housing secretary
Liam Fox – the Brexiteer has been removed as international trade secretary
David Mundell – the ex-Scottish secretary said he was not surprised to return to the backbenches
Karen Bradley – removed as Northern Ireland secretary
Greg Clark – his departure as business secretary was widely anticipated
Mel Stride – returning to the backbenches after the briefest of spells as Commons leader
Jeremy Wright – the culture secretary has also departed

Monday, 22 July 2019

New Prime Minister

Tomorrow a new PM will be announced and he [as there are no ladies left in the race] will start work on Wednesday 24th July, what will be his first priorities?

Brexit / Middle East Situation / Economy / Health [physical-mental-social] it's not easy is it?

Negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU will of course be a priority for the incoming Prime Minister, but they will also be responsible for the more ‘business as usual’ aspects of running the UK and this includes health and social care in England. With an ageing population and more of us with complex needs than ever before, it is essential that the new Prime Minister focuses on the needs of our oldest citizens to ensure that they have the care and support they need.

Brexit itself can be broken down to individual details like leaving with a deal, or without a deal, or further down should the country be asked again after three years of debate, the people now have more knowledge to assess which raises the question of another referendum, but how divisory would that be with the general population? It has been made crystal clear that conservative politicians do not like the idea of a second referendum as it smacks of disloyalty towards the public.

Perhaps the Iran situation will be considered more immediate as it is happening now and Brexit can wait until October.

His first job will be to create a cabinet of ministers to advise his future decisions, not an easy task in itself, loyalty has to be the first identifier as you would want a group that supports but you would also need those that are competent in the roles they are given. I am not sure how long this process will take and how much pressure the Iran situation will leverage the decisions.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Act of Treason

On the today programme this morning [Saturday 13-Jul-2019] John Humphrys was talking to Sir Michael Fallon who was stressing the point of the official secrets act 1989 that the perpetrator of the leak should be found and prosecuted. Something I mentioned in my last post.

However I very much doubt he read this, but I am glad that a little more effort in the leak enquiry might take place rather than the usual whitewash.

He went on to stress that publishers of the leak should also be prosecuted, mainly pointing a finger at the press, this alarmed me slightly and John Humphrys picked up on it. Humphrys asked directly whether the press should be prosecuted and Fallon reiterated that it was a matter of the official secrets act and if anyone published these or other documents they should be prosecuted. Humphrys then pointed out that the Mail on Sunday had already published these documents, so they should be prosecuted.

I can only describe as a _very_ long pause from Michael Fallon took place before he restated his position that anyone 'in future' who publishes government leaked documents should be prosecuted.

I have to side with the Mail on Sunday over this because of Freedom of speech & press and I hope I am not labelled an anarchist because of it.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Foreign Service

Earlier today Kim Darroch resigned from his position as UK Ambassador to the USA.

Sir Nigel Kim Darroch KCMG is a senior British diplomat, who has served as the British Ambassador to the United States since January 2016.

The announcement came immediately before prime minister’s questions. Speaking at the start, Theresa May said she had spoken to Darroch and told him it was “a matter of great regret that he has felt it necessary to leave his position”.

She told MPs: “Sir Kim has given a lifetime of service to the United Kingdom and we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. Good government depends on public servants being able to give full and frank advice. I want all our public servants to have the confidence to be able to do that.”

Jeremy Corbyn called the treatment of Darroch “beyond unfair and wrong” and said that he had given “honourable and good service”.

I am surprised that someone who considered they have performed their duties correctly should take this step, however, I can understand that with the amount of publicity that this situation has created Sir Kim might have felt it was obviously the right thing to do, which makes me sad. He would have been given his instructions by the Queen and it is quite clear that he has upheld his position completely and his discretion has been compromised by the leak.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Civil Service

There have been a couple of stories over the past week which are concerning if true.

What do we expect from our civil service? Unbiased advice and support. The government can be made from any political party depending on how the votes are cast by the public, so the policies can be from the right, left or centre. However this should not matter to the civil service.

Politicians have personalities and this should not be of concern to the civil service.

One of the stories last week was that memos were circulating showing that support for Jeremy Corbyn if he became Prime Minister would not be fully available, deciding who you give your support to and how much should not factor in the equation that the civil service adopts. The country would be adversely affected if this situation would exist.

Another story was that when Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary he was not informed on all relevant matters, again such choices should not even be considered as the politician in charge of the ministry should have ALL the facts presented to him/her. What gives the civil service the right to withhold available information based on personal preferences.

If we want the civil service to be impartial, then this really needs investigating by someone like the public accounts committee to monitor the situation and improve it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Lionesses

Although the Lionesses lost their semi-final last night, what have they achieved this year?

The inspiration of youngsters, tens of thousands maybe hundreds of thousands of girls will now be asking for football to be on the agenda.

The game was watched by millions of fans across the world and very exciting it was too.

The impact this team has had cannot be underestimated. A record-breaking peak of 7.2 million people tuned into watch England's quarter-final victory against Norway, the highest UK TV audience for a women's game. The record for TV reach has also been smashed this tournament, with the 22.2 million who have tuned in so far almost doubling the 12.4 million mark set in 2015 during the World Cup in Canada.

By taking big strides in promoting and normalising the women's game this summer, the Lionesses will no doubt have helped to inspire the next generation of female footballers to pursue their passion just like any boy might - and that quite frankly is more important than any silverware will ever be.

Monday, 1 July 2019

The Weather

We as Brits love to talk about the weather, it's cold today, it's wet today, it's hot today, it doesn't matter what the weather is we start most conversations with it. This has been going on for centuries before "Global Warming" became a thing, it is part of our DNA.

However, currently across Europe nature is suffering quite badly because of the weather.

Most of Europe will be blanketed by an oppressive heatwave as the continent suffers unreasonable warmth this week, with officials across the European Union announcing severe warnings against dehydration and heatstroke. The heat wave will be centred from Spain into France and Germany.

AccuWeather said a storm stalling over the Atlantic Ocean and high pressure over central and eastern Europe will push hot desert air from Africa northward across Europe. This setup has triggered dangerous heat wave warnings across western and central Europe for the remainder of the week.

From Madrid to Paris, Belgium, Frankfurt, and Berlin, these metropolitan areas are likely to see a multi-day heat wave, with daily temperatures around 90F-100F.

Last Year's heatwave led to increased mortality rates, lower crop yields, the shutdown of nuclear power plants, wildfires, water shortages, what could be in store for this year?

Thursday, 27 June 2019

iPhone X Sales Collapse

ChannelNews in America has revealed Apple is facing hundreds of millions of dollars in penalty payments to Samsung because iPhone demand has fallen. Apple "demanded" that Samsung construct one of the world's biggest OLED manufacturing facilities exclusively for iPhone screens. Overconfidence of Tim Cook, not adjusting forecasts for trade wars nor a structural decline in global growth, has crushed Apple iPhone demand across the world and breached the contract of 100M OLED iPhone screens per year with Samsung.

While trade wars and lower global growth negatively weighed on iPhone demand, the price of the iPhone X also deterred consumers from upgrading. Apple responded by announcing the supplied Samsung OLED were "faulty" which sources say is a stalling tactic as lawyers are negotiating the fines. The drop in units for Apple iPhone X with an OLED screen is occurring at the same time the smartphone bubble is deflating. Even Samsung Galaxy smartphones are experiencing declining sales.

ETNews said Apple has started to work with LG Display for OLED panels, but analysts believe the move will result in less production capacity and more expensive OLED panels than Samsung. Apple has also invested in JDI (Japan Display) who will be manufacturing the company's LED panels in the near future.

It is hard to imagine how the largest corporation in the world [Apple] could make such a careless sales forecast of one of its most popular products that resulted in hefty fines. Nevertheless, what's more, baffling is how Apple could not see the cycle down of the global economy that started in 1Q18.

Monday, 24 June 2019


This morning on BBC Radio 4 Today programme Sir Nick Clegg was extolling the virtues of Facebook by promoting it's attempt at a clean-up, by passing the buck over to politicians saying "Mistakes have been made but laws and governance come from politicians".

An internal Facebook document reveals that the social media giant monitors its users' offline behaviour as part of how the company determines whether a person should be classified as a "Hate Agent," according to Breitbart's Allum Bokhari who has reviewed the document. Unfortunately Nick Robinson did not ask Sir Nick Clegg about this.

Titled "Hate Agent Policy Review," the document reveals that Facebook employs a series of "signals" which include a person's behaviour both on and off the platform. Once determined to be a "hate agent," a person is banned from the platform.

Facebook divides hate speech into three tiers depending on the severity of the offence.

Tier 1 attacks, which target a person or group of people who share one of the above-listed characteristics or immigration status [including all subsets except those described as having carried out violent crimes or sexual offenses], where attack is defined as

Any violent speech or support in written or visual form

Dehumanizing speech such as reference or comparison to:

Insects; Animals that are culturally perceived as intellectually or physically inferior; Filth, bacteria, disease, Sexual predator, Sub-humanity, Violent and sexual criminals, Other criminals [including but not limited to “thieves,” “bank robbers,” or saying “all are criminals”]; Mocking the concept, events or victims of hate crimes even if no real person is depicted in an image.

Tier 2 attacks, which target a person or group of people who share any of the above-listed characteristics, where attack is defined as; Statements of inferiority or an image implying a person's or a group's physical, mental, or moral deficiency; Physical; Mental; Moral; Expressions of contempt or their visual equivalent. Expressions of disgust or their visual equivalent. Cursing at a person or group of people who share protected characteristics.

Tier 3 attacks, which are calls to exclude or segregate a person or group of people based on the above-listed characteristics. We do allow criticism of immigration policies and arguments for restricting those policies.

If you have done any of the above over the past two years, Facebook considers it a 'hate signal.'

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

The price of Brexit

YouGuv published a poll which showed some amazing statistics.

The first result showed that the Tories would prefer Scotland to leave the Union rather than Brexit not happen.

The second was allowing significant damage to the UK economy rather than Brexit not happen, remember, this is speculation as no one can say whether the UK will rise or fall after Brexit as there is no evidence.

The third was leaving Northern Ireland, even though they have ALL constantly been saying this will never happen, it now appears they will give up Northern Ireland rather than Brexit not happen.

The fourth was the total destruction of the Conservative party! and yes, they will happily allow this rather than Brexit not happen.

The final statistic was Jeremy Corbyn being PM, this time they will happily allow Brexit to fail.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Tory Leadership Contest

So what have we learnt in the last week?

It started with 12 and now there are 6, what happened.

Matt Hancock
Mark Harper
Andrea Leadsom
Esther McVey
Penny Mordaunt
Amber Rudd

Anyone else notice that all the women are out!

In the first ballot of Conservative parliamentarians last week, former foreign secretary Johnson received 114 votes, more than double his nearest rival, the current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who received 43. Environment Secretary Michael Gove was in third place with 37 votes.

Mark Harper, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey were eliminated after receiving fewer than 17 votes, and Matt Hancock dropped out on Friday, saying he accepted that the party was not looking for a “fresh face”.

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart has become a surprise star of the race, rising to second place this week. He was named the winner of Channel 4's debate.

Who is left? [in alphabetical order]

Michael Gove
Jeremy Hunt
Sajid Javid
Boris Johnson
Dominic Raab
Rory Stewart

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Deal with Mexico

It would appear that Donald Trump's tariff threat worked.

Donald Trump had announced the tariff threat in response to a surge in illegal migration to the U.S. through Mexico this year. More than 144,000 people were apprehended after illegally crossing the southern border in May or were refused entry to the U.S. That’s the most in a single month in at least five years; the number has grown every month since January.

Have tariffs become an official weapon for Donald Trump to achieve his geopolitical goals? It would appears so. As Bloomberg notes, US negotiators had been asking Mexico since the election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in July 2018 to do more to stop the flow of migrants. But it was only in the past week, under the threat of tariffs, that they felt Mexico had begun negotiating seriously, according to a U.S. official.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, who was in the Washington for the talks, said in a tweet that the tariffs wouldn’t be imposed, giving his “Thanks to everyone who has supported us by realizing the greatness of Mexico" and adding previously that the country was prepared to deploy about 6,000 guard troops. And the country already has been hosting asylum seekers while their cases were being processed.

While the U.S. had originally demanded that Central American migrants apply for asylum in Mexico instead of the U.S, Mexico beat back that demand. Also, there was no formal language related to increased purchases of U.S. agricultural products, as Trump promised on Twitter, but on Saturday he used Twitter to announce, in call capital letters, Mexico’s buying plans without providing details.

As Bloomberg further notes, this was not the first time the president has faced criticism over his stance on tariffs. What made this time different was just how alone Trump was in his position. The list of opponents to the idea was long: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, farm groups, automakers and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who took the rare step of saying publicly he disagreed with the president. Additionally, opposition to the tariff threat was present even within the Trump administration as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly opposed them, as did Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the New York Times reported.

Shortly after the announcement, relieved Republicans quickly rallied around the president for securing the deal and suggested this could clear the way for Congress to approve the new trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, known as the USMCA.

Monday, 10 June 2019


In the 5th century Socrates said "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Does that ring a bell?

Do we believe that indulgent parenting, educational strategies or technological addiction have produced a generation of people who simultaneously have an overinflated sense of self-worth and a lack of the patience required to achieve their goals,  individuals willing to ban anyone who says anything that hurts their feelings, and a bunch of people who indulge in politically correct nonsense on campus instead of entering the real world and getting a job.

Politically their view seems to go in the opposite direction, as they overwhelming throw their support behind one-size-fits-all public bodies like the National Health Service and state-managed schools over healthcare reform and free schools. But why is this the case?

The reason is the extremely justifiable anger coursing through young people today due to the political choices of previous generations. They are the ones who will be picking up the tab for benefits they are unlikely to ever receive.

Technology has also allowed people to become very insular, gaming on PC's rather than as a group, communicating via social media on mobiles, the joke where two people on a park bench talk to each other via phones is no longer funny but realistic.

How long before we return to extended family groups being the norm?

Thursday, 6 June 2019

D Day 75

A very poignant morning has taken place in Normandy today [6-June-2019] to celebrate the day that started the invasion [the locals prefer liberation] of Europe to end World War two.

After Bucking Palace, banquets, tours of London and Portsmouth, President Donal Trump is currently in Ireland while President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May are in Normandy for the anniversary. There was an interesting statement from President Macron presumably hinting at Brexit "Leaders come and go. But the work they do continues and the power of our link goes beyond the events of a given moment."

One point highlighted this morning was the types of casualties, not just British soldiers, Canadian, Australian, American, but the French civilians, because Normandy had been bombarded all night by the battleships in the channel, and they continued this bombardment for days after the initial landing. We have records of the soldiers lost from all the nations but not an accurate figure of the civilian loss.

Queen Elizabeth II also hinted at the banquet three days ago that after the war various countries made a commitment to prevent such events by sticking together "While the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard won peace." as organisations like NATO seem to be struggling today in a fractious society.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Plea from The White Helmets

We are rescue workers, medics and humanitarians struggling right now to save our people from relentless Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes. In eight years, we have never witnessed such ferocious attacks on Idlib. We are devastated that the world has turned its back on us.

We fear that the full-scale military assault we have been dreading has begun. In the past two weeks alone, 169 civilians have been killed, 30 of them children. 16 hospitals and medical facilities have been bombed with patients still being treated inside. On Sunday, three hospitals were destroyed in the space of just three hours. Kafranbel Surgical Hospital alone was bombed four times with only three to five minutes between each airstrike. Injured and sick, our patients had to run for their lives, some of them with their IVs still attached.

Already, one White Helmet volunteer has died in a double-tap strike when an airplane bombed a house and then circled back to bomb the people that had gathered to help. Separately, one of the White Helmets’ main warehouses was targeted and dozens of ambulances as well excavation vehicles used to lift people out of the rubble were destroyed. We feel responsible for the communities we serve and increasingly helpless with every blow to our capacity to save lives.

Time and time again we’ve witnessed attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia on hospitals and civil defence centres ahead of major escalations. We’ve seen it in Aleppo, East Ghouta, Daraa, and elsewhere. After those offensives, residents were forcibly displaced to Idlib — this time the people of Idlib have nowhere left to flee. With the Turkish borders closed to them, people are sleeping in the open air, without shelter.

The areas we are operating in are covered by a Russian and Turkish demilitarisation agreement that is supposed to protect civilians. But civilians are not being protected, they are being hunted. The whole time we are pulling survivors from the rubble, they are screaming the names of their children or parents or siblings and asking us if they are alive. In ambulances and in hospitals, we have the terrible job of informing them that their loved ones are dead. Many end up wishing they hadn’t made it. We are physically and emotionally exhausted and worry that the worst is yet to come.

To humans everywhere, we ask you to bear witness and spread the word about what’s happening in Idlib. Share our letter and send it to your politicians and journalists you might know.

To the guarantors of the demilitarisation agreement and members of the UN Security Council, we hold you accountable for every civilian life lost and demand you uphold your responsibility to stop the bombs.

To donor governments, we ask you to immediately allocate funding to allow the organisations on the ground to respond to the humanitarian crisis.


Medics, humanitarians and White Helmets in northwest Syria

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Donald Trump State Visit

American President Donald Trump will be making a State Visit to the United Kingdom from Monday 3rd June to Wednesday 5th June 2019, that's next week.

The official release says over the course of the three-day visit, the U.S. president will attend a banquet at Buckingham Palace, a tea at Clarence House, and will visit with the Prime Minister at No. 10 Downing Street.

In July of 2018, Trump travelled to Windsor Castle to have tea with the Queen and to take in a military parade, but that engagement was considered a working visit and not an official state visit.

Mr Trump, who has previously described the Queen as a "tremendous woman", will likely revel in the chance to deliver a speech alongside the monarch. It will involve around 150 guests with cultural, diplomatic or economic links to the US. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable and Commons Speaker John Bercow will not be there, however. The trio have said they will boycott the event. Hardly likely to cause any international ripples but behind the scenes there may de some disquiet.

Monday, 27 May 2019

The result

Brexit Party    28
Lib Dems       15
Labour           10
Greens             7
Conservative   3
Change UK     0
Plaid Cymru    1

This is only England & Wales. The polls before hand were:-

Brexit Party  37%
Lib Dem       19%
Labour          13%
Green            12%
Conservative   7%
Change UK     4%
UKIP              3%
Others            5%

In actual fact the polls were remarkably close.

The Brexit Party was formed at the beginning of April after we did not leave the EU on 29th March. The results speak for themselves, a huge cast from the public saying we are disappointed with the current politicians as they have failed us. If they manage to work Brexit before or by 31st October, not sure what they have planned then.

The Lib Dems have made a huge jump forward with this result, the best they have had for years even before the coalition and with people like Michael Heseltine [Conservative] and Alastair Campbell [Labour] both publicly saying they would vote Lib Dem, hardly surprising. What is surprising is that after this fantastic surge the leader Vince Cable steps down!

The Labour party have paid the price for sitting on the fence. For weeks the media have asked Jeremy Corbyn to say whether Labour was leave or remain and he has constantly refused to be clear in which direction he wanted the party to go. The membership have asked, his colleagues have asked and now he is going to have to decide and make a clear announcement which direction Labour is headed, or it will be curtains.

The Greens have doubled their position, a remarkable achievement and one which shows they did have a clear message and got it through to their supporters. One of the biggest points in their favour was climate change according to Caroline Lucas and probably something they will build on in the future.

The Conservatives were destroyed and it was hardly surprising. For three years Theresa May has prevaricated her way to this position and with hindsight it is very clear she has done everything in her power to frustrate Brexit and consequently we have not left the EU. Well now it is pay back time and the people have spoken without any ambiguity. Apparently it is the worst record since 1832, pretty devastating. They now have to decide what to do between now and 31st October and that is not very far away.

Change UK what can I say?

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The Cabinet

The EU elections are tomorrow Thursday 23-May-2019 and to say there has been a bit of excitement about this election, is an under statement of mammoth proportions.

The last forecast today is:-
Brexit Party   37%
Lib Dem        19%
Labour           13%
Green             12%
Conservative   7%
Change UK     4%
UKIP               3%
Others             5%

It is not usual for the leader of the house [Andrea Leadsom] to resign the night before an election, but that is what happened this evening.

Earlier today could not be classed as normal, the Chief Whip had been powering round Downing Street supposedly keeping everyone in line! Sir Graham Brady of the 1922 Committee had invited/advised the PM [Theresa May] to attend in the evening, and as it is Wednesday it was PMQs.

Jeremy Corbyn used most of his questions on education and funding shortages, probably because the PM had announced that she would be making a Brexit statement immediately following PMQs. It also appeared to be a planned attack about NI [Northern Ireland] by the Brexiteers during PMQs also keeping their main attack for the statement at the end. One reason could be that there is not one conservative party at the moment but several and they are all feeling disenfranchised.

After PMQs and the Brexit statement the commons carried on as normal and it had been noticed that the conservative benches were not exactly full, front as well as back and it was noted that Andrea Leadsom turned up very late. When Theresa May returned to Downing Street several ministers had requested a meeting and she would not see any of them. However it appears that Downing Street did not know or understand and let Andrea Leadsom through.

The conservatives have a history of being split over Europe and what could transpire tomorrow might just seal the fate of the Conservatives and Theresa May could be responsible for the collapse.

Monday, 20 May 2019

The Conservative Party

The EU elections are coming up this Thursday 23-May-2019 and there has been a bit of a who-ha about the polls:-

Brexit Party    35%
Labour            16%
Lib Dem         15%
Green             11%
Conservative   9%
UKIP               5%
Change UK     3%
Others             6%

This is how they stand on Monday 20-May-2019.

Obviously we would say that this is a typical protest vote [if these were the results] but why is one of the main two parties [as we still have a two party state] in fifth position?

One reason could be that there is not one conservative party at the moment but several. The Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom, that is how it started.

Now there is Theresa May as Prime Minister with one part trying to get Brexit through, allegedly, Jacob Rees-Mogg on completely the other side of the fence, Boris Johnson has a conservative party that looks nothing like the other two, Esther McVey has just started a new populist movement, Amber Rudd has a more traditional view, which hasn't worked for Theresa May.

Some minor notables are Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab, Rory Stewart, Steve Baker, Justine Greening, Johnny Mercer, Liz Truss, Tom Tugendhat, however, it is not clear what they would put forward as their vision of a future conservative party.

The conservatives have a history of being split over Europe and what could transpire over the next few days might just seal the fate of the original Conservative and Unionist Party.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

No Deal Brexit

I have spent the last few weeks thinking there was a "No Deal Brexit" legislation, after reading in the parliament library it shows that the vote on 13 March 2019 is not legally binding. So when people say Number 10 is working towards a no deal Brexit, it might still be possible.

How can a no deal Brexit happen?

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union provides for an EU Member State to leave the EU with or without a withdrawal agreement or ‘deal’.

No deal could be the result of various scenarios:-

The EU and UK do not agree on the terms of a withdrawal agreement and/or a framework for future relations because of lack of time and/or because there are intractable disagreements and no willingness to compromise, the talks break down.

There is agreement in principle on the substance of a withdrawal agreement but more time is needed and the other EU Member States refuse to extend negotiations.

There is agreement in principle on the substance of a withdrawal agreement but more time is needed for certain details.

The UK Parliament rejects the negotiated withdrawal agreement and framework for future relations in the vote under Section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act.

The European Parliament rejects the negotiated withdrawal agreement and framework for future relations.

The Council does not endorse the withdrawal agreement by an enhanced qualified majority (20 of the 27 Member States, representing 65% of the EU population).

A withdrawal agreement is concluded and enters into force, but at the end of the implementation/transition period there is no agreement on future EU-UK relations; or there is an agreement, but it has not been implemented in the UK because the bill to implement it has not been passed, or it has not been ratified in the EU Member States and has not entered into force provisionally.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Trump plans to redefine poverty

The Trump Administration is looking into altering how it determines the national poverty level, which may put some Americans at risk of losing access to welfare programs, according to Bloomberg. The move might occur from changing how inflation is calculated in the "official poverty measure" according to a regulatory filing by White House Office of Management and Budget. That formula has been used for decades to try and determine where the poverty line is and what people qualify for social programs and federal benefits.

By changing the measure, the poverty level could wind up rising at a slower rate. One proposal has been a shift  to "chained CPI", which regularly shows a slower pace of price gains than the already rigged traditional measures. It shows slower inflation growth because it assumes consumers will substitute less expensive items when prices rise.

The change is being reported as an effort by the Trump administration to make it more difficult to access welfare programs. Last year, the president signed an executive order calling on federal agencies to strictly enforce current work requirements for welfare recipients and propose new stricter requirements that could reduce eligibility.

This is not the first time that the government has suggested using chained CPI to bring down the cost of government programs. While democrats will not like to hear it, President Barack Obama proposed switching cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security and other retirement programs to the index in 2014. Obama ultimately abandoned the proposal after outrage from congressional Democrats.

The U.N. Special Reporter on extreme poverty warned the U.S. that one of the highest rates of income inequality among Western nations, overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy and worsened inequality among the middle class and poor.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Trade Talks

America has increased tariffs on Chinese imports from today [Friday 10-May-2019] to 25% from 10%. This follows a statement by president Trump that he no longer wants the USA to lose billions a year in trade deficits.

One of Donald Trump's campaign messages was connected with trade deficits and as a businessman he was going to deal with it. It is not a new problem, continuous trade negotiations have been going on for over 40 years.

This makes me reflect on Brexit.

One of the big issues for the remain campaign was the fear that the country would suffer after Brexit with poor trading relations with the rest of the world, and presumably they received support form the public in this matter. Obviously it was forecasting as no actual data existed.

That is also true now as we haven't left the EU yet we can only speculate as to what would happen with trade after the departure, but it is looking more likely that the effect will be less than originally predicted.

A no deal Brexit is already illegal as an act was rushed through parliament, however, failure to ratify a new Brexit deal would mean that, we pursue the option authorised by Parliament when it ratified Article 50, leaving the EU with no special trade deal and trading with the EU on standard WTO terms.

This means tariffs, some border checks and a rush of paperwork. It would bring disruption, but it would be temporary. Talk of chaos at Calais needs to be put in the context of French officials saying that, for no-deal, they would need to stop no more than one in every 100 lorries. Talk of air chaos needs to be tempered with the fact that the EU has already made a reciprocal offer to the UK in respect of air traffic rights and the validity of aviation safety certificates in the event of no deal.

Which comes back to the point of how does a no deal Brexit work when it is illegal?

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Real Donald Trump

A statement by former [370 of em!] federal prosecutors has been published showing Mueller's findings were more than enough to charge the president with obstruction of justice. However, one cannot charge a President.

They have however filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Dept. for failing to respond to record requests as required by law.

In the letter, the former prosecutors say special counsel Robert Mueller's report "describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge." Those actions include Trump’s efforts to have Mueller fired and to conceal it after the fact, his attempts to limit the scope of the Russia investigation, and the president’s tweets and public statements aimed at discouraging aides from cooperating with prosecutors.

Nobody of any real influence to do anything about this self-evident welter of impeachable offenses has any intention of doing it, not even if every Supreme Court justice back to John Marshall rises from the dead and signs onto this letter. The fact is that the very nature of political influence has changed, and it has been placed in other hands. If nothing else, this letter is yet another public demonstration of the fundamental impotence of bipartisanship in an age in which someone like this president can prosper.

What pressure can 350 former law-enforcement bureaucrats and high-ranking members bring that will not fall before the combined political pressure of the Federalist Society and the welfare state?

Monday, 6 May 2019

Local elections 2019

Last week there was one set of results, but a dozen different versions of what happened.

The remain side decided the backlash against the two main parties was a clear statement that the populace were fed-up with Brexit and wanted it dropped, no hard version, no soft version, no any type of version, just dropped.

The leave side were convinced that the backlash against the two main parties was a clear statement that the populace were demanding action now, no more prevarication, leave with or without a deal, just get on with it.

There was also the side that thought rather than a vote against the main two, it was a positive vote for the alternatives, the Lib Dems for a move against the two party state, the Greens as climate change has moved up the agenda, the Independents as each one had a message that resonated with voting public.

Then there were the spoiled ballots. No site has published the full list of spoiled ballots, in 2015 there were nearly 100,000 spoiled ballots recorded, while watching the results roll in some areas were prepared to release the data at the time:-

Basildon 800
Castle Point 414
Chelmsford 539
Folkestone 647
Great Yarmouth 693
Tendring 600

While all this is being mulled over and debated, in three weeks we have the Euro elections and currently the pundits have the Brexit Party way out in front. If it is true and they sweep in with a landslide, what does that do for the current position of politicians. The media will say it is the people's will and should be honoured, but if the main two parties have take two years already, hardly anything will change at the end of May.

But what if the forecasts are wrong?

The Brexit party does not get a landslide, they get a very small percentage not worth mentioning, what will the people have then?

Thursday, 2 May 2019


What is the deal with Huawei and why is everyone upset?

The Government is committed to ensuring that the UK seizes the chance to be a world leader in 5G.

The Government asked the Future Communications Challenge Group (FCCG) of senior academics, industry experts and investors to give it’s views on driving forward its commitment in this area. The Interim report has now been published.

The fifth annual report for the Cabinet Secretary from the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre Oversight Board has now been published.

All these reports are very extensive and cover a lot of ground, so what is the deal?

It appears that "the idea" of a company that is state controlled by the Chinese should not have the type of access to the areas of security as HCSEC [Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre] is going to have and it has left the establishment feeling very uneasy for the future of the country, even though no one can put a finger on any specific action that may result from the union.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Two sides of Venezuela

Venezuela has plunged into a major political crisis amid a growing row over President Nicolas Maduro's future as the country's leader.

Maduro started a second term on January 10, following a widely boycotted election last year that many foreign governments refused to recognise.

On January 23, Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president.

Shortly after Guaido took an oath swearing himself in, US President Donald Trump publicly recognised him as the country's leader.

Maduro accused Guaido of staging a coup and ordered his arrest.

Now today [Tuesday 30-April-2019] it looks like it is going to start getting aggressive. Reports coming in that the government is now blocking access to social media in response.