Happy Christmas All
Alcohol, tobacco and the welfare state. A certain politician has suggested people on benefits should not be allowed to purchase alcohol or tobacco. I think he's trying to get publicity for himself, so I won't mention his name. There are a lot of people who work at low paid essential jobs and who receive tax credits, it's not for any politician to tell them how to live their lives. Then there are people living entirely on benefits, I personally believe they should be working for the community and earning their benefits but that's another topic. If they can affford to live well and drink and smoke on top of all their expenses then they are receiving too much, but I don't think that's the case. I think they are just getting by. Amongst those living entirely on benefits there may be some who'd sooner spend their limited resources on booze rather than food. That's called addiction and what those people need is help.
Sports funding. Sports which did well in the recent Olympics have been given increased funding while those that did less well have been punished with lower fiscal support or even a complete loss of all funding. I wonder if the decision makers understand the vagaries of sport. Sports men and women retire early, new faces come along, some even better, some not as good, it's the uncertanties that make sport so fascinating - who will be best on the day? A real star could be just around the corner, in a sport that's just lost all its funding. I think they got it wrong.
Police lies and politics. It's accepted now that there was a cover-up by the South Yorkshire Police to hide mistakes at the Hillsborough tragedy. Chief whip Andrew Mitchell was recently accused of verbally abusing two police officers controlling the entry gate at the top of Downing Street and most of us would simply have accepted their version of events. It took a while but he lost his job because of it. However, when another officer is found to have fabricated evidence the whiff of conspiracy cannot be avoided whether there was one or not. I hope its an extremely small group of police officers who lie, but if things carry on like this we'll get to be as sceptical about the police as we are about politicians and that can't be good for the British way of life.
UBS Bank fined for corruption. They tried to illegally manipulate interest rates, got caught, got fined, but it's tax deductible!! What's that all about? It's meant to be a punishment, it's not a normal loss on the balance sheet. Once again idiocy triumphs over common sense.
Amnesty International and Greece. I have a lot of time for Amnesty International, but I'm not sure how criticising the Greek Government for their handling of illegal immigrants is going to help. Have they not noticed that Greece is bankrupt and in crisis? There are reports of violence against the immigrants too, but when I was in Athens I was attacked by a gang who I believe were not Greek nationals. Greece is in the front line for economic migration, but it's a European problem. An incoming tide of people who can't communicate and can't work is a problem, it's why international development is an investment not a cost, we need to help people in their own countries, build their economies and trade with them. Alternatively mass immigration will lead to ever increasing violence as it has done since outsiders wanted in to the Roman empire, (the last and only time the entire region around the Mediterranean was united) and where's that now? It's nothing to do with racism, or religion, nor am I against people travelling or working where they will, when it's practical, it's to do with building a better world for all. I'd like to see positive initiatives, not criticism of people for failing to do the impossible. I'm sure Greek politicians have their failings and the Greek people are at least partly culpable for their culture of tax avoidance, but that doesn't change the situation on the ground now this minute.
Crown representatives. The government has been criticised for making civil servants, often on relatively lowly salaries, redundant and then recruiting so called Crown Representatives on £130K per annum. Their job is a tough ask, they come from commercial backgrounds and their role is to ensure government uses its vast buying power to best effect, the aim to save £50 million a year. Three are full time and three part time so I'm assuming a cost of around £585,000. Any businessman knows that a penny saved is a penny earned, if they can save £49 million plus it will have been a good investment. Time, as always will tell. I wonder though if the results will reach our ears!
Gay marriage. In a civilised modern society state and religion are separate. Historically there are links in this country between the state and the Church of England. They should be broken. I would defend anyone's right to follow the religion of their choice and to worship as they please, I'm solely opposed to violence. In this instance I think a person's rights are the same whatever their creed, colour, age, or sexual orientation. And so I'm in favour of anarchy frankly. I know from my education that the bible is not in favour of women bishops and it recognises marriage as the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of creating children. Two women can obtain a sperm donor, two men can only adopt, they can't create children and so the bible makes its position clear. I don't personally believe in the bible but it can't be right to force a person who believes this is the divinely inspired word of God to conduct a ceremony he believes is expressly forbidden and churchmen in earlier times were prepared to go to the stake for their views, even today some may prefer jail to going against their own beliefs. Hence the current political compromise being suggested, which is that gay marriage is OK, but not in the Church of England or Wales. The usual political fudge aimed at satisfying all the people all of the time - nonsense. So keep the law out of it completely. Let every churchman (or churchwoman in many instances) run his or her church the way he or she wants. Churchgoers who want a church strictly adhering to biblical principles will gravitate to those churches which see things that way and those who think they can speak for God, pick their own rules etc (as most churches have done forever) will gravitate to those churches which best reflect their views, and what the hell's wrong with that? Yes the church will be divided, but isn't it anyway?
Sami al-Saadi. This gentleman AND his family, children included, Libyan dissidents who had escaped, were handed over to the regime of Colonel Gadaafi in Libya where the terrified family were tortured. This appalling act has been partly recognised and they have received a two million pound payout. No amount can set that wrong right, but it is something and at least this country tries to recognise its errors. Perhaps we should take the next step towards complete justice by admitting openly what went on and by bring the perpetrators in front of a court of law. Furthermore, just as the police seek to find the prime movers in the war on drugs and not just the mules, so we should look to the top of the tree in this case. How can it be that Tony Blair is a so called peace envoy with a track record like his? He should be in the dock.
US Gun Law. Once more I've hesitated to comment, this time after the tragic events we all know about. My heart truly goes out to the victims, their families and friends, the entire community in fact and no less to the family of the perpetrator.
Part of the reason for hesitating is that I believe the publicity could well set off twisted copycat attacks and I also feel the community should be left in peace to grieve.
I do feel the need to say however, that it really is time the American love affair with guns came to an end . The NRA that is the National Rifle Association, makes its case very eloquently about the law abiding giving up guns (in the evnt of a legislative change) but not the criminals and how burglars are put off when householders have guns etc, etc, etc. Nonetheless in most developed countries we live in societies where gun ownership is not common. Experience shows us that easy access to guns leads to tragedy when mental illness strikes and mental illness is not as unusual as all that. If gun ownership became illegal the law enforcement people would have their work cut out, but anyone who carried a gun could be sent to jail and that may well get a lot of dangerous people off the streets in the longer term. (The New York subway used to be very dangerous, but when they switched to arresting simple fare dodgers instead of looking for and prioritising serious criminals, they found they arrested all the really bad guys anyway! Similar principle.) It's not easy to legislate since the right to bear arms is written into the US constitution, but there must be creative ways to move fast and improve things right now. If you were only allowed one gun and one bullet then that would get round the need for instant constitutional change, but would make things a lot safer if enforced. In the longer term an all out ban is required, including hand guns. The NRA has suggested it's prepared to talk and make things better, but don't be deceived - their aim is to give as little as possible and to protect their so called rights as much as possible. The politicians and people must make real, meaningful change happen or innocents will pay the price again.
More Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. Transparent and stupid. They want to alter the situation on the ground in order to make a two state solution impossible - thus guaranteeing war and suffering for years, maybe decades, maybe millennia to come. When will Israel's moral majority, make itself heard and felt?
President Morsi. The Egyption President takes sweeping new powers for himself. The first reaction is the secularists and the Coptic Christians, who were faced with little choice when Morsi was appointed, protest. So the Muslim brotherhood call their religious supporters on to the street to demonstrate in favour of Morsi. In doing these things Morsi and the Muslim Borotherhood court that terrible evil - civil war. One of the great men of the 20th century was Kemal Ataturk, if only for being a man who separated state from religion. Politicians who wish to impose religious views, or who believe they are personally appointed by god are dangerous indeed.
Leveson Kept my powder dry on this one. I believe free speech and freedom of the press is essential in a civilised society. With freedom comes responsibility. Has the press ignored its responsibility? Yes, in certain sections it has. Is it sensible to have a press complaints body peopled by newspaper editors and the like? Of course not! Is it appropriate to make a new law? In view of point one no. Is it appropriate to have an independent complaints body in place of the existing system? Yes. Lets not forget, there are laws against libel, there are laws against trespass and phone hacking, interfering with the mail and the like, the existing laws are not so awful in themselves. We also need a level playing field across all media; broadcast media is regulated by a body that answers to Government, largely to ensure balanced reporting, answers to Government being the salient point here. Leveson appeared very reasoned on first hearing, but he brushed the internet aside and a good friend of mine (thanks Richard) accused him of playing to the gallery. Upon reflection I think there's something in that. Some way to go then to improve things and yet still protect the freedoms we need and cherish. I have every sympathy with the Dowlers and McCanns and others, less with those who court attention when it suits them. Thankfully the true victims of press irresponsibility are, in statistical terms, few in number. Nonetheless they should be able to seek redress from a body that's truly independent. Statutory underpinning as it's euphemistically called (which I would suggest amounts to EXTRA statutory underpinning) - thin edge, dangerous wedge. Clegg and Miliband, jumping on the band wagon for political and populist self interest - probably.
Draft Communications Data Bill. Now here's a funny thing, Cameron's coming down on the side of free speech whilst supporting a snoopers charter. The Communications Data Bill was intended to help Police and MI5/6 fight terrorism, now all councils and hundreds of other obscure public bodies and quangos have been invited to apply for the right to use powers which include monitoring people's e-mails, web browsing and phone calls! If you search on Google to discreetly find treatment for piles, your local councillor can find out, search for a new partner, discuss family business, it's all available to anyone the Government has approved to look at legally and without any fear of comeback. From the Nazis to great writers dating from antiquity to the modern day warnings abound about this sort of thing, even if the common sense of the multitude were not enough. Recent events in Rotherham show how jumped up local politicians want to control our lives and even our thoughts, such powers as proposed here HAVE to be restricted to the very few and for the absolutely essential necessities only.
The true cost of EU membership. I just came across an old copy of the Daily Express a friend had purchased. The headline read 'you pay £6,000 a year to be in the EU'. That got me thinking. There must be plenty of people on low incomes, getting by on £12,000 to £15,000 per annum. If their personal allowance before tax is about £9,000 then their income tax is a percentage of the remaining £3,000 to £6,000; so, by definition ALL their income tax would be going to the EU plus what they pay in National Insurance and VAT too. That truly would be absurd. So I read the article to find it was based on the work of an 'independent expert', and a professor at that. It all sounds terribly credible until you read the detail. Firstly the professor's amount is rounded up from £5,700, secondly it's per household, not per individual, but then the abuse of statistics for propaganda purposes really kicks in. It includes the professor's personal assessment of losses due to waste, fraud and corruption. I'm sure those things exist but how to quantify them? Then he's included losses based on his assesment of 'misallocation of resources', very subjective to say the least. He's also included a figure for 'potential costs should EU institutions collapse', which of course they may not, whichever institutions he refers to. And finally he's including 'losses' based on work taken from British workers by Eastern European migrants - many of whom work hard and CONTRIBUTE taxes as well as doing useful jobs other people aren't rushing to take up. Clearly this respected academic and FORMER government advisor has an axe to grind. It goes to show that you can 'prove' (particularly to people who want to believe) just about anything with statistics - that most malliable of sciences. As I commented below, the EU budget has to be cut, but lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. The EU has been a major contributor to peace in Europe since World War Two and although flawed, what vast institution isn't, it has probably contributed to a standard of living which our parents aspired to - particularly for us! Freedom to travel, free movement of goods, freedom to work elsewhere, for ALL of us - these are good things. Lets not run and hide, lets try to make the EU better, accountable and a little more frugal!
Cameron's demands for not just a freeze, but an actual cut in the European budget. For once I find myself blogging in praise of, and in support of something our Prime Minister is doing. It pretty much took a revolt in his own party and some clear signals from the public, but he's actually doing the right thing. Of course he will have recognised, albeit slowly, that it will help him personally - he's a politician. He'll win support from his party and from ordinary people and if he's successful he'll give less of our tax pounds away, which means he'll have more to spend himself, or that he can get the deficit down and stay in power - what all politicians want. Nonetheless, whatever the motivation and whatever the pressure here at home that was needed, he is actually doing the right thing for us AND doing it well this time. He's garnered support from The Netherlands and from Sweden in particular (two of my favourite countries, but that's another matter). He even had a hint of support from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. You can bet there were some behind the scenes phone calls at the very least. He's also hit the Eurocrats where it hurts by making an issue of their pensions, retirement age, benefits and so on, and pointed out that a few common sense, fair changes which would hit these people in the pocket, but which would be entirely justifiable given the rules that govern ordinary workers and tax payers in most parts of Europe, would save £5 BILLION. Predictably of course it has ended in deadlock, the decision deferred until next year. In itself that's not good, money does need to be spent and things do need to be done, a budget has to be agreed. However, over spending and extravagance have to be curbed too, especially so when so many countries are in deficit, Eurocrats, some doubtless unelected, can't just go on spending more and more in real terms of the people's taxes year after year. One could envisage the net contributors lining up on one side of the argument and the net recipients lining up on the other and that could be unhealthy too, unless it leads to the sensible cuts needed and a return to business. Common sense suggests the net contributors should really hold the whip hand, lose even one of them and the Eurocrats really will have a reduced budget! The fact is though that even in individual countries some areas are richer than others, it's certainly true across Europe. Some will need more help and some will be the givers otherwise the whole thing will fall apart, but balance is all that's required for the entire edifice to prosper and that means compromise. In this case we're looking for compromise from the EEC, if they get to spend more each year whilst national governments get deeper and deeper in the mire of debt then eventually we'll have a United States of Europe by the back door. Of course before that happened disaffected countries would leave. It's absolutely the right time, given the current economic climate to get the balance right. Hopefully once and for all. Does Cameron have what it takes? We'll see. Will the Swedes and the Dutch stick to their guns? I hope so and actually trust them to do so. Will Germany support the move or fall back to it's old pals act with France? Lets hope Angela Merkel comes down off the fence on the side of controlling spending and sorting out true European prosperity. However you look at it, it is fascinating.
Rotherham council remove kids from foster parents because of the parents political views. On the news this morning Rotherham Council have removed foster children from their foster parents because the foster parents are members of the UK Independence Party. As usual I'm relying on the media, but there was no mention of the children being unhappy, poorly cared for, underfed or abused. No the council defended, if you can call it that, their decision by saying the children were EU migrants and so it was not appropriate, given that UKIP is opposed to UK membership of the EEC. Lets just remind ourselves, the EEC is primarily an economic partnership despite some Eurocrats clearly wanting to establish a United States of Europe. So, lets make my position plain. Despite being a pacifist I'm pro NATO and despite being slightly euro sceptic I'm pro the Union so long as it works economically and doesn't get too big for its boots, I am NOT a UKIP member or particularly a supporter. I've listened to Nigel Farrage on Question Time and despite only having one line to his song most of the time he can be quite eloquent on occasion. What's striking about this news is the breathtaking arrogance of the council. Doubtless they have the legal right, or would not have acted, what they do not have is the moral right; this is bordering on thought control and it's the thin edge of a very dangerous wedge. Guidelines must be established to prevent councils doing this sort of thing. There are reasons why you would want to take children away from foster parents, this is not one of them and without foster parents to help out far more kids would be in institutional homes and their reputation is nothing to celebrate, as we hear more about on an almost daily basis. UKIP membership doesn't make you a racist and ordinary people who want to give something back to society by fostering are a huge asset to society. If foster parents are going to be treated this way by self important politicians who probably do less to help society than they do, then pretty soon there won't be any foster parents willing to take the task on.
More austerity protests - particularly in Spain, Portugal and of course Greece. They want to see government spending cuts reversed. When will they learn that governments don't have any money, none, zero, zilch. All the money governments spend comes from us the people, it's called tax. Insisting they spend more is the same as insisting they tax more and the Greeks in particular have something of an aversion to paying their tax. Protest when they spend money in the wrong ways, encourage them to spend what they have raised in smart ways, but blindly insisting they simply spend more when you don't want to pay the tax and when politicians have a terrible record on responsible spending is just daft. It also leads to unsupportable loans and huge amounts of money wasted, lost down the drain on interest payments. Interestingly growth in the Eurozone is once again negative, however the French and German economies are growing slowly. Instead of indulging a general strike, dragging the Eurozone as a whole down and costing their own countries in particular even more, the protesters should get back to work AND make up the lost hours. Some will be government employees but for others hurting their own employers just makes redundancy and collapse even more likely.
Abortion in Ireland. A huge issue as far as I'm concerned and millions of others too, Irish or not. A young Mum to be has died as a direct result of being refused an abortion. The lady in question was not Irish and not Catholic, but was outrageously told 'this is a Catholic country'. Well Ireland is not my country but I'm outraged, disgusted and terribly saddened by the death of Savita Halappanavar. An Irish senator said on television last night, words to the effect that he hoped this one event wouldn't affect the abortion debate in Ireland. It's a life you idiot, a human life needlessly lost, the life of someone who didn't share those ridiculous prejudices, a woman who wanted her child and who would doubtless have tried again, a woman with a loving husband and family now grieving, of course it affects the debate, legislate now, learn the lesson and don't allow anyone else to die needlessly. And into the bargain have fewer unwanted children in your society, many of whom, in the past have been victims of abuse by devout Irish catholic priests! I'm not advocating last minute abortions of viable children, it's just a plea for common sense. In the case in question the mother should have been the main priority and they clearly should have done what was necessary. In this case both the mother and the baby died of course. The pregnancy was apparently at 17 weeks and we're told that the baby could not have been saved, that may be debatable I'm not a medical expert but it seems likely, sadly to be true. It's about as certain as anything can be that the mother could have been saved. Keep religion and state separate, it's a nonsense otherwise.
MP's packed lunches made the national news today! Apparently MP's are stealing other MP's lunches from communal fridges at Westminster and theyr'e exchanging puerile post it note messages on the fridge doors as a result. According to the media it's a huge topic of conversation at the House of Commons today. Can't trust the media to give us complete honesty but I bet the essentials are correct - truly the lunatics are running the asylum. AND SADLY - the country.
The Government says it is disappointed by the higher inflation figures. Analyists say higher tuition fees are a major contributory factor, no surprise there then and they've just voted to increase fuel duty as planned. That'll help inflation then! Mind you Labour is calling for a cut in VAT, weren't they the last ones to increase it? And Alistair Darling (Chancellor when Gordon Brown was PM) was just on the TV criticizing the Bank of England, but I seem to recall it was his buddy and boss Gordon Brown who gave the bank greater responsibility, responsibility he as chancellor (at that time) couldn't handle.
Margaret Moran Labour MP. Another trusted politician with her nose in the trough. Over £50,000 claimed in fraudulent expenses claims. Apparently she's too ill to attend court. Her hard working honest constituents are probably pretty sick too. Meanwhile Nadine Dorries is running scared and has belatedly promised to give all or some of her salary to charity while she's pursuing celebrity in Australia. Not the point Nadine, you wanted to be an MP, you stood, you got elected, now do the damn job or better, get out and force a bye-election so your constituents can choose someone who means what they say.
Where politics and justice become blurred. Trust me I believe in human rights, but I'm worried the Abu Qatada case is out of control. The king of Jordan is a decent man and a liberal Muslim. Assurances have been given that evidence previously obtained by torture will not be used and that there will not be torture now. We are assured trial judges will be civilian not military. Having been to Jordan myself, having read King Abdullah's autobiography I believe the King is trying to improve things and needs to be given the chance to prove it. We won't try Abu Qatada because our evidence was obtained by MI5 and isn't admissible in court. So, here we have a dangerous radical, costing the UK a fortune to boot and we can do nothing about it. Of course we have to keep the judiciary separate and independent, but in exceptional cases there needs to be emergency legislation, it's national security for goodness sake. Put Jordan in the spotlight and let them prove themselves.
Scotland's referendum. Reports suggest that Alex Salmond has been telling lies about the legal situation regarding Scottish membership of the European Union. Does he know, does he not know? Even members of his own party seem confused. It seems to me he's another politician who'll do or say anything to push his own pet project. Scotland has never had it so good (free university tuition, free prescriptions, their own parliament AND over representation at Westminster too). Cameron has now given Salmond the right to include 16 year olds in the referendum. It's obvious why Salmond wants to include them - anything that will bias the vote the way he wants it to go. I'd have voted with my heart rather than my head at that age too. Frankly I think Scotland has the right to a referendum, it has the same moral right to independence as Kosovo, if they go for it so be it. Huge mistake though. Maybe if they do it they'll find they can no longer afford free universities and free prescriptions. Are they going to pay for their own defence? Will English tourists abandon them? It's a foolhardy can of worms. And while we're considering the romantic bit, it wasn't Culloden in 1746 or Bannockburn in 1314 that decided the issue. James the sixth of Scotland became James the first of England in 1603 after Elizabeth the first of England died childless. Effectively a Scottish monarch took us over! Of course there's more too it, the English civil war muddied the waters after James and what happened next has more to do with the desire for a protestant monarch rather than a catholic one, issues that are not relevant today. The Scots would be wise to vote to stay, but what about democracy and in particular, equality for the English, Welsh and Northern Irish?
Nadine Dorries, the MP who thinks she's a celebrity. Politicians earning our disrespect again. She's been suspended from the Tory party but it's about time we had legislation which ensures Members of Parliament do the job they're elected and paid to do. If any other employee fails to turn up for work and into the bargain is found working for someone else they will certainly be sacked and any tribunal would uphold the sacking. Who the hell do our politicians think they are? Dock her pay and kick her out, celebrity my ...... She's an employee of the people. George Osborne is another with the celebrity disease, who has the brass neck to call his party 'Respect', it's time politicians stopped demanding respect and demonstrated some.
The big day in The United States Of America. Doubtless many Americans will think it none of our business, but not the more open minded ones. What happens in America affects the planet, it impacts on our environment and all our economies. In a recent poll of people outside the US, over a range of countries, every country came out in favour of Obama. That's all of them, with percentages from around 80% at the top to around 60% at the lowest. Of course there's no way of knowing how much the people polled had studied the issues. Sitting here at home with a streaming cold I've read both President Obama's plan and Governor Romney's. It seems to me that Obama is the more on top of the situation. That his plan is best in the long term. If I was a young American interested in education I'd go with Obama. If I was a middle class American, the powerhouse of any economy, I'd go with Obama. If I was a rich American I hope I'd go with what's best for my fellow Americans and vote Obama, but I can see why the rich would be tempted by Romney. For the rest of the world we can only hope. It looks to me like Romney is more in thrall to the oil companies and Obama's plan will be better for the environment (and in fact for American industry which needs to be involved more in green technologies - they have really great scientists, engineers and inventors. America could be, should be, a world leader). I wonder that green issues haven't been raised in relation to super storm Sandy, Republican administrations have a poor record on the environment. If I needed healthcare, or was poor I'd vote Obama, yet there are two things that have marred his presidency. It was a great ray of hope to see a Black American democratically elected, you couldn't have envisaged that from the end of the civil war right through to the 1990s. It doesn't mean racism is completely dead however, and there are some who wanted to see Obama fail, even if it brought the country to its knees. Republicans would do anything to bring Obama down, hurt the US, then so be it, and they call themselves patriots. The second, and biggest single issue was of course healthcare. To outsiders it's hard to understand the world's biggest economy not giving a damn about the sick. Especially given I know so many caring, kind Americans. And it's not just the poor who are affected, some relatively wealthy Americans have been bankrupted by illness and the associated medical costs, combined with the perfidy of insurance companies. I listened to some of the rants against the healthcare bill and people were protesting that under Obama they were becoming like Russia, how can they understand so little? Do they think every vaguely socialist policy amounts to communism, or would they not listen to the argument because of who the messenger was? You can lead a horse to water, but..... I heard Governor Romney speak last night, he tried to steal President Obama's ground from the previous election, claiming he would bring the parties together to work for a better America, heal the rifts. Not his exact words, I didn't record it, but that was the drift. After Republicans conspired to bring Obama down at any cost and encouraged misconceptions about his programmes the hypocrisy was sadly palpable. I've always said the world needs politicians who's first instinct is to do what's right and not what's expedient for them right now. Obama may have made mistakes, who wouldn't have, even tried to rush things as a result of his passion to make a difference, make an immediate impact, prove himself genuine and committed, but that's a reflection on the system more than on him. Furthermore he's an experienced President now, tempered in the fire. Should he win a second term it would be good if the house would support him for the good of all Americans and the wider world; we can but hope. There are few with the moral fibre, the backbone, courage and the understanding that the long term is what matters. President Obama strikes me as one of the few, Governor Romney strikes me as one of the typical.
The electoral system. Blair accused us of apathy when returned with a very low turnout. He wanted internet and postal voting and goodness knows what - anything open to tampering probably. It wasn't apathy however, many of his previous supporters couldn't bring themselves to vote for him after their anti war protests were ignored. Today many people are more than mildly sceptical about politicians. The two items below are strong reasons why and there are hundreds more examples of corruption, incompetence and vested self interest. If people think politicians are all as bad as each other who's to blame them? The number one goal of a political party is power and at election time they, for that one moment actually need US! If the ballot sheet included the option to vote for 'None of the above' voters could convey their anger and lack of apathy in one fell swoop. And wouldn't the party machines swing into action then to find out what all those people who get off their backsides and vote want if they can't bring themselves to vote for the manifestos on offer. It's not a cure-all but it would help make democracy more effective. Blunkett recently argued the need for politicans to be respected, but respect is earned, not blindly given. It's no wonder Ed Milliband looks like a puppet, if he had a backbone of British Steel he'd have made an example of Denis MacShane, sadly it looks like he really is made of rubber.
Denis MacShane Labour MP expenses scandal. The commons watchdog says he submitted nineteen expenses invoices intended to deceive. He has now resigned but initially was only suspended. Why the hell wasn't he sacked? Why were Labour politicians talking about 'helping him' and 'suspension' and 'transparency the other day on the radio? Do they think we're all soft in the head? It's called fraud and there isn't one law for us and one for them, it's just the law and it has to work and be seen to work. The political protester who disrupted the boat race was jailed. Quite rightly in my view. I'm all in favour of protest and the right to protest but there are ways and means - garner support, petition, march, even strike under certain circumstances but don't endanger people, especially people who rescue others in genuine distress, and don't disrupt a much loved tradition unilaterally. A few months in jail might give him time to reflect. His wife has very eloquently compared his punishment with that of Pussy Riot in Moscow and the judges remarks in London were pretty stupid and opened the door for her comparison, but in reality there is no comparison. The Russian ladies received two years and chances are they'll serve it and still be sent to a penal colony afterwards with no thought for the impulsiveness of youth; not so in London where the guilty adult was tried and given a short sentence and that will be that. So why is Denis MacShane not on trial, fraud is a criminal offence and it was no protest, fraud is committed for gain, if guilty he should serve time and carry a criminal record for the rest of his life like any other criminal.Arguably his crime is the greater because of the betrayal of trust and the privilege he enjoyed as an MP.
'Dieback' Ash Disease. Already 100,000 trees have been cut, already one grower is, quite rightly in my opinion, suing the government for £200,000 and ministers have been told that within ten years virtually all our Ash trees will be diseased. Yet horticulturists warned the government to stop importing foreign ash months ago, we're an island, it COULD have been prevented but they CHOSE not to act. Now our countryside will be irreparably damaged and vast amounts of money lost, (at a time let it not be forgotten of financial austerity) - not least by the government and all because of the stupidity of our politicians. It was a no brainer.
Greek tax cheat lists. Lists are circulating in Greece of successful men and politicians said to be corrupt. Probably some are, maybe some aren't, but all that's happened so far is that one man has committed suicide and no money has been raised. The Greek justice system seems to be in a mess too, but it's the justice system that has to deal with it, not vigilantes. If you have proof, rather than suspicions then produce it, which goes for journalists particularly. I'm all for investigative journalism, but with the power media gives you comes responsibility. And frankly all Greeks need to look to themselves, tax evasion has become a national culture.
Planned 3p rise in fuel duty. Britain already has about the most expensive fuel in the northern hemisphere, I know this because I've travelled extensively, it's probably the same in the southern hemisphere. There is actually a case for cutting fuel duty if you want to stimulate the economy, it affects businesses and delivery costs for almost everything we buy, including essentials such as food and clothing. The problem for those of us who oppose the rise and support a cut in fact is that it's one of those taxes people and businesses can't get out of paying. Well, maybe Starbucks have found a way, but generally people have to travel and the tax is just there on the price at the pump, no way round it. Given the deficit it's a sure fire way for the government to get money out of us. Or is it? The question they have to weigh up is whether the damage elsewhere in the economy is greater than the gain. That requires a lot of thinking and research and I don't have the research resources at my disposal - they do and I hope they're taking the issue seriously, because my gut feeling is a cut will do better for them and us in the longer term. Check out the report by Fair Fuel UK.
Changes to child benefit. Big discussion on Newsnight tonight with the most common sense being talked by a lady economist (not a politician) whose name I didn't catch. The Tory politician made the point that we're borrowing 240 million pounds in this country every 24 hours. The Labour politician, whose party got us into this mess, described the proposed changes as chaotic, which they are, but would you trust the people who got it so wrong so recently to get us out of it? Both sides are tragically disappointing; at least the Tories are making a nod in the right direction, but it's so inadequate and muddled. Child benefit goes to young millionaire mothers like Adele, if she chooses to claim it I imagine, and Sir Paul McCartney could claim winter fuel allowance, which is a nonsense. I agree with the economist that the welfare system should be there as a safety net for those who really need it and that it's the children who's parents get the child benefit today who will end up paying for it at this rate. The answer is a root and branch overhaul of the welfare system, not dabbling, but radical simplification. At the same time they can stop taxing people anything at all UNTIL they're earning enough to live. The administrative cost of giving with one hand and taking away with the other is ridiculous. Would take a lot of courage to start over and that's not going to happen with any of this lot regardless of party.
Hurricane Sandy. That's not political I hear you say. No but there's a political point to make. George W. Bush's record on targets for reducing pollution, well, I was going to say it was poor, but actually it was pretty much non existent. The idea being that reducing pollution would make America less competitive I think. In fact all the western countries need to embrace green technology. Not that the emerging economies don't, but we have the technological companies that can lead the way AND it will generate wealth for the future as well as helping the environment. The weather is freaky and often dangerous these days and in the case of Hurricane Sandy likely to be destructive again. That won't help the US economy. I want to see the British government get behind the drive for new green technologies too, but America needs to get going for all our sakes, at the end of the day they should be the biggest player. Whoever wins the presidential election I hope they learn the lesson and I hope the American people don't suffer too much from Sandy.
Better than expected growth figures. Someone asked about green shoots on Question Time and one of the panellists queried the veracity of the figures. As Vince Cable said, when the figures are bad no one queries them! I think the figures are accurate, but lets face it they're not the be all and end all. One is tempted to wonder if we can talk ourselves out of recession though, the reverse seems to be true. If everyone clings to doom and gloom now and refuses to spend anything, then things certainly won't get better. I'm no fan of debt, nor of policies that drive young people into debt, but if you do have money then spend some, it's no good in the bank, they won't even lend it responsibly to business, having previously loaned money irresponsibly to anyone that asked for it. However, a home extension, a holiday, even just a meal out might bring a smile to your face and when you spend it helps to provide employment for others and enables them to spend too and the wheels start to turn again. OK it's simplistic but no less true for that.
Austerity protests. If the money isn't there, it isn't there. Blair, Brown and cronies spent it, plus the stealth taxes, plus the nation's gold, plus the money in the pot when they came into power, plus all the money they borrowed. It's no good crying about it and personally I wouldn't trust them now either. You can't spend your way out of debt. True we badly need growth, businesses borrow to invest and grow, but some businesses succeed and some go to the wall. On balance I think Cameron's self interested mob of, privately educated, class protectionists will make a better fist of it than Miliband's crowd of spend now let the kids pay pretend socialists. What we really need is a businessman in charge, as they have in new Zealand, step forward Mr Branson or a.n. other before the country goes to the wall eh. If that's not possible then maybe Vince Cable might have more sense, but his party also has the cancer of wanting to punish the wealth creators; get over it and do what's best for the country.
David Cameron's controversial pledge over utility prices. Well, it clearly wasn't exactly thought through properly, but it is consumers who suffer from never ending tariff changes and complicated deals that also keep changing. Profit isn't a dirty word and companies have to be able to compete. OR we need to change the game for essentials and everyone needs to be able to heat their home in winter, rich or poor. On balance I'd go for the latter, it is something worthy of proper consideration by te powers that be and not just for a quick sound bite.
The cease fire in Syria breaks down. Depressingly it was guaranteed to happen, both sides blame each other, well that was equally certain. However, by using aerial bombardment and heavy artillery Assad's army and the regime have demonstrated their hypocrisy once again, clearly they are not merely defending a transgression, they never meant to stick to their word. I can't speak for the rebels. I'd like to be impartial and just call for it to end, but it's my belief that Assad could have made a peaceful transition to democracy years ago, retained the love of most of his people and stayed as titular head of state with considerable influence if not some degree of power. Anyone who murders their own people is unfit. As a pacifist I hate taking sides and I'd prefer to see talks, however Assad must go, it's time for someone in his own regime to depose him and bring on talks and elections; the people of Syria need change and they need it before thousands more of them die and before that beautiful, historic country is utterly destroyed.
Small local shops going bankrupt because of parking restrictions. Give people power and they'll use it. Local councils' rhetoric about helping local businesses rings hollow again. Big shopping centres and supermarkets with parking are great but traditional fishmongers, toy shops, butchers and all the shops with character which make our High Streets special are losing business hand over fist. One of the biggest reasons for this is that local councils make it harder and harder, especially in this economic climate, for people to just pop in and buy, due to their ridiculous parking charges, unnecessary restrictions and punitive fines. Family businesses that have survived world wars and multiple recessions are vanishing. Councils will argue they get less support from central government and that they need the money, but so much of what they spend it on is of debatable worth. I say to local politcians, as with the big boys too, you're there to SERVE, concentrate on essential services and housing, make life easier for people to live their lives and run their businesses and forget about bringing in extra money for your own pet projects.
The SNP has now decided that they do support NATO, but they still don't want nuclear armed submarines in the river Clyde. Is this bunch ready to govern a country? Scottish voters would do well to consider that when they vote for or against independence. However I'd like to see equality for the English on education and prescriptions please if Scotland stays with us.
Just heard that the Chancellor Of The Exchequer George Osborne was caught today travelling in a first class compartment on a train, without a first class ticket. Refer to the comment below! When will they ever learn?
MP's renting out their flats while claiming expenses. And they want us to respect politicians.
Malala. Doctors have announced they believe Malala, the young girl shot by Taliban extremists for seeking an education, could make a full recovery. We must hope so, the biggest risk is apparently infection along the path the bullet took; if I were religious myself I'd pray for her, but that would be hypocritical of me as a non believer, however, spiritually she has my full support and I believe the support of all right thinking people everywhere. May she pull through and prosper.
Boris Johnson has apparently threatened the largely conservative government with legal action if they don't get on with reviewing London's airport capacity. Whatever you think of the London Mayor, and while I don't agree with all his planning decisions I do rather like him on the whole, you've got to say he is his own man and he just goes for it. And that's a very interesting thing in its own right, regardless of what you think about airport capacity and runways. By kicking the issue into the long grass until after the next election Cameron is displaying cowardice, not so Boris. I've always believed British and world politics would be better if politicians' first instinct was to do what is right rather than what is expedient. Of course most of us have slightly differing views of what is right and I don't always agree with Boris but I think he is trying to do what he believes is right and to get on with it, which in a country as regulated as ours must be like trying to stir concrete with a wooden spoon. On the issue itself I believe that the UK is like a business, would that we had a prime minister like they have in New Zealand. On that basis and in a tough economic climate where the developed world's living standards are being squeezed by the developing world with its lower labour costs it is important to maximise or competitivity wherever we can. Our rivals are getting ahead of us, we need direct flights from London to all parts of China and elsewhere. Compulsory purchase for road building hurts people but sometimes it's necessary and I believe that in those cases people should not just receive full market value but compensation too. We need new runway capacity, and a lot of it or the problem will reappear shortly, just as too few lanes on motorways when they are first built leads to roadworks later. We must bite the bullet now and hard. If individuals are displaced or inconvenienced they must be adequately compensated but if the UK slips and slips then protesting about NHS cuts and tuition fees, the latter being a passion of mine will be as pointless as the Greek protests, the money won't be there - as electioneers have often said "it's about the economy stupid!"
Serbian football fans abuse black England players. The fracas after the England Serbia under 21 match and the abuse that went on during the game has given me something to think about. and it's become political since our Prime Minister has taken an interest and even some action. Whether he's done that to court popularity or whether because he thinks it's right we can only guess, but he certainly is right. Racism is unacceptable and likening a black person to a monkey and hurling missiles at him is about as extreme as it gets. I believe racism is in decline in the UK thank goodness. The battle is not won here, but I believe organisations from the footballing authorities to the police in this country are working to stamp it out and that the majority of Brits are not going to judge people by the colour of their skin. I should probably add the words 'any more' to that last sentence, because it wasn't always so. Countries, and perhaps organisations, like people, mature. There was a time in Britain when we inflicted draconian punishments on starving children who stole an apple or a loaf of bread to survive, it still happens in parts of the world, but we don't do that now. There was a time when we were far more racist here in the UK and not so long ago at that, but we're getting better. It seems wrong to condemn an entire nation, there is good and bad everywhere, but it does seem that the Balkan countries, a source of trouble in our grandparents' generation and in ours need to grow up. I also accuse FIFA and UEFA of being institutionally racist, their punishments to date for such incidents have been absolutely laughable. I hope they prove me wrong in this case, but countries that can't get their house in order, whether Ukraine, Serbia or anyone else should be thrown out of international championships until they prove they've sorted the problem, it's the only way they'll take any notice. Clearly in Serbia there is currently no desire to solve the problem since Serbian footballing authorities deny the abuse took place and accuse the main victim of acting provocatively. UEFA and FIFA the time has come to show you are grown up organisations on a world stage.
At last some good news, but why did it take so long? The Home Secretary Theresa May has intervened to prevent the extradition of Gary McKinnon the mentally ill computer hacker who got through Pentagon security and damaged military logistics computers. The row has been going on for years now - since about 2002 from memory. Yes, he committed a serious crime and certainly he should be tried for it - here in the UK where the likelihood of his committing suicide is reduced, here where there is no appetite for revenge as expressed, in effect, by certain US politicians. The US government has assessed the cost of putting the system back together. Have they worked out what it might have cost if the hacker had been a government agent from China, Russia or another foreign power not allied to the US and potentially hostile? In the long run, if they've closed down the holes in the fence, McKinnon's actions may have saved them from more than mere embarrassment and a few hundred thousand dollars. At the end of the day however this case IS a human rights issue and for once the government has gone the right way. Sometimes it's tougher to stand up to your friends than your enemies, so for once well done. A shame Labour politicians are whining about it already, (weren't they the nice guys once?) Lets hope for justice and a continuing rapport with the US, one based on mutual respect.
Referendum on Scottish Independence. We're a tiny island and I think we're all better off united. Nonetheless I respect Scotland's right to secede from the union if that's what the majority want. fact is Scotland has never had it so good, they have their own parliament, no English MP's there but plenty of Scottish MP's at Westminster. Indeed, we recently had an unelected Scottish Prime Minister who probably spent more taxpayers money than any other politician in UK history. Scots I'm told don't pay tuition fees or prescription charges, can that be true? Personally I'm in favour of union and equality, fat chance of that then.
Pussy Riot. Three young girls sing a protest song in a Russian Church. Well that was the plan, one was ejected trying to get her guitar from its case, so she is free thank goodness, but only because she was unable to take part. The other two members of the band are jailed for two years, but that won't be the end of it, after that it's likely a penal colony in Siberia awaits them. Freedom of speech and expression are alive and well in Putin's Russia then!
I believe we generally get the government we deserve, but not those poor girls, at least they tried to do something about it, do other Russians have their moral courage?
Bomber Command's memorial. Veterans face a cash shortfall. 55,573 young men of RAF Bomber Command lost their lives in World War Two. They should have had their memorial years ago; its costs and the unveiling costs paid for from Government funds, yes, our tax money. I would say to my German friends that it has nothing to do with celebration and that the Dresden and other firestorms appal us all. No one wants to celebrate that anymore than we celebrate the deaths of women and children, the elderly and all civilians in the Blitz on London, Coventry, Dover or anywhere else.
The point is this, the men who died flying bombers were fighting Nazism, they didn't decide on policy, or how the war was waged, they simply served and died, courageously. More of them died percentage wise than in any other branch of Britain's fighting services. They deserve to be remembered and their sacrifice honoured. Despite my heartfelt pacifism I know that Nazism needed to be defeated. Its roots lay in the Treaty of Versailles for which my country is as culpable as several others, but once the evil arose it had to be dealt with. our parents and grandparents may not have always gone about it in the best way but I believe they tried to and the men of Bomber Command are more than worthy of their honour.
Energy prices set to rise. The Tory mantra was that privatising the industry would create competition, enhanced efficiency and lower prices. It has actually led to utter confusion, the need to regularly change supplier to get the best deal and huge profits for shareholders not consumers. Hang on though, wait a minute, actually the profits sound huge in absolute terms but I've heard some very small percentage figures bandied about. It's hard to know what to believe, but, one properly regulated supplier might be best for everyone, we all share the cost of maintaining the infrastructure, we all pay the same without having to spend an hour a week checking the competition and whatever profit there is goes back into the system to keep prices low. Needs to be run properly is the rub, and who's going to do that? Not HM Government.
If the 4-6% profit margins I've heard about are for real then that's actually very modest, as any small business person will tell you and I wouldn't mind betting the Chancellor is taking more than the companies he's begging, or is that telling, to cut their profits. Hypocrisy in government again - where will it end?
School trips to World War One battlefields. A good idea I think. Both my grandfathers served, although one, being a conscientious objector, served as a stretcher bearer. It was thinking about what he told me that made me a pacifist today. The last witness of that awful conflict is no longer with us, but we must not forget the headlong rush to war, nor the years of misery and the oh so many deaths that followed in the hell of the Somme and all along the Western Front. A friend of mine took a group of problem kids from Croydon to the World War Two memorial ceremonies at Arnhem, and to the graves of the young paratroopers there, even on those tough kids it had a huge effect. Succeeding generations need to know, to learn and to profit from the lessons of both the world wars.
Aleppo's souk burns. One of the great silk road destinations, the souk in Aleppo, a world heritage site has been burnt down as a result of the civil war caused by President Assad. Personally I blame Assad for the war but could wish the freedom fighters had kept away from such an important site. Let's hope Damascus, Palmyra and Crac des Chevaliers survive.
It would also be nice if London's planners would show more respect for our own historic markets such as Portobello Road, Borough Market, Bermondsey Antiques Market, Camden Lock et al. Markets are our souks and they always seem to come off worst in any planning conflict, whilst modern shopping centres are all pretty much the same, as are the goods they offer. Many of the things I treasure the most have come from markets, from London to the Middle East, Spain and N Africa.
More on Jimmy Savile. More and more evidence has emerged and it's probably undeniable the man was evil. Why oh why did witnesses not come forward at the time and do something about it. One can understand the fear of victims but I for one cannot understand people who knew things and/or saw things just sitting on their hands. The argument about charities suffering is spurious the Brits have been giving to good causes forever, it wouldn't have stopped because of one rotten apple. What would have stopped is the suffering of victims and it would have sent a message to other abusers that no one is above the law IF justice had been done WHEN it should have been done. The lesson needs to be learned but it's too late for justice now.
ITV create 'documentary' about Sir Jimmy Savile child abuse allegations. If he stands accused he should have been tried in a court of law in his lifetime. Trial by media is always wrong and they can now present a compelling one sided case, media people are experts at that kind of thing. The courts aren't perfect, but at least both sides have their say, a judge rules as to what is admissible as evidence and there's some burden of proof. This is about ratings and money and profiteering from rumours and unsubstantiated accusations. If the accusations are founded in fact it is a great shame that they weren't tested in a court, they're not the sort of things anyone should get away with, but it's too late now and you can be sure ITV are not on a moral mission, just in it for the sensation and the audience it will create, sad state of affairs.
A car putting in about 60 litres of
fuel at today’s average price of £1.399 for unleaded petrol will be
paying around a staggering £34.77 pounds in Fuel Duty and then another
£13.99 in VAT. In total that’s a huge £48.76 in Fuel Duty and VAT. AND
don't forget, in January 2013 they will take even more, in excess of
59% with the 2012 deferred 3p/litre Fuel Duty rise set to come into
operation. Transparency in taxation is a right. No one in the UK could ever work out their total tax bill in a year, let alone a lifetime, even with the best accountant in the world. Whatever you think about fossil fuels and the price of motoring we should all demand a simpler, fairer, understandable tax system without a myriad of taxes and different rates here there and everywhere and vat on other taxes, what's that all about!
The Mayor of Braunau has been criticised for suggesting Hitler's birthplace be turned into apartments. It's always going to be contentious. Some say the mayor is trying to bury the Nazi past, but I have some sympathy for him, after all Braunau isn't responsible for the war, or the holocaust any more than any other Austrian or German town. One can play what ifs with history forever, what if Hitler had been admitted to art school for example but for me the biggest villain is the draconian Treaty of Versailles. However some want to see a holocaust memorial in the building, but we have those in more fitting places already. Apartments may attract Neo Nazis and Hitler admirers so that's not ideal for Braunau. Seems to me the best solution would be to tear the thing down and replace it with something useful - whatever Braunau needs most, a hospital, a school, a library, hopefully the mayor has the answer to that one.
The actor Simon Callow, who I rather like has proclaimed that Charles Dickens would have embraced modern technology and Twitter, but not the welfare state. I'm sure Mr Callow knows far more about Dickens than me, but I suspect the esteemed writer may have found the brevity of Twitter frustrating and would not have looked at the welfare state in black and white terms. Where it helps the genuinely needy and disadvantaged I'm certain Mr Dickens would have approved, even if Mr Callow is correct that he would have preferred full employment over state handouts .(Not Mr Callow's exact words but the gist).
Franco German EADS wants to take over BAE, one of, if not Britain's top defence firm. To a layman, which I admit I am it sounds like a potential disaster for future British jobs and British security, reassurance needed. What really smells though is the relationship between EADS and the politician urging the go ahead, inquiry required, no ifs no buts.
Gordon Brown robbed private pensions paid into by responsible savers in New Labour's 'honeymoon period' in office. Now (surprise, surprise) this government says we're not saving enough and introduces compulsory pensions on top of national insurance. Oh for consistency, fairness and caring government. There was a baby boom after the war, it's not rocket science, prepare and stop spending money on overseas adventures and unnecessary aid overseas. By unnecessary aid I refer to places like China, which owns half of the USA and Turkey, which much as I love 'em is booming. I'm not referring to aid where it's truly needed.
The idiot who jumped into the Thames to disrupt the university boat race pleads innocent to causing a public nuisance. Justice demands a trial but surely five minutes is plenty, thousands, maybe millions enjoying the traditional boat race, yes, yes, yes it's a public nuisance to disrupt it to make some protest of your own, further if the idiot had been killed someone else would have to clear up. Take him down for goodness sake.
Clegg wants to stop rich oldies like Alan Sugar claiming their bus passes. Bad choice of target Nick Sir Alan doesn't use one and indeed, have you done any research to find out how many rich pensioners do? Come up with some proper policies and stop your daft tinkering in the margins.
Cameron sides with the Chief Whip, thereby calling his own police protection unit liars. Well, we'll never know the truth of that, the police did themselves no favours lying about Hillsborough. However the Chief Whip, a JUNIOR minister it should be remembered then gets himself a chauffeured Jaguar limousine for a two hundred yard journey so he can thumb his nose at the poor coppers doing their job in the rain, and WE pay for it. That sort of arrogance and idiocy should see him drummed out of politics permanently. If Cameron stands by his man now he's as daft as Mitt Romney who thinks passengers on aircraft should have access to windows which open. I don't suppose there's an adult alive hasn't sometime opened mouth without engaging brain, but that's a very special form of lunacy and they wonder why politicians are held in low esteem.
Sanctions against Syria now include a travel ban on members of Assad's family travelling to the European Community.
Seems like a wise move, not enough, but something. Possibly some dodgy law - President Assad's wife is a British citizen and therefore, presumably a European citizen with the right to travel freely within the community. The British Government has already asserted that she cannot be banned from entering the UK. I'm tempted to ask; can UK citizens be tried here for crimes abroad? If so I wonder if there is evidence of complicity, or whether in fact she is a force for peace. She gave a good TV interview some time ago, but that family/tribe ruled with a rod of iron even before the current movement for freedom.
Privatisation of the UK road network. The government is considering more toll roads, yet another stealth tax in my opinion. Hurts the poor more than the rich. The money raised from fuel duty - up again in the budget - and from road fund licence is sufficient for investment in the road network, but the surplus is used for other things, including overseas wars of dubious necessity
The mayoral election in London. Once so left wing he was dubbed Red Ken the man who introduced the congestion charge in London is running again, under the socialist banner. The congestion charge is another policy that hurts school caretakers and hospital cleaners more than millionaires, a socialist policy - I think not, a potentially vote winning popular experiment at the time - probably. Results - it didn't raise as much revenue as expected, so the price goes up. It wasn't fully functioning and bug free at launch, people got fined despite trying to pay. The strain on the London Underground increased. When an extension was discussed those most against were residents and businesses in the areas affected. Boris (the incumbent) has his faults, like the barmy idea of an airport on the Thames estuary, too expensive, too long to implement and bad for the environment, but not self important, do what works best for his image Ken, oh no, not that.
Piracy. Thank goodness Mrs Tebbut is free. The UK government lets us all down by fighting un-winnable wars in places like Afghanistan whilst trying to combat piracy by patrolling millions of square miles of ocean with a few ships and letting pirates go when they do catch them. Even the Romans knew you have to deal with pirate lairs on land and that was 2,000 years ago. No will, no common sense and now it's out of control.
BP Drilling off Shetland. I'm a big fan of renewables but can see we need fossil fuels a little longer. I do hope BP has learned the lessons from the Gulf of Mexico.