Decaying Fantasy

I never thought that I’d read a political conference speech that referenced Jethro Tull[1]. Not the long-lived British rock band. Personally, I doubt if Minister Jacob Rees Mogg has ever heard of that group.

Like a cake baker who knows they have baked a poor cupcake his conference speech is sprinkled with 100s and 1000s. The bitterness of the sniping that interleaves every other sentence is an unsteady grumpy excess.

True that references to Adam Smith might be expected given the Minister’s known inclinations. However, reference to the Navigation Acts[2] is beyond the pale. The Navigation Acts, while profitable for Britain, caused anger in the colonies and contributed to the American Revolution.

The so called “Brexit Freedoms Bill”, a fantasy island piece of legislation, that is exactly the opposite of what is needed. We need to collaborate with others to increase the size of markets and not create even more barriers to trade.

On one major point on energy, fusion reactors remain as expensive experiments. Yes, they are expensive experiments that should be continued as global collaborative research, but they are a million miles away from being operational power systems.

Even the companies that have explored the possibilities of shale gas have concluded that it doesn’t have a future in this country. Our countryside, geology and ground water should not be put at great risk by a headlong rush into such folly.

The highlight of the Conservative party conference could be attributed bullnosed stubborn buffoonish fantasising. Meaningless slogans like: “We are the only party with the determination to deliver.” Have nothing to offer. Especially when the premise has already been shown to be a con.

The speech indicates a political party void of ideas and in terminal decline.


[1] https://www.ukpol.co.uk/jacob-rees-mogg-2022-speech-to-conservative-party-conference/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navigation_Acts

Election now?

Unless turkeys vote for Christmas, there will not be a UK General Election (GE) in 2022[1]. Well, I say that assuming that there will not be a total and utter breakdown of the governing political party. In the current state of play that event is within the realms of possibility. However, with a sizable remaining majority in the House of Commons, the Conservatives intend to continue regardless of their habit of swapping out party leaders.

It was pointed out to me that since the changes made to the UK Electoral Commission[2] earlier in the year, it’s much to the Conservative Party’s advantage to use their new powers to their benefit. The Electoral Commission is the “independent” organisation that oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. Ministers now have much more influence over the workings of the Commission.

There’s more than one Commission in the mix too.  The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) is in the process of coming up with a new map of proposed Parliamentary constituencies. From the 8th November, members of the public will be able to view and comment on new constituency boundaries. With this boundary review underway there’s little incentive to have an early UK GE.

Embarrassingly, Parliament will have to debate a public petition[3] that is signed by about half a million people. So shocked are people by the ineptitude of this Conservative Government, this petition calls for an immediate UK GE.

The calling of an early UK GE is at the discretion for the sitting Prime Minister (PM), whoever that might be. So, as I’ve said the case for a turkey voting for Christmas pertains.

Certainly, winter national elections are not popular amongst political party activists. The shorter days and weather conditions often make conventional campaigning activities like doorstep canvasing difficult to do. There’re other complexities too. For an election held in December, the notice of election will be published before the deadline for publishing the revised electoral register.

There are, and there have been unprecedented crises threatening the UK. The new PM’s team looks and acts febrile and inept, but it looks like we are stuck with them for a while longer.

POST: Reports from Birmingham are that the supernova like explosion of the Conservative party is indeed a possibility.


[1] The 2019 General Election was held on Thursday, 12 December 2019. It resulted in the Conservative Party receiving a majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons.

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/electoral-commission-elections-bill-independence-b2067888.html

[3] https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/619781

Out of Step

If ever a political party has misjudged the public mood more in the last few decades, it’s the British Conservative Party, here and now. Without going into the cavalcade of reasons why they are incompetent, the overriding fact is that they are completely out of step with the British people.

After years of turbulent instability and pressures caused by the banking crisis, the pandemic, conflict and Brexit they have a mad idea that we have a big appetite for chaotic change with blind sheeplike obedience. It’s difficult to say that in “normal times” this Government’s irresponsible behaviour would be totally unacceptable to the point of civil disobedience and mass protest. But it’s true and the later may indeed happen. Winter is coming.

Running the British economy as if it were a poorly thought-out student project is beyond contempt. The childishness of the UK Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer is off the scale. There is’nt a scale made for this bunch of idealogical fanatics.

This week there maybe a week of back peddling, without seeming to back peddle but the damage is done. Reputational damage is easy to achieve but mighty difficult to recover from in the short-term.

The classic British example is that of Ratners in 1991/92. Now, instead of the “Ratner effect[1]” we will have to speak of the “Truss effect” in 2022. Certainly, in the rank and order of economic disasters the Truss Government must rank well above Ratner. Afterall, he only lost 330 jewellery stores, 2500 employees and over £122 million in a few seconds.

Interestingly, the fall of Troy is on the list of all time disasters brought on by human folly. Even I wouldn’t draw a comparison with the Truss effect and a tragic story from classical literature. Or would I?

In breaking my own rule, I can just see the Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng as a wooden horse entering the His Majesty’s Treasury ready to burn it down. He’s jumped out of the horse and what comes next is writen. He may be serving at His Majesty’s pleasure but I’m sure that’s just formal terminology and, there’s a whole bucket load of displeasure behind the scenes. Whatever his eccentricities, it’s likely His Majesty is far more in-touch with the British people than this appalling British Government. They have sat too long. It’s time for them to go. And go soon.

POST 1: At conference, it is reported that the Conservative Party chairman is telling their MPs they will lose the party whip if they vote against the fatal mini-budget of last week. Shirts are being printed with the slogan – I’m with stupid.

POST 2: Conservatives now plan to scrap the scrapping of the 45p top rate of tax. It’s a big poltical u-turn only days after the UK PM publically defended the policy.


[1] https://www.businessblogshub.com/2012/09/the-man-who-destroyed-his-multi-million-dollar-company-in-10-seconds/

Magic Money Tree

The genuine problem with the today’s momentous announcements in the UK Parliament is that of political expediency. I don’t mean traditional political pragmatism but like a snake: the art of shedding one skin to replace it with another. Transformations are part of political life but total repudiation of statements, policies, and positions of only a couple of weeks ago are destabilising and lead to universal mistrust. Who are these Conservatives?

What I mean by this thought is the unsettling claim that some people have made that this is the first days of a true Conservative[1] government[2]. As if the entity that was elected at a General Election in 2019 was merely a dark cloak of convenience. As if the British Conservative Party General Election manifestos of 2019[3] was a prospectus that no one should ever have expected anyone to take seriously. As if the last decade of Conservative rule was merely a colourful sham.

Not so long ago, time and time again we were warned of that Magic Money Tree[4] was a dangerous myth. That the sirens of the opposition parties would entice the great British state onto the rocks. Financial doom would surely result if the public voted for social democrats, liberals, greens or socialist. The perils were exclusively caricaturised as attributed to “lefty” high spenders.

Magical thinking is now mainstream Conservative thinking. This smack of complete and utter hopelessness. The claim is that the new “Growth Plan” puts more money back into the pockets of businesses and families. It makes some attempt at putting some money back into the pockets of businesses but sets the cost against the ordinary taxpayer. Paying for borrowing will be an ever increasing burden.  New British Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is a gold rush gambler without the know-how, track record or skill of ever being a winning gambler.

The cynical political gamble is that increasing burden will not become disastrous until after the next General Election. The leader may have changed, but the same old desperation to cling to power, whatever the cost to the country continues in the Conservatives.

POST: Pound Sterling dives after British Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng presented his budget to Parliament’s House of Commons on Friday.


[1] https://twitter.com/LordAshcroft/status/1573247615629758464?s=20&t=YGIIoj2ODXvpnLdMQHFE1Q

[2] https://www.managementtoday.co.uk/made-pile-lord-ashcroft-businessman-politician/article/940641

[3] https://www.conservatives.com/our-plan/conservative-party-manifesto-2019

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44524605

Motorway

I can’t say the word motorway without the Tom Robinson Band[1] “2-4-6-8 Motorway” number going off in my head. In 1977, the whole experience of jumping on a British motorway was a million miles from where it is now. I guess, the song is a late-night drive from gig to gig. Last night, I saw – That same old motorway sun going down with the evening light. On my way home from a busy day.

COVID, cost of fuel, being environmentally aware, there’s no doubt I’m driving a lot less now than in the past. Yesterday, I had good reason to take a road trip of about 158 miles. Most of the daytrip was taken on packed motorways. That was the M25, that runs around London, and the M1 that heads north. The M1 being the first in its line. Opened in 1959. It’s a little older than me.

Here’s an observation. Logistics is big business. It’s not just the huge trucks that perpetually run up and down the motorways, but the massive steel-clad warehouse that line the route. Distribution centres as vast as many football fields. That seems to be the measure of these monoliths.

What was originally intended to speed a journey from A to B, isn’t living up to the road builders’ intentions. Motorways are a series of stop-go, stop-go encounters where nothing is smooth. In some places not even the road surface. In fact, that was one of the hold ups on the M1. Temporary repairs being done to fill a hole in the carriage way. I thought the guy with the pot of tarmac was particularly brave as he stood behind a few dayglow bollards to do emergency maintenance work.

Back to being environmentally aware. Left and right, being surrounded by heavy trucks, each one sported a slogan. Usually, a marketing company’s best attempt at three words to make a dull business look whizzy. Many of the slogans are now green. Not in colour but in what they are trying to say. There is a distinct overuse of the word “sustainable.” Sitting low down in my car and looking up at a big HGV guzzling diesel and I felt so much better thinking that these transport operators were concerned about the planet. Like hell I was. Maybe this fits the description of greenwashing. One exception was the bright red lorries of the Post Office. There are more concerned to let you know they shift a billion items every year.

So, where does all this activity sit in the world of Net Zero? It’s clear that the logistics trade isn’t entirely on-board with saving the planet. Do we blame them? Or do we look closer home? The ease with which a parcel can get from any part of the country to our doorsteps is a development we’ve grown to take for granted. I’d question that such conveniences are sustainable. Or a lot more must be done before they become sustainable.


[1] https://youtu.be/kGrnEc_3mYo

The queue

Likely a favourite subject of study for social scientists. The queue. That self-organising line of people that waits in an orderly manner. A way of passing the time of day so that everyone can do whatever needs to be done. To wait in turn.

Even that description isn’t accurate. Who amongst us hasn’t been in a disorderly queue. Often angry and frustrated people in an airport building, suffering lack of information. One desk open and hundreds of tired travellers lined up to take a voucher or ask desperate questions about connections. Staff like windup automatons handing out dollops of advice when all they want to do is go home. Overwhelmingly most of my queuing experiences have been at international airports. Well, that and supermarkets but it’s not the routine supermarket situations that carve their way into memories. There are moments at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport that I can never erase.

Being ever inventive, airports provide routine orderly queuing opportunities at security. These are strictly controlled up to a point. Asking for forgiveness and breaking the strict queuing coded there’s always the one or two people who are desperate not to miss their flight. “Please can I pass. I’m late for my flight”. Hearing this we generally stand aside thinking; that could be me one day.

This is where social scientists get their buzz. The etiquette of queues is so variable. Not only is the composition of the line a factor but the climate, time of day and final goal. Not to mention culture.

Now, in London the queue to see the Queen’s lying-in-state[1] is becoming more than just a queue. It’s a phenomenon where people are going to view the queue as much as stand in it. It’s a testament to the commitment of those standing in-line. As night-time temperatures start to fall it doesn’t seem to have acted as a deterrent. The drive to be part of history and pay their respects has overtaken a lot.

What is heartening is to hear the reports of the friendliness, humour, and comradery that’s evident. There’s a great spirt of making it up as they go along. Yet, maintaining a sense of purpose and order. These are admirable characteristics. Although, I don’t wish to join these good people, my appreciation for their efforts is here. By doing what they are doing they make us all a little bit better.

POST 1: Matt caputures it with his pen -https://www.facebook.com/mattcartoonist/posts/pfbid02v74vRWa7SwBqrFcuV9LmU9N2dirp39MxgjohSLVMZ2Dr2oNWp3sNrYT8z4YUc4Bvl

POST 2: I wasn’t thinking of an extra-dimensional being of unknown origin (“Q”) or a Spanish word but as my wife said – how can you spend all week reading articles about the London queue and still spell the word wrongly? To that, I have no answer.


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-62872323

Ice Cream

It’s a conspiracy! A devious plot by those government bureaucrats meddling with my fundamental freedoms. There I am, all innocent, in a local supermarket looking for my favourite ice cream. A woman of my age is staring at the upright freezer compartment at the same time. She’s frustrated. “Can’t find what I’m looking for”. In a grumpy voice she further remarked: “Staff told me it’s a government directive not to put fatty foods at eye level. They’ve been told to move them.”

I said: “That’s a new one on me.” I opened the tall glass door and bent down to pick out the nearest selection they had to my favourite ice cream. As I put the box in my cart, “it may not be good for my physical health but it’s dam good for my mental health” I said. She smiled.

My first thought is that the staff member with the all-knowing knowledge was a number one idiot. This is how conspiracies get going. Supermarkets are always moving goods around the shelves. 

So, I looked it up. Yes, a British charity called the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)[1] has recommended that supermarkets move junk foods from eye-level shelves. It’s the sort of statement a public health charity would say. They are not the government.

On the basis that nothing is left to chance in the way supermarkets are designed, there’s no doubt that health advice would go into their deliberations about shelving. The shelving manufactures[2] have advice too: Keep Them Busy. That’s not just a way of making us move around the store, probability good for physical health, but it’s to get us to see more products. Buy, buy, buy.

In the winter to come, supermarket shelves could be left empty of some food and drink as companies go bust due to exceptional energy prices, but government officials aren’t going to help much with that problem. They certainly were not when that happened due to Brexit.

Back to my theme. Why is the first assumption made that there must be a government conspiracy? Not by everyone but by a significant number of people. I’d venture it’s the disconnection people believe that exists between media savvy politicians and real live everyday folk.

In this case, it’s also the abdication of responsibility on the part of the store worker. It’s a matter of not understanding, or not being bothered, or their own conspiratorial thinking.


[1] https://www.retailgazette.co.uk/blog/2019/07/grocers-urged-scrap-junk-foods-eye-level-shelves-obesity-crisis-bites/

[2] https://www.monarchshelving.co.uk/blog/shelving/effective-shelving-strategies-grocery-stores/

Corporate Failure

I watched the documentary on the Boeing 737 MAX 8 last night. It’s on Prime[1]. Called Flight/Risk. It starts with the launch of the new aircraft and ends as the aircraft returns to service and the consequences of the disaster that are still rippling through aviation. Seattle Times journalist, Dominic Gates appears frequently. His perspective is one that I was reading as the accidents and following events unfolded.

It’s a well-made production. I my view it focuses too much on whistle-blowers and too little on the appalling design errors made in certifying the aircraft. However, I can understand the choices made by the film makers. It’s primarily aimed at a public audience and not technical experts.  

This was a massive and fatal corporate failure. My recollections of working with Boeing in Seattle, in the mid-1990s are that such events could never have occurred in that era. It was a preeminent engineering company, with a proud heritage and safety was as important as the blood that flows through our veins. What happened in this last decade is beyond shocking.

Now, corrective action is being taken. Efforts are being made to re-establish an effective safety culture. All over the world technical experts have securitised the modified Boeing 737 MAX to the n-th degree. The company expects the Boeing 737 MAX 7 will be certified by the end of the year and the larger MAX 10 in the first half next year.

What is regretful is how long the design and manufacturing industries resisted the introduction of Safety Management Systems (SMS). I remember doing presentations to industry on that subject more than 2-decades ago.

So, what does a bad corporate and safety culture look like? We must recognise it, and not ignore the signs. What concerns me is, however much we have learned from the Boeing 737 MAX saga; it will soon be forgotten. Pasted over like wallpaper.

As if to give me an illustration, I was standing in a high street shop, browsing sale items in the normal way. It’s always nice to pick up a bargain. Even though it was a busy Saturday afternoon, there wasn’t many people in the shop. Behind me, were two store employees chatting away. They didn’t pay much attention to me until they had finished. They were close enough for me to hear most of what they were saying. One of them was the store manager.

Basically, they were having a whinge about the company that owned the shop. One key aspect was the waste of time, as they saw it, of being sent on company training courses where expensive consultants rabbited on to them about matters that were totally irrelevant to their day-to-day business. They blamed the corporate management. They haven’t got a clue, and it’s getting worse was the gist of the chat. They both expressed love of their jobs. It was a cry of desperation and frustration as they feared the company was on the road to go bust.

I guess that’s it. When little, or no communication exists between shop floor, literally in this case, and corporate management then that’s a big indicator of grave troubles ahead.


[1] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flight-Risk-Karim-Amer/dp/B0B5K615MZ

Public Service

Today, Charles III is to be proclaimed King following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. My thoughts are with His Majesty The King and his family.

The Queen has shown us how statecraft is done. With exceptional charm, dedication, and wisdom, she brought together the people of many nations. Her example will shine bright for eons to come. Now, a new era will begin. The monarchy will continue to be at the centre of British life but it’s a world, a family of nations, a Britain that is so different from the one of 70-years ago.

There are three thoughts of recollections I’d like to highlight. One is the late Queen’s love of the countryside and rural life, and another is her celebration of public service and the third is truly being an internationalist.

The Queen didn’t take sides. That contrasted so acutely with the partisan nature of political debate.

Rural communities saw The Queen as a knowledgeable, interested and concerned countrywoman. She spoke up at times of hardship especially for those living and working in rural societies not just in the UK but worldwide.

At a time when the whole idea of public service has been under attack The Queen stood four-square in support of those who give up their time and energies to work for a better society, helping others and upholding the role of those who serve their community.

Having travelled the world and experienced the horrors of war, The Queen was prominent in bringing together peoples of all faiths, beliefs, and backgrounds. The Queen at the Council of Europe in 1992, talking about the European Convention on Human Rights, Magna Carta and changing times is well worth a listen.

The Queen’s death does raise fundamental questions over future of monarchy, but they are not for now. There will be time enough to explore the future.  

May Queen Elizabeth II rest in peace.

21st Century Gothic

It took over 600 years to complete, Cologne Cathedral[1] was finished in on 14 August 1880. That was about six months before the Conservative politician who served as United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister (PM) twice, passed away. None other than Benjamin Disraeli. 

The Gothic revival has started. Europe became awash with gothic architecture. Cologne Cathedral ranks as a pre-eminent example of the style in all its glory.

Today, our UK Houses of Parliament, more accurately the “Palace of Westminster” is as gothic as gothic comes. After both houses has been burnt to the ground, in 1835 it was decided to rebuild. I guess that’s a clue as to why the architectural choice was made the way it was made.

The Germans, Czechs, Hungarians and British all had a taste for this grand nationalistic style. It had become fashionable with the Church as much as being a symbol of national triumphalism. It pushed aside the Classical style. Although many important buildings were still built in the Classical style at that time.

Honestly, I’m not being unkind. This week’s Ministerial appointment had more than one outstanding eyebrow lifer. I really wish I could do that trademark Roger Moore facial gesture[2]. What a handsome chap. I’ll forgive him his conservative leanings.

What got me thinking about a Gothic revival was not the famous painting: American Gothic[3]. Which is a wonderful parody. No, it was the image of a newly appointed Minister of Her Majesty’s Government. My thought was that this is NOT normal. This is worthy of exceptionally grave concern.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP has been appointed Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. However, he might be most suited to the Gothic palace where he spends his time, the notion that that gentleman is the best choice for that office astounds me.

We are in 2022, aren’t we? There hasn’t been as sudden slip in the time continuum, and we are back in 1822, by any chance?

The UK Houses of Parliament have become iconic and symbolises the UK throughout the world. Big Ben, the clock tower, is in the Gothic style. I had no idea that this revival of the Medieval impacted the choice of Government Ministers. I’ve been shaken. I hate to use the words but – we’re all doomed[4].


[1] German: Kölner Dom

[2] https://britishheritage.org/en/roger-moore

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Gothic

[4] “We’re all doomed!” the classic catchphrase of Private Frazer in Dad’s Army.