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

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/

Next Please

There’s no celebration. No fanfare. Today, the UK get a new PM. The 4th in 6-years. We have seen Cameron, May, come and go. Now Johnson is going in favour of Truss. If there’s a celebration, it’s that Johnson is going out of Number 10 Downing Street. The removal van is, no doubt, fully laden.

This is a transition that needs to be made as quickly as possible. For too long the Johnson cabal has been lingering and doing little of any use to the nation. However, the jobs are distributed it’s a time when decisions must be made fast, but with a degree of smart flexibility.

Truss has none of Johnson’s ability to bluff and shtick. The new PM has a delivery that’s wooden and gaff prone. Nevertheless, Tuss has beaten others who would dearly love to be in the hot seat. Although, there’s good reason to question why anyone sane would want to be PM in September 2022, given the vast size of the in-tray that is waiting.

Smaller taxes and smaller Government may have been Truss’s shop window to Tory members but that’s not what’s necessary to dig the country out of the doldrums. This is a time for intervention. We have markets that are actively working against the interests of the British people.

Denying the aftereffects of Brexit also needs to go in the dustbin. It’s only by recognising a problem that a better path can be taken.

The last thing we need is a laissez-faire leadership. The textbooks of the Reagan era do not contain the solutions to the problems of the 2020s. Immediate changes to the energy market are needed. Regulation is a major part of those changes. Not micromanagement but structural change. The accumulation of huge profits because of our peculiar regulatory structure can’t continue.

On this momentous day, change must happen. However, as a word of caution, that transformation must not disregard the real and urgent nature of climate change. If our hot summer wasn’t an indicator sufficient to catch the attention of the new PM, and whoever is appointed as energy secretary, then look at what’s happening in Pakistan[1].

Winter is coming. Short-term measures must prepare us for winter, but the long-term perspective is vital. Not only do we need to decarbonise but reducing demand for energy for heating is achievable. For too long the benefits of improving Britain’s housing stock have been neglected. We don’t need more spiel and the hands-off approach should be for the dustbin.


[1] https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/pakistan-floods-more-than-450-children-killed-in-e2-80-98horror-show-e2-80-99-with-death-toll-feared-to-rise-further/ar-AA11uXnL

Change

Understanding British reticence is part of understanding Brexit. This phenomenon is not new. Not new at all. It maybe culturally embedded. There’s an array of wonderful cartoons from Punch on the theme.

The late 1950s were peppered with such an inclination to paint a colourful picture: “You’ve never had it so good[1]” but closing a blind eye to unemployment, industrial stagnation, threatening Russians, and the aftermath of Suez. Substitute inflation for unemployment and Brexit for Suez. It’s all too familiar.

The early 2020’s is the era of unwillingness to do something about Brexit or talk about its damaging impact. All the time knowing that an accumulation of evidence all points one way. The nation is playing the 3-monkeies, in pretending that the facts don’t matter. It’s a lack of moral responsibility on the part of politicians who refuse to accept facts, looking the other way or faking ignorance.

Today, we see that Britain’s Brexitism, if there is such a word, is dedicated to a permanent anti-European sentiment. We see it in national newspapers like The Telegraph all the time. We hear it from would be political leaders. I’d even say we smell it.

This is done by politicians and establishment figures to preserve the sanctity of the 2016 referendum and as a means of explaining daily political failures. There must be a wild European ogre on the horizon otherwise the danger is that people might blame Brexit.

There are more successful times when the national code was discretion, pragmatism, and realism. These options have been thrown out of the window by the true believers in power. Such wise options are seen as “lefty” or U-Turns.

Johnson’s Government has capitalised on British reticence. Indications are that his successor will do the same, if not more so. The ideology of Brexitism is an over-simple belief. Which maybe explains why it spawns so many meaningless political slogans.[2] If it was complicated or in touch with reality the ideology would be more difficult to sustain. Hence the Brexiters inclination to capitalise on British reticence.

The means to break this destructive chain, whose links go from bad to worse, is radical change. The important part is that it must be change that the British people want. I suspect the conditions of that change are brewing. The next General Election must not be more of the same but under a different colour. There must be higher matters on the table when the country next decides.

POST: For balance, I’ll put the case for the Brexiters. The Brexit project has failed because the “liberal” and “lefty” establishment and outsiders that have sabotaged it. That is the civil service, the unions, the opposition parties, the judges, lawyers, the media, including the BBC, the banks, including the Bank of England, industrialist, immigrants, local government and anyone who isn’t a Brexiter and those countries that are punishing the UK. If that doesn’t work they then blame Harry and Megan. Yes, it is that mad.


[1] Conservative slogan in 1959.

[2] Get Brexit Done. Brexit means Brexit.

Sun & Wind

My morning routine includes switching on the radio. That already marks me down as being of a certain age. News and current affairs isn’t always a cheerful way to start the day but, at least, as a result I feel a bit better informed about the world and its ways.

Listening to Vince Cable[1], at the end of the BBC’s Today programme this morning[2] I agree. [At run time 2:37]. Sir John Vincent Cable, yes that makes me even more inclined to listen to him, has a wealth of knowledge and experience and puts his case well.

Yes, we have had four major shocks to the British economy. The banking crisis, Brexit, COVID pandemic, and war in Europe. Amongst these Brexit was self-inflicted and has cost the UK a great deal. To lump on top of all that we have had incompetence in Government the like of which hasn’t been seen for decades.

The blatant idiocy of suggesting that the answer is fracking to produce more gas and more exploratory drilling is needed are the ultimate in short-term planning. The UK is not the US. Believe it or not, there is a global climate crisis and burning more fossil fuels makes it worse. Short-term planning is one of the reasons that the UK economy is underperforming. Proposing more of that approach is to further embed reckless incompetence.

Vince is right. We should make it easier to build onshore wind turbines in the UK. I’m not saying completely deregulate the planning systems. That would be entirely foolish. However, in local development plans we have ridiculous absurdities that name wind turbines and solar farms as a particular danger to the character of the landscape. So, any proposal that is brave enough to come forward gets slapped down immediately. Local politicians run for the hills.

Like all such regulatory issues, there needs to be a balance struck. There are numerous places in the UK were wind turbines and solar farms have a great deal more positive impact than negative. Proposals for renewable energy developments should be given a leg up. The UK is blessed with renewable energy assets in wind, seas, rain, and enough sun to make a difference.

I am first in-line to defend the beauty of our countryside but not everywhere is equal in that respect. Not only that but compared to nuclear power stations of any size, wind turbines and solar farms can be removed after a life of service with little sign of their former presence.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vince_Cable

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001bbsv

Holiday from reality

All aboard for the fantasy rollercoaster. We are in for a new season of irrational excess. The winner of the competition for UK Prime Minister (PM) is to be a character out of Westminster folklore.

Mythology is powerful. It permeates our lives in the snap assumptions, unconscious bias, and it races through the pages of the tabloid press and social media.

I’m culpable. It’s that click-bait headline that stimulates an instant response. It can be as few as six words. “PM chews gum and walks too.” Immediately, the instinct to disagree is triggered in my mind. How can that be? So, I unwittingly join an avalanche of rancour and feed the machine.

People are more than the professional polarisers would like us to think. However, the idea that is a let-out clause for preposterous nonsense is not one that should stick. A candidate who wins votes by peddling blatant right-wing gibberish is dangerous.

For all the Brexit promoting fiction he is guilty of, in this case, former Minister Michael Gove[1] is right. It’s a nice journalists turn of phrase, being “on holiday from reality”. This is addressing Truss’s proposal to cut taxes as inflation takes-off and the cost-of-living presses hard on us all.

Pertinent when the Johnson, caretaker PM is holidaying. His would-be successor likes to pretend to be a next generation Thatcher but never has such a claim been more wayward. Thatcher wasn’t an advocate of ungrounded economics.

Back to the human capacity to believe political fantasies. It’s hard for progressives and more rational thinkers to accept but it’s real. Once upon a time there was a “centrist” wing of the UK Conservative Party that would debunk childish economic fictions. With a few exceptions, those people are now mute or considering their futures.

Since the 2016 EU referendum, the UK Conservatives Party has been transitioning into a version of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). These crude libertarian junkies have taken control. Brexit is not permanent. In fact, healthy national politics is dynamic and in-tune with what people are thinking. Unfortunately, a small self-selecting constituency is picking the UK’s next PM.

Get ready, the national rollercoaster ride is about to get a lot scarier.


[1] https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/michael-gove-says-liz-truss-is-on-holiday-from-reality-as-he-backs-rishi-sunak-for-pm/ar-AA10Rtgq

Energy cap

The letters “Of” have been used as shorthand for “Office of” in the names of several regulators in the UK. There are at least two of them that are gaining an unparalleled reputation for incompetence[1]. Maybe, I’m being unfair. Afterall, a regulator can only do what the legislation that created it will permit it to do. They are not lawmakers. They can only interpret the law in respect of their own responsibilities. That law, however amended, is relatively stationary in the face of events.

One way of explaining what has happened is to admit that the ethos and rules in place were devised to serve past times. In the world of services provided by industry, the environment has changed dramatically, in more ways than one. A cacophony of events, Brexit, recuring political ineptitude, war, and climate change have made the framework created for British regulation obsolete.

It’s like trying to use a Thatcher / Blair era computer in the world of today’s internet and mobiles.

Now, what’s clear is that we have a bunch of Ministers who haven’t a clue what to do when faced with this problem. Conservatives keep a picture of Sid[2] on their bedroom walls.

The call has come from the Greens to nationalise everything[3]. This too is an inept solution to current problems. This was the dogma that Labour once held dear. How the political landscape changes.

Despite the calamities befalling us, we must get off fossil fuels. Again, Conservative politicians are on the wrong page. Britons needs encouragement to switch and insulate[4] not to stoop to fossil fuels industry lobbyists. The notion that the solution to a painful recession is to burn the future is absurd.

Let’s get out of the rut. Defending, and being constrained by a framework of organisation that’s out of date is no use to anyone. That is why the Liberal Democrat proposal to freeze the energy price cap is a good start. We desperately need to buy time, with escalating inflation, to come up with a new regulatory scheme. One that works for customers. One that works for the environment. One that works for you and me.


[1] Ofgem – the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets and Ofwat – the Water Services Regulation Authority

[2] To encourage individuals to become shareholders, the gas privatisation offer was advertised with the “If you see Sid…Tell him!” campaign.

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-62577830

[4] Home insulation has been slashed by the current Government

Foot shooting

In the 1970s and 80s, Europe’s aviation industry strove to create common airworthiness codes. In 1983, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed that bring together 11 national authorities, including the UK. These countries agreed to improve European safety regulation; develop common codes and common interpretation of those codes and extend cooperation.

Given the immense efforts the UK applied to creating the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and subsequently the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) it is unsurprising the hope of continuing involvement remained until the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was signed.

Leaving the European system of aviation safety regulation is a consequence of the political choice of a hard Brexit. Exiting EASA membership was not accompanied by leaving other European institutions. However, the implications of no longer being an EU Member State have rippled through out the whole aviation system. As the UK becomes less Eurocentric so the rest of Europe becomes more Eurocentric. Yet, the UK will surely wish to continue to exercise influence within regional bodies. This is incongruous but it is a political choice, and such choices have consequences.

Another case of immense efforts, the UK applied, was to collaborative working in aerospace research. UK organisations and academic institutions benefited significantly from participation in the Horizon Europe project and its predecessors. This is being run down despite assurances given in the TCA. An impasse has arisen over the political shenanigans related to the Irish border.

Now, the lawyers have got involved there is surely nothing good that will come if it[1]. The overall message is negative. With Conservative leadership candidates stirring up anti-EU sentiment just to get votes, it’s hardly likely there will be a reconciliation any time soon.

Yet again, the UK is perfecting the art of shooting itself in the foot. A sad situation. By the way, I do think this situation will be resolved in the fullness of time. The EU published a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe in November 2021. To quote:

(g) Global engagement: Develop a coherent global engagement strategy and common tools, promoting shared European values and principles for R&I in terms of international cooperation and capitalising on the attractiveness of research in the Union; ensure the Union’s scientific and innovation strategic autonomy while preserving an open economy; promote a level playing field and reciprocity based on fundamental values; enhance R&I partnerships and strengthen, broaden and deepen collaboration with third countries and regional organisations.

The last line ties in nicely with the TCA and creates a need to solve the issue of UK engagement. That would be wise for both parties in the end.

POST 1: The consequences are real Thanks to Brexit, I lost a €2.5m research grant. I fear for the future of UK science | José R Penadés | The Guardian

POST 2: Grants lost At least 115 UK researchers to lose their ERC grants – Research Professional News


[1] https://sciencebusiness.net/news/uk-launches-legal-case-against-eu-over-horizon-europe-association

Coming election

A moment of pure speculation. Barring a military take over, there will be a UK General Election before January 2025. When we have such national elections about 70% of the voting population get sufficiently motivated to put a cross in a box on a ballot paper. Yes, a few doodle or write “none of the above” on their papers but it’s a tiny number that go as far as to protest their frustration.

It’s always a good time for public relations agencies, tabloid newspapers and political gurus. The potential for appallingly cringemaking headlines and earworm like slogans is manifold. Some of these folks will be writing pages of forthcoming books on “how it was won” long before it was won.

Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken the role of caretaker to a new extreme. He’s more of a couldn’t care less taker of the p*** PM. The forthcoming election will be a race between at least three horses and maybe even four. Conservatives, Labourites, Liberal Democrats and one or two Greens will be trying to capture the high ground and launch themselves on the doorsteps of the UK. 

The issues will be stark. Armageddon isn’t on the cards, yet, but there will be dire circumstances as a background to the future campaign. Each party will be saying the other is an incompetent bunch of nincompoops. Each party will be stressing their unique qualities and indisputable solutions to all and sundry. A daily routine of shifting news stories will be a bombardment of severe intensity.

Free speech is a first principle of democracy. That said, I’ll bet that there will be an acute reluctance amongst competing politicians to mention one six-letter word. I almost wrote competing “pelicans”. Now, that conjures up an image of huge birds fighting over an unfortunate fish.

In the idea world candidates will be engaging in polite discussions with those who hold different views and hoping to persuade them of a view they hold dear. In the idea world candidates would avoid denigrating or insulting those who hold views that are difficult to understand.

The six-letter word is – Brexit. All the objective evidence points to the failure of this project. It’s clear the current Conservative Government is frightened of people saying Brexit has failed. In complete antithesis to free speech, they are clamping down on civil servants and those who work with Government to ensure they don’t highlight Brexit facts.

Come the next General Election the inevitability of tribalism and short termism will kick in. The UK’s voting system encourages polarisation. There’re absolutely no nuances. Debate on Brexit is likely to get squeezed to the side-lines as Conservatives and Labourites pretend it can still work.  

To unlock a better future for everyone we do need Proportional Representation. Otherwise, the same old, same old will haunt the country for years to come. The fight needs to be for honesty.

Was I right, or was I right? Fishy parrot

Everyday Brexit

We can look at social media. We can follow the News. We can read literate articles. However much we do all three of these there’s not much new to say about Brexit. Every fact, every option, every prejudice has been stripped bare. Themes have been regurgitated. Mantras bombard each other like artillery fire. Billions of words have been written and spoken over the last 6-years.

In consequence, the British political dial has shifted but not as much as might have been expected. In a purely rational world, the dial should be bouncing off the end stop by now. The human capacity to dig in despite facts, evidence and experience is what makes us such strange political animals.

I’ve found, revealing, and likely more insightful are the unprompted conversations that touch on the subject matter. Now and then, disclosures, often unintentionally open true feelings, and emotions.

Like last evening, a casual conversation starts off in one direction and then stumbles into the swamp that is Brexit. Passing the time of day, I got talking to a woman doing a part-time job. She was retired. She had got fed up with her profession and was now working freelance for a bit of extra cash. Likewise, I told her my story. We moved on to how the world has changed. It was an inquisitive good-natured chat. I mentioned Brexit. Not in an overtly political way but simply as one of the changes that has upset the way people work. Within a second our friendly chat ended. It was clear that she would not tolerate any criticism of Brexit, whatsoever. I was left feeling that such an unnatural gulf in understanding is a heavy burden to bear. Deep entrenchment cannot be healthy.

It must be said that I’ve had the opposite conversation too. Social gatherings are good places to catch-up. At a recent funeral reception, chatting with someone I hadn’t seen for several years, we went through the topics of family and holidays. Then – how’s business? Immediately, there was an opening-up as to how awful Brexit had been and the impact on exporting to Europe. There was no prompt needed. Not only feelings but real lived experience poured out in this exchange. Time, money, energy, and opportunity had all be wasted climbing new mountains of paperwork.

So, in August 2022, we are still in British Brexit’s first world war trenches. Each national camp is not making a move. Every day, bombastic slogans, and simplistic rhetoric are hurtled over the top. It’s a zombie like ritual.

Now, I’m sure this sharp polarisation is not entirely universal. There are, believe it or not, some people who are ambivalent. Bored with the topic. Disengaged and positively avoiding any step near these deep trenches. What’s distressing. What’s truly unhealthy for the country. What continues to set us back is the pandering of Conservative politicians to only one of these camps. The on-going party leadership race is pitted with appeals to their hard-core Brexit minded membership. I’d go as far to say the Conservative party, as it was known for decades, no longer exists. The UKIP party has been absorbed and integrated. There is no such thing as a broad church, or one-nation Conservatism. That traditional political formula simply doesn’t exist anymore.

POST 1: Unwise. Let’s keep Brexit safe. Playing to the in-crowd without a care for the outcome https://twitter.com/RishiSunak/status/1556590394170818560

POST 2: Unworkable. There’s party members votes in bashing the EU. https://twitter.com/trussliz/status/1554066408128012290