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/

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

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.

Platform & Mockery

It’s accurate to say that there will be a new leader of the British Conservative Party. An announcement is expected and there’s not much that can derail it. Up and down the country the members of that national political party have been twiddling their thumbs and marking ballot papers.

To me, the use of the word “new” is to stretch the langauage to the far corners of the Earth. The politician backed by the pollsters to win is nowhere new on the block. What’s fascinating is the two Conservative candidates for Prime Minister (PM) have been spending their time rubbishing the record of the last decade of Conservative Government. Funny old world.

In a huff from starting blocks The Mail, newspaper, has screamed unfair because mainstream comedians love to mock the likely winner of the Conservative Party’s selection process. This is mega silly. Mocking our leaders is as British a British can be. Recently, I was in the V&A[1] in London and I couldn’t resist a look at the Spitting Image puppet of Margaret Thatcher. If anything, in terms of mockery, we are getting tame. Leaders of any poltical creed are fair game in a free country. Often the humour is spiky but shines a light on a truth. That is so much better than the playground bickering and insults that are gaining momentum among the far right and left.

Exercising a lot of media pundits is the question of when there will be a General Election. The drop-dead date is at the end of 2024. So, practically, any new British PM will have not much more than 18 months to make a big show, and shift the agenda onto their ground. Tough task at any time.

Today’s News suggest that this natural poltical ambition will be incalculably difficult to deliver. The phrase: “Events, my dear boy, events,” comes to mind. When asked what troubles a PM, former PM Harold Macmillan[2] answered with those words. It’s become a popular quotation and so true.

Past events linger. Banking crisis, Brexit, COVID and international tensions. Current events are unpredictable. War, Energy prices, Inflation and the Climate Crisis. Future events often give no notice. None of these are small. All we need now is another troublesome Icelandic Volcano to burst into life.

By the way, Harold Macmillan was the target of wonderfully sharp mockery by a cartoonist called Vicky[3]. His works are a good study of British culture and society in the 1950s – 60s. I expect poltical cartoonists will be happy to mark this day as a good one for future work.

POST 1: There are 605 days until the 2nd May 2024, a likely date for the next General Election. The last one was 998 days ago, meaning we are 62% of the way through the current Parliament. Much can happen.

POST 2: It is my great pleasure to introduce the new British PM Liz Truss ‘Cheese Speech’ to Conservative Party Conference 2014 – video Dailymotion

[1] https://www.helenacurrycreative.co.uk/margaret-thatcher

[2] British Conservative politician who was Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963.

[3] https://www.cartoons.ac.uk/cartoonist-biographies/u-v/VictorWeisz_Vicky.html

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


Without wishing to sound too much “told you so”, looking back on what I’ve written here over the last 5-years, it’s evident that a lot of it was on the money. Overall, the experience of the last 5-years has diminished our national prosperity and damaged reputations.

There’s a number of central points that shine through the fog. 

For a start, Brexit was not just one event which when delivered would bring an end to decades of introspection about Britain’s place in the world. If anything, the subject is higher on the agenda than it has been for a long time. All twists and turns are analysed in terms of – where are we going?

The underlying theme of the recent years has been to try to restore an imagined past. For some people this is an imperial role. It’s a lamenting of a time when the school map was red with the British empire.  This is, in part, a culture war like that played out by Trump in his term in office in the United States. Instead of applying the immense variety of our heritage as a solid foundation it’s being weaponised. 

Political deception has been fuelled by an age of ubiquitous social media. When so much information, true and false, is pumped out every moment, opinions eclipse facts more frequently than in the past. The louder the incessant shouting, the more money backing the campaigns, the more likely the result impacts policy and decision making.   

Perpetual uncertainty is now expected. Any deals, agreements or working arrangements, however magnificent, are viewed as moments that pass. The traditional phrase “my word is my bond” has no meaning amongst a large band of politicians. Maybe this is a tactical chasing of public opinion data that’s pushed aside any strategic thinking. 

The question can be asked: was all this inevitable? Would it have happened in one form or another even if the referendum vote of June 2016 had gone a different way? On this one, I’m pessimistic.  The idea that a public vote won or lost by a very small margin puts a subject to bed for all time is childish, to say the least.  Such votes are an indication of something deeper.

Yet again our technology speeds ahead of us, far exceeding our ability to cope with it. Both our salvation and our prison warden, we can articulate grander visions but are tied by primitive instincts. 

In my view this is the great merit of social liberal politics. The need for balance. The need for fairness. Instead of letting the libertarian monster out of the bag or denying our human frailties, taking them both into the mix is far wiser than our current destructive course.   

A British politician once said all political careers end in failure. That failure can be avoided, like a mature sports personality, stepping down at the optimal time. For Prime Minister Johnson, all indications are that he’ll crash the ship of state rather than change direction.  Let’s hope the choice is taken from him by a change made by the public. The humble voter.

Flying, Democracy and Safety 7.

flag of united kingdom
Photo by Bernadett Varga on Pexels.com

I have no problem with a Union Jack flag adorning an aeroplane. The British Airways (BA) logo and tail flag from 1982-1997 is still missed by many air travellers.  The quarter Union Jack clearly stated what it represented and said it classically, superbly and strongly[1]. This week we saw the tail flag on the UK Prime Minister’s aeroplane, and it looks wrong.  Apparently, it’s explained that the front of the aeroplane is the “flagpole”[2].  Thus, the only time the tail Union Jack flag will be correctly orientated is when the aeroplane is diving towards the ground.  It seems to me that this image doesn’t send a particularly good “national branding” message to anyone who sees it.

Now, any mention of British Airways (BA) on social media is likely to be accompanies by a derogatory comment. BA has put its staff at risk of redundancy. It’s forcing through pay cuts on staff, even though they’re a financially sound company taking advantage of the UK Government’s COVID-19 furlough scheme. On the morning of Wednesday 24 June, a UK House of Commons Transport Committee meeting took place with the star witness being the Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State, Department for Transport. When questioned about the situation it seemed the UK Government is taking the position of a passive observer.

An open UK Parliamentary petition is doing the rounds. It’s calling for the UK Government to support the British aviation industry during the COVID-19 outbreak. In total, COVID-19 could cost the UK aviation industry up to £20.1 billion in 2020[3]. So far, the UK Government has not offered sector specific help as other European Governments have done so.

Virgin Atlantic Airways is working on a do-it-yourself plan to keep flying. They have given up on sector specific UK Government support for aviation.

It looks as if the UK Government is to rip up its Coronavirus quarantine rules for some returning travellers in move that will at least help. Were it not for the #Brexit transition period, until 31 December, the UK might have been on the EU’s banned Countries list given its national COVID-19 case numbers.

Now let’s look at what remains of Brexit. It certainly is interesting to read that a senior Government Minister is concerned that few UK businesses have prepared for the UK’s exit from the EU single market and customs union[4].  It seems uncharitable to point out that they may be busy addressing other issues. It maybe because people aren’t embracing Brexit with the same enthusiasm as the die-hard supporters in the UK Government. More likely that it’s impossible to drain a swamp when you are up to your eyes in crocodiles. Big COVID-19 crocodiles.

The EU will impose customs controls and checks on goods from the UK from the start of 2021[5].  This is going to be painful for design and manufacturing in the aerospace world. The UK’s growth has already slowed after the 2016 referendum relative to other countries.  Brexit uncertainty has reduced capital investment resulting in lower productivity and output. And all of this was reported before the COVID-19 pandemic[6].

The tragic situation is that, however bad the outcome gets as the year ends, the pandemic will make it exceedingly difficult to estimate the true impact of Brexit on the economy as we go forward. Call me cynical but there’s likely to be UK Conservative Ministers and MPs betting on that situation.

[1] https://www.logodesignlove.com/british-airways-logo-evolution

[2] https://videos.metro.co.uk/video/met/2020/06/25/443726506662150015/640x360_MP4_443726506662150015.mp4

[3] https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/coronavirus-impact-aviation-transport-report/

[4] https://www.cityam.com/michael-gove-concerned-at-how-few-uk-businesses-have-made-brexit-preparations/

[5] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-18/eu-says-it-won-t-ease-customs-controls-on-u-k-after-brexit

[6] https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/working-paper/2019/the-impact-of-brexit-on-uk-firms

Aviation, Brexit and COVID19 (ABC) 4

IMG_1622It looks like we have not reached the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK.  It looks like there’s no practical exit strategy for the current lock-down.  It looks like the longer this goes on the more dramatically different the future will be from what we expected only a few months ago.

We’ve daily UK Government Press Conferences for an update on actions to tackle the pandemic.  Unfortunately, too often media questioning offers little insight into really what’s happening.  The UK House of Commons is in recess. It’s scheduled to return on Tuesday, 21 April.  Maybe then the direction and plans will become a little clearer.

I see the need to reflect on the current situation.  Not to think of all the growing problems and difficulties but what, if any, could be the positive outcomes in terms of polices and actions.  A bridge to the future.  So, here goes with an unstructured list of possibilities but applying my best rose tinted glasses:

  1. The UK and EU agree a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) that are more extensive and imaginative that any that have gone before it. Building on the best of what already exists both agreements push the bounds of cooperation, collaboration and coordination[1].
  2. Restarting the aviation industry pushes it to take climate change more seriously. Retirement of aircraft make space for more efficient ones to come into service.  European States stop dragging their heels and employ new technologies for the management of air traffic.  There’s a rapid increase in environmental mitigation measures at airports.  Also, that all of these are implemented in a way that makes aviation more robust come the next crisis.
  3. Research and innovation are given a major boost. The urgent need for the rapid development of new methods and systems is enthusiastically accepted and funded.  Electric aviation is recognised as a pathway to sustainability and opportunities for new air transport air vehicles to provide new services.
  4. Greater investment feeds into communication technologies improving the interconnection of every part of Europe. The insatiable demand for growth in travel is stabilised by making the most of remote working.  Efforts on cyber security are redoubled.  Independent fact checking for social media becomes a priority activity.
  5. Extreme political polarisation is consigned to the dustbin of history. Woking together is seen as the norm.  Enlightened regulation is used to best enhance freedom, prosperity and security.  Progressive international bodies are reinforced to be able to better tackle the next global challenge, as surely there will be one.

When the day comes, and the crisis has passed and social distancing is no longer needed, then there will be a great need to reunite people.   Aviation’s role is clear.  Connecting people across the globe.

[1] Royal Aeronautical Society has produced a Brexit Briefing Note #brexit #easa http://ow.ly/Kcx750z7o5n

Brexit & Aviation 113

As we have found over the last 3-years and more, reports and reality are often far apart.  Being reported is that the British Prime Minster (PM) is saying that there will be “no alignment” with the European Union (EU) after Brexit is done[1].  Boosted by a UK Parliamentary majority this stark statement maybe no more than playing to the galleries.

However, political positions are hardening.  The UK Government has excluded an extension of the transition period and enshrine this in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB).  Many believe that this is not a good-faith implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU.

Now, the UK Parliament’s role in scrutinising any future relationship has been diminished.  So, if EU-UK negotiations go badly there’s no holding back the hard-core right-wingers who are unconcerned if the UK reverts to trading on only WTO terms.

So quickly to become bullish is a high-risk strategy. Having been at this process for so long it’s likely the EU will remain united and undaunted by the threat of a breakdown in talks.  Afterall, it deals with States that are bigger and more powerful than the UK.  So, maybe the UK PM is still primarily speaking to a domestic audience.  As the slogan “Get Brexit Done,” used by the Conservative Party in their 2019 General Election messaging fades into the background, the UK’s place in the world seems more vulnerable[2].

The aviation sector relies on long-term commitments to regulated markets.  Global investment is more likely with an assurance of stability and a sense of direction.  Contrary to right-wing political opinion good regulation benefits growth.  At the same time, it benefits sustainability as unprecedented climate change continue to escalate.

Thinking about how to achieve a close and constructive relationship with the EU is vital.  The practical downsides of Brexit is starting to become evident[3].  It could be that the political struggle for a Brexit is ending an initial stage.  Now, the daunting task to define Brexit is only just starting.

If anyone considers it’s easier for the UK to pivot towards the United States rather than the EU they are in for a shock.  Federal law governing international aviation less flexible and more complex than EU law whatever some may wish you to think.  Reality will bite quickly and not to the advantage of the UK.

There will be people thinking about these challenges over Christmas and the New Year.  Most of us will be happy not to hear a Brexit word or a three-letter abbreviation for a couple of weeks.  2019 will not be missed.  It’s quite enough to know that 2020 will be full of breaking news and tantrums about the ups and downs of this continuing saga.

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/12/20/boris-johnson-insists-will-no-alignment-eu-brexit/

[2] https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/getting-brexit-done-brings-defense-challenges

[3] https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/uk-news/huge-changes-british-holidaymakers-flying-17440064