Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

No Electric Trains for Swansea

22/07/2017

It was announced this week that electrification of the Great Western main line from London would stop at Cardiff, and not extend to Swansea, despite promises by former PM David Cameron. I’m not surprised at this. Given the state of the Great Western electrifiction – comprehensively messed up by Network Rail – it’s understandable the government will try and cut costs.

While it’s disappointing for Swansea, let’s stop shouting and take a step back. Try and get some perspective.

The city will still get new trains, as the fleet will be bi-mode, i.e. diesel and electric. If the old HSTs were to stay on the line, or the service reduced to a shuttle to Cardiff to connect with the electrics, then the outrage and talk of “betrayal” might have some justification. The wires aren’t going into Bristol either now. Or Oxford.

I’m no fan of Chris Grayling, but his point about the line speed is fair. This line is constrained by geography and has low speeds: Cardiff to Bridgend for example has a maximum of 75 mph with a number of curves. The only possible way around this is to use tilting trains, which as far as I know has never been proposed.

For one train an hour, this was always a marginal scheme. Instead of sulking about this, I think the city council should instead be lobbying for service improvements in the new Wales rail franchise: such as new rolling stock, as well as for the retention of direct trains to Manchester.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-40665659

The Stoke-on-Trent Central By Election

24/02/2017

I’ve long had a rather furtive desire to vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party. Probably a frivolous idea and a wasted vote, but there you are. As they only seemed to stand in by elections, and there was never one where I lived, I never got the chance.

Until now. My MP, Tristram Hunt, having been re-elected in 2015, recently fucked off to a new job at the V&A. At last, here was my chance… but no. Stoke-on-Trent has the dubious name as the capital of Brexit, with the strongest leave vote in the country. It’s not the first time Stoke has had dubious political distinction: a few years ago, the city elected 9 BNP councillors. In the 2015 election, UKIP came second to Labour, and they clearly fancied their chances in the by election.

I loathe UKIP. For all their pose as the new party of the working class, they’re made up of, in former PM Cameron’s words, fruitcakes and loonies. They’re more right wing than the Tories. I’ve never understood working people who vote Conservative, and working people voting for UKIP are turkeys voting for Christmas. And their candidate in Stoke Central, the new leader Paul Nuttall, was especially contemptible.

First, there were allegations that the address he gave on his nomination was false: it was an allegedly empty property in Stoke (https://www.channel4.com/news/did-ukip-leader-paul-nuttall-break-election-law) ; then there was his claim that he lost friends in the Hillsborough disaster, later revealed to be untrue; he couldn’t name a single one of the six towns when asked; and his election slogan to be defending the NHS was undermined by earlier statements that he thought the NHS unfit for purpose and that should be privatised (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/paul-nuttall-want-privatise-nhs-9676639). All in all, a wholly unsuitable prospective MP.

The pundits were predicting a close contest in Stoke. I certainly didn’t want a UKIP MP, especially someone like Nuttall, so I could not in all conscience vote for the Monsters. The most likely to defeat UKIP was Labour, and this time at least, in contrast to Hunt, their man was local. So he got my vote. Not out of any conviction, it was purely tactical. If the polls had suggested an easy Labour hold, my vote would have gone elsewhere.

As someone who identifies as left-wing, and who is, according to the Political Compass Test, a left libertarian, Labour should probably be my natural choice. My problem is with their leader, Jeremy Corbyn. When he first stood for the leadership, I paid my three quid and voted for him. He seemed to be something hopeful, something different and left wing, a break from the near Toryism of the Blair years.

By the time of the second leadership election, my enthusiasm had markedly cooled. Partly his poor performance and incompetence, but I was alarmed when I came across footage of him describing his “friends in Hamas and Hezbollah”. Friends in terrorist organisations? Really? However much he might sympathise with the plight of the Palestinians, the founding charter of Hamas calls for the obliteration of Israel, and is virulently anti-Semitic. (more details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas_Covenant). Some of the stuff Hamas et al come out with could have been written by Hitler. And Corbyn calls himself an anti-fascist. Admittedly, he has since expressed some regret at this, but it strikes me as half-hearted (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/04/jeremy-corbyn-grilled-by-mps-on-labours-anti-semitism-problem/)

Even though Labour lost the other by election in Copeland, I’m sure Comrade Corbyn will stay as leader. As long as this incompetent fool remains, I won’t vote for Labour. I did so this time tactically to keep UKIP out.

Brexit: Grow Up and Stop Scaremongering.

23/05/2016

The main problem with the whole referendum “debate” is that both sides are resorting to scaremongering, distortion and outright lies. This is dishonest and dishonours the whole process. It’s far to serious and important and issue to be trivialised by such juvenile tactics.

If, as I suspect, we vote to remain “in”, it will because people have believed the scare stories and decided “better the devil you know” rather than at least trying to make an informed choice. I’ve done my best to do so, and have made up my mind as to how I’ll be voting.

A plague o’both houses.

I’m certainly no fan of Gove (quite the reverse!), but this is one of the few reasoned arguments I’ve seen from the Leave Camp:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-michael-goves-full-statement-on-why-he-is-backing-brexit-a6886221.html

This classic from Tony Benn:

Sargon of Akkad’s critique of Project Fear:

Boris’ Brexit Lies:

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/05/great-huckster-boris-johnson-s-reckless-distortions-history

Lies, Damned Lies and Spin – The EU Referendum

24/04/2016

I recently had my leaflet from the government giving their reasons why we should remain in the EU. Given that, despite Cameron’s big talk about renegotiation, he came home with next to nothing, I took the entire thing with several shovels of salt.

I haven’t really mind up my mind how I’m going to vote, but I am leaning towards leave. I’ve long believed the EU to be anti-democratic, and the arrogance with which they dealt with Italy and Greece recently has reinforced this. Treaties and laws are ignored when inconvenient, the European Court regularly extends its dictat and is allowed to get away with it. And that’s not to mention the erosion of national sovereignty, the corruption and waste.

I certainly don’t buy some of the remain arguments: social security, worker rights and environmental protection will be worse if we leave. Really? Being in hasn’t stopped the Tories savaging benefits, eroding rights, granting fracking licences and unbanning pesticides. And if TTIP becomes law (which the EU is negotiating in secret), you can expect what protections are left to vanish.

The main problem is getting a balanced view. I’ve read Daniel Hannon’s book Why Vote Leave, but as he’s a right wing Tory, he’s not someone I’d have any sympathy with politically. Even so, it’s a persuasive book, well written in restrained language without resorting to scare stories. I’d like to read left wing cases too, but have yet to find one. It’s disappointing that Corbyn has done a volte face on this, having been consistently eurosceptic up to now. In the unlikely event of his winning in 2020, if we remain in the EU, a lot of his platform (like renationalising the NHS) would be illegal under EU law.

So far – even though it requires me to be in such unsavoury company that I need to hold my nose – it’s looking likely I’ll vote leave.

Feminist Nonsense

02/02/2016

I read recently that a number of universities have introduced compulsory “consent lessons” for new students. For new male students. “Lessons” in what “consent” means when it comes to sex, as apparently we are living in a rape culture. Really? I had to check the date to make sure it wasn’t the 1st of April.

It seems that the universities are now so enslaved by the extreme feminist paradigm that they are prepared to treat all men as potential rapists. It’s deeply insulting to the vast majority of men, not to mention sexist. Its blind stupidity is breathtaking.

One excuse I heard proffered for these so-called lessons is to target students who have come from single-sex faith schools. Well, a more eloquent argument against such schools I have yet to hear. Anyone with a brain knows that the three monotheisms treat sex and sexuality as depraved and dirty, so it’s no wonder that some people emerge from such an upbringing with a warped view of sex. But this is no excuse to tar every man with the same dirty brush. Fuck. Off.

I don’t doubt that the fight for women’s equality still has ground to cover, and that the struggle up to now has been a noble one which has rightly enjoyed successes. Modern feminists do their cause no good at all by indulging in extremism. They claim they are still oppressed yet refuse to support their sisters battling for equality in other cultures and countries where women really are suffering. In fact, they excuse such practices on the ground of cultural difference; to deny otherwise is apparently imperialist. I’ve another word for it: racist.

I admit it, I’m a man. And worse, a white heterosexual man. And I don’t need lectures from feminists in how to behave thank you so much. If I’d been going to university now, I would refuse to attend these “lessons” on principle.

Trump’s An Idiot, But Let Him Speak

10/12/2015

I see there’s a petition going round to ban Donald Trump from entering the UK because of his anti-Muslim views. I refuse to sign it.

I don’t agree with Trump and never will, but he’s entitled to his opinions and to express them, however repellent they are. That is what free speech is. Banning someone from speaking is wrong, it will give him spurious legitimacy. It’s also childish. Let him speak, then criticise him, debate, argue, show him up for the ignorant bigot he is.

Censorship is no answer to this. It’s yet another example of “free speech is OK, but”. No, there are no buts. Continue down this road and soon we won’t have free speech. It’s supposed to be one of the core western values. We should not circumscribe it so readily.

So Long, It Hasn’t Been Good To Know You

09/12/2015

The recent news of the departure Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s controversial chief executive John Van de Laarschot was very welcome and long overdue. It wasn’t a surprise: the council changed hands after the May 2015 elections and new leader Dave Conway was a frequent critic of Van de Laarschot while in opposition.

The departure was a costly one. After several weeks on fully paid gardening leave, he was given a Golden Fuck Off of almost a quarter of a million pounds. And this after a five year tenure that wreaked havoc on the council, ruining successful services and causing staff to leave in unprecedented numbers. This obscenely overpaid and arrogant little man should have been sent packing years ago – there were opportunities, but former leader Mohammed Pervez lacked the balls. Better late than never, I suppose, and good riddance to extremely bad rubbish. A pity it took so long and cost us so much.

Conformity Is Not Freedom

03/11/2015

I read that there is a campaign to have a TV presenter sacked for not wearing a poppy. It turned up on my Facebook feed the other day, and I immediately blocked it. This is not normally an issue I have any problem with, but this year, in solidarity with others, I will not be wearing one either.

I have never heard of the presenter in question, and do not know her reasons for not wearing the poppy. But that surely is her choice, and as such, is no one else’s business. To suggest that she be sacked for it is obscene. But you have to, people whine, otherwise it’s disrespectful of those who died in wars, who died to protect our country and its way of life. Really? Have we really become that intolerant and stupid?

I’ve studied history, so am well aware – perhaps more so than some of the campaigners – of what my grand-parents’ generation did in World War II. Our way of life faced an existential threat, and they fought to protect it. That is not in dispute. However, these campaigners seem to have little real grasp of just what “our way of life” actually is. Surely what was fought for was our freedom, and that must include freedom of thought, speech and expression. If it is qualified to being only free if you conform, do what everyone else does, because it’s expected, the “done thing”, then that is not freedom. Where is the freedom to dissent? That is an essential part of living in a free country.

Let us not forget that it was service personnel in 1945 who played a large part in electing the Labour government, on a radical platform to transform society. That generation had fought and now wanted payback for their sacrifices. Did they really fight so everyone must unthinkingly conform and be penalised for not doing so? I certainly hope not. To suggest otherwise, as these campaigners are, is to do their memory a disservice. It is they who are disrespecting the fallen, not this TV presenter. Shame on you all.

The Living Wage, How Does It Work?

11/09/2015

The campaign for a living wage is one I support. Too many employers are allowed to get away with paying workers poverty wages. What I don’t understand is how it can be set at a set figure, so one size has to fit all. If it was say £7.50/hr for areas outside London, how would that work? It might be enough for a single person in a council flat, but how could it fit with someone who has children or who lives in expensive private rented accommodation (and let’s face it, it’s all expensive). Shouldn’t it really be set at a level where someone can support themselves without having to claim benefits?

If your wage is sufficiently low that you have to claim benefits (like tax credits if HB) in order to make ends meet, then it’s not a living wage is it?

Pro-Business? No Thanks.

02/03/2015

Now we are are again into the long tedious run up to an election. All the usual Daily Mail nonsense is getting thrown around about immigration, benefit scroungers, the EU etc etc, yawn yawn.

In addition to having to be tough on immigrants and the poor, politicians have to be pro-business. Business creates jobs you see, it’s so much better than the nasty, union-infested public sector, filled as it is by overpaid lazy jobsworths. It must be comforting so see life in such simple terms.

All pro-business means to me is removing all regulation and law that protects workers, the environment, or makes it pay tax. Allowing it to do with the hell it likes with absolutely no come back, in other words. (Funny how businesses gets away with millions in tax avoidance but if some poor sod allegedly commits benefit fraud, they go to jail. Who are the real scroungers here?)

And politicians go along with this, surrendering more and more of their power to unelected and unaccountable business. Who do you think really benefits from selling off public services so cheaply? Not us taxpayers that’s for sure. Politicians are put there by us to represent us, to look after our interests and the country’s interests. Yet they sell themselves to business, regardless of our interests or the country’s. Well, there’s a word for that: traitor.

Yes, jobs may very well be created by business. But it’s sad that so many are Mcjobs: mostly part time, not paying a living wage, or worst of all, a zero hours contract. And that’s all people can get, and so still have to go through the humiliation of claiming benefits to top up the wages.

If it’s anti-business to want better worker rights, better pay, better terms and conditions, an end to zero hours contracts and an end to the obscene salaries of CEOs, then I’m anti-business. And what’s more, I’m proud of it.


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