+Every so often I feel an urge to criticise religionists (why, why, why?). This morning I was given a perfect prompt to satisfy this urge when two of them debated head to head about the latest appalling massacre of schoolchildren in the U.S. This debate occurred on the BBC’s Sunday programme, which often finds devout Christians and other religionists tearing into each other. From my point of view that’s quite entertaining. This time we had one preacher (as I think Revs are commonly called in the States) saying how gun laws need to be tightened up. The other, perhaps bidding to become Donald Trump’s chaplain was convinced that Jesus himself had authorised the liberal supply of weaponry now in the possession of Americans, sane or not. Naturally the to and fro involved a number of quotes from the Good Book, which did little to enlighten us as to what Jesus actually said about the possession of assault rifles. The Trump leaning preacher claimed that owning a killing machine was a God given right (never mind the Second Amendment). I assume he stands firm with the sixth commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ but I am sure there are many caveats to that—its interpretation is purely contextual (which is to say it’s not a commandment at all).
Co-incidentally, today being a Sunday a leaflet was popped through my letterbox asking ‘Are YOU ready? Don’t be left behind.’ This came from some unnamed religious outfit concerned about my salvation and eternal life. One doesn’t need much of an imagination to grasp its message, which is to say I must repent my sins and join the queue for Heaven. With only hours left of today, I am a bit worried since it says ‘Today is the DAY OF SALVATION.’ Can this really be true? And what, I wonder has Putin got to say about it (he is the Evil One)? And what happens if you don’t pick up the leaflet until tomorrow?
The worst aspect of all this is that it is clear that the Republican party is now more than ever in the grip of religious nutters. It’s deeply worrying, more so than even when Reagan was President (who apparently believed in Rapture but still it seems listened to his wife’s advice borne from astrology or some such). In this regard Biden’s religious beliefs seem very old fashioned and tame by comparison—he as a Catholic, but is nevertheless prepared to tolerate a woman’s right to abortion. I suspect he will be quite incapable of holding back the retrenched Trumpism sweeping the only country in the world with a God-given Manifest Destiny.
+God bless yer M’am on yer Platinum Jubilee. I hope you reign for many more years to come, as each extra year will be one less for your dreadful son’s reign.
I went this morning to a talk (part of Scarborough’s Big Ideas By The Sea festival) by Professor Dan Parson of Hull University’s Energy and Environment Institute on the subject of climate change. As I listened I had to wonder what’s changed in the last 20 years? Only the science has grown firmer, the policy response has not. Dan suggested the audience look at the concentration figures of CO2 in the year of their birth. I found an excellent website—www.Sealevel.info—which has a useful interactive graph which allows you to do just that. In my case, CO2 levels in 1953 stood at 312.5 parts per million. By 2021 they had risen to 416.4. It’s not all my fault but no-one’s blameless. The trouble is, despite all the talk, emission rates are rising, half as fast again as they were in the 1980s. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as I read on another website. It can take 50 years for carbon dioxide’s full warming effect to be felt. I would never argue against ‘doing something about it’ but it would bode well to realise that all things being equal our form of civilisation is stuffed. It is the phrase ‘form of civilisation’ which makes the climate change debate heated with ideological opposites, which boil down to Capitalism v. Life (alternatives are available).
+Another government minister was interviewed on the news tonight, in the wake of the Metropolitan Police winding up their inquiries into the Downing Street ‘Partygate’ affair. The police it seems have issued 126 fixed penalty notices, but Johnson has escaped with only one. The minister told the nation that he believed the Prime Minister believed he was telling the truth when no rules were being broken and that’s quite sufficient. This is known as the Tony Blair defence, which is to say ’I honestly thought I was doing the right thing at the time.’ I wonder how this defence would stand up in a court of law, if it were to be fully tested (which it won’t be). For example, if I recall correctly, the ’Yorkshire Ripper’ Peter Sutcliffe claimed he was hearing voices from God commanding him to do what he did at the time, a belief sincerely held (one assumes). If psychiatrists concluded that this was his sincere belief (one would want a second opinion) then that is his defence, and if such a defence is allowable then there’s no stopping anyone from claiming it. Which is exactly what politicians do when they know they’ve no other leg to stand on. Clearly this is not good enough. We await the Sue Gray report into Downing Street behaviour as well as a parliamentary standards inquiry. But all that can be brushed aside now, as the minister said people are getting bored with the story and its time to move on to the ’people’s priorities,’ presumably referring to the cost of living crisis about which Tories feel so much.
I wonder why the BBC asks ministers on to answer questions about Boris Johnson. Do they hope that one day one of them is going to say ’I don’t give a damn about my red box, I’m resigning now in disgust at my boss’s appalling behaviour?’ That’s a story political journalists would love to break.
+It’s odd that one word which seems to have been expunged from the ’cost of living crisis’ lexicon is ’austerity.’ I’ve heard nobody use it. But it looks like we’re heading into to some real austerity now. Perhaps this reluctance to use the word reflects the liberal media’s rehabilitation of the Liberal Democrats.
The anti-Brexit bias of the BBC is daily becoming more evident. The Beeb’s refusal to blame the EU for being intransigent over the Northern Ireland Protocol is clearly a sign. They even still employ a ’European correspondent,’ Katya Adler—what do we need a European correspondent for? Based in Brussels to boot—aren’t things clear enough from this side of the channel? There are many more examples one could cite of this BBC remainer bias, but what’s troubled me a whole lot is their decision to show the old Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico on the Iplayer. Was there any more a subtle denigration of British values than this film, which after all displayed blitzed buildings still standing wrecked even after we won the war? The overwhelming joy of the Pimlicoians (?) when they discover they’re actually Burgundians is telling. As is the callous response of the British establishment, which seeks to starve them into submission, with patrolled barbed wire fences to boot. After all, didn’t the British invent concentration camps? The plucky Pimlicoians briefly survive their isolation through the generosity of ordinary Londoners, who perhaps felt the same way about the establishment as they did about the hordes of free marketers earlier taking advantage of the ‘Burgundian’ unregulated free market (several themes at work here). The film ends with the re-absorption of the ‘aliens’ into the British state after much negotiation—but into a British state which is cold, wet and decidedly unpleasant.
We can expect more of this subtle scheduling from the BBC, seeking to undermine the manifest success of Brexit. Thankfully, Culture Secretary ‘Mad’ Nad Dorries is onto them. And no matter what you actually think of the BBC, wouldn’t it be wise to be worried that even this, our beloved and somewhat flawed national broadcasting institution is going to be messed up by this one time failed Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here Tory if she can possibly help it?
Yes, maybe I’m reading too much into the BBC’s scheduling of Passport to Pimlico. But at least I can see the absurdity of it. Brexit that is.
+Starmer’s promise to resign if issued with a fixed penalty notice over the ‘beergate’ affair is naturally a promise one hopes he has the opportunity of keeping. But given his reluctance to keep to his previous promises (or pledges, if you will) it’s all up in the air. It bemuses me how a lawyer can make such a commitment before knowing the outcome of the police investigation. He has steadfastly protested his innocence, just like Johnson before him yet he has said he will resign if penalised. I don’t think I’d want him as a defence lawyer. Surely he must believe he has grounds to appeal if he thinks he’s so innocent? Don’t people appeal fixed penalty notices? I suppose it could result in a court appearance, but isn’t that his natural stage? I can see the trial of the century emerging here, the little man fighting the system, David and Goliath etc., etc. I can see film rights being sold. Who would play him? Harry Worth? (For those of a certain age.)
+The control freaks ‘in charge’ of the Labour Party have precipitated the resignation of the entire executive committee of Wakefield Constituency Labour Party by excluding any local influence over the choice of candidate in the forthcoming parliamentary by-election. I thought this situation was bad enough until I read Gordon Prentice’s latest blog about the shenanigans in his Canadian constituency of Newmarket-Aurora (north of Toronto). It’s worth reading for all those who boast of Western Democracy—read it here.
A government spokesperson, in the wake of the Queen’s Speech has declared that ‘money is finite,’ thus revealing a deep ignorance about how ‘money’ is created. Now, if he or she had said ‘credit is finite’ they would have been laughed out of court. In the grand scheme of things, money doesn’t grow on trees, it grows in credit. Credit then becomes an asset, and such assets are traded. Hence ‘quantitative easing,’ ‘derivatives,’ ‘debt swaps’ and the like. All these things keep our shambolic economic system on the road. A casino someone once called it, the kind of activity Jacob Rees-Mogg will know all about. Ministers are protesting how they’ve devoted £22 billion to easing the cost of living crisis. It wasn’t long ago that quantitative easing to the tune of over £400 billion was used to ease the pain of bankers, who went on (of course) to pay themselves handsome bonuses. Whilst not a banker himself, the spirit of Robert Maxwell lives on—the deeper you are in debt, the better chance you have of getting off scot-free, although in his case there remain some unanswered questions. So the government’s paltry £22 billion is as generous as the scent from a Skunk’s backside. Sorry, I couldn’t think of a better metaphor at this precise moment. I apologise to all Skunks.
It must be one of the most inspirational political messages ever: ‘I will stay on as leader if I’m not fined.’ LBJ would have had a field day with this. To put it bluntly, it’s too late mate. Like when Cameron denied he’d done anything rude with a pig’s head. The point is, are the denials believable? It’s a slight modification of a well known saying—he would deny that wouldn’t he? Starmer may think that by putting himself on the spot over ‘Beergate’ he has also nailed down Johnson’s perfidy. In fact, he’s walked into a trap of his own making, since everyone knows and expects Johnson never to do the ‘right thing’ regardless. It no longer matters whether Starmer is fined or not—if the Durham police take eight weeks to ‘investigate’ the alleged crime, that’s eight weeks of equivalence between Starmer and Johnson. It will take a lot longer than that to wash the stain out. As has been said so many times, it can take years to build up trust but only one day to destroy it. Hopeless.
+Craig MacKinlay is the Tory MP who chairs the so-called ‘Net Zero Scrutiny Group.’ This group is one of those inappropriately named bands of Tory backbenchers who come together to promote their hard-right agendas, such as the innocent sounding European Research Group or the Covid Recovery Group. These groups are formed to push an ideologically driven market-based (i.e. private, corporate) agenda, usually combined with a public policy sceptic worldview. That’s the view espoused by Ronald Reagan, which is to say ’governments don’t solve problems, governments are the problem.’ Our friend Craig has penned an article (or maybe his taxpayer-funded researcher penned it for him) on PoliticsHome saying how UK ’net-zero’ efforts must be diluted since “Recent polling has revealed that affordability and national security both rank more highly than meeting net-zero in the public’s list of priorities, so it is important that Parliament reflects those priorities lest we forget who put us here and why.”
Craig explains the philosophy behind his group: “Conservatism is about expanding freedoms, not closing them down. It really is that simple, and I’m confident that most of my parliamentary colleagues share this basic position. We have set five criteria as we assess net-zero proposals: do they enhance energy security; are they affordable; are they practical; do they protect the vulnerable; and is there a better way?” Here we note there is no questioning whether ‘net zero’ is actually a sufficient goal to limit temperature increases, there is no questioning whether government investment speeds up market development (as it usually does), there is no questioning whether long term investment in renewable energy reduces energy costs and increases security of supply—with less reliance on foreign gas and oil. There is no hint of whether there are related benefits to ‘net zero’ policies, such as health benefits. Poor Craig, he pleads for himself and his colleagues “I had no doubt when I set up this group that it would be controversial: I intended it to spark a national discussion but it is a sad reflection of how polarised the debate has become, with anyone questioning the plan deemed a “climate change denier”. This is just lazy and couldn’t be further from the truth, but it is this intolerance which has led to a Westminster groupthink and not enough scrutiny of net-zero.”
Craig is one of those who claims not to be a ‘climate change denier.’ He’s actually something worse: he’s a climate change denier fifth columnist, pretending to agree that anthropocentric climate change is happening, but in reality doing what he can to stymie policies meant to deal with it and at the same time he is promoting the development of new fossil fuel sources such as fracking. He is the lazy one, bereft of imagination to boot. And he clearly isn’t keeping up to speed. I loved this story from the Daily Mail (7/5/22): “Britain is predicted to have an excess amount of electricity by 2030 due to huge investments in wind and solar power, according to new analysis. An enormous amount of energy produced by renewable sources could go to waste within a decade without significantly more energy storage technologies, such as batteries and electrolysers to make hydrogen - according to LCP, a consultancy.” I am quite sure that storage will not be a problem by 2030, but no doubt the idiots in the Conservative Friends of Fossil Fuels, aka the Net Zero Scrutiny Group will be earnestly praying otherwise.
+It becomes clearer by the day that Starmer needs to go. Despite the headline gains in London (which outshone Labour’s losses there) overall the local election results were less than middling—hardly what you might expect for a government in waiting. Now I’m beginning to wonder if Starmer’s personal performance, e.g. over ‘Beergate’ isn’t some carefully crafted ploy to keep Johnson in place, possibly the only Tory leader against whom Starmer looks half competent. Or perhaps we’ll see the back of both of them. Couldn’t be any worse . .
Amidst all the claims and counterclaims about the elections on Thursday, here’s some cool analysis based on real figures. Yes, I am of course referring to my own little electoral tussle here in Scarborough’s Castle Division. The headline voting figures were as follows:
Me 453 35.4%
Incumbent independent 526 41.1%
Green Party 68
My sample analysis of the votes cast and accepted showed that of those who voted on the day (865), I had 359 (41%) and the eventual winner had 302 (34.5%). So of those people who went to a polling station to vote, I was the winner of the greater share—the result was reversed when the postal votes were counted in (adding 224 to the winner's tally and 94 to mine). So I am relatively pleased that my efforts over the last two months were not entirely unrewarded. As ever with local elections, voter turnout is abysmal—just 23% voted in Castle Division. Overall in Scarborough the turnout was less than a third, at 31.2%. Perhaps people are unmoved by the ‘cost of living crisis’ or are insufficiently moved to believe that Labour would make things much better. In this latter regard, I can accurately record that on the doorstep 12 people said they didn’t trust Starmer (or words to that effect) and only one thought he was doing a good job. These responses were unprompted by me. But the general lack of voter interest is telling in itself. Having said which, for the Labour Party in North Yorkshire it was a good day, with the number of Labour councillors increasing from three to 12. The Tories in this true blue heartland came within two seats of losing overall control. If they had, it would have changed the electoral map remarkably and may have broken Johnson’s back, even more so than losing Westminster and Wandsworth. As things stand, his future again rests on the Sue Gray and Met Police reports on ‘Partygate.’ Not wishing to be left out, we now also have Keir Starmer’s ‘Beergate’ grabbing more attention. His response is to say he didn’t break any Covid lockdown rules—exactly the same as Johnson’s excuse.
The E.U’s proposed ban on Russian oil (opposed by some members, especially Hungary) will throw up some interesting dilemmas, the first of course is which oil-rich state will step into the breach? Many eyes will fall upon Saudi Arabia, whose murderous regime—and murderous war in Yemen—may, as before be largely ignored. And the Saudis are probably laughing all the way to the bank at the moment, so would they want to keep oil prices down by upping their production? Bin Salman has a lot to thank Putin for. Another country not so far mentioned as providing the alternative supply is Venezuela. This would be complex. According to Google “The EU Council has renewed its sanctions regime against Venezuela for 1 year until 14 November 2021 in light of the “persistent actions undermining democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights” in Venezuela. 36 officials are currently subject to an asset freeze and travel ban under the regime.” Bit of a conumdrum, eh? I think we may hear soon about renewed attempts for regime change in Venezuela. Like a U.S. backed coup attempt.