This exclusive footage shows the day when Lynda Beast visited RDC. Who is Lynda Beast? What is RDC? Scientists are working on it. Below, we find Ms Beast tackling the Brambling Fields Memorial HGV Roundabout Facility facility. To make this film, literally millions of pounds were spent. Worth every penny, eh?
I expect there will have been an extra flurry of activity in Scarborough’s spying community in the wake of the most recent Russian ‘poisoned spy’ scandal. Scarborough, after all is home to GCHQ’s Irton Moor listening station, one of the largest in the UK. There’ll be no loose talk in local pubs though. My theory, shared in the Guardian by Shaun Walker this morning is that in all likelihood the poisoning, if that is what it was, was a Russian initiated assassination attempt designed as a deterrent to serving FSB officers – ‘look, this is what happens to traitors.’ There’s nothing exceptional about this. During the Second World War, Red Army soldiers’ fighting spirit came partly from the threat of being shot if they didn’t face the enemy. The only thing that’s different here is that the threat may have been carried out in a quiet English town. This will give Boris Johnson an opportunity to bull up his reputation (self-imagined) as a latter day Churchill. ‘We will fight them in the suburbs. We will fight them in the shopping malls. We will fight them after afternoon tea.’
Not a million miles away, Theresa will be eyeing her place in history, desperately worried that she doesn’t end up in the same boat as Neville Chamberlain, what with her ‘This is my third speech in our time.’
I seem to have collected a number of USB sticks over the years, and thought I would see what's on them. I came across this piece written in 2010 for nobody in particular. I want to know if it's still true. The Willetts referred to is now Lord Willetts by the way. Oh, and I also found this picture too.
A brain in the hand is worth two in the Willetts
Tony Blair used to talk up the ‘information economy’ as if it would save the UK from economic annihilation – implicit in his vision was the idea that Britain had a comparative advantage over places like China, a country today still begging for ‘technology transfer’ (aka intellectual property rights) in fora like the UN’s global climate change negotiations. In areas such as biotechnology Britain does have a global lead. And of course we possess four out of five of the world’s top ten universities. The UK still has a top ranking in many areas of intellectual innovation. But even this now seems under threat thanks to the shortsightedness of the Coalition government.
Two headlines in the same days’ papers illustrate the point. In “The mystery of Britain’s missing exports” the Guardian reported on the 9th August 2010 that after a ‘much discussed boom in manufacturing’ and prolonged lower exchange rates, our exports were just not taking off. On the same day The Times reported “R&D: Britain falls behind in race to innovate.” It said that “The level of research and development spending in the UK has fallen more steeply in Britain over the past two decades than in any other leading nation.” The synthesis between these two reports occurs in the words of John Lucas, policy advisor at the British Chambers of Commerce, who was quoted in the Guardian saying ‘we should welcome the shift away from making low-margin, low paying consumer goods to highly specialised, high-margin parts and services.’
OK – the long term decline in R&D spending preceded the election of the Coalition, but what the government is saying now threatens to cut off innovation even further, and is a startling example of non-joined-up thinking.
Talking before the election, the Tory Party’s then Shadow Science Minister said “Supporting blue sky research is particularly important, because no individual can accurately predict where the next great discovery will arise. That’s why we must preserve our universities’ capacity to carry out such research.” (Public Service Review: Central Government, issue 20) Contrast that with what the government is saying after the general election. Speaking at the Royal Institution, David Willetts, the guy who actually got the Science Minister’s job said ‘Instead of British scientists leading the way with new breakthroughs, it might be better to focus instead on taking, developing and exploiting the discoveries of others.’ He went on “Why does it matter economically that we should be first or that something should be discovered by a Brit?” (Yorkshire Post, 10/7/10)
Willetts must believe that China’s vast investment in science education is nothing at all to do with leapfrogging us. In the Nobel Prize Olympics, it’s pretty bloody obvious that China’s mission is not merely to come first in the medals league table, but to use science as an economic driver.
On a slightly different tack, I referred at the beginning of this article to China’s insatiable demand for technology transfer to be included in the global climate change talks. They made a real issue of it. Does this tell us anything? Could it be that we still have an advantage in climate change mitigation technologies? Might this be worth preserving? If so, than the cuts the government is instituting at DECC, which fall disproportionately (disproportionate because the vast bulk of DECC’s budget is spent on the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) on renewable energy activities is suicidal. Recent reports (see http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2267533/fossil-fuel-subsidies-dwarf) show that the global subsidies for fossil fuels outpace those for renewables by 10 to one. Is this a trend that the UK is now set to continue? R&D, pure research and innovation where it’s needed most seems not to be on the Coalition government’s agenda. It leads me to question whether it actually believes Britain is capable of any new kind of industrial revolution anytime soon, still less a green industrial revolution. Yet I predict we will not hear an end to Ministers saying how green technologies will grow the economy. They will merely omit to mention that it is China’s they are talking about.
Amidst all the gloom comes some good news. It’s OK to give the finger to ‘good posture.’ A widely reported study today purports to show that slouching in your sofa has no identifiable consequences such as a bad back. After a week of slouching on the sofa thanks to the flu this comes to me as a relief. This good posture stuff is probably the last redoubt of the Protestant Work Ethic Party, which sees sitting around doing nothing as a cardinal sin, not unrelated to being a single mother or as ‘Sir’ Nick Clegg might say, not getting up with the alarm clock. There will be a backlash (forgive the pun) since after Brexit more of us will have to go out into the fields to pick our own potatoes, etc. I remember once – just once – getting up early to go ‘tatie riddlin’ in some forlorn muddy wasteland in Yorkshire. I realised within half an hour that being bent double in a field which stretched to infinity was not going to be the quickest route to a fast buck. I never went back. Well there we are. I’ve managed to work in a Brexit angle to a good posture story.
Listening to the news today of the ramping up of rhetoric following Trump's announcement of slapping new tariffs on steel imports into the US, and particularly the EU's tit-for-tat response (what, no more Bourbon?) has left me wondering whether Dr Fox, our Atlanticist Secretary of State for International Trade is rubbing his hands with glee. When we're free of the EU he'll be over the pond immediately to negotiate a deal undercutting the EU and in return we'll be able to import chlorinated chicken. Two birds killed with one stone! No more shortages at KFC!
I've got a book review published in Lobster about the Nazis' marketing techinques. Nothing's changed all that much. Read it at https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster75/lob75-mad-men-third-reich.pdf
Weather's ‘beast from the east’ has shown the world what happens when the UK comes together . . . under a blanket of snow, all mucking in. So today was a good day for Mrs May to shovel some bad news herself and call upon us all to come together and raise our eyes to the warm sun of our new Brexit arcadia. Setting out her five big tests of Brexit, she conjured up five platitudinous rabbits. First ‘we’ voted for Brexit which must be respected. But hang on! She goes on to say we voted ‘for wider change, so that no community in Britain would ever be left behind again.’ I don’t recall that question being on the referendum ballot paper. And if we wanted something as radical as that, what’s she doing in No.10? More people are being left behind than ever before, and it’s nothing to do with the EU.
Test number two is that the deal must endure. Perhaps this test is mentioned so as to remind people that it is her own incompetent government that’s negotiating it. Test number three: to protect people’s jobs and security. With the lowest rate of growth in the G8, Mrs May has a proud record to defend not least for her support of and participation in failed austerity. Test number four: ‘it must be consistent with the kind of country we want to be as we leave: a modern, open, outward-looking, tolerant, European democracy. A nation of pioneers, innovators, explorers and creators. A country that celebrates our history and diversity, confident of our place in the world; that meets its obligations to our near neighbours and far off friends, and is proud to stand up for its values.’ Yes of course. Are you listening Jacob?
Finally, test number five: it must strengthen our union of nations and peoples. A little curtsy there to the DUP I suspect. But a curious one. Perhaps we ought to seek a bit more ‘regulatory alignment’ of Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK, where for example abortion is legal.
As for the rest of her speech (which I forced myself to read) with its so-called ‘hard truths’ (half truths?) there is little more to inspire confidence than in any of her five ‘tests.’ Her talk of tariff free frictionless borders and all sorts alignments with the EU suggest that the Brexiteer’s bag is half empty rather than half full. How exactly, I wonder, just by way of example, would the UK Parliament pay heed to EU laws after Brexit or British courts pay heed to European Court of Justice rulings? She talks of an independent trade disputes body, not either one or the other of the UK or the EU. How will that be constituted? A whole raft of new bilateral quangos are coming our way – many of which will include members from the dreaded EU. Maybe it’s not such a bad speech after all.
I was amused by an unintended irony in a comment left on the BBC News website along the lines of ‘Remainers should stop calling for a second referendum, we Brexiteers had to wait 40 years for ours!’ Perhaps we won’t need one.
Sparked by a review in the latest New York Review of Books of a West End production of Network – the classic film starring Peter Finch which looked at the dumbing down and sexing up of television – I dug out my old VHS copy to watch last night. The tape must be 30 years old, so its deteriorating quality lent an authentic 1970s feel to the viewing. There is so much in this film that is prescient it is hard to know where to start. I assume it is taught in media schools. I imagine people in Fox News and US evangelical TV channels fail to grasp that it is a satire. One of clues, should they need one, is the name of the terrorist organisation brought in to help keep the ratings up: The Ecumenical Liberation Front. There could have been a role for Father Jack there.
The UK's frozen infrastructure has finally caught up with the Guardian, which hasn't arrived in the far flung outpost of Scarborough today. Thankfully the 'Beast from the East' does not discriminate just against softie lefties, since the Daily Mail has suffered the same fate.
A few - it's impossible to say how many - people in the Labour Party are seriously worried about having a leader who is implacably pro-Palestinian. Their mission is to discredit Corbyn, and it seems their methods are as crude as the hard right media's, whose reliance on claims rather than evidence has been all too prevalent lately. I've just been made aware of a posting on the Jewish Voice for Labour website which with cool, evidential analysis shoots down claims that Corbyn supporters have mounted a massive anti-semitic hate campaign against a Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth who said she had received 25,000 anti-semitic messages on social media. These she claimed came from Corbyn supporters (see Wikipedia: "It’s vile, it’s disgusting and it’s done in the name of the leader of the Labour party, which makes it even worse", Smeeth said during Victoria Derbyshire's television programme). The story made it into the Evening Standard (it would, wouldn't it?). Now, based on the evidence cited in the Jewish Voice for Labour post, I think it would be reasonable for her claims to be properly investigated by the party. If the claims are unfounded, then the next step would be to ask whether she deliberately sought to bring the party into disrepute.
The post is at http://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/antisemitism/searching-truth-line-abuse-allegations/
On the same subject, I note that Ken Livingstone has been indefinitely suspended from party membership for the various remarks he has made about Jews and/or Zionism, not least the crass comment that Hitler supported Zionism. Quite right too. In such a contentious area as this, do we really need people in prominent positions cranking up the ante?
Here's a brain teaser. Is Theresa May's government the most incompetent ever? Considering their approach to Brexit one might say yes. They are thoroughly clueless. But look back in time. Sad to say the Blair/Brown governments can be marked down for Iraq and city deregulation, both matters which still rankle today. John Major's government, remembered for Black Wednesday and the traffic cones hotline was hardly a non-starter in the incompetence stakes. Thatcher - whose record on mass unemployment, creating the conditions for the Falklands war, supporting apartheid and so on and so on - well, there's another contender for pole position. Callaghan and the Winter of Discontent? Ted Heath and the Barber boom and the secondary banking crisis? Not to mention a legacy of inflation which was hung around Wilson's neck? The first Wilson governments seem to have enjoyed a period of relative competence, not least when we recall he kept us out (more or less) of Vietnam. Douglas-Home I don't think was around long enough to merit attention, Macmillan doesn't seem to have mucked things up too badly, unlike Anthony Eden whose post-imperial hubris led to Suez. Churchill as we know was a bit far gone. Then there was Attlee. All things considered, his government gets the gong for being the most competent. Compared to the challenges his post-war government faced, Theresa May's government's little problem with Brexit is hardly much of a challenge, but all the evidence points to them completely screwing it up.
Oopps. I've just realised that I've not mentioned Cameron. Must have been a Freudian slip. Governments don't get much more incompetent than his.
I know snow was forecast when the launch of the Society for the Preservation of the Seasons was announced on this website only three days ago, but nevertheless I think credit is due, and this week's snowfall owes something to the Society's concentrated efforts. What wasn't foreseen was a bout of flu, which is I suppose as much a seasonal gift as any other. Careful what you wish for, as they say.
What of the climate of opinion after Jeremy Corbyn's speech on Brexit? Will the public mood shift, and enable a space to appear in which pro-EU positions can regain the initiative? I don't suppose that was Jeremy's intention when he called for tariff free trade and so on, since he still at heart remains a Euro-sceptic. But his intervention now does open up new possibilities. I hope they are not drowned out by the media caterwauling which will inevitably precede the next significant House of Commons vote on the matter, which Theresa May we are now being led to believe stands less chance of winning. Naturally, as a remoaner, I hope she loses badly.