Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Cameron’s attacks on the vulnerable and needy must be stopped | Mail Online

Let us make no mistake what we are witnessing from our Coalition Government is absolutely, unquestionably, categorically scandalous.

The ritual humiliation, brutalisation, threats and punishment of anyone who is considered ‘a burden to the state’. Anyone who is less than perfect, anyone who dares to find themselves in a position where they need the state to support them. Those people are the subject of shocking and terrifying behaviour at the hands of David Cameron’s Coalition.

Cultural observers could not fail to notice the similiarites between what is taking place here towards sick, disabled, elderly or any group perceived to be vulnerable and weak and what occurred in Hitler’s Germany.

This may not be ethnic cleansing that we are witnessing – and some are already experiencing – but it’s a type of cleansing all the same.

There are hundreds of thousands of people around our country right now who are absolutely petrified for their future. It appears so hopeless. There have already been a number of suicides from people who left behind messages to the effect that they simply could not take the hardship any more. Could not face another winter without sufficient food or heat. And in the UK in 2012. Doesn’t it make you proud?

Some of the actions that are being carried out around our great country – and it’s still great no matter what the idiots trying to make it’s not say – are an absolute living outrage and we cannot condone it in any way shape or form.

This Coalition have long since crossed the line of decency. Their attacks on those who need our help the most are vile, and transparently so, and must be stopped. Else we all live to regret it.

I apologise for linking to an article on the Daily Fail’s web site. I generally avoid anything that homophobic, racist, misogynist comic has to say. However, I sense a change of attitude emanating from that quarter—and this article (I do not know if it appears in the print edition) demands to be read and shared widely.

I’ll make no further comment. I’m getting too annoyed by it at the moment.

We’re all in this together…

I have been trying to get my head round what happened in Europe this past week—particularly with regard to what our Prime Minister David Cameron has managed to achieve.

Events in Euroland are just too big for me to assimilate. I am unable to find words to express my thoughts rationally. Bombarded by news and comment from all parts of the media, I simply put up my hands in resignation and switch off.

Part of me is chuckling at headless chickens running around trying to save a failing system. Part of me slips into deep despair at the total lack of vision of our global leaders, and worries where it will all end. 

One reason why I have not been blogging about this whole ongoing farce is that I promised myself I would try to be more positive in outlook. However, the lunacy going on around us will insist on encroaching into my life. As Harold Macmillan famously said, when asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman, “Events, my dear boy, events.”

I’ll leave any acerbic comment about lightweight leaders of the 21st century Conservative Party hanging at that point. Any British political party for that matter.

The lie of the land

I am an unreconstructed and unrepentant liberal. I make no apologies for that. I sit firmly in the centre, perhaps even on the proverbial fence. Those of the “left” and “right” have managed to sidle their way into my centre ground so well that it is impossible to squeeze a fag paper between us. When the Liberal-Democrats got into bed with the Conservatives, after the 2010 general election failed to let anyone win sufficient seats to claim a mandate, I was sceptical but hopeful the coalition agreement would temper the excesses of the right. I blogged about it here. Perhaps the liberal tendencies would temper the rabid Conservatism of the Bullingdon Club elites.

I was so wrong. Nick Clegg has let me—us—down. So far, the fact there are Lib-Dem members of the Cabinet has had little effect or no effect on what can now be seen as an utterly out-of-touch and rabidly right-wing Tory government obviously bent on destroying decades of social good, yet all the while blaming it on the previous administration. Let’s just leave it that. As far as I am concerned, the “ConDem” coalition has made everything infinitely worse over the past year or so.

Keep on course

Where are we going with this? It’s a question that has vexed many liberals for some time, I suspect.

As I mentioned, I have been avoiding putting into words what I think about events in the wider world because I simply cannot find the words to explain how I feel. I began to see the European “project” being moved in a direction I was not comfortable with, a direction that would lead to individual member states effectively giving up sovereign rights to become part of a United States of Europe. I found I was not in favour of ever greater European integration. To me that was not something I wanted a part in. Yet I have literally no say. In referendums to approve treaties, a country votes “no”, only to be told to vote again and this time vote “yes”. How is that democratic?

No, Europe is heading in a direction I am not happy with. I am all for economic co-operation, borderless travel, even a single currency (at first), but not a superstate. 

So, being outside Europe—as we now find ourselves thanks to inept leadership—must be a good thing, right? Well, no. Britain needs to be in Europe at a level where we can make a difference. What Cameron and his lack of statesmanship has done is to isolate the United Kingdom even more than it was before. We won’t be listened to at the European level, even where we still have a voice.

This is where understanding and words fail me once more. I admit the following is still liberal in scope, but Andrew Rawnsley, Nick Cohen and Will Hutton in today’s Observer explain it so well I urge you to read them whatever your own political views. The Observer and Guardian are about the only publications that give a liberal view of the world: the rest of our media is so polarised it makes it all but impossible to get a balanced view, as far as I can tell.

(Don’t read the comments, though. Never read comments to online opinion—that way madness lies.)

Andrew Rawnsley:

The rest of the European Union simply shrugged at his “veto” and will now proceed to try to fashion a new regime for the eurozone without a British voice in the room. The prime minister’s agenda is left in shreds. He did not get the protocol he wanted to exempt the UK from European regulation of financial services and Britain’s exclusion from the negotiations means that he is now even less likely to secure one in the future. He may get a hero’s welcome from some of the Tory Eurosceptics who are exulting in Britain’s isolation and celebrating this as the most magnificent performance since Margaret Thatcher wielded the handbag. But that is likely to prove to be very short-lived. They forget that Mrs T never made the mistake of leaving an empty chair where Britain ought to be sitting. Once their initial euphoria has worn off, Tory sceptics will discover that this outcome does not advance their ambition to repatriate powers from Brussels—it has made it even harder to achieve.

Nick Cohen:

The weekend’s headlines about David Cameron isolating Britain or bravely standing up for Britain’s independence, depending on which newspaper you read, may be irrelevant in a fortnight. The best reason for treating them with suspicion is that political actors are enjoying playing their familiar roles and reciting their old lines. British Eurosceptics are thrilled that David Cameron has reignited the passions of the Thatcher era. European leaders are again boasting of their commitment to the European ideal.

When you look at what that commitment means in practice, however, you see it is more of the same. Germany, Holland and the other northern countries are still refusing to spend the money or allow the inflation that would stop southern Europe descending into depression and dragging down the over-leveraged banking system with it. Trade imbalances and an uncompetitive exchange rate still crush Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Will Hutton:

There might have been a case for David Cameron to veto the use of the EU treaties for the eurozone bailout if Britain’s national interests had really been threatened. But they were not. Much of British finance in whose name Cameron exercised his veto—routine banking, insurance and accounting—was wholly unaffected by any treaty change. The financial services industry in Britain constitutes 7.5% of GDP and employs a million people; the City represents perhaps a third of that and, in turn, that part threatened—if it was threatened at all—some fraction of that. This is a tiny economic interest. If the coalition is serious about rebalancing the British economy, it is preposterous to place a fragment of the City at the forefront of our national priorities.

Moreover, any tax, such as the financial transaction tax about which Cameron was so exercised (and which is, in any case, a good idea if done right as recommended by the IMF), has to be agreed by all. Which means that the threat was nil. Even regulatory proposals, although proceeding by qualified majority voting, have in financial services proceeded, in reality, by unanimity.

 

British Government? You’re fired!

I think it’s time the British electorate stood up and demanded the Westminster government and parliament be disbanded as not fit for purpose.

It has failed us for too long. 

Why do we even need them? What good do they do?

It strikes me all they ever do is meddle with things, and generally make things worse or break things that weren’t really broken.  They don’t really seem to represent us any more. You only need to look at the disconnect between the electors and the elected to see this.

This country will function quite happily without meddlesome politicians. The Civil Service will continue to run things for a bit, free from constant poking and fiddling from some “here today, gone tomorrow” politician sticking their oar in. While the country is being managed by those who really manage things anyway, we can decide how we want our country to be run and who should be given the responsibility to run it—if anyone.

So, let’s start a campaign to close down the British Parliament and Government. They have failed us too often.

This sceptred isle | Editorial | Comment is free | The Observer

But if we eschew for a moment the national pastime of self-deprecation, it’s easy to take pride in our island’s astonishing variety and splendour. Castles on volcanic redoubts, petrified forests uncovered by the tides, wind-sculpted tors on haunted moorland, peregrines hunting from museum chimneys, bridges slung like webs across gorges, hillside orchards, wild deer glimpsed from railway carriages, otters in the becks, Roman walls and Bronze Age burial mounds, Tudor mullions and Victorian stained glass, barges on the Avon, wherries on the Fens, wattle and daub, half-timbers, flying buttresses, lakeland and heathland and lochs and dunes and dales and mountains.

The Observer has been reading my blog. I doubt it, but isn’t it uncanny how they’ve come over all sentimental about a forthcoming bank holiday?

Planning ahead

I’m getting to a certain age where I must begin to consider what I’m going to do with my time when I become “retired”. Leaving aside the rather worrying notion I may well never actually retire as the UK’s official retirement age creeps ever upwards as we all live longer, I still need to think about how I’m going to live out the autumn years of my life. There is an age disparity between myself and Best Beloved of some quarter century, and it’s pretty obvious to both of us I may well not have the pleasure of his company into my dotage. We don’t have dependants, so once he’s gone I will have to be self-sufficient for as long as I can manage it. 

Moving swiftly on from that rather depressing thought, I’m currently letting myself have a little daydream, which I amusingly call my Retirement Plan. There’ll be none of that checking into a retirement apartment, or sheltered accommodation, or even getting myself on Crusty Cruises around the Mediterranean. My plan is predicated on my inheriting Best Beloved’s estate. As we have no mortgage or major outstanding debt, I would hope to be able to liquidate the house and invest the proceeds. I would then purchase a mobile home (RV, self-propelled tin snail, whatever you fancy) and set off to explore the glories of the land of my birth.

The vehicle will need to be large enough for me to live in comfortably. It will need sufficient secure storage for my camera gear and a laptop, as well as clothes, food and the usual prerequisites of life. It will need to be self-sufficient for the times when I can’t plug into the grid. It will need internet access of some kind. To offset the size of the living van, I can hitch a small car to the back. Once I’m safely berthed in a campsite somewhere I can use the car to explore, reasoning a small car is easier to park than a bus, and drier than a moped or bicycle! 

The basic idea is now settled. I am assuming I really will be setting off on, and be able to fund in some way, a Grand Tour of the British Isles. What’s happening now is I am beginning to think about the places I want to visit, and the best way to cover the country to see the best bits. It’s not like I will have a time limit. My time will be my own, to spend as I please. If I land up somewhere, I might spend a week, a month or even longer. It would be really great to get to know an area on more intimate terms than the usual tourist traps. When I’m ready, weigh anchor and away I go.

It would be useful to have some kind of underlying tour plan, and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to book berths in advance when I can. To avoid traffic I am considering overnight driving between stopping places, allowing myself a day or so once settled to prepare for my visit. Although I plan to be on the road permanently, I should also allow for times when I may be unwell, or the weather just too inclement, where I ought to heave to in a hotel for a time.

I’d love to be doing the Grand Tour until I am incapable of doing it any more. I certainly don’t want to spend my dotage in a “care” home, or dying in my favourite armchair in front of the goggle box, and there won’t be anyone in my immediate family who can “look after” me. I want to be out and being active for as long as I can manage it. I need to be independent and self-sufficient until I can’t manage any more.

What’s brought on this late-onset wanderlust? I think I can lay the blame on the BBC for giving us excellent documentary television programmes like Coast and Town. Both these shows have opened my eyes to the wonders that abound in my homeland. I have lived my entire life in the bottom right-hand corner of England, with all too rare and painfully short forays to other parts on holidays and odd trips. I simply have not experienced much of my own country, and I plan to see as much as I can before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Book

As an added incentive, I’ve recently acquired a copy of The Lie of the Land by Ian Vince. Subtitled A spotter’s guide to the Britain beneath your feet, I thoroughly recommend it. Superbly written, easy to read, and sufficiently in-depth to seriously whet your appetite for more, it will act as my guide book on my journey. While considering the book, you might also take a look at the British Landscape Club web site, where you can currently buy signed paperback editions of the book, and become a member of the club. Membership is free, and you get a lovely badge you can wear with pride.

That’s enough for now. I shall go back to planning trips and day-dreaming about my retirement.

 

Britain’s volcanic past | Ian Vince | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Our glory days are in our past, but we have inherited a landscape shaped by every paroxysm, twitch and twist the Earth throw at us. On Mull and the Ardnamurchan peninsula lie the massive remains of volcanoes at least as awesome as anything Iceland can clog the skies with. On Skye, an entire range of mountains, the Cuillins, is formed from what was once a magma chamber – a vast underground reservoir of lava. On the Giant’s Causeway and the Hebridean island of Staffa, what’s left of 700,000 square miles of lava traps – where molten rock simply poured through fissures on the ground to create a flood of basalt – are such a striking sight that they are not so much a tourist attraction but a place of pilgrimage.

A nice little article over at the Guardian. This is one of the reasons my “retirement plan” is to travel around Blighty in a campervan, just taking photographs and enjoying the variety of my home country’s landscapes.

You may also be interested in the British Landscape Club. The club was founded by the Guardian article’s author, Ian Vince.

BBC News – The tent that turns into concrete in less than 24 hours

The past 12 months have seen a remarkable number of humanitarian crises with earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and deadly tornadoes in the southern US being among the most recent.

Among new innovations which could help relief efforts is a fabric shelter that, when sprayed with water, turns to concrete within 24 hours.

Invented by two engineers while at university, Concrete Canvas allows aid teams to construct solid structures in emergency zones quickly and easily.

Will Crawford and Peter Brewin showed BBC News how the concrete tent is put together and spoke about what inspired them.

Skipping lightly over the “new innovations” tautology, it’s this kind of original thinking that we should be encouraging in this country. Reliance on service and financial sectors isn’t going to help the UK out of the mess we’re in.