Sunday, June 18, 2017

Grenfell Tower Tragedy - One Possible Difficult Lesson

The reasons for tragedy and disaster hitting so many families  struck by this dreadful fire last week are hard to understand. This Hammersmith tower block with several others is clearly visible from the M4 when traveling to London from say Heathrow Airport.  May those who have died RIP and those who have suffered receive  some answers as soon as possible.

Are the other Hammersmith  tower blocks built and  particularly  re-cladded, in similar fashion? Then around the country there are literally hundreds more of similar tower blocks - have they been built and/or re-cladded in the same way?

If I resided in such a block the need for an inspection and status report for myself and co- residents would be acute. If the methods of construction and cladding of such towers are found to be similar to those at Grenfell then those occupiers are owed safe alternative accommodation whilst their homes are made safe.

If thousands of people are found to be potentially affected in similar fashion top priority must be given to their safeguarding which in reality could involve finding hundreds of thousands of alternative homes for them to live in albeit on a temporary basis.

In my view nearly all immigration to the UK during the time of ensuring that existing tenants are rehoused and  repairs effected to their tower blocks, should be limited to those who have safe accommodation to occupy or sufficient personal funds to secure such accommodation. Allowing mass immigration to continue almost unrestricted for example from the EU,  whilst the existing council housing stock is made safe would risk another cataclysmic disaster.

I recall in 1980 there was a dreadful hostel fire in Kilburn during which many occupants died. One of the many sadnesses of that tragedy was that the hostel owners had taken in more residents than they should during the evening of the fire in view of the extremely cold winter weather. 

In the event a lesson from that tragedy surely is that being too kind can   be disastrous for all concerned?  Immigrants who would rely on council accommodation should sadly, have to defer their entry into the UK until existing council accommodation is safeguarded and existing residents safely accommodated meanwhile.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

UK General Election June 2017 - Initial Personal Reaction

Theresa May  having almost amazingly been defeated in the General Election may be brave to continue with her PM's role at least for the time being.

My own view is that there will be much Tory infighting behind closed doors and then a new leader and PM will be elected within a year.

Jeremy Corbyn defeated all expectations for the Labour Party which nonetheless on its  third consecutive attempt, still failed to win a UK general election.  He garnered the young people's support in droves and importantly encouraged them to go out to the polls and actually vote, which in the past they have been less inclined to do than their elders.

I am very cynical of his methodology though. Promising young people to waive fees for Higher education c.£12bn annually and the trade unions to nationalise everything from railways to water at c. £50bn? upon the basis that all this would be funded by the very rich was surreal. 

There are insufficient really wealthy people in the country  at present to fund these aspects from extra personal  taxation and many of  those that are here, could well have considered emigrating. 

Increasing corporation tax would bring in more income for the government to spend in that way but for how long? Already corporations such as Google and Amazon select low corporation tax countries like Luxembourg or Ireland in which to centre their European HQs. 

Nonetheless Jeremy Corbyn's promises appealed and Labour garnered votes as a consequence.

Theresa May's campaigning was lack lustre and wooden. The Tories need a new leader with more sparkle - possibly  even Boris Johnson. 

A difficulty for any party which accepts the need to restrict government borrowing, is that its policies will never appear as attractive as those of the party which offers a spend, spend, spend policy- as the Greeks already know.

As for exiting the EU: Consensus about the terms of within the UK  parliament now seems very difficult if not impossible to achieve. 

My prediction is either another referendum on the issue of leaving or remaining in the EU and/or an hard Brexit .Even another referendum might not resolve the issue as the the people  could vote the same way as before although the Irish changed their minds in their two  Maastricht treaty referenda.

A wake up call to the Tories; some back slapping and  congratulations to the Labour party are due meanwhile.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

UK General Election - 8th June 2017

Less than a week to go to the  UK general election and the opinion polls are showing that Tory support is ebbing away.

Opinion polls in this country seem consistently to under state the number of Tory voters possibly partly because they canvass a large number of young people who tend to support Labour when asked but also tend to be less inclined to cast their votes in the polls. 

Add to the above that those likely to vote for Conservative Party candidates, tend to keep that information to themselves whereas Labour and LibDem supporters, judging by the poster displays in local house windows, are keen publicly to announce their voting intentions.

If the voting outcome in Wimbledon was proportionate to the parties' posters in local house windows, the Tories would hardly muster any votes at all. Usually though not always, Wimbledon returns a Tory MP - we shall have to wait and see.

Younger voters tend to support the Labour Party whereas older voters tend to prefer Conservative though this is not universally the case.

Possibly the explanation  for the general rule set out in the preceding paragraph, is derived from experience. In other words, older voters having had first hand experience of a Labour government seek  the alternative - essentially the Tories with some protest voters switching to the Lib Dems -  whereas the younger voters who have only considered the theory and not experienced the reality, opt for the Labour ideas of increasing expenditure on everything from free university education, to  unlimited National Health Service provision, paid for it is assumed, by the very few and very rich. 

Alas in my experience anyway, there are insufficient numbers of the very rich  in this country to pay for the rest of us. 

Substantially  increasing higher earners'  income tax and likewise UK corporation tax, will not pay for the huge benefits being promised and will drive companies and high earner entrepreneurs away from the UK sadly resulting in more poverty and less employment.

Corporation tax in Ireland is at rates starting from only 12.5% - no wonder Google and similar international companies, base their European HQs in that EU country.

My expectation is that Mrs May will win the forthcoming general election by a convincing majority.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Manchester Murders May 2017 - A Law Change Needed?

The  killing of so many girls and young people in Manchester this week by thugs of Middle Eastern extraction was  dastardly.

Some of the background to the Manchester brutality seems to involve the Islamic religion. The Times newspaper includes articles  on this aspect including one entitled:

"Many Islams exist in the world - this death cult is one of them."

The political allegiances of UK newspapers are not always clear at least to me. I know that the Guardian is ostensibly left wing and the Daily Mail right wing though to their credit both do from time to time publish articles which are critical of aspects of the political parties which they usually 'support'. Given that The Times is part of the Murdoch  media group it is presumably politically right of centre though still has some leanings towards political neutrality.

The article questions who in the Islamic religion is responsible for defining what is within or without the faith  or for making the rules?  Who decides how to pray, how to wash and even the clothes to wear let alone defines jihad and when war may be waged for the sake of Allah?

The Times then looks at the Islamic religion's attitudes towards women now and over the centuries and points out that in all Islamic sects, girls become women and eligible for marriage at the age of puberty. It suggests that some Islamic men schooled in that kind of upbringing and/or teaching, "struggle to treat western women with respect".

Part of the article's gist seems to be that the UK has been too timid to respond appropriately to this kind of culture and gives an an example the 2014 OFSTED report on what it describes as "Britain's leading Islamic seminary". OFSTED is said to have hailed the Islamic seminary's production of exemplary British citizens yet a website promoting the seminary's teachings, according to the Times, states that "Satan uses women as his avenue to create evil in society." It also reports that the website  states that women should always remain in the home. If a woman should venture out, her clothing should conceal her entire body. Unless hidden from view, she will inevitably attract men like swamps of flies are attracted to uncovered streets."

If the Times article has any truth to it then in my humble opinion the situation is appalling. The website referred to above then apparently goes on to suggest that marrying a non-Muslim risks filtering "the Christian or Jewish repulsive qualities into Muslim homes".

The newspaper article goes on to refer to Sayyid Qutb an Egyptian Islamic writer in the 1950s  who is reported spitting contempt on western women.

All this would be very sad if the article concerned but a few extremists but the Times specifically adds:

These are not fringe opinions. In 2013 a study of 38,000 Muslims by the Pew Research Centre found that 46% of Pakistanis and 59% of Bangladeshis believed it was sometimes justified for family members to kill women as a punishment for pre-marital sex or adultery. More than 80% of Muslims in Jordan, Egypt and Pakistan said that a wife must always obey her husband. In Iraq Morocco and Tunisia it was more than 90%..."

Other sections  of the  article make for even more  difficult reading, for example:

Dewsbury is far from Sinjar but it was no surprise when Baroness Warsi suggested that in her  West Yorkshire home town, some Pakistani men "see women as second-class citizens and white women as third-class citizens."

The Times article concludes:

"When it gleefully claimed responsibility for the slaughter of 22 "crusaders" by its "soldier of the caliphate", Isis condemned the Arena event as "shameless". It said that the bomb plot succeeded "with Allah's grace and support." There are many Islams in this world. The death cult is one of them.

Whether this article is just right wing  nonsense or contains more than an element of truth, I cannot say. That it may be the former is perhaps supported by the newspaper's headline on page 1 reading "UK home to 23,000 jihadists", which hopefully is an exaggeration.

Nonetheless there is no doubt that the UK state has had the velvet gloves on for too long as regards the traditions practices and beliefs of immigrants to the UK from certain Muslim, countries. This  tragically, is exemplified by the many years of delay in prosecuting the  19  Muslim criminals of Rotherham  for abusing so many vulnerable young girls.  Sadly men including pastors, of other religions also  abuse boys and girls but there is no apparent compunction on questioning their religion or religious leaders when the matter is reported added to which  many civil law claims for damages against the religious organisations result in large sums of compensation being paid to survivors. 

The law must be changed to ensure that  any apt Islamic institutions can be made liable for damages in civil suits brought by  survivors and other claimants in the same way as for institutions of non-Islamic religions. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

General Election 2017

A key issue in the UK election seems likely to be not so much which political party is likely to win the general election - most believe that the Tories will win by a considerable margin - but what will happen to the Labour Party in the election aftermath?

An aftermath of many UK general elections over the years is that the leader of a political party which the voters have failed to support in the ballot box, has offered to stand down or to seek re-election as leader. On the Labour side Gordon Brown Michael Foot and Ed Miliband come to mind. However Neil Kinnock waited a while before standing down.

Interestingly, the intelligent Labour supporting magazine, the New Statesman, stated recently of Jeremy Corbyn, that:

...he would not. "I was elected leader of this party and I’ll stay leader of this party," he said. Gordon Brown made similar statements in 2010, later saying that he wanted to stay on until David Cameron had formed a goverment. However, he was forced to stand down by pressure from his own MPs. 
In Jeremy Corbyn's case, he seems to have regretted the interview with Buzzfeed. Shortly after the interview, he told the BBC he would carry on if he won the election,

If Jeremy Corbyn loses the General Election badly and fails to stand down then UK politics could become rather interesting. Many who were until recently Labour MPs and others in the country could consider breaking away to form a new political party. 

Creating a lasting major political party in the UK could prove difficult as the history of the SDP illustrates. The SDP was formed by four disaffected Labour politicians in 1981 but merged with the Liberal Party in 1988. The SDP attracted people from all political parties and none, yours truly included.

A large number of SDP members in 1988, left  the party, yours truly included, disappointed by the SDP's merger at that time with the Liberals. 

The position in 2017/2018 could be substantially different,  as the political style of Jeremy Corbyn seems far less orthodox than those of his predecessor Labour leaders. The younger voter is attracted by that unorthodoxy but not so many of their elders who might thus feel sufficiently frustrated, to consider an SDP mark two.

The surprise in the UK General election so far, is the apparent lack of impact being made on the voters by the one significant political party which is clearly against the UK leaving the EU. The fact that the majority in favour of quitting the EU was fairly close 52/48, logically should give the political party standing in favour of remaining part of the EU, a large number of supporters.

In reality the position so far at least, appears to be that the Liberals having been decimated by the Tories in the 2015 General Election, may not according to the latest opinion polls, even manage to recover most of the seats they lost two years ago. 

Possibly   EU civil servants have played a role in this by in making public some of the private discussions with the PM that took place at No 10 Downing Street. Such behaviour riled many in the UK of all political persuasions and may have led them to rally around the PM. Nonetheless, if that is the principal reason for lack of interest so far in the Liberal Democrat stance which I interpret as seeking to remain in the EU, then the Liberals' popularity should increase substantially over the next two or three weeks. 

We can but wait and see.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Spring 2017 Central London and Stratton-on-the-Fosse

An early arrival  in mid-May  at London Paddington Station  for the train to Bath Spa,  meant that walking to nearby Kensington Palace Gardens  for a spring day was  apt.

Londoners are most fortunate to have a legacy  of large parks in and around the city and Kensington Palace Gardens is no exception. Presumably such an attractive  legacy of grand open spaces in the centre of Town as well as further out, in places like Richmond Park and Hampton Court, arises  from the days of monarchs of old about some of whom arguably, the less said the better.

An unusual display by the lake in front of the palace itself was quite  eye catching although taking a close up photo would have risked disturbing the swans if not their human counterpart:

Quite why the lady is dressed as white as a swan  was unclear to me but  she did catch a good deal of interest especially from the swans.

White was a springtime colour that also caught the eye early in the morning at Stratton-on-the-Fosse.:
Additionally    the astonishing  variety of   spring time scents in the atmosphere,   is   a real contrast to the diesel and car engine filled air that often pervades city-life though of course cities  often  have their own different fascinating areas to enjoy not so available in the countryside.

Concluding with a photo or two of the School entrance seems  apt.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

British Local Elections May 2017

Council and borough elections are usually not of great interest particularly to those who are not really involved in affected areas, where there may be local controversies about  hospitals, housing, schools, traffic and other   issues which really only affect those living or working in the vicinity.

However given the national Brexit referendum and the Prime Minister's decision to hold a snap election early in June, with a view to securing if possible a larger parliamentary majority to facilitate the country's negotiations about exiting the EU, the outcome of the May local elections may be more relevant than usual.

My personal view is that the difference between UK and EU politics  has played a far larger role in the election results  than is suggested in the media so far.

A few days ago  UK Prime Minister  Mrs May met EU President  Mr Junker for dinner at No. 10 Downing Street. Almost immediately after that dinner Mr Junker appears to have gone straight to the leader of Germany which of course makes the largest net financial contribution to the EU (with that of the UK being the second largest). Somehow a German newspaper  then also received details of an interpretation of what may have occurred at the dinner with Mr Junker.

The German newspaper almost immediately published comments of course   biased towards Mr Junker's viewpoint,  about Mrs May's negotiating position.

It has since been made clear that so far as the EU is concerned all talks will be made public upon their happening despite the UK preference for confidentiality during discussions until progress has been made. The EU has also moved up its settlement claim from c. 50 billion Euros to c. 100 billion Euros and threatened legal proceedings if the UK does not pay up. A day later the EU laid down as  "a red line", the status of all EU nationals currently residing in the UK suggesting that they must have residents' rights determined by the European  courts rather than the UK Supreme Court.

The above kind of EU posturing has had the opposite effect  to that probably intended on many people in this country who have since voted in their droves for Mrs May's party. A large number of those who voted remain, myself included, will have been putting it mildly, irritated by such arrogance from EU civil servants.

Sadly in my humble opinion, the Junker  et al diatribes, make an hard Brexit without any deal much more likely.

From a legal viewpoint, it would be interesting to see what the outcome of any  legal proceedings  consequent upon Brexit not accompanied by a detailed agreement would be. Additionally  the outcome of a counterclaim by the UK for a fair share in the very valuable capital assets to which the country has been contributing at enormous annual cost for 40 years or so, eg the luxurious  EU  Brussels office  blocks, would be of interest. Which court I wonder?

Grenfell Tower Tragedy - One Possible Difficult Lesson

The reasons for tragedy and disaster hitting so many families  struck by this dreadful fire last week are hard to understand. This Hammersmi...