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Posts Tagged ‘government’

Silence is not golden


Today the TUC and CBI, who are not usual bedfellows to say the least, came out once again stating what a disaster Brexit will be for workers and business, respectively.

What we could call the government’s ‘risk management’ documents are now in the public domain and they make grim reading.

Meanwhile, much of the UK press continues to harp on about sunny Brexit uplands. There is no political opposition. So-called conservative rebels are all playing politics and vying for position (with the exception of Ken Clarke). Her Majesty’s opposition does the same. Opposition is provided by the TUC, CBI and individuals, which last time I checked is not how a Parliamentary democracy is meant to function.

Interactions in the necessarily limited (in terms of numbers and types of people) Twitter community demonstrate the predicament we are in.

The Grim Leavers, continue to duck all the evidence, though their numbers seem to be reduced and they are largely confined to ad hominem. They go quiet the moment issues of funding the Leave campaign are raised.

Conservative ministers and MPs duck and dive, often block on Twitter. In the few interviews where they are challenged or at a Parliamentary Select Committee their performance is so poor that in any other employment their employer would likely sack them on the spot.

Core Corbyn supporters, and Labour MPs in general, fail to acknowledge the challenge that Brexit will make the Labour manifesto impossible to deliver and go quiet on this question. Waiting for the Conservative Party to destroy itself only works if you have taken a diametrically opposite position. The Labour Party have not.

The Labour party and many of its members also seem not to understand the difference between income and wealth. The latter is not taxed and can only be taxed as part of a large economic bloc. Social progress is impossible without tackling wealth inequality and income tax cannot reduce this.

So we are here:

1. We don’t have any English political leaders in the two largest parties, the other two parties are too small to make a parliamentary impact.

2. In the absence of leadership, I see little political appetite to revoke the Article 50 notification.

3. One interpretation is that May is giving the Brexiteers enough rope to hang themselves, one task they are excelling at, and then will reverse Article 50 notification. This is wishful thinking, her track record on immigration against all the evidence, suggests that immigration is a key driver for her and one reason why as a Remainer, she has become a Brexiter. Immigration is what defines her as a politician, she is after all the architect of the Windrush scandal. So she has no ‘cunning plan’ and will not revoke Article 50.

4. Brexit is likely to happen, because the UK has done nothing about the Irish Border or the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Brexit will be the disaster predicted before the referendum. A second referendum is possible, but would require a parliamentary majority, unlikely given Parliament’s track record on Brexit and the lack of evidence-based thinking on show.

5. Any transition will require the UK to actually put something sensible on the table rather than tabloid rhetoric. With just seven months to go, there is no sign of anything remotely sensible.

6. Hard times are likely post Brexit – on a scale not seen since the 1930s.

7. The assumption that we can post Brexit re-apply for membership successfully is no more than a guess. I can see a scenario where re-joining the EU will require very major concessions on Gibraltar, Schengen and all our other opt outs, including the financial ones. It is also quite possible that we are not let back in at all, because the continued asset stripping of the UK (people and business) effectively exports unemployment from the EU27 to the UK and boosts their employment and economies. An economy heading south is not a very attractive proposition, when you can do trade deals with, say, ASEAN, whose middle classes outnumber the entire UK population by several fold.

 

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While reading and correcting a PhD thesis on ‘flu virus I thought I would check what strains I have encountered.

In February 1978 after playing a match for what was then RC Hermance (now HRRC) on a Sunday. I fell ill on the Tuesday, called home and was picked up by my mother.  Unfortunately, though a very smart person, critical thinking was not part of her education, which stopped at 16, and she dabbled in homeopathy. So I got sicker, spent 4 days at 41°C or above, but happily was then under our local GP (my mum was not daft) and was receiving anti-pyrogenic injections.  That time is a bit hazy, though my mother did say she thought she would lose me, so I must have been pretty ill.  This turns out to be an H1N1 virus, which only affected those under 26 years old. As this article  argues this particular ‘flu virus seems likely to have emerged from a lab (bio warfare) accident in the USSR or from vaccination (infection?) tests with live virus in China or the USSR, since the strain was almost identical to that from 26 years earlier and had not been seen in the wild in the intervening quarter century.

Fast forward to 1999 and I get a call from Tristan Bernard, past teammate at RC Hermance (now Life President, well deserved, a true evangelist for the sport) asking for a bed for him and a mate who were watching the World Cup; Liverpool was on a commute between games. A great evening, stated off in the Vines, and finished with a meal sometime after 2 am. A few days later ‘flu – this was I think brought to the UK by an Australian supporter and was an H3N2 strain virus. Not a major health incident for me though, a few days in bed and I was fine.

So the worst that rugby has done for me is ‘flu, twice, though I do have a wobbly ankle joint too.

As a side issue the murky past of the 1978 H1N1 ‘flu virus highlights the stupidity of allowing the gain of function engineering of pathogens. Regardless of whether the 1977 ‘flu virus did re-emerge from a lab, accidents, by definition, happen and viruses such as ‘flu remain an obvious war tool. I would be far more worried by N. Korean efforts in the molecular biology of viruses than by a few missiles with nuclear warheads. The latter can be stopped in flight, whereas viruses cannot.

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This week a Health and Safety missive arrived in our inboxes. It requested that in the light of the Grenfell disaster, all fridges related to the appliance that caught fire should be checked – some quite detailed info regarding make, models etc.

 

However, nothing about cladding… …and many of our university buildings are clad. One would have thought that given the level of fire risk in a Biosciences building such as ours (pretty high due to the lab work undertaken) that a first step would be to disseminate the risk, or lack of risk, of fire jumping between what should be contained areas via the cladding.

 

If one was a cynic, one might compare this focus on the appliance as part of an organised disinformation campaign, orchestrated from the upper echelons of government to propagate a particular narrative, through a myriad of channels.

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