Wednesday, 15 January 2020

One of those days

Today I discovered that I made a minor design change in June 2015 that means we've been making one of our products wrong for the past four and a half years. The product in question works, but only just, and there are therefore a whole raft of these things out in the wild, teetering on the brink of disaster.

Today I discovered a damp patch in the ceiling of the extension (you remember the extension don't you? This almost certainly means that a mere nine months after being finished, the extension roof is now leaking.

Today I managed to snap clean through the plastic pipe of the vacuum cleaner while vacuuming the carpet. The house is therefore going to remain just as filthy as it was this morning as I no longer have a functioning vacuum cleaner.

Can today be over yet?

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

A positive spin on politics

Being, as you may have spotted over the years, at least a tad left-of-centre in my political views, not to mention quite fond of remaining in the EU, it might come as a surprise to regular readers to know that I'm feeling considerably better about the current political situation than I was at this time last year.

"How can that be?" I hear you cry.

We have just elected what appears to a hard-line Conservative government who are showing every sign of wanting to ride roughshod over workers' rights and protection for child refugees, not to mention locking Parliament out of scrutiny of the Brexit negotiations whilst also enshrining in law an almost-inevitable no-deal Brexit. Whilst banning the use of the word Brexit. What's to feel calm about?

The calmness comes not from any happiness, or confidence that all will be well. It comes from a resignation that there is nothing left to hope for, nothing to change, nothing to influence.

To re-use a phrase that is an inherent part of being a Burnley FC fan...

It's the hope that kills.

While there was a hung Parliament, and a cross-party consensus could operate to hold the government to account, every vote held out the possibility that we could divert from the most calamitous path that the ERG were slavering over. Now that hope is gone. Now I feel no compulsion to watch the Parliament channel, or follow the hour-by-hour reporting of votes in the House of Commons. The Tories will have their way, and I can read a summary of what they are inflicting upon us after the fact. I no longer hope; so I no longer suffer from the obsessive anxiety that characterised my interactions with the news last year.

The good news for you all is that this means I'm much less likely to launch forth political rants here.

Apathy has won the day.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Merry Christmas one and all

Once again this blog has hit a fallow patch. Are they happening more often? Have I finally run out of things to say? Is my well of inspiration running dry? I think perhaps I am too close to myself to see clearly. What I can say for certain is that I am running on empty. Christmas is fun, and busy, and full. But I am now the generation who takes responsibility for looking after those both older and younger than myself, so it's not so much a break as an exercise in logistical precision, with one slip leading to food poisoning all round, or being on the receiving end of a look of hurt betrayal from a beloved relation as you realise there was one present you forgot to buy.

I am now reaching the stage of the Christmas holiday where I'm wondering if it's time to go back to work yet. Not, I hasten to add, because I prefer work to spending time with my bears, but because life is frankly considerably easier when there is a routine to stick to and I don't have to think about what's happening when and how and where all the time. I don't have to plan, or travel or entertain, or pack, or wrap. On the other hand... LittleBear's football season restarts on 11th January, so there go my weekends again... Can I have some more Christmas holiday please?

Only four people, and all those presents

Friday, 13 December 2019

Thoughts

"The country has spoken"

No doubt we will hear that over and over again from our Prime Minister. And it has, though in a rather strangulated whisper thanks to the distortions of our political system.

A gain of 1.2% of the vote share, to a total of 43.6%*, has given the Conservative party a sizeable majority.

Pro-Remain/pro-second-referendum parties had a total vote share of 49%.

Is the country's voice really that clear?

I would say that it isn't, but also that it doesn't matter. There is a large majority in the House of Commons to push through Conservative policies, and there's nothing I can do to change that.

On the other hand, do we have any idea what the Prime Minister actually thinks or believes? He has a long and varied history of lying, and has carefully made sure he made few concrete promises during this election campaign. I genuinely have no idea if he has any beliefs, or ideologies, that extend beyond himself. I fear the unknown of a Johnson leadership, as much as I fear the known of Conservative policies of cutting public spending, cutting taxes for the wealthy and selling our public services to the highest bidder.

I held BigBear and LittleBear in bed this morning as I felt sick and tired and I promised them both that we could still try to make the world around us a better place. Whoever is in power, I can still choose, every day, to try to help those less fortunate than myself. I can try to make positive changes in my life that protect the environment, that ease suffering, that bring light to other people's lives. I cannot change the policies of the government; I cannot increase funding for schools or libraries or hospitals or the police or legal aid or social housing or welfare.

I feel sad, angry and depressed that we have a Prime Minister who is a known liar, racist and homophobe.

I feel sad, angry and depressed that we have elected politicians who have expressed some truly horrible views on race and religion.

I feel sad, angry and depressed at the racism and populism I now see around me on a regular basis.

I feel sad, angry and depressed that we are now destined to leave the EU under whatever terms the Conservatives now choose, with no brakes upon their ambition.

But I will fight to be true to my own values of compassion, empathy, support and love. I will be the person I want the world to have.

It's the only thing I can do.



* The small percentage change in vote share has increased the number of Conservative seats from 298 to 364.
1.2% gain in votes is a 12% gain in seats.
43.6% of the vote has translated to 56% of the seats.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

A poem

As I drove across town in the lashing rain to cast a proxy vote for a friend, a line of a poem came back to me. It was a poem by Rudyard Kipling, entitled "A Dead Statesman", from a series called "Epitaphs of the War" - a series of epitaphs he conjured up as though written by those who died during the First World War.

I could not dig: I dared not rob: 
Therefore I lied to please the mob. 
Now all my lies are proved untrue 
And I must face the men I slew. 
What tale shall serve me here among 
Mine angry and defrauded young?

 Our "statesmen" (if only we had some) are not dead, and nor are millions of our young, but the sentiment feels pretty apposite to me.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Remind me again...

A week ago, I started writing daily posts on Facebook, highlighting the ways in which society has been negatively affected by the policies of the Conservative party. I was going to keep going until election day, but honestly? I am too angry to keep doing this. I am filled with rage and sadness at the ways in which the poor, the vulnerable, the weak and the needy have been punished. I know I will not be voting Conservative, and I know why. I've done my small bit on social media to share some of those reasons, and now I'm going to aggregate those reasons and share them here as well.

Homelessness

At the end of 2018, there were 62,000 homeless families living in temporary accommodation in England alone. These families included 124,000 children1.

There are 80% more children living in temporary accommodation than there were in 2010.

These figures do not include families or children who are "sofa-surfing" instead of relying on their Local Authority. The Children's Commissioner's Office estimates another 92,000 children are living in "sofa-surfing" families2.

Remind me again why you're voting Conservative?

Policing

Police numbers have fallen by 20,600 between March 2010 and March 2019, representing a 14% drop in number of police officers. Taking into account a rising population, this is a cut of 19% in the number of police officers per head of population3.

Knife crime (excluding Greater Manchester, who didn't submit figures in time) has increased from 30,620 reported incidents per year in March 2011 to 44,076 per year in March 2019, an increase of 44%4.

Remind me again why you're voting Conservative?

Justice

Since 2010...

162 magistrates’ courts have closed, out of 323,
90 county courts have closed, out of 240,
18 dedicated tribunal buildings have closed, out of 83,
17 family courts have closed, out of 185,
8 crown courts have closed, out of 92.5

Legal aid spending has been cut by 37% between 2010 and 2018, with the Ministry of Justice suffering more cuts than any other government department. Access to justice? What access to justice?6

Remind me again why you're voting Conservative?

NHS

In 2005, a policy book entitled "Direct Democracy: An Agenda For A New Model Party" was published, co-authored by (among others) Michael Gove, Daniel Hannan, Greg Clark, David Gauke, Jeremy Hunt and Kwasi Kwarteng. All Conservative MPs or MEPs, in case you hadn't spotted it. Among the many statements advocating moving from our current system of a National Health Service towards a private, insurance-based system, is this one:

“Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain.7"

Remind me again why you're voting Conservative?

Food banks

In the last five years, food bank use in the Trussell Trust network has increased by 73%, so that in the past year alone, nearly 1.6 million three-day emergency food parcels were supplied to people in crisis.

More than half a million of these parcels went to children8.

Remind me again why you're voting Conservative?

Disability benefit

Approximately 1,600 working-age disabled people have died every year over the past five years within six months of having their claim for disability benefits rejected9.

Remind me again why you're voting Conservative?

Education

Since the 2015/16 academic year, my son's school has seen a real terms funding cut of £200 per pupil.10

Remind me again why you're voting Conservative?


You may think that this isn't you. Maybe you don't vote Conservative. Maybe you do vote Conservative, but you do so for their policies on other matters. But if you do vote Conservative this is you. This is what you've chosen. This is what you've endorsed. This is what you are happy to allow to happen in your name. This is a price you think is worth paying. These lives. These people. These children.  And I do hold you responsible. Maybe you wanted lower taxation, or tighter immigration controls. Maybe you wanted less state intervention in business. Maybe you wanted looser banking regulations. Maybe you wanted a referendum on our membership of the EU. I don't know what you wanted, but this is what you got. This is what you chose for all of us. You own this. This is you.

Remind me again why you're voting Conservative?


Monday, 25 November 2019

Lies, damned lies and Johnson

Boris Johnson spent much of his time before entering politics in journalism. It's hard to say, in the current climate, which is the more dishonest and dishonourable profession. Johnson has managed to bring dishonesty and dishonour to both however. He has the notable distinction of having been sacked from jobs in both journalism and politics for the same reason - lying.

Lying journalist

The first job from which he was sacked for lying was at The Times (for inventing a quote for a front page story).

When Chris Patten, a European Commissioner during Johnson's tenure at The Times, spoke of Boris Johnson, he described Johnson as "one of the greatest exponents of fake journalism". More recently, he went on to say
“He’s lied his way through life, he’s lied his way through politics, he’s a huckster with a degree of charm to which I am immune. As well as being mendacious he’s incompetent.”
Truly, a glowing recommendation from a fellow Tory. This is what his own party thinks of him.

In 1999, he sought a position as Editor of The Spectator. To secure the post, he assured the owner (Conrad Black) that he didn't intend to pursue a career in politics. It only took him two years to break that promise and run for Parliament as Conservative candidate for Henley in 2001.

Lying politician

The next job from which he was sacked for lying was once he'd slid into politics. Michael Howard had made him party vice-chairman and shadow arts minister. He was sacked from both posts after promising Howard that reports of an affair were an “inverted pyramid of piffle”. When it turned out that the story of the affair was completely truthful, he refused to resign and was sacked for lying to his party leader.

I am occasionally told that I shouldn't care so much about the details of politicians lying as, "they all do it". And it's true - every manifesto, every campaign, and virtually every interview is filled with exaggeration and bluster as politicians try to persuade the electorate that the land of milk and honey lies only with a vote for their particular party. But there is a level of lying that heads beyond the endless claims of spending on public services that haven't actually been costed.

It seems a bit tired and boring to bang on now about the Vote Leave campaign, but it's hard to talk about Johnson and his lies without mentioning some of his prime whoppers.

At the launch of the now-infamous, £350-million-per-week lies-on-a-bus tour, Johnson headed back to some of his favourite arrant nonsense, regurgitating Lies Of Christmas Past with claims that the EU was setting rules on the shape of bananas.

And I think I've perhaps drawn attention to the claim that the UK was sending £350m a week to the EU, followed by “let’s fund our NHS instead”. Never mind the fact that the UK Statistics Authority issued an official statement in May 2016 describing the claim as “misleading”. That didn't stop Johnson repeated it in an article in the Telegraph in September 2017, and at various tedious intervals since. If you tell the same lie often enough, some people will believe you.

Then there were the repugnant, dog-whistle, racist claims that we were going to be swamped by Turkish immigrants. Not only did Johnson co-sign a letter claiming “the only way to avoid having common borders with Turkey is to vote Leave and take back control”. He then subsequently claimed that he did not mention Turkey during the referendum. Lies piled upon lies to pretend he hadn't lied in the first place.

And here we are now, referendum long past and a general election looming, and the press and public simply seem resigned to the fact that when Johnson opens his mouth lies will emerge.

There won't be a border in the Irish Sea? It almost makes you wonder if he's even read his own withdrawal agreement. Or perhaps it won't be a proper border, as it will be manned by unicorns. Not to mention (though I will), the fact that it was only a year ago that Johnson told the DUP at their conference, "We would be damaging the fabric of the Union with regulatory checks and even customs controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland on top of those extra regulatory checks down the Irish Sea that are already envisaged in the withdrawal agreement."

"Now, I have to tell you that no British Conservative government could or should sign up to any such arrangement," he added. No, indeed they should not Mr Johnson. So why did you? And why do you continue to lie to the public and claim that's not exactly what you've done?

Then there's his old favourite... Parliament scuppered a deal... Almost every day he wheels that one out, conveniently ignoring the fact that it was he that voted against a deal, repeatedly. It was he that resigned from Cabinet to be able to vote against a deal. It was he that pulled the deal from Parliament after they'd voted it through, because he didn't dare allow it to be scrutinised for more than two days.

How about the 20,000 extra police officers he assured the residents of Oldham were "already operating on our streets"? They aren't. The government plan to recruit 20,000 additional officers, to replace the ones they've spent the last few years getting rid of.

Or maybe there are the 40 new hospitals, when in truth 6 hospitals will be upgraded in the next five years, if the Tories regain power, and everything else is additional funding offered beyond 2025, none of which is for a new hospital anywhere.

Or perhaps the claim that we have the lowest corporation tax in Europe (we don't - it's higher than Ireland, Lithuania and Hungary) and that Labour would make it the highest (they won't - they plan to return to 2011 levels by 2022, when it would still be lower than France and Belgium).

His lies become so extravagant, and so bare-faced, it almost feels absurd to be forced to point them out.

Obviously, I don't know Johnson personally, though at least one of my friends has been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances from him, so I confess to being predisposed to dislike him. But don't take my word for it, why not read what others who do know him think...


“What had we done for Boris? Had we taught him truthfulness? No. Had we taught him wisdom? No. What had we taught? Was it only how to make witty and brilliant speeches?” 
 Anthony Kenny, master of Balliol when Johnson was a student there

“Probably the worst scholar Eton ever sent us – a buffoon and an idler,”  
Oswyn Murray, Fellow of Balliol College

"There is room for debate about whether he is a scoundrel or mere rogue, but not much about his moral bankruptcy, rooted in a contempt for truth," 
Max Hastings, Editor of the Daily Telegraph

“Boris really has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude to his classical studies. It is a question of priorities, which most of his colleagues have no difficulty in sorting out. Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility (and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed Captain of the School for next half): I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”
 Martin Hammond, Master in College, Eton

And this is the man we appear likely to elect as our Prime Minister?

Are we not better than this?

Do we not deserve better than this?