Monthly Archives: January 2017

The North East of England to be ‘blighted’ again?

It is often said, especially by those who live here (and it would appear with some justification) that closure of the coal mining pits caused severe hardship as a result of greatly increased unemployment and bitter divisions within communities, even within families. This was especially the case in Seaham and the immediate surrounding area.

Seaham had three collieries: Vane Tempest, Dawdon and ‘The Knack’; while just a few miles away there were other collieries located at Easington, Murton and Horden. After nearly three decades Seaham has recovered, Murton is still recovering, Horden has become a suburb of Peterlee, while Easington still exhibits a ‘dead/run-down’ appearance.

The foregoing is mentioned as an introduction to two articles by Richard North, here and here, dealing with what might be the effects of a ‘Theresa May Brexit’ on the air and shipping industries.

Bearing in mind those reports, in the North East there are ports at Tyneside, Teesport, Hartlepool, Billingham and Seaham. Where airports are concerned there is Newcastle International and Durham Tees Valley.

If we  look at shipping first, Tyneside has [from the annual accounts (downloads as pdf)] full-time jobs supported directly or indirectly by the Port of circa 14,500. The Port’s International Passenger Terminal continued to contribute over £50 million to
the GVA [Gross value added (GVA) is the measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of an economy], supporting the travel and tourism sector in particular. The gross tonnage of ships entering the River Tyne was 25.7 million tonnes in 2015, with the number of vessel movements amounting to 2,816. The number of cars handled across the Port’s three car terminals, that provide storage for Nissan, VW / Audi, was 581k units. The volume of Nissan exports remained strong and as a result the business retained its position as the UK’s No.2 car exporting port.

Teesport handles circa 5,000 vessels each year and around 40 million tonnes of cargo. In addition steel, petrochemical, agribulks, manufacturing, engineering and high street commerce operations are all supported through Teesport.

Hartlepool is just three miles away from Teesport, and is at the heart of Hartlepool’s local economy, with bulk cargo facilities alongside the oil & gas sectors and the renewable offshore wind energy market.

Billingham is a strategic location to support the significant number of processing plants located within the town’s immediate hinterland and has one of the largest warehousing and cross-docking complexes within the Tees Valley.

Seaham can handle ships of up to 8,000 tonnes, with a maximum beam of 18m, length up to 120m and draft up to 6.7m and in 2016 it had 215 ship entries to the harbour. The  harbour handles imports of forest products and steel while exports comprise limestone and woodchip. Both imports and exports involve vessel movements to and from Spain, Norway and Germany. Seaham harbour has a workforce of circa 90/100 employees.

It was of interest to see yesterday that following the Prime Minister’s speech on the Government’s objectives for Brexit negotiations, the British Ports Association (BPA) is holding discussions with the government to understand the details of its post-Brexit vision and how customs and other procedures at ports might be affected. With the Prime Minister indicating that the UK will be leaving the Single Market, the BPA will be seeking to ensure that the logistical flows of goods and passengers at ports will not be disrupted.

As stated above the North East has two airports, Newcastle International and Durham Tees Valley; although the latter only has a few daily flights, one of which is KLM. On the other hand Newcastle has flights worldwide including to the European Union. Airlines involved are British Airways (via Heathrow), Aer Lingus, Ryanair, Emirates, Air France, Easyjet and KLM.

You, the people, are able to address every Member of Parliament and inform them that having been ‘sold down the river’ in 1972 and 1975 (not forgetting the following 40+ years of EU membership) that this is the end of our acquiescence to ‘pilates’ who have no real sense of direction because they know nothing and thus would lead us up a cul-de-sac, whilst appearing to have washed their hands of those whose opinions they are supposed to reflect, purely for reasons of political ideology.

Are those of the North East – and in particular those of this area,  once again to suffer severe hardship as a result of greatly increased unemployment and bitter divisions within communities, even within families without their voices being heard? The question is asked because as sure as hell if Theresa May progresses down the path she appears to have chosen, the North East will once again be blighted’; as will the remainder of the United Kingdom.

 

British politics at its finest – or lowest?

It is assumed by all and sundry. especially other so-called democracies, that the weekly session known as Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) demonstrates the British political system ‘at its best’; in that ordinary  Members of Parliament, ie those not ‘holding an office’ of some description, have the opportunity to ask the Leader of the Government of the day any question they wish. This ability to so do is believed to be an example of democracy in action.

How little those that envy the British system actually know.

Members of Parliament are elected to supposedly represent the interests of their constituents, yet repeatedly, where the party in government is concerned, are known to ask questions supplied to them by their party whips. They agree to this for two reasons: (a): to increase the chances of their being able to ‘climb the ladder to fame and fortune’; and, (b): to allow their leader to ‘crow’ about the achievements (some imaginary) of the government. Not that opposition MPs are any different, they too do exactly the same in the hope their party can embarrass the government of the day; and that they may be ‘noticed’ and thus gain a ‘Shadow’ Front Bench position.. Generally, such questions are easy to spot as they are invariably ‘read out’ from what might be called a crib-sheet.

That this weekly event is termed ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ is in itself a misnomer as yet again, invariably, the question raised is not answered as, more often than not, the Prime Minister of the day will just ignore the question and then talk about something different; and in so doing attempt to conjure up a ‘soundbite’ for that evening’s television news and the next day’s newspapers.

Did not David Cameron, upon his election as party leader in 2005, state that he was: fed up with the Punch and Judy politics of Westminster, the name-calling, backbiting, point-scoring, finger-pointing – that assertion lasted all of ‘five minutes’; and examples of his juvenile (typical political) behaviour are numerous on youtube (calm down dear – listen to the doctor?)  try (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heDiKUgG794)  – and behind him we see and hear what can only be described as a baying mob egging him on. Did not Jeremy Corbyn, on assuming the office of Leader of the Opposition from Ed Miliband, promise an end to personal attacks and did not Cameron respond by informing him to: put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem?  This is democracy in action, this is politics in action, something to be held in high regard?

While those who feel they should be ‘revered’ and held in high regard because of their position in our society, who feel they should be held in high regard for their knowledge of ‘matters of state’ continue to act like juveniles and unknowing idiots, who feel able to legislate on morality, while exhibiting a lack in that matter – then why should we, the electorate,  accord them our respect? Why should we listen to one word they say? More to the point, why should we allow them to exist and fund their activities?

Currently we have the unedifying spectacle of MPs clamouring for their voice to be heard on the matter of Brexit, but who for the last 43 years have seemed disinterested in the developments that have led to Brexit. On this subject there is another unedifying spectacle of MPs who, remember, are elected to represent the views of their constituents now ignoring those views and proclaiming they voted to remain a member of the European Union and still believe they were right to so do.

Bearing in mind that our nation has a special relationship with the USA – and where they lead we tend to follow – courtesy is due to Ian Parker-Joseph who alerted me to this video. So all one can say to our politicians – who assure us they know best – most definitely does not contain the word ‘thanks’.

Just saying………..

 

 

In the words of Humpty Dumpty……

Has it been noticed that on assuming office national leaders invariably state their people matter and that they are but servants of the people; they state the need for change, in some instances having happily served under policies mandated by their predecessor, but then maintain those policies were wrong.

Cast your minds back, starting with

Tony Blair, who said:

…….And it will be a government that seeks to restore trust in politics in this country. That cleans it up, that decentralizes it, that gives people hope once again that politics is and always should be about the service of the public……

(that went well, did it not?)

Next, Gordon Brown, who said:

…….As Prime Minister I will continue to listen and learn from the British people. I’ve heard the need for change………change to build trust in government, change to protect and extend the British way of life. And this need for change cannot be met by the old politics………….

(that went well, too, did it not?)

Next David Cameron, who said:

…….One of the tasks that we clearly have is to rebuild trust in our political system. Yes that’s about cleaning up expenses, yes that is about reforming parliament, and yes it is about making sure people are in control – and that the politicians are always their servant and never their masters……….

(that went well also, did it not?)

Next, Theresa May, who said:

…The government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives….When we take the big calls we will think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws we will listen not to the mighty, but to you…….

(will that go well? We shall see). Unfortunately the portents in respect of Brexit, to date, would leave one to question her knowledge of the subject matter).

If we look at the foregoing four statements, not once have the people of this nation had the opportunity to question, on a day-to-day basis, the policy decisions of their government. Governments may say they will listen, they may say they are but servants of the people, but have yet to demonstrate that they are unconditionally.

Just why is it that time and time again we hear the words of good intent from our politicians; and time and time again when they fail to deliver we still vote them back into power?

The latest example of ‘good intent’ has come from Donald Trump who,in his inauguration speech, said:

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another – but transferring it from Washington DC and giving it back to you the people. For too long a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. While they have celebrated there has been little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your celebration. And this – the United States of America – is your country. What truly matters is not what party controls our government but that this government is controlled by the people. Today, January 20 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

For anyone who believes in democracy per se then his words are a beacon of hope to the world – and if Donald Trump lives up to his words regarding democracy per se (which may be doubtful as he is now a politician), then he will be the first to have so done since the mid-19th century.

  Humpty Dumpty said:

When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

 

A missive to members of the EEUSC (2)

Returning to a previous article in respect of the recent report by the Exiting the European Union Select Committee and the fact that, bar one MP who courteously dealt with the query raised, the replies received have all contained the mantra that they are unable to help me unless I am a constituent of theirs. I find myself unable to let matters rest, consequently have forwarded yet another email to those MPs attempting to hide behind their self-imposed rule. The MPs in question are: Peter Grant, Patrick McFadden, Hilary Benn, Andrea Jenkyns, Maria Caufield, Alistair Burt, Jeremy Lefroy, Michael Gove and Emma Reynolds.

Further to my email to all members of the Exit the European Union Select Committee (EEUSC), I thank you for your response advising me that if I am not your constituent you are then unable to deal with any request and/or communication from me.

While it is acknowledged that, in theory, a select committee is answerable to the House of Commons, said committee has made public a report to the House, a report to which you are all, de facto, signatories. You are, therefore, by making this report public, also addressing it to the public for their perusal and, subsequently, any questions they may have on the contents therein. As a result I fail to see the relevance of your reply, or the content contained therein.

For those unfamiliar with the word, anodyne means: intended to avoid causing offence or disagreement, especially by not expressing strong feelings or opinions

Andrew Kennon, Clerk of Committees in the House of Commons, in delivering the first Open Lecture on 9 March 2012 on the subject of Select Committees, is on record stating that it was the work of Select Committees to hold the Government to account. Perhaps you can explain how any government of the day can be held to account when one of its members considers a report issued by the EEUSC: ‘anodyne’?

Reverting to the point that Select Committees are supposed to hold the government of the day to account, the fact that members of a select committee (MPs) are elected by other MPs; and then their findings are ‘watered down’ for what ever reason, one has to ask just what use are those findings? If said findings are then made public but the public, having questioned the contents, are denied a response – just how is democracy per se thus served?

As you should be aware the word democracy is derived from the Greek: demokratia which in turn is derived from the combination of two words: demos: people; and kratos: power. If those elected by the people then ignore contact with them by the people, can one not argue that we then have a situation which can best be described as democratised dictatorship – especially when those elected hide behind a ruling of their own making? Wherefore democracy; and likewise wherefore people power? Surely logic dictates that: (a) without day-to-day interaction twixt those elected to power and those that elect those to exercise the power to which they were elected: and, (b) if those elected then ignore those that elected them (for whatever reason), one can but repeat the question: is the result not a form of democratised dictatorship?

I ask a question of you: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The electorate, on a day-to-day basis, cannot ‘control’ MPs, unless in their benevolence said MPs grant the electorate a referendum; and if the electorate cannot and the offices of parliament do not – and in this instance obviously do not out of choice – can one not justifiably ask yet again: wherefore democracy? When a situation arises in which the watchers are but part of the watched, to paraphrase Hamlet: is there not something rotten with democracy in the state of the UK?

As you will each have surmised from my email address I am not a constituent of any member of the EEUSC; and in conclusion two points must be made:

(a) by not allowing any member of the electorate, other than a constituent, to question your findings, you are in effect disenfranchising the majority of the electorate in this nation, and;

(b) continuance of your failure to enter into debate with a member of the electorate can only mean you give not a fig for democracy, nor for a member of the electorate.

Regards,

David Phipps

 

The Lady has spoken – ‘may’ she be right

So the long-heralded speech by our Prime Minister on Brexit has taken place – and we must make of it what we will.

For those advocating a move ‘sideways’ to EFTA/EEA there is disappointment – and for those wanting out of the Single Market and the Customs Union there can only be mixed feelings as she said that she does not want this nation to have an associate membership of the European Union, but it would appear she is willing to accept, if necessary, some form of associate membership of the Customs Union. A tad odd, no?

Theresa May mentions talks she has had with Juncker, Tusk (or is that  Tsk?) and Schulz, together with the leaders of the 27, all of who want a good relationship with the United Kingdom – that may be, but some of those leaders may not be there in a few months; so do the views of Schulz and others who will no longer be on the scene count for much?

There has been much condemnation and belittling of Mays approach from those pushing EFTA/EEA and those pushing for a total exit from the Single Market and the Customs Union. For some time we have heard much ‘sabre-rattling’ about the ‘sanctity’ of the ‘four freedoms’ from the heads of other EU states, together with similar from Juncker and Schulz,

However, what this speech by May has done has been to plant the ball over the net and deep into the EU’s court. Now we must wait and see whether they can return her service. We spectators at the EU/UK tennis match of the decade, if not the century, must sit, watch, wait and, in the meantime, be enthralled

The foregoing begs the question just why are we spectators in what amounts to a political game that affects not only the future of our nation, but also our individual lives? Should we not ‘storm the court’, halt play and inform the ‘star players’ that we are players in this game too – because in this political game where is the demos and kratos in what is supposed to be a process of democracy?

There will, no doubt, be many words about the content of May’s speech from the MSM and our not-so-great-and-not-so-good (aka the political class) – but then what the hell do they know, based on past performance? Not only them, but I would also appeal to other commentators as I, for one, am tired of the continual arguments based on a ‘what if’ scenario. I would suggest that all wait until there is something ‘concrete’ on which to comment; and would remind all such commentators of a saying attributed to Bob Monkhouse, namely; silence is golden – and is never misquoted.

Readers, this game is destined to be a long one and one can only suggest that supporters of each side keep their powder dry prior to igniting fireworks in celebration – or considering making an appointment with Dignitas.

Once again, just saying…………………….

 

 

 

 

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, for the umpteenth time; but when will someone listen?

Referring to the preceding article in which I posed a question to each member of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee, one member, to whom  I will extend my courtesy for having personally responded, has stated: I argued strenuously against this absurd suggestion of a transitional agreement which was slightly watered down as a result.  But because there is a majority of ‘remainers in recovery’ on the Committee the most the minority can hope to do is render its reports as anodyne as possible.

Anodyne: intended to avoid causing offence or disagreement, especially by not expressing strong feelings or opinions.

So, an extremely important select committee report which is supposed to hold the government of the day to account and which deals with a subject matter affecting the future of our nation, one which may not arise again for yonks, has been in effect ‘watered down’ so as to not cause offence by not expressing strong feelings or opinions?

Just what the hell is going on here? From the Parliament website we learn  that: Select Committees work in both Houses. They check and report on areas ranging from the work of government departments to economic affairs. The results of these inquiries are public and many require a response from the government.

Did not Andrew Kennon, Clerk of Committees in the House of Commons, in delivering the first Open Lecture on 9 March 2012 on the subject of Select Committees say that it was the work of Select Committees to hold the Government to account?

If results of Select Committee inquiries are made public then are they not open to query by members of the electorate? So why did I receive so many standard responses to the effect that members of the EEUSC were unable to talk to me unless I was a constituent of theirs?

If a Select Committee’s main task is to hold the government of the day to account; and then their findings are ‘watered down’ for what ever reason, one has to ask just what use are those findings – and just how is democracy per se thus served?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes – because we sure as hell cannot; and if the electorate cannot and the offices of parliament do not – and in this instance obviously do not out of choice – can one not justifiably ask: wherefore democracy?

When a situation arises in which the watchers are but part of the watched, to paraphrase Hamlet: is there not something rotten in the state of the UK?

Just asking……….

A missive to members of the EEUSC

The following has been forwarded, by email, to every member of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee – not that I am that hopeful of receiving a response.

I read with interest the report, just published, from the Exiting the European Union Select Committee; of which each addressee is a member. This report has been made public and as such consequently is also addressed to every member of the electorate; regardless of whether any member of the electorate is a constituent of any member of this committee. As a result it is hoped that any member of the electorate choosing to write to this committee, as I am now doing, will receive a detailed reply addressing the points raised therein.

Much is made in this report of the need for a transitional agreement, on the basis it is improbable that a new arrangement for trading with the European Union will be agreed within the initial two year period mentioned in Article 50 – witness how long the trade agreement between the  EU and Canada took to come to fruition.

The committee would appear to have only mentioned a few of the problems which need addressing during negotiations to terminate our full membership of the European Union – and in so doing appear oblivious to other such matters. In this regard the accusation can be levied that the committee has failed to consider all the ramifications involved in enacting Brexit. To ‘unravel’ 40+ years of integration with the European Union cannot be achieved in a timescale of 2 years, consequently a transition period is not only of benefit to the United Kingdom, but one that is necessary.

It is of some concern to me and others who do have knowledge of ‘matters EU’ – something which appears to be lacking among our political class yet who are demanding their ‘say’ on a subject about which they seem to know nothing – that in answer to McReynolds and Singham, for example, not one of the committee seemed to be aware that a plan for exiting the EU does exist yet was not mentioned. Why not? The basis of this plan – which goes by the name of of ‘FlexCit (google: www.eureferendum.com/documents/Flexcit.pdf) – is for an immediate ‘sideways move’ to EFTA/EEA; which, where the need to ‘take control of our borders’ is concerned, can be accomplished by invoking Article 112 of the EEA agreement. Yet again there was no mention of this – why not? A sideways move to EFTA/EEA would mean little disruption to trading relations with the European Union while allowing time to negotiate that new ‘arrangement’. The committee may also wish to read the ‘Monographs’  (http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=80999) prepared by eureferendum.com as it would undoubtedly assist them in their deliberations.

As a taxpayer I, along with hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of others, contribute to what some say is a vast expense bill for MP’s office staff – which presumably encapsulates research assistants. Presumably such are employed? If not why not? If such are employed then why is it MPs appear to remain in ignorance of FlexCit, leaving aside many other matters relating to the Brexit question?

I look forward to the courtesy of a response in due course.

Regards,

David Phipps

It is however worth making the point that whether or not a response is received will say a great deal about the state of democracy in this nation.

NB: Link to the Exiting the European Union Select Committee report is here

Update: As I write, pinging into my in-box are emails from the addressees informing me that if I am not a constituent they are unable to help me to go take a running jump.

Naturalisation

When a foreign national seeks citizenship/naturalisaton of their host nation, who should make that decision – those of the community in which the applicant lives; or, as in the United Kingdom, a bureaucratic, box-ticking government department?

Recently, in Switzerland, a case concerning a woman who had lived in Switzerland since she was eight, speaks fluent Swiss German, has three children with Swiss passports, has no criminal record, doesn’t claim welfare and is politically active was rejected. On the face of it, one would have thought she would be a ‘shoo-in’ for a Swiss passport. How wrong you are..

Read the article and you will find the reasons why the outcome of her application was rejected. You will also be able to read the comments to the article, among which is mine.

As I wrote, my view is that only those to whom ‘ownership’ of a nation is a ‘given’ should be able to confer citizenship and the benefits that such brings.

Should that not be the case in our nation, the United Kingdom?

Is there not a case made, in this instance, for ‘people power’ – and should not ‘people power’ be able to decide any matter which affects that people’s nation?

What do my readers think?

Re-announcing a re-announcement

We have today been advised that our government is to tunnel under Stonehenge to convert the present single carriageway of the A303 into dual carriageway.

Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, is quoted, stating:

This government is taking the big decisions for Britain’s future, underlined by our record £15 billion funding for road schemes. This major investment in the south-west will transform the A303 and benefit those locally by cutting congestion and improving journey times. It will also boost the economy, linking people with jobs and businesses with customers – driving forward our agenda to build a country that works for everyone and not just the privileged few.

The only reason this government is taking the big decisions for Britain’s future is because they had no option; as this article, dated 12/01/2014 from Witterings from Witney (my previous blog), shows*.

Not only is Grayling being economical with the actualité but so is Highways England Chief Executive, Jim O’Sullivan.

*It will be noticed that one or two or the links in the WfW article quoted are no longer working, although the important EU links are still viewable.

Home Truths (4)

#4 – a question to politicians and journalists

Whatever we wish to achieve in the future, it must begin by knowing where we are in the present- not where we wish we were, or where we wish others to think we are, but where we are in fact.

Where Brexit is concerned the sooner politicians and political commentators realise the truth contained in the above, the sooner we will be spared what can only be termed their asinine outpourings on this subject.

The conflation, by both politicians and political commentators,  twixt membership of the European Union and access to the Single Market is not only boring, but also frustrating; and does only increase, among those of us who have an understanding of ‘matters EU’, our contempt  of them.

The latest examples of the foregoing can be seen in articles by Matthew d’Ancona in the Guardian and John Rentoul in The Independent – on both of which I have commented. As an aside, the responses to my initial comment on d’Ancona’s comment just illustrates how people can be misled by statements issued by those who are supposed to be all-knowing but aren’t –  and on such misinformation is public opinion formed. In regard to John Rentoul, he obviously does not appear – at the time of writing – to bother to review comments.

So, the question to politicians is: if you so obviously know not about Brexit (or other matter) just why the hell should we elect and re-elect you, or listen/read what are your ill-informed statements; and to journalists, just why the hell should we purchase, or read on-line having paid, in some instances, to overcome what amounts to a form of censorship, the newspapers for which you write?

Just asking………………….