Saturday, 10 June 2017

Hung Parliament

Our nation is one of the greatest nations in the World and most certainly in Europe. Viewed from the perspective of our friends and neighbours in the near Continent, this great nation seems engaged in collective long term stupidity. We want to sever relationships with our friends. At the end of the day, despite leading a very successful campaign, Labour is still a long way from government. The Tory leader (who I never felt very comfortable over) ran a terrible campaign (the visit to Eshott airfield really started to raise my eyebrows). But at the end of the day she had increased the Tory share of the vote but lost her majority. The Tories both in Parliament and the Nation remain CLEARLY the most powerful force and eclipse the Left. Yet the overwhelming power they sought eludes. Possibly because in a democracy we don't want anyone to have overwhelming power? The person who rescued the Tories was a lesbian about to marry Scot. Ruth Davidson is incredible and if you want the appealing politics of inclusivity, Mrs May should take much more advice from her than the party of the Paisleys. Do not be mistaken, the DUP are not and have never been the Ulster Conservatives. No way and never. I am not surprised Arleen Foster is relishing the idea of her politic being at the centre of British life for five years. No matter the British government is neutral with Ulster politicians to ensure the (currently broken down because of Foster) power sharing. So I think an alliance with the DUP is easily as nutty as the Referendum of 2016. We are simply as a nation not being "real". We are still pretty much unwilling to see the Referendum for what it was. We are unwilling to face down the UKIP mindset. Instead Mrs May has done her best to embrace it. I have no idea whether the proposed arrangement will last five years or a weekend. I am sure however that once Brexit negotiations start and we are forced to face the reality of saying we wish to leave the EU faced with the united 27 nations, several more wheels will depart ftom the crazed vehicle that has been British poliitics since 2014.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Our candidate called

Last night about 7.30pm, a knock on the door. It was our candidate Guy Opperman with one of Prudhoe's newly elected councillors Gordon Stewart working their way around the street. In seven years as our MP Guy has worked incredibly hard and when it comes to his willingness to meet anyone and pound the tarmac, he is faultless. He has willingly worked on railway matters with myself and colleagues. There are many reasons why he should have my vote but I will be struggling. Very little said about Brexit in this election so far but north of the Border, if the SNP receive a strong show of support, our UNION is in great difficulty over it. I think the concept of Brexit is questionable at the least. And I think the way we have set it about so far, referendum and all, is totally ridiculous. I could live outside the EU but not outside the Common Market or Custom's Union. Nuances millions would have to take time to dissect. Further, in this campaign, the Social Care issue has boiled up. Here we positively benefit from the utterly different ways Scots do things. Guy asked me how will you pay for it? My reply: not with a lottery. Pretty poor show if as a society we are not willing to share the costs and the benefits to everyone. A modern carehome boarded up a mile away is the local index to the issue.  It lies at the heart of Tory philosopy that people can work hard, improve themselves from the lottery of birth and pass that wealth to their children. A highly unpredictable death tax utterly undercuts that and in our community with its house prices will be deleterious. During the day I also met Wesley Foot who is representing the Greens. I think he is one to watch. A smart local, a businessman himself. So that leaves Labour and the LibDems. Will their candidates knock on the door? For me, the likely final point of decision will be the Prudhoe hustings 5th June 1930 in the Anglican church.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Tories offer nothing for young and old people

Earlier this week, we were asking what do the Tories offer young people. This morning, & rather to my surprise: what do the Tories offer old people? The new manifesto is apparently about to lob a series of grenades at the older generation. A Great Christian Nation should unavoidably and indivisibly be founded on Christ's great instruction to care for those in need. The demands of old age are so variable that the only fair solution is the pooling of social care. It sounds as if we are about to fly from this and that everyone can expect in old age to have their assets reduced to £100,000. Only the filthy rich will ever hand on the wealth they have created for their children. For most people there were will be no incentive to save whatsoever. I was brought up on an utter (and I thought Tory) mantra of save and avoid debt. But of course ever since that 1983 election, it has been chip, chip chip. I said a while back that I anticipate dying in penury and some friends laughed. I am more confident than ever that if I pass the threshold of 80 this is how I will end my days; in poverty, with no wealth to give my child (whose university education I have not the faintest idea of how to pay for). All because I tried to save! If it was not for the generous social care package available in Scotland I have not the faintest idea how the last 10 years with a none too well mother in law would have been managed. The Scots do think differently. Ever since I married one, I have been told that. We are a society that cares, quizzical look at me from south of the Border, do you understand? I do. DO NOT VOTE TORY if you want a future, unless you carry half a million with you. The Brexit business has already stuffed our future for our children free in Europe and now (perhaps because she really has no idea how to pay for Brexit (hence Chancellor/PM tension yesterday)), the nation is being told, you're ordinary folk, don't try and save, just get used to reducing your expectations. Does any of this rings bells for you or am I on some strange island of my own?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Northumberland Local Election Result 2017

So what explains the Northumberland result? A nest of things, some external, some self induced created the perfect storm for Labour. I am sure the larger Brexit factor and the Corbyn leadership played a role. But they far from account for this. It must be said the Conservatives worked very hard. In Prudhoe their two candidates had been making a difference for months. In Tynedale in general the notices in the Courant affair will undoubtedly had an impact. Substantially the Valley has felt whether it comes to Roads, Planning, Schools, utterly neglected. Don't forget the Post 16 School Travel Row and that impacts beyond Tynedale. The Tories say they will re-instate the payments. A major matter through the county has been the County Hall removal. How could this make friends? Removed to a town without even a railway station or early prospect of one. Again the Tories promise to reverse this. At the end of the day the Tories cannot simply produce a majority administration and going forward it will be fascinating to see who they team with and then whether their programme retains their commitments and how they get paid for. But fair doos, I congratulate Northumberland's Tories on a great result and I look forward to hearing what Mr Corbyn has done by end of day.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Railfreight and the Explosion Musuem

Freight! This is rail freight. Each of these inert mines in the magazine at the Explosion museum in Gosport is on a narrow gauge wagon (not those floating sky high in the roof area of course). This was Monday 10th April 2017 during Aunt Anne's funeral wake. It was not my idea to hold this in the Explosion Museum but it was a dammed good idea. The Navy based catering was excellent. The views superb. Whoever has displayed this museum has had a keen sense of the surreal. The internal architecture and subject matter lend themselves to this. In these uncertain times, when we all urged to loyalty, and pulling together (as you do in a harbour), it is difficult to strike the balance between being a good team person, never wanting to disappoint, but somehow deep down in the heart feeling that the nation has taken corporate leave of its senses and not really being totally convinced that we will recover them on June 8th. I hope we do but I suspect my fading years will all be about enjoying Brexit, rediscovering how great it is to pour scorn on the neighbours and their plans. Portsmouth is a wonderful place to get a handle on this. The Mary Rose is a lasting testimony to the practice of Euroscepticism in action. Whilst the Victory shows the extent of the victory possible against wrong headed continental thought. Behind Portsmouth (and I had not seen any of this before) the Portsdown line of forts (and Fort Nelson) which is open to the public are simply breath-taking. Fort Nelson reminded me how the cult of the volunteer and the amateur (the Victorian Militias) underpin so much of British life. The true Brit cannot be confined by rule and process and that was the European mistake! (or so we imagine for the narrative). Anyway providence is remarkable, my short break to the heart of the British Navy is within the week followed up by the unexpected (to everyone but Drew Blane) call to election arms. The lady in Bristol (was'nt it?) sounded a bit put out. I don't know if I am put out or not. I do know, really know, we have to get beyond the last four years somehow, and I know who I blame for the last four years and it is not actually Mr Corbyn!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Abandoning the Hard Shoulder

Abandoning the Hard Shoulder: nowadays we certainly do not travel Britain as we used to. It either tends to be very expensive or else by car moderately to rather terrifying. Throughout my life there has been a Hampshire connection. As it turns out both myself and Fiona come with this. Her mother's only brother married and spent much of his life until death in Gosport. My father's sister married a notable submarine commander (that's Gosport too, although they lived in Bishops Waltham, Petersfield and East Meon). So from our young years Fiona and I travelled across Britain. It looks like we had both been on HMS Victory by the time we were seven.

And then a niece married and moved into West Hampshire. Somewhat bizarrely the Aunt died on 21st March (too many of my relatives have died in March), the day Lisa gave birth to Tallula Kitty. In the recent past the Hampshire connection has brought visits in 1997, 2001 (the weekend foot and mouth hit, we were in Portchester Crematorium), 2011 for a wedding and aunt visit and now last week 2017 for another visit to the Crem. (which is very well maintained and a fine piece of municipal architecture). We were driving three of us and we had to go from Prudhoe to Keswick to find our daughter at a church weekend before returning to the M6.

Four nights therefore in the Holiday Inn Express at Farlington, the end of the M27. I can recommend that. Reasonable, does the job, good breakfast, quiet rooms, LARGE family rooms. Clean but not over fussy. Three very full and very pleasant days, museumed out in Portsmouth, seeing many things I had not seen before like Mary Rose, Jutland Exhibition (a bit depressing), the superb wooden boat section of the Dockyard, Explosion and Fort Nelson (Iraqui super gun and the railway gun). All full on octane experiences with the obligatory harbour tour producing the head photo of HMS Duncan. Evenings got us to the new baby and beautiful pub dinner in Rockbourne and what was more or less a private charter in April sunlight of the Hayling Island railway.

A great time had by all and I think since we left home, only today is it really raining. But back to my heading? You may recollect that Duncan in Thomas the Tank was a troublesome engine, too short a wheelbase. The photo is HMS Duncan under a lot of covers. This class of new destroyers is the Type 45. They have a problem, they don't like hot water, I rather imagine Duncan complained about this too. From Wikipedia "First Sea Lord Admiral Philip Jones clarified that the "WR-21 gas turbines were designed in extreme hot weather conditions to what we call “gracefully degrade” in their performance, until you get to the point where it goes beyond the temperature at which they would operate... we found that the resilience of the diesel generators and the WR-21 in the ship at the moment was not degrading gracefully; it was degrading catastrophically, so that is what we have had to address." So Duncan and sisters are having a lot of modifications.

The Dockyard is also gearing up to receive imminently the new aircraft carriers. These are so large that an enormous dredging operation is going on (finding World War Two ordnance). All fascinating for the ship spotter. Portsmouth Harbour thereby remains very busy. According to the museum for the carriers 40 computer systems are being spiralled into 4. I hope it all works and they have plenty of built in redundancy. Unlike our motorways where for the first time we encountered Smart Motorways. They did not seem any less crowded than the others, but they were much more mentally demanding and worrisome.

In all we drove 978 miles and not much in the three full days in Hampshire. And the queues, the accidents, the terrible driving, the cars weaving back and forth lanes. Each way the Oxford bypass had shunts. We saw very few police but rather more ambulances. Sometimes it was so bad I resorted to my renowned improvisation, so we saw the A50 and the Stoke D road. Coming back we had close acquaintance with Hathern and Long Eaton.

You may tell I don't like Smart motorways. I think they are anything but. But they fit the long term Westminster mentality: don't spend money, fend off the problem. They are in a line with Type 45, and aircraft carriers too big for their harbours and without planes to fly. We have at times been renowned for redundancy. The wooden walls, the Dreadnoughts were designed with it in view. Excess strength, in numbers and design.

But after the war in 1945 we felt we could not keep up. Schemes which we led with like Blue Streak, TSR2, APT were all marked by a failure to persevere. Meantime other areas of public life faced the same mentality. Beeching hatcheted railways we are now having to rebuild. In fact the network carries more passengers than in 1947 but there is no redundancy. There are no spare trains. It cannot be afforded they say. The Health System is the same and people suffer and die because of our unwillingness to embrace redundancy.

Recently the biggest single example of the lack of caution that denying redundancy breeds, has been the referendum. All the checks and balances you would normally expect forgotten about. No safe margin in the vote for the answer, no requirement for a majority across each of the four nations.

Britain is a great country and I am a patriot, brought up by patriots. But it is unwise and my parents would have agreed to run a country without plenty of redundancy and they would never have understood a smart motorway!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Eve of Article 50?

R4 in the last 40 minutes: state of the Roads, Social Care crisis (not enough workers who can't be paid for anyway) and the fearsome process of Brexit. Surprise news to the fanatics you cannot simply "leave the EU". It is will be an intricate and very time consuming process. Not on R4 but our secondary school has written to us soliciting voluntary contributions to running costs (not some nice appeal for a new rowing boat or the like), part of the debate about how many schools are losing out in funding. Meanwhile there is a local scandal for one secondary which had until days ago a boarding wing. This has abruptly closed and some pupils who already lived 35 miles away have had it suggested by the County that they might consider Peterlee!!!! Crass, crass. As for the roads, my trip to Shildon has enough to say about that, especially the road to Scales Cross from Branch End. So what is this ramble about? Yes, I think signing Article 50 ought to be delayed. Perhaps we do need another election, although I can see many challenges in that. But the big truth, one May's predecessors have been trying to set out: Brexit now would be a folly. I have no doubts it imperils the British union (and those who say Brexit would be worth that are fools: better if they campaigned for England to leave the UK). But what we really need now as a nation is politicians of most colours willing to face down the idiots, fess up to the terrible process Brexit has been, and say that was a big mistake. Let us not dig the hole any deeper. Steady the ship and deal with real challenges rather than largely imagined ones. I am sure the shock of Brexit is such that some effective renewal of EU membership on terms that do accommodate real and valid concerns would be possible and in EVERYONE's interest here and on the Continent. Representatives of democracy do YOUR JOB and do not let popularism rule for that is not British Democracy.