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Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Cash

The crisis at Wirecard has resulted in users of its various brands being cut off from their own funds, and reliant on some one sorting out the unfreezing of the cards.  There are reports of people being scarred by having their access to funds stopped dead even they have money in the bank.  I don' t believe this would be the case if they were using Cash as this legal tender and cannot be refused.

Advocates of a cashless economy need to think the risks through.

This remains a salutary warning even though The UK arm has now resumed operations.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Licensing the Lockdown Easing

The great opening of bars and restaurants is supposedly well under way, although I suspect will take many businesses much more than a week to get their outlets into shape.

Firstly, they will need to configure with 1metre social distancing in mind. Staff will need to be trained in what the rules are possibly on how to deal with "difficult" customers.

Secondly, they will need to get suitable PPE, plastic screens, extra cleaning products and whatever else is needed.

Thirdly, I dare say that many places will to stock up on food and drink and make sure they have regular supplies.

All that may well take longer than a week.

A second question occurs to me, which is who will police all this?  Is it the local authority, the police or the pubs themselves?  Does whoever it is have the staff and money needed?  Are the powers already included in legislation already passed or does something new have to be passed?

Finally, how does the conflict between the need of an outlet and other objectives get resolved?  For stance, in Brent pavements are often narrow and generally owned by the Council.  How does the Council resolve the ambitious targets to increase walking with the possibility of the streets being cluttered with al fresco dining?  Does the cafe have to pay for the use of the highway beyond its own forecourt.  If the restaurants want to vary their operating times from previous ones is the local authority geared to cope with the new applications?

I wish I had confidence that ministers had thought about all this but I suspect they have not.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Mark Sedwill's Departure

It looks like Boris Johnson is betting the UK ranch on an off the cliff Brexit. It will cost the country economically and in national strength for many years yet.  Johnson's own reputation and that of the Tory Party will be mud.  I see no wY of heading it off, however.

The Price of Going Cashless

The Guardian has a short piece on going cashless, and the problems caused to certain groups.  The liberty argument for accepting cash is surprisingly understated. Cash is after all legal tender.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Jenrick Again

It sounds as if the Sunday Times has a significant break through in information on the Jenrick/Westferry case that I alluded to some time ago.

This case has already rung alarm bells with local government in general and planning circles in particular.  Brent has had a a fair share of opaque planning applications.

I shall look forward to what the Sunday Times publishes.

Widening Pavements in Harlesden Town Centre

In Harlesden Town Centre recently, I noticed that one of the pavement widening schemes following the onset of Covid19.  The problem is that it is in the semi-pedestrianised bit by the 18 bus stop opposite Harlesden Methodist Church.  Given that the entire width of the street is available for social distancing, so it seems an priority.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Food Theft and Sainsburys

Some actists in Camden have Stolen food from Sainsburys. I hold no brief for corporate giants, but Sainsbury's have actually been central to feeding the UK during the Covid19 epidemic.  Without it, hunger in the capital would have been far worse. The whole Extinction Rebellion movement needs to rethink what it is doing and whether it will simply alienate the public.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Long-Bailey Sacked from the Shadow Cabinet

Rebecca Long-Bailey has been sacked from the Shadow Cabinet following her retweeting of a Maxine Peake article with an evidence free anti-Semitic reference.

The original article illustrates how anti-semitism appears to have become institionalised in the Labour Party.  The article claimed that Israeli security forces were training some police forces in the USA, and this included the officers responsible for George Floyd's death.  There may be an element of truth that some police and security forces co-operate between the USA and Israel, but I have seen no evidence that the Minnisota police were among them. I find it impossible that training techniques in restraint would include kneeling on some ones neck as it seems perfectly obvious to anyone that that could easily kill some one.

I can only conclude that Israel was dragged in simply because some people are so schooled in an anti-Israeli/Jewish narrative that they assume anything bad must be linked to Israel.

Brexit, Covid19 and More Beside?

While everyone has been arguing about statues and so on, the deadline for applying an EU transition extension is now almost past.  We are therefore facing a no deal Brexit on top of the effects of Covid19. Let us hope that we don't get a second wave and/or a flu epidemic on top.

The remarkable thing is how much of this is the direct choice of the present Conservative government.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Opening Leisure Outlets

The opening of leisure outlets from 4 July, which appears to be based on the latest Brownian motions of Boris Johnson's brain, opens potential for reopening libraries in some form. Although Peterborough's libraries have been returned to the Council, I can't see why the library sector is not subject to the same profit problem as commercial businesses, and would help generate footfall in town centres.

That said forthcoming budget cuts in local government threaten the service.

There is also the odd case of W├Čllesden Library.  Here the nature of the building is that the museum, art gallery and the business that rents there can only operate if the library is open.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

First Commons Defeat for Johnson

Boris Johnson has suffered his first Commons defeat since winning the 2019 election Jeremy Corbyn gifted him.  The issue is bullying of Commons staff where Rees-Mogg wanted MPs to police themselves.  Past experience suggest that this would make the whole scheme unusable by staff.

Brent and Deaths

Brent had more than 3,495 deaths in the twelve weeks up to June 6.  If that is shocking, that it is probably the worst record in the UK. Closely related to the spread of Covid19 of course.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Hancock's App Fades Away

The proposed virus app seems to be fading away. One of the problems ministers have demonstrated, aside from straightforward dishonesty, is a naive faith in technology.  Along side their obvious autocratic tendencies I hope that will be a lesson learnt for future pandemics.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Jenrick's Corruption Scandal

Together with this story, jenrick's position following the Sunday Times this morning seems totally untenable.  His resignation should be followed by a broad inquiry is essential.

UPDATE 24.06.20

Further alleged planning irregularities have appeared in The Jewish Chronicle.

A reminder of the Pergau Dam Disaster

Those unconcerned by the Foreign Office taking over internal aid once again, might to remind themselves of the Pergau dam disaster.  That really was a time when the UK aid budget was treated as a cash point in the sky.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Can Leeds Close All its Libraries?

The Independent reports that Leeds is considering closing all its libraries.

Is this legal?

The answer is that no one has ever tried.  The original law defining Council duties to provide a library service was passed back in 1965 so no one considered the Internet.  Some Councils charge for computer use, implying that do not see it as part of the library duty at all.  The Brent and Draper court cases both suggested it was.

This leaves open the question, can you claim you are providing the service if there are are no library buildings?

That depends on whether a court considers it to be "comprehensive" and "efficient".  I would say that such a service would be inaccessible to many people who live, work or are being educated in Brent.  I would also sspecutas a spectacularly in effective use of the current libraries resources that have been designed the way they are through the libraries transformation.  There would also be the question of how the Council had carried out its assessment of need under the Equality Act and in order a Wirral style review.

While I don't expect a full on closure programme, Brent will certainly be thinking about a massive reduction.  Voices within wanted this In the 2019 budget.  They got cold feet as public opposition became clearer, but they are likely to return to it.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Failing Grayling

The government's constant incompetence with Covid19 is causing me to look with a certain nostalgia on the days when I thought Chris Grayling was the worst it could possibly get.  Odd how perspectives change.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Not Just Statues

The statue debate which has erupted recently should, logically, apply to other things.

Buildings are an obvious example. Banqueting House in Whitehall is historicly important as England's first neoclassical building. It also has an extraordinary painted ceiling by Rubens.

It was built by James VI and I to glorify himself and the Divine Right of Kings as the painted ceiling makes clear without subtlety. His son Charles I used it for the same purpose.  These elitist values might well be offensive to some people.

Others might point out that Charles I was condemned in what can be seen as the world's first war crime trial, and Banqueting House was the scene of his execution.

The double meaning is unusual but the use of a building as a vehicle for a political meaning is not.  Other vehicles include many of other forms of art such as painting, music, murals, photographs and so on. Many of our institutions such as museums and universities were founded using arguably tainted money.

Are we really going to engage in a cultural erasure programme of these things every few years in a Fahreinheit 451 way?

And would such an exercise not simply be a distraction from the hard grind of actually eradicating deep seated problems such as institional racism?

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

What Happened to Taking Back Control of Our Borders?

At the start of this Parliament, the Home Secretary announced an immigration bill which disappeared and announced again in May.

This promised a points based system based on having an income above a certain level and "skills".  It does not seem to pay attention to economic needs such the Labour demands for seasonal workers or the needs of sectors such as hospitality or of public services such as the NHS or adult social care.

Since then in a stark reversal from the Tory decisions of the 19o0s, many more people from Hong Kong will be allowed in apparently without reference to points.

At the same time, the Home Office appears to be continuing Sajid Javid's decision to strip a UK national of citizenship on the grounds that someone else might make her a citizen.  This puts the citizenship of millions of people in danger.

The Home Secretary appears not to be concerned about localised surges in population growth.

Finally, the government is determined not to extend the EU withdrawal agreement beyond Christmas.  Any businesses surviving the virus will just have to take what hits them in 2021.

The government proposed to deal with damage to trade by not implementing any tariffs for imports in a manner that is contrary to the rule of law and makes our markets vulnerable to social dumping. It is also effectively admitting that leaving the EU damages the economy.

Does any of this have any coherence at all?

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Legal Lockdown

Local Authorities are complaining about the legal authority for a Local lockdown.

The same problems apply to various other measures that the government put forward.  The legal authority for the police to enforce face covering on public transport is far from clear' and judging by the government's general dithering, subject to change.

It really isn't fair for the public, the police or transport staff to be treated this way by ministers.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Furlough in Brent

I notice that Brent Central has the highest percentage of furloughed workers in the UK (45.7%).

Furlough simply delays redundancy unless the economy picks up rapidly so this may mean the local economy is in for a big hit later in the year.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Local Authorities Going Bankrupt

Local Authorities are in danger of going bankrupt as they tackle the extra costs of the virus.  Remember that these costs come on top of snowballing cuts and increasing demands as a result of a decade of Tory misrule anyway.

Anyone who believes the government promises that the virus costs will be met is I suspect extremely innocent.

The implications of a local authority ceasing to function for say care homes or track and trace would seriously impede the national effort.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Bore Outs

The French have apparently decided that a job can be so boring that it damage you and that you can be awarded damages as a result.  If this spreads to the UK, we may see an epidemic of law suits from those obliged to listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Friday, 12 June 2020

False Addresses

Priti Patel's absurd quarantine rules stipulate that you must give an address where you will self isolate for 14 days but that would be challenged if it was "manifestly false".  This reminds me of an incident recounted in Amartya Sen's Identity and Violence where he recalls being challenged by an official at the airport about his address at the Master's Lodge at Trinity College, and whether he was a good friend of the Master.  The absurdity was that he was the incumbent Master at the time.

Identity warriors who want to organise society according to some sort of solitary identity hierarchy based on a supposed historic victimhood might also ponder the quote given elsewhere in that book of Gandhi's comment at the 1930 London Conference "Imagine a whole society vivisected and torn in pieces; how could it be unified into a nation?"

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Statues and Editing the Past

I find attempts to edit our various monuments really quite beside the point and much more about signalling than actually tackling the often complex problems involved.  As with this piece  in the Independent, the author discusses which statues he dislikes rather the far more important issues around racial inequality that he is supposed to be worrying.  It is rather like a fossil fuel company "greenwashing" to distract from dealing with emissions.

Firstly his list is arbitrary, and simply based on his own knowledge.  Since he refers to Colston (died 1721) as contempory with Wilberforce (born 1759), we can assume that this is not extensive.  He also seems not to see why some figures have multiple messages.

For instance Oliver Cromwell is a well established figure for the Irish (although some argue that his massacres were conventional war practices for the time), but he was a complex figure who changed over time.  He can be seen as a champion of Parliament against Royal tyranny or as a man who overthrew Parliament.  He can be understood as an English/ British patriot or as an oppressor of these islands in whole or part. His parliamentary statue was erected as a symbol of non-Anglican Protestantism, a largely forgotten cause now. In other words, like Churchill, how you view him depends on which parts of his life you choose to emphasise.

This is important not least because the judgement changes according to fashion and the individual concerned, yet the statue is there for the whole community.

Does Nelson deserve his place in Trafalgar Square as a national saviour from invasion or should he lose it as a slave owner? Should George Washington be in the same Square despite being a slave owner and as someone who defeated the British in war? Does Henry Havelock get in the same Square as a British champion or should he be removed as a colonialist?

Is it really sensible to try to edit the urban environment in this way to bring into line with current thinking, or should we not just accept that all landscapes are a compendium of decisions made over a long time rather than one particular moment?

If this sort of editing has any place, it is a due process based on accurate information and made by accountable people, preferably (given the subjectivity) elected ones.  The alternative is a rather ugly picture of kulturkampf dominated by violence and the threat of violence.

UPDATE 12.06.20

I see that some of the statues being vandalised have nothing to with the supposed.  This includes Queen Victoria being labelled a slave owner (She wasn't) and Robert the Bruce in Bannockburn as a "racist king".

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

The Guardian Appeals for Brent Experiences

In light of Brent's awful infection record, the Guardian is appealing for accounts of people living in Brent here.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Keeping Clean Air After Covid19

Some interesting examples of promoting clean air after Covid19 Here.  This all appears to be uncertain at present as our rudderless government lurches from one contradictory announcement to the next.  One moment Grant Shapps is promoting car use, the next he is trying to ease public transport use.  Then it is back to discouraging public transport with higher fares for children.

Monday, 8 June 2020

The Colston Statue

The toppling of the Colston statue in Bristol strikes me as yet another of these symbolic protests that distracts from actually solving problems to just making people feel good about themselves.

There are plenty of demonstrable ways in which various ethnic groups are disadvantaged compared to the population average. Solving such problems, which are probably multi-causal, takes time, data, persistence and a certain amount of political guts.  Much simpler to throw a statue off a quay as a gesture to yourself while leaving the hard work of really changing things to others.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

NHS Anger

The sheer anger shown by NHS CEO Chris Hopson at being bounced into a reorganisation by government ministers with no notice was extraordinary. On the Today programme, Justin Webb could not get a word in. I think ministers literally have no conception of how work is needed to get large oeganisat├Čns to do things.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Badly Thought Out Slogans

A decidedly ill thought out slogan i have seen recently was for the use of COVID19 masks. It was "Wear a mask; pass it on." Do people never think these things through?

Friday, 5 June 2020

What Boris Johnson's Word is Worth

A few days ago, Boris Johnson was in front of the Commons liaison committee and was about the no recourse to public funds rule.  He gave the impression of knowing nothing about, but promised to review it.

A few days later, he seems to have backtracked on the review.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

European Transition

I understand that the Northern Ireland Assembly has requested that the UK has apply for an extension to the current EU agreement.  I have no doubt that the vast majority of MPs, although they will no longer being allowed a constituonal vote following Rees-Mogg's Purge.

The alternative is the nightmare of an off the cliff exit from the EU at the same time as a second wave in COVID19.

Indeed that may have been the intention of the purge.


Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Mogg's Purge

The farcical Commons vote yesterday whereby dozens of MPs will henceforth be unable to vote in Parliament is  (I think) the first such purge since Colonel Pride in the interregnum.

Effectively, we have had a coup d'etat via a proceedual vote.

Who would have thought Rees-Mogg would be the one to bring us back to this kind of republicanism?

UPDATE 03.06.20

I notice that the government appears now to be backtracking and allowing shielded MPs to vote remotely after all.  Why doesn't the government ever seen to get it right the first time round?

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Jeremy Corbyn and the EHRC

Jeremy Corbyn is making a pre-emotive attack on the EHRC ahead of what is expected to be a highly critical report on antisemitism under his leadership.

No surprise there. The alternative would be to accept responsibility.

I am surprised by his belief that Churchill was antisemitic, as Jews were the one "ethnic" group that Churchill liked.  At least that is the account given by Sir Martin Gilbert in his Churchill and the Jews.