Tagged: UK

Something Worth Reading

This is an excellent article about the current misconceptions held by both sides in the Brexit debate, and it also supplies some basic facts about life in Europe that may well surprise everyone. I am unable to reblog or copy the piece, but here is a link to it and I am sure you would enjoy reading the refreshing facts.

Everything you know about Europe is wrong

Iran, Holidays, and Absent Leaders

Well, things are starting with a bang in 2020, that’s for sure.

The US President sanctions an attack that kills people in Iraq, including the second most powerful man in Iran, the head of the Revolutionary Guard, and a revered general.

He approved that killing from his luxury holiday retreat in Florida.
He saw no good reason to return to Washington D.C.

At the same time, the UK government sent British warships close to Iranian waters, patrolling the Strait of Hormuz, The official line is that they are there to ‘protect British merchant ships’.

The new UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, approved this deployment from his holiday villa on the luxury island of Mustique.
He was renting the villa with his girlfriend, at a cost of £20,000 a week. That’s around £4,000 more than someone on minimum wage earns in a YEAR.
He saw no good reason to return to London.

Across vast areas of Australia, devastating bush fires have killed many people, untold millions of wild animals, and made thousands homeless.
One of the reasons why it has been so hard to fight the fires is the government cutbacks to emergency services in that country, leading to an unusually high dependence on unpaid volunteer firefighters. Some of whom have been killed.

Yet the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, initially saw no good reason to return from his luxury holiday in Hawaii.

So America could be facing some kind of extensive and prolonged war with Iran, and possibly having to fight once again in Iraq.
Britain could well be dragged into that too, as one of the main allies of the US.
Australia has never seen bush fires like this in its history, and they are still burning.

But as long as all three leaders don’t have to cancel their luxury holidays, that’s all right then.

Media Diversions

Over the past weeks, anyone watching the TV news, or reading a newspaper, will have noticed two main stories. First and foremost, the fiasco in America concerning the appointment of a Supreme Court Judge, and the allegations of historical sexual assault that followed his nomination. This may well be very significant to people in America, and the story naturally picked up on the #metoo movement that began with the Harvey Weinstein case. I can see that it has a broader appeal, given that it allows abused women to finally speak up, and hopefully stop such things happening in the future.

But it was also the main feature on the BBC News here, every day for weeks. Not only that, but they relayed the entire hearings live, for hours on end during the afternoon. It got so that a newshound like me was wondering if anything else was happening, anywhere on Earth.

The second story that was pumped out by the media in the UK was the constant division in our political parties, caused by the Brexit arguments, alleged anti-semitism, and the circus that is the politics of Northern Ireland. Of course, we are interested in what happens with Brexit. We might also be interested in whether or not we can expect the awful Boris Johnson to become our next Prime Minister. But in the middle of Brexit squabbles, and the unforgivable actions of an unrepentant Judge in America, it seemed that little else was happening.

But it was.

The war continued in Syria. Soldiers and civilians were still dying there, and in Afghanistan. American interventions in Niger, Chad, Mali, and Somalia were all going unreported, and the Saudi/US war against rebels and civilians in Yemen continued to supply potentially horrific headlines. Things were getting no better for the Muslim minorities in Myanmar, and the flood of economic migrants to southern Europe continued unabated.

Supreme Court appointments and Brexit arguments may be worthy of the news, I don’t doubt that. But they should follow more serious world events, not lead them. If this doesn’t change, we will not only be in danger of being misinformed, as is often claimed, but uninformed, which I think is even worse.

President Trump in Europe

As I have previously mentioned, I hold no brief for any American president, and have not liked a single one I have seen during my lifetime. Kennedy was an unfaithful womaniser, and a liar. Johnson was also a liar, and Nixon topped them both by taking blatant lying to a new level. Ford was unimpressive, Reagan seemed mad, (and lied) both of the Bush family are best forgotten, and Bill Clinton was a womaniser and a liar. (That again) Obama knew how to play the game, but kept few promises, and didn’t achieve much for people of colour, the poor, or women, all of which was expected from him.

So, that covers my life from the age of 9, until the year 2016. But one thing about all those former presidents is worth mentioning. They all knew how to behave in public. They understood the ‘game’, and how to play it on the international stage. Some may have been caught out with their sexual indiscretions, or behind the scenes deals and interference in other countries. But they spoke well, and (most of the time) appeared to be dignified, and statesman-like. They represented their country as we had come to expect them to, with concern for their allies, and suitable expression of the power behind their office, at least on the surface.

The along comes Donald Trump. He throws away the rule book. He has no class or style, treating his job as if he is the CEO of The World. He is a womaniser, and he lies, so no change there, but he doesn’t really hide either fact, preferring to boast about his conquests and bad behaviour like men drinking in a bar. He doesn’t know how to speak in public, let alone how to behave. By appealing to the lowest common denominator, he attracts a lot of support in his own country, whilst alienating almost every other country on Earth. Using his daughter as The First Lady is just too creepy for words. She always looks under control, never happy to be doing what she is doing. He goes to NATO and talks to other leaders as if they work for him, and are not being productive enough. Then he comes to Britain and upsets just about everyone you can think of, even those who want to be his friend.

In 2016, I thought he might learn. He was inexperienced as a politician, but obviously no fool, nor the buffoon he was painted in the press. He made clever use of social media, and could have used his business skills to learn from those around him, perhaps really making ‘America Great Again’. But he got rid of everyone who knew what they were doing, and replaced them with a succession of yes men and women who follow his lead. I have rarely seen such displays of arrogance from the leader of a powerful western nation, at least not since newsreels of Mussolini, or the overwhelming self-confidence and condescension displayed by Margaret Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister in the UK. He lives in a world he reinvents day by day, in his own head.

A note to America. You really should try to stop him leaving your country on these visits.

Gender inequality in the workplace

There was a recent law passed here in Britain. It compels companies with more than 250 staff to divulge whether or not they pay people different rates of pay for the same or similar jobs, based on gender. Watching news reports today, I was interested to hear that some companies have started to comply with this law, rather than face prosecution for non-disclosure. Even to a cynical person like me, those results are shocking. Many well-known companies are apparently happy to report that they pay female employees up to 15% less than men on average, for doing the same or similar job, often working side by side.

Over 500 companies have so far declared their results. Large employers including Easyjet, Ladbrokes, Virgin, Rolls Royce, Premier Foods, the BBC, and the Co-Op Bank report quite staggering pay differentials. Up to 50% less in Easyjet, 30% less in the Co-Op Bank, and 11% less at the BBC. So far, only two employers, The British Museum, and the UK Armed Forces, have stated a zero difference in pay based on gender.

These companies need to check the calendar. It is 2018, not 1918. It is over 90 years since women properly got the vote in this country. Almost 50 years since the founding of the Women’s Liberation Movement here, and 39 years since we first had a female Prime Minister. This archaic and unacceptable practice of paying female employees a lesser salary has to stop. And not only should the government be compelling companies to publish these statistics, they should be forcing them to eliminate this pay difference, making it illegal not to do so.

We currently have our second female Prime Minister. Does she get paid less than her male predecessor? Of course not. Do our law-makers in parliament receive less pay if they are women? They do not. But these same women in power, alongside their male colleagues on the same salaries, are happy to make the companies publish these figures, without appearing to be prepared to do anything about the results.

Decision day tomorrow

The debate about the EU referendum here has hotted up considerably over the last week. Last night, I watched a debate on BBC News 24, attended by over six thousand people. Each side had three speakers to plead their case, and to answer questions from the audience. In amongst all the mud-slinging, the counter allegations and accusations, real facts were few and far between. But there can be no real facts, simply because nobody really knows what will happen if this country votes to leave the EU. They can only presume, surmise, or scare-monger. The speakers wanting us to leave also quoted huge sums of money that would be saved, and how borders will be secured, as well as jobs suddenly becoming available for the millions of unemployed here. But they are also making presumptions that cannot be backed up with facts.

The young people were unduly preoccupied with freedom of travel, and the right to work abroad. But of those speaking, I doubt any genuinely had a deep desire to start their careers in France, Germany, or Greece. I cannot realistically see some young people from Lancashire going to work on the land in Slovenia, or a group of friends from London heading over to the Czech Republic, to work on a building site in Prague. Would a graduate from one of our red-brick universities want to travel to Lithuania to work in a Starbuck’s in Vilnius? I think not. Freedom to work and travel is not about enjoying a gap year in Tuscany, or picking grapes in the Loire Valley before starting at college. No more than it is about a stag weekend in Bucharest, or a hen party trip to Dublin.

The Europeans who come here to work mostly do the least popular jobs, for the lowest pay. Even though they might be well-educated in their own country, speak a foreign language well, and have an academic background, you will find them washing old people in care homes, picking crops for a pittance, or waiting at tables in a themed restaurant. They do it because they have to, not necessarily because they want to. How many young British people can be found in the other twenty-seven countries, doing menial jobs? I don’t have the answer, but will make an educated guess that it is close to zero. They might work in Banking or Insurance in Zurich, or Geneva. They could be posted to one of their company’s foreign branches on a training programme, or to be a trainer themselves. But they are unlikely to be serving the coffee during the morning break, I assure you.

There are some young Britons who go to places like Ibiza, or the Greek islands. They work in bars, in discos, sell ice creams, tickets, time-shares, and hire out everything from scooters to pedalos. But they are not economic migrants. They are sun-seekers, paying for long holidays with whatever jobs they can find. The truth is that British people, young or old, have rarely sought work in foreign countries since the end of the days of Empire, adventure, and fortunes to be made. They do not usually bother to learn a foreign language either, trusting that someone nearby will speak English. The smattering of German or French that they are taught at school is almost never developed past ordering a meal, or buying a train ticket. Freedom to work and travel? I really don’t know what they are on about.

There was a lot of talk about racism being the only motivation for those wanting to vote ‘Leave.’ This is an easy stone to throw, given that the Far Right groups obviously want us to quit the EU. But if 45% of the British public are currently in favour of leaving, does that mean they are all racists? Of course not. Many of the pro-leave speakers were black or Asian, so that scuppered that argument too.

The issue of the referendum has divided this country like nothing else I can recall in my sixty-four years. That has to be a good thing, whatever the outcome. Apathy no longer rules. Most people have an opinion, and a fiercely-held and argued one at that. Whether we vote to leave the EU tomorrow, which I still think is highly unlikely, or stay in for what is likely to be forever, we have all won. Because we argued, we debated, we got off of our bums and voted, and something finally meant enough for us to do it.

At last.

Bombing in Syria

As I type this, the UK government has voted to extend the bombing campaign into Syria, supporting the French, Americans, and Russians who are already doing this. The supposed intention is to counter the efforts of IS, and attack their command centres, as well as destroying their infrastructure, and degrading their military capability. We are told that this will result in the citizens of the UK being safe from terrorist attacks, and that the world will be free of the scourge of IS.

Even the staunchest advocates of this escalation know that this is a ridiculous claim. No guerrilla army has ever been defeated by bombing alone. It is also clearly stated that there are over 70,000 ‘friendly fighters’ currently battling with IS in Syria, yet there are only 30,000 ‘volunteers’ in this terrorist army, that is apparently invincible, without the intervention by the air forces of the western allies. Tornado jets will be leaving East Anglia tonight, to make their mark by hitting their first ‘priority’ targets.

Is there anyone left that actually believes this nonsense? The sole objective of all of this is to try to remove President Assad, and replace him with a pro-western alternative. The Russians at least are fairly blatant in their support of Assad, openly admitting that they are attacking other anti-government factions, as well as IS. With Turkey as part of NATO, how long will it be before the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and the PKK fighters on the Syrian border are also targeted, as a sop to the Turks?
Then there is the financial cost of this folly. An RAF aircraft carries bombs and missiles. The bombs cost over £30,000 each, and the missiles almost £72,000. On the TV news earlier, an obscured RAF officer was interviewed talking about destroying JCB diggers, heavy trucks, and bulldozers, as they can be used to build defensive positions by IS. Are they really flying all that way, to drop £200,000 worth of ordnance on a bulldozer? I doubt that. Compare this expenditure with government cuts to the NHS, Old Peoples’ Services, Local Government Councils, and community projects. A few days of extensive bombing could pay for all of these.

Given the fluidity of this war, and the lack of real intelligence on the ground, how can they possibly expect, or even hope, to hit actual IS positions? And how can they claim to be able to destroy them without serious consequences for innocent civilians in those areas? IS will not be defeated by these actions. President Assad may lose his grip on a country further ravaged by war, but the vacuum left behind may leave everyone in a far worse situation. And as for the radicalisation of young men and women in the home countries, and more volunteers willing to travel to Syria to fight for the fundamentalists, that can only be increased by this policy.

Another foreign escapade that will come back to haunt the innocent, undoubtedly.