Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Another "Well Done" moment for the Brexiters

While Jeremy Corbyn regards the EU as a capitalist conspiracy against the proletariat and the Tory Right regards the EU as a threat to the British Empire, EU institutions start the work of separating the UK from the world's most successful international organisation. We learn today that the European Investment Bank has, in effect, closed the doors on further medium and long term loans to public bodies and companies in the UK. The Daily Express accuses the EIB of being "bitter". Like so many in the Brexit camp, they simply don't understand that you can't have the benefits of being a member of the club if you resign and walk away from the club. If you aren't prepared to live by the rules, stop whinging when you can't get access to what those rules entitle you.

The loss of EIB investment could have a serious long term damaging effect on the economy, business growth and the establishment of high tech businesses in the UK. Well done Brexiters. That's yet another fine mess you've gotten us into.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A visit to the Comfrey Project

Comfrey Project Bensham Aug 17 (6)

I visited the Comfrey Project in Bensham, Gateshead, today. An interesting operation that aims to support refugees while working with the local community on local food production. I am hoping to go back to do a talk on self-sufficiency at some point soon. The Project has a cafe and volunteers grow many of the ingredients. I am hoping there is an opportunity to involve them in local food networks in which surplus food grown in local gardens and allotments is swapped.

Comfrey Project Bensham Aug 17 (7)

Comfrey Project Bensham Aug 17 (3)

Comfrey Project Bensham Aug 17 (5)

Comfrey Project Bensham Aug 17 (4)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Visiting High Spen Hop Garden

Hop Garden High Spen Aug 17 (1)

The Hop Garden in High Spen is a community run allotment in which residents can have a go at gardening and can pick the fruit and vegetables for themselves. I have visited it a number of times before and on Friday I made a return visit in response to a call by the organisers to help shift the abundance of windfall apples they have. In return I took up a stack of quail eggs and a load of rhubarb. I have both is excessive abundance at home! A suitable swap was made.

Bizarrely, this is exactly the sort of sustainable, green activity over which the Labour Party in Blaydon constituency attacked me in the general election.

Hop Garden High Spen Aug 17 (3)

Hop Garden High Spen Aug 17 (2)

Friday, August 18, 2017

The UK's Trump style wall

One of the key hopes of Brexit supporters is the imposition of extensive border controls. Leaving the EU, they told us, would give the UK the ability to control who comes in to the country. An impenetrable iron curtain of gleaming razor wire, pill boxes and border guards would keep out all those foreigners intent of coming to the UK to work, pay taxes and win medals for us at international sporting events.

Quite how the government's newly announced proposals for our only land border to be "seemless" and totally open squares with the top Brexit demand of taking control of our borders is almost impossible to answer. After March 2019, anyone wanting to enter the UK simply has to come via Ireland. Taking control of our borders? That only works with a Trump style wall and the government has already indicated that will not be built. This key demand of Brexit is therefore unworkable, as is the case with so many other hopes of the Brexit lobby.

Meeting Marley Hill Bowling Club

Jonathan Wallace at Marley Hill Bowls Club Aug 17

Gateshead are undertaking a review of bowling greens and the likelihood is that many will be mothballed if they are not taken over by the clubs currently using them. I strongly support the idea that organisations of local users are better placed to take on the running of local facilities. Gateshead is pursuing this course of action because of austerity. It is something I believe should be implemented regardless of whether or not the government is cutting our funding.

Yesterday therefore I had a meeting with Marley Hill Bowling Club to talk them through what they need to do to be able to take over the bowling green. It was a useful and at times entertaining meeting. Members of the club are keen to go ahead and I have promised to do all I can to help them. Sadly I had to turn down the offer of a game of bowls as I had other tasks to carry out after the meeting.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Blaming the Allies for the Second World War

It seems that the saga of the Trump comments on Charlottesville's white supremacist parade is not going away and is indeed being fueled by Trump himself. His attempt to put some of the blame for the violence on anti-Nazi protesters reads more like an apology for the far right. 

Today he describes the statues of defeated Confederate generals as "beautiful". "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," he tweeted. I wonder whether he knows his own nation's history. The people represented in the statues actually wanted to rip up the USA. These statues are now regarded as symbols of white supremacy, racism and slavery. 

I wonder what comments he'll spew forth next? Perhaps he will blame the Allies (as well as Hitler) for the 2nd World War. 

Remembering Elvis

Those of us old enough to be around in 1977 will probably remember what we were doing when we heard the news that Elvis Presley had died (the 40th anniversary of his death was yesterday). It's our Kennedy moment (I missed the Kennedy assassination as I was born only a few hours after he died.) I remember sitting in the living room of our house at Lobley Hill,  Gateshead, and hearing the news on the radio that Elvis was no more. I had not been long out of hospital as I had been in the children's ward at the Queen Elizabeth for a couple of months after being hit by a car while crossing Consett Road.

As this was before the era of wall-to-wall 24 hour news coverage (even the 3 terrestrial channels then weren't 24 hour), I had to wait for the evening news at 5.45pm to see how it was reported. Sure enough, the news led on the death of Elvis. Interviews with upset fans outside Graceland were broadcast. Radio One (then only broadcasting on medium wave) played one Elvis hit after another.

It would be interesting to see how many of today's music stars will be able to rival Elvis's staying power forty years from now. I just hope I will be around to find out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What is the point of that?

The government today are suggesting that a temporary customs union be set up between the EU and UK. Since we already have a customs union across the EU, of which the UK is part, in effect the government are asking for a delay to the full implementation of Brexit to avoid the economy and business prosperity from being dragged over a cliff. All this raises the issue of what is the point of what the government are doing? The government want to demolish the customs arrangements with the EU and replace them with a new arrangement that aims to do  the same, the only difference being that a whole new, expensive bureaucracy has to be created to run the system. It would be so much easier to stay in the existing customs union.

And going into the future, the Brexiteers say they want a frictionless border where customs issues are not relevant. This must surely be the opposite of the UK being in control of its borders. In effect, the Brexiteers want a closed border that is open. "Having their cake and eating it" is something that springs to mind. Let's hope the cake doesn't get stuck for ages at the UK border. Brexiteers eating stale food would be most unfortunate!

Monday, August 14, 2017

It must be summer

The title is not a reference to the rainy weather. Instead, it is about how daft, unrealistic political stories make it into the headlines. August always sees a famine of real political issues so the nation's army of political journalists, rather than shutting up, puts fingers to keyboards to write rubbish (some would argue they do that all year round).

So what are the mad political stories doing the rounds this week? Apparently Jacob Rees-Mogg is a possible Tory leadership contender in the event of Theresa May crashing and burning (again). Quite how the Member of Parliament for the Eighteenth Century can be the saviour of the Tories is not explained but a scenario of Rees-Mogg as PM is more like a nightmare than a summer fantasy.

Then there is the story of calls for UKIP and Plaid Cymru to work together in Wales. Given my experience of working in politics in North Wales over 20 years ago, I'm not sure which of those parties is the worst.

But the biggest joke story of the summer season was the claim by Philip Hammond and Liam Fox that they are both working together in a show of forced unity to keep returning the returning Prime Minister happy. Given a bit of time, the rows will start again.