I’m back …

… but not here.

I’ve started again at http://wonkosworld.co.uk. It’s clean, fast and doesn’t have years’ worth of customisations, plugins and poor decisions making it hard to maintain. So update your bookmarks and put me back on your daily reading list!

Wonko's World Screenshot

Ireland needs a backstop agreement with the EU, not the UK

Throughout the sham Brexit negotiations the issue of the Northern Irish border has been the main focus with the hated “backstop” proving to be a particular sticking point. But in actual fact it is not the UK/Irish border that is the problem, it’s the EU/Irish border that is.

The idea that the border between Ireland and the UK should remain open and largely uncontrolled for both people and goods is perfectly sensible. Ireland is a large market for the UK, the UK’s only land border is with Ireland, there are lots of cross-border communities and of course the UK is Ireland’s largest trading partner. We’ve had a common travel area covering the whole of the British Isles since 1923 and it was updated as recently as 2014 to allow Indian and Chinese nationals to travel throughout the British Isles on a single visa.

To make a common travel area work the participating states need to be in control of their borders and trade policy. Each participating state relies on the others to apply a common level of control over their borders so that only people and goods permitted to move between them are able to do so. You can travel between the UK and Ireland by sea without a passport if you are a UK or Irish citizen because the Irish government trusts the UK to ensure only British and Irish citizens are allowed onto ferries without a passport and vice versa. Travel across the land border between the UK and Ireland is uncontrolled because there are adequate controls in place at our external frontiers.

The common travel area can remain in place after Brexit as long as every participating state can continue to control its external frontier and carry out adequate customs duties. Outside of the EU the UK can control its borders. We can ensure that the only people and goods entering the UK and subsequently travelling from the UK to Ireland are authorised to do so. Ireland, on the other hand, will have to allow all EU or EEA citizens and goods enter the country whence they will be able to travel into the UK whether authorised or not.

The problem is therefore with Ireland and its inability to control its border with the EU. The Irish can either have free movement of people and goods with the EU or with the UK, they can’t have both. While the EU sets Ireland’s trade tariffs and controls its borders they will be unable to facilitate free movement of people and goods with the UK. This is a decision for the Irish to make, it is not the UK’s problem to solve.

Ireland needs a backstop agreement with the EU, not the UK.

It’s been a while

I really don’t have time for blogging any more, what with the reality of work, kids and a new partner but I’m sat here on a train in Euston station waiting for one of Richard Branson’s minions to find a driver who can get us home and some things have been annoying me recently. So, time to unload.

Image result for flipping tables


There is a shortage of about 40,000 nurses in England according to the Royal College of Nursing. The British government’s response is to launch recruitment campaigns in countries where they spend lots of money training nurses who would love to come and work in England for the paltry amount we pay. But that’s really not the right answer, is it?

A nurse in England can expect to earn about £23k a year on average. They make life or death decisions every day. They might start the day watching a baby die and end it disposing of a bowl full of shit. Be under no illusions, it’s a tough job and they do it for little financial reward.

So, a few years back the British government decided that nurses in England must have a degree. Merely learning how to care for patients, dispense medication, perform medical procedures and save lives isn’t good enough, they must also be able to write thousands of words on a variety of subjects that nobody will ever read again after it’s been marked. And the British government abolished the bursary for nursing degrees in 2016 so to pursue their £23k a year career nurses in England are expected to pay between £18,500 and £37,000 in tuition fees (depending on whether they stop at two years or complete the optional third and fourth years) plus tens of thousands in living costs whilst they study. For a job that has an average wage so low that most nurses won’t ever reach the threshold for loan repayments. Is it any wonder NHS England can’t recruit enough nurses?


Where do you start with something so utterly and fundamentally flawed as HS2? It was supposed to cost £56bn when it was first announced – a figure that was already ruinously expensive – and just a few days ago the chairman of HS2 told the British government that estimated costs have now risen to £86bn. This time last year they had already burnt through £4bn without laying a single mile of track, who knows what it is by now. This is money that could be spent on electrifying and increasing capacity on existing lines, investing in electric vehicle infrastructure (including busses) and increasing capacity on motorways. The M6 toll road could have been nationalised twice over with the money HS2 had spent not building HS2 up to last year.

Of course, a big chunk of the cost of HS2 isn’t actually related to building HS2 at all but comes from Barnett Consequentials. Which leads me nicely on to …

The Barnett Formula

How is the Barnett Formula still a thing? It genuinely astounds me that any politician or civil servant can justify the continued existence of a funding formula that is in no way based on need, is predicated entirely on the redistribution of English taxes and enshrines the principle that any money spent in England must also result in money being spent in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

For those who don’t know what the Barnett Formula is, it was a formula created in 1978 by Labour MP Joel Barnett to calculate how much the British Treasury should spend in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was a temporary measure whilst civil servants came up with a more appropriate way of working out who should get what share of taxes after the Scottish devolution settlement that was expected the following year. It allocates whatever is spent per head in England plus a percentage extra for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland multiplied by the nominal population of the country in question. It is inherently unfair and unjust, a view shared by its creator now Lord Barnett who has called for its abolition many times.

Whilst the whole basis for the Barnett Formula is wrong, it is the Barnett Consequentials that really hurt. Barnett Consequentials are one-off increases in funding to the other member states of the UK given to them whenever the British government spends money on capital projects in England. The £30bn increase in the estimated cost of HS2 will result in as much as £5bn extra in Scotland’s block grant from the British government. They don’t need it, it’s just money they will get because the British government are spending money on a capital project in England. The same happened with the British Olympics in London – the British government spent money on capital projects so their Olympic games could take place and Scotland, Wales and NI all got extra money. It pushes up the cost of any capital project in England, eating into the already inadequate budget the British allocate to England.


Finally, Brexit. It’s been three years since we told the British government to get us out of the EU. It was the biggest turnout in British electoral history and against all the odds the Leave vote was secured. There was state interference in the referendum, the state broadcaster beamed 24 hour propaganda into every home, nearly £10m of our taxes were spent posting a booklet full of what have been shown to be outrageous lies through every letterbox in the UK, every government website carried adverts promoting a Remain vote, taxpayer-funded universities and quangos campaigned against a Leave vote, EU-funded organisations promoted their paymaster and the Remain campaign outspent the Leave campaign by many millions of pounds. Yet despite the referendum being very much rigged in favour of Remain, 17.4m people voted to Leave. And we still haven’t.

The sheer hypocrisy of the so-called People’s Vote campaign is beyond parody. Not satisfied with the result of the people’s vote to leave the EU they now insist we have another people’s vote to give us an opportunity to vote the right way and if we’re all still awful racists and vote to leave again they’ll definitely respect the decision. Just like they said they would before and after the referendum three years ago. It is, they say, undemocratic to respect the result of the referendum because we didn’t know what we were voting for. Only Remainers knew what they were voting for – things like the EU army that Nick Clegg described as “a dangerous fantasy” or removing the veto on tax policy and handing over control of tax raising powers to the EU which they said would never happen.

The insistence by EU nationalist politicians and campaigners that we must accept a deal from the EU before we can leave is nonsense. There was no mention of having a deal on the ballot paper, it was a vote for what is now being referred to as “no deal Brexit” (in reality, a whole raft of bilateral deals rather than no deal at all). Nothing the EU will offer us will be to our benefit. EU negotiators openly gloat about how they are out to punish us for leaving and send a message to other EU member states about what happens to anyone who tries to leave. It is a national insult and my hope is that one of the first things Boris Johnson does is cancels all negotiations with the EU, only agreeing to reopen channels a fortnight before 31st October to consider the EU’s final offer and pass any necessary legislation but with the default position being that we leave on WTO terms.

Project Fear says butter and cheese will be luxury items after Brexit

Try not to laugh but the Independent have run a headline today claiming that cheese and butter will be luxury items after Brexit because (they claim) dairy products will be more expensive to import from the EU.

Image result for milk me i dare you

We’re something like the 10th largest producer of dairy products in the world but because we export such a lot we have the second largest dairy trade deficit in the world. As a consequence, the UK is one of the world’s most valuable dairy markets and around 20% of EU dairy exports go to the UK. Where the UK buys its milk and cheese makes or breaks a country’s dairy industry and the EU as usual stands to lose most by punitive restrictions on trade with the UK. The overnight withdrawal of the average 36% tariffs on dairy imports from outside the EU will certainly see buyers looking outside the EU for their butter and cheese on independence day and there is no shortage of countries on our doorstep producing dairy at relatively low cost who will no longer be priced out of the market by EU tariffs.

Dairy production in the UK has decreased over the last couple of decades because it is unprofitable on anything but an industrial scale thanks to supermarkets paying below cost price for their milk. If the cost of importing dairy products from the EU does go up (and it’s a big if) then that will make imports less economically viable for large retailers and domestically produced products more profitable for them. They will buy more UK produced dairy which will grow the domestic industry and drive up exports as we have already seen with the manufacturing sector following the drop in the value of the pound.

It was the threat of importing cheap Polish milk that helped Tesco break the dairy farmers when they played hardball over wholesale milk prices a few years ago. If Polish milk becomes more expensive to import then that leverage disappears and UK dairy farmers could end up turning a profit on their dairy produce. The supermarkets of course tell us that paying a fair price for milk will drive up prices for consumers but it is in reality an investment in the dairy industry that will allow producers to benefit from economy of scale and reduce costs.

Leaving the EU isn’t going to result in a shortage of cheese and butter, nor is it likely to make it more expensive to the consumer. This is just more ridiculous Remainer scaremongering.

Ok, let’s have a second referendum

Dear Remainers,

In order to bring to a close the two years of crying, wailing, sour grapes and vexatious legal challenges from democracy hating bad losers I am prepared to support a second Brexit referendum on the following conditions:

  1. The British government issues another leaflet detailing all the claims they made in their first leaflet and how each one was wrong. A proportion of the £9m cost of this leaflet will be deducted from the Remain campaign’s budget pro-rated by the number of true/false claims.
  2. The legislation providing for the second referendum includes a clause that will abolish the BBC’s licence fee if an independent panel concludes at any time during the campaign that its reporting is not impartial.
  3. Universities joining the campaign will not be permitted to charge tuition fees for the next year. If they want to put resources into politicking instead of education then let a Remainer billionaire like Soros or Branson pay for it, not the students.
  4. Any company, organisation or politician that campaigns for either side must declare any links to political parties or the EU with financial penalties for non-compliance. Their intention to campaign must be pre-registered and the information provided to every household at the start of the campaign.
  5. Both Leave and Remain campaigns will have the same budget.

All reasonable conditions I’m sure you’ll agree which would ensure a fair referendum campaign and deliver an even bigger crushing blow to the pro-EU establishment.

Yours, etc.

Theresa May’s Brexit Betrayal

Theresa May took her majority Remain-supporting cabinet to Chequers at the weekend and would you believe, they agreed to support a Brexit position paper that keeps us as members of the EU in all but name.

I know. Shocker, right?

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This paper sets out Theresa May’s opening offer to the EU on our future relationship with them and represents complete capitulation. It proposes to keep the jurisdiction of the EU courts, the adoption of every EU present and future law on trade and maintains privileged immigration rules for EU citizens.

This proposal is just the opening gambit which the EU will reject and as we get closer to what should have been independence day will use as the basis for a much worse deal. The bulk of MPs have already ruled out a no-deal Brexit and will vote for whatever last minute deal is offered. And it will be a bad deal. Much worse than what is being proposed now.

There have been several resignations over the Brexit betrayal starting last night with the Brexit Secretary, David Davis. His resignation was quickly followed by Steve Baker and Suella Braverman who were junior ministers in the same department. Today Boris Johnson resigned as Foreign Secretary and Chris Green has resigned as private secretary to the Department for Transport. It is believed that the 1922 Committee that is responsible for leadership elections in the Conservative Party has received 42 of the required 48 signatures to call a vote of no confidence in Theresa May. A meeting of the committee was held this evening with conflicting stories emerging about what actually happened in there. Theresa May has survived this meeting but the publishing of the paper has been delayed by a week following it which would suggest she has been given an ultimatum by her backbenchers. She may survive the week after all but she is still on borrowed time.

There is only one good deal and that is no deal. Nothing the EU offers us will be in our national interest. The EU’s negotiators are petty, vindictive and have delusions of adequacy. They would rather the UK leaves with no deal which would be seriously damaging to the EU economy than come to a mutually beneficial agreement. With a no-deal Brexit forecast to provide a big boost to the UK economy we should have the strongest negotiating position but we are being led by a Remainer Prime Minister who has willingly given all that advantage away.

Theresa May has to go and sadly the future of Brexit is in the hands of 320 Tory MPs, most of whom are Remainers. It’s looking pretty bleak.

Abolishing the House of Lords won’t fix the democratic deficit

A petition to hold a referendum on abolishing the House of Lords for their attempts to block Brexit will be debated in parliament after getting more than 149k signatures.

They served us well, let's bring the hereditary peers back. Image credit: thesun.co.uk

Whilst the attempts by the House of Lords to undermine the democratic will of the nation should not go unpunished, just abolishing the upper house without a fundamental reform of how government works would decrease democratic accountability not increase it. The Lords may be unelected but on the whole they do a useful job of moderating the ambition of the Commons. If the upper house is abolished it needs replacing with something else and if it’s replaced it needs to be with something that actually works.

Naturally I have a solution and it’s quite straightforward.

The House of Lords should be abolished and it should be replaced with a federal British parliament. The House of Commons should be abolished as well and replaced with a devolved English parliament. The role that the House of Lords currently performs should be replaced by a constitutional court that has the power to independently call in legislation or act on a petition to review the legality of an act of the federal government. Perhaps controversially I would give the constitutional court authority over the UK’s devolved governments as well.

These changes would bring balance back to the British union, bring decision making closer to the people, improve democratic accountability, reduce the number of politicians and save about half a billion a year in costs. Most importantly it will mean that the career politicians in the House of Commons don’t get given free reign to do whatever they want with no oversight or opposition which is exactly what will happen if the House of Lords is abolished without a replacement.

Illegal immigration targets need to be kept

You can always rely on politicians to take a good idea and make such a hash of implementing it that public opinion turns against it and an opportunity is lost for a generation.

I refer, of course, to the efforts to remove illegal immigrants from the country. An absolutely justified and necessary task which the majority of the public will agree with. It’s not fair for genuine immigrants to go through the proper channels, pay for visas and pay taxes when they get here if illegal immigrants are effectively given an amnesty because it’s too much effort to track them down and send them home. So it’s right that the British government should have targets for removing illegal immigrants from the country.

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The problem is, immigration officials have been going after easy targets: the Windrush generation. These are people who are legally entitled to live in the UK thanks to various pieces of legislation giving residency rights to citizens of many former colonies and Commonwealth countries. But there is no register of the people who have that entitlement, nor is there a reliable list of people who decided to exercise those rights so they have to prove their entitlement when asked.

This hasn’t really been a problem until recently when immigration officials have started asking people who’ve lived here 40 or 50 years to prove that they were entitled to do so all those years ago. Many people have no proof because they haven’t needed any proof and hadn’t anticipated being interrogated by immigration when they visit family and some have been deported to a country that they don’t belong in, breaking up families and ruining lives in the process.

Looking at the situation objectively there has to be a problem with people falsely claiming the right to live here under those pieces of legislation that granted the Windrush generation rights otherwise they wouldn’t be wasting time, money and political capital targeting them. The trouble is that they are deporting people who shouldn’t be deported and they know they are but there are targets to hit and this is an easy way of hitting them. Targets that have been put in place because the British government has no control over EU immigration so can only target non-Europeans to get immigration figures down.

The outcome of this incompetent handling of immigration controls and the subsequent terminological inexactitudes in parliament from the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has led to the abandonment of any targets to remove illegal immigrants from the country. Rather than just telling immigration officials not to investigate and deport people from the Commonwealth who have been living here for 40 years they have given a green light not only to historic illegal immigrants but to those who are planning to make their way here in future. It’s like ATOS disability assessments and the so-called Bedroom Tax all over again – good idea, terrible execution and now so toxic that any government wanting to pick it up again in the future will be committing political suicide. The only good thing to come out of it is Amber Rudd announcing her resignation today.

The Windrush generation need some certainty and that means putting a stop to the deportation of Commonwealth citizens who have been living in this country for years. They have a right to live here and are well integrated into society. Targets for the removal of illegal immigrants absolutely need to stay but the focus needs to be on those who are actually here illegally. It’s not hard to tell the difference.

Turning over a new Leaf

So, one of the things that happened during my lengthy blogging hiatus is that I bought one of these. The car, not the child.

Nissan Leaf

It’s a Nissan Leaf or as it is regularly referred to, a milk float. But don’t worry, I haven’t started wearing sandals and socks or turned into a vegan. I bought it mainly because I wanted a new car and this was a cheap way of doing it (next to zero running costs) and because it satisfied my inner geek. The fact that sucking dead dinosaurs out of the ground and setting fire to them to get around town is a bit Victorian and not very sustainable was a minor consideration too.

My plan was to eventually run the car for free using free public charging points and almost a year after buying it I’m on target to get my first month of free driving. I’ve been hampered somewhat for the last year due to my long-standing knee problems significantly limiting the distance I could walk. But in January I got a brand new knee cobbled together from some off-cuts of titanium, cobalt-chromium and plastic that they had kicking about in the hospital and I’m now able to walk further than I could at the start of this year so I can now plug in to one of the chargers at my local Asda for a few hours and walk to the office. Thanks to my electricity provider (OVO) I can charge for free at 6,000 or so chargers including that one.

Now, the chances are you’ve scoffed either out loud or in your head at the idea of ditching the Postman Pat van and driving a glorified milk float. They only last for 30 miles, they take 18 hours to charge, they’re slow, the batteries set on fire and there’s hardly anywhere to charge them up when you need to. That’s what everyone knows about electric cars and it’s why Amazon hired lawyers to sit in the car with Jeremy Clarkson when he reviewed a Tesla after he was sued by Tesla following his last review of one of their cars (yes, I know they were taking the piss but he really did get sued by Tesla for misleading viewers).

My Leaf is the middle of the range model with the smallest battery and slowest charger. Most of my driving is local so I don’t need to be able to drive 130 miles or so without stopping and I don’t need to be able to charge in 4 hours at home, I can do it in half an hour at the motorway services a couple of miles away for a fiver if I’m that desperate.

With the exception of mid-Wales which is as much a charging desert as it is for petrol stations, there are rapid chargers pretty much everywhere you need to go. These will charge the car to about 80% in about half an hour and because Ecotricity’s owner, David Vince, is more interested in supporting animal rights terrorists PETA, trying to turn the country vegan and playing at owning a football club they haven’t bothered fixing the unreliable GPRS modules in their chargers so they often lose connectivity and default to free charging. But even when they’re not free it’ll only cost £5-6 for a charge which is still cheaper than petrol or diesel. Fully charging at home (or Asda) takes about 8 hours from empty although I rarely let it get that low.

I have driven 115 miles from Telford to London for free, charging at Nissan garages. Last week I drove from Telford to Birmingham and back for free, charging at the Nissan garage in Stourbridge on the way home so I would still have half a battery when I got home and wouldn’t need to use my home charger. The other weekend I drove from Telford to IKEA in Wednesbury, paid about £3.80 to charge and they refunded me £6 for charging so I actually made a profit! For a tight-arse like me there is immense enjoyment from getting someone else to pay for your “fuel”.

Real world range varies (like in a petrol of diesel car) depending on the temperature and the weather conditions. If it’s cold range declines, just like a petrol or diesel car. Same goes for if it’s raining or snowing or if you’re driving into the wind or if you’re driving up and down hills or if you drive it like it’s stolen. All the things that affect range in a petrol or diesel car affect range in an electric car but with a smaller maximum range in an electric car the effect is more obvious. During the winter, driving in the cold and bad weather my ranged probably dropped to about 65-70 miles but in the summer on a motorway journey in a heat wave I was getting closer to 100 miles. My morning commute is 6 miles and just 3 miles home.

I’m not sure where the idea that electric cars are slow came from but anyone who’s tried to sit on the back of a milk float without holding on will know that electric motors give you near instant acceleration and constant torque. My Leaf will beat most family cars and boy racers off the line at the traffic lights. It is slower than a petrol or diesel car when you get to about 50mph and only has a top speed of about 100mph but it is by no means slow. The batteries are all in the floor pan as well so it has a low centre of gravity and corners well. You can’t legally drive above 70mph in this country anyway and as I said, I mainly drive around town so low end acceleration is all I need to satisfy the speed demon in me.

Finally, the suggestion that a lithium ion battery is somehow more likely to set on fire than a tank of petrol is laughable. Of course there is potential for batteries to set on fire but which would you feel more comfortable holding over a flame? A car battery or a jerry can of petrol?

Electric cars aren’t for everyone (not at the current level of technology at least) but it works for me and more than 150k other people who own and drive electric vehicles in the UK. There are a lot of misconceptions about them and a lot of people have an irrational attachment to the 600 mile range of their dirty diesel despite never having driven for 10 hours straight in their life and will probably never do so. Driving an electric car has made driving fun again and to be honest the biggest inconvenience about driving an electric car is lazy and/or selfish people parking their petrol and diesel cars in electric vehicle charging bays!

JLR job losses are not caused by Brexit

Jaguar Land Rover has announced it is cutting 1,000 temporary jobs at JLR plants in Halewood and Solihull.

Jaguar iPace

Remainers are, of course, blaming the job losses on Brexit but the blame is being put (partially) on the uncertainty around Brexit not the fact we are leaving the EU. In fact, every time you see a headline in a newspaper or on the BBC website saying Company X is cutting jobs/losing money/issuing a warning because of Brexit you will find that they cite the uncertainty around Brexit. It is the weakness of Theresa May and her largely talentless cabinet full of Remainers in dealing with the EU that is causing businesses angst.

The UK is the world’s 5th largest economy and was the fastest growing developed economy in the world last year. We do just 4½% of our trade with the EU and that figure is declining. Over 80% of our trade is domestic and will be largely unaffected by the outcome of Brexit negotiations. The fact that we are leaving the EU is really of little concern to the majority of businesses in the UK, it is the risk that is associated with not knowing what our relationship with the EU is going to be when we finally do leave that is a problem.

Our trade deficit with the EU in 2016 was an eye-watering £60bn. That’s the difference between what we export to the EU and what they export to us. Of that £60bn extra that we spend buying stuff from the EU, about £26bn is what we buy from Germany. The EU’s largest economy and most powerful member state has the most to lose from a drop in UK/EU trade. We hold all the cards but Theresa may is a rubbish poker player so she has dithered and grovelled and bent over backwards to accommodate every unreasonable demand that the EU has made. It’s embarrassing.

The British government should dispense with the ridiculous notion of a “transition period” during which we will blindly follow every rule the EU makes without a veto and without any input. We have a leaving date of 29th March 2019 and that is the date at which EU rule in the UK should end. The default position should be to assume that we will leave the EU with no special deal and will trade with the EU under WTO terms as most of the world does. If the EU comes back to the negotiating table with a sensible offer that is mutually beneficial in time then that is a bonus but it should be assumed that pigs will not be seen flying over Brussels any time soon.

This will allow businesses to plan for Brexit with some certainty and work out what risk that poses to their business. Some of those companies will decide that it’s not going to work for them and will either shift operations abroad or restructure to allow them to continue to be suffocated by the Brussels red tape factory and that’s fine. Every major change in industry regulation or taxation sees companies reevaluate their business and adjust their plans to make the best of it and sometimes that means cutting their losses. Brexit will be no different in that respect.

After that lengthy digression, let’s quickly come back to JLR and what they have actually said. Well, strangely they haven’t blamed Brexit. JLR have blamed “continuing headwinds” in the car industry for the job losses and the BBC have turned to a Professor of Industry in Birmingham to turn those two words into something that can be blamed on those bastard Tories. But he’s a professor of industry so he probably knows what he’s talking about so let’s see what he says:

With the big turn against diesel engines, Jaguar Land Rover is particularly exposed as more than 90% of its UK sales are diesels.

So that’s him pointing the finger at the war on diesel engines for a starter. It was widely publicised during the EU referendum campaign that JLR were being forced to cease production of the iconic Land Rover Defender because of EU regulations and of course the current all out assault on diesel engines has come from the EU.

JLR has just revealed its full-electric i-Pace model and have indicated offering all-electric or hybrid variants of all their models by around 2021, but they have been far too slow compared with Tesla and BMW.

Now it’s JLR’s late entry into the electric car market letting their competitors in the emerging high end electric car market steal a march. It pains me to big up either BMW or hybrids but the BMW i8 a not just a thing of beauty, it is an engineering masterpiece and despite being unable to fulfil customer orders for years and some pretty shocking build quality stories, Teslas have the cult status of the equally shoddy iPhone. The iPace has some impressive statistics but JLR are on the back foot.

It’s hard to say how long this production uncertainty will continue around Brexit negotiations, because it’s still unclear what the trading relationship will be between the UK and EU with regards to tariffs.

And there is the line that provides the anti-Brexit headlines. It doesn’t matter that he says quite clearly it is uncertainty about Brexit or that he goes further and specifically mentions not knowing what tariffs will be in place. The word Brexit is in there, it is all Brexit’s fault.

When we finally leave the EU – and I mean actually leave, not doing the Brexit hokey cokey with one leg in and one leg out – then I may accept some events being attributed to Brexit but misquoting someone entirely unrelated to JLR giving an opinion based on two words at least a year before we actually leave just doesn’t cut if for me.

Idiot trade unionists strike over dangerous driver

Members of the Aslef trade union went on strike this week in solidarity with a London Underground driver who was transferred from the trains to station duties.

Tube Red Light

The driver in question failed to stop for three red signals, two of which were within a 4 week period. He had been driving a train for just 11 weeks before he was transferred off the trains.

London Underground could, quite justifiably, have sacked this dangerous incompetent but they kept him in their employ in a job in which he wasn’t risking the lives of thousands of people (some of those trains carry in excess of 1,200 passengers each at peak times). After driving through the first red light he was made to carry out 3 days of training with another driver in the cab. After the second he was made to undertake another 5 days of training and take another 5 days out of the cab. It was only on the third occasion that London Underground said that it would be unsafe for him to continue driving.

But all those chances weren’t good enough for the militant trade unionists in Aslef who think that it’s unreasonable to have threatened the driver (allegedly) with disciplinary procedures if he didn’t agree to the transfer. They would prefer that he was allowed to continue driving despite clearly being dangerous. If ever there was an argument for needing to curtail the activities of trades unions, surely this exemplifies it?

We can’t afford to go to war with Syria

What this country needs is a good war … said nobody but politicians and weapons manufacturers. But it looks like we’re going to war with Syria again and by proxy with Russia also.

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The allegation levelled at President Assad is that he ordered the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population of Douma. Syria denies it, Russia is backing them (of course) and some of the evidence appears, on the face of it, to be dubious. But there is no doubt in my mind that the Syrians did use chemical weapons in Douma, a pocket of resistance that has evaded the Syrian army’s capture for a frustratingly long time for Assad. That town is now under military control after its population was shipped out following the chemical weapon attack.

There is also no doubt in my mind that Assad knew about it and that he would order the use of chemical weapons again. Which is a bit of a dilemma because using chemical weapons is very wrong and can’t go unpunished but we can’t afford to start World War 3. I say we can’t afford to start World War 3 but actually, we’ve been in World War 3 for over a decade now but it’s not conventional warfare so the general public haven’t noticed. I should probably say we can afford to start Cold War 2.

The problem with Syria is that it’s one of the only middle eastern countries that isn’t an Islamic shithole exporting terrorists to Europe and if Assad is overthrown it will become another Islamic shithole exporting terrorists to Europe. It also has the last sizeable Christian population in the region and whilst I hold all the Abrahamic religions in equal contempt, on purely humanitarian grounds it would be a disaster for them to have an Islamic administration in Syria because they would be persecuted.

I have an opinion on most things but I don’t know what to do about Syria. Something needs to be done but that something is not returning to the Cold War era where we all live in constant fear of a global nuclear apocalypse. If the west bombs Syria whilst the Russians (and Chinese) are protecting them then that’s a potential outcome. I remember the latter days of the Cold War well and that’s not something I want my kids to live through as well.

RIP Cllr Denis Allen

It is a sad fact that you don’t get a true picture of how valued a person is until they die. I was privileged to attend the funeral of Cllr Denis Allen today.

The crematorium was full, the service personal and people travelled from far and wide to pay their respects. At the wake a eulogy was read by one of the two MEPs who attended and there was a personal message from Nigel Farage. The Mayor of Wellington and several borough councillors were at the funeral, as were his former military colleagues.

Denis was argumentative, obstinate and always right even when he was wrong but he was also a loyal friend, hard working and honest. He will be sadly missed not just by me but by many people locally and nationally.

Cllr Denis Allen

The gender pay gap is a myth

Woman know your place

More than 10,000 large companies have been forced to publish figures on their gender pay gap and unsurprisingly more than three quarters of them have a higher median average salary for men than women.

But what does this mean? It’s easy to say what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that companies are paying men more for the same job as women. That would be illegal. What it means is that 78% of the 10,000 or so large companies have more male employees doing jobs with higher salaries than women. And on the flip side, 14% of those companies employ more women in higher paid jobs than men with the other 8% having the same median average salary.

So are the figures useful? Put simply: no. More men are in higher paid jobs for a number of reasons, primary of which is decades of historical male dominance of the workplace before legislative and cultural changes brought about workplace equality. Add in maternity leave taking women out of their chosen careers for a year at a time and often seeing a return to a different role and choices made about work/life balance when starting a family and you start to understand why there is an apparent gender pay gap.

But more fundamentally there is the the flawed methodology of calculating the gender pay gap. Let’s say a logistics company employs 10 office staff, 20 warehouse staff and 50 drivers. Assume the majority of the office staff are women (because most of the people who applied for the jobs were women, not because of a conscious or unconscious bias) and the majority of the warehouse staff and drivers are men (again, not because of bias but because most applicants were men). The warehouse job is manual labour in a relatively hazardous environment so they are paid more than the office staff. The drivers work longer hours and have HGV licences so they are paid more than the warehouse staff. For simplicity, let’s say the office staff are on £10 an hour, the warehouse staff on £15 and the drivers on £20 an hour. That means the office staff who are mainly women are collectively being paid £100 an hour, the warehouse staff £300 an hour and the drivers £1,000 an hour. That’s a median of £18.57 per hour for the predominantly male warehouse staff and drivers against a median of £10 per hour for the predominantly female office staff. On paper that’s a massive gender pay gap but in reality the male and female employees are being paid the same wage as each other for doing the same job and short of illegally sacking half the staff in each department and only recruiting men for the office and women for the warehouse and as drivers, that gender pay gap will rightly and justifiably remain.

There will never be a gender balance in the workplace because men don’t take time off to have babies. I’m not being misogynistic, just stating a fact. You can’t hold a man back in their career for every woman that takes a year out to have a baby because that is unlawful discrimination, not to mention bad for the company and a frankly ridiculous prospect (so expect Harriet Harperson to announce it as a policy for the next Labour manifesto). It is often difficult – if not impossible – for a woman returning to work following maternity leave to return to the same role after a prolonged absence and more so if they were in a senior position within the company. This isn’t me saying women have it coming to them because they have babies, it’s just that a lot changes in 12 months and a man returning to work after 12 months on the sick (or even paternity leave) would face exactly the same problem. But over time the ratio of women to men in senior (and higher paid) jobs will continue to get closer to 1:1 through natural attrition until it reaches the point where, though still slightly balanced in favour of men for the preceding reasons, it is equal.

Not having a gender balance doesn’t mean there is discrimination or inequality of the sexes in a company. Forcing large employers to publish fundamentally flawed aggregated data without context and requiring them to present it as if it were evidence of inequality is wrong. It is damaging to the reputation of the companies involved and it will almost certainly result in legislation to legalise discrimination to allow companies to meet arbitrary quotas so politicians can be seen to be doing something to address a problem that doesn’t exist.


So, it’s been almost two years since I posted here (apart from yesterday) and if I have any followers left I should probably explain.

About two and a half years ago my wife, Lesley, was diagnosed with cancer. It was stomach cancer and by the time it presented symptoms (trouble swallowing) it had spread to her throat and it was incurable. They told her she had a year so she proved them wrong and lasted a year and a half. She died on 2nd May last year after it spread to her brain and spine. It was mercifully quick.

Now I find myself a widowed parent of four with a full time job and politics has really taken something of a back seat this past year while I figure out what I’m going to do with my life. I’m still working on that.

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We’re a nation of fools

Prescriptions charges go up from £8.60 to £8.80 on April 1st

Happy St George’s Day

George Slaying the EU

The war on paganism and the true meaning of Easter

Social media is awash with outrage (outrage I tell you!) that Cadbury has banned the word “Easter” in case it offends people from other religions. Easter is a Christian celebration so why, they ask, would people who weren’t Christians want to buy an Easter egg?

The war on Christianity continues apace they would have you believe.

Eostre (to give it it’s sort of proper name) or Ostera (to give it another one of its sort of proper names) is the pagan celebration of the coming of spring celebrated in northern Europe and the pagan goddess associated with the festival. The eggs and the easter bunny (actually a hare) are pagan fertility symbols associated with the goddess Eostre and the spring equinox.

The Roman church started celebrating the resurrection about 130 years after the death of Jesus and fixed the date according to the Jewish lunar calendar. Until the Roman church decided to mark the resurrection with a festival early Christians celebrated Passover as Christianity was still a Jewish sect at that time.

The actual date of the resurrection has been calculated to be 4th April AD33 (6th April in the Gregorian calendar). So this year the western Christian church are marking the resurrection a week early and the Orthodox Christians 4 weeks late.

So bearing all that in mind I’m not inclined to get worked up at Cadbury not putting the name of an ancient germanic spring equinox festival on a pagan fertility symbol that’s used by Christians for a Roman celebration of the death of a Jewish man 1,983 years ago.

I’m even less inclined to get worked up by it because the story isn’t true.

The word easter still appears on most Cadbury easter egg packaging and in abundance in their advertising. The story originated from a rival easter egg company, the Meaningful Chocolate Company which produces the Real Easter Egg. The Meaningful Chocolate Company is a Christian business and their eggs carry Christian messages, indoctrinating children through the medium of chocolate. Cadbury told an Irish newspaper that they don’t have a policy of removing the word Easter from their products but don’t feel the need to put the word Easter prominently on packaging because “it is very obvious through the packaging that it is an Easter egg”.

As an aside, there has been some consequential outrage (they like getting outraged, these Christians) at a bakery selling hot cross buns without crosses in case they offended muslims.

You will notice that the cross on the hot cross bun is an equilateral cross rather than a crucifix. You can see where this is going, can’t you? The equilateral cross is (you guessed it) a pagan symbol signifying that all things are equal. It is a convenient coincidence that Christians revere a cross associated with the death of their Messiah – especially so at Easter where they celebrate his death by crucifixion – and pagans also used a cross, albeit a different type of cross. It’s quite likely that the vaguely compatible symbology as well as the loosely similar dates informed the Roman church’s decision to hijack Eostre for their resurrection festival.

In any case, the story about the bakery selling hot cross buns without crosses so as not to offend muslims was a spoof published on the satirical Southend News Network website which was amusingly taken at face value by the EDL who shared their outrage (there is a never-ending supply of outrage amongst these Christians) on social media.

Why Christians would want to buy a pagan fertility symbol, let alone get upset about the lack of the name of the goddess Eostre on the packaging of chocolate eggs is a mystery. The hijacking of Eostre by Christians to celebrate the death of their Jewish Messiah is just the latest battle in the war against Paganism.


A year ago today …

GNU Terry Pratchett

SNP and Northern Irish MPs outvote English MPs on Sunday Trading laws

MPs elected in Scotland have once again outvoted MPs elected in England on an English-only law.

The SNP joined Labour and some Tory rebels to oppose the liberalisation of Sunday trading laws in England and Wales that would have allowed local councils in England decide whether there was enough local demand to allow a shop to open longer on Sundays. Without the 51 SNP MPs, one UUP, seven DUP and three SDLP MPs voting down the law it would have passed with a majority of 31.

In Scotland they don’t have restrictions on Sunday trading and shops routinely stay open all hours where the local economy supports it. A previous attempt to abolish the restrictions on Sunday trading in England in 2006 was blocked by Alistair Darling, then MP for Edinburgh South West and British Minister for Trade & Industry.

The ridiculous and fundamentally flawed convention of English Votes on English Laws that was recently introduced into the British Parliament has failed its first test by failing to prevent MPs elected in Scotland claiming voting rights for something that clearly doesn’t affect Scotland. The SNP’s claim that not having premium wages for working on Sunday enshrined in legislation in England might bring about the end of the common practice of paying overtime to Scots working on a Sunday in Scotland thus giving them the right to vote on it is frankly pathetic and exposes the inherent weakness of English Votes on English Laws and highlights yet again the need for a devolved English government.