Categories
Scotland UK Uncategorized

SNP Implosion?

It’s been a while so I wonder if anyone is still listening? Anyway, I’m back and will, once again, try and post regularly.

Since I last posted we have had the debacle of Christmas, the continued mishandling of the pandemic by the Westminster government and the calm assurances of the First Minister.

Just recently, the press has been full of the ongoing saga of the Alex Salmond inquiry. Last week Nicola Sturgeon spent 8 hours in parliament answering questions on this total non-story. Interestingly, the papers, and the BBC (Bravely Broadcasting for the Conservatives) were full of commentary about how, if she was found to have mislead parliament she would have to resign. This was being pushed by both Tory and Labour leaders!

Really, The Scottish Tory leadership calling for the resignation of a politician who may have made some procedural mistakes! After Priti Awful’s bullying and recdent 6 figure settlement, Matt Hancock’s breaking of the law over procurement, Gavin Williamson’s basic incompetence and Boris’s constant lies, untruths and exagerations. How can they be so hypocritical?

Oh, that’s right, they’re Tories. Do as I say, we are the natural party of government and all the plebs should no their place. Is it purely coincidental that this is all coming a couple of months before the Scottish elections? Hmm, let me think.

Categories
UK

Tony Abbot – What!!!!

What is going on. Tony Abbot, failed former Australian PM, proven mysogenist and homophobe appointed to the Board of Trade!

I thought Matt Hancock’s interview on Sky this week was priceless. When Kay Burley described TonyAbbot as a mysogenist and homophobe Matt Hancock replied with ‘and he’s also an expert on trade’. And he’s also! So, matthancock accepts Tony Abbot is a mysogenist and homophobe but that’s OK because he’s a trade expert! It is the same argument used to explain away statues of Slavers. “Yes, they had appalling views on the value of human life but look at the pretty things they built with the money”

I cannot say any more. My country is broken and lost to me!

Categories
Brexit Scotland UK

Boris Johnson cannot win the battle for the union | The New European

I can’t help but agree with most of what’s said in this article. There’s an interesting point that it seems likely that Scottish independence will come about due to actions English nationalism rather than as a result of the arguments for Scottish nationalism.

https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/ian-dunt-on-the-unstoppable-march-to-scottish-independence-1-6769598

I think it is absolutely true that, had the government of the day tried to bridge the gap between leavers and remainers back in 2016 and forge some form of compromise we would be in a much better position. It didn’t and we’re now facing a no-deal Brexit that we were promised couldn’t possibly happen and which half of the constituent countries of the UK voted overwhelmingly to avoid. The complete disregard for the hopes and desires of the Scottish and Northern Irish is deplorable. The painting of everyone who wants a close relationship with (if we’re not allowed membership of) the EU as enemies of the people, anti-democratic, anti-patriots has created a sense among ardent remainers of us being different to “the people”. The way the far right have gained ground and the rise of overt racism over the past 4 years makes me happy to consider myself different. Of course, if we’re different, why should we be governed by leaders who don’t care about our views or opinions.

The economic arguments against the break-up of the Union are strong, but only if you assume the Scottish economy needs to continue on the free-market libertarian model which was been brought in to the UK since the 1980s. The Irish economy is booming. The Scandinavian’s seem to be doing OK. The Baltic states don’t look destitute. They are all comparable in size to Scotland. If they can do it surely Scotland can go it alone too? Especially if, as I hope, going it alone means rejoining the EU and banafitting from the richest, most diverse trading area in the world.

We need the other UK parties to look seriously about how to either fix or disagregate the UK and what they want the future to look like. For Labour and the LibDems to simply state that the Union is better than independence isn’t good enough. The Union hasn’t worked in Scotland’s interests or respected Scotland’s views – certainly for the past 5 years. In my opinion, the Scottish arms of these parties are looking tired and out-of-touch. The LibDem’s have long championed electroral reform as they recognise the disenfrachising nature of the UK FPTP system. Why aren’t they promoting federalisation as a way of holding the nation together culturally while allowing seperate decisions on the direction and organisation of each seperate state? Labour is losing ground because their Unionist arguments is made better by the Tories and their social responsibility arguments arte made better by the SNP. Why aren’t they pushing for similar arrangements for Scotland as Northern Ireland post-Brexit whereby a that nation can remain in the Customs Union? I suspect SCotland would want to enter the EEA, at least, to have full access to the Single Market, buying into the 4 freedoms. Scotland needs immigration to help generate tax revenue to support an aging population. This is recognised by the population at large in way it doesn’t seem to be in England. I guess that’s another difference between a colonised country (Scotland) and it’s colonial oppressor (England).

Categories
Brexit International UK USA

Trump Pivots From Free Trade Agreements; U.S. Business Left Behind

This is an interesting article from Forbes. If this is the way of thinking of Trump’s Trade Representative then it bodes badly for the UK government hoping to negotiate a thumping FTA with the USA which will replace the EU (not a hope in hell). Lighthizer’s arguments for FTAs only within groups of local, boundaried, countries highlights one of the strengths of the EU. It is a massive free-trade area with consistent, open, rules of engagement and with relatively limited transport. The USA has NAFTA so, it seems, their Trade Chief thinks that’s enough, everywhere else should be on WTO MFN terms. Obviously, initially this removes barriers for the USA in competing with the EU in countries where they have agreed FTAs. These include many former European colonies and also some of the world’s leading economies such as Japan. The USA is losing ground to the EU due to Europe’s keenness to enter into bilateral agreements around the world.

Trump has always played an America First hand, so I guess he sees challenges in negotiating FTAs around the world as these require compromise and would open him up to accusations of ‘selling out’ one industry or another in order to gain advantage elsewhere. He needs to feel loved across the board so removing bilaterail agreements means, as the largest economy, the USA regains some of it’s former power.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/franklavin/2020/08/27/trump-pivots-from-free-trade-agreements-us-business-left-behind/

This is yet another sign that Trumpist USA is not a good friend for Brexit Britain and another sign of how Brexit is a made decision which will leave us economically and diplomatically poorer, worsen our security position and not, actually, hand back any real benefits.

Well done Brexiteers, another sign of your ability to completely misread the way the future was shaping up.

Categories
UK

Last Night of the Proms

What, seriously, is going on in the mind of the PM that he can stay publicly silent during the A Level debacle because ‘he was on holiday’ yet he jumps up and down in indignation when it’s suggested the BBC my driop 2 songs from The Last Night of the Proms. Clearly this is the latest distraction for a certain demographic to keep their minds off other failures and constant U-turns.

So, firstly I would be interested to see what the demographic is of the audience for the Last Night of the Proms and what the viewing figures are. I do remember watching it as a child and being excited by the flag waving and pomposity fo the event but that was in the 70s and 80s. By the time I reached my teens I was getting bored by the same show every year and I don’t think I have everywatched it as an adult. Apparently, according to some commentators on socvial media that means I must hate Britan and am a traitor.

Why do we fixate on keeping things the same as they were in the past. I’ve fought this attitite as a school leader for years, “we tried that and it didn’t work”. That is exactly the same as “We’ve always done it that way so we can’t change it”. If we apply this to everything we’d still be sending children up chimneys!

I understand that the future is frightening, and that to a certain generation of people life has changed beyond all recognition so clinging on to the comforts of the past is important for their mental wellbeing. I also understand that there is a large demographic in the UK that has been consitently failed by the government over the past 50 years (of which 32 years had Conservative leadership and 18 had Labour so who is really most to blame for ‘The Left Behind’). The privately owned print media and a significant part of the right wing political class have gone out of their way to scapegoat others so that this group are happy to blame immigrants/scroungers/foreigners/women/the EU/refugees for all of their ails instead of holding the government properly to account.

The furure over The last night of the Proms is exactly the same story as the statues a few weeks ago. Certain MPs shouting about erasing our history because a song is not being sung is a ludicrous as suggesting that our statues are how we learn about history.

The songs are anachronistic. They were written during a different time for a different country. Britain had a very successful Empire. At the time, this was normal practice for European nations and Britain was particularly good at it. There are clearly things we shold be proud of in our history. As a small island nation we have consistently ‘punched above our weight’. We now, clearly, have no confidence in our place in the future. This is the only explanation I can think of for the instant explosion of anger when anything to do with our imperial past is challenged or suggestions made for change. Our success as a country, I think, has come from our pragmatism and our ability to look at the way the wind is blowing and change as necessary. Now we seem to look at the way the wind is blowing and try to put up a wind break. One of those multi-coloured ones on broom handles that you hammer into the sand on the beach and which blows away half way through the picnic tea!

We need political leadership for the future. We need someone willing to have the conversations with the population at large on: why we should accept refugees and asylum seekers; why immigration is good for everyone; why we should apologise of our Imperial past; why we need to collaborate with other countries instead of trying to go our own way; why statues of slavers should be changed for statues of people we currently look up to (or of other pieces of art). This would send the ‘journalists’ of the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph and Sun into apoplexy so their reporting would, again, be designed to whip up the fury of people who are frightened of the different.

I think that is the problem. Many people are frightened of the different and many people have a vested interest in keeping them that way.

On a slightly different issue, but one which I think underpins the problem of ‘The Left Behind’ and, therefore, has led to Brexit and the anti-Immigrant viewpoint of so many. In the 1970’s Britain was broke and took out the biggest loan the World Bank had ever issued. In the 1980’s the North Sea Oil money started rolling in and all of our utilities and other nationbalised industries were sold off. The Conservatives had a massive income stream form the mid-1980s through to the mid-1990s. What do we have to show for it? The worst and most expensive rail network in Europe (virtually all other European countries have nationalised or semi-nationalised railways which run better, cheaper and more efficiently). The most expensive utility costs in Europe (provided by European companies). A Postal system under threat from further privatisation. A road network that compares very badly with Hungary, Austria, Germany and Belgium.

Where did all the money go? Tax cuts for the rich? Nuclear weapons? Indirect handouts to support privatised industries? Tax benefits to support people working for privatised companies who cut costs by not paying a livable wage as they know that the state will pay the difference.

It’s not anti-British or unpatriotic to highlight that Britain is broken. The Patriotic Brit should be shouting from the rooftops to try and rescue the country from our current malaise and look, with confidence, to the future.

Categories
Brexit UK

Boris Johnson

So, this morning (25th August) 4 different news outlets are reporting rumours that Boris will have resigned by February. Can’t it be sooner?

How might this play out then, if it’s true. Here’s my thinking:

  1. A no-deal Brexit is on the cards as no trade deal can be agreed due to British red lines. The government spin machine goes into overdrive ‘celebrating’ the break from the EU and congratulating Boris on delivering the wishes of the people. Boris ‘resigns’ as ‘his work is done’ leaving others to pick up the pieces.
  2. The government U-Turns in the Brexit trade talks in order to secure a deal. The government spin machine goes into overdrive ‘celebrating’ the break from the EU and congratulating Boris on delivering the wishes of the people. Boris ‘resigns’ as ‘his work is done’ despite ERG members spitting feathers about the ‘betrayal’.
  3. COVID comes back with vengeance and Boris is ‘advised’ to step back due to the health risk, him already having suffered and been hospitalised earlier in the year. ‘Reluctantly’ he steps back handing the reins to someone else to sort out the mess he’s left.

I appreciate this is wishful thinking but if we’re being prepared for his leaving there is a chance that there;s going to be a shift in the brexit stance as everyone in government can see the disaster looming. Boris sidestepping at the right time, amid fanfare and thanks, could just casue enough of a distraction for them to sneak through a reversal and us end up with a deal that doesn’t cause absolute disaster. The key factor, in my opinion, will be the US elections. If Trump loses, Boris will be looking for a way to achieve a proper deal with the EU knowing full well that there’ll be nothing coming from a Biden administration. The Tories can’t oversee a total meltdown of the economy. This is their strong point. They’d be out of power for a generation if everything tanks. Especially with the cool calm head of the lawyer-in-waiting across the despatch box with his facts and his statistics and his research. Pesky professional that he is!

Categories
Brexit UK

Backwards facing Britain

I’ve just realised, with some shock, that I am just the same as the Brexiteers!

They want to take Britain back to some rose-tinted 1950s ish period where Britain ruled the waves (and other countries did as they were told). The ignore that fact that Britain was still bankrupt in the 1950s due to WW2. There was a decade of growth and improvement in 1960s then the country was so broke in the 1970s it needed the biggest ever loan from the World Bank. They forget 3 day weeks, devaluation, Imperial wars, poor life quality and expectancy because the way it is portrayed is through the lens of the middle classes. We started to emerge from 30 years of on and off austerity and economic turmoil after we’d joined the then EEC and they had started to move towards the fundamental freedoms (Goods, Labour, Services). Why wasn’t Auf Weidersehen, Pet described as “unwelcome immigrants steal jobs from locals by working for less than the going rate and refuse to learn local language or customs.”

Anyway, why am I the same as a Brexiteer? Because I want to turn the clock back to the heady days of 2012 when we confidently welcomed the world to celebrate sporting prowess. When the country had a positive outlook and a positive reputation. It was the end of arguably 20 years of “cool Britannia” where we looked to the continent for partnerships that helped us all grow and we took a collaborative approach to everything.

I think 2012 was the end of that era as we’d had the coalition government for 2 years, austerity was start to bite and the LibDems were starting to find out their limits as the junior coalition partner. In my opinion it all started to unwind after 2012. Immigrants and immigration became the scapegoats for everything the government failed us on. Europe and the EU was blamed for every government failure. The rhetoric of the Conservative party became more and more isolationist, nationalist and selfish.

So here we are in 2020 looking forward to the prospect of drug shortages causing animal pandemics, the army on the streets to quell riots food prices rocketing and shortages due to lorries being held up at the ports. Adding to this the now annual flooding devastating the lives of tens of thousands and a second round of Covid, on top of seasonal flu to add another 30,000 or so avoidable deaths.

What, exactly, is this country doing to itself?

Categories
Scotland UK

The Union?

I think the governments rushing around over the last few weeks to ‘love bomb’ Scotland is pitiful and I don’t think it will work. As a party they are distrusted (at best) throughout the country as they have been seen, since the time of Thatcher’s government in the 80s of ruling as a colonial power and ingoring the wishes of the Scottish electorate. In the last Scottish Parliamentaryt elections they obtained 22% of the vote, so 3rd place behind the SNP and Labour yet, due to the complex arithmetica behind the PR system, became the second largest party. In the last general election, back in December (!) they achieved 25% of the vote. Hardly a ringing endorsement. Their holding of 6 seats in Westminster and being 2nd party in Holyrood is due to the quirk of choice. There are 4 parties which can be described as centre-left or left wing (SNP, Labour, LibDem and Green) while only one as centre (?) right. The large majority of Scots are social democrats, whose views lie firmly on the left of centre and their vote is always split between 4 parties. the quarter to fifth of the population who are more right-wing thinkers have only one home. So, the choice on the left is what strengthens the Tory vote. I believe this is exactly the same situation in England but without the strength of an SNP type party that can tap into emotions in the same way.

I believe the UK as a whole is more socially democratic that neo-liberal despite the 80 seat Conservative majority. They attracted just 43% of the vote across the country in 2019 but have an unassailable majority in parliament so are strutting about like they have a ringing endorsement from the country.

Anyway, what has this got to do with the future of the Union? I think this disparity between the general politics of the country and the policy of the current government is causing significant stress across the country. The Brexit vote was an anomoly and didn;t have universal support. Theresa May had the opportunity when she took over the preniership to forge a centrist path and try and find a workable compromise between both sides of the argument. Bearing in mind the closeness of the vote I do believe this was achievable. A Norway model or a Swiss model or something similar. Instead she drew her famous red lines which fed into the wishes of the more avid Brexit voters and completely dismissed the wishes of remainers.

This approach has led to a clear belief amongst many in Scotland that a Conservative government in London doesn’t listen to the wishes of anyone outside of their electoral bubble. If David Cameron had acted on promises to institute DevoMax after the 2014 vote the Scottish parliament may have been able to exert more pressure and force more compromise and a more ‘middle way’ through the Brexit debacle. Since this hasn’t happened, those of us who value our EU membership as a way of strengthening the standing of our country have only one option. We need to support Independence on a rejoin the EU ticket.

The British constitution is broken. The electoral system is broken. Too many people’s views and desires are ignored by the FPTP system and 2-party system of Westminster which more often than not creates a government of minority support yet who need not seek compromise.

I suspect it’s too late, but constitutional and electoral reform on a federal model would, I think, settle the independence question. Ensuring each contituent country of the UK was treated as an equal would remove the current situation whereby the size of England allows it to rule as a virtual colonial power over Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the electoral mass outweighs the rest of the country. This is why we have a right-wing government in power and why the independence movement is growing.

The SNP will overwhelmingly win the next Scottish elections. There is no question. They will overcome the formula designed to ensure coalition government was the norm in the devolved administrations and lead, for the first time, as a majority government. In this case, Westminster can’t, democratically, refuse a referendum. When they do, they will become increasingly irrelevant North of the border.

What is even more ridiculous, Gove et al who are making comments on independence are using the same arguments as us remainers used for the Brexit referendum. They are able to argue that the economic damage caused by breaking away from the EU was worth it for the ephemeral prize of sovereignty. This is exactly the same argument that the SNP will be using against them. Their counter arguments are already undone because of their stance over Brexit.

Johnson’s refusal to have the devolved leaders join Cabinet meetings is another sign of the entitlement of Johnson and his cronies. He doesn’t want the first ministers sharing a meeting as he doesn’t want them seen as equals. Unfortunately, to many (if not most) inScotland and, perhaps in Wales and Northern Irelend, these leaders are already seen as far superior to him.

I’m not a happy supporter of independence but my love of my country and my hope for the future of my children places the EU at the centre of my wishes. It is the only organisation which is able to stand up to the US and to major corporations. It is also, due to the complex democratic structures behind it, is the only organisation which places the needs of it’s citizens at the centre more often than not.

I think the UK is doomed and I think the present Conservative period of governance (from 2015) will be the last UK government. Something will have changed before we get to 2024. I just hope it’s as painless as possible.

Categories
Education UK

A level results

Education

Monday August 17th.

So, the furore over the A level results continues. It does make you wonder if Gavin Willamson is the new Chris Grayling. There’s an article here from the International Baccalaureate Organisation explaining how they are adapting their appeals procedures to ensure fairness and transparency for all of their students, spread around the world. Of course, the keys to the IBO awarding algorithm are the coursework components which, for most students, will have been submitted before lockdown started or in the weeks immediately afterwards and the teacher formal predicted grade. Having coursework as an essential component of every course in the Diploma Programme is a decision the IBO have stood by in the 20+ I have had an involvement with them. Their rationale is that properly structured coursework enables young people to be challenged to undertake much deeper learning and more detailed application of that learning than you get from an exams only system. It also improves accessibility across the range of students. Those who work better over long perionds of time can thrive on the coursework aspects, those who work better with simplistic memory-recall of formal exams can look forward to the terminal tests and, to achieve the very top marks, young people need to excel in both areas. This provides much better preparation for higher education and future life than being judged solely on a series of exams at the end of 2 years. The increased emphasis on the 2 year course then test and the removal of coursework is the result of the changes brought in by Gove in his disastrous tyenure as English Education Secretary. If the AS level had remained and the coursework had remained then the awarding of the final grades this year could have been moderated against the indivisual stuents actual work. Regarding Teacher Preductions, the IBO collects this data every year and feeds back to school how accurate their predictions are. The Predicted Grades are being school-contextualised which, in the IBOs case, is not simply looking at past performance of the school and moderating to keep it in line with historic grades but has looked at the accuracy of PGs in the past and used this as a contextual mnoderation. This means the varying performance of cohort to cohort and child to child is accounted for, any grade adjustment is based on how well the school has managed to predict grades in the past. This is much fairer and transparent. It’s not necessarily a failing of a school or teacher that PGs may be inaccurate, there are many factors (experience of the teacher within the system, the point in the 7 year development cycle of the subject, how long the school has been an IB school etc) but if there is consistency in their PGs, which there tends to be, then moderation can be done fairly. Of course, the IBO is an educational body that a) believes education should be broad, balanced accessible and preparatory for future life and b) trusts the schools, and teachers within those schools, as professionals. The last 10 years of Conservative governance has seen education reduced to the quantitavely measurable to the detriment of the qualitative and has also seen consistent attacks on the professionalism of the teaching profession. It is disastrous for the poor young people who are suffering because of this grading fiasco but it is a disaster caused by ideological decisions taken by consecutive Conservative goverments since 2010. Anyway, here’s the article – it is so much more supportive and organised than the Ofqual response and subsequent withdrawal of the appeals process after less than a day.

https://www.ibo.org/news/news-about-the-ib/update-m20-dp-cp-results/

At least backbench Tory MPs seem to realise there’s a problem even if those in government are hiding their heads in the sand.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnson-deadline-a-level-results-a4526611.html

It was only a matter of time. Monday, 4pm and the latest U turn from the government who are flip flopping all over on pretty much every issue because they’re too sure of their own ability so they’re not reading the public mood or properly listening to the experts.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/aug/17/gavin-williamson-seeks-blame-ofqual-exams-debacle-a-level-gcse?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

It was inevitable that rather than take responsibility, Williamson would lay the blame on Ofqual. There’s a great quote in this article. Apparently Williamson only became aware the scale of the problem on Saturday and Sunday. What was he doing all day Thursday and Friday, as Education Secretary on the days after the results were issued. Yet more incompetence and inability to rise to the challenge of the job!