Monday, 12 September 2016

Faith Schools

A Tory government with a slim majority is not going to allow that to get in the way of an active and controversial education agenda. Grammar schools are not the only issue, so is allowing faith schools to recruit 100% by faith! It seems we in the UK will not learn good sense. I am not a fan of faith schools, however I can live with them in a way I cannot live with fee paying private schools. But I cannot live with faith schools who create a corral. The only purpose of religion today is that of expansive goodness, of offering hope and understanding. Even as far as teaching people how to be decent with no certainty of an afterlife. I am sure Jesus would teach that if on earth today. I am sure Jesus would applaud meritocracy and not the choice money can allow. It would not surprise me if Jesus could understand streaming in schools so long as merit was the only criterion. I doubt Jesus would endorse any faith school founded on exclusion. I doubt Jesus would look kindly on any religion that continues to practice child abuse (think of all the examples of this of old and new - Castrati, Circumcision, priestly abuse, it is not one religion in the firing line, it is many ( I think that perhaps the Sikhs and the Buddhists may be safe?)). So religions including the Christian Church have a terrible history to be ashamed of and then they want to campaign to create exclusive faith schools. This is madness, the folly of it is writ all over Ireland, it is a road that creates ghettos. It is a folly that enslaves children in the name of God, creating either conformity or the immense pain of defiance. Sensible progressive people of any faith or none would not want to structuralise this in future British society and I find my willingness to be positive about our new prime minister very strained. Brexit is a very important matter one might think absorbing of all the efforts for the foreseeable?

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

MOAS off the Libyan Coast

We start with a link to a hard hitting Sky story. It is not unfamiliar. Thousands of migrants headed for almost certain death off the coast of Libya unless the West intervenes and rescues them, which it does. The policy of a few years ago, which was minimum intervention, let people drown to discourage others being unacceptable to the public. Was it an effective deterent? I don't know. I want to blog because I can see a solution to this very difficult topic.

The Sky story was clear, almost all those rescued would not be recognised as refugees, they would be classed as economic migrants, most from West Africa. As such once taken to Italy and in a process of about a year (spent in open camps) they should be returned home. What a pointless exercise. Although it is rather worse than this. Many will walk out to "freedom". As such they will become illegals and have to exist on the margins of European society. Even worse a number will thereby be drawn into criminality and perhaps be trafficked and at an extreme level effectively become sex slaves. This is documented.

Back at home, the countries they leave will be impoverished by the loss of the dynamic talent that was able to get itself across the Sahara. The same counties will be impoverised too by the money which pays for this trade and goes to essentially criminal gangs who at heart have no interest whatsover in helping the people who pay them. It is in so many ways a terrible example of multi layered human exploitation right from the initial idea that these people think it worthwhile to try to make the journey which for probably the clear majority will end in tragedy, or utter frustation and definitely the loss of money.

So how can this flow be managed? It must certainly not be allowed to succeed. People cannot be allowed to expect to live whereever they want. Proper political refugees are a different matter. Economic migrants are utterly mistaken to assume that apart from the criminal fraternity that coming to Europe will bring recompense and a golden life.

What would be a humanitarian way to deal with this? Yes, we must rescue those in the Mediterranean. And we must discover those who put them there and punish them most firmly. But the error that is being made is to bring these people to open camps in Italy. The destination of those rescued needs to be floating camps using hired in liners docked in locations where escape into Europe is impossible. The mistake is made the moment economic migrants are allowed to set foot in Europe without arriving through proper process. From these floating camps with no prospect of escape, these migrants can then be returned whence they came in a humane fashion. The fruitlessness of this excursion once it becomes clear will become the most effective deterent at stopping people from risking all in this nightmare way.

Public Information

A number of you must be able to visualise Whitby Visitor Centre. A generous sized single storey modern building opposite Whitby Railway Station. Clearly civic pride created it 15 years ago. It is now about to close and wears for sale signs. Hexham's own tourist information closed 1st May this year. A modern building also located like Whitby at a perfect entry point for visitors. Hexham was relocated to the Library and already as I found out today has been downsized from its original incarnation there. At Whitby the plan was to do without, but after much aggro, a smaller facility will run in the harbour office. What do you think? Is public information provision an unnecessary luxury in a modern age? I know our holiday in Whitby was coloured by what leaflets were available. Internet access where we stayed and in the Moors in general is patchy. It was obvious far less leaflets are in print than in the past whether bus timetables or Forestry walks. A case in point was with Falling Foss waterfall, the Hermitage and Littlebeck where we just had to make it up as we went along. In the end two exhausted Dutch Ladies suggested to us the pull up from Littlebeck to the Hermitage was a bit wearing. I am clear what I believe, Libraries, Careers Services, Public Transport offices, Tourist Information Services, all deal in one commodity. The professional provision of information, hard and digital. Nothing can substitute for them because very few people are REALLY REALLY digitally literate, know how to do an information search or write a literature review. I think tourism in areas without physical tourist information centres will suffer. I think every secondary school in Britain should be legally obliged to employ a qualified librarian (who could also serve feeder schools). A National Careers Service should be available to all educational establishments. Pie in the sky, but don't be surprised if without attainment suffers. R4 this morning was on about the failings of modern apprenticeships and in part one could see that those organisations that were not investing in information were letting their students down. There is another aside to this. Heritage Open Weekends are imminent. I asked in Hexham Library for the Northumberland programme, there was none. There was a Hexham leaflet but that only had part of the Allendale programme. The full Allendale programme was pinned onto the railings opposite the front door of the Library.. And did any of you go to the Tall Ships at Blyth? What was your experience like?.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

September 2016

Now Teresa May (in China) is really having to engage with Brexit. Who would like to challenge me if I said Britain has not faced a situation like this since the Reformation? On that occasion, one man King Henry VIII "caused" the situation. Today the populace through the referendum have "caused" it. Otherwise the situation is very similar. The core issue was about who rules (Europe, then Rome) or the nation state. King Henry VIII ( to suit his love life) decided for England. But what it meant, no-one really knew, and in the end England invented its own classic fudge, the sweet reasonableness of Anglicanism in considerable contrast to the other European solutions of Luther and Calvin. This took decades to work out (and a considerable amount of blood). I don't see any early judgement on what Brexit means. Our prime minister clearly does not intend Brexit to mean what many Brexiteers (including some in her cabinet) want it to mean. To be honest, I simply don't know (and doubt many of us do) how to control immigration. It would seem May who has had charge of the issue for several years has no clear idea herself. We are into make your own fudge territory for a long while ahead. What would I have done in the 1530-1660 period? I would have sought to have stayed alive, compromised my principles, encouraged everyone to stop killing one another in the name of God and generally calm down, and welcomed the Restoration with great joy. This application of 21st century reason would probably have got me killed anyway (claiming to deny that you could kill in the name of God, it certainly did not do many Levellers much good). So these are difficult times and in short order that "dammed referendum" will have achieved nothing. Whether in 10-20 years time we will feel more sanguine, and applaud our brave stance against the supra-national state, I have no idea but hope and pray I may last to see whether the vote was wise. For sure this autumn the issue will not leave a screen near you and I do prophesy it still has the power to blast the Tory party apart.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Weekend of Sport

Great Britain has just had an excellent weekend - of sport. I listened to the last story before 8am on R4 Today. It was not thought for the day, it might as well have been. It was Sir David Brailsford in Andorra for Team Sky. It was as if he had Britain's political parties in mind. Team members do not have to be buddies but they do have to be ALIGNED to the objective and critically they need a shared united vision of what the team aims for. Team GB does not have (and has not had for decades, not since Mrs Thatcher came to power) a united all islands, all the people, those who work and don't vision. I noticed how May is positioning herself for all WORKING people. It has been the Tory One Nation mantra for a while but it still omits huge numbers of people. It justifies forcing disabled people into work. Meanwhile the Labour party is in an existential fight over whether Socialism should triumph. JC says never in his lifetime has Labour had a socialist leader. That should tell you all you need to know about his relevance to most of us. To cap it all UKIP iis having a leadership race as well. To anyone from "Westminster" who reads this. You are all cracked! Every one of you who thinks now is the moment for a leadership race just having voted to just leave the EU, you have missed the point entirely. The whole nation rich and poor needs leadership dedicated to EVERYONE in these islands. Corbyn is not, I doubt Leadsom would be. May may be. Anyone in UKIP dedicated to everyone in these islands? It comes to a rich pass if one even thinks Sturgeon could make a better job of it (FACT she does not in Govanhill). I hated compulsory sport but I am suggesting every MP needs to take it up.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Painted People

The early news from the UK Saturday 9th July 2016 was dominated by two threads. Conservative Premier hopefuls Leadsom and May in a tussle led by the former about whether motherhood gave her an added edge over May A most ill advised tack to take in my judgement. I set this beside listening to Simon and Garfunkel The boxer and moved to the next story, thousands of naked blue painted people parading through Hull to create art . I do not warm to Leadsom (the cruel part of me thinks Lead Baloon (no more cruel than denigrating the childless May)) but I did warm to the strippers in Hull. Hull might seem a tad unlikely, with the backdrops of the muddy River Hull (think Struncheon Hill Lock), elderly commercial shipping and caverns of brick warehouses. One part of the pose involved swinging a bridge full of nudes.
We have always been an eccentric nation - us Brits - never particularly wanting to bear the burden of conformity and a European super state. The blue was meant to symbolise the river and seas that surround our islands and in their own way join us to the continent. The blue also reminded me though of two more disparate groups, the Tories whose bizarre politicing over Europe has boiled over these last weeks and shows no signs of bating. And the other group was much older, the painted people, the Celts of these islands whom the Romans reported on.
It is not difficult to see the Euro referendum as a judgement on our willingness to conform, I do not want to be part of a European super state, nor have I ever sought to be part of the European Church. Globalisation and corporatism give me the heeby jeebies. The thousands of painted nudes expressed both rebellion and a different deeper conformity. The conformity of shared humanity stripped of the suits, a return to the waters of the womb, a humble conformity. And certainly not one where the body beautiful, a particular shape, was to be praised. All bodies were present, all ages, all genders. 

This was not some weird celebration of motherhood in pursuit of political ambition. This was a humble statement in the context of one of Britain’s cities where the past and its decline still remain very present. So many ships and crews have left the Hull and the Humber. So many memories of the deep sea trawlers heading north west. The packet ships of Associated Humber Lines like the Kirkham Abbey heading to the Low Countries . The barges sailing and motor heading into the Yorkshire hinterland and up the Trent. The amorphous water world of the Humber expressed in its citizens on a dull July morning far from Westminster.
None of us know what the future holds. By a narrow majority we have said that the bureaucracy of the European Union is not “us”. But I doubt “us” is really blue suited Tory ladies “experienced” in London’s money markets point scoring about motherhood. Somehow I have more faith that “us” is about blue painted nudity and I should be pleased to join in such an installation one day and not care too much over Westminster shennagins.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Two mornings after

So a government, elected by I think 24% of us, offered a straight in/out one vote counts referendum on the BIGGEST subject imaginable. Yes, there has been an answer which has to be respected so the next question is how is one of the most fearsome peacetime tasks you could generate achieved? The Tories will naturally argue for stability so that power can move from one Etonian to another one (who has been scheming to this end for God knows how long). Our friends and allies just look on jaws dropped. It is not insignificant that young versus old seem pitted against one another (the age demarcation chart the BBC had). 

There have been some very sad moments in recent weeks. For me one was seeing the 80 year old ex soldier in tears because he had got his country back. The anti German feeling has been a constant undercurrent. But he is wrong. He has not got his country back, it has been sold under his feet, a point made endlessly on this timeline for weeks. I try to imagine what my own ex soldier father would say. Essentially Tory but also a European he would not wish anti German or anti immigrant sentiments to rule anything. He was a realist, a lawyer. GET THE DEAL. Cameron's deal was terrible. For the life of me I fail to understand why a common market NEEDED tax harmonisation and free movement of labour. National government's controlling borders and using fiscal instruments to compete against one another seems to me a market - not making everyone subject to the same exact rules.

I always wanted to be a member of the Common Market and not the European Union. If that could become the case (and I was asked again, although I do not relish that), I would likely vote not to piss on everyone else from all other the world who has become involved in our affairs. However the end question is do the Tories in any sensible sense have the mandate to do this? Everything they said you could rely on up to and including the Union of this Kingdom, they have smashed in the most inane way through simply not hearing ordinary voters. I know another election adds more discomfort to the mix but I would be really surprised if that does not happen before Christmas.

A comment on some numbers. Was my not voting (one of the 1 in 50) rather insouciant? I was not impressed by Cameron's deal, I did not want to vote FOR the EU. I detested the whole process and campaign in which a Tory party bunflght was inflicted on everyone else (and then I got a Kidney stone so I am typing this and not heading for a railtour from Hexham). However there were surprises, for the second time (why did not Cameron learn?) there was no "Labour vote" to rely on. Their parliamentary party is disconnected to the root. And then in places like Blackburn, Lancaster and Preston the leave figures were really big. It makes me wonder whether in some key places not only was Labour not voting remain but were the ethnic communities staying well away? Were sizeable numbers of people (Muslim women) whose votes might have mattered and whose interests would be served in rather than vote, not even on registers?