Mike Vickers' Blog

October 19, 2018

It’s an uncomfortable truth but many now believe Brexit can’t be delivered

Filed under: Brexit, History in the making, Politics — derryvickers @ 9:56 am

I am not a Tory but Anna Soubry has it right.

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It gives me no pleasure to observe the chaos and mess of the Brexit negotiations. I do not doubt our Prime Minister has done her best to deliver the result of the EU Referendum and leave the EU. But as many now see, it is not only considerably more complex and difficult than anyone believed or was told, trying to find a Brexit that meets the demand of many Leavers whilst securing peace in Northern Ireland is all but impossible. Parliament’s Northern Ireland Select Committee, whose members are almost exclusively fierce Leave supporters, produced a lengthy and considered report on how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. They concluded there is no technology to solve the problem and recognised the importance of making sure the old fixed border did not return.
The free movement of people and goods across the border is critical to the maintenance of peace. It is also very good for business across the United Kingdom.
When we leave the EU we are set to leave the Customs Union and Single Market which allows what we call frictionless trade – that free movement. As you know I have argued and voted for both, notwithstanding the threats of de-selection, violence and considerable abuse.
Our continuing membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union is also what British business wants as they are critical to the delivery of prosperity and jobs. But the Prime Minister and many Leave supporters, notably in Parliament, insist we must leave both and strike some new trade arrangement with the EU.
You were promised such a deal would be sorted before we leave the EU next March. Those negotiations have barely begun and there will be no deal to implement in March. So, some “back stop” is needed to ensure there is no hard border in Northern Ireland until the technology is developed or some magical trade deal is agreed that confers the free movement of a soft border.
As we saw last weekend, the Cabinet and parts of my party can’t even agree on that back stop. The reason, I am sorry to say, is both stubbornness over “red lines” and ideology.
But there is also this, and it is an argument I admit is powerful. If we stay in some form of Customs Union and/or the Single Market, we have no say over the rules that would govern our trade – we would be a rule taker not a rule maker, even though we would be paying a lot of money in effect for membership of both. Many argue they voted leave to restore our country’s sovereignty (I don’t believe we ever lost it) but in any event, they make an important point.
We cannot walk away without any deal as the consequences would be profound and I do not see any prospect now of Parliament agreeing to any deal.
There was such a time but the Prime Minister failed to seize that opportunity and build a consensus which would unite our country.
The only solution to the mess and chaos in my opinion and amongst a growing number of colleagues, is a People’s Vote – to take this most important matter for decades back to you the people. That’s what I shall be marching for in London tomorrow. Let me know if you would like to join me.

I [Anna Soubry] asked the Prime Minister a question in the above terms on Monday and you can read it here and watch it here

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October 14, 2018

Festival of Politics

Filed under: Edinburgh Festival, History in the making, Land Ownership, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 8:29 pm

For the last 15 years The Scottish Parliament has been holding a Festival of Politics.  The festival typically provides 20 events: talks and panels on topics of political interest both current and from the past,  local and world wide.  I have attended for the last three years and below I provide very brief summaries as to what I picked up from the 5 events I attended this year.

Red Clydesiders

Panel: Maggie Craig (Writer on Scotland); Billy Kendrick (from Dundee and it showed); Prof Ian McClean (Oxford University) and Monica Lennon MSP Chair (Labour, Central Scotland).

Introductions by all on Red Clydeside but see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red Clydeside for more.

The speakers emphasised the role of women in the strikes and the movement as a whole; MC in particular considered that the role was / is almost wholly ignored.

Religious intolerance rife during the WW1 War Years.

Names of the persona were remembered. There should be a plaque in 2019 to recognise Red Clydeside.

The real start of the Labour Party (ILP) but the Communist association had been around for some time. Council Housing after WW1 was good quality but has got worse ever since (IM).

The current problem with the Labour Party is the lack of leaders.

What Glasgow did, Dundee did it too (BK).

People Parliaments Possibilities

Panel: Birgitta Jonsdottir (Iceland, mother and political activist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birgitta_J%C3%B3nsd%C3%B3ttir); Brett Hennig (Sortition Foundation, Australian); Jamie Kelsey-Fry (professional panellist) and Shelagh Wright Chair (daughter of Canon Kenyon Wright).

BJ described drawing up the proposed constitution for Iceland; she was very proud of the work done. But constitution so far rejected by the parliament.

Current Elections ‘aristocratic’.

BK: Democracy by random selected committee (Sortition); applied in Ireland for change to Abortion Laws group assembled for a few weeks and then became the then current law.

JKF: throw out everything, economics is broken and start again even the laws; Taxation is politics. Remember the Occupation of St Pauls. All the good work being done in Madrid by new woman mayor; Frome is moving this way.

All agreed that the Young should lead the way.

 

In Conversation with Dame Margaret Hodge held in the main council chamber

Ken Macintosh (Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament)

Margaret Hodge one-time Chair of the UK Public Accounts Committee 2010-15

MH, a Jew, came out of Germany before WW2; Welcomed into the UK in London and became a Labour supporter immediately and still is; she is still an MP for Barking.

An economist by trade

She was Council Leader for Islington and remembers Jeremy Corbyn well (MP for Islington North). Corbyn is still quoting the same policies he said 20 years ago

Have never been close friends leading to Corbyn’s Anti-Semitism remarks direct at Hodge.

Not a practising Jew and critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians but still fell out with Corbyn

She managed the Public Accounts Committee through consensus. Her track record was 246 out of 247 successes. Lost the Royal Mail privatisation which she most regrets. Journalists can be on your side through good relations but its so easy to lose connections.

One needs to recognise the value of money

Auditors help Governments to set the rules then sell themselves to large companies to circumvent the rules. This is immoral.

She was persuaded to put one person under investigation under Oath but then couldn’t find a Bible. Since then she believes that putting people under Oath is correct. Money Laundering is rife.

The HMRC make tax deals but as the HMRC is not a ministerial organisation these deals remain undisclosed: this needs correction.

Governments are little better: the justification for the two aircraft carriers was not forthcoming by Gordon Brown.

Global Companies are not moral despite what they state. Needs to be one unified global set of accounts. Facebook has never been held to account.

Final words; Build Trust, Connect with People, still supports Labour values.

 

A Forgotten History: The Scottish Clearances

In Conversation with Tom Devine held in the main council chamber

Ken Macintosh (Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Professor Tom Devine: historian of Scotland – excellent speaker

Professor Stana Nenadic in attendance

The Main debating chamber was full as well as the public gallery

The Clearances: forgotten – well not by the audience!

The subject was Tom Devine’s new book on the Scottish Clearances. He frequently emphasised that his book is totally underpinned by historical research over 30 years.

TD has given as much attention to the Lowland Clearances as to the Highlands. He doesn’t dismiss the Highland Clearances but considers they have been for the last 150 years romanticised. John Pebble’s book is a good read, sold over 25,000 copies, but has a lot to answer for; Victorianism has not helped.

Tartan Products are the best-known brand worldwide. TD considers the Lowland Clearances started first and Lowland Managers migrated with the lessons they learned to the Highlands. TD considers the Lowland clearances were much more subtle; a tenancy agreement came to an end and the tenant was out. In the Highlands durcus (correct word please) remained strong and new landlords with little interest in it just deposed the crofters.

SN believes a major driver of the clearances was the landlords’ need for money to support their elevated life style (conspicuous consumption); gentrification.  Typically, families would have ten or more sons who just couldn’t be supported on the land; joined the army and were with their tenants the backbone of the imperial regiments about, Waterloo. Their tartans help builds the brand.

 

Who Owns and Stewards Scotland

Panel: Andy Wightman (the Poor had no Lawyers); Bob MacIntosh (Land Commission); Ninian Stuart (Centre for Stewardship); David Johnson (Scottish Land and Estates Commission) and in the chair Deputy Presiding Officer – Name please.

There are few owners of land in Scotland; most small farmers are tenants. Agreed that the drive must be to get more young people under 30 on to the land.

Land value is very difficult to assess; AW land value near towns gets out of control once planning permission sort.

Land Value Tax brought up, but DJ said many reasons why difficult to quantify.

House prices fluctuate widely cf Germany where prices have been stable of years; the Germans heavy investment deposited in banks which is reinvested in new businesses.

Secure Tenancy is drying up as landlords unwilling to be unable to terminate at tenancy end. Nevertheless, Land is still a free market.

Brexit will make a difference in subsidies and margins which are already very small will reduce further.

Climate change will drive tree planting and NS is keen on huts but not holiday homes.

DJ expressed the need for much better understanding across the communities

Government needs to be more active in stewardship and technology is becoming very important.

The Land Register is improving. Common Good needs to be better document (AW).

AW is looking forward to a new Land Reform Bill hopefully next years

But surprising the meeting was low key with little acrimony.

If I could have remembered the Author I would have stood up and quoted Mark Twain

“Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.”

October 7, 2018

The Cumnock Tryst.

Filed under: Music, Poetry, War, World Class — derryvickers @ 8:40 pm

 Cumnock is not an exciting place, it used to be the central town of the Ayrshire Coal Field; now no more.  However, it’s the birthplace of Sir James MacMillan and what a difference he has brought to the Town.  He created the Cumnock Tryst  five years ago and since then the Tryst opens up the Town to music and the elite come to Cumnock (rather than vice versa).  Not only the music goers but this year the Tryst was graced by Ian Bostridge.

We went to just two pieces (6 in all); the second first; a musical promenade through the rooms of Dumfries House.  The House was saved and restored with the support of Prince Charles and Alex Salmond with Scottish Government Money. The Promenade started with Nikita Naumov on double base – a young Russian who plays with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and looked delighted at his reception today.  Then came the primary school bell ringers supported by Sirocco Wind and local singers.  The bell ringers chimed to old tunes and new from MacMillan; you may think this childish, but MacMillan takes it very seriously and it’s great that he uses his talents to bring forth kids to succeed him and in doing so becomes one source of dispelling the previous desperate state of the town and its surroundings.  The Promenade finished with five modern French pieces for woodwind from the Sirocco Wind – all young and should go far.

But the truly outstand piece was last night was an oratorio by MacMillan that will be played later this month by London Symphony Orchestra to mark the Armistice of WW1.  But that performance is unlikely to be anywhere near as exciting as last night’s.  The Oratorio text came from a WW1 Scottish poet, Charles Hamilton Sorley.  Sorley like so many other poets only lasted just 6 months into the battlefield; the text is entitled ‘All the Hills and Vales Along’.  The players were: Ian Bostridge the lead tenor, the Cumnock Tryst Festival Chorus, the Edinburgh Quarter (a group of four, two of whom regularly play with the Hebrides Ensemble), Naumov on double bass and the Sirocco Wind but the main orchestra came from the Dalmellington Band (Brass);  the mines may have closed but the Band plays on;  and how MacMillan had the Band at the core of his oratorio;  it shatters the desire of the Scottish Government to save money by deleting music education from school curricula.  There was a standing ovation and quite rightly so.

 

September 24, 2018

Brexit is an obscenity.

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Personal, War — derryvickers @ 9:36 pm

We may have fought in Europe for centuries .

But

We are part of Europe.

We were born out of Greece.

Watch Andrew Graham-Dixon and the Art of Germany in ‘The Shadow of Hitler’.

And in particular the work of Joseph Beuys.

And why we must avoid war in Europe , if possible, in the future.

Brexit underpins this objective.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00wlrzx/art-of-germany-3-in-the-shadow-of-hitler

Brexit is an obscenity.

 

August 31, 2018

Jon Mccain – A Eulogy by Joe Biden

Filed under: History in the making, In Our Time, Personal, USA — derryvickers @ 8:59 pm

I keep being reminded this week of John McCain.
Joe Biden through the Eulogy reminds us, well me at any rate, that there is a deeply positive side to the US that McCain personified.

A side that the US is being subverted through the tweets of Trump.
Here is the eulogy in case you missed it:

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&p=johm+mccain+eulogy+joe+biden#id=4&vid=0ef4037ed3d76c9c612564d0a06f9ed9&action=view

August 23, 2018

The Handlebards

Filed under: Edinburgh Festival, Music, Personal — derryvickers @ 6:57 pm

The Handlebards play this year at the Edinburgh Festival is Twelfth Night. If you have not come across them, they are four young men travelling the country on bikes performing Shakespeare (known as the Bard). They have been doing so for at least four years. They carry all their props, usually little more than a few costumes and a curtain to change behind which they do all the time, as the four of them play ALL the parts.

Their blurb states We are a troupe of cycling actors who carry all the set, props and costume needed to perform extremely energetic, charmingly chaotic and environmentally sustainable Shakespeare plays across the globe’. Their diction is perfect Shakespeare and they are word perfect.

To Twelfth Night it’s a silly comedy where twins Viola and Sebastian who get shipwrecked on a small island and are parted in the Storm (a typical Shakespeare theme). The sister dresses in men’s clothes so much so that they are indistinguishable and get involved in love affairs between the two important people on the island Duke Orsino and Countess Olivia. It all finishes with Viola pairing with Duke Orsino and Sebastian with Countess Olivia. But there is much fun and confusion in between.

As usual with Shakespeare there is a second plot with the servants Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria plan revenge on Malvolio, a pompous official, with a plan to persuade Malvolio that Olivia fancies him and wishes him to show his affection by dressing up in yellow including crossed garters; Maria knows that Olivia hate all these things. Malvolio takes the bate and speaks the famous quote “’Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Suffice to say that when Malvolio appears before Olivia, she is bewildered and despatches Malvolio to an asylum.

For more on the play go to:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelfth_Night

Sorry, this all seems a nonsense play which it is; but played out by the Handlebards it is hilarious and provides for good audience participation even to dragging members of the audience on stage. When Malvolio gives his famous quote, the whole audience chanted also. Throughout the four players were constantly changing garments and when Viola and Sebastian were finally both on stage of course they weren’t, only their hats that they had worn throughout were there held by their two final partners with the actual player dancing from one to the other changing his speaking genders accordingly.

They included in this show a significant number of Shakespeare’s lyrics.

For a flavour of the Handlebards try:

https://www.handlebards.com/press-resources/

But tghe only real way to appreciate sheer joie de vivre of the Handlebards is to see one of their shows

BTW There are now the Girls Handlebards

I despair of the UK’s current government

Filed under: Brexit, economics, Left Politics, Politics — derryvickers @ 4:31 pm

In an article in today’s Guadian I find

So why would they [Fox and co]want a no-deal? A group of hard-right Brexit economists has proposed the unilateral abolition of UK tariffs, which they openly admit would see the loss of our manufacturing base. They think this would be a good thing, and propel us into a new, service-based economy. That is why Fox and Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are not concerned about crashing out on to WTO rules – they believe it would enable them to turn Britain into a deregulated free-market economy like Singapore.”

Read the full article:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/23/labour-tories-no-deal-brexit-brexiters-cliff-edge-vote?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Opinion+UK+connected&utm_term=284123&subid=29298&CMP=ema_opinionconnectuk

As I recall West Germany built its current enviable finance position by re-building its manufacturing after WW2

As I further recall the UK built its world standing position in the 19th century partly because of it Empire but the Empire provided it a preferential position to export its manufacturing.

August 10, 2018

The Edinburgh Festival

Filed under: Music, Painting, World Class — derryvickers @ 7:35 pm

Since the beginning of the international Festival we have been to:

  1. An exhibition of paintings by Emil Nolde. Nolde painted from 1900 to 1950. His paintings are full of color, but during the period he fell foul of the Nazis and his painting was ridiculed as degrading and were banished from the German galleries, though at one time he signed up as a national socialist. His paintings are now accepted, but his socialist national ties are still unfavourably remembered. The same is true, but less so of the composer Richard Strauss.
  2. Waiting for Godot by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. The game is about two old abandoned living from day to day passing the time under a tree waiting for Godot that does not show, but a young boy reports every Night that Godot will ‘ arrive tomorrow ‘. Beckett spent most of his life in Paris and some of the language reminded me of Molière.
  3. The Barber of Seville, a work of Rossini. A cheerful work where everything finishes ‘ Happy ever After’. The opera was performed by the Theatre des Champs-Elysees.
  4. Last Wednesday we went to see the Siegfried Wagner Opera. The work is the third in the cycle The Ring of the Nibelungs: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. Siegfried is the hero who will save the world but is found wanting in Götterdämmerung; However the ring and gold are rescued by the maidens of the Rhein and the god Valhalla is burnt. Not quite ‘ happy ever after ‘. Wagner provided the libretto as well as the music and the operas were praised by the Nazis. Last night’s performance was given by the Halle Orchestra conducted by Mark Elder,  the music was dramatic and the singing was glorious, but five and a half hours needed attention to keep awake.
  5. Yesterday I went to Queens Hall for Leider. Ilker Arcayurek, tenor, and Simon Lepper, piano, singing Hugo Wolf and Schubert. The career of the tenor will go far.
  6. Finally, last night we went to the Usher Hall to hear a concert given by the BBC Symphony playing the music of Turbulent Landscapes of Thea Musgrave and Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams. The first was good but the second reminded us of the last Night of the Proms.

July 23, 2018

The Shetland Bus

Filed under: Education, Orkney, Personal, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:39 pm

While visiting Burghead on the Moray coast I was reminded of the Shetland Bus.

The Shetland Bus operated during WW2 ferrying Norwegians from Norway to Shetland and materials to Norway. But as I found at Burghead – Burghead also operated a bus. To say that it was a dangerous affair was an understatement but in times of war.

You can read about the Bus at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shetland_bus

But for the bus run to Burghead see:

The Shetland Bus

The Memorial to the Bus at Burghead

 

 

 

 

 

About the Bus to Burghead

On the plaque

 

 

 

 

I had my own personal memory while taking the photos I stepped back to include the whole memorial and fell off the edge of the quay and hit the ground hard – luckily, I survived and was very well looked after by the Burghead Sea Rescue group. Incidentally my camera kept taking movie pictures.

I attach a couple of photos of Burghead including the Well. The Well’s archaeological significance remains unknown.

Burghead from the Headland

Burghead looking South

 

 

 

Who cut the well remains unknown

The Well

The Well Description

The Well Description

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BTW when visiting Orkney two weeks ago (see previous blog) I was reminded of John Rae, the explorer seeking the North West Passage while working for the Hudson’s Bay Company. At Stromness not far from where Rae was borne there is a monument to him too.

To John Rae Arctic Explorer

John Rae

It’s good that Scotland remembers its heroes with plaques and lifelike sculptures.

July 17, 2018

Orkney Islands: 5,000 Years of Civilisation

Filed under: Orkney, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:35 pm

We had a great 2 weeks holiday in Orkney. We focused in the first week on the Saint Magnus Music Festival.

We stayed the first week in Stromness; the author and poet George Mackay Brown spent all his life there. Stromness has only one narrow street which reminds me of the hill towns in Italy. It has a well-maintained museum which is funded as a local charity; it also has an art gallery with a specific collection of artists of the Cornish School.

A view along the High Street

Stromness High Street

The Music was played both in Stromness and in Kirkwall; Kirkwall is the principal town and is where Saint Magnus cathedral is.

The music spanned mainly classical music but there was a group from Norway that played Alehouse music in the Town Hall Stromness. They held another session in the Cathedral. And they played wholly from memory. In general, all musicians came from the Nordic countries. There was also a play by Telemann again by a couple from Denmark brought up to date in English; this play was held in an impressive new school in Kirkwall. But the best session for us were Michael Foyle (Violin) and Maksim Stsura (piano) playing Janacek, Hesketh, Debussy and Respighi in Stromness Town Hall. Surprisingly the Festival did not contain much music by Maxwell Davis founder of the Festival

We took a day trip to Rousay; a smaller island where the feature was an archaeological dig on a site at Swandro; a team from the University of Bradford is working hard to record the details of the site before the sea washes the site away (sea level rise due to climate change). We were lucky in that the Site Director gave us a personal explanation of the site. The site was occupied from Neolithic, through Bronze age to through to the Viking period. You can follow the progress of the Swandro dig at https://www.swandro.co.uk/dig-diary. There are 3 small well preserved chambered cairns and a much bigger one. I had to back the car onto the ferry; I’m not good at that! We did of course visit Skara Brea, but this was the third time; the Stromness Museum has a great display on the exploration of Skara Brae.

Swandro in Distance

Swandro approaching

 

 

 

Swandro Director

The director came and talked to us

 

 

 

Small Cairn

A well preserved cairn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Large Chambered Cairn

LargeChambered Cairn: Rousay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I must mention the Arctic explorer John Rea from Stromness.  He discovered the final leg of the North West Passage a route that allowed Norwegian Roald Amundsen to make the first complete passage in 1903–1906.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Passage. Rea also discovered the fate of the Franklin Expedition for which he got no praise during his lifetime and only achieved posthumous recognition in 2013. In a recent conference on Rea, Maria Pia Casarini considers Rea as THE greatest Artic explorer of all time.

 

During the second week we went over to Westray and did a few short walks including one to the sea cliffs. We saw whole range of sea birds including puffins, I have never seen these birds before. We saw many fulmars flying and nesting; fulmars are to me the ultimate flying machine. And there are more sites.  One on the coast was explored a couple of years ago and has been covered over waiting a decsion as to cover over the dig or leave some part open

Massive dig in Westray

Massive dig that should be reburied?

to the public.

Puffins

Comfortable Puffins nesting

Fulmers - flying machines

Fulmers and Puffins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westray is very go ahead – it has had a Development Trust for 8 years which has done wonders to the morale of the island; a major source of wealth is their investment in a 750Kw wind turbine. Read the Trust’s aims at https://westraydevelopmenttrust.co.uk

Returned to the Mainland (that’s what the main island in the archipelago is called) and stayed at the youth hostel in Kirkwall. We visited another Neolithic cairn up a hill; there are many cairns on Orkney and a lot seem to have weathered the 3000 years very well. But the prize was a new discovery between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness; this is a major Neolithic village bigger than Skara Brea that is being actively explored now; the site had only been reopened for the summer digging season two days before we arrived for the second time to Mainland.  The miden is exciting too

Ness of Brogdar

The Dig at Ness of Brogdar

The Miden Ness of Brodgar

The Miden partly excavated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A striking feature of Orkney is that it has been inhabited continuously for 5000 years. You can stand anywhere and see houses in all directions. We visited brocks at Gurness on the Mainland and Mid Howe on Rousay. And the remains of Stuart Houses in Kirkwall and Birsay. In Kirkwall there are delightful modern developments: the new secondary school (opened by Alex Salmond), a lovely new Library and Archive and a new hospital is being built; there is a clear resemblance to Skara Brea!.

Kirkwall Library and Archive

Kirkwall Library and Archive

Theatre

The New School’s Theatre

Kirkwell's New Hospital

Kirkwalls new Hospital

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