Mike Vickers' Blog

April 24, 2013

Belfast – for better

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Lesley Riddoch, Personal, Travel — derryvickers @ 10:28 am

If you are keen on Ireland then you will enjoy Lesley Riddoch and Chris Smith’s pod:


I took lots of notes taken while listening to this Belfast pod. Much the same material as Lesley’s Scotsman Article but so much better as a pod.
I admit, as I’m sure I have done before, I am an Irish fan, though I also admit not much knowing about Belfast other than driving round it to get south of the border.

And that takes me to Unionism in the UK and in Ireland – it’s the geography again. The UK could reasonably split between Carlisle and Newcastle. Ireland can’t be so split geographically but it has been split largely by an influx of Scots in the time of King Billy.
It is well to note that at a professional level – the professional classes have been working together for a long time and then there is the Irish Rugby team.

However listening to the programme it comes over to me that perhaps despite the Peace Walls there is now some sort of enduring spilt between the five counties and the rest of Ireland – perhaps as Lesley says a realism of real life in Northern Ireland rather than the somewhat phony blarney of Eire – and perhaps the south will move to the realism of the north following their financial troubles.

Yes Belfast picking itself up – I can’t forget the Paisley McGuiness chuckles. And a couple of quotes from the pod: Point of departure to where you arrive well, and the Titanic: it left here fine!

April 22, 2013


Filed under: Education, Personal — derryvickers @ 11:30 am

Radio 4 – A nice wee programme today Thursday 22 April 2013 at 11am on FinchleyStrasse ie Finchley Road.

Why did it appeal to me? because my Cousin used to live in Swiss Cottage in Fairfax Road just off the Finchley Road.  I spent much of my teens visiting London and staying with her and I dossed done when I took up my first job in Slough.

To the programme – it was all about the Jewish émigrés from Vienna who escaped from the Nazis and how they frequented the Cosmo café – just like they did in Vienna, and John Barnes (a John Lewis shop) was the main shopping attraction and how the Finchley Road had an avenue of trees down the centre until modernity bulldozed then away when the Finchley Road had become the main artery into London from the North.

If you move fast you can hear the programme at:


And you might enjoy a piece by Dannie Abse writing about his early days at the Cosmo café and the Everyman in Hampstead.


April 13, 2013

Countries and Global Corporations – a need for set of rules of interaction

Filed under: economics, Europe, Politics — derryvickers @ 7:23 pm

In my last blog I set down a few of the points that Stefan Lehne made at a seminar on the EU’s foreign policy.  At that seminar I posed a question ‘in this world increasingly dominated by large corporations’ is it not increasingly difficult to distinguish between a policy to corporations and that of foreign countries ?‘.  Lehne responded vigorously stressing that only a grouping the size of the EU could negotiate with corporations the size of Microsoft.  This is very true; in UK we have been tax side-tracked by Google, Starbucks and Amazon – they just set up in countries with low tax and arrange to purchase materials and declare their profits there avoiding paying almost no tax in the UK.  However this is not what I meant by my question.  It appears to me that large global corporations are now of a financial size of many smaller countries and increasingly weld power well beyond their physical size.  Yet they have no responsibilities; for instance when Google, Starbucks and Amazon were summoned to a committee of the UK Parliament they were quite taken aback by being challenged on their tax dealings.

Countries interact with one another through formal channels set up over centuries: embassies, consulates and visit one another through delegations.  No such formalities have been set up between Countries and Global Corporations.  Corporations just set up shop wherever they want to.  Worse than that as Colin Crouch sets out in his book Post-Democracy large Corporations use their money to influence Countries’ Governments through lobby groups to get preferential treatment and oppose laws that would impact their business. Small local examples are the Whisky traders in Scotland lobbying against minimum alcohol prices, tobacco companies fighting against plain cigarette packets.  Readers will know of their own local situations, particularly where major oil companies are involved.  It is not that Corporations are irresponsible, most are but it is their responsibility to their shareholders.

And situation is not easing; the internet is now all pervasive; lobbying is much softer, almost subliminal but it is there.  And it would be so easy for large corporations to make use lobbying more than they apparently do at present.  One example would be if Facebook opened its databases, at a price of course, to corporations wanting targeted access to Government Organisations.

What I am saying is that where Countries work with one another through well defined, understood and respected rules, no such rules or protocols exist between Countries and Global Corporations and this needs to be rectified and at the highest level.

April 7, 2013

Euro in crisis, UK in retreat, EU foreign policy in decline

Filed under: economics, Europe — derryvickers @ 8:11 pm

A talk in the Edinburgh University Transatlantic Seminar series by Stefan Lehne – Carnegie Europe

Some notes

  1. EU History
    1. Peace initiative now lost
    2. Federal Europe – confusion
    3. Visionaries: Kohl ,Mitterrand, Delors away
    4. Slowdown of economy
    5. Ambivalence about globalisation
    6. Mainstream parties lose ground
    7. Anti-European popularist right gain
    8. Fiasco of 2005 Constitution Treaty
    9. Lisbon from the wreckage
    10. Fewer Commission Initiatives
    11. Decline in EU budget
  2. Euro
    1. Euro crisis
    2. Fear as a powerful factor to integration
    3. North South division
    4. Reform challenge in South – Solidarity in the North
    5. Bailout funds
    6. Pension worries
    7. Germany – strong consensus in Berlin
    8. Leading to need for  Banking Union
    9. Reinforced fiscal and economic integration
  3. Can it be done?
    1. Increased tensions, technocratic imperative
    2. Financial markets want more centralisation
    3. People nostalgic
    4. There was a drive to Treaty change – now no more – only Cameron for
    5. Great leap forward required  but more muddling through till Crisis passes
    6. Banking Union but which banks to close
  4. Foreign Policy
    1. Tragedy of CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy)
    2. Budget only 500 million euros
    3. Lack of resources and cohesion
    4. Member states own national foreign policies
    5. CFSP and Commission too far apart
    6. Suffering as Euro crisis distracts attention
    7. But could be slow progress
  5. Shallow Eurozone
    1. 28 states
    2. Variable geometry: Schengen, Defence Justice
    3. Foreign Policy – remains Intergovernmental based on Lisbon
    4. Upgraded EFAS
  6. Deep Eurozone
    1. Core and the Periphery – Eurozone and the Rest
    2. Outer circle marginalised
    3. Foreign Policy into centre
    4. Federal structures
    5. Old Dilemma was – widening – deepening
    6. New Dilemma now – Deeping – shrinking
  7. British Exit and Foreign Policy
    1. Cameron out or marginalised
    2. Dramatic loss of substantial action – foreign policy, armed forces, global advice
    3. Another drafting language
    4. Loss of substance
    5. Shift to French economy
    6. Only – the UK would lose more.

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