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.

 

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