Mike Vickers' Blog

March 18, 2019

DUP, Brexit and The Good Friday Agreement

Filed under: Good Friday Agreement, Ireland, Politics, War — derryvickers @ 11:58 am

Following on from my Blog: Derry Girls, Bloody Sunday and the Border

I consider it a deplorable situation where a party in Northern Ireland, the DUP, is determining whether the whole UK is leaving or remining in the EU. The DUP, although the major party in Northern Ireland, JUST, has no formal political power in that country as the Northern Ireland Parliament has not met for 2 years over an issue that was at least in part due to the First Minister’s (Arlene Foster) dealings on electricity.

I state straight away that I feel that the UK leaving the EU is a disaster and am biased. During the last 50 years, Europe has been war free; not being an historian I don’t know when this occurred before, but I suspect it is quite long ago.

Oddly, some 20 years ago, I was on a plane back from Germany and I spent the whole fight defending Ian Paisley and the feeling that the protectants in Northern Ireland felt uncomfortable with the dominant catholic population in Southern Ireland next door.

So, I was elated when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, and I can still remember the photo of the Chuckle Brothers: Ian Paisley (DUP) and Martin McGuiness (Sinn Fein), (see in the article below)

Not only is the DUP now threatening the UK that they may only support Theresa May’s EU Deal if they are doled out more cash, they are, in practice at least, threatening the Good Friday Agreement itself.

For a more substantive argument than mine on the DUP’s intransigence see Patrick Cockburn’s article in today’s Independent.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/brexit-latest-northern-ireland-backstop-vote-a8822836.html

Incidentally while Tony Blair has been much criticized since leaving office, he did, as Cockburn’s article states. reach agreement with Southern Irelands Prime Minister on the Good Friday Agreement.

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March 16, 2019

The worry of Social Media – Should Social Media Companies be forced to act

Filed under: Communications, Jo Cox, Journalism, Politics, Social Media — derryvickers @ 8:30 pm

From the Editor of “I”

Act againt Social Media companies.

“The problem is wider than this disgusting video: it is not hard to find far-right propanganda spreading violent ideologies notably on YouTube and there is little political pressure to remove it.”

Just perhaps Sajid Javid will act?
“Internet companies who allow the distribution of banned content “should be prepared to face the full force of the law”, Sajid Javid has said, as he called on people to stop watching and sharing the livestream broadcast by a gunman””

March 13, 2019

No Deal – well let’s hope so

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Politics, Theresa may — derryvickers @ 11:23 pm

This evenings vote on ‘No Deal’ is too close for comfort and getting closer.
There is much manoeuvring in the Tory / DUP ranks.

Martin Kettle in the Guardian is also sanguine on the situation: he believes May is not dead yet. If no delay and now no No Deal then a third time May may succeed.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/13/theresa-may-deal-vote-mps-brexit

He considers that Hammond did a Bismarck this evening

“Nevertheless, Hammond seized his chance, giving a foretaste of the power shift inside the government that was to come in the evening votes. Chancellors get only two moments in the limelight during the year. Hammond knows he may not still be in the job by the autumn. So, he was not going to let this one slip. Brexit dominated the beginning, middle and end of his statement. Just before he sat down, Hammond summoned up his inner Bismarck. It was time, he said, “to start to map out a way forward towards building a consensus across this house for a deal we collectively support to exit the EU in an orderly way”.

“This may not sound ringing stuff. Yet in terms of the conventions of cabinet collective responsibility on central issues of policy, it was practically a call to storm the Winter Palace.”

We shall see what the vote is tomorrow.
There is also a touch of the New Testament in Kettle’s article:

‘Before the cock crow thou shall deny me thrice.’

Brother can you spare a dime

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Immigration, Italian, Politics, Theresa may — derryvickers @ 4:49 pm

Marina Hyde earlier today in the Guardian: 13 March 2019

“Fairly sure the world has got the message by now. They are “up to speed” and “across the detail” of the sort of country the UK is. The question of whether Brexit represented a midlife crisis or the descent into senility appears to have been answered. The land that likes to picture itself as a David Niven world war two movie is in fact a look-away episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show. On close inspection, the “beacon of democracy” turns out to be a bin fire.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/13/theresa-may-deal-europe-eu-mps

I used to find it reassuring that the MPs in Westminster were coming around to my view. But I find Marina Hyde’s article now infinitely depressing.
“Once we had an Empire, now it’s gone, brother can you spare a dime”.

March 8, 2019

This Day – 8 March 2019

Filed under: Brexit, economics, Europe, Ireland, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:07 pm

I have just watched a programme  on BBC 4 on Hadrian’s Wall and its ultimate Failure to protect England at the End of Empire.

The Roman Empire imploded and England with it, for 750 years.

Is there an analogy here on 8 March 2019 to England imploding on itself following Brexit?

From the Guardian Website.  Very little to celebrate.

 

 

Political Ineptitude at its worst

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Italian, Politics, Theresa may — derryvickers @ 7:20 pm

One may laugh at The Derry Girls

But I despair of the politicians elevated to Northern Ireland Secretary.

Karen Bradleys must qualify as the worst so far:

“Every clanger from a British politician – Karen Bradley’s offensive and ignorant statement exonerating British soldiers for their crimes in Northern Ireland; the border mess, exacerbated by the Conservative government’s tactical alliance with the DUP; the clueless remarks emanating from the House of Commons – has not just confirmed, but elevated our suspicions that English (and Brexit was always about Englishness, not Britishness, nor the oxymoron that is now the “United” Kingdom) apathy, ignorance and entitlement towards Ireland is as dominant as ever. The tactic of trying to undermine Ireland in a game of chicken with the European Union has also led to an existential fear that the EU will sell Ireland out, and a fury about the corner we are being put in.”

Read the full article in the The Irish Times by in today’s Guardian.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/08/england-ireland-brexit-political-ignorance?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0Jlc3RPZkd1YXJkaWFuT3BpbmlvblVLLTE5MDMwOA%3D%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=BestOfGuardianOpinionUK&CMP=opinionuk_email

Wiki: “”The fewer than 10% [of killings] that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes, they were people acting under orders and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way.”[ A Nuremburg Defence.

One might have thought that all politicians who have had at least One Month’s training on Irish History but apparently not so of Karen Bradlay.

See also The UK and Scotland post Brexit  – Gus O’Donnald on his concern of the impact of Brexit on Ireland.

March 7, 2019

Public assemblies that met, often on hills – Moots they were called. Bring them back!

Filed under: 'Moot' Local Decision Making, Europe, Personal, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 10:34 pm

Towards Local Decisions

I have copied below an article forwarded to me almost verbatim by Malcolm Fraser entitled Bring Back the Moot

You can find his full article at https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/13930/malcolm-fraser-bring-back-moot

Malcolm Fraser, architect and head of the 2013 Scottish Government town centre review, posited his “Town Centre First Principle”. [He believes that] Many authorities are doing good work in understanding and applying this principle, though he still reads horror stories of Councils moving colleges or “community campuses” out of town to lonely, disconnected places by the motorway.

He is now proposing four big measures within his underlying principle:

  1. Tax: buildings are an old-fashioned, easy to see and target source of taxation. They carry the burden of retail while digital sales get off extremely lightly, including dodging tax by moving sales offshore into low-tax havens. A simple change to a sales or consumption tax, adjusted to apply less to small retailers, would even out the burden between our high street and digital sales as well as ensuring tax was paid at the point of sale, not transferred offshore.
  2. Transport: the Labour Party proposed a five-point plan of which [he] particularly liked the idea of free public transport for the under 25s. Accessible, easily useable public transport is a key answer to a huge number of our contemporary challenges, including climate change and inclusive accessibility to the public services centres.
  3. Vacant Property: there’s great groups doing sterling work in revitalising their towns, including the pioneering West Kilbride Craft Town and the current work of the Stove Network in Dumfries, who are not only addressing the vacant shops in the town but the empty, former flats above. There is, apparently, so much need in Scotland for cheap space for artists and craftspeople, that vast old offices and industrial buildings are filled-up in our cities. We need to take the Craft/Stove model and set out how all our communities can apply it to their own towns, spreading their crafts entrepreneurs along our High Streets, into our vacant shops. And while there’s been great efforts to apply the Empty Homes initiatives to our housing crisis we should extend them: it might only cost £20,000 to bring back an empty town centre flat into use, whose occupier will support town centre shops and facilities, instead of maybe £100,000 for a green field new build. And we might note that, whereas there are upwards of 34,000 long-term empty homes in …., there are countless more above high street shops which are registered now as retail, ‘’’’.
  4. Local Democracy: finally, the lack of care in the health of our communities must be inextricably wound up with the lack of a functioning, empowered local democracy in Britain as a whole. Compared to our healthy European neighbours we, as citizens, are very remote from our politicians. We need to reintroduce a measure of power, and some funding, to Parish, Community or whatever-we-might-call-them Councils, and co-locate them with post offices, nurseries and other local services in parish churches, or old buildings revitalised by Community Asset Transfers, or devolved initiatives planned by local authorities. Medieval Scotland was full of public assemblies that met, often on hills – Moots they were called. Bring them back!

I am happy with all 4 measures but the one that appeals to me most is 4. on Local Democracy.  Local Democracy is sadly lacking in Scotland, even more than in England, and the UK as a whole is the most undemocratic in Europe.  I believe the people of towns and country need to have a real say in how they are governed; a cry of the heart I set out in a recent blob ‘Towards Local decisions’.

The best definition I have found of ‘moot’ is
“an assembly held for debate, especially in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times.”

March 4, 2019

Stephen Jay Gould – a great loss as a humanist and science writer

Filed under: Journalism, NOMA, Politics, Stephen Jay Gould, World Class, Writing — derryvickers @ 7:29 pm

Cleaning the bookcase out, I came across my collection of Natural History books by Stephen Jay Gould; some 20 in all. The first one I bought was perhaps his first ‘Ever Since Darwin’ at a small book shop in Santa Barbara, a lovely town with glorious Bougainvillea. It was a Sunday and I had a Sunday break from a conference in LA.

So who was Stephen Jay Gould; he died on 22 May 2002

From the obituary in Nature

“Palaeontologist and public face of evolutionary biology

Stephen Jay Gould, the world’s most renowned palaeontologist, died in New York on 20 May [2002]. His death robs the fields of palaeontology and evolution of one of their most provocative thinkers, and millions of readers of an entertaining and astonishingly productive commentator on biology.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/417706a

This describes him to me from his books completely. To me, he was the ultimate Humanist. He believed and publicized Darwin’s evolution and through his books (collections of essays over 20 years) the wonders of evolution are described, not as the progression of evolutary steps to man as the greatest, but as evolution by natural selection at all levels, unlike Dawkins solely through genes and Conway Morris as God directed. He saw evolution as moving forward in jumps, Punctuated Equilibrium, which if I look back in recorded history, is how civilisation has moved forward from Aristotle; he also invented ‘exaptation’, making use of features already there for one purpose to use for something different, he examples birds developed feathers to keep warm before they adapted feathers to fly. He was not popular with his colleagues, who followed Darwin precisely that evolution was gradual over many thousands / millions of years. He had numerous confrontations with Dawkins. He also battled with creationists who pumped out that Whites were superior to Blacks have in bigger brains; Gould successfully refuted this.

But Stephen Jay Gould is dead for almost 18 years and unfortunately, to me, he is gone from the bookshelves, replaced by Dawkins (thought even he is no longer so prevalent).

He was in his lifetime ‘canonised’ by the US Congress as one of America’s living legends.

Unsurprisingly he was not a Christian but he did come forward with NOMA, Non-Overlapping Magisteria

From Wiki
‘Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view that was advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry, fact vs. values, so there is a difference between the “nets”[1] over which they have “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority,” and the two domains do not overlap.[2]

I personally have difficulty in getting my head round NOMA but never the less it is one way forward in a very difficult area.

Stephen Jay Gould was, for me, a great and erudite writer and a formidable loss to mankind at this time. He will retain a prominent place on my bookshelf,

March 3, 2019

Gina Miller to the Rescue

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Gina Miller, Personal, Politics — derryvickers @ 9:31 pm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/03/gina-miller-eu-delay-brexit-no-deal

Matthew d’Ancona thinks it less likely but it does look like a way forward out of the swamp of the Brexit mess.
And as Ancona says Gina Miller has already proved she can bring about the Unexpected and she has the determination to do so.

So here he goes:

Armed with a legal opinion written by Kieron Beal QC and three other senior lawyers, the co-founder of the pro-remain campaign Lead Not Leave will argue that the EU council of ministers could itself, unilaterally, extend the article 50 deadline.

Why should it even contemplate doing so? First, because – as Miller’s legal paper points out – “the wording of article 50(3) presupposes that the European council take the decisive lead with the consent of the withdrawing member state”. Second, because the EU has a legal duty to all its member states to ensure that any such withdrawal is not damaging to what article 13(1) of the treaty on European Union calls the “consistency, effectiveness and continuity of its policies and actions”, or to the principle spelled out in article 13(2): “Pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation the EU and the member states shall, in full mutual respect, assist each other in carrying out the tasks which flow from the treaties.”

Miller’s point, of course, is highly political as well as specifically jurisprudential. By circulating this opinion at the European parliament and in Brussels, she hopes to remind the EU that the legal, practical and moral obligation to prevent a catastrophic no-deal outcome is not confined to Westminster. Her message is addressed to figures such as Donald Tusk, the president of the council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, his counterpart at the European commission, but also to the EU body politic as a whole.”

“But she is reminding the 27 other member states that they cannot, as a matter of law as well as of supranational ethics, play Pilate and wash their hands of this mess. We are, to coin a phrase, all in this together

If she makes the case and the EU acts, then Gina Miller deserves a statue in Parliament Square alongside Churchill.

As immigration from outside Europe rises, hucksters foment racial hatred

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Immigration, Left Politics, Nick Cohen, Personal, Politics, USA — derryvickers @ 6:31 pm

As immigration from outside Europe rises, hucksters foment racial hatred

Nick Cohen in today’s Observer

A difficult read. I had to read it twice get the gist of what Nick Cohen was saying and when I did, I found his message uncomfortable for me to accept.

And what he is saying, wakes me out of my comfort zone.

Just a few extracts:

On this reading, our leftwing inquisitors who squint through mean, little eyes as they hunt for the tiniest traces of heresy, or conservatives who scream they are on the side of “the people” as they stuff their rich sponsors’ pockets with tax cuts, are US-inspired tricksters who divert their credulous followers from what matters.

Brexit is such an affront because it is a battle in a culture war as surely and pointlessly as Trump’s wall. It solves none of our old problems, just adds new ones.”

“America is no longer an aberration. America is our future. When Tony Blair was elected in 1997, 60% of the English population was white and had left school without A-levels. When Theresa May lost her majority in 2017, that proportion had fallen to 40%. Over the same period, the share of the English population who were university graduates, members of an ethnic minority group or both went from 17 to 40%. In Britain, as in the US, progressive politics will be drawn to appeal to minorities and the educated, while rightwing politics will be drawn to appealing to “the whites”.”

“From the point of view of Chris Williamson, though, “trolling the Jews”, as the Jewish Chronicle neatly put it, could help him if he runs for Labour leader. With both main parties taking away from MPs the power to elect their leaders and giving it to activists in US-style primaries, inflaming the prejudices of hardcore party members rather than appealing to the wider electorate is the opportunist’s way ahead.”

“But [Nick Timothy] can smell out the prejudices of the right like a tomcat smelling out sex. He told Telegraph readers that when the (black) MP David Lammy attacked May as “suburban”, it was a racist “dog whistle” to rally the left against the millions of suburban whites who support her. “Because what does he mean by ‘suburban’ if not white people?”

Lammy meant nothing of the sort. But notice how easily now the hucksters from right and left palm the race card from the bottom of the deck and resolve, that if you want to live in a halfway tolerable country, our first duty is to stop them.”

The full article

As immigration from outside Europe rises, hucksters foment racial hatred | Nick Cohen https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/03/as-immigration-from-outside-europe-rises-hucksters-foment-racial-hatred?CMP=share_btn_tw

BTW I note this is my 200th Blog.  But its taken a few years to do so!

 

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