the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Brexit irony

During the referendum campaign, one of arguments put forward by by the Leave campaign was that a vote to leave the E.U., would return sovereignty to parliament.

So it was with no little wonderment that I greeted Teresa Mays statement in Downing Street tonight, when she announced she was asking the EU. for an extension to enable her to get her Brexit deal through, and asserted that the public were sick of arcane procedural rules in parliament, which were used to prevent a third meaningful vote. On a deal that had been comprehensively defeated twice by parliament. That deal. Defeated in the parliament that was going to get its sovereignty back because of a leave vote. That one.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Still got a lot on my plate, but this caught my eye this morning and well, it seemed rude not to comment on it.

The BBC – along with other media outlets I presume – trumpeted the news that

The number of employed people in the UK has risen again, to a new record number of 32.7 million people between November and January, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
The 76.1% employment rate is the highest since records began in 1971.
ONS senior statistician Matt Hughes said: “The employment rate has reached a new record high, while the proportion of people who are neither working nor looking for a job – the so-called ‘economic inactivity rate’- is at a new record low.”
Employment Minister Alok Sharma said: “Today’s employment figures are further evidence of the strong economy the chancellor detailed in last week’s Spring Statement, showing how our pro-business policies are delivering record employment.”

Which on the face of it is good news, welcome as it is when this government is embroiled in a mess of its own making. But all is not what it seems. ‘Employment’ is, it seems, a ver elastic term, one is stretched to breaking point by the claim that employment is at its highest rate since 1971. Because, as the ONS helpfully clarifies

The number of people in employment in the UK is measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and consists of people aged 16 years and over who did one hour or more of paid work per week

In what universe is one hours work a week employment? If I had time, I might provide figures for the Tex Credits bill, which is, after all, a government subsidy for employee’s for the low  wages paid to them by their employers.

But I don’t.

Whilst you were distracted…

I’ve got a lot to distract me as well, to be honest. So if this post isn’t as polished as it might be, well I hope you get the gist.

On ‘The World this Weekend’ earlier was the news that around 32,000 former civil servants had had their pensions overpaid, but that they wouldn’t have to pay this money back. Which is nice.

This generosity isn’t usually extended to people in receipt of benefits, which is, after all what a pension is.

An example being,

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants are having 40% of their benefit deducted to pay back outstanding debts.

Labour MP Ruth George said the high level of deductions from payments “will see more people with no option but to go into debt”.

But figures obtained by Ms George show just how many Universal Credit claimants are having major chunks of their benefit deducted every month.

In January, 6% of all Universal Credit full service claims had 40% deducted from their standard allowance, according to figures released in response to a written parliamentary question.

DWP also says a small percentage of less than 0.5% of claims had total deductions of more than 40%.

One of worst things about Brexit is that it has dominated pretty much the entire domestic political agenda for the last two years and the recent shenanigans in parliament have proved conclusive proof that yes indeed, we do have the mutha of all parliaments.

When a disabled toilet is disabled..

Remember Sunday?

Of course you do, it being literally a sun day, the first proper weekend of warm weather and all. I certainly do! But not for the reason you might think. I invite you all to read about my experience I can now think about with a mixture of detached calmness and the absurdly comic, which I was so not feeling when it was actually happening.

My partner – the BFJ -and I set off for Trent Park, it being not only very large and wild, not only with good access, but also not far from my Mum’s house, which we heading to later. And as anyone who read my post about cycling to the Southbank will be aware, the one thing I hate more than crowds, are crowds with children in them. There were loads of them there, but fortunately they were concentrated by the café next to the car park, and equally fortunately Trent Park is so large that they were easily diluted.

Anyway.

There is a toilet block at the edge of the car park, and the BFJ needed to avail herself of these. As I was just fine and dandy, I offered to wait outside but she felt somewhat embarrassed about using it herself. So I said I’d go in with her. She unlocked the door with my RADAR key, which I keep for occasions such as this – because some disabled toilets are locked to prevent misuse – and we went in.

It’s at this point I’m going to veer off down Tangent Street, but it’s important you understand what informs this. When one is in the heady first few months of a relationship, and you do all you can preserve an air of mystique about yourself. It’s not that you are acting so much as making every effort to present the best possible version of yourself to them. Of course you do. It’s completely in your interests to do so, as the goal is to keep having regular and energetic horizontal gymnastics for as long as possible.

But the effort required gradually becomes too much. The best version of you has an expiry date, but it isn’t sudden. You just don’t become a slob overnight, I mean they don’t go the bed one night with the Brad Pitt from ‘Fight Club’ and wake up the next morning with the Brad Pitt from ‘The Big Short”.

It’s like a battery slowly draining, you feel increasingly comfortable around them but you ease yourself into revealing yourself to them by degree’s, farting being the best example of this, being the one that everyone knows. When the best version of you is running things, you’d never dream of farting in front of them. You hold them in because you’d rather risk internal organ damage than external organ non-damage and but eventually there’ll comes a time when you’ll just let rip. Then you’ll be commenting admiringly on their pungency. Dutch ovens, contact farts, and stealth farts follow soon after. The same thing happens with swearing. And other bodily functions.

Everyone does it. Their quirks might differ but the effect is the same. I myself frequently stare at a tissue after I’ve blown my nose in with all the curious fascination of a patient doing a Rorschach inkblot test.

(At the bottom of this post is a clip of Micky Flanagan expelling how swearing is an indicator of how likely a relationship is to be successful. Be warned though, it contains language that some people might find highly offensive from the start and throughout! Just so you know.)

And we’re back now, in the disabled toilet in Trent Park. After doing what people do in toilets, we try to get out. The door has other ideas.. The door handle won’t open the door, and as the BFJ wrestles with it I think ‘This is a door handle made for a council door. Is it going to well made or is it going to rubbish. How much wrestling can it take before it snaps off in her hand unexpectedly like my patience will snap if this happens’, but wisely do not say.

Nevertheless, the fact is we are trapped, locked inside a sealed windowless room, but fortunately, help is at hand, in the form of a sign with an emergency contact number. We call it and eventually a person answers it. Unfortunately, whilst she said all the right things you’d expect someone in that situation to say – apologies basically – she was not encumbered with common sense. Could she give the cafe a call and ask them to help? No, she didn’t have their ‘phone number and Googling it didn’t occur to her either.The nearest park ranger was thirty minutes away, but the people who it had happened to earlier in the day had attracted the attention of passers-by and slipped the key under the door to them.

Yes, this same thing had happened to someone else and no one had though a sign on the door alerting people to this was a good idea.

Worse was yet to come. I know you’re thinking ‘How could this possibly get worse?’ but it does. After some time, we attracted a passer-bys attention, slipped the key under door, and they released us from our enforced but brief incarceration. Thinking a sign on the door alerting people to the very real possibility of them getting trapped inside, the BFJ went over to the nearby ‘Go Ape’ adventure centre to get sign made. She came back with some shocking news, because when she’d explained what the sign was for, she was told ‘Oh not again, it’s the fourth time this week that’s happened.’

You might understand it happening on the day and the council being on the backfoot. Had the park not been as busy as it was, who knows we’d have been stuck there? What about if someone was alone and couldn’t get a ‘phone signal? What then? But for it to keep happening, to the extent the BFJ got the reaction she did and for them still not to have done anything, well that’s taking the piss!

 

This morning brought us the news that another former Labour MP has somehow confused his anus with his mouth and was busy polluting the airways with the arrant nonsense that only our self-serving turncoat can muster. Explaining his decision to quit the Labour Party. Ian Austin MP was given to declaim that the Labour Party was now an extremist party and was controlled by the trade unions. Part of me thought as he no conception whatsoever of Labour party history?

The Labour Party was formed essentially by the trade unions as a bulwark against the worst onslaughts of the capitalist classes against the workers. Up until then workers had no rights in parliament. Now there was a party whose main aim was advocating on their behalf. The clue is in the name; the Labour Party!

Similarly, when he says the Labour Party is now extremist, part of me thinks on what sort of drugs must one be on to think the Labour Party extremist, and more importantly, where can I get some?

Under Tony Blair’s woeful leadership Labour ditched Clause Four – basically the part of its manifesto that promised to bring any privately owned utilities back into public ownership – in a bid to make it more of centrist party, more popular and less, well, socialist. Under Corbyn the Labour Party has rediscovered its proper socialist agenda, and the fact that it increased its the share of the vote at the last election was proof of its manifesto’s popularity in the country. Unfortunately it wasn’t popular enough to secure a government.

It was however the manifesto that Ian Austin was elected to parliament on and if he had any decency at all he’d resign his seat and trigger a by-election but as I’ve noted here before the very people who are calling for a second referendum believe in democracy only when it suits them.

No doubt there will be more quitting of parties, more soul searching and even more hypocrisy to follow from Labour MP’s who are only red when they’re embarrassed.

How to ruin a bike ride…

Yesterday reconfirmed something I, and those that know me, know only too well, Namely that I’m a misanthrope And a curmudgeon. Exactly what the difference is, or where one ends and the other begins, is something of a mystery to me. Be that as it may, I’m either one or the other; possibly both at the same time and have been so ever since I was a child. Because as you all know, childhood is where we find the clues for all adult behaviours.

I wasn’t born with a protracted loathing of most other people, in my case; it was born out of continued experience of and exposure to other people. I mention this because the worst form of transport for a misthanthropic curmudgeon is a side-by-side adult tricycle, a discovery I painfully found out yesterday. I brought a one some time ago and yesterday being a sunny day it was suggested that we take it for a spin and head down to the Southbank. It all seemed like a great idea. Getting to the Southbank was quite easy thanks to a combination of back roads and designated cycle lanes. That was the good bit of the journey.

The worst part of the journey was passers-by incessant habit of hurling pleasantries in our direction as we passed them. Cheerful exhortations that they seemed to think were somehow welcome to hear. My displeasure was written all over my face and spoken into the ear of my unfortunate companion, who had no chance of escape and possibly because of this circumstance, made only muted comments, aside from that is waving at these hooligans and encouraging them.

Arriving at the Southbank was even worse, it was half term so of course the Southbank was crowded with vermin, I mean children. I did point out to my companion that when I refer to children as vermin, I mean most of the children in the world that are not her daughter. Again, she didn’t pass comment on this.

Perhaps wisely, being as how parents are biologically hard-wired to imagine the fruit of their loins as not rotten and certainly not the seeds of humanity’s destruction.

 

 

Not so glib…

I was listening to ‘The World At One’ earlier, at er, one’o’clock, and was stuck by something Chris Leslie said, him being one of the not so magnificent seven former Labour MP’s who have resigned from the Labour party for reasons that seem reasonable as a headline, but upon closer examination get an ‘F’.

He argued rather self-servingly that he was accountable not to the Labour party, on whose manifest he’d campaigned on , resulting in him being re-elected with an an increased majority, but to his constituents, both those who’d voted for him and those who hadn’t. This seemingly noble and principled stance was totally exposed for the hypocrisy it was when he was challenged seconds later on whether he would stand down as an MP, and thus trigger a bye-election.

No he wouldn’t.

Like most people who didn’t vote for Brexit and want a second referendum, he believes in democracy only when it suits him. In fact none of the not so seven have announced the’ll be standing down. Their commitment to democracy is that strong!

It’s not what the county needs with only six weeks to go until we’re due to leave the EU was his limp excuse. It would be a distraction. But weakening the Labour party isn’t, the timing of the announcement itself isn’t itself a distraction, one that only fuel talk about further defections. And MP’s wonder why the public have such a low opinion of them?

A dog on heat has more principles.

 

 

 

 

Glib….

This is an instinctive reaction to the news that seven Labour MP’s have quit the Labour party

Wilst it is the job, nee the duty of Her Majesty’s Opposition to oppose the government, it’s quite rare for members of the opposition to oppose their party to this extent,

 

 

 

Much better than counting sheep…

This week has provided me with two examples of excellent and dire radio. As noted elsewhere in this blog, by radio I mean of course Radio 4 or the World Service. Anyone who suggests there is any other radio station worthy of their ears is clearly using their anus as a mouthpiece.

Let me start with the dire example first.

This occurred on last Sunday’s eddition of ‘The World This Weekend’on Radio 4 presented by Mark Mardell, who is someone I had hitherto held in high regard. However, last Sunday he interviewed Jacob Rees-Mogg concerning the decision of Nissan to produce their new diesel car in Japan instead of at the their plant in Sunderland. Whilst Nissan also announced that there would be no job losses at the Sunderland plant and indeed, that they were fully committed to producing cars at Sunderland, they nevertheless mentioned that the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the Europe was a factor in their decision-making. Mardell seized upon this point, conducting the interview with the same subtlety as one might plunge a live electrical cable into a bath that you were in. Whatever one’s opinions of Jacob Rees-Mogg – and mine certainly are not complimentary – he acquitted himself more than reasonably by the underhand tactics of calm, reasoned argument coupled with a grasp of detail, all which was in stark contrast to Mardell’s constant hectoring.

However, it was when Jacob Rees-Mogg mentioned the agenda that he thought the BBC had been promoting, namely accentuating the most negative and calamitous aspects of withdrawal from the European Union that Mardell quickly shut him up, only for Jacob Rees-Mogg to reiterate the point. This infuriated me so much that I nearly smashed my computer on which I was streaming the broadcast in anger at Mardell’s obnoxiousness.

Had I done so, I would have missed the rather excellent episode of ‘The Real Story’ that was broadcast on the World Service last night between 4am and 5am. Why was I listening to the radio at such a bizarre hour? You might well ask! It had been suggested to me that a way for me to get back to sleep after waking in the night, was to turn the radio onto sleep mode. No pun intended, but unfortunately, whenever I had tried this tactic something arouses my attention and puts any idea of sleep to bed. That one was intended!

I  woke up at 3am and there were a few programmes on the World Service that were interesting but not captivating.

That all changed with ‘The Real Story’, which examined the consequences of the Iranian Revolution and the grip on power exercised by the clerics. It presented challenging and conflicting viewpoints, all expressed with clarity and wonderfully moderated by Rithula Shah, from Radio $’s ‘The World Tonight’ She was everything Mardlell wasn’t, incisive and inclusive, affording all the participants the time to express opinions that are rarely heard on Radio 4. One of them being the assertion that whilst the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are dictatorships, none of them incurs the same level of hostility from the United States that Iran does. It was ambitious in its scope and it delivered. When it was over it was 5am, The World Service turned back into Radio 4 and the surreal poetry of ‘The Shipping Forecast

F.F.S!

If indeed, there is a special place in hell for those prominent Brexiteers who were unencumbered by a plan, as Donald Tusk today speculated, then would there also be special place in hell for those Remoaners, who bleat on about how their not bad losers but…