Friday, August 26, 2011

We need more power!

How gladdening to read a Guardian comment thread* that seems mostly supportive of something as progressive as Nuclear Fusion (I've yet to read all the comments tho . . 375 at last count).

As many have pointed out, much more money goes into warfaring, cosmetics and even mobile phone ringtones. The Manhattan Project sums are an interesting comparison; irrespective of the dollar cost apparently just 0.4% of US GDP brought the A bomb to fruition. If I recall correctly ( . . hmm?) 0.4% of England's GDP would provide 10 ITERs and fund them for a decade.
This is important as ITER is a research unit - a one-off - with each stage of testing yielding vast amounts of information requiring further investigation as well as complications and frustrations then lengthy shut down periods for rebuild.

At a discussion with the 250 New Towns Club, Robin Stafford Allen, Mechanical Engineer at Culham, yearned for such a scenario akin to Formula 1 racing where different teams developed their ideas based on a common vehicle so as to develop the project as a whole and speed the day when this awesome technology comes on stream. Instead we have scientists grubbing around on eBay for spares!

Unfortunately, too many politicians are short term in their outlook and lack the imagination to see society develop hence the rise of misanthropic snots . . erm . . greens.

When once we believed in space travel and humanity unbound current ideas have us cower beneath rocks and scared of the future.

We need more power; we need Nuclear Fusion or whatever new developments the process brings. After all, there's all those re-runs of Coronation Street (or Crossroads if you're Robin Stafford Allen . . )

(*Damn! - 'Comments closed')

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Take it to the bridge.

There's no two ways about it - Horbury Junction needs a new bridge.
By coincidence, such matters were discussed at a recent WMDC cabinet meeting but disappointing, though not surprised, to see this is largely to do with the precautionary principle - eg, what if a member of public or business puts a claim in? - and wrangling over who is responsible for costs rather than the positivities of 'merely' having stuff that works and increasing mobility.

What was labeled as a temporary measure to alleviate pressure on a weakened bridge has become permanent. Traffic now crosses on one side with the other kerb-stoned off and traffic lights regulate the flow, kind of which begs the question: if the bridge is weak then does it make sense to concentrate traffic to just the one side?

The traffic lights are also problematic as they hinder the free flow of vehicles. Some may see this as a boon as it slows down people happy to get away from work soon as possible, those late getting to work and 'boy-racers' on their way to party at the lagoons. My house is some 30 metres from the road and what calm there is often shattered by trucks clattering past at all hours and must be hellish for those by the roadside.

The bridge and roads are well used due to the industrial estate with many manufacturers of large and heavy steel products, a road haulage company, council building depot and significant others. At one time Charles Roberts wagonworks then Bombardier Prorail had abnormal loads of complete train carriages meandering their way up and down the road.
There's also roughly 170 houses down here - and at one time a proposal for another 140 dwellings on the pallet yard site.

All in all a lot of traffic uses the bridge so there's a substantial case for its renewal. Will it get done though?

In this day and age the 'best' that can be expected is perhaps for strengthening of the existing structure and some cameras to stop us frustrated and impatient motorists jumping the lights. If anything at all - some councils have opted not to repair roads as part of a general campaign to slow down traffic rather than build the dreaded speed bump; maintaining infrastructure isn't quite the norm as our general mobility is under threat, as is our desire for material betterment. And successive legislations seem happier to go for flashier, attention-grabbing 'Regeneration' initiatives.

Maybe having the industrial estate on the doorstep could sway things in favour of a new bridge?

                                                      There's a blue heritage plaque on the wall of Charles Roberts' old office complex that draws attention to his pioneering railway wagon works and the manufacture of Churchill tanks during WW2 - the latter something the good people of Horbury are supposed to know chapter and verse about according to Yorkshire Life magazine - we're also supposed to go around whistling and singing 'Onward Christian soldiers' due to the author, Sabine Baring-Gould, having lived locally (the fact that the Luddites caused the most damage in the country as the factory system began to radically alter their lives happened here rarely gets a mention, neither that Chas. Roberts' factory produced still-standing pre-fab housing after WW2).

That tanks were built here is supposed to confer some sense of duty and sacrifice amongst the public - in a sense that while others have lain down there lives supposedly for us - then as now - then we could at least bear some hardships.
Like not having decent infrastructure.

It really ought not be too difficult to replace this bridge or any other large infrastructure. Although beyond the remit of this article the role the military play is interesting. In this case - bridge building - the armed forces have some pretty impressive equipment and vital experience in providing temporary bridges and could provide a much more progressive and productive role as, eg, an army of engineers, rather than 'a body of armed men' whose purpose is mostly destructive in maintaining the interests of the state and the few. Further to that is the military mindset of focus, overcoming difficulties and getting the job done - when not hampered by officialdom . . . ironically, the very thing they fight to maintain.

Heavy lift airships capable of lifting 1000 tonnes are on the drawing board with the capacity to revolutionise building and transport. Whole pre-manufactured units such as bridges, housing - even power stations in modular form - could be lifted into place without the usual disruptions with on site building and transportation.
Needless to say that the military are considering their deployment and not too hard to guess if and when they do come into service who gets them first.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

An exhibition by Leeds metropolitan University architecture and design students called Future Wakefield had an idea for a combined rail and airship station but set in 2090 as it's assumed that the public aren't ready for this kind of future just now. But serviceable airships have already existed for over a hundred years and it will be 200 years by 2090.                                                        

There is very much a case to be made for modern thinking, mobility and getting things done over the staid, traditional and stay put and rather think it would be considered preferable, inspiring, even, to progress than put up with dilapidated services and infrastructure.
And materials and design students as well as many others would find regular and engaging work.

Who will pay for this? In short, the public will, by either making do with a congested and badly-built environment or the long, drawn-out and expensive consultations that accompany getting anything done these days.

In real, practical terms repairing or replacing the bridge, although not entirely straightforward, should be a piece o' piss. If such necessary things as maintaining infrastructure was the norm, ie, we just got on with it.

ASD Westok, originators and manufacturers of cellular beams could provide two, perhaps three, 32 metre* long beams capable altogether of supporting, say, 100 tonnes load on a deck 10 metres wide. The existing bridge is 9m wide including footpaths either side but increasing the width to 10 or even 12 metres allows greater traffic flow and gives trucks better maneuverability.
(* all weights and measures are 'googled' estimates.)

Even though Westok are significant users of the bridge I'm not suggesting it's down to them to replace it although it would be a good leaving present when they relocate later this year and perhaps worthy of a blue plaque. Of course there are other manufacturers of similar products but just as a matter of sheer simplicity as Westok are on the doorstep (they're also previous employers but that's another story).

Not saying they'd want to, and they'd likely not thank me, but the lads/an inspired workforce could make the framework over a few dinner-times from left over stock and bits in the yard . . .

Stripping things bare: the actual cost of the raw material and its manufacture to finished product - say, if you were doing it for yourself - then the time it would take to install. Done to military efficiencies (on a good day . . ) and with skylifters that's likely: survey, make bridge, clear access, make temporary service connections, demolish old and remove, install new bridge, patch in, tidy up.

With skylifting capacity size and tonnage are much less of a consideration and newer methods and materials could be easier brought into use, eg., plate steel sizes, beam lengths, etc. would not be dictated by existing capacities of road or rail bound transport. Whole sections of slab steel could be profiled in one piece thus limiting the intensity of labour and the compromised solution of splitting and rejoining a universal beam.

Likely there's more to it than a fag packet sketch, maybe it's unnecessary as perhaps cheaper, less elaborate solutions do exist but far from seeing things as a gimmick the maintenance and improvement of the built environment - how and where we live - and the running of a progressive economy are paramount and well worth fighting for.

Pie in the sky?

While we're at it we might as well reinstall the train station that I assume gave Horbury Junction its name so that we have increased and speedier transport options - older neighbours happily recall using the service to get to such as Liverpool and Scarborough and that in Chas. Roberts heyday Millfield Rd had 'streams of workmen' using it to and from work.

Even though this may soon find itself obsolete should airships become commonplace and air travel, freight and other services replace conventional rail systems and much of how the road network is used.

Come to think of it, we might not to replace the bridge at all . . .           

(Not to make a specific case for Horbury Junction as there are many bridges in need of replacement from supposedly the world's most advanced economy as well as major projects in under-developed countries.)

Monday, November 01, 2010

BettaKultcha and Pecha Kucha

'The battle lines are drawn between the expanders and restrainers; those who believe that there should be no impediments and those who believe that we must live within limits’

Hammy's tales of the riverbank #1

Hammy #2


Countdown is progressing . . . 

Friday, October 08, 2010

Letter to Wakefield Express re ongoing LDF discussion.

(Not published in Wakefield Express).

Whilst it should be welcomed that Wakefield district is to get thousands more households - there is a pressing need for more housing - it really needs serious questioning as to where they are built, the scale, quality, infrastructure and services but, most importantly, the ideology behind the proposals in the Local Development Framework, ie, environmentalism.

'Where they are built' is a case in point with Councillor Jeffries proving there is no depth too low for her to prostitute herself; namely her recommendation that we pooh-pooh any Health and Safety objections we may have when it comes to putting mass housing on a former chemicals plant. This is rich coming from her as her party did so much to enshrine Health and Safety legislation in the first place. One wonders whether she is as outspoken when it comes to the many public events and even day to day activities that are hamstrung by such legislation.

Current policy has very little to do with facilitating better quality living standards to the public and is much more about containing them or, at best, placing them within a binding framework. Even worse, should we mere ordinary folk be free minded enough to determine our own lifestyles and activities we are highly likely to fall foul of any number of Anti-Social Behavioural Orders.

The council may lay claim to having put their proposals to we public but as has been pointed out this has been consultation in name only; the council gets to tick the box marked 'public involvement' and they then carry on regardless. Truly, they put the con in consultation.

There was never any intention to reshape current thinking as it is cemented in place by the great and the good of the UN, EU, national and local Government as well as promoted by an array of well- and taxpayer funded quangoes. This pretty much gives the lie to Lead Councillor Box's jibe at a previous letter writer concerning democracy. Little wonder he's been given a lackey's badge by those he truly serves.

Lessons haven't been learned from the recent financial turmoil and soon to hit recession. Although it's popular to blame the situation on 'greedy bankers' the underlying message is that we all want too much out of life, that we've gone too far. Many of us my have genuine grievances against our financial institutions but when it comes to raised aspirations maybe we should all call ourselves bankers.

Equally to blame in this scenario are those excessive Americans. Yet they too mostly suffer from land use restrictions and the scrabble for scant packages of land pushes the price of housing up to levels that people just cannot afford. Hence the sub-prime mortgage fiasco - people are paying over the odds for compromised living standards.

The council may claim this part of the LDF to be closed, a done deal, but this is far from the case. These things are written by flesh and blood human beings and supposedly agreed upon by the demos - us - but, as witnessed, this is far from the case. We need a genuine public discussion as to how and where we wish to live, not some compromised version passed down to us.

It's high time our elected, so-called representatives and dubious authority were told to 'patronise off!' and we reclaim the idea of modernity; humanity unbound, free and progressive.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ev'ry thing's broken?

Wakefield general election address.                                                                    Mark Harrop,

Broken Britain?                                                                                                  Independent candidate.

Despite the protest of Govt it's undeniable that the UK is in a mess, although, however much is 'broken' it generally means that people no longer care and need repair rather than roads, drains and misguided Regeneration schemes. Much noise is made about returning pride and a sense of purpose as in 'The Good Old Days' but this turns things on their head. The days of Britain being Great were not just through superior arms but in more progressive ways: the industrial revolution starting here, bringing advanced production methods to the world and changing an impoverished, illiterate peasantry into a better educated and aspirational working class.

Today, humanity's place on the planet is called into question. Apparently we've gone too far, become wasteful and destructive; knowledge no longer power but leading to unsustainable desires - for the masses, that is. When once the future was considered to be about jet-packs, colonising distant planets, unbound knowledge and a capacity to deal with any eventuality, these things now seem ridiculous. Today we are led to revere nature above all, limit our footprint and know our place. Babies are considered not so much bundles of joy but bundles of carbon emissions, the elderly as burdensome and all others in need of restraint.
Never before has humanity been viewed in such loathsome terms.

If we're broken and need fixing then who better to do that than Govt and their advisers? Yet, they don't make anything and rely on the productivity and compliance of the rest of society to keep them in their place. If people are wasteful in their ways then it's fairgame to enforce behavioural change - smoking bans, five-a-day, recycling, don't use lifts, leave the car at home, speed bumps and not repairing roads, get off the bus a stop early, voluntary work, ad infinitum. 

It is in these areas that Wakefield local government's rating improves from poor to fair with no end of agencies and govt departments urging the self-same advice. Irony being, the only growth area is one that wrestles with 'no growth' and no wonder the country grinds close to a halt.
This Govt remains immune to its faults and even after apologising manages to re-assert itself before claiming how bad things would be under anyone else.
Calls for transparency in politics seem unnecessary under such circumstances.

Britain is patched up and creaking rather than broken.

Maybe because it's Spring or an election but there has been some recent strategic public works. 'Strategic' as they are prominently placed: kerbs and drives being relaid close to main roads, some rural areas have new signs and street cleaners working on Sundays - someone needs seeing to be 'working hard for you'. These may be prominent works but are very much cheap and cynical window-dressing.

Most roads in the district are in an appalling state which is bad enough for cars and begs the question whether the great and good practice what they preach - 'leave the car at home' - and ever travel by bike. New Labour may now promise a considerable cash injection but why aren't these matters done automatically and without fanfare?

With the economy near collapsing and public services all calling for a bail out just where is the money to come from? Unwarranted and overstretched military campaigns, an Olympics on the way and New Labour's hardcore of embedded professional counsellors suggests a messy period ahead for anyone attempting to maintain this tired and tiresome approach.

Gordon Brown may talk of protecting 'frontline' services but given his Govt's whole approach is based on hectoring people to conform he may have a different idea of what public service means. It is not so much the people at fault but the intolerable circumstances lived under - if anything is broken it is current Govt thinking and policy. It's inconceivable that matters can be stabilised - let alone progress - without a complete abandoning of such a programme. The only thing in need of repair is the pioneering spirit and man's further grasp over nature and natural events.

For a life worth living there can be no other way.

(Tues 4th. May.)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Not the smoking ban, again?

The smoking ban is actually little to do with smoking. Neither is having a right to smoke the biggest issue facing us. Even so, not too many arguments for the ban stand up and, otherwise, simple arrangements can be made for those wishing to indulge the habit at their own risk. The ban is, however, indicative of wider trends in society.

For the most part, smoking is obviously unhealthy, it's expensive, smells, is disliked by many and others are glad for the ban. Some smokers even state that there has never been so much camaraderie amongst themselves. For now, outside, in shelters good, bad and ugly.

Why fuss over the ban?

Frail and elderly smoking customers hardly get out come the cold weather as smoking in a shed regulated to have less cover than a pigsty is no comfort. Govt legislation is creating more problems as people become less tolerant of others - the noisier beer gardens when neighbours want some peace and quiet or the gauntlet of smokers in pub doorways, for instance. There may not be an 'app' for that but there's certainly a law . . and a fine.

It's well known that many pubs are going to the wall. Publicans suffer variously from ill health, mountains of debt, over-regulation, excessive licensing and being tied to and having punitive get-out clauses with Pub companies, and they taking full advantage of the cull by squeezing as much money as they can from sitting-duck licensees.

Many pubs are barely hanging on under these conditions and it's fair to say that a significant part of public life is set to change, too. Stopping people smoking is among the many intrusions into behaviour: everything from alcohol, food, calling the barmaid 'love', telling jokes; everything. Even train-spotters are suspect terrorists and young boys playing war are labeled as racist.

The smoking ban expresses much that is wrong with the UK. Everything is subject to a risk assessment for the remotest thing that could go wrong or we can be bullied or hurt by a word or activity of another. Supposedly, we need guidance as we're deemed not adult enough to negotiate life without the many helping hands of govt, council officials, professional advisers or charities to regulate, fine or harass us into making the 'right' decisions.

Politics has become less about the best way forward and nearly all about manipulating the character of the public.  

A reversal of politics.

For politics, the rise of character and personality is a dead end but reflects what happens to individuals at ground level. If policy is based on character assassination then politicians can't expect to avoid being judged by the conditions they helped create. Hence, MPs are caught short with the so-called expenses scandal, Gordon Brown caught muttering what he really thinks of the electorate and vacuous leadership debates on TV.

There is no longer a progressive character to politics and things today are about how flawed we are, not the way society functions or could be made better.

A reasonable economy?

If this is bad enough for our personal and social lives then it has proved disastrous for the economy, now collapsing under the twin burdens of such over-regulation and notions of sustainability. In essence and practice both deny human capacity to negotiate daily life or larger problems. Yet, our future is being mortgaged to maintain the same problem so won't mean greater freedoms as we do our bit to rescue a situation not of our making.

The market system - capitalism - is far from perfect and to have it replaced with a freer, more productive and beneficial economy wouldn't be a bad thing but, even so, its dynamic character and our livelihoods are thwarted by the actions of a political class hell-bent on restraint.

A public vote?

On current track we can only expect more of the same as main electoral contenders are more like different brands of cheap soap powder. Whether we have a hung parliament or not there's going to be a mess. Unless we use the current election period to sort out some genuine democracy.

Now, while there's an election on is the ideal time to send a message to those who wish to represent us and have them pay attention to our concerns rather than take us for granted. Seeing as how the smoking ban is symbolic of further controls and the aim of politics should be a society where people are free to indulge their pleasures then we ought take a public vote as to whether pubs, clubs, cafes, etc can reasonably offer 'smoking or non-smoking' - part, throughout, occasionally, ventilated or not at all. Even those of us who hate smoking ought allow others to indulge their lifestyle choices as who knows what's next?

These days, tired and tiresome politicians are falling over backwards for votes but remain disconnected from the public to make other than superficial claims. Unfortunately, it remains that New Labour and their official opposition still feel the need to control most things public.
Allowing them to carry on unchallenged is dangerous for personal choices, wider society and the economy, too.

The smoking ban, then, is not just about smoking but us as individuals having the right to choose our activities and the company we keep. Politicians should butt out of private affairs and get on with their proper job - getting to grips with a progressive economy and getting the country working properly.

Mark Harrop. Independent candidate
Wakefield, general election.    

At the HoP . . .

                                            . . . the most Public of all Houses?

Friday, April 16, 2010

2010 Election proposals.

For the most part my candidacy will promote the Institute of Ideas' 21 pledges for progress as outlined below, to which I add -
  • Full, meaningful and rewarding employment.
  • An end to Carbon trading schemes and offsetting, promoting rather than curtailing development in underdeveloped countries and breaking out of constricting environmentalist schema in the UK and beyond.
  • Decriminalising recreational drug use and ending all intrusive meddling in private affairs and lifestyle choices.
  • Recognising that recent and ongoing warfaring by western leaders is much more about propping up their dubious authority,  right to rule over us and to cement their position at the top table of global affairs. On their own terms it has proven largely counterproductive and for those on the ground a disaster with no end in sight.

21 PLEDGES FOR PROGRESS 2010                

Policy ideas that would make candidates worth voting for; positions that voters should argue and campaign for.


  1. Repeal hate speech legislation, in the interests of free speech, with no ifs, no buts.
  2. Repeal the UK's libel laws, in the interests of free speech, no ifs, no buts.
  3. Stop bureaucratic CRB checks and vetting of adults who come into contact with children and vulnerable adults, in the interests of free association between generations and countering the climate of mistrust.
  4. Repeal any equality legislation that interferes with the freedom of private organisations like churches and political parties to act on their beliefs, in the interests of free association.
  5. Revoke unnecessary and nonsensical health and safety rules and guidelines in the interests of countering today's risk-averse, safety-first climate of fear.
  6. Allow pubs and clubs the option of permitting smoking, and get rid of the new 'no drinking zones', in the interests of countering the over-regulation of public spaces.
  7. Scrap the 'database state', including the ContactPoint database which holds information about every child in the country and the DNA database which includes details of criminal suspects without convictions, in the interests of civil liberties, the privacy of families and the principle that we are innocent until proven guilty.
  8. Limit the police's power to detain people without charge to 24 hours rather than 28 days, in the interests of civil liberties and due process.
  9. Declare an amnesty for all illegal immigrants presently in the UK, whether asylum seekers or economic migrants, in the interests of recognising the positive aspirations of those who seek to improve their lives by moving countries.
  10. Open the borders, revoking all immigration controls, in the interests of the free movement of citizens.

  12. Get rid of police Tsars and unelected 'experts' from government decision-making in the interests of parliamentary sovereignty and democratic accountability.
  13. Abolish the monarchy and the House of Lords in the interests of a fully elected legislature and executive.
  14. Hold a referendum on the EU constitution and any subsequent treaties, in the interests of a national democratic mandate.

  16. Direct state expenditure into infrastructural projects such as power grids and telecommunications, increased facilities for road, rail and air travel, in the interests of productive economic growth.
  17. Build new nuclear power stations across the country in the interests of ensuring we have more than sufficient energy to power a new round of economic growth.
  18. Reduce the onerous regulation of new scientific and technological developments such as GM technology and biomedicine in the interests of increasing R&D and encouraging innovation.

  20. Stop excessive centralisation and bureaucratic control of public services, enabling professionals to make judgements in the interests of those using the services rather than artificial targets.
  21. Scrap the 'impact statement' demands on university research in the interests of valuing knowledge for its own sake and academic freedom from policy outcomes.
  22. Support the arts financially, for their own sake, in the interests of liberating them from ever more prescriptive and politicised instrumental demands.
  23. Direct state funding of health to biomedical research into cures, the latest drugs and equipment, rather than punitive campaigns to change individual behaviour, in the interests of public health and good cheer.
  24. Direct state funding of schools into providing universal access to the highest standard of education in academic subjects, rather than politicised cross curricular themes like sustainability or citizenship, in the interests of passing on real knowledge to our children.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Late notice: Wakefield Salon.

Wakefield Salon is a discussion group formed to examine topical cultural and political issues.

Our first discussion is on Free Speech, *Thurs 22nd October 7.30pm at the Black Rock pub*, Cross square, central Wakefield.

This week the BNP are scheduled to appear on BBC's Question Time yet local MP and schools secretary Ed Balls calls for any teacher with links to the organisation to be sacked. The local library and education internet service bars some groups that question the accepted stance on environmentalism (now revoked but a Miliband once stormed 'the debate is over!' re climate change so still some way to go.)

Is this right? Should members of the public have the right to make their own minds up or is this an acceptable role for Govt? Can the public handle dodgy or challenging ideas?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Knowledge is power?

It seems that the good people at Sp!ked have rubbed a few people up the wrong way as access has now been denied through the Yorks and Humberside grid for learning network citing "News/media, Adult themes".
Possibly a bit too adult for 'authorities' on a dumbing down mandate.

This link ought take you to the stop page and a questions box should you wish to task our defenders of the public realm.

Letter to Wakefield Express 21st August '09.

May I, through your paper, and hopefully so that it doesn't offend the Home Secretary too much, raise the issue of free speech? On the library's internet network I can now no longer access one of my favoured sites - A duty librarian informed she would look into it but had managed to come over all smug when informing a day or two later that 'it seems blocked by 'higher up', that she 'didn't agree with censorship too much' but 'that it was probably because of the environmentalist angle, y'know', lastly that 'if people want to read that sort of stuff they maybe should get their own computer'.
This is no complaint against a public servant having an opinion - no matter how veiled the delivery - but she ought be wary of the erosion of enquiry leastwise for her own profession. As it is, the good people at spiked are not deniers re human induced climate change and see that Environmentalism has become an all enveloping creed that brooks no dissent yet does not provide workable solutions. In short the green agenda is one of control and implementing austerity and this gives firm examples of how far that control is creeping plus the austerity in thinking amongst our non-elected betters.
Obviously everyone's favourite bogeyman - The BNP - have also been censored. I have little agreement with their brand of politics but far more respect for them than people that spend their time wanting to ban them. They are a legitimate party and address the concerns of enough people to gain an MEP in the area. Though it must be pointed out that was on a reduced vote even for them but a much larger disassociation from mainstream parties. The BNP's brand of politics is pale imitation mainstream stuff that needs engaging in free public debate. Who indulges in sneakier, more dishonest politics?
For interests of national security this govt wants access to our emails and phone calls whilst carrying on getting their message through but they've only to look at comments in the broader media to see what opinion is of them and their message. The mass of people seem to have had enough and it's merely the fact that official opposition are so weak that they can dither on. Given the vitriol and occasional deletes then it's safe to assume that what's said in private would keep an actual proper dictator busy. Even when us public are invited to have petitions to govt - let alone a referendum - then our response is reinterpreted to prove us wrong and more tax payer funded gush to get the right answers into our thick skulls.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Environmentalism - the last refuge of scoundrels.

(Long winded reply to Wakefield Express Green issue*)

We really ought reconsider Environmentalism. At its core it poses people as a problem; The Biggest Problem, not only to the planet and everything on it but also ourselves.
As it is the jury is still out that global-warming - also known as 'dangerous climate change' will prove detrimental or even that we are the main cause. And if it is actually warming. The climate is changing - always has, whether man's contribution poses a significant factor is guessed at via loaded models and 'the science' politically driven.

Even taking the disaster scenarios at their worst - which are the guarantors of our actions - then are we really to take our adaptive actions seriously? So many agencies churn out the same RRRRs but life goes on; we go to work, produce and consume; new technologies build on the capacity of previous and we always find ways to improve.

Environmentalism already greatly affects us - from restrictions on land for housing and the expensive and disappointing product to needlessly sorting through our rubbish and fairtrade schemes that may appease the consciences of liberals but entrap third world producers into western notions of sustainability.
Many claim that for the 7 billion+/- population of the earth to have developed lifestyles - or at least as developed as we in the west - would require 3 or more planets as we don't have the resources. This sees human achievement as static and destructive and fails to pay attention to our remarkable ingenuity eg increased yields in agriculture and even the ability to harness power from natural sources (perhaps just different versions of the same process). The lack of resources are to be found amongst our political leaders and the unimaginative.
Of course there are many shades of green and it's doubtful whether proposals from on high satisfy the eco-worriers amongst us - especially when it's almost business as usual and airports, power stations, roads and houses are still being built or proposed (albeit in dismal fashion) and we all go to work or indulge in activities deemed unsustainable.
Hardly a black and white issue let alone 'Green being the new Red'.

Traditional left vs right notions of the best way forward for us as individuals and as a society have collapsed and given birth to this seemingly radical ideology. Indeed, it is radical - radical in the ways we're going to have to adapt if we accept it as presented. From the spoutings of the green and good it doesn't look that rosy.
Despite the pontificating of our 'leaders' emissions targets haven't been achieved anywhere except in former Soviet bloc countries due to their industrial decline. It's telling that with the opening up of the North Pole - supposedly due to climate negligence - there was a rush to claim exploration rights. UK included. Much talk is made over environmental concerns yet it seems the green elite merely pay lip service whilst the rest of us pay through the nose - in guilt taxes and time wasting activities that actually do more 'harm' than good.

If we truly were to consider the environment then we'd contend ways of dealing with it resourcefully - in ways that benefit humans first. In this the UK seems to have lost its way with the days of great industrial pioneers gone and their contemporaries happier to indulge in the wistful and iconic - or go abroad.
It's only belatedly that sluices in Wakefield are being dredged - perhaps there ought be a major washout of the drains too as many of these are blocked with all manner of debris. These should be activities that are constant and upgraded; it's fine gentrifying the place but a bit more function over form seems necessary. And whilst we're encouraged to dwell on our history we ought remember that Wakefield has it's ings. Instead, and like everything else these days, the blame is laid at us for having patios or concreted drives - to the point that these are considered punishable in taxes.

It's naive and negative thinking such as this that's blighting the economy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Manchester w . . .

(Online forum response to Manchester evening News - "Woman fined £700 in bins row')

I'm stunned that Victoria Clarke gets so much flak from equally affected citizens of Manchester. Rather than attack her character (seemingly assumed and maybe people in glasshouses . . . ) we should be demanding a proper waste collection service where binmen/de-waste collection operators, or whatever their called, pick up all the rubbish from a location principally convenient to the tenant. And taken as granted.

While we're at it we ought lay off the binmen too and develop some solidarity. They are no more guilty than the rest of us who work to schedule or even try to beat the clock. Who knows? - they might then be happier doing what is quite a crappy job and do it well.

Despite ever rising - and sneakier - taxes we're getting a much reduced service; in fact we're doing more of it ourselves. Worse than that, our volunteered efforts become expected, then ordered, 'offenders' pilloried and penalised.

It's shaming that we fight amongst ourselves rather than take this up with those that dealt the blow in the first place, or at least (and they quite possibly are the least . . . ) with the most prominent representatives - New Labour.

And wouldn't you know it? - the misanthropic twats are in town right now and enjoying some £18 million in expense accounts 1). For me they can keep 'their' money and maybe we should emulate the approach of MP barring publican Roger Hantulik and even the Police and give our 'leaders' some Northern Discomfort - make their stay as uncomfortable as they're making our lives.

They may even do something other than save their own skins and deal us up rubbish.

1) See Manchester evening News 'An £18 million windfall as Labour bandwagon rolls into town'.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's red and green?

New Labour's long drawn out last gasp has fully latched onto sustainability's rise - if not played a huge part in building it.
For those who displace politics with pontificating 'environmentalism' has become a collective wail. Unfortunately for erstwhile radicals they forget how the market can accommodate social trends and even drive them - so, with everyone from boy wonder DiCaprio and his 11thouring, much of what calls itself left wing and BIG industry can flog austerity.

Less costs more and inefficiency celebrated. Cheers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cor, blimey!

This guy needs his lights punching out.

"One other book on the curriculum is written by Johnathon Poritt. Entitled Captain Eco and the fate of the Earth it includes the line 'your parents and grandparents have made a mess of looking after the earth. They may deny it, but they're stealing your future . . . . "

Quoted from The Enemies of Progress: The dangers of Sustainability (p82). Austin Williams

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Whatever happened to the heroes?

I've met Stuart Smith and he comes across as a likeable enough guy. Yeeah, perhaps a chip on his shoulder, brass neck, motormouth . . . dodgy? pft! - dunno. But as a guy who's put his mug about and been in-yer-face as regards the smoking ban he deserves a medal. Whatever was chucked at him he just kept going - even when people who should know better turned on him. He posted his number directly on The Morning Advertiser website so that his critics could contact him direct (only for his post to be removed), been on video, etc, etc. So he's not scared of facing his critics and believes he's done little wrong in this case.

Even the most outlandish behaviour he's been up for got him just a 6 month suspended sentence - hardly Mr Evil.

I hope the fella becomes a folk hero and would love to see his face on the t-shirts of radical youth, bands, on stickers, etc. I'm pretty sure he'd welcome the idea; I was with him when the above shot was taken (but gave a crappy false name 'cos I should've been at work - oooh!) and it was his suggestion for that shot. Being unafraid of any publicity I'm sure he'd have stuck one up his ass if he'd thought on.

Stu may be contacted at Or various other outlets.
Stuart's full trial is on May 13th.

It's still very much an uphill fight though - some small wins and many setbacks - and council and govt departments getting sneakier by the day. We really ought bar these people for good and demand compensation for those who've lost out at this govt's hands.

While we can still talk about it.

Of interest -

Smoking ban challenged in Germany and China

Thursday, April 24, 2008

People in glasshouses . . .


Re Boons' meeting, 23rd April - Almost disappointing - 2 people and a news reporter but a good many well-wishers along the way and very good informal chats with smokers outside and then up town later on.

Crap organising on my part and working on assumptions meant that those who had expressed an interest went to the downstairs room whilst I was upstairs hastily writing spiel to an audience I 'knew' was never going to appear. (And ManUbleedinited were playing Barcelona - pfft! - see what happens when Ronaldo doesn't intimidate his opponent? (oi!, sidefoot - no!).

Success (credibility even) is a tenuous thing and there is no set way to achieve it. That aside, there is a process and we learn as we go along.

According to most reports some 67% of the UK are against an outright ban on smoking in public places and this figure is about the same with publicans. This shows quite a remarkable degree of tolerance given that some 25% is 'the figure' given for smokers ie. two and a half times the amount of smokers. And obviously pubs don't want to lose custom.

This is borne out on recent hasty visits to pubs. Many publicans are anxious about where this will lead, some figured they'd be able to manage whatever was thrown at them and the odd few were happy with the ban. However, most know there's more legislation on the way and that traditional pub culture is on the way out as things stand.

Although no-one was really happy about being coerced into an obvious unpopular measure there's been an air of resignation - until now. UKIP seem to be the only 'mainstream' party in the upcoming local elections with a libertarian bent, particularly with regard to the issue of our social lives. There is the possibility of a breakthrough, of sorts.

I don't give a rat's cock (sshurely a pub name there?) what else they stand for but on this I'll be a slag for democracy and promote them. It may even lead to political debate in pubs and put the wind up those that claim they're 'fighting hard for our interests' or whatever guff they're coming out with whilst they congratulate themselves and erode our freedoms.

Perhaps one of the reasons many daren't speak out is due to the enormous pressure heaped on individuals who dare stand up. Public houses, even under intense regulation, are still largely informal gathering places and there's an element of schwonky business goes off. This is mentioned occasionally on forums and in the news and is very likely something we all come across.
I should imagine that if 'they' are listening in on phone conversations then most of us would get banged up. They probably don't because it's the way things are. Given the volume of laws and regulation this govt. has introduced, we'll all be likely 'guilty' of something - and if not then soon will be . . . maybe.

And maybe not. Our political class are seriously adrift and seem to like to raid the coffers themselves. Of course, running for public office should be an honourable thing and well recompensed - as should we all be for our labours, after all we make the roads, schools and hospitals, etc. and run them and politics ought be about realising our aspirations. Trouble is that raising apirations has given way to restraint - at least for us hoi-polloi.

Given that the smoking ban was brought in undemocratically and based on a pack of lies then maybe that what should be the most public of our houses is the one that needs examining.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Of course there ought be choice in the matter - democratic wannabes can state their case for us, or something like that . . .

UKIP . . .

As requested by Wakefield publicans at first meet up.

The lady wouldn't recognise a good night if she saw one.
Now playing - 'You think I ain't worth a dollar but I feel like a millionaire', Queens of the stone age.
(followed up nicely by The Rezillos - 'Somebody's gonna get their head kicked in tonight').

Just for you, Mary.


Downloads of other of our representatives available HERE.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

pfff . . . some more.

TBC . . .

Initial inspiration from Tom Mower''s 'Attention Please!' photo essay and gallery at The Manifesto club site.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Challenging the ban . . .

#1 I'd just gotten a new job - and was struggling - when the smoke ban came into force in England. Despite the owner managers mostly being smokers and near enough 'one of us'' I was taken aback by the tone of the company statement - very strident and making no attempt to inform that this was pushed on them by Govt. Some in management, it seemed, preferred the extra 'authority' the legislation conferred.

Not all the lads were smokers but in an atmosphere where machinery and activity of alsorts makes the air 'dirty' then our little stick of filth kept us happy; ditto shopfloor pots of tea/coffee/drinking chocolate/etc from the vending machine or 'spice' (the archaic but charming term for sweets up here) - all these are no-nos going by what's 'reasonably practicable'. A blind eye is occasionally turned as no-one in their right mind wants to see the workforce disgruntled, although some places have a preference for keeping the men just on the edge.

The blind eye doesn't include cigarettes and practically overnight the place was festooned with various authoritarian 'No Smoking!!' posters and stickers; so much that smoking must be the worst thing anyone could possibly do. Ever.

We were 'being watched', or led into acquiescencing that we were. Our government attempted to pull an even faster one and get us all policing each other - or else!
'Or else' meant fines of some £50 to the smokee and £2500 to the proprietor but not to worry as my 'on side' health and safety rep told me 'I'll make sure that if they fine you that they get fined two 'n' 'alf grand!'. Whoopee; I can barely catch my breath.

The press brake operator, was gutted; he practically lived for his fags. 'Fuck 'em' he said, 'I'm gonna put the guards back on the press'. The supervisor (like Tommy Cooper but without the looks. And not as funny) said 'if I catch you working without guards on your machine then you'll be disciplined' - pfff!?! 'I've not had the guards on for 12 years, you s*@%> f€¡^!' quoth Al, the operator.

Truth is, we're not as daft as we look and complex and intrusive guards often make life more awkward than not. They may even cause an operator to use energies inefficiently where they could concentrate on being effective in their work and able to determine safe methods of working for themselves and those around them. We do go to work to earn a living don't we?

Al was even more pissed off that his beloved, smokey boozer seemed threatened - 'everyone' smoked and it was just a lively village pub with nothing of an outside to accommodate new regulation, let alone us smoking ne'er do wells.
I truly hope that boozer's still open.
Mindst, Al, near retirement, may be glad with some newly acquired health - encouraged to eat 5-a-day, cut out the fags and booze and maybe even doing early morning calisthenics with the gaffers.


Cut to Carl, profile burner. Carl makes my eyes water just to think of him. He has a disability with his hip joints and can often be seen limping badly throughout the day - particularly bad in colder weather when the chill stays in the metal and 'radiates' cold. Of course it gets heated up with work but it's bad enough to affect my minor injuries so Lord knows what it's like for older or more infirm people.
Carl also has an autistic son who he has to beg to get decent care for and, on top of that, his father needs attention to. All of which is delivered matter-of-factly and without complaint.

He's also there at all hours and travels some distance to do the job. I asked whether he cold have a hip replacement but he told me that it's considered too son. Too soon!, the guy's practically crippled now so ten years down the line when he really needs the operation will see him living a large part of his useful life in pain and not as mobile as he could be.

Pass me the Tai-chi - I'm winding myself up.
And cheers to those that know what's best for us.


Prior to this engagement I'd worked in a smaller fabrication shop and a similar bon-homie (ish) existed. Being more used to this type of work I'd managed to settle in easier (even though one can be an awkward feck). Here the gaffers were largely not bothered about the lads smoking on the floor, though we were all smoking our heads off in the run up.
A senior gaffer minded though and he told me he'd bring it in earlier if he could. He seemed oblivious to other 'risks' - the cramped and cluttered conditions we worked in. True, this was prior to a move to bigger premises and so we generally didn't mind the bit of give and take but even so we were welding, cutting, grinding and occasionally spraying, all in close proximity. Despite the odd grunt we got on with it - it being more norm than exception.
(The new factory is now closer to new built houses, the factory starts at 0700 and they like to be busy enough to work some weekends. See 'coming soon': a pox on all our houses?')

Something of a family business, younger gaffers, perhaps not fuller ingrained into the machinery of management, were much more affable. One told me of when they were first setting up and used to have a game of rugby inside. When it was a small concern, such informality was ' a right laff' but something that falls by the wayside under pressures of running a business and letting us know who's boss.

Next door was a two man fabrication outfit. Given the structure of the building they'd managed to set themselves up handsomely; the place old but clean and cosy. They were both smokers and couldn't believe that legislation meant they had to leave their rarely visited works to have a gasp. Nor that they had to put loads of signs up stating the dangers and dubious legalities of the ban.

In an engineering workshop!?! It being a place of business and therefore open to a public, of sorts, they had to be guarded from this evil.

Am not too sure that a recent arrangement I had whereby having a lodger would make my house into a 'public house' and bound by the same rules. In this instance, it would be patently ridiculous to abide by the ban and go outside as we both smoke and the bulk of either of our friends do. One doesn't like to provide ammo but it can be safely betted that this will be on their cards.

Of course, when particular non-smokers come I voluntarily curtail my habit and even ventilate my house. Fair enough, really.

#3 The Public House

The smoking ban was brought in with much fanfare - it would be better all around, intimidated non-smokers and their families would return in droves, us poor smokers would get help to quit our filthy habit from our representatives in Govt and their lackeys and we'd all be much happier and healthier.

Not much, if any of this, rings true - Public Houses are having a hard time of it these days and many have seen difficult conditions become compounded by the smoking ban. Most trade forums attest to this and talk to any licensee or bar staff and even 'upmarket establishments' tell of a significant drop in takings. Pubs were closing at a trickle before 1/7 but the trend has accelerated to well over a hundred a month now.

Some clubs have seen old non-smoking customers return but certainly not in droves; Wetherspoons, who brought the ban in a year or so before most other pubcos, have seen their takings take a massive dent.

One barman in a non-boozer type pub told me 'Yes, there are some new faces and takings are down but we can cope'. Others, not so. Many publicans have other jobs or subsidise a meagre living by eating with the sports teams. In many places pubs end up subsidising their diminishing clientele by using their savings to keep the place cosy.

On the few occasions I visit pubs it's often the case there are more customers having a gasp outside than in and the pub itself has no atmosphere. Of all the notices this Govt has come out with the one that states 'It's an offence to smoke on these premises' particularly galls. Offensive to the majority who huddle outside of doorways and those not bothered inside? or well paid (out of our taxes) enforcement officers minded by a gaggle of proper coppers on double time and our holier-than-thou government?

Many pubs have bent over backwards to satisfy their smoking customers and maintain their business. Some have parted with lots of cash having built shelters but only to see them fall foul of strict regulations as to siting and construction. Also, anyone having a bit of banter and a laugh - surely that's what pubs are for? - can find they contravene noise regulations and end up in court.

Not happy with that there are calls to remove patio heaters as our comfort gives way to concern about the environment - a bigger topic but one related inasmuch as the reasoning behind it is that us humans want too much out of life and are destroying the planet with our selfish ways.

It's unlikely there'll be a perfect shelter as new regulations mooted to remove vending machines from pubs (pubs!?!) and shops where they'll be on show to the slavish gives the implication that 'we' are to be not seen, not heard and, preferably, non-existent. Back behind the bike sheds then?

Truly, we're being treat like kids.

What's next? - already there are similar campaigns afoot as regards drinking - even passive drinking! - and the food we eat, where we want to travel to and even what we can talk about.

It seems this Govt is only too happy to see pubs die out - they make a killing on stamp duty and other taxes when public houses are redeveloped into expensive and crammed private houses - or 'exclusive' appartments as they're now called. They are barely worthy of being called houses but it seems they're good enough for us - if we can afford them. (The only thing exclusive about them seems to be the price tag.)

#4 Giving up?

A landlady - a smoker - said her pub is very easy to clean now the ashtrays are gone. That's a shame as the pub is also a tool of her trade and obviously not being used as purposed. How long before the beer lines and glasses become redundant? Then nothing to clean at all and no business.

Some smokers even welcome the ban as they 'wanted to cut down anyway' and one smoker said he's in favour as all the smokers now have plenty to talk about and things are generally more sociable in the shelter - for now.

I smoke (quite a lot these days . . ) and most of the time I enjoy it; occasionally it's something to do - space filler, pause for thought or claiming a little part of my working day for myself.
Sometimes I want to stop - morning dog breath (perhaps more old beagles mainly - that's a brand name, surely?), when a little breathless or for financial reasons, seemingly.

Seemingly, but then maybe the anti-smoking campaign is getting to me?
Should I decide to stop then it will be my decision and not rammed down my throat by people with far dodgier habits.

I used to be a keen 'mountain' bike rider and spent enough time and money in the effort. I was never anything special or daring yet managed to pick up a fair share of injury, but nothing in comparison to young bloods who practically ride down cliff faces or batter themselves on stunt ramps. To these guys a pinned leg or arm is displayed almost as a trophy and such injuries, when commonplace, aid development of medical techniques.

It's good that the young, and not so, push the boundaries of excitement and are prepared to face injury in the process. It's also preferable that injury comes, as it surely will, from pastimes and not war time and that medical technique develops accordingly. **Facial reconstructive surgery due to WW1 trench warfare and a high number of head casualties led to the development of today's cosmetic surgery.**

It's particularly rich when smokers are constantly harangued for costs associated with our habit. Smoking related illnesses most often occur in older age when we are susceptible to all manner of ailments anyway and given that smokers contribute healthily to the exchequer and die younger then we're hardly a burden.
Further, lung ailments are disproportionately underfunded due to an association with smoking - regardless of whether the illness is due to smoking.

Not only do we prop up the health service but we get little in return. And, should smoking be fully stamped out, where will tax revenues come from?


The ban itself and what's to follow seems disproportionately aimed at the white working class. It seems we are being blamed for the ills of society rather than it lacking direction. Politics used to be far more polarised with the right standing for the prowess of individuals as a driver to take society forward and the left seeking to ameliorate the conditions worked under, distribute wealth evenly and we all prosper accordingly. Sort of.
The truth probably lies between the two but such ideologies are more bound by the economic system we live under rather than determining the paths individuals and society take.

Such ideas have now collapsed and politics is much less about raising aspiration and more about restraint - a point seemingly lost with Gordon Brown's cynical parading of Margaret Thatcher prior to the Conservatives conference. Her popularity came through her appeal to raise our material aspirations and ditch the cloying hand of Old Labour.

Mainstream parties have lost their moorings and now have no idea how to take society forward. Whether the smoking ban comes from a lack of ideas and an attempt to reconnect with our assumed concerns, or those of a vocal minority, or something to do with moulding us into shape to take on new challenges is debateable.
I hold that it's mainly the latter and as much a knowing nod to recessionary tendencies and austerity. What better way to control us than to make out our desire for material wealth is ultimately destructive to the planet, ourselves and everything else?

As such, smoking is an obvious target as it serves no 'real' purpose. It's not necessary to smoke and is quite literally a throwaway habit. It's not the healthiest of things to do either. When we start to look at what we need to do in order to function in our day to day lives then all manner of things fall by the wayside and a good deal become luxury or superfluous. However, we are more than mere animal and our needs and desires are influenced in many complex and interconnected ways - and much more so than, say, mere advertising.

#The white working class and the BNP.

At a Meanwood WMC meeting a woman informed us that muslims were behind the smoking ban and that the BNP stood up against it. Now, they are very much an opportunist lot, and it would be good if they did. But no, a search of their site revealed nothing other than a sentence in an interview with Nick Griffiths, vaguely saying people should have choice in the matter.

It shouldn't really be that much of a surprise as a previous fund drive of theirs asked for sympathisers to donate the price of a pint - only for this to be later replaced by a more responsible cup of tea. Not too much ambition there then.
It seems that attempts to cleanse their image and project decency and responsibility leave their hands tied when it comes to defending an element of traditional white working class culture - the social life we choose.

Shame really given that It's St. George's day and many would no doubt like to celebrate the matter - with a pint and fag, in comfort in the Kings Arms, Redoubt, Waterloo, Imperial, Duke of Wellington . . . . damn! - they're all fighting names aren't they? Or the Coopers', Weavers', Smiths' and various other, Arms - all names suggestive of trade and relaxing after a days toil. Trouble with the BNP is they can't see much further than portraying the white masses as hapless victims of migrant hordes undermining 'our way of life'. Big cop out given that all this legislation comes from an angst ridden and, on the whole, white Govt with little idea other than to squeeze us.

I tried to see whether there was any mileage to be gained from this on a brief visit to Dewsbury pubs where they have some presence. I'm pretty sure that the first barman spoken to was 'one of them' given what he was talking about and we got no further than him blaming everything on foreigners. Not everyone in Dewsbury is a card carrying member of the BNP though, in fact they're pretty marginal other than securing a howl of indignation vote. Not to say though that the BNP have no role to play as they at least believe they are looking out for the concerns of their kith, kin and countrymen. Shame then that they are predisposed to lay society's problems at the feet of others at the bottom of the pile and cling to past versions of what they despise today. All that pomp, ceremony and sense of duty - to what?

They ought to be careful as coercive measures to inform our choices already seek to determine what we can say out loud and the BNP, being 'everyone's favourite bogeyman, may find themselves banned.

Looking around the old buildings of Dewsbury reveals an industrial past; a time when society was forging ahead and offered the masses a chance to better themselves. Dewsbury still has it's industry but nothing on a grand scale and the place is now under scrutiny for regenerative investment. Regeneration schemes come under the guise of the government's renaissance agenda - a desire to gentrify 'place' and us along with it. At its root this includes shoehorning us into distinct and passive individuals following a path set down by them and little room for personal expression.
It's much more likely that this will lead to further disharmony as it requires us to acquiesce to coercive measures and almost stop thinking for ourselves. It also appears counterintuitive as the relentless focus on personal behaviour replaces it with much more of the same. Look at food programmes - we're told we eat too much and what we do eat is rubbish so there are no end of cooking programmes - food, glorious food and much of it labeled organic, local or 'sustainable' on very dubious terms.

It wouldn't be too bad if the Govt had a track record that bears scrutiny and lofty decisions could be left to them whilst we get on with ordering our messy affairs. Perhaps I'm looking at things the wrong way around?
Decency and responsibility in our lives can only come so much from the individual. Even in hard times there are those who will prosper but for society as a whole to move forwards requires less inward soul searching and a grander project.

# Just a brief mention of UKIP and no particular sleight intended.

Like any political organisation UKIP may have their faults but in the case of the smoking ban they seem to be the only party making a stand for liberty. This isn't some god given right to blow smoke in the faces of babies but a determining of choice and development of tolerance between people - and what could be wrong with that?

Jason Smith, candidate for Queensbury, told me he was taken aback by the strength of feeling against the ban and when canvassing pubs was practically carried aloft by cheering punters - not bad for a ginner.

With only some 25% of the population being smokers, yet 67% opposed to an outright ban* - two and a half times the amount of smokers - that seems to be healthy grounds for questioning the assumptions behind the ban and perhaps a vehicle for democracy. *(ONS 2006 survey)

I'm no supporter of UKIP but seriously wish them well on this - who knows? we may even get the necessary debate on the pros and cons of our leaders attachment to the European Union.

(To edit . . )

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sweaty takes the piss.

Ed Balls may put himself about a bit, even break a little sweat, as a local MP and Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families but, he shows he's pretty useless at providing inspiration.

In a week when substantial parts of the region were underwater, Ed's face was splashed about in the media talking to the kids about their ideas to save the planet - particularly water solutions.
This forms part of an initiative called Little people, Big ideas with Yorkshire water 1).

It really ought be called Big people - no idea.

Kids can be extremely bright given the right stimulus but watching their video shows they've more been watching Button Moon than Tomorrow's World and this promotion more forcefeeding today's barren ecological values and indulging the kids than providing leadership or learning opportunity.
I hope the kids got shown around the place and saw what large scale technologies can do or, instead of indulging 'their quirky ideas' (one or two on the right track but mostly recycled mainstream ones, plus toys) show them the huge leaps being taken by the Chinese - 3 Gorges dam or the canal* that's to be as long as the UK, for instance. This is the sort of thing that will provide us with better living, even 'harmonising' with nature and developing newer means of coping with whatever it throws at us.
It's more than annoying to say that British inventors were once at the forefront of developing grand ideas yet today they are put on pedestals in opportunistic regeneration schemes and, worse, their very ideas laid blame for the supposed mess we are in.
We owe these pioneers a debt of gratitude and need to relocate them from 'renaissance' public space to their true place in history.

What could have been an informative and inspiring occasion for some of tomorrows civil engineers instead turned out to be New Labour's relentless forward pitching of themselves. It could be stretching things somewhat but it seems they have aspirations and diary dates up to *2018* and, further indulging my inner conspiracy theorist, wouldn't mind betting they're grooming the kids along the way.

Maybe not, but their tenure has seen a relentless loosening of faith in current society, if not humanity ie. the very people that make things work. Strangely though they don't seem to be inflicted with our curse - while their policy has roundly just about slagged everyone else off their halos remain intact. They may rob the past and have aspirations to lead us into the future yet have little idea in the here and now. Ed said as much at a patronise the public event in the local library, stating if he 'was Gordon Brown he'd take 2-3 yrs developing a new programme rather than dive straight in'.

As Brown's right hand man (and Brown firmly behind Blair) Ed's been right up there for the past decade - creaming billions in pension raids 2) and stamp duty and hand in hand with the missus cramming us into ever smaller and more expensive housing - if 'affordable' at all 3).

At his 'My life as an MP' promotion I asked him now that Blair has gone did he feel New Labour could progress or, given that he had never voted against him and that he and Gordon Brown were just as responsible for government policy, did he feel implicated and that his and the government's days were numbered?
His reply was pure Bart Simpson - 'I wasn't an MP when the war in Iraq started (no one saw me . . )' . . phew! Got out of that one easy enough, except my question wasn't particularly about Iraq. Given Balls' craven approach to leadership it's highly likely he 'couldn't possibly vote against Blair or else would be out of the cabinet' (sic) and therefore by that rationale would have voted; same as the missus
(maybe not and the reason they have two houses . . ? 4)

He gamely soldiered on giving some tenuous muse about leadership - the leadership that he and Brown's cabal craved for a decade and now want some 2-3 more years to develop. Blair's decade may be looked back on as "the good old days" (and him maybe due a return) and now we get some very awkward teenage years.

Balls does well with doublespeak - whilst giving the kids lessons in emotional well being he gives plenty to be angry about. Perhaps lessons in financial management should start with an analysis of his hand in the most costly of our affairs? On top of robbing us left, right and centre he urges wage restraint and leads by example - Wakefield's socialist MPs have opted for a 1.9% pay increase but Balls n missus claim £300,000 in expenses and more if they want to - nice work if you can get it 5).

Hold on to your piggybanks, kids.
(And get out your wellies.)

1)Young inventors aim to save the planet.
3)Dear Ed and Yvette . . .
4)Ed Balls claims £27,000 subsidy for 2nd home.

*Also known as South-to-North Water Diversion Project but also discussed in negative terms as a conduit for invasive species.