Welcome to the Rudloe and environs website.
Here you will find news, articles and photos of an area that straddles the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in north-west Wiltshire.
Contributions in the form of articles or photos are welcome. Even those with completely contrary views to mine!
Thanks to the website builder 1&1 and Rob Brown for the original idea.
Rudloescene now, in January 2014, has a sister, academic rather than anarchic, website about Box history here: http://www.boxpeopleandplaces.co.uk/
It contains thoroughly professional, well-researched articles about Box and its people.
Contact rudloescene through the 'Contact' page.
Latina nuclear power station. Eni (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi) Director General Enrico Mattei and other officials visiting the Latina site (south of Rome) in 1962. The contract to import/build the Magnox reactor was won by the Nuclear Power Plant Company (NPPC), a consortium of UK companies Parsons Reyrolle, Head Wrightson and Macalpine. Construction started in Oct 1958 and the unit was connected to the grid in May 1963. It was ordered by SIMEA, an ENI subsidiary. The UK Atomic Energy Authority consulted on safety features. Latina was shutdown in December 1987 and is being decommissioned by British Nuclear Group and Sogin (a State company in charge of the environmental remediation of Italian nuclear sites). In 1959, a contract for the Japanese Tokai-Mura nuclear power station was won by British company AEG also using a Magnox reactor. See the 26th November 2015 article.
5th October 2018 - once again James Gray's weekly missive (below) had me choking over my muesli. My response follows:
Just reading this week's missive over breakfast.
I see that instead of addressing the real issues you continue to adopt an adversarial approach towards others, whether parties or personalities. That's your politics I suppose. Full English Brexit? What about the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland* who chose Remain?
All you can offer us is "I hope that the PM leaves herself enough ‘wriggle-room’ to switch her allegiance to some kind of free-trade deal resembling that agreed by the EU with Canada". This is the sovereign government that will have supposed full control of our affairs following your Brexit - after 27 months all it has (and all you have) is wishful thinking. Some government.
I guess that your full English would include baked beans (or perhaps half-baked) which would give rise to quite a bit of 'hot air' continuing the long Tory tradition of bluff and bluster.
I'll continue with my continental ...
(* I overlooked Gibraltar here, which voted 96% for Remain)
Party Conferences are largely self-regarding, self-glorifying, alcohol fuelled jamborees for lobbyists and journalists. Little of real substance is discussed, the main target being not members of the respective parties, but the drooling vampires of the media, hanging on every split, U-Turn or gaffe. Do you remember the Lib-Dem one? Probably not, apart from poor dear Vince trying to make some smutty joke, but getting his words all mixed up. Talk about a dead parrot.
Labour were all over the place with regard to Brexit, being unclear as to whether or not they favoured a second Referendum, and producing a demonstrable fudge at the end of it. But theirs was nonetheless a pretty slick operation, designed to appeal to the largest number of voters, in the vain hope that they would not look too deeply into what they were being promised, nor how it would all be paid for. It was a real old piece of communism in some respects, but they managed to dress it up so that no one spotted it. A couple of slick Party Political Broadcasts rounded off a bit of a remodelling of Kington St Michael boy, Jeremy Corbyn, into something at least vaguely resembling a PM in waiting. Their uncosted promises will unravel pretty quickly, but for now they had a good week.
I managed to avoid the Tory Conference as I have done for some years now. By the time you read this it will have had wall-to-wall coverage. We can but hope that it’s better than last year’s which was a bit of a PR disaster. The only show in town – and I hope the outcome from the Conference – is the question of how dead the Chequers proposals are. (Just about as dead as the parrot and the Lib-Dems.) I hope that the PM leaves herself enough ‘wriggle-room’ to switch her allegiance to some kind of free-trade deal resembling that agreed by the EU with Canada. [Full English Brexit]<http://www.jamesgray.org/full-english-brexit/>
My new book, Full English Brexit, is out this week. Catchy title, don’t you think? It’s about my own views of Brexit, but perhaps more importantly it’s about what I think the UK should look like over the next 50 years. What can we contribute to the world? What will a post-Brexit UK look like? It’s meant to be a light and quite amusing read, and perhaps to stimulate a few lively debates. It’s a highly personal account, and I hope that you may enjoy it. In bookshops near you at £14.99, or direct from the publishers, Halsgrove in Somerset; or if you want a signed copy (at no extra cost) let me know - email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Full%20English%20Brexit%20-%20signed%20copy>.
I hope we can now put the Conference Season behind us and get back to Parliament and some real hard work – not least, but not limited to, sorting out what really is the best kind of “English Brexit.”
James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire
1st October 2018 - James Gray's column in last week's Gazette & Herald (below) once again set me seething and elicited the following response:
We Rudloeites won't be taken in by your continuing, contrived indignation and insidious abuse about the EU.
It was your former leader who decided (in order to resolve divisions in your party, as you well know) to have the ill-advised referendum throwing any precautionary principle out of the window. The EU is a formidable, 28-nation block with much valued economic, social, scientific (etc) structures which rogues such as Putin and Trump (and others) would delight in seeing broken up in order to further their warped ambitions for their respective countries.
Your invective reminds me of a old saying regarding a mother watching her son in a military parade: "Everyone's out of step except our Johnny". Well, Johnny is the one that is out of step; as I say above, 'we' are not fooled by the spurious, disingenuous nonsense of this week's missive.
We should be proud (but perhaps not surprised) that all three winners in this year’s CPRE Best Kept Village competition are in North Wiltshire. Biddestone, Hullavington and Charlton may not necessarily be the prettiest villages in Wiltshire (although they must be close to it); but they have been adjudged to be the ‘best kept.’ Parish councils, parishioners of every kind, by taking a pride in their immediate neighbourhood; by keeping their own gardens and window boxes immaculate, and tidying up communal areas with litter-picking and more; these are ordinary people taking a real pride in their own and their immediate environment. That spirit of self-help, and of concern for our neighbours was celebrated in the Award Ceremonies last Sunday, two of which I attended.
I apologise to the villagers of Biddestone whose ceremony I missed owing to a previous commitment to reading a lesson at the lovely little service at Luckington church to rededicate two graves of those who had given military service. My reading, from the Gospel of St John was the famous old tale of Jesus telling the disciples about a grain of wheat. Unless it falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain. “If it dies, it bears much fruit.” Great Oaks from Little acorns grow. But not without them dying first.
Self-sacrifice for the greater good of the greater number is the spirit which lies behind the Best Kept Villages (and a fair number of great oaks round well-kept village greens too). And it is the spirit which permeates our armed services, where huge discomfort, and of course great risk to life and limb, are accepted for the greater good of the soldier’s mates and unit, and ultimately for the greater good of Queen and Country.
By contrast, the intonation from the Prayer Book at a graveside that “In the midst of Life we are in Death” has always struck me as being a bit negative, and also blind to the Resurrection. Surely “In the midst of Death we are in Life” is more positive, and also much more in line with the grain of wheat or the acorn, from which grow great oaks.
The British Bull-dog, whether or not in favour of Brexit will not tolerate our Prime Minister’s humiliation by a bunch of Europeans. We will not be bullied, nor patronised by the EU, who by that very action remind us of all we dislike about them. Salzburg has had the life-giving consequence of uniting almost everyone in support of Mrs May against the Eurocrats. So it may seem like an ‘impasse’; Chequers may be ‘dead’; the immediate outlook for the negotiations may be a little bleak. But in the midst of death, there is life. Chequers may turn out to be the acorn, from which a (wildly dissimilar) oak tree emerges. The annoying Europeans may just turn out to have been the rain and sunshine which makes it germinate and grow. President Tusk may well come to regret his vulgar little cake joke.
James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire
30th August 2018 - MP James Gray's weekly newsletter (in the first file 'link' below) received today prompted this response from yours truly: 'The subject is 'Brexit Can Revive Parliament' but you then go on to recount a number of UK parliamentary issues which have nothing whatsoever to do with the EU and Brexit. This is yet more deliberate befuddling of the EU/Brexit issue - as if we hadn't had enough already'.
I have included, for the rudloescene reader(s?) delectation, three further files on the subject of the EU referendum and the unfortunate (to say the least) outcome - Brexit. These are:
1. A short piece from Richard Dawkins on the EU referendum which was included in his book Science in the Soul
2. Jenni Russell's 7th September 2017 Times article (as Jenni says "What a miserable, avoidable mess")
3. A pre-referendum rudloescene article dated 15th April 2016 which asserts that our governments are culpable
The last item is a link to a file of London properties with overseas owners referenced in the 15th April 2016 article
7th September 2017 - Parliament resumed this week and the most important legislation in generations is being debated in the Commons. The Brexit tragedy was created by the decisions (or lack of them) by our own governments as expounded by Jenni Russell in her excellent, 7th September, Times article These Migration Curbs Are Years Too Late below. As she says, in her final paragraph: "What a miserable, avoidable mess."
Oh the irony. The Home Office intends to introduce tough new controls on immigration after Brexit. The tone could not be more aggressive. It is provoking fury and retaliation from the EU states whose goodwill we need for a successful deal.
The implication is that we have to be out of Europe to control immigration. That’s not accurate. Successive governments have simply failed to use many of the ways in which we could have limited immigration under EU law. If only they had been more thoughtful and careful about this, and had put in half the restrictions they now plan, we might never have provoked the anger that led to Brexit.
Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, is withering about this. “Europe can’t understand why we’re blaming them for problems of our own making. So much of this was always in our own gift. If we move to checks on biometrics, or residence, that’s what lots of European countries have been doing for years.”
For a country that is so resentful about migration, we have been astonishingly careless about measuring or managing it. We didn’t know who was here for two decades, because Tory and Labour governments removed exit checks in the 1990s, meaning that we had no idea who was staying on. Those controls were only reapplied in 2015 because the Lib Dems insisted on it. The Home Office under Theresa May stubbornly resisted it, petrified about what the figures might reveal. They preferred public rhetoric to effective action.
Britain’s next major error was in 2004 when it allowed free access to its labour markets to new members of the EU, including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. It needn’t have done so. These countries had much lower wage rates and less developed economies than the EU norm. Britain had the option of restricting workers’ rights to move here for up to seven years. Every other EU country except Sweden and Ireland decided to move cautiously, restricting migration for between two to seven years.
Under EU law there is no absolute right to freedom of movement. After three months any EU migrant must either have a job or a realistic chance of one, be a dependent of a family member who does, or have funds to support themselves, along with sickness insurance. If they don’t they can be sent home. Belgium, which registers every visitor within three months and issues them with residence cards, is increasingly strict about implementing these rules, ordering those who fail them to leave.
Britain has not implemented the policy for a simple reason: it has never bothered to get EU residents to register their presence here, has not, until the recent rollout of universal credit, asked welfare claimants their nationality, and has not had any system for requiring EU non-workers to take out health insurance. In 2013 Theresa May’s Home Office admitted it gave all EU citizens unfettered free movement rights and had no way of collecting data on EU welfare claims. Public anxiety about benefit and health tourism has been allowed to grow without any practical action taken to provide reassurance or redress.
In much of the rest of Europe there is less political unease about EU movement because there is more control over who is in the country and on what terms. France, Germany, Austria and Belgium have identity cards; Spain insists that everyone carries national ID. Most of Europe also has contributory health and welfare systems, meaning that only those who have paid in, and their dependents, can claim. Because Britain gives welfare and healthcare largely according to need, not contributions, and has much looser identity checks it is far easier for those not entitled to those services to use them. But all of those systems are within our power to change.
Other EU states are taking advantage of their scope to restrict the movement of cheaper, poorer workers, within existing rules. Germany is clamping down on the employment of Romanians and Bulgarians in the construction industry, arguing that they are not covered by pay-bargaining agreements between unions and employers.
President Macron, desperate to stop French workers being undercut by cheap Polish labour, is demanding that Poland agrees to restrict what he calls “social dumping”, where temporary workers are sent by companies to work in France but are paid in Poland at far lower rates. He wants similar jobs to get similar pay, saying anything else is a betrayal of European values.
Britain has been too careless about immigration; too slow to see that its many economic and cultural benefits must be balanced against its social and psychological costs. But it’s not the EU that’s the problem, it’s our own ineffectiveness and complacency. We are veering from too little control to a vengeful approach that could well sabotage our future relationship with the EU. What a miserable, avoidable mess.
17th October 2016 - Heathrow third runway decision due next week. The long-awaited decision on Heathrow expansion (or not) will be made by Theresa May (supposedly) next week. I thought the UK was a democracy not an autocracy! We have to keep growing apparently so its either Heathrow or Gatwick ... or both. This government (Mrs May) could be making one disastrous decision after another, first Hinckley C then Heathrow (perhaps) with the continuing disaster of the 'accidental' Brexit going on in the background. What Mrs M should have done and should be doing is saving £billions by scrapping Hinckley C and Heathrow expansion (and HS2) and rebuilding the Somerset and Dorset Railway powered by steam locomotives running on British coal.
In his book Prosperity without Growth (2011) Tim Jackson includes the following in the chapter 'The Dilemma of Growth' ... "In Cuba, the formal economy (GDP) more or less collapsed after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989, partly because of the sudden removal of subsidized Soviet oil. But one recent study suggests that there were significant health improvements in the aftermath. Calorific intake was reduced by over a third. Obesity was halved and the percentage of physically active adults more than doubled. Between 1997 and 2002, 'there were declines in deaths attributed to diabetes (51%), coronary heart disease (35%) [and] stroke (20%)". Let's abandon the nonsense of never-ending growth! If every country grows like First World countries (including China now) have been doing, the Earth's resources, flora and fauna will be decimated within a generation.
Some say that the Heathrow option, if chosen, will be inordinately delayed (decades) by legal challenges. Good news for the owners/occupiers of the 800 or so properties that would have to be demolished in order to make it happen. One of those properties would be the 16th-century White Horse pub - website here White Horse. And the racket that all these residents currently have to put up with every minute of every day (except nighttime) can be heard in the YouTube video below. The Stop Heathrow Expansion website is here: stop Heathrow expansion.
25th June 2016 - what a shambles
30th May 2016 - Dawn's story
The following letter from Dawn Faizey-Webster through the auspices of the Open University tells of the fantastic work being done by this institution which was established under the Labour government of Harold Wilson.
The generosity of rudloescene readers (you will give won't you?) is now required in order to support disabled students as the present government will no longer be doing so from this summer - see the paragraph headed 'But students like me can't continue ...' and the postscript.
15th April 2016 - the EU referendum
The EU referendum is a diversion of the kind that governments employ to hide real issues. What has Westminster council tax got to do with it? Take a look at the 2016/17 Westminster council tax table below - how do the figures compare with what you, in Wiltshire presumably, are paying? Take band D - £668 in Westminster, £1,595 in Wiltshire. If you would care to check Rightmove, the first twelve pages for Belgravia are for properties over £5-million; the first page alone lists properties valued between £30million and £63million. And the council tax paid for these first-page properties is £1337 (band H).
A 14th April 2016 Times article included the following 'One hundred thousand properties in London have been bought through secret offshore companies. They include almost all the homes in Kensington Palace Gardens, Britain’s most expensive street, and 64 of the 76 apartments in One Hyde Park, London’s most expensive new development. The land owned by these companies across the UK covers an area three times the size of Greater London. Until 2013 these purchases even escaped the stamp duty that ordinary people had to pay. These anonymous buyers include friends of Bashar al-Assad, and an associate of a former Kazakh secret police chief accused of murder'. Criminal and laundered (principally foreign, non-European) money has poured into the London market, forcing prices up in every area, and snatching houses away from the people who live and work there. The movement of the white British is often characterised as white flight - the indigenous population forced out of their neighbourhoods by foreign money. According to census data, the capital's white British population fell by 620,000 between 2001 and 2011.
The Times article continued 'London house prices have doubled since 2007, and last year the head of the National Crime Agency, Donald Toon, warned bluntly that "the London property market has been skewed by laundered money. Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK". It is staggering that we have allowed this to happen. Three quarters of under-35s in the capital don’t earn enough to buy a property here, because in the competition to buy homes they’re effectively competing with the richest and most corrupt people in the world. A whole generation either can’t move to the capital or can’t afford to live together and start families here, since anything beyond a shared room is unaffordable. And now foreign investors are moving into the regional cities too'.
The Government's pamphlet on the EU referendum states "The UK is a strong, independent nation". Really? Twenty years ago, less than a fifth of the UK stock market was foreign-owned; now the proportion has risen to 53% (ONS stats). For the first time in history, UK plc is majority‑owned by foreigners. And with the Asian and Russian invasion of London’s and now provincial housing market, UK's land, businesses and property are under the hammer as never before. Successive governments, since the 1980s, have squandered UK's assets (what happened to the UK's oil wealth when compared with Norway's?) and sold off the family silver. The EU is not the problem, our own governments have done a grand job in selling us down the river.
There are a number of articles on this website about the ownership of British industries: our railway industry is largely run by foreign (nationalised, ironically) groupings; our utilities (electricity, water) are, largely, foreign-owned; our market-quoted companies are increasingly foreign owned (more than 50% of them as stated above); our steel industry is owned, principally, by Tata, an Indian company; Ferrovial of Spain has a considerable stakeholding in British airports (Heathrow, Aberdeen, Southampton, Glasgow) and so on. Pilkington Glass - British? No, Japanese. What could be more British than Cadbury's chocolate? Ha - now American-owned of course. Remember ICI? Following a takeover by Dutch firm AkzoNobel, 29 factories were closed, including many in the UK, with the loss of 3,500 jobs. Westland Aircraft? Now under the control of the Italian Leonardo Corporation.
Quoted in Britain for Sale by Alex Brummer (2012), the chairman of WS Atkins, engineering company, said the following: "Why does ownership matter? The key issues are those of basic control. Ownership inevitably affects strategy; investment; taxes and where they are paid; employment; prourement; group synergies; R&D; stock exchange listing; diversification and location of operations; choice of products and markets and prospects for senior management. The location and culture of controllers of the business are important and will, over time, and in various circumstances, have a fundamental impact on the future of the business".
Quoted in the same book, the veteran Evening Standard commentator Anthony Hilton took a similar view with "Apart from the massive loss of corporation tax revenue that usually follows a foreign takeover, the national interest is damaged in a host of other ways - by the loss of top jobs, the loss of high-end research and the fact that the loss of a local head office can rip the heart out of a community. Take the company out ot the town and you destroy the town".
Remember Hawker Siddeley and its British subsidiaries A.V. Roe (Avro), Gloster, de Havilland and their legion aircraft: Hurricane, Shackleton, Lancaster, Harrier, Hawk (Red Arrows), Hunter, Nimrod, Comet, Vulcan, the RJ Jumbolino (I have flown to Sarajevo in one of these a few times), Meteor and many, many more? On 29 April 1977, as a result of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act, Hawker Siddeley Aviation and Dynamics was nationalised and merged with British Aircraft Corporation and Scottish Aviation to form British Aerospace. However, this accounted for only 25% of the Hawker Siddeley business by this time. The 75% (principally now, non-aviation business) was acquired by BTR in 1992 which, in turn, was acquired by Invensys in 1999 which, in turn, was acquired by French giant Schneider Electric in 2013 (most of this information from Wikipedia). Get the picture ... Britain and British industry belongs to someone else.
In France, the loss of a Cadbury would be out of the question. Widespread state holdings in vital utilities act as a brake on proposed takeovers. The French have consistently resisted pressure to allow foreign energy companies to compete freely in their domestic market. They argue that it is in the national interest to prevent key technologies falling into foreign hands. Spain has worked hard to ensure that the country's energy companies remain Spanish.Germany believes that strength at home is the first step to success abroad. In Japan, selling a company over the heads of management is unthinkable. And in the United States, regulations exist to protect strategic assets. Given the resistance by other nations to overseas takeovers, why has Britain sold and is it continuing to sell the family silver? A principal reason, given in Britain for Sale, is Britain's love affair with banking and services and the fact that many financial institutions make much of their money from buying and selling companies.
But now, apart from our infrastructure and industry, our very homes are progressively being swallowed up by foreign buyers. Using Freedom of Information legislation, Private Eye obtained Land Registry data regarding property purchases by offshore companies between 2005 and 2014 (note: just offshore companies and just for a ten-year period!). That list of more than 100,000 properties is shown in the file 'link' below. And note that with this government's proposed sell-off of the Land Registry (see 25th November 2015 article below) and in spite of its pledges to openness, this kind of information will, if the Registry is privatised, become much more difficult to obtain (under Freedom of Information legislation). Not only that but perhaps, this register of British land will itself fall into foreign hands!
Do any of you out there watch TV soaps? Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Eastenders? Or did anyone manage to catch the programme Last Whites of the East End on BBC1 (Tuesday 24th May 2016) which reported on white flight from the East End to Essex. The East End is now almost entirely devoid of its former, white, working-class residents. Eastenders is no longer a soap reflecting life, it is now a historical drama. And in the metropolis, at the 2011 census, 36.7% of London's population was foreign born (including 24.5% born outside Europe). This figure represents just first-generation 'foreigners'; when second-generation is taken into account, this figure rises to over 50%.
The front page article in the 25th May 2016 guardian was headlined 'The London skyscraper that is a stark symbol of the housing crisis'. This told the story of The Tower, a 50-storey block of residential apartments in Vauxhall where: 62% of the apartments are foreign-owned, in 184 of the 214 apartments no one is registered to vote in the UK and ownership is hidden through the device of the offshore company or investment trusts such as Century Rich International, Capital Yield and Huge Success Management.
The guardian article quotes one traced owner, Mr Chong Meng Lai who runs a waste management business in Singapore and is trying to sell his apartment for £2.6m, "I used it a couple of times a year ... It was used for less than 60 days ... It is basically a holiday home". The article goes on to say that Mr Chong is one of the international rich who have several homes around the world. Another traced resident, Peter Young also from Singapore who lives at The Tower for less than two months a year said: "There's not much of a community, people come and go. Most of these types of places, including this one, are owned by people who don't live there".
The £51m, 5-storey penthouse is owned by the family of Andrei Guriev, a Russian billionaire and former senator. King Ebitimi Banigo, a former minister in the Nigerian government, purchased a flat for £2.7m. Vitaly Orlov, a Russian fishing fleet owner bought an entire floor for £13m (see this 2006 guardian article: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/feb/20/fish.food). Sharshenbek Abdykerimov, a former MP and vodka tycoon in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan also owns a flat.
As the guardian article illustrates, The Tower is merely a symbol of what is happening all over the capital. Malaysian developers are transforming Battersea Power Station into a housing development with prices of one-bedroom apartments ranging from £1/2m to almost £2m. Other properties in the former power station are for sale at up to £3m. Many have been sold off-plan to Chinese investors. On its website the agent, Knight Frank, has a 'bulk buy' button! The reader may have wondered, from the first few paragraphs of this article, what London council tax rates had to do with anything but my dear rudloescene readers, you may see that these millionaire/billionaire foreign owners/investors are paying less in council tax than you are for your property in north-west Wiltshire.
While foreign money and in many cases money of extremely dubious origin is pushing up prices by astronomical proportions in central London, indiginous Londoners are being pushed out to the suburbs where the central London prices are having a knock-on effect. Prices and 'market rents' here are also increasing to unaffordable levels. So what are the Government's solutions? Typically, instead of addressing the underlying problem of the essentially corrupt London property boom, they propose a 'market rent' bill which will force those ordinary, working-class Londoners who have perhaps lived in their rented accommodation for a lifetime to decamp to beyond the suburbs.
Let's take the example of a retired couple living in Shoreditch with total pensions of just over £40k (which is an arbitrary income threshold set in the Housing and Planning Act 2016, to make market rents compulsory for council tenants earning over £40,000 in London and £31,000 elsewhere) paying a monthly rent of £900. This couple has lived in Shoreditch for the whole of their married life; their 'world' is here - neighbours, friends, social life. The average market rent in Shoreditch is now, in 2016, £2500 per month. Clearly, this corrupted market rate is way beyond what the couple can afford. They will, therefore, if and when this Act comes into effect, be forced out of a home and community where they have lived all their working lives. This is nothing less than social cleansing by a government of and for the rich, powerful and, in many cases, corrupt.
Returning to the Land Registry now and to a previous epithet ... it is staggering that the Government would want to privatise such a fundamental part of England's (and Wales's) infrastructure. According to a Times report on 26th May 2016, two American private equity firms and a Canadian pension fund all with business links to tax havens or secretive jurisdictions are believed to be among the venture capital businesses interested in the Land Registry. This is yet another case of selling the family silver for short-term, financial gain (in this case £1.2bn) in an attempt to 'reduce the deficit'. If the Government gets its way with this and other sell-offs e.g. Network Rail, Ordnance Survey, NATS (air traffic control), there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when so much of our land and infrastructure will be in foreign hands that our 'owners' could rebrand Britain itself just as foreign owners of English Premier League and other football clubs use their wealth and power to rebrand their new whimsies.
This is our own government asset-stripping the very fabric of our nation for short-term and short-sighted objectives. A definition of asset-stripping found on the Web is as follows: 'asset-stripping is a method in which a company, known as a corporate raider, attains control of another company and then auctions off the acquired company's assets.The sold assets are often used to repay the debt of the corporate raider'. Ironically, our national corporate raider, our own elected government, has gained its position of power through our flawed electoral system. What the government is doing is no less invidious than Maxwell's raid on the Mirror Group's pension fund in order to shore up the company's share price - for pension fund read national assets, for share price read the deficit.
The most fundamental purpose of an elected government is, we are told, defence of the realm. But what realm? We are almost at a point now, never mind the future, when the realm is no longer ours. If and when we go to war, who and what will we be defending? A substantial part of Britain's infrastructure, its industry and its land is no longer British and not only that many supposed citizens are not, or don't consider themselves to be, British. A good read on this subject is James Meek's Private Island (2014) with the subtitle Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else.
I am reading a marvellous book at the moment called Underlands by Ted Nield. It is a social history of mining, quarrying and geology centred in South Wales where the author was born and grew up. A significant part of the book discusses Aberfan and the 1966 disaster when a slag heap slipped down a hillside engulfing a school with the loss of 144 lives, 116 of them children. The book quotes from the following tribunal's report ... there were 'no villains in this harrowing story of bungling ineptitude, by many men charged with tasks for which they were totally unfitted ... decent men led astray by foolishness or by ignorance, or by both in combination'.
Does this sound familiar? However, in the case of the present government I am not convinced that they are "decent men" (or women) who are pushing this country into an abyss. And markedly, their actions whilst foolish to say the least are deliberate. Why they would be following such a path is beyond comprehension. Ted Nield, again in Underlands, describes a walk taken at night on the outskirts of Aberdeen where "I found myself staring down a more or less vertical drop into the biggest, blackest abyss that I had ever seen". Britain is now on the edge of such an abyss.
And the abyss is of our governments' own making. Much has been made of the immigration issue in the EU referendum debate. But our own government, in 2004, at the time of the A8 accession (8 nations including Poland) decided to liberalise our immigration policy. The government took the decision to allow citizens of the new EU member states the right to work in the United Kingdom resulting in one of the largest migration flows in UK history. This was not of the EU's making, it was our own government that took this decision.
Allow me to quote from a letter to the Observer (5th June edition) from Laurence Perry of Burgess Hill: "David Mitchell argued (in an article) that the decision about membership of the EU is too complicated to determine in a referendum. It should be decided by the government. Okay, but only if the government is representative of the will of the people. The present government is not. Two-thirds of the electorate did not vote for this government which has forced us into this referendum for party political reasons. We face the most important political dcision of our generation but the debate has been reduced to over-simplification, wild assetions and a lack of historical perspective. For sustained peace and prosperity, give me the bureaucracy of the EU with its checks and balances and many voices (including our own). To allow my voice to be heard in the UK don't give me a referendum - give me proportional representation. That would provide a government fit to make the big decisions on our behalf."
Even in our current system, lacking in proper representation, on a free vote the majority of MPs in parliament would choose to remain in the EU. James Gray, our North Wiltshire MP, has made much of returning sovereignty to our parliament in Westminster. However, on the matter of leaving the EU, there will be no bill presented to parliament and no vote. The decision will be made, looking at the polls, by a tiny majority of voters one way or the other. At present (7th June now), the Brexit campaign appears in the ascendency. If we do vote to leave the EU by a small majority, this will be the precursor of endless wrangling about the legitimacy of the method and the decision.
The Cabinet briefing paper on the EU referendum, dated 12 May 2016, makes interesting reading. It says, inter alia, that: "the final result, once declared, will be final but it is not legally binding. The legislation makes no provision for a required threshold for turnout to be achieved or for a specific majority. It means that regardless of the turnout a majority of a single ballot is all that is required for one side to be declared the winner. The European Referendum Act 2015 does not include provisions to implement the result of the referendum; legally, the Government is not bound to follow the outcome. The Cabinet Office published a document in February 2016, The process for withdrawing from the European Union which states: The result of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will be final. The Government would have a democratic duty to give effect to the electorate’s decision. The Prime Minister made clear to the House of Commons that “if the British people vote to leave, there is only one way to bring that about, namely to trigger Article 50 of the Treaties and begin the process of exit, and the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away.” As mentioned above there is no provision for a national or regional recount of votes. Once a local count has been declared by the counting officer no recounts can occur. A declared result (nationally, regionally or locally) can only be challenged by judicial review. This must be lodged within six weeks of the declaration being challenged".
It is quite possible that the result may be so close that, effectively, neither side could rightly claim victory. As the briefing paper says, a single vote one way or the other is all that is required for one side to be declared the winner. There is no provision for a recount of votes. This ain't no way to run a railroad never mind a country. I foresee that whichever side 'wins', the result will be challenged and a judicial review requested. The country and the EU will be in limbo for many months (perhaps years) while lawyers put their cases and charge extortionate fees. And the final outcome will be so contentious that no one will be satisfied. It is not beyond the bounds of possiblity that a general election will be called.
But to return to my assertions about UK governments, the Remain campaign's statement that "The UK is a strong, independent nation" is laughable. I reaffirm, the problem is not the EU, it is our own governments. I was reminded of this on 25th April 2016 by a question in the daily Times quiz ...Which BMW subsidiary's new car, Dawn, is a four-seat convertible? The answer? Rolls-Royce. Like Rolls-Royce, Britain is now a subsidiary nation.
23rd December 2015 - privatisation of Irish water
Related to the 26th November article on British Industry below and in particular the privatisation of our infrastructure, the text below, from The People's Convention illustrates the strength of feeling in Ireland about current proposals to sell-off Irish Water.
26th November 2015 - British Industry
The title photograph shows Latina nuclear power station in Italy which used a British Magnox reactor. The turbine generators were from Parsons, a British engineering company based in Wallsend, which also supplied turbines to Royal Navy and US Navy ships amongst others. Charles Parsons launched his revolutionary Turbinia here in 1894 (see Wikipedia for more information). A rump of the Parsons organisation, in Newcastle, is now incorporated into the Siemens organisation (ve are all German now - see Chippenham railway station signs - 'Chippenham - home of Siemens Automation'). Wallsend was, of course, at the heart of British shipbuilding with its Swan Hunter shipyard (RMS Mauretania).
Anyway, British expertise in nuclear power stations, turbine manufacture, shipbuilding, motor vehicle manufacture, railway engineering and so on has gone to the wall thanks to the policies of successive governments since the war. We are now purely a proxy nation being used by the capital, technology, expertise and increasingly the labour of other nations, in vehicle manufacture for example: Germany (Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mini, Vauxhall (Opel/GM)), the US (Leyland), China (MG), India (Jaguar, LandRover), Spain (Dennis), Malaysia (Lotus), Canada (Bombardier trains) and then we have the Japanese car plants of Honda, Nissan (which is about 45% owned by Renault) and Toyota.
With regard to Bombardier mentioned above, British Rail Engineering which, along with everything else has gone to the wall, produced such well-designed and durable trains, the Inter-City 125 HSTs, that they are still, now, forty years after their introduction, the backbone of our railway service. Our new electric trains on the London- Bristol line are Japanese, designed and built by Hitachi. And how ironic that the royal train is hauled by locomotives bearing the DB (Deutsche Bahn) logo - see article 'Another type 67 diesel' under 'Beyond', 'Bath day out - Dec 2014' here Bath day out.
Our train operating companies are largely in the hands of foreign (ironically, nationalised) companies: London Overground Rail - Deutsche Bahn, Arriva Rail - Deutsche Bahn, Chiltern Rail - Deutsche Bahn, Cross Country - Deutsche Bahn, Heathrow Express - Ferrovial (Spain), Great Eastern - Abellio Rail (The Netherlands), Greater Anglia - Abellio, MerseyRail - Abellio, Northern Rail - Abellio, Southern Rail - Kelios (a SNCF (France) subsidiary), SouthEastern Rail - Kelios again and First Pennine (part-owned by Kelios). EWS freight is owned by Deutsche Bahn, Colas freight is French (both companies' trains are much in evidence on the infrastructure work for the London-Bristol electrification). So much of the profit from our rail operations ends up in foreign hands.
But not only that, our infrastructure (electricity and water companies for example and even the British Airports Authority (BAA)) is in the hands of foreign nations or companies. Wessex Water is owned by a Malaysian company, Northumbrian Water is Chinese, Anglian Water is principally Australian/Canadian, Sutton and East Surrey Water is owned by the Sumitomo Corporation of Japan, South East Water is Australian, Bristol Water is Spanish - 'Hasta la vister, my luvver'. Of the 'big six' electricity suppliers, EDF is French (and, of course, will be building the new Hinckley Point nuclear power station), e-on and npower are German, ScottishPower is Spanish and BAA is owned by Ferrovial, a Spanish company. Tis a sad state of affairs; a French friend of mine cannot believe that 'we' have put our infrastructure in the hands of the 'market' and foreign investors.
A book is required on where we went wrong - there are a number around for individual industries, for example The Decline of the British Motor Industry by Peter Dunnett. In his conclusion, Dunnett highlights government policy: "Almost whenever the government forced a policy upon the industry against its will, the outcome was dire. Stop-go, the export quotas, labour reform attempts, incomes policies and regional policy all illustrated the point". Our governments, trapped in five-year political cycles with names to be made and reputations to be built, have never been able to plan properly for the long-term. But also, without a good grounding in industry or technology, our 'leaders' would be incapable of making sound decisions; an Eton education is anachronistic.
26th November 2015 - email 'exchange' with Michelle Donelan
Michelle responded as follows:
I do not think that the PR system is right for the UK. I prefer the constituency system and strong accountability of one MP to their constituents.