Bristling Brock speaks out...

 

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Politics is a strange occupation one might argue.  You fight to make a name for yourself and wheedle you way up the greasy pole and then spend much of your time defending yourself against attack from almost any direction.  Then those that you thought you trusted turn against you and you slither back down the greasy pole into political obscurity.  It’s a bit like the salmon desperately trying to get back to its birthplace to spawn itself yet knowing that obstacles like bears, birds and rapids will make this an absolute nightmare journey.  Boris’s swingeing savaging of his cabinet is a great example in the human field with wannabee ministers falling like Autumn leaves, tossed aside, careers blasted.  As onlookers, we might not feel that much remorse about a politician losing his job, they must surely have known what a precarious perch they inhabited for such a short while, but it tells us much about the philosophy of near future politics in Britain.

The critics yell that democracy is under threat and that No.10 centralising the power will be the end of all days.  Let’s ponder on that a moment or two.  First, democracy.  Democracy was under greater threat when there was the looming possibility of a Corbyn government, but because that spectre was growing amid a conventional political debate, nobody was getting too agitated about it - and the election ensured it didn’t happen.  Now, with Boris beating the table and demanding the radical change to governance, constitution and social infrastructure that has been the central tenet of political discourse in this country since the Referendum, the critics leap up and shout ‘foul’.  They are professional ‘foul’ callers - the very thing we voted for, that systemic change to the style and methodology of governance is in play and we must not let this be derailed by the righteous brigade objectionists who see this as something of a Westminster bubble game.  It is not.  It is deadly serious and the changes we clamoured for need a firm hand at the tiller.  And in that, the PM needs loyalty to that cause.  If not, then goodbye to those ministers who thought there was going to be a continuance of that which went before, for decades.  We voted for change, and all the current indicators say we are going to get it.   We might not altogether like some of what looks likely - HS2 is a good example - but we need to keep the momentum if real, meaningful change is to be brought about to everyone’s advantage. Let’s not bleat like snowflakes, it’s time we had some mettle in our leadership.

Trumpy is sending a delegation to Britain to warn us off the Huawei deal.  In American eyes this will be a ‘Tell the Brits what we want and threaten them with everything if they are reluctant’ type of meeting.  We probably did the same sort of thing a couple of hundred years or so ago but, as history clearly shows, it seldom stops the process being debated.  Whilst BB isn’t a fan of the Huawei deal he is more opposed to such a foreign delegation coming here and telling us what we must do.  History is littered with David and Goliath stories - what most Goliath’s seem to overlook is that David won !  Be strong, Boris, and remember that the so called ‘special relationship’ only has one intended beneficiary - and it isn’t Britain.

Mrs Merkel has been forced to grab the reins of the German CDU back from the unfortunate AKK.  In some respects that is no bad thing for Mrs Merkel is a pragmatic and international political leader of renown and skill.  Yet the backdrop to this is the drift to right-wing political activism in Germany - their nightmare scenario looming - and it is clear that AKK was not equipped to deal with this.  Welcome back, Mrs Merkel, but for how long can you steer the party back in your direction, the sensible direction ?

Lastly, having just read a whingeing story by Brits holed up on the Coronavirus cruise ship in Yokohama, it makes BB wonder what these folk think they have to moan about in the face of a globally spreading potential pandemic.  They bleat that the British government isn’t getting them home fast enough.  It isn’t the governments first priority to repatriate stranded tourists cruising around the globe and getting caught up - like every other human soul on this planet - in a bio-crisis.  They should thank their lucky stars that the Japanese are taking the spread of the virus seriously and containing the globetrotter fraternity.  Grow up, you bleaters and start behaving your age.  Some chance, I fancy.

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Let’s start with the potential negotiations on trade with the EU.   Under Theresa May’s administration we witnessed the humiliating collapse of British integrity and status both with the EU and around the world.  Rolling over and capitulating on almost every front by the PM and her negotiating team was abhorrent to most who were in favour of renewed sovereignty and regulatory accountability.  Today, we are still faced with a stand-off between Barnier and Johnson with neither giving any ground upon their opening salvo’s for trade agreement.  Whereas Mrs May offered the soft ball approach, Mr Johnson is punching the hard ball about.  There seems little doubt that by December this year the EU will begin to feel the bite of pushing Britain away from a reasonable and mutually beneficial trade deal - their loss or Britain’s is still something of a debate.  What is real, however, is that the EU - even if Britain were still a full member - cannot and could not continue with just three economies propping up the remainder.  The economics of that just has no long term credibility or sense.  And the EU know it.  With Britain gone, the equation becomes even worse, with just two already stretched economies in France and Germany, bearing the full brunt of sustaining the whole 27 in the bloc.  Not tenable, not sensible, not likely beyond short-term planning cycles.

The net effect of this is that if there were to be a sensible deal with Britain, the EU would actually strengthen its financial position as there would be net gain to EU nations GDP through trade and, because their contributions are based upon a % based input, the EU would take more in.  It’s the classic win-win, albeit a highly simplified overview - but it’s a workable hypothesis to structure trade talks about.  But do the EU feel so affronted by Britain’s departure that they’ll cut-off their noses before conceding the mutual benefit ?  It could go either way, but the new regime in Brussels is hardly the smartest bunch in town and possibly the least experienced.  It will be a sure test of their pragmatism as to how this negotiation turns out.

Trumpy has escaped the wrath of Congress and the Senate and is free to continue his unique style of governance.  Around the world there will surely be some head-scratching going on as to whether this is a blessing or a continuing curse.  Listening to his recent speeches, the bombast, the arrogance and even the naïveté of his words (BB uses the term ‘words’ with something of a wince in relation to Trumpy) there comes across a sense of his absolute belief that without him America would be doomed to a continuing decline.  He gets full marks for positivity, but it’s hard to reconcile the bombast and the message with the reality that the US is struggling to adjust to the 21st century for two-thirds of its population in much the same way as the rest of the world is having to gallop at a new pace to stay above the waves.  The rich are getting richer, no question, but the poorer strata’s of Western societies are at best just holding their own and often deteriorating.  Capitalism might be thriving for the few, but for a significant majority across many nations, it offers little in the way of solace.  Perhaps Trumpy could devote some of his considerable energies to looking at Medicare, drug abuse, crime, regional investment issues around the States and inject a wee touch of humility into his next significant speech.  That would be a nice touch, eh ?

BB watched the images of a small Russian flotilla passing northward through the English Channel with a very lean Royal Navy escort to observe any mischief.  Northbound traffic through the Dover Strait is navigationally bound to pass through French territorial waters (and southbound traffic passes through British territorial waters) according to Maritime Law and custom - but there was no evidence of the French navy keeping an eye on Russian proceedings.  How curious, for their navy is somewhat larger than ours and it was notionally French ‘water’ that the Russians were travelling through.  Why wouldn’t they be interested, one might wonder ?  Or is it that we still have lingering notions that we could still repel any Russian mischief - which we certainly couldn’t with our broadly depleted services as they now are - and send them scuttling off to Murmansk with their tails between their legs ?  The answers are complex but it does raise the awareness that our military capability is vastly under-nourished and that in a crunch situation we would be vulnerable and almost certainly reliant upon external support.  Support of that type cannot be guaranteed, however, partly because the US in particular is creeping again toward some degree of military isolationism and partly because other Western allies are also short on resource.  There is no secret panacea to this problem - Britain needs, now more than ever since WW2, a stronger and more invested in military capability.  The blinkered may argue that we should be spending money on social and environmental projects instead, and they are right in part, but the two have a certain inter-reliance for without strong defence, we have no platform to project worthy causes both in Britain and around the world.  Like it or not, the world is still a dangerous place and having a depleted military position as we currently have is not a good place to be.

 

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Well, here we are only a few hours away from Britain's technical departure from the EU.   It's an important new start but the trail ahead will still have to be managed with care and consideration before we can truly be independent of EU attachments and commitments - but it's a new trail to enthusiastically follow.

There'll be those who are glad and those that are saddned by this important historical marker.  The important consideration needs to be one of acceptance and building a new future as an independent sovereign state.  It's not a new concept, history is littered with the stories of nations that have broken away and forged their own futures but this occasion is perhaps the only one in which an extremely fast changing world - socially, economically, politically and climatically - is the encompassing environment in which it is taking place.   That in itself is a galvanising spur to develop, innovate and move progressively forward on all fronts.   

Our country has been beset by social and industrial change that has left us divided and at odds with each other.   Some of that is due to the pace of change and some of it is due to past neglects in investment and attention and the nation needs to address these deficiencies to bring about some level of regional parity.  Britain is also a very different society to that of even thirty years ago and many of us have to grapple with those shifting sands in ways that often leave us a little baffled by the establishment of new norms, standards, values and outlooks that the current social trends are dictating.  We may not like it all but it is a new benchmark which a progressive society almost certainly needs to adopt and adapt to - we all need to change our stance and viewpoint on a wide spectrum of issues.  That shouldn't be to say that there should be universal acceptance of every new trend - that would be a folly and a road toward a more dissolute society, but we should always challenge, test and examine the impact of new norms and styles before judging them.  Britain needs to change.  It needs to move on, confidently and with a self identity and purpose.  And the departure from the EU is the moment to grasp that confidence and wield it to the benefit of all of us.

Examining projects like HS2 for example does test our faith more than a little.  Whilst we must strive to innovate and develop and balance those regional differences better, there are som ideas that plainly do not fit within the jigsaw.  The current estimate on completing this adventure is well over a £100 billion now and by the time of completion may well be many billions more.   The completion won't be until 2035 - so we might reasonably assume that to be more like 2045 in true functional terms.  The technology is already bordering upon being outdated - by 2035 + it'll be antique.   The benefit to the construction industry is clear - it is a huge engineering project that has obvious attractions if you are in that business, but to the regions of the West Midlands, the North-West and a tickling spur into the North-East have little credible benefit to be seen.  Mr Schapps makes the grand declaration that it is not to save time in getting to London (still the epicentre of British strategic planning) rather it provides confidence and assurance that the rail network runs efficiently, on time and keeps everything moving - the usual bain of the commuter.  The cynics would argue that it doesn't provide the regions with that London connectivity rather it provides London and the South-East the option to relocate to cheaper territory to the north and still be within commuting distance of the Metropolis, ie, the entire project is geared to assisting London and the South-East rather than the northern regions.  The big northern cities like Manchester and Leeds will certainly feel the upswing of such a project, but that won't necessarily cascade around the region for the wider benefit.  Bristling Brock can't help but feel that had we done this twenty years ago it might have had a meaningful outcome for the wider community - but now, with the timescale and cost that is being talked of, it doesn't have any shine to it at all.  If there was a vote, BB would opt to spend that capital on other, needy projects with a keener return for the areas involved.

Caronavirus remains mysterious and currently beyond our medical understanding.  I wish the techies involved in finding a vaccine all fortune.  The one aspect of this that caught BB's attention, trivial in some respects but perhaps not entirely, was the reportage that Britons brought back from Wuhan will be landed at RAF Brize Norton in the south Midlands.  We then plan to bus them to a quarantine hospital on the Wirral, 100+ miles north.  Transporting potentially virus carrying people in an ordinary bus across half of England seems to negate all the extensive precautions against cross-contamination that we see the Chinese making.  Surely there was an aifield closer to the Wirral than Brize Norton ???  Or is BB getting overly picky ???  Let me know.

Trumpy seems even more likely to escape the rigours of impeachment as potential witnesses decline to be examined under oath.  What is the point of a legal process that cannot demand the testimony of witnesses who know something of what was going on in the White House ?  The answer, of course, is the vested interests of power politics.  Oh, if we could only rid ourselves of that one...

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