I'll start today with a little niggle - unusual as that may be.
Accepting that news reports are often just part of a bigger explanation of events it nevertheless got my heckles tingling this morning when it was announced that a Continental company called Gemalto had won a £490 million contract to be the producer of the new British passport - the old Blue one in fact. My first heckle tingle was aroused by the thought: 'Why on earth are we awarding sizeable overseas contracts like this to foreign companies when we are on the cusp of leaving the EU ?' My second heckle tingle then kicked in: 'Why did we even imagine that this product was no more than a commodity rather than the very essence and symbol of departure from the EU ?' The answer lies in the EU prescription that public tenders require to be offered around all member states. The stupidity is in the British belief that everyone else plays cricket by the rules - a patent nonsense. Having some background experience of public sector tendering it has been widely known for many years that the British follow the rules explicitly whilst everyone else 'interprets' them - and hence there has been a progressive drift away from British companies in the award of contracts in favour of what is euphemistically described as 'a value for money solution'. The British obsession with cheapness has raised its head once again - and what you get for cheapness is a cheap product, and not many cheap products stand up to the pure scrutiny of meeting all the criteria required by the customer. But, alas, we still have that mentality. It's particularly galling in this instance where the very symbol of leaving the EU is contracted out to a foreign business within the EU. Completely bonkers !
Elsewhere on the Brexit front we can look now with a little perspective at the 'new deal' supposedly negotiated with the EU on Britain's terms of departure - that deal being mainly to do with the transition period and the adherence to specific EU legislation during it. Well, we have now formally agreed to 31st December, 2020 as being the conclusion point of the transition period. Within that period we still have to contribute to the EU's coffers, we have to obey their laws and we still have to allow free movement and rights to EU nationals entering and possibly staying in Britain. Naturally, Britain will be excluded from any debates and discussions upon what rules and regulations we shall be obliged - under the strict rules of British cricket - to adhere to. We might characterise that as something like, 'Pay us your money and accept what we say'. On the flip side, it has been magnanimously agreed by the EU that Britain can negotiate trade deals outside of the EU but cannot introduce them until 1st January, 2021. This all sounds a bit one-sided, doesn't it ? The EU are pretty much getting most of what they want but the British are getting only a tiny minnow on the end of a very slippery EU hook. It's made more upsetting when you see British ministers looking very smug and self-satisfied that they've achieved something quite extraordinary ! It is quite extraordinary, but nothing to look smug over...quite the opposite. The truth is that it is no surprise that our flabby negotiating stance in this episode would lead us into 'bad in'jun territory' and this outcome - only the pre-cursor to wider negotiation in Phase 2 - is but an indicator of the concessions we are likely to make. This blog has often argued for a change in the dynamic of our negotiating position and a balancing of our skill set by drawing in people who know how to negotiate and be robust in the defence of our cause. This will not happen, of course, because we are driven primarily by party political vested interest - the will of the people is way down the list of considerations but political survival is right up there at the top of the list.
The Facebook saga is not something that will be dwelled upon here. In some ways it was inevitable that the gullible would expose themselves to some sort of data abuse on a world-wide network of interaction. As a society we crave ever more expanding and interactive media. The consequence is that someone, somewhere out there will abuse that craving - that's a fact of life that is seldom learned by the majority.
We also learn of the ever expanding use of the '999' emergency number and the delays in getting, notably, a police response to these calls. What does this tell us ? Are we as a society just using the 999 option as some sort of trivial communication ranging from 'I've missed the last bus home, can you give me a lift' all the way through to the genuine, life threatening emergency it was designed for ? Or is it more to do with manpower and budget cuts to the police or even a swamping excess of administrative and target keeping desk functions that the Home Office demand ? It's probably all of these and more but it does tell us how fragile and fickle our society is becoming, how limited resource is employed and the subjects that are given - perhaps - excessive priority. We might be a changed and evolving society to those which pre-existed but there are plenty of question marks as to whether we are actually improving our society.