Bristling Brock speaks out...
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There’s much afoot in the world of change at the moment. New government, radical views on how government should be structured, radical new policies and, of course, the realities of climate change. All of these set us upon a course of consequential change ourselves, of our ways, our attitudes and our view of the outside world in the broadest of senses.
Amongst the plethora of changing topics we are facing, two have struck Bristling Brock over the last day or so with some degree of concern. One is the manner in which some new immigration processes might work and the second is the manner in which we are, not just in Britain but across the Western world, approaching environmental management. Both are thorny and controversial issues to which there are no simplistic solutions, but there are evident aspects of both that to BB require further examination.
So we’ll start todays diatribe with the proposed new immigration policy in Britain. Unquestionably, it was incumbent upon the new government to address this socially divisive matter. And it is perhaps in that socially divisive aspect that the concern arises. Managing immigration is necessary in a country as densely populated and geographically confined as Britain, but it is not solely to do with numbers, or those that have qualifications and those that do not, it is also very much about the social fabric of the nation. Critics will scorn this social reservation about immigration management as being old fashioned and elitist, driven by sentiment and nostalgia rather than by sound economic and liberal attitudes. And that’s a tacky matter in itself. That aside, we must recognise that there are parts of the country that push back against the idea of having an ever present flow of immigrants - irrespective of race or religion - arriving on their doorsteps purely on the basis that their cultural norms are different and the progressive adaptation of those norms to accommodate immigrant influences is seen as either just too fast or dangerously invasive. What suits the liberal, diverse and vocal populations of the south-east probably does not sit happily with the traditions, ways and attitudes of, say, the north-west where cultural values are pitched across an entirely different spectrum of expectational needs. In this we probably all need to adapt, update our cultural equilibrium and recognise that over the next half century the British population will become increasingly diversified and spread across umpteen different cultural inputs of colour, race, gender and, of course, multinational cultural influence. That is the nature of the change we face. How quickly we impose this across the board on our population needs some higher level of sensitivity in its approach for not every region looks upon its cultural roots and flexibility in the same way. It’s not anti-immigration, it is factoring in an awareness that not only do we need to manage such immigration, we need to also manage our regions need for cultural change and, significantly, the speed with which such change is demanded.
On environment there is much talk of the ‘credit’ system adopted by company’s, governments and other sources of pollution in paying to be excluded from controlling restrictions by buying a voucher for somebody else in the world to make the environmental adjustment on their behalf. Needless to say, the system is widely criticised for being both crass on the part of those who seek to purchase credits and also upon the chances of such subscribed funds ever being used effectively in other parts of the world on projects that protect environment rather than damaging it. We live in an unequal world and the chances of it ever becoming just ‘equal’ are as remote as pink elephants flying by. The West, belatedly aware of the need to address climate change, has adopted a position of being the arbiter of what’s good and beneficial throughout the entire world. So, with this badly devised credit system, polluters in the West can get a ‘Get out of jail card’ by donating money to a credit rather than changing their ways and hoping some indigenous inhabitant in an under-developed nation will take the money, stop chopping forest down and go and buy himself a Rolex instead. How anyone imagined such a system might actually work is something of a measure of how the world at large has recognised and approached the issues of climate change, ie, astronomically badly.
The flip side to this environmental argument is in the West’s righteous flag waving about the problem. The XR movement has rightly flagged many of the worlds issues up and has also rightly condemned the lack of meaningful action taken by governments around the world to control pollution but like any pressure group that gets itself wrapped up in political considerations it attracts a broad spectrum of supporters - some genuine and committed and some who are at the anarchic and revolutionary end of the scale whose purpose is political overthrow and chaos. Movements of every hue attract the genuine and the weird but the latter often destroy the good intent of the former by actions, publications or physical presence, eg, digging up a Cambridge University ancient lawn, which overshadow the original purpose of the movement.
What it shows us is that the environment is still not being seen as a sufficiently challenging crisis by governments and populations alike. The farmer in Africa or the Amazon has no desire to change his ways because his government, and world governments, have failed to make this a headline issue, the industrialist in the West has no desire to change his ways for exactly the same reasons - and buying your way out merely passes the problem down the line. In short, we are all guilty of neglect, selfishness and economic over world environmental concern. Somewhere down the line, someone will pay the price...the perpetrators would likely respond, ‘...as long as it’s not us.’
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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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