Let’s have a serious talk about lorry drivers.

Every news outlet and fool politician is banging on about the idea that Brexit has led to a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK. This story is too good to check for those still smarting over the lost referendum, or have some other axe to grind. Unfortunately for them, I have checked the story, and it’s a pretty shabby state of affairs.

Let’s start with this figure of 100,000. It comes from the Road Haulage Association, a lobby group. And they claim to have calculated it.

When pushed, it all gets a bit vague, and it might surprise you to know that they were claiming a shortage of 50,000 in 2015 – before anyone had heard of Brexit. They always claim a shortage of about this number. They say it was calculated by surveying their members, and other means – such as looking at vacancies. They also subtract the number of drivers registered with them from the number of lorries registered with the DVLA and add that. Seriously.

Tesco has recently stated it needs another 800 drivers. A quick look at their staff vacancies adverts shows they’re actually looking for just three.

Richard Walker from Iceland, another arch-Europhile, has taken the opportunity to get his mug into newspapers by talking about “Cancelling Christmas”. This is the same Richard Walker who gets publicity for environmental initiatives yet flies around in a private helicopter.

The Road Haulage Association will also tell you there are about 600,000 lorry drivers in the UK. The Office for National Statistics, which knows what people do for a living, reckons there are half that number. Again, the RHA is counting the wrong thing – HGV licenses. Just because someone has an HGV license it doesn’t mean they’re actually a lorry driver. Many people, myself included, have one so I can hire a lorry when I need one – such as for transporting stuff to Scout camps. At the time I got it, the cost was £70. It’s not unreasonable to want to drive something large privately.

Another group with HGV licenses are firemen. Those big red things they drive around in are too big to be classified as cars, so they do the HGV test. I believe Princess Anne had one once, so she could drive large horse boxes.

So I’m not going to take anything the Road Haulage Association takes seriously until they use better methods for obtaining their statistics. It’s almost as if they had an agenda. Actually… it’s a lobby group and its head – Richard Burnett – is a long-time campaigner against Brexit (and by extension the present government).

So what is the truth of the matter if you go to a sober source such as the ONS for figures? There is indeed a shortage of HGV drivers – they say the number has dropped by 55,000 in the last 18 months, of which 47,000 were the last year. However, this isn’t caused by Brexit. In Q2 2020 there were 25,000 EU drivers working in Britain; a year later there are 24,350. This is about the same as the 2015 figure. There was, however, a blip in numbers, peaking at 42,460 – and that happened after Brexit. This fell as drivers returned home during the pandemic; boring but true. And it’s only a minor factor in the current shortage. About 12,500 lost drivers out of 55,000 (18%) were EU nationals. Every country across Europe is reporting similar shortages, apart from Romania as far as I can tell. They’re also complaining in the USA; as far away from Brexit as you can get.

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In reality, far the largest drop in working driver numbers comes from retirement – or more accurately leaving to find other jobs. It’s as simple and boring as that. But the story doesn’t end there, as it’s also been claimed that more people are retiring than passing tests. Unfortunately the figures don’t bear this out either.

In 2010-2014 there were 15,500 new licenses issued, with 7500 retiring. In the second half of the decade there were 25,500 new licenses and 8600 retiring. The fact is that there are 230,000 licensed drivers under the age of 45 alone in the UK who are choosing not to drive commercially. They’ve got fed up and taken other jobs, or are using the license privately. The average age of British lorry drivers is now about 55, clearly pointing to trouble ahead.

If you want to figure out what’s going on behind the headlines, and the Twitter experts who have never even driven a lorry in their lives, you eventually end up following the money. In this case the RHA (a lobby group, remember) is making the case for the government to favour their sector. Of course they’re going to highlight any problem, and demand the government does something about it – and more specifically, throw money at it. The thing is that the logistics industry hires their own strategic planners; experts in the field of logistics. They should have seen this coming and done something about it, instead of bleating for the government to bail them out now.

The truth may be simple; if the pay and conditions for lorry drivers were better, more people would do it. And that’s entirely up to the logistics companies to solve. Some have undoubtedly been using cheap foreign labour in the last few years, which has gone home during the pandemic – and they’re the ones that have been hit the worst. And now they want the taxpayers to bail them out for having treated their drivers badly.

Update

Now we’re being told that 5000 visas are being made available to hire in foreign drivers. That’s great. But why would foreign drivers from the EU even want to work here? There’s a shortage across Europe, and they have better conditions working there. France, Germany and Belgium have laws that mean drivers don’t have to work on Sundays. And if you’ve ever compared a French and British transport cafes, the continentals win hands-down.

Update 2

So now Richard Burnett (RHA) has started panic buying of fuel by claiming there was going to be a shortage due to the lack of tanker drivers, and the hysterical media has picked it up. I’m sure the timing has nothing to do with the Labour Party conference.

Sources:

All figures in this article come from the Office for National Statistics, the Road Haulage Association or European/American government sources. I’ll make the ONS spreadsheets (the reliable stuff) available when I can figure out how.

A solution to the Scottish Nationalism problem

Salmond and Sturgeon: What is the controversy all about? - BBC News

Nationalism is like religion; it’s a matter of emotion rather than logic. Occasionally it make sense to create a new country as a means of protecting a race of people from racist attitudes found elsewhere, but other than that, there’s very little point in having new countries.

National identity is an emotional lever used by scoundrels to control populations throughout history. In western Europe it’s taken over from religion as the best way to manipulate the emotions of a population, and it’s seldom used for good.

The National Socialists in Germany use racism and nationalism to unite the population for a common purpose. Britain used nationalism to stand up against fascism, rather than joining what was a European movement. Germany, Italy and Spain were fully fascist. France was largely fascist (although airbrushed from history after the war). Belgium and Holland were inconsequential.

So nationalism has its uses, but more often these uses are evil.

Nationalism doubtless played its part in the Brexit debate. The UK was half-in the EU and voted for full-out. Was this a tribal desire to avoid be subsumed into a forthcoming European super-state for emotional reasons, or a distrust of the “former” European fascists and communists? Probably a bit of both.

And this brings us to Scottish Nationalism. This is very different from Brexit. Scottish independence is about a major change to the status quo. Brexit was about future direction; the status quo wasn’t on the ballot as the EU is mutating; expanding its powers and geography. It wasn’t what we signed up for in 1975.

The Scottish Nationalists want a self-governing Scotland based on communist principles. Scottish politics is like that. Whether they’re rational or not isn’t the question here; the situation exists and a high proportion of the people living there want this at an emotional level; pathos trumps logos.

So what is the rest of the UK to do about this? We had a once-and-for-all referendum to settle the question in 2014, during which the Cameron government basically bribed the Scottish people with disproportionate funding and won the day. (The people of England, who had to pick up the tab, weren’t consulted).

Broadly speaking the main political parties are split. The Conservative and Unionist party, to give them their full name, is obviously unionist on principle. The Labour party is less sure. Blair started the process towards independence (termed “devolution”) for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 1997, as soon as he came to power. Or was this an electoral bribe that went wrong? You’d have to think Blair pretty stupid and reckless if that were the case, although this has been said of him in other areas.

Either way, both Cameron and Blair tried to buy off the nationalists one way or another, and it has simply emboldened them. Being granted and losing a referendum changed nothing.

We need a new plan. It would be possible for England to say simply say “We’ve had enough – get into line or leave”. The Conservatives won’t do that, and Westminster in general recoils at the idea of an English a referendum on splitting from Scotland as they know what the result would be.

The Conservatives are being governed by noble motives here. It’s obvious that without Scotland they’d have a permanent majority in the House of Commons. It’s equally obvious that Labour would become the permanent opposition, which amply explains their opposition to Scottish independence.

The final point in this preamble brings us back to Brexit, or more specifically the lessons learned. As soon as the result was known, the Remain camp started waving their arms about shouting “The people didn’t know what they were voting for!”

This is true on many levels. Much of Leave was playing the nationalist card, and Remain was telling the world the sky would fall if we left. Both were outright liars. But it was also very true to say that the referendum was a simple in/out question and no one knew what “out” meant. (No one was keen to explain what “in” meant going forward either).

To those of us watching this disaster, and the ensuing years of recrimination, it was obvious that an in/out referendum was a spectacularly bad idea and should never have taken place. People really didn’t know what they were voting for; they assumed we’d have a trading deal with the EU, and this was the key. Remain said it was impossible. Leave said it was inevitable. No one knew.

So, another Scottish Independence referendum like the 2014 one is clearly a bad plan. There are two possible outcomes:

Leave: Years of argument about the terms and what to do next.

Stay: Years or argument for another bite of the cherry.

Here’s a better way.

If the Westminster government was smart it could deal with this by playing the Nationalists at their own game. Grant them another referendum, but not on independence. Give the Nationalists three years to negotiate an independence treaty, and one with the EU while they’re at it. Then put that treaty to a referendum.

My guess would be that simple-minded nationalism may melt away when the reality of what they’re being sold sinks in. The Scottish people are being sold a pig in a poke right now.

As part of the deal to hold a referendum, Westminster should withdraw the bribes given by Cameron in 2014. Scotland should get its fair share of funding, and not a penny more. The Nationalists deny they’re being subsidised, so how could they object?

If Scotland would really be better off independent from the UK then fair enough. However, there are plenty of people in Scotland who don’t want a communist-inspired local government, or haven’t realised it yet, and the UK has a duty to protect them.

The Scottish Nationalists don’t think ahead, so the UK should force them to explain to the people of Scotland exactly what they’d be voting for if they chose independence. The Nationalist voters aren’t going to listen to the facts from anyone else. It’s easy to sell flag-waving nationalism; less easy to sell economic reality.

Nominet EGM, March 2021

Members of the UK’s domain registry, Nominet, have called an EGM to get rid of most of the governing board. After fighting tooth and nail, chairman
Russell Haworth resigned yesterday (Sunday), but other controversial board members remain.

Unusually for me, this year’s report will be updated live. But you’ll have to refresh your browser manually!

Note that this is paraphrased!

The argument is over the direction of Nominet. When it was founded, the idea was for it to take over from the Naming Committee and run the UK’s top level DNS servers. The Naming Committee was overwhelmed, and it was felt reasonable that a new organisation could take over the work, funded by a small fee for new registrations.

This was inevitably going to lead to a surplus income, which was supposed to be distributed for the public benefit, keeping reasonable reserves in case of major court cases.

In 2006 Nominet altered it’s remit to allow other activities, which I warned about at the time. It turns out I was right (as usual), and in the intervening years the board diversified into such things as self-driving cars and subsidising a cyber-security business, in competition with some of the members who were paying for it. Network Solutions all over again.


Mark Wood opens, and acknowledges that the board hasn’t been listening to members. Grateful to Russell Howarth for driving growth.

Invited Simon Blackler to speak for a few minutes. Mark Wood says he declined.

Now going to member’s questions, starting with those sent in advance.

Question: Why has the board predicted chaos if the board changes?

James Bladel: It will, indeed, fall apart without the experience of the existing board. As the board has prevented the second motion to appoint a new board, it will delay reforms.

Question: The campaign by the board has been dirty. How will you heal the rift.

Rob Binns: “We will continue an open dialogue” and make sure there is a meaningful two-way dialogue.

Question: Ester. Why was second resolution (Appoint new directors) blocked?

James Bladel: Don’t ask me – ask Roy. But we have established processes, so we’re not going to make an exception just because the members vote to have one.

Question: What are the chances of the government stepping in and resulting in a price rise?

Steven Page: There is a possibility, but we don’t know for sure. “Nominet is at the heart of digital Britain”. Sounds to me like a FUD pitch.

He’s just suggested the NHS might collapse if the board is removed, as Nominet is critical infrastructure.

Question: Why were Registry Advisory Council idea underway before the EGM?

Ellie: We wanted to find another way to get feedback. She described it as a “registry business”.

Question: What are the board’s future plans depending on whether the resolution passes or not?

Rob Binns: “As a board we will lay out a process that will drive that engagement” regardless of the outcome.

If the motion passes (board half fired) we will have a focus on stability.

Questions: What justifies huge increases in board remuneration.

Mark Wood: Our strategy was to diversify into alternative revenue streams as a hedge against possible income decline. Stated that costs would increase (but didn’t explain why).

Jane Tozer: We take the pay issue seriously, so we’ve frozen it. Our executive team has outperformed on its targets. Appears to be reading a written statement. It benchmarks pay against similar sized technology companies. (Odd, as these are profit driven – Nominet is supposed to be running a DNS).

Question: What is the cross-subsidy between domains and cybersecurity?

Ellie: We’re not cross-subsidising.

Question: One of the problem is lack of engagement. Would the board introduce members meetings?

Anne Taylor: As a board want to export all ways of engaging. It was a bad move to shut down the forum.

David Thornton: Shutting down the forum was inflammatory but needed a re-vamp.

Question about discounts for .co.uk and .uk together. Irrelevent.

Question: Why has it taken so long to realise members are not happy?

Mark Wood: We’ve missed some signals. Simon Blackler has run a good campaign and raised a lot of issues. We want to make these changes and accelerate them.

Question: Will be bring back member engagement lunches.

Ellie: Yes, stuff like that. “We’re going to need to find more ways to get the views of the network”.

Question: Why can’t we hear from Simon Blackler?

Mark Wood: It’s not a debate; it’s a company EGM. Simon Blackler declined to speak.

Question: Has the current board makeup been complicit in side-lining members’ decent?

James Bladel: I don’t think this has really happened as we have vigorous debates on the board.

Question: What’s Russell’s status right now?

Mark Wood: Russell actually stood down from the board on Sunday. (Subsequently confirmed that the registration was accepted).

Question: About CNI status.

Stephen Page: We’re not, but we’re looking at what would happen if were were designated as such. It could push up our costs. It depends which part of the regulatory system takes us on. We hope it won’t increase prices.

Question: If the broad is critical, what is the plan if anything happened to it?

Rob Binns: Yes, we have a contingency plan. The motion is to remove various members of the board. We’d have to think about how we’d manage that. In any scenario we’ll continue with improved engagement. Didn’t explain what the plan was.

Question: Similar to previous on member engagement.

Mark Wood: Repetitive waffle. Sounds like they’re talking out more difficult advance questions.
James: Bladel: More repetitive waffle. Absolutely nothing that hasn’t been said before. “We need to focus on the future.” “Rebuild relationship”.

Mark Wood: Largest turnout in Nominet’s history. As the whole board has said, Nominet will change as a result of this. I believe it will be easier if we don’t change the board. Closing the member forum was a mistake. We’ll find new and better ways.

We also need to bring the government into management of Nominet as a stakeholder. Nominet delivers brilliant service, does an important job, and does very well.

The Huawei thing

A few months ago I was asked for comment on the idea that an embattled Theresa May was about to approve Huawei for the UK’s 5G roll-out, and this was a major security risk. Politics, I assumed. No one who knew anything about the situation would worry, but politicians making mischief could use it to make a fuss.

Now it’s happened again; this time with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. And the same old myths and half-truths have appeared. So is Chinese company Huawei risky? Yes! And so is everything else.

Huawei was founded by a brilliant entrepreneurial engineer, Ren Zhengfei in 1987, to make a better telephone exchange. It came from the back to become the market leader in 2012. It also made telephones, beating Apple by 2018. While the American tech companies of the 1980’s grew old and fat, Huawei kept up the momentum. Now, in 2020, it makes the best 5G mobile telephone equipment. If you want to build a 5G network, you go to Huawei.

Have the American tech companies taken this dynamic interloper lying down? No. But rather than reigniting their innovative zeal, they’re using marketing and politics. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Some arguments:

“Huawei is a branch of the evil Chinese State and we should have nothing to do with it.”

Huawei says it isn’t, and there’s no evidence to the contrary. The Chinese State supports Chinese companies, but that’s hardly novel. And whether the Chinese State is evil is a subjective judgement. I’m not a fan of communist regimes, but this is beside the point if you’re making an argument about technology.

“Huawei is Chinese, and we don’t like the government or what it does”.

So we should boycott American companies because we don’t like Trump? We do business with all sorts of regimes more odious that the CPC, so this is a non-argument. You could make a separate argument that we should cease trade with any country that isn’t a liberal democracy, but this could be difficult as we’re buying gas from Russia and oil from the Middle East.

“Huawei works for the Chinese secret service and will use the software in its equipment to spy on, or sabotage us.”

First off, Ren Zhengfei has made it very clear that he doesn’t. However, there have been suspicions. In order to allay them, Huawei got together with the UK authorities and set up the HCSEC in Banbury. Huawei actually gives HCSEC the source code to its products, so GCHQ can see for itself; look for backdoors and vulnerabilities. And they’ve found nothing untoward to date. Well, they’ve found some embarrassingly bad code but that’s hardly uncommon.

Giving us access to source code is almost unprecedented. No other major tech companies would hand over their intellectual property to anyone; we certainly have no idea what’s inside Cisco routers or Apple iPhones. But we do know what’s inside Huawei kit.

“Because Huawei manufactures its stuff in China, the Chinese government could insert spying stuff in it.”

Seriously? Cisco, Apple, Dell, Lenovo and almost everyone else manufacturers its kit in China. If the Chinese government could/would knobble anything it’s not just Huawei. This is a really silly argument.

Conclusion

So should we believe what the American’s say about Huawei? The NSA says a lot, but has offered no evidence whatsoever. The US doesn’t use Huawei anyway, so has no experience of it. In the UK, we do – extensively – and we have our spooks tearing the stuff apart looking for anything dodgy. If we believe our intelligence services, we should believe them when they say
Huawei is clean.

Being cynical, one might consider the possibility, however remote, that America is scared its technology companies are being bested by one Chinese competitor and will say and do anything to protect their domestic producers; even though they don’t have any for 5G. Or if you really like deep dark conspiracies, perhaps the NSA has a backdoor into American Cisco kit and wants to keep its advantage?

The US President’s animosity to trade with China is hardly a secret. Parsimony suggests the rest is fluff.

Facebook wants end-to-end encryption

Facebook is wrong. Completely.

End-to-end encryption means that Facebook doesn’t have access to the content of messages. Right now, ONLY Facebook can read your private message content, but that will change. (Actually, that’s not true – your employer can too, and that won’t change, but it’s beside the point)

Given Facebook’s entire business model is collecting and selling personal data on its users, this might sound strange. You can bet it’s nothing to do with making the world a safe place for political activists in repressive countries. Such countries can simply block Facebook.

But there are three reasons they may wish to do this:

  1. Right now law enforcement can ask Facebook for data. If Facebook refuses, there can be a stink. If it hands it over, there can be a stink. If Facebook can shrug its shoulders and say “can’t be done”, it’s off the hook. Apple has done this.
  2. If Facebook’s system is insecure, someone may steal personal data from it in the future, leading to embarrassment and GDPR complications. If it’s encrypted while at Facebook, this cannot happen.
  3. Hard core criminals know all about how to use encryption. Facebook is used for recruiting. If Facebook has to face the music for this, with end-to-end encryption they have plausible deniability.

It’s worth noting that political activists have well established secure communication channels too. Paedophile networks have the knowledge to do this, and do. There are plenty of “dark web” options to keep things secret.

So far from protecting the public, the only reason Facebook has to do this is to protect itself.

Facebook shares worth a punt

The confected row about Facebook and CA’s mining of the latter’s users’ data beggars belief. Facebook’s raison d’être is to profile its users and sell the information to anyone needing to target messages (adverts). The punters sign up to this because access is free. They might not understand what they’re agreeing to; a quick look at Facebook shows that many users are far from the brightest lights in the harbour. Buy hey, it’s free!

This is basically how Web 2.0 works. Get the punters to provide the content for you, collect information of value to sell to advertisers, and use the money to pay for the platform. Then trouser a load of tax-free profit by exploiting the international nature of the Internet.

So why the brouhaha now? Where has the moral outrage been for the last ten years? How come punters have only just started talking of a boycott (about twelve years after I did)? What’s changed?

The media has suddenly taken notice because some messages were sent on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. What might broadly be called “left-wing” politicians have been exploiting unregulated social media to sway opinion for a very long time. Some became very uncomfortable when Trump gained traction by “speaking directly to his supporters” on Twitter. And now they’ve finally woken up to the way that the simple majority using a social media platform are able to propagate fake news and reinforce their simplistic beliefs.

But it wasn’t until the recent revelations that Donald Trump was using it that anyone batted an eyelid.

This rabbit hole goes very deep.

Does this spell the end of Facebook? I somehow doubt it. Social media addicts are just that. They don’t want to lose all their virtual “friends”. They want people to “like” them. Those that realise it’s a load of fluff try to cut back, or “detox” for a few weeks, but they always come back for more. And for those who see social media for what it and have nothing to do with it are constantly pressured by the addicts, like a drug user turned pusher.

“You don’t use Facebook? How are we supposed to contact you?”

No. This row doesn’t spell the end of Facebook. I know MySpace, bix, CompuServe, Geocities and the rest went out of fashion, but Facebook and Twitter are too well established, and even promoted on the BBC. And if the addicts were outraged enough to move to a different platform, where would they go? Part of their addiction comes from Facebook being “free”, and no one has come up with an alternative business model that works. They’ll stick with the devil they know.

Meanwhile investors have the jitters and the share price has fallen. This won’t last.

Don’t blame Amazon, it’s Corporation Tax that’s broken

Well it looks like Amazon has only paid £1.3M UK tax, based on turnover of £Sqillions. Much wringing of hands and cries of “Something should be done!”. The same goes for Google, Starbucks or any other international company doing well in the UK. But nothing is being done to solve the problem, and for various reasons depending on your economic policy outlook.

First off, it’s not true to say Amazon pays very little tax in the UK. It pays VAT and PAYE. Lots of it. What it doesn’t pay much of is corporation tax, which is the tax on profits. And if you were an international company, you wouldn’t either. For international companies, corporation tax is, for practical purposes, optional. Companies may opt to pay as much or as little as suits their purpose.

If this is news to you, it works like this: Take Starbucks, for example. They managed to make very little profit in the UK. Because of this they were paying little or no corporation tax, which may seem odd when consider their ubiquitous presence in the high street. The reason was simple: Starbucks in the UK bought its coffee from its Dutch operation and the price was so high it wiped out the profits here. In Holland they were minting it, selling coffee to the UK, but the Dutch government took a liberal view on how much tax it should pay on these profits. Basically they were allowing Starbucks to pay a cut of what should have been UK corporation tax, and trouser the rest.

If Starbucks can do this simply by finding a foreign government prepared to sell out for a share of the profits, how easy is it for a Internet company with no physical product?

Basically, corporation tax would be a farce, were it not so serious. The problem is that it’s still paid in full by our local companies, putting them at an obvious disadvantage to foreign competition. It does more damage than good.

There are two solutions:

The left-wing idea is to make more new law against tax dodging. Somehow. And if international companies don’t like it, they can take their jobs, investment, VAT payments, PAYE payments and business rates and go somewhere else (e.g. Ireland). They’ll be gutted.

Back in the real world, if you have an unenforceable tax that damages local companies the smart thing to do is abandon it. But there is a problem with this – how do you make up the revenue you’re currently collecting from UK businesses (those that remain)? The obvious answer, and one the Conservatives won’t stomach, is to raise personal income tax. This isn’t actually a problem, because foreign companies will just have to cover it to keep take-home incomes stable (or lose staff) and local companies can afford to give everyone a pay rise out of the money that would have gone in corporation tax. Levelling the playing field won’t be painless in the short term, but this no reason to avoid it.

So Labour has a busted ideological plan and the Conservatives would be annihilated if they raised taxes. Something needs to break the deadlock, because newspapers naming and shaming global companies that are simply playing by the rules we gave them is no answer. Labour banging on about alleged “tax cuts for the rich” isn’t going to help. Neither will Conservative pledges not to raise any taxes. It’s not a question of raising or reducing taxes, it’s a question of balancing them properly.

Meanwhile the Irish government is laughing at us, all the way to the bank.

 

Media in concerted racist christianphobic rant

I’ve just been listening to a DUP representative being given a hard time on Radio 4’s Today program over his religious views. How could May work with these bigots?

Actually, their views are taken direct from the Christian Bible, and somewhat watered down at that. Yet their religious convictions are considered fair game.

Compare and contrast the media treatment of politicians from other religions, which can basically be summarized as deferential respect.

So the Bible comes out strongly against abortion, homosexuality and a lot of stuff that modern society considers perfectly acceptable. The people are entitled to vote for representatives holding whatever views they like, and in Northern Ireland these views are mainstream. The Catholic church uses the same Bible, and Mohammedans have similar rules written down. The media says nothing to them.

Sadiq Khan, socialist mayor of London, happens to be a Muslim. This doesn’t appear to have bothered the people who elected him, but does seem of concern to some people. However, his religion-inspired views are unknown because they’re off-limits to the media. Personally, I doubt I’d have a problem with them although I find non-scientific views in general problematic. However, neither I nor his critics have ever even heard them. By not questioning everyone to the same standard the media leaves the public to draw conclusions that may be wholly unjustified.

But the BBC sees fit to attack representatives of one group and question their beliefs.

And spare a thought for poor Tim Farron, Christian leader of the Liberal Democrats. The media was obsessed with asking him if homosexuality was a sin. Of course it’s a sin; it says it’s a sin in the Bible. So are a lot of other things, like feeling jealous of someone. If you follow Christian teaching, everyone’s a sinner (baby), including homosexuals. So what? This line of questioning was very unfair indeed, as non-Christians would have a completely different understanding of the answer. And I’d hazard a guess that most Christians don’t understand their religion that well either.

Now I’m not against questioning religious beliefs. But it has to be ALL religious beliefs. If people wish to elect representatives who are also guided by a particular religion that’s their right; it’s how our democracy works. But unequal treatment of religions by the media cannot be allowed.

Why May did badly (and Corbyn did well)

There’s a lot of soul-searching going on as to why so many people voted for Crobyn’s Labour instead of Mrs “Strong and Stable” May

It’s not that hard, and neither was it unexpected outside the Westminster/Media echo chamber. And it wasn’t because May hacked off the elderly by appearing to raid their savings to pay for care that’s give to others for nothing, although it really didn’t help.

Neither was it because May is perceived boring in a superficial celebrity world.

It’s because Corbyn offered to give people free money and they believed him. People like free money.

There was an age-based split in the voting. A lot of young people, who haven’t lived through the false promise of socialism, have no reason to question the reality of what is being proposed. (And Blair’s government wasn’t socialist).

So, tell young people they’ll be let off paying university tuition fees and they’ll love you. Even better, refund fees already paid and even more people, and their parents, will love you.

Policies like nationalising the railways play well to anyone under the age of 50. If you’re older than this you’ll know just what a mess British Rail was and would never want a return to the bad old days (unless you’re a Rail Union).

But to young people, quick fixes and free money are always going to be a vote winner. As the population ages towards 2022 and more of those with long memories have dropped off their perch, the balance may well tip.

Labour, in order to be a credible opposition, needs to do something about this. Most Labour MP’s know the score, which is why they were so distraught when Corbyn became their leader. (At least I hope it was this rather than concern for their re-electability). If they can’t, the Conservatives need to learn how to fight fire with fire. And they need better leadership.

Higher Education doesn’t need more subsidy, it needs major reform; we’re failing or children by putting them through inappropriate degrees and charging them for it. The academic world is complicit as there are a lot of people making a good living at their expense, paid for by the young people who believe it’s the thing they need to do.

The UK has five years to get it’s politics in order or we’re all in trouble. I told you so.

Update:

You couldn’t make this up. Everyone in the country heard Labour say they’d scrap tuition fees and write off student loans. Now Corbyn is claiming he only said he’d “look at the problem”. ‘sfunny, but that’s not the impression he gave. Everyone from Twitter to those I met on the doorstep were really excited about the prospect of free money. Labour activists were repeating it ad-nauseum. Did the leadership do anything to prevent this lie from spreading? I don’t remember a word being said.

Trump 1, LePen 0, Corbyn ? How to succeed in politics with cynicism.

This is going to appear after the polls have closed in the general election, but before the results. The Conservatives have had a disastrous campaign, by assuming that if Corbyn was a fool then no one would vote for him. I’ve been saying for years that this is a really stupid assumption. I hope my predictions prove wrong.

In the meantime, watching the disaster that is Trump unfold, I’ve been really struck with the parallels he has with Corbyn.

  1. Both have privileged backgrounds, and have achieved their place in life following a leg-up.
  2. Both have cultivated an image that puts them outside the political establishment.
  3. Both speak plainly in words that a simpleton can understand.
  4. Both tell people what they want to hear.
  5. Both have no particular difficulty with telling lies.
  6. Both whip up hatred for the mob against particular sections of society likely to oppose them.
  7. Both are clearly not great thinkers.
  8. Both are hated by their MPs/Representatives so have nothing to temper their excess.
  9. Both were elected by party members, not MPs/Congressmen. They were the activist people’s choices.
  10. No one believed either could possibly get the nomination or get the top job, and they were regarded as a joke.

Following this simple formula, you can probably get enough people to vote for you – those who feel hard done by (especially if you keep on telling them they are). Trump told the workers that he was going to bring back jobs and build a wall. Corbyn told young people he was going to give them money from the magic tree. Trump blamed foreigners. Corbyn blamed rich people (a bit rich given his background),

As I said back in 2015, Corbyn could win in the right circumstances. This is if people are fed up. They voted for Ken Livingstone because they were fed up with the establishment and wanted to cause maximum annoyance. He made a career out of spouting rubbish, which added to his appeal.

The economy has done well under the Conservatives, seeing off the nightmare scenario. However, Theresa May is gaff prone.  She clearly has some silly ideas, one of which is that she’s in touch. Some people seem to like her; I’m not a fan.

Could the British public be as foolish as the Americans? The French voted for anyone but LePen; will Britain vote for anyone but Corbyn? Or will they blindly believe he can deliver these impossible promises because they really want to believe them, and put reason and arithmetic to one side.

I really hope I’ve been wrong all along.