An open letter to Michael Gove from Bob Robinson

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MICHAEL GOVE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, MP

Dear Mr Gove,

“TRUCK QUEUES COULD BE 7,000 VEHICLES LONG WHEN TRANSITION ENDS” – MICHAEL GOVE – THE GUARDIAN.

Thank you for responding so quickly to my earlier open letters,(posted on the Facebook Lib Dem Chat Group) albeit not in person. You are to be congratulated for your candour – albeit somewhat late in the day. You do, I take it, clearly understand the implications of what you have said. As a retired bean counter, I spent my career eliminating the need for holding inventory by promoting the use of “just in time” manufacturing techniques – stock although an asset on the balance sheet is not as liquid as cash. Liquidity is going to be critical to our recovery. Turning inventory into finished goods adds value and turning finished good into sold goods is what generates business liquidity. Please do not feel that you can duck behind coronavirus as an excuse – the seeds for this were laid long ago when some balding chap with glasses appeared talking about reshaping British Industry – He was looking for the next generation of disruptive innovation. Perhaps at some point, you might like to tell me how that’s going? No Pain No Gain only works if the same people asked to bear the pain can be given cast iron guarantees that they, not rentiers, will enjoy the gain.

In the meantime, might I suggest, until you have a spiffing response, you might need to avoid the honourable members for Southport and South Ribble – (they are/were on your side of the House). Both constituencies sustain a substantial part of the United Kingdom’s horticultural sector – in particular, fresh salad vegetables to Supermarkets. In addition to top quality tomatoes and salads grown locally in the area – the growers put the Wonder into Golden Wonder crisps. In addition to growing, they have built specialist packing and preparation plants that employ many workers. Britain, however, has long passed accepting seasonality in fruit and vegetables and in the off season, imported produce is shipped from Spain and other warmer climes, minimising handling damages. These are brought in by truck and packed for major supermarkets. This ensures door to door delivery but it does have to run to a tight, just in time, timetable. I am sure that whilst, in your Botany class at school, somebody explained to you that once a lettuce is cut – it starts to die. Two days extra in transit will increase the amount of not fit for purpose lettuce, sitting either on shop shelves or customers fridges – imposing knock on costs to supermarkets and consumers alike. The shipping time is therefore critical. I am sure you will also appreciate that queues of lorries outside European ports will represent a tempting target for desperate people.

Katherine Fletcher, the newly minted MP for South Ribble and Damien Moore will no doubt be catching it hot and strong soon. Indeed, the local Tory Parties are traditionally supported by major growers. If your party’s cash flow takes a hit following recent revelations – you may need to look to your home-grown supporters for help. Damien Moore, by the way, was, in his former, life a Manager at Asda – he will understand just what this kind of (expletive deleted) could turn out to be for Supermarkets. He will also know the best way the sweep up Maltesers. Just ask yourself – if this what you want to happen to you?

Best regards Bob

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/23/truck-queues-could-be-7000-long-when-brexit-transition-ends-ministers-warn

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/04/uk–businesses-demand-urgent-talks-over-fears-brexit-border-chaos

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54260470

P.S. Archie Norman, the Chief Executive of ASDA, used to begin his welcome to new staff, including myself, by recalling his early experiences on the shop’s shop floor. Sometimes Maltesers would escape and represent a “slip” risk. The easiest way to sweep them up was not to chase them with a broom and shovel – but to tread on them. Nudge-nudge-wink-wink stamp-stamp Mr Gove – Know what I mean.

And then before publication but after writing the above this happened – The lorry and logistics crisis just got worse. The Guardian has just published the latest round of revelations including a twitter copy of the letter by Michael Gove to the RHA.

You could not make it up

NI report shines religion in a poor educational light

I’ve come to regard religion as something that individuals should choose to either follow or not. It’s not something to be handed down from one generation to another just as it should not be the norm to follow the same politics as your parents. Individuals can grow into much more rounded citizens if they make such choices themselves.

The report, linked below, on the effect of religious governance of schools therefore interested me:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-54063908

I was brought up in my Dad’s religion, baptised and confirmed into his religion and I went along with it not thinking or knowing of any alternatives until I was about 15. Around that time I recall looking at my religious world which, whilst not being a big part of my life, did mean I was in a church choir and I wondered why I was doing it. I talked to a friend who was to a lesser degree following his parents religion and we both wondered why we were following a similar path.

Me sat in my old choir stall at Sefton Church. I recall sitting in this very seat – if memory serves me well of course – it was 47 years ago!

This thinking led us both to walk away from religion as being something which was not for us, although we removed religion from our lives politely and certainly not in away to offend others who held strong religious beliefs.*

I can’t say I’ve ever looked back and regretted that move indeed the older I get the more I feel I did the right thing for me.

I got married in a church, of my (former) and my wife’s religion, because that was what my wife wanted and we had our daughter baptised for a similar reason. However, that’s where any religious direction for our youngster ceased. The religious, political and pretty much everything else direction she then took in her life has been her decision and hers alone. As far as I’m concerned such is her business and not mine.

Having read this far you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not at all keen on religious schools** being used by parents to reinforce their own religious beliefs upon their children. Education is all about bringing well rounded citizens to adulthood with the skills to be able to be a part of society and the knowledge to be able to gain and hold onto jobs, it’s not about religion. Having said that I’ve no problem whatsoever with youngsters being taught about world religions, what they each believe in and why some people choose to follow them, indeed to understand how society works such knowledge is vital.

All these thoughts came to me having read the article linked above about how schools are governed in Northern Ireland. Whilst the situation there is unique in the UK due to historic religious/political intolerance it’s nice to see that calm and sober assessment of how the mainly religious NI schools are run will probably lead to change for the better, although such change will sadly take far too long to come about.

* Ludovic Kennedy’s book published in 1999 ‘All in the mind – A Farewell to God’ is an excellent read about losing your religion.

** I think my first primary school may have been a religious one although it may well have been chosen because it was within easy walking distance of our family home. I was only there about 18 months though and the 2 subsequent primary schools I attended were not religious based, neither was the high school I went to.

How will you help make our roads safer?

Government is working on changes to the Highway Code to make road use safer for cyclists and pedestrians so whether you’re a pedestrian, horse rider, cyclist or driver (I wonder how many of you are all 4?) have a go at this quiz on the proposed changes to the Highway Code which is on the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-54027461

In whose best interests are our government promoting a return to working in offices?

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53942542

Well now, apart from thinking at first this seems more like Russian socialist tractor factory ‘advice’ i.e. do it or else, my more sober reaction was why are the Tories saying get back to your offices?

Sage advice I was given in politics and indeed life many moons ago was to understand how to react to a situation you need to know, as far as possible, why what you are reacting to is being said in the first place. So let’s look at the possible motivations:-

* To make public transport more sustainable and for it to require less subsidy – good one
* To help businesses which rely on office buildings (sandwich shops etc.) – good one
* To get people out in their cars driving to work – No, goes against climate change requirements
* To help mental well being – Unlikely as there will as many benefits as disbenefits
* Because employers want it – No, as many will not as they’re eyeing up saving money on office space

Now how about the cynical reason? Those who fund the Tory Party are rich property owners who stand to lose a lot if office space stops being used/rented out at the same scale as before lockdown. Oh yes, you can bet they’ve been lobbying hard and who pays the piper etc. etc. Of all the reasons this will be the main one although unspoken of course by Ministers. You can bet your bottom Dollar, Euro or £ on it in my opinion.

Also on this subject, I happened upon the TUC Leader Frances O’Grady being interviewed on Radio 5 Live about this earlier this evening. It was on one of those infotainment/news programs that 5 Live puts out. As usual she was impressive and to my mind she makes the often media unsavvy trade union movement seem in touch with real people and I say that as a retired TU officer who often despairs of TU leaders in the media such as McCluskey. I have the feeling that she’s a Liberal and does not realise it. I hope I’ve not just caused her problems saying that!

Her contribution to the debate about whether office workers should be pushed/forced/cajoled back into their office blocks was well considered and balanced. And of course she was firm on the difficulties some workers will have working at home in small inappropriate spaces where they can’t get the peace and quiet they need.

So yes, like everything in life one size does not in any way fit all but where appropriate, given the right facilities, working from home has to be right for some people. Government should butt out except to ensure employment standards are met by the money saving employers and they should be thankful that almost by chance the appalling pandemic has potentially reduced climate changing air pollution via some folk no longer having to do the daily commute.

Transportation Accidents

The oh so sad news of the train derailment near Stonehaven in Scotland a couple of days ago where 3 people died reminded me of something I heard many years ago about the huge disparity between road and rail deaths.

The words by American commentator – Rogers E M Whitaker – were unsurprisingly about the situation in the USA but what he said back @1980 still stands – ‘Don’t get on the safe old train get on the safe old highway and get yourself killed’. The point he was making was that because railway accidents, where someone is killed, are so rare they always make media headlines whereas we take deaths on our roads in our stride as they are largely unreported in the national press due to there being so many of them.

For comparison, the latest figures I could find for Scotland showed 160 people died in reported road accidents last year [2018] – an increase of 15 on 2017 – source BBC website/Transport Scotland. See what I mean?

Note – I do appreciate that the accident at Stonehaven could have been far worse in terms of deaths and serious injuries if the sparsely populated train (because of Covid 19 I guess) had been running in more normal times.

The National Debt – Something to be concerned about?

With all the massive amounts of spending/borrowing by our Conservative government, which has been forced to adopt Keynesian economics because of the pandemic, what are we going to do about paying it all back?

Clearly the right/centre right and even some of the left of UK politics will favour more austerity and lower taxes whereas the left generally will favour less or no austerity and higher taxes. We think like that because that’s what we’ve been told our options are. But are these black and white options really the only way forward to address the situation? Yes, I realise that some will say just kick the can down the road and let future generations pay it off; the ultimate act of selfishness you could call it? Now don’t shout at me, just have a look at the link below to a video on the BBC website entitled ‘Why we need to debunk the deficit myth’. I know, I know, it’s produced in US terms but the concept is pretty much the same in any sovereign country:-

www.bbc.com/reel/video/p08jbbry/why-we-need-to-debunk-the-deficit-myth-?ocid=ww.social.link.twitter

Have your views changed? Are you better informed? Or are you stubbornly staying in your tribal left or right tent unwilling to see a different perspective?

My thanks to Stephen Hesketh for the lead to this posting