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

When political parties all go wrong at the wrong/same time

The more I think about the 2019 General Election the more I realise what a terrible choice the British public had on offer in terms of potential Prime Ministers. On that basis is it any wonder they picked (with the more than significant help from our warped electoral system) the politician to lead them who is probably best summed up as a populist entertainer.

If Corbyn had been really credible he would have won in 2017. That he didn’t and went down hill from there makes you wonder what on earth the Labour Party was doing keeping him on as they must have known they were on the road to nowhere with him. And so it proved with a shocking electoral performance in December 2019 – Labour losing many seats to a Tory Party under the leadership of someone that no one trusted.

The Tories had been in a right old mess ever since David Cameron found himself calling the EU Referendum having surprisingly gained a majority in 2015; a majority which privately he must have very much hoped not to have for it forced his hand to go where he did not want to go with the EU.

The Lib Dems recovered some ground in terms of vote share in 2019 but bizarrely ended the election with one seat less than they won in 2017. Our wonderful NOT electoral system at work of course. But their leader Jo Swinson proved not to be an asset to the Party as on balance she wasn’t liked by voters and yes I do realise there will sadly have been some misogynist views at play in her downfall.

And then within a couple months a huge crisis envelopes the world, one that the UK reacted to far too slowly and which because of our obsession with austerity we have been incapable of addressing well. Here we are 6 weeks after lockdown with only a few brave Tories willing to wave the flag for Boris Johnson; the rest of the population wondering how on earth we ended up where we are with a shockingly poor government at the very time we need a strong one.

Oh for an Obama, a Blair, a Merkel or a that wonderful young lady from New Zealand whom we all struggle to say the name of (Jacinda Ardern) in our hour of need, but true leaders in UK politics are hard to find anywhere. The blood letting in both the Tories (over Brexit) and Labour (over Brexit, antisemitism and Corbynism) has led to the loss of many credible politicians and the Lib Dems have failed to come up with a leader the public really can take to since the demise of Charles Kennedy. That someone as credible as Dominic Grieve has found himself unwelcome in the Tory Party or that Louise Ellman walked away from Labour tells us that our politics is far from healthy and that dogmatically driven sects are far too powerful in our two major political parties.

That Labour has finally sobered up is a given in that they’ve now elected a reasonably credible leader in Keir Starmer although the jury is clearly still out. He’s no charismatic leader and worryingly seems still wedded to too many of the faults within Corbynism such as Brexit (he opposes the transition period being extended). He needs to become a true progressive as Blair clearly was in his early years, before he fouled up big style over Iraq. Yes it’s hard as Labour’s core working class supporters can easily swing to the right into regressive politics (as they did to deliver Brexit) but if Blair could be progressive and keep them on side Starmer has to as well. It will be no good appeasing them by throwing in a few ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ policies Keir.

As for the Lib Dems, who for reasons no one can quite get their heads around have contrived not to have an elected leader in place since the December 2019 GE, there is hope that someone like Layla Moran can come through to be a truly progressive Social Liberal Leader. I hope so as I want my Party to be placed not between the Tories and Labour but to the left of Labour on many social issues/policies as we were in Charles Kennedy’s day.

What will become of the Tory Party is a very big question indeed. You can’t see Johnson surviving or indeed wanting to survive as PM in the long term. His popularist entertainer position which he’s carved out over many years is clearly unsuited to a country in crisis as is his legendary personality fault-line of not doing detail.

Politically the UK is in a mess, England probably more so than the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations. There’s room for some optimism but it will be a long road before our main 3 political parties become fit for purpose again.

Brexit – Let’s face it other then the Brexiteers we all knew there’d be few to pick the crops

Jonathan Calder hits the nail squarely on the head in this blog piece about the lack of crop pikers in Brexit Britain

liberalengland.blogspot.com/2020/04/brexit-fantasies-die-in-fields-of.html

Sorry to have to say this to those farmers who voted for Brexit but you voted to have (or in this case not have) what you now seem to be upset about. Would it not be an idea to think about what you are voting for in future, just saying.

5G – Why are some folk so upset about it?

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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-52395771

I think I’ve only been asked about the safety of 5G once as a local councillor and on that occasion I suggested that the enquirer contact Sefton Council’s Environmental Health for help/information.

But apart from genuine enquiries from people wanting to know more about 5G where have all the conspiracy theories come from? Is it because our present health crisis makes folks are more vulnerable to those who make up scare stories? Indeed, some utterly ridiculous conspiracy theories try to link 5G to Covid 19! Could it be the Chinese connection with 5G and the concerns around the involvement of a major Chinese tech company? Why was there no fuss over 4G yet there is over 5G?

We’ve even now got to the stage of attacks on what are believed to be 5G tech facilities and threats to BT workers!

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they are hard to debunk because any argument against them is seen to be the establishment making up stories to defend what the believers of the theories think is true. The more ‘evidence’ that is presented the more it entrenches the belief that the ‘authorities’ are trying to hide a big secret. There are still people out there who think that man actually didn’t go to the moon. Alternatively, some think the there are humans living on the moon. I fear the 5G conspiracy theories are in the same league.

Remember over Brexit when a Senior Government MP said people have had enough of experts or words to that effect. That was the reaction of someone having their barmy Brexit theories challenged and hitting out at those who were offering a different evidence based alternative which they needed to to try to discredit. But daft things said by our leaders are not said in isolation or without consequences and some will say if the government does not believe in experts neither will I and we end up in a post-truth Trump-like society where conspiracy theories can all but become mainstream.

Readers of the-is blog site will know that I’ve been pondering on antisemitism and the appalling things that flow from it, having had it in previous generations of my own family I’m ashamed to say. What I’m learning is that antisemitic thinking is akin to those who pedal conspiracy theories as so many attacks on Jewish people are linked to such theories.

Am I a scientist or a tech expert? No of course I’m not. Do I believe there is scientific/health related problem with 5G? Well I’ve seen no credible evidence of such so why would I think there was and then tell others that I thought there was. Do I have any 5G concerns? Well yes but it’s with regard to those providing it and the support for it and whether it will lead to information being taken for inappropriate/illegal purposes but there are many of us who have that worry.

In life the vast majority of conspiracy theories are actually cock-ups but there are some completely made up theories that seem to take a hold in society and gain traction because some folk want to believe them. Brexit and the EU is one we’re presently living through. But just ask any Jewish person as they’ll probably tell you that they’ve had to live with conspiracy theories against them for generations upon generations and look what that led to in 1940’s German; except that some conspiracy theorists will actually say that the holocaust never happened!

Finally, social media has been a big help to those pedaling conspiracy theories as they can put stuff out there and then get us to pass it on simply because we have been taken in or because the message has fitted with our own ill-informed prejudice. If you’re asked to pass something on just think, is it really true or are you being used to pedal someone else’s conspiracy theory.

Propaganda, Conspiracy & Cock Ups

Our Health Crisis – My Perspective

When Government first started using wartime phraseology at the start of our present lock down my thoughts went straight away to propaganda. What will be true amongst what we hear from now on I pondered and what will be that which political leaders want us to hear/believe?

Yes of course we are always subject to propaganda it’s what politicians of all colours and indeed many journalists/newspapers/media outlets do day in day out when things are ‘normal’. However, in times of ‘war’ this gets ramped up and governments sometimes with collaborating media outlets produce agendas which are very much associated with what they want us believe. In other words they push the boundaries of what is acceptable deceit (is it ever acceptable?) much further. So to a free thinking mind, amongst all that we are been told, is what is truth and what is fiction?

Another word for our times is conspiracy. If you use social media you may well realise that folks invent utter rubbish and present it as fact for criminal purposes, to mislead, to give false hope or for other reasons. Conspiracy theories are rife about the origins of the virus, who can get it, what quack medicine protects us from it etc. etc. What’s more these conspiracy theories can sometimes look plausible at face value and we are urged to pass then on. Any tweet or facebook message which urges us to pass it on to our followers, friends and family should ring loud alarm bells but if we have found the message comforting or it fits with our own misinformed prejudices we can easily be hoodwinked into doing what we are asked rather than what we should be doing – deleting.

And what about cock-ups? Government has probably made many right from the start of the emergence of the virus either through lack of information, misinterpretation of data, ignoring data/facts, bad advice etc. etc. When this terrible period in world history is over and the actions of governments are assessed those which got things right and those who got it wrong will probably be exposed. The consequences of this could be dramatic and governments could fall if voters find out they were lied to on an industrial scale, were subject to unacceptable levels of propaganda and/or incompetent leaders.

But who amongst world leaders looks like they are making the least missteps? Trump is now little more than cringe worthy. Merkel, as always, looks calm cool and collected. The New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is, as usual, a delight to listen to and like Merkel is seeming significantly trusted. On our own doorstep Rishi Sunak has come across well as for me did George Eustas on his one appearance in front of the cameras. Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Matt Hancock look to be well out of their depth.

Government here looks far from confident or indeed competent. Even before the PM became ill he came over as someone well out of his comfort zone who was struggling with a situation he was not prepared for. As a populist politician, in some ways like to Trump, he seemed poor on detail. I wonder how he will emerge from his serious health scare and whether it will have changed him?

But my other great concern is about our journalists as few of them seem willing/capable of holding government seriously to account in our crisis. Far too many vague answers from Ministers are let go, far too many questions to Ministers are too rambling and imprecise. In short, to my mind, many journalists are simply not doing their job of cutting through the propaganda, exposing the cock-ups and most of all making our leaders feel the heat. As for all the adulation of Johnson by the media due to his unfortunate and obviously serious illness this has been very much over emphasised. And I say that not because the health of our PM is unimportant but because he is only one of many thousands of seriously ill and sadly dying people in the UK. Continually focusing on Johnson’s health has been lazy populist journalism which has been very useful cover for a weak government.

Funnily enough this crisis, falling as it has just after Brexit, could probably not have come at a worse time for the UK. A Government elected to deliver a fantasy anti-EU/little Englander world against an opposition which had thrown in the towel years ago has saddled us with many 2nd division politicians in high office. Our troubles now are built on the fact that we have few credible leaders in government or indeed in opposition as they were purged by our two main political parties as a consequence of Brexit.

The good news is what is happening despite government as many folk in communities across the land are rising to the challenge of our unprecedented health crisis to help those in need. There is indeed hope out there but little of it is coming from the UK’s political leaders………..

Port of Liverpool and Brexit – Some interesting questions & big challenges

Stena Precision at Birkenhead *

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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51329176

The Mersey – Looking from Bootle over the River to the Wirral

Of course, if the Port of Liverpool succeeds in gaining more trade the consequences swing back to that very knotty problem of land transport access to the Port, the over-capacity of the A5036 (Port to Switch Island road link), the lack of capacity of the rail link to the port (plus poor/limited regional rail capacity) and the new road proposed to be built through Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Rimrose Valley Country Park in the foreground and the Port cranes in the background.