Monday, 1 May 2017

Violent protests against foreign fat cats

It is amazing how history repeats itself. Resentment against people from mainland Europe making money in English towns was alive and well five hundred years ago, on "Evil May Day".

As in centuries before, May Day was a holiday in the Tudor calendar under the reign of King Henry VIII. But in the weeks leading up to May in 1517, tension was rising in the City against the many foreigners who had made London their home, some becoming very wealthy.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Sad to see Orient leave the Football League

Clearly a victim of off-field shenanigans, a club which seldom hit the heights but had a comfortable existence for most of its League history should not have been driven to this. I feel particularly sad because the first Liverpool match I watched after I moved down to London was at Brisbane Road. I can't remember any of the detail of the match except for the wing-switching of Alan A'court, who scored both the 'pool's goals, and Ian Callaghan . Orient must have been good, because they shared the spoils on that occasion and were at the end of the season joint promotees to the top division with Liverpool. What I remember most was the walk from the station (Lea Valley?) through lines of trees bearing spring blossom in a park which now seems to have been replaced by a business estate. It makes a depressing but apt parallel.

Air pollution

A study part-funded by the British Heart Foundation, showing a link between air pollution and both heart disease and stroke, strengthens the case for government action. Ed Davey, who was Energy Secretary in the coalition government and before that an environmental campaigner, was understandably exercised. He said “The health risks associated with toxic air are becoming clearer by the day. Yet still this government is failing to come up with a proper plan to reduce air pollution in our cities. The Conservatives must not kick the can down the road any longer. The longer we wait to tackle the air pollution crisis, the more people will die prematurely at the hands of this silent killer.”

He hailed the high court decision to compel the government to publish its action plan on pollution, which ministers had attempted to hold back until after the general election on specious "purdah" grounds: : “This is a dramatic defeat for the Conservative government. Ministers have used taxpayer money to try to hide proof of their environmental failures. And they have even failed there, too. With scientists showing the health impact of air pollution being far worse than we thought, it is disgraceful for the Conservatives to try to bury the truth from voters.”

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Swing to populism not universal

Liberal International points out that in local elections in Finland earlier this month, the hard-line Eurosceptic party, the Finns, saw their support tumble from 17.7% in the 2015 national election to 8.8% this time. Liberal parties maintained their position.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Leading health academics find Cancer Drugs Fund a dangerous waste of money

The Daily Telegraph reports that a study by King's College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine labels the Conservatives' Cancer Drugs Fund “a 'quick-fix' election promise that wasted more than a £1 billion and left dying patients in agony”. It seemed from the start to be a gimmick that played on English electors' deep-seated emotions, to the benefit of multi-national drug companies rather than to the NHS as a whole. The latest study, and the changes that have been made to the policy, tend to confirm this view. The report in the normally Conservative-supporting Telegraph goes on to say that the analyis "concluded that less than half of the drugs provided by the fund had undergone adequate clinical trials before being used, and the average median life extension they afforded was just 3.2 months. The study also pointed to evidence suggesting the medicines were too toxic for some patients, forcing them to abandon treatment."

If Andrew RT Davies's Welsh Conservatives had had their way in the 2016 Assembly elections, the NHS in Wales would have been burdened with a cancer drugs fund. However, the response by Carwyn Jones and Vaughan Gething, the New Treatments Fund, appears to be open to the same criticisms as the English scheme.

Blue Riband production moves to Poland

This story would, before the referendum, have been cited as one of the malign effects of the European Union. A multi-national company has shifted production of a popular British confection to another EU state because costs are less there. It was done by Cadbury, even before the Kraft/Molendez takeover. In that case, Poland was also involved, along with the Republic of Ireland.

Now there are fellow-Remainers who blame Brexit for the move, which seems illogical. If anything, Brexit should increase the incentive to keep sweetie production here because of the tariff barriers which would be erected. However, it could be that the York factory relies on Continental labour which would be choked off if Mrs May has her way.

There is a short history of Blue Riband on Morrisons' web pages. I had not realised it was originally as Scottish as Tunnock's tea cakes or Barr's Irn-Bru. I do recall it becoming more bland in flavour in the 1960s, which must be when Rowntree took over Gray Dunn.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Triple lock under threat

The latest posting on the blog of the local party (though clearly a reproduction of a Great George Street media release) applies. It is possible to read this as a fulfilment of one of the few realistic warnings by George Osborne before the EU referendum. However, it is quite likely that the Conservatives were always going to drop the commitment from any post-2015 manifesto. They had stopped claiming credit for the specific (and Liberal Democrat) policy some time ago.

It was noticeable at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday that the blow which shook Mrs May was landed not by the leader of the official opposition with his six questions but by Angus Robertson with his two.