Saturday, 27 May 2017

Two manifestos

I still await my copy of the Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto for this year's general election, but at least I have sight of the final draft of Liberal International's 2017 manifesto. I reckon some of the more social liberal parties affiliated to LI might have some misgivings about the weight given to trade and economics towards the end, but no liberal would quibble at the first half of the document.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Promising start to the Hogan captaincy

Glamorgan had the opposition all out on the first day at St Helen's today. Taking over the captaincy has done no harm to Michael Hogan's bowling form; he finished with 5 for 49. It will be seen when Glamorgan bat tomorrow whether freedom from responsibility allows Jacques Rudolph to score as we know he can.

A major problem remains, that of the bowling second change. It does not take anything away from Paul Collingwood, who held the Durham innings together until he had a rush of blood against Andrew Salter, but Glamorgan leaked too many runs before the second new ball became due.

St Helen's needs to smarten up if the ground is to avoid the final axe, having had its fixtures whittled away over the years. The scoreboard which was on the side nearest the Patti Pavilion and which disappeared when the seating there was stripped has not been replaced, nor has the one which used to be on the other side of the pavilion. There was a coarse cricket-style telegraph near the pavilion steps, but being at ground level this was largely invisible.

Then there are the scorecards, though the fault here clearly lies with the county's travelling office. Time was, if you bought a scorecard after an interval, it would show the wickets which had fallen up to that interval. Perhaps that is too much to ask for, but at least they should get the team list right. There was at least one change for each team from that printed in the scorecard. Presumably patrons were informed at the start of play (which I had to miss through awaiting a postal delivery) but there was no further indication of the changes.

They say no total is good or bad until the other side has batted. There is an event at the Gnoll which claims attention tomorrow, but I hope that Glamorgan can put Durham under real pressure.

Manchester Arena and the House of Saud

Patrick Cockburn in the online Independent and print i spells it out. I was on the right track in pointing out the Abedi family's history as jihadist opponents of Gaddafi but the roots turn out to be in the deeply reactionary (and significantly for the Manchester Arena and Paris Bataclan atrocities, misogynistic) Islamic sect which dominates Saudi Arabia.

Jeremy Corbyn may have a point in drawing attention to the effect that invasions of predominantly Muslim countries have on the perception of UK and US governments with ordinary Muslims. However, he is wrong to link the particular suicide bombing which is at the forefront of our minds to the Iraq adventure.

It is similarly wrong of UKIP to blame Theresa May for this terrorist act. They should look to Kenneth Clarke or Michael Howard who were Home Secretaries in the period when the Salafist Abedi family was given right to remain in England.


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Gambling

Football commentator and former international John Hartson had the guts to expose the details of his addiction to gambling on Radio 4's Money Box Live yesterday. He made the point that while losing thousands of pounds caused him financial difficulties, similar sums would spell disaster for a working man who earned a fraction of the income of a sporting superstar.

Only an effort by an addict him- or herself, with the aid of organisations like Gamblers Anonymous, may produce a lasting cure as has been achieved by Mr Hartson. However, it must surely be right to reduce the temptations to gamble and in particular make it less easy to gamble away large sums of money very quickly. Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) do just this. As a parliamentary candidate, I endorse the campaign by amusement machine operators at least to drastically cut the stakes which may be placed on FOBTs and I trust my fellow-candidates have taken the same stance.



Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Roots of Manchester atrocity may lie in Libya

There has been speculation that the Manchester Arena bomber was radicalised as a result of the Iraq invasion. However, as details of his family background are filled out, it is clear that little radicalisation or even training in the use of armaments were needed and that the roots of his action may lie earlier, in Libya. (Incidentally, the UK police and security forces are seething at the release to the US press by their US counterparts of intelligence which they wanted to keep confidential for the time being.)

The Home Office must have known when they admitted the Abedis to England in 1993 of the family's radical Islamist leanings. Presumably their reasoning was that "my enemy's enemy is my friend", the same reasoning that led the USA to arm Osama bin Laden and his followers against the Russians in Afghanistan. If so, it has rebounded on us. The Home Office's values were skewed then (and it was illiberal under both Ken Clarke and Michael Howard in the early 90s) and continue to be so. People of violence are given leave to stay, while those suffering persecution because of their sexuality or religion are denied asylum.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Manchester Arena suicide bombing

I had turned on the BBC News Channel at 11 o'clock last night. News was already coming through of a loud bang at the end of Ariana Grande's concert in the Manchester Arena. Mobile phone footage from inside the auditorium shown by the BBC did not identify the source or nature of the explosion. There appeared to be no material damage. It was natural to assume that it had any one of a dozen causes. In view of the BBC's tendency over recent years to follow the popular press in sensationalising events and the reports becoming repetitive, I turned off the TV and switched to clearing up outstanding matters on the Internet. Thus my earlier posting may seem insensitive. I can only plead ignorance.

At 3:10 something woke me up. Checking on the TV news again, the full horror was brought home to me. Memories of Arndale were aroused - on that occasion, nobody was killed. Last night, though the physical destruction was less, the personal desolation was much worse. I believe the timing was deliberate, twenty-one years after Arndale, and probably advanced three weeks because of the snap election and taking advantage of a concert attracting a young audience making the atrocity more appalling. I deeply sympathise with the families and friends of those killed and seriously injured last night. They would have included not only young people themselves but also parents waiting in the foyer to pick up their children. My thoughts also go out to the performer herself, not much older than most of her audience, who must be affected.

Then the reactions on Facebook started coming in as friends woke up to the appalling news. Public political campaigning has by common consent been suspended, and no doubt many concerts and other public events. It is important, though, that this cessation out of respect is only temporary, or the terrorist will have won.

Thoughts of South Wales Police will turn to extra security for the Champions League final on 3rd June. Up to now, Cardiff has been regarded as a happy and welcoming venue for sporting finals, with unobtrusive policing. Regrettably, with the new terrorist tactic of attacking people outside a popular venue after an event, the security net will have to be thrown wider and probably inconvenience people not involved in the sport at all. I trust that people will understand and support the police.

I wrote that political campaigning has been suspended. That is not completely true. One popular newspaper, sinking below even the level of previous editors Kelvin Mackenzie and Piers Morgan, has sought to blame Jeremy Corbyn for causing last night's bombing by being soft on terrorism. All political leaders should condemn this gutter journalism.

It's not Mrs May's uey which worries me, it's what she has stuck to

Mrs May has grabbed the headlines by merely suggesting that her next government would look at the possibility of keeping the cap on the cost of social care. However, what interested me was what she had to say about the future relation between England and Wales, seeing as how she was speaking in Wrexham and launching the Welsh Conservatives version of her manifesto. The answer was: not very much. The main manifesto says:

We are a United Kingdom, one nation made of four – the most successful political union in modern history. Its very existence recognises the value of unity – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales achieve less as two, three, or four, than as the United Kingdom together. This unity between our nations and peoples gives us the strength to change things for the better, for everyone, with a scale of ambition we simply could not possess alone.

and

The United Kingdom Government has in the past tended to ‘devolve and forget’. This Conservative government will put that right. We want the UK Government to be a force for good across the whole country. So we will be an active government, in every part of the UK. We will work closely with the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish and Welsh governments, and the new devolved authorities in England, for the benefit of all our people – but that will not be the limit of our actions in the four nations. We are ambitious for everyone in Britain and will leave no-one behind in our efforts to spread opportunity and prosperity throughout the United Kingdom.

which suggests more interference than most previous central governments have indulged in.

But the most worrying aspect of the May manifesto is the indication that she is still determined not only to repeal the Human Rights Act but to take us out of the European Convention on Human Rights altogether. The only concession she makes is that it will not happen in the next parliament.

We will not bring the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law. We will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway but we will consider our human rights legal framework when the process of leaving the EU concludes. We will remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament.