Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The light charge brigade

 Sitting here within about 40 miles of where Aston Martin will be building their electric SUV, I am worried by a report in the current Which? magazine. It highlights the paucity of fast-charging outlets, the prevalence of connection fees, restrictions on payment methods for some providers, unreliable apps and two different incompatible plug and socket combinations. 

The 2030 ban on sale of internal combustion driven vehicles is getting closer and the industry needs to sort its ideas out quickly. If not, the government needs to bang some heads together.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

The starting gun has fired

 The election season here has officially restarted. As well as the Welsh general and police and crime commissioner elections on 6th May, there are seven local by-elections (one county borough, the rest community/town council vacancies to fill) which were delayed until now because of the Covid-19 epidemic.

To avoid clashes of interest, this blog will go into political purdah insofar as Welsh politics is concerned.

Monday, 29 March 2021

Authoritarians love a crisis

Thanks to Anu Garg for a recent Thought for the Day:

I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the rights of the people by the gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. -James Madison, fourth US president (16 Mar 1751-1836)

An exception is using a crisis to remove rights under emergency powers, returning only a proportion of them, slowly and grudgingly as the crisis passes.

Friday, 26 March 2021

Fifty years of Bangladesh independence

Today is Independence Day in Bangladesh (Bengali: স্বাধীনতা দিবস Shadhinôta Dibôs) and a national holiday. It commemorates the country's declaration of independence from Pakistan in the early hours of 26 March 1971 by the leader of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The founding fathers could not have predicted that their nation was to dominate the headlines today because of genocide in Myanmar.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Why was the Westminster Department of Health a "smoking ruin"?

 One can well believe Dominic Cummings's description of the Whitehall department. It can only recover its self-confidence and its competence if the process begun by Andrew Lansley (critique by the Institute for Government in a pdf here) and continued by other Tory secretaries of state is completely unwound.

AV referendum: a view from the sharp end

 There was an interesting programme on Radio 4 last Saturday evening. The thesis of the show by Camellia Sinclair (producer) and Chris Mason was that the AV referendum of 2011 was virtually a dress rehearsal for the Brexit referendum of 2016. The same eminence grise, Matthew Elliott, was behind both successful regressive campaigns. 

Mason highlighted the financial pitch made in the AV referendum, but, on the ground, here in South Wales at least, Nick Clegg was the key factor. The opponents rapidly turned the campaign away from the merits of AV into a referendum on Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems decision to join a coalition with the Conservatives. It was interesting to hear the revelation that Lib Dems in the cabinet were incensed by Osborne's decision to line up the Tories in active opposition against the proposal, which Chris Huhne in particular took as a betrayal of the understanding between them. This sense of betrayal was mirrored by that on the part of Lib Dem activists at the sight of leading advocates of AV on the Labour side, Peter Hain prominent among them, going back on their principles and joining the anti campaign. 

It should be remembered that AV is not Liberal Democrat policy and entered coalition discussions only because Gordon Brown put it on the table as part of Labour's pitch to go into coalition with Lib Dems. One assumes that it remained there in talks with the Conservatives only because Clegg and Danny Alexander, who led the negotiations for the Liberal Democrats, were relatively recent converts to the party and were unaware of the merits and demerits of the various preferential voting systems. AV was never going to inspire long-standing Liberal Democrats to campaign enthusisatically for its introduction and that perhaps was an additional, if minor, factor in the success of the anti campaign.

The programme concluded with a few "what if?" questions. One can add a couple more: what if the arithmetic had been right, and we had chosen to go in with Labour in a coaltion? Brown had promised to introduce AV unconditionally (no referendum), but of course he would still have had to carry the House with the necessary legislation. Could he have whipped enough Labour MPs to do so?

Then of course there is the big one. Instead of an AV referendum in 2011, there could have been one on EU membership. Clegg would have been given credit for sticking to a manifesto commitment and regained some of the trust lost over student loan rates. Miliband would have been onside rather than fatally ambiguous like his successor, Jeremy Corbyn. Almost certainly, "remain" would have won.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Tony Greaves

 Not long ago, what would have been Paddy Ashdown's 80th birthday brought home how much the country missed surely the best prime minister we never had in modern times. Even after so-called retirement, Paddy was still making a contribution to public life when he died before his time. 

Now another sudden death has taken, it is not too much to say, a living symbol of Liberalism. There will be many better-informed people contributing obituaries of specialist book-seller, historian, liberal campaigner and latterly life peer Tony Greaves, so I shall not even try to write one here. He was not flawless. I am glad that Caron Lindsay has been as honest in her initial appreciation as Tony was in life. I have suffered from the rough end of the Greaves' keyboard on many occasions, almost always deserved, though our differences on anti-Semitism remained unresolved. I believe I may even have converted him to the work of Robin Ince and Brian Cox in popularising science. As Carol says, he was always ready to make up with people with whom he generally had common ground.

I do assert that the obituaries will not exaggerate the contribution that Tony made to modern Liberalism, to the political process in general and to local politics in his adopted Lancashire. We enter a period of campaigning for police and crime commissioners in England & Wales and important local elections in England. Tony was intensely critical of the party's official strategic campaigns over the years, with good reason, but I am sure he would not have been holding back in support of Liberal Democrat candidates between now and 6th May. His inspiration will be sorely missed at this critical time.

The first international women's sports event

The 1921 Women's Olympiad Olympiades Féminines and Jeux Olympiques Féminins ran from 24th to the 31st of March 1921 in Monte Carlo, at the International Sporting Club of Monaco.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Iceland has control of SARS/CoV2

 BBC has the repott: Iceland is now in the coronavirus Green Zone, the only European nation to be so. 

Greece could have been in the same happy position if her government had not lost its nerve and yielded to pressure from financial interests. 

Monday, 22 March 2021

Canadian hostages

 It should be emphasised that what Emperor Xi is doing is monstrous for a supposedly civilised nation. Taking hostages, which is what putting two Canadians on trial by a secret court on a barely credible charge of espionage, is something with which we in western Europe associate with the Middle Ages. In the twenty-first century it is, to use a vogue word, unacceptable.

However, the arrest of the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou by the Canada at the behest of Trump's USA, accepted to be the trigger for the Chinese arrests, was shocking. I would like to think that an extradition request for an offence which is not a crime in the UK would have been turned down flat. When American draftees protesting the Vietnam war fled across the 49th parallel, Pierre Trudeau, father of the present premier, did not send them back or even lock them up. One wonders why Justin Trudeau and the Canadian authorities rolled over in the case of Meng Wanzhou. Admittedly, she has not been transported into the tender hands of the US justice system and is only under house arrest, allowed to see family and friends - rather different from the gaol in which Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been kept.

There is a way out. It would involve a slight loss of face by President Biden. He would only need to withdraw that segment of the Iran sanctions which Huawei is supposed to have breached. The extradition papers could then be torn up and Meng Wanzhou released. The slight loosening of the sanctions could be presented as a Persion New Year - new century even - gesture to president Hassan Rouhani rather than a ransom payment to the Chinese.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Personal notes on the Lib-Lab pact

 On Monday 21st March 1977 discussions began between the Liberal Party and the ruling Labour government of James Callaghan about a possible parliamentary arrangement. A vote of confidence had been tabled for later in the week against a government which had gone into minority at the beginning of the month. The pound stood at $1.716 and the Bank of England minimum lending rate (MLR) was 11%

I made some undated notes, which turned up during a house clearance, for a time-table of events which followed. They are not contemporaneous, but must have been intended for a later general election campaign in which the subject of coalition was likely to come up. 

The talks continued on 22nd and a "working arrangement" was agreed between David Steel and Jim Callaghan on 23rd. Interestingly, the Liberal policy of a devolved Welsh Assembly with some law-making powers was pressed. This was of course strongly rejected by Labour.

March 29: Healey budget reduced standard rate from 35% to 33%. "Growing international confidence in British economy"

.March 31: MLR reduced to 9.5%

April 4: Conservatives win Stechford by-election. Liberals lost deposit.

April 15: MLR 9%

April 22: MLR 8.75%

August 3: MLR 7.5%

September 1: MLR 6%

October 7: MLR 5.5%

October 14: MLR 5%

November 1: MLR raised to 7%


January 16: Current account surplus announced - £59 million

January 20  [Annual] Inflation 12.1%

January 21: Special [Liberal] Assembly votes to continue pact until following July

February 17: Inflation falls to single figures

March 11: 25% tax band in Healey budget

May 23: Unemployment down for 8th successive month

June 1: MLR -> 10%

June 28: Liberals force government to reduce NI surcharge from 2.5% to 1.5%

July 31: Pact ends

"The pact can now be seen to have given the country possibly the best fifteen months of government it had enjoyed in the whole decade. Inflation came down from 20 per cent to under 9 per cent, mortgage rates fell from 12.25% to 8.5%. Tax measures were introduced to encourage employees to set up employee shareholding schemes/"

Friday, 19 March 2021

The other Richard Burton's 200th

 Born on this day in 1821 was Richard Francis Burton, the polymath credited with being the first European to reach Lake Tanganyika.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Liberals strengthen control in Netherlands

 Why do news outlets not use the correct words? "Centre right" and "centre left" are at best wishy-washy and at worst associate the beneficiaries of the descriptions with Toryism or Socialism respectively. 

The fact is that Mark Rutte's VVD, which has increased its representation in parliament as a result of this weeek's Netherlands elections, is a liberal party. D66, which has made gains surprising commentators, is a liberal party. If reporters wish to distinguish between them in UK terms, then VVD can loosely be characterised as economic liberals and D66 as social liberals. (Faint praise to euronews for getting D66 right at least.)

This is not an uncommon split in continental countries with fair voting systems. Liberal Democrats in England and Wales may well break up on the same lines if STV were introduced here. Such opening up of the other parties would be healthy, too. 

Big Four accountancy firms to be scrutinised by government

 Not before time, say many, but one wonders whether a Tory government which owes so much to finance manipulators can make any meaningful reforms. It is not just that the Big Four have stifled competition, dividing most of the audit bussiness between them. The major charge is that the companies (PWC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG) allow their lucrative employment as financial advisors to businesses to affect their judgment when auditing those companies. (See virtually any Private Eye magazine.) There is also disquiet that the four have too many consultancy contracts with government.

One notes that the regulators in India have already started looking at splitting up the Big Four there.

Augustus de Morgan

Augustus De Morgan, English mathematician, logician and founder of the London Mathematical society, died on this day 150 years ago.  He coined the term "mathematical induction" and noted that he was x years old in the year x squared. He had also been a tutor to Ada Lovelace, who wrote what was effectively the first computer manual in English and was the first to realise the potential of Babbage's Analytic Engine.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Oxford vaccine does not contribute to blood clots

The European Medicines Agency has published a statement to the effect that the protection offered by approved vaccines outweighs the risks.  I believe this is unnecessarily cautious and contributes to fear. From various authorities quoted on Radio 4 yesterday, I learned that in the manufacturer's trials (trawled over by many official medicines agencies) there were slightly fewer reports of blood clots than in the population as a whole, and that there were slightly more reports in respect of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. But in either case the numbers were so small as to be insignificant. Why not state categorically that there is no link between the vaccines and thromboses? 

The conclusion I draw is that the authorities in Denmark and Norway (who started the panic) should rather look to the life-style of their citizens or the age profile of those vaccinated. If all those countries in the EU who have taken against AstraZeneca want to dispose of their stocks, let them send them to Wales, where they will be welcome. The vaccination programme can then be completed ahead of time. 

As soon as the call comes through from my local clinic and/or pharmacy that the Oxford vaccine is available in Skewen, I shall be round there like a shot.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Back to East of Suez

In1968, when Denis Healey was Defence Minister, it was estimated that there would be a considerable net saving in withdrawing British forces from "East of Suez".  It now appears that prime minister Johnson believes we must and can afford to return, even though our forces are now less than a third the size they were in '60s, recruitment is difficult and the state of our equipment is the constant object of criticism. On top of that, the PM is considerably increasing (in breach of our non-proliferation undertakings) our stock of nuclear warheads. Although these are manufactured here, key components have to be bought from the US

It stands repeating that our existing nuclear arsenal did not deter Russia from seizing Crimea and the Donbas, nor from carrying out assassinations at will on British soil. It has not established peace in the Middle East or eliminated terrorist groups. We need to increase and properly equip our conventional forces, and invest more in intelligence. The budgets for both these are almost certain to suffer under Johnson's "tilt".

As I write this, Islamist militants are beheading children as young as 11 in Mozambique, a Commonwealth country, and Johnson is indifferent. Rather than flapping the Union Flag round the Pacific, this government should concentrate on defending our true interests and those of our friends.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Syria's war is our war

Or, as Euronews's intenational affairs correspondent puts it, "Syria’s war has always been Europe’s problem". It is more partiuularly the UK's war because we early sided with President Obama in encouraging an armed opposition to Syria's ruling family. The failure of the uprising resulted in a surge of refugees headed for European countries, including the UK.

The story officially begins ten years ago when organised antigovernment protests were held in various cities in Syria and outside Syrian legations in several foreign capitals. Things came to a head on March 24, 2011, when many protesters were killed when security forces open fire on a demonstration in Darʿā.

(NB Two years later when Egyptian forces opened fire on protesters killing over fifty of them, there were no calls in the West for an insurrection.)

There is a useful timeline on Britannica's pages. To read it, you will need to be a member of Britannica Online or exempt Britannica from ad-blocking.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Could you improve your asthma treatment? writes:

Thousands of people are living with asthma symptoms or treatment side effects they don't need to have. We want to help you get the care you need and find a balance that works. With the right help and the right medicines, you could feel better.

They offer a five-minute test at Of course, I had to check it and was reassured that my asthma was under control with my existing medication. In the case that it was not, the web-site provides further advice and online tools for taking things further.

From what you’ve told us, it sounds like your asthma is well managed at the moment.

Friday, 12 March 2021

MEPs rights

 The decision of the European Parliament to strip three Catalan MEPs of their parliamentary immunity from prosecution is worrying. Clearly, giving MEPs effectively "benefit of clergy" and the abuses implicit therein is out of the question, but the crimes with which they are charged by the Spanish government are clearly political ones. The three representatives were elected freely and fairly and their constituents have the right to remain represented by them, unfettered by political opponents, no matter how exalted. It will be a sad day if the EP becomes like the Iranian Majlis, comprising only those members who meet the approval of unelected guardians of right or wrong.

Fortunately, and contradicting the rhetoric of the Leave campaign, EU nations still have control over their own civil law. The EP does not have the power to send the MEPs back to Spain. The courts of Belgium, which hosts most EU institutions, has so far defended the right to remain of two of the MEPs. The third, Clara Ponsati, is in Scotland. The Edinburgh sheriff court had suspended hearing an extradition request from Spain pending the EP consideration of Ponsati's immune status. Though this has now gone against Ponsati, one trusts that the Scots will uphold the tradition of not extraditing on a charge which is not an offence where the subject is resident, and throw out the Spanish request. 

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Leave-voting farmers feel doubly betrayed

In 2016, after the second EU referendum, Farmers Weekly reported:

Hundreds of Welsh farms may still be under threat from tough EU-led environmental regulations, despite the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. The prospect of a significant expansion of Wales’s nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZs), driven by the EU Commission’s Nitrates Directive, was a reason some farmers voted to leave the EU.
But the Welsh government says it is pressing ahead with what it says is an “important action to address growing water-quality issues arising from diffuse pollution”.

As a Remainer, I could be expected to approve of both the Westminster and Cardiff governments' rolling over all the EU environmental and food safety legislation and of keeping our standards in line with those of the EU, which must be the envy of the world. If the only reason for anyone to vote for Johnson's Tories in December 2019, confirming UK's exit, was so that they could make more money from slackening standards, then I am glad they have been thwarted.

As an update from the Commission explains:

Pure, clean water is vital to human health and well-being, as well as to natural ecosystems, so safeguarding water quality is one of the cornerstones of European environmental policy. Because water sources are not restricted within national boundaries, an EUwide approach is crucial to tackling problems of pollution. The 1991 Nitrates Directive is one of the earliest pieces of EU legislation aimed at controlling pollution and improving water quality. While nitrogen is a vital nutrient that helps plants and crops to grow, high concentrations are harmful to people and nature. The agricultural use of nitrates in organic and chemical fertilisers has been a major source of water pollution in Europe.

There is clearly an issue (literally) concerning run-off from farms of organic and inorganic nutrients. The Welsh government itself points to two or three incidents of river pollution per week. However, gross violations seem to be confined to two or three hot-spots, in north Wales, the south-west and the river Wye. In the latter case, intensive poultry-rearing (as opposed to the more headline-grabbing cattle farms) is implicated. Moreover, farming is not the only source of nutrient run-off. So when agriculture minister, Labour's Lesley Griffiths declared the whole of Wales a NVZ, after promising several times that she would not do so during the SARS/Cov2 emergency and abandoning consultation with the farming unions, and after the Senedd last week narrowly failed to overturn the Griffiths' diktat, I am on the farmers' side. sets out the official Welsh Lib Dem position.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Domestic appliances to last longer

 There was a big song-and-dance on BBC Breakfast this morning about proposed legislation to guarantee a "right to repair" for domestic goods. Apart from the trendy illustrations (provided by the Johnson spin machine, perhaps?) it all seemed very familiar. Sure enough, it turned out to be the result of another rolled-over EU directive

While I applaud the administration's determination to continue the good things about the EU's legislation, and understand the Conservatives' reluctance to give credit where credit is due in the face of continued Europhobia on their benches, I do wonder what will happen when the existing directives run out. When the EU legislates new improvements to standards, will the government follow suit? Will they even initiate improvements off their own bat, as pre-Brexit propaganda implied?

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Skewen flooding: revelation increases pressure on Coal Authority

 Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, last night introduced a Commons adjournment debate on January's flooding disaster. In the course of his speech, he revealed:

The Coal Industry Act 1994 transferred responsibility for mines, including the one in Skewen, to the UK Government. At that time, the Coal Authority was established and given the responsibility for managing the effects of past coalmining and dealing with the myriad environmental and safety related issues that are the legacy of the coalmining industry. The Skewen mine was inspected in 2011 and deemed a low risk, but it has since transpired that the map was incorrect and the wrong location had been inspected. Lessons must be learned from this sorry tale, but the bottom line is that the responsibility for the botched 2011 inspection lies squarely at the door of the Coal Authority and the UK Government. [My emphasis - FHL}

The minister in her reply initially stood by the defence that there was no legal liability on the part of the Coal Authority to make full financial restitution, but she otherwise sounded sympathetic and drew attention to further action on the part of the Authority last week.

Being cynical, it would not be in the interests of Welsh Conservatives contesting a list seat in the region in May's Welsh general election to be seen to be unfeeling. So there may well yet be a reasonable outcome for the individual sufferers from this tragedy.

For rolling news on restitution work, see the county borough council's page at

Monday, 8 March 2021

International women's day on Radio 3

 In the early hours, I complained on Facebook about the lack of British women composers on the programme for today's all-female playlist. However, I was short-sightedly looking at only the Through The Night schedule. There can be few complaints about the mix of British and international composers during the day today. Even Morfydd Owen, who is often overlooked, is represented this afternoon. Perhaps if more of her work had been recorded, more would have been played.

Film and TV incidental music has been overlooked. Anne Dudley got a look-in only because of a listener request this morning. There could have been more Rachel Portman in addition to Matthew Sweet's coverage last Saturday, and there was no Barbara Thompson. 


Saturday, 6 March 2021

Tory minister is ignorant of his own Department's advice

I am grateful to a fellow Liberal Democrat for this prize example of Brexiteer ineptitude culled from

The EU shellfish issue has further exposed the total incompetence of those who campaigned for Brexit and, having ‘taken back control’, now find themselves in positions of power. In what must surely rank as one of the most humiliating letters ever received by a UK government minister, DEFRA Secretary George Eustice has had to be schooled in his own advice by EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides.

Former UKIP member Eustice had written to Ms Kyriakides on 8 February, claiming to have been “surprised that the Commission has changed its position” on the question of importing live, bivalve molluscs for depuration from waters classified as ‘Class B’ into the EU.

The minister argued that the trade should be allowed to continue, suggesting the EU had somehow sprung a ban on Britain’s shell fishermen.

“We can see no scientific or technical justification for this change and the news was conveyed to us rather casually and after the event. This is not in the collaborative and cooperative spirit in which we wish to work together going forward”, he complained.

Ms Kyriakides wrote back two days later, gently reminding the hapless Eustice that he himself has personally written and signed a letter to stakeholders on 10 December setting out the precise position, the one he was claiming to have been ‘surprised’ by, with crystal clarity.

Eustice had clearly either not read or not understood his own advice to UK stakeholders.

Imagine, writing a letter of complaint, only to be shown your own letter from two months earlier as evidence that there was nothing to be complained of.

Pointing out the EU was only applying the same rules that had been in force when Britain was a member, Kyriakides’ response contained this ignominious paragraph :

“This was rightly pointed out in your letter of 10 December 2020 to UK businesses updating them on the Border Operating Model and specifically on Prohibitions and Restrictions applicable following the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021. In your letter, you correctly underlined that the export of live bivalve molluscs from Class B production areas for further deputation in the EU would not be allowed.”

There it was under his very own signature:
[The original document has a screenshot of the relevant section of the advice from Eustice to fishermen on 10 December.] 

The EU Commissioner ended her letter :

“I hope that this clarifies the EU requirements that have applied for many years to the import of live bivalve molluscs from third countries into the EU, and which do now apply to such imports from Great Britain and the UK Crown Dependencies.”

Former Labour MEP Richard Corbett said:

“The hypocrisy and incompetence of Tory Brexit ministers is jaw dropping. They wanted Brexit, told us ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and now complain about the consequences of Brexit!

“Did they not think that the EU would continue to apply its rules – rules that Britain helped create as a member? Did they believe that walking out of the EU would mean that it would waive its rules in favour of a non-member?”

Friday, 5 March 2021

NHS/GIG nurses pay: devolution justified

The statement by Wales' health minister is welcome. BBC News reports:

Ministers will not try to cap any pay rise for Welsh NHS staff in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Wales' health minister has said.

The UK government has faced a backlash after saying a pay rise for staff in England should be capped at 1%.

Vaughan Gething MS said on Friday that Welsh NHS workers "deserved a pay rise".

He said the Welsh Government had "not tried to set a ceiling" on any proposed wage increase.

The NHS Pay Review Body - an independent body - looks at potential wage increases for NHS workers.

It then recommends what pay rises - if any - should take place.

It should be emphasised that nursing in Wales was already under-strength before Covid-19 struck. Along with the rest of Britain, Wales was not well equipped to deal with the surge in hospital cases in even a quiet winter, never mind one in which an influenza or exotic virus epidemic occurred. The Westminster government did not help by creating a post-Brexit hostile environment for non-native health service and care workers. One trusts that the pay review body will come up with a settlement which enables the health service in Wales to retain her excellent experienced nurses, as well as attracting new recruits and tempting back those who left to join the private sector. 

Heroine of socialism

Rosa Luxembourg was born on this day in 1871.


Thursday, 4 March 2021

On-line newspaper ads

 One of my favourite blogs has resurfaced after several years during which I feared the author had given up, or worse. Sadly, Jan Freeman was prompted to break her silence with a serious complaint, that, in spite of subscribing to one of her nation's prestigious newspapers, she was still bombarded by advertisements when attempting to read the text. Things have not reached that stage on this side of the Atlantic (as far as I know; please cite an example if you know differently), but one fears the worst.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Uey Green

 Much has rightly been made of Rishi Sunak's reversal of years of Tory policy of cutting corporation tax. In 2023 it will go up to levels not seen since the days of Denis Healey according to Channel 4 News's economic correspondent. Many of us would feel that it could stand going up a point or two this year, but we should be grateful for the chancellor's seeing the light.

There has been another 180 degree turn in today's budget, less than the tax change in cash terms but greater in terms of philosophy. George Osborne lost no time, after the Tories gained overall control in 2015, in dismantling the Green Investment Bank forced on David Cameron ("green crap") by Lib Dem partners in coalition led by Chris Huhne. To rub Liberal Democrat noses in it, Osborne sold the bank (without competitive tendering) to one of the least straight or environmentally-friendly organisations on earth.

Chancellor Sunak has gone a long way to retrieving the position by instituting a green Infrastructure Bank and siting it outside London. He could go further in restoring the incentives to individuals and small businesses to save energy, but it is a start.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Happy 90th, Mikhail Gorbachev

 It is sad that he has lived to see that his perestroika has stalled and glasnost is at a premium in Russia today. Bill Browder's talk with Michael Berkeley last Sunday was a real eye-opener.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Trump's "plausible deniability"

Last week brought news of yet another reason why the world is a safer place without President Trump as US commander-in-chief. Behind the back of his loyal vice-president, Mike Pence, Trump endorsed the actions of Erik Prince in contravention of his own nation's official policy. Prince violated the terms of an aid and arms embargo on Haftar, a rebel against the internationally-recognised LIbyan government.