Friday, 18 August 2017

New Statesman letter on foreign policy

Stephen Bush makes the debatable points that the Tories "might be able to win an argument about Venezuela", and that most of the British voters don`t have "a flicker, let alone a quantum, of interest in foreign affairs", with the implication that the latter is good news for Labour, as the Tories are hopelessly divided on domestic issues (Politics, 11th August, 2017). The patronising idea that the people don`t mind their leader sucking up embarrassingly to Trump, Erdogan and dictatorial leaders in the Middle East is, quite frankly, insulting; Bush will be writing next that the public think it perfectly acceptable for the UK to sell weapons to the Saudis to be used in Yemen, adding to the misery of millions already suffering horrendously from the effects of famine and disease.
   If Britain`s right-wing-dominated media concentrated their efforts more on showing the crisis in Yemen rather than trying to embarrass Corbyn over Venezuela, more on May`s failure to urge a more conciliatory and diplomatic approach from America over North Korea than comparing Labour`s nationalisation policies on railways and energy to Maduro`s economic troubles, political commentators like Bush would soon realise their mistake. 
 In this age of sabre-rattling politicians and dictatorial autocrats, leaders who stand by their principles and urge caution, and an end to belligerent rhetoric, stand out a mile. Thank goodness the British public has begun to realise Labour has one.

Rees-Mogg for Tory leader (i letter)

According to Katy Balls, Jacob Rees-Mogg has "shown that traditional conservative values - yes to fox-hunting, no to gay marriage - can have a place in modern times" (Where Moggmentum goes next, 17/08/17). There must have been a "typo", with the capital letters and speech marks omitted! The Chaplin movie, made in 1936, certainly appeared at a time when such "values" might have had "a place", but there certainly would not be one on an election-winning Tory manifesto in the 21st century.
Mind you, if Tories want to choose Rees-Mogg as their leader, that`s fine with me. The sooner we have a Labour government, the better!

 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Full Guardian letter on schools

I was pleased to see a contemporary of Bowie, Howard Scholey, defending their old school, in the wake of Hanif Kureishi`s attack (Letters, 15/08/17). I taught for over thirty years in a comprehensive school in a deprived area, and whilst some pupils probably thought of it as such, it never deserved to be classed as a "shithole"; to be fair, some pupils would never have had the chance to witness what went on in the examination classes, or see the delight and relief on results` day. There were certainly numerous unruly pupils and many lessons disrupted, even a small number of "hopeless" teachers, but, like in Bromley I suspect, most were hardworking, not just "okay", and many colleagues were "inspirational".
 Hundreds of pupils did "progress to a university education", about a dozen to Oxbridge, so whilst many will doubtless still have unhappy memories of their school years, hopefully many more will not.
   Schools tend to get labelled, with local press and gossip not helping, resulting in the "label" being difficult to change. Had the school I taught in, for instance, not had such a reputation, many hundreds more parents would have enrolled their children there, and more students would have stayed on for A levels, improving the results and educational experience even further. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Independent letter on May`s holiday

A prime minister who goes back to work “almost four weeks after she began her summer break” does not deserve to be in office, taking the people she is meant to govern for what clearly is a ride.
Even worse, with so many crises developing both in this country and in the world in general, it becomes almost criminal for a democratically-elected leader to absent herself at such a time, and it now behoves parliament to pass legislation prohibiting such glaring unprofessionalism ever happening again.
Work is urgently needed to clarify the Brexit situation, caution is needed from the UK`s apparent “closest ally”, words of leadership are essential to deal with prison and midwifery problems, and policies need to be formulated on caring and health, education funding and so many other issues.
It matters not a jot that she is “a dead man walking”, or whether she has been told to stay away by party bigwigs. May is the Prime Minister and needs to do her job, or be replaced immediately.  

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Observer letter on Compassionate Conservatism

What Will Tanner doesn`t appear to realise is that, with the prospect of another election hanging "Damoclean-like over the Conservative party", it`s not only the "message which needs to change" (To win again, the Tories must become radical champions of fairness, 06.08.17). It cannot be only pro-Remain Tory voters who view the present group of leaders with distrust, especially as they display behaviour which not only has clearly far more to do with personal ambition than the electoral prospects of the party, but which contrasts sharply with the principled stance adopted by their Labour rival. 
     As for the Tories becoming "radical champions of fairness", there is more chance of Shergar being found alive and well! History shows that the Conservative party is based on preserving the wealth, property and benefits enjoyed by the wealthy, who in return become party donors. Businesses have their regulations reduced by Conservative governments so that they can make more profits, and in return, help to fund the party. "Fairness" per se has never been a Tory objective. Leaders like Cameron and May might well espouse ideas like the need to act on "relative poverty" and help the "just about managing", but the rhetoric found reality with austerity measures aimed at the least fortunate, and "burning injustices" being ignored.

   Does Tanner really expect the Tories to tackle "corporate excess", regulate greedy landlords, and increase tax "on unproductive parts of the economy, such as property", when so many Tory MPs, supporters and donors would be targeted? If there is such a thing as the ultimate oxymoron, it has to be "compassionate Conservatism"!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

2 Independent letters: Venezuela and Cable

How refreshing to read something sensible at last about Corbyn's reaction to the recent crisis in Venezuela, by Mary Dejevsky. Of course he was being set up by the right to "divert attention from the two main parties divisions over Brexit", and no matter what his response was, the Labour leader would be criticised.
What makes this so typical of the right's behaviour in politics currently is that little or no demands are made of Theresa May to denounce the atrocities committed every day by her allies in the Middle East or for her to pressurise the Saudis into stopping the bombing of Yemen.
Venezuela has, as Dejevsky says, provided the UK media "with a stick to beat Corbyn with", but the many opportunities offered by May's flirting with the likes of Trump and Erdogan are ignored.Sasha Simic's letter rightly stated that the media should be working to insist May tone down Trump's bellicose outbursts, but as she doesn't even keep her own Foreign Secretary sufficiently under control, there is no chance of her being a force for peace anywhere.

Sir Vince Cable’s desperation to win back lost Lib Dem voters has hit a new low. Claiming that the older Brexit voters with “views coloured by a nostalgia for an imperial past” have “shafted” the young really does take the biscuit, seeing as it was he and his Lib Dem associates who agreed to support the Tories’ austerity policies, which ruined the future for so many young people. 
Not only did their complicity bring about all the cuts and real wage decreases, it harmed the education of so many by slashing state school funding and ending the important Education Maintenance Grant, and, of course, is the reason for graduates leaving university with £50,000 debt.
The good news is that young people, as revealed by the last election, are more interested in politics than they have been for forty years or so, and most certainly will have “sussed” out Cable, his motives and his hypocrisy.

Morning Star article on Manipulation of History

The day after possibly the worst day in British military history, July 1st, 1916, the News of the World reported that the "day went well". 20,000 British soldiers had been mown down in the first hour of the Battle of the Somme. As Tuesday`s editorial mentioned, it was the wartime Prime minister, Lloyd George, who insisted the people at home "can`t know" the awful truth (Morning Star, 01/08/17). The trouble is the British people have not only been fed lies about events during wars, they have not even been told the whole truth about the country being at war in the first place. A list of British military engagements in the same editorial lacked completeness, with Vietnam and Oman notable absentees!
     An argument can be made for remembering the courage and bravery of soldiers, as happened recently with the men from both sides who fought at Passchendaele 100 years ago, but there is a danger that, if wars are only remembered for bravery, little will be learned. People need to be reminded of the politicians` mistakes which caused the wars, the nationalism which was glorified  through education, and which was embraced by the politicians, the atrocities which all sides committed, the appalling weapons and tactics of mass destruction which were used, and the misinformation which is always fed to the public to justify all wars. How many British people have ever been told, or have even heard of, the fact that poisonous gas, or to use its modern description, chemical weapons, were used against the Germans in the First World War? Indeed, wasn`t it a certain Winston Churchill who insisted on keeping these weapons for further use in the Middle East? Commemorations, like films, often perpetuate myths, rather than destroy them!
    The film to see this summer, apparently, is "Dunkirk", but even this focuses on bravery, fellowship and courage rather than historical accuracy. Nigel Farage has endorsed it, for goodness sake, for all "youngsters" to watch! The film ignores, for example, the fact that Britain had the backing of a global empire, and was never standing "alone", and omits any acknowledgement of the roles both of the Royal Indian Army Services Corps, who were on the beach and moving supplies, and the sailors from SE Asia and India who were on the British merchant vessels. French colonial troops at Dunkirk were conspicuous only by their absence, and apart from one crowd scene, white faces predominate. How is this country ever going to come to terms with the truth of its past if its major blockbusting films insist on historical inaccuracy?
     Books which do trim away some of the layers of mythology which permeate our history are available, however, for summer reading, and  people who read them cannot fail but realise how the distorted and manipulated version of our past plays far too an important role in today`s society. Britain`s "burning the historical evidence", recounted in Ian Cobain`s book, "The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation", was done for the same reason Special Operations Executive records on its "incompetence" over failing to protect its agents in France during WWII, "disappeared in a fire", as told in "Last Hope Island: Britain, Occcupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War", by Lynne Olson.      

      The conspiracy to indoctrinate British people that this country has a glorious past, to be remembered with "fondness and respect", and superior to all others, is shameful, and still continues, but another book, "The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us", by Keith Lowe, sets out to dispel a number of enduring myths. Using the experiences of those who lived through the conflict, Lowe refutes the idea that, whilst all Nazis were evil, the allies` moral purity won the day. Similarly, the belief, as most propaganda tells us, that it was essentially a European war is dispelled, with very effective evidence from, in particular, Sam King, a Jamaica-born RAF veteran.
     Let`s hope not only that the books become best-sellers, but that they start a trend for accurate history-telling.
      The UK`s so-called  "glorious past" actually refers to a time when the country`s wealth was created by the slave trade, piracy and looting, whilst native populations existed in a state of servitude, with atrocities and extreme acts of barbarity committed by British troops ensuring little or no resistance. Isolation was never a reality nor "splendid"! If ever we are to accept the veracity of our past, and if Germany can, it should be possible here, three changes have to be made:
 journalists and writers generally, must stop referring to the past in such terms as "Britain`s imperial glories", and her "buccaneering spirit", as they engender unhelpful images, and can contribute to ridiculous ideas about racial superiority;
 the vast archive of over 1.2 million files, which governments keep hidden from the prying eyes of historians at Hanslope Park must be handed over to the National Archives at Kew;
 the department of education has to insist on the teaching of accuracy whenever British history is delivered, with less reliance on so-called "facts", and more on analysis and evaluation of evidence, so that the students` use of "lacking completeness" can be highly rewarded. 
   Until all established beliefs about Britain`s past are thrown into question and the truth revealed and accepted, there is little chance of reducing the bigotry which permeates our society.
 

New Statesman letter on BBC`s gender gap

Helen Lewis rightly stated that the BBC`s justification for its "unequal" and unfair pay policy, that it "has to compete in the market", doesn`t "stand up to scrutiny", but she fails to tell us what the real reasons are (Out of the Ordinary, 28th July, 2017). Profligacy with the licence payers` money is one, but clearly idiocy is another: how can anyone believe, for example, that Match of the Day`s viewers would not watch the football highlights programme, if Lineker and Shearer were not on? Also, "outright sexism" is not a new phenomenon at the BBC, which far too frequently resembles a boy`s club for the privileged, rather than a public sector organisation, immune to parliament`s laws. Another cause is the presenters` greed; if they are not happy earning ten times the national average, a figure which is highly inflated because of the obscenely high earnings of people like themselves, they should be told to leave. 
       The most obvious ways to reduce the gender pay gap, not just that of the corporation, but of all businesses, are either for an earnings` cap to be set at £250,000, or for income tax to be 100% above that level. Politicians tell us how keen they are to reduce unfairness and inequality, so isn`t it time they put their legislation where their mouths are?

Guardian Review letter on Middle East

The excellent review of Jared Rubin`s book, "Rulers, Religion and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not", states that such "economic complexity" is explained with "clarity and concision" (Review, 05/08/17). Strange, then, that there appears to be no mention of the roles played by British and French governments in the area since World War One. Support, overt or otherwise, for autocratic rulers in the region, encouraging their accumulation of obscene wealth, as long as their oil flowed westwards, whilst the people they rule live in poverty, has to be regarded as an important a factor as the removal of "religion out of politics" in the west.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Guardian letter on need for dignitaries to speak out

Rather predictably, following Sir James Munby`s "blood on our hands" outburst, the NHS  "identified a bed" for the suicidal seventeen year old, (Bed found for suicidal girl after judge`s fury, 05/08/17) leaving him to claim, probably correctly, that NHS England would not have acted "as effectively or speedily" without his "outspoken warnings" (Judge`s plea as suicidal teenager is found refuge, 08/08/17). With new  crises being highlighted almost daily, the latest being the closure  of maternity wards, and pregnant women being "pushed from pillar to post", Munby`s example should be followed (Maternity wards closed 400 times as shortage of beds and staff grows, 08/08/17). At a time when the "austerity chickens" are coming home to roost, and Labour protests are not always getting the media attention they deserve, he cannot be the only dignitary to be appalled by the current situation; is it not incumbent upon all judges, archbishops, lords, and even some "celebrities" to make their voices heard. If the "brand" is indeed to be "reinvented", royals also could be doing more than "championing mental-health charities" (The royals, a brand reinvented by the millennial generation, 05/08/17).
    It is not only our MPs who should be feeling embarrassed by the huge inequality and unfairness which has been allowed to pervade society in the fifth richest country in the world!

Time to end the manipulation of our history

The day after possibly the worst day in British military history, July 1st, 1916, the News of the World reported that the "day went well". 20,000 British soldiers had been mown down in the first hour of the Battle of the Somme. As Tuesday`s editorial mentioned, it was the wartime Prime minister, Lloyd George, who insisted the people at home "can`t know" the awful truth (Morning Star, 01/08/17). The trouble is the British people have not only been fed lies about events during wars, they have not even been told the whole truth about the country being at war in the first place. A list of British military engagements in the same editorial lacked completeness, with Vietnam and Oman notable absentees!
     An argument can be made for remembering the courage and bravery of soldiers, as happened recently with the men from both sides who fought at Passchendaele 100 years ago, but there is a danger that, if wars are only remembered for bravery, little will be learned. People need to be reminded of the politicians` mistakes which caused the wars, the nationalism which was glorified  through education, and which was embraced by the politicians, the atrocities which all sides committed, the appalling weapons and tactics of mass destruction which were used, and the misinformation which is always fed to the public to justify all wars. How many British people have ever been told, or have even heard of, the fact that poisonous gas, or to use its modern description, chemical weapons, were used against the Germans in the First World War? Indeed, wasn`t it a certain Winston Churchill who insisted on keeping these weapons for further use in the Middle East? Commemorations, like films, often perpetuate myths, rather than destroy them!
    The film to see this summer, apparently, is "Dunkirk", but even this focuses on bravery, fellowship and courage rather than historical accuracy. Nigel Farage has endorsed it, for goodness sake, for all "youngsters" to watch! The film ignores, for example, the fact that Britain had the backing of a global empire, and was never standing "alone", and omits any acknowledgement of the roles both of the Royal Indian Army Services Corps, who were on the beach and moving supplies, and the sailors from SE Asia and India who were on the British merchant vessels. French colonial troops at Dunkirk were conspicuous only by their absence, and apart from one crowd scene, white faces predominate. How is this country ever going to come to terms with the truth of its past if its major blockbusting films insist on historical inaccuracy?
     Books which do trim away some of the layers of mythology which permeate our history are available, however, for summer reading, and  people who read them cannot fail but realise how the distorted and manipulated version of our past plays far too an important role in today`s society. Britain`s "burning the historical evidence", recounted in Ian Cobain`s book, "The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation", was done for the same reason Special Operations Executive records on its "incompetence" over failing to protect its agents in France during WWII, "disappeared in a fire", as told in "Last Hope Island: Britain, Occcupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War", by Lynne Olson.      

      The conspiracy to indoctrinate British people that this country has a glorious past, to be remembered with "fondness and respect", and superior to all others, is shameful, and still continues, but another book, "The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us", by Keith Lowe, sets out to dispel a number of enduring myths. Using the experiences of those who lived through the conflict, Lowe refutes the idea that, whilst all Nazis were evil, the allies` moral purity won the day. Similarly, the belief, as most propaganda tells us, that it was essentially a European war is dispelled, with very effective evidence from, in particular, Sam King, a Jamaica-born RAF veteran.
     Let`s hope not only that the books become best-sellers, but that they start a trend for accurate history-telling.
      The UK`s so-called  "glorious past" actually refers to a time when the country`s wealth was created by the slave trade, piracy and looting, whilst native populations existed in a state of servitude, with atrocities and extreme acts of barbarity committed by British troops ensuring little or no resistance. Isolation was never a reality nor "splendid"! If ever we are to accept the veracity of our past, and if Germany can, it should be possible here, three changes have to be made:
 journalists and writers generally, must stop referring to the past in such terms as "Britain`s imperial glories", and her "buccaneering spirit", as they engender unhelpful images, and can contribute to ridiculous ideas about racial superiority;
 the vast archive of over 1.2 million files, which governments keep hidden from the prying eyes of historians at Hanslope Park must be handed over to the National Archives at Kew;
 the department of education has to insist on the teaching of accuracy whenever British history is delivered, with less reliance on so-called "facts", and more on analysis and evaluation of evidence, so that the students` use of "lacking completeness" can be highly rewarded. 
   Until all established beliefs about Britain`s past are thrown into question and the truth revealed and accepted, there is little chance of reducing the bigotry which permeates our society.
 

Monday, 7 August 2017

Cable`s hypocrisy

Sir Vince Cable`s desperation to win back lost Lib Dem voters has hit a new low (Brexit: Older generation with nostalgia for Empire has "shafted" Britain`s youth, says Vince Cable, 06/08/17). Claiming that the older Brexit voters with "views coloured by a nostalgia for an imperial past" have "shafted" the young really does take the biscuit, seeing as it was he and his Lib Dem associates who agreed to support the Tories` austerity policies, which ruined the future for so many young people. Not only did their complicity bring about all the cuts and real wage decreases, it harmed the education of so many by slashing state school funding and ending the important Education Maintenance Grant, and, of course, is the reason for graduates leaving university with £50,000 debt.
   The good news is that young people, as revealed by the last election, are more interested in politics than they have been for forty years or so, and most
certainly will have "sussed" out Cable, his motives, and his hypocrisy.

 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Jagger`s "concern"!

It`s little wonder that Mick Jagger is so "politically" pessimistic about this country`s future. He clearly knows how easy it is for the rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and so deny the Treasury billions of pounds, causing what he calls "a lot of problems". Setting up camp in France to avoid tax in the early 1970s was followed by a tax avoidance scheme whereby the Stones` income was directed to the Netherlands. This apparently played a key role in their financial recovery, having the "satisfaction of paying £4m tax on earnings of £240m".
    How would the country manage at all without the loyalty shown by its celebrities who, almost all it seems, either pay for avoidance schemes, live abroad in low tax areas like Monaco, or set themselves up as companies so that the lower corporation tax is paid? Yes Mick, lots of us share your "sense of vulnerability of where we are as a country", which is why we won`t have to wait until next year until "these two tracks....mean nothing"!

Observer letter on Rawnsley`s bias

Andrew Rawnsley says that "everyone has lessons to learn from the general election", but conveniently has learned nothing himself about allowing his bias to dominate his writing (The Tzu Rule and other iron laws that always apply - until they don`t, 30.07.17). He couldn`t resist, for example, mentioning the "amnesia" that exists "about the number of howlers" committed by Labour during the campaign, even citing one, but listed none of the Tory "car crashes" caused by Gove`s forgetfulness over immigration, Hammond`s confusion over the funding of HS2, the costing of free breakfasts in primary schools, Fallon`s frequent errors, and, of course, Johnson`s utterings about anything.
  Rawnsley does admit Corbyn was a "more effective performer" than anticipated, 
and rightly says Labour must not be too complacent before the next election. He does, however, omit to mention that the expected "fiery scrutiny" the next manifesto will face can be countered by the addition to already popular fiscal policies of a financial transaction tax The fairness of making those earning over three times the national average pay more tax will have the electoral bonus of increasing the tax bill of financial institutions.
  Also omitted is the political advantage Labour will reap by listing the number of U-turns made to the Conservatives` manifesto since the election, the still hidden details of profligacy regarding HS2 and Crossrail 2 at the expense of the rest of the country, and the truth of the mythological Northern Powerhouse. 
   Rawnsley`s university History course will surely have involved the analysis of primary sources, but the detection of bias still seems to elude him!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Unpublished i letter on Birrell`s anti-Corbyn rant

What Ian Birrell apparently does not understand is that the millions of us whom he thinks are being "conned" by Jeremy Corbyn actually do not agree with the view that we currently have a "liberal economic concensus that has dominated our nation with such success for decades" (It`s amazing but true - Hammond deserves praise, 31/07/17). Does this "success" include the thousands of food banks in the country, the millions working on zero-hour contracts with little hope of prosperity, and the millions more living in over-priced rental accommodation with no prospects for improvement, those who have seen their "real wages" diminish, graduates with debts of £40,000 plus and aspirations blocked by ever decreasing social mobility, the victims of an unnecessary and callous austerity programme, schools and hospitals facing the future with reduced funding, and so on?
   Birrell`s unjustified scaremongering clearly shows he needs to get out more!

 

A history in need of facts

Ian Sinclair was right to take issue with the traditional depiction of events like Dunkirk which "inflates the British role and omits the unsavoury detail" (Morning Star, 28/07/17). Sadly, such management of the facts is typical of the way our history has been manipulated, in ways which glorify the role of British soldiers in war, exaggerate the enemies` atrocities, ignore events which portray the British far from the superior race many politicians like to imagine us to be, and in our domestic past, blame trade unions for the failure of business to increase productivity.
British people, instead of being allowed to know the truth of our country`s history, are refused even to see anything which might challenge the mythology of our"glorious past", and are fed crumbs of so-called secret history which have been denied to us for thirty or so years. Some "secrets" were released recently: a letter written in 1991 by the prime minister John Major to Mrs Thatcher about her poll tax, papers left by the British military governor of Spandau which advocated Hess`s release, and other innocuous Foreign office and Downing Street papers, including even the ones detailing how Churchill apparently tried to cover up the Duke of Windsor`s Nazi links, all illustrate the contempt in which governments held the British people.
  A 21st century government should not be afraid to share "secrets" with the electorate, which, let`s face it, have been treated like mugs for far too long. It`s time to repeal all legislation allowing state documents, unless their release would threaten our security, to be held in secret. Not only are we all adult enough to be told officially things about the royal family which are well known anyway, or that our revered war leader held racist views, or facts about Major fearing Thatcher`s wrath, we also deserve to know the truth about our history which is hidden from historians in the 1.2 million files locked away at Hanslope Park.

   Politicians all stress the importance of transparency, but few, if any, advocate  its use in transforming the way out history is viewed and taught. That is shameful, as almost certainly the more the truth is known, the more chance there is of  reducing bigotry and partisanship.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

BBC in need of a new pay policy

One does not have to be a Tory politician or a reader of the right-wing press to disagree with the BBC`s sexist and profligate pay policy, and conclude that the corporation "cannot be trusted with the public`s money" (After the pay furore, the BBC now has a chance to be a beacon for fairness, 23.07.17). As Will Hutton says, "dozens of broadcasters would jump into their shoes" given half the chance, and in some cases, a fraction of the pay. To assume hugely popular programmes like Match of the Day, or Wimbledon, would not be watched if there were no "star" presenters or pundits borders on the absurd. It is not difficult, therefore, to disagree also with Peter Preston`s opinion that "constructing any sort of pay structure that makes the remotest sense...can`t be done" (Female channel bosses who have earned top billing,23.07.17).
 A government which apparently accepts a reason for the Brexit vote being "too little being done" to help the "just about managing" should now be capping pay at all public workplaces, including the BBC. Fairness would be ensured with a pay limit for all management and broadcasters set at £250,000, almost ten times the average figure, a figure incidentally inflated by obscene levels at the top. This would have the additional benefit of freeing up revenue to fund a pay rise for production staff, without whom there would be no programmes whatsoever. The new pay policy should be introduced as soon as possible, with the names of those unwilling to agree new contracts immediately made public. Let them risk their careers with their own greed; they will have little sympathy or support!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Only one place for Northern Powerhouse

Andy Burnham should have realised by now, if not when Osborne first mooted it, that the Northern Powerhouse is not becoming "ever more distant", because it was simply an election wheeze dreamed up by the then chancellor to win votes for a Tory party that never expected to win the 2015 election Morning Star,25/07/17). At least, spending a mere £1bn on rail infrastructure in the north compared to over £100bn in the south should place that Powerhouse where it obviously belongs, in history`s bin! How long can the Tories continue to treat the voters as mugs? Are we expected to be grateful that although they cannot afford to electrify the Transpennine line between Leeds and Manchester, they will provide "bi-modes" which essentially use fossil fuels generally, but which can be electrified where the wires are in place. The biggest insult of all is that money can be found for London`s Crossrail 2 but none to improve the NHS`s efficiency, to fund properly our state education and care service, to increase the depleted pay of public sector workers, to provide safe housing for all, to improve the prison service etc etc.
   The whole affair should be another "open goal" for Labour so let`s hope the whole party wastes no time in attacking this duplicitous government. Expose them for their typical political chicanery. Why wasn`t the expensive Crossrail 2 in the Tory manifesto? It would be interesting to see how spending another £33bn on London transport would help the "just about managing"!


How dare Grayling attempt to con us with his claim that Crossrail 2 is both "affordable" and "fair to the UK taxpayer" (Fury as Crossrail 2 is backed after Northern plan ditched, 25/07/17)? Are we expected to be pleased that the government can afford yet another vanity project after committing to spend an unbelievable £55bn on the London to Birmingham HS2 line, when it says there is no money for the things that really matter? Why not fund properly the health and care service, state schools, the prison service and a social housing programme instead?

Saturday, 22 July 2017

BBC`s extravagant pay policy:

The broadcasting union, Bectu, is absolutely correct to say that it`s time "the BBC gave its low-paid production staff a pay rise", just as it is gratifying to read that a Labour government would limit public sector pay ratios to 20:1 (Morning Star, 20/07/17).
   What is absolutely clear from the corporation`s pay revelations is that the BBC has been, and still is, guilty on three accounts: profligacy, sexism and idiocy.
  The fact that it has been profligate with the licence-payers` money is obvious; rather than having a pay policy based on fairness, with no-one earning less than £20k a year, the BBC chooses to pay obscene amounts of money to its so-called "stars", who clearly should be allowed to go elsewhere, if their only objective in life is to acquire wealth. If the market really rules, why pay John Humphrys so much, when his only radio alternative employer is commercial, with limited audience and influence?
 The pay policy is sexist: twice as many men appear in the list of top earners as women; paying women less when they clearly do the same job is simply not on in any century, let alone this one!
 The idiocy comes with the pay for the sports presenters and experts. People tune in to watch the sport. Will they not watch Wimbledon if John McEnroe isn`t on? Do we watch Match of the Day in our millions to listen to the presenter tell us which match we will watch next, or is it because we really want to learn from the "expert" comments from men who played the game years ago? Of course not.

    In fact, would people stop watching "Match of the Day",  if there was no presenter or punditry, and instead, the highlights of each match simply followed one another, without the "expert" opinion? At least, that way would provide more football action, and the millions saved by the BBC could be spent on new programmes, new talent,  and increasing the pay for those at the bottom struggling to makje a living, and without whom, there would be no programmes at all!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Match of the Day

BBC salaries

The director general of the BBC insists that the corporation needs to “be competitive, but not foolishly”, but it would be very interesting to see how many people actually watch sports programmes to see and hear the presenters and so-called experts, usually long retired from the sport (Alan Shearer earns £450,000 a year for BBC punditry and Match of the Day).
In fact, would people stop watching Match of the Day, for instance, if there was no presenter or punditry, and instead the highlights of each match simply followed one another, without the "expert" opinion? At least that would provide more football action, and the millions saved by the BBC could be spent on new programmes and new talent.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Disgraceful pay award for teachers!

The news that the School Teachers Review Body has recommended a below-inflation 1% pay rise for the profession is unsurprising in view of a number of factors (May under fire as teacher pay rise held at 1%, 11/07/17). As Dan Poulter said, the government`s instruction to the so-called "independent" review panel was "to ensure that increases in teaching pay are capped" at that same level. A government which refuses to contemplate taxing wealthy individuals and corporations fairly, to contribute to the needs of society, was never going to consider alternatives, despite the typical posturing by the likes of Johnson and Gove.
   Similarly, this government lacks the economic nous to understand the benefit of paying public servants more when it leads to increased tax revenue and help for the local economy. Lacking, too, is the imagination to spread the pay rise proportionally, so that those on the lowest pay scales get more than 1% and those earning over £50,000 awarded less. It is at the starter level where most recruitment and retention problems lie, but the fact that most schools are either using agencies to recruit from abroad, reducing staff numbers and subjects taught, or using unqualified staff to fill gaps, clearly does not bother this prime minister. 
     This award, correctly described by Layla Moran as "an insult", will inevitably lead to yet more young teachers leaving the profession, and to thousands more rejecting the idea of entering it. The bottom line is that the UK currently has a government which simply does not care about state education.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Government`s refugee policy a disgrace

It is extremely sad when the British government`s policy towards refugees can be accurately summed up as "out of sight, out of mind" (Refugee policy is wrong and short-sighted, 09/07/17). Cameron failed to "see the bigger picture", and ignorantly blamed the UK`s "pull factor" for the crisis (Stop our shameful retreat from the world and share the refugee problem, 23/08/15), rather than the obvious "push factors" existing in Eritrea, Syria, Yemen and Libya, where crimes against humanity are committed every day, and there has clearly been no improvement under May`s administration. One of the first acts by this so-called "compassionate Conservative" was to stress to the UN refugee summit last September that people forced to flee their home countries "should seek asylum in the first safe country reached". May`s "humanitarian" policy also includes encouraging Somalis to return home to a country where thousands of al-Shabab terrorists are based, and which is under severe threat of famine, with an estimated five million people already suffering because of acute food shortages.
 Britain is not alone in the "immoral neglect of its international responsibilities", as your editorial rightly says, with most of Europe, "one of the world`s richest regions", also to blame. It does seem, however, that it is in this country where there is least cause for optimism, especially judging by the "stirring choices of artwork" currently adorning the offices of Fox, Davis and Johnson (Three leading Brexit ministers chase the spirit of empire in their choice of art, 02/07/17). Harking back to the UK`s so-called "glorious past", awash as it was with slavery, piracy, looting and atrocities, does not augur well for a change in what is clearly a "shameful" attitude towards fellow human beings,and a policy of which we should all be ashamed.

Understanding Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton frequently has expressed his desire to connect with his fans, but his failure to attend Formula One`s London parade displays a strange way of going about it, and one with which few will sympathise (Lewis Hamilton unrepentant for missing Formula 1 event days before home Grand Prix at Silverstone, 13/07/17). Opting to take a "two-day break" in Greece rather than reciprocate what he has called the  "incredible love" he gets from fans, he also chooses to live in Monaco, and actually calls "home" a ranch in Colorado 

    Hamilton says he wants to be "understood", and Wednesday`s booing might suggest that the understanding is increasing. When a multi-millionaire like him makes the decision to avoid paying tax in the country where he grew up, and which provided him the opportunities to develop his skills, he rejects the right to expect any support whatsoever!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Letter in Beatlesongs

Don`t ask me why but reading the review yesterday of "In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs" told me that there`s a place always, as Anthony Quinn says, " for something more " about the Beatles (Review, 08/07/17). For no one to notice that this book was simply written for money is unlikely, and it won`t be long before the taxman needs to act. Naturally, because every little thing about the boys in the end is analysed in detail, any time at all letters with song titles will be, too. As if!
  I fell in love with Beatles songs in 1963 so tell me why I`m not a paperback writer. I want to tell you my favourites, too!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Tories dig holes deeper

Personally, I love it when Tories are in a hole; I like it even more when they insist on digging it deeper!  Most recently, Michael Gove, best known for backstabbing colleagues and reforming school examination systems to favour middle-class children, announced that the Conservative party could use Momentum-style tactics to to get young people "involved in politics" (Morning Star,26/06/17). He appears to think that Tory policies, such as adopting fiscal policies to benefit the wealthy, doing nothing about the trillions squirrelled away in tax havens, and running down the NHS and state school sector, will appeal to younger voters. He is so out of touch, he probably assumes all young people aspire to join the local hunt, and would flock in their thousands to hear him speak at Glastonbury!
      Tories like him simply don`t get it! Corbyn`s popularity with younger voters stems from a party leader who is genuinely different from the politicians young people usually see. He connects with people, hugs ordinary people in distress rather than shuns them, and has policies based on fairness, aimed at reducing inequality and making the rich pay their fair share. Corbyn demonstrates that politics is for everyone, not something imposed on the populace by the government. He wants to see young people engaged in politics; Tories don`t, and Gove clearly doesn`t understand why - they won`t vote for a party which throughout history has been anti-worker and anti-poor.
       Just in case there is anyone in the country who still doesn`t think most Tory politicians are out of touch with the ordinary people, Lord Patten appeared on television last Sunday. Naturally, he was there to promote his book, but couldn`t resist the opportunity to demonstrate how people like him clearly reside on another planet! By stating that there is a danger that the Tories, in making a deal with the DUP, could make it look "as if the Conservatives have become nasty again", Patten ignored the fact that for seven years they have supported an austerity policy, which has hurt those least able to withstand benefit cuts, cut jobs, frozen pay for state sector workers, thereby reducing real wages, and introduced cost-cutting, threatening safety and lives. At the same time, hospitals and schools have had their funding massively reduced. Does it come any nastier than that? 
    Failing to vote for a Labour amendment to the 2016 Housing and Planning Bill, which would have ensured all landlords were bound by law to provide accommodation "fit for human habitation" adds to a long list of Tory action and legislation which cannot be considered as anything other than extremely "nasty". Promising to help the "just about managing", and then ignoring them in two budgets, and pledging instead to take away school meals from 600,000 children from working families; bedroom tax; benefit cuts for the disabled; etc.etc.
      It has taken a tragedy of immense proportions to get this government even to think about "health and safety", something which previously was seen as burdensome, EU-imposed, "red tape".
     And Tories fear they might be called "nasty" if they do a deal with the DUP to stay in power! Give me strength!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

"Feeble" Taylor Report

Despite the head of the review into the employment rights of workers, Matthew Taylor, stating that the low-paid "should not be stuck on the minimum wage or face insecurity", his report changes little (Official review "does little to help gig economy workers", 11/07/17). Rather than banning zero-hour contracts, Taylor simply says workers on such contracts should be able to "request fixed hours", with no compulsion for the employer to agree. Gig economy firms are not even required to pay the minimum wage for every hour worked!
    Theresa May might well call it "overbearing regulation", but without it, the exploitation of workers will continue.

Osborne in line for award

Yet again, you couldn`t make this up. Manchester University, an institution which is "currently planning to axe 171 jobs", has offered an influential position to a multi-millionaire whose arrogance knows no bounds, and who has so many jobs not one of them can possibly be done efficiently or conscientiously (Morning Star, 30/06/17).
  Even worse, this is the same man who masterminded the Tories` austerity programme from 2010 to 2016 with the aim of shrinking the state back to 1930s` levels, with all the reduced responsibility of government which that entails, to which the Grenfell Tower residents can sadly attest. Osborne should certainly be in line for one of  the University`s "Making a Difference" Awards, presented annually to staff and students who have made an "impact on the social well-being" of the community and wider society. There isn`t room here to list all those whose "social well-being" has been affected by the ex-chancellor`s actions, but a few include:
       the school pupils whose attendance at sixth form, and future hopes for A-level success were prevented by the ending of the Education Maintenance Allowance;
       those claiming benefit, including the thousands with disabilities, whose lives were damaged, and sometimes ended, by the then-chancellor`s severe cuts;
       state sector workers who endured repeated pay freezes, which led to recruitment crises, particularly in the teaching and nursing professions, and to huge reductions in their real wages;
       HMRC workers and inspectors who lost their jobs, but whose absence helped insure tax evasion and avoidance carried on enriching the wealthy, and depriving the Treasury of billions every year.
       local authority workers and inspectors who lost their jobs when councils, particularly Labour-run ones, had their budgets slashed by 40%;
       the millions of us whose health and safety have been put at risk because of the inevitable cost-cutting local authorities are still having to make;
       the rich, whose wealth Osborne allowed to increase hugely,and who refused to tax either efficiently or fairly;
       the people in the north of England who were fooled by Osborne`s 2015 election wheeze of creating a "Northern Powerhouse" at a time when polls were predicting electoral Labour success.
         Manchester University`s newest economics professor, someone incidentally whose degree was in History, certainly has impacted on the "social well-being" of millions of people in this country. One would have thought no institution, with any respect for the feelings of its staff, "consumers", or neighbouring locality, would even contemplate offering Osborne any position, especially one for which he has no obvious qualification, and to which he is so evidently unsuited. It`s little wonder that news of this broke when all the students had started summer vacation! 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Accepting history`s truth

The "stirring choices of artwork" which now adorn the offices of Fox, Davis and Johnson, suggest that their views on British history are as distorted as the ones they hold on the EU (Three leading Brexit ministers chase the spirit of empire in their choice of art, 02.07.17). Leaving the EU cannot take the UK back to its "glorious past", as they insisted in the Referendum campaign, because it does not have one. It actually refers to a time when the country`s wealth was created by the slave trade, piracy and looting, whilst native populations existed in a state of servitude, with atrocities and extreme acts of barbarity committed by British troops ensuring little or no resistance. Isolation was never a reality nor "splendid"; the truth, as Ben Quinn says, is "more complicated"!
    If ever we are to accept the veracity of our past, and if Germany can, it should be possible here, three changes have to be made: journalists like Quinn must stop referring to "Britain`s imperial glories", and her "buccaneering spirit" as they engender unhelpful images, and can contribute to ridiculous ideas about racial superiority; the vast archive of over 1.2 million files, which governments keep hidden from the prying eyes of historians at Hanslope Park must be handed over to the National Archives at Kew; the department of education has to insist on the teaching of accuracy whenever British imperial history is delivered, with less reliance on so-called "facts", and more on analysis and evaluation of evidence, when the students` use of "lacking completeness" can be highly rewarded. 
   The trouble is that most politicians appear content to perpetuate the mythology around Britain`s past, with the reason presumably being that knowledge of the truth is too dangerous? What could they be afraid of?

Friday, 7 July 2017

Labour and young voters

Despite admitting that "nearly two-thirds of voters below the age of 40" voted Labour, Felix Martin is strangely "sceptical" that any party is "anywhere close to an agenda" that can satisfy the concerns of the young (The young and the left, 30th June, 2017). He even says that discovering what young people want from their representatives "requires a bit of educated guesswork", when he actually provides ample evidence himself in later paragraphs. It is quite obvious that Labour`s proposals to increase taxation on corporations and the "richest 5 per cent" appealed more than the Tories` wealth tax on grounds of fairness, as the rich are rightly perceived as avoiding paying their fair share for far too long.
   That the "current alignment to the left" will dominate UK politics for the next twenty years is hardly the "worrying development" which Martin makes it out to be. The party which fails to have "fairness" at its policies` core will flounder; the one which promises selection at the age of eleven, and grammar schools, rather than the level playing field of equality of opportunity, will lose out, as will one which ignores the increasing gaps between the rungs in the social mobility ladder. Top jobs cannot be the preserve of the privately educated; unpaid internships cannot be allowed any longer. Obscene pay levels at the top, the provision of affordable housing and the ridiculous burden of student loans have been ignored by all parties for too long. The unfairness of Tory austerity policies, and the obvious failure to act on May`s rhetoric have not gone unnoticed.

  Labour has most definitely "devised a solution" to "intergenerational inequality", and the right ignore it at their peril! 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Not only the Lions "poking the bear": Gove

Again the question of Michael Gove`s planetary habitation has to be asked.
         Not only does he think and publicly state on television that May`s administration is ensuring "secure and stable government", obviously missing altogether the fact that the Tory party is embroiled in divisive debate over state sector pay, he also ignores the point that Britain`s provocative decision to withdraw from European fishing agreements will inevitably lead to international disputes, and even "a rerun of the Cod Wars of the 1970s" (UK plan to withdraw from EU fishing deal "endangers fish stocks", 03/07/17).
 It`s not only the Lions who are"poking the bear"!


An excellent editorial but what a shame it was seventy six days late (At last, Gove gets the right job, 16/06/17). It would have been more appropriate for April Fool`s Day! Still, political satire clearly is not dead. I especially liked the idea that Gove has "experience with boisterous unions", omitting to point out that his ludicrous decisions, always against the advice of experts, were the cause of the unions` annoyance in the first place!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Labour unity needed

"Faux battles", as Emily Thornberry says, are indeed the "last thing" Labour needs, and one has to question, yet again, Chuka Umunna`s motives (Labour urged to focus on toppling Tories rather than the "faux battles" over Brexit, 01/07/17). Why can`t he, like the rest of us, enjoy the fact that the Tories are in a huge mess, lacking direction and leadership, and under fire for the massive damage their failed austerity policies have caused?
 The "botched response" by the government has not been confined to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, with their opening Brexit salvos being ridiculed in Brussels, and their confusion over the public sector wage freeze simply adding to their anguish. Labour tactics until the summer recess should focus on displaying a united front, and capitalising on the government`s disunited one; plenty of opportunities for political gain will come, especially if Labour concentrates on the manifesto`s "there is an alternative to this" message, publicises the need for fairness to be introduced into the government`s proposal to continue to subsidise wealthy landowners, and waits for the inevitable car-crashes whenever Conservative politicians are asked remotely challenging questions in interviews! 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Report into Southern Rail flawed

It is little wonder that the author of the government-commissioned report "into the crisis on Britain`s worst-performing rail network", Chris Gibb, finds union action at Southern Rail "difficult to comprehend" (Southern tried to run too many trains with few staff, 23/06/17). Although he managed to meet with Southern owners Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Keolis 28 times, and with government agencies 48 times, an appendix to the report shows that he did not have one single meeting with the unions!
     It seems that cost-cutting, which clearly played a part in the Grenfell tragedy, also was the primary factor in the Department of Transport`s decision to award the franchise to GTR, because they made "the cheapest offer", with rivals having "too many drivers". Now the trend is to cut costs further by getting rid of guards on all trains, against which unions are rightly opposed. Do we have to experience a train disaster before the government comes to its senses, and insists, on passenger safety grounds, that all trains must have guards?

 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Teaching Excellence Framework: typical Tory nonsense

With the Tories` somewhat distorted views on education, the expectations of their "teaching excellence framework" were probably to enhance reputations of Russell group members, and cast doubt on the value of so-called lesser institutions (Elite universities given low scores in new table, 22/06/17). Basing rankings on statistics which have little to do with, as the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute said, "any meaningful assessment of teaching", the awards instead rely on results which often have nothing to do with how well students are taught, such as drop-out rates and graduate employment figures. 
         In fact, the results tell us more yet again about Tory governments which refuse to listen to experts, who have naturally "urged prospective students to treat the results with caution", and which are completely out of touch with the society they were elected to serve. It is little wonder, either that students call it "another meaningless ranking system", or that the University of Southampton is "appealing against its bronze award" ; it won`t be the only one.

Is it any wonder the Russell Group has said it "does not believe the Teaching Excellence Framework measures absolute quality" (Top universities not up to the new gold standard, 22/06/17)? Rather than assess the quality of teaching by actually observing lectures, these Tef gradings have been awarded using results based on student satisfaction, drop-out rates and graduate employment figures. How typical of Tory governments to ignore the advice of experts. Imagine if schoolteachers were assessed without being seen at work in the classroom!

Friday, 23 June 2017

"Biggest bribe in history" - as if!

It`s surprising that Simon Jenkins thinks that Labour`s "£50bn tuition-fee relief" to all graduates was "the biggest election bribe in history"(Where are we now? 16th June, 2017). Where has he been in recent years?
     In all of the elections held at least in the last forty years, the Tories have promised either massive tax reductions to the richest individuals and corporations in our society, or continued freedom for financial institutions to develop tax avoidance schemes without fear of serious punishment. As long as the rich voted Tory, they could continue to squirrel away their wealth in tax havens. Then there has been the raft of privatisations, guaranteeing huge profits for those wealthy enough to participate, but only available after Conservative election victories. Similarly, landlords have been promised freedom to raise rents, free in the knowledge that a Tory government would allow modern-day Rachmanism to flourish, leading to the appalling situation today,where many tenants pay as much as 70% of their earnings on rent. Older people have been bribed for years, not only with promises on pensions, but with pledges on their right to avoid inheritance tax. 
     Then, of course, the Tory promises to de-regulate, and allow developers to build or gentrify properties without rules insisting on health and safety taking priority, ensured profit maximisation, as did pledges to restrict the rights of unions to fight to improve the pay and conditions of their members.
 Some students will undoubtedly have been persuaded by Labour`s tuition-fee promise, but many more will have supported Corbyn because of his promises to reduce inequality, and return an element of fairness to our society. Perhaps Mr Jenkins would call that a bribe too?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Socialism with a human face - if ever there was a need

The editorial last weekend ended brilliantly by saying how the Grenfell fire "exposes a country with the wrong priorities, lorded over by a worthless elite who have nothing to offer" (Morning Star, 18/06/17).
     Successive governments have caved in far too easily to profiteering landlords, illustrated not only by Rachmanism again being allowed to flourish, and tenants being forced to pay extortionate rents, but by the way the coroner`s recommendations after the Lakanal House fire were not immediately enforced.  If we look back at the record of recent Tory governments, it comes as little surprise.
    For example, in January last year a Labour amendment to the housing and planning bill was defeated, with Conservative MPs voting against proposed new rules requiring private sector landlords to ensure their properties are "fit for human habitation". Then there was the Tory housing minister telling MPs  that the fire industry, "rather than the government", should "encourage the installation of fire sprinkler systems", because the added cost "may affect housebuilding".
     A change in government attitude, which is based not only on reducing cost rather than increasing safety, but also possibly on self-interest, with far too many MPs being private landlords themselves, is required before people will trust a Tory government`s housing policy again. Indeed, the fire raises similar questions about safety in government transport and energy policies, where cost-cutting and profit-maximisation also dominate.

    All governments have a moral responsibility, but May`s actions fail to reveal her understanding of this! Corbyn, on the other hand, looks more prime-ministerial by the day; the need for "socialism with a human face" has never been greater!


Gaby Hinsliff asks questions about whether "successive governments caved in too easily to profiteering landlords" (Grenfell - shameful symbol of a state that didn`t care,16/06/17), whilst your editorial finds it "very hard to understand why" the coroner`s recommendations after the Lakanal House fire "were not immediately enforced" (Grenfell Tower is shaping up to be Theresa May`s Hurricane Katrina, 16/06/17).
      Is it necessary to look further than the record of recent Tory governments? For example, in January last year a Labour amendment to the housing and planning bill was defeated, with Conservative MPs voting against "proposed new rules requiring private sector landlords to ensure their properties are fit for human habitation" (Tories reject move to ensure rented homes fit for human habitation, 12/01/16). Then there was the Tory housing minister telling MPs  that the fire industry, "rather than the government", should "encourage the installation of fire sprinkler systems", because the added cost "may affect housebuilding" (The tragedy in west London must bring lasting change, 15/06/17). 
 A change in government attitude, which is based not only on reducing cost rather than increasing safety, but also possibly on self-interest, with far too many MPs being private landlords themselves, is required before people will trust a Tory government`s housing policy again. Indeed, the fire raises similar questions about safety in government transport and energy policies, where cost-cutting and profit-raising also dominate. Hinsliff stresses all governments` "moral responsibility", but May`s actions fail to reveal her understanding of this! Corbyn, on the other hand, looks more prime-ministerial by the day; the need for "socialism with a human face" has never been greater!



Following one of the most horrendous fire tragedies imaginable, which was probably the result of using "the cheaper, more flammable version of two options" to clad Grenfell Tower, we read that safety groups want to ban the use of combustible materials in the construction of buildings that "firefighters cannot reach from the ground" (Calls for ban on combustible cladding panels on tall buildings,17/06/17). So that would mean profit-hungry tenant management organisations could carry on using the cheap and dangerous cladding on all their properties up to ten storeys, with further risk to life? It is quite feasible in these days of over-stretched emergency services, that fire-engines would not reach an inferno blazing in a moderately tall building in time to save all the inhabitants. For the sake of a few thousand pounds!
       The regulations should be quite clear: no combustible materials should be used to clad any building, regardless of their height. As Theresa May infamously said, albeit about another subject, "Enough is enough"!