Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Auntie Beeb.

With the feeding frenzy surrounding the current plight of the BBC subsiding a little, perhaps the time has come to take a slightly more sober examination of the circumstances which have arisen. I think it would be true to say that the BBC is the envy of the world given the vast array of services on offer, the innovative programmes on offer and the cutting edge investigative journalism which is undertaken.

Despite this expertise there has clearly been a series of mistakes made recently that have placed the organization, rightly, under public scrutiny. Without going into the individual aspects of the recent cases involved there does appear to be a common element of poor management interwoven within the processes  of the programmes affected. Furthermore, in an organization concentrating on communication, why was it so poor in operating as a team when a crucial issue arose. It beggars belief that no senior colleague saw fit to "tip off" the then Director General of an obvious serious issue that was emerging. Hardly surprising that the chap appeared to know precious little about the subject when interviewed the day following. Who would turn in a good performance when wrong footed in such an extreme fashion?. Overall it does seem likely, stemming from his long experience, that he would have been  a good front man in what is clearly a demanding job requiring huge resources of resilience, calm and resolve.

Behind the obvious public faces we all see from time to time there appears to be a phalanx of senior individuals whose personal concerns more relate to survival, self progression and postioning as opposed to selfless teamwork. Perhaps a set of circumstances has now emerged where a clear-out of such "grey suits" is undertaken, rigid lines of responsibility created and an insistence made that conferred responsibility is fully accepted. From an outside viewpoint it certainly seems the management system is in complete disarray and was probably never fit for purpose to begin with!

As far as the Trust is concerned, is it appropriate that a unanimous decision from that body resulting in the appointment of an individual  whose period of tenure was "allowed" to be brief , at best, should be left to recruit the next incumbent to the position of Director General when they so conveniently and ingloriously allowed the previous role holder to depart the job. A little bit of attention deflection or reputation retention perhaps?  I hold the view that the recently departed DG would have subsequently made a good fist of the job had he been given the luxury of sufficient time to do so. With such a tangled web of incompetence wallowing below the surface it may well be that he's well out of it. Time will tell.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Storms, climate change and akin matters!

With the horrendous realities of the recent devastating events arising from Storm Sandy continuing to emerge in the United States and recent memories of flooding in the UK still being vividly evident a number of questions begin to arise that warrant examination. In fact , far more serious examination, given the implications of climate change , sea level rise and the increase in serious storm events.

Recent years has seen some examination and debate in the UK about built development within flood plains, the projected frequency of flood events and the implications for insurance coverage. Within that period too, some serious problems have occurred  at home and abroad and badly affected the lives of too many people as a consequence. The final effects of the most recent event in the USA has yet to be fully realised , but appears likely to be almost beyond imagination.

I am sure much will emerge with hindsight and a great deal of comment and discussion arise. It seems to me that New York will need to review a whole series of issues connected with their precise circumstances, one major one of which must surely be to examine the extent to which built development can be allowed again within the curtilage of the badly affected areas.  Indeed, it seems to me we have all reached a point where all Governments need to delineate areas where, from now on, no development will take place, whatever the potential periodicity of damaging events. Some Governments in Asia will no doubt find this impossible where, for example, agriculture tales place on a seasonal basis with families moving in and out of given areas. I believe we need to recognize that these devastating events will continue to happen and debate about flood defences, insurance coverage, future premiums and emergency service provision are merely superficial elements of a bigger problem that we have yet to properly address. Obviously with developments already in situ such services will continue to be placed under pressure, but more effort should be made to gradually reduce the potential effects and misery which can arise.

Draconian, maybe? But the alternative is to realise that planning regulations cannot ever possibly accommodate the needs of keeping nature at bay. Flood control barriers, or similar measures, might reduce effects with differing levels of success, but the cost of these is immense. Whilst undoubtedly we need to consider such measures to protect existing areas where crucial development has already taken place, surely the most sensible future policy is also to ensure no future development occurs in wide areas that are likely to be at risk.  We need to recognize that allowing a presence within areas at risk is not addressing the problem and that we now need to create a threshold beyond which the events of the past are not exacerbated by our own planning controls..

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Savile's shame!

With the number of accusations relating to abuse increasing by the day, with the BBC mired in internal enquiries and the Nation shocked at such horror occurring under its nose,  the stories associated with Jimmy Savile  look set to continue for some while yet. Disgusting, unforgivable and something from which a whole series of lessons should be learned.

Savile , without doubt, was a complex character. He had worked in a coal mine, was caught in an underground explosion and suffered injuries to his back. Later he would become a wrestler, take part in the Tour of Britain cycle races, manage a dance hall and participate in endless Marathons. He'll best be remembered , I suppose , for his TV programmes, but even these were operating in parallel with his charity fundraising activities, his  providing assistance in various health establishments and with promotional campaigns.  Remember the "Clunk, Click" seat belt films on television?.  But all of this was accompanied, it would seem, by a more shady background of activity involving the physical abuse of vulnerable people he came in contact with.

His once extensive celebrity reputation is already tarnished beyond any retrieval, whatever future details might report. His family has taken the very brave decision, in my view, to have his gravestone removed at the cemetery in Scarborough and other references to his involvement or residence at various places have similarly been taken down. There is a call to withdraw his knighthood and to wind down the various charitable enterprises with which his name was directly associated., all of which, again, are eminently sensible in my view. The reportage coming forward leaves it very unlikely this dreadful episode is in any way wrong or defensible. What should, therefore, happen from here?  Enquiries will continue and a final picture determined at some point. Whilst the dignity of those who suffered should be recognized and protected,  I feel strangely uneasy about there being a succession of compensation cases, as I suspect there are many for whom such a prospect is either remote, impossible or just too painful to contemplate. That he should be vilified by us all is not without doubt, that he should be "rejected" by the Nation and his carefully stage-managed reputation set aside is something I feel far reaching moves be made on. Obscurity is too good an indictment!

As a Yorkshireman myself, the fact that he was one of Yorkshire's sons, born in Leeds, and laid to rest in Scarborough, I suspect will not go down well with many. Yorkshire can be a bit like that, but it begs the question of whether an almost Old Testament type interpretation , and corresponding "sentence" or action should  be considered. I guess the Scarborough Local Authority will be exercised by the thought of future indiscriminate actions by a repulsed minority occurring at the cemetery they administer. The family has already moved strongly on this very point , but perhaps further action might be necessary and his remains moved elsewhere to an entirely private location.  Despatched to the wilderness and expunged from history, although doubtless a Wikipedia entry will remain!!    

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An enjoyable, topical read!

Whilst I've not had much opportunity to keep this Blog up to date in recent months I'm resolved into making the effort to getting it up and running again! With discussions ongoing about the possible route Scotland should seek to follow in the future being in the news I have, a little mischievously, given details below about a book I would recommend people reading.  It's a novel, not a text on the opposing arguments surrounding independence or the need to maintain the Union. It's actually a thriller, set four years after Scotland gains independence amidst the country suffering from growing unemployment and civil unrest. I won't reveal more and spoil the experience of a good read.

It's an absorbing page-turner of a book that provides some very intriguing observations associated with the implications of independence. It's fun too to put various current" personalities" in the role of certain characters in the book, which I would urge everyone to read. Michael Shea was the Queen's Press Secretary for ten years, a position which obviously provided him with a unique opportunity to see national matters at close hand.  Read and enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Why were they ever accepted anyway/

I don't know about you, but I'm getting increasing irritated by this Greece business. Why on earth were they ever accepted in the first place into the EU and, Thank God, our politicians have had the sustained resolve to avoid similar membership.

Given a nation state within which it was a "tradition" to avoid taxation, proudly declared by its peoples and the responsibility actively ignored, begs the question of how the country could ever construct a buoyant economy. With high unemployment and a somewhat limited number of primary economic constituents, how could this country ever be considered to compete or contribute within this idealistic construct?  Was it even fair on Greece from the beginning?  The European Ministers who initially approved such membership, raised aspirations  and created what now is an unholy mess, will undoubtedly be volubly justifying their flawed decision making abilities behind a curtain of waving hands and indignant self importance. The EU. a major, ill conceived dream in my view, essentially flawed from the beginning and something that should be overhauled in as short a time as possible. One hopes that these officials will work hard to  minimise the effects of the fall out which will inevitably accompany the withdrawal of Greece from the EU.

And what of the debt already accrued?  One hopes the country, which so eagerly accepted the bail out sums, will now do the honourable thing, assume its inevitable ( chosen? ) independence and repay its debts however hard that might be. To ignore such responsibilities will make it the pariah of Europe and face the consequences of an unsympathetic set of past neighbours who will possibly turn their backs on the wonderful tourism opportunities we've all enjoyed from time to time!  In many respects , a great shame and not all to be blamed on Greece either!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Grand National......a grand occasion?

For the first time in years I actually watched the Grand National last weekend. The build up, the interviews, the parade of horses was, at least, certainly pleasant viewing. I began to understand the sheer beauty, strength and strange majesty attached to the horses as they were displayed or walked past.And then the race. Forty runners of which only fifteen finished. Two horses having to be despatched due to the sheer difficulty of immobilising them when in treatment. It took the shine off the whole occasion for me and made me reflect on whether we could do better. Instead of trumpeting the magnificence of Beechers Brook or The Chair perhaps we should concede that the challenge that the race provides for many of the horses is just not worth the risk. After all , these beasts are some of the best!

It made me reflect also on what would be our attitudes if we set up the "fences" in the steeplechase event at the forthcoming Olympic Games to impossible heights and caused accidents to the competitors. Outcry, inquiries, protests and undoubted change!! The thought that anything should happen as the pressing mass of people approach the start in this coming weekend's London Marathon might similarly cause some reflection!  Could it be that there's more than a little extra concern exercised toward such occasions?  Could it be that the Grand National involves animals and money?  No, not entirely because I imagine the owners of the unfortunate horses concerned are absolutely devastated and had every belief beforehand that their animal was capable of the challenges to be faced. So what is it? A spectacle that's gone a step too far? I'd like to think so and that good sense and a love for horses might yet get the mix right.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Greenest Government ever!

First of all , many apologies for the somewhat tardy usage of this site, or my responsibility towards its usage. Time restraints have dictated an absolute paucity of time available to complete posts and follow up stories. Apologies!

Now, the current Coalition Government and its claim, via David Cameron's statement some time ago , that it would be the Greenest Government ever. What a joke! Clearly he didn't reckon on his Chancellor ( wee George ) and his apparent paranoia with anything associated with the environment, indeed he appears to display a pathological hatred of the concept involved in its recognition.  Threats re the planning system, the apparent emasculation of Natural England via budget reductions, suggestions the environment somehow constrains economic development and other indications suggest the claim to be hollow. Nothing more! An empty vessel holding no promise of sustenance or regard.

So, what to do about it? It has to be tackled head on, not just grumbled about. It has to be taken to the "Centre".  It cannot be a concept that the Conservatives, or the Coalition, should be allowed to get away with.
In the upcoming Local Elections every opportunity should be taken to question candidates what their policies and intentions are towards environmental matters. It's not actually the expressed content that matters, and received in return, but the fact the subject is being put before them and seen to be a concern. It's necessary and it's important! More importantly it's immensely relevant to ensure the subject is given true prominence within the upcoming considerations before the General Election.  A bit ahead maybe, but now is the time to start otherwise anyone who has some affiliation with the environment and our natural heritage will witness the situation get worse, unless concessions are gained, and the Labour Party are, equally, convinced of the electorate's concern.Thankfully the Tories are their own worse enemy at present and one can't really see them succeeding in the future. The utterly important aspect is to ensure whoever succeeds them is fully aware of the expectations of its electorate as far as our natural environment is concerned.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Emissaries from the west dispensing Francosense and Mer (kel ).

Be it in the wealth of historical myths, actual history, archaeological remains and artefacts or in the initial activities which led to our modern day Olympics, Greece has been in the midst of world history for a long time. As with many nations , the rise and fall of good fortune appears inevitable at various stages of history, and so it seems with Greece.

It's membership of the Eurozone has brought challenges, hardship and , now, the distinct possibility of expulsion by payment default ( a state of affairs that may be an all too common feature of the present partnership of countries involved! ).  It possibly begs the question of whether Greece, and even others , ought ever to have been accepted into membership in the first place!! Whilst the politicians, the non-tax paying populace and others have all been blamed for the current situation the fact remains that Greece may never be in a position to actually pay the increasing debts with which it is being encouraged to burden itself.  The recurrent arrival of wise emissaries from the west bearing gifts of Francosense and Mer (kel ) with cries of " Lo, where is this sick child to whom we must offer financial succour in times of need ?"  does little to alter its predicament.  Figures I've unearthred suggest the unemployment level of the young is 48 % and the debt burden overr GDP is astronomical verging on the level of impossible as far as liquidation is concerned.

It also seems that there is no formal means of withdrawal from the membership  ( almost like a Direct Debit you can never cancel!! ) , the source of which is our own Foreign Secretary, William Hague.  Perhaps this was a feature which was overlooked  at the beginning, but is assuming an ever important profile given present circumstances. Given the overall circumstances would it not be sensible to explore a dignified, sensible alternative for Greece that minimises the effects on all ,as opposed to allowing this charade to continue. It's like the stranger offering sweets to get in the car outside the school gates.......it'll all end in tears!  Whilst the ECB has offered out funds this week to inject flexibility into the various economies, the reaction of several of the successfully bidding banks for these funds has been to place such funds on deposit and, as a consequence, make money. Naivete or greed, or incompetence and a willingness to ignore the need of the collective team message! Whatever the situation, Greece may be loathe to admit the extent to which it's in an extreme depth of "do da" and to try and continually sort out a situation of which the odds are impossible in the extreme. The country needs help  in facing a disaster and withdrawal from an international partnership it can't fulfil its obligations to at present. This is like offering a sub prime mortgage to a country you know is going to have to throw in the keys at some point. Is that responsible ?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What do Tories really believe?

Watching the BBC News mid morning today I was both amazed and amused to hear a Tory MP claim the underlying reason for Burger King's withdrawal from the Government's Work Scheme was because of communist inspired action! What era are they living in?  Whilst I'm sure there are left wing activists around with motivations linked to past times, such statements are a bit anachronistic at best! Later his factual assertion that the scheme didn't involve principles of slave labour was perhaps less of a gaff and more an unfortunate choice of description.  What we need to realise was that the individual concerned, doubtless a loyal and efficient MP, used to be an aide to David Cameron and, later, was his Press Secretary before Andy Coulson.

 It was also reported by the BBC that the actual withdrawal by Burger King was a consequence of representations from the public and that a meeting was to be held next week within Government to examine the misgivings of various business organisations with the scheme.

Perhaps all this might lead to Burger King offering new lines....the Moscow Mega or,even, the Putin Platter!

In later editions the BBC chose to first of all edit the piece and ,then, leave it out altogether.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Extradition under the cosh?

The extradition arrangements to the USA enacted today associated with Christopher Tappin raise a whole raft of questions that I guess people will continue to debate for some time.  Mr Tappin is accused of making batteries available for export that could then to be utilised by Iran for use by their missiles, an investigation which was carried out by the FBI. Under the Extradition Act 2003 these reciprocal arrangements have been in place with the USA, and others, and have already been the subject of review with no major elements being suggested for alteration. So far so good.
Unfortunately the whole subject appears to be being interwoven with righteous indignation levelled at plea bargaining, orange jump suits, terrorists , the need to fund one's own defence and the type of jail accommodation involved!  If there is sufficient justification and reasonable grounds, after examination by the Home Secretary, for an accused to be extradited to a country with whom we have arrangements then the transfer proceeds. Prior to this, as we have seen recently, other decisions, based on Appeals, can affect and delay this process, but once these come to an end the physical transfer of the defendant basically means one is under the jurisdiction of the country concerned. Some of these, America included, take a much "harder" view of matters than do we and jump suits, costs and jail accommodation may be part of this. Strangely, few comments have been made in this latest instance on the details of the case, which the accused refutes and asserts he is the victim of  an FBI "sting" operation. Time will tell and I dare say that, if the case is proven, many of the protests will die away until the next time! On the other hand, if Mr Tappin is innocent then the whole of this process needs to be more seriously reviewed by the UK Government to, in particular, avoid the extradition of persons accused of  crimes against which questionable evidence is being utilised. Mr Tappin's lawyer maintains no real evidence forms the basis of the case and the whole process appears to be tenuous at best.

Leaving the moral and legal elements aside, I think we need to better appreciate that ,sometimes,  other countries take matters of security much more seriously in an overt sense than do we. We largely appear to rely on MOD signs politely suggesting entry is forbidden, ratcheted up to chain link fencing if there is a serious need to prevent access. Extremely sensitive sites are undoubtedly guarded, as they should be. Some years ago when leading a birdwatching tour in Tunisia I had the whole bus load of us arrested, plus the driver and guide, for literally being in close proximity to a radio transfer station that army personnel were "guarding". The whole situation was thankfully resolved on site,  but I recollected the case of enthusiasts watching aeroplanes at a Greek airfield who were arrested and then had to fight their case. By contrast, we provide, or certainly don't object to, "viewing points" at various of our military airfields from which hobbyists, armed with binoculars and cameras, can indulge their interests. I've seen such a gathering of observers at Leuchars, but noted an obvious absence of such at Lakenheath where, of course, there is an American interest. So even here, we have differing standards operating. I realise such is a far cry from the  provision of items on a commercial basis which can then be used by other regimes for their own military purposes, but such serves to highlight the differences in attitudes and culture which exist and subjects over which, sometimes, serious incidents can occur.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A lot of cackling going on!

Last weekend the company, North Face, was castigated in the press for using down feathers from geese  that were part of an intensive farming enterprise in Hungary producing  foie gras pate. The geese are force fed three times a day using large quantities of corn mash which, in effect, is injected into their throats using a power hose.  This has the effect of  fattening them rapidly and enlarging their livers , which are the basis of the pate. An utterly repugnant practice in my view, which,thankfully, is banned in the UK and several other countries.

The North Face products are used by many, including their padded jackets sometimes sported by our very own football managers and BBC reporters and by some well known celebrities worldwide. I've used their products myself and they are good, of good quality and do the job. In fairness I suspect the feathers came cheap, as a final by-product from the hapless geese, and probably were sourced through some intermediate agent enjoying a substantial mark-up in the process. However,the North Face Company could have done better in checking out the provenance of its materials and deserves to pay the inevitable penalty that will be applied by a discerning public.

However, nowhere , but nowhere in the outpourings was any criticism levelled at those whose exercise their indulgence , pay an exorbitant price  for the privilege  ( £25 for two slices at Fortnum and Masons was quoted in an article ) and ,seemingly, have no thought for the suffering involved. In my view the only way to stop the misery is to ban the sale of the products , ban imports at point of entry and close down the whole operation. Is this not what the European Union ought to be acting on instead of concerning itself with the dimensions of toilet seats or some similar pointless exercise?  I suspect the "industry" has some staunch supporters!!  Enter the  "Oh la la " brigade, whose culinary excesses know no bounds and who have doubtless been feeling the pinch since the eating of Ortolan Buntings whole was outlawed!!  I sometimes wonder if this is the world I want to live in.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Water, water, everywhere!

As I travelled home from Inverness on Monday it was hard to believe that DEFRA had drawn together agencies and interested parties that very morning to talk about a water shortage, if not the possibility of drought in central and south eastern England. It rained virtually all day, roads carried pools here and there and the journey circumvented various large lochs.  Now it seems to me not to be beyond the wit of man to consider, at the very least, the possibility of moving water from areas of excess supply to those areas in difficulty. We move gas across half of Europe for our consumption, and oil and gas out of the North Sea from areas half way to Scandinavia, we move oil from the Arctic southwards and across various deserts,  and yet we continue to bang on about about water shortages in the UK when there's a veritable ready supply on the doorstep. I'm sure a quick call to the  Salmond Water Supply Company would secure supplies and an end to the problem for all time.
But is the problem greater than it appears? Is not one of the dimensions that, with five year terms of government, eyes are persistently turned to securing the next term in office, and lulling the voters into supporting some short term idea, rather than indulging in proper long term planning regardless of who is in power? Or is it the "lets form a committee to look at the problem" syndrome?  All this coupled with a persistent policy of expanding housing and facilities in the South east simply compounds the difficulties.  Fingers taken out ( of the dyke wall !!! ) might release  a better flow of ideas perhaps?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Water crisis in Britain.

It's seems a bit improbable that reports of water shortages might be a reality in England later in the year given the recent snow and rainfall which has occurred , but there you are.  Yesterday I wrote to Tim Yeo, MP, Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change  and my own MP, Alan Reid, at Westminster and asked if the following had been pursued.

Whilst it's ten years since I lived in South Yorkshire I seem to remember dry summers were accompanied by the water levels of upland reservoirs being drastically "drawn down" and them displaying large expanses of exposed silt. Many of these reservoirs in both western Yorkshire and nearby Lancashire would have been constructed over a 100 years ago and so the accumulated volume of such material will not be inconsiderable.  The carrying capacity of these particular reservoirs will have been reduced accordingly, some quite drastically. I suggested a progressive system of deliberate draw down might be considered and the silt removed. Such "fines" might even have a commercial use and value for gardening purposes ( ought I to have patented the idea!!! ) !!

Whilst it may be all such ideas will have been considered by the utility companies, it's obviously worth raising given the repeated worries expressed each year which appear to get earlier and earlier in each calendar cycle!!!