To Candlemas & Beyond

Melanie McDonagh is a writer on ecclesiastical matters and this week she was advocating the extension of the Christmas season beyond the usual twelfth night (January 6th) to Candlemas (February 2nd).
Her reasons are simplistic but valid.
It’s been a rough old year, what with the pandemic and everything that has gone with it from the furlough, to working from home to being on benefits and possibly not on benefits.
Her suggestions this year include foregoing a dry January and forgetting the so called Veganuary.
Now is not the time for abstinence.
This year, we need cheering up. People have died, businesses have gone under, we can’t meet our friends. This is no time for abstinence. It’s a time for embracing a cheering drink – in moderation. There are moments you need just a little inebriating uplift, and proper food. That time is now.
Abstinence in January is rubbish any year. When the outside is depressing, you want to make inside as cheerful as possible…and that doesn’t mean a diet. It’s still Christmas. We need all the comfort we can get.
But why stop on the February 2nd?
February brings us Valentine’s Day on the 14th followed by Shrove Tuesday on the 16th. Even Lent can be manageable as it is suspended on Sunday’s and on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th). Easter (April 4th) gently leads us forward to Pentecost (May 23rd). After which is full throttle until November, when we remember the Holy Souls and get ourselves in trim for the next set of Christmas festivities.
So, let’s ditch dry January and put Veganism in its place.
Melanie McDonough’s article may be found on: http://digitaleditions.telegraph.co.uk/data/462/reader/reader.html?social#!preferred/0/package/462/pub/462/page/68/article/117613

Poodle Councillor of the Year

It’s not too late to nominate the Poodle Councillor of the year.
Alastair McCraw, Babergh & Mid-Suffolk’s chair of Scrutiny gets my nomination.
His comment (EADT 21st Aug) that it was not the job of his committee to delve into the accounts of the Council’s property company indicates that he and his committee felt able to discuss the results of the Council’s endeavours without seeing the formal accounts of the company.
Had he reviewed the formal accounts, he would have seen that the auditors have revalued the property portfolio downwards as at 31st March with a note that the revaluation included material value uncertainty as a result of the pandemic meaning that less certainty and a higher degree of caution should be applied to the valuation than would normally be the case.
In other words, the situation may be worse than the figures suggest.
Moreover, he would have also concluded that the revenues may have been overstated as they include rentals billed but not paid. Indeed, rentals not yet paid are treated as debtors (current assets).
So, there is possibly a double whammy of overstated profits and unrealistic current asset values.
The Joint Scrutiny Committee could have teased out all these issues and taken an informed view.
There may be a case of muddling through to see what happens, but that requires the people who perform oversight and scrutiny to fully immerse themselves in their responsibilities.
Alastair McCraw self-confesses that he doesn’t do this.
He is the Council Executive’s ideal choice as Chairperson.
As such he is well qualified to be Poodle Councillor of the Year

Alternative Reality

A correspondent in the East Anglian Daily Times recently suggested that the outgoing head of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, might have made a better Prime Minister than Boris Johnston.
A reasonable statement you might think, except that Carney has never submitted himself to a General Election, and I doubt that the electorate would take to an economist as the head of their Government.
A better comparison might be if Johnson had lost and Corbyn had come into power. Would it have been like the times when Corbyn was causing Haringey to be one of the least efficient of London boroughs without any ambitions to make life better for the majority of its residents?
So, whilst the correspondent may dream of an alternative reality, I’ll stick with my current situation where my life may not be perfect but it is far better than it would have been had Boris had lost his election.

A version of this blog posting was first published in the EADT

Council Taxes & Precepts: Clarion Call

Often, the best form of defence is to get one’s retaliation in first.
I am aware of at least one council discussing raising their Council Tax impositions without any mention of the needs of their electorate or the effect of the rises upon their residents
We need to tell local councillors at Parish, District and County levels telling them that as residents and tax payers we do not wish to see any increase in the council taxes levied upon our households.
We know that many businesses have suffered in the past nine months, we know that people have been furloughed and are on reduced incomes, we also know that many families relying on casual work whether in the hospitality sector or otherwise have seen their personal finances devastated.
Budget decisions are due next month, but before then we need to tell our Councillors that any increase in the Council Tax this year is unacceptable.
It’s time Councils reviewed their expenditures into three categories: Luxurious, Nice to have and Need to have. The last category getting the first bite of the monies.
For example, the last time I looked, Suffolk had seventeen officers and senior staff responsible for internal and external communications. I have excluded from this number those persons concerned with Customer Services, Web and Digital Transformation. Those seventeen could not all be performing essential tasks relating to the proper stewardship of our monies.
Every council and organisation has its own little pockets of waste and extravagance. Even after years of austerity they can still be rooted out and the monies returned to the tax payer.
A version of this blog was published in the EADT on 26th December 2020

Deep Secrets

Let me declare an interest. I first met Willie (and Ann) Salmond in Uganda in September 1990. We interacted on and off through to 2003 when I left Uganda for the last time. Among other things Willie Salmond was the country director for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s program in Uganda. He is also a Presbyterian minister, has three grown daughters and is resident n Newport CT.
Willie’s foundation in Uganda was one of our target customers when I was with Standard Chartered Bank and we secured his banking business by knocking fifteen days off the time taken to get monies from his US headquarters to Kampala.
We even collaborated on the viability of small sunflower farms to enable aids sufferers to achieve a modest level of financial independence.
So, it was with much pleasure that following an Amazon recommendation I read Willie’s latest book “Deep Secrets” which takes place in Connecticut, Washington and Uganda. It is a very enjoyable and informing read. The story is grounded in today’s reality of Covid, Al Quaeda and Aids. It is also about the strong bonds of family, forgiveness and resolute purpose.
As always, I read it first for narrative and local authenticity. I am now rereading it again for deeper insights as to characterisation of the key players from Central Bank governors to the “shamba” cultivator.
Even after seventeen years I can still recognise the people, their strengths and abilities to rise above misfortune.
If you take nothing else from this book, you should remember two things. First the daily prayer “Lord, please surprise me”. Second, that Arabica coffee from the Mt Elgon region of Uganda is first class and is the only coffee I know which becomes sweeter and more flavourful as it oxidises on becoming cooler.
I wholly recommend this book for an entertaining and worthwhile read.

Resetting the Clock

In November a correspondent of the East Anglian Daily Times suggested that we should improve our negotiating skills and apply to rejoin the EU.
This pie in the sky thinking has still not disappeared and presupposes that the EU would reset the clock to 2016 before we had the referendum.
Our negotiating position since the referendum has been consistently undermined by the Remainers and their Quisling-like supporters in the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties. Both parties undertook to recognise the results of the referendum. Subsequently, the Lib Dems announced that they would not recognise the result at all. Labour in the form of their Shadow Foreign Secretary (Emily Thornberry) announcing that they would renegotiate the Brexit agreement and campaign against its acceptance.
What the two parties should have done is to recognise the people’s wishes and work towards the best possible outcome instead of continually trying to denigrate our country and reinvigorate project fear.
This is why the EU felt that it could offer us a deal worse than they have with Japan.
And what if we did rejoin the EU?
Sterling would be subsumed into the Euro at a disadvantageous exchange rate. Our economy would become as sclerotic as theirs (unemployment in France pre Covid was over 8% ), our agriculture would be disadvantaged through the Common Agricultural Policy and we would doubtless be required to make a massive contribution the EU structural deficits and recovery funds.
From Day One after the referendum, we have appeared weak because of the noise coming from those who think they know better.
Now is the time to get behind our Government and show the EU that all parties support the wishes of the people and that we should be treated as the independent sovereign country with appropriate and friendly relations with our neighbours.
A version of this blog was published in letter form in the EADT

Not Just the Fish

One of the responses to my letter to the EADT and my posting here (Ils Sont Nos Poissons) tried to wave away the fish argument in the Brexit negotiations saying that the number of employed in the industry was less than those employed by the Arcadia (Top Shop etc) Group of companies.
It’s not just the fish. Admittedly, there are larger parts of our economy under threat, but the fish are merely the outward sign of a much more important issue.
No country can claim that it is “sovereign” if it doesn’t control its coastal waters.
We were in this situation in the ninth century when King Arthur was beset by the Danes. Again in 1066 when we were invaded by the Norwegian armies of Harald Hardrada and Tostig. Later in 1066 we lost control of our waters for the last time for over a thousand years when William of Normandy landed. And, we all know how that ended.
We have been paying the equivalent of Danegeld to Brussels for far too long and it’s time we took back control not only of our waters but our institutions and our economy.
That’s why the fish matter!

Winter is here for some

In 1986 Christopher Andersen published his book “The PO PO Principle”. Basically, it was a survival guide to office politics so that you could avoid being p**d on and p**d off.
No such good fortune was available to Ipswich’s Parks Department employees who are to be laid off as part of a budget cuts programme (EADT Nov 26).
Once again the Socialists in charge demonstrate that they talk about an even society whilst at the same time kicking the ladder away from those on the lower rungs.
What was The Leader of the Council, David Ellesmere thinking of?
If you want to save money in Local Government then you reduce administrative staff costs and other overheads.
If you do not have direct contact with the public or are at the front line of services, where is your value added?  Where are our Councillors who are supposed to protected us from executive excesses.
Instead of strategic thinking, Ellesmere and his cohorts act like WW1 generals. Never putting themselves in the line of fire, but forever sacrificing those who have few alternatives.

Ils sont nos poissons

It would appear that the French are still not happy with just controlling their half of the English Channel or La Manche, they want all the fish in the sea.
But Macron is no Charles de Gaulle and Boris is no Edward Heath.
On the 21st October we celebrated Trafalgar Day to commemorate the fact that 215 years ago we defeated the French and resolved once and for all who should rule the waves around Great Britain. Macron is no Napoleon either, despite his bluster.
They are our territorial waters and the French should look elsewhere.
Why are my Bremainer counterparts not supporting Macron? If the deal on offer is that good, they should be vocally supporting it and inviting French trawlers to station themselves in Dover or Douvres as they would rename it.
As always, Britain’s difficulties are seen to be France’s opportunities. But, this time around it’s not a case of “No, No Nanette” but “Absolument Non! Mr le President”
A version of this article was published in letter form in the East Anglian Daily Times on October 23rd


Bolshevik Roots

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In an earlier generation, during the grouse season the final Earl of Sefton was having lunch in the Jockey Club rooms in Newmarket. Cold grouse was on the menu. His Lordship ordered one. ‘Terribly sorry, m’Lord, there are none left.’ ‘But it’s barely one o’clock.’ ‘Yes, m’Lord, but the Duke of Norfolk is giving luncheon to the Queen and her party in the private dining room. There were only a dozen grouse, and he’s taken them all.’ Sefton banged the table. ‘That sort of thing breeds bolshevikism”
Courtesy of The Spectator Nov 27 2020