Thursday, 24 April 2014

Making Room

Another of our self inflicted problems at the moment is what we call the housing crisis.  In the late 1940's there was a severe shortage of homes and one approach was to encourage emigration.  For some, notably orphans, it was deportation.

At the time it was claimed by certain experts that the population problem was one of the factors.  These days, despite having a rather larger population suggestions that this might be an issue is frowned on for many reasons.

One factor is that that the expectation of life has risen so more live rather longer.  Despite the efforts of some NHS services to curb this trend the numbers still rise inexorably.  I really should have bought shares in zimmer frames, wheelchairs and walking sticks.

The latest reports suggest that soon there were be not enough immediate family members to support the aged and not long later there will not be enough available labour to care for the rest.  There are no plans for any radical increase in either care homes or lesser residential homes.

Economically, once day to day housing was regarded very much as consumption because of its nature and the impact on ordinary family budgets.  Nowadays, it is assumed to be largely investment because it has become not just a store of value or has value in use, it is expected to yield a significant rate of return on outlays.

To add to our troubles housing has been a key political issue for some decades leading both to short term fixes and creative accounting in government budgeting.  We may have lost sight of the wood for the trees.  So for many reasons the complications of rapid building are leading us down other roads.

Rebuild rather than new build is one approach.  In the case of the linked article it is applied to London and the more intensive use of existing areas whose older properties are either worn out or have become places to shun rather than to shelter.

There are now parts of London where unplanned use and additions to garden and other areas have made extra room but with the dangers of creating areas of semi-shanty towns.

There are different needs for some that go against the grain of that of the majority with their ideas of individualism with singles, partners or nuclear families in separate little boxes.  There are those for whom the extended family is the norm and the proper way to live.

But this is not modern living as most of us understand it and when before there have been hints of imposing on families the reactions have been strong.  We pay our taxes so the state should do the job, despite the taxes paid not being half enough to cover those costs.

One important feature of building and housing is that we have forgotten the effect of differing forms of tenure and ownership in property.  Additional to this is the muddle we have over leaseholds.  At one time leases were the usual holding, it was during the 20th Century that we saw the shift to freeholds.

The consequence was that when leasehold streets reached the end of the then relatively short leases the way was open to major redevelopment.  There were downsides to this, notably the deterioration common into slum conditions as the leases came close to their end.

Last but not least is what we can afford.  Because so much property is now part of speculative finance and sometimes unoccupied as a result the market is being skewed against the ordinary buyer.  Also, as a financial operation the charges have gone up as well, adding to cost and credit issues.

It is difficult to see much improvement.  Another economic crash might do for the prices but it might make it impossible for more people to afford what housing might be available.  America has been a stark example of this.

It is yet another key area of life, politics and policy where few understand what is happening and fewer realise the serious consequences of potential extensive failures in both the market and in social provision.

How London Lost The Scots

Another day another rant.  Today we are told that, officially, the Cornish are a minority.  It depends on what you mean by Cornish, assuming that all those distant urban second home owners are not and perhaps the retired from here and there. Or are they now?

Also, the mothers of some of one minority group are being urged to discourage them from going to Syria to fight for a cause and then returning to carry on the fight here.  Today, London is no longer "English", it is a collection of minorities as are other urban areas, The gang disputes, some armed, are part of the scenery. 

Currently our media is spending a lot of its non celebrity time and coverage on the centenary of the outbreak of the The First World War and what followed it.  In the context of the coming Scottish Referendum they would do better to look back fifty years and after.

On the web there is footage of the 1968 disbandment of The Cameronians, the 26th Regiment of Foot which has no successors.  It was a moving and very sad occasion when one of the finest and proudest regiments of the line was scrapped without one leading figure of the government showing up.

This was part and parcel of the Wilson government's Army reorganisation which was ill thought out and botched; done in haste and with little awareness or recognition of the role played by many regiments in their local communities, notably in Scotland. 

Inevitably, it was a blow to many and to what the Union really meant.  The whole business was a Westminster farrago done to balance the books, or rather unbalance them in a different way.  There was little consultation and less attention paid to wider considerations.

Not to be out done, the successor Conservative government under Heath looking at the problems and financial state of many local authorities after inflation decided that the easy answer was a large scale reorganisation for 1974.  It amounted to a revolution of local government and health services coupled with a strong dose of centralised control.

Much of it made little sense in England or Wales and even less in Scotland.  One major feature lost in the Westminster smog was the particular and different nature of community and administration in Scotland where there had a strong tradition of local awareness and management.

The entry into Europe was a Westminster driven project, how far this has been good for Scotland or not is arguable.  It has not been good for the Union as governance and law has shifted to Brussels. Also, I recall, the UK once had a thriving fishing industry given away by London.

After 1979 the Conservative attempts to reorder and redefine the economy and the world role of the UK was London centric and weighted to the South East of England.  One part of the failures of that period was the effect of the unlucky takeover of the National Union of Miners by Scargill and his Yorkshire cronies.

Personally, I have little doubt that if Mick McGahey, with whom I was acquainted, had become President, for all his Left wing beliefs he would never have made the mess that the Yorkshire mob did in addressing the needs of the coal industry.  The backwash and consequences of that impacted with severity in Scotland.

If you add to that the knee jerk reorganisations of the Conservative years and then the creative destruction of the Labour Blair and Brown era you are left with the diminishing number of those who do vote having a profound distrust of politics and politicians and a disenchantment with a London centred and obsessed media.

Where that vote will go and to what purpose may well be to parties other than those of the longer past.  In Scotland, often it is to the SNP.  If London has little or nothing to offer them Brown's appeal to save the Scottish Labour Party will not be enough.

In 1914 it was a dangerous and unpredictable world in which blinkered and aggressive elites collided in a war that should not have happened which changed both the maps and societies. 

In 2014 we are in a dangerous and unpredictable world where what might start as a local crisis or squabble in any of the unstable areas could turn into something worse.

In London we have governments that know little and understand less and more and more without counterweights from across The Atlantic Isles to correct the balance of power.

The picture above is where my flesher ancestors once killed the beasts before the Royal Burgh built an abattoir in the mid 18th Century.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Friends And Neighbours?

The news that a pub called "The Saxon Shore" in Herne Bay down in Kent is at the centre of a row because it used the Union Jack instead of the flag of St. George on 23 April, St. George's Day, is another cobblestone on the road to the Scottish Referendum.

The whole issue is now into the realm of a Neverland of fantasy, imaginative storytelling and a world far removed from reality.  Alex Salmond decided to reprise his role as the Tinker Bell fairy of politics by venturing south to Carlisle while David Cameron was off somewhere being a less than convincing Peter Pan.

For those uncertain of the meaning of Neverland, Tinker and Peter go to Wikipedia.  All this was once the stuff of childhood in the days when we all needed to be removed from reality as often as possible.  Those days may be about to return.

After decades of stoking up resentments, picking fights and indulging in quasi racism against anything English and taking as his model the dynastic and tribal atrocities of the past Salmond has suddenly turned coat.

He now proclaims, mindful of the marginal voters, that all will be well on the divorce and we will be a happy couple, friends and neighbours, living in the same social housing in a sharing new relationship.

The Union was born in 1603 in a political and economic shambles with the accession of King James VI of Scotland to the throne of England during a plague epidemic; the previous monarchs of England having slaughtered many of the other possible candidates.

A century of upheaval and strife in Europe and Britain led in 1707 to the union of the parliaments with the Scottish elite essentially buying into the expanding English empire, renamed British.  Again it was a time of political and economic shambles.  Broadly, it was religion, money and Empire that kept the show on the road.

If anyone thinks that this separation or divorce is going to be friendly, easy and all done and dusted in a couple of years or so then it will not.  There are all the makings of a long, nasty, dispute ridden, costly and dangerous continuing political crisis.

This is not because it is a purely local matter.  It is of interest to too many others with interests and with a stake in the eventual outcomes.  To expect to be free of outside interference or complications is to be both naive and very stupid.

To add to that it will all happen in an uncertain world riddled with economic and financial weaknesses as well many locales at risk of flaring up into violence and conflict.  Because we are now prisoners in a globalised world where the money flows are out of our control.

Our politicians would all do a lot better to tell us what could be coming and the costs.  This is because we are not just going into one Neverland, there are too many parallel ones.  The EU is one, the United Nations another and there are many of them that we are connected to.

What happens if we cannot borrow our way out of the consequences?  Will we find ourselves being ruled directly by Commissioners from Brussels, or the UN and the cohorts of the IMF?

Monday, 21 April 2014

Young Dogs And Old Tricks?

This blog is dated as composed on 8 May 2010.  The extent to which it was right or wrong is left to you.


The present uncertainties arise for a number of reasons.  Our new crop of youthful members of parliament has grown up since the late 1980’s.  There are some remnant old stagers around as well as those on the Left who burble incessantly about Mrs. Thatcher.  This seems to be their modern fetish in line with the worship of antique pop groups. 

Back in the 1950’s I do not recall us wittering on about Ramsay Macdonald or paying good money for 1920’s ballroom dancing melodies.  As for dancing the Charleston, I mean my Dad did that and well who wants to do that kind of thing?

For all of her media dominance and thrust of her personality, Mrs. Thatcher still presided over a party of many parts.  It was a coalition of one kind, unluckily because of the electoral system with some bits missing that should have been there. 

Old Labour always was a coalition where the Methodists traded uneasily with the Marxists, never mind the rivalries of the many trade unions. 

Nowadays, but not then, you will find the boilermakers in with the collective of sex workers and a bundle of local government personnel and shop workers as in the GMB, yes dear reader, I am a member of that union, it is a long and strange tale.

Under John Major the old Tory party began to disintegrate and despite the efforts of its publicity people is still fragmented.  The difficulty now is that under the Great Leader concept of party management the old checks and balances have gone and it is very messy. 

New Labour has abandoned its traditional base to build up a client base by huge spending in the public sector.  It has created a new middle class who are not so much consulted as directed by media and modern management techniques and whipped along by bonus payments and target setting. 

The BBC is a case in point.  The dictatorial nature of Old Labour originates amongst the extreme Left groups that so many of them belonged to whose intellectual inspiration was East Germany.  The Liberal Democrat’s began as a coalition of sorts, essentially the dissatisfied meeting the disorientated. 

Bits that might have remained have dropped off, as Greens and such, but they have become a raggle taggle bunch of camp followers who can see only Europe as the future and Britain as an off shore base for good intentions for the world who will take no notice.

In office New Labour took advantage of its position by the process of “creative destruction” which has been very effective on the destructive side but very bad on the creative.  They have certainly created unsustainable debt and expenditure levels but not much else. 

The only people with whom they have compromised are the money men and the big spenders.  For the rest of it they have steam rollered Parliament, dismantled the old civil service, the Foreign Office cannot even be civil to The Pope, and have created a web of entities and activities too big either to control or to co-ordinate.

In short none of the three major parties has any real experience of the nature of discussion, manner or management of a real coalition situation and of their members few have either grown up or been obliged to conduct any serious business or work in negotiation to achieve the results needed. 

It is quite literally like putting not so much the lunatics in charge of the asylum as the predatory animal packs in charge of the zoo.

Historically, at different times and in different places similar situations have arisen before and the results are not happy ones.  In some cases the political entities just disintegrate as a whole, in others one form or another of absolute government occurs, perhaps after a period of bloodshed and misery. 

Occasionally, the state concerned just staggers on from one disaster to another.  Lastly and all too often the state goes off the map as it is taken over by outsiders in one form or another.

Is anyone taking bets?


Will this be a winner or loser?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

What's In The Papers?

In the past, even recent, the trade of history writing was done by people who accessed old records and writings and then presented their findings in varying ways.

There were those who stuck to what was there in the documents some trying to allow for faults and any unreliability.  There were those who used this information for analysis on a limited scale.  The there were those who had grand theories and ideas about the sweep of history.

One reason we had to rely on them was the sheer time, effort and trouble that goes into the research.  This could be immense if trying to disentangle scattered papers or if it meant long and worrying trawls through piles of it.

With increasing digitisation of records it is now possible to do some things very quickly and at the touch of a keyboard.  One area that I find fascinating is in the digitised newspapers where with a little skill you can call up vast amounts of reports very easily.

Chasing events and names not just through a limited number of London based national papers but around what comes up from local sources is proving fascinating.  The perspective of major events seen through local eyes is one aspect but the coverage of local interests takes us into the detail of a world that has gone.

Looking for a name from the past revealed surprises.  The assumption was that he was someone of minor interest.  To find him alongside the great and the good and part of his local elite, aristocrats and all.  But one way to look at what was going on is to go down the lists of names to see who was where doing what.

A choice example was the Salisbury Infirmary or Hospital.  Established and based on entirely voluntary contributions its local board attempted to provide medical services in a district that was thought to be of too small a population to support such a facility.  The board and associated committees were not simply local businessmen or such.  Those involved included British aristocrats, gentry, local businessmen and the branches of many mutual organisations for the working class.  

In the late 1930's it was clear that the need to expand was there but against this was an increasing and worrying deficit.  So in came one of the Royal Family, Princess Alice of Gloucester, wife of Prince Henry, third son of King George V, for a state visit in 1937.

There was a huge turnout of everybody who was anything with public and major ceremonial, crowds lining the streets, troops on parade and the whole bang shoot.   A nice touch was when posies where given to the Princess on behalf of the mutual societies they were presented all by girls named Alice.

Following through into 1939 what was striking were the many reports of activity and preparation for war at local level in several ways early in the year.  Whatever was going on at national level the local authorities were doing a great deal to be ready and on their own initiative.

Near 80 years on this kind of melding of national figures, local figures and the people across the country is not just unthinkable today but impossible.  The dead hand of centralisation and big government allied to big media has crushed the life and meaning of local affairs and government.

It is only by seeing directly into the past that we understand how much has been lost never to be regained.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Wandering Thoughts

There are a number of blogs that often do a set of links either as a main feature or as an adjunct.

Today is a day when the old mental faculties want a rest, so this device is being used.  Do not seek to find a common meaning or message.

I once impressed a group of politicians by telling them I had been selected as a random sample for my opinion.

Another bubble another bust is what Zero Hedge is telling us about the US housing market and there are the signs of slippage there that resemble the 2005 situation.

An issue forgotten at peril from the LSE is about the complexity involved in being a member of key international organisations now vital to the function of a modern state.  It may not be enough for Scotland to send blue stained serial killers wielding claymores to murder those in the way.  The one I liked was having to set up a Patents Office from scratch.

My brain hurts is a medical one suggesting that in another complex system, the human body, gut problems may be very much involved in what goes on in the mind.

The Class War is not over from a fellow blogger puts me in my place but the Monty Python clip is worth the time.

Something to sleep on tells us we are not alone in our basic wants and desires.

There is a cup of tea issue which needs resolving.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Is It Going To Rain?

Last winter it was fair to say that here in the UK we had an inundation.  We were assured that it was due to a curvy jet stream and this did not happen very often. 

Also, there are other stories of how it could happen, one being pollution in the Pacific doing things to temperatures and air flows.

Curvy Jet Steams are nothing new in an article in Science Daily and have happened before.  The article is longish and covers a good deal of research ground but tells us that weather shifts and associated climatic fluctuations are the norm.

The one dealt with around four thousand years ago is from a time before mankind really went into carbon making, we think.   

It may be if this was a time of population growth needing more land to cultivate more forests were burned but that may well have not been enough.

Which raises the awkward question that if indeed there are real changes on the way it may not be mankind it could be whatever else Earth has to throw at us.  What if the idea of change is right but the cause different to what we think?

Population depends on crops.  Crops depend on weather.  Weather depends on air flows and sea temperatures.  So are the air and sea affected by population or not?