Category Archives: Politics

VirginPure - a Solution to a Problem that Doesn't Exist

Virgin Pure – a Solution to a Problem that Doesn’t Exist

TL;DR Tap water is great, buy a reusable bottle and drink with pride.

In the Oracle shopping centre in Reading over the last few weeks there has been a pop-up stand for Virgin Pure which, to quote their website is “the smart appliance that dispenses unlimited pure water, hot or chilled, at the touch of a button. Instant triple-filtered water for a healthier lifestyle.”

I took exception to this and took to Twitter to say so:

My objection is that here in the UK we have some of the cleanest tap water in the world. We can drink from the tap safe in the knowledge that there is going to be water available and it will be safe to drink. Contrast that with other places in the world. The United Nations in 2012 estimated that “783 million people, or 11 per cent of the global population, remain without access to an improved source of drinking water.”

Virgin Pure is a solution to a First World problem.

This isn’t an attack on Virgin Pure, they just happened to be in my way with their pushy salespeople trying to tell me how pure their water was like I should be disgusted by my tap water. No this is me calling out the bullshit in this and all bottled water sellers praying on people’s insecurities.

Save yourself from this marketing hype, buy yourself a reusable water bottle and drink the tap water that you pay for anyway. Oh and donate to ensure everyone no matter where they are also has this choice:

https://www.wateraid.org/uk/donate

Right Policies, Wrong Person

To date I have kept well out of the debate on the next Labour leader but now that I have received my £25 vote I am pitching in.

I will be voting for Owen Smith. Not that I think that he is the best person for the party but because he is, in my opinion, marginally the better of the two put in front of me.

I like Corbyn’s policies but I just don’t think he is the right person to deliver them and to be leading the party to win an election, which is what it is all about after all.

This video sums him up for me. Like it or not today’s politics requires you to be media savvy. Corbyn is not. He was luke warm during the Brexit campaign and now there are legitimate questions to be answered about his conduct he wants to not answer them.

Corbyn_angered_by_train_row_questions_-_BBC_News

Despite my vote for Smith I strongly suspect that Corbyn will win but, again in my opinion, he cannot deliver a general election victory for the party and that is what really matters. He cannot appeal to the sorts of people he needs to – the general voting public and not just his fervent supporters who will get him back in.

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish(ing Quotas)

So I awoke early on Friday morning and was disappointed to discover that leave had narrowly won and it seems we are out of the EU. I wasn’t the only one to be disappointed as the pound and the stock markets dropped significantly on the news. I’m glad that I’m not picking up my pension anytime soon…

Since the vote Britain seems to have become a very different place. I don’t just mean in the way that the pound has plummeted, the stock markets are in free fall, the major opposition party looks about to self destruct and that it could precipitate the break-up of the union. No, I am talking about the people on the ground. The ordinary, normal people who have become very different animals in the last few days (myself included I should add). People who would politely post family pictures on Facebook and others who would comment how marvelous they looked are now locked in increasingly heated debates about the rights and wrongs of Brexit (again, myself included).

What is even worse is that the vote seems to have made some people think that it is now absolutely acceptable to be openly racist. When did ticking a box on a bit of paper suddenly allow all humanity to be thrown out of the window? Except, perhaps, that immigration was for many the underlying reason that they voted to leave in the first place. They could be in for a very nasty surprise as we negotiate our EU exit and find that in order to trade with other member states that we have to accept freedom of movement and pay AND don’t get any say in the laws. This is summed up nicely in this graphic stolen from the Independent:

Cl9oxPLWQAAwVj4

So, in summary, there are some pretty horrible people about and I feel thoroughly depressed about the future of the country.

In, Out, Shake it all about

So tomorrow is the time for us all to vote on the future of the Conservative party. June 23rd is your opportunity to decide their fate once and for all as that is really what has triggered this vote – factions in the tories that have spent years arguing over Europe.

In truth the conversation about whether we should be in or out of Europe seems to come down to one single issue – immigration. To be clear here we are talking about recent immigrants from the continent not the inbound immigration that has been taking place over hundreds of years. Chances are you’re not British if you think you are, see the video below. I know I certainly have Germanic ancestry.

The thing about immigration is that people try and wrap it up as concern for the fragile resources of the UK. The fact of the matter is that immigrants from the EU make up a tiny proportion of the population and are more likely to be in work paying taxes than an indigenous person. If you would like to run through the numbers take a look at this post.

One argument made is that immigrants are taking jobs from British workers. With unemployment at an 11 year low I think that this can be safely discarded as a reasonable line to take. In fact many of the over stretched services, such as education and health, are only running at present because of workers from outside the UK. Without them who would teach our children? Who would nurse us when we are sick? Who would pick fruit and vegetables from the fields? And who would do all the jobs that UK workers don’t want to do?

It is obviously clear that I will be voting to REMAIN but whichever side of the argument you fall on if you do nothing else make sure you VOTE.

And remember, once the decision is made, there is no going back…

If the government thinks it’s a good idea why are we voting on it?

So our copy of “that” leaflet arrived this week and no amount of petitions or Eurosceptic postmen was going to stop it arriving. I wouldn’t say that it was a right riveting read but it made its case clearly and concisely and in big print which is always welcome for me these days.

In my case it was preaching to the converted of course but it did get me thinking that if staying in is so obviously good that the government supports it why are we voting on it?

The answer, of course, is that this has got nothing to do with us voting public and everything to do with David Cameron trying to get the dissenters in his own party to pipe down and we are caught in the crossfire. That’s not to say that a significant proportion of the electorate don’t want out. The current polls show that it really is 50:50 – not that polls seem to be a reliable bellwether these days.

Whatever the outcome it is going to be horrendous. Somedays I just want to curl up in a ball and hide until it is all over, which, if the out vote wins, could be ten years or more. What sad little isolationists that would make us.

The Big Short

I don’t think that I have ever written about a film I have seen before but I am moved to do so by a trip to the cinema this week to see The Big Short. If I am honest the premise for the film – the 2008 financial crisis – wasn’t one that sounded like a great start for a nights entertainment but I was swayed by the great cast and positive reviews. 

For those that just want to know what I thought of the film and want to avoid the political diatribe (TL;DR as the youth say) I greatly enjoyed it and would rank it as one of the best films I have ever seen and I urge you to see it too.

The film follows a group of financial traders in the US that spotted trouble with the sub-prime mortgages that were being packaged up and sold on with a AAA rating when they were clearly crap. I over simplify and this is one of the issues the film had – how to make the complicated subject of the financial markets understandable for the average watcher. They managed this by occasionally taking a break from the “action” and have some “celebrity” explain in lay-mans terms. I say “celebrity” because they were people I had never heard of but it served its purpose.

The cast was great and Christian Bale was superb and he deserves the Oscar nomination he received for the part. However, I was really confused. Nobody seemed to be playing the part of Gordon Brown or any other member of the Labour government that was in power at the time. Where were they all?

I had been led to believe by the Tories and the UK’s right wing press that the collapse of the financial markets was the work of the Labour government and Gordon Brown, as architect of the downfall, was the villain of the piece. But all the cast had American accents (even Rafe Spall and almost Karen Gillan) not a Scottish lilt to be heard (well apart from Karen Gillan who had trouble disguising hers).

Of course all the words from the Tories and the press was just BS and it was incredibly well played helping the Tories get into power but the truth, as ever, is very different.

You should go and see The Big Short as it is an excellent movie but even more so if you have swallowed the BS from Conservative central office hook, line and sinker.

Worried about Jeremy

I make no secret about my political leanings but if you were in any doubt this post will dispel them.

There always seem to be problems with electing leaders of the Labour party. Last time out, in 2010, Ed Miliband out manoeuvred his brother David by gaining the backing of the unions to get elected. David wasn’t the only one to be unhappy with the result and the party changed their rules for the next selection process. Under the old system votes were weighted a third to elected members (MPs, MEPs etc), a third to party members and a third to unions but this was changed to be a more democratic one member one vote.

The race for the leadership eventually boiled down to four individuals: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall. Three of whom seem (to me) to be Tory-lites and lacking in very much substance and Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn was different in almost every way, unconventional with ideas that weren’t very “New Labour” at all and for whatever reason resonated with the voting members and Corbyn was elected leader with a commanding 60% of the vote (greater than even Tony Blair managed). And immediately the problems began.

Members of his own party have attempted to undermine Corbyn at every turn making it very clear, in public, that they disagree with, well, pretty much everything he stands for and says. Ironically the right wing press has helped the cause of the detractors in the party by regularly coming up with the most ridiculous articles and suggesting that they are “news”.

The party didn’t like the way the 2010 leadership election chose it’s leader and, quite frankly, they didn’t like the leader that it ended up selecting either. So a review was held and the party agreed the way future selection processes were run. It was under this process that Corbyn was elected. Now the Labour MPs are complaining that they are unelectable. But here’s the thing – perhaps the public do want a real change, maybe we don’t want a choice of the Tory’s or Tory-lites.

It’s time for the detractors to realise that the opportunity to complain about the outcome of a selection process they approved has long passed and, quite frankly, they should just shut the fuck up.

Sadly though I am reminded of the lyrics to Going Underground by The Jam

What you see is what you get
You’ve made your bed, you better lie in it
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You’ll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns
And the public wants what the public gets
But I don’t get what this society wants

Politics in the UK needs a complete reset in my opinion and maybe, just maybe, Corbyn could be it. I hope we get the opportunity to find out.

Image by No machine-readable author provided. Soman assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Election 20151915

By the time you read this the election will (probably) be all over and the squabbling will have begin before we end up with some mish-mash of parties in an alliance of people who come together in a marriage of inconvenience.

However, what stuck me was just how antiquated the whole process was. It cannot have changed since the 19th century. Bit of paper, pencil on a string, big black box etc.

Why can’t we vote via the web, Twitter, or even Facebook? The reasons given are concerns over electoral fraud but having just gone to the local primary school and simply given my name and address (no identity check) I’m not sure how the government considers that system more secure.

In fact I enjoyed the whole process so much that I have been back five times today and voted for my neighbours too! It won’t affect the outcome however as where I live the result is a foregone conclusion. As we have John Redwood as our MP it proves that people must vote along party lines rather than for the individual.

Recognising the Value of Free

There’s a real problem with free in that it has zero cost (obviously) so people seem to think that means it also has zero value.

I hate to see any waste and my heart sinks with everything that gets put into the bin and not recycled. My kids are fed up with me saying that I am just saving the planet’s precious resources for their children. Despite, or perhaps because of, my views on recycling they have switched off but I am not sure what excuses the members of Freegle have.

Freegle, Freecycle and sites like them exist to allow people to reuse and repurpose items that they no longer want or need and allow others to taken them from you – for free. I’m all for it and regularly offer items.

Just recently we had a big clear out of things from my younger sons room now that he is away at Uni and it looks like he won’t be moving back in with us. All these items went onto our local Freegle. It is not untypical to get a response within minutes of the item being posted, quote often with some elaborate story attached as to why they are worth of the item. This emotional pleading doesn’t work on me as I just want the item out of my house but away from landfill.

After a while I’ll settle upon someone to receive the item. Sometimes this is the first person to respond, sometimes not. One of three things happens now:

1. they respond, fix a time, turn up and take the item 😀
2. they don’t respond 🙁
3. they respond, fix a time and don’t ever turn up 😡

A variant on 2 is where I subsequently get an email after I have written to find out what happened and am told that “something else came up and they couldn’t make it at the allotted time”. I would say that two thirds of all posts fall into the don’t turn up or don’t respond categories. TWO THIRDS!

Which raises a question. Why are people so fucking rude? And I suspect that the answer is that they just don’t see any value in an item that has no monetary value attached to it. Perhaps what they also don’t stop to consider is that I might have a bookcase sat in my hall waiting for them or that I made arrangements to be in that evening when they said they were going to come.

So I am re-evaluating my use of Freegle and prioritising charity shops and friends on Facebook as more reliable methods of reusing items and, quite frankly, the people aren’t so fucking rude.

The Weakest (City) Link

This is a personally motivated post and will without a doubt be biased for which I make no apologies but then what politically motivated speeches aren’t?

Earlier this year my eldest son started looking for jobs in marketing as that would allow him to make use of his talent for writing. He quickly got three interviews set up, one of which was with City Link and he was quickly offered a job as a Marketing Assistant. Prior to him starting I did a quick Google search and found that the company had been sold last year by Initial to a VC for the princely sum of one pound – not something that was a great sign of a health business but the VC were turnaround specialists.

Starting at the bottom he had to learn tasks such as “making coffee and tea”, something he had astutely kept clear of until that point. Those there were supportive of him and it was a team of people he enjoyed working with. He seemed to have found the job holy grail in something that he loved doing with a good set of colleagues.

Keen to move out of the family home and find some independence he looked at flats closer to the office and after viewing a few that weren’t great he found a nice place just 20 minutes walk from the office. A couple of days before he was due to move in the agency called to say that there was a problem with the bathroom where they had found a leak and it would take a couple of weeks to dry out and repair. Helen and I put on hold plans we had to redecorate his room!

A few weeks later the agency said that repairs had been completed and when could he move in? At roughly the same time a senior director in the business called him into an office and suggested that he might hold off on signing for a while as there was a restructure being reviewed. Eventually with no information from the office he backed out of the flat.

Then on Christmas Day, he received this as an extra present:

BBC_News_-_City_Link_parcel_delivery_company_goes_into_administration

And then a week later as the new year began he was out of a job.

The timing was awful and that the staff had to find out via the media was indefensible. I don’t know if the VC thought that by announcing on Christmas Day they might be able to bury bad news but they misjudged that completely if they did. It’s bad enough finding out that you have lost your job though the press but to do so on Christmas Day was just cowardly as has the way that John Moulton has acted since then, although I am not sure we should be unduly surprised by the attitude of a large Tory donor.

I have to say that unlike the unions I never expected the government to step in and nationalise the company but some expression of sympathy would have been appropriate and Vince Cable’s refusal to meet until the New Year was also pretty disgraceful. It is some wonder that people choose not to vote when this is what you get.

Alex is young, bright, talented and motivated and so will quickly get a another job. I just hope that he can find a set of people to work with that have been as good for him as those at City Link. You spend so much of your time working that it is important to find something you love with people you respect.

Image above used without permission of City Link but I don’t think that they are going to come after me.