About Me

My photo
I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Not over till it’s over….?

Brexit debate not over, Tony Blair says.

It is possible that Brexit may never happen if public opinion turns against it, former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has said. Mr Blair, who campaigned for a vote to stay in the EU, said such an outcome was unlikely but that "the debate continues" despite June's Leave vote. He told French radio station Europe 1: "Who made the rule that we have to stop the debate now?" PM Theresa May has said the UK will not stay in the EU "by the back door". On Thursday her cabinet agreed to "push ahead" with triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which begins the formal two-year process for leaving the EU. Speaking in French, Mr Blair said Mrs May - who also backed a Remain vote - had to make her "Brexit means Brexit" statement to unite her party and appease the right-wing press in the aftermath of the referendum. "For the rest of us, we are free to have a debate," he said. There was currently "confusion" over the way forward because "we do not know the terms of Brexit", said Mr Blair. "We have done something rather bizarre with Brexit," said the former Labour leader. "It's like moving house without having seen the new house. We have made an agreement to exchange, but we don't yet know the terms of Brexit, we don't know the costs and the consequences."

Brexit protest: March for Europe rallies held across UK.

Thousands of pro-Europe protesters have been marching in London, calling for the UK to strengthen its ties to the continent following the Brexit vote. The March for Europe aimed to put pressure on the government to delay activating the formal process of leaving the EU. Pro-Brexit demonstrators also gathered in the capital to form a counter-protest along the marching route. Rallies are taking place across the UK including in Edinburgh and Birmingham. A sea of blue EU flags filled Parliament square shortly after 13:00 BST, where protesters sang along to The Beatles' hit Hey Jude, replacing the title words instead with "EU". Demonstrators were calling for the government to make tight economic, cultural, and social ties with the rest of Europe.

Theresa May: UK will be 'global leader in free trade'.

The UK will be a "global leader" in free trade following the Brexit vote, Theresa May has said, as she heads to China for the G20 summit. Speaking at Heathrow ahead of her first international conference since becoming prime minister, she insisted it was a "golden era" for UK-China relations. The assurance comes as she faces a row with Beijing over a delayed decision on the Hinkley Point power station. At the summit, Mrs May will meet one-to-one with US President Barack Obama. She will also hold talks with other leaders of the world's 20 major economies and is expected to tell them that the UK is "open for business" following the referendum vote to leave the European Union. Chinese President Xi Jinping will also meet with her but no announcement on the Hinkley Point project is expected.

Jobs market shrinks for new graduates, survey suggests.

The number of jobs for new graduates has shrunk by 8% in a year, suggests a survey of more than 200 top employers. This is a sharp reversal after four years of growth in graduate jobs, says the Association of Graduate Recruiters. Some firms are "repackaging" graduate roles as higher apprenticeships but overall the labour market for young people is shrinking, says the AGR. Brexit is the biggest serious challenge for recruiters, said AGR Chief Executive Stephen Isherwood. The AGR, which represents blue chip companies and major public sector employers, carries out an annual survey of graduate job vacancies among its members. "The labour market for young people is shrinking for the first time since the financial crisis, but the composition of the market is also changing as employers invest more in school leaver programmes and apprenticeships," said Mr Isherwood. "The uncertainty of Brexit is the single biggest challenge facing recruiters in the year ahead."

Brexit may bring difficult times, says Theresa May.

Britain needs to be prepared for some "difficult times" ahead as it leaves the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May has said. Speaking to the Andrew Marr Show - in her first major interview since taking office - Mrs May warned Brexit would not be "plain sailing" for the UK. She said formal EU talks will not begin until 2017, but vowed the process would not be "kicked into the long grass". Mrs May also ruled out a snap election, saying the UK needs "stability". The former home secretary became prime minister after David Cameron resigned in the wake of the EU referendum - with the Brexit process likely to dominate the first years of her premiership. Speaking before travelling to China for the G20 summit, Mrs May said she would not pretend that leaving the union would be "plain sailing", despite positive economic figures in the UK since the referendum. "We have had some good figures and better figures than some had predicted would be the case. I'm not going to pretend that it's all going to be plain sailing. I think we must be prepared for the fact that there may be some difficult times ahead. But what I am is optimistic."

G20: Theresa May faces Brexit trade pressure.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has come under pressure at the G20 summit over Britain's trade links with the US and other countries after it leaves the EU. President Obama said the US would prioritise trade negotiations with the EU and Pacific nations over a UK deal. Japan has warned of "drastic changes" after Brexit and said the potentially "harmful effects" must be minimised. But Mrs May has insisted that the UK can prosper outside the EU and become a "global leader in free trade". Mrs May is also facing questions over Chinese investment in the UK ahead of a meeting with leader Xi Xinping later. Asked whether she "trusted" the Chinese government - amid claims she is reviewing China's planned investment in a new nuclear reactor in Hinkley Point on security grounds - she said the UK "had a relationship" with China she wanted to build on.

[It’s interesting, now that the Labour Party is starting to get things back together again, that the Tories seem to be laying into each other over David Cameron’s real reasons for leaving and the new Prime Minister’s ‘luke-warm’ Remain credentials. Of course this is likely to be a mixture of political smokescreen, playing to various audiences and a repositioning of Teresa May as more pro-Brexit than she probably is in order to calm things down and stop it spinning out of control. I guess that the PM need to walk a fairly narrow tightrope of doing things properly with enough planning whilst moving fast enough for the Euro sceptics in the hope of preventing any kind of backbench revolt. It’s not easy being PM!]  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn defeats Owen Smith

From The BBC

Saturday 24th September 2016

Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected as Labour leader, comfortably defeating his challenger Owen Smith. He won 61.8% of the vote, a larger margin of victory than last year. He vowed to bring Labour back together, saying "we have much more in common than divides us", insisting the party could win the next election as the "engine of progress" in the country. More than half a million party members, trade unionists and registered supporters voted in the contest. In a result announced on the eve of Labour's party conference in Liverpool, Mr Corbyn won 313,209 votes, compared with Mr Smith's 193,229.

Speaking to the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg after his victory, Mr Corbyn said the debate about who led the party was "now over" and Labour needed to take its message on the economy, education and the NHS to the country. Asked what steps he would take to reassure critical MPs, he said the return of shadow cabinet elections was "absolutely in the mix" although he declined to rule out the possible deselection of sitting MPs in the run-up to the next election. "I think you will see a lot of changes over the next few weeks," he said. "They (MPs) have no need to worry at all because it is all about democracy. We are all democratically accountable to our party and to our constituents. They have no need to worry at all. I am reaching out."

[Good! Now hopefully the Labour Party can stop pissing about with all the stupid in-fighting and get back to attacking the Tories. Maybe now they can abandon a lot of their Centrist bullshit and move back to the Left where they should be with a CLEAR distinction between what they stand for and what the Conservatives believe in. At least then the electorate will have an actual choice rather than the faux choice of politicians in different styles of Saville Row suits. I look forward to having some real politics to argue about and an end to the constant attacks on Corbyn from all side – except now I expect things to go underground because the PTB are REALLY scared of him and that alone gives me great hope for the future. For the first time in a long time I’m even thinking of voting Labour in the next election…..]

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Just Finished Reading: A Jane Austen Education – How Six Novels taught me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter by William Deresiewicz (FP: 2011)

Ok, how do you expect me to resist a book with that title? It practically LEPT off the table in the book store into my open hand. As a huge Austen fan (although with two of her books still unread – I bought the missing one last weekend) and someone with a growing interest in rather quirky Lit Crit I just had to read this. Considering I only bought it a few months ago it actually landed at the top of my ‘to read soon’ list pretty damned quick. But was it any good? Reader, I loved it (OK, that was paraphrasing a Bronte novel but I’ll get to that…).

Using each of the six novels to concentrate on a particular life lesson: Emma (Everyday Matters), Pride and Prejudice (Growing Up), Northanger Abbey (Learning to Learn), Mansfield Park (Being Good), Persuasion (True Friends) and Sense and Sensibility (Falling in Love) the author relates, along with a great deal of humour and personal revelations, how each book started him on the road to questioning the ways he had always done things and who he actually was (and wanted to be). His biggest revelation it seemed was that not only could Austen actually write – he was initially rather dismissive of 19th century literature as a whole – but that her novels were most definitely not simply early 19th century ‘chick lit’. Being forced, with great reluctance, to read Emma as part of his graduate English course he initially hated it (as did I) but was then increasingly brought under Austen’s spell as the eponymous character blossomed before his eyes. From then on he was hooked on Austen. So much so, indeed, that he used the lessons learnt from Emma to start a life changing process beginning with dumping his then girlfriend and moving further away from his domineering father. Not a bad start from someone so initially disparaging of her work! Over the next 3-4 years and 5 more novels the author become more convinced of Austen’s genius and used the lessons embedded between the covers to analyse both what was wrong in his own life and what was wrong in the world around him. It was, I can tell you, quite a journey.

Told with great dollops of literary insight – so much so that I’m tempted to re-read the Austen books I’ve already finished as well as finally read the final two - Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park – as soon as possible. Re-reading books is a very rare activity for me but I think I’d find it interesting in this case as I could compare, in detail, the authors impressions compared with me own. I certainly agreed with a great deal of what he said regarding my favourite Austen novels – P&P, Persuasion and Emma (in order of preference) so re-reading them might give me a greater insight although I’m not sure if by doing so my life would change that much! His analysis of the two books I have yet to read has definitely piqued my interest and has definitely raised their profile and accelerated them on the path towards actually being read!

Interestingly after I finished this delightfully interesting book I checked to see if the author had written anything else. He had – and I immediately impulse bought his work outlining what he thinks is wrong with graduate education in the USA (although I’m guessing this would apply in the UK too if not necessarily elsewhere). His style, whit, insights and humour made this a hugely enjoyable work and I can highly recommend it to any Austen fans out there.  

Oh, the Bronte thing - it seems that in the world of English Lit there's a huge competitive rift between fans of each author and, in the end, he really did marry her (without giving too much away....)