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

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Girls less confident as they grow older, says Girlguiding

By Judith Burns, Education reporter for BBC News

25 July 2016

Girls' career confidence plummets as they near the world of work, suggests research by Girlguiding. A poll of 1,627 girls and young women showed they felt less powerful as they progressed through secondary school. Only a third of the 17- to 21-year-olds questioned felt they would do as well as their male peers, against 90% of the nine- to 10-year-olds. "It is our responsibility to change this," said Girlguiding Chief Executive Julie Bentley. The young women interviewed were a representative sample and not necessarily connected with Girlguiding, says the charity.

The results show: 90% of nine- and 10-year-old girls felt they would have the same chance as boys at succeeding in their chosen jobs this dropped to 54% among 11- to 16-year-olds and to 35% among 17 to 21-year-olds. And only a quarter of the older group said they felt "powerful" compared with a third of 11- to 16-year-old girls.

Girlguiding says the data charts how girls' attitudes to themselves change as they become more aware of the barriers facing women in the workplace. "This new research shows girls are lacking in confidence at an important stage in their lives when they are starting to think about the future, enter work or begin university," said Ms Bentley. "As the UK's leading charity for girls and young women it's our responsibility to change this... Guiding builds girls' confidence and empowers them to take on leadership roles from the very earliest age - giving them the safe space and support they need to grow and develop their potential."

Girlguiding has enlisted leading female executives to mentor guides aged 14 to 17 from across the UK at a special camp in Bedfordshire this week. Commercial director at high-speed rail company HS2, Beth West, said that by taking part she hoped "to inspire and encourage young women to feel there are no barriers to achieving their goals". And Sevasti Wong, managing director at consultancy company Accenture, said it was crucial "to dispel the myth... that maths and science are too hard for girls".

The full survey, carried out online by Childwise, will be published in September. Separate research published today by the Association of Graduate Recruiters suggests female graduates are less likely to aim for top jobs than men but more likely to land them if they apply.

[I’m rather surprised by these findings. We’ve been bombarded in recent years by survey after survey that girls are consistently outperforming boys almost all the way through school and university gaining more and higher qualifications than their male counterparts. There’s even been talk of a crisis in male identity that leads to everything from anti-social behaviour to drug taking to suicide. Now we are presented with a crisis of confidence in girls too? You have to wonder what’s going on in our schools, our homes and wider society to produce these feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness across both genders. What on earth are we doing wrong?]

Friday, July 29, 2016

Waiting for the Other Shoe……

Brexit throws 'spanner in the works' of global growth.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said the UK's decision to leave the European Union has "thrown a spanner in the works" of its global growth forecast. Instead of predicting 3.2% growth in 2016, the IMF's World Economic Outlook (WEO) now expects only 3.1%. It says the UK will be the worst affected of all the advanced economies. Its 2017 UK growth forecast has been slashed from 2.2% to 1.3% and this year's has been cut from 1.9% to 1.7%. The IMF's global growth forecast for 2017 has also been revised down from 3.5% to 3.4%. Before the referendum vote on 23 June, the IMF says that the global economy had been showing promising signs of growth.

The IMF also highlights the stresses that Brexit may cause within the European banking system, particularly in Italy and Portugal. It says: "The Brexit vote implies a substantial increase in economic, political, and institutional uncertainty, which is projected to have negative macroeconomic consequences, especially in advanced European economies." However Mr Obstfeld added: "The real effects of Brexit will play out gradually over time, adding elements of economic and political uncertainty that could be resolved only after many months. This overlay of extra uncertainty, in turn, may open the door to an amplified response of financial markets to negative shocks."

Brexit: Theresa May says talks won't start in 2016.

Theresa May has said the UK will not begin official negotiations on leaving the EU this year as she held talks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. Speaking in Berlin, the PM said securing a "sensible and orderly departure" from the EU would take time. But she insisted the UK would not "walk away" from Europe and wanted to retain the "closest economic links". Mrs Merkel said the two sides desired to get the "best result for Britain" but urged more clarity on timing. Earlier, a military guard of honour greeted Mrs May, who succeeded David Cameron a week ago. At a joint press conference, Mrs May said the UK was in no rush to trigger the two year process of leaving the EU - telling reporters that although "this would not please everyone" it was right to hold off until the UK's "objectives were clear".

EU migrants may face 'right to stay' curbs - David Davis.

EU migrants who come to the UK as Brexit nears may not be given the right to stay, David Davis has said. The new Brexit secretary told Sky News there might have to be a cut-off point if there was a "surge" in new arrivals. But he said setting a date now could in itself prompt a "rush" of people moving before any deadline - and any steps must be compatible with EU law. It comes amid pressure on the government to guarantee the right to stay to EU citizens already in the UK.

Brexit 'will be horrible for UK economy' - fund manager.

The vote to leave the European Union will have a "horrible" impact on the UK economy, which could "judder to a halt", a leading fund manager has said. Richard Buxton, chief executive of Old Mutual Global Investors (OMGI), described Brexit as "really bad news". He told the Guardian he feared the move could lead to a recession. Financial markets would remain volatile while the government negotiated an exit deal with the EU, Mr Buxton added. OMGI has managed funds worth £26bn for both institutional and individual investors. Speaking to the newspaper, Mr Buxton said the stock market had priced in a "pretty significant recession" for the UK given the slide in share prices of companies such as house-builders and banks. Shares in two of the UK's biggest house-builders, Barratt Developments and Persimmon, have fallen almost 30% and 25% respectively since 24 June - the day the referendum result was announced. "I think the economy is going to judder to a halt [or] have a mild recession, but I don't think it is going to be as severe as some of these shares are pricing in... The real economy is only going to gradually emerge over the next three to six months," Mr Buxton said.

Brexit fallout to hit UK economic growth: EY Item Club.

The UK economy may face "severe loss of momentum" after the vote to leave the EU, according to the EY Item Club. The think tank's UK growth forecast for 2016 has been cut from 2.3% to 1.9%, and from 2.6% to just 0.4% for 2017. Meanwhile its forecast for GDP growth for 2018 was slashed from 2.4% to 1.4%. Its report said the Brexit vote would have "severe confidence effects on spending and business investment", which would lead to anaemic GDP growth over the next three years. However, the drop in the value of the pound could bolster exports by 3.4% next year, the Item Club said, with imports falling by 0.3%. Overall, the move would see net exports adding 1.1% to GDP in 2017, it added. "Heightened uncertainty is likely to hold back business investment, while consumer spending will be restrained by a weaker jobs market and higher inflation," he said. "Longer-term, the UK may have to adjust to a permanent reduction in the size of the economy, compared to the trend that seemed possible prior to the vote. But amongst the gloom, the weaker pound provides one silver lining to exporters, particularly those selling to the US and emerging markets."

[Well despite some avid whistling next to graveyards and attempting to drown out the noises from the Markets with cheerful shouts of ‘Brexit Now!’ it seems that the first tentative results are less than positive. Of course economics is a bit like history – you can only really say what happened sometimes long after the actual event. With only 5 weeks since the vote to leave the EU it’s really still too early to tell what the impact will be when we finally do leave at some point in the next 2 years. I’m hoping that it won’t be as bad as some people are still predicting. Unfortunately I’m a cynic and a sceptic so I’m expecting a disaster. However, I can imagine things getting pretty bad. So (hopefully) my worst fears will never materialise!]

All details above from BBC News website.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Or a Cat.......

Just Finished Reading: The Vital Question – Why is Life the Way it is? By Nick Lane (FP: 2015)

It’s a good question, a fundamental question. Why is life exactly the way it is? Could it have been any different? Does our knowledge of life on Earth give us any clues about other life in the Universe are there indeed universal laws of life?

To attempt to answer these questions we need to go way, way, way back in time to the very earliest, and simplest, life forms – bacteria (or actually the ancestors of what we recognise as bacteria these days). After around 2 billion years where they dominated the world they gave rise to cells that we are all familiar with – with a nucleus, recognisable call walls, DNA and much else besides. How did this happen? By the fusing together of two distinct types of single cell creatures to produce the first true Eukaryotic cell. This apparent one-time event produced the raw material for evolution to produce everything from Amoeba to Blue whales and us over the next 2 ½ billion years. The driving force behind all this was energy. Early bacteria, in a largely oxygen free atmosphere at the time, had a limited pool of energy to call on. The new calls on the block had much more at their disposal utilising the productive capacity of what later became mitochondria. Being energy rich they could afford to grow larger, more complex with sub-sections of the cell undertaking individual pieces of work, they could grow faster, reproduce more often and in more interesting ways (introducing both the idea of sex and death to the Earth), carry more genes allowing evolution to have more grist to its mill which increased the overall ‘speed’ of the evolutionary process. Once off and running there was no stopping them. The rest is, a very long and convoluted, history.

It’s good to get back to some proper scientific reading. It’s been a while – and it showed as I struggled with some of the earlier parts of this very interesting work. Whilst being no stranger to Biology or Evolution itself I admit to being on much less confident ground with Chemistry. It’s not something I studied in school to any great length so some of the author’s arguments and detailed descriptions ended up being close to going over my head. Some parts I probably skimmed more than I should have, others I had to read several times to understand what he was getting at. But don't let that kind of thing put you off. Although College grade Chemistry and Biology would come in handy it’s not 100% necessary to get the meat of the argument onto your mental plate in a reasonably cooked condition. I was much happier when he discussed what was happening in cells at a quantum level (very important) so all that reading of Quantum Mechanics over the past few years came to my rescue here! But again don’t let that put you off. If you get the gist of his argument that will be enough to serve you well later on when he delves into cell function and how mistakes in cell replication point to what happens in normal heathy cells. The meat of the book (to keep using a very un-vegetarian analogy) is dedicated to that healthy cell, how it works, why it looks and operates the way it does – right across all complex life on Earth – and why it probably couldn’t be any other way.

Which brings up his views on life elsewhere. We both agree that life in the Universe will be common for the simple reason that its building blocks are everywhere in abundance and there has been more than sufficient time for it to emerge wherever conditions allow. We agreed to disagree on his second contention – that complex multicellular life is rare. Simple bacteria like creatures existed on Earth for 2 billion years before the Eukaryotic Revolution which took another 2 ½ billion years to produce intelligence. This was, the author maintains, a once in a life time event. It would be entirely possible, he maintains, for bacteria to dominate the planet right up to its extinction when our Sun finally burns out. This is the apparent fate of most life on most worlds (which would explain the lack of signals or spaceships. Bacteria has little use for either star drives or radio telescopes). I remain to be convinced of this. Maybe it’s just hope but I’d expect complexity to emerge eventually given time. The advantages are seemingly obvious.

This was, as I’ve said, a difficult read (at least for me!) but a worthwhile one. My brief and simple precis has done little justice to the detailed argument and analysis that unfolds throughout its 305 pages. If you ever wanted to understand why life is the way it is I’d have to say that there are probably many worse places than this. Recommended to anyone with an enquiring mind.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Or half of 'Me' anyway.........

You LOST OK, now just shut up about it…..

Pound and FTSE 100 lose ground.

UK shares have dipped further and the pound has lost ground as investors continue to digest the Bank of England's latest pronouncement. On Thursday, the Bank stunned the markets by keeping interest rates on hold, following speculation that it would cut rates from 0.5% to 0.25%. By mid-afternoon on Friday, the FTSE 100 was down 10.04 points at 6,644.43. The pound was down 0.47% against the dollar at $1.3281. Against the euro, it was down 0.17% at €1.1983. Among individual shares, airlines bore the brunt in the wake of Thursday night's Bastille Day attack in the French resort of Nice. Easyjet and British Airways owner IAG were down 3.2% and 1.3% respectively. At the same time, High Street mainstays Morrisons and Marks and Spencer fell 2% and 2.5% respectively. Other European share indexes were also down, reflecting market gloom at the French terror attack. The Cac index in Paris was down by about 0.6%, while Frankfurt's Dax dropped about 0.2%.

Bank of England economist says sledgehammer needed for economy.

The Bank of England's chief economist supports a "sledgehammer" approach to stabilising the post-Brexit economy as he admitted unemployment could rise. In a speech, Andy Haldane supported easing monetary policy next month. He said it needed to be "delivered promptly as well as muscularly", adding: "By promptly, I mean next month." On Thursday, the Bank kept the interest rate on hold at a record low of 0.5%, where it has been since March 2009. But minutes from the meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee, which includes Mr Haldane, said: "Most members of the committee expect monetary policy to be loosened in August. The precise size and nature of any stimulatory measures will be determined during the August forecast and Inflation Report round.” Speaking at a gathering in Port Talbot on June 30, before the speech was released on Friday, Mr Haldane said there is evidence that companies are reducing both hiring and investment. He said: "There is no sense of slash and burn. But there is a strong sense of trim and singe." He also admitted that there is a risk that "perhaps" unemployment could rise.

David Davis: Trigger Brexit by start of 2017.

The new minister in charge of Brexit says the UK should be able to formally trigger its departure from the EU "before or by the start of next year". David Davis called for a "brisk but measured" approach, with a likely exit from the EU around December 2018. He said the "first order of business" should be to strike trade deals with non EU countries. Meanwhile his predecessor, Oliver Letwin, warned the UK had no trade negotiators to lead its exit talks. Mr Davis, a longstanding campaigner for Brexit, was appointed as secretary of state for leaving the EU by new Prime Minister Theresa May. Mrs May has previously said she will not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts a two-year process of leaving, before the end of 2016.

UK offered Brexit free trade deal with Australia.

Australia has called for a free trade deal with Britain following its exit from the European Union. Theresa May described the move as "very encouraging" and insisted it showed Brexit can work for Britain. In a phone call to the new PM, her Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull said he urgently wanted to open up trading between the two countries. Liam Fox, the new international trade secretary, said he was already "scoping about a dozen free trade deals". But Britain cannot sign any deals while it is still an EU member. Mrs May said: "I have been very clear that this government will make a success of our exit from the European Union. One of the ways we will do this is by embracing the opportunities to strike free trade deals with our partners across the globe. It is very encouraging that one of our closest international partners is already seeking to establish just such a deal. This shows that we can make Brexit work for Britain," she added.

Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland 'could stay in UK and EU'.

Scotland could stay in the UK and the EU, while the rest of the UK leaves the bloc, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, the first minister said there was effectively a "blank sheet of paper", creating an opportunity to explore previously "unthinkable" options. The UK minister responsible for Brexit said he did not think this would work. But the prime minister said she would listen to any options brought forward by the Scottish government. Ms Sturgeon also said she thought Scotland was in a "very strong" position in the UK's Brexit talks after Theresa May said she would not begin the formal process of leaving the EU until there was a "UK approach and objectives".

Eurotunnel cuts profit forecast due to weak pound.

The fall in the pound after the UK referendum on EU membership has forced Eurotunnel to lower its 2016 profit forecast by 4.5% to €535m ($700m). It also cut its profit forecast for 2017 by 4.3%. Eurotunnel assumes the pound will be 7% lower versus the euro, reducing its profits when converted back into euros. Two thirds of its income is from vehicle shuttle services, and UK customers make up 80% of its car passengers. Shares in Eurotunnel, which runs train services between Britain and France, fell 30% after the EU referendum vote and are still 16% below pre-Brexit levels. The firm said the impact of Brexit on the level of cross-Channel transport was uncertain, but that it did not expect any significant impact on its activities in the short term. Chief Executive Jacques Gounon said: "Despite the financial market uncertainty generated by the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, the Group remains confident in the performance of its economic model and in its outlook." However, other factors have had an impact on its business. Eurostar's passenger traffic fell 3% in the first half of 2016 due to attacks in Brussels in March and rail strikes in Belgium and France. Meanwhile truck shuttle traffic was up 10% in the same period. Overall profits in the first half of the year rose 4% to €249m, with revenues up 2% at €582m.

EU nationals with permanent residence 'can stay in UK'.

EU nationals with a right to permanent residence can stay in the UK after it leaves the EU and enjoy the same rights, a top civil servant has said. Mark Sedwill said the rights of those granted residence after five years were "quite clear" in law and it amounted to a guarantee of their future status. But he told MPs the rights of other EU nationals were subject to negotiations on Brexit and the "will of Parliament". Ministers have been urged not to use EU citizens as "bargaining chips". The UK says it will seek curbs on free movement rules - which currently give EU nationals the right to live and work in other member states - as part of its EU exit deal but it is unclear how this will work and what implications it will have for EU nationals already in the UK. The government has declined to give a firm guarantee about the status of EU nationals currently living in the UK, saying this is not possible without a reciprocal pledge from other EU members about the millions of British nationals living on the continent.

[It’s pretty quiet now at work. Brexit hardly gets a mention – even from me. Last week I mentioned to my boss that inflation had gone up by ½ a percent and my ex-boss jumped down my throat complete with hand waving and shouts of scaremongering….. I think I can guess who’s actually scared by what’s happening to our economy, and it’s not me because I can see it and have a pretty good idea of what’s coming next. Plus I have nothing to regret from my vote cast last month.]

All details above from BBC News website.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Japan 'to stop making VCR machines'

By Chris Baraniuk, BBC Technology reporter

21 July 2016

The last videocassette recorder (VCR) in Japan will be produced by the end of the month, according to the Nikkei newspaper. Funai Electric has been producing VHS-playing VCRs for 33 years, most recently in China for Sanyo. But last year it sold just 750,000 units, down from a peak of 15 million a year, and has been finding it difficult to source the necessary parts. VCRs were introduced in the 1970s but were superseded by DVD technology. Last year, Sony announced it would stop selling Betamax video cassettes - a rival to the VHS. VCRs were required to play or record such tapes. It was 12 years ago that UK High Street retailer Dixons decided to phase out the sale of VCRs due to the popularity of DVD players.

Some vintage technologies - such as vinyl - have enjoyed a renaissance. However, Tania Loeffler, an analyst at IHS Technology, does not think the same nostalgia will ever be felt for VCR-playable formats. "I don't see VCR becoming like vinyl, where a lot of people appreciated the warmness of how something sounds on vinyl," she told the BBC. "The quality on VHS is not something I think anyone would want to go back to." However, she added that a niche market for accessing VHS content, perhaps for archival purposes, would probably mourn the loss of VCRs if they became unavailable.

[I ditched my VCR ages ago as I was never playing my videos and I was essentially using it as an electronic clock. Over the last 6-8 months I’ve been slowly ditching my tapes which are taking up far too much room that could be used by my DVD collection. It’s all about usage and volume. It’s kind of sad though. I ‘grew up’ with VCR cassettes in the 70’s and 80’s and watched countless classics and honestly terrible films in that format. VCR – RIP!]

Friday, July 22, 2016

All Plain Sailing from Here……..

Wetherspoon's boss decries Brexit 'doom-mongering'.

JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said pre-Brexit "doom-mongering" by George Osborne, the Bank of England and other economic institutions could cause a future economic slowdown. Tim Martin, who was a vocal supporter of Brexit, called into question their "honesty" and economic judgement. His comments are in the firm's latest trading update, which saw like-for-like sales rise by 4% in the final quarter. Total like-for-like sales for the year to 10 July increased by 3.4%. He singled out comments made before the referendum vote by the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, as well those from Bank of England governor Mark Carney and outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron. In May, Mr Martin printed 200,000 beer mats criticising Ms Lagarde for saying that a vote to leave the EU would be "pretty bad to very, very bad". In Wednesday's trading statement, he also said that the CBI, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, PWC and many FTSE 100 chief executives supported a "negative view" of Brexit. Mr Martin said: "In my opinion, the above individuals and organisations are either dishonest or they have a poor understanding of economics, since democracy and prosperity are closely linked and the EU is clearly undemocratic."

Merkel says negotiations with UK will be difficult.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said negotiations between the UK and the rest of the EU on leaving the bloc will not be easy. She said it was important that the 27 other member states asked themselves what kind of EU they wanted. Mrs Merkel was speaking before it was confirmed that Theresa May is to become the UK's new prime minister. Meanwhile Austria's finance minister, Hans Schelling, warned that "Great Britain will become Little Britain". Speaking as he arrived in Brussels for talks, Mr Schelling predicted that Scotland and Northern Ireland would not leave the EU following the referendum. Both voted against so-called Brexit.

Philip Hammond: Financial markets 'rattled' by Leave vote.

The new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has said the UK's vote to leave the European Union has "rattled" financial markets. He added the UK would face "challenges" in managing the economy, because it had suffered a "shock" as a result of the Brexit vote. He said the decision had caused companies to put plans on hold. The challenge was to send "signals of reassurance" to kick-start investment and spending decisions, he said. He added he did not anticipate the need for an emergency Budget as a result of the Brexit vote. Mr Hammond said the outcome of the referendum had surprised the markets and business. However, he said the fact that the Conservatives had "moved quickly" to elect a new leader would help to restore confidence. He said he would be holding meetings today to assess "where the economy is". Mr Hammond also said he thought Bank of England governor Mark Carney was doing an "excellent job".

Housing market 'falters amid Brexit campaign and vote'.

The supply of homes on the UK market fell at its sharpest rate to date and buyer demand hit an eight-year low as Brexit was confirmed, surveyors say. House prices are expected to fall across the UK in the next three months, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) survey suggested. The dip in prices is only expected to persist over the next year in London and East Anglia, surveyors predicted. This is the first significant housing survey judging the impact of Brexit. The Rics survey reflects housing market sentiment among the institution's members. In its June survey, it said surveyors across the whole of the UK were generally expecting prices to fall in the coming three months, with 27% more surveyors expecting to see prices decrease rather than rise in the near term. That will be welcomed by potential first-time buyers but met with disappointment by property investors and many homeowners.

Brexiteer Lord Wolfson warns over cuts to immigration.

One of the business world's most prominent campaigners for Brexit has told the BBC that a big reduction in immigration will damage the UK economy. Lord Wolfson, chief executive of Next, said: "Any move to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands would be very dangerous for the economy." It sounds, at first, like a curious thing for a Leave voter to say. But Lord Wolfson insists that immigration was NOT the key issue for many who wanted out of the EU. Now the result is in, he hopes new alliances can be struck between members of both sides which will be good for business. Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Lord Wolfson said: "I believe we should gain some control but we can either try and trade our way out of this mess or we can try and protect ourselves by erecting barriers to trade and movement of people. If we try and protect our way out of this, we are doomed." That may be good for business, but many voters will feel that is not the prospectus they were offered by a Leave campaign that he sided with. I put it to him that if immigration is not reduced below 100,000 in a few years’ time, many voters will feel betrayed. "I voted Leave and I certainly won't feel betrayed - you only have to go into our hospitals and other services to see the vital role immigrants play in our country."

PM is 'willing to listen to options' on Scotland.

Prime Minister Theresa May has told First Minister Nicola Sturgeon she is "willing to listen to options" on Scotland's future relationship with the European Union. But after talks in Edinburgh, Mrs May appeared unwilling to consider a second referendum on Scottish independence. She said people in Scotland sent a "very clear message" in 2014. Ms Sturgeon said blocking a referendum, if it was wanted by the Scottish people, would be "completely wrong". The first minister believes Scottish interests have been put "at risk" by the result of the EU referendum. She has said she wants to explore all options - including independence - to maintain Scotland's relationship with the EU.

[Has it been only four weeks since the Vote? It’s hard to believe really. It’s even harder to believe that it’s still newsworthy, still being talked about all over Europe, still being argued about all over the country…. Of course one thing people over here still fail to understand is that the British people have only expressed an opinion. We haven’t left yet. There’s a legal challenge (so I understand) working its way through the system and, of course Parliament gets the final say. Then it’s Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome and then it’s up to 2 years to work that through. As Article 50 won’t be activated this year (so we’re told) we’re looking at leaving the EU in 2018/19. After that we can START renegotiating the terms of our new arrangement with the Continent. Fun, isn’t it!]

All details above from BBC News website.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Just Finished Reading: Wings – The RAF at War 1912-2012 by Patrick Bishop (FP: 2012)

It seems to be written into our DNA that whenever a new technology is developed we either use it to race against others, use it as a weapon or to get someone into bed. The invention of the aircraft turned out to be useful in all three areas of human endeavour. But here the author concentrates on its adoption, adaptation and perfection by the RAF over the last century.

Shortly after its invention it became clear both to the Army and Navy that aircraft could extend the reach of commander’s eyes ‘over the horizon’ and help to dissipate the ever present fog of war. Not only did the first flight across the English Channel (especially as the plane came from France TO the British mainland) concentrate minds wonderfully, at least after the initial panic, but early tests of aircraft dedicated to the requirements of reconnaissance previously the role of the ground based cavalry proved them to be far superior to horses in the mud. With these ideas in mind and little doctrine to work on initially the newly formed Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and its naval equivalent the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) stepped up for action in WW1. Quickly proving their worth by spotting enemy units and averting potential disaster they moved from an interesting and novel toy to a vital element in war planning. Their ability to fly over enemy positions and accurately map their trenches, correct fall of shot and, if possible, attack targets of opportunity became an early defining role for this new weapon. Of course the enemy had them too which led to the inevitable development of the fighter and the rise of the iconic air ‘aces’ still famous to this day. Less glamourous but with even heavier portents for the future was the development of large bombers and the beginnings of the belief that ‘the bomber would always get through’ with resulting devastation and panic on a previously unimaginable scale.

A mere 20 years after the RFC and RNAS amalgamated in 1918 to create the Royal Air Force (RAF) everything so patiently and expensively learnt in WW1 was put to good use. Often criticised for being short sighted and adverse to innovation the RAF (through the Air Ministry) already had in place two of the most iconic fighter aircraft in the world – The Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire (apparently no one knows exactly where the name Spitfire originated. Its designer apparently called it a ‘bloody stupid name’). So when Hitler decided to knock us out of the war he very soon discovered that he had a real fight on his hands. In the defining Battle of Britain that followed the Germans, for the first time in WW2 failed in their objective and arguably sealed their fate from that point on. With the new Lancaster bombers eventually coming on line replacing older and obsolete models and with American aid pouring across the Atlantic it was only a matter of time before the Axis where eventually defeated. With the development of jets in the closing months of the war and the independent development of the atomic bomb soon after Britain developed the V Force to project our nuclear deterrent wherever it was needed. Later still the revamped Fleet Air Arm (freed from the RAF just before the start of WW2) showed its metal and teeth in the short and sharp Falklands Conflict in the 1980’s.

It’s quite a story and is told here with some passion and with plenty of little details that were unfamiliar even to someone who has read a great deal on the subject. Being told very much from a war perspective the author concentrates on combat so seems to leap across the decades missing out huge chunks of RAF history. Such a book would be much larger than this 369 page volume. No doubt there are books available in numbers for those who want to delve into the years of non-combat flying. A useful and sometimes fascinating look at the development of a modern weapon and the men who fought with it. Recommended to all 20th century military history buffs.

Next in History: The Vikings are Coming!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Now for Some (much needed) Stability……….

Carney defends private Osborne Brexit meetings.

The Bank of England governor has said it is "important" that he and Chancellor George Osborne are allowed to have private meetings. However, Mark Carney has agreed minutes of their private talks on Brexit may be examined "discreetly" by MPs. It was his first time giving evidence to MPs since the vote. He denied again that the Bank of England had tried to "frighten" the public about the negative effect a Brexit vote could have on the economy. Supporters of Leave - including two former Conservative Chancellors - accused him last month of "peddling phoney forecasts". But Mr Carney said: "It is our responsibility to give these assessments... we have an obligation to make these assessments. The debate cannot be about whether we should have made an assessment. If we view something as the biggest risk, we have an obligation, a statutory obligation, to make that clear to parliament. We have an obligation to the people of the United Kingdom to come straight with them."

Debate on second EU referendum after millions sign petition.

An online petition that calls for a second EU referendum will be debated in Parliament after it was signed by more than 4.1 million people. The Petitions Committee said the debate would be on 5 September as a "huge number" had signed it. But the committee said the debate did not mean it was supporting the call for a second referendum and it was "too late" to change the referendum rules. The UK voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48% in the referendum on 23 June. The petition, set up on 25 May before the referendum, states: "We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the Remain or Leave vote is less than 60%, based on a turnout of less than 75%, there should be another referendum."

Pound rallies further on May victory.

The pound rose above $1.32 as markets welcomed the removal of uncertainty from the Conservatives Party's leadership contest, with Theresa May set to be the new prime minister. Sterling rose 1.86% against the dollar to $1.32.40, and was 1.73% higher against the euro at €1.19.57. The FTSE 100 share index hit fresh 11-month highs before falling back and closing scarcely changed at 6,680.69, that is a slight fall of 2.17 points or 0.03%. The more UK-focused FTSE 250 index rose 68.75 points, or 0.4%, to 16,775.14. The property sector - which saw a steep sell-off immediately after the Brexit vote - received a boost from Galliford Try. The housebuilder said it still expected full-year profits to be in line with expectations sending its shares up 8.5%. Financial stocks - another victim of the post-referendum sell-off - were also having a better day. Shares in insurer Aviva rose 4.26% while Lloyds Banking Group gained 2.55%. "Theresa May's virtual 'coronation' as prime minister has delivered a boost to the pound as the clouds of uncertainty following the Brexit vote start to disperse," said Neil Wilson, markets analyst at ETX Capital. "The leadership question has been settled and two months earlier than markets had been anticipating. This is feeding into strong bids for sterling and property stocks as investors eye potential bargains."

Siemens promises UK investment despite Brexit warning.

German industrial giant Siemens has said it will continue to invest in the UK, despite earlier warnings that a vote to leave the EU could affect its future activities in the country. Siemens chief executive Joe Kaeser told a number of media organisations that the company remained fully committed to manufacturing in the UK. The company has 13 plants in the UK and employs about 14,000 people. Siemens UK had warned investment could be hit if the UK voted to leave the EU. The engineering and technology giant manufactures and exports high value goods including MRI scanners and gas turbines. At an event at the House of Commons, Mr Kaeser said the UK continued to matter and be a "good place to do business" whether it was inside or outside the EU. But he called on Theresa May to clarify the UK's trade position as soon as possible to give business some certainty.

High Street sales fall in June, survey says.

UK retail sales fell in June triggered by weak clothing sales, according to the latest British Retail Consortium-KPMG survey. The survey indicates they fell by 0.5% in June on a like-for-like basis, which strips out variables in store space. Helen Dickinson, BRC's chief executive, said it was "too early" to say if shoppers were affected by the result of the EU referendum. The wet weather is thought to have dampened shoppers' enthusiasm. "While the ramifications from the Brexit vote may well affect consumer confidence, retailers will be hoping the long-promised heatwave and potential stay-at-home holidays will be enough to drive shoppers back to the high-streets," said David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG the accountancy firm which sponsored the survey. In May spending rose by 1.4% and like-for-like sales, which takes into account changes in the amount of retail space open to shoppers over the past 12 months, increased by 0.5%. Total retail sales were up 0.2% in June compared with a year ago, but slowed towards the end of the month.

Barratt mulls construction slowdown following Brexit.

The UK's biggest housebuilder, Barratt, could slow its pace of construction in the light of Brexit. The builder told the Reuters news agency it would also review its commitments of land on which to build, after the UK voted to leave the EU. Despite increasing new property completions by 5% last year, it said there was greater uncertainty facing the UK economy. Mortgage lenders also said there would be uncertainty among potential buyers. "Brexit, and its likely effect on the market, is a question to which the answer will not immediately be forthcoming," said Paul Smee, director general of the Council of Mortgage Lenders. "Lenders will continue to be open for business as usual, but lending volumes may be affected by uncertain consumer sentiment."

[Great efforts are being made to keep the Markets happy. I get the feeling that many people are ‘whistling as they pass the graveyard’ and that’s why any mention of bad news or bad forecasts is howled down as dangerous scaremongering. Talking to people at work it seems that Brexit is practically a taboo subject and that some of them at least are regretting their decisions although they’d rather die than admit it even to themselves. But with Article 50 looking like it’s not happening this year I wonder if, when it happens, it’ll just make the shock that much the worse? We’re off the map people – here be monsters!]

All details above from BBC News website.

Cartoon Time.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Death robots: Where next after Dallas?

By Gordon Corera

Security correspondent, BBC News

12 July 2016

The use of a robot to deliver an explosive device and kill the Dallas shooting suspect has intensified the debate over a future of "killer robots". While robots and unmanned systems have been used by the military before, this is the first time the police within the US have used such a technique with lethal intent "Other options would have exposed our officers to greater danger," the Dallas police chief said.

Remote killing is not new in warfare. Technology has always been driven by military application, including allowing killing to be carried out at distance - prior examples might be the introduction of the longbow by the English at Crecy in 1346, then later the Nazi V1 and V2 rockets. More recently, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones such as the Predator and the Reaper have been used by the US outside of traditional military battlefields. Since 2009, the official US estimate is that about 2,500 "combatants" have been killed in 473 strikes, along with perhaps more than 100 non-combatants. Critics dispute those figures as being too low.

Back in 2008, I visited the Creech Air Force Base in the Nevada desert, where drones are flown from. During our visit, the British pilots from the RAF deployed their weapons for the first time. One of the pilots visibly bristled when I asked him if it ever felt like playing a video game - a question that many ask. Supporters of drones argue that they are more effective than manned planes because they can usually loiter longer and ensure they strike the right target. And, of course, there is the understandable desire to reduce risks to pilots, just as in Dallas the police officers could stay protected. But critics argue that the lack of risk fundamentally changes the nature of operations since it lowers the threshold for lethal force to be used.

South Korea pioneered using robots to guard the demilitarised zone with North Korea. These are equipped with heat and motion detectors as well as weapons. The advantage, proponents say, is that the robots do not get tired or fall asleep, unlike human sentries. When the Korean robot senses a potential threat, it notifies a command centre. Crucially though, it still requires a decision by a human to fire. And this gets back to the crucial point about the Dallas robot. It was still under human control.

The real challenge for the future is not so much the remote-controlled nature of weapons but automation - two concepts often wrongly conflated. Truly autonomous robotic systems would involve no person taking the decision to shoot a weapon or detonate an explosive. The next step for the Korean robots may be to teach them to tell friend from foe and then fire themselves. Futurologists imagine swarms of target-seeking nano-bots being unleashed pre-programmed with laws of warfare and rules of engagement.

[There has been a very long history of reducing risk of our armed forces and this will, undoubtedly, continue into the future. Drone pilots have zero risk whilst still flying combat missions and effectively dispatching perceived enemy units on the ground. I doubt very much if there are any plans to make this very effective weapon system any less effective. What I suspect will happen over time is that the less efficient human element will gradually be reduced and finally eliminated in the name of combat effectiveness. It’s entirely understandable and is a very difficult idea to argue against – no matter what people are saying right now. Fully autonomous weapons will sooner or later appear on our battlefields. It’s just a matter of time.]

Saturday, July 16, 2016

"I would be quite proud to have served on the committee that designed the E.coli genome. There is, however, no way that I would admit to serving on the committee that designed the human genome. Not even a university committee could botch something that badly."

Geneticist David Penny.

I’m sure that things will pick up any day now……

Brexit to hit Eurozone growth, says IMF.

The International Monetary Fund has cuts its economic growth forecasts for the Eurozone in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the European Union. The Eurozone is expected to grow by 1.6% this year and 1.4% in 2017. Before the referendum the IMF had predicted growth of 1.7% for both years. The IMF also revised down its 2018 growth forecast to 1.6% from 1.7%. It said medium-term growth prospects for the 19-member bloc were "mediocre" due to high unemployment and debt. Mahmood Pradhan, deputy director of the IMF's European Department, said the outlook could worsen if drawn-out negotiations between the UK and the EU led to a continuation of recent trends in financial markets - where investors have shunned riskier assets. "If that risk aversion is prolonged, we think the growth impact could be larger and at this point, it is very difficult to tell how long that period lasts," he said in a conference call. The revised 2017 figure was the IMF's "best case" scenario, assuming a deal was struck that allowed the UK to retain its access to the EU's single market, Mr Pradhan said.

UK starts post-Brexit trade talks with India.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid is visiting India for the first trade talks since Britain voted to leave the European Union. Mr Javid will meet Indian government officials in Delhi to discuss how the trading relationship with India might work with the UK outside the European Union. He will also visit the US, China, Japan and South Korea in the coming months. While in India, Mr Javid will also discuss the future of Tata Steel UK. India is the third biggest foreign investor in the UK, according to UK Trade and Investment. Total trade between the two countries was £16.55bn last year, the government body said.

Petition for second EU referendum rejected.

The government has rejected an online petition, signed by more than 4.1 million people, calling for a second EU referendum to be held. An email to those who signed the petition said the prime minister and government had "been clear that this was a once-in-a-generation vote". It said the decision "must be respected", and "we must now prepare for the process to exit the EU". The UK voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48% in the referendum on 23 June. Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama said he believed the UK would quit the European Union despite speculation the vote for Brexit could somehow be reversed. "I think we have to assume that a referendum having been passed with a lot of attention, a lengthy campaign and relatively high participation rates is going to stick," he told a news conference at the end of a Nato summit in Warsaw.

UK trade deficit widens in May.

The UK's trade deficit widened in May after the value of exports fell faster than imports. The figures, which precede the Brexit vote, show the deficit in goods and services widened to £2.26bn, up from a downwardly-revised deficit of £1.95bn in April. The deficit on trade in goods alone was £9.9bn in May, up from £9.4bn in April. The Office for National Statistics said goods exports fell £2.1bn to £23.7bn, while imports fell £1.6bn to £33.5bn. The sharp fall in the value of the pound since the EU referendum vote - it is currently at its lowest level for 31 years against the US dollar - has prompted hopes that it will boost demand for UK goods.

Defence spending may drop after Brexit - parliamentary committee.

Economic changes after the vote to leave the European Union could see the defence budget reduced in real terms, a committee of MPs and peers says. The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy says security review planning, conducted once or twice a decade, should begin "immediately". And its report criticised ministers' failure to set out contingency plans for Brexit in the last security review. It accused them of "putting political interests ahead of national security". Last year's Strategic Defence and Security Review contained a commitment by the government, made for the rest of this decade, to meet the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence. This implied an annual real-terms increase of 0.5% above inflation in the Ministry of Defence budget, which would result in spending rising from £34.3bn in 2015-16 to £38.1bn in 2019-20.

Savers braced for 'tougher times' as rate cut considered.

Savers have faced "an uphill battle" when searching for a good interest rate and must brace themselves for "tougher times ahead", an analyst has said. Financial information service Moneyfacts said that returns on popular savings schemes have fallen since the start of the year. It said there had been more than 900 cuts to savings rates since January compared with 111 rate increases. There is speculation that the Bank of England will cut rates this week. The Bank's governor, Mark Carney, has already signalled that a cut in the Bank rate from its historic low of 0.5% is a possibility, and financial markets are speculating that the rate will be lowered to 0.25% on Thursday following the latest meeting of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee.

George Osborne pledges a 'more global-facing Britain'.

Chancellor George Osborne has vowed to create a "more outward-looking, global-facing Britain" following the UK vote to leave the European Union. Even closer economic ties between the UK and US are in the "overwhelming interest of both countries", he has written in the Wall Street Journal. Although the UK is leaving the EU, "we are not quitting the world", he said. He is due to travel to New York, Singapore and China for talks with major investors in the coming weeks. The UK is the largest trading partner in Europe for the United States, and in turn the US is the largest single destination for UK exports. UK exports to the US totalled £88bn in 2014 - about 17% of total UK exports - and last year the UK was the US's sixth largest trading partner.

[I do get the feeling, despite the speed of the Conservative internal election and the fact that nothing too bad seems to have happened yet, that this is the calm before the storm. I keep waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’. It feels like that period between the declaration of war and the first bombs dropping – a Phoney War. Where we are now is, I think, a Phoney Brexit. Our intentions seem to be clear but no one quite knows what’s going to happen next. I’m sure that people are beavering away as I type this to get ‘the best deal for Britain’ but how that will pan out….. well, that’s anyone’s guess at this point.]

All details above from BBC News website.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Just Finished Reading: The Last Gasp by Trevor Hoyle (FP: 1983)

After over 20 years of study there really was no room for error. But who would believe him and would they, indeed could they, do anything about it. That was what worried Theo Detrick. What he didn’t expect was the hostility to his thesis – that the plankton in the oceans, the world’s primary source of oxygen was dying at an unprecedented rate and that in less than 50 years there would be little oxygen left to breath. But Theo had no idea, after years spent on a remote Pacific island, that both the Soviets and the US military were busily weaponising the environment with the idea of producing the ultimate Doomsday capability – the deliberate destruction of all life on Earth. What all sides seemed to have overlooked was that a combination or resource depletion, pollution and habitat destruction had already brought the world to the brink of disaster. Very little would be needed to push things over the edge and into a deadly downward spiral until everyone and everything was literally gasping for breath.

Billed as a ‘landmark in the emerging genre of eco-fiction’ this turned out, over a much too long 524 pages, into a largely farcical tale of the world ending whilst the vast majority of people stood by and watched. OK, I can see that happening right now but my objection stands. The plot revolves around a small cadre of dedicated scientists trying everything to save the world from itself – to no effect. Ignored by politicians, actively opposed by the military, laughed at in the media and attacked by religious groups they repeated try and fail to turn things around. Meanwhile the worlds politicians make fancy speeches and disappear to mountain retreats, the military go in for weird genetic experiments (and bio-warfare) to be on top in the coming world, and the people, well, the people generally die a lot on chocking fumes and polluted food sources. But, by and large nothing is done to alleviate anything – not one thing. I found this incredibly unbelievable. No one, it seemed to me, acted rationally throughout the whole book. Time and again bad decisions were chosen over good ones and decisions made generally made things worse. I was, luckily metaphorically, pulling my hair out more than once. If this had been a film or series on TV I would have spent most of my viewing time screaming at the screen in frustration. If that wasn’t enough to deal with I found the pacing of the novel bizarre at times. We had page after page throughout the book where scientists sat in a room to discuss what was going on, thereby dragging the plot to a complete halt. At other times the narrative jumped years ahead sometimes leaving a cliff hanger literally hanging their unresolved until much later if at all. Finally the ending was completely ridiculous and made precious little sense in the context of the rest of the book. I guess it was to add a heathy dose of optimism after almost 500 pages of unrelenting disaster but felt that the author had essentially painted himself into a corner and the only way out was to produce a technological rabbit out of a very positive hat (to mix my metaphors quite a lot).

Despite the fact that this was (luckily) a quick read it hardly qualified as entertainment and I couldn’t help but feel that I was being preached at on a regular basis. In my mind this invariably gets the opposite results that the author is aiming at. Taking the above into consideration I can hardly recommend this book, so won’t.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Don’t listen to the scaremongering……

Pound slips back as rally fizzles.

Sterling has slipped back to near 31-year lows after a wider market recovery earlier helped it make modest gains. The pound fell 0.13% against the dollar to $1.2914 after having earlier risen above $1.30. The gains for sterling - which is still 0.3% higher against the euro - had come in tandem with widespread increases on European stock markets. London's FTSE 100 share index rose more than 1% on Thursday to 6,534, although trading on Wall Street has been choppy. The FTSE 250 of mid-cap UK firms finished 1.5% higher, while stocks in Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid made modest gains. In the US, trading was muted. The Dow Jones index dipped 0.1% to 17,895.88 but the Nasdaq edged 0.4% higher to close at 4,876.81.

Mortgage rates fall to record lows, ahead of rate cut.

Mortgage rates are continuing to creep downwards, as the City bets on a cut in interest rates next week. A 10-year fixed rate to be launched by the Coventry Building Society on Friday is thought to be the cheapest such deal on record. Barclays, HSBC, Metro Bank, the Leeds and the West Bromwich Building Society are among other lenders who have cut rates since the EU referendum. Economists think there is a 78% chance of a cut in base rates next Thursday. "These are the kind of rates that borrowers couldn't have dreamt of getting even two years ago," said Ray Boulger of John Charcol. The 10-year fix from the Coventry will cost borrowers 2.39%, but to get that rate, homeowners will only be able to borrow half the value of the property. In other words, the deal has a 50% loan-to-value ratio. Many of the rate reductions have been very small. The average five-year fixed rate, for example, has come down from 3.14% before the EU vote to 3.13% currently. The average rate for 10-year fixes has actually risen, because of new products being offered and different loan-to-value ratios.

L&G adds to pain for UK property fund investors.

Confidence in the UK property sector took a further pounding on Thursday after Legal & General made a deeper cut in the value of its property fund. Meanwhile, Aberdeen Asset Management extended a suspension of its fund. The latest moves add to a flurry of suspensions this week as fund managers seek to prevent a stampede to the exit following the vote to leave the EU. Investors are worried that a move to leave the European Union will send commercial property prices tumbling. L&G has cut its £2.3bn ($2.99bn) UK property fund by a further 10%, following a previous 5% valuation cut. Including Aberdeen, at least seven property funds have suspended trading following the UK's vote to leave the European Union. Aberdeen Asset Management extended a suspension of its fund to 11 July on Thursday after announcing a 17% cut to its value. It initially said on Wednesday it would pause the fund for 24 hours.

US banks commit to London post Brexit.

Four of the biggest US banks have committed to helping maintain London's position as a global financial hub after the UK leaves the European Union. Since the referendum vote there have been concerns that banks would reduce their staff and offices in the country. In a statement the banks and Chancellor George Osborne said they would work to ensure London "retains its position". However, they did not say whether this meant that they would keep the same number of jobs and offices in the UK. Ahead of the UK's referendum on the EU, Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JP Morgan, said the bank could move 4,000 jobs out of the UK if the country voted to leave the EU. The banks signing the statement included JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, as well as the UK's Standard Chartered, which makes most of its profit in Asia.

UK industrial and manufacturing output dips during May.

UK industrial output fell by 0.5% in May compared with April, raising concerns about its prospects following the EU referendum. Three of the four major industrial sectors declined, with the biggest contraction in manufacturing, according to the Office for National Statistics. Analysts warned the outlook for UK industry remained "cloudy". Chris Williamson of Markit said manufacturers were increasingly worried about Brexit-related uncertainty. He said the decline in May was less painful than had been expected, but there were now "serious doubts" it could be sustained. On an annual basis industrial output was up by 1.4% on May 2015. And in the three months to May, output grew by 1.9% at its quickest pace in six years.

John Lewis warns over sterling slump.

The boss of John Lewis has warned that the fall in the value of the pound could become a "big issue". Managing director Andy Street said the weak pound could start driving costs higher next year. He also said it was too early to say if the UK's vote to leave the European Union had affected consumer spending. His comments came as a survey pointed to the sharpest drop in consumer confidence in 21 years after the UK vote to leave the EU. Market research firm GfK surveyed 2,000 people after the referendum. Its confidence index fell by eight points to minus nine, a drop not since seen December 1994. Consumer confidence and spending are measures watched by the Bank of England when deciding its next move on interest rates. Governor Mark Carney has already warned the UK's economic outlook is "challenging" following the decision to leave the EU. The GfK survey, which was conducted online, suggested that 60% of consumers expect the general economic situation to worsen over the next year, compared with 46% in June. Just 20% expect it to improve, down from 27% last month.

[I guess that things will start declining again once the markets get over the temporary euphoria of Teresa May’s victory. Now comes the steady decline towards Article 50 followed by the fall off the cliff once it’s enacted. See you on the other side…. Good Luck!]

All details above from BBC News website.

Cartoon Time.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Saw a few of these (unfortunately not flying) at an airshow over the weekend. Could barely take my eyes off them. Beautiful beasts......

EU referendum: who needs experts when we've got Michael Gove? 

By Michael Deacon

6 June 2016

Experts. Authorities. Specialists. People who know stuff. Should we listen to them? Or dismiss them out of hand as a load of stuck-up swots who think they know better than the rest of us, just because they know better than the rest of us? It’s a difficult question. So thank goodness for Michael Gove. On Friday night, during an interview on Sky News about the EU, Faisal Islam challenged the Justice Secretary to name a single independent economic authority that thought Brexit was a good idea. Mr Gove’s response was defiant. “I’m glad these organisations aren’t on my side,” he said. “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.”

Mr Islam spluttered incredulously. People in this country, he repeated, “have had enough of experts?” Mr Gove stood his ground. Yes, he said, people in this country had had enough of experts “saying that they know what is best”. Mr Gove had “faith in the British people”. The so-called experts, clearly, did not. In short: experts schmexperts. What do they know? Follow your heart! Trust your instincts! Believe in Britain!

On Monday morning – less than three days later – Mr Gove was giving a speech at a warehouse in Stratford-upon-Avon, explaining that to stay in the EU would threaten national security. How did he know? Simple. The experts had told him so. “Three key experts,” said Mr Gove gravely, had argued that “the borderless Schengen area facilitates terrorism”. Meanwhile, Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, had “pointed out that European judges threaten our security on three fronts”. Some “distinguished veterans”, furthermore, had predicted that Britain would be safer outside the EU.

A Remain campaigner, I suppose, would argue that other distinguished veterans have predicted that Britain would be less safe outside the EU. That Remain campaigner, however, would be missing the point – which is that there are two kinds of expert. Experts who can be used to back up the views of Mr Gove; and experts who cannot. Experts who can be used to back up the views of Mr Gove are good experts. When they offer an opinion, it is automatically authoritative, honest, and motivated by a patriotic love of our country. These experts – who really do know what is best for us – deserve our attention and respect.

Experts who can’t be used to back up the views of Mr Gove, however, are bad experts. When they offer an opinion, it is automatically unreliable, probably biased, and almost certainly motivated by an elitist disdain for the ordinary working people of Britain. These experts – who have the temerity to act as if they know what is best for us – deserve our suspicion and contempt. It’s really quite simple. So next time you see an expert commenting on the EU referendum, and are unsure how seriously to take their analysis, check with Mr Gove. He’ll set you straight. He is, after all, an expert on experts.

[There you have it in a nutshell – the whole ‘logic’ of the Leave Campaign summed up by one of its greatest proponents. Nuff said I think.]