The fact is we all already pay for the NHS through national insurance and tax; making those who can afford it pay more is the logical first step in helping to reverse this disaster.
I can only endorse the closing words of your doctor: “I am angry and sad for our country. I am ashamed of what we have become.”
‘Fix the mess’
Alastair Campbell is right (Diary, TNE #325) that Keir Starmer should drop “making Brexit work” and say instead that he will “fix the Brexit mess”.
However, Starmer chose to co-own Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal by whipping his MPs to support it. His hands have been tied ever since and his recent speech in Belfast continued the unreality of following “the will of the people”.
It gives me little confidence that Labor can bring about any restorative change.
Perhaps Alastair can help clarify the Labor thinking behind this disastrous attitude.
Sir Keir Starmer seems as averse to mentioning Brexit as actors are at saying Macbeth before a performance. He should do what Alastair Campbell advocates and “show real confidence – and leadership – by denouncing the Brexit mess” (journal #325).
People need to be told repeatedly that without Brexit £40bn more money would have been collected in taxes (Jonty Bloom, Agenda #325) to help with the cost of living crisis. Shadow ministers should also bring the “Brexit mess” into the mix when answering questions about how Labor would fund its spending plans.
They should argue more forcefully that a better trade deal with the EU, by stimulating the economy, would increase tax revenues to pay for improved services, facilitating a change of government – as it would not stand in the way of hard-right Tory Brextremists intent on thwarting such a deal. These Jonahs may not admit it, but one aim of their regulatory bonfire is undoubtedly to make improving trade with the EU more difficult – even if it means eroding Britain below the waterline once again.
Mandrake’s claim that Nadine Dorries hates Manchester because she’s from Liverpool (TNE #325) confuses being born in Liverpool with being a resident of Liverpool. Although she is the former, Nadine Dorries does not share any of the traits that would make her the last.
I am embarrassed every time I hear Dorries and Liverpool used in the same sentence.
Calm down, Will!
Will Self (multicultural man, TNE #326) is quite right to decry the horrifying trend of keeping beer cool in pubs of any type. Will could also have mentioned that this insidious development also extends to bottled beer in many stores and supermarkets.
Chilling comes at the cost of flavour, which may be a good thing in the case of some modern “craft” beers, but certainly not for real ale, which should always be served at room temperature.
To me, this beer revolution was like when we got color television. I’ve been a beer drinker since the 70’s. Bitter sometimes looked a bit like earwax, but that’s how it had to be. Then someone hit the switch and the flavor came on.
Most of it is not chilled, Will Self exaggerating. And the refrigerated stuff is meant to be refrigerated and has enough flavor to withstand the cold. It’s not the fizzy little one he remembers from another century. I’d love to give tours of modern beer for the few older folks stuck with bitter.
Peter Trudgill’s article (“Dictators Who Loved Uniformity”, TNE #325) about the suppression of local languages by Franco, Mussolini, Metaksas and Hitler was interesting and alarming. But I felt disappointed that there was no mention of the “Welsh Not”, a tool for the suppression of the Welsh language in Welsh schools in the 19th century.
The first child to be heard speaking Welsh instead of English on a school day was made to wear or wear a piece of wood around the neck with “WN” carved on it. He or she would wear this until they heard another child speak Welsh, at which point the Not would then be passed on to that child. This continued throughout the school day. The child in the possession of the Not at the end of the day was then beaten by one of the masters.
So not only was the language suppressed, but the children themselves were forced to supervise its suppression. One can only imagine the wearer’s desperation to pass the Not on to another child to avoid the end of the day.
This was a shameful episode in the history of this country, not only because of the suppression of Welsh itself, but because of the use of the children to enforce it.
Because readers still write in (letters, TNE #325) on Dominic Sandbrook’s thought-provoking critique of “waking up” in TNE #321, and since they insist being awake is just about “being kind”, it’s worth noting that, as usual, things are more complicated than that.
Whatever its dignified origins, “waking up” now serves as a useful abbreviation for a mentality that combines self-righteousness, conceit, and self-pity. I’m old enough to remember when that was considered a bad thing.
The fact that we imported it from the US on a large scale should ring alarm bells given that country’s very different history and culture, not to mention the very public meltdown it has had for several years.
Sophia Deboick (“The Sounds of Sorrow”, TNE #325) claims that the term Blue Monday was coined in the 1970s. Fats Domino’s song of that title – a wry account of the life of a manual laborer – was released in 1957. But for a real cry of desperation, try Hard times (who knows better than me?) by Ray Charles.
Although Blue Monday – in its current sense – is an invention of a travel company, as Sophia Deboick puts it, the phrase has been around since the early 1800s, when it referred to the pain of going back to work after a weekend of drinking .
This then inspired a 1920s operetta by George Gershwin that was a precursor to Porgy and Bess.
Lack of Truss
If it is not tradition to automatically bestow the Order of the Garter on a former prime minister, as Mandrake says (TNE #325) don’t do it for Liz Truss. She has done nothing to deserve this honor.
I almost completely forgot about Liz Truss when Mandrake raised her. Where is she? What is she doing? And more to the point, after costing Britain billions with her vain budget, why on earth is she still considered fit to be an MP?
Jonty Bloom’s column, with its detailed cataloging of the true cost of Brexit and its effect on the UK economy, always holds me with a grim fascination.
However, in “Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish” (TNE #324) he omitted an interesting side fact. Jonty referred to the failed negotiated fishing rights agreement with Norway, which reduced the UK’s cod quota from 10,085 tonnes in 2019 to 500 tonnes in 2022. As I recall, the minister responsible for the negotiations announced it as an example of the UK’s tough new post-Brexit negotiating stance by denying Norwegians easy access to British waters. The fact that Norwegian fishermen rarely fished in those waters was overlooked. What was also overlooked was that this meant the loss of access to Norway’s cod and haddock fishing grounds.
Who was this minister who could present a disastrous failed trade deal as such a success? None other than Liz Truss. Jonty Bloom should have made clear who is responsible for the skyrocketing price of fish and chips.
Pickering, North Yorkshire
So the company with no experience of producing car batteries on any scale, with no substantial financial backing given the size of the business, and no customers – Britishvolt – has gone into administration after promises, along with the Johnson government (which on its turn pledged £100m support), to build a gigafactory in Northumberland. Why am I not surprised?
The deal was made and announced with trumpets under Johnson; it’s alarmingly similar to the way PPE contracts were awarded, albeit on a much larger scale, and it was a pipe dream given the company’s lack of track record. Also, development depended on attracting substantial investment, in a country that seems incredibly high risk for any savvy investor for that kind of money. Why invest here when there are 25 battery factories in operation, backed by real expertise in the EU, not to mention other major projects in the green technology sector?
The Northeast desperately needs this kind of large-scale industrial production. The area has lost the thousands of promised factory and supply chain jobs. Britishvolt’s 300 employees were immediately fired. The hopes of the students who recently applied have been dashed.
The country urgently needs at least five massive battery factories if our auto industry is to survive. The only one that continues – next to the Nissan plant in Sunderland, and not on the same scale – is in Chinese hands.
This incompetent government has no industrial strategy and does not believe in it. It clearly doesn’t believe in proper due diligence either. Promising the earth and crossing your fingers won’t cut it with investors. Let’s hope it’s not a terminal for the Northumberland site, but who in their right mind is going to invest in the UK at this point when there are much more attractive prospects on the other side of the North Sea?
Was I imagining things when Volodymyr Zelensky didn’t look too happy to see the shameless Boris “photo op” Johnson pitch again in Ukraine last weekend? Could it be that someone tipped off the president that in Boris’s eyes he might just be a friend with benefits?!