Friday, 24 July 2015

Patchy on the Patch

It's good to see that Labour councillors are still occasionally getting things done on their patch. It's now seemingly such a rare occurrence that they almost make a song and dance out of it, publicising it in unexpected places, as here. Not that there is any harm in this, by the way, but those of us who are doers have so much going on (as I have done for most of the past fifteen years, for example) that we'd hardly make a point of highlighting one of those – unless it were the only one, I suppose(!)

As some reading this will know, I was doing this sort of thing all the time, more-or-less single handed for years, when I was on the Council here; and have continued to do so since moving to this largely-neglected (for many years) Labour-held ward over five years ago.

That has been not only here, but in other wards as well, which also usually turn out to have Labour councillors, and even a UKIP activist in one such area who had been active on such matters there while a Conservative, so I provided a tip-off, but then defected and didn't pursue it. I did, later, after asking whether it had even been reported in before. It had not.

I did have a post with half a dozen 'before and after' photos on my 'blog a few years ago, but deleted it last year when my image space use was nearing the limit and I cleared out a lot of older posts. I still have all the images, details and council reference numbers in my own records, of course, and might re-post them here again if there is any interest shown, as the space allocation has since been increased.

On a couple of occasions, instead of dealing with something myself, I have experimentally tried another approach, which was to publicise my findings either here or elsewhere in public view. The theory was that the councillors concerned would in effect be embarrassed into bothering for a change. Whether or not that was the reason for this method's apparent success, it is interesting to note that both those issues were fixed within months of my having splashed them about publicly.

Overall, it has been of great benefit to the residents of our borough in a number of places, and it has also helped inform me of who are the doers and who are merely posturers on our elected Council. Although it isn't precisely a party-based divide, it's fairly close, notwithstanding the (rare) exceptions.

Even in the case here, though, the same councillors have been elected for the ward that  includes Ropemakers Court for over four years, and their party for well over the 'decade' that Cllr Osborne refers to as 'when it should be have been done' in the linked post. Why is it only now that any one of the three is attending to this?

Foundation and Labour

If the great science fiction author Isaac Asimov had been born about fifty years later than he was, and lived in England, I suspect he might have written his Foundation and Empire episode that revolves around General Bel Riose with this nation's Labour party in mind.

In that story, a logic truth table demonstrated that, whatever combination of emperor and general(s) existed at the time, because of the social and galactic structure of the period, the decaying old empire would fail to defeat the Foundation.

Running the same kind of exercise with the Labour party, its current leader at any time, and the 'generals' waiting to make a name for themselves so that each of them could push to become the party's next leader, I found that a more elaborate but again consistent truth table emerged. The main difference here was that there would be several changes of party leader, both in and out of government, during the decade that was to follow.

The details are too involved to try to explain here – it would make for long and (probably) tedious reading for most, and some of it isn't easy to explain in words or diagrams anyway. All one needs to do is think about how the party was faring, in government, under Tony Blair ten years ago, and all that has happened since.

That starts with the Gordon Brown moves to oust Blair and take over, the inevitable failure to win the (long-awaited) next national election – and the almost equally inevitable failure to have gone for an election much earlier, when he might have succeeded – then passing through the Ed Miliband era (and the Union manipulations to get their de jure puppet to succeed Brown).

The big Unions' bosses' failure to do what I thought they might – force a replacement of Miliband at or by the autumn 2013 Labour party conference – meant that Labour was almost certainly not going to be forming the next government. Although I kept my powder comparatively dry in public, I did occasionally drop hints to trusted people in conversation during the eighteen months that followed. I knew, or at least strongly suspected at first, when I wasn't yet certain.

Incidentally, if they had engineered a change of leader (which would have been easy to arrange, by putting Ed-M in a situation where he'd have resigned: he almost certainly couldn't have been ousted), with the possible replacements realistically in the field at the time, that would have generated a whole new 'branch-off' for my logic table. Those could have been interesting times!

A Miliband-led Labour party was bound to be going nowhere, as we all knew he was incapable of presenting an electable face to the nation, either personally or party-wide, with the results we saw recently at the General Election just two months ago as I write this.

All of this led to the current party leadership election: a long, drawn-out process lasting a full four months from May to September. Now they have four contenders from across Labour's (not exactly unlimited) part of the political spectrum. The truth table shows that, because of their inherent nature, the party will be extremely unlikely to elect anyone on the so-called 'Blairite' wing of the party – which is the only potentially winning kind of contender.

No: their Foundation and Labour deduced positioning means that they will, whatever happens, head in the opposite direction when it comes down to the wire in selecting their new leader. They will repeat the mistakes of the recent past, again strongly aided by the Communist-run big Unions whose financial backing is essential to Labour having any election fighting funds anyway.

All this was predictable, and of course some of us foresaw it long ago. It is the beginning of the possible end of the Labour party – though that will depend on when the Unions' other failure to do what at least one of their bosses had been planning isn't revived. That was to either create a new Left-wing party or (more likely) to promote an existing one, such as the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP), as a replacement for Labour.

I have a feeling that the wind isn't blowing in a favourable direction for that just yet, so the Communists running most of this country's big Unions are no doubt finding it necessary to stay their hands for the time being, and play the game of getting involved in Labour's current leadership contest – hence UNITE's support for outright lefty Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, it's probably just tokenism, as I am sure they still have those other plans – which I have of course accounted for in my tables.

Overall, it is an interesting time, and exactly as was predicted by events in recent times when applied to my 'logic modelling'. The Labour party's future existence will depend upon the outcome of this leadership contest (including, to a lesser extent, the deputy leader election) and the way the wind blows thereafter.

While the time is not yet ripe to kill off Labour and heavily promote its replacement (probably the SWP) then it will limp on in opposition. One day, though, that situation is likely to change. That day is when a part of my modelling is brought into out the daylight for the first time since it was constructed...

Friday, 17 July 2015

What Is A Foreign Student?

Because of this story in the left-leaning Huffington Post, I thought it worth taking a few moments to explain what a foreign student is. Remember that I worked in the Immigration Dept of the Home Office for several years, some time ago, including on the public counters and answering telephone enquiries, so have a lot of insider knowledge.

For this I am ignoring the case of EU citizens, as we don't have the same kind of control over their movements and it would muddy the waters to attempt to factor them into this post.

The UK's purpose for foreign students was that they could learn to the high standards of higher education we have long had in this country and then take that back to their home country where they can deploy that knowledge and skill-set to improve the way that nation is in some way. It has never been intended as a route to employment here in Britain since the Immigration Act under which we were then operating was passed, quite some years previously.

At the time, I was operating under that law as amended (many times!) including on several occasions by the then current Labour government. This is not a 'Theresa May' thing!

Therefore this (rather skewed and inaccurate) piece in the HuffPo is largely a nonsense. It is indeed the current oft-voiced criticism of 'foreigners stealing our jobs' for one reason or another that was the reason for that formulation of the original legislation in the first place. Therefore the expectation was that overseas students would leave our country when their studies were complete – or within a reasonable period thereafter, at any rate.

There might be slight confusion in some people's minds in that – while they are studying (nothing to do with what follows) – such students on longer learning periods, such as at University, are usually permitted to take employment. This, though, is for the long-established practice of in-vacation short-term jobs, such as my brother did during the years he was at uni (he kept hot drinks vending machines cleaned and re-stocked, by the way).

Overseas students are not 'deported' at the end of their study time (plus a few months, typically) which, incidentally, would be at public expense. Tourists and other visitors to our fair nation are not deported either – unless they remain beyond their allowed time here, sometimes extended thugh so it doesn't happen all that often.

No: the deliberately emotive d-word is clearly intended here to slant the piece to generate outrage – a standard Lefty tactic, of course.

Incidentally, if someone's immigration-related circumstances change significantly, then there has always been provision to apply for an extension or (in appropriate circumstances) permanent residence. I do not believe that has been removed, nor is it likely to be.

Finally, all the facts about coming here to study are made clear to those applying to do so. If they don't agree with those conditions, then we're not forcing them to come here. If, as the HuffPo writer claims, it's different in other countries, well then perhaps one of those might have been a better choice for this individual.

The bottom line is that I have no sympathy whatsoever, having dealt with many thousands of students from abroad in my time – including a small number who were trying to worm their way in on a permanent basis, though most were genuine. Despite the (rather convenient?) arguments elsewhere in the piece, the writer of the linked piece comes across as perhaps not having come here on a genuine basis...

Friday, 19 June 2015

It Points Both Ways

I am currently reminded of the fictitious mayor Salvor Hardin's epigram which tells us that "the atom blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways." ('Foundation' by Isaac Asimov)

What has triggered this line of thought? The Labour party's leader and deputy leader elections, which are being granted disproportionate media coverage by what (as we all know by now) is a largely Labour-supporting media sector, with the remainder keeping up with the competition – so they are all at it. This includes televised hustings as if this is as significant as a General Election – which it is not.

Notably, the Liberal Democrats' own leadership replacement process is receiving virtually no coverage in the mainstream media, and nor did the Conservative leadership elections during the past fifteen years and more (though more than the Lib Dems are getting at present).

So, what is the relevance of Salvor Hardin's saying? It is that, in their attempt to make Labour the focus of the population's attention – and specifically at the expense of the other political parties – they unavoidably expose the weaknesses and other demerits of the leadership candidates.

So far we have had just one nationwide televised hustings, earlier this week, which most observers judged to be humdrum and unexciting. It also showed that the candidates were mostly living in the past, spouting the same rhetoric as ever (mainly: tax, borrow, spend), and any 'new' ideas they claimed to have turned out to be variations on the old, failed Labour policies that have now lost them two general elections in a row.

Liz Kendall is the only slightly brighter star in this rather dull firmament, but only in part. The lady is far and away the best – and most relevant – of the four candidates, but this is Labour so the others scored higher (to different extents) in follow-up formal polls and other surveys.

The most likely ultimate winner remains Andy Burnham, as I said in a couple of places a few weeks ago. That has remained unchanged up until his twice-uttered gaffe this past week about 'the party comes first, always' – Liz Kendall's riposte that 'the country comes first' during the terlevised hustings event making Burnham's self-serving attitude even more glaringly obvious than it might have been.

This is not exactly a new thing, of course, and has permeated the Labour party (and, it seems, all other Left-wing parties everywhere) for as long as I can remember. Even supposedly moderate Charles Clarke let slip the same sentiment on television several years ago, and others from the party have said the same in print for years.

Thus the public are, now more than ever before, learning truths that their supportive friends in the big media (most notably the BBC, as in this instance) really hadn't intended. Their agenda has, inevitably and predictably, been scuppered by the innate nature of those they are showcasing.

Really perceptive readers of this post will perhaps now start to see why, over the years, I have been saying that this particular (i.e. media) issue would ultimately work out for the best. That actual 'best' is yet to come, but what we have already witnessed gives an early clue or three to where it is all leading. Long before the next parliamentary all-out election in Britain, this picture should be clearer still!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ed-less Chickens

So Ed[ward] Miliband has gone as Labour party leader, and the contest is on for his replacement. This often happens just after a failed General Election attempt – but should it?

The Guardian, of all places, raises a number of valid points in its editorial today, suggesting that the party should have waited for the new MPs in particular to have settled in and to have had the chance to witness those who would become leadership (and deputy leader) contenders in action, at close hand.

The piece also criticises several features of Labour's leader election methodology – partly improved since five years ago, but still with many issues that could be avoided. For example, Tristram Hunt has been unable to secure the 15% of MPs' nominations that he needs to be able to enter the contest. That seems to be a significant loss, whatever one might think of him (and views are very varied, including that he is or is not leader material) and the resultant choice is diminished as a consequence.

It currently looks like Andy Burnham is the front-runner – which is great for the other parties, the Conservatives in particular, as he has such a bad personal track record and is even easier to skewer than Ed-M has been. Future Prime Minister's Questions sessions will be highly entertaining for those who are not Labour supporters if Burnham becomes the next Labour leader.

Yvette Cooper looks to be second choice, though there is a school of thought that suggests Labour people would never accept a female leader – deputy, yes, but not the party's actual leader. This factor alone also tends to scupper the chances of the other current contenders, Mary Creagh and the quite promising Liz Kendall (though I'd suggest her for deputy rather than leader anyway, myself, and not just because of that issue I just mentioned).

Of course, that school of thought might prove to be incorrect; and there are still a few more weeks to get in one or two additional candidates, each with the 35 MPs' support that each needs. Obviously with 15% being the magic fraction, only six candidates at maximum can enter the race.

Overall, procedurally I go along with the suggestion in the linked piece of having an interim leader and a decision on a 'permanent' replacement for Ed-M taken two or three years down the road. However it is already under way, and the Unions are still finding ways to manipulate the leadership decision (a large number of current Labour MPs are tied-up with the big Unions one way or another, for a start, which helps), so perhaps it wouldn't achieve anything to push for it this far in.

The consequence is that the party is now all over the place, and is already in what Iain Martin calls 'a dangerous position', with a risk of 'teetering on becoming a joke'. He's not wrong – and it could have been avoided. Now they are likely 'Ed-less' chickens...