IT’S GOOD TO KNOW THAT THEY’VE THOUGHT THINGS THROUGH

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NOW WE HAVE SOMETHING ELSE NOT TO SNEER AT

 

For some time now we have been under strict orders not to mock the iconic blue passports which will be introduced sometime…who knows when… after the UK leaves the EU.

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Munguin has been, more or less, careful to heed the instructions of MPs.

Who, after all, is he, a mere media mogul, to disobey the commands of our richers and betters?

It’s been hard not to snigger at the passports, though, for several reasons.

After all, they won’t actually be iconic, because in the 21st century, passports from Canada to New Zealand, from Albania to Zambia, meet international standards of size, shape and layout, so that they can be read by electronic readers at every airport across the globe. And the standard has for some time been set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

And the UK’s EU passport could have been blue in any case. The red colour was only a Brussels’ suggestion. Croatian EU passports, for example, are blue!

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Add all that to the fact that they will be manufactured in France and  “iconic” (iconique) melds easily into “ironic” (ironique).

But enough of that, for there is something even more exciting to celebrate… and not in any way to mock or sneer at. Today, in his budget, Mr Hammond (you know, the cheery looking bloke with the smiley face? Aye, well, not him, the other one with the long face that looks like he lost a shilling and found a sixpence) will announce another Brexit bonus.

Yes. The UK is to have a new 50p coin, issued on the day it leaves the EU.

What about that then. eh?

In retrospect, we probably should have warned you to be sitting down before you read it. But for those of you who are still with us and haven’t passed out with excitement, it is true. A celebration of Brexit will be made available to us all, even readers in Scotland (probably).!£!£$

And in a bid to send out a positive signal to the world, it is expected to bear the phrase, ‘Friendship With All Nations’. Doesn’t that tug at your heart?

So, y’know, people from Kenya to Kazakhstan who lay their hands on a 50p piece (worth next to nothing) will be aware that Britain wishes them friendship, in a sort of isolationist way, because, obviously, it is better than everyone else.

AND…

It was The Sun what done it.

According to that august organ:

“The Sun has campaigned for the Government to create an enduring gesture to mark Brexit as a landmark national moment, such as a special stamp or coin.”

It continued:

“The commemorative coin has had to be personally signed off by the Queen, as it will bear her head.” (This gave them an excuse to include a photo of Liz, which always goes down well with Sun readers., although for the more sophisticated taste of Munguin readers we thought this more appropriate.)

And, if there’s anything left in the shops, just imagine what fun you can have spending it.

You could hope for a sale at Poundland…

Or you could get a tattoo… as long as you weren’t too fussy about spelling.

Or maybe a second-hand hat? (Note from Munguin: You’ve fallen for the crowd-pleasing photo of Liz, you idiot!)

This place gets madder by the day.

IF YOU ARE DISABLED, IT’S YOUR FAULT

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For some time it has been the government’s policy that it is good for people with disabilities to have a job, earn money, take themselves out of poverty and dependency. (Not that having a job in the UK does any of these things, but we are talking about the UK government here, so don’t expect any kind of sense or decency.)

There was nothing stopping people, they reckoned, getting out there and getting on with it. And so they redesigned the medical examinations system for Disability Benefits.

Instead of looking at a person’s illness or disability, considering how they would manage a job and whether they would be likely to be offered a job, or whether their disability would be considered too much of a liability to a potential employer, they looked at whether or not a person was capable of doing anything at all, whether or not anyone would be likely to employ them to do it.

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Mr Freud, one of their august noblemen, suggested that they could pay people with disabilities less money because they would produce less.

If they could walk a few steps, sit up, move even a little, that was it. Off disability benefits and onto the lower paid job seeking benefits. The real, indeed the only, aim was to save money.

We’ve all seen the ridiculous examples of people whose disabilities make it hard enough just to get through the day without having a job to do, being taken off their benefits and told to look for work. And it is interesting that over 50% of those who appeal against that withdrawal, have the decision overturned by the legal system (which, unlike Jobcentre and the private companies it employs to carry out these tests, does not have targets to fulfil).

So, until recently the government was blaming disabled people for scrounging from the system and being a burden to the country.

Now, apparently, thanks to the drive to get people with disabilities into work, more people with disabilities are working. So is the government happy?

Nope.

Britain has a productivity problem. Brits simply produce less per man hour than workers in other large economies. I’d say there were a large number of reasons for this.

British infrastructure is poor; connectivity is abysmal; management is crap; employee incentives, at the bottom end of the market, are dismal. I’ll stop there because I’m running out of negative adjectives, but you get the drift.

Dead end jobs with no security, short-term and zero-hours contracts, bad management, wages which leave people having to collect social security top-ups, firms struggling to get things moved or to do business on a slow (and sometimes non-existent internet or mobile phone cover) are all either disincentives to hard work or blocks to achievement.

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Many people hate their jobs and hate their employers, are bored and dissatisfied. They know they may not be there this time next month. Why would they work hard?

But dear old Philip Hammond (we call him Smiler Hammond at Munguin Towers for his cheery smile and jolly ways) has decided that these things aren’t the real reason for the fact that we get precious little done here.

No no no. Having blamed people with disabilities for not working and causing problems for the economy, he’s now going to blame them for working, and causing problems for the economy.

Yep, that’s right. Britain’s productivity crisis is about the fact that more people with disabilities are working, but presumably not at the pace that able-bodied people would work… QED. Seems if you have a disability, it’s going to be your fault, one way or another.

Come on people, let’s get the hell out of this sickening country while we can.

HAS ANYONE AT THE BBC READ THE LIST OF RESERVED MATTERS?

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In short, there is nothing that the Scottish government can do to stop this loss-making semi-nationalised company closing a large part of its network of branches in Scotland, even though it promised that it would never leave a town without a bank.

RBS was 73% owned by the British government at the end of 2015 (the latest figures I could find). If the British government wishes to do something about the closures, it is the major shareholder. Despite the fact that he will have to sell the shares at a massive loss, Philip Hammond is intending to do just that.

Getting rid of the 62 branches in Scotland along with 197 branches of NatWest in England will make it a leaner operation and more attractive to buyers. So, maybe this has been done in collusion with Hammond, given he represents the largest shareholder.

To the best of my knowledge, the Scottish government has no shares in the company.

It’s a great pity that the Unite Union and the BBC couldn’t work that out for themselves.

IF EVER THERE WAS A TIME THAT WE NEEDED PROPER LEADERSHIP IT IS NOW. AND WHAT HAVE WE GOT?

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A “no deal” Brexit will mean less money for the struggling NHS and for cash-starved social care, the Chancellor has admitted.

But wait, what happened to the £350 million a week?

Philip Hammond is the first Cabinet minister to say it was “theoretically possible” that crashing out of the EU without an agreement would ground all flights.

And unless they come to agreements over Open Skies, that’s what will happen.

Mr Hammond appeared to be at odds with Mrs May when he noted that there was a  prospect of terrorists targeting new infrastructure at or near the border – despite the Prime Minister ruling out a hard border. An Taosiseach Leo Varadkar said last month that solutions were unlikely to be found and insisted that it was down to the UK to resolve the issue, adding that Ireland would not help design a “border for the Brexiteers.”

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Over 100 MPs have written to David Davis asking him to publish the impact assessments they say that the government has done, but refused to make public. Refusing to let us know how bad it would be is surely a dereliction of duty and impeding the work of parliament in scrutinising the work of the executive.

What a mess!

Looking at snippets of Prime Minister’s Questions today, I was thinking that, if ever there was a time to have a strong and stable prime minister with a bunch of dedicated, intelligent, hardworking, visionary ministers, it was now.

Then I listened to her stammering and spluttering her way through non-answers to the perfectly reasonable questions that Jeremy Corbyn was putting to her on the utter chaos surrounding their Universal Credit scheme, and I began to wonder if I was living in some sort of Grimms Fairy Tale.

Shortly afterwards I caught a bit of Liz Truss’s car crash interview with Andrew Neil, and then I knew that I was.

THE BALL’S IN THEIR COURT

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Apparently Mrs May is set to tell the Commons that, following her speech in Florence (where she told the Europeans that we had never liked them anyway, and always felt awkward in the same room as them…wasn’t she supposedly a remainer?), it was now up to them to come forward with a solution.

It seems to be “job done” as far as she is concerned.

This, from the text of her speech to Europe:

On the other hand, it seems that Philip Hammond says this:

And here’s wee Foxy.

And that appears to be true at VERY considerable costs. From the Telegraph:

Theresa May has decided to commit billions of pounds on preparing Britain to leave the European Union without a deal in a bid to save her premiership.

The spending, which will be “unlocked” in the new year if no progress is made with Brussels, is intended to send a signal to pro-Brexit MPs that she is serious about regaining the upper hand in the negotiations.

Dominic Raab tells the BBC that planning to leave with no deal is underway. The cost of this will be billions.

(So she’s prepared to spend billions on saving her premiership, according to a hardline Tory paper.  That magic money tree is beginning to look as if it is her personal property, to be used only in the event of some event threatening to derail her.)

It’s all very well throwing the ball to Europe and telling them it’s in their court but they seem to be throwing several different types of ball. Mr Barnier doesn’t know whether he needs a tennis racquet, a baseball bat, a golf club or a pair of football boots.

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But we can’t help thinking that “the ball’s on the slates”, rather than on anyone else’s court.

Wouldn’t be nice if Britain had a realistic coherent policy on Brexit?

  • With thanks to Ian Dunt for the quotes from May, Hammond’s ally and Fox.
  • Theresa May will say in the Commons today that after her Florence speech, “the ball is in [the EU’s] court”.