Thursday, 30 June 2016

Racism and the Referendum

Racism and the Referendum

The online news site “Spiked” takes what I consider to be a rather cynical view of the reported increase in race crime:

“Following the Brexit vote there has been a panic about an apparent ‘spike’ in hate crime. An increase of 57 per cent was widely reported, and, on Twitter, a new hashtag, #PostRefRacism, started trending, with tweeters listing incidents from around Britain. It seems many people, both online and offline, have had personal experience of post-Brexit, racist Britain.”

They notice that a group of protesters from Newcastle carrying a sign that reads ‘Stop immigration, start repatriation’ was part of a planned demo anyway, and that Northumbria Police, who cover the Newcastle area, have indicated that there has been ‘no spike’ in racist incidents reported to them over the weekend. They also say that while it is deplorable, an EDL rally in Sheldon, Birmingham, showed around 30 EDL protesters chanting at passers-by but this too had been planned for months,

It should be noted, by the way, that nine racist crimes were recorded by Northumbria Police over the weekend, although the police do not see that as a “significant” increase, it is nevertheless an increase above the baseline.

They argue that “two of the most prominent examples of post-referendum racism have nothing to do with the referendum at all” and that “Britain has not become a racist country overnight. Remainers who suggest otherwise reveal their own prejudices.”

While “Spiked” is correct to ask us to take a deeper look at the figures, and what they represent, they seem to have biases of their own and I am not convinced of their own objectivity. The two "prominent" incidents reported are not typical of the reported abuse, which is not organised for the most part. And they overlook the fact that organisations could have also planned their strategy for both a remain and Brexit victory.

But there is something in what they say. A statistic which is being widely sent out is that “Reports of hate crime have risen 57 per cent in the aftermath of the EU referendum vote, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council.”

When examined, this means that “There were 85 reports of hate crimes to True Vision, a police-funded reporting website, between Thursday and Sunday compared with 54 reports over the same period four weeks ago.”

That, as Spike points out, is a very small number to base a percentage increase on. The question is how significant is that of the population as a whole. It is certainly a problem, because most statistics on race crime come from self-reporting of victims to the police, rather than a general survey of the population in general.

If we look at a random statistical sample of significance, we see that the 2013 British Social Attitudes reported noted that British people were becoming “more suspicious of immigrants and narrow in their interpretation of who counts as “truly British”.

Writing on this in 2014, Dr Robert Ford noted the generational differences in viewpoints, and how the statistics, when examined, showed that the trend tended to be for the older generations to be more likely to have racist attitudes:

“It is easy to forget that mass immigration is still a recent development in Britain, within the living memories of many voters. A voter drawing her pension for the first time this year would have turned 18 in 1967, a time – one year before Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech – when immigrant minorities were a new and contentious phenomenon and the British born ethnic minority population was small and politically invisible.”

“Voters turning 18 today have grown up in a vastly different society, where ethnic diversity is an established fact of life in most walks of life, and where one in five relationships is between partners from different ethnic groups.”

And he notices how this can also be reflected in attitudes to inter-marriage:

“Nearly half of those born in the 1940s or earlier oppose white-black, or white-Asian intermarriage, and two thirds oppose white-Muslim intermarriage. Among those born since 1980, the equivalent figures are 14% and 28% respectively.”

Amnesty International UK has an example of racial abuse post-Referendum. A member of Amnesty’s Belfast group was verbally racially abused on Saturday night by a man who asked him if he was from the European Union before telling him to “get the fuck out of our country”.

Kate Allen of Amnesty, suggests that this is because ‘Some people now feel licensed to express racist views in a way we haven’t seen for decades’ and notes that “Amnesty is deeply concerned at reports of verbal abuse, attacks on buildings, racist slogans on t-shirts, calls for people to leave the country and other acts of intimidation and hate.”

Not one to simply take anecdotal evidence, Amnesty will conduct research into the rise in racism and xenophobia across the UK. The new research will examine reports of abuse and their causes, including the public and political discourse around both the EU referendum and the London mayoral election.

This will, I suggest, yield some solid statistics of the kind that is needed, and also see what kind of cohorts we are looking at with racial abuse. Is it generational, with the prejudices of the older generation coming to the fore? Are there more older racists shouting abuse than younger ones? That is not to say that some abuse may still come from younger people, but is there a generational demographic, as reflected in the 2013 survey?

Certainly the voting on the Referendum indicated a split between younger voters significantly in favour of remain, while older voters for leaving, almost certainly driven by fears of immigration stirred up by the Brexit campaigners. The research by Dr Robert Ford suggests that this division may also plays out with incidence of racial abuse.

While most incidents involve self reporting rather than sampling, there certainly seems to be a some element of abuse that can only be attributed to the aftermath of the Referendum, and the xenophobic attitudes it engendered.

This can be seen as eyewitnesses have taken to social media to describe incidents they have encountered, and an account called Post Ref Racism was started on both Twitter and Facebook to offer people a “space to document the increase in racism,” according to the page’s description.

When one examines these examples, albeit anecdotal, what is significant is the number of cases in which older people have seen racial abuse in the past, which has declined, but has now shocked them by its resurgence.

A few examples from Twitter demonstrate this:

In utter shock: just been called p**i in my home town! Haven't heard that word here since the 80s..!

Mum got called 'Paki' for 1st time in 40yrs.@Conservatives have created hostile environment for immigrants & British citizens.#PostRefRacism

The British-Nigerian Historian and Broadcaster, David Olusoga, says that: “I’ve never had a day of so many people telling me to go back to Africa. My home town is Newcastle. This afternoon. I feel like I am back in the 1980s.

And certainly as Kate Allen suggests, it also has created a climate in which racist remarks kept in private have become more open and voluble, for example:

This is also the opinion of Nick Lowles, chief executive of the charity Hope Not Hate, who says that “such bullies seem to have felt energized by the immigrant scaremongering that was voiced by elements of the Leave campaign during the referendum debate. They saw the result as a green light to act out their prejudices and foist their hatred on others.”

Doctor colleague was told to 'go home' today. The legitimisation of racism by the political class is terrifying and real. Must fight it

This morning in Manchester there were groups of people shouting racist abuse in the city centre. I have been subject to comments such as "pack up and go back home" even though my home is the UK.

“Spiked” makes great play of the question “what is racism?” with an implicit suggestion that some people are taking relatively minor sleights too seriously.

But if racial abuse can be measured, it would surely be on a continuum, and John O'Connell, from anti-racism group Far Right Watch, said they had recorded more than 90 incidents in the past three days, ranging from "verbal abuse up to physical violence".

Certainly the self-reported comments are from people who are genuinely shocked to discover that they are considered to be non-British because of the colour of their skin, or their accent.

The case of Lauren Stonebanks, an artist and mental health campaigner of mixed race is instructive. Getting off a bus in the city on Monday, an old woman shouted at her: “Get your passport, you’re fucking going home.”

She is used to getting the odd abusive racist comments. But what she has noticed is a marked shift in the type of abusive comments she receives. “I’m used to the random nasty comments,” she says, but “since Brexit the tone has changed. It’s no longer ‘Effing Paki.’ It is now ‘Go Home,’ which used to happen in the 80s and it’s happening again.”

And certainly the anecdotal evidence, growing daily, bears this change of tone out. While the numbers may be relatively small compared to the total population, that does not mean it is not significant nor that it does not reflect deep seated but buried prejudices resurfacing.

After all, no one thinks that all football fans are hooligans, but an increase in the incidence by those who revel in violence would be cause for concern. Innocent bystanders can get hurt in tribal attitudes, and where there may be nothing more than angry words today, there may be bottles thrown tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Guernsey Watch

I’ve been looking at the news coming from Guernsey in the Guernsey Press and Star in the wake of the Brexit vote. Guernsey has of course featured in a comment by France´s economy minister Emmanuel Macron: "Leaving the EU would mean the ´Guernseyfication´ of the UK, which would then be a little country on the world scale. It would isolate itself and become a trading post and arbitration place at Europe´s border."

But I've tracked down an even earlier form of that Guernsey comparison - "One or two near-certainties stand out. A post-Brexit Britain would be a cross between a greater Norway and a greater Guernsey. " said David Marquand in The New Statesman, 1996!

A number of canny Guernsey folk were hedging their bets on the result of the Referndum, correctly as it turned out, as sterling fell after the result, and is still expected to do. A range of currency experts are expecting more falls after a brief reprieve as it gained a little yesterday. They say that another 5 percent-10 percent drop from current levels can't be ruled out in the next couple of weeks.

DOUBLE the number of Euros have been sold by bureau de change Batif in the lead up to today’s EU referendum. Boley Smillie, chief executive of Guernsey Post which runs it, said it had to order 100,000 euros to meet demand – with some people even reserving them yesterday. ‘We have had a run on euros, sales are up 100% on what we would expect for this time of year,’ he said. ‘The run has just been this week, in the last few days. ‘The interesting point for us is that it is good news for business right now, but people might just be buying them ahead of time, so there could be a reduction in how much is being bought later this year.’

On a non-EU related issue, it was rather nice to see that Herm’s five pupils had the chance to be outside, and presumably managed to find a day of fine weather as well! The Channel Islands, along with the UK, seem to be suffering “British Summer” at the moment, spells of sunshine punctuated by heavy showers! Do any Jersey schools do this, I wonder?

HERM SCHOOL took part in Empty Classroom Day last week, joining thousands of children across the world in celebrating the benefits of working outdoors. Empty Classroom Day is part of a global campaign, backed by Persil, to make the school day more fun and get children back to nature. The Herm children are lucky enough to be able to use the entire island as their playground and often take activities outside anyway. Nature walks, tree planting, art in the woods and drama out on the hills and fields have been part of the Herm School curriculum for years.

This was the first time they have spent the entire day outside and luckily the weather was good

Returning to the Referendum. After the result, Guernsey started looking at what the economic landscape may look like without the protection of Protocol 3:

The vote to leave the European Union – by 51.9 to 48.1% – has led Prime Minister David Cameron to resign this morning, immediate stock market volatility and the pound suffering its biggest ever drop. It means that Protocol 3, which allows the island to trade freely in physical goods with the EU, will fall away and need to be replaced amid the UK exit negotiations, which will begin when a new prime minister is in place. Guernsey is not a member of the EU, but Protocol 3, which will need to be replaced as part of the UK’s exit negotiations, ensures free movement of goods. In terms of the finance industry, while Guernsey is not part of the EU it is instead treated as a third country, implementing those measures it needs to ensure equivalence and access to the European markets – that remains unchanged by the vote.

This led to a lively discussion on how truthful the Brexit campaigners had been, and how immigration fears had driven the debate. The Australian style immigration system which has been mooted came in for some sarcastic comments:

How the hell can you have the same border controls as Australia? Apart from New Guinea, The nearest country is more than two thousand miles away. In contrast you can see France from England.

Meanwhile, Tourism is benefiting from cruise passengers, or so it would appear. The article on this was said to be by some a piece of promotional fluff:

SHOPS, hotels and tourist attractions are said to be reaping the benefits of the thousands of cruise passengers who have visited the island so far this year. From the beginning of April until the recent visit of the Disney Magic, a total of 52,000 passengers have come ashore. This weekend will be the busiest of the season, with 3,600 people on board visiting ships on Saturday and a record-breaking 8,100 on Sunday. Businesses reported more footfall so far this year compared with last and they said Guernsey had received positive feedback from cruise visitors, with many passengers booking hotels for return trips.

How accurate is that report? Some Guernsey people had a very cynical view of how much the cruise ships contributed to the economy, others regarded cruise ship days as a time to keep out of Town, but one business owner gave a more positive perspective. Here is a selection of comments.

Yes, they may buy a cup of coffee and a snack, visit a museum (or the popular, free, Little Chapel, sadly covered in scaffolding), book a tour or use the £1 bus, but that provides hardly sufficient revenue to improve our economy and offset the desecration of Town and the loss of business through locals staying out of Town on cruise ship days.

We avoid town chaos when there's a ship in; let's hope the visitors do spend because my family certainly spends less.

“Businesses Reap Benefits” Interesting – Locals lose 80 parking spaces on Albert Pier when Liners visit plus spaces taken by Train. How much business is lost in town by that? Locals now avoid town on Cruise days.

How much do the profit making Coach Companies pay for use of our public parking space that we cannot use? It must be substantial surely? A 3 hour tour in Vintage bus £59 per person not bad eh? What’s our slice of that for the inconvenience? Retailers deprived of 80 x how many turnover spaces in a day by spending tourists? It’s embarrassing to see Car Driving Tourists who have paid to stay here, just driving around trying to park are we mad or what? They stay in hotels and spend real money will they come back? I think not. Let’s not even mention the hurdles they face on the ferry just to get here.

Just because you don't see hundreds of people walking round Town laden with huge shopping bags doesn't mean the cruise ship passengers aren't spending. I am already aware of a few who have come over on a short break having first visited the island on a cruise ship. I also spoke to a lovely couple last week who were enjoying their time and also wished to return for a longer stay possibly next year (they also liked the Petit Train and said it was not tacky at all).

I am far more inclined to believe the official figures of how many millions of pounds this industry brings to this island than the pure speculation of some of the posts above which are unfortunately very typical of modern-day Guernsey and the constant whingeing and moaning. We should be concentrating on giving these visitors a pleasant experience and showing the best we have to offer to encourage spending and grow the tourism sector.

As co owner of Tapenade I felt I should respond to your comments. We were asked by a representative of Guernsey Harbours for some feedback on how cruise passengers impacted on our business and Octavia responded honestly in that when they are in we see a significant uplift in business.

The majority of the cruise line passengers that we see buy something local - Guernsey ice cream, Fort Grey cheese, bluebottle gin, Rocquettes cider, Golden Guernsey goat’s cheese and Guernsey fudge as well as locally produced crafts. Many will have a sandwich made with Mrs Fiskins pate or fresh crab and some will a locally produced apple juice.

I'm feeling hungry already!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Some Consequences of Brexit Across the World

“... for systems belonging to the singular part of the stability boundary a small change of the parameters is more likely to send the system into the unstable region than into the stable region. This is a manifestation of a general principle stating that all good things (e.g. stability) are more fragile than bad things. It seems that in good situations a number of requirements must hold simultaneously, while to call a situation bad even one failure suffices.”  Vladimir Arnold, Catastrophe Theory

In the aftermath of Brexit, it is instructive to see how Britain is viewed by the outside world. It is very much seen as economics in turmoil, as a fiscal shockwave rolls through the markets. I have used the above quote on the mathematics called "catastrophe theory", and a picture of a catastrophe surface to illustrate this.

Note that to describe it in this way mathematically does not imply it is a catastrophe in common parlance - rather a mathematical "catastrophe" occurs is when there is a sudden and rapid change of state which is exactly what we have seen post-Referendum. The mathematics just describes what happens; it does not make value judgements.

CNN Reports on a “chaotic aftermath of the Brexit vote, with both the United Kingdom and Europe in turmoil”, but Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia suggests that despite general displomatically neutral statements from the Kremlin . "Brexit is a win for Putin".

This is for two reasons: Britain was the country taking the strongest lead in sanctions against Russia after the Crimea and Ukraine, and secondly, anything which destabilises the EU is good for Russia, especially after many former Soviet States joined the EU.

Bloomberg notes that there are other echoes. The breakup of the Soviet Union began with one Baltic republic declaring independence, and others falling away like dominoes:

“Russia’s recalling the trauma of the end of the Soviet Union as the U.K. wrestles with the consequences of becoming the first member state to choose to leave the EU, casting a shadow over the bloc’s future existence. The USSR was dissolved in December 1991, more than 18 months after Lithuania led the Baltic republics in declaring independence.”

“In the ‘current fragile situation, one black swan can pull others along with it,’ Russian Finance Anton Siluanov said Friday in Moscow, referring to the economic impact of rare unpredictable events.”

My own view is that it is unlikely that the EU will break up, although the pressure of migrants fleeing Syria will certainly lead to less open land borders, a development which has already taken place, but which will become accepted as the norm. 

The nationalist elements in different EU nations, while vocal, command nowhere near the numbers of those in the UK, although concessions may be needed to mitigate their impact. The Soviet Union was a monolithic state ruled from the centre, whereas the EU is a coalition of member states, and that is a key difference.

Meanwhile Quartz looks further afield to China. The UK and the City of London has provided a smooth conduit for Chinese imports and investment into Europe, but this may fall away:

“Among Brexit’s biggest losers is China. The UK’s pending departure from the EU will cause China to lose one of its strongest allies in the trade bloc. An EU without the UK might be more liable to slapping China with higher tariffs, for starters.”

On the flip side of the coin, while Bejing is making the polite diplomatic statements about sovereign nations, and respecting decisions, internal State media is using it for propaganda purposes:

“The state media, which is often a barometer for how the party at large feels about something, has been quick to hold Brexit up as an example of the pitfalls of democracy. In an op-ed written days before the actual referendum, professor Wang Yiwei of Renmin University of China described the referendum as a ‘game’ that had been ‘kidnapped by populism’:”

“Democracy is supposed to be an achievement in the political civilization of human beings. But now it seems to have become a game that people play around with; this can only be described as a tragedy. The fact that Europe constantly put on these games of “referendum” proves that democracy is being kidnapped by nationalism and populism, and more and more negative impacts are emerging.”

Meanwhile taking a look at the business analysts' viewpoints, Business Insider comments that many expert analysis are looking to continuing uncertainty, and using words such as "Recession," "contagion," and "stagflation".

This is a direct result of uncertainty in the market, and is likely to remain unresolved until at least the skeleton bare bones of a post-Brexit arrangement emerges, which may not be for some time:

“The UK economy is likely to enter a period of stagflation … This decision to leave the EU, in our view, will exacerbate current elevated levels of uncertainty and thus amplify already slowing economic momentum”

“Now the UK has voted to ‘Leave’ the EU the only thing we know is that we know very little about where UK economic and political arrangements are heading. We do not even know what the geographical boundaries of the UK will look like in a few years. This uncertainty is likely to be prolonged and will lead investors - including residential investors - to postpone decisions. The economy will turn down quickly in our view.”

The markets are looking for clues, and there have been some backtracking by the Brexit camp which may give more market confidence, but which would probably be looked upon as a betrayal by hardline fanatics like Nigel Farage:

“The sign of the effect on the economy of today's vote is clearly negative given the economic uncertainty. But the size of the effect is less clear. That depends on the policy choices of the next few days: whether they fan or reduce fears. For instance, whether the ‘Leave’ campaign stick to their pledges or show signs of rowing back on some of them in order to secure continued EU single market access.”

Part of the problem is that the “Leave” campaign was more of a coalition of different groups, all of whom wanted Britain to leave the EU, but who seem to have had different pictures of what a post-Brexit EU relationship could be like. Would Britain follow more the Norway model, or the Canada model? An Australian points system for immigration has also been mooted.

As no strategy was mapped out for what could be put in place, there are different and largely vague positions being given by different politicians, but no clarity as to where the lead will come from and in which direction it will go. 

In one respect, the instability has similarities to the invasion of Iraq, which was an objective which succeeded, but afterwards, it rapidly emerged that no real plans had been made in the event of its success.

As a result of this uncertainty, Reuteurs reports that Goldman Sachs’ top economists think that Britain will enter recession within the year as a result of the vote, stunting economic growth:

“Goldman sees three principle risks for as a result of the vote: terms of trade are likely to deteriorate; companies are likely to scale back investment due to the uncertainty created by the outcome; and financial conditions will tighten due to exchange rate fluctuations and weakness in risk assets like stocks and junk bonds.”

And finally, on perhaps a lighter note, the Telegraph reports that the Australian repuplican movement has seen a surge in membership in the wake of the Brexit vote:

“... as Australians question the benefits of remaining part of ‘little Britain’. An ‘AusExit’ campaign, including calls to remove the Union Jack from the flag and remove the British monarch as head of state, has gained momentum since Friday, when Britain voted to leave the European Union.”

That at any rate, while perhaps upsetting for the British monarchy, would surely have very little in the way of economic or social consequences!

Monday, 27 June 2016

A Memorial for Mark The Fish

St Brelade has a new boat outside the Parish Hall with a floral display. The idea that it would be named after "Mark the Fish" was made by the St Brelade's Bloom Group, who said:

"We felt it important to recognise Mark in a way that celebrated his life. It is not a memorial but a statement acknowledging that Mark ‘The Fish’ Le Riche was for many years a feature of St. Aubin, loved by many, and missed by so many more. The boat maintains his presence - the boat representing his love of the sea, and the floral display the life and vibrancy he brought to the village.”

For those who don't know who "Mark the Fish" was, as he was affectionally called, here is an obituary reprinted with kind permission from La Baguette, St Brelade's Parish magazine:

Mark the Fish

ON the 10th April a well known and popular person of St Aubin passed away. Mark Le Riche, known better as Mark the Fish, is no more and will be sadly missed. It was not long before his untimely death Mark had received an award for his great charity work. He was made Citizen of the Year at St Brelade Parish Hall in St Aubin.

Mark had enjoyed being a crew member on a Sailing Trust vessel. As a ‘Buddie’ he was able to assist a person less able bodied. He was hoping to another voyage, but it was not to be.

From an early age Mark loved fishing. It was either setting nets on the beach or fishing with his boat ‘Tranquility’. He was very clever at making up traces and lead weights. These last few years he spent time helping his friends with their boats and served on the Committee of the St Aubins Boat Owners Association - and always trying to recruit new members.

A keen Boules player he taught and played on Sunday mornings outside what was the Nat West Bank in St Aubin. As a village character we will all miss Mark - flying his kites of large squid or other fish.

No more will we see him dressed up as a bride with "It Should Have Been Me"sign, no more helping Father Christmas, and no more dressed as an Admiral. All this done for charity.

Mark’s ashes were scattered from the Lifeboat. There was a large crowd, from all over the Island, who came to St Aubins Harbour to pay tribute. There are many people in high positions who will not have such a good send off. Good bye Mark the Fish. Rest in Peace. - Mick Ryall

More tributes poured in

Constable Steve Pallett said: “Only days after receiving the ‘Citizen of the Year Award’, the Parish was very sad to learn that Mark Le Riche had passed away. His colourful and cheerful presence is, and will be forever, very greatly missed. Mark represented the soul of St. Aubin; always involved in the wide range of activities in ‘the village’ bringing his own brand of fun to many of them by dressing up for an event or occasion and collecting for charity.”

The St. Aubin Village Association in announcing his passing on the social media, and in paying tribute to Mark, wrote:  “Mark Le Riches, known as Mark The Fish, has died suddenly after a happy day spent with The Residents Association playing an enormous role in ‘The Treasure Trail’ yesterday afternoon. During the evening he felt unwell and was taken to hospital where he died.”
“A fortnight ago, The Connetable presented Mark with The Citizen of The Year Award of which Mark was so very proud. He fought for the pétanque pitch and encouraged us to participate every Sunday morning, he dressed up in fancy dress to raise awareness and funds for Spina Bifida amongst other charities, and The Jubilee Sailing Trust.“
“God bless you Mark, the village will not be the same without you. You were deeply loved and will be deeply missed. RIP Mr Fish”

Mark was undoubtedly much loved by many, from all walks of life, from all parts of the Parish and the Island, many who felt it important to express their sadness in his loss to the Island’s community on the social media:-

“ A true friend and a legend, you are going to be so missed, if only you knew how this had touched the whole island. I had the pleasure to work alongside you for many years doing the fireworks and a life long friend since. Gonna miss you sweet xx”
“Oh. Mark I can't believe this... I will miss you and your funny ways. Loosing you is a painful blow to us all in the village.”
“St Aubin's has lost a character, Jersey has lost a treasure and we have lost a friend. RIP Mark, time to fish new waters.”

Mark had for many years been a tireless fund raiser for many charities including the RNLI and the Jersey Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association who left the message:

“Mark, St. Aubin’s won't be the same We thank him for his hard work for our Jersey Charity-: Spina Bifida Association all that hard work & money raised.”

And a close friend of Mark told La Baguette:

“His fund-raising antics are legendary and there is little doubt that ‘Mark The Fish’ will become part of St. Aubin’s rich history and spoken of as a humble man who brought joy into so many peoples lives. Mark is unique and will always be totally irreplaceable. As many have already said, St. Aubin won’t be the same; the Parish, and indeed the Island is a poorer place without out him. He was truly and literally, a gentle man - with a heart of pure gold.”

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Unmade Bed

This Sunday I'm not putting any message but just a bit of G.K. Chesterton, for the reader to make of what they will. 

The Unmade Bed
by G.K. Chesterton

There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.

There is another proverb, "As you have made your bed, so you must lie on it"; which again is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortable, please God I will make it again.

We could restore the Heptarchy or the stage coaches if we chose. It might take some time to do, and it might be very inadvisable to do it; but certainly it is not impossible as bringing back last Friday is impossible.

This is, as I say, the first freedom that I claim: the freedom to restore. 

I claim a right to propose as a solution the old patriarchal system of a Highland clan, if that should seem to eliminate the largest number of evils. It certainly would eliminate some evils; for instance, the unnatural sense of obeying cold and harsh strangers, mere bureaucrats and policemen.

I claim the right to propose the complete independence of the small Greek or Italian towns, a sovereign city of Brixton or Brompton, if that seems the best way out of our troubles. It would be a way out of some of our troubles; we could not have in a small state, for instance, those enormous illusions about men or measures which are nourished by the great national or international newspapers.

You could not persuade a city state that Mr. Beit was an Englishman, or Mr. Dillon a desperado, any more than you could persuade a Hampshire Village that the village drunkard was a teetotaller or the village idiot a statesman. Nevertheless, I do not as a fact propose that the Browns and the Smiths should be collected under separate tartans. Nor do I even propose that Clapham should declare its independence. I merely declare my independence. 

I merely claim my choice of all the tools in the universe; and I shall not admit that any of them are blunted merely because they have been used.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Opening the Jar

This poem is based on Hesiod, Works and Days, interworking various texts, principally Pandora’s jar – not box – but also the Hymn to Zeus, the Ages of Man, Justice and Good Conduct, and the Calendar. I was working from the translation by H.G. Evelyn White.

While I allude to Pandora’s jar, I do not name it as such. The original text has a degree of misogyny - “But the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men.”

That this is not just a misinterpretation on my part can be seen in other parts of the texts, such as the maxim “the man who trusts womankind trust deceivers”. So I have recast the myth to remove Pandora. After all, we don’t need a single Pandora, we have many men and women more than capable of letting loose troubles upon our world.

Opening the Jar

O Muses of Pieria, sing this lament now:
The sorry tale of loss and woe, of how
Zeus makes the strong man bend and fall,
Humbles him so, breaks him, so small,
Beneath the god, who blasts the proud;
For what merit numbers, god against crowd?
Zeus thunders aloft, his dwelling so high:
Judgements makes with clear sight eye;
And where the tribes of men lived free,
He gave them a jar, so that they might see
The sickness which brings fates on men,
That they retreat from day to murky den;
They grow old so quickly, before time due,
Because of arrogance, in ignorance knew
Nothing and took the great lid, opened jar,
Scattered all that caused sorrow now afar;
And mischief went out upon all mankind,
Because of their ignorance, they were blind,
And could not stop the lid, seal against woe,
Countless plagues spread, bringing men low;
For the earth is full of evils, the tide is high,
And there is no escape, and nowhere to fly;
And only Hope remained bound within the jar,
Under the rim, a shining light, far and distant star,
Held by the will of Zeus who gathers the clouds,
And sees the diseases unleashed, as if shrouds
Covered the earth, bringing darkness, despair;
Taking the speech from men, no common tongue,
But only hatred of the stranger, evils so wrung;
None can escape the wrath of Zeus, just, wise,
Mankind must be humbled, before it can rise;
You princes, mark well this punishment also:
The anger of gods against deeds of men below;
Keeping watch on wrongs, virgin Justice roams,
Daughter of Zeus, brings judgement to all homes,
From humble hovel to mighty palaces of the kings,
Seek those who fall corrupted where the siren sings;
Songs of hatred, of fear of strangers, of the other,
Decry our common ancestry, our goddess mother;
Hands unwashed of wickedness, a race set apart,
With no compassion, mercy, and a hardened heart;
May we yet pray, having washed hands in streams,
In lovely clear water, and river spirit sends us dreams;
When Orion and Sirius are come again into the night,
Open again the jar, and let hope fly forth into the light;
Rosy fingered Dawn, a new morning broken, fresh dew:
And let the spirit of man rise, arms outstretched, anew.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Planning Application for Les Quennevais School

I'm pleased to share the following press release on my blog. The consultation on the proposed site was extensive, and the Education Minister published a summary of the results, along with a complete detailed PDF of all responses received. These can be viewed here:

The planning application, which has been signed and endorsed by all the current landowners, plus the supporting documents will be available on once it has been registered by the Planning Department.

This investment of £40m is part of the planned £168 million which has been allocated to capital projects for the period of the Medium Term Financial Plan 2016-19.

Planning Application for Les Quennevais School

A planning application has been submitted today for a new Les Quennevais secondary school on the fields north of St Brelade’s Social Club alongside Route de Quennevais.

Architects at Jersey Property Holdings have designed the £40 million project with the school situated along the south of the site and the playing fields to the north so that an open vista is retained.

The site was the preferred option of 67% of people who responded to a public consultation in autumn 2015. Other proposals to use the Les Quennevais playing fields and St Brelade Social Club were not supported by the majority of local residents who took part in the poll.

Education Minister Deputy Rod Bryans said: ‘The current Les Quennevais School buildings have served the island well but are now too small, outdated and not on the right site. Children in the west of the Island should have the same educational experience as their friends at other schools so this is well overdue. It will be the single largest investment in education for many years and I am delighted to see it moving forward.’

Like its predecessor, the new Les Quennevais the Island’s dedicated school for children with additional physical needs. It has been designed around a central street that provides circulation and social space, together with enhanced facilities for wheelchair users. It will also contain the Branch Library, for use by the public, extensive landscaping and links to the cycle track.

Infrastructure Minister Deputy Eddie Noel said: ‘Our architects, who have a lot of experience in delivering school facilities, have produced a really interesting design which delivers the functionality of a modern educational establishment together with a stylish design.’

The planning application is supported by extensive environmental impact assessments, including ecology and archaeological studies, geotechnical surveys and an independent traffic and transportation plan. This project supports the Council of Ministers’ strategic priorities in the two key areas of education and economic growth.

It will be subject to the usual planning process but there will also be a number of events organised by Jersey Property Holdings and the Education Department to inform the public about the proposals and answer questions. These will include a residents’ meeting, parents’ presentation, a public meeting, ongoing static displays and meeting with interest groups.

The estimated build time for the project is two years from receipt of planning permission.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

EU Referendum: Final Comments

Some Key Dates and History

24 October 2011: The motion calling for a referendum on EU membership is defeated in the Commons by 483 votes to 111. However, 81 Tory MPs support it and a further two actively abstain - making it by far the largest ever Conservative rebellion over Europe. In addition, 19 Labour MPs and one Liberal Democrat defy their party leadership in urging a referendum.

22 January 2013: In a long awaited speech Prime Minister David Cameron says that if the Conservatives win the next election they would seek to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU and then give the British people the "simple choice" in 2017 between staying in the EU under those terms or leaving the EU. His speech comes against a background of polls suggesting UK Independence Party support at 10%.

8 May 2015: The Conservatives win a majority in the House of Commons in the general election and immediately pledge to make good on their election manifesto promise to hold a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU by the end of 2017

These key dates are interesting, as they show the increase of the “Eurosceptics” in the Conservative Party. The cynic (and probably I’m in that camp), thinks that at least part of the reason for an EU Referendum in the Conservative Party 2015 Manifesto was so that David Cameron could bring his rebels into line.

The whole of the Major parliament was dominated by open Tory feuding on Europe and this bickering was responsible for the government's defeat on the Maastricht Bill in 1993 as well as for John Redwood's 1995 leadership challenge. The simmering internal debates over the EU damaged John Major’s Premiership and the Conservative Party Election prospects in 1997. As the BBC noted: “With Tory splits on Europe on painful display throughout the campaign Major's party did much of Labour's work for it”.

The Norway Model
Norway rejected EU membership in its own 1994 referendum. But the country nonetheless has access to the so-called "single market" trade zone -- access for which it pays heavily both in money and by allowing free movement of people and capital.

Norway receives access to most of the bloc’s internal market through membership of the European Economic Area. That means goods, services and labour flow freely between Norway and the EU. In return, however, Norway has to adopt a large number of EU laws without having a formal say in how they are shaped. Norway also has to pay about the same amount of money into the EU budget on a per capita basis as the U.K., according to OpenEurope, a think tank that has declared itself neutral in the debate.

Indeed, the EU influences everything from the health warnings on Norwegian cigarette packs to the fact that Poles have become the biggest minority in the country!

"We really are, on some issues, more part of Europe, without the decision-making, than Britain is," Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

Norway, the Prime Minister said, accepts decisions made by EU leaders and representatives and enshrines them in Norwegian law -- without having any official seat at the table.

"We try to lobby and put our weight into the decision-making process, but when the final decision is made, the Norwegian politicians and the Norwegian people have to accept most of those regulations. I don't think that a large country like Britain would like to have that type of decision-making being made without participating in the decision making."

Norway also has its own reasons for wanting Britain to vote “Remain” in its June 23 referendum on EU membership. Oslo has long relied on London’s free-market zeal to keep the EU’s interventionist instincts in check.

"I agree that there are a lot of things that I don't like about EU decisions. Sometimes they are made by people who have another political view than I have. Being a conservative, I would like to have a little bit less of these very typical bureaucratic regulations. "But you know, sometimes you make compromises. And if you want to move the world ahead, you cannot always get your own will."

A Look from Afar
Aljazeera, the respected foreign news reports on “EU referendum: Has UK politics ever been so ugly?” has this from their reporter:

“I sense a strong desire from people to give those in power a metaphorical bloody nose. And that, of course, is part of the problem with referendums. They ask a specific binary question, in this case Remain or Leave, but the voters may have all sorts of motivations beyond the question itself in making their choice.”

“One day last week I watched Farage as he rode past parliament in Westminster on top of an open double-decker bus emblazoned with a huge picture of his own face. He waved and grinned as passing motorists beeped their horns in support.”

“Behind him was a convoy of vans displaying posters.”Breaking Point" they said in big letters superimposed over a photograph of refugees trying to enter Europe, "the EU has failed us all". The posters shamelessly conflate the refugee crisis, which will surely carry on whatever Britain decides on June 23, and the debate about freedom to migrate within the EU.”

“And, to put it mildly, they don't appeal to voters' more generous or braver instincts.”

CNN reports on “Britain divided on eve of EU referendum”

“British politicians are making their crucial final pitches to a bitterly divided electorate Wednesday to persuade undecided voters of the merits of remaining in or leaving the European Union.”

“Britain's wavering voters are likely to be the deciders of this momentous vote. And with so much confusion generated throughout an acrimonious campaign -- and many of the fundamentals of the debate in dispute by opposing camps -- the outcome may come down to a question of gut instinct.”

"Remain" advocate Sadiq Khan, accusing his opponents of "scaremongering" by raising the spectre of Turkey joining the EU, potentially giving its citizens free movement within the union "Turkey is not set to join the EU," he said, holding up a pro-"Leave" leaflet that highlighted Turkey's proximity to war-torn Syria and Iraq. "You're telling lies and you're scaring people."

“Whatever the outcome of Thursday's vote, the consequences of this bruising campaign are likely to be felt for some time.”

In Australia, ABC News reports:

A divided Britain will soon vote in a referendum on the nation's European Union membership under a cloud of grief for murdered politician Jo Cox.

Polls are on a knife-edge, with final campaigning underway for the vote that could see the UK leave the EU after 43 years.

The deputy leader of the UK's Labour Party, Tom Watson, told Lateline the murder of his colleague and pro-EU politician Ms Cox is on everyone's minds, though he was unsure if it would affect the outcome.

"Whatever happens on the result we're going to end up a more divided nation as a result of this debate and we're going to have to do a lot of healing and understanding," he said.

EU Observer notes that China sees economic problems in its relation with Britain if it comes out of the EU:

“China remains concerned about the prospect of Britain finding itself outside the EU. In recent months, high-ranking Chinese officials have repeatedly expressed their government’s worries about the prospect of a British EU exit. Beijing’s diplomatic campaign constitutes an unusual departure from the Chinese foreign policy principle of not interfering with the domestic matters of other countries. It shows how much Chinese investors in Britain worry about access to the single market and how much Beijing fears losing the UK as an advocate in Brussels.”

“Over the past 15 years, the UK has become the prime destination for Chinese investments in Europe. A post-Brexit scenario that entails the loss of unrestricted access to the EU’s single market would align poorly with the business plans of many Chinese-owned companies operating in the UK.”

The Times of India comments on the vote today:

“LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron and his eurosceptic opponents made final pitches for wavering voters on Wednesday on the eve of a defining referendum on European Union membership with the outcome still too close to call. “

“The vote, which echoes the rise of populism elsewhere in Europe and the United States, will shape the continent's future. A victory for "out" could unleash turmoil on financial markets and foreign exchange bureaux reported a surge in demand for foreign currency from Britons wary sterling may fall.“

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

My Jersey Survey Avoids Population Issues

Among its primary tactics, Ponzi demography exploits the fear of population decline and aging. Without a young and growing population, we are forewarned of becoming a nation facing financial ruin and a loss of national power. (Joseph Chamie).

“The human-pyramid scheme works like this: Population growth, either through births or immigration, boosts demand for goods and services, increases borrowing, boosts tax revenue and adds to corporate profits. Everything seems grand and leaders take a bow. It’s a bubble, though, and it eventually bursts when population growth stalls. Incomes top out, high debt crushes consumption and investment, the need for public assistance rises, environmental degradation increases and angry people take to the streets.” (William Pesek)

Jersey’s population has now exceeded 100,000 and it appears the flood gates are open.

Senator Paul Routier was on BBC Radio Jersey this morning, waffling on about getting the balance right etc. He says we need younger people coming into the Island to pay for all the people who have retired.

Such short-termism has never addressed the problem that it is like a Ponzi scheme. More people in, they get older, and you need still more people to take care of those who have come in.

It is unsustainable because it is based on a false promise. The needs of the supporting the population increases exponentially. There just isn't enough immigration possible to keep it going for ever.

It was interesting that Senator Routier said there was a survey on “My Jersey” – yes, there is but there are absences from the questions, not least of which is any lack of mention of population or its impact on infrastructure.

If we lived in an island of unlimited resources, unlimited population growth might not be a problem. But more population means more schools, more health services etc. And these don't come cheap.

Jersey’s water supply is in danger of outstripping demand. As the population grows, there will be an impact on water supply. This is “water stress”, where demand exceeds the current levels of rainfall input, and extraction of groundwater is often outstripping supply.

Even with metering, we live on a small Island with limited water resources. We have a desalination plant, but that is to plug short term gaps, not to keep going all the time. And the levels of a fungicide can be breached because this is being found in one of the Island’s largest reservoirs

The sewage treatment plant has been patched up since the 1970s when it was built. It cannot cope, especially when there is heavy rainfall. How will it continue when the population grows?

There are already comments about too much congestion on Island’s roads. As the population grows, expect this to get worse. Car parking in St Helier is becoming worse, with loss of spaces at the new finance centre. Will we see an underground car park before the next block gets under way? Don’t hold your breath! Amazingly, the new Dandara building has parking for directors, but not staff.

Electricity supply is reaching the point where it cannot be sustained by on-Island generators making it very vulnerable, as Liberation Day showed, to problems with French supply. As the population grows, so will the electricity demands.

Severe inclement weather already leads to short term food shortages in shops. Expect this to get worse as the population grows, and climate change leads to increases in severe weather events.

So what can we say of Senator Routier’s remarks. He carefully avoided the question of what to do when the immigration leads to an even larger aged population. This is a Ponzi scheme.

While it may come in many guises, Ponzi demography is essentially a pyramid scheme that attempts to make more money for some by adding on more and more people through population growth.

The basic pitch of those promoting Ponzi demography is straightforward and intoxicating in its pro-population growth appeal: "more is better."

As Joseph Chamie noted:

“Ponzi demography turns to immigration for additional population growth in order to boost companies’ profits. The standard slogan in this instance is ‘the country urgently needs increased immigration,’ even when immigration may already be at record levels and unemployment rates are high.”

“Despite its snake-oil allure of "more is better," Ponzi demography's advocacy for ever-increasing population growth is ultimately unsustainable.”

The sooner Jersey rejects Ponzi demography and makes the needed gradual transition from ever-increasing population growth to population stabilization, the better the prospects for all who live here.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Jo Cox in her own words

Jo Cox in her own words

Before becoming an MP, the 41-year-old worked for Oxfam and also closely with Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah on preventing mothers and babies dying during pregnancy.

Asked what’s the one thing you would change about UK politics if you could? She replied: “A more consensus style of politics looking at problems and getting the best brains involved in them to find solutions.”

As she was a passionate campaigner for “Remain”, I have selected a picture which both illustrates that and shows that, in her own words, “While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. This picture sums up the unity and the diversity in her constituency.

I knew nothing of her before her death, but having read what she said, and what she did, I can see why she was so beloved by her constituents, and her loss keenly felt by her fellow parliamentarians.

Gavin Ashenden, writing in the JEP recently, said how it was a shame that people used Jo Cox’s murder as a means of scoring points, although he then proceeded to do precisely that. Instead, I am content to let her words speak for herself.

On Community and Diversity (2016)
Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir.

While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

On Migrant Children (2016)
We all know that the vast majority of the terrified, friendless and profoundly vulnerable child refugees scattered across Europe tonight came from Syria. We also know that, as that conflict enters its sixth barbaric year, desperate Syrian families are being forced to make an impossible decision: stay and face starvation, rape, persecution and death, or make a perilous journey to find sanctuary elsewhere.

Who can blame desperate parents for wanting to escape the horror that their families are experiencing? Children are being killed on their way to school, children as young as seven are being forcefully recruited to the frontline and one in three children have grown up knowing nothing but fear and war. Those children have been exposed to things no child should ever witness, and I know I would risk life and limb to get my two precious babies out of that hellhole.

I am deeply proud of the Government for leading the way internationally on providing humanitarian support to Syrian civilians. Their commitment in terms of finances and policy to help people in the region, and across the Middle East and North Africa, will save lives.

However, in the chaos caused by the Syrian conflict and many other conflicts, many thousands of already deeply scarred children have become separated from their parents and carers, and they are already in Europe. The Government’s generosity to date has not extended to those vulnerable children.

Given what we know about the horror that many of the refugee children in Europe have fled, isn’t it time to end the government’s shameful refusal to give 3,000 unaccompanied children sanctuary here in the U.K.?

On the Fear of Immigrants (2016)
Let me be clear from the start: it’s fine to be concerned about immigration – many people are. This doesn’t mean to say they are racist or xenophobic – they are simply concerned about pressures on GP surgeries or schools, or how once familiar town centres are changing, or whether they’ll be able to compete with migrant workers to get a job.

Most people recognise that there are positive sides of migration too. Whether it is providing the skilled workers we need for our economy, or the amazing doctors and nurses from abroad who help run our health service, the UK has reaped the benefits from immigration.

It is right and fair that people who come to Britain pay something into the welfare system before they can take something out.

That’s why Labour has long pushed for an end to the payment of benefits to people who don’t live permanently in this country, and for a major extension of the time EU migrants have to wait before being able to claim benefits – a commitment now secured by the Prime Minister as part of the renegotiation deal.

On Preventing Mothers and Babies in the Third World dying during pregnancy (from 2010)
Global leaders pledged action and new research confirmed that the number of women dying in childbirth is at long last declining – by as much as a third in parts of the world. Why? It’s clear that more skilled midwives, more investment and more education for girls are having a major impact in saving lives.

Yet we still have a long way to go in preventing hundreds of thousands of women and their babies dying needlessly each year – and we still have to make sure that the promises made this year are firmed up, increased and delivered. With other big issues now emerging on the global health agenda, we must keep up the pressure to make sure that women and children will not be relegated to the sidelines.

This means that our diverse but united global movement needs to keep conveying the message that saving the lives of mothers and their children is neither complicated nor beyond our means, that almost all deaths in childbirth are preventable, and that progress is being made, even in some of the world’s toughest places.

We must also win the debate to keep girls and women at the heart of a more integrated health system, especially in rural areas. It is also time for maternal health experts to take more of a lead in the debate about the Global Fund for HIV, TB and malaria’s future role on reducing maternal mortality, and to find ways to make health care free or low cost for the pregnant women and children who are still dying for a lack of a little money.

We must also work to make sure that 100 million more women get the contraceptives they want and need, that pregnant women and newborns get critically important nutrition, and we should join forces with the Elders in their drive to end child marriage.

On Autism
Children are waiting on average more than three years for an Autism diagnosis. Without a diagnosis funding and support for children does not materialise. It is really important to underline the scale of this problem, and the consequences of it.

You only have to meet a handful of parents to realise the unbelievable pressures these waiting times put them under. Diagnosis is a critical milestone for people on the spectrum.

It helps individuals take control of their lives and can unlock access to essen1tial support and services. It can be just as important for parents, family members and friends, enabling them to better understand what is happening to their loved ones.

On Syria
Whereas Iraq has become the great example of what happens when you deploy force with no follow-up strategy. Syria will become the great counter example of what happens when you decide to disengage with no strategy whatsoever.

On Syria both President Obama and the prime minister have been a huge disappointment. Both men made the biggest misjudgement of their time in office when they put Syria on the “too difficult” pile and instead of engaging fully, withdrew and put their faith in a policy of containment.

This judgment – made by both leaders for different reasons – will be judged harshly by history. And the failure of their strategy has had huge repercussions: the biggest refugee crisis in Europe in a generation, the emergence of Isis and all that has followed, the strengthening of a resurgent Russia and most importantly the human suffering that continues unabated for the people of Syria.

On her experience with Aid Organisations
I was an aid worker for a decade and then worked in the voluntary sector in the UK on UK child poverty and with the NSPCC and Save the Children. But I had worked for ten years with Oxfam. I’ve lived and worked in Brussels and New York at the UN and worked all over the world. I would jump on a plane and be in Kabul one work and then Dafur the next.

I’ve been in some horrific situations where women have been raped repeatedly in Darfur, I’ve been with child soldiers who have been given Kalashnikov and kill members of their own family in Uganda. In Afghanistan I was talking to Afghan elders who were world weary of a lack of sustained attention from their own Government and from the international community to stop problems early. That’s the thing that all of that experience gave me - if you ignore a problem it gets worse.

On Working Together with Other Parties
I’m Labour to the core and always have been and always will be but actually on some issues they are above party politics and I think we can get caught up in that and fail to do the right thing. Issues like foreign policy or the crisis in care or climate change. I almost want the brightest and the best from all parties to sort this out and that’s the sort of politician I am. That’s not to say there aren’t really serious principled differences on issues like the economy or welfare reform where politics comes into it, but rising above that is a really good thing.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Midsummer Dreaming

A meditation for Midsummer. For those who want to see the hard science behind the 400 day year, this link gives the background:

Midsummer Dreaming

The grass was cool beneath our feet, as we watched the sun setting on this, the longest day. It was a long day, and the sun still heated the air, warm breezes rippling across the distant sea. And we cast our minds back, far into the past.

It was a day for the sun god, for celebrating the god at the height of his powers before they began to wane. The tribe gathered, and faced the setting sun, the last before this mighty king began to sicken, and grow pale behind the coming autumn mists. But now was a day of rejoicing, of dance and song.

And finally, as we raised our hands in farewell to the sun, a rose hue coloured the land and sea, and a breeze sprung up, fresh and cool as heat departed. The wind blows forth. The wind blows wherever it wishes; we hear the sound it makes, but we do not know where it comes from or where it is going.

And we cast our minds back, far into the past, a day before even the gods, in the dawn of life on earth.

A long day, but then it was a shorter day, and we waded in the pools left behind by the Devonian tides, leaving footprints in the sand. It was the day before, long, long before, in the distant reaches of deep time. Four hundred dawns made one year, and this was the longest day.

Small creatures swam in warm currents, and no human would step here for millions of years. Here were no gods to worship, no stuff of myth, but through it all, the warm breeze swept across the shallow waters, stirring the waters. The wind blows forth. The wind blows wherever it wishes; we hear the sound it makes, but we do not know where it comes from or where it is going. And we cast our minds back, far into the past, a day before the gods, before even the dawn of life on earth, the day of the making.

A shorter day, and where is night and day in this incandescent rock, spinning in the vastness of space around the sun? We are here in spirit alone, for flesh and blood would not long survive the eruptions of molten rock, and the firestorms that rage across the land. Electric flashes make night as bright as day, and there is no place for us to grasp, to settle beneath our sight; instead, an ever changing vista, as the world changes in the twinkling of an eye. It is the time of making, and through it all, hot currents of air sweep around the earth. The wind blows forth. The wind blows wherever it wishes; we hear the sound it makes, but we do not know where it comes from or where it is going.

And we return to our midsummer, to an earth firm beneath our feet, a longest day, but not the longest, for that will come in the future, when the earth grows old, and we are ashes scattered in the wind. But we feel the warm breeze upon our face, and she touches us, as she has touched this earth since its conception, through deep time, and on into the present day, and onwards into the tale to be told of days to come. But our midsummer is done for now, and our tale told, until next year.

And still the wind blows forth. The wind blows wherever it wishes; we hear the sound it makes, but we do not know where it comes from or where it is going.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Weep not for me

Luke 23:27-31 “A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.'”

Who were the “Daughters of Jerusalem”? They were professional mourners whose task was to lament an individual’s grievous end. It was part of Jewish culture of that age. They were also present in the home of Jairus, where they came from the surrounding community and had pressed into the room where she lay on her bed in death. And as he rebukes them here, Jesus turned them away then.

As a preacher at Alfred Place Baptist Church comments:

“In our culture at Anglican weddings choir boys sing and get paid. In Jesus’ culture at funerals there would be a people who would wail and would be paid for it. Their effectiveness was registered in decibels. If you were very poor you knew you still had to gather together your shekels and pay a single person to make public lamentation and one person to play the flute. It was the traditional unchallenged practice of the time, but Jesus himself simply wept quietly with Lazarus’ sisters in the graveyard where his friend’s body had been buried.”

John V Taylor, former Bishop of Winchester, had this to say in a series of talks he gave called “Weep Not For Me”

"It is the only divine prohibition in the Passion story. The crucifixion narrative opens with this word to the women by the wayside. The story of his resurrection begins with a similar word to a woman in the garden: Touch me not. At these tremendous moments, Jesus says no to the easy spontaneous emotion, the quick release of tension, because it is misdirected and because it is dangerous. Tears for the physical suffering of the Crucified, embraces for the physical body of the Risen Lord - these are too shallow: they focus attention on the wrong things.”

“We should be thankful for this prohibition. We belong to a culture, especially in the Western lands, in which feelings have been prostituted. Tears are wrung from us for our entertainment. We enjoy a good cry -and feel better afterwards and quickly forget what it was that moved us. We are accustomed to watching the misery of others on our TV or cinema screens without ever having to do anything about it. But it is very rarely that we weep for truth. It is very rarely that we weep for our sins or for the love of God. Pity is too cheap. We need the bracing realism of Jesus who turned out the professional mourners - Why this crying and commotion'?”

We don't have professional mourners, but we do have a zeitgiest in which vicarious grief is notably visible. In “The Good Funeral Guide”, there is a comment on our modern culture of grief by Damian Thompson:

“A few weeks after the murders of the schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002, I stood in Soham parish church with the vicar, the Rev Tim Alban Jones. He had made an excellent impression in the media by asking the public to pray for the girls’ families while discouraging maudlin displays of “grief ”. But he’d only been partly successful. A corner of his church was piled to the ceiling with cardboard boxes full of soft toys – in memory of the dead girls. The vicar pointed them out to me with a baffled expression. “Why do people send teddy bears?” he asked.”

“As a nation we have developed an odd relationship with grief. It’s not just that we are fascinated by tragedies; we are deeply moved by our own reaction to them. This is where those teddy bears come into the picture. The soft toys weren’t intended as comfort for the families of two horribly murdered girls. Their purpose was to provide emotional satisfaction for the people who sent them – a “personal” tribute to Holly and Jessica by members of the public who, a decade later, probably have difficulty remembering their names.”

“Although the vicarious grief over Diana was unusually intense, it was a classic demonstration of post-religious spirituality. The same goes for the outpouring of sympathy for Fabrice Muamba, a footballer few people had heard of before he collapsed.”

“Modern Westerners, including Christians, no longer believe in the supernatural in the taken-for-granted fashion of our ancestors. Confronted by major life events, we find solace in our own compassion.”

It is a challenge to us, to see how much we are honouring the loss of live, and how much of it is, in the words of one commentator, a manufactured-emotion fest, an occasion to feel and to feel good about ourselves for how much and how bad we feel.

John Taylor also lays down a challenge to those who grieve vicariously, regarding how involved we really are, and how we need to become more so. He distinguishes between what is a kind of pity, a distant effect, and taking up the challenge of becoming more involved.

“The Cross of Jesus Christ cannot be observed objectively from a position of detachment. To be there at all is to be involved, implicated one way or another. That is why all but one of the disciples were not there: they were not ready to be involved. The daughters of Jerusalem were not ready to be involved, they preferred to pity.”

“Pity is one of the most deceptive of human emotions. It is a half-way stopping place on the way to discipleship. Yet at no time did Jesus ask us to pity him, or to pity his brothers or sisters in whom we are meant to find him. We are called to feed them and clothe them, visit them in sickness and in prison. We are called to become involved in them at the level of our wills and our action. So if we are to pay attention to his passion and resurrection this week we shall become involved somehow or other. Our whole existence may become involved, since there is no part of it which is untouched by this event. “

And Libby Purves, writing in the Tablet, asks “how can a line be drawn between decent human sympathy and mawkish or alarmist voyeurism?” She suggests that if the useful Ignatian habit of daily examination of conscience was more fashionable, we might look at our own reactions, and perhaps feel uneasy rather than what might be more self-indulgent.

“Sometimes it is kinder and more humble to walk away from the immensely interesting tragedy and say your prayer for the victims in silence and alone. Maybe it is the decline of praying which makes us do so many noisier and tackier things. We feel we have to do something, just in order to join in.”

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Ars Combinatoria

Ars Combinatoria

Ramon Lull, wisest of men, saw an art
In combinations, as not separate part
But in the conjunction of the spheres
Divination beckons, and truth appears
So the Tree of Life opens many levels
For good or ill, help us face our devils
Struggle with angels, wrestle so hard
That we may be blessed, and the bard
Sings a new song, ecstatic joy so bold
Reading now as the tarot cards unfold
A pattern of many meanings, and yet
If we work on these, will truth beget
Death shows darkness falling, night
But then the fool steps into the light
And walks on air, the world opens
Moon and sun reveal their visions
The stars do not control our destiny
But their archetypes help us to see
Into our souls, who we really are
And how to turn our own lodestar.

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Public Pillory in Jersey

From “Jersey Topic” of 1967 comes this piece. I was uncertain whether to publish it, but I decided to as it was an interesting criminal case, and one of the last times prisoners were sentenced to the public pillory.

It is clear that in 1835, from the reports in the Jersey Argos, that some anti-Semitism was present, although how ubiquitous is another matter . It is perhaps not so clear whether Peter Cook, in the manner in which he reports it, might be taken as colluding with this anti-Semitism, albeit unintentionally. His opening paragraph, in particular, while describing the people of that time, would if written today seemed rather anti-Semitic. I find it very unpleasant to read.

It is notable that when Abraham Jones Le Cras is writing in 1839, he doesn’t make any mention at all of the three men being Jewish.

“Forgery is punished only as a fraud, by imprisonment, whipping or banishment. In 1798 a woman was sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment for circulating base coin. In 1799 an individual was imprisoned for six months. In 1828 Alexander was exposed in the pillory and imprisoned, and in 1835, Bershon, Myers and Cohen, were exposed in the pillory, imprisoned the two first for 12 mouths and the latter for 6, and afterwards banished for life, and their property confiscated, for having participated in the forgery, and circulation of Guernsey banknotes. Banishment means transportation to England!”


They certainly weren’t a a handsome trio as they stood at the bar of the Royal Court. But then no one expected Jews to be handsome. The charge they faced was a serious one.

They were accused of “forging promissory notes, of the value of one pound, on the States of Guernsey, and with having circulated the said notes knowing them to be forged.”

Arraigned before the Court on Monday. May 4th 1835 were Joseph Jacob Alexander Bershon. David Myers and David Cohen. Myers was a tall. sour man; Cohen was the servant of the other two, a meek. stupid man, unable to read or write and quite incapable of understanding the gravity of the charge; and Bershon, a small, evil-looking man, was the villain of the piece, the 'brains' behind an attempt to swamp St. Helier traders with illegal Guernsey money.

They had actually been captured and held in prison since January of the same year. The arrest had taken place after several merchants had compared the counterfeit notes that Cohen and Myers had traded for food and drink. On January 5th, the Constable of St. Helier had called at Mrs. Sullivan's lodging house in New Street, when the Jews were out. With the help of passers-by he had broken down the door to their bedrooms and discovered forged notes, some partly burnt in the fireplace, some hidden in the lavatory.

Bershon, Myers and Cohen had been arrested just before they took the boat for France. On January 14th, the Royal Court had heard evidence from scores of indignant shopkeepers who'd been cheated by the trio. Then the Jews were taken hack to prison and there they stayed until brought to trial before the petty jury of St. Helier on May 4th.

Meanwhile, another action had been brought against Bershon. A Paris hatch and clock maker. Monsieur Berlin Villain, reckoned that he and not the King of England should be able to seize Bershon's goods. Whilst in France, the Jews had set up in business as 'Jacobi and Harris' and bought goods from Paris without actually paying for them. Judgement on this point was deferred. There were enough Creditors in Jersey without satisfying file ones abroad.

Other facts about Bershon's disreputable last came to light later. There was an inquiry about his fate from Fontainebleau and the local police were told that he was something of a ladies' man. So far he'd totalled two wives in France, one in Poland and a fourth in England. The inquiry came from wife No. 2. the girl he'd married when she was "a beautiful young lady only 17 years of age" deserted in

Rouen and sent back to her family as soon as he'd finished spending her fortune.

Together with his two confederates he sat, stony-faced and unrepentant, before the Royal Court. And together they sat there from ten o'clock in the morning until 1 30 at night, listening to the pleas of their counsel fall on deaf cars. Their advocate maintained that the forged notes had no legal value in Jersey and in the True traditions of Perry Mason the exhibits hadn't been numbered so they couldn't he properly identified. But it was in vain.

Just after 11 the jury returned a verdict of 'guilty. As soon as was announced, the prisoners claimed their right of being tried again, the second time by a grand jury

Then they were driven back to prison "a carriage being sent for, the Jews were re-conducted to gaol about half-past eleven," reported the Jersey Argus man-on-the-spot.

A week later the grand jury of 24 members-eight from St. Saviour and St. Lawrence, as well as eight from St. Helier-came to a similar verdict. The second trial lasted a little longer. The Jews arrived flanked by pikemen or 'halberdiers' at ten o'clock in the morning and learnt their sentence only minutes before midnight. During the course of the proceedings, the Attorney General took no less than six-and-a-half hours to go through what the local news-paper described as "the formal and tedious process of reading numerous documents." After a mere half-an-hour the grand jury came back with the same decision.

The Bailiff then sentenced Bershon in French and the other two in English. "In consequence of your crime the Court condemns you to be given into the hands of the public executioner to be publicly exposed for one hour. Your property, goods and chattels are confiscated for the benefit of the King and the Lord of the Manor. You are to undergo an imprisonment and hard labour; you Bershon and Myers for one year, and you Cohen for six months; at the expiration of which you are to be expelled the Island forever, being forbidden to return save with the King's leave."

The prisoners showed no emotion at the time. But it was different the following Saturday. They were led through jeering crowds to the public pillory in the Royal Square.

Shortly after two o'clock their necks and hands were encased, and they stared down on the hostile crowd. Myers was too tall for the machine and he suffered more than the others. When he was led away, he showed the Deputy Viscount his hands, swollen and inflamed from propping up the weight of his massive frame. The much-married Bershon was exactly the opposite. He was so tiny that it required a real effort to keep his head high and prevent his chin from being grazed. A hardened criminal, he was utterly indifferent to the public disgrace and joked with someone in the crowd when the hangman brought him down.

For Cohen it was different. He looked penitent and wept. His descent from the pillory exhibited a man in great mental agony," said a local trader. The most innocent, he was also the most contrite.

Throughout the hour the immense crowd which packed the Square and all the neighbouring streets remained orderly. The only scuffle came when a woman angrily thrust a counterfeit note in Bershon's face. She was led away by a police officer.

The disgrace of the three Jews was to be one of the last times that the public pillory was used. In some ways it marked a transition in the history of public punishment. Just a decade earlier, men in the pillory had been mutilated by the public, showered with rubbish, cut by volleys of sea-shells. Just a decade later, the Jersey public were to witness the last humiliation of a criminal in the Royal Square.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The New Hospital: Some Comments.

The New Hospital: Some Comments.

From the FAQ on the website:

“Why wasn’t this Extended Site option considered in the first place? “

“Large height buildings were considered during 2012, but once building height guidance had been obtained from the Planning Authority, all subsequent designs met this guidance. The reason the project team focused on the extended site option was a result of the insights obtained from States Members that the hospital is a “special case” and a once in a generation decision, which means that some flexibility against planning requirements could be sought within reason.”

But the site went live in late 2015, a long time after 2012. Couldn’t the review have gone back before then and suggested it as a “special case”? It seems extraordinary that it didn’t, until you consider the “easy option” of the People’s Park.

While that was in the frame, there was no need to make any special pleading regarding height. And why did height not get reviewed when Senator Green took over? Let’s not forget the timeline – in October 2013, a dual site was on the cards. The later look at many sites only took place after Senator Green took over in November 2014. This reason doesn’t really stand up to the chronology.

“You have spent a lot of money so far on reviewing sites, was this a waste of money?”

“We have spent money undertaking a robust assessment of a number of the sites on the shortlist. This is industry standard best practice in large capital projects. We have had to do this to exclude the feasibility of alternative options. Therefore, the significant part of the expenditure had to be made, although inevitably some will have been abortive relating to design of specific sites.”

Now I have no objection to following industry standard best practice, but wouldn’t it also have been a good idea to revisit the height consideration? How good was an assessment that worked within guidelines on height that now can be superseded?

It seems that some money certainly has been wasted because a higher build could have been an option alongside the other four options. Clearly it came back into the frame, but why couldn’t it have done sooner? That would have saved time and money. Were the Council of Ministers so blinkered they couldn’t think outside the box until the People’s Park was turned down, and suddenly necessity became the mother of high rise invention?

“How will current services be affected by this proposal?”

“We have started to work with clinical and other stakeholders to identify the impact this proposal would have, service by service. For example, some services will move off the General Hospital site in the interim period but return when the hospital is built, others will move and not return. Some will not move at all. The precise balance of these changes is still to be determined but our primary concern is that we will not undertake this proposal unless we are certain that services could be safely re-provided.”

This is interesting because it suggests elements of a dual site are still lurking in the background. It is likely that some services may relocate to Overdale, and if they are not returning, it is rather like a partial and smaller dual site option.

The Minister’s statement to the States is also interesting for various reasons:

“And as I’ve said before, our excellent and hardworking staff are trying to provide a first-class service within the confines of Victorian infrastructure. We need a new hospital to deliver the healthcare that the people of Jersey deserve and would wish to see for themselves and their families.”

In fact, it is the 1960s build that is really not fit for purpose and not the Victorian part of the building. The 1960s were notorious for bad builds which have not stood the test of time. It is here that you find concrete decay, bad wiring, and plasterboard breaking off, and ceiling tiles coming loose and cracks in walls.

Problems which relate to 1960’s buildings are often associated with;
• Asbestos insulation and asbestos containing materials
• Single pipe heating systems
• Lack of adequate zoning of heating circuits
• Full fresh air ventilation systems
• Single glazing
• High alumina cement
• Panel cladding systems
• System building techniques
• Deep plan buildings

The Victorians, on the other hand, built very well. Victoria College is a “Victorian infrastructure”, and no one has suggested tearing that down. In particular, late Victorian hospitals buildings demonstrate resilience to overheating because they are heavyweight and often have high ceilings. They potentially form a more climate resilient resource than might be expected.

This is not the case with more modern buildings, which tend to overheat, especially in summer. The report "Living with Environmental Change" particular considers the danger to the elderly and young, especially in acute wards, and how the 1950s and 1960s builds are particularly poor.

“Members of this Assembly and the people of Jersey told me that building the hospital on the People’s Park was a step too far. That facts were never going to triumph over emotion.”

That’s a very biased point of view, and one that Christian May would, I am sure, dispute. It seems a false dichotomy to cast aspersions on the opposition as being “emotional” rather than just looking at the “facts”.

In fact, there was a robust case against using the People’s Park, both emotional and factual. It could be argued that the Gradgrindian view of mere facts and figures was blinkered and did not take into account the social consequences for the community of St Helier.

For those who don’t know their Dickens, Mr Thomas Gradgrind is the notorious school board Superintendent in Dickens's novel Hard Times who is dedicated to the pursuit of profitable enterprise. His name is now used generically to refer to someone who is hard and only concerned with a soulless cold facts and numbers; he is inflexibly utilitarian. This seems rather like the planners who decided on the People's Park.

“During the ensuing engagement period, the decision was made to remove People’s Park from consideration when it became apparent that this was not acceptable to the public, or to the majority of the States Assembly.”

That’s an interesting comment which is not entirely true. Had the majority of the States assembly approved the scheme, past precedents show that being acceptable to the public never features strongly? I suspect it would have been railroaded through like lots of other measures which have not been acceptable to the public. It was the possibility of a bruising defeat in the States which swung the strategic withdrawal, and not the public opinion on the matter.

And finally, I’d like to comment on this:

“This involves developing the areas of the current site occupied by the Gwyneth Huelin Wing and Peter Crill House, together with some adjacent properties on Kensington Place.”

A lot has been made in the media for the need to compulsory purchase part of Kensington Place, but what is forgotten, perhaps conveniently, is that the original People’s Park proposal included compulsory purchase of those properties for its “compensatory park space”, along with even more purchase of private land at Gas Place to extend the park there. The image above from the previous plans demonstrates this clearly.

The cost of this part of the venture, if we had been able to get a breakdown, could have been no more than the People’s Park option, and almost certainly less. Of course, the money may have run out before then, and the “compensatory park space” remained a pipedream, put in  to sell the "People's Park" site idea. That's a very cynical view, but as Sir Humphrey Appleby noted: "A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist".