Who is in The Driving Seat Now?

a driverless car

No steering wheel?

It is reported that driverless cars will be allowed on UK roads next year. Many people are expressing concerns about safety. Mind you, the old story goes that the most dangerous component in a car is the nut behind the wheel, so perhaps removing that will prove to be no bad thing.

Years ago I read about traffic polls taken of cars crossing the Oakland bridge in San Fransisco. Chrating the number of occupants by year it showed that as time went on the number of occupants was steadily reducing as more people bought their own cars and became drivers rather than passengers. The statistics showed that if the trend continued, before the end of thetwentieth century one in four cars would be crossing the bridge with nobody in it. That was a fair joke back then but now it seems to be coming true. How are we taking the news?

I started off by saying that some people were expressing concern. Of course, most people don’t seem to be concerned. Why should that be? Perhaps we hav become accustomed to things proceeding without human control. Who sits and stares through the window on the washing machine to make sure that the clothes are being cleaned properly? We have become relaxed about lack of control. Our political systems seem to have gone the same way. The recent economic crash which the world is still trying to recover from showed that those who were supposed to be regulating the financial systems were doing nothing of the kind.

Policies in the UK just seem to go in a random, haphazard fashion. Take our outlook on homosexuality. In the recent past such things were deemed illegal and people could be prosecuted for behaviour that was deemed indecent. All that changed and the world became a more tolerant place. Now it is becoming illegal hold an opposite view. If you don’t believe that homosexual behaviour is acceptable you can lose your job. One intolerance has been replaced by another. Who is steering this place?

We seem to have a government in the UK where things just drift along from one crisis to the next; a bit like a learner driver who hasn’t got the hang of steering and manages to bash every car parked along the street as he passes. People might see a computer driven car as a much safer option than anything driven by our politicians.

No steering wheel? Well, what’s the point?

Too Clever By Half?

A graduate

Is this guy too scary?

I see the politicians are promoting the idea of more people going to university to make them employable. See the BBC article here.

I wonder if this is really the case? Labour are arguing for ‘Technical Degrees’ that are not academic but focus on skills. This is to raise the status of technicians I imagine. I have two reservations about this.

First, I have found examples of the difficulty of having a degree recognised as worthwhile. My daughter with her first class M.A. and M.Lit with distinction was advised by the ‘consultant’ at the Jobcentre to remove any mention of a degree from her CV if she wanted to get a job. I assumed this was an isolated thing ’till yesterday.

A friend has just completed a Ph.D in his spare time. He is currently employed by B.T. but is about to be made redundant as the work he does is being sent to India. He was told to revise his CV and did so. On submitting his updated document he was berated by a senior manager for including his university qualifications. He was told that anyone with a degree in their CV would not get an interview in BT. The manager would not give details of his own university education.

It would appear to me that the problem we have is not one of lack of education in the applicants but we have the wrong people in influential positions in our industry, especially big companies. Let’s remember that BT was originally Poast Office Telephones which had the monopoly of telecoms and is now a poor relation in that field. Is it any wonder?

There is a malaise here in government bodies and some employers. They make the excuse of lack of education and training as the cause of unemployment. I think they are looking in the wrong direction. I remember a meeting of physics department heads being addressed by a representative of industry complaining that young people were not being taught the right skills. We asked him what skills he would like to see taught. “Honesty and reliability” was his reply. Not exactly skills and not something we often find demonstrated by governments and employers either if recent revelations are to be believed.

My second reservation is the idea that there are no suitable technical qualifications for the non-academic. There have always been good college courses and national qualifications. The problem is that industry is not giving the recognition these courses deserve. Changing the name to a degree will make no difference. Blaming the youngsters, the schools, colleges and universities is dishonest and serves no purpose other than to pass the buck. Government and employers need to shake up their ideas and put the right people in place to get the economy moving, with more jobs.

Are you too clever or are you afraid some young gun with a degree will take your job?

Old Prophesy, New Times

At mass today I was struck by the Old Testament reading.

It’s a reading from the prophet Amos and was obviously written a long, long time ago. Despite the age of the passage I found it amazingly pertinent to the world today. In our period of austerity imposed by the Coalition government the poor have been badly hit and the rich seem to be prospering. This is obviously nothing new as Amos rails against those who cheat the poor.


I repeat the passage here.


Amos 8:4-6,9-12

Listen to this, you who trample on the needyand try to suppress the poor people of the country,you who say, ‘When will New Moon be overso that we can sell our corn,and Sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?

Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,by swindling and tampering with the scales,we can buy up the poor for money,and the needy for a pair of sandals,and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’

That day – it is the Lord who speaks –I will make the sun go down at noon,and darken the earth in broad daylight.

I am going to turn your feasts into funerals,all your singing into lamentation;I will have your loins all in sackcloth,your heads all shaved.

I will make it a mourning like the mourning for an only son,as long as it lasts it will be like a day of bitterness.

See what days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –days when I will bring famine on the country,a famine not of bread, a drought not of water,but of hearing the word of the Lord.

They will stagger from sea to sea,wander from north to east,seeking the word of the Lordand failing to find it.


I wonder how that would be received by our government today. They have recently prompted the idea of teaching our young people traditional values. Well traditional values would be old values and you don’t get many older than the Old Testament.


Do you think the Coalition might recognize themselves in the passage? Perhaps that’s just seeing it my way.

British Values

Wee Michael

In a galaxy far, far away

The Tory Education minister wants all schools to teach British values. Every pupils should learn about what we, as a sociey, value in a person. He was supported by the prime Minister.

Mr Cameron said: “I would say freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions – those are the sorts of things that I would hope would be inculcated into the curriculum in any school in Britain whether it was a private school, state school, faith-based school, free school, academy or anything else.”

Surely we could add truthfulness to that list. I wonder why he left it out? I also wonder why the government think that schools are the right place for these values to be inculcated? Surely basic values are learned at home in the first isntance. Our young people can learn these values from the way our society operates. Take freedom for instance. Young people will see that we are free to express our views about anything and demonstrate in public in support of our views without interference or kettling by the police. Well, perhaps not.

Tolerance is a basic value we live by in the UK. We tolerate people’s religious beliefs and don’t penalise them for operating in accourdance with their religion like Catholic adoption societies who try to place children in hetrosexual families. We don’t force them to close, er, well apart from that kind of thing.

The rule of law is important in our society. So much so that we have a legal aid system that provides defence for people in court. We don’t stint on that kind of thing because the rule of law is one of our values. That’s right, isn’t it? Isn’t it? No? Oh!

The belief in personal and social responsibility is paramount in Britain. We can see that in the way that bankers who brought the economy to it’s knees were charged and brought to court. Those bankers who mad fortunes from wrongfull selling of PPI and caused the Libor scandal heve been charged for their crimes and jailed. Well they are going to be charged, tried and jailed then. Oh, they are not being dealt with by the law but the banks have to pay back the money, if you can catch them, well that’s surely personal responsibility. You are responsible for catching the bankers who have robbed you. Simple!

Respect for British institutions is a no – brainer. Who could fail to respect the police who shot the terrorist Jean Charles de Menenzes before he could do any damage with the explosives he was wearing in his puffer jacket, which he wasn’t wearing anyway and then lied about it when it turned out he wasn’t a terrorist. The officers in charge of the force were severely knighted as a punishment. We respect institutions like parliament where the ministers fiddle their expenses and give a short, cursory non apology and that’s an end of it. We must respec t the coallition government who stand up and admit that the problems we face are someone else’s fault.

I’m also interested in “anything else”, as in “private school, state school, faith-based school, free school, academy or anything else.” What else is there? What does that mean, Sunday school, night school, card school? This isn’t just some vague waffle is it? Surely this is something we can learn to respect, just like Dave and wee Michael.

Why We Need an In-Out Referendum Now

Why We Need A Referendum


I have come to believe we need an in-out referendum and we need it now!

Why do we need one now? That is obvious.

Our economy is in a dreadful state. I know we have signs of growth, but it is growth based on consumers spending their savings, not on industrial expansion. People are buying new cars, booking holidays etc rather than leave their cash in the bank losing value as inflation outruns the interest rate

Pay day lenders are making massive profits as more and more people fall into debt. The rich are getting extremely rich and the poor are getting even poorer. We are told that the economy will be back to pre-crisis levels at the end of the year. Just ask people how their income matches up to their expenditure. Most people will be way behind.

We are creating a massive problem for our children. Unemployment among the young is racing well ahead of the headline rates. This was caused by the austerity that was supposed to save future generations from our debt.

So,how will a referendum help? I want an in-out referendum on the government and I think we need it now. Things are getting worse and we are being misled by doctored figures and hidden reports. Can we afford to have another two years of Tory muddle and Lib Dem aquiesence? I don’t think so.

A General Election Now! Get the Tories Out before it is too late!

What is the important issue today?

In the words of Bill Clinton,”It’s the economy, stupid!”

Fings Aint Wot They Used Ta Be

Freak waves

Storms hit the coast

I don’t know if you’ve noticed , but the weather has been rather unusual recently. Storms have lashed the south coast and have destroyed the railway line to Cormwall. There are so many flooded areas in England that emergency services are stretched beyond their limits. Even the army is overstretched.

That’s not all. The East coast of the USA and Canada has been suffering a winter like no other. Some places have seen snow for the first time. Travel has been almost impossible at times. Meanwhile California is suffering its worst ever winter drought. I was in San Francisco over a year ago and my cousin Matt McGhaa was explaining that their summer water supply is dependent on the winter snows on the hills melting and topping up their reservoirs. Not much hope of that this year.

Australia has been on fire again.

Do you think the climate may be changing?

Do you think it might not be for the better?

Do you think the government has taken this seriously?

I don’t really want to be a prophet of doom, but the way things are looking I think we should start considering some changes around here. We could start with a government that seems to have missed the predictions and gut the money for flood protection.

The 50% Line

The clowns

Boris and Dave; who should resign first?

London Mayor, Boris Johnston has complained about the current Underground strikes in the capital. He argues that it is not right for a union to call a strike without the backing of 50% of the members, not the voting members but 50% of the membership.

There is a certain logic to his demand. It does sound democratic. It sounds absolutely reasonable. Who could refuse such a request. It is, in fact, a very democratic principle. There would be no need to demand that the unions adopt this principle if it became an integral part of our democracy.

General elections would seen to be more than fair if the winner had to poll 50% of the electorate; not 50% of the votes, but 50% of those eligible to vote. There would arise a slight problem; fewer than 50% of the electorate regularly vote. It might be impossible to elect a government then. You might think that would be no bad thing when we consider the amateur bunch (Boris’ pals) who are running the show now.

Well done Boris! another load of absolute, unconsidered nonsense put out as political speak.

Happy Christmas

Nativity Scene

Come O Devine Messia

Christmas is almost upon us. This has been a year of wars and violence. Let’s take the opportunity we have in this season of peace and love to reconsider how we behave to one another.

The Government might reconsider their bedroom tax, although they might point out that Jesus didn’t have one – He was born in a stable. Let’s hope they don’t take that as a model for the future.

I wish you all a happy and holy Christmas and may the Peace remain with you in the New Year.


When the Fireman arrives in his Zimmer

Emergency Service Vehicles_Coventry Transport ...

Emergency Service Vehicles_Coventry Transport Museum_Hales Street_Coventry_May13 (Photo credit: Ian Halsey)

I drove from Coatbridge to Manchester airport today. I’m taking my wife and two friends to Lourdes on a short pilgrimage for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The official advice was “Do not travel!”.

We put our trust in the Lord who calmed the stormy sea and went anyway. We were fine, but the storms have caused problems for many travellers.

The emergency services have turned out, time and time again to rescue those in difficulty. When I arrived at the hotel I saw the news on television. The government have decided that people will have to work till 69 before they can retire. I tried to imagine a fireman in his late sixties turning up at a road traffic accident to disentangle the wreckage and save lives.

What are the chances of him saving anybody? Does anybody care? You might if you are the one trapped. Do you think the politicians think through the policies they implement? They say we are living longer, and we are. Of course that is a result of the social policy we have followed since 1945. Now, with Austerity, we are facing malnutrition and ill health. Perhaps the idea is to make sure fewer people manage to collect a pension.

What a disgrace. The people who claimed to be thinking of future generations are robbing the yet unborn.

Qualified or Unqualified – That is the Question


Nick Clegg has raised doubts about the government’s policy on free schools. He has suggested that teachers in these schools should be qualified. The government argues that this would cut out many talented, but unqualified, teachers. What are the merits of the argument?
Bringing in talented, inspiring people to schools sounds like a good idea. People have all sorts of experience and talents to bring as the Tories have long suggested. Remember the suggestion they made that failed bankers would make great teachers? I also recall the suggestion that troops being made redundant from the forces would bring discipline, loyalty and, perhaps skills in killing people.

I could teach economics?

Job for an ex banker?

But surely, if this is a valid argument, it should apply elsewhere too. People with flair and a desire to serve could be brought in to other professions. There are thousands of young men with vast experience of the court system who could be brought in as barristers. They have long experience of defending themselves in court with such brilliant defences such as “It was not me.”, “I was somewhere else at the time.” or “I found the goods lying in the street and I did not know they were stolen”.

Who needs qualified gas fitters?

Who needs qualified gas fitters?

We could go beyond that. The shortage of doctors, especially at weekends, could be solved by bringing in volunteers with some experience of first aid. Why should gas fitters need a special qualification? All you need is the ability to use a spanner and a blowlamp. Why should truck drivers need a special license? Lots of unemployed teenagers can drive cars without a license at all, let them have a go at a truck.
Can we see any good examples of unqualified people in a responsible job? How are they doing? Well we need look no further than the government itself. We have ministers of education with no education qualifications or experience and they are bringing lots of new ideas. Ministers, even prime ministers and Chancellors of the Exchequer have, and need, no qualification. Look at the great job they are doing.
Education statistics show that education standards in England and Wales have not fallen to the bottom of world rankings, not quite. Our economy is booming? – well, it will be soon, we are told, despite the deficit growing rather than falling.
So judge for yourself. Is Nick correct in demanding qualified staff or is the government showing us a vision of things to come?
I have one question, though. Why has it taken so long for Nick to notice this absurdity?