It is only mid-September but already British people are being bombarded with reports that Christmas could be cancelled.
Christmas 2020 was a hit and miss affair with covid19 rampant and various alleged safety measures in place.
This year a mixture of covid19, BRexit, a shortage of qualified lorry drivers and an inept Tory government led by buffoon in chief Boris Johnson is being blamed for possible issues.
To be fair the latter is my view of our so-called government and may not be yours. But after winning a good majority in the December 2019 General Election Johnson and his mates seem to have been so busy getting what they can out of being in government that a great deal else has fallen by the wayside.
For a government that won that big majority on a three word slogan "Get Brexit Done" how BRexit would actually play out seems to have been forgotten.
At the 11th hour a shortage of lorry drivers has finally caught the attention of parliament. Those of us noticing escalating prices at the tills and a lack of stock on supermarket shelves were already aware.
Making Michael Gove Christmas Elf in Johnson's latest cabinet shuffle will send shivers down many spines, including mine.
In fact he has a whole new title which does encompass "Get Christmas Done" and it is "Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Minister for Intergovernmental Relations!
That pompous title was bestowed on Gove this week but today there are calls that he gives back a £100,000 donation from a property developer ahead of his new role being announced. There is a clear conflict of interest at play. Whether Gove will follow current Tory behaviour and just go for it who knows.
The Tory government could do with stealing "Carry On Regardless" as their official slogan these days.
I guess if Christmas is cancelled Gove will get the blame but also the credit if it is saved.
He does have his sights set on the Tory Party leadership after all.
This is a local story which has at times made national headlines.
Christopher Alder died in police custody in Hull in 1998 aged 37.
A final insult the local hospital released the wrong body for burial with some wondering if it was because both were black skinned. But the other body was female.
Christopher’s sister Janet fought a long battle for justice for Christopher.
But as she campaigned police spied on her; one reason given by police is because some of the other campaigners were known activists.
An old blog of mine highights how long Janet has been fighting for justice.
And the fight for justice continues.
The police accused of spying on Janet remain protected, unnamed in court.
A sad and sorry catalogue of errors continues to torment the Alder family
This link relates to his death
“A tape capturing monkey chants made as a black man lay dead on a police station floor was missed by investigators for nearly four years, it emerged yesterday.
Christopher Alder, 37, died handcuffed and face down in a Hull police station in April 1998 surrounded by police officers, after choking on his own vomit. Sections of the tape show the officers joking and chatting as the former paratrooper died.
Last month five Humberside policemen were cleared of manslaughter and neglect of public duty over the death. Tapes from the custody suite cameras were seized in April 1998, but a section containing monkey chants and laughter was not investigated until March 2002, a fortnight before the trial began. Mr Alder's family are furious that this evidence was never put before the jury. The crown prosecution service said it never tried to have this evidence admitted because it could not be determined who was making the noises.”
Humberside Police officers cleared of unauthorised spying
March 1, 2018
"Two police officers have been cleared of the unauthorised surveillance of the sister of a man who died in police custody.
Janet Alder was followed by a team from Humberside Police during the inquest into her brother's death.
Former paratrooper Christopher Alder, 37, died in Hull in 1998. An inquest found he died unlawfully.
The two officers faced gross misconduct charges at a police tribunal."
Op-ed; Oh what a tangled web they weave when first they practise to deceive.
This woman may have misquoted slightly but boy does that saying fit British politics.
Since the UKs unelected Tory PM announced Monday she was calling a snap general election scheduled for June 8 it has been a roller coaster of resignations, spats and more from across the full political spectrum.
Thursday Douglas Carswell a Tory who defected from the Conservative party to join UKip only to quit UKip in March saying he was quitting UKip and would stand as an independent has announced he is quitting politics though will campaign for his old pals in the Conservative party.
He was always a Tory like so many leading lights of UKip. For them it was all about leaving the European Union.
On March 25, 2017 on a sister site this woman wrote;
"Ukip's former Tory MP Douglas Carswell is quitting the party and hopes he will continue representing his constituency of Clacton without having to face a by-election.
He plans to stand as an independent but how independent will he really be?
He has already shown himself a die-hard Tory during his time with Ukip.
On the BBC news channel Saturday morning he stuck the knife in Ukip firmly and squarely.
He assessed Ukip as a one trick pony that is finished now that PM Theresa May is about to trigger Article 50.
In October 2014 we reported "Ukip and its party leader are celebrating Friday morning. The party secured its first seat in the Commons in Thursday's vote boosting the party's image and ego. Tory defector Douglas Carswell won Clacton in the South of England but was the electorate voting for their tried and tested old Tory MP or UKIP?"
Carswell was full of praise for unelected Tory PM Theresa May Saturday.
His words re Ukip "job done" obviously do not reflect his full view.
Carswell is hoping his constituents remain a one MP set of voters who are intrinsically right-wing but what about local Ukip supporters? If Carswell has his way they will not get a chance to elect a Ukip MP or one of any other political colour.
Is he so desperate to stay in politics and if so why?
Did Carswell discuss his resignation with Theresa May and other Tories? Was he hoping to simply cross the floor of the House and join his Tory chums? Such a move would trigger a by-election.
He did not discuss his imminent departure with his Ukip colleagues who found out he had quit along with his blog readers and the mainstream media.
Carswell posted his intention to resign on his blog saying;
It has been an extraordinary achievement. UKIP, my party, which was founded in 1993 in order to get Britain out of the European Union, has now achieved what we were established to do.
Will Carswell be back?
Could be-like a bad penny.
He refused to rejoin his Tory chums when he quit UKip as it would trigger a by-election.
He has said he will be voting Conservative on June 8 and this woman says no change there then.
Sky News reports "As the former UKIP MP says it is time to move on, ex UKIP donor Arron Banks tweets that the "Clacton swamp" has been "drained"."
Op-ed; At the weekend members of Theresa May's cabinet lost their cool and issued vague military threats against Spain over Gibraltar; Monday Donald Trump has jumped on the bandwagon and issued in some ways less vague threats against North Korea and China.
But while some world leaders were looking at destroying our world Mother Nature had unleashed her forces in Colombia.
Devastating mudslides in the south west of the country Friday night killed at least 254 people.
Sadly the death toll includes dozens of children.
BBC News reports Monday "President Santos said the death toll was 254, with at least 170 of the dead identified, including 44 children."
The President has declared a state of emergency.
Parts of the town of Mocoa in the Putumayo province of Colombia were buried by rocks and mud during heavy rain. It happened while many people were sleeping. They did not stand a chance.
Wildlife and pets were obviously hit too.
A veritable avalanche of muddy water swept through the town Friday night after three rivers burst their banks following many day's worth of rain falling in just hours.
The airforce is dropping vital supplies and the Red Cross is working to reconnect families. More than 1000 military personnel have been deployed in the area.
The region has experienced similar "natural" disasters.
Obviously much needs to be done to make the region safer and less prone to mudslides.
Which takes us back to U.S. President Donald Trump.
As Trump sabre rattles at China and North Korea he plans to take his country back decades by scrapping "climate change" initiatives.
Mr Trump and his team are global warming and climate change sceptics.
Perhaps they can explain their stance to the people of countries like Colombia directly hit by extreme weather.
Op-ed; When Khalid Masood began his deadly journey across Westminster Bridge last Wednesday the first people he hit were an American couple visiting the UK for an anniversary celebration and to meet up with Melissa Cochran's parents.
Kurt Cochran, 54, from Utah was knocked from the bridge to a parapet below and killed. His wife Melissa, 46, sustained injuries including a broken leg and rib.
The couple were on the last day of their vacation in the UK; the trip to London was to celebrate the couple's 25th wedding anniversary. They arrived in Britain March 3 visiting Scotland, Ireland and parts of Europe.
Masood killed three other people and injured others some sustaining what was described as catastrophic injuries.
His victims were young and old and from many nationalities.
He had a history of violence.
The Cochrans however were by all accounts a lovely couple who will be sorely missed by their loved ones and friends.
Monday family members, of Melissa and Kurt, who are in London have spoken about the couple.
Their words are an inspiration.
They are not opting for hate but rather hope. Clint Payne, Mr Cochran's brother-in-law, said;
This has been a humbling and difficult experience but we have felt the love of so many people during these past several days.
A beautiful life snuffed out by a person who was never a positive force for anything good.
Thoughts with all of those involved.
Thirteen members of Mr Cochran's family attended a press conference at Scotland Yard [Monday] to speak in public for the first time about the attack.
Breaking news Wednesday 2.30pm GMT London
There has been an attack near to the Houses of Parliament London.
Parliament is now in lockdown and has been suspended for the rest of today.
PM Theresa May was whisked away by security personnel.
Wednesday lunchtime is PMQs and the Houses of Parliament are usually full.
A car was driven across Westminster bridge before mounting the pavement and striking down several people.
One police officer has reportedly been stabbed by a gunman. That attacker has now been shot.
CNBC report "Police in London said they were called to Westminster Bridge at 2:14 p.m. local time "for an incident," and that is is now being treated as a "firearm incident and officers are on the scene and dealing with this." Multiple ambulance crews were en route to the scene as armed police entered Parliament, some of them carrying shields, Reuters reported."
ITV news has just rounded up today's events with what is known at this time;
Some people have sustained injuries but details remain sketchy.
The incident is being treat as a terrorist incident until there is confirmation one way or another.
The situation remains fluid and the story is still unfolding.
As members of the public, tourists and reporters are in the area a variety of images are being shared and some are graphic.
Parliament is being searched and police are unable to confirm at this time whether at least one attacker is still at large.
Wednesday evening update;
At least four people have died including the police officer who was stabbed and his suspected attacker.
Social media buzzed with the alleged name and images of the attacker; later Channel 4 retracted a report as that man is reportedly still in jail.
Twitter accounts had already shared his name, footage and more. One person had actually updated a wikipedia page on the man adding today as his date of death.
This is the latest information from the Metropolitan Police Force http://news.met.police.uk/news/latest-on-westminster-incident-229843?hootPostID=771543ff5a7c584b366b8b3a360e403d
Op-ed;The great food swindle
In January 2017 the Guardian and others reported inflation had hit a two-year high of 1.6% but Tuesday worse figures have been released with some calling it the BRexit effect kicking in.
Inflation in the UK jumped to 2.3% in February, pushing the pound higher.
The news may have pushed the pound higher but that will not help families struggling with the increased food and petrol prices which are responsible for the latest inflation hike.
It has never been more important to be a savvy shopper. Yes we know that food labelling is not always trustworthy but it is important to check labels, all the same.
The horsemeat scandal proved there are incidences of false food labelling, when horse and pork were part of meat products labelled as 100% beef but that said remember to read the labels and pack sizes in order to check value for money.
As the BRexit effect economic downturn continues to bite manufacturers look at ways to increase profits or just break even.
A good way is increasing pack size but reducing contents; for example, you may buy a huge packet of breakfast cereal but if there are fewer contents than smaller packs you are not a price savvy shopper getting value for money.
Products such as crisps and cereals are also good examples. As products that are light in weight already a reduction in contents could easily be missed unless you check the pack details for the actual weight.
Which the British consumer group checked facts and figures previously and found some shocking results. In 2013;
What "Which" discovered is that most manufacturers prefer to opt to reduce contents rather than increase the price on the label.
Prices did increase in some cases but were kept to a minimum by reducing sizes.
The problem is that no person or organisation can state if shrinkage and prices are comparable. For all consumers know they could be paying a higher price for less product and actually taking a bigger hit than believed.
As times get tough consumers will need to price aware to stay one step ahead of advertisers and retailers. They have many means available to persuade you to buy.
Clever packaging tricks can easily deceive you unless you stay alert.
British supermarket wars continue and as they all fight it out for your custom they will use each and every trick in the book.
Many consumers would rather pay a higher price than buy less contents or be tricked but in truth some are experiencing both; that is higher prices and less contents. Then there is still the matter of what the contents actually are!
This practise is now long standing but if you become a savvy shopper you can outfox the fiddlers.
So the next time you look at a product and think "I'm sure that used to be bigger" you could be right.
In January there were reports of Apple tech price hikes blamed on BRexit.
Now it is essential items.
"Subway is owned and operated by Doctor's Associates. The company doesn't own a single location, but collects 8% of revenue from each franchise. Fred DeLuca borrowed $1,000 from family friend Peter Buck, to open his first sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Conn. in 1965. Today there are 44,000 stores in 110 countries. DeLuca oversaw day-to-day operations of the company until he died in September 2015. Buck and DeLuca's heirs each own 50% of the company."
In 2016 media sources reported a dip in Subway profits which in the USA resulted in the closure of a number of its outlets.
This franchise fast food company has outlets in many UK cities and in 2016 Forbes reported;
So why would such a huge company employ an "apprentice Sandwich artist" for a pittance of pay"?
Notice the fancy job title!
There was a time when an apprenticeship led to a job for life but previous Tory governments slashed apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships have made a comeback but are they anything more than cheap labour?
Look at the job advert above. There are eight positions up for grabs at £3.40 an hour and to include weekend working.
Is there anything in that job description that really needs an apprenticeship?
Most of the work could be learned on the job shadowing staff or as some used to call it "sitting with Nellie."
But the odds are there are few real staff members available to carry out the training.
Employing as part of the apprenticeship scheme Subway are able to legally offer a pathetic wage. £119 a week is a small wage but if you have a benefit sanction in place it is one option.
Before people assume young workers will still be sitting pretty at home making £119 a week an affordable wage think again.
Some kids have no surviving parents, are from broken marriages, are forced to leave home for many reasons or may even already be a parent themselves.
Subway is a big money making venture.
If franchisees cannot afford to pay a liveable wage should they really be running such an establishment?
The Metro reports this is not the first time Subway has been taken to task adding some social media responses;
"Keri Warbis wrote: ‘£3.40 per hr for a 14 month (yep 14!) ‘apprenticeship’ making sarnies. (The smell of a Subway has ensured I’ve never entered one, tbh).’"
Another user Ethan Mills added: ‘How are subway offering a “sandwich artist” apprenticeship, paying £3.40 p/h that’s acc criminal.’
The Healty Pins Twitter was also unhappy and wrote: ‘TIL Subway has a “sandwich artist” apprenticeship in the U.K. as an excuse to pay £3.50 an hour. #todayilearned #til
A spokesperson for Subway said: ‘The franchisee of this store was unaware of this advert which was posted by a recruitment agency. ‘Together we are working to have this advert removed immediately. ‘Subway requires that all franchisees comply with employment law when recruiting and contracting, and in all dealings with, employees.’
That sounds like they were caught but may continue abusing the apprenticeship scheme.
It also sounds like they are using a recruitment agency. Such agencies get rich out of YOUR work. The employee may earn little in part because of the recruitment agencies cut.
The UK government claims that the jobless total continues to fall but is the work found a so-called "real job"?
Conservative Party fined £70,000 following investigation into election campaign expenses
Published: 16 Mar 2017
The Conservative Party have been fined a total of £70,000 following the conclusion of the Electoral Commission’s investigation into the party’s campaign spending. The investigation concluded that there were significant failures by the Party to report accurately on how much it spent on campaigning at three by-elections in 2014 and at the 2015 UK Parliamentary general election.
The Conservative Party’s 2015 UK Parliamentary general election spending return was missing payments worth at least £104,765.
Separately, payments worth up to £118,124 were either not reported to the Commission or were incorrectly reported by the party. A portion of this amount should have been included in the Party’s return but wasn’t. Another portion was put into the Party’s return when it was candidate spending in a number of constituencies where the Party spent money promoting individual candidates.
In addition, the Party did not include the required invoices or receipts for 81 payments to the value of £52,924.
Finally, the Party failed to maintain records explaining the amounts it invoiced to candidates in three 2014 by-elections, for work on their campaigns. Therefore the accuracy of the amounts could not be verified.
Commenting on the outcome of the investigation, Sir John Holmes, Chair of the Electoral Commission said:
“Our investigation uncovered numerous failures by a large, well-resourced and experienced Party to ensure that accurate records of spending were maintained and that all of the Party’s spending was reported correctly. The rules established by Parliament for political parties and their finances are there to ensure transparency and accountability. Where the rules are not followed, it undermines voters’ confidence in our democratic processes, which is why political parties need to take their responsibilities under the legislation seriously.”
Sir John Holmes continued;
“This is the third investigation we have recently concluded where the largest political parties have failed to report up to six figure sums following major elections, and have been fined as a result. There is a risk that some political parties might come to view the payment of these fines as a cost of doing business; the Commission therefore needs to be able to impose sanctions that are proportionate to the levels of spending now routinely handled by parties and campaigners.”
Background to the Conservative Party investigation
Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) it is the responsibility of a political party’s registered treasurer to ensure that an accurate and complete campaign spending return is submitted to the Electoral Commission by the statutory deadline following national elections.
Following the publication of the Conservative Party’s 2015 UK Parliamentary general election spending return on 20 January 2016, Channel 4 News raised concerns – which fed into the Commission’s own investigations – that the Conservative Party’s spending return may have been incomplete. Their allegations also indicated that the Party’s spending return for the 2014 European Parliamentary elections also may not have been complete.
Following initial enquiries with the Party, the Commission opened an investigation on 15 February 2016.
Scope of the Commission’s investigation
In summary, the Commission’s investigation considered the following:
- Whether campaign costs incurred by the Party in the South Thanet constituency during the 2015 general election campaign were correctly reported by the Party.
- Whether campaign costs incurred by the transport of activists by the Party to a number of constituencies across the UK during the 2015 general election campaign were correctly reported by the Party.
- Whether any further payments were omitted from the Party return
- Whether there were any required invoices or receipts missing from the Party return.
Conclusions of the investigation
The investigation has now ended and concluded that Mr Simon Day, the registered treasurer of the party until April 2016, committed three contraventions under section 41 and two offences under section 82(4)(b) of PPERA.
The Conservative Party has been fined £70,000 under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums (Civil Sanctions) Order 2010. The Party has until 13 April 2017 to pay the fine.
Summary of findings:
The Commission found that:
For more information please contact Megan Phillips in the Electoral Commission press office.
Notes to editors:
Op-ed: The long running but underreported saga of allegations that the Conservative Party broke election spending rules rolls on but there is some news.
Thursday there are reports that the Tory Party has been fined a record £70,000 by the Electoral Commission. That is a five figure sum fine for a six figure sum accounting error.
The electoral commission wants to be able to issue fines in the hundreds of thousands of pounds rather than tens but is not allowed to. That may now change.
Currently the maximum fine in each case is £20,000. An electoral commission spokesperson said at least one of the incidents the Tory party have been fined for warranted a much higher fine.
The Tory party has until April 13 to pay the fines and has said it will comply.
It will now be down to police investigating the allegations to determine if auditing errors were accidental or deliberate.
Last week unelected PM Theresa May and her government were allegedly worried about the investigation.
Will the fines have alleviated Tory worries?
Breaking electoral commission spending rules can result in jail time!
It can also in effect steal elections.
It's difficult to believe that the supposedly fiscally competent Tory Party could accidentally make such errors. They are hardly a new political party getting to grips with electoral rules and regulations.
Inaccurate expense recording by the Tory party was found in three 2014 by-elections and during the 2015 general election campaign; a general election that they won against the odds.
That leaves people questioning whether the Tory party won the 2015 general election by fair or foul means.
Certainly news that the electoral commission says the Tory party was uncooperative with the investigation rings alarm bells.
Why were they to quote, guilty of unreasonably uncooperative conduct?
Thursday ITV news reports;
The investigation found:
Are there some deliberate auditing errors now classed as part of the campaign to win an election and worth the risk?
Other parties have faced lesser fines for errors but the Tory party appears to have carried out widespread election misspending since 2014.
Updates as available.
Full Electoral Commission announcement and background to allegations
Full ITV report here