Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

What two Labour Women MP’s said at the “Labour Party Conference”?

255 views
2 mins read

I quote the report by PA News Agency in today’s National Scot for my readers:

“Labour deputy leader Ms Rayner took aim at the Conservative prime ministers since 2010 during a joke-laden speech to close her party’s conference in Liverpool. In a bid to rally party members, Ms Rayner ran through the policy pledges made in recent days and insisted Labour would be “radical, responsible, realistic” in power.

“By contrast, she described Liz Truss’s new Government as a “ministry of all the talentless”, adding: “When I looked at the benches opposite last week, I thought the clowns had escaped the circus.

“On Mr Johnson, ousted from Number 10 after a series of scandals which included lockdown-busting events in Downing Street, Labour MP Ms Rayner said: “I do owe him one apology.

“I said he couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery. Turns out he could organise a booze-up pretty much anywhere, just a shame he couldn’t organise anything else.

“We’re a party with a serious plan, he had a plan for a serious party.

Taking the mickey

“I’ll miss one thing though. As inflation ran out of control, at least his jokes were one thing that got cheaper every week.“But the real problem wasn’t that his jokes were so cheap, it was that his mistakes were so expensive.

“He ended his time claiming he was forced from office by the ‘deep state’. The only deep state that forced him from office was the one he left our country in.

“Sorry conference, I had to use all my Boris lines now while he’s still remembered and while everyone knows who he is before he becomes a footnote of failure in the history books. “At least that’s what the new Prime Minister must be hoping for because he’ll be sat on the backbenches plotting his comeback, with a glint in his eye, thinking: ‘I wasn’t so bad after all was I?’

“What a sorry state of affairs.”

Ms Rayner earlier mocked Ms Truss for having “crashed the pork market”, a nod to the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for the sector when environment secretary.

She said of the Conservatives: “Tough on crime? They brought crime to Number 10. “Defenders of the free market? The market’s in free-fall. England’s green and pleasant land? Frack it. From the party of stability to causing earthquakes. From the party of business to a slap down from the IMF. From the party of serious government to the party of parties. “Liz Truss has even crashed the pork market. Now that is a disgrace. You’d think that snouts in the trough was the one thing they could manage.”

Labour’s conference concluded with renditions of The Red Flag and Jerusalem, with Ms Rayner and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer joining in” –unquote.

A hilarious event, it could happen only in England?

Whilst the above enthralled the Labour Conference at Liverpool, I call it another hilarious incident, that took place at a Fringe Labour Event entitled: “What’s next for Labour’s Agenda for Race,” on Monday 26 September 2022.

Ms RupaHaq, Labour M.P for Ealing Central and Acton, of Asian origin, while addressing this Fringe event was quoted by The Guardian, to have said,(about, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt.Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng,) “he is superficial, he is a Blackman, but again he’s got more in common – he went to Eton.”

Ms Haq has since apologised direct to the Chancellor, but it has opened up a hornet’s nest. She has been suspended from the Labour Party Whip in the Commons.

Responding to the controversy, MP Haq is also reported to have told “The Guardian”: her comments were made while praising the recent ethnic diversity in Parliament. She is quoted to have commented: “Obviously, I know you can be brown and be a Tory – I’m not that stupid”.

We know there are occasions when coloured people become the scapegoat for racist remarks. Taking the mickey on native English is acceptable, but “taking the mickey, on others, is sacrosanct.”

What has happened to the British Pound?

329 views
2 mins read

“Working people are paying the price of the Tory government’s casino economics. Labour will cut bills, create jobs and secure energy independence for Britain by 2030.”  ~ Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in response to the chancellor’s mini-Budget.

When I came to Britain in 1966, the pound bought me US Dollars 2.40 and today it is at a record low against the Green Back, as early trading in markets in South East Asia, collapsed the Pound to $1.0327, the lowest since decimalisation in 1971. Luckily it regained ground to $1.07. What really happened after Black Friday? (23 September 2022).

Markets are volatile and naturally, they seem to have taken fright after what our new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon. KwasiKwarteng stated at the weekend that he was ready to slash taxes even further, more than the £45 Billion cuts in his Mini Budget on Friday.

Speculation was growing that the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee might have to intervene with an emergency rate hike, sooner than expected.

Need I say, if Sterling Pound falls to parity with the US Dollar, it could trigger a rebellion among Tory backbenchers who could refuse to vote for the Government’s Finance Bill, or even submit letters of no confidence in PM Liz Truss, said the Daily Telegraph.

Labour Opposition at Party Conference in Liverpool

The Labour Party at its Annual Party Conference in Liverpool, with Parliament in recess, accused the Chancellor of “fanning the flames” of the crisis and calling the City’s regulator to investigate leaks in his Mini Budget.

Labour has challenged the “Growth Plan” in the Mini Budget. The fallout has given Labour a well-timed opportunity to lay out an alternative economic plan at its party Conference but does not want to divulge its plans, in advance of a General Election planned for 2024.

Can Labour win the next General Election?

After 12 years of Conservative Government, the public is asking this question. As it stands today according to a poll Labour is on course for a sizeable majority whenever the next General Election is called. It is increasing looking like a “Government-in-waiting,”  unless it spoils its chances.

Polls give it today a 12 point lead over the Conservatives, which would land them a comfortable Parliamentary majority, estimated at 56 seats.

What the Pound record low means for UK?

We know a consideration and delivery of measures announced in the Mini Budget will, however, create new opportunities for an innovative start-up and will help unlock private investment.

The Mini Budget announcement has envisaged an economic growth goal of 2.5 percent, before the next General election.

A Tory Grandee says the current crisis will pass. Some others have been scathing in their views. Still, others have urged colleagues to be patient and not panic.

In my view, it is like Boris, the British will always rise to the occasion, which is a trait I have learned in England.

In my view, a decrease in the wholesale price of gas will over winter make a big difference.

People cannot only be bought over with “tax cuts”?

Innovation is the mantra which is built up from a foundation of ideas and knowledge, which the Conservatives have acquired over the past 12 years in Government. This experience is priceless.

But at the same time, a weak Pound will no doubt fuel the cost of imports depending on the cost of living crisis. The Governor of the Bank of England has ruled out any emergency increase in the Bank Rate in the immediate future. That’s “cool” in the colloquial.

How the Conservatives want to play their cards when Parliament reopens will to a large extent determine the outcome of the crisis?

Final tribute to a much loved monarch

456 views
2 mins read

On a day of national mourning, there was seen much pomp and symbolism. Grief was seen etched on the faces of members of the royal family as well as on the huge crowds who lined the streets of London as the coffin of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II was drawn on a gun carriage, by naval ratings from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey, for her final State funeral.

The invited 2000 VIP’s, Foreign Royals, Presidents, Princes, and Prime Ministers of Britain and the Commonwealth were in attendance to say a final farewell to a much loved monarch.

The most poignant scenes were witnessed when the coffin was transferred to a hearse to take the late Queen to her final resting at Windsor Castle.

The crowds that lined the route to Windsor was estimated at over 2 million on a bright and sunny afternoon, after 11 days of continuous mourning, and millions more, viewing at Westminster Hall braving the weather, which was colder at night time. The love and affection shown by the public was seen as crowds of mourners throwing yellow roses and flowers along the route to Windsor.

The Brits are a very reserved people, with a reserved sense of pride of their Queen and Country.
The Queen was a mother first of all, of 4 children, grandma to 8 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

The Queen was also Head of State, not only of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, but of many countries of the Commonwealth.

As such republicans and anti-monarchists may have a bias that the Queen devoted more time to statecraft than her family? Doubtless, the matters of State took a lot of her time, but she also had quiet times with her close family, showing them by her example the burdens of selfless service.

No doubt the Queen was bound by duty and service to State, and perhaps, she did not show the personal touch with her family, but steered a very responsible role with her role as Sovereign. She reigned as Queen but never ruled. Queenship was thrust on her at a very early age of 25, when her father, King George VI died, and she ruled for 70 years with gracious majesty and dignity. Her quiet diplomacy will be cherished as her lasting legacy.

Everything the Queen did was symbolic as well as more than symbolic, with a purpose. Even though it was seen by some with mixed emotion, in parts of the U.K and abroad.

To the Americans the Queen was a symbol of regalia, a novelty, which they could never aspire. They never have forgotten that America was colonised by Britain. To the Russians, the Queen was a link with her ancestry, the Czars. She was the grandniece of Nicholas II, Russia’s last Tsar. He was a cousin of the Queen’s Grandfather, King George V. She invited spaceman Yuri Gagarin, as well as a state visit of President Vladimir Putin to Buckingham Palace. She was invited in return to Russia in October 1994, the first British monarch to set foot on Russian soil. To many colonials and black people, the Queen
enriched them a Commonwealth and an opportunity to come to Britain, like the Windrush generation of people arriving from the Caribbean in the UK between 1948 and 1971. Last, but not the least, it was the Kings and Sultans of the Arab world who had a high regard of H.M. The Queen, for her love of horses and for military hardware, which Britain supplied them.

Queen Elizabeth has departed but her legacy remains for her bountiful service to the nation, the Commonwealth and to the people in faraway lands. Today the symbol of monarchy will continue to be carried on by the work of the British Council, will continue providing scholarship to students to come and graduate in the prestige institutes of learning in Great Britain and return back to their homelands with a clamour for republicanism.

Education for a living?

/
407 views
3 mins read

The current western type of education was brought to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) by the American and later British missionaries who setup schools and colleges, particularly in the North and East and other parts of the island. Tamils benefitted from these educational charitable institutions, which catered to a well-rounded education, with emphasis on the spoken and written skills of the English Language, enabling students to sit for Cambridge Matriculation English examinations. Sinhalese and Tamils and became very fluent in the English spoken idiom, excelling in work opportunities both in Government service and private Enterprise. We were the best in the English Language in South Asia.

When Ceylon got its independence 74 years ago in 1948, as part of the Free School Education, the majority of governments which followed, every attempt was to encourage “swabasha” languages, Sinhala and Tamil. The architect of Free Education was the then Minister of Education, Hon. C.W.W. Kannagara, an ardent champion of, Anagarika Dharmapala, the first global Buddhist missionary. Anagarika was one of founding contributors of the then non-violent Buddhist nationalism and a leading figure in Sri Lankan independence.

Simultaneously, Swami Vivekananda promoted Tamil language schools, giving impetus for Swabasha education. It was originally not thought of as a replacement for the English system of education, but soon became a channel of new thinking in education, after independence.

All Schools were nationalised in 1961 and education was politicised. To cope with the cry for more nationalism, the Government of Prime Minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike brought in “the policy of Standardisation” in 1977, to limit the Tamil students entering universities in Peradeniya and later Colombo.

Fast forward to 2022 – Education has become the bone of contention for jobs

All students Sinhala and Tamil were to compete for an educational qualification in the “swabasha” to obtain jobs. English learning was downgraded as a “colonial legacy”?

The “lingua franca” – the language of the world commence – English was classed as a second language. The ability to use English in schools, both in verbal communication, the spoken and the written language, was further abandoned.

Then came the fallacy of swabasha up to secondary education and English medium for University Classes.

With the Government nationalised education, payment of Teachers’ salaries together with other ancillary staff and the maintenance of all government schools was politicised. The Ministry of Education and Examinations Office conducted three public streams of education. They were University Entrance and Scholarship Exams, and “O” Ordinary Level, “A” Advanced Level exams.

Educational Scholarship

With this development passing of examinations was “the be-all and end all” of education. Accompaniment to this form of knowledge was the “Cram Shops” or Tuition Centres which mushroomed, not only in Tamil but also in Sinhala School areas.

This system of “fattening students for the market” was to cater for jobs. Tuition in students’ weak subjects was big business all over Sri Lanka.

The School Curriculums were geared to supplementary education, which was to be provided by paid education at all Tuition Centres in and around the country. Tuition was not only part and parcel of learning, but compulsory form of education in Sri Lanka.

Students from a very early age were weaned on Tuition. Government-employed Teachers in Schools around the country had a lucrative after-school hours assignment, coaching their own students at Tuition Centres. Students were taught the rudiments of education in school class time and literally nurtured to attend after-hours Tuition Centre Education to supplement the knowledge of a subject like Maths, or Science or Language, all in the name of “getting through the examination”. 

Education in Sri Lanka created a class of “coached students” to pass examinations, not for acquiring skills for a vocation or further study.

Small wonder, there are all half-baked, half-educated, unable to compete in the “world of work,” running away from the country to shores abroad to hide themselves from their peers at home, to do menial jobs, just to earn a crust and send money home.

A shameful experience called Education in Sri Lanka  

Parents are sacrificing themselves to pay tuition fees, which are escalating depending on the area of competence of subjects for tuition. Teachers in their schools are creaming the hard-earned money of parents, forcing their students to attend their tuition.

Without Tuition Centre training, schools too are unable to maintain and produce the pass rates in their schools, for government support.

Up to the early Nineteen Seventies (1970’s) a noticeable feature of Government and Government funded schools in Sri Lanka, there were very few Tuition Masters, Tuition Centres giving private lessons to students around the country. Education in Sri Lanka today is Tuition Centred Education.

The quality and competence of Teachers in Government Schools

Arguably, there is a dearth of properly oriented and trained teachers in Sri Lanka today. Teaching was a vocation some sixty-odd years ago. Today Teacher Training comprises rote learning, and teachers over these many years have become “the fat cats of Sri Lanka, creaming off hard earned

and scarce resources of parents, who have blighted students under their care for long hours of attendance at Tuition Centres all around the country. Millennium Generation Students of Sri Lanka, seem to be “burnt out” attending multi-faceted Tuition Centres all around the land. The curriculum of Teacher Training Institutes should be closely monitored by a staff of trained Inspectors. Teaching should once again be made a vocation, rather than a lucrative way of supplementing teachers’ wages. 

What needs to be done to bring education back to its pristine status? 

There are five top strengths that employers look for in a rounded education.

Oral and communication skills in English

Critical Thinking and problem solving

Teamwork and collaboration

Professionalism and a strong work ethic

Leadership

The Queen dies, long live the King

/
367 views
3 mins read

This is a moment of history as Queen Elizabeth II, a beloved monarch who has reigned for over 70 years, is dead. Her legacy in winding down a vast British Empire and forming a bond between the sovereign and subjects in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the New Commonwealth, has tremendous significance in the world as well.

Queen Elizabeth’s presence is still embedded in British life in coins and banknotes, stamps and post-boxes, in royal warrants, but more in the hearts and minds of her people, who have turned out in their thousands to line the route of the cortege a distance of 100 miles from Balmoral estate to the Palace of Holyrood House overnight, before being moved to St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, where it will lie in state on Monday 12 September 2022, ahead of her State Funeral on Monday 19 September in the Palace of Westminster, which has been declared a bank holiday.

Queen Elizabeth had much affection for Scotland as her family, her mother Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, was Scottish and her beloved husband, Prince Philip took the title, The Duke of Edinburgh. Her love of everything Scottish was legendary.

The proclamation of King Charles III

It is also the time for Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall who has waited 53 long years in preparation to the throne, proclaimed as His Majesty King Charles III in legal succession.

It is the first time that there was pomp and ceremony as well as mourning, as the Crown passed, as it has done for over more than 1000 years, to the new monarch.

State trumpeters sounded the royal salute, before the Kings Guard lifted their hats over their shoulders, to give three cheers to their new King at St. James’s Palace, in London on Saturday 10 September 2022.

At one stroke the people of Great Britain become one family from the four corners of this nation, to acknowledge their allegiance to their King. Many had forgotten that the national anthem now demands “God save the King”.

Constitutional Monarchy vs Current Absolute Monarchy?

Most modern kingdoms are considered constitutional monarchies. Monarchs are generally ceremonial heads of state with public responsibilities, with meaningful political authority granted to a Prime Minister or President by a constitution.

Fifteen Governments and 36 nations in the Commonwealth have King Charles III as the reigning monarch and ceremonial Head of State, as in Great Britain.

Absolute monarchies, where the monarch is the final authority are few and far between. There are currently among five including Brunei, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and Qatar. An absolute monarchy can have a political constitution, with a hereditary Head of State.

Has modernity replaced tradition, call it ritual?

Now as Britons reel from the death of their dearly beloved Queen, her lasting contribution to the nation, the Commonwealth as well as to the world at large, is remembered as the embodiment of both modernity and continuity, in a world of continuous change.

The British monarchy is all about tradition, continuity and the evolution of the style of British democracy over many hundreds or thousands of years.

However, all great institutions have to change to keep in step with the values and aspirations of the people they serve.

Queen Elizabeth’s reign lasted from the industrial age to the internet age, some 70 years of endurance and stoicism in which she graciously helped steer Britain through the loss of its empire and its emergence as a multicultural nation.

Britain is the home to 270 nationalities speaking 300 different languages, foundered on tolerance and respect for difference.

Britain is a global hub for travel and commerce, with nearly 5000 international journalists in London to cover the ceremonial lying of state and funeral of the late Queen.

We are told an estimated 2 billion spectators across the world will see the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, 19 September 2022.

King Charles III is already visiting the realms of the Crown in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, together with his Prime Minister, Liz Truss to meet the people of Great Britain in person.

King Charles III has also anticipated the will of the people and has conferred the title of Prince and Princess of Wales on Prince William and Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge ahead of his own Accession and Coronation. This in itself shows how fast things are moving in His Majesty’s realm.

The buttoned down approach to life in Britain has changed with the consent and cheers of his people, who are no longer considered as subjects of the realm, but participants in the change going forward.

A Sri Lankan as Cabinet Minister of United Kingdom

//
441 views
2 mins read

Who would believe that among the Cabinet members of Prime Minister Liz Truss, is a British-born Sri Lankan, Rt. Hon. Ranil Jayawardena, the charismatic constituency MP for Northeast Hampshire.

As a Sri Lankan living in England, without a British Passport, since the World Cup in June 1966, I find it is a singular honour for my country, an accomplishment of note for Ranil Jayawardena, becoming the first ever individual of Sri Lankan parentage, to be not only appointed a Cabinet Minister but hold one of the prestigious and coveted posts, as Secretary of State for Environment. Food and Rural Affairs. The Brits know we have problems back home, but have much to offer in Britain?

Ranil Jayawardena previously served as Minister for International Trade from May 2020 to September 2022 in Boris Johnson’s government. Without much publicity, I do not need to tell my readers how much he accomplished.

No one knows how much PM Liz Truss had entrusted Ranil Jayawardena, with the delicate diplomatic work of clinching trade treaties with many nations, including with Australia, when she was Secretary of Trade, prior to being promoted by Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. She has in my opinion, rewarded him now for his track record.

A Cabinet of the Colours of Benetton or the Commonwealth?

PM Liz Truss has entrusted and appointed four ethnic minority representatives to hold the four key posts in her Government. It is not necessarily to appease the minorities?

They are the offices of Chancellor of the Exchequer, to Rt. Hon. Kwarsi Kwarteng, of Sierra Leone, the first Black Foreign Secretary; James Cleverley, of West Indian parentage; the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, Q.C, of Indian origin and the first Black Trade Secretary, Kemi Badenock of Nigerian parentage. Besides, we have others of foreign decent, holding well-deserved high posts, both in Government and H.M. Opposition.

It appears for the first time in the history of Parliament and Cabinet Government in the United Kingdom, we see a Government with Commonwealth representation, the “United Colors of Benetton” or a government entrusted to citizens of foreign parentage.

Why are so many Cabinet Ministers of foreign background

It is a well thought out and planned strategy for the Brits to entrust difficult assignments, for that matter “impossible tasks at times of crisis to people of foreign origin”. There is an adage that “the new colonial mindset of the Brits”, is to rely on the best available talent available in the country.

It has been tried and tested strategy in times past, that to get a job done, well and truly done or, “to make a task doable,” the most reliable way, is a search for talent, coupled with proven track record. The Brits are very good at spotting talent, and cultivate association.

People of foreign origin, have a habit of wanting “to better the British,” and they often perform impossible tasks, through sheer hard labour, knowledge and attention to detail.

I know from my experience, how foreigners work hard and how much they deliver against all odds.

I can also imagine how much Ranil Jayawardena will give of himself to prove “a point of delivering the impossible”, by sheer diplomacy.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going” is a well-known adage

Prior to Brexit, we were told, “that Britain’s being shamed by an army of highly motivated East European immigrants willing to work long hours, according to a report published by the Home Office. Employers believe that immigrant workers are often harder working, reliable and motivated compared to their British counterparts. Have Britons lost the work ethic?” according to The Times.

That said, I know the job ahead of Prime Minister, Liz Truss is a thankless job. To be frank, even her Prime Ministerial post contestant, Rt. Hon. Rishi Sunak said: “he would go back to United States, “Silicon Valley” rather the contest his seat in Yorkshire Dales again.

What makes the Brits so confident that they will deliver now?

For those of us who have breathed the air and the tenacity of the Brits for over half a century now, the British have an innate feel when an impossible job is “do-able”?

They are so adept in getting anyone in the world to do the job, they think can be done.

Four Prime Ministers in six years in Britain?

//
312 views
2 mins read

Talk about the changing seasons, there is no better country than Britain to change its leaders.

“Knickers to the pessimists, how about that, knickers to all who talk Britain down,” so said Boris Johnson, when he took office as Prime Minister, two and a half years ago when he replaced Theresa May in December 2019. Theresa May was preceded by David Cameron in 2016.

Parliaments are for a fixed term of five years, but it seems the electorate gets fed up with leaders as they fail to meet their expectations.

Many believe, that Boris Johnson was elected as a one-issue Brexit Prime Minister, but he not only delivered Brexit against all odds but made the capital, by rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations, which was the envy of Europe, if not the world. When the job was done, he was thought of as excess to need and booted or so it seems.

Next Prime Minister

Tomorrow 6 September 2022, Liz Truss (47 years old) who beat Rishi Sunak with 81,326 to 60,399 votes (57.1%) to claim the leadership of the Conservative Party, will be formally appointed as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom when she meets H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, this time at Balmoral, instead of Buckingham Palace, at the ceremony called “the kiss of hands” before taking office.

What the voters wanted to hear from her, she stated in her victory speech today 5 September at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. She said: “I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy. I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills, but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply.”

The mantra “Delivery, delivery, delivery”

“I know that we will deliver. We will deliver, we will deliver, we will deliver. And we will deliver a great victory for the Conservative Party in 2024,” she stated, as she accepted the applause from her party supporters.

The British people are very cautious and resilient. It is too early to tell if Prime Minister waiting, Liz Truss has received a cautious welcome. She has inherited a raft of problems; inflation – the highest in years, energy bills spiralling, Northern Ireland and Brexit on the boil, the war in Ukraine, growing strike action in the UK, trouble everywhere?

Can Liz Truss deliver on promises, promises?
What are the options on her mind? Stability is key for a healthy economy. When it comes to resolving more than one issue, Liz Truss is adept at having a bold plan to first cut taxes, to grow the economy. Who are the people who will benefit most? The rich and the well-to-do business enterprises will benefit the most from a tax cut, while the poor and the vulnerable struggling on low wages will suffer. She is expected, to rely on and surround herself with the “Ultra Conservative” mindset, unlike Boris Johnson, to help her “deliver” by promoting high investment projects with high returns to grow the economy fast.

What are some of the projects that will get capital investment? People have already been told to invest in “Wind Farms”, and buy lands with windmills, to save on their energy bills, long-term.

Will she be promoting more privatisation, who knows? She has pledged her commitment to removing planning restrictions in an attempt to boost housebuilding, but simultaneously, abandoning the government target of building 300,000 houses a year.

The big question is who will she appoint as her Housing Minister, to deliver on her promises? There have already been 20 Housing Ministers who have come and gone since 1997, with little to show.
She is a keen supporter of “fracking” for oil and invests in Nuclear Power Energy to supplement future energy supply.

She is a keen supporter of women, herself taking on the role of Women Minister, her first Ministerial post in 2010.

What choices does she have?

When she has settled in, the first choice she will have is to decide to call a General Election to confirm her position by the electorate. But will she be constrained to plod along with her current reduced majority of 60 Conservative MP’s or wait until 2024, the planned date of the next election? Who knows?

Public ownership of essential UK services?

/
439 views
3 mins read

Public ownership of essential resources remains a dream, but is hugely popular across the political divide. According to a YouGov poll for “The Times”, half of Tory voters now want Britain’s energy companies brought back into public hands.

With the energy crisis, this should not surprise many, although some Parliamentarians would deny it. The Labour Party, however, defends proposals for the freeze on energy bills part funded by expanded windfall tax on oil and gas profits.

Public ownership of energy, water, railways and postal services privatised during the time of Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in the 1990’s was desired to increase competition. But, times have changed and the mood of the country has undergone a seismic change, let alone the Covid 19 pandemic.

Fixed prices for goods, fair wages for workers and unfair profiteering was then seen as immoral. But today, what has happened in the past year, is the so called “failure of privatisation”?

Do people want nationalisation?

Skyrocketing of energy bills have reached the tipping point. Living standards have been squeezed. Resolution Foundation says rising energy bills will push an extra 3 million people into poverty.

This is adding pressure on Boris Johnson’s successor as Prime Minister “to beef up support” from State resources.

With prices rising faster than wages, strikes are the order of the day. With winter fast approaching, there is anxiety brewing. Food banks, people forced to take shelter in public libraries and museums, to save mounting fuel bills; Museums in turn want to close on select days to conserve energy. The incoming government of a new Prime Minister after 6 September 2022 is making life imponderable.

Stagnation due to weak productivity?

Liz Truss, the front runner to replace Johnson, was quoted as saying:
“If you look at productivity, it is very, very different in London, from the rest of the country, but basically this has been a historical fact for decades. Essentially it’s partly a mindset and attitude thing. I think it’s working culture basically.”

Critics of Liz Truss say she has ruffled feathers by describing a very real problem. To claim this is due to the innate idleness of people outside London is offensive and more important for an incoming Prime Minister – economically illiterate by their standards.

Others maintain workers in London didn’t suddenly and spontaneously decide to work harder than their counterparts elsewhere.

It is well known that in the aftermath years of the Thatcher Revolution of the 1980’s and 1990’s, there was disproportionate opportunities for wealth creation both in London and the rest of the country. Boris Johnson called it levelling up.

While only roughly 15% of UK population is based in London, with the capital capturing 30% of the country’s private sector employment, in high-wage, high-skilled professions in insurance and banking fields, we cannot blame graft as being the real problem elsewhere in the country. There were regional inequalities, regional price structures, regional dialects,
among others, to name a few.

The emphasis of Governments, Conservative and Labour over the years was for government spending in the capital, while the rest of the country was short of technological and infrastructural development. Poor transport services, old industrial base in the countryside with shut down coalmines and factory closures to boot. Capital strangulation in short. These problems were hardly highlighted.

Liz Truss hopes to bring a new era to Britain, at a time of tremendous change and unease.
She has launched an astonishing broadside against the sluggishness of the British worker, suggesting they lack the “skills and application” of foreign rivals, pitting Londoners against the rest of the country, perhaps, UK against the rest of the developed world.

Wilful misrepresentation by the media?

To force Liz Truss to lay her cards open ahead of the election to high office, she has had to undergo media scrutiny, multiple meetings, hustings, and quotations which she made when she was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, a post she held until 2019.

That was then, but now she has rightfully claimed there has been a wilful misrepresentation of her policy. But, she is steadfast, as at a recent Tory leadership husting in Perth, Scotland, she appeared to confirm she still believes “British workers are not as productive as they should be”.

The Labour Party’s rebuttal as expressed by Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth states,” workers across the country are working all hours to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table and provide for their families”.

No one denies the above, but the job of the future Prime Minister of Great Britain, is an envious job. Whoever manages to win the leadership race of the Conservative Party will have a number of challenges to contend with in the days and weeks ahead.

Britain’s economy is facing rocketing inflation, high expectation coupled with high debt and low growth, representing one of the tightest squeeze on people’s finances in decades, all during an energy crunch exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which has sent fuel prices soaring.

The “Canary in the coalmine” in UK’s energy market?

/
505 views
2 mins read

Those of us in Sri Lanka having never seen a coalmine, but most often have canaries as pets in our homes, may wonder what understanding of the real meaning of this English idiom, has to connect with the energy. But we also know an idiom is a group of words, which together assume new and different meanings, in the spoken word. 

Native speakers use idioms in everyday conversation, but the idiosyncrasy is when Brits use idioms to impress foreigners. It is as a technique to show their superiority. But, when Sri Lankans use quotations to impress foreigners of our mastery of the English language, we sometimes show our literary incompetence, but more often our lack of historical perspective. 

“Canaries in a coalmine” is an idiom especially apt today because coal is a fossil fuel which when burned, produces greenhouse gases, contributing to Earth’s warming. Thus its connection to what we call “climate change”. 

In simple language, this idiom refers to someone or something that is an early warning of danger.

Energy poverty 

The talk of the town today in England, in fact in UK and in Europe, is how much we are unprepared of the fuel price inflation, which now fuels inflation. Everyone connects it with Russia and the Ukrainian war. But we hardly understand how it is associated to the greed of the multinational energy suppliers who used energy prices, to boost their shares and in turn provide lucrative dividends to their shareholders.  

From what we can make out, it has been coming for years, well beyond the pandemic. We saw small energy companies mushroom in this energy supply market, offering customers cheap energy, over the years. 

Small energy providers, some from US, and dozens from UK and Europe did spring up boosted in the 1990s when the UK Government relaxed the rules around energy supply to consumers. We were told to shop around for cheap energy.

Over the past year, however, many of these very small suppliers hit the buffers and went bust. Customers were moved to larger more dependable sources/suppliers. When the larger suppliers, the likes of EDF Energy of France, and say Shell Energy, managed to cream off the market price for their existing customers, well in advance, the problem started. 

What they were not planning to cope with was the huge increase in the number of customer households, thus causing them to buy additional energy, to cope with demand at much higher prices than the prevailing market price.

This caused an increased cost of buying energy for thousands, if not millions of new customers at wholesale prices. What these larger energy providers added a new ingredient, a fixed amount called a Daily Standing Charge? This fixed charge was irrespective of the amount of energy used by households. 

This was a bonus to suppliers/providers of Energy, both gas and electricity. This was unfair especially to customers with low usage. People on the one hand were warned to conserve energy, with all the noise of “climate change”. Simultaneously customers who acted to save energy by lowering their usage were clobbered with new and additional charges. 

Fleecing the poor     

Ofgem, the independent UK’s National Regulatory Authority regulated the monopoly companies which run the gas and electricity networks, acting in the interests of the consumers, as well as helping the industries to achieve environmental improvements. Its role was to protect consumers by working to deliver a greener, fairer energy system. 

Ofgem became jittery of the balance between the interests of customers and the interests of the mighty, near monopolistic energy providers.

The Energy Ombudsman was an independent organisation, appointed by Ofgem to investigate consumer complaints and facilitate compliance of energy supplies. This was the recourse available for hard-hit customers?

Cause of energy inflation

One of the real causes for energy bills going through the roof this winter is the lack of foresight on the part of the Energy Suppliers and the Government. October 2022, is the date the existing “price cap” is removed. No one will now admit that this winter’s fuel bills will make for fuel poverty – the poor, much poorer.

How can we modify our weather by stealing a cloud?

/
529 views
1 min read

Man has from time immemorial tried every means available to adjust our environment for none other than survival. Continuous high temperatures around the world have created drought. Drought is caused by low precipitation or no rainfall over an extended period of time. Atmospheric circulation such as climate change, ocean temperature, changes in the jet stream and changes in the local landscape are all factors that contribute to drought. Putting it simply, it results in a water shortage.

When there is a change in surface temperatures, particularly over the sea areas, air circulation patterns are altered. New weather patterns are most likely to throw water supply and water demand in an imbalance, or in sync.

Cloud seeding

We hear of how China plans to end drought with induced rainfall. This is called “Cloud Seeding”. This practice is a form of weather modification. It is nothing new as it has been a tool that involves using aircraft, rockets or now drones to release materials including silver iodide, which has a similar structure to ice into the clouds. This catalyses the process by which water droplets “clump together and falls as rain”. However, when cloud cover is too thin, researchers state this technique is not as effective.

Why is it not as effective?

The ability to alter the “weather at will” was practised as early as the 1940s. But, to be successful in producing appreciable quantities of rain, certain uncontrollable conditions have to be met concerning the types of clouds and the state of the atmosphere. It is also an expensive technique and although it can help lessen the impact of severe drought, cloud seeding does not solve its systematic causes. The technique needs to be part of a broader water plan that involves conserving water efficiency.

It is not just China that has attempted using this technology during the 2008 Summer Olympics when rockets were fired at clouds “to prevent the opening and closing ceremonies to be rain free”.

Ski resorts in US use cloud seeding in order to enhance snow coverage.

UAE is a particularly large investor in rain-making technology called “geo-engineering” for rain enhancement. These are some ways of “stealing a cloud” by Cloud seeding, which conducted 185 cloud seeding operations in 2019 alone. That year saw “torrential downpours in a country rarely associated with rain, with people wading through streets, workers pumping water from the flooded residential area and rainwater flowing down escalators at the world-famous Dubai Mall”.

Now Scientists have pointed out that weather manipulation can amplify drought conditions in one area or increase the risk of floods in another.

It is now possible for one country to steal another country’s rain water?

It is also now contemplated that the wars of the future will feature water manipulation?