A convergence of multiple political storms

Summary: The Prime Minister shuts down Parliament at a time when Parliamentarians need to be in Parliament scrutinising the Government – and not just on leaving the EU.

I’m not intending on using this post to re-hash the debates on the UK’s attempts at leaving the EU and opposing politicians’ arguments to stay in. This is more about the multiple political storms occurring at the same time in an era where no one in Westminster seems in control of events – and its fallout local to me.

One of the things I’ve noticed that has been smashed to pieces in Westminster are the unwritten conventions that supposedly keep the place running.

…and my conclusion was that the longer term response to this was a written constitution. The trust needed to keep the existing political system going has gone, and ironically it is the Conservative Party that has smashed them.

In the meantime, the petition against the suspension of Parliament has shot to over a million signatures on the back of the news this morning.

In the meantime… Greta has sailed into New York

…while in and around Cambridge, it’s our river and her tributaries & streams we’re worried about – with over-extraction being blamed.

I made a further video on Hobson’s Brook below:

In the west-facing footage you should normally be able to see a stream and a small waterfall that flows out of a man-made pond, part of the landscaping for the open park by the new housing east of the new Trumpington Community College.

The domestic crises of public services

The headline in Tuesday’s Telegraph contrasts with the many new spending commitments that the Prime Minister seems to have made in recent times. Which bodes ill for schools, hospitals and everything that local councils do.

Whether the UK leaves with or without a deal, the upheaval caused by the changes needed to be made by institutions will be huge and painful – they already are.

Combine those upheavals with the changes that will be forced upon us by the climate emergency, combined with the opportunities & challenges that technological advances have brought us means that our present institutions will struggle – if not collapse in their existing forms. And don’t think that means more cuts, slogans with ‘doing more with less’, bringing in expensive management consultants, and more privatisation is going to do the trick either. Such things have been the default position of ministers of various political colours when dealing with failures in public service delivery.

No.

The illustration of this talk by Dr Rupert Read speaks volumes.

Dr Read was the Green Party’s candidate in Cambridge for the 2015 general election, where he polled over 4,000 votes, nearly 8% of the vote – the party’s highest ever in the city. 

Dr Read wrote on Deep Adaptation to the climate crisis for The Ecologist. I remain of the view that as things currently stand, locally in Cambridge we have absolutely no comprehension of the huge changes we will have to make individually and collectively in the face of the global climate crisis. Whether it’s melting glaciers in Greenland or the Andes in South America, desertification in Africa, rainforest fires in South America and sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia – you’ve seen the smogs – through to the fires in Siberia, this is a crisis of global proportions yet day-to-day in Cambridge I’ve seen little evidence of systematic adaptation and behavioural change.

We still have people driving in cars with illegally modified engines – ones that risk invalidating their insurance policies which risks a prosecution of driving without insurance. We still have diesel buses. We don’t have the mass transits despite years of discussions. We still have the mass consumerism. Take a train ride out of Cambridge and whichever way you head you see fields without hedgerows – despite years of warnings about the impact of soil erosion and the collapse of insect life.

Then we have another round of job-losses in the face of even more automation – 1.5million at the last count by the ONS. Think of all of the supermarkets that have installed automatic/self-service check outs. In the convenience food shops in Cambridge I compare it to when I had my first part-time job over two decades ago – where being on a check-out week in week out you would get to know your regular customers. Working at a grocers, pub or restaurant was kind of a local right-of-passage that most of us went through. I just don’t see the striking up of conversations between customers and staff that was so familiar just before the Millennium. Something exacerbated by the increased turnover in population in South Cambridge that has also happened in the intervening period. (A combination of the rise in student accommodation and university/research contracts being fixed term – harder for people to stick around).

Protests on other issues lined up

There’s a big one on school funding lined up – Cambridgeshire schools are some of the lowest funded in the country.

The county receives £400 less per child than the average funded authority and £1,600 less per child than Westminster.

Now compare the council tax levels:

A stupid-crazy-stupid system for local taxation where what you pay is based on your home’s value based on house prices on 01 April 1991. Instead of getting involved in the mess that is Brexit, it would have been far better for ministers to have sorted out a much more sustainable and fairer system for local council funding – one that didn’t involve so much micro-management from Westminster. And I write as one of those former micro-managers! But as this article states, it is ‘politically unpopular’

 

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