Tuesday, 13 February 2018

UKIP Death Rattle

Having virtually collasped after the Brexit referendum, UKIP is slowly dying a painful death.

After several leaders and now a stubborn ex-Army type who refuses to relinquish power (a true leader knows when the time to leave is right) UKIP have thrown good money after bad trying to vote a sensible, photogenic and above all skeleton-in-the-cupboard free candidate into power to lead them.

It seems the NEC and the membership at at odds with each other. From the outside it looks like whoever the membership vote into power, the UKIP NEC are determined to brief against.

Not a recipe for a successful political party.

From various posts around the internet, it seems the time is up for UKIP. They have lost much of their funding, the NEC are crippling the party with costly leadership election re-runs and the senior members are looking elsewhere for employment.

The democratic people's party that should arise from UKIP and take it's place is long overdue.

After all, with UKIP in a mess like this, who is standing up as the honest voice of the majority of people that voted for Brexit? Without that constant nudging from a powerful alternative party, the remainers are pushing back.

Nigel Farage and his radio show have less of a force, without millions of votes behind him.

We NEED a party that voices the opinion of the majority of common people, a party that can straddle the Labour/Conservative divide, so voters from both sides can vote for it without the toxicity there is from voting for the opposition.

But.... who is going to fund a party that votes against the mainly Conservative-backing rich elite and against the Labour party? Who indeed....

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Brexit: the unending Transition

I'm hearing more an more of the details of the so-called "transition period" to be imposed after the article 50 deadline. It seems very likely that the Soft-Brexiteers are winning the day and that there will be a form of membership of the customs union while supposedly transitioning to fully independent status.

Membership of the Customs Union implicitly includes adopting all the rules the EU doles out and subservience to the ECJ (which enforces the rules) and unable to talk to other countries to negotiate trade. We will still be reliant on the EU for trade terms with China and the USA.. However, being outside the machinery of the EU which decides the rules, puts us in the status of "Vassal State" as Jacob rees-Mogg puts it, or far better to call it waht it was originally called in the referendum debate: "Associate Membership".

Associate membership was on of those ideas bandied about at the time David Cameron went to the EU with begging bowl trying to get connessions on immigration. Associate membership was the term used by those that wanted us to stay in the EU. They said if we wanted less EU, then Associate membership would allow us to not be at the forefront of the EU, but we would be tied to EU rules without representation. The worst of all worlds. But what they failed to recognise is that we the people didn't have any formal representation anyway hence why the majority voted to leave. The EU structure is anti-democratic, allowing us to only vote for the EU Parliament, which has no real law-making powers. The comission, appointed as it is, is nowhere near democratic.

So, assiciate membership (to give it it's true label) seems to be the game in play at the moment, because the Remainers want us to be scared. They want us to have to pay all the usual bills, be subject to all the rules, have no say in the rules and crucially have to power to negotiate trade deals outside of the EU. The worst of all worlds.

Far be it from me to suggest that once we accept associate membership that the EU change the rules to make life difficult for so called associates. The EU negotiates new, better trade deals? Not for you associate, you're not allowed to benefit for 3 years. Want to stay an associate? We've just voted that you have to pay twice as much to stay in the customs union. Sorry, you're out of the EU so don't have any say on what rules we come up with.

No-one would want that would they? So why are we being forced, by our own government to accept such a poor deal?

Of course they will say it's only for a short transitional period, but will it? Is the ploy to have such a shit deal, with chaos, bills and no power to sort it out? Just to show us how bad Brexit is? How long will it last?

They say two years. Pah! I reckon just as long as it takes for the public to start bleating that they want back into the EU. Two years, ten years, the fear of dropping out of the precious customs union will be ramped up mercilessly. Then there will be a miraculous change and we'll be invited to join the fold with no rebate and the Euro as our currency. Fast tracked, but with a bit of humble pie served on the plate. Certainly worse than we are now.

Of course we could just have the clean break, if necessary joining EFTA and trading on the same basis as Norway. Out of the customs union and free to negotiate trade deals with anyone we like. I work in a company that trades with Norway on a daily basis. No problems getting parts there, okay the parts are subject to local Norwegian tax and import duty. But then parts traded inside the EU are subject to VAT anyway, so the prices become similar.

The only thing is that inside the EU the shipping costs are lower. In the great scheme of things the difference is not that great and certainly not big enough to put people off ordering stuff from the UK.

So why the push to stay in the cutoms union and handcuff ourselves to the EU? The worst possible scenario.

Better ask your politician that question....

Friday, 2 February 2018

Voting at 16

I've blogged on this before, but as it's come back into public focus, i'll cover it again.

First, why do parties want younger voters? The easy answer is a 16 year old voter will not remember the policies of the previous party when voting. With governments limited to a 5-year term in power, a 16-year old voter would be 11 when the previous government were in power. How many 11-year-olds are politically aware? Not many I'd guess.

So for example, Labour could have bankrupted the country, could have been an absolute disaster 5 years ago during the previous government and the 16 year old voter would be none the wiser.

Of course the party could promise the earth 5 years later and the gullible 16 year old will fall for it.

Just as 16 year olds aparrently fall for cigarette adverts and colourful cigarette wrappers, WHICH IS WHY THEY ARE BANNED and 16 year olds are banned from buying cigarettes.

Talk about double standards.

Labour want to ensnare a gullible class of (let's not suger-coat it) exploitable children.

It's a bit of a dirty political trick if you ask me, exploting children. It's up there with human trafficking, slavery and prostitution.

Is that the depths that UK politics has stooped to? Yeah, looks like it to me....

Friday, 26 January 2018

New Puritanism Working Against Feminism

The latest #metoo puritannical female hysteria seems to be set dead against the normal feminist agenda.

Instead of promoting the strong woman as an equal to men i.e.feminine equaility, what #metoo is doing is promoting the idea of females as victims.

Seems to me that the whole thing is counter-productive.

If a bloke assaults you, kick him in the nuts, grab his arse back or whatever: don't be a victim. All the hashtags and memes, concerts and the like will not teach women to stand up for themselves. It is not empowering. It is promoting the idea of females as victims and the idea that all men are bogeymen no matter how innocent their intentions.

I mean, even men who have chatted up women are getting smeared by this movement. How nonsensical is that?

Taking it to it's logical conclusion, all the #metoo women should wear more black in support. Maybe a Burka? That's the Muslim solution to predatory men. Why not adopt it in the west?

Of course it's the same mindset: to protect female victims from all men who without exception are predators.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

W. T.F.

I'm bemused about fallout from the Presidents Club Dinner.

As far as I'm aware, it was a dinner arranged where men would be the diners and female waitresses were employed to wear skimpy cosutumes while serving.

Each side knew beforehand the sort of occasion that would be taking place. The waitreses were entitled to walk away and not to serve at that dinner if they felt at all intimidated by it. In days gone by women with a backbone would have attended and have given as good as they got. All taken in fun and with no fallout. Not the new puritans and the jelly-spined young women of today it seems.

So I'm staggered that some men are being castigated for being men and touching a couple of lady bottoms. I've seen Hen Parties do exactly the same at  mainly female parties. It's just what people of either gender get up to when the booze starts to flow freely. Lads and Ladettes are just as bad as each other, there is no inequality at all when it comes to the weekend.

I've even more staggered that men who attended the dinner and didn't touch any lady parts are tarred with the same brush and forced to resign/give up fees/whatever the new puritannical social media mob demands. I mean, you wouldn't convict a person of murder of someone else at the party shot someone would you?

What the fuck is going on?

Are men not allowed to act like men these days?

And I'm not talking about rape, predation or abuse of power before anyone gets on their high horse.

I'm talking about the honest banter and high-jinks that happens between sexes when the drink flows freely. It happens on both sides. If we're now saying that it's become a taboo subject, then God help the human race. If the between sexes social banter that goes on in pubs, clubs and cafes across the world is now taboo, then people will never find partners.

I feel sorry for the new puritans that think this is a bad thing. I feel sorry for them that they are so socially crippled that they fear such intercourse. I feel sorry that they will never experience flirtation, or if they do that they find it dangerous or are fearful of it.

They are in a minority and should stop trying to impose their social ineptitude on the rest of society.

I am a man, I am proud of it. I don't have one iota of shame from being born male. Nor do I feel superior because of it, I believe in equality. I'm a bit socially awkward, but I don't crow about it and demand the rest of the world changes to suit me.

In my younger days I've been flirted with quite seriously but missed the cues (just part of growing up), I've had my bum felt by ladies (probably because I missed all the other cues) and I didn't immediately demand they resign or issue a public apology. I took it as a compliment that I had a decent bum at the time. It's now sadly older and less desirable and married (as is the rest of me). My wife seems to fixate in my nipples every time she goes near me but I don't demand a divorce or a public apology because of it (although it is bloody annoying).

I think we need to get this back to an even keel and stop with the hysteria. Yes, rape, abuse of power, predation, under-age-sex and all those things are bad. Flirtation, high-jinks and between the sexes banter are not and should not be criminal offences and people should not be hauled over the coals for what after all is just human nature.

And can feminists start acting like adult women please and not like spoiled children?

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

What Now For UKIP?

If it's true that UKIP doesn't have enough money to run another leadership election, it doesn make you wonder why the party's NEC voted no confidence in their leader, triggering another membership vote rather than thrash the problem out and come up with a less costly compromise.

Not being a UKIP member, I don't know whet's going on in the party, but it seems to me the NEC cannot seem to support any leader the membership vote for.

From my observations it seems the UKIP NEC is quite evenly split between the various factions and if any one side sees a weakness then they pull away their support for the leader in an attempt to get their preferred candidate in place. It seems that the UKIP hierarchy have lost the art of politics: the sort of deal-making and loyalty that keeps a fractured party together.

Instead it seems the top of UKIP are a boiling mess of macchialvelian machinations: plotting, back-stabbing, disloyal and with no sense of direction or leadership. I get the task of restructuring the party is like herding cats or platting fog: virtually impossible.

If I was a member of UKIP I would be deselecting members of the NEC for the amount of treachery and chaos they have wreaked on teh party.

There is a distinct lack of backbone and sense of purpose. No wonder, since winning the Brexit referendum UKIP have lost most of their sense of direction. It's a bit difficult with a one-policy party to steering it in a dirction once that policy has been achieved.

However, if I may, here's some ideas:

1. UKIP needs to start being an honest broker in UK politics, pointing out where party politics is adversly affecting the performance of government.

First off, on the NHS, UKIP needs to point out that both Labour and Conservative are correct. The Conservatives are correct in that record amounts of money are going into the NHS budget, but that Labour are also correct in that less of that money is going into NHS care.

The reason being that most of the NHS budget is going into paying lawsuits rather than front-line care.

UKIP should point out to the other parties that omitting the whole truth to serve a narrative is devisive and morally wrong.

UKIP policy should be that to solve the problem of the NHS you first need to be truthful in order to understand what is causing the problem and fix it rather than throwing money at it. i.e. Reducing lawsuits increases the money available for care.

Including (but not exclusively as Nigel farrage used to try and make it) the increase in the population. No need to look like a racist eh? But seriously, in the last decade the population must have increased by a third. Tax take hasn't risen and spending hasn't risen in step with those figures. So what's going on? Quite obviously a lot of those new immigrants aren't paying tax and the government therefore doesn't have the money to pay properly for the NHS.

Also the payouts of those lawsuits is calculated on the victim being cared for by private care for the rest of their lives. However in most cases that ongoing care is then provided free by the NHS. A double-whammy to the NHS. In these cases, NHS lawyers should add a clause to the payout that if the patient seeks ongoing care from the NHS after a payout for the condition the NHS caused, then it's only fair the NHS should charge private rates and recoup those costs.

2. UKIP needs to start defending UK forces and defence spending. As with the NHS the two main parties are telling part of the truth. Labour want to ditch the Trident nuclear deterrent as it is horrrendously expensive. It sucks money from other defence projects. However it is a necessary evil: we do need a nuclear option in order to defend the UK.

UKIP policy should be to defend Trident.

However, the rest of the defence budget needs to be spent more wisely. If anyone has followed the debacle of the Snatch LandRovers, they would also have followed the plethora of vehicles that have followed as replacements. Umpteen different vehicles have been procured with different capabilities and now relatively new vehicles are being sold off after being bought at huge cost. Such a waste.

UKIP needs to highlight this wastage and suggest a more intelligent and open procurement policy.

Now on the big issue of the moment, Brexit.

There is a whole raft of nonsense running around about Brexit. UKIP need to cut through the bullshit and start providing clarity on where policy should be and the cost effecitveness of any concessions we make to the EU.

For instance the budget that we have so far agreed (without any agreement on trade, which to me seems like extortion) UKIP should be there in the fray telling it like it is.

It should also be highlighting the differences between a hard Brexit and being in complete control of trade, immigration and borders and the cost of shackling ourselves to the EU single market and customs union.

Instead, UKIP are consumed with infighting and plots. Without leadership and stability in the party, there is a very grave danger of Brexit not happening or at least being weakened substantially at great cost to the UK taxpayer.

3. UKIP needs to be shown to be inclusive. It seems that women and minorities in the party are pretty poorly represented. They need to have more prominent candidates for more posts. Showing the party as a team of people rather than the Nigel Farrage party. Having "normal" people in post would help.

But for God's sake vet them first and make sure their girlfriends stay quiet!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Rise and Fall of The Diesel Engine

It seems sales of Diesel engined cars has slumped dramatically. No wonder really, as diesel engines have suffered a a series of knockbacks in recent years. This after successive governments and enviromentalists have said that Diesels are better than petrol engines, having focussed solely on CO2 emissions rather than emississions in the round, ignoring the particulates and NO2 that diesels produce. Favourable tax breaks have promoted Diesel cars in favour of petrol in the fleet market by a significant amount. Try and find a used medium sized petrol car from the past 10 years and you'll probably find they are outnumbered by Diesels 2:1.

But after all that promotion, tax breaks and environmental good will, the Diesel car has crashed sales-wise in spectacular fashion. For a number of reasons. One of the main ones is the risk of a change in the favourable tax structure suporting Diesels and also the risk of being locked out of clean air city centres in the future.

The VW scandal showed how difficult it was for manufacturers to make a diesel-engined car that met tough emissions tests and still drove well. EU emissions standards thrown down for manufacturers to meet in a ludicriously short time threw up a number of issues. From inappropriate installations, clogging particulate filters, self-destructing fuel pumps, additive issues, driveability issues (which led to  manufacturers using software routines in the ECU to detect testing scanarios and use a different ECU map for the tests as opposed to real-life driving).

Owners of older cars are finding that diesel-engined cars have problems all of their own and modern, high-pressure direct-injection diesel engines are horrendously fragile and expensive to maintain: in some instances the very fuel they use destroys the engine!

Examples of inappropriate installations are diesel engines in small town cars, that hardly ever get run on motorways. The Diesel Particulate Filter fitted in the exhaust which is required to meet EU emissions standards needs to run at a high temperature in order to turn the particulates to less harmful ash. Town cars or diesel cars doing short journeys never get up to anywhere close to those temperatures and so the DPF clogs up. Replacing the DPF can cost around a thousand pounds, a significant proportion of the cost of the car once it hits the used market.

High pressure direct-injection diesel engines rely on complex high pressure pumps to inject diesel fuel into the cylinder when the pressure is it's greatest. That's makes the engine very efficient. The problem is that at the pressures we're talking about (over 1000 psi), the pumps need very good lubrication. They are designed to use the diesel fuel itself to lubricate the pump. At these enormous pressures, any deviation from pure diesel, can have a catastrophic effect on the lubrication qualities of the fuel. For instance higher levels of biodiesel mixed with regular diesel can affect it's lubrication properties to such an extent that injection pumps eat themselves and fail. Another mode of failure is cavitation inside the pump as it works. Again any change in the fuel formula affects the cavitation restance and eventually the pump destroys itself as it works. 1000 psi pumps are not cheap items to produce and are horrendously expensive to buy. New ones can run to around £1000, again making used diesel engined cars almost a throw-away item.

The drive to tax diesel cars more, or refuse them access to clean air zones in cities means that mixed messages are reching the car-buying public, around the same time the used market are getting wise to the extreme costs diesel cars can rack up. They're becoming the leppers of the car world.

Since 2001 there have been ever tighter standards legislation pushed onto the automotive industry and manufacturers have been pushed to their limit trying to keep up. That's not to say they haven't used the changes in standards and manufacture to their advantage.

I have a 1999 car as I won't buy one younger than 2001, nor will I buy a modern diesel-engined car. Why is that? It's because newer cars get increasingly complex, so much so they become difficult and expensive to maintain outside the dealer network. My car has fuel injection, electronic engine managament, ABS, and even a fly-by-wire throttle (by far the weakest part of the car as they are known for failing).

Modern cars go even further, with each item in the car having it's own control module. For instance electric power steering: the steering will have it's own control module. BUT the manufacturer codes that unit to the car, but if it fails you can't just buy a used unit from another car and swap them over. Because the code will not be the same, the unit from another car is rendered incompatible. Not from a hardware standpoint, but it is deliberately coded in software so a unit will only work in a particular car and no other, rendering the used spares market difficult at best. These days there are companies that have cracked the codes and offer re-coding services, but not all modules are crackable and the re-coding service isn't cheap, pushing up the price of used parts.

Another area is where something should be user-serviceable, but the manufacturer deliberately makes it dealer-serviceable only. For instance in certain diesel Peugeots, they carry a tank of additive to improve emissions. If you have seen tubs of "Adblue" on petrol station forecourts, it's the same stuff. It's injected along with the diesel to help emissions.

However, rather than have a level gauge like a fuel tank, the cars computer is linked to the fuel tank filler cap. It counts the number of times the filler flap is opened and then calculates the amount of additive that would have been used for a FULL tank. Obviously if you part-fill the tank you use less additive. So you eventually get to a situation where the computer says the additive tank is empty (as calculated by filler flap openings) but you may actually have half a tank left. No problem, just top up the tank eh? Nope! It's a dealer-only service! There is no filler cap. You have to pay a dealer to fill up a tank you can't yourself even though the additive is freely available. And only the dealer can reset the computer to say the tank has been filled.

Again there's an evolving aftermarket working to deal with these issues, but why does it even have to happen? A small tank with a fuel gauge or a warning light and a filler cap just like a washer bottle should suffice.

But no, as with the coding issue I've already mentioned, dealers are turning new regulations and standards along with new technology to their advantage.

It's this mechanical complexity, poor after sales support and unfair use of new standards and technolofy that car buyers are railing against.

Small modern diesel-engined cars are unfit for purpose. Unless you rag them along the motorway every couple of weeks then eventually the DPF will block up and you will end up with a big bill.

If a fuel supplier puts more biodiesel on the mix, then the diesel high pressure pump dies, with (you guessed it) another big bill.

If a part wears out, you can't swap a used part from another vehicle to the car, with yet another big bill to replace the part.

It's this that is putting new car buyers off. I'm sure that most small diesel buyers are waiting for electric car technology and it's support infrastructure to mature and will probably jump to either an all-electric car, or if they can't wait a petrol-electric hybrid.

However, like all modern cars, these also have their pitfalls along the way, especially battery life and replacement cost later on in life.