Wordblog revived

incorporating New Life

Latest Blogs
Popular Posts

Latest Blogs


East of England hospitals will be among the worst hit by Brexit

Hospitals in the East of England are among those most likely to be affected by Brexit, according to a new study by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES). NHS Trusts in the London, Thames Valley and the East of England regions are the most dependent on the recruitment pipeline from Europe, says the report on How Brexit will affect the NHS.

Researchers at the  IES say: Nurses from the European Economic Area (EEA) currently make up 4.5 per cent of the total nursing workforce in England. The figure it masks huge geographic differences between NHS Trusts, with some much more reliant on this recruitment pipeline from Europe than others because of current nursing shortages. Brexit threatens this labour supply because of the continuing uncertainty surrounding the status of EU workers in England, which makes it harder for Trusts to recruit from Europe as well as to retain current EEA nurses already working here who might well be questioning their future prospects in the UK.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn has seen the most rapid increase in numbers of nurses from other parts of the EU in recent years. In 2009 only 1.3% of nurses at the hospital were from the EEA. The figure has now risen to 18%, one of the highest in the country. The national figure is a quarter of that.

The report authors say:

The most sensible solution now, particularly post Brexit, would be for the government to act now to ensure that we have a ‘homegrown’ domestic supply of nurses. This will require adequate and sustained investment in workforce planning to address the potentially gaping hole in our future nursing workforce. For too long now, there has been a lack of long-term, strategic workforce planning that offers oversight, coordination and alignment of the different dimensions of the nursing workforce (financial, education, employment and international recruitment).

The price of Brexit starts to emerge: Ford estimates cost at $1bn in two years

The Financial Times (paywall) says: “Ford is considering closing plants in the UK and across Europe in response to Britain’s vote to leave the EU, as it forecast a $1 hit to its business over the next two years.”

The price of cars in the UK will also rise before the end of this year, according to Ford.

One of the problems is the fall in the value of the pound which will increase the price of imported cars. Ford now has two factories in the UK, at Dagenham and Bridgend which makes engines which are exported to European assembly plants. Complete cars, including the British made engines, are then imported into the UK.

Manufacturers like Ford have very complex supply chains which move components around European single market freely without restrictions. The possibility that the UK would be outside this market is naturally spooking businesses like car makers whose manufacturing strategies are based on the free movement of goods.

Other car makers are likely follow Ford when it raises prices. General Motors which owns Vauxhall has said the fallout from the referendum vote would cost it $400m this year.

The FT says:

Questions have been raised over the prospects for the UK’s car industry in the wake of the Brexit ballot, with analysts questioning whether the plants can win fresh work during a period of uncertainty over trade and the country’s position in the single European market.

For the sake of the country, Jeremy Corbyn should withdraw from leadership race

The overriding political concern at present is to ensure that there is a functioning opposition in the House of Commons. It is clear that, given the hostility of the parliamentary Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn cannot provide the leadership needed.

At the same time it is far from clear that an Owen Smith leadership would be as effective as it should be with rebellious  party membership snapping at his heels.

The majority of members of the PLP accuse Corbyn of a failure of leadership but is that the result of so many refusing to be led? The real facts are hard to find.

Today on Twitter there is a lot of noise: a strange coalition of journalists and Corbynistas coming together to rubbish the PLP’s Unity candidate. And very little sign of those who nominated him providing support.

If Corbyn really aspires to lead he should have asked his party to abstain on the vote on Trident arguing that more debate was needed. The range of possibilities from direct replacement, an alternative ever-ready system, or possession without deployment to nuclear disarmament could be considered. In those circumstances Labour MPs voting for Trident would have been the disloyal ones.

The moment when I decided Corbyn could not deliver the opposition needed was when he moved quickly after the referendum vote to accept it and urge early triggering of Article 50. This immediately left opposition in the hands of the SNP, SDLP, Lib Dems and the solitary Green with Labour only able to oppose at the edges of the debate.

What made Corbyn decide on this course is a mystery. The only account of events I can find is from a speech to constituents by Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood:

… I sat at the Regional Count with Glenis Willmott the Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, my friend, a fellow trade unionist from the East Midlands doing media duty for our Party.

And as we left at 5am, defeated and in despair, we finally got sent lines to take from the Leader’s office. Acknowledging Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart for their work in the Leave campaign. Their work in direct opposition to Labour Party policy.

And shortly after we heard Jeremy calling for the immediate triggering of Article 50. Without any discussion with the Shadow Cabinet or the Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party.

Think about that. The country had just voted to leave the EU after more than 40 years and Jeremy made a major announcement on the Party’s position without waiting to discuss it with the Shadow Cabinet, without even consulting the leader of our MEPs in Europe.

It was the call for early triggering of Article 50 that decided me that Corby should not remain the Labour leader.

Overall, Corbyn’s policies were unexceptional. Indeed, Theresa May’s speech on the steps of Number 10 echoes much of his thinking. Few would oppose them. During the referendum campaign his defence of free movement of people was brave.

So who should lead the party. The choice now is between a man who lacks (or is prevented from using) leadership skills, or another man who would lack the support of a large part of the party.

The best solution would if Jeremy Corbyn stood down from the election because, even if he wins the election, he cannot command the loyalty needed to lead the parliamentary opposition the country needs so badly.

The result would still be unsatisfactory, a split would remain on the cards, there would be a lot of anger but there may be a functioning opposition. The referendum felt too much like an argument within the Tory party:  we cannot afford to let the same thing happen to the Brexit negotiations.

‘Tory Britain, no longer aspires to be a leading Western power’ — a view from overseas

Anne Applebaum in her perceptive Washington Post column last week wrote: “Johnson, Osborne and many British Conservatives are now quite comfortable with the idea of Britain, or possibly just England, as the Dubai of the North Atlantic, the Singapore of the Western Hemisphere: a small trading nation…” The headline was: “New cabinet may signal Britain’s retreat as a Western power.”

This morning comes the news that ARM, the  British company which leads the world with its chip designs at the heart of connected world — the internet of things — which is developing very fast, is to be taken-over by Japanese Softbank business for £24 billion.

Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent wrote:

It’s hard to exaggerate just how important ARM is to the UK tech sector – and the shock many are feeling this morning at the news that it is about to lose its independence.

Its brilliance was to realise that if chips were about to come with everything, you didn’t have to make them – designing them was the key.

The British Government is to nod through the takeover, with Philip Hammond, the new Chancellor, telling the Financial Times: “Just three weeks after the referendum decision, it shows that Britain has lost none of its allure to international investors.”

That is one way of spinning the story but it is not necessarily the way it is seen in other parts of the world.

Anne Applebaum is based in London and has written widely for serious British publications. Her Washington Post column provides a chilling insight into how the United Kingdom is being portrayed in the District of Columbia and, no doubt in many other capitals. It is a column which should be read in full but here is an extract:

… May’s choices also suggest a more profound change, visible for some time but only just now swimming into focus: Britain, or at least Tory Britain, no longer aspires to be a leading Western power. Surely May knows that Johnson is a hated figure in Brussels. Surely she guessed that the reaction to his appointment would be laughter in Washington. But she doesn’t care because — like the leaders of all small countries without aspirations to international leadership — her concerns are more parochial. She doesn’t need a foreign secretary who is taken seriously in foreign capitals.

Nor was she bothered by the further implications of the choice. Johnson has been a brilliant cheerleader for Britain in the past — a great ambassador for London — and some people now hope he will continue in that role. But in his recent columns and conversations, he has also made it clear that Britain’s traditional alliances — with the United States, with Europe — mean little to him. Instead, he has flirted with Putinism, praised Bashar al-Assad and gone on trade junkets to China. Johnson’s admiration for rich foreign dictators echoes the views of many leading Tories, even George Osborne, the just-retired chancellor of the exchequer. Johnson, Osborne and many British Conservatives are now quite comfortable with the idea of Britain, or possibly just England, as the Dubai of the North Atlantic, the Singapore of the Western Hemisphere: a small trading nation, an offshore home for Russian, Chinese, Malaysian and Nigerian money, a place comfortable with oligarchs of all kinds — even with Americans, as long as they have cash — and very distant from old Thatcherite ideals about democracy and rule of law.

Sending naked negotiators into EU conference chamber

Now we know. Brexit campaigners won the referendum by lying and dissembling but had no idea what they were asking people to vote for: no vision of a future outside the EU. And they had no leadership capable of working out and articulating what they wanted to happen so they have outsourced the job to the people who wanted to remain.

Tomorrow we will see a woman Remain campaigner — albeit a less than enthusiastic one — become our prime minister having promised “Brexit means Brexit”. The trouble is that we have no idea what she thinks Brexit means and I doubt if she has either. And how can we trust Theresa May who has so readily switched sides in  a fortnight — it is like the old joke about the politician who was challenged and said: “If you don’t like my principles I have others.”

There is no vision. There cannot be a realistic one because we do not know how the various members and organisations of the European Union will react. At one extreme there is possibility of being outside the EU relying on World Trade Organisation rules to conduct our business. At the other, we could be offered something like the Norwegian deal which would include associate membership of the Shengen area.

We will be sending negotiators into the conference chamber naked. The referendum result throws away our leverage for change.

The position is not so far removed from that Aneurin Bevan faced in 1957 when he addressed the Labour Party conference on nuclear disarmament:

I knew this morning that I was going to make a speech that would offend, and even hurt, many of my friends. I know that you are deeply convinced that the action you suggest is the most effective way of influencing international affairs. I am deeply convinced that you are wrong. It is therefore not a question of who is in favour of the hydrogen bomb, but a question of what is the most effective way of getting the damn thing destroyed. It is the most difficult of all problems facing mankind. But if you carry this resolution and follow out all its implications — and do not run away from it — you will send a British Foreign Secretary, whoever he may be, naked into the conference chamber. … And you call that statesmanship? I call it an emotional spasm.

Whoever accepts the post of foreign secretary in the May administration will know that quote from one of the most memorable political speeches in post-war Britain. George Osborne is being tipped for the post — if it is him we can celebrate a brave man.

With the Labour Party dysfunctional, failing to provide opposition, May has adopted policies put forwards by Ed Milliband before his failure to win the last election led to his resignation. The Guardian reports today that she has also adopted his slogan about a “country that works for everyone rather than a privileged few”.

For her proposal about workers in the boardroom we need to dig further back in labour history. The system which supported German post-war industrial resurgence was put in place with the help of British trade unionists led by Vic Feather, later General Secretary of the TUC.  The Tablet, in a 1987 article, commented:

… it is one of modern history’s crueller ironies that the reconstruction of the West German system, on the ruins left by Nazism and war, from which its excellence today derives, was carried out with the help of British TUC advisers led by Vic Feather.

If May succeeds in this ambition she will have done something which has not been done by any of the post-war British labour governments.

Jeremy Corby has accepted May’s policy of Brexit means Brexit (“We have to respect the decision that has been made“) as, seemingly, has a majority of the parliamentary labour party. His stance on the  importance of maintaining the free movement of people, now seems to be the most fruitful area for opposition to the new government.

But would even that survive the removal of Corbyn as  leader? The opposition can hardly survive a new leadership battle at a crucial time in British politics. Even with the summer recess coming up the opposition needs to be hard at work on its strategy not squabbling: the new government will certainly be doing its preparation.

At present the SNP, the Lib Dems and the Greens are providing real opposition but they cannot fill the vacuum created by a fractious (and irresponsible) labour party.


Pro-European national weekly newspaper launches from East Anglia

Archant, the Norwich-based regional publisher, is to launch a pop-up newspaper aimed at the 48%, the remain voters. The first issue will come out on Friday and will be distributed in the areas with the strongest remain votes.

The company with a turnover of £122m a year is the fifth largest regional publisher in the UK. While Norwich voted remain, its East Anglian stronghold, where it publishes both the Eastern Daily Press and the East Anglian Daily times, voted 56,5% leave and 435% remain.

The launch of the New European is clearly to test the market with four weekly editions (Archant is a very commercial company) and will only continue if there are sufficient sales. The launch indicates that there are people in the company who believe our future is in the European Union and are prepared to put in put in the money need for the test marketing.

Here is the press release:

The New European, a weekly newspaper aimed at people who voted Remain, is being launched by Archant on Friday 8th July.

The paper will offer those feeling dismayed and disenfranchised by Brexit a non-political focal point, bringing together the extraordinarily broad spectrum of people who feel a real sense of loss after the Leave vote victory.

Conceived as a “pop-up paper” aiming to capture the zeitgeist and act as a chronicle for the extraordinary events of the summer of 2016, the title will be delivered to market faster than any other British newspaper in history – just nine days from concept to newsagent.

The New European represents both a markedly different approach in terms of content and readership, but also a wholly new business model for print and its place in an increasingly digital world.

The newspaper will initially run for just four issues, with any subsequent print runs being decided by reader interest. Every issue will be a collector’s item. After the fourth issue, every week’s sale will be a referendum on the next.

Available nationwide via the website, the paper’s retail distribution will be focused on London, Liverpool, Manchester, the south of England and other strongly remain voting areas.

The first issue will contain exclusive articles from leading voices in the UK and Europe, including:

  • Tanit Koch, Editor of Bild, Europe’s most-read newspaper
  • Saul Klein, leading European VC and partner with LocalGlobe
  • James Brown, former Loaded and GQ editor
  • Wolfgang Blau, ex editor of Zeit Online and former digital director of The Guardian
  • Simon Calver, partner with BGF Ventures and former CEO of Mothercare and LoveFilm
  • Annabelle Dickson, leader of the Westminster political lobby for regional newspapers
  • Football writers Steve Anglesey and Paddy Davitt
  • Peter Bale, CEO of the of the Centre for Public Integrity who broke the Panama Papers global exclusive
  • Ahmed Osman, renowned European fashion writer

Matt Kelly, Chief Content Officer and launch editor of The New European, said: “We are currently in an extraordinary period of time in the UK, with all of society seemingly in a state of flux and turmoil. I believe the 48% who voted to Remain are not well served by the traditional press and that there is a clear opportunity for a newspaper like The New European that people will want to read and carry like a badge of honour.

“We value expertise and have some of the world’s best brains in their areas writing for us. And it is also a politician-free zone. They are banned.

“It will be an eclectic and energetic mix of content – not just about the Brexit issue, but a celebration of why we loved Europe so much in the first place. There’ll be plenty of humour in there too – god knows we could all use a laugh these days.”

Will Hattam, Chief Marketing Officer, said: “This isn’t just another national newspaper, it’s a new type of publishing product. As a pop-up publishing project this is a truly innovative approach to reaching new audience segments by extending our established expertise in creating high-quality, engaging content into new areas.

“What’s exciting is that the story of this paper isn’t yet written – its sprung into life, driven by the events of the last few weeks, and will continue to serve its audience as long as they want it to. There’s no ongoing commitment, just an opportunity to explore new boundaries in newspaper publishing.”

The New European will be published by Archant and will be priced at £2 per issue.

More details are available here.

I will be asking my newsagent this morning to reserve my copy.

Guardian too quick to accept the inevitability of Brexit

I am disappointed by the Guardian’s editorial position over the aftermath of the referendum. It has effectively thrown in the towel and accepted Theresa May’s “Brexit means Brexit” line. Here is an extract from today’s leader:

Almost half of those who voted sought to continue our membership. The Guardian was one of the most determined voices on this side of the divide. But we, like the rest of the 48%, must now respect the verdict that we dreaded. You assumed that British pragmatism would triumph….

…we need time. Britain voted against membership; we did not vote for an alternative. The public has not fully confronted the choice it faces between turning its back on the single market, or accepting continued EU migration in whatever form.

This effectively leaves the 4,109,592 people (many of them Guardian readers) who have signed the parliamentary petition for a new referendum  without a voice in mainstream media.

We can respect the vote but it is not binding on parliament or the prime minister, whichever has to decide. The decision is a sovereign one and it has not been made yet as David Cameron has kicked the can down the road to his successor.

Nick Clegg has called for an election before Article 50 is triggered in an article for the Guardian today.

On another page, the paper reports an anonymous group of clients has instructed solicitors at Mishcon de Reya to try to ensure article 50 is not triggered without an act of parliament. It reports:

One of the grounds of a likely challenge to the referendum is that it is merely advisory and the royal prerogative cannot be used to undermine parliamentary statute.

Another legal challenge is being crowdfunded. It very quickly hit its target and is not accepting further money at the moment.

Tony Blair also weighed in yesterday suggesting the will of the people could change. This is the Sun’s view:

REMINIAC SNEERING Tony Blair sparked fury yesterday by hinting Britain should be allowed a second Referendum because people are entitled to change their minds.

Ten days after the referendum there is a growing realisation that the alternative of remaining in the EU is a viable option. The decision on triggering Article 50 has not been made and if parliament is truly sovereign  it may never be made.

The Guardian has called this one too early.

The Conservative party is outsourcing sovereignty to 0.002% of the people

The Conservative party is outsourcing sovereignty. The 150,000 party members (0.002% of the UK population) will have the final say on who will be the prime minister will have to take one of the momentous decision in British History.

David Cameron had passed the responsibility to accept the result of the referendum and start the process of leaving the EU by notifying the European Council to his successor. It is a sovereign decision to be made by the prime minister: there is no provision for votes in he Houses of Parliament.

It is right that party members choose their leader. But choosing a prime minister who will take, what looks like being, an existential decision for the UK is another matter.

The front-runner to replace David Cameron has already announced what her decision would be. Teresa May said yesterday: “Brexit means Brexit.”

Prime ministers also have the right to declare war without the approval of parliament but this has been strongly challenged particularly since the Iraq war. In 2005 Clare Short (Labour) introduced a bill to requiring parliamentary consent to armed conflict and was supported by senior figures in all parties. It was talked out.

This issue will return next week with the publication of the Chilcot report.

Except in cases of urgency, it is now difficult to imagine a prime minister declaring war without first having a debate in parliament and vote, even it was not binding.

Yet there is no suggestion of a vote on triggering Article 50 to exit the EU. Labour has joined the Conservatives in saying the people have spoken and their will must be respected.

Well, 37 per cent of the population have voted in favour of leaving without knowing what leaving will mean. The capital city and two of the four countries of the union have voted to remain, a division which in normal circumstances would lead parliament to be very cautious about making a final decision.

At the very least, the new prime minister should seek confirmation of her or his role by calling a general election before making a decision on triggering article 50.

If that does not happen our democracy means very little.


If a golf club can re-run a ballot on women’s membership why should the government not announce a new EU poll

18th_Hole_at_Muirfield,_The_Open_2013_Muirfield golf club is to hold a second vote because the decision six weeks ago not to admit women members has “damaged” its reputation. If the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers can decide on a second vote, why can the UK government not follow their example on the infinitely more important issued of EU membership?

The Muirfield rules sensibly require a substantial majority to change from the status quo (unlike UK referenda rules) and the resolution to admit women narrowly missed it. Now the members are being asked to vote again.

According to the Scotsman newspaper:

The first Muirfield vote was influenced by a “no” campaign, which cited slow-play worries, lunch concerns and fears about making ladies “feel uncomfortable”.

Similarly, last week’s EU poll was influence by silly scares and downright lies. So I ask Parliament to give us a second vote or, better, do their job of representing the whole population and pass a resolution saying Article 50 should not be triggered.