“We’re improving”

Pudil clears for Sheffield Wednesday
1-1 at Sheffield Wednesday

A 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday is, perhaps predictably to the QPR mindset, probably the start of the tumble towards the middle of the Championship table.

Never mind. Miracles do happen.

Top of the Table

Yeni N'GbakotoWith just one goal from Yeni N’Gbakoto against Northampton, QPR moved to the top of the Championship table.  After only two matches it may not be the most significant accomplishment, but as a QPR fan you learn to savour these moments.  Hopefully it won’t be a relentless tumble to the other end of the table by Christmas….

Moeen’s the man….

Moeen Ali
Man of the Match

I’ve been banging on about Moeen Ali for a while.

At Old Trafford he became the first all-rounder from any country to score 250 runs and take 25 wickets in a four-Test series.

A pretty good show from a self-described “second-string” spinner…

Put Mervyn King in charge

Mervyn King, Lord King of Lothbury
Your country needs you

Mervyn King, Baron King of Lothbury, KG GBE DL FBA
He’s retired, but only 69.  I say bring him out of retirement and make him Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU.
Man’s a genius, but a pragmatic one, which is rare.

Listen to BBCR4 interview on Today at 07:15 this morning.
He’s absolutely spot on.

Interesting speech from the taioseach, nonsense, but interesting

Leo Varadkar doesn't seem to realise that he has a lot of work to do
The taioseach

An interestingly witty speech from new Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.  He seems to channel some inner Macron.  His line, though, in discussing “the challenge of this generation” is interesting.  See the full text here.

The media spin on the taioseach’s speech concentrated on his repetition of Michelle “mountain man” Barnier’s witty quip that “the clock is ticking” but overlooked that this element from the EU playbook came as part of a longer sentence:

“The Brexit negotiations are well underway in Brussels and, to quote Michel Barnier, the clock is ticking.”

It’s interesting that the British Press pick up the EU-mandated spin of “the clock is ticking” rather than the introductory context of “The Brexit negotiations are well underway.” Just saying.

The taioseach went on to say that:

“I do not want there to be an economic border on our island nor do I want one between Ireland and Britain.”

but, disappointingly and rather unrealistically, he continued:

“There are people who do want a border, a trade border between the United Kingdom and the European Union and therefore a border between Ireland and Britain and a border across this island.  These are advocates of a so-called hard Brexit.”

This is the point at which Irish tribal politics intrude.  The result of the BREXIT vote is that the border between the United Kingdom and Ireland will become more significant on 29th March 2019, when the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.  How that border is defined, secured and policed is, to an extent, up to negotiations between the British and Irish governments, giving due regard to the uniquely close relationship between the United Kingdom and one of its former constituent Kingdoms.

The Irish government are hardly likely to forget that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland that was formed by the Acts of Union of 1800 on the basis of the personal union of the kingdoms that had subsisted since 1542, continued until 1922.  Nor that trade between the UK and Ireland (which is remarkably close to balance) amounted to about GBP£20billion per annum in both directions.  That’s just hard goods.  Take services in to account and the significance of the UK and Ireland as trading partners is even more pronounced.

12% of Irish physical imports come from the UK.  30% of Ireland’s physical exports are sent to the UK.

Shortly after the secession of Ireland from the Union in 1922, the two states agreed a unique and slightly eccentric “Common Travel Area”, implemented in 1923 to avoid the necessity of passports and customs controls between the two formerly united nations.  The CTA’s enormously powerful expression of structural unity was sadly altered at the outbreak of the Second World War by Ireland’s shameful insistence on neutrality during that conflict.

However, following the reintroduction of the CTA in 1952, the uniquely non-binding and non-legislated agreement was reaffirmed by both UK and Irish governments in 2011.  Both governments agreed to align their visa-free travel partners, develop “electronic border management systems”, engage in data sharing to combat the abuse of the CTA and work toward a “fully-common short stay visit visa.”

So,  the taioseach has a problem.  Being a canny politician, however, he is focused on making this problem someone else’s responsibility and, if it’s possible. to find some leverage to favour the cause of Irish nationalism as ever.

Mr Varadkar wittily suggested that the advocates of hard Brexit (a red herring in itself on the issues of British-Irish border requirements) had failed and would continue to fail to suggest arrangements for the border, suggesting that “solutions” such as an EU-UK customs union and a “deep Free Trade Agreement” with the EU under the auspices of EFTA could be discussed but that this needed to be initiated by the UK.

This seems profoundly misguided.  The onus is, of course, on both the UK and Irish governments to sort out the UK:Irish border that will become so much more significant in March 2019.  One solution might be for the imposition of UK border controls (on both travellers and products) on arrival at Irish ports and airports.  Of course, that would be a bitter pill for Irish nationalism, so it is not likely to be a welcome suggestion.  Another might be to install hi-tech passport and product customs and duty controls across the UK:Irish land border and (with sadness) introduce secondary controls between Northern Ireland and British movements.

It’s all possible.  The Irish will have to be creative if they want to retain the benefits of the Common Travel Area and the enormous importance of the UK trade partnership which is so critical to Ireland’s exports.  To suggest that this must await British suggestions is just an act of political misdirection and to hide behind the suggestion that in October the taioseach will just

“sit around the European Council table with 26 other Prime Ministers and… decide together whether sufficient progress has been made on three key issues to allow the Brexit negotiations to proceed to the next phase”

is a ridiculous abdication of responsibility.  Those “three key issues” the EU would like to insist on are “citizens’ rights”, the “divorce settlement and the British:Irish land border.  So not making progress on the British:Irish land border prior to the October review of progress on that issue is a sadly all-too-Irish non-solution.  The other two issues will be solved and shelved respectively.  The rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK will be accepted by the UK as long as those rights to remain are the exclusive subject of British law and not put under the remit of the ECJ and the “divorce” settlement will be shelved as it is impossible that Britain will accept that it will owe the EU a brass euro on 30th March 2019 so that hope for a budget-saving contribution from the UK will have to be jettisoned by the Brussels bureaucracy.

Mr Varadkar needs to think more creatively if he is to save his country from extraordinarily debilitating economic consequences.  BREXIT is the cause, but not the obstacle to new structures and new solutions.  The Irish should be the first to come forward with innovative solutions that could preserve the benefits that their nation has continued to accrue from their British partners since their secession from the Kingdom in 1922.  The Common Travel Area, unlegislated, non-binding and highly successful should point the way for creative thinkers.


A proper day’s cricket

Rabada bowls Stokes at Old Trafford, 4th August 2017
Shame we lost Stokes…

A very traditional day’s cricket in Manchester today. England at 260-6 at the close of play probably gives the balance marginally in the Proteas favour.  If we hadn’t lost Stoke at the end of the day it would probably have counted as England’s day.

Still chuckling about Aggers’ take-down of the Greatest Living Yorkshireman on Monday… which, in fairness, Sir Geoffrey took very, very well.

Best TMS gag ever

Sir Geoffrey Boycott the butt of epic wind-up by Angmew and Samson during the TMS commentary at the Oval Test, 31st July 2017
You Muppet Agnew!

A slow morning on the Fifth Day of a test fairly relentlessly heading towards an England victory is the ideal moment for one of the greatest TMS gags ever.

AS: “I think I see what Aggers is alluding to!” Hilarious.
SirGB: “You Muppet Agnew!”
Aggers and Samson following in the great tradition of Morecambe and Wise.

(And England win after a Moeen hat-trick too.) What a day…
Still giggling.

Another hero

Senator John McCain votes against the repeal of Obamacare, Washington DC, 27th July 2017
An honourable man

In a day for heroes (see earlier post about The Chef’s innings) I was struck by John McCain’s vote against the repeal of Obamacare in the US Senate.  Still carrying the scars of the surgery that revealed his glioblastoma just two weeks ago, McCain attended the debate and voted against the repeal along with two very sound women: Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.

Many journalists commented that this seemed to be an exercise in revenge, but it looked and sounded to me very much as though this was an honourable man exercising his conscience.  British politics could do with people of his stature and sincerity.


Michael Gove makes a complete tosser of himself by saying the UK should ban "chlorinated" chicken imports - idiot
Not even chlorinated

While listening to the TMS coverage of the South Africa Test at The Oval I feel that I have to get something off my chest.  Chicken.

The “chlorinated” chicken issue that the media (and idiotic Gove) have taken up in a pretty transparent attempt to make the prospects of achieving trade deals with the US (or indeed anyone else) in the post-BREXIT environment seem incredibly tricky, is really quite annoying.

Not only because, in fact, the Americans actually don’t tend to use chlorine in chicken production these days, but because the whole issue misses the point.

Leaving BREXIT should allow the UK to come away from the Nanny State, the dirigiste regulation of every facet of social and economic activity by an over-mighty (and all too frequently misguided) State.  The point (yes, Gove, you at the back there, I’m looking at you!) is not to replace one set of absurd EU regulations with equally indefensible regulations at the national level.  The point, is TO LET THE PEOPLE decide.

So, chlorinate, schmlorinate.  Label the blasted chicken and let consumers decide whether they want it at the price that it can be sold on the supermarket shelves at.  Sure, give EU-type fork-to-farm hygiene reared chicken a chance, allow producers to label their chicken reared in Warwickshire 5-Star chicken spas with on-call poultry psychologists “Happy Warwickshire Chicken” or something.  But let the consumer decide. Take the blasted state out of the chicken equation.

PS – as yet another example of Govian showboating, Gove’s decision to wade in on the anti-Chlorine side just adds more proof, if that were needed, that you just can not trust this brainy but thoughtless egomaniac even as far as the nearest television remote control (ie, not at all.) I went on a Hardman-Power holiday with the pre-Sarah Vine, just-a-hack version of Michael Gove many years ago – he couldn’t be trusted then, he shouldn’t be trusted now. Intellectual rigour and attractive writing belies a totally unassuageable emotional neediness.