Frank Parker's author site

Home » Saturday Sound-off

Category Archives: Saturday Sound-off

Advertisements

Saturday Sound Off – Stop Confusing ECJ and ECHR

In the course of an on-line discussion about Brexit yesterday a hard-line leaver told me he wanted, among other things, “a right to deport people detrimental to the UK without the ECJ overriding our court’s decisions.” I pointed out to him that the ECJ does not do that. The body that does is the ECHR (The European Court of Human Rights) which is separate from the EU and which Brexit does not impact. This confusion between the two courts is endemic among Brexiters and needs to be properly understood.

The ECJ (European Court of Justice) exists to enforce the various directives issued by the EU in pursuit of its competition policies.

For the most part these concern things involving workers’ rights, consumers’ rights, safety and environmental issues and energy conservation. Member states are supposed to incorporate the substance of such directives into their own legislation. If they fail to do so that gives their businesses a competitive advantage over businesses in those states that have adopted the particular directive. The disadvantaged state can take a case to the court which will investigate and make a judgement which could lead to the offending member state being penalised.

If/when the UK is no longer a member state it will be able to repeal those laws introduced in response to directives that it deems to be restrictive of free and fair trade. The ECJ will no longer have jurisdiction.

Of course, any subsequent trade agreement that we negotiate with the EU, or with third countries, will contain rules and regulations which will need to arbitrated upon by some body not unlike the ECJ.

The WTO has a “Dispute Settlement Body” which operates in much the same way to ensure that agreements entered into are respected by all parties.

“It monitors the implementation of the rulings and recommendations, and has the power to authorize retaliation when a country does not comply with a ruling.” (Quoted verbatim from https://www.wto.org/ENGLISH/thewto_e/whatis_e/tif_e/disp1_e.htm)

So, post Brexit, the UK will not be free to “control its own laws” when it comes to matters of international trade.

View of the Court's main entranceLet’s turn now to the ECHR, the body that enforces the European Convention on Human Rights entered into by all 47 members of the Council of Europe. Originally drafted in 1950 (when there were only 10 members of the Council), it is based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 3 of the convention prohibits torture.

It is this provision that has lead to the difficulties encountered by the UK government in seeking the deportation of certain individuals who claim that the country to which they were to be deported was governed by a regime in which torture was permitted.

The Convention was enshrined into UK law by the 1998 Human Rights Act. Since then the Conservative Party has discussed the repeal and/or replacement of that act. As this article indicates, post Brexit any “loss of human rights protection will be mitigated as long as the UK continues to be a member of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Brexit alone will not remove this particular impediment to deportations.

A new Bill of Rights could. Such a bill could have been enacted pre-Brexit and may well be enacted post Brexit, although only if the Conservatives are able to increase their majority in a future general election.

It is the confusion in the minds of many UK citizens over this, and other aspects of EU membership, that convinces me the 2016 referendum was flawed and needs to be revisited, with the option of withdrawing the Article 50 application to leave.

Advertisements

Freakin’ Freakshakes

It’s not Saturday (and, anyway, my last “Saturday Sound Off” was on a Friday!). I’m grateful to Stevie Turner for drawing attention to this incredible example of a business promoting a product that is toxic to the human body and contributes to the ballooning cost of health care throughout the developed world. Do you agree with her assertion that sugar should be added to the list of Class B drugs?

via Freakin’ Freakshakes

Saturday Sound Off – #METO and the difficulty of creating believable characters.

Several things recently got me thinking about the difficulty of creating solid, flesh and blood and sympathetic characters, even when those characters do things that you can never imagine yourself doing.

The first was an interview with John Boyne who has done it time and again in his novels. The next was starting to read Milkman, this year’s Man Booker prize winning book. I have so far only read the first 50 pages, but already it is teaching me things about our recent history and about the craft of writing from deep inside the head of a character. Set in Northern Ireland during the 1970s it appears to be an indictment of the stifling masculinity and the paranoia that drove the violence on both sides of the sectarian divide.

The second thing was this article by a woman film maker about the way men portray women and her admiration for two movies in which women have, in her opinion, successfully portrayed men.

When I think about my own writing I can’t escape the conclusion that too many of my characters are merely poor reflections of aspects of myself. But I also think that the problem of men portraying women, and vice-versa, is just one facet of a much more complex problem: can a heterosexual accurately portray a homosexual? A white middle class person a poor immigrant? Any of us any other person’s deep inner personality and thought processes?

It is important because the narrative arts – theatre, film and literature – are the windows through which the rest of us are enabled to experience the lives of others. If those lives are miss-represented then it creates the cultural attitudes that drive some men to behave inappropriately toward women or certain politicians to spread fear of migrants seeking a better life. And, conversely, it is the way that better life is portrayed in the media that attracts those migrants in the first place.

I’ll say  no more, but hand you over to Joey at:

https://honeythatsok.com/2018/11/08/masculinity-written-and-directed-by-women-the-rider-leave-no-trace/comment-page-1/#comment-7687

#Brexit – The Great British Betrayal

Not so much a Saturday Sound-Off as a Sunday Sermon!

As gratifying as it was to see so many people marching against Brexit on Saturday, the party was spoiled by the reappearance on our screens of Nigel Farage with his insistent repetition of nonsense about ‘independence’. Behind that insistence is the insidious lie that we are a vassal state to Europe. Try as I might, I cannot understand why so few seem unable see the truth: that Brexit is a betrayal.

A betrayal of our shared geography, our shared history, our shared culture and, above all, our shared values.

The idea of a ‘right little, tight little, island‘ in the context of the 21st century ‘global village‘ is so out of touch with reality that it would be laughable were it not so frighteningly tragic.

If you doubt that the British Isles share geographical space with the rest of Europe consider these facts: Galway is roughly the same distance from Kiev as Seattle is from Miami; Oslo is nearer to Naples than Los Angels is to New York.

map-of-europe

The last thousand years of our history are scarred by disputes between kings, and would be kings, both within and across national boundaries. The England we know and love was shaped by the invasion of Normans from across the English Channel, themselves the descendants of Scandinavians who had invaded the British Isles and the area now generally known as France several centuries earlier. Our present Royal Family has German ancestry. The British king most revered by the Irish Unionists was Dutch.

We share with other nations of Europe, too, a history of colonisation. Britain’s might have been the largest empire, but France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands and Germany all established colonies in far flung parts of the world. Arguably that is why the two most recent wars between them spilled over to become World Wars. And why the legacy of those wars, in the Middle East especially, is one of continuing war and suffering.

We share a love of the same music. Make a list of your favourite classical composers and it will inevitably include Germans, at least one French man, a Pole and an Austrian as well as great Britons like Walton, Elgar and Vaughan Williams. Even when it comes to ‘pop’ and rock, the Europeans are in there somewhere, and not just ABBA. The Beatles cut their performing teeth in Hamburg.

Some of our greatest literature comes to us, in translation, from Europe. Les Miserables may be a successful British piece of musical theatre but it began life as a classic of French literature.

But the greatest betrayal, the one that cuts like a red hot knife to the very heart of everything I was brought up to believe, is the betrayal of our shared values.

The idea that every human being deserves respect; that those blessed with good fortune have a duty to share some of that largesse with those less fortunate than themselves; that no-one should be denied access to education, a rewarding job and care in ill health and old age.

The EU embodies those values in its constitution. Freedom of movement, so reviled by some Britons, guarantees the freedom of individuals to live and work and attend an educational institution where they choose. Please note that it does not guarantee access to social welfare. The rules that regulate trade seek to prevent workers and consumers from being ripped off by unscrupulous corporations. The environmental regulations are there in an attempt – admittedly inadequate – to ensure that the world our grand children inherit is not too sullied by our profligacy.

The idea that the nations of Europe, after a millennium and more of conflict, have come together to try to mitigate the harm those conflicts and the colonialism did, an enterprise in which Britain has played no small part, is one of the greatest achievements of my generation.

One of the more fatuous statements of those opposed to #Brexit is “We were great before, we can be great again.”. To which I would say we have spent the last half century and more using our greatness to ensure the adoption of those shared values across the world, through our involvement in the United Nations and the European Union.

It breaks my heart to see so many of my fellow countrymen working to destroy that achievement.

Saturday Sound Off – A Strangely Inverted Immigration Policy

There was a time when low skilled jobs were taken by young people whilst studying, or learning a craft, as they worked their way up the career ladder.

Then it got that young people were so well off that they could afford to stay up until all hours in the pubs that their parents worked in when they used to close at 10:30pm, but have now been converted into clubs.

So well off that that they didn’t need those jobs. So people had to be recruited from abroad.

Now the government is proposing to stop bringing in low skilled workers from overseas. In stead they are going to encourage highly skilled people to come here to do the very jobs that a previous generation of UK citizens studied and trained for.

That strikes me as an inversion of what a country that sees itself as advanced ought to be doing.

What message does it send to potential investors?

Whether indigenous entrepreneurs or foreign investors, what such companies look for is the availability of a skilled workforce. What are they supposed to think when they discover that the UK has to bring skilled workers from overseas to fill the jobs that are already here?

May as well take their investment to the place where the skilled labour is already in-situ.

No wonder the government is telling companies to go home!

Now, of course, UK citizens will have to do all those unskilled jobs themselves.

I can’t help but wonder if someone in government is thinking along the lines of

“Let’s teach those people a lesson. Let them do all the nasty unpleasant jobs. It is, after all, the will of the people to send the low skilled migrants home. Serves them right.”

Lighting a Candle (Saturday Sound-off)

At our local supermarket check-out this morning one of my neighbours was in front of me in the queue. Shortly after I left I caught up with her and we walked together down the hill, chatting about the weather and recent developments in our small retirement community. When we reached the church she parted company with me saying that she was going to light a candle for a friend and went on to explain how very ill this person was.

As an atheist I regard the idea of lighting a candle in the belief that it might effect a cure or ease someone’s passage into the after-life as somewhat bizarre. But I would not publicly ridicule a person holding that belief or all followers of Roman Catholicism for that and other, to me, futile practices.

Like most Catholics, however, I do condemn some of the behaviours attributed to certain members of their faith in recent times.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am saddened by recent examples of antisemitism and Islamophobia in British political life.

Of course I condemn the heinous actions of some who claim to be followers of Islam. Be-headings, bombings and other terror related activities are evil. I also feel saddened by the way some in Islam treat their womenfolk. That does not mean I hold all followers of that faith in contempt nor to I have a problem with the way some choose to dress.

In the same fashion, I condemn some of the policies of the Israeli government. But I do not have contempt for individual Jews or for the way some Jewish men choose to dress.

In fact, I have a real problem with the whole concept of racism and religious hatred. I’m old enough to remember a time when it seemed to be taken for granted that people of obvious African ancestry were of lesser intelligence than white skinned people. To my shame I believed it for a while.

I now know that we are all the same under the skin. We are all equally capable of attaining the highest level of education and achievement. And we are all equally capable of being foolish and allowing ourselves to be duped by dangerous rhetoric.

For me the definition of racism is any suggestion that one ethnic group is superior, or inferior, to any other. That, of course, includes such notions as that of a “chosen people” or the belief that centuries of residence in a particular land gives an ethnic group the exclusive right to continue to reside there. When the then South African government tried, in the 1960s, to establish that principle, designating certain areas as ‘tribal homelands’, insisting that people of such ethnicity must have a special license, or ‘pass’, in order to travel to, and work in, other parts of South Africa, the majority of the rest of the world condemned the policy, and rightly so.

And yet, if I condemn the military occupation of certain parts of the Holy Land and the forced removal of those until recently occupying those lands in order to accommodate Jews, as I do, I am guilty of antisemitism. I refuse to be so labelled. As I made clear above, I do not associate all Jews with Israel and the unacceptable policies of it’s government. Just as, in the past, I did not condemn all white South Africans because of the policies of their government, only those who actively supported the policy.

It is all very complex and confusing but there is, for me, one over-riding fact in all of this: anthropologists tell us that homo-sapiens first appeared somewhere in the African continent. Since then our ancestors have migrated North, East and West. So, logically, the only ‘ancestral home’ for any and all of us is Africa.

DNA analysis of human remains from the past have shown that Europeans are the descendants of migrants and invaders over many centuries, suggesting that objections to recent arrivals from outside the continent are misplaced.

No-one should be ridiculed for his or her religious beliefs, however bizarre they might seem to you and me. Neither should anyone be prevented, solely because of his or her ethnicity, from living anywhere in the world he or she chooses.

If I was going to light a candle it would be for greater understanding of our shared humanity and less animosity towards those who look different from ourselves.

The Sickening Waste that is Professional Sport.

Consider this: the amount payed to the players at Manchester’s 2 Premier League clubs is roughly the same as the total wage and salary bill of that city’s 6 hospitals*. I repeat, the amount paid to the players. It does not include the manager’s salary, nor any of the other staff employed by the club – coaches, physios, groundsmen, admin, marketers, etc. The hospitals’ figure, however, covers all 13,000 employees, from the highest paid consultant to the porters.

The total for the five Premier League clubs with the highest player wage bills is close on £1 billion.

It makes me wonder if the British public care more about sport in general, and football in particular, than they do about their beloved NHS.

I also think it very strange that people who demand “their country back”, and complain that they are being “over-run by immigrants”, nevertheless find it acceptable that their local football club is owned by foreigners, managed by a foreigner and has a significant number of foreign players on its books.

That broad description applies to the majority, if not quite all, of the clubs currently in the League. The club presently at the top of the League is 86% owned by the deputy Prime Minister of an Islamic state.

busby007_6108988

Manchester United legends Sir Matt Busby and George Best. Photo credit: Manchester Evening News. In the 1957/8 season, of the 30 man squad, including the manager, 27 were UK citizens. The other 3 were Irish. Source: http://www.worldfootball.net/teams/manchester-united/1958/2/

Meanwhile, Manchester United is 90% owned by the six Glazer siblings of First Allied Corporation, which owns and rents out shopping malls across the USA, through a company registered in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven. This leads me to another strange thing: people who resent the accumulation of wealth by entrepreneurs and bankers who take great care to avoid paying tax, apparently are quite content to have such individuals taking control of a club that began as a community owned and operated organisation.

Of course, football is not the only arena in which vast incomes can be earned from the practice of sporting prowess. Formula 1 motor racing, golf and boxing come to mind.

All of these sports are able to pay out such vast amounts as a result of corporate sponsorship which, in turn, relies on the sale of television rights. It comes as no surprise, then, that sport, and football in particular, has taken over our television screens. Not so long ago Saturday afternoon was the time for sport, with recorded highlights shown later on the same day. Now football can displace the regular schedules on any night of the week. And this is despite the proliferation of channels dedicated solely to the showing of sporting events, including those operated by the football clubs themselves.

What if the money now sloshing around in sport could be diverted to help deal with the many problems faced by the poor and those ‘just about managing’ as Mrs May so memorably put it? Health, Social Care and Housing are all deprived of resources whilst sportsmen and women, and those who exploit their prowess for profit, enjoy fantasy life styles.

The huge disparity in wealth and incomes that is the consequence of market capitalism is widely condemned, as is tax avoidance through the use of shell companies registered in tax havens. Why, then, do we so easily condone the vast waste of resources that professional sport has become?

*Manchester United spent £232 million and Manchester City £198m on player wages in the season 2016/7, source: totalsportek.com. The total salary bill for Manchester’s six hospitals in the 2016/7 financial year was £448 million, covering 12,992 staff, according to the Trust’s annual report.