Manchester played a major role in the industrial revolution a couple of hundred years ago and is due to do so again in the technological and environmental revolution that is picking up momentum. It has agreed a local industry strategy with the Government which will see the region become carbon neutral by 2038, the national target being 2050. It plans to be at the heart of the digital and green technology industries in the UK. Hopefully, we will see other cities and regions following suite and even trying to beat Manchester!
A few decades ago, the EU wanted to say we couldn’t call chocolate made in Britain chocolate, but instead call it vegerat! Not sure what they would say if we were still members of the EU if, no when, Mondelez International, who own Cadbury, succeed in creating healthy chocolate. They are ploughing £4.75m into research at their science centre in Reading in a bid to create low sugar chocolate products and introduce more fibre into the products, while retaining the appeal, even seductive quality, of chocolate.
You might think otherwise from recent postings, but I don’t hate social media and I’m not one for constant legislation, banning or controlling this and that. Fake news was around long before President Trump and I don’t subscribe to the endless conspiracy theories that were in circulation long before social media, but we now hear that LinkedIn is being used by foreign spies. The British, German and French governments are all warning us that foreign powers are creating fake profiles on LinkedIn and that even the pictures of the non-existent people are computer-created to draw us in. LinkedIn say that a fake profile breaks the conditions of use, but so what. If something is exposed, it will be taken down only to be replaced by another. What recourse will there ever be and to whom? George Orwell’s watch was wrong!
So, half of supermarket packaging can’t be recycled, that’s not good, but you cannot change the world over night. At least the message has been received and things are changing. Yes, organic carrots are sold wrapped in cheap plastic, but there is a much bigger problem. Most council tips have great recycling records, but why? The answer is easy, just look at the vast number of categories to put things in. I have commercial experience in the leisure sector and we had a lot more categories than you get at home. Different councils have different categories and mix different things together. I have argued for years that the concept is good, and we must do it, but we are just not geared up to make it work. That’s why masses of stuff that has been dutifully segregated by all of us ends up in landfill sites, abroad. Poland has been taking at least 800,000 tonnes for years, but I think is now cutting back or may have stopped. Even Malaysia and China have said they have been taking stuff for landfill but won’t do it anymore.
We need to get it right, but it looks as if we will have to find a lot more landfill sites in the country. Stuff destined for recycling will end up in landfill because it is contaminated with other recycling stuff. The most bizarre thing I have heard on the subject of contamination is that you can’t put shredded paper in with other paper!
The entire world of politics might be considered mad at the moment, but Chuka Umunna gets the gold star! Chuka was rising star in the Labour Party who put his name forward for the Leadership election and then withdrew because of media interest in his then girlfriend, now wife, and her family. It was only after he withdrew that Jeremy Corbyn joined the race! I interviewed him a couple of years ago at the London Grill Club and when I asked him about standing for leadership again he came out with all the tried and tested loyalty quotes, even when I said that Corbyn was 30 years older than him, so it was likely at some point there would be a vacancy for leadership! Not for me to say whether the media interest is right or wrong, as I said then, but it is naïve to say it’s not fair and should not be allowed, as I also said then.
So, a few months ago, unhappy at the Corbyn Labour Party, as indeed are many of my long-standing socialist friends, he ups sticks and is a founding father of Change UK. Now, having been around a few years, I thought it was a futile, but sincere, gesture by all those involved and doomed to failure. I remember, as if it were yesterday, the Gang of Four, all of whom were political heavyweights and they failed, so what hope did Change UK actually have? I put this to Lord Lester at the London Grill Club recently, the former human rights lawyer who did so much to get the legislation passed, who said, and he knew Roy Jenkins well having worked with him for years, that the Gang of Four might have succeeded were it not for the Falklands War. A fair debating point, but I still think they would have failed.
But Chuka has now decided to pack up his toys again and join the Lib Dems, which is where the Gang of Four went out to pasture! They were the Dems! Of course, we have had all the tried and tested phrases being trotted out again, but come on Chuka. The country voted leave and he was a remainer imploring everyone to stay in and improve the EU from within. So why didn’t he do that in the Labour Party? He says he has no ambition to lead the Lib Dems and missed the membership cut off to get a vote in the forthcoming leadership election, but on the simple facts of life expectancy, he had the opportunity to have a crack at leading the Labour Party. Corbyn, Blair, Smith, Kinnock, Foot and Wilson all made the Labour Party in their images, and it was different every time.
Madness, but he showed a sense of humour when I asked him about whether he preferred to be driven by a driverless car or Jeremy Clarkson, and you can see it here.
Why would you fly if you owned a train line that went to where you wanted to go? You might argue, at a pinch, time, but is it really much quicker? It turns out that Network Rail has a policy of taking the cheapest route from A to B, so if a plane is cheaper they fly. A flight from Cardiff to Anglesey can be as low as £19.99, but a train ticket is £84. On a bargain deal, if available, it still costs £32.50. Now, I know that the track and the trains themselves are owned by different people, but it’s not what I would truly call an arm’s length transaction. The train operators have to use Network Rail’s tracks, they can’t take an alternative route. Network Rail can’t let the track out to someone else. Only in rush hour are trains ever full, so wouldn’t it make sense for Network Rail to have a deal with the operators on price, a sort of private John Lewis standard, so that the money at least stays within the railway family?