Few duties of government can be more important than ensuring that food imported to the UK is safe for human consumption and free from diseases that might be transmitted to the country’s animal population. At Dover, the UK’s busiest port, the responsibility for checking incoming food lies with Dover District Council (DDC). Now the UK government wants to end checks at Dover and move border control 22 miles up the M20 to a site near Ashford.
The trouble is that there will be nothing to stop trucks simply driving past the Ashford site or taking a different route entirely. Kent is a big rural county. Dodgy food could easily be hidden away and processed before moving into the UK food chain. Within days, contaminated lamb might be on sale in Ashford, Aberdare and Aberdeen. Brexit was meant to be about taking back control. The Conservatives being careless with the health of the people is yet another example of Brexit not only being a disaster, but a disaster that put incompetent people in positions of great power.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Two polls on Scotland’s voting intentions were published last week. Ipsos Mori’s Scottish Political Monitor gave the SNP a seven point Westminster lead over Labour, with SNP on 39%. The SNP was also comfortably ahead on Holyrood voting intentions. On independence, Yes polled 53%, a six point lead over No.
In contrast, Redfield & Wilton’s poll published 7 February 2024 gave Labour a Westminster lead of 1% over the SNP. Voting intentions for Holyrood see the SNP just pipping Labour. On independence, Redfield & Wilton (R&W) find a hugely different picture from Ipsos Mori. According to R&W the No vote leads on 47%, with Yes on 43%. 10% said they don’t know.
The SNP has had a tortuous time over the past year and Humza Yousaf’s period in the top job has been filled with crisis management. On balance, the SNP’s election strategists should not be too downhearted with the findings of either poll. It would appear that while the SNP is down and fragile, on the results of these polls it is far from out. Labour though will be disappointed. With their main Scottish opponents bashed and bruised from nearly 18 months of terrible headlines and the Tories in a state of collapse in England, Anas Sarwar must have been hoping for an unambiguously clear lead in Scotland.
What will you give me for a used Post Office Limited?
The Post Office scandal continues to deliver more news of appalling behaviour by board, management and some staff. Many hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters and their families have had their lives crushed by the organisation. Despite the outcry of recent weeks and the public’s horror and disgust that such things were allowed to happen, the Post Office is still behaving with arrogance and staggering insensitivity. Recent compensation offers have been described as “disgusting.”
The suffering goes on. Yet, the Post Office is publicly owned. Indeed, its legal owner is Kemi Badenoch, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. While the Post Office is responsible for its own operations, its owner has ultimate responsibility for its corporate behaviour Indeed, Badenoch recently demonstrated her power by sacking the chair of the Post Office, Henry Staunton. The move has done little to improve public perceptions of the organisation. Why is she not taking bolder action? Might it be that keeping the reputation of the Post Office at a low ebb is a part of a strategy to sell it off to the highest bidder. With no discernible public support, flogging the 400-year-old corporation to friends in the City could be done without much fuss at all.
As a publicly owned entity, the Post Office is a creature of the state. In the final analysis, the responsibility for its behaviour rests with the state. The sub-postmasters’ scandal is a state scandal. The whole sorry mess is a supreme example of why we must keep the UK in the European Court of Human Rights.
An unequal union
A measure of rationality returned to Northern Ireland with the news that the DUP had been bribed, bullied, blind-sided and shamed into returning to Stormont, thus allowing devolved government to resume. Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill will take up her post as First Minister. In a land where history is the stuff of everyday life, the arrival of a Sinn Fein politician at the pinnacle of Norther Ireland politics is something to behold. Many hands deserve praise for helping the North reject the bomb and the gun to champion the ballot box. John Major, the late Mo Mowlem, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Bertie Ahern and the EU all deserve plaudits. But the people we might applaud most are those Northern Ireland politicians on both sides who had the courage to step away from the entrenched tribalism of 400 years of Irish history to seek a peace that is now over 25 years old. Long may it last.
In Scotland, where Brexit was rejected by 62% of voters, Northern Ireland’s continuing membership of the Single Market is the subject of the hope that if it can happen there then why not here? After all, are we not in a union of equals?
More on politics