June 2017

Isn’t this just fascinating?

But instead of backslapping at the Pride hotel, the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade products precipitated the greatest crisis in the scheme’s 25-year history by telling the 13 major tea groups and their 228,000 co-operative members that it intended to drop the globally known Fairtrade mark for their produce, and replace it with the phrase “fairly traded”.

In place of the strict rules devised by farmers’ groups working with independent development experts to guarantee consumers that small-scale farmers are being rewarded with decent pay and bonuses, the £23bn-a-year retailer said it planned to set up its own in-house certification scheme, set new ethical standards and introduce a different way to pay the groups.

So, the idea has become so mainstream that people are doing it themselves. Seems like a bit of a success really.

Because Sainsbury’s is so important for Fairtrade, the company’s move could be the beginning of the end of the scheme, and lead to lower social and labour standards, more hardship in developing countries and deep confusion among consumers, say some development and ethical trading groups.

“This move by Sainsbury’s represents a tip in the balance back to the powerful retailers,” says Sophi Tranchell, managing director of Divine Chocolate, the highly successful ethical trading company part-owned by tens of thousands of cocoa farmers in Ghana.

And mostly owned by Twin, a £10 million a year NGO providing nice incomes for some number of Jocastas.

Fairtrade took off as an idea in the 1980s as awareness grew in Europe that small farmers in developing countries were being ripped off by a grossly unfair global commodity trading system which perpetuated poverty and penalised the poorest. In 1992, a group of Britain’s leading international charities, including Oxfam and the World Development Movement, picked up on a small Dutch initiative and set up the Fairtrade Foundation.

Fairtrade International being a £20 million a year NGO which provides a nice living for a number of Jocastas.

“Fairtrade is growing worldwide, especially in south-east Asia and eastern Europe. It now benefits 1.6 million farmers worldwide, has 1,240 Fairtrade-certified producer organisations in 75 countries and last year a record £150m was sent as social premium payments to producer groups,” says Darío Soto Abril, the Colombian chief executive of the International Fairtrade organisation.

“The need to change a global food system that exploits both people and planet is greater now than ever,” says Abril. “There are new challenges. Climate change is making life harder for smallholder farmers, there is child exploitation, and many workers in developing countries are paid well below even the extreme poverty level. Fairtrade is changing to take these new challenges into account.”

Says a woman whose nice NGO job, along with that of some number of Jocastas, is threatened.

Development groups question their motives. “Why would a company like Sainsbury’s that has been such a massive champion of Fairtrade decide to take the trusted mark off their tea products, and in the process take power and value away from small African producers who already have so little? At a time when sustainable development and human rights are going up the corporate agenda, it’s hard to follow the company’s reasoning,” said Rachel Wilshaw, Oxfam’s ethical trade manager.

Says bird who can see many Jocasta Jobs heading out the door.

A statement signed by Oxfam, Cafod, Christian Aid, the Women’s Institute and several major ethical trading and co-operative groups together representing millions of consumers, urged it to rethink its plans.

Don’t threaten Jocasta Jobs say Jocastas.

“The principle of a company setting its own standards is fine, but the execution here is flawed,” said Mike Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation in London. The group is funded by the licences it issues to companies and stands to lose tens of thousands of pounds a year from Sainsbury’s withdrawal from tea – and far more if the retailer drops all its other lines.

Terribly important, Jocasta Jobs, aren’t they?

How hugely, hugely, amusing

Difficulty of NHS language test ‘worsens nurse crisis’, say recruiters
Even native English speakers with degrees struggle to pass exams, as number of applicants from EU falls to 46 in April from 1,304 last July

So, does this tell us something about the test being too difficult or about the language skills required to get a degree these days?

The NMC said its English test standards were in line with nursing bodies in other countries and other medical bodies in the UK and had been introduced to safeguard patient safety.

Well, yes, this seems broadly true.

Hayley Purcell wants to fill one of those posts. Born in Adelaide, she has worked as a nurse in South Australia for the last 11 years, her career spanning mental health, intensive care, paediatrics, surgical procedures and orthopaedics. She narrowly failed the written language exam, even though she has a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Purcell had no problems expressing herself in a phone call from Adelaide. “After being schooled here in Australia my whole life, passing high school with very good scores, including English, then passing university and graduate studies with no issues in English writing – now to ‘fail’ IELTS is baffling,” she told the Observer. “So when I failed I just went numb. Then I got angry. Everything rides on the result.”

IELTS has four elements: speaking, listening, reading and writing. To qualify to work in the NHS, candidates need to score at least seven out of nine in each section. Purcell, who spent AU$650 (£386) on the test, managed 6.5 in writing and seven in reading.

“The essay test was to discuss whether TV was good or bad for children. They’re looking for how you structure the essay,” she said. “I wrote essays all the time when I was doing my bachelor of nursing. I didn’t think I’d have to do another one. I don’t even know why I failed.”

Her case is echoed by Jorja McDonald, a nurse with three years’ experience from Springfield in Queensland, who reached 6.5 in reading and 6.5 in writing despite being a native English speaker.

To get a points based visa (the sort of thing a n urse would get) for Oz requires a score of 7 in that very same test.

Ms. Purcell’s English is not proficient enough to get her into her own country let alone our……

This was always likely, wasn’t it?

The Australian law firm that bought Quindell’s legal business in a disastrous £637m deal has claimed that the controversial British company misled it over the prospects of the personal injury cases on the books.

Slater & Gordon was crippled by the ill-fated 2015 acquisition and earlier this month served Watchstone, as Quindell is now known, with a High Court claim seeking to recoup all of the money it spent.

Court documents obtained by The Telegraph show that central to Slater & Gordon’s lawsuit is an allegation that Quindell made fraudulent misrepresentations about the dilution rates at its so-called professional services division (PSD).

Dodgy, dodgy, all the way through.

So, what’s new about this Macron laddie?

But his plan for a “Buy European Act” to restrict public contracts in the EU to companies operating mainly within the bloc appears to have been quietly shelved at the summit. Under the proposal, British businesses would have been excluded from bidding after Brexit.

Another of the French president’s suggestions, to control investment in the EU by non-members such as China, was also watered down amid opposition from Greece, Portugal and Spain, all hungry for foreign investment in the wake of the Euro crisis.

Standard protectionist wankery isn’t it?

This is an interesting question

Some of his customers appear less happy. For Mr Vince’s company is accused of hiking up prices at electric car charging points while at the same time ploughing millions of pounds into his football club.

On Monday, Ecotricity, which has the monopoly on motorway service station electric charging points, will introduce a new pricing scheme for electric vehicles.

Critics claim the new charges will make it as expensive to charge up an electric car as put petrol in a conventional, fuel-efficient vehicle.

I have absolutely no idea what the cost of filling up an electric vehicle should be. Not a scoobie as to even magnitude.

‘Leccie is 10 p a kW? So, how many kWs are they trying to stuff into a battery?

And how much cheaper than petrol should this be? If it should be at all?

Ecotricity, which used to offer free charging to encourage the take up of electric cars, will change to its new tariff from tomorrow. Motorists will have to pay £3 connection fee and then a further 17 pence for every unit of electricity used (kWh). Previously the company charged a flat fee of £6 for 30 minutes of charge.

OK, bit more than that but doesn’t seem like an outrageous price at all.

Erm, maybe electric cars just do actually cost as much as petrol? You know, even after all he tax petrol pays?

Reading one of Spudda’s books

I got through the introduction and had to stop.

He claims that no economic theory talks about empathy. So, not read Theory of Moral Sentiments then, in which Adam Smith thoroughly explores the subject and gives, in the twists and turns of the audience watching the slackrope walker, one of the better descriptions of it. Then there’s the claim that neoliberal and neoclassical economics are the same because they both assume perfect foresight by markets. Neoclassical refers to the insistence that things work at the margin, the Marginalist Revolution, as opposed to the classicals. No doubt his head would pop if Keynes were to return and insist that of course he himself was a neoclassical. Because Keynesianism is all about said margin. It’s even from that which we derive Knightian uncertainty.

But the one that really digs that probing forefinger into my snout is this insistence that we really must try to maximise our potential. Including family, friends, social relations, leisure and all the rest. What the fuck does he think maximising utility is?

For buggery’s sake he’s being stupid there. For example, if we maximise money income then the Laffer Curve cannot exist. It’s only by our maximising utility, thus placing a value upon leisure, family, friends, societal relationships, that we can have a substitution effect. And if there’s only the income effect, which solely maximising cash income or physical consumption would leave us with, then there cannot be such a curve. But he both insists that Laffer is wrong and also that we only maximise cash income.

Ritchie insists upon two things, that neoliberal, or neoclassical, economics thiks we all maximise cash incomes and he also, at other times, insists that the Laffer Curve cannot possibly be true. Yet the very analysis, by Laffer, depends upon the idea that we maximise utility, not cash income.

Sorry, my blood pressure can’t take much more of this.

Poppy Noor and statistics

Well, yes, this is The Guardian but still. On wages:

This year, prices in the private rental market dropped for the first time in six years, with the UK average rent falling to £921 a month. ONS data puts the average UK wage at around £27,000. This figure is skewed upwards by the small number of people who earn disproportionately more than the average,

She links here to show us those wages:

In April 2015 median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees were £528,

Just in case any Guardian writers should stumble upon this the median is where 50% of the population (here, the population being defined as full time employees) get less and 50% more. This number is not subject to distortion by those who earn disproportionately more than the average. That form of average would be the mean, which can indeed suffer from such distortion.

Our Cambridge graduate in politics and sociology doesn’t understand this. To the point that when she tries to explain it she gets it the wrong way around. Note further that the Guardian’s subs and editors are equally clueless for allowing this to go to print.

but if even you are lucky enough to earn that, you’re still spending around 50% of your wages on rent every month.

That’s a slightly different little statistical trick. The average rent is, at least I think it is (altho it doesn’t in fact matter that much for this point, it still stands if it’s the median) the mean rent across the country. And it’s the mean rent for all types of households. Four bed houses in Chelsea, bedsits in Hull.

And how many one earner households (which are in a minority note) are occupying the average amount of dwelling space for the country?

I don’t actually know, this is a guess, but I would suspect that the average (mean or median) British dwelling is a 2 or even 3 bed house. We should be comparing the rent of that against a single wage earner why?

There’s also this:

I currently live in a three-bedroom house with four other people (luckily, I live with couples) in order to bring my rent down. Far from being fancy, it was one of the cheapest places I could get – on the top floor of a council estate. Even so, I need to work at four jobs in order to afford the rent and still eat each month.

Umm, yeah. Average rent in London is higher, yes, £1,200 perhaps. Note again that’s per dwelling, not person. That rent would be split 3 ways perhaps, normal enough to split by bedroom not number of people, so £400 a month? Hell, let’s call it £600 a month for Poppy alone.

Four jobs? Umm:

Currently a Policy Officer in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Soon to be a Frontline Social Worker (July 2015 Cohort). Previously managed the QA Review for Challenge Partners. Co-founder of the Letsspeakclearly blog. Contributions to The Guardian Newspaper, Channel 4 News, The Evening Standard the ‘Yet We Still Rise’ UpRising Blog and the MyPersonality Wiki. Features in The Mirror and Varsity. London Board Member for UpRising. Pro-bono tutor for The Access Project, occassional runner for the GoodGym and an alumni of the Future First Network. Founding member and ex Vice-Captain of Trinity College Women’s Football Team and the Trinity College Politics Society. Ex-Access Officer for Trinity College.

OK, maybe she’s not updated Linked In.

Poppy Noor is a London-based freelance journalist. She writes about class, politics, inequality and education, and has provided social commentary for Channel 4 News and Newsnight.

Err, what’s her definition of a job? Freelance? Or is she counting doing a piece or two for The G as a job, doing bits for Newsnight as a job, Channel 4 another? She does get the concept of freelance, does she? By her seeming definition I’ve got 7 jobs as regular gigs……

We’re used to numeracy not being a requirement at The G but surely they still demand at least a tad of logic?

Umm, what is this poverty that we’re talking of?

Perhaps most shocking is the fact that Kensington and Chelsea actually has the highest life expectancy at birth for males, and second highest for females in the UK. There is a stark contrast within the borough – the area around Grenfell is among the top 10% most deprived in the country, and the inequalities in healthy life expectancy between those living in the tower blocks and the multimillion dollar mansions next door are the widest in the country.

I grew up in west London and spent time working as a junior psychiatrist in Kensington and Chelsea. On home visits to see patients in their council housing, I saw the destructive effects of poverty daily. Trying to make the best of their circumstances while exposed to crime and violence, struggling to feed themselves and their families, suffering from mental (and often physical) illness and sometimes using drugs and alcohol to cope. The outcomes in terms of life expectancy seemed dishearteningly predictable, but unnecessary.

Someone whose paid for by other people flat is renovated at a cost of £70,000 is not in what most of the world knows of as poverty.

That’s actually more than the lifetime income of around and about half of humanity…..

So, now we know

Hotpoint FF175BP

That’s what started the fire. The next thing we’d like to know is, is this model one of the standard ones that just happened to blow up? Or is it one of those more explodey green ones?

What horrors, eh?

Cheap housing is cheap:

She lives in one of 10 social housing flats in a development of 60 properties. They have a separate front door – known colloquially as a “poor door” – by the other residents’ bins.

They don’t have a lift or access to any parking.

But the bit that really stopped James in his tracks was that they have no access to the development’s garden. Other residents can take their dogs in it, but Jabeen’s children are banned.

Afterwards, James admitted he didn’t realise this was happening, saying: “Their dogs are allowed in the garden, but her children aren’t.

“Sometimes I get calls when you can feel your world view shifting slightly, feel your attitude to society changing.

“Jabeen’s on that list for me now.”

Shocker, eh?

They also don’t get access to the gym, the swimming pool or the under the volcano secret submarine lair.


You Don’t Want to Buy Groceries From a Robot

Well, maybe I do and maybe I don’t. Wonder how we could work out whether I do?

What’s good for business is not always good for people. We need to consider the trade-offs of increasing automation and use our dollars to push for the kind of shopping experience we want and the kind of communities we want to live in.

Ah, yes, that’s right, consumer sovereignty in the marketplace. Those who want robots can use them, those that don’t need not.

Is realisation beginning to dawn?

So money is not an issue. Let me be absolutely clear about that.

A shortage of building materials may be.

A shortage of skills might be as well.

And both will be constrained by our desperately conventional view of how houses must be built.

But let’s be clear: if you asked me for the money to build these houses and if I was in the Treasury I promise I could deliver it.

So, err, printing the money doesn’t solve the problem, does it?

So, not the law either then

In other words, when it has been decided that a devolved nation has the right to decide on an issue then its consent is sought to Westminster legislation if it relates to that area of activity. There is, of course, a corollary. Because we now have EVEL – English Votes on English Law – Scottish MPs cannot vote on English legislation. So, Scotland is ring fenced from English decision making. Legal Consent Motions might be seen as ring fencing English MPs from Scottish decisions.

And in that case, and because Brexit very clearly does impact Scotland in ways Scotland may not want then of course it is right that Scotland must have the right of veto in this issue. Without EVEL I would find that vey hard to justify. But Cameron demanded EVEL. And his party has to live with the consequences. Whether or not we leave the EU may be down to Scotland. And it’s all Cameron’s fault.

Note the leap there. From “has a right to decide upon” to “should have the right to decide.”

The Scottish P gets to vote on things which we have already decided the Scottish P should get a vote on, even if the legislation is going through Westminster. Is Brexit already a devolved issue?


Not going to work

The Queen was reported to police for not wearing a seatbelt as she travelled to the State Opening of Parliament in her official call.

West Yorkshire Police said they received a 999 call about the royal journey.

You never really know these days, good joke or just some twat.

Under UK law, civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Queen.

Quite, R. v R. would be a bit of a problem.


Little moments like that kept adding up, incrementally nudging me away from leftism but not yet to full conversion. In 1988, watching a John Pilger documentary with lefty friends, another such moment occurred.

Pilger, as usual, was complaining about colonialism and racism and Aboriginal injustice, so naturally we—uniformly white, urban and privileged—were lapping it up. The documentary then shifted to the former nuclear testing site at Maralinga in South Australia, where seven British bombs were detonated in the 1950s and 1960s. Pointing to a sign warning of radiation danger, Pilger observed mournfully that it was written in several languages—“but not in the Aboriginal language”.

Startled by this claim, I looked around the room. Everyone was silent, including a few who had studied Aboriginal history in considerable depth, and so must have known that Pilger’s line was completely wrong. So I just said it: “There is no single Aboriginal language. And no Aboriginal language has a written form.”

Don’t think this works really, does it?

Quito: Julian Assange’s lawyer accused Britain on Thursday of breaking international law by denying the WikiLeaks founder safe passage out of the country if he leaves Ecuador’s embassy in London.

“Britain is… violating all the norms of international law, human rights and humanitarian law,” said Baltasar Garzon, a Spanish ex-judge who leads Assange’s defense team.

He’s wanted for breaching his bail terms. There is no right of free passage in such circumstances.

From memory Garzon was the magistrate who wanted Pinochet so he’s been inventive in legal theory for some time.

This will be a surprise to Spudda

He’s entirely insistent that only the Magic Money Tree can aid us, for exports just aren’t going to change at all:

Britain’s factories are experiencing their strongest performance in nearly three decades as the fall in the pound gives exporters an advantage abroad.

The CBI said order books in June had climbed to their highest level since August 1988, while export demand hit a 22-year high. Economists said the findings raised hopes that a manufacturing boom might offset the slowdown in consumer spending and steady the economy.

They’re not very expensive

Passwords belonging to British cabinet ministers, ambassadors and senior police officers have been traded online by Russian hackers, an investigation by The Times has found.

Email addresses and passwords used by Justine Greening, the education secretary, and Greg Clark, the business secretary, are among stolen credentials of tens of thousands of government officials that were sold or bartered on Russian-speaking hacking sites. They were later made freely available.

Two huge lists of stolen data reveal private log-in details of 1,000 British MPs and parliamentary staff, 7,000 police employees and more than 1,000 Foreign Office officials, an analysis shows — including the department’s own head of IT.

Apparently they’re £2 each. But then that’s probably about what they’re worth. Both in the sense of well, what’s going to be so exciting about their accounts and also in the sense of how tough is it going to be to guess?

Don’t forget that Harriet Harman’s log in to her WordPress site was “Harriet” “Harman”

Ah, yes, the vast right wing conspiracy

Clegg identified the leading players of the Brexit elite as “the hedge-fund managers for whom EU-wide regulations are an overburdensome hindrance to their financial aspirations”.

He added: “[They are also] the owners and editors of the rightwing press, whose visceral loathing of the EU has shaped their respective papers’ tone and coverage for decades; the Tory backbenchers, many of whom still inhabit a preposterous past in which Britannia still rules the waves and diplomacy is best conducted from the royal yacht; a handful of multi-millionaire businessmen who have, in some cases over 30 years or more, bankrolled whichever party, or politician, stands on the most aggressive EU-bashing platform.”

Hillary has infected Cleggie…….

They can’t even hand out free money

Nicola Sturgeon’s government has been forced to issue a last-ditch appeal for more time to make thousands of delayed farm subsidy payments in the hope of avoiding up to £60 million of EU fines.

For the second year running, the Scottish Government has approached the European Commission asking for the June 30 payment deadline to be extended following the catastrophic failure of a £178 million computer system that was supposed to hand out the money.

Yet, fifthly and candidly, government must rule more of our lives.