6 July 2022
While not quite the night of the long knives Boris Johnson has been dealt the biggest blow of his premiership by the resignations of two senior cabinet ministers in the wake of his handling of the row over former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, health secretary Sajid Javid, four parliamentary private secretaries, the Conservative vice-chair, two trade envoys and the solicitor general all resigned on Tuesday evening.
Sajid Javid triggered the exodus, resigning as health secretary, followed a few minutes later by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak. Javid said: “I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience,” while Sunak said the government should be run “properly, competently and seriously”.
It appears likely the resignations of Javid and Sunak were coordinated. Most of the remaining members of the cabinet expressed support for Johnson to continue as PM. Johnson told Javid he was “sorry” to receive his resignation letter.
Education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, was appointed as the new chancellor.
Steve Barclay was announced as the new health secretary.
Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said it’s “clear the government is now collapsing”. Starmer said government ministers have been “complicit” in the prime minister’s disgracing of his office. “They backed him when he lied. They backed him when he mocked the sacrifices of the British people,” he told reporters.
A snap poll by YouGov this evening found that 69% of Britons say Boris Johnson should resign. This is 11pts higher than when the pollsters asked the same question on 9 June.
Under current rules Johnson is safe from another leadership challenge until next summer. But the executive of the 1922 Committee can change the rules whenever it wants.
He has to go before he drags the UK even deeper into the mire.
But then who takes over – the Tory government is hardly the most talented of groups.
22 June 2022
Former PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee, 59, and now analysts, has always been outspoken on the topic of Saudi money coming into the game. He joined Sky Sports after watching players like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson in the first LIV tournament from London.
His comments followed the news that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has served current and future Saudi rebels with suspensions.
What Chamblee told Sky Sports: “When it comes to the richest sports stars in the world, Phil Mickelson is 11th. He’s ahead of Kobe Bryant, he’s ahead of David Beckham, he’s ahead of Kevin Durant, he’s ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
You’re talking about him being ahead of icons in sports that are far more popular worldwide than the game of golf. And yet why is it that golf has four of the highest paid athletes of all time?
Why is it that Phil Mickelson is 11th, in terms of the stratosphere he does occupy, as an athlete… that athletes who have made less money than him but play a sport that is widely more popular.
Why is that? It’s because of the image of the golfer. Because of their independent contract nature.
Because they show up and, generally speaking, play a game that is self governed and self policing. It is a game of integrity. It’s because corporations want to align themselves with these players. It’s because of the philanthropic aspect of the game of golf.
So when I hear these players say that they are ‘growing the game’… it makes me wanna puke. They’re destroying the game. And they are destroying their reputations.
This is one of the saddest days in the history of golf. Watching these players come together for money and show to the world…they are showing us that they are the greediest, most self serving, self interesting, wilfully blind players in the world of golf today.”
9 June 2022
Coming soon: Vietjet will fly from Ho Chi Minh to Chiang Mai from 1 September 2565 onward. 3 flights per week, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
Played Artitaya on Saturday and again yesterday. 7 pars on Saturday. But yesterday played the A9 like a donkey before playing the B9 in a much more respectable 42. Funny old game.
On Monday I did my first medical since my flying time and my first xray and ultrasound since 2013. The usual – do more exercise and drink more coffee. Blood pressure a little high. Englarged prostate. Otherwise all normal. Which is good.
It was a strange experience – a bit too much like a sausage in a sausage factory – but the final review with the doctor was better.
Saw Top Gun: Maverick – my first cinema visit for over 2 years. Basically a remake of 633 Squadron. 58 years later.
And had a birthday. It was something of a non-event. When you turn 65 it really should be more of a celebration. Tai was home. We went out for lunch.
25 May 2022
Another school shooting in the USA. An 18-year-old man, identified by police as Salvador Ramos, opened fire in an elementary school in Texas. He killed at least 19 students and two adults at Robb elementary school in Uvalde, a mostly Latino community about 85 miles west of San Antonio near the Mexico border.
This is just week after the shootings at a Buffalo supermarket.
Numerous lawmakers and public figures spoke out on Tuesday by calling for action on gun control legislation. Nothing of significance is likely to happen.
Watching the last season of the BBC series “Spooks.” A twelve year old show that is still strong on current geo-political issues.
And golf this morning at Gassan Legacy – maybe the most difficult of the local courses. Lots of water. There is a real difference in the two nines – a long front nine – and a more straightforward and much shorter back nine.
24 May 2022
Bits and pieces:
Spaghetti Junction is 50 years old today. One of the great Birmingham landmarks.
Manchester City won the English Premiership – by a single point from Liverpool.
Proof indeed that money – and enough of it – can buy anything.
The war in Ukraine in 90 days old.
MonkeyPox – 21 days isolation. But the number of global cases appears to be less than 100. Enough.
For sometime you are not going to find me on twitter, facebook or instagram. I may have to find some other news/information sources – but taking myself away from some toxic social media sounds like the right thing to do.
What is interesting is that no one appear to have noticed that I have gone!
7 May 2022My level of disinterest and lack of connection is all to evident by a month’s silence on my blog…probably for the first time in 20 years.
Twenty years! That is a lot of typing
5 April 2022
Sorry – three weeks since I last wrote here.
I did go to Phrae and Lampang for a football weekend. CMFC were playing in Phrae and Lamphun played out a thrilled in Lampang.
Phrae is a nice little town – rather quiet – and a bit short on places to eat later in the evening.
Oddly the football stadium is some 15 kms outside the town as apparently the club was unable to reach an agreement for the use of the central provincial stadium.
Otherwise it has been far too quiet around me.
So instead I am watching too much TV news. Depressing.
And finished the final series of Peaky Blinders. Pretty grim as well.
What has been on my mind – this might explain a rather deep-rooted funk.
19 March 2022
Mention Hong Kong’s Covid outbreak and suddenly the accusation comes that you follow too much Main Stream Media….that somehow you are being brainwashed.
Sorry – but maybe you should get your own news either from reliable news sources or from people that are dealing with this on a day to day basis in Hong Kong.
This denial is bizarre. This distrust of evidence based news makes no sense.
16 March 2022
Just a reminder that Hong Kong is a completely changed and muzzled city.
This week UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch said that Hong Kong’s Security Bureau has threatened its founder with prison and fines for allegedly breaching the city’s national security law….a law that criminalises anything perceived as dissent. Local authorities have accused the group of interference and said the law applies worldwide.
In the letter published on the NGO’s website, Hong Kong Watch is accused of colluding with foreign forces. Police warned that the founder could face up to life imprisonment and a fine of HK$100,000.
“Criminal investigation reveals that ‘Hong Kong Watch’ has been engaging in activities seriously interfering in the affairs of the HKSAR and jeopardising national security of the People’s Republic of China,” the letter read.
The Chinese Communist Party cannot tolerate a free press covering its demolition of Hong Kong freedom, so it slanders the city’s journalists as criminals and traitors. Apple Daily and Stand News were raided and closed down. Jimmy Lai languishes in prison. Nearly all of Hong Kong’s opposition leaders have been jailed or driven into exile.
Hong Kong is also suffering its first major Covid outbreak – which has seen 740,000 plus cases and 4,300 deaths in under three months — mostly inside the city’s care homes. Ms. Lam’s administration has been called out for low vaccination rates especially amongst the elderly and unclear messaging around potential lockdown and testing measures.
Pictures of body bags in hospital wards have put paid to the message of Hong Kong as Asia’s World City.
In just one year Beijing has remoulded Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image in 2019 including and a new “patriots only” legislature that vets anyone standing for public office for their political loyalty.
This year, 1 July, will be the 25th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China. One country, two systems, lived less than one half of its planned fifty years.
9 March 2022
There really is something amoral about the UK’s armed forces minister doing a full-on tv sales pitch for UK manufactured weapons that are being sent to Ukraine. (Please stop calling it lethal aid).
Yet looking after and providing refuge for those fleeing the Ukraine….the UK is clueless.
2 March 2022
Spent last weekend in Ao Nang, Krabi for Tai’s birthday.
Strange weekend. Weather did not help. Liked our day trip to Koh Hong.
We stayed at the Centara Ao Nang Beach. Really disliked the hotel. More Holiday Inn than Centara. Functional room. Ropey breakfast.
Neither of us at 100% at different times over the weekend.
And rear-ended by a car in Ao Nang on the first afternoon – and a 90 minute wait while we sorted out the insurance.
If you are going to get hit by another car makes sure you are in a rental with full insurance.
20 February 2022
But then our helper turns up – bright and cheerful – and she makes me feel guilty for complaining about my life being crappy.
Cannot remember feeling lonelier than yesterday. Spent the day on my own. Went to football on my own. Came home to an empty house with a frozen chicken and rice dinner from 7-11.
Highlight of my day – clearing up yet more cat crap from my lovely neighbours and then having Rochalia Management tell me that they need photographic evidence – two days after they said they had CCTV footage.
I do not know how much longer I can live like this….
18 February 2022
Alex is often wise beyond his years – and his interest in current affairs is unusual…
This on the trucker/anti-vax protests in Ottawa is on the mark:
“This whole anti vaccine/mask protest movement that’s been occuring in Canada, New Zealand, France etc is an interesting one to me. Obviously I disagree with the people involved and what they stand for; I think they’re idiots protesting against the minimum requirements for society to function again. At the same time though, I don’t know if I can say I fundamentally disagree with them protesting or even necessarily their methods. After participating in and supporting the 2020 Racial Justice protests in the US, I think it would be hypocritical of me to say that these protests need to be shut down just because I disagree with the message they’re trying to send. In the end, I think protests, even the disruptive ones, are a necessary part of a healthy democracy, no matter how much I disagree with what they’re protesting.”
Even better on the showdown between Russia and NATO on the Ukraine border:
“The saddest thing to is it feels like this could have all been avoided in the early 90s and 2000s. There’s an alternate world out there where Russia pursued closer ties with the EU, and used it’s relatively large population and vast supply of natural resources to become quite wealthy. It could have become the EUs big natural resource and manufacturing hub, and could have likely wielded sway over the EU second only to Germany.”
17 February 2022
“Notes the Economist: The news, for a moment, seemed encouraging. In a stage-managed television appearance on February 14th Vladimir Putin grunted a terse “good” to the proposal of his foreign minister that, despite warnings by the West of an imminent invasion of Ukraine, diplomacy should continue. A day later Russia’s defence ministry said that some of the 180,000 or so troops it has deployed at its borders with Ukraine are to be withdrawn to barracks, having completed their military exercises which, it has always maintained, is why they were there in the first place.
Officials, and the markets, breathed a small sigh of relief. Alas, open-source intelligence soon showed that, although a few units were moving, many more were preparing to fight. With the candour that has wrong-footed Mr Putin, many Western security officials accused him of lying, redoubling their warnings of a looming Russian invasion. Even if the troops pull back, this crisis is not yet over. And, whatever happens, war or no war, Mr Putin has damaged his country by engineering it.”
This standoff is far from over….and it will suit Mr Putin to drag it out for weeks and even months to come.
7 February 2022
Not a lot to report. Got through the weekend. Feels like a success.
3 February 2022
Weird dream last night – I guess white wine, pizza and ice cream shortly before bed are a bad idea.
I had been sent to some sort of highflyers conference – but no one is really doing any work – a professor type is talking but no one listens.
It is like one of those old Reuters America management conferences held at the University of Michigan in the 1990s.
We go to find food – I get cornered by a guy who starts to speak to me in all sorts of unlikely languages – one he said was Hungarian – the others a mystery.
I ask him how old he is – 21. WTF am I doing at a conference of twenty somethings…..
I want to go back to my own table….but then the same professor wants to talk – think he was looking for someone old. I want to eat.
31 January 2022
Electric from Theresa May to PM: “What the Gray report does show is that No10 was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public. So either he had not read the rules, did not understand them, or didn’t think the rules applied to No 10. Which was it?”
The UK Prime Minister still seems to think that the Government’s Covid rules did not apply to him or to any of the people working in Downing Street.
Guardian. “Johnson’s statement to MPs – verdict
Boris Johnson is famous for his reluctance to apologise. But in the past, under pressure, he has on occasion made an effort to sound apologetic or contrite about his conduct, as he did when speaking about partygate at PMQs almost three weeks ago. But today, when faced with a report showing that 12 events in Downing Street or the Cabinet Office, including one in his own flat, are under investigation by the police as potential “flagrant” breaches of lockdown rules (see 3.08pm), he could barely maintain the apologtic tone for more than about a minute. Instead he claimed the police investigation absolved him of the need to answer detailed questions, and he resorted to smearing the opposition and making hackneyed boasts about delivery.
Even by Johnson’s standards, it was tone deaf. “I get it and I will fix it,” he said in his opening statement. But he implied the problem was a machinery of government one, not one relating to leadership or standards. And the long-promised shake-up of No 10 sounded like little more than a change to the name at the head of the notepaper. (See 3.56pm.)
Perhaps the reporting in the Sunday Times yesterday about the threat of an imminent no confidence vote fading has lulled him into a false sense of security. Keir Starmer’s response may have sounded a tad pious to some, but it was compelling, and delivered with much more sincerity than Johnson’s initial apology. It was probably much closer to where public opinion lies.
Despite the support for some Tory MPs, on the basis of that performance Johnson’s position is probably less secure than it was first thing this morning. Perhaps the most worrying development for him is what we have learnt about the extent of the partygate evidence now sitting with the police. Sue Gray interviewed more than 70 witnesss, and the police have 500 pages of documents, as well as 300 photos. Allegations of law breaking are not going to go away soon.
Canada beat the USA 2-0 last night in World Cup 2022 qualifying. It was -5C at kick off!
Remember these names – and look at the clubs that they play for. The logistics of getting all the players together to train and play in Canada is a huge challenge.
Cyle Larin (Besiktas), goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrad) and center back Alistair Johnston (Montreal), along with the other three midfielders from September: Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Colorado) and Richie Laryea (Nottingham Forest).
Lille’s Jonathan David leads the attack. Also starting: Kamal Miller (Montreal), Steven Vitoria (Moreirense), Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge) and Jonathan Osorio (Toronto).
18 January 2022
This is a timely view shared and edited from the Economist:
To a great number of Chinese, their country has never been as impressive as it is today. They see it as self-evident that China—their increasingly strong, modern motherland—is a worthy host of uplifting global events such as the Winter Olympics, which are set to open in Beijing on February 4th.
At the very same moment, an opposite consensus is forming in the West. In many free societies, China’s rulers are increasingly seen as capable but cruel. They are credited with prodigious feats, whether that means girdling the nation with high-speed railways or sending rockets to the Moon. But they are seen as unbearably repressive, too, notably towards ethnic and religious minorities in such regions as Xinjiang. To Western sceptics, it is grotesque to allow the pageantry of the Olympics to be co-opted by such a regime.
The USA and Australia announced their diplomatic boycotts of the games, citing both China’s record on human rights and its use of economic coercion. Others, from Britain to Canada and New Zealand, are declining to send government ministers or high-ranking officials.
China has responded with scorn, anger and censorship. The Olympics are a party “by invitation only” to which American politicians had not been asked, the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying tweeted, though in reality each national Olympic committee issues its own invitations.
Ms Hua’s pugnacious deputy, Zhao Lijian, went further, warning of unspecified “firm countermeasures”.
Online, censors blocked most discussion of the boycotts.
These seemingly arcane official boycotts are a glimpse of a real-world diplomatic crisis. America’s government uses the gravest of terms, including crimes against humanity, to describe China’s behaviour in Xinjiang/
That stance is morally coherent. Even if China’s own policy papers and work reports, public procurement documents and official speeches are the only evidence taken into account, its government is indisputably committing horrors in Xinjiang.
At a time when many ordinary Chinese have rarely been so proud of their country, Western governments are telling them that they live in a form of pariah state.
Second, China’s management of the games is itself likely to provoke mutual incomprehension between the publics of China and the West. China has spent almost two years trying to eradicate the virus with ferocious testing and tracing regimes, by locking down whole towns when a handful of cases emerge, and by tightly controlling international borders.
Soon, many thousands will arrive from a world that is living with covid—though not foreign spectators, who are barred.
China plans to manage this threat by sealing games venues inside secure bubbles. But it is inevitable that some participants will test positive or have fevers on arrival. Under China’s rules, they will be hauled off to quarantine hospitals, and team-mates in close contact will be isolated in hotel rooms.
In Beijing foreign embassies are anxiously sharing tales from a Luge World Cup staged as a test event last month. The sporting facilities were stunningly advanced but pandemic controls were a shock, from the moment a charter flight with over 200 athletes and sports officials landed in Beijing. Because two athletes were flagged as suspect on arrival, their plane-mates were held on airport buses for hours, forcing some to pee in bottles.
On November 16th, diplomats relate, a German athlete was grabbed from the luge track by staff in hazmat suits after what turned out to be a false positive test, and isolated for two days before being declared safe. A Polish competitor injured by a faulty barrier on the luge track reportedly had to wait for a negative covid test before doctors would touch his shattered leg.
China’s controlling ways will extend to the press. A Western diplomat predicts “journalists will be kept like monkeys in a cage”, denied free access to athletes.
Yet if foreigners complain about a sinister “autocratic Olympics” many Chinese will be livid. They will see proof that Westerners are too irresponsible to control covid: witness the grumbling about being kept safe in Beijing.
Outsiders will sound all the more ungrateful because 100,000 Chinese volunteers and staff working in the Olympic bubbles face 21 days of quarantine, away from home, at the end.
Two worldviews are about to collide. The effects may be felt long after the final race.
Reality is, Covid or no Covid – Beijing should never have been given these winter games. Tokyo felt unreal. Beijing will be off the charts.
5 January 2022
This is a great description of what is happening in Sydney as the Ashes continue in Sydney despite the ongoing Covid crisis: Geoff Lemon writing in The Guardian:
“Sydney is complicated, a town built on blood and corruption from the first days of its colonial founding. It is beautiful, with a beauty bought by wealth and subsidised by poverty. When you walk its hills at night it can be disarmingly gentle, the humid air curling around you, distant lights on quiet streets, the leaves of the Moreton Bay fig trees or the white-gold petals of frangipani unbearably lush.
The harbour unwinds through the city’s core, unspooling in all directions, those waters captured in the words of Kenneth Slessor. To the east is the ocean coast and its storied beaches. To the west it becomes another city, growing ever outwards.
In the past year, Sydney has also become the centre of Australia’s viral explosion. By now nobody can remember which wave this is, but a country that successfully held back a global inundation for nearly two years has now given in. Political leaders have sold the idea of a harmless variant and the fantasy that everybody getting sick and getting better will mean an end rather than just another waypoint on a road that has miles to run.
For those in countries that have suffered worse and earlier, Australia’s situation may seem tame in comparison. But there has been an abdication of responsibility, leaving people to fend for themselves.
It is in Sydney, as cases leap by the day and as leaders find ways to stop counting, that the fourth Ashes Test will be held. It is safe to say that had this series been played at any other time in the pandemic era, in any other country, between any other two teams, it would have been called off by now.”
4 January 2022
Key points from a long thread by the FT’s excellent John Burn-Murdoch on Omicron>
1) With Omicron, share of cases going to ICU, ventilator or death will be lower than in past waves. Partly intrinsic, partly immunity
2) But sheer volume of people going to hospital with Omicron will cause intense hospital pressure
3) So rather than thinking “only for-Covid patients or vented/ICU matter, ignore with-Covid”, a better framework is “for-Covid and vented/ICU indicate the toll this wave will take on lives. With-Covid numbers indicate the toll on the health service”
4) This will play out differently in different countries depending on the level of existing hospital pressure Omi arrives into
5) Part of why we see more mild cases now is immunity — the unvaxxed continue to make up majority of ICU cases. Get boostered (or get primary vaxxed!)
3 January 2022
As this web site enters its 20th year I do wonder if anyone reads it or whether it is just a small personal account of the last two decades.
What started in Hong Kong in 2002 just to see how building a web site worked – has since been to Thailand, the UAE and back to Thailand – it has seen good days and bad…and still keeps plodding along.
The one major software change from MS Front Page to WordPress is still a problem in terms of updating the old pages. One day I will get around to it.
Thank you, dear reader, for staying with me all this time.