Wednesday, 29 March 2017


Image result for lord of the rings
Today is the day the fascists have finally taken over our beloved country; Theresa has signed her letter to the EU. Who to blame? Cameron? The Telegraph? Murdoch? Perhaps it was Don James, his son.

The Ft has published an article today about Sunderland which apparently voted 62% to Leave. At last! seems to still be the majority view. ‘We’ve lost our way. There used to be a ship going out of Sunderland every day’, says John Fothergill from nearby Seaham. ‘We made things’. But there is, John in fact there are probably ten ships a day coming in or out every single day, half at least loaded with brand-new Nissan Leafs headed for progressive high-tech economies in Scandinavia and Switzerland. Or perhaps he is referring to new ships, newly built in the Yards, for export. Even I don’t remember those days John and I have lived within a twenty-minute drive of Sunderland for more than half my life. And anyway are those the sort of jobs you still hanker after? Spot-welding, hanging from a gantry 30-meters above the River Wear in a blizzard. The Hard Life? No, definitely not the soft life in a heated factory in Washington with free meals thrown in and real workers rights and protections, just a short drive from home in your company-subsidised Nissan. You and 120000 others in well-paid, clean manufacturing jobs: but not making things?

Was this was why you voted out?

Another interview, with Maureen Houghton a cook in the canteen at BIC claims, that she doesn’t believe the company will turn its back on the City, ‘They could move jobs away but a lot of money has been invested here’. Is she familiar with the term Future Investment? The sunk costs are already amortised. After Brexit she hopes there will be more job prospects in the Construction Industry where, ‘They have employed people from eastern Europe on cheaper rates’. Really? I worked in Construction for more than forty years and if I met two people a month from ‘eastern Europe’ I would be astonished.

So are we are leaving the world’s most successful trading block because of people like Maureen? Meself, I think Nissan will relocate the manufacturing facility to Slovakia as early as 2018, perhaps keeping the R&D here [but not necessarily in Sunderland]. HMG are pumping £100m into an industrial park nr Nissan to bring overseas [European] suppliers and manufacturers to Sunderland to feed the factory. An insurance policy? Perhaps. It’s all to play for and I have no idea if anyone has asked Michelin for example, if they want to build a facility in NE England.

I believe that we live in a society of specialists where individuals have discrete sets of proficiencies and are not good at doing anything else because other specialists manage that: yes, even Maureen. I can't install a gas boiler for example. I'd kill myself. I'm not corgi certified and all I know about gas boilers is what I've overheard or absorbed passively. Even in the fields I'm proficient in, there are whole areas I am ignorant of; I can tell you a lot about doors, windows, security, hardware, remote electronic access systems, but if you asked me say, about glass then I'd only be able to say ‘My knowledge is limited’ and give you some conjecture based on assumptions as I've never studied the properties of glass specifically.

There are, however, others who can fit gas boilers and yet others who will be able to provide you with full and detailed information about glass and glazing and their weather-resistant properties why in a car you can press a button and the window goes down while at home you have to struggle with a stiff handle system to open the bloody thing just an inch.

But they can't do what I happen to specialise in.

The problem we have is when big things that are complicated are debated in public, a huge majority of people have never actually thought about it or studied it, or even cared about it before. Which is to say . . . we should really listen to experts. Real ones. If I get a nasty purple rash on my leg I'd probably be better off seeing a dermatologist than polling a thousand strangers on what it is. If I need to know about the life and politics of Ho Chi Min, I should probably read a book on him by an academic historian, rather than 1000 random internet comments about Vietnam.

Democracy is still the best form of government we've devised, but we need to respect that with sovereignty of the people comes a duty for the people to choose their governors well. I think we would benefit from being more modest about the limits of our own knowledge and more assiduous in making sure we make well-informed decisions.  And know that we do not know and seek the best advice possible.



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