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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Darling’

Why Scotland and rUK need Each Other

Whatever decision the Scottish electorate make on 18 September – and personally I hope very much they vote to stay in the UK – it needs to be made by a decisive majority. The worst possible outcome would be a wafer-thin majority for either camp – which unfortunately is exactly what the latest polls are predicting. A thin majority for the separatists would leave a sizeable minority of Scots alarmed that their country was leaping into the financial and political abyss, reflected in the anticipated flight of capital and business. A tiny minority for the unionists would leave the separatists angry and frustrated, blaming Westminster and the media for manipulating the vote, and vowing still to free Scotland from the English. The campaigning has been increasingly bad-tempered and vitriolic as the referendum approaches. It would appear from media reports that the worst of it – such as the torrent of online abuse targeting J K Rowling (as reported by the Daily Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith) and the heckling and egging of Scots Labour MP Jim Murphy (as reported by the Daily Mail’s Tamara Cohen & Kaleda Rahman) – has come from the separatists. This would indicate a large degree of RED/BLUE zealotry –… Read More

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Have David Cameron and George Osborne ruined Britain?

Of course, the rot set in well before David Cameron and Nick Clegg formed the Coalition Government in May 2010. As the Public Sector Net Borrowing chart shows, it was during Gordon Brown’s ill-fated premiership that the deficit increased massively. (The Public Sector Deficit is the difference between what the Government spends and what it takes in via taxes to fund that spending – the difference being borrowed.) To give them some credit, as the chart shows, the Coalition did bring the deficit down quite markedly in their first couple of years primarily via swingeing cuts in the public sector. However, there are significant signs that the rate of decrease in borrowing may be slowing down. In December’s Autumn statement Chancellor George Osborne predicted that borrowing would be £108B this year, and £99B next year and just £31B in 2017-18. In his Budget last week, just 3 months later, Osborne revised those figures to £114B this year, £108B next year and £61B in 2017-18. Hand in hand with this, Osborne was forced to revise December’s estimate of growth this year from 1.2% to O.6%. While it looks like the UK may just about avoid a triple-dip recession, the outlook for growth in… Read More

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Austerity and the Euro – an Appalling Lack of Quality Leadership

Well, the Eurozone crisis has certainly dominated the news this past week or so – and the Greeks are once again at the centre of it. But this time it’s different. This time it’s not so much the ORANGE vMEME of the ultra-rich financial speculators effortlessly wrongfooting the BLUE-dominated fiscal technocrats in Brussels and Berlin which is causing the problem – though the speculators are still making plenty of money! Rather, it’s the people – the newly-poor, crushed and deprived by the austerity measures wreaking havoc with lives right across Europe – who are democratically electing populist politicians and extremist politicians promising them relief from the austerity. (21 of the Golden Dawn’s neo-Nazi candidates made it into the Greek parliament in the 6 May election.) New Greek elections in mid-June are tipped to give an outright victory to the leftist Syriza bloc which, if Syriza’s leaders stick to their guns, means forcing the European Union to renegotiate the second bailout deal agreed in March, so the austerity measures the Greek are forced to endure are that much less severe. That or Greece tears up the agreement and effectively leaves the euro. In trying to predict what will happen – or what should happen –… Read More

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Could Bernard Jenkin and Iain Duncan Smith be 2nd Tier thinkers?

Maybe there is some hope of 2nd Tier thinking emerging amongst UK politicians….? I was greatly heartened yesterday to hear Bernard Jenkin, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme call for strategic thinking to create a “deep and sustained analysis of what kind of country we want to be in 10 or  20 years time.” Jenkin, Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC), was being interviewed about the Committee’s report, ‘Who does UK National Strategy?’, published mere hours before the first part of the Government’s Strategic & Security Defence Review. The Committee’s report suggested there was a tendency for Whitehall to “muddle through”. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were cited as examples where there had been a lack of over-arching strategy. The report also warned that the UK’s capacity to think strategically had been undermined by assumptions that its national interests are best served by its relationship with the US and economic links within the European Union – “Uncritical acceptance of these assumptions has led to a waning of our interests in, and ability to make, national strategy,” Unfortunately Foreign Secretary William Hague attempted to make political capital from the report, saying it showed a “chronic lack of strategic thinking in Britain’s… Read More

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Cameron & Clegg: where’s the vision?

2 months ago, in ‘Liberal Conservatives’: New Politics?, I wrote about my hopes that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition might indeed be the start of the ‘new politics’ Nick Clegg says he’s always believed in. I talked about the need for 2nd Tier thinking in Government to take us beyond repeating the same old mistakes, ideological conflicts and embezzlement of the public purse. A month on I’ve yet to see real signs of 2nd Tier thinking in anything the new Government does. Yes, as Henry Porter wrote in last Sunday’s Observer (11 July), they’ve made a good start. “…the coalition has moved with degrees of fair mindedness and deliberation that are refreshing. To be sure, there have been blunders, like Michael Gove’s botched announcement on scrapping new schools, but it surely is right to suggest that doctors be put in charge of spending GPs’ £80bn budget, to remove the target culture from the health service and provide 24-hour cover. The withdrawal from Sangin and setting a deadline for ending combat in Afghanistan is welcome, as is the review of defence needs and spending. For once, our relations with the world appear to be conducted by grown-ups without displays of fawning or self-importance…..In… Read More

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Time to turn against Cannabis!

The dangers of cannabis use are back on the front pages thanks to a report just published in The Lancet from a team led by Theresa Moore & Dr Stanley Zammit. From their meta-analysis of 35 studies from around the world, Moore & Zammit inferred that any use of cannabis – which means even taking the drug just once – was associated with a 41% greater risk of experiencing some form of psychosis – and possibly even developing full-blown Schizophrenia. People who smoked the most cannabis were the most likely to suffer a psychotic breakdown; for frequent users, the risk rose to between 50% and 200%. Overall, cannabis could be to blame for one in seven cases of Schizophrenia and other life-shattering mental illness. With up to 40% of teenagers and young adults in the UK believed to have tried cannabis, the researchers estimated that the drug could be behind 14% of cases of Schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses. Perhaps fortuitiously Gordon Brown announced on 18 July that the status of cannabis was to be considered as part of a wide-ranging drugs review commissioned by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. The Brown-Smith move was initiated a week after former Tory Party leader Iain Duncan Smith called for reclassification of cannabis from ‘C’ back to ‘B’ in… Read More

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