Nandyism Scotched

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Mark Frankland – frank by name, frank by nature

It is not often I publish another’s writing in full on this site, in fact, not at all, but I am delighted to make an exception for this letter that appeared in a blog written by Mark Frankland, a man with a conscience and a sharp eye for hypocrisy. As well as writing thrillers, he manages a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. “Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls.” 

Here he writes in answer to the slip-shod Labour leadership contender, Lisa Nandy. She blames the SNP and its supporters for her crassness in stating clearly on BBC’s Andrew Neill Show, that she detests nationalism in all its guises – except her own. She wishes Scottish nationalism subjected to Spanish retribution, namely beaten on the head and probably jailed in the manner of rebellious Catalonians.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, not out of the mouth of a so-called socialist planning on governing the UK. Nandy’s utterance is the equivalent of oral herpes.

Not apologising for her neo-fascism allows Nandy to blame the SNP for misinterpreting her statement, which she did with vigor and relish to any camera that pointed in her direction. By her inflection I could tell she thought she had shaken off the mob, but her remark will follow her unto oblivion.

In that she joins Farage, who, drummed out of Edinburgh in a day pint of bitter in hand, chased by angry resident English students. He exploited the incident by blaming the SNP. Look what happened to him, he still cannot get elected as an MP. And the only way he can lead a political party is to invent one every year. Nandy’s fate hangs in the balance.

Anyhow, I pass the page to Mark.

Dear Lisa [Nandy]

I have just watched your interview with Andrew Neil and I am absolutely furious: furious enough to slam a few words down on paper in the form of this open letter.

Some background. I was born and raised a few miles up the road from the constituency you now represent – Blackburn. In 1989 I became the white half of a mixed race couple. Soon we had two brown boys and by the mid 90’s it was abundantly clear Blackburn was no place to raise two mixed race boys. A septic tide of racism was starting to seep into every brick of the town and the BNP were strutting their stuff. So we ran. We fled a hundred miles north up the M6 and found ourselves a new future in Scotland.

I never felt English, but after twenty five years I feel very Scottish. They call us New Scots up here. And being a New Scot has meant my two boys have had the chance to grow up in a country where racism barely exists. The BNP never managed more than 1% up here. UKIP and the Brexit Party never made it past 4%.

How dare you make up fairy tales about “narrow, divisive Nationalism.”? And how dare you criticise the Scottish Government for a record which you describe as “frankly appalling.”? I think it is time for a few home truths. We still regularly visit my wife’s family who live in Lancaster. When they need to see the GP they have to wait over a month for an appointment. We get one in no more than two days. When they pick up their prescriptions, they pay through the nose. Ours are free. When they park up at the hospital, they pay through the nose. When we park it is free.

When my nieces and nephews look to university, they have to get their heads around the idea of living with a minimum of £30,000 of debt. If they lived up here, it would be free. English prisons are overcrowded to boiling point, Dumfries Prison is seldom more than 70% full. At eight o’clock in the morning in Lancaster almost every shop doorway is home to a homeless person. In Dumfries there is not a single one.

And I know about this stuff by the way – I manage the region’s largest food bank. A few months back I handed out a food parcel to a young lad who had been made homeless in Manchester. After a few weeks on the streets, he decided to make use of his last worthwhile possession – his bike.

He hit the road and headed north. He stopped at town after town to apply for a bed for the night and he was turned away every time – Wigan, Blackburn, Preston, Lancaster, Kendal, Penrith, Carlisle…. until he crossed the border into Scotland. And when he applied for homeless accommodation in Dumfries, he was given a room for the night straight away. So how dare you take to the airwaves to accuse my Government of a “frankly appalling record.”

However, that statement pales into insignificance in comparison to what you had to say about our demands for a second Independence referendum. You actually suggested the UK should look to other countries for some clues on how to deal with “narrow, divisive” nationalism. And you actually cited Spain’s handling of Catalonia as a shining example.

As a New Scot, I have come to be a fervent supporter of the dream of independence. In the 2014 referendum I took the ‘Yes’ side in many debates. Over the years, I have written lots of blogs on the subject and nearly a million readers have read them. I guess it is fair to say I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am allowed to do this because I still live in a country where free speech is still allowed and tolerated. And every time I post a blog, I feel lucky and take a moment to remember all those who paid a heavy price for fighting to free their nations from the rule of London.

In Ireland. In India. In Aden. In Israel. In Kenya. In Ghana. It’s a long, long list. A shameful litany of imprisonment and beatings for those who dared to defy their London masters.

You seem impressed by the Spanish Government’s handling of Catalonia’s independence movement. Well, I’m not. If I was posting my blog in Catalonia, I would be in prison by now. And if I had joined a march for independence, I would have been beaten within an inch of my life by Spanish riot police.

And by now, my leaders would either be living in exile or imprisoned for years. And this is how you think the likes of me should be treated? This is the shining example of good practice you feel the Westminster Government should aspire to?

Shame on you Lisa Nandy.

No wonder your party is down to one MP in Scotland.
Mark Frankland
New Scot
January 2020

 

Thank you, Mark Frankland. On the shoulders of such volunteers rests a nation’s destiny.

 

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Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | Leave a comment

Car Culture: The Future

A weekly look at all that sucks in car culture, and some good bits

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Readers, myself included, have arrived at a point in our lives where the long delayed design revolution of cars is taking place. Without sounding morbid, I know I’ll not live to see the best of the innovation, but what seems to be coming in my lifetime are safer cars, built with durable, sustainable materials. There’s a clue to the new digital age in the photograph above – no switches.

Taking a gander at the immediate future, I scoured around to see what technology has in store for us. So far, cars that float silently above broken tarmac and pot holes are not on the horizon. However there is progress in other ways. On the surface, to a guy like me who prefers basic cars, a radio the only sophistication, it all looks like magic.

The trends

The trend is for more luxurious cars, the interiors of some better than our own living room. Car manufacturers recognise that, though the fashion hasn’t reached small cars as yet. That will happen very soon, but prices will rise. Luxury is crammed into the executive end of the market, and the very high end for people who paper their bedroom walls in bonds and dollar bills.

The clue for the new came in the form of television and electronics giant Sony pop out of nowhere with a fully formed car. Sony’s decision to build its own car for the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) highlighted just how big a role car technology is going to play in the next decade. Their concept, the Sony Vision-S, is essentially a test bed and a promotional tool to show how differing techs have made greater progress than expected – but it’s significant that Sony should put their best into a car.

Innovation 1

I expect we shall see dashboards without a single button or switch within the next two years. Tesla, cars with the large computer screen mid-dash, show the way. Their latest announcement of a small city car at a low cost, will be free of all protuberances, even doors handles. The car will recognise your voice. Voice recognition is the next big thing. Speech recognition company Cerence tech already supports the ‘Hey Mercedes’ feature in MBUX. It demonstrated a system that mixes speech commands, gesture control and eye tracking to leave no need for physical switches at all. Downside? What will it cost to renew the motherboard when it collapses?

Innovation 2

The advent of 5G is going to speed up our mobile phones’ data connection. We shall see clever use of the ultra-fast bandwidth to check for obstacles in a car’s path – and to ping a warning to other road users, pedestrians or cyclists who are in the way. That has to be good news for dropping the number of injuries from cars. The tech is called Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X) and it’ll be on production cars from 2022. A separate advance are windscreens that will darken the top quarter when hit by strong, direct sunlight. I can’t think sun visors will become unnecessary, but the sudden glare that blinds momentarily, has us pull down the visor, will block the flash to the retinas.

Innovation 3

I can see sensors and more sensors as the next best things. Sony made the Vision-S because it wanted to show off its expertise in sensors and the software that interprets their data. Within the next two years, it seems inevitable that cars of the Vision-S’s size will have not just radar and stereo cameras, but also some limited Lidar capability that will help the vehicle to better judge the world around it. Lidar systems send out laser pulses to measure distances.

Innovation 4

When the Grim Reaper gets firm grip of my shoulder I’ll not miss self-drive cars. When they arrive the time has come to take a bus, or a taxi if you can afford one. There’s a huge cost in developing fully self-driving cars, hence they get announced every month followed by silence. Automated cars are for airport to railway station or car park. Reports tell the tale that even Level 3 automation –  where the driver has to be ready to intervene – is taking time to perfect. The city of the future wants self-drive cars but all I can see are lazy drivers texting while they pick their nose. Removing the human from control of the automobile sounds mad to me. Surely, all businessman and woman want is a car that calls their boss automatically to tell him the traffic is awful and they’ll be late into the office, while they take an extra hour in bed at home.

Innovation 5

For my part, the two greatest inventions are the electric blanket, and heated car seats. No need to wait ten minutes for the engine to heat up. Switching on the bum and back warmer on a freezing Scottish morning is divine. (All cars can be retrofitted.) Car tech giant Valeo has a ventilation system that uses face-recognition and infra-red cameras to judge how warm each passenger is and adjust settings accordingly. It’s said to be much more efficient than normal air-conditioning. That may be true, but I like toasted feet.

The future future

In all this hunger for the new, the fashionable and the gimmick, my concern about the immediate future lies in two areas; (a) the digital take-over of cars that allow algorithms to follow your every move, and (b) a loss of freedom of movement cars brought to the masses last century.

I’ve always enjoyed driving, and still do.  For me, a smart kid from a poor community, owning a car was liberating. I dislike flying. It isn’t natural for man or plane. Without a car I would have not have journeyed so far and wide as I have, nor seen the world or met so many interesting people. I think that goes for others too, certainly those who have taken a car across Europe or a visit to Ireland.

In the UK, city fathers are clamping down on car use, and the price of cars is increasing, pushing the mass of wage earners, the self-employed and the poor to forego owning a vehicle that can take them and their family almost anywhere there is a road. Brexit makes car travel to Europe a bureaucratic nightmare.

Now that we see cars can be a relatively clean, safe place to be, it’s sad that freedom to roam is fast constrained by authority and may soon be for the well-heeled alone. Either that, or we become a nation driving cleverly stuck together old wrecks, like the Cubans.

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS. 

What miracle cure is this?

Wireless chargers that can power up electric cars without the hassle of plugs and leads are to be introduced on British streets for the first time. Wireless charging works by making use of the fluctuating magnetic field developed by the alternating current in a charging pad to create another alternating current in the receiving pad, which is then converted to direct current and used to charge a vehicle’s batteries. The Department for Transport will run a £3.4 million trial on a taxi rank next to Nottingham railway station to assess the convenience, speed and time-saving benefits. The project will also develop the first vehicle identification and billing process, enabling the commercialisation of the system. If successful, it is likely that grants will be given to local authorities to introduce it on residential streets and off-street parking sites as well as taxi ranks in coming years. If this solution works, the end of the combustion engine is nigh.

Snookered

So, it’s like this. My 22 year-old cute little RAV4 SUV needed new front seat belts. The law states car makers must produce them for up to 15 years, and then can change the design for new models. Toyota don’t make the ones I need anymore. Breakers yards have none, companies specialising in renewing old belts dismiss mine as too far gone. That leaves buying a donor car cheap that has belts that retract – or my good car is unfit to drive. And it was near perfection, five years, modernised to a high standard. Sigh.

Best car to hold value

Smart buyers buy second-hand. Let those with big pockets take the VAT and devaluation hit. That aside, which car holds its value best for the average buyer? If you want to buy a vehicle you can have confidence won’t plummet in value as soon as you drive it off a forecourt, it is the Toyota Prius Plus. It sits top of the best value chart. Forget cab owners use them. It retains two thirds of its value after 30,000 miles covered over three years – an achievement that can’t be matched by any other mainstream vehicle. I knew a man who sold helicopters who bought a new Ferrari. Three months later he sent it back because he didn’t like driving it. It dropped £35,000 in trade-in value. Ouch!

Happy motoring!

 

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Posted in Transportation | 4 Comments

1917 – a review

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The image that sums up the film – a patriotic Brit against the odds

There is no avoiding it. In the face of five star glowing reports, this review of 1917 must bite the bullet, if I can put it that way. Sam Mendes’ latest effort as a co-writer-director amounts to a fail, from start to finish. The co-writer is Scottish, Krysty Wilson-Cairns. This is a film filled with lumbering portentousness. The script avoids any inner life of the main characters, two guys with a letter, that’s it. The story aims for the picturesque composition, (see above) in a film about the horrors of war.

Mendes meant the film to be a homage to his grandfather’s participation, Lance Corporal Alfred H. Mendes, and that sounds noble enough. A commemorative bench in his local botanic gardens is less self-indulgent. However, there are so many fine filmed dramas based on the carnage of the First World War, 1917 offers no new way of seeing. It panders to a generation that knows little of that episode of man’s inhumanity to man by taking them on a video game, a kind of Call of Duty scenario.

To begin at the beginning. The film is not attached to any official or unofficial commemoration or anniversary. It does not seek to show how wars waste our youth. It doesn’t try to illustrate the gargantuan incompetent tossers that were English and Scots generals slaughtering and maiming men and horses, obliterating acres of land for England’s greater glory. It takes no great interest in the millions mowed down on either side. It is not involved in the private lives of its soldiers. They have no background. They are types.

It gives us no poetry and no memorable moments. Simply put, it has no political point to make. This is a stone cold work of cinematic technique.

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Our heroes enjoy a tranquil moment: George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman

The ‘two-takes’ shooting falsehood exploited as a means of hyper-promotion is how it was shot in “two takes”. This is meant to catch our breath, not the images of young men making the ultimate sacrifice in a futile war, but rather we should be impressed by a method of shooting scenes. (It was actually shot in many takes as I explain later.)

Mendes says the seamless treatment of the story-line is an attempt to have us take the journey with his two protagonists, to make us feel we are there right by their side. Laying aside the all too obvious call to British nationalist patriotism, this is nothing more than a gimmick. Why did he think we could not manage empathy, uncluttered identification, without contrived shots? It has the opposite effect. Our mind is gripped not by the stupidity of glorifying war; we wonder how each sequence was shot with a full camera crew, sound recordists and no shaky camera work.

We know nothing of anybody, we can only identify them by their uniforms. Germans are dastardly Huns, cruel, brutal and sneaky, our side stiff upper lip officers, or kept in the dark, courageous heroes. Confronting the enemy usually comes as a surprise to our lads, they appear out of nowhere. Just as we feel we are getting to know one German, a wounded pilot, he is dispatched with barely more than a grunt, other German soldiers are shadows in the gloom or grimacing corpses. 1917 reduces heroism to the level of a Boys Own war comic. It reads like a story from Commando starring Tommy the Terrific.

The vulgarity of the script and images extends to the simulacrum of two apparently (but not) long takes splitting the film into halves with a fade-out at its centre. I am as convinced as I dare be that the executives of the studio didn’t think enough of the quality of the work, or were uncertain of its commercial legs, that they decided to concentrate publicity on the magic of a two-takes production. They lied. It’s a series of takes that run up to nine or ten minutes each, stitched together with digital effects to make them look continuous.

I penned that note on leaving the cinema and had my disbelief confirmed by 1917’s very own master cinematographer, Roger Deakins – gifted cameraman on Fargo and many another Coen Brothers classic. (He should get some award for his input, but it isn’t his best work, not by any stretch of the imagination.) The film borrows its hidden cuts from a technique first seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948. You move the camera behind (say) a tree, cut there, and then restart from there.

In a long informative chat, in his usual languid way of explaining things, Deakins confirms sequences were shot forty times to get the pace right to match the subsidiary action, and yes, they were ‘stitched together by digital techniques in the editing suite.”

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Director Sir Sam Mendes explaining the scene to be shot

Cinema is about faking things, but the ‘two-take’ gimmick is fakery of the wrong sort. What it does is camouflage the shallowness of the direction and the soap opera standard of the script.

The music, composed to catch our emotions, is scored by Thomas Newman, overlapped on everything, on every image and every scene where silence would have made a greater impact. The one scene it steps back is where a group of soldiers listen to a lone singer, the camera wandering in and out of the group resting in a wooded area, the viewer wondering what it’s all about. This had all the attraction of a Welshman in a pub breaking into song when drinkers are engrossed in a competition of dominoes.

Shooting forty takes for a single sequence that could have taken a few takes with two cameras is akin to the artistic technique of pointillism. French artists of the form took years to complete a single work leaving the buyer to ask, is pointillism pointless? Their work didn’t emerge as great art, more a dissertation into how long it took and how few pigments were used to create the final effect.

The story is Saving Private Ryan in reverse, by far the most interesting thing about 1917, with its suggestion of an antiwar ethos. Yet in never quite reaches those heights. There is the odd moment of emotion well signalled ahead, contrived to get the tear ducts moving.

The story: somewhere behind the lines in France, a young British lance corporal, Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), dozing during downtime, is awakened by a sergeant and told, “Pick a man, bring your kit.” Blake chooses a fellow lance corporal, Will Schofield (George MacKay), a friend who’d been snoozing in the grass alongside him. The war weary sergeant sends the duo on a special mission: to cross the former front lines, now abandoned by German forces, through churned up mud, water-filled trenches, rotting bodies, dead horses, through barbed wire, across open land dodging sniper bullets – they all miss – and take a letter to a colonel who’s with his troops at a new forward position. There are biplanes everywhere. It doesn’t occur to the sergeant to have one of the pilots take the letter and drop it in the trench of the advance battalion!

That colonel in the far off battalion is about to launch an offensive against the apparently retreating Germans, but aerial reconnaissance shows that the Germans are luring the colonel’s battalions into a trap. The letter is an order calling off the offensive. To pull our heart strings a bit more, the battalion to which Blake is being dispatched include his brother, a lieutenant, hence Saving Ryan. The action take place over a day and a night, without sleep, of course.

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It all plays like a video game, take one turning this happens, take another, that happens

Hail British military stereotypes. Blake is outgoing and earnest, Schofield is a cheeky, sarcastic brat. Blake has been chosen for this mission not because he’s the best soldier to undertake it, but because he’s highly motivated to complete it – if he fails his brother will die. Tick, tock. When we get there, nothing much transpires. An officer weeps.

Save one man, save a battalion. The murky subtext is left hanging, the morality of it, why his commanding officer didn’t send a professional soldier, not a rookie.

Watching the story unfold, I got the impression the writers hit on as many situations that might happen to a soldier in the trenches as they could think of, plus a few from granddad Mendes’ autobiography. Instead of reducing them to a believable few, the writers threw them all into the pot one after the other. The broth that boils is highly sentimental. At any minute I expected John Mills to appear barking orders to his juniors to ‘pull up your socks, lads, and get out there to whack Gerry!” Instead we get the go-to professional Englishman, Benedict Cumberbatch, fast getting type cast.

Scene after scene is a cliche: cherry blossom softens the nightmare; milk in a pail revives thirst, soldiers slither into a trench filled with unidentified dead: German trenches are better built that English trenches, Vorsprung durch Technik, and all that: the mud mired truck with the Taffy, the Paddy, the Jock and the token Hindu; rats appearing for no good reason than to make you shiver. Some dialogue scenes fit well in to the last series of the television comedy Blackadder, or may’be Coronation Street Goes to War.

There is only one woman, a French girl hiding among ruins, protecting a child not hers. The message, life will go one, a rebirth, another cliche; no matter how horrible we are to each other there is hope.

Despite all the overcast skies, and ominous sunsets, the film is a striking array overly bright, a sunny tableau, the energy on screen almost inert if it was not for the chases down trenches. Where is the horror? Even the trenches look reasonably habitable.

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Contrast this scene with any real-life documentary footage and it’s chalk and cheese

Mendes is the director who gave us the repellent American Beauty, a film that opened up the sex-deprived mind of a middle-aged, bored American husband, one of the most misogynist films I’ve ever seen. It was a huge success. I suspect 1917 will be something of a success too. Sensitive critics will recoil from damning a film about war dead.

If you have never read anything about the First World War, its genesis or its outcome, I recommend the German epic All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), followed by Gallipoli (1981), as starters. The latter is often shown late night on television. You’ll learn a lot too from Joan Littlewood’s stage comedy Oh What a Lovely War (1969). It teaches us about nincompoops called General Haig and other generals, how much the ordinary soldier, the fodder, learned to hate them. 

1917 does not add much to the plethora of recent war movies about Churchill, Bletchley, or Dunkirk mainly because the film is without imagination.

The characters in 1917 are reduced to the poignant, death from hand-to-hand combats not terrifying but very tasteful. This film is an essay in patriotic bombast and heroic duty, derivative, spoiled by cliché, and insulting to the memory of those who gave their lives for a cause most didn’t believe in or know much about.

  • Star rating: Three stars
  • Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay
  • Director: Sam Mendes
  • Writer: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
  • Cinematographer: Roger Deakins
  • Composer: Thomas Newman
  • Duration: 1 hour, 59 minutes
  • RATING CRITERIA
  • 5 plus: potential classic, innovative. 5: outstanding. 4: excellent. 3.5: excellent but flawed. 3: good but formulaic. 2: straight to DVD. 1: crap; why did they bother?

 

Posted in Film review | 4 Comments

Car Culture: Cancelling VAT

A weekly look at all that sucks in car culture, plus some good bits

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There are lots of topics on transport I want to write about, but for the moment here’s one more on electric cars, the future of car transportation. The Government is being urged to scrap VAT on electric cars after Brexit, making them more affordable for drivers. The Automobile Association (AA) argues getting rid of VAT on the purchase price of electric cars, and also scrapping it on electric vehicle leasing costs, there will be an increase in the uptake of zero-emission vehicles.

There are some necessary statistics in this new story, so bear with me.

The dreaded VAT

While the UK is a member of the EU, the UK Government cannot charge VAT at any rate lower than 15 per cent without the agreement of all other member states.

That obviously applies to Scotland as part of the UK. I am unsure if Scotland should go down that route in any permanent way post-independence. We shall need all the VAT we can earn in the early years, but Scotland needs no obstacle to a clean environment.

The AA surveyed its members. 61% said the Government scrapping VAT on the purchase price of electric cars is an “influential” step in getting them to move away from combustion-engine vehicles, while 28% of respondents from low-income households said it would be “very influential”.

There is always enthusiasm for saving hard earned wages, but what about charging points? Those with the cash and access to a charging point will be the first to buy an electric car. Those living in tenement blocks where parking is at a premium are sure to be the last to follow the environmental route.

Inner city residents need serious urban planning and upheaval to accommodate access, more than charging points placed in lampposts. There are lots of streets where parking is both sides, with some drivers double-parking across wheelie bins hampering access by trucks to empty them for the local recycling plant. Lampposts with EV points, as in Norway’s main cities, are not enough to cope with so many vehicles.

On the other hand, with councillors gleefully announcing plans to ban cars from city centres, except refuse trucks, it’s hardly worth installing charging points there.

Everything depends on the initial cost of buying an electric car, and whether or not the current Government subsidy is cut for a third time. The last cut saw sales slow down.

Youth most likely to buy an EV

Of the AA survey, respondents aged 18-24, a large majority, 74%, said no VAT will encourage them to buy an electric car, making them the age group that is most keen. Youth’s attraction to the new and the novel is a constant. At the other end of the scale, 59%t of over-65’s felt the same way. They tended to be people who have old cars or classic cars. There are a number of experienced petrol-to electric change-over companies popping up to do conversions. (What it does to the value of a classic car is another matter.) Almost any car can be converted to take electricity and remain the same visually on the outside and the inside, bar an exhaust pipe and catalytic converter and what’s under the bonnet.

As ever, the metropolis of London is the most likely to take advantage of such a scheme – almost 70% of folk there the quickest to switch to electric vehicles. In contrast, only 56% of respondents in the north-east of England are tempted, (oddly, where such cars are made) and about 40% in Scotland where petrol engines are needed for the wild terrain.

Interestingly, half of respondents said they would like to see a scrappage scheme introduced to encourage people into electric cars, while 40% supported the idea of removing VAT from EV leasing prices too.

Prices, prices and VED

With electric cars often having a higher purchase price than their petrol or diesel counterparts, the AA also wants to see the premium Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rate for cars worth more than £40,000 scrapped for zero-emission vehicles.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “The UK needs a shock to the system. Eight out of ten drivers say improving air quality is important to them, but they are confused by current policies and, as such, many have stuck with older, polluting cars.

“A combination of the climate change emergency and local councils setting up vastly different Clean Air Zones means drivers feel under pressure to change but can’t, no matter how much they try. With EVs making up just 0.2 per cent of the nation’s cars, there is a long way to go to meet the official target of at least half new car sales to be ultra-low emission by 2030.”

The AA proposal could help to achieve cleaner air sooner than later. If Boris and his cabinet could get their mind off turning the UK into Neo-Liberal Land for tax avoiding capitalists and back the idea it might be one feather in his empty cap.

That said, the anti-car lobby won’t rest until all cars are banned from city centres, and we all take to bicycles in all weathers, Scotland or not. Can Lycra pollute? Just asking.

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS

Bullit’s Mustang

One of the most famous movie cars – and now the original Bullitt Mustang is also one of the most expensive. The Ford Mustang GT, which Steve McQueen raced around the streets of San Francisco in legendary 1968 cop thriller Bullitt, had never before been offered for sale at auction. It spent most of the past 40 years hidden away in a garage because of mechanical problems. When it crossed the block at Mecum’s sale in Kissimmee, (great name) Florida – pushed on is more accurate – it sparked a frantic bidding war which ended a few minutes later with a record-breaking final bid of $3.4m (£2.6m). It last changed hands for the unprincely sum of $6,000.

New Small Toyota SUV

Having dumped small SUVs for big clumping versions, and watched niche maker Suzuki fill the gap with their small Vitara, Toyota’s European vice-president, Matthew Harrison, promises to produce a small SUV fit for European streets. It “won’t be just a Yaris with body cladding and raised suspension”. Instead, the new car will be “an entirely new and distinctive B-SUV model” with a “compact, dynamic design and a personality of its own”. When you look at our city streets nose-to-tail, bumper-to-bumper with huge SUVs – offsetting the benefits from electric cars – small compact, high riding cars are welcome.

Best car by far

Autocar magazine has announced its Best Car of 2020, and it’s only January. (Autocar’s awards are similar to Hollywood’s Oscars, self-serving, established to sell Autocar magazine.) Anyhow, the surprise is, they’ve chosen an everyman car, the new Ford Puma, which is a kind of medium-sized SUV that isn’t an SUV. Readers might want to check it out for themselves. None are electric, so far. I know very little about it but what I’ve seen is entirely conventional. All I can do is quote the Autocar judges whose reasoning shifts from modest praise to stating the car is ‘outstanding’ with no justification in-between: “The Puma is fun to drive, cleverly packaged and well priced.” Of talk on reliability, durability and quality of dealer servicing there is none.

Happy motoring!

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Posted in Transportation | 2 Comments

Rise of Skywalker – a review

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Skywalker – the best special effects ever? – probably

For over thirty years, probably longer, the once considered Saturday afternoon children’s fair has dominated mainstream cinema to the detriment of adult movies. Kid’s films moved from cheap sets and worse acting to phenomenal blockbusters. The junk we were fed such as Flash Gordon was raised to an art form in its own right, and the one film that did that was Star Wars.

The Star Wars franchise became so successful it spawned countless other similar story lines, millions of plastic toys and games, and took up acres of newspaper and magazine space. It made the career of Harrison Ford and gave a living to over-tall men and over-small men asked to hide in all sorts of galactic costumes as friendly or malevolent aliens.

Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker (titles are now obliged to sound Rowlingesque), is supposedly the very last one. Personally, I am pleased. The series almost killed itself midway when the writing got worse than bad, and the plots repetitious. It remains mindless stuff made with digital magic, with the ability to transport us to another place and planet. Just a pity it is all about killing lots of people and beings, exploding things, America taking over other worlds and saving them from Nazi’s wearing weird costumes.

This film is directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams. In an effort to keep us enthralled, features a twist and turn and surprise around nearly every corner, with the result it is a well-made mess of unconnected plots relating to past films that only the most dedicated Star Wars geek can follow. For children, taken to see it by loving parents, it must look an unintelligible muddle.

Yes, Rise of Skywalker is an action-filled, plot-packed, unabashedly sentimental, cameo-heavy, rousing adventure, but by heck, it’s a dog’s dinner.

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Gosh, that looks as if shot in Scotland and Ireland – and it was!

Skywalker does not create anything new or fresh, or take us by surprise, it gives us what it has always given us, nothing more than soap and guns in outer space. If humans have littered planet Earth with plastic and garbage and Star Wars was not imaginative fiction, we would be guilty of littering space with the same couldn’t care less abandon. In a Star Wars universe space junk must crowd out the heavens – blown to smithereens spaceships, rockets and space stations, abandoned everything, bits flying everywhere.

Rise of Skywalker is visually lush, too much for the eye to take in, in some sections, and is as action packed as you would expect. The dialogue is slick, the pacing brisk (144 minute running time flies by) and it will leave fans with that inimitable glow that can only be felt after being immersed in a genuinely entertaining story. Because it recaptures the magic of the best “Star Wars films – mainly the original trilogy – and avoids the pitfalls of the worst ones, particularly The Last Jedi, it just about works as a conclusion to entire popcorn franchise. In essence, the film serves fans more than newcomers, but not well.

Its main flaw is that the movie feels rushed, like it’s packing in more than it can handle. This puts it in the same league as 2019’s other blockbuster, Avengers: Endgame, which also had the unenviable task of needing to provide closure to numerous other films while telling its own satisfyingly self-contained story. A close friend who took his young children to see it called me to complain he couldn’t follow the plot lines, the story was so muddled. I agree. I do not think it succeeds in every respect. Nevertheless, the special effects are as fantastic, the craft moved on in leaps and bounds since the early days.

Performances are earnest and, in some cases, emotionally driven. In the crush and rush some characters don’t get to do much other than roar to express an emotion when witnessing something happening … just over there!

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From start to finish, the proverbial roller coaster ride

The plot, take a deep breath: When Rise of Skywalker begins, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is continuing her Jedi training while Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) learn a terrible secret from a mole in the evil First Order: Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid looking oddly out of place having been killed off in an earlier film!). Hi ho, he used the “unnatural” powers from the Dark Side of the Force to survive and has been the secret antagonist of the sequel trilogy the entire time. Okay, let’s move on. Now it is up to our heroes to thwart Palpatine once and for all before he raises the Final Order and crushes what’s left of the Resistance, even as Rey grapples with her intense connection to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), on a mission to lure Rey over to the Dark Side with him. Okay, got that?

After the famous opening crawl and John Williams’ legendary theme song, we join the beleaguered and seemingly surviving members of the Resistance, led by Gen. Leia Organa, the late Carrie Fisher – a truly weird experience. The dead alive is, in my view, less an homage as crass and disrespectful. There is the now well-established Next Generation of headstrong, loyal and brave freedom fighters. From this minute on you can turn off your brain.

Much of Skywalker consists of hilariously silly metaphysical dances of strength and will and character between Rey and Kylo Ren, who don’t have to be in the same room or even on the same planet to face off with one another. Narcissism rules in a star wars world.

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I don’t know what this is, but it’s certainly evil

The trick requires Ridley and Driver to do a lot of acting in which they hold their arms out and flex like Greek gods of thunder and lightning, while grimacing to let us know they’re using all their might to ward off that attack or lift those rocks or shoot down that fighter plane. Maybe it’s hemorrhoid pain.

Driver is one of the best young actors fashionable, but he’s more convincing playing conflicted characters than bone-chilling evil. Ridley has an uncanny ability to hold the screen, even when the screen-filling, explosion-filled, CGI battles give way to close-ups of Rey, the weight of the galaxy reflected in her expressions.

In summary: there are moments when it feels as if this movie is trying to satisfy every Star Wars fanatic in the world. It does not come close to being the best of the bunch, not by a long light sabre. It’s a solid if confusing, visually dazzling piece of pulp sci-fi of the digital age. It gets three-and-a-half stars mostly for images and effects. This is a movie where my opinion and any negative opinion from other critics and reviewers will not hurt the film’s box office results one iota, one reason why this review is a month late and arrives without apology.

Incidentally, a piece of trivia: the man who gave us the instantly recognisable crashing Third Reich marching music, John Williams, appears in a cameo role as the bartender in the cantina on Kijimi.

  • Star rating: Three-and-a-half stars
  • Cast:  Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver 
  • Director: J.J. Abrams
  • Writer: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams
  • Cinematographer: Dan Mindel
  • Composer: John Williams
  • Duration: 2 hours,
  • RATING CRITERIA
  • 5 plus: potential classic, innovative. 5: outstanding. 4: excellent. 3.5: excellent but flawed. 3: very good if formulaic. 2: straight to DVD. 1: crap; why did they bother?
Posted in Film review | 2 Comments

England Admiring Fascism

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Neville meets Adolf

Fascism and the art of appeasement

By failing to secure its constitutional right to reinstate autonomy once more, forfeited in 2014, Scotland is confronted by the predictable backlash from the British state, administered by the most far-right English administration in living memory. Scotland’s elected representatives made the grave error of banking on a hung parliament at Westminster as a means of leverage. They lost heavily. English voters gave the Tory party absolute power to do as it pleases. They have the power to be vengeful and tyrannical in the extreme.

Indications are England is acquiring the hallmarks of an authoritarian state. Liberalism is under fierce attack. While some petulant pundits will suggest it is going too far to compare England now with Nazi Germany and totalitarianism, there are disturbing parallels. I argue, if Enoch Powell had made his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech today, he would be widely praised by Tory and media alike.

On the plus side

Scotland has moved indisputably in the polar opposite direction to England. We have experienced a massive upsurge in popular democracy since the first independence referendum. It is of a kind that does not suit the agenda of the governing classes, open, tolerant, civic. Westminster wants that curbed – at all costs.

Voters of Scotland have given the SNP another strong majority to govern. They see the party protecting the best in Scotland, the SHS, education system, welfare, industry, jobs, even though  a few of their policies are badly thought through and clunky.

The Scottish branch of Labour is all but wiped out, Tories reduced to Laurel and Hardy, and Dumb and Dumber. Labour has finally acquired humility. Perhaps they should back a second referendum for autonomy, they whimper. What a pity Labour could not drag its collective conscience to do that when Scotland needed bolstering but instead backed its worst enemy, the Tories. The Tories want Scotland nailed down. Scotland, essentially democratic, has never entertained a liking for far-right jack booting politics.

As far as a shared humanity is concerned, that diversionary term, there is little if any trace left of commonality shared with England, in politics, cultural ethics, or economics.

Nothing in common

The Tories are the establishment class, the colonial rulers. Their monarch Queen Elizabeth II, the one person supposedly above politics, “purred” when told Scotland had voted to trust England one more devastating time, according to David Cameron.

The last thing Boris the Boor wants is a rise in popular republican democracy that is not his sort, right-wing in affection tinged with Faragism. In that he is advised by his unelected underboss, Dominic ‘Chaos’ Cummings. Cummings admires the ideas of Otto von Bismark, German Chancellor, the man who provoked three wars, masterminded unification of Germany in the late 1800s, and who built an overseas empire to the benefit of the German elite. Cumming’s love of German nationalism is at odds with Leave’s supposed detestation of modern Germany, the Germany that “runs Europe”.

Like Bismark, Cummings knows where the gaps are in the English constitution, he knows how to drive a coach and horses through it. Unlike Boris his employer, who has not a single idea in his head, the Lord of Chaos has plans for radical change in any number of UK institutions, starting with a deconstruction of the civil service and certain to end with the blocking of Scotland’s independence.

The man most credited for the fraud of the Brexit, Dominic Cummings, architect of the Leave vote, has access to more power that all the politicians in Scotland combined.

Before your very eyes

Boris heads a party that has attracted misfits and refuges from the BNP, ENF, UKip and now the redundant Brexit party. With those types minding his back he fears no one. His actions are evidence.

His own little Adolf, complete with explosive rages of ego, he lies openly on any subject, the expulsion of twenty-one moderate MPs from his party, (the Night of the Long Knives) proroguing the English parliament, acting in contempt of Supreme Court judgement, belittling judges to soften them into accepting his party will choose them, refusing to be accountable to parliament for anything, calling key opponents ‘commies’, resurrecting the false spectre of ‘the enemy without’ and the ‘enemy within’ as a means of control, treating Scotland as an undisciplined puppy.

Déjà vu – next comes beating up opponents in the street. Ugly politicians have rekindled the worst of English traits, antipathy to foreigners and intellectuals. We read of physical attacks on Muslims, on Jewish shops, memorials desecrated. Who didn’t shiver when secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, proclaimed Tories will make the trains “run on time”? And then there’s the murder of MP Jo Cox.

The hideous rise of democracy

It is worth recalling that after the Second World War there was a tremendous upsurge in popular democracy. It happened in different ways and in different forms throughout Europe, soon crushed by force in Greece – CIA-led assassinations of far-left figures, and then Italy in 1943, by the imperialist army of USA out to disarm anti-German partisans.

Here in the UK, informed readers will be familiar with the history of Sir Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirt fascist brigades. They will also have seen photographs of members of the Royal family practicing their Hitler salute, not in derision at the strutting dictator, but in respect of the way he disciplined his nation.

However, it is unwise to assume adulation of fascist methods stopped at the British aristocracy. English veneration of unquestioning obedience runs deep.

The bad guys

A great deal of the British cabinet and parliament, and the British press, media baron and proprietor of the Daily Mail Viscount Rothermere a great fan, were either relaxed about Hitler’s expansionist plans – laid out in full in his infamous ‘Mein Kampf’, or ready and willing to indulge in appeasement.

When Adolf Hitler entered the Reich Chancellery on January 30, 1933, the cheers of the Nazi storm troopers in Berlin were echoed in Northcliffe House. The home of Britain’s then highest-selling newspaper. The Daily Mail was not the only national daily to adopt an overly tolerant attitude towards Hitler during the 1930s, but its a position reflected widespread public support for the government’s appeasement policy.

Shortly after Mussolini came to power, Rothermere laid his cards on the table. In an article in the Mail entitled “What Europe Owes to Mussolini,” he expressed his “profound admiration” for Italy’s new leader. Rothermere was still smarting after the General Strike of 1926, and “Hitler and Mussolini were helping to stem the rise of Bolsheviks and socialist troublemakers”. Worse, Rothermere’s love of fascism extend to a hatred of Jews, especially that “German Jew Karl Marx”.

“In saving Italy Mussolini stopped the inroads of Bolshevism which would have left Europe in ruins… in my judgment he saved the whole Western world.” Viscount Rothermere

Rothermere’s other newspapers also threw their support behind the effort. The Mirror urged its readers to “Give the Blackshirts a helping hand,” and printed the addresses of Mosley’s local recruiting offices. A visit to Germany or Italy, Rothermere assured readers, showed that “the mood of the vast majority of the inhabitants was not cowed submission, but confident enthusiasm.” With few exceptions, he was bang on the money.

The good guys

After the First World War Germany was not allowed to expand its small army. Hitler took no notice. His nation had been humiliated, he was going to make Germany ‘great again’. British politicians were aware of what he was doing, and a good many prepared to allow Austria to be annexed for the sake of peace in Europe. England has a long history of sacrificing others nations for short-term gain.

At this point I should mention the few Brits who didn’t trust Hitler as far as they could throw a glass of beer at him. Winston Churchill was the obvious one, looking for his Boris moment to grab the party leadership and show the way forward. The vain and dapper lady’s man Sir Anthony Eden was another, a man who resigned his office rather than face reality and fix it.

A third is more interesting, not for who he was, but for how he was treated by the then power elite. Appalled by his governments jollies with Hitler in his Berghof mountain lair, convinced of Nazism hell-bent on European conquest and the annexation of Austria, Sir Frederick Marquis, the managing director of John Lewis’s stores decided to act. He summoned all his buyers home from Germany and made a speech condemning Hitler’s ambitions by boycotting German goods.

Marquis was summoned to 10 Downing Street and given a dressing down for “interfering in the foreign policy of the country”.

Fascists externalise our worst thoughts

English understatement was everywhere. The British elite was certain Hitler was a reasonable chap not given to attacking his neighbours without reason. In this, and a respect for Mussolini’s ability to tame unions, British politicians were backed by their American counterparts. Mussolini was “a man who knew how to discipline the masses”.

Fascism was an ideology much to be admired. Prime minister Neville Chamberlain knew that if Austria fell Czechoslovakia would be next, but that did not stop him and his ambassadors choosing to ignore verified reports of an orgy of Nazi sadism against Austrian Jews, violence exploiting the proclamation of Anschluss. Violent incidents were described as ‘aberrations greatly exaggerated’. Even at that time, British elite were keen to invite German ministers to visit Britain and take the tour. Lord Londonderry, for example, invited Göring to stay at his palatial mansion.

The Foreign Office saw no real issue in Lord Derby’s invitation to Göring to join him on an approved tour and watch the Grand National. Hansard shows some Labour MPs were a little concerned about a German minister asked to inspect air raid precautions as part of his official tour. The cocktail chat was around the benefits of a bucolic visit to the countryside; it might reassure the general that Britain was a friendly country, and so mollify any suspicions he had of the British state as hostile to Hitler’s ambitions. Only Paisley’s own William Gallagher, Westminster’s sole communist MP, was courageous enough to stand up and voice the fact that Göring was “soaked in blood and a butcher”.

Another instance of the Englishman’s ability to accommodate dictators – see Thatcher and the mass murderer General Pinochet – was Lord Halifax’s visit to Goebbels to ask him to modify Hitlers ‘outbursts’, only to be charmed by Goebbels counter request that the self-taught cartoonist David Low reconsider his cartoons of a goose strutting Hitler. Low duly agreed though with reluctance. Halifax had no scruples. He was happy to do Chamberlain’s bidding, that is, reach agreeable terms with dictators.

BBC: Nazism is good

Back in Blighty, Scotland’s own son of the manse was hard at work stamping his ideals on the BBC as its first Director General. Puritanical crusader and fascist fanatic, admirer of the Nazis and Mussolini, John Reith, was musing on how as head of the Corporation his institution should respond to events in Europe.

Reith had the answer. He asked the German foreign minister Ribbentrop to “assure Hitler the BBC was not anti-Nazi”. He added, “If he sent over his broadcasting opposite number for a visit to the BBC, I will fly the swastika from the top of Broadcasting House”.

For that invitation, Reith was never forgiven by Churchill, who when he became prime minister, refused Reith promotion to high government office. BBC staff dutifully pumped out pro-Nazi news items. (Reith became Lord Reith. The British state always rewards loyalty no matter how repugnant the views – ask Lord Darling.)

Where is Scotland now?

There are any number of such instances I could relate, but I hope my point is made. After the carnage of the First World War, the “war to end all wars”, the British population was in no mood to fight another. In any event, many admired the Nazi ideology. There were no anti-Hitler marches in merry England. 

In 2020, we are faced by an upsurge in fascism across Europe and in England. It is stoked by the demonic Farages of each nation, exploiting unemployment and inequality, voters long disenfranchised. England is no different. The common man and women tell us the kind of politics they want for the next decade, and it is embodied in Farage and Boris.

Destiny in our hands

The presumption among Scots is that Scotland’s party for autonomy, constantly winning victory at the ballot box, will protect the populace against anti-democratic forces. Over 300 years of resistance to Westminster’s tyranny has shown this a lethal falsehood. Tories tell us so in so many ways.

“If the people want independence they can vote for the party of independence. If they decline to do so the irrefutable logic is that they accept the outcome of the UK election … as the legitimate mandate for the winners to govern Scotland.” David McLetchie, Tory MSP, February 2010

Even after a Tory politician claims voting for the party of autonomy en masse guarantees independence, as MSP David McLetchie did in the quotation above, Westminster will disassociate itself from past declarations in a heartbeat and any promises attached

Killing hope

The primary aim of an agent of the British state is to kill hope. The Tory majority feels emboldened to do just that. They know optimism is the motivation that creates a better future. Unless you believe the future can be bright, you’re unlikely to agitate for change.

Scotland is confronted by an all-Farage government it can appease or resist. Nicola Sturgeon says she will never do a deal with the Tories. She has no choice now. Then again, you negotiate with your enemies, not your friends.

She has manoeuvred herself into a position where she cannot fail, for if she does, she will take Scotland with her. The battle to protect Scotland and its liberalism is now a brutal, bleak reality and the pitiful things is, it could have been avoided.

 

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SOURCES:

Hansard March – October 1934 and 1938. Age of Extremes, Eric Hobsbaum.  The Origins of the Second World War, AJP Taylor. In Front of Your Nose, George Orwell. Appeasing Hitler, Tim Bouverie. Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer. The Life of John Reith, Ian McIntyre. The Scottish Nation – (The War Years), Tom Devine.

RELATED:

Fascist Us and Them“:  https://wp.me/p4fd9j-n5A                                                                          “English on English”: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-nSV

Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | 9 Comments

Car Culture: Cheats

A weekly look at all that sucks in car culture, plus some good bits

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The UK is out of the EU, to all intents and purposes is now out bar the stamp on the sealing wax, and that means in theory it can ignore international rules reducing noxious emissions from vehicles, and any other safety rule it wants.

All the evidence is, Boris and his gang will employ the age-old tactic of go-slow, so that business and corporate entities don’t see profit margins harmed. That’s the people the Tory party represent, protecting them comes naturally. It’s in their manifesto. I can hear the excuse, “companies need time to adjust’. Attitudes are different among our European friends, or, as English like to gather them into one amorphous lump, in the continent.

New European Union rules came into force on 1 January heavily penalising car makers if average carbon dioxide emissions from the cars they sell “rise above 95g per kilometre”. If car makers exceed that limit, they will have to pay a fine of €95 (about £79) for every gram over the target, multiplied by the total number of cars they sell. Ouch!

For all the glitz and the glamour of cars, their makers remain guilty of the most heinous crimes. Refusing to alter a dangerously designed car with hundreds documented as killed or maimed in accidents, is just one example of big business protecting its arse. Design faults are often covered up to avoid legal claims. The Internet has helped suffering owners discover they are not alone; letters making excuses from the car maker denying liability as a one-off instance are soon discovered to be flimflam.

Here’s an example: BMW brought out out a very good looking sports car, the Z8. But the suspension crowns, the part of the body carcass that sits above the suspension and spring mounts, were found to be too thin to take much stress. In time the crown buckled, and Z8s began to twist out of alignment. The first indication that something was wrong was the bonnet didn’t fit. The value of the car was reduced to nil. BMW denied it was a common fault until the Internet clamour from irate owners proved otherwise. A class action followed, BMW resigned itself to paying out or fixing.

This leaves folk like me, and other buyers, sceptical of the car industry as a pursuer of safe, durable, sustainable vehicles. Readers are aware of the Dieselgate scandal in which Volkswagen and Daimler were shown to have cheated emissions regulations deliberately. What went on behind the scene is as interesting but no surprise. They cooked the books.

Car makers successfully lobbied for a rule that means cars emitting less than 50g of carbon dioxide per kilometre are eligible for so-called super-credits, a controversial policy allowing every electric vehicle sold to count as two cars. That makes it easier for car makers to meet their targets, even if average emissions from their cars are actually higher than the rules stipulate. How politicians fell for that ruse is another matter, but it stinks to high heaven.

For years car makers pretended their vehicles were emission friendly knowing they were killing people, and did so because they were selling like hot cakes. Governments colluded by telling us diesel was the fuel of the future. All that time investment in radical new ideas was set aside for just jazzing up the old to look like the new. Innovation was ditched in preference for profits. Action to clean up emissions was avoided for the same reason.

Now car makers are churning out electric cars. How innovative they are is another question. When considering one you should take great care to study the design to understand if it is far-sighted. If technical details bamboozle you, find somebody – not a dealer – to help you make a decision.

Soon, we will be spoilt for choice. Multiple new electric car models will go on sale just in time to qualify for EU regulations. In November the first of Volkswagen’s ID.3 cars rolled off a new electric production line in Zwickau, eastern Germany. The factory can produce over 300,000 vehicles a year. The first of BMW’s Mini Electric models, made in Oxford, arrive in showrooms in March. Vauxhall, now French owned by France’s PSA Group and new models looking decidedly chic, start production of its Corsa-e in January, with sales to begin in March. That can only mean prices will drop as more come onto the market competing for buyers, same as colour television sets did once upon a time.

Consultants at Deloitte estimate the market will reach a tipping point in 2022, when the cost of ownership of an electric car is on par with its internal combustion engine counterparts. Research by the International Council on Clean Transportation differs, suggesting this is already the case in European countries.

In Scotland, some drivers anxious about the short range of some electric vehicles on a single charge will be put off from buying them until the development of charging infrastructure spreads across the country. However, the reverse of the Dieselgate scandal is that car makers are working hard to meet charge point deadlines hoping to show they really are the good guys. The task is daunting – they are producing more lumbering SUVs than any other model and we prefer them to any other model.

Car makers are under the gun to deliver electric vehicles and an excess of charging points or face massive fines. Boris the Boor will help them survive. In fact, the Tory government gave a grant of £500 million to Jaguar to get on with the job of creating more electric cars. That’s your money, dear taxpayer; that’s action from the political party that avers competition is healthy and the weak can go to the wall.

There’s on upside to all this – car makers across the world are trying to share the vast costs of developing electric vehicles – putting aside often fierce rivalries. Ford and VW have formed a limited alliance, and BMW and Jaguar Land Rover are collaborating on electric vehicle technology. But there’s still far too many manufactures making far too many cars, and a lot of them designed to appeal to human envy and combativeness.

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS

Ghosn gone

The amusing saga of the former bigwig boss of Renault and Nissan, chairman and one tough bastard Carlos Ghosn, continues to pile on the comedy situations. He is reported to have escaped Japanese justice taking a bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka’s Kansai airport, whisked through security inside audio equipment – reportedly hidden in a musical instrument case – he’s a small guy so it could have been an accordion box – and boarding a private jet to Turkey and on to Lebanon. He popped up in Beirut to give an animated, incoherent press conference about how he thinks Japanese justice is so terrible it forced him to flee from it. Working for a Japanese company earning millions and allegedly squirrelling away millions more for ‘expenses’ is not poor Japanese justice. In Japan, the accused can be held for 23 days without charge – this is almost indefinitely renewable as judges normally give prosecutors the benefit of the doubt. Not like the UK – where a man who does the world a favour by leaking details of what out government is doing without consent, is dragged out of an embassy by force and incarcerated in a prison cell to die, or be sent to the USA, a show trial, and to die in a cell there.

Back to red

The British car industry suffered twin disappointments in 2019: sales fell to a six-year low and average carbon dioxide emissions increased further well above new regulatory limits. UK car sales fell to about 2.3 million, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, with the industry body blaming Brexit uncertainty and the slump in diesel sales. And still there are British nationalists saying the fall has nothing to do with Brexit. No sir.

From Edinburgh to Davy Jones locker

By the time you read this, I hope I am on my way from Edinburgh to Stromness in Orkney with not one but two cars I sought out and bought for a couple I know. (Yes, I have a second driver.) Smart readers will know that this is not the best time of the year to take the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness; they usually stop running from mid-month to goodness knows when. So, I’ve a brief window to reach my destination, be thanked with a hearty meal, a hug, and fly home again. Gales are forecast. Better take a wet suit, flares and swimming goggles.

Happy motoring!

 

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Posted in Transportation | 2 Comments