The Battle of Passchendaele

It is 100 years since The Battle of Passchendaele.

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Stuff: Passchendaele – 100 years since New Zealand’s darkest day of the First World War

“I died in hell (They called it Passchendaele),” is how the poet Seigfried Sassoon described the three month battle that left 500,000 casualties and became synonymous with the slaughter of the First World War.

It’s exactly 100 years since the name of the tiny Belgian village on the Western Front name became linked to New Zealand’s “darkest hour” of the 1914-18 conflict.

On October 12, 1917 an Allied attack on heavily-defended German lines snuffed out the lives of 845 Kiwi soldiers in a quagmire of liquid mud, barbed wire and machine guns. The total rises to 950 after soldiers succumbed to their wounds in the following days. Some 1860 were injured.

NZ History: New Zealand’s ‘blackest day’ at Passchendaele

Last year Missy wrote some posts about her visit to Ypres (which is near Passchendaele):

 

From London’s River Bus

Missy has posted here about her commutes on London’s River Bus service:

I am enjoying my commute home tonight, sun shining, blue sky, and a gorgeous view from the river bus. I hope I never get bored with, or sick of, the view of tower bridge as the boat approaches, or of Greenwich as we pass. London is a beautiful city and best seen from the water – or top of a double decker bus.

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A Thames Clipper on the river by St Paul’s Cathedral

Missy last month:

I am heading home from a few after work drinks, and have decided to take the Riverbus. Currently I am looking out the window at Tower Bridge – amazing in daylight, but breathtaking at night – as is most of London. I feel so lucky to be living and working here, some days I still punch myself as I can hardly believe it. It really is an incredible city.

Pickled Possum asked:

Morning Missy I am there on the riverbus, with you, only in my mind of course lol
Any chance of a picture so we can see what you see and so eloquently write about?

Here are some photos Missy has taken over the last week or so.

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Sunrise looking East from Woolwich – so down past the Thames Barrier, and in the distance is Essex and Kent (Essex north of the River, Kent is South)

Thanks Missy. London is one of the world’s great cities, and it looks great from the water in a variety of moods.

UK Labour ‘chaos’

More from Missy in the UK.


This morning the UK woke up to some of the media discussing the ‘chaos’ of yesterday at the Labour Party Conference with the media focussing on the allegation that the Shadow Defence Minister (sorry not Secretary as I reported yesterday) punched a wall in anger after he gave his speech in response to it being changed at the last minute by Corbyn’s aides (as reported yesterday) .

Corbyn this morning cancelled all of his media appearances for today, officially due to diary management issues, but speculation is rife that the real reason is so that he isn’t questioned about yesterday, and in particular Trident.

Yesterday it was announced that Labour’s policy for energy will be to completely ban fracking – this is in opposition to the unions who say many of their members will lose jobs, today the replacement policy was announced. Corbyn has indicated that under Labour the UK will return to coal mining – presumably to return to coal fired energy. Nothing reported as yet on how the environmentalists see this, nor has it been explained how this will be de-conflicted with Labour’s stated clean air policy.

McDonnell yesterday indicated that if Labour were to win the next election there would be a return to 70’s style socialist economic policies. This combined with the idea of returning to coal mining has some in the media talking about a return to the past under Labour.

Today has been no less eventful, so just some highlights below.

Sadiq Khan addressed the conference, I won’t go into the details, but the gist of his speech was how he is the most successful Labour politician at the moment, and the party need to follow his lead to become electable.

The NEC voted on whether to allow representatives from Scotland and Wales Labour Parties to join the committee, this is opposed by Corbyn and his supporters as it is seen as potentially reducing Corbyn’s power in the NEC, as he fears that the Welsh First Minister (Labour) and the Scottish Labour leader will choose moderates, thus diluting and reducing his already small majority. This move is part of reforms by the respective Labour parties which will give them greater autonomy in having an independent voice on the NEC. The vote went in favour of the reforms, and the Scottish and Welsh Labour parties will now be able to have a representative on the NEC.

Labour has provided their support to a referendum on the terms of Brexit. This is seen by some as a concession to Owen Smith who supports a second referendum on the EU. This will not be popular amongst many voters, nor is it a policy that they will have to follow through on, as Brexit is expected to be pretty much completed (if not fully completed) by the time the next General Election rolls around in just over 3 years.

Tom Watson addressed the party this afternoon, and in it he launched a passionate defence of Blair and Brown – something that won’t go down well with Corbyn or his supporters, who hate Blair and Brown.

UK update – Conservatives

Update #1 from Missy in the UK:


Conservatives:

The honeymoon is over for Theresa May as it appears that Cameron’s supporters are starting what one journalist has described as a concerted attack on May in order to destabilise her Government. It started with a speech given by George Osborne the other day criticising the Government’s economic policy and their response to Brexit, but the weekend is when it got interesting as David Cameron’s former Communications director, Craig Oliver – sorry make that SIR Craig Oliver (more on that later) – started flogging his book on the EU referendum, and parts have been leaked to the media.

Along with the predictable stuff about Johnson and Gove betraying the PM, and how they underestimated people’s views on immigration, and how they thought the economy would win it for them, there were a couple of pointed comments on Theresa May. For anyone here who has read my views regarding May’s referendum presence (or lack of) this will be no surprise.
According to Oliver it was suggested that May would back Brexit, so the PM called her had words and hung up on her, apparently satisfied he had made an impact. May then released a statement offering muted support to the Remain campaign.

Oliver accuses May of being a submarine during the referendum campaign – basically nowhere to be seen. She is being accused of not really supporting Remain, offering lukewarm support, and all the time plotting to bring down Cameron. Essentially he now believes that she only offered lukewarm support to the Remain side as she could not be seen going against the PM as Home Secretary.

Now, what the truth in this is, is anyone’s guess, but the idea that May was a Brexiter, but only supporting the PM as he was the PM is one that I have heard a number of times from UK people. Most say that May is a Brexiter from way back, and has always been a eurosceptic. This is leading some in the media to speculate it will be a hard Brexit, not a soft Brexit that many want as it will be almost like Remaining.

Another allegation in Oliver’s book is that May tried to stonewall the PM on the issue of immigration, he claims that she blocked his plans for an immigration brake, supposedly to help the leave campaign – and her future ambitions of being PM. However, many of her allies / supporters have come out today and denied this, saying it was May that wanted a brake on immigration and the PM ignored her.

One thing that is also notable is that May was apparently supposed to go with Cameron in February to try an negotiate a deal with the EU to try and stop the referendum, however, she ended up not going because she had a weekend away with her husband planned. This was when Cameron failed to get any significant concessions – especially in terms of free movement. Oliver suggests that this was deliberate so that she wouldn’t be tainted with the expected failed negotiations.

Book Controversies:

With regards to the book itself there are a number of controversies around it – and the author, summed up below:

  1. Craig Oliver is one of the people who received his knighthood when Cameron left office, it is considered by many to be tainted based on the way it was awarded.
  2. Many MP’s and Ministers have an active dislike of Oliver, and they are all airing their opinions now, the most common one is that many don’t think he was very good at his job, and also they have noted that he used to constantly write notes in meetings, and it was highly suspected that he was going to cash in on being the Communications Director for the PM.
  3. When a senior public official leaves their position they are not allowed (by law) to make any money from their position – or the knowledge gained whilst in the position – for at least 3 months, and then any position, or potential commercial matter, needs to be reviewed and approved. This means for anyone wanting to write a book they shouldn’t even be optioning it, let alone have it published and ready for sale, for at least 3 months, Oliver has been out of his job for 2 and a half months. It is viewed as being published with unseemly haste, but most recognise it is timed to be released before the Conservative Party Conference in a couple of weeks.

Report from Europe

Missy is back with an update on issues in the UK and Europe.


EU / Brexit

The EU had a leaders meeting (minus Britain) in Bratislava last Friday. Not much of what came out of it has been reported in the UK, but the most interesting thing that did is the statement from the Eastern European nations who have stated that they will veto any Brexit deal that does not guarantee the rights of their citizens to remain in the UK. Other EU nations reiterated the stance that any access to the single market will have to include free movement.

On that, yesterday Theresa May was reported as saying that the EU will have to make a deal with Britain as the EU exports more to Britain than the other way around, and anything that does not protect that trading will be more detrimental to the EU. This has been the stance of the Leave campaign from day one on the trade with the EU, the fact that the EU loses more if no deal is reached, than what Britain will lose. German business organisations, and businesses, have been lobbying their Government since the vote to ensure there is a deal reached with the UK, one media report in June suggested that about 15-20% of German businesses could go bankrupt if they do not have tariff free access to the UK.

Last week Juncker admitted that the EU faced an existential crisis, interestingly though his solution to the crisis is greater integration. His state of the Union speech clearly spelled out plans for an integrated foreign policy and EU army – something that the leave campaign in the UK were rubbished for suggesting was in the pipeline. Farage of course now feels vindicated for pushing that line.

Germany

As I am sure has been reported in NZ, Merkel’s coalition suffered severe losses in the Berlin elections, and the far right AfD party has gained quite significantly. As one media report in the UK said, the irony in Merkel trying hard to overcome the ghosts of the Nazi’s is that she has created the conditions for the rise of a new era of far right – Nazi like – political force. This has to be worrying for Merkel as Germany heads to a General Election next year.

There are indications Merkel may be looking at backpedaling some on her open door refugee policy, though for many it is a case of too little too late.

France

Refugees/Illegal Migrants are still an issue in France, specifically those in the Calais Jungle. Last week a refugee – who claimed to be 14, but some say looked more like 24 – was killed when he tried to climb onto a lorry to stowaway into the UK. The actions of those in the Jungle are becoming more dangerous, and will cause more than their own loss of life. The building of a wall along the side of the motorway at Calais has begun, this is meant to try and stop the migrants from trying to stowaway in vehicles heading for the UK – the UK are picking up the majority (if not all) of the bill for this. There are some that believe that this wall may just push the problem a little more inland from Calais, time will tell.

UK Labour

There has been a lot happening within the Labour party over the last week, though most of it is claims and counter claims with regards to who is doing what – and much is related to the leadership race, so I won’t go into it, unless some of the hyperbole develops into something significant.

The voting for the Labour leader closed today, and the leader is due to be announced on Saturday – though it is expected that Corbyn will be confirmed as the leader, this is due to be announced on Saturday, before the conference. The Labour party conference starts Saturday, so I guess they found a security provider for it. Some MP’s will have bodyguards at the conference due to fears for their safety from the hard left activists.

And finally on Labour, Jeremy Corbyn (official account – not parody) tweeted that the average donation to the Labour party is 18GBP, looks like all those celebrity Labour supporters are big spenders – though to be honest I will probably spend more than that in the pub tomorrow night!

I think that is enough for tonight, I will try to be more regular with my updates, and luckily for me all the clocks are due to change soon, which makes the time difference less!

EU divisions appear to be deepening.

From Missy:


On Friday the EU states (minus the UK) will meet in Bratislava to discuss the EU response to Brexit. Donald Tusk has been at a summit in Warsaw ahead of the meeting to ensure that the EU present a united front at the meeting in Bratislava, however, he was given some home truths by the Eastern European nations according to a report in the Telegraph.

The Eastern European nations have blamed the authoritarian European Commission for Brexit, and have warned that the EU must give up on the federalist plans or risk the disintegration of the EU. The Polish PM has reiterated what he said after the EU referendum in saying that the EU must reform in order to save it.

Brexit is not the only division within the EU as the Warsaw summit has shown an East-West division within the EU, where the Eastern European nations believe in national democracies, and the Western nations – specifically Germany, France, and Italy – wish for greater integration.

Meanwhile the Luxembourg Foreign Minister is calling for Hungary to be expelled from the EU over its authoritarian stance on media freedoms and the building of walls to keep out refugees, claiming it is breaching the basic values of the EU. The Hungarian Foreign Minister has hit back accusing the federalists of working tirelessly to demolish European security and culture, and called the Luxembourg Foreign Minister condescending, uppity, and frustrating.

In response to the Polish PM comments Tusk (the President of the EU Council) warned Poland not to rock the European boat, and to be careful about demanding changes to EU treaties that have delivered billions in EU funds to Poland, and given millions of Polish workers access to jobs in the more prosperous northern European countries.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/13/authoritarian-european-commission-created-brexit-and-could-destr/

UK Update – European Union

Missy is back in action with a report from the UK and Europe. Report 1:


European Union

The EU bureaucrats have reportedly been expressing confidence that they will have the upper hand in the Brexit negotiations, however, there are tensions within the EU as the EU Commission bureaucrats try to assert their power and lead the Brexit negotiations despite it having been decided (and agreed) that the Brexit negotiations will be completed by the EU Council which consists of the leaders of the each of the EU member states.

On the Brexit negotiations, the EU have named a former Belgian PM to be the lead negotiator – how this will work hasn’t been discussed, so it is hard to know if he will be taking the cue for negotiations from the Council or Commission.

Whilst some in the EU Commission are rejoicing in delays for Britain in negotiating trade agreements outside the EU (they can’t formally negotiate trade agreements until they have left the EU) the EU itself is running into difficulty with the TTIP trade agreement with the US as talks have stalled again. It is reported that the hold up is with the French who do not like the agreement as it is at the moment, the French Foreign Minister last week was quoted as saying the TTIP is dead in the water. It is not expected that negotiations will resume until June 2017.

The EU Commission are expected to unveil draft legislation for a visa scheme for countries not in the Schengen Zone that have a visa waiver, similar to that of the US ESTA. This is in response to security fears, and is expected that it will be a similar process to those of the US, where travellers from countries with a visa waiver will have to apply online for permission to travel. Despite some media spinning this as a post Brexit scheme to apply to Britain only, if it comes in it would apply to the UK regardless of Brexit as they are not part of the Schengen zone, and it will apply to many other countries in the world, including NZ.

UK Update – Labour

Missy is back in action with a report from the UK and Europe. Report 2:


Labour

This afternoon a new poll came out giving the Conservatives a 13 point lead over Labour, this is being reported as Labour’s worst ever poll ratings in opposition. Interestingly despite being a Guardian poll, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the Guardian about it.

Emily Thornberry has accused a Sky journalist of being sexist when being interviewed by him yesterday. He asked her if she could name the French Foreign Minister, Emily Thornberry then told the interviewer to stop pub quizzing her as it was patronising, and stated he was only asking the questions because she was a woman. She claimed he was being sexist, and he wouldn’t ask male MP’s about who people were, and that he hadn’t quizzed Boris Johnson like this.

In context, she is the Shadow Foreign Secretary, and is in the process of arranging to visit France and Germany as Shadow Foreign Secretary to meet the Foreign Ministers to discuss Brexit. The thing with this story, as pointed out in a Guardian opinion piece, is not that Emily Thornberry didn’t know who the French Foreign Minister was, but rather her over reaction to the question, and trying to call it sexism – which she has been criticised for by a number of women.

No further news on the Labour Party conference, so from what I can gather it does seem to be going ahead – at least there has been no cancellation as yet.

A significant donor to the Labour Party has been suspended after writing an article criticising Jeremy Corbyn, and comparing him, Momentum, and his MP backers, to the Nazi Stormtroopers. This in itself would not be a major story – except for the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Labour party – if it was not because the donor in question is jewish, and some are using his suspension to re-ignite the anti-semitism row within the Labour Party, which has never quite gone away.


NZ Herald: One year after Corbyn win, Britain’s Labour hits poll nadir

One year after his election, Jeremy Corbyn is leading the most unpopular opposition Labour party in British history, according to an analysis of polls published Monday.

Labour is currently trailing the ruling Conservatives by an average of 11 points, according to the Nuffield series of British General Election studies.

No Labour party has faced such a deficit 12 months after electing a new leader since modern polling began in the 1950s, according to a Press Association analysis of historic polls to mark the anniversary.

It is also the second-worst polling level for any major British opposition party since World War II, behind the 25-point deficit suffered by William Hague’s Conservatives in 1998, when Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair was riding high.

It’s probably a long time until the next election but Labour are in a mess right now.

UK Update – Conservatives

Missy is back in action with a report from the UK and Europe. Report 1:


Conservatives

The big news today is that David Cameron has resigned from Parliament effective immediately. This has forced a by-election in his electorate, but it shouldn’t be an issue as it is a safe Conservative seat.

Last week Brexit Minister David Davis intimated that the UK would not be looking for a deal that necessary included remaining in the single market by saying it was very improbable that they would. He was rebuked by Theresa May, with a spokesperson saying that it is not right to be putting all their cards on the table before negotiations, and claimed that it was his opinion not Government policy. This has led some commentators to think that it will be a soft Brexit, whilst others think she is wanting to keep all negotiating points secret in order to execute a hard Brexit.

On Theresa May, and Brexit, she has stated that there will not be a points based immigration system after Brexit. Theresa May is not in favour of points based systems as she said it does not curb immigration, and does not necessarily bring in people who contribute to society, she is in favour of a work permit based system, where immigrants will have to have a job prior to migrating to the UK. This will include EU citizens as well.

 

UK update – EU, Corbyn

Another UK update from Missy:


EU:

The Irish cabinet today agreed to appeal the decision by the EU Commission over Apple. This was flagged the other day by Ireland, but today after an emergency cabinet meeting it was made official. This has been promoted by some commentators in the UK as showing the tide turning against the EU by the member nations, whether or not this is true time will tell. It will be interesting to watch, but will be a drawn out process.

Labour:

Ooops he did it again! Corbyn has yet again caused controversy, and is facing criticism regarding intolerance in the Labour Party – this time on two counts:

1. Ruth Smeeth, has received over 20,000 threats since she spoke out against Corbyn over the report into Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. One in particular is causing concern, where she was told the gallows would be a fine and fitting place for her. She is under police protection, and the Counter Terrorism unit are investigating a couple of the people sending the message. The messages have all been sent by people saying they are supporting Corbyn, and they have been sent (in her words) in his name.

Corbyn’s spokesperson said “Jeremy condemns all abuse, and no one responsible for it is a genuine supporter of Jeremy’s. He has repeatedly called for a kinder, gentler politics.”

Unfortunately what this shows is that no matter what Corbyn says his supporters are not listening to him, and his response is to bury his head in the sand and pretend they are not really his supporters. And because he is not strong, or decisive, in taking action against them they believe they have his tacit approval to act in this way – and no matter if they do, his inaction makes the public think they have his approval as well.

His supporters are showing Corbyn up to be a weak and ineffectual leader incapable of making the hard decisions required, and the less he does about this, the less he looks like a PM in waiting to the rest of the country. The problem for Corbyn acting on this is that he needs these people in order to keep his position, and it is now at a stage where if he did act, these ‘supporters’ could easily take things into their own hands and become violent – he really is in a no win situation now.

2. On Wednesday Corbyn gave a speech in which he said that Companies should stop the after work drinks as it was unfair on mothers who wanted to get home to their children, and it benefited men who did not feel the need to be home to look after the children. This was said at a speech to launch Labour’s policy on equal rights for women, which was (ironically) followed by a drinks party (obviously no after work drinks don’t apply to him).

I will assume he meant this comment to be positive for women, and about fairness for women in the workplace, the problem is it seems to have backfired on him as he has been accused of sexism on two counts – one by suggesting women are the only ones responsible for looking after children, and two by suggesting fathers don’t want to be home to help look after their children.

There are some that have also accused him of sexism on the grounds of assuming women don’t want to go out and socialise with colleagues after work, and those that have said he is being discriminatory against those without children – or with older or grown children – by suggesting they should be denied after work drinks because of those with younger children. Not to mention the whole implication that the Government should be able to have any say on how businesses and their workers interact socially, or after hours.

One big mess for Corbyn.