Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Maintenance grants scrapped for poorest students

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/01/maintenance-grants-scrapped-for-poorest-students?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WordPres

Of course! …. the privileged establishment don’t want people from poorer white and ethnically diverse backgrounds to gain higher education.

If one were to study the social history of the UK you will see a correlation between the imposition of social exclusion by various means. 

This was maintained in various ways, the obvious being draconian laws where not only at one time education was only for the privileged, but poor, destitute and hungry children could be hanged or deported to the colonies for stealing a loaf of bread. 

From the 20th century with the rise of left wing organisations and governments, coupled with the social changes enforced on the elite from the two world wars, they have had to adapt to ways of trying to maintain what they consider their rightful status as ‘above’ the populous of the country.

Throughout the 20th century and beyond this has been through elements such as education where barriers have been placed in the front of state educated students to go on to higher degree level learning. 

Someone from a less privileged background has either had to be incredibly determined to surmount those barriers, and/or of an intellectual ability far in excess of their higher establishment counterparts. 

Apart from the historical evidence a question is worth asking is why in modern Britain today with the undisputed fact of the increasing massive gap between the rich and less well off in society, and with fees into the many thousands for a term the well off can afford even easier… then why are public schools allowed to continue having the advantages of their establishments being classified as ‘charities’

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http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/16/russia-economy-west-vladimir-putin

Russia has it’s own unique way of going about governance and commerce which is as diverse and varied as any non European state. We deal with other countries who don’t go about their business in what the west would regard as a conventional and appropriate way, so why on earth do we seem obsessed in changing the way Russia conducts its internal affairs.

It’s almost akin to the days when Western European missionaries trundled down to Africa to convert the ‘savages’ and impose our ways and philosophy on them …then shocked and abhorred on occasions when our ‘soldiers’ of God were turned upon and hacked to bits.

Even a short delve into Russian history, particularly since the revolution of 1917, one can appreciate why as a nation they feel insecure and threatened. Ever since the time of Lenin and Trotsky nations all around its borders have been trying at the very least to undermine them … and particularly from the western side.

France had a fear of invasion and from that came the Maginot Line, a vast fortification that spread along the French/German border. It’s intention in World War 2 failed but Russia simply expanded the idea in 1945 after the end of the war. Instead of concrete they chose the territory of whole countries between them as a ‘buffer zone’ … or the ‘Iron Curtain’ phrase coined by Winston Churchill.

This was hardly surprising as twice they had been invaded from the west, by Napoleon in 1812 and Hitler in 1941. In both cases the Russian casualties was beyond comprehension with millions of their people killed and injured.

And still the west continued in the same vein through the ‘Cold War’ period. Russia are by no means the innocent party in all this but there seems to be a complete blindness in the appreciation of why and a dogmatic refusal to look at this from a different angle.

Vladimir Putin is a different person to deal with than Mikhail Gorbachev and the ‘Glasnost’ period that eventually dismantled the USSR. He is a political animal of the ‘old school’ type. But the west have positive relations with leaders of nations just as bad or far worse than him who they accept in a pragmatic and positive way.

A wounded animal is a dangerous thing and that is the Russian bear at this time. The west’s overall treatment of Russia, and their dealings with Putin need to change and that means inclusion and assistance. The sooner the West realise this the better because the possible alternative consequences of a threatened Russia with a wrecked economy could be a far worse proposition.

Before and after the United Kingdom officially came into being with the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707, England has often seemed to be unprepared in historically significant events or periods.

The Empire came about more by accident due the consequences of the huge expense of developing the Royal Navy and them needing to recoup back to the Treasury the vast sums spent. To put this into perspective, at it’s height the Admiralty’s expenditure accounted for 10% of GDP of the country. This was the primary reason the Admiralty encouraged the system of the a Royal Navy ships Captains being able to retain the percentage of any ‘booty’ they brought back to share with himself and his crew. A state sanctioned ‘piracy’ if you like.

As with many European countries, any land area they docked at which had the potential of riches was ‘claimed’ on behalf of the sovereign to protect the assets discovered. In the example of India, a reciprocal arrangement was developed with the British East India Company. In effect a trading company with a private army that eventually led to the whole of India being under British control.

It was a successful blueprint similarly adopted that eventually comprised of overseas possessions and trading posts that ruled or administered over approximately 458 million people (an estimated 20% of the world’s population at the time) covering over 13 million square miles.

Historians can argue for or against the rights, wrongs etc but two things cannot really be disputed.

1) From all over the vast areas there had to be a central point everything went back to. That by logic was the capital city of the ‘Mother Country’ London.

2) The United Kingdom Governments took full advantage of the ‘spoils’ from those regions, and the effect of what wasn’t given back in return resonates with the consequences of this to the present day.

Closer to home, the pulling in of controlling power by a centralised government also became a legacy we have to the present day.

We were pathetically unprepared at the outbreak of the World War 2 in 1939, but the replacement of a Prime Minister totally unsuitable for the time in Neville Chamberlain, and the pure luck of an American President who wasn’t an isolationist and prepared to apply a Lend Lease policy helped us get out of being overrun by Germany.

After the end of World War 2 in 1945 Central Government in London held on to this. Even the possibility it could be diminished after 1945 as it was being justified less and less with the break up of the Empire wasn’t going to stop them.

However, over the 69 years of no worldwide conflict the requirement of the Central Government to centralise the financial, fiscal and legislative powers in London has become less and less relevant.

The mobility of the population in relation to moving and working in another part of the country from where one was born and raised hasn’t diminished the flourishing of the identity of the many regions in the UK. The phrase “once a Yorkshireman, always a Yorkshireman” could well be applied to anywhere else in the country by simply just changing ‘Yorkshireman’ as appropriate to the specific area concerned.

That term “we’re all in it together” for the financial crisis and cuts used by the Government simply doesn’t resonate with many because it’s plainly not true.

The resources spent per head in London far outweighs other parts of the UK, but the financial contribution from these other parts of the UK in return to Central Government in London greatly exceeds what they get back.

When you bring into play the current legislative powers of the Scottish Assembly to use for the benefit of it’s people, plus London expecting the English to accept MP’s from Scotland who can vote on English matters in the House of Commons, with the reverse not happening, is a classic case of their insular attitude.

A political arrangement by the way only for the benefit of the main parties to ensure they didn’t lose representatives from north of the border. This of course also applies to MP’s from other regions of the UK where they have a legislative body.

This is further compounded by the slashing of the budgets in real terms of all government departments, to also include the English County Councils downwards making the population of England suffer more than anywhere else generally.

Even today a vast majority, if not all, of the revenue from local taxation goes back to the Treasury who in turn then allocate a sum back that the English Regions have to fight tooth an nail for. They exercise near 100% financial and legislative control over the English regions purely by the fact their responsibilities issued by Central Government ensure the Councils require two thirds more revenue than they raise. Nearly every £ given has a caveat of what can be done with it and it is Central Government who decide how much your local government will receive.

The choice of cuts is left at local level but the amount of money they receive to maintain the services is decided in London. And when it’s announced an Adult Social Care respite establishment is being trimmed back or closed down, who do the local residents petition, protest and blame? .. not London.

When a major problem arises such as the floods it’s left to the local government authorities, rescue services and agencies to deal with until they are at near breaking point. Only when it beings to maybe look bad for London will they react.

The period of inaction from London to flood affected areas such as Somerset is a typical example and symptomatic of the attitude to the rest of England. I can’t imagine the Scottish politicians allowing such a situation to go on so long without intervention.

Central Government in London is like the old UK with it’s Empire, carry on regardless and get the most out with as little input as possible. The grand announcement that another £130 million is being allocated to battle the flood defence situation rings hollow with the leaked information the Environment Agency in England have heavy budget cuts imposed by ministers meaning it will have to shed about 25% of its staff, including frontline flood staff. This is despite pledges by its chairman that reducing the agency’s emergency response was a “red line”  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/10/floods-environment-agency-staff-cuts

With all the evidence over the years of climate change and the almost guaranteed weather to some degree of the type we are now experiencing nearly every year, they have actively decreased the capability of a government agency whose primary remit is to hold back nature. Replace the environment agency with the downsizing and lack of modernisation of the armed services between up to 1938 – when it was as plain as day the likely intentions of Hitler in Germany by his actions between from 1933* – and one has again the totally unprepared scenario.

Prime Minister David Cameron is our Neville Chamberlain of 1939, but the question of why we need all the power centralised in London is being asked in Scotland, and the same question is being asked more and more all over the shires of England.

* Build up of armed forces in direct contravention of 1919 Treaty of Versaille – Annexe of Alasce and Lorraine from France – Annexe of Austria – occupation of Czechoslovakia. All prior to invasion of Poland in 1939 

The last Plantagenet king, Richard III is in the news again due to a a high court judge giving permission for his descendants to challenge plans to rebury the king’s remains in Leicester.

The Plantagenet Alliance, which claims 15 descendants of relatives of the king as members, want his remains to be buried in York, which, it claims, he regarded as his home.

So, on Friday (16th August 2013), Mr Justice Haddon-Cave gave the go-ahead for the alliance to bring judicial review proceedings against the justice secretary and the University of Leicester, which excavated the car park under licence from the Ministry of Justice.

In a nutshell, the judge ruled the decision taken prior to the excavation licence is open to challenge quite simply because it could be argued they didn’t comply to their full legal remit … in other words they didn’t ask the family of the deceased.

I find it quite astounding that what we can assume are fairly intelligent people … well, at least the University of Leicester must have some …. didn’t take a step back for a moment and think “hey! are there any living relatives to this guy? If so, shouldn’t we consult with them as well?”

Apart from Edward V who it’s considered likely to have been murdered in the Tower of London and secretly buried there, the smattering of my knowledge of English monarchs concludes most of them were buried in places where they either chose or would have been happy to be interned.

Looking down a list burial sites of English monarchs there are a collection of cathedrals, abbey’s, castles or designated royal burial grounds, for example…

Alfred the Great – Old Minster, Winchester

Edward the Confessor – Westminster Abbey

Richard 1st – Fontevraud Abbey, Anjou, France (with heart buried in Rouen)

Queen Victoria – Royal burial ground, Frogmore, Windsor

These places were either close to their hearts … in Richard 1st case literally … or were completely appropriate … Edward the Confessor’s major building project of his reign was indeed Westminster Abbey. At least a vast majority of the others it could be reasonably argued the same applies.

Now, if you’ve got this far you might be asking…”so?”

Well, the point is this is our historical heritage we’re talking about, allied to living descendants of the deceased. Both deserve consideration with the caveat of what should be regarded as ‘doing right’ by Richard III.

I say ‘doing right’ because we as a nation are custodians of our heritage and history. People who would be asked about their impression of Richard III, on the pretext they know what you’re talking about, will reply “humped back, murdered Princes, evil” Well!, definitely one …and possibly two… out of three isn’t bad in that he did have a bad curvature of the spine and had good reason to get rid of the two young Princes’

We have a legacy of ‘knowledge’ from the Tudors who took over and basically did a character assassination on Richard because quite frankly Henry VII had less of a claim to the throne than the curved spine incumbent he despatched at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. This came from propaganda which William Shakespeare ‘confirmed’ later by writing his play, and he wasn’t going to be stupid and upset Queen Elizabeth, grand-daughter of Henry VII.

His appearance and likely involvement in the death of the two young Princes’ helped to portray Richard as an evil king. This by the standard of today could be regarded as ‘evil’. However, by the standards of the time killing the nearest rival claimants or focal point for opposition was the way to go about securing your throne. If you get out of your head the assumption close relatives such as nephews were cherished at that level of hierarchy during that time you can begin to understand the reasoning, however terrible it seems to us today.

There is also another aspect to challenge the Tudor tag of ‘evil’. During his time as supporting his brother Edward IV he attained several titles and land stretching from Wales and Gloucester in the west, Richmond in the north and lands in East Anglia to the east. His primary title could be considered as Duke of Gloucester, and by all accounts he was considered a fair Duke within the context of the time. He controlled all his estates with reason and wasn’t prone to excess of gratuitous subjugation or cruelty. Overall he did what was necessary at the time depending on the circumstances.

In 1462, he was made Constable of Gloucester and appointed Governor of the North, becoming the richest and most powerful noble in England. From all the titles and lands he had his closest connection was in the north though. His father was the Duke of York and he certainly preferred that part of the country given the choice.

This is the crux of the judgement awarded to the descendants of Richard III who will challenge that he should be buried in York. Historical records point to Yorkshire being the one area he controlled as closest to his heart. Also, there is the evidence of the close family connection to this part of the country, which surely should account for something.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave also tellingly recognised the prestige and financial benefit to the location where Richard III is finally interned. It’s extremely important for an important historical discovery such as the remains of the last Plantagenet king to be concluded in an historically accurate way. It seems evidently reasonable to say that the conclusion should be the internment of his remains in the place he is most closely associated with, both historically and in family tradition, plus a location in that area befitting a former king of England…. which is York.