Papers almost united in judgement of May’s humiliation, student loans and supermoons

20 January 2019

What a week!  What a 2½ years!  Never in the field of human conflict has so much been spent by so few to achieve so little.

Just before the crucial vote on the one and only possible plan / backstop, the Prime Minister said that voting it down would destroy people’s faith in politics.  We’re supposed to have faith in politics?  Don’t we need faith only if something can’t be proved?  Or did she mean politicians?  If I’d ever had any faith in politicians generally, I certainly wouldn’t have any now after 2 years of dithering and 6 months of panic.

After the plan had been voted down by the House of Lords, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and, overwhelmingly, by the House of Commons, Wednesday’s newspaper headlines were fascinating:

Dismay (Daily Express)

May’s Brexit deal crushed by Commons (Financial Times)

May suffers historic defeat as Tories turn against her (Guardian)

Historic humiliation (i)

Fighting for her life (Daily Mail)

Worst defeat EVER (Metro)

No deal No hope No clue No confidence (Daily Mirror)

Brextinct (Sun)

A complete humiliation (Telegraph)

May suffers historic defeat (Times)

and, not to be missed,

Dermot’s rage at Ant and Dec (Daily Star)

Rarely have the media been so (nearly) united.

It was also revealed this week that the FBI had, in 2017, investigated whether Trump was a Russian agent and, predictably, he went berserk.  Just imagine how differently we’d have felt about him if he’d said something like “That’s what they get paid for, to protect America and to investigate rumours, however unlikely, and they proved my innocence.”

The President doth protest too much methinks.

And here’s some news of a sneaky and half-arsed tax increase that I missed when it was announced last autumn (though Hammond may have forgotten to mention it in his budget speech):  probate fees in England and Wales – Scotland and Northern Ireland have different rules – will be increasing in April from the current levels of £155 or £215.

The good news is that estates worth less than £50,000 won’t pay anything and fees for some estates worth more than this will be related to the value of the estate.  The bad news is that there is a maximum charge is £6,000 on estates worth £2m or more so greed is still perceived as good.  Those with enough money in their petty cash boxes to pay all MPs’ salaries forever will have their fees capped at £6,000.  Aren’t these exactly the people who can afford to pay a lot more?

They’re probably too busy collecting rents:  more than 40% of council flats originally sold to tenants under Maggie Thatcher’s misguided ‘right to buy’ scheme are now owned by private ‘buy to let’ landlords.  Why don’t we renationalise all former council flats subject to the same discount as tenants were given when they bought them?  It would certainly help the people on councils’ waiting lists.

While I’m talking about money, the Department for Education has estimated that 45% of the value of loans to undergraduates will never be repaid. Outstanding loans to students in England exceeded £100bn in 2018, which means that £45bn will be ‘lost’ forever or, more accurately, paid by the rest of us.  £15bn was borrowed in the previous year alone and annual loans are expected to rise to £20bn by 2022-23.  I wonder what it costs to administer loan accounts, and collect and process repayments, and threaten those who fall into arrears;  and if it might be cheaper to do away with tuition fees and dismantle the bureaucracy?

Recent research based on figures from the Ministry of Transport undertaken by an insurance company masquerading as The Academy for Studying the Blindingly Obvious (ASBO) has shown that cars in Scotland drive an average of 8,202 miles a year while cars in south-west London only drive 5,345 miles a year.  They didn’t disclose whether any of the researchers did geography at school.

There are three ‘supermoons’ this year.  The first is tonight and coincides with a lunar eclipse so it’s called a super blood wolf moon (doesn’t it sound like a Native American’s name!)  The moon will supposedly be red between about 4.40 am and 6.45 am with the eclipse peaking at around 5.10 am so, if you’re up in the night and if it’s not cloudy, look up.

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