Who Takes the Blame for Term-Time Holidays, Schools, Local Authority, Parents or Travel Companies? (repost)

Well, this one has been grumbling on for quite some time. Although it has now come to an end with the Supreme Court in the UK judging against Jon Platt. If anyone does not know the story. Mr Platt was fined by his local authority for taking his daughter on a term-time holiday and refusing to pay the £60 fine issued by the local authority. Mr Platt went through the various legal stages in the UK and ended up in the Supreme Court and has now lost.

I remember being back at school that the headteacher could grant discretionary leave for unforeseen circumstances outside of illness and bereavement, however it is now the case that headteachers usually do not do this unless it is exceptional circumstances. I can understand how frustrating it must be for the parent since holiday operators do tend to charge extra during holiday time and to be honest why would they not, if they can get away with it. There is no doubt it is good business practice, whether you think it is morally right for these companies to raise prices by as much as 50% during school holiday times is another matter.

Speaking from an educators point of view, it is extremely disruptive when students have unauthorised absences, as it not only disrupts the missing student but also the present students if the teacher chooses to revisit topics that have already been covered. Now if this is happening six or seven times a year with different students, it really does start to become a problem. The local authority stance seems to be relating to regular attendance, so this certainly needs to be made clear to parents, so they know where they stand on the issue.

I am sure that it has been a very expensive and upsetting time for Mr Platt to ultimately be on the wrong end of the court’s decision, however, we at least now know where we stand going forward. So, we are back to the situation that it has been put in the hands of the headteacher to decide if an unauthorised absence is warranted. Hopefully, this ends the confusion, I do hope for the sake of Mr Platt that he accepts the court’s decision and pays the fine as I would hate to see him hit with a £2500 fine or a custodial sentence.

The correct decision has been made and I hope that It minimises disruption. As for the blame, I am hanging this directly on the door of the travel companies, something must be put into legislation that stops such a price hike at certain times of the year.

Brexit and Trump, is it time to accept the result and make the best of a tough situation? (repost)

Without a doubt 2016 was probably the worst political year of my adult life with Brexit and Trump, in my opinion, there were two of the poorest outcomes I can ever remember. I will start out by saying that politically I do not lean very far in either direction. I have voted for the UK Labour party every year since I was first eligible to vote in 1986. So, I would say that I am centre left in my views. Probably what most people would describe as “New Labour”. I know that probably does not sit well with a lot of the so-called real Labour people, but let us face facts here, the last time the real left wing led Labour party won a UK election was 1974. What these people seem to forget is that you are not going to win a General Election without appealing to the people in the centre ground, Tony Blair understood this in 1997 and that is why he won one of the largest majorities on the 20th Century. So that is where my political allegiances lie.

As I said, last year was one of the poorest political years I can remember. I will address Brexit first. I am sure nobody will be surprised to learn that I am a member of the 48% club who voted to remain in the European Union. I think it is a bad idea to leave and I think it was just because of David Cameron’s crass selfishness that we are in this position. Make no mistakes about this, he gambled and he lost, this was done to appease the right wing of the Conservative party and the UK Independence Party. Although the Labour Party do not get away without blame either, as Her Majesty’s Opposition, they are currently completely flaccid, strong leadership is needed and is not forthcoming.

Anyway, Brexit is going to happen but the looks of it, so although I voted against it, I will begrudgingly accept it. I think it will be devastating for the country, I do not think it will bring immigration down that much and I do think we will be poorer as a result. This is not the time in the world for any country to become isolationist, we need to work closely with our neighbours, however, I think Brexit will just push ourselves further apart from them. The country is as divided as I have ever seen it, I was a teenager during the 1981 riots and I think we are in a more fractured country now that we were then. Hate crime is on the rise and I only see it getting worse as the Brexit process progresses. I really hope I am wrong about this but I really believe that leaving the European Union will be devastating for the UK.

Now just as I thought it could not get any worse, roll on November and the US Presidential Elections. Now on this one, I thought it would be very close and I am would not have been surprised if either candidate had won. Unfortunately, as things progressed I was leaning towards a win for Donald Trump, I could see that Hilary Clinton was just not that popular in the majority of US states. It was a given she would win California, New York and DC but America is much more than those states, and I could see she did not have the support of those other states.

This really should not be an issue in 2016, but I am still not sure that a lot of US voters were ready for a female President. I could be completely wrong on this but I do wonder if it would have been any different if Senator Sanders had been the Democratic candidate. Anyway, we now have President Trump. I agree with very few of his policies, I think he is confrontational and too unstable to hold the position he currently has. He has made some very poor choices for his cabinet. To name a few DaVos, Tillerson and Sessions. The advisors are completely laughable, Conway is a liability and Bannon is one of the most dangerous people in the world today.

It is a worrying state of affairs when you realise that Mile Pence would be an upgrade on President Trump. I have friends from Indiana so I know all about VP Pence’s MO. So, when all is said and done, these people have been elected to do a job, it was done in a democratic election. Whether you agree with the electoral college or not, that is what the candidates signed up for before the election. Maybe it is time to come to terms with the fact that Mt Trump will be president for the next four years.

It does not matter what side of the Atlantic you are on, there has been altogether too much vitriol and hyperbole. Whether it is the levers and the remainers in my country or the press and Mr Trump’s Twitter feed in the USA. By all means, hold people to account for the mistakes they make, but we must get to a point when the petty name-calling must stop. Maybe that time is now. You may not agree with the election results, but you should respect the process that took place and try and make the best of the situation. Let us have some home truths here, if it goes wrong on either side of the Atlantic, we all lose out. Who really wants that to happen!!!

Higher Tax On Digital Goods And Services (repost)

I was having a conversation the other day and it came up whether there should be a much higher rate of tax on digital goods and services. Now I am talking about everything here from online stores, to help lines and even automation within the workplace. If you look at the way “bricks and mortar” stores are folding now, due to the fact that everybody is buying online, something really needs to be done about it. There must be something we can do to help these people out of the situation of being severely disadvantaged in comparison to online stores. Now there are still people that do support these stores but not enough that they will be viable in the long term.

I do not blame the consumer in the slightest for choosing the online option, if you can get a product or service that is reasonably priced with the minimum of effort on the buyer’s part, why would you not take that option. So, I understand it make perfect sense from that point of view. I also have no issues with retailers and service providers that decide to take the online step as their main mode of business. At the end of the day on nearly all cases you are going to have less overhead when compared to the “bricks and mortar” shop. What I would like to see is either some kind of raise in taxes for online businesses, however this would most likely be passed onto the customer which would not be great. The other thing that could happen is some kind of tax breaks for “bricks and mortar” businesses to bring them in line with their online counterparts.

The larger issue in all this will be the way that automation is taking over in the workplace, now it seems strange that I am going to reference a workers’ revolution from the 16th Century, and I am by no means saying the workers should attack the machinery with their “Sabot”, however I do think that there is a real concern about job losses due to the amount of automation that will happen within the workplace in the next 10-15 years.

Maybe it is time to put some kind of a surcharge on automation. The thing I worry about in doing this though, is that it will end up stifling technology and that would be the last thing that I want to do. There have been some fantastic advances over the last 40 years, and long may this continue. Whoever makes the decisions on the way digital services, good and automation in run going forward, has no easy job and certainly not a task I would like to take on.

The first 100 days of President Trump’s office (repost)

So, we are through the first 100 days of President Trump’s reign and to say it has been a bumpy ride would probably be the understatement of all time. He has signed enough executive orders for last 100 months never mind 100 days. The fighting with mainstream media looks like it will never end, and he is still tweeting like a champion.

From the start, it has been a bit of a train wreck with the travel restrictions on those 7 and now 6 countries, people being detained, lawsuits and confusion everywhere. This was clearly rushed out and was rightly stopped by the judicial process, so we have a new iteration of it and I am not sure we are any clearer whether this is lawful or not. Watch this space for updates over the coming months.

It should be slightly easier now for President Trump to get his laws passed especially now that the Supreme Court has a Conservative majority after the rules were changed to only require a majority now to appoint new Supreme Court justices. I am not too sure if I would be happy in that position knowing I could not even make the required 60/100 backing me. Oh well, it is done now and we will just have to see how it works out.

The spectre of Russia is still firmly flying over President Trump with the independent enquiry turning into a bit of a debacle with tales being told to the President before the committee with the Attorney General and now the Chair of the committee taking themselves away from the process. I am sure that this one has a long way to go before we find out what has gone on if we do ever find this information out.

There are going to be plenty of overseas issues to deal within the next few months, as well as all the issues at home. The North Korea and Syria situations are not going away anytime soon and if anything will only escalate, so it will be interesting if President Trump takes aggressive action in relation to these areas, which goes quite a bit against his election pledge. If he does go ahead with getting deeply involved in a long-term conflict, especially after not being able to come through with the affordable care act changes he wanted. I can see a lot of the people that voted for him being mightily unhappy.

From my personal point of view, and I will say that my political stance is as far away from the one taken by President Trump as possible, is that it has been a poor start, however not as bad as I thought it was going to be. We now should wait and see if the second 100 days are any smoother or perish the thought an even bumpier ride.

So encryption issue rears its ugly head again!!! (repost)

So, over the weekend the British Home Secretary, Amber Rudd pointed out that the Westminster terrorist had been speaking to somebody just before then attack using WhatsApp messenger. Of course, there is no way for the information to be intercepted as WhatsApp uses end to end encryption so the data cannot realistically be intercepted by security services. Now Ms Rudd claims that there should be a way that organisation with judicial authority should be given access to the encrypted data, and that the tech companies should cooperate to help with this task.

Now what you can take away from this is that the Secretary of State in charge of UK homeland security for all its citizens is asking for the tech companies to weaken encryption which could have a devastating effect in the long run for digital security. Now obviously, everything possible needs to be done to try and stop these horrendous crimes form taking place and clearly no tech companies are helping these people to facilitate their crimes. Something must be done to try and come up with a solution that stops potential criminal activity being organised through secure applications and the privacy of individuals that will stop hackers having a field day.

So, what can be done, as we saw last year, tech companies are unwilling to create back doors for governments to gain access to locked and encrypted devices. This was proven with the Apple vs FBI IPhone case. You need to have strong encryption especially when devices are used to transfer financial and payment information but doing so especially with programs that use end to end encryption basically does give criminals an undetectable haven to organise any activities they wish. I really do not think currently there is a solution to the problems. Maybe as bot architecture improves there will be a way identify and intercept possible suspect conversations. Online privacy is a minefield and one that needs to be walked over very carefully.

Another thing that could throw a spanner in the works on this issue is, who would have access to the data. Now I am guessing in the UK it would be accessed by GCHQ, but who would have the authority to request the data. I know with the new UK data retention and investigatory powers act, it is basically every UK government department and their brother can request your data. I mean I understand the Home Office may need potential incriminating data about you, however I find it a bit much that the Food Standards Agency needs to know what I bought my wife off Amazon for her birthday.

So, this story has a lot of running still to do and I am sure there will be plenty of talking form lawyers of all sides before anything happens on this one. Strong encryption needs to stay to protect people’s privacy but to offset that with the need for law enforcement to get much needed data, I do not have a clue.

Article 50 Implemented, This Is Going to Be a Bumpy Ride (Repost)

Well as we expected Theresa May has implemented Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, giving notice the United Kingdom wishes to withdraw from the European Union. I will be honest, not one of the great weeks of my life. I was four years old when we joined the then Common Market, we worked hard to get in, much to French protestations and with the flick of her pen Mrs May dismantled out membership.

As I am sure you can imagine with my centre-left political stance I was 100% a remainer, I thought it was the best for the future of our country. I am not impressed with the bolshi right-wing bravado that we are taking our country back. No, we are hamstringing it as I believe there is zero chance of getting anything near the deal we had in the single market and that sends us sliding dangerously towards WTO trade rules. I am sure our farmers will be delighted to have a 40% tariff slapped on their exports.

So, what happens now? Well from what I can see depending which side of the fence you are on. Of course, the UK government wants to get going with trade talks straight away, however, it looks like the big players on the EU side are having none of that until we have paid what we owe into the EU coffers. You see this is the problem when you are having to forge a deal with 27 other countries. This surely is going to be one of the biggest nightmares of modern times.

Moreover, we now have Spain threatening to veto any deals unless we come to some arrangement about Gibraltar, we have Scotland wanting a new independence referendum due to the fact 62% of Scots voted to stay in the EU. Although not related to the EU issues we also have the power brokers of the Northern Ireland assembly not wanting to play nice.

If this fun and games for the week were not enough we have the Great Repeal Bill which will transpose EU law into UK law, now we know those 1000 or so laws are going to be easy to sort out, right? So, a Conservative government would be not sticking true to form if they did not try and cut a few workers’ rights out during the transfer of the laws. Be interesting to see which ones they try to guillotine.

So, after the first week of post Article 50 fun, I can say that I am not taking Theresa May’s advice and getting behind Brexit. I will always stay true to myself, I thought it was a bad idea at the time and I still do. There is no way anybody should get behind something they don’t believe in, I am not doing it and would not expect anybody else to do either. When you have no confidence in something, it does neither side any good.

I just hope that the team Theresa has put together for the trade talks are more capable than I think they are, however, I doubt it based on some of the “don’t know” responses we are already getting from David Davies. This is going to be a very long two years or more.