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Guitarist Returns to EU

Paul Roberts, guitarist with dog Roxy.
Paul Roberts, guitarist with dog Roxy.

Our son Paul set off at dawn last Wednesday on a long journey busking across Europe with his dog Roxy. For most of the last 20 years Paul has made his living entertaining the people of Europe by busking with his guitar or saxophone in their marketplaces, especially in the south of France.
He was given a small puppy in the marketplace of St Girons four years ago. For some reason he thought that the small puppy, a Pyrenean sheep dog, would not grow into a big dog, but she has and will now accompany him on his planned journey across France and Spain to the south of Portugal.
For the last three years he has lived in England but now he is returning under the rules brought in after Brexit which make his life very much more difficult.
He will be allowed to stay for only 90 days in EU countries before having to leave the EU for a further 90 days at least. To take his dog with him he has had to pay about £180 pounds for veterinary records to satisfy the French authorities. I think this is not an inevitable consequence of Brexit but a consequence of the French trying to make life difficult for people of countries that leave the European Union.
In addition, he has had to pay for vaccinations including a rabies vaccination, something he finds strange since there are no cases of rabies in England or France.
He plans to keep some sort of video log of his journey..

Paul Roberts, guitarist
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UK gives disproportionate amounts of military aid to Ukraine

UK gives disproportionate amounts of military aid to Ukraine

Shouldn’t other European countries be giving more?

See this Government account of our spending: –

Web link below

“Who is providing military assistance?

The US is the largest provider of military assistance to Ukraine, having committed $30 billion since the start of the Biden administration. $29.3 billion of that assistance has been provided since February 2022.

As the second largest donor, the UK has committed £2.3 billion in military assistance to Ukraine so far and has pledged to match that assistance in 2023. The UK is also hosting a training programme (Operation Interflex), which is supported by several allies, with the aim of training 10,000 new and existing Ukrainian personnel within 120 days. The UK has recently committed to training Ukrainian fast jet pilots but has said that combat fighter aircraft will not be provided, at least in the short term.

NATO, as an alliance, has been clear in its political support of Ukraine and fully supports the provision of bilateral military assistance by individual allies. NATO is helping to coordinate requests for assistance from the Ukrainian government and is supporting the delivery of humanitarian and non-lethal aid. Ukraine is not a NATO member, however, and therefore isn’t party to NATO’s mutual defence clause under Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty. As such, NATO troops will not be deployed on the ground in Ukraine. Allies have also ruled out imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine because it would bring Russia into direct conflict with NATO forces. At the Heads of State and Government summit in Madrid at the end of June 2022 NATO allies agreed a new package of assistance for Ukraine that will provide long term, sustained, support.

The European Union is also providing non-lethal and lethal arms through its European Peace Facility (EPF). This is the first time the bloc has, in its history, approved the supply of lethal weapons to a third country. To date, the EU has committed €3.6 billion. In October 2022, the EU also approved a new training mission for the Ukrainian armed forces.”

 This briefing dated 15 February 2023.

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UK Care Crisis deepens – brilliantly explored in BBC programmes with Ed Balls

A care worker in the BBC programme

Crisis is not too strong a word to apply to care of the elderly in care homes and those living in their own homes with care assistance. Currently a million people are suffering with dementia in the UK and numbers are increasing.

Today’s move (11 November) by the government to require all care home staff to be double vaccinated against Covid will mean a further exodus of staff from a desperately struggling service.

In the first of two programmes Ed Balls, former government minister, goes to live and work for a fortnight as a carer in a care home in Scarborough. Beyond doubt the staff are dedicated, working in a physically and emotionally stressful situation and are close to exhaustion because of staffing shortages. They are paid a very low wage and feel undervalued. The finances of the care home in the programme are on a knife edge.

What can be done? If a care home closes where will the helpless and desperately needy patients go? The situation, replicated in thousands of care homes across the country, urgently needs answers.

You can see this first programme on BBC I-player and the second programme is next Monday, 15 November 2021 at 9 pm on BBC2.

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Afghanistan, 20-years of disaster created by America and Britain

Afghanistan, 20-years of disaster created by America and Britain

Taking on Afghanistan in 2001 was an unnecessary and calamitous war on one of the poorest, most dysfunctional  countries in the world. It was started, we were told, to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and thus prevent terrorism. 

After 20 years of occupation by mainly American and British forces and 20 years of killing, peace prosperity and harmony are desperately absent so that the stream of refugees from Afghanistan continues. We are back where we started: with the Taliban in power. Now it seems we will negotiate with the Taliban, an idea that might have been tried instead of bombing.

Tony Blair and his colleagues, and British politicians who supported the war, should be held to account for the shame they have brought to this country, and the thousands killed and injured as a result of their decisions, crimes against humanity.

Was it terrorism?

America, Britain, and the others presented the war against the Taliban as a war against  terrorism. Terrorism may be defined as the use of violence for political ends. On this definition the terrorism delivered by Britain, America, and others far exceeds any terrorist suffering we may have  endured before or since this war.

Self-inflicted injury

Much of our own suffering has come to us as a direct result of our own actions in Afghanistan. Over 450 British soldiers were killed in this war and approximately another thousand seriously injured. These facts alone show that this military fantasy operation has made things worse for ourselves even on that small measure of achievement.

160,000 Afghans killed

Of course,  the general picture is far worse than this. Although we are constantly told of the benefits brought to Afghanistan by Western involvement in the last 20-years certain facts are mostly quietly overlooked. For example, over 160,000 Afghans were killed during the last 20-years,  many by direct US bombing, but others in the ongoing conflict which the Western presence promoted in the country, taking sides but never bringing peace, far from it. Our use of violence against Afghans must have brought about suffering on a wide scale, and anger against the west, a stimulus to retaliation. More details below.

Afghan Refugee Crisis reveals despair felt during the occupation by US and UK

This is what an Amnesty web report said on 20 June 2019:
“There are currently more than 2.6 million registered refugees in the world from Afghanistan.
There are more than 2 million people who have been internally displaced by the ongoing conflict. . .
In a report published in June 2019, the Institute for Peace and Economics said that Afghanistan is the world’s “least peaceful” country, replacing Syria.”

Cost to UK taxpayer

The cost of the UK taxpayer is in the region of £40 billion. 

The figure put out by the government is about half this but its figures overlook a number of factors.  For an analysis of the costs see the Fact Check web page by Channel 4..

The death toll in Afghanistan    –    Associated Press and BBC statistics

Associated Press

American service members killed in Afghanistan through April [2021]: 2,448.

U.S. Contractors: 3,846. [employed to do military tasks or support the US military operation]

Afghan national military and police: 66,000.

Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states: 1,144.

Afghan civilians: 47,245.

Taliban and other opposition fighters: 51,191.

Aid workers: 444.

Journalists: 72.

[Total number of Afghans killed: 164,436. The number of Americans killed was more than twice the number that died in the 9/11 twin towers atrocity]

Evidence from the BBC  –  Frank Gardner BBC Correspondent, BBC web 17 April 2021

“The cost of this 20-year military and security engagement has been astronomically high – in lives, in livelihoods and in money. 

Over 2,300 US servicemen and women have been killed and more than 20,000 injured, along with more than 450 Britons and hundreds more from other nationalities.

But it is the Afghans themselves who have borne the brunt of the casualties, with over 60,000 members of the security forces killed and nearly twice that many civilians.

The estimated financial cost to the US taxpayer is close to a staggering US$1 trillion.”

My conclusion

Wars such as the one against Afghanistan are an affront to intelligence and affront to morality. They are unnecessary and counterproductive. Few countries in the world today involve themselves in such primitive military adventures and it is a matter of shame that the UK is one of the few countries that believes in violence as an acceptable mode of international relations.

David Roberts, 14 September 2021

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World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day

Suicide, not covid, is the biggest killer of under 35 year olds in the UK

Friday 10th September is World Suicide Prevention Day – an annual awareness day that highlights the important work that people, organisations and charities are undertaking globally, to prevent suicide.

PAPYRUS is one of these organisations which offers advice and help in the UK, not only to those with suicidal feelings,  but also to friends and relatives who may want advice about how to help someone they believe may be severely depressed or in danger of committing suicide.

For more info go to PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide

Papyrus runs Hopeline UK.

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Rocketing arms spending leaves little for nurses

Rocketing arms spending leaves little for nurses’ pay

The UK will have the biggest defence budget in Europe

On 19th of November last year the UK government announced the largest military spending budget for 30 years. This amounted to a £16.5 billion increase above the manifesto commitment over four years.
On existing forecasts, this is an overall cash increase of £24.1 billion over four years compared to last year’s budget.
The Royal United Services Institute said that the “additional cash represents a real-term increase of between 10 percent and 15 percent in the defence budget.
The National Audit Office, the government’s financial watchdog, said, even before this announcement that the 10-year equipment plan was unaffordable,being too costly by as much as £13 billion. The current annual defense budget is about £40 billion.

Who benefits from vastly increased defence spending?

This cannot be about the defence of Britain. We are not under military threat from any country or likely to be so so within the next decade or two. Can the government name a single country that might want to invade or attack Britain? The government is funding military equipment some of which cannot be positioned or used to defend Britain, for example two huge aircraft carriers which were ordered by Tony Blair and his government. These currently lack aircraft so there is is a big aircraft building programme. There is also the hugely costly and illegal Trident weapons of mass destruction programme. See my post on this topic.

So what’s behind all this spending?

  1. First there is the doctrinaire belief that we must remain best and most supportive friend of America and support America in its military actions whatever they may be. (We have seen to our cost for example, Afghanistan and Iraq that the open cheque has cost huge number of lives, created thousands of refugees, and cost a great deal of money as well.)
  2. From the government’s point of view this spending will maintain or create very large numbers of jobs, especially in parts of the country where it feels a great need to maintain popularity. In Scotland there is a desire by many for independence so assuring jobs there may be a political move. Some of this spending will pay for the building of thirteen frigates which are currently under construction in Scotland. Britain also has plans for the creation of a Space Command capable of launching a rocket from a site in Scotland by 2022.

Boris Johnson’s explanation to parliament

“These projects are expected to create up to 10,000 thousand jobs annually across the UK. These will reflect the expertise and ingenuity of British people both inside and outside our Armed Forces, harnessing the UK’s skills in construction and science and reinvigorating those industries in the coming decades.”

What can we do?

First we need to be specific about what we want. We might then focus on petitions for which we work to gain support.

For example,

  1. We might demand the cutting of the planned increases in the defence budget immediately in order to raise the pay of nurses and give more funds to the NHS.
  2. We might demand a halving of the defence budget before the end of the current parliament.
  3. We might demand the scrapping of the Trident weapons of mass destruction programme and the nuclear powered submarines which carry them.
  4. We might demand that Britain leave NATO.
  5. We might demand that Britain declares itself unwilling to support US military adventures.
  6. We might demand a foreign policy which concentrates on friendly cooperation with all countries and working towards the peaceful encouragement of tolerant and democratic societies in countries where we find human rights to be lacking.

On a personal level the least we can do is write to our MP stating what changes we would like to see. We also need to raise this matter with as many people as possible. This might be in face-to-face discussions but it can also be in the form of letters to the press, tweets on Twitter, messages on facebook etc. We should stop misnaming offensive weapons of mass destruction “deterrents”.

The media should take on the topic of peace and disarmament

We need to lobby the media to deal with peace and disarmament issues and not brush them aside. Why was the huge increase in defence (war) spending at a time of severe financial difficulty not thoroughly explored by the media?

Peace and disarmament should become a long-term burning public issue.

Britain’s reputation as a violence-loving country

When we think of the death, destruction and misery our bombing and interventions in other countries have caused in this century alone it is obvious that the subject is something we are right to be angry about. British governments have proved themselves to be unfit to be in charge of their huge and growing destructive armoury.

True “defence” is a topic which ought to be part of the school curriculum but can we persuade the government to allow this controversial and political topic to be aired in British schools?

Your views?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on these topics. Please use the comment box below. If you use facebook you can use the second comment box without any formalities, and could share your views on facebook too, if you wish.

David Roberts,


Defense News (online) 19 November 2020
Statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street. 19 November 2020.

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