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It’s silly season all year round

August 8, 2019

  

Time was that the parliamentary summer recess was semi-affectionately known as “the silly season”. The convention being that in the absence of anything substantial happening in Westminster, it was left to press and politicians to make stuff up.

 

Of course, recent trends mean that political absurdity is now a year-round thing. No-one even attempts to distinguish between fantasy and factual reporting.

 

So should we dismiss niggling rumours of a snap general election before the end of the year in the same light?

 

Well, the signs are there. We have a prime minister with a slender mandate, dashing off to all four corners of a fragmented union, making wild promises of infrastructure spending in non-tory areas. He’s got a virtually new and compliant cabinet and appointed a campaign expert to run his political team.

 

More to the point, Boris Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the EU by October 31 – do or die.

 

However, and despite the breezy rhetoric, most serious opinion says that can’t possibly deliver such an outcome without the support of the Commons. Moreover, any attempt to bypass the House would simply replace one constitutional crisis with a much deeper one.

 

So we can definitely expect an autumn election when things fall apart then?

 

“No”, say tory voices who point to how the recent Brecon & Radnor by-election has highlighted ballot-box vulnerabilities. It would be electoral madness.

 

“Yes”, counter those who feel new management in Downing Street has halted the Brexit Party surge. Now is the time to capitalise, especially as Labour is struggling to convince itself – let alone its voters – that it has a coherent stance on Brexit.

 

Like I said, the great thing about the silly season is that you can make it up and no-one is the wiser provided you don’t have to deliver anything.

 

As such, I’d suggest you treat anything you read about government plans over the next few weeks in the same vein. Enjoy the holidays.

 

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Danger in the skies

 

Most people had probably never heard of Sir Arthur Whitten-Brown or that the one-time Swansea resident was co-pilot in the first transatlantic flight in June 1919.

 

A century later, few taking a leisurely stroll at St Margaret’s Bay in Kent last week knew anything about French inventor Franky Zapata either - until he dropped in, so to speak.

 

His flight across the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard in 22 minutes evoked comparisons with countryman Louis Blériot, who in 1909 was the first individual to make the same journey via powered flight.

 

We may have seen a glimpse of the future but the fact that the initial appearance of Zapata’s device was at a military display might give a clue to its final application.

 

The same kind of speculation applies to hybrid electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (EVtol) – dubbed ‘flying cars’ – currently under development.

 

Of course, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been part of established military activity for over two decades. The difference is that the technology behind them is getting cheaper and more commercially available. 

 

As events is Gatwick showed, shop-bought drones have significant nuisance value. However, the lesson of 9/11 is that anything that flies can also have lethal potential.

 

I guess the message is that we need to stop making the world a more dangerous place whenever we find new ways of taking to the skies.

 

 

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