• Short Takes: September 2022 part 2

    Fake Bureau of Inciting a smear campaign? Fake news.

    Following an FBI raid in his Mar-A-Lago home, former US President Donald Trump is claiming a smear campaign against him. However, I cannot help but wonder what he would have said if classified files had been found in a raid on a rival’s home as opposed to his own. He would no doubt be trying to drag Obama/Biden/Clinton et al to jail himself. I only hope his “victory” in his request for transparency backfires by revealing just how much dirt they have on him for what is essentially espionage and treason by obtaining and keeping such documents beyond his Presidential tenure.

    What Were You Thinking?

    The BBC and lead political correspondent Laura Keunnsberg dropped an absolute clanger for their new top political panel show. They wanted to do something different so somehow managed to try to cross Question Time with Mock The Week. The biggest problem here, is that they decided to let comedian-turned-public activist Joe Lycett loose on set, thinking he would be well behaved. And of course, all the right wingers were absolutely losing their shit when Lycett mocked them all by sarcastically, yet completely accurately portraying them. He is not contracted to the BBC and therefore not subject to their impartiality rules. What else did you expect from a man who legally changed his name to Hugo Boss in protest for a while? No wonder people are cancelling their TV licences in their droves.

    If Monkeys could write Shakespeare, then they can ride a bike!

    keepers at an Ukranian zoo were elated when an escaped chimpanzee was lured back to its habitat on the back of a colleague’s bike. They had gone out searching for Chichi who was found wandering in the heavily shelled streets of Kharkiv. The ecopark has suffered the loss of dozens of animals and six staff following attacks by invading Russian forces during evacuation attempts since April. Most surviving animals have been rehomed but many still remain at the park. Chichi’s story is a rare beacon of light in what is currently a very dark period for that region.

    All Hail Hollywood’s Nice Guy

    After a career full of setbacks, injuries,assaults and personal nightmares, Hollywood actor Brendan Fraser received a 6 minute standing ovation at the 79th Venice Film Festival screening of his post-retirement comeback movie The Whale, and has garnered attention from award committees back in California. No less that an amazing man and actor deserves.


    Surely the Wurst Wedding Idea?

    A couple have tied the knot with a PEPERAMI themed wedding. In a sponsored article on Viral Thread, Frankie Brooke-Fenton and Luke Hindmarch expressed their love for each other, and the meaty snack, by having a mascot, a green wedding dress, a Peperami cake, Peperami and Vegerami based menu, mini Peperami in the boquet… you get the idea. This has to be one of the craziest wedding themes I have ever come across, and whilst it is done well, it’s sertainly not to my taste. (All puns in this take are very much intended.) https://vt.co/lifestyle/relationships/couple-ties-the-knot-in-a-lavish-peperami-themed-wedding?utm_source=vt&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=post&fbclid=IwAR208GCVO1C6PP2GRu6dinBy_jBDitZY94lMgWNgHnJYUwYKlHIpfUdl_OM

    Phil and Holly the Queue-Jumping…. Who cares?

    This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby were lambasted on Social Media for using their celebrity status to jump the queue of mourners at Westminster to view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth during the lie in wait period. Like family members and others of status and fame, the queue jumping was a completely valid thing for them to do, regardless of how well it sat with the public. Fair play to the ones who did wait with the common people, such as David Beckham. He didn’t have to do it but he wanted to. But to blast others for not doing so? Get over it. No doubt these are the same people flogging their wristbands on Ebay for £400+.

    Do you even know the meaning of budget?

    Liz Truss’s tenure has started with a bang. Her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced an “emergency mini-budget” to try and solve the cost-of-living crisis and boost the economy… By slashing top rate taxes. Subject to parliamentary approval, the basic rate of income tax will be 19% and the third tier high earners rate of 45% is to be abolished. Government shortfalls are to be covered by borrowing more money. This is a tactic known as Trickle Down Economics, something which has failed in the past. This has led to a plummet in the value of the pound meaning it is more expensive to import into the UK, it increases the price of goods that are valued by the Dollar, and interest rates the Government will pay on its loans increases significantly too. Where did Kwarteng study basic economics? The University of Life on Facebook? Perhaps he needs to read Economics for Dummies. Money naturally trickles up the chain, not down. Those who need it most will feel like the pittance this saves them will be a slap in the face compared to the millions the elite few will rake in.

    Bye Bye, Ben Mortiboy, and Good Luck

    Anyone who is a part of the West Midlands Alternative/Rock/Metal scene has probably heard of popular Birmingham music venue and nightclub Subside. Anybody who has ever set foot in the establishment (in its old premises near the Town Hall or it’s current place in Digbeth) has probably seen, heard and been served by local legend Ben Mortiboy, the manager and bar stalwart who has been the very face of the club for a very long time. Unfortunately, due to health issues Ben is swapping the beer pumps for a desk job, and is having a leaving party at Subside on Saturday 1st October. As a former drinker at the venue, I know how much Ben has poured his life and soul into the venue, values he has placed in his trusted staff, and his replacement. He will be missed for certain. Good luck in your future endeavours.

  • Over-Ambitious Targeting can still be used to better ourselves

    As more unobtainable targets by ambitious politicians and businesses surface, we must not solely focus on the doom-mongering of failing to reach them.

    After a highly ambitious pledge by SNP to replace the majority of its diesel buses with fully electric by 2023 is expected to fall short [1], a lot of people are getting upset and angry. There are mitigating circumstances such as COVID related supply and manufacturing issues, inflation on raw materials and also the global shipping problems, but only managing to accrue a fleet of at most 600 buses when the target was more than triple is not ideal publicity.

    But what if we look at a different perspective? Quite often, beneficiaries of long-term investments aren’t the generation making the investments, it’s the ones who follow. Before the report, Scotland had 272 electric buses in its fleet. That number will end up more than double, and is statistically double the proportion of the UK average. That is a positive step in making Scotland’s air cleaner, especially as these vehicles are used in major built up areas. But there is no guarantee that the funding for the remaining 325 buses that are on order would have been sourced had it not been for this target.

    There are some targets, like A&E waiting times, which cannot be discussed in this manner. You are talking about an endemic problem that has immediate effects and consequences. These kind of targets are an important metric for success or failure, and must be worked on in both the short-term and the long-term.

    When discussing targets for long-term projects, the results and arguments for both sides need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Even if numbers fall far short, regardless of mitigating circumstances, any move in the right direction should not be written off as a complete failure. We must also look at the legacy and impact of any progress made under any scheme that fails to meet it’s largest expectation. Would the changes that a scheme has produced still have happened without setting a target? And how much of it would have happened? If a scheme leaves at least a 50% improvement on projected changes before the announcement of a scheme and targets, we must see that there is a small yet significant success in part. If the legacy starts more projects to continue improvements to reach or surpass the target in the future, it again is also a small success.

    It’s also not just down to consumers. Corporations, businesses large and small, and also governments all have a duty to work together to improve the world we live in. It cannot be pinned on end users alone when necessity is driven by business choice. For instance, the switch to paper bags from plastic in a few retailers have made a small dent in reducing plastic waste. Paper is much more easily recycled and can be done so more often. But until it is adopted on a greater scale, and by a great deal more retailers, plastic bag waste is still a huge problem. This goes for all environmental, health and economic concerns.

    We only have one planet and a finite amount of resources. Futureproofing the world around us, both the man-made infrastructure and the natural world combined, is absolutely necessary if we want our society to span many more generations to come. Some progress might be too little, too late, or be less beneficial as first thought. But if it starts a chain reaction that leads to bigger and better improvements, it can’t be all bad.

    [1] https://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/ambitious-snp-pledge-to-scrap-half-of-scotlands-diesel-buses-by-next-year-wont-be-achieved-3830785?fbclid=IwAR38wxk1f6EbZ3RZ1knenKldYbXQsaYIQbeMSx165Mlgbb4s0ckxRaDUYmE

  • Rest In Peace, Elizabeth Windsor

    On the afternoon of Thursday, 8th September 2022, it was announced that Britain’s longest ever reigning Monarch, Queen Elizabeth (II) Windsor has died aged 96.

    I want to start off by saying that I am not a Monarchist, hence the use of her proper name in the title. I truly believe the institution is outdated, no longer relevant, and is one soaked in centuries of blood. It is a beacon of dark history that forever taints its existence. Very little of this, however, can be attributed to the modern members of the British Royal Family. Elizabeth, along with her surviving family, have made many attempts over the years to modernise and futureproof the ceremonial institution to keep the Monarchy relevant. Personally, I do not believe this was the right course of action but that is not entirely the fault of the Family.

    We must still remember that regardless of opinion, she was still a human being, and in death deserves at least a basic level of respect. I will not partake in National Mourning; she was of no relation nor was I aquainted to her (like most British people), however if I were to pass her coffin, I would lower my hat out of respect. One thing that disappoints me are the minority of my fellow anti-monarchists who are seeking glee in her death, and sharing conspiracies galore before her corpse has even gotten cold. Please, have some decency.

    She was a person, who despite her position, was very outwards to the public, and made more informal public appearances than any of her predecessors. You only have to look at her contribution to the London 2012 Olypmpic Opening Ceremony, her tea party with Paddington Bear, the tales and stories of people who have met her when she could have easily stayed uptight and secret behind the Crown. I am not privy to her personal life or her family secrets so I will not speculate on any claims she was a saint or sinner, nor discussing what she should or shouldn’t have done in the wake of any scandals involving her family members. That’s not why I am here, and it is not the time to discuss any of that. Whatever happens, my condolances go to the Windsor Family in their time of grief.

  • Short Takes – September 2022

    Well that’s a popular opinion (!).

    Last month, a petition calling for cyclists to require testing, taxing and insurance closed after receiving a whopping 262 signatures over its 6 month tenure. I’m curious as to how many stupid petitions garnered more signatures over the years, and by how much.

    Another reason to get a dashcam?

    I have often considered purchasing a dash cam for the obvious safety net they can provide in the event of an accident. There are also comical moments caught on dashcams littering public platforms like YouTube and TikTok, such as motorcycle stunt failures, impatient/rulebreaking drivers getting instant karma, pedestrian crash scammers jumping on car bonnets etc. However I have witnessed one of the most bizarre things that was definitely dashcam worthy. A rider of a pavement spec mobility scooter (limited to 8mph, road specs are limited to 15 and need plates) wearing a motorcycle crash helmet. He was in the road at the time and probably has good reason for doing so, but not what you’d expect to see, is it? I also doubt without dashcam footage anyone would believe me.

    Put your foot down, Truss Me!

    Liz Truss is trying to appeal to motorists by suggesting abolishing the speed limit on national motorways. This is a dangerous and nonsensical decision that will only cause harm, and very few journeys will actually get quicker because of it. Like all previous plans to increase/abolish the speed limit, I hope this one ends up being binned immediately.
    I should probably Congratulate Truss on winning the Tory Leadership contest, for finally bringing BoJo’s tenure as PM to a close. But judging from public opinion, fixing the devastation left behind and stabilising the nation’s economy is one task she will be unlikely to complete. At least we can all move on from the blond mop, and the Captain Clueless VS Rich Rish fight to replace him.

    Somebody in marketing deserves a promotion

    Employment website CV Library have sent out a new ad campaign very quickly following the announcement of the Tory Leadership vote, poking fun at Rishi Sunak for losing the contest. A light-hearted laugh that is well needed in the current climate, and I hope Rishi takes it in jest. Even if he doesn’t he will probably be wiping his tears with £50 notes until the sun explodes.

    Pot, Kettle, Twat

    According to Johnson, you could save up to £10 a year on your electricity bill by buying a Morphy Richards model at £33. Unless your current kettle is knackered and need to make the expense anyway, that works out at 3 and a half years to pay for itself, and that’s a bunch of plastic and metal going to end up in landfill. Considering some kettles barely make it past a 2 or 3 year warranty, is it really worth it when bills are potentially going to reach £6.5k on average… Did he start a new marketing job at Morphy Richards early?

    Football tech fails… Again!

    Goal Decision System manufacturers HawkEye have apologised to Huddersfield and the EFL after its goal-line technology failed during their 1-0 loss to Blackpool, denying them a certain equaliser. It’s not the first time HawkEye has failed, with Sheffield United denied a goal after Aston Villa keeper blocked cameras by hiding the ball amongst his body after falling behind the line. Outfield cameras were also obscured by other players. The world’s most popular sport is fast becoming a farce due to the incompetence of those using and implementing the technology; and its insistance to run its technology by its own inadequate rules, as opposed to taking lessons from other sports who have successfully integrated television officiating into their sports.

    Always got your back, girls.

    The stigma and taboo around menstruation, especially for teenage girls is stifling and harmful. Well done to Always for their latest ad campaign to fight against Period Shaming, and other forms of bullying. It’s not a dirty thing and attitudes need to change, from both sexes. Now if we could just ditch the “tampon tax” too, that would be great. I have no embarrassment walking into a supermarket or pharmacy to buy my wife’s sanitary products, but I am ashamed to be paying VAT on what is an essential item. It’s not champagne, for crying out loud!

    Trying not to raise a baby Houdini…

    And finally, a personal anecdote some may find funny. I was on my way to collect my wife from the train station after a weekend away, with my 4yo son in tow in his car seat in the rear of the car. We stop off to get petrol. My car’s rear windows are quite heavily tinted so it is very difficult to see inside. When I come back, and go to sit in the driver’s seat what should greet me? My son, who has figured out how to undo his car seat belt buckle, in the front passenger seat playing with the gear shifter. Please send help, or a toddler straightjacket.

  • Number plates on bicycles: Why nowhere except North Korea has such a system

    Why are cycling licence plates a bad idea, and what should the Department of Transport be doing instead to make our public spaces safer?

    Last month UK Transport secretary Grant Schapps caused a stir by endorsing plans for mandatory insurance for cyclists, along with reforms to laws involving the Highway Code that would require all pedal driven bicycles to be fitted with registration plates. He since backed down saying that numberplates themselves were not an idea at the present time. His original comments were lauded by anti-cycling newspaper the Daily Mail, cutting deeper into the wounds of a culture war between different road user groups. This also came just a few weeks after plans to close a legal loophole to create a new offence of “Death by Dangerous Cycling” meaning anybody who causes an accidental death whilst riding a bike is given a prison sentence of up to 15 years (on par with driving), where current legislation means any perpetrators can only face a maximum 2 years. All well and good, but it has been 8 years since the Government promised a review into ineffective driving offences and punishments, there are surely more than that to show for it.

    So let’s tackle the first issue. Mandatory cycle insurance and licence plates will be a fiscal nightmare. Firstly, with insurances, making it mandatory will inflate prices heavily making it an even greater expense for those who voluntarily have insurance policies, and giving non-insured individuals a new cost to factor in. Secondly, especially with dedicated cyclists, will own more bikes (each with a specific purpose or riding discipline) than they will motor vehicles. Do they all need seperate registrations as you would with cars, despite most voluntary insurance policies covering multiple bikes against damage or theft? Would it even be possible to recoup anywhere close to the funds required for setting up a system in the first place? (Spoiler alert, probably nowhere near). Believe it or not, dog licences were once a thing several decades ago, but the whole scheme was scrapped due to expense and inability to properly police such a system. Now, we just use microchipping through vet services to do a similar job as it already has owner and animal information stored in a central database primarily used for healthcare and medical history, and reuniting lost or stolen animals to their owners. No such database exists for bikes.

    If you were to compile information on bicycles and riders in the same way that we currently do on cars, you would also need to compile data on make, model, age, colour and modifications. It’s not easy to know the manfacturing details and history of a bike, especially if it is a vintage, or is secondhand. A lot of high end bikes come as a frameset only option allowing you to build a completely custom bike from whatever components you wish. Also, people regularly change colour and components on an off-the-peg bike to make it fit better, for aesthetics or for performance gains. It is not uncommon to have two sets of wheels for a bike, one shallow rim set for training or climbing (or if its windy) and deeper wheels for flatter terrain and better weather, and different tyres to accommodate riding conditions. Accessories like mudguards and pannier racks are often added, removed or replaced. How much of this would need to be declared to a licence agency? I have asked members of my local cycling club on their bike ownership and modifications to show how complex this issue actually would be.

    So even if you manage to implement a licencing system, how are you going to enforce it? Police forces are stretched well beyond capacity when it comes to enforcing existing road traffic laws as well as other general crime. Also, at what age do kids need insurance and licences? Do off-road specific bikes need licences, if they are not going to be used on the road?

    Another consequence of a licencing system is that it would make accessing the sport even more expensive. Even cheap bikes would face an increase in consumer cost for registering and licencing them, and at at a significant proportion. Whilst the high-end bikes from specialist manufacturers can cost five-figure sums, where say a flat fee of £50* for registration is pocket change and could easily be built in to existing costs, you can buy a brand new bike (albeit with none of the sophisticated tech and development that adorns the premium machines) from generic online retailers for less than £250. That means that registration adds an additional 20% to the cost of purchase that could not be built in to such a price. People starting out, or just looking to use more active travel are going to be buying the cheap equipment as it serves a purpose rather than being a luxury item that an enthusiast would prefer to own.
    *For all intents and purposes, this was just a random figure and is not indicative of any potential cost of registering and licencing a bike.
    Most people on this end of the scale are not going to be confident on the roads and will use pavements, cycle paths and lanes as much as possible, and are unlikely to put themselves in amongst motorists where possible.

    So for people who do ride more expensive and luxury orientated bikes, the enthusiasts, are more likely the target group of this propaganda. But this seems like a huge fallacy. Dedicated enthusiasts are likely to be members of the national governing body British Cycling. [1] BC has four membership levels: Fan, Commute, Ride, and Race. You immediately get complimentary 3rd party liability for being a member from Commute level, and discounted access to more comprehensive bike insurance policies from Ride. At Race, you are also covered for personal accident. In addition, organised races and non-race events by law have insurance policies as a duty of care should anything happen involving a participant. Non-race events will often have non-BC members taking part. Race licences also use a merit point system to ensure that beginner racers cannot enter races beyond their proven skills and abilities.

    An additional proposal was to enforce road speed limits on cyclists. This in itself is also unenforceable as bikes are not fitted with any form of speed measuring technology as standard, and all aftermarket products that can measure speed would not conform to legal standards for speedometer readings. GPS speed tracking has its own inaccuracies, especially when on gradients, which is why when you use a Sat Nav in a car, you should not rely on its own speed measurements. The other alternative is to use a sensor system, either a centrifugal sensor attached to the hub or a magnetic sensor attached to the fork or stays and a clip-on magnet on the spokes. These are either manually calibrated by home users so can easily be fudged or rely on GPS data to calibrate, again linking in discrepancies. In most situations, cyclists will never be able to reach speed limits as lower speed limits in built up areas come with traffic which will slow you down, even if you can filter through. I have only ever managed to get over 30mph on 50mph roads or higher when going down steep hills, and over 45mph with a tailwind.
    Speed perception is another factor. 30mph on a bike feels incredibly fast simply because you are objectively small at that velocity; yet in a large family car the exact same speed feels quite slow as your upright seating position and vehicle size gives the sensation of a lack of speed, especially when the vehicle is capable of travelling much faster.

    So could the Government use British Cycling as a licencing agency?

    In short, no. BC are a sports governing body and membership union, and are a seperate entity to a Government Department. BC are one of many organisations against the stance of licences for the same reasons listed in this page. Even if the Government was to force involvement, its membership database is missing a lot of the information that would be required to make a licence structure for bikes, as its own structure is solely for logging its members and not their equipment. I am a BC Race member (silver) and hold a provisional race licence. However none of my equipment information is stored on file as there is no provision to provide it. So the Government would still need to fork out on a bicycle database for licencing.

    The idea is universally unpopular amongst its target group as it is both unreasonable and financiallly unviable. This is why nowhere in the free world has such a system implemented, even if it has been mooted by authorities the world over. The only place known to have such a system is North Korea, where prior to a licencing system, bicycles were banned in its capital city until 1922. The whole saga just seems like a populist trope by the Government to gain support and votes from a majority group (motorists) despite having no reasonable will or justification to follow through with such plans.

    Furthermore, a public petition for mandatory testing, tax and licencing that recently closed garnered a whopping 262 signatures (!). Just the 99,738 short of forcing a debate in Parliament, then. So in reality, most of the public just simply don’t care. This is just a small minority shouting much louder than everyone else [https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/607217]. Considering that more important petitions such as renaming the SS Sir David Attenborough to its original poll winning name Boaty McBoatface garnered way more than that, I think that the UK Parliament have more important things to worry about(!).

    Also, did you know, that if you hold a UK driving licence, and you do get convicted of an offence involving a bicycle (such as running red lights or dangerous manouvres), you can earn penalty points on your driving licence?
    Most enthusiast cyclists also are licenced to drive and own cars too.

    What about law changes and the Highway Code?

    Plans were announced to introduce a specific “Death by Dangerous Cycling” offence to close a legislative loophole that gave perpetrators a ridiculously lenient sentence. Many dedicated cyclists approve of such a move because the introduction of such a law makes sense. However the nature of its unveiling in isolation has lead to many cycling organisations challenging the way in which it has been announced to the public. Back in 2014 the Government promised a review into ineffective motoring offences, as the police battles with persistent law-breaking and bad practices by a minority of motorists that go unpunished or are given excessive leniency.

    An anecdotal segway, cyclists have said in jest that they “Support bike licences providing they enforce the number plates to be 1.5m wide to stop close passes”. This is in response to the attitude of a vocal minority of motorists who take offence to the significant Highway code changes implemented at the beginning of this year. Not only were they badly publicised, they were ridiculously misinterpreted by the anti-cyclist brigade and as a consequence have not really made cycling any safer. Despite close pass laws being strengthened by including a set distance, the ignorant few who already put people in danger have made no changes to their behaviour, and in some cases, the level of entitlement has lead to some people being deliberately more aggressive.

    I am also a motorist, I own a car and have held a full UK driving licence for 9 years. I also use a 3.5t capacity van on occasions for work purposes. The level of bad practice i have seen from all my points of view are shocking, and seem to be worse than ever following the pandemic. The near empty roads and top speed capabilities of modern vehicles (even the non-performance orientated) meant that people got used to travelling faster during lockdowns when they needed to move around. Now traffic and congestion levels are back to pre-pandemic levels or worse, drivers have become noticeable more impatient because of no longer being used to the delays being experienced. Even the most courteous and careful of drivers will make mistakes, or fall into bad habits that are not all necessarily illegal. I include myself in this, though I do try to make a conscious focus not to repeat mistakes.

    Almost all drivers will at some point fall into a bad habit such as taking corners quicker than 10mph as recommended, driving too close to a vehicle in front, accelerate through changing traffic lights to beat a red light, reversing onto a main road/out of a junction, forget to indicate, ignoring pedestrians at marked crossings, unneccessarily giving way when having priority, or poor lane positioning etc. Whilst none of these are actually illegal, they are not recommended in the Highway Code and are considered bad habits that would potentially fail a driving test. A large minority of drivers will regularly or accidentally creep over speed limits, encroach on stop lines and cycle boxes at traffic lights, ignore Turn Left/Right Only signs at junctions, cutting corners at junctions by entering roads either fully or partially in the opposite lane, clutch riding when stationary instead of using the handbrake, minor parking offences, idling the engine when parked, and use hazard lights to thank drivers (yes, it is technically classed as improper use and is illegal!) to name the most common. A minority also act deliberately through speeding and dangerous overtakes/undertakes and running red lights, both permanent and temporary. I have regularly seen temporary lights change red and 3, sometimes 4 cars still pass the stop sign despite having ample space and time to stop. I have even been overtaken by cars whilst on a bicycle stopping for a red light in this manner at both types of infrastructure. Yet, becuase 999/1000 of incidents go unpunished and without causing accidents, people continue to do them.

    Local papers are littered with articles of insances of bad driving such as speeding operations [2], uninsured/untaxed/unlicenced drivers and vehicles being pulled over or involved in an accident, or incidents of distracted (phone using) or incapacitated drivers (drug/drink driving). Articles are published like this one almost daily basis and this is where the ineffective offence review needs to be stepped up. All of these problems push the price of motoring up by increasing insurance premiums, tax levels and the like.

    What makes things worse are that the vocal minority of groups get angry at articles about mobile police units catching speeders. Not because of the speeding motorists, but because the police are there doing their job, and having to slow down for speed cameras in order to not get caught slows down their ultimate progression; a level of entitlement which makes the roads more dangerous.

    So what review points are cycling groups recommending in regards to overall traffic management?
    -Better, more enforcable policing methods for offences to ensure a better conviction rate
    -Tightening restrictions that allow offending motorists to keep licences beyond the automatic 12 point ban threshold
    -Harsher punishments for previously common transgressions, and for serious and repeated offences
    -An improvement to Operation Snap where public send dash/helmet camera footage of transgressions, allowing for easier reporting and greater follow-up of offences (again leading to better conviction rate) and a complaints and review system where decisions not to prosecute can be appealed or must be explained (this will also end victim blaming as people do make errors but that is no excuse for others to wilfully ignore the law).
    -Increase funding for Cycling Proficiency schemes (Bikeability) for schoolchildren so more kids can take part and learn how to use the roads on a bike safely
    -Introduce or increase levels of Cycling-specific Highway Code questions on Driving Theory tests to ensure all new drivers are aware of what cyclists are encouraged to do for safety whilst out on the road. Maybe when licences are renewed, all drivers must take a supplementary highway code refresher test before a renewed licence is issued. Maybe that would help motorists keep up with changes as they are made, considering there are always tweaks and changes made nearly every year.

    This, alongside sensible cycling law proposals will help keep our roads safer for all users.

    Right now, the Government needs to be doing what they can as active and public travel combined is the only solution to the environmental and congestion issues facing our major population centres. I will go into more detail about this soon and debunk myths and misconceptions in another post.

    [1] https://membership.britishcycling.org.uk/

    [2] https://www.halesowennews.co.uk/news/20830623.dozens-drivers-slapped-speeding-tickets-halesowen/

  • Just throwing money at people is not going to work.

    On Saturday (27th August 2022) British newspaper The Daily Express ran a headline stating that Departing PM Boris Johnson declared a “pipeline of cash” to ease the financial strain on people suffering as a consequence of the energy crisis. Whilst to some people this may seem like music to their ears, it may come as a shock (pun intended) to realise that this solves nothing. The overall level of increase in energy bills mean people are still going to be worse off, and once financially sound small and medium businesses will close in their droves and they suddenly become unviable. The failure of the energy cap proved that the utility system was not fit for purpose, and it took a perfect storm to prove it.

    Since the National Grid and Gas Networks were privatised, we have had the following system: Producers/Wholesalers (BP, Exxon Mobil), who mine for fossil fuels and generate electricity at power stations; Utility Retailers (British Gas, NPower, E-On, Bulb), who buy units wholesale and sell to homes and businesses; Infrastructure Maintenance (Cadent, Western Power Distribution) who look after the network of pipes and cables that connect homes and businesses to the power stations and gas storage. The idea was to allow the concept of companies competing for your custom to keep prices low, as well as ease the financial pressures of running the networks from the Government. Which is all well and good, providing the industry is properly regulated to ensure fairness for both wholesalers, retailers and consumers.

    Over time, something has clearly gone wrong. Some companies (such as British Gas and E-On) operate as both wholesalers and retailers; it is much harder to regulate either sector when this happens. Also, many producers have been announcing record profits which have not been passed down the chain. This squeeze on retailers has meant that their own costs have risen sharply, which has meant under the cost cap, they were operating at heavy losses. This is why so many small energy companies have gone bankrupt over the last year or so.

    So why is the cost cap to blame?
    The Cost Cap was introduced to limit the amount that the retailers could charge per unit of gas and electricity. It is updated every 6 months in April and October each year to reflect wholesale costs and inflation. This was great news for the consumers on its introduction, but this did not protect retailers’ outgoings. The wholesale price was not part of the limits. This has allowed the ballooning of wholesale costs to hit the smaller companies hardest, allowing the bigger retailers (most of whom also are wholesalers) to get a greater share of the market yet still using operating losses to raise the cost cap significantly. The fact that wholesalers are recording record profits, and the cost of wholesale energy is increasing significatly is no coincidence. Outside factors can and do influence wholesale costs but the levels of which seem barely justifiable.

    What are the Government doing about it?
    Households are seeing an 80% increase in energy bills in October outside of fixed tarriffs. This is on top of a huge increase that happened in April after the government decided to lift the cost cap in the wake of the bankruptcy levels amongst smaller energy firms. Costs are going from around £1500-£2000 a year to nearly £4000 a year for the average household.= in the space of 12 months. The Government announced a raft of measures including an energy rebate for those on income support, a £400 discount on people’s energy bills and additional rebates for those with disabilities and the elderly. Some people are receiving nearly £1,000 worth of returns from the Government which is covering little over half of the increase. A £5bn Windfall Tax on energy companies was also announced but is only effective on profits from 26th May, and comes with tax discounting under an Investment Allowance. [1]

    For many people they are still facing large increases in bills even with these rebates and discounts. For businesses this will be even higher as the aid offered to them is even less. This is likely to lead to a spike in unemployment as this will put jobs at risk, meaning even more people will be on less money to cope with a spike in energy bills. Even if the Windfall tax does generate the maximum it can, it still may not be enough for the short term fixes.

    What makes the situation worse is that despite fossil fuel producers facing an initial higher corporation tax rate at 30% plus an additional 10% supplementary rate, these are heavily offset by rebates for financial loss factoring and green schemes, meaning many of them receive more money from the Government than they pay in. This needs tighter regulation in order to ensure that profits are taxed properly and accordingly allowing more money available for Government schemes to help the country become more environmentally friendly.

    It is common practice for very large and international businesses to exploit tax rebate schemes or use tax avoidance loopholes to reduce their overall tax bill which would not be too much of a problem if their profits were used to invest in more efficient and environmentally friendly technologies, giving their workforce decent pay and conditions, and making a difference in the world. However, finding such a business is a rare thing indeed. They will avoid spending money as much as possible in order to line the shareholder’s pockets, unless actively and legislatively discouraged from doing so.

    In reality, the lack of regulation on the wholesale and production of our utilities is leading to hyperinflation to a catastrophic level. The wholesalers will continue to record ridiculous profits at the consumer’s expense unless something changes.

    What options are most likely to solve the problem, or at least ease concerns over the ongoing energy crisis?
    At a minimum, the cost cap needs to be properly regulated and supplemented by ensuring the regulation of wholesale and production costs to ensure smaller energy retailers can survive and continue to operate under freedom of choice and competition. Re-regulating the industry won’t be a huge expense, but may involve some aspects of the infrastructure to be brought into public ownership (such as National Grid).
    Renationalisation of the industry, which is a proposition supported by Labour, Lib Dems and SNP, would have a large initial expense to the Government but will allow greater control of the services and regulations of the industry and would ease problems on vulnerable consumers. Whether the appropriate funds are available, or whether the Government would need to borrow even more money to allow for Nationalisation, remains to be seen.

    It is also unlikely that under any re-regulation, we are going to see prices returning to their pre-crisis levels, even if they do manage to obtain a significant reduction in prices. More will need to be done in order to ease the pressures on households. Better insulating older houses, ensuring all dwellings have double glazing throughout, and investing in hydrogen boiler technology is a great place to start. Heat Source Pumps are a great green option however its system requirements mean a lot of current installations in older buildings are inadequate for such a solution.
    Additional measures that can also make improvements to the sector include making it easier for people to buy and sell homes with solar power that sells back to the grid, give people the option of energy storage when using solar panels and making it cheaper for people to install them. By giving households and businesses the opportunity to reduce bills by reducing energy consumption is vitally important.

    In addition, the Government should also be looking at electricity produciton, fossil fuel or otherwise, to look to make financial savings and environmental improvements. Wind farms are an obvious route if you want to reduce reliance on using fossil fuels to generate electricity. However, the production of turbines, and their limited life span means that these giant structures require fossil fuels to build. This means that they still have a considerable carbon footprint upon manufacture, and a turbine that is not used effectively or requires excessive maintenance due to persistent breakdowns is likely to barely generate enough electricity to offset the carbon emissions from its production. Finding a way to produce the turbines to the same strength but at both a lower cost and carbon footprint would make a huge environmental difference. Also, an expensive-to-build but very environmentally friendly alternative would be nuclear. The capabilities of nuclear power are incredible and contrary to public perception is actually quite safe. I have linked a video of science enthusiast Kyle Hill explaining the benefits fo nuclear power and debunking dangerous myths that have stunted its progress. [2] This along with other alternatives such as tidal power generation would go a long way in reducing fossil fuel consumption and would reduce the impact of wholesale inflation of those fuel sources on household bills.

    Unfortunately, there is no true short-term solution, and the current refund schemes are just throwing money down the drain, but better inroads can be made if the correct decisions can be made for the long term future of the infrastructure.

    [1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60295177

    [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3znG6_vla0&list=PLNg1m3Od-GgMx6MIu18VjuE17UtyN4xeJ&index=59&t=805s

  • Why Scottish Independence and SNP power in Westminster could be intertwined.

    The support for a second Scottish Independence referendum has gathered a lot of pace recently, accellerated by the current affairs in Westminster. This has led to an ugly fight now being looked at by lawyers and justices in the UK’s highest court. However the fate of Scotland may not solely rest on the judgement of the court as to whether an advisory or legally binding referendum result has a legal standing in Parliament. The next General Election (be it January 2025 of sooner if called early) could make a decisive plot twist to a contentious debate.

    I am writing this from a standpoint of an Englishman with Scottish Heritage living in England. Overall, I am on the fence over whether I believe Scotland should become Independent from the United Kingdom. However I feel a stronger connection to my Scottish roots than to my English roots and on a personal level I am curious as to what an Independent Scotland would look like, in a “Why not? Go for it” way.

    Scottish Independence would mean the evolution of Scotland from a Devolved Nation of the United Kingdom to a fully fledged Independent Sovereign State in its own right as recognized by the United Nations.

    Public opinion north of the border is shifting ever towards establishing Scotland as an independent nation. Whilst the first Independence Referendum in 2014 was close, the level of support behind the “Yes” campaign was not enough to force through any legislation to establish Scotland as a Sovereign Nation in it’s own right. However the political landscape has changed dramatically since then.

    A large proportion of Scottish people want to see Scotland take a different political path to Westminster, which is fuelling the popularity of independence. [1] Also, the latest GERS figures show that whilst Scotland is heavily responsible for the UK overall defecit, its own deficit has reduced at a greater rate than the rest of the UK and that devolved authorities received over £32 Billion less than its taxpayers contributed to the public coffers. [2] Scotland shares the same hardships as non-Tory local authorities in England and Wales – having their hands tied in the face of trying to invest in their communities; all but forgotten by those in control in Westminster.

    Thanks to the (lack of) handling of Brexit negotiations, the failures of decision making throughout the COVID pandemic, and the apparent waterfall of Government scandals has left trust in No 10 at an all time low. Previously when a Government has shown a huge level of incompetency the opposition have normally faced an open goal with a simple task of winning the next election on the gravy train. Yet somehow, a Labour party in the midst of an identity and financial crisis, look extremely capable of missing. Not to mention that the Liberal Democrats are almost universally considered missing in action as the Third Wheel as there Centrist stance is considered far too pandering to actually make a change from regimes leaning too far to the left or right. So Where do the SNP lie in all of this?

    The Scottish National Party have, since 2010, been the largest political party contesting all Scottish seats in Westminster, and are also in their fourth consecutive term in office in Scotland’s Devolved Parliament in Holyrood. They are the biggest driving force of an Independent Scotland, a stance supported by the Greens. [3]

    On its early formation the SNP were originally a very right-wing Nationalist political party, very similar in line to the BNP but with an additional agenda of Scottish Independence. However the reality was that most Scottish right-wingers were also Unionists and such the party was always going to lose out to the Scottish Conservatives. Most Westminster and Holyrood seats prior to 2010 were held by Labour. However, for some reason the SNP decided an identity change would be appropriate, positioning themselves more centre-left, allying closer to Liberal and Socialist policies. Slowly but surely the SNP began gaining voters and seats, mostly from the Labour and Lib Dem strongholds before gaining power of Scotland’s devolved Government in Holyrood. They also hold a 44 seats in Westminster [4] out of Scotland’s 59 in total. This is not as high as their 2015 result of 56, [5] it is still significantly more than the 2010 campaign which saw the approval of the first referendum.

    Labour currently occupy just one seat in a region it previously considered a stronghold. The Tories hold 6, whilst the Lib Dems have 4. With those numbers, losing the 59 Westminster seats to Independence would likely hit the Conservatives harder than Labour, despite Scotland traditionally being a Red nation rather than Blue when it comes to politics.

    So what is a likely Election Outcome in Winter 2024/2025? In reality, a Hung Parliament, probably with labour holding the most seats (barely) is likely the best option right now. A Labour Majority would be a dangerous prospect as the Party is missing in action and facing internal crisis, including debt and membership losses [6]. For too long have both Labour and the Conservatives had it easy running a near-effective two-horse race (2010 excluded) which has lead to a slow decline in the standard of living in the UK for the last 40 plus years. Running a minority Government will be incredibly difficult to implement policies, as you will guarantee greater opposition for anything. So in order to form a Majority Government, Labour will need to enter a Coalition with either the Liberal Democrats, or with the SNP.

    The first prospect, with a Lib Dem coalition, is highly unlikely. Considering how the party bent over backwards to appease the Tories in an attempt to grab the shadow of power, it would be a highly unpolular move amongst both parties, regardless of the fact there are likely to be a number of policy clashes between them.

    The second prospect is where things get interesting. The reality is, the SNP both socially and economically have very similar policies and ideologies to the Labour Party that would be beneficial to the whole of the UK. However, you can guarantee that should the current IndyRef2 move going through the Courts fail, that the legal permission to break up the union would be a non-negotiable term of any agreement to share power in Westminster. Many in Labour would be reluctant to partake in such a coalition however it may be necessary in order to ease the problems currently facing the UK and its citizens. It could prove a risky move for Westminster, as it completely reshapes the playing field where electoral result are confirmed.

    If such a coalition were to be agreed, what is likely to happen? It is likely to mean that any referendum (assuming the planned 2023 advisory referendum cannot take place) will have a legally binding result and would take within around 12 to 18 months of the beginning of the Coalition, around spring/summer 2026. If the voting result swings towards Independence, there is likely to be an agreement that Scotland will officially leave ahead of the following General Election in 2029/2030 when the UK Government is officially dissolved . This would, in theory, give Labour a full term in power with coalition, yet give Holyrood enough time to set its own affairs in order to officially become an Independent Sovereign State. How SNP MPs in Westminster act following approval for Independence would be an unknown situation, however for the public’s sake on both sides of the border the coalition needs to work in order to deliver the change Britain needs to ease the cost-of-living crisis. One hopes their passion for their constituents will continue to the end, as the SNP MPs have been some of the most vocal in holding the current and recent Governments to account for any of their failings.

    The Union and the Devolved Parliaments form one of the most complex governing authorities in the world. The formation of the Union between the British and Irish Nations centuries ago came when the world view was very different. And for most of that time, Westminster was the only National Authority. Whilst Devolution (introduced in 1998) gives the three smaller nations greater internal political control, there are ways in which it may no longer be fit for purpose. For instance, all international affairs are dealt with at Westminster, where Holyrood, Stormont (NI) and Synedd (Wales) have no input despite being potentially affected by those decisions. Yes, those nations have seats in Westminster but they still take up a minority of constituencies overall. The decision by different authorities also leads to inconsistencies in minor legal rules. From personal experience, I used to work in Catering, one particular and specific rule I remember makes a good example. In England and Wales, when measuring food temperatures during cooking, chicken, pork and liquefied foods had to reach an internal temperature on 65 degrees for 2 minutes, or 73 degrees for 30 seconds. In Scotland, that ruling is 82 degrees for 30 seconds. This is a standard practice that should be carried out in all food establishments. There are many small rules and regulations which differ across borders in all forms of life, and that can lead to difficulties or pitfalls where people may unknowingly or unwittingly break minor laws when visiting other Home Nations. Scotland, as the most powerful Devolved Parliament, has more of its own unique laws than the other Nations.

    By all admissions, the regime at Holyrood is not without its own problems. The fact that two sitting MSPs are currently registered as Independent representetives despite meing members of the SNP, shows that like all authorities around the world, Scotland is not 100% squeaky clean when it comes to scandal and conduct. The last MSP and General Elections saw fewer votes and seats than previous despite still holding majorities. The GERS report shows Scotland still has some work to do on its financial health but all is not doom and gloom. Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire from journalists and opposition politicians over some of her decision making, however she is still proving a popular leader amongst the Scottish people.

    In spite of political uncertanties, one thing remains: the hunger amongst the Scots to become an independent nation. A desire that is no longer born out of Ultra-Nationalism, but one born from strength and unity. Scotland’s future is not set in stone, but the picture could become much clearer in the next three years. Whatever happens, I hope my spiritual home flourishes as it deserves.

    [1] https://www.thenational.scot/news/20758074.scottish-independence-new-poll-reveals-key-arguments-yes-camp/

    [2] https://www.thenational.scot/news/20740257.gers-figures-ahead-2023-indyref-may-boost-yes-ifs-says/

    [3] https://www.parliament.scot/msps/elections

    [4] https://members.parliament.uk/parties/Commons

    [5] https://ballotbox.scot/uk-parliament

    [6] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/aug/17/labour-48m-in-deficit-after-losing-91000-members

  • Short Takes – August 2022

    Once in a blue moon, I’m thinking of writing a “Hot Takes” post whereby I condense some random news stories into a short paragraph, maybe with some links to longer articles. These may be brief statements or comments on contentious or more unnusual news stories.

    The Irony of the Right Wing Press

    So, RMT and CWU bashers The Daily Express are going so see their Journalists walk out in strike over pay. The very thing they have been hating on. The irony is so funny, it’s painful.

    On Yer Bike, Grant!

    After poking the fire at the culture war between road users, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has backtracked on proposals for compulsory licence plates and insurance for cyclists. I can hear the Daily Mail readers faint with rage from here. I will, at some point, post my full opinion on this matter along with an environmental piece that is likely to anger them even more.


    Stop exploiting creative people’s businesses and livelihoods!

    I recently had a post pop up on my Facebook feed that as a former local musician I wholeheartedly agree with. In it, as can be seen from the link below, it flips the whole “Do it for exposure” with an uno reverse, because if you think that the musician’s reply is an unreasonable statement in isolation, then so is the bar’s. Well Done, Americana Music Society.

    Something needs to be done to stop review-bombing

    Reports claim that the first episode of the new Disney+ series She-Hulk has received a 12% rotten tomatoes score – before it was even released. Mostly mysoginistic under 40s cramming in their vitriolic hatred and over what? Yet another female lead character who is a very capable individual? I am way too far behind on Marvel to watch and review this myself but the trailers were inticing. Yes, some animation was blocky, but ads are provided at much lower resolutions than the shows themselves to save on file size and money. Also, as a woman, she-hulk isn’t veiny, muscular and rough textured like Banner. Get a grip. Surely these kind of sites need to be able to moderate their content to prevent such nonsense.

    Andrew ‘Hate’ Tate gets cancelled, finally.

    The internet’s most fragile alphamale has been banned from multiple social media sites due to his violent mysoginistic attitude. I feel sorry for any poor woman he has ever coerced into bed with him, because quite frankly the only way it couldn’t be classified as rape is because his lack of performance means it can barely be classified as sex. If his thundercunt of a hill is one he is prepared to die on, can he step into the cage with UFC women’s champion Amanda Nunes (Feather/Bantamweight), Valentina Shevchenko (Flyweight) and Carla Esparza (Strawweight) in a 3v1. Rest In Pieces.

    F1 – Domenicali criticized for being right?

    F1 boss Stefano Domenicali has apparently angered a few people by saying “I don’t see a girl coming into F1 in the next 5 years”; Because such a statement is not good enough. Yes, in an ideal world, we would be able to put the world’s best women racers in F1. However no female driver has had the funding, training, career longevity or the feeder series experience required to build up or to achieve that. The W-Series Tatuus F3 T-318 cars have less horsepower (270) than Formula 3 (380) and F2 (620) requiring greater physical input and control from drivers. Also the 15 FIA Superlicence points available for the winner fall shorter than those of F3 and F2, and well off the minimum required to drive an F1 car in a practice session on a race weekend. There is much to do behind the scenes and in the motorsport pyramid, but get it right, and it will bear fruit soon enough. The work is being done, but for it to have a lasting impact it must build a legacy, something which takes time, otherwise it risks being a gimmick.

  • Breaking the barrier – Police Vs Public

    There’s no denying that public trust in the UK policing system is at an all time low. Decades of cuts, less officers on the beat, and forces beset with scandals galore has left society fractured over the future on Britain’s police force. Yet everything meaningful that the Constabulary can do to repair bridges is subject to high volumes of criticism.

    There appears to be an long standing epidemic of unsolved crimes in the UK. [1] These statistics as published by the BBC are not current however it is believed that the trend has continued or worsened in the last 3 years. This, coupled with stories of officers abusing their position of power that include harbouring child pornography and the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, have left a huge number of people losing trust that the Police can do their job properly and effectively, and the public no longer feel safe. This has likely been exacerbated by the reduction in available officers per population causing forces to be stretched well beyond the capabilities. This spirals further as opportunists and social dissidents become more brazen in their activities, as well as goading and attacking serving officers.

    In many ways, the Policing system needs top down reform and for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to be given greater powers to scrutinise decision making within the force. Funding needs to be provided for new recruits and to increase the number of staff employed by the police force. And finally, both the front line officers and the management circles need to engage with communities and the public to regain the trust that has been lost in recent years.

    There are a number of great people working within the force, trying to make a difference. They love serving their comunity but the current circumstances are making their job incredibly difficult, and they are an example to the rest of the force that should follow in their footsteps. A horrid minority cannot be allowed to tarnish the reputation of these people. So when officers were criticised for dancing during a Pride rally, their chief absolutely defended their actions. [2]

    I wholeheartedly agree with the actions of the officers involved, and of the statement of Chief Constable Chris Howard. This is a vital part of rebuilding that community trust. By showing support for communities, that you want to keep people safe, will help rebuild the bridges that have been burned by recent public opinion. Those officers are attending that parade to serve and protect the people participating, a vital part of their job. But if they look like they are bored, or even stoic in their presence, they do not appear engaging to the community. This closed off nature is going to make the job of regaining community trust much harder. By showing off a human side, and by enjoying the festivities whilst keeping people safe, is by far the best way to rebuild trust in the officers who are the face of the Force. And by having the public and the front line officers united against higher command corruption and underfunding, we can force through the changes needed to make our communities a better place.

    [1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49986849

    [2] https://www.facebook.com/simplepoliticsuk/photos/a.1052032251508271/5734392619938854/

  • Another cycling doping scandal, or good proactive practice?

    Nairo Quintana’s Tour De France disqualification for testing positive for the painkiller Tramadol has left a sour taste in a large portion of cycling fan’s mouths. But is this incident as bad as the doom-mongerers say?

    Let’s start with the elephant in the room. In the history of the sport, Cycling has always had a bad reputation for doping. It is an image that has been hard to shake off, especially since Lance Armstrong’s doping story came to light. It has led to the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency to clamp down hard on the sport to keep the sport clean and repair its image.

    The effects of a rider or several riders in a team who are caught using performance enhancing drugs that are banned from competition can be quite serious. Riders who earn titles retrospectively following a rider’s disqualification through doping miss the expereience of standing on the top step of the podium. There is no guarantee that they will get the original trophy, and as for the prize money, it is unlikely they can recoup that from the disgraced rider. It turns the victory into a damp squib, as it can be months, or even in some cases, years, before results are corrected or annulled.

    Then there are the sport’s sponsors. A company that is linked to a doping rider can harm their own reputation, and is likely to make them reconsider where they spend their money. This in turn can reduce the available funds in the sport which makes it harder to protect and nurture the grassroots sport, and athletes of the future. Such a detrimental knock-on effect is bad for any sport, and could potentially jeapordise its future.

    Thankfully, the UCI have done a great job in trying to keep the sport clean. Reports of doping riders are very rare, and all potential leads are followed up. Even in the case of Bahrain Victorious and their hotel raids, if nothing has been found then the probability of doping actually happening within the team are very low. Something would have been made public by now if there was anything to be found. In addition to the full list of substances banned by WADA across all sports, the UCI also implements an additional list of substances that it believes are also a potential problem in cycling specifically.

    Tramadol is an opioid-based powerful prescription-only painkiller that is allowed by WADA (on their Monitoring list since 2019) in most other sports, however it is banned in Cycling (implemented at the same time the drug was added to WADA’s Monitoring list). It’s side effects include (but are not limited to) drowsiness, visual impairment, cognitive impairment, and in some cases, loss of consciousness. It is not believed to be performance enhancing however its side effects as listed above are particularly dangerous in cycling in comparison to other sports. A rider whose cognitive and visual abilities are impaired, even if only slightly, could potentially lead to a dangerous incident or a crash in the peloton. Therfore they are likely to be a danger to themselves or others. The UCI should be applauded for taking this precautionary stance in regards to rider safety, especially as some of its other decisions in such matters have left many of us scratching heads.

    So what of Quintana? The Colombian has denied taking the substance and intends to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Whether that results in the DQ being overturned is another question entirely, however the case may not be entirely clear cut. I’m no legal expert nor am I privvy to anything that may be presented in evidence so we will just have to wait for the findings to be announced. This positive was the first adverse finding of any anti-doping test during his career, so Quintana is free to race until the case is finalised. However as a precaution, he has withdrawn from competition until his court case is concluded.

    Quintana has suffered from injuries over the last few years and has not performed as well has his talents have suggested. His 6th overall at the Tour was testament to the fact there’s still life in him yet, but if that was down to the fact that he was using Tramadol to ride through the pain from his injuries then the next steps are vital for shaping the image of the sport.

    Whilst I sympathise with Quintana, I must agree with the UCI’s stance on principle in the first week of this news breaking. Had he suffered any of the side-effects he could have put his fellow riders in danger. Also, such strong painkillers are not actually going to fix any underlying injuries, they have the potential to make them worse in the long term. From a physical perspective, the best thing to do is to let an injury heal and take time in strength and conditioning the injured site to make it stronger. Unfortunately this takes time and is not a guarantee of results, but in the long term, the likelikood of requiring surgery or struggling with mobility in later life will be reduced. In other sports you can get away with it in regards to immediate safety but its long term effects are an issue of athlete welfare, and therefore I suspect that the UCI’s move will eventually lead to WADA finally banning Tramadol in competition. Under the circumstances, I would like to see some leniency given to Nairo but his disqualification should stand as a warning to other riders that the UCI’s zero tolerance policy towards doping is a great tool in keeping the sport clean.