By Bev Haigh-Jones

Empty tomato and pepper shelves in a Tesco store 21.2.23 – Photo by Bev Haigh-Jones

In this feature I will not attempt to rival our traditional news media organisations, but will hope to provide additional information on issues that may not have been covered impartially, as well as possible snippets of news that you may have missed altogether.

  • Shortages of many fresh products on our shelves is a subject which has been in our news reports for a while now, but which has gained prominence with the announcements by the major supermarkets of their intention to introduce rationing. Sadly, most of the reports were initially placing all the blame on adverse weather conditions in various European countries and whilst this is true, there are no shortages or rationing within the EU. Our situation here is exacerbated by post-Brexit supply chain problems, in conjunction with many of our own growers either reducing or ceasing glasshouse production because of the soaring cost of energy. And it isn’t just salad crops that are in short supply either. During my latest shopping trip, I saw empty sections in the cheese chillers, there were very few eggs available and even with biscuits the choice was very limited and numbers were low. Difficult to blame these shortages on snow in Spain, I think.
  • There is much in the media about Rishi Sunak’s apparent attempts to resolve the issue of the NI Protocol. Apart from the ongoing reports on negotiations, other articles address different aspects of the problem faced by the Prime Minister, like this from the Guardian, warning of a Tory rebellion. Posts on the subject, such as this one from John Dutton referring to an article in The New Statesman, give a much broader overview than we might receive from the UK broadcasters, and video clips reminding us of the claims made by Boris Johnson after he announced that he had got the deal done, are rife on social media. Despite the obvious lies told by the former PM though, he is nevertheless making an apparent bid to thwart Sunak’s attempts to reach some sort of agreement with Brussels, presumably as a precursor to another bid for the top job.
  • You may have heard that Liz Truss has been re-selected to stand as Conservative candidate for South West Norfolk at the next election. You may wonder, after her fortunately brief spell as Prime Minister, why her constituents would be supporting her for re-election, but perhaps this video from @PoliticsJOE_UK may explain all.
  • One of the things that we don’t hear much of from our media is the effect of Brexit on our Universities, and those involved in Research and Innovation (R&I). The effect is, in fact, considerable and not in a good way. This report by Paul Boyle, Vice Chancellor of Swansea University explains why our universities will suffer. Despite this, however, our government appear determined to alienate the UK further from its nearest neighbours and fellow scientists, as explained by this article in the Guardian. These problems for our universities are, of course, in addition to the drop in student numbers because of Brexit, where EU students have reduced by more than half. This can only have a negative impact on UK students, since the income for the universities which was previously generated by these EU students will also be significantly reduced.
  • Europe could dodge a recession. But the UK is in a mess.” This headline from a CNN article published on 24 January will probably not come as any surprise to most of us, particularly those who are feeling the effects of the cost of living increases the most. What may come as a surprise, however, is that despite this the Foreign Office spent an extortionate amount of money on luxury furnishings in 2021/22. Amongst other things, this included £7,000 for wallpaper from George Osborne’s family wallpaper firm. Nothing to see here.
  • Closer to home, an article in Cornwall Live quotes Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting as stating that he intends to hold Health Secretary Steve Barclay’s “feet to the fire” over the proposed new women and children’s hospital unit for Cornwall. Doubts now exist as to whether the unit, which was one of the supposed forty “new hospitals” will go ahead, as timescales have slipped, and costs have escalated. In the meantime, however, the limited facilities that already exist within Cornwall are facing extreme pressure and one, West Cornwall Hospital’s urgent unit, has been closed overnight for six months, with no sign of that changing.
  • Finally, more an advertisement than a news item, but Linda Green’s article in Yorkshire Bylines explaining the motivation and experiences behind her new novel, “In little stars”, is well worth a read. The idea was born out of the events surrounding the death of Jo Cox, the build up to the referendum and experience of extreme, right-wing attitudes. Even the article creates a whole mix of emotions – sadness, grief, anger, fear, disbelief – so if that is just from the explanation, heaven knows what the book itself will generate.

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