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Is history repeating itself?
at 14:46 11 Sep 2017

After Clement made an excellent start to his tenure at the club, up to the Burnley match, we then only managed 1 point from the next 6 games against: Hull, Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, Spurs, West Ham and Watford - a dismal return against almost entirely weak opposition. As we all know we got back on the right track against Stoke with the re-introduction of Britton, and we never looked back with the pass master back in the side.

Even though I rate Clement highly as a coach, and I'm pretty confident we'll be fine this season, it does concern me that Mesa isn't getting on the pitch and Britton wasn't even on the bench yesterday. Clement has shown that he can learn from his mistakes, so it's far too early to judge definitively, but I feel uneasy about the way he can sideline the highly rated Mesa (let's not forget how much of a coup his signature was seen as at the time) in spite of having him for two weeks solid in the international break, and yet can introduce a 20 year old rookie from the start with only two days training with the squad.

Looking at that midfield on Saturday we have a number of decent passers of the ball - but not a single one that you could describe as an excellent passer. This goes a long way to explaining why we were ponderous and our tempo was so slow. This is exactly the rut we got into in the aforementioned run of matches last season under Clement. Cork started so well - but inevitably his inferior distribution eventually started to show. What this did, as it did on Saturday, is it brought us down to the level of our opponents. Newcastle were without Mbemba and Mitrovic, and Benitez wasn't on the bench, and their line-up looked (and still looks) very mediocre. And yet they matched us at the very least.

Against teams like Newcastle we need to put out a side that excels at passing and looks to completely dominate possession, and also looks to work the ball up the pitch through swift, one-touch football. Leaving out Mesa and Britton isn't going to help us achieve that. I hope Clement re-learns that lesson sooner rather than later.
West Ham U23s vs Swansea U23s live stream
at 13:42 27 Aug 2017

Can't get this to work myself. Swansea losing 2-1 just before half time.
We need two number 10s to replace Siggy
at 21:39 19 Aug 2017

Quite apart from Siggy's obvious quality one of the things we will miss with his departure is his availability. We simply haven't needed an alternative number 10, simply because, like Williams before him, he hardly ever got injured or suspended and played practically every game for us.

We cannot assume that we will have such good fortune with Siggy's replacement. On that basis we should be looking to bring in two replacements, not one. I very much doubt that the board shares my thinking, but there we go.

My suggestion for a budget squad no 10 would be Jonny Williams - who isn't getting any game time under De Boer, in spite of just signing a two-year contract extension. He should be available for a few million tops (perhaps with generous add-ons). He would be a bit of a gamble with his injury woes - but he has the quality.
Red Tape
at 19:52 28 Jun 2017

It doesn't take a genius to work out that when a terrible tragedy on the scale of the one seen at Grenfell happens then something has probably gone terribly wrong with the regulatory framework. Even without any understanding of the specifics of the situation it's obvious that at even at "best" it could be a one-off case of a rogue builder slipping some shoddy and dangerous work past an inspector. But what is becoming eminently clear is that the Grenfell disaster could have happened at any of a huge number of properties across England. At the time of writing 120 high-rise buildings have failed inspection failures - a truly shocking 100% failure rate. This sort of systematic failure points unequivocally to a catastrophic regulatory regime failure.

This Newsnight article is very damning:

What this article suggests is that the regulations in England that cover high-rise buildings are stringent enough - but that their enforcement has effectively been handed to the building industry itself to "interpret" as they see fit:

"The first thing to know is that local officials no longer run all building inspections. England has a so-called "Approved Inspector" regime. Contractors must no longer wait for a local authority official to check their work. Instead, they may hire people to check their construction processes meet the required standards. There is no single regulator - or arm of government - directly upholding standards."

It has been deemed legitimate for contractors to bypass the required A2 standard of low combustibility cladding by a variety of options, including "Desktop studies":

"Option 3 is for a so-called "desktop study":
"If I have conducted tests of a cladding product in a few different scenarios, then I might not need to bother with a new fire test. I can convince inspectors to sign it off by hiring an expert who will say "based on these results, I am confident that this cladding is safe in this context" without doing any further trials."

Just how self-serving these "studies" have been - carried out at the contractor's behest remember, not a council or government appointed inspector - is immediately obvious in the 100% failure rate of real-life scenario testing of the actual materials. It's not hard to see how an expert might have a vested interest in judging a design safe given who was paying for their services. Had every desktop survey they produced come up with a 100% failure (as it self-evidently should have) how many reports do you think the "expert" would have been commissioned to produce by the contractor? Any advance on one?

But it gets worse:

"We reported last night, however, on a troubling fourth route. The National House Builders' Council (NHBC) is a big player in building inspection. Last year, they issued guidance which states that you can use a variety of sub-A2 insulation boards with B-grade external cladding - and you can do all of that without even a desktop study.

That effectively means that a sector body has unilaterally decided that largely using B-grade material is now sufficient, not A2. NHBC themselves state that "this is on the basis of NHBC having reviewed a significant quantity of data from a range of tests and desktop assessments."

Truly shocking stuff - and yet outside of Newsnight this doesn't seem to have been picked up on by the wider media.

One of my immediate thoughts after the disaster was "I wonder how the cladding regulations and their enforcement differ between the UK and continental Europe". I needn't have looked so far away. So far, in Scotland, no high-rise building has been found to use the sort of cladding used in Grenfell (and apparently all over the place in England). This may just have something to do with regulations introduced in Scotland in 2005, following the death of a man in a tower block in Irvine in 1999: It's also worth noting that the Welsh Government has said that the specific brand of panel, Reynobond PE, is not in use in Wales. However, the results of on-going tests on the cladding used in Wales (including 14 in Swansea, the highest number in Wales) have yet to be published. It will be interesting to see if the results deviate from England, and if this is a reflection of any differences between the regulatory regimes in Wales and England.

Which brings me to the point of my article. The Tories have demonised red tape and regulation for decades - it's a part of the crazy neo-liberal (actually neo-anarchist would be closer to the mark) creed of the Tories. Don't take my word for it. Here's a direct quote from the Conservative Party Manifesto for the recent election:

"... poor and excessive government regulation limits growth for no good reason. So we will continue to regulate more efficiently, saving £9 billion through the Red Tape Challenge and the One-In-Two-Out Rule."

Red Tape exists for a reason. It's not some sort of fungus that grows surreptitiously in the night. It exists, invariably, to enhance public safety and well-being. At times it's cumbersome, at others out-dated, so a case can always be made for continually reviewing the necessity and scope of regulations. But the Tories have made a religion out of relentlessly attacking red tape. The shameful thing is that no other political party has offered any meaningful counterweight to their systematic attack on regulations and safe regulatory practice. Outsourcing the policing of regulations to self-interested bodies should be a complete no-no, because of the obvious conflicts of interest. But in the Tories feckless Brave New World anything goes. No one has stood up to them because defending Red Tape is as dull as ditch water, and doesn't win any votes.

No wonder the UK has became a World leader in man-made disasters. You'd think that we would learn to question our approach to things after calamities such as the one at Hillsborough. Nah, get another drink in...
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