Archive for the ‘Tony Blair’ Category

Gordon Brown and labour in trouble

February 20, 2007

Hi Grit

Hard on the heels of the “cash for honours” crisis, and the forthcoming change of Prime Minister as Tony Blair steps down this year, his expected replacement Gordon Brown and the labour party as a whole find themselves in deep trouble with the electorate.

A current poll of voters shows that, if there were a choice between labour led by Brown and conservatives led by David Cameron, at this moment in time only 29% would choose Brown against 42% for Cameron, a massive 13% gap which has not been seen since 1992. Even in terms of the party of choice, rather than the leaders, labour lags behind the conservatives by 31% to 40%.

If this is representative of the national opinion, it is a severe blow for Brown, who was expected to potentially call a snap general election possibly as early as september this year. Economic factors do not look good for the future and it is thought that he would have liked to have been granted a full 5 year term by the electorate soon after taking office. This option appears to be slipping away from him. There will be some worried people in the halls of government today.

However, it is probably too early to get over-excited as the poll only questioned a cross section of 1,000 voters, although the signs are encouraging for those who have become disillusioned with the policies and the antics of the labour party over recent years. It appears that the british public may be considering this change as a result of issues such as road pricing schemes, the disolving of human rights, big brother policies such as CCTV and the proposed introduction of ID cards with biometric data. In addition, I believe that the arrogance that Tony Blair has displayed over recent years, and his almost dictatorial attitude towards his government and the public, has lost labour a lot of friends, and justifiably so.

Maybe we can now look forward to the prospect of some sensible policies, but I won’t be holding my breath.

the Brit

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Lower taxes, higher revenue.

February 18, 2007

Hi Brit,

Considering the tax rates y’all have, you should send a copy of, Sharp fall in US budget deficit, to Blair.  It seems that, even though our Government has lowered taxes over the past several years, revenue flowing into the Federal coffers is at all time highs, $834 billion in the last quarter.  Of course, our politicians are still managing to increase spending fast enough to fritter away the gains, but that’s nothing new.

the Grit

UK Human rights and Freedom extinguished

February 18, 2007

Hi Grit

The government in the UK, if re-elected at the next election, will be taking the final steps to abolish human rights, freedom and privacy for the individual UK citizen, all in the name of protecting us against terrorism.

If the labour government have their way, all adults over the age of 16 will, by 2009, be required to place their fingerprints on a central computer. The suggested law may even extend to “iris” prints. These moves are in addition to the requirement to provide photographs for driving licences; requirement to provide details for the census and annual local government property occupancy register (for council tax purposes); and the multitude of close-circuit television cameras that adorn our towns, streets, villages and roads. An extra measure of identity that is also being considered is to place our medical records in the same “identikit” of us.

Not satisfied with us already being the most watched nation in the EU, these latest moves will actually increase the gap between us and other countries, turning us into one of the most monitored nations in the world. Some may argue that these moves are positive, but are they? Let us consider the evidence.

1) COST:

Naturally, there is the cost of the citizen ID rules. The government suggest that this will amount to just over £5.4 billion ($10.8 billion). However, independent sources put the figure at £19.3 billion ($38.6 billion). This represents over £300 ($600) per annum, per citizen. In addition to this, it is compulsory for people to give this information at one of 69 centres through the UK, at their own cost. In some cases this means travelling up to 100 miles, irrespective of age, financial situation or infirmity. A round trip of this nature, taken in work time will cost the worst affected another £100 at least. Of course, this does not take into account the annual running costs of the scheme.

2) PRIVACY

A basic human right is that of privacy. The ability to live our lives without fear or favour, and to keep parts of our lives free from the prying eyes of others. From 2009, if these plans go ahead, this will no longer be possible. Some will argue that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, but that is not the point. Do I really want my health, age, medical condition, financial status and life history potentially exposed to every form of media and individual nationally and internationally? Our data protection act suggests that such information should be secure but, in view of the fact that the government has incorporated rules to allow certain organisations, commercial as well as government and non-government organisations to access the data, this guarantee no longer holds true.

3) DISCRIMINATION

Such a system will also lead to discrimination, both intentional and by devious means. Employers will be tempted to access medical and financial information about potential employees, therefore leading to unfair bias against certain applicants. This is particularly the case in medical issues. For example, take the case of a person who may in the past have had cancer. Although possibly totally cured, when such a person is set against an applicant who has not past health problems, which is the less than totally honest employer going to chose?

Medical, legal and financial practitioners will be able to access medical records, providing a situation where they can discriminate against those they do not want to assist.   

4) MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE:

No computer or other registration system is infalible and the identity system will be no exception. With personal and biometric information on around fifty million people on file, the incidences of misinterpretation, incorrect identification and transpostion of information will rise. As a result this is bound to lead to an increase in the incidence of miscarriages of Justice. Add to this the fact that none of the biometric identity measures are 100% accurate and it can be seen that this will compound the issue. A small example of this might occur with twins for example. Especially in cases of identical twins wrong identification is even more likely.

5) THE CONCEPT OF INNOCENCE

The United Kingdom laws have always been founded upon the rule of “innocent until proven guilty.” It is bad enough that in recent decades tax and other laws have led to a reverse of this process in such areas. Now, with the introduction of of these measures, such a foundation has been totally eroded. The onus on the citizen will now be to prove their innocence in all cases.

Does this mean that in future one has to keep a daily diary of life events to ensure that one cannot get into a situation where lack of evidence to suggest otherwise leads to automatic guilt? I work from home and, during the day, this means that there is no-one to provide an alibi for my whereabouts, especially if I am not on the computer. If I take two hours off for a bath and rest, will I in future have to log this and provide photographic evidence? 

6) IDENTITY THEFT

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes of the past decade. It is also one of the least obvious to the victim, unless it has been committed for financial purposes. How can we be sure that our identity will not be stolen or duplicated for other criminal purposes? What is more important is, if such an event does occur, how will we know until a crime, using our identity has been committed?

7) PROTECTION AGAINST CRIME AND TERRORISM

The assumption that identity laws will offer protection against crime and terrorism is flawed in so many ways as to make it laughable. It only works if one starts from the premise that every hardened criminal and committed terrorist is going to abide by these laws. Naturally, Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists, and underworld criminals are going to assist the law by coming forward voluntarily to offer their biometric identity to the authorities. I think not! Such an assumption is, at best, insane.

There are those who argue that it is easier to catch someone who does not possess an identity card. How does that work? There are 60 million people in the UK and it is certain that there are not enough law enforcement agencies or officers to check each indicvidual. Add to this the fact that there is unencumbered travel in the EU through 25 countries and a determined criminal or terrorist has more than adequate escape routes. These are in addition to the many illegal ways of escaping from the country. Furthermore, why should such persons worry about being apprehended when there is always the route of identity theft to cover their tracks?

Although there may be rules and laws in place to address breaches of the protections in place, these are an “after the event” remedy, by which time the damage is done. Once the security of information has been broken, one cannot recapture the privacy, irrespective of how much money has been recovered in damages.

The hypothesis that these measures are a protection against crime and terrorism, as has been clearly demonstrated, is totally wrong. They will have little to no effect in these areas. 

In conclusion therefore, one has to observe that these new laws will have limited impact upon detering any major crime and terrorism attempts. What they will do is to damage the human rights of the innocent citizen.

the Brit

Anti-smoking police – £29.5 million

February 15, 2007

The UK government are at it again. Just when one thinks that they cannot waste any more money, the powers that be come up with yet another crazy scheme to waste our money. Not satisfied with all the cameras that are spread around the country, nor with the increasing powers that are given to police and local authorities, they have decided that we still cannot be trusted on our own.

This time it is all to do with the impending “smoking ban” which comes into force later this year. Under the new laws we will be banned from smoking in all public places. That includes bars, shops and resturants. The owners of such establishments will also be liable to fines if they allow people to breach the ban in their premises. However, as is this is not enough incentive to uphold this law, the government have decided to spend nearly £30 million ($60 million) of our money to train what they call “smoking” police. 

The task of these officers (undercover of course) will be to wander around all of the establishments trying to spot the illegal smoker in the act. What has to be borne in mind here, is what happens if a smoker is standing outside of a shop and the smoke from his/her cigarettes drifts into the shop? No doubt they will be fined for a “passive” smoke offence.

With this, and the recent case of smoke penetrating the wall into a neighbours house, it is not hard to imagine waking up one day to find one of these new “fag” detectors encamped in the cupboard under the stairs.

the Brit 

MP travel expenses

February 14, 2007

Hi Grit

All of the debate about travel costs, its effects on Global Warming and the need to conserve energy is generated by politicians. However, today figures have been published that show just how two-faced these people can be, especially in the UK. You need to bear in mind that there are around 634 MP’s and that the travel expenses are in addition to their salary and other expenses.

The current report reveals that the cost of MP’s travel for 2005-06 was a staggering £4.5 million ($9 Million). Of this £2 million was spent on car travel, £1.5 million on trains and £1 million on Flights. This equates to over £7,000 per MP, or £136 per week, and these figures are rising. However, as can be seen from the report, some MP’s are claiming as much as £44,000 per year, an incredible £850 per week!

There are a number of issues here. Firstly, these same MP’s are telling us to cut down on our road travelling, whilst at the same time failing to take their own advice. On the one hand the government is saying that the congestion on the roads is reaching a gridlock position, yet at the same time over 44% of their own travel is adding to the problem. The difference is that we, as lowly citizens, will not be able to reclaim any “rush hour” mileage cost imposed upon us, whilst the MP will be reimbursed. Every £1 an employee spends on mileage costs them £1.30 of gross income.

Secondly, they keep saying that we need to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce energy consumption, at the same time as they are increasing their own (or perhaps we should all walk so that they can travel in luxury!). Our tax authorities penalise us for the type of vehicle that we drive. For example, the tax levels on a 4×4 (SUV) are far more stingent than a small saloon. For an MP this is not a problem as they reclaim all of their expenses direct from the government.

Thirdly, there are no budget constraints on MP spending. They do not have to answer to anyone regarding the level of their expenditure. Any family is aware that they have to budget their expenditure to match their disposable income, or they will suffer the problems of escalating debt. Similarly, every employee knows that their expenses will not be sanctioned by their employer if it is considered to be unreasonable, and that continual extravagance will be rewarded with unemployment. A corporation is aware that cost control is vital to attracting business growth. An Mp’s attitude is directly opposite to all of these, safe in the knowledge that Joe public will be made to pay for their representative’s extravagance through the tax system, either directly or by stealth.

Standing alone, the MP’s travel expenses are bad enough, but when you add to this their other annual expenses, which on average work out at £110,000 ($220,000) each, and their salary of between £57,000 and £150,000 depending upon their position, it all adds up to an enormous public cost. What is worrying is that this represents just a small fraction of the cost of our government and civil service. In my view the time for “accountability of government” is NOW!

the Brit 

   

Pay as you go driving

February 12, 2007

Hi Grit

It seems at last that the UK public are actually trying to get their voices heard over government laws that are, to say the least, crazy and unacceptable. The regulation causing the problem is their intention to charge £1.34 per mile for drivers to use their vehicles during the “rush hour.” As the average distance for rush hour drivers in the affected areas is around 10 miles a day return, this could cost over £60 ($120) per week. No one but a fool (which obviously includes our government ministers) could suggest that this would work.

However, a petition drawn up against this measure has already attracted well over a million signatures. Mind you, so far this does not faze the transport minister who said recently “of course we will listen to people. But parliamentary democracy doesn’t just involved the expression of views.” Well, that is news to me! I thought democracy was all about expression of views.

Let’s hope the petition numbers continues to grow.

the Brit

Drink and sex abuse in UK politics

February 9, 2007

Hi Grit

Want to know why are politics in the UK are in such a shambles? The following story that I found gives some insight into this situation. It involves the case of Fiona Jones, once heralded as one of “Blairs Babes”, a term that was given to the 100 women MP’s that came into parliament with him in 1997.

Twelve days Fiona was found dead by her 17 year old son. She was surrounded by empty Vodka bottles. It is obvious from this scenario that she was an alcholic, but how did she get into this position. “Parliament taught her to drink,” accuses her husband. It transpires that the Houses of Parliament offers cut-price drink to all members and that heavy drinking sessions are not uncommon. With it being a very close environment there is a culture of “you have to do this to become one of us.” 

The other contributory factor to Fiona’s demise was sexual harassment. From the reports it seems that the lady was continuously subjected to bullying sexual attacks and innuendo by her chauvenistic colleagues.

Surprisingly, only one MP (an ex-MP at that) mentioned Fiona’s death. The article itself seems to brush away the importance of the issues of drink and sex, blaming Fiona’s demise on other issues.

This story is not only tragic, for which our sympathies are extended to Fiona’s family, the root causes of it are indefensible.

Tony Blair and his government publicly depore the menace of drink, often quoting how much work time is lost as a result, and the health and safety issues surrounding it. The same government has introduced laws and cracks down hard on sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. Why have these issues not been addressed in their own (private) club?

If we were found drunk in the workplace, the minimum expected of us would be to seek treatment. At worse we would be sacked for being unsafe to perform our task. If we were found guilty of sexual harassment in the workplace we would be fined, sacked or even imprisoned and our employers would be accountable as well. Why are the same rules not applied here.

Our government is responsible for making decisions that affect the health and safety of its citizens and, in many cases those of other nations. They are supposed to make sensible, sober decisions regarding matters of local, national and international importance. How can they be trusted to do that if these sorts of incidences are occuring?

No doubt this is the tip of a dangerous ice-berg. The government’s treatment of this lady is deplorable. The governments failure to maintain the same rules and regulations that they apply to its citizens and their employees is unforgivable and, in my view, a criminal dereliction of its duties.

the Brit

Tony Blair at home

February 9, 2007

Hi Grit

For those who don’t know a lot about Blair and his official home, here is a site that lets you take a tour around it. It will walk you through all of the rooms where important decisions are made and you can click on items of special interest to learn more. Unfortunately it does not allow you into his private accommodation.

Other interesting fact from this site include some interesting quotes from previous PM’s, dating back to the 1740’s, which our friend Tony might do well to refer to. For example:-

William Pitt the elder (1766-1788) “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”

Henry Addington (1801-04) “In youth, the absence of pleasure is pain, in old age the absence of pain is pleasure.”

Sir Robert Peel (1841-46) “There seem to me to be very few facts, at least ascertainable facts, in politics.”

Marquis of Salisbury (1886-92). “English policy is to float lazily downstream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boathook to avoid collisions.”

Arthur James Balfour (1902-1905) “I am more or less happy when being praised, not very comfortable when being abused, but I have moments of uneasiness when being explained.”

Andrew Bonar Law (1922-3) “If I am a great man, then a good many great men of history are frauds.”

Clement Richard Atlee (1945-51) “Often the experts make the worst possible ministers in their own fields. In this country we prefer rule by amateur.”

Sir Alec Douglas Hume (1963-64) “There are two problems in my life. The political ones are insoluble and the economic ones are incomprehensible.”

Interesting!

the Brit

Shilpa, Jade, Danielle and Jo – a week later

February 8, 2007

Hi Grit

Just thought you would want an how the people from the big brother house have got on since leaving just over a week ago.

Shilpa Shetty

Yesterday Shilpa Shetty went to Westminster to meet Tony Blair and other Members of Parliament. The crowds were so large that the police moved the following press conference for fears of security issues. Following this she travelled to Leicester, which has a large Asian community, where the crowds were even larger, forcing the police to not allow Shipla to get out of the car for the arranged Radio interview.  

Jade

Jade’s planned trip to India has been called off for the present, on advice of doctors who say that she still needs treatment to deal with the psychological affect of her recent stay in the house. Mind you she got into more trouble for taking a ride with her three year old son sitting on the top of the petrol tank of a quad bike. Jade’s agent has also confirmed that she has no work as all previous engagements have been cancelled.

Danielle

Danielle, after being interviewed by police, has decided to take a holiday in the sun with her parents. Apparently, she has still not met with her boyfriend, Teddy Sherringham, an English football player, so that does not look very promising. In addition to all the modelling contracts Danielle has lost, she is also being sued for £100,000 by the Miss GB organisers for bringing the pageant into disrepute by appearing topless in a magazine and having an affair with one of the judges – you’ve guessed it, Teddy Sherringham.

Jo O’Meara

Like Jade, Jo has spent the week getting psychiatric help. Out of the three, Jo is the one who has kept the lowest profile, partially due to death threats that have been made about her.

Other news is that the police are planning on interviewing seven of the big brother housemates, so there is more to come on the potential for criminal charges.

They say a week is a long time in politics. In entertainment it is proving to be even longer when one considers the dramatic effect that it has had on these four ladies lives.

the Brit

Political corruption does not affect voters

February 3, 2007

Hi Grit

This latest comment from Tony Blair has to be shows just how contemptuous politicians are of their voters. In a speech to the Labour party’s National Policy Forum he will tell them that the voter will not pay any attention to the “cash for honours” or any other political scandal for that matter.

Obviously we, the voters, have no morals and do not expect our politicans to be trustworthy. Despite that, we of course will be dumb enough to believe that these corrupt people will make decisions that are in our interests. The contempt with which the current crop of politicians hold the public beggars belief.

Over the past decade or so politicians have introduced stringent corporate governance laws and regulations onto commercial enterprises to stop corruption and ensure transparancy, as well as introducing extensive big brother tactics to monitor the behaviour of citizens. In my opinion it is high time that these were made applicable to the politicians themselves.

the Brit

Blair to become the next Nixon

February 1, 2007

Hi Grit

The “Cash for honours” saga is continuing to gather momentum. Last week Blair was secretly iblair-1a.JPGnterviewed by the police for the second time over the scandal. One Scottish party leader suggested that, instead of his friendship with George Bush, perhaps the British public should be looking more towards his likeness to Richard Nixon. From the response by Blair, it was easy to see that this current development has him rattled and the bookmakers, who don’t often back a loser, lowered the odds of him being charged from 12/1 to 7/1. Perhaps the picture from earlier was not so far off the mark

As he approaches retirement, the man has now achieved a record that no other previous PM can compete with. Tony Blair is the first Prime Minister to be interviewed by the police. As simply a mere citizen, it would seem to me that the honorable thing to do at this stage is to step down. However, that does have its down side.

Waiting in the wings to take over the job is George Brown, a Scotsman. Bearing in mind that a vote in Scotland yesterday showed that 74% of Scottish people thought that being part of the Union (UK) was a mistake, I have visions of us English people being cast adrift in a Dunkirk type flotilla of small vessels as Scotland takes over the entire country.

the Brit 

Tony Blair and the real reality

January 30, 2007

Hi Grit

Over here we have today a real “reality” programme playing out and this time it stars the PM Tony Blair. You will remember the “cash for honours” scandal of a few weeks ago. Well last week an aide of Blair’s from Downing Street was arrested for alledgedly deleting e-mails from the computer system. Today Lord Levy, Blair’s fundraise was arrested, this time for conspiracy and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The noose is getting tighter and, unless he is very lucky, Tony Blair could find himself in a very different position from the one he holds now. The long arm of the law does not recognise the offenders position in life (hopefully!).

the Brit

NGO’s empowered

January 30, 2007

Hi Grit

I read with interest your comment about power being delegated to committees and am really thinking that you and your fellow Americans would not feel at home in the UK, despite popular beliefs.

The problem with where power lies and decisions can be made in the UK is even more complex than the US. Like you, we have a system where governments, when they get into power, think “don’t need the electorate now!” so they delegate some of the most difficult laws and regulations to those who do not have to vote on it. For example, when there was all the furore about big business, ancient men (notice I did not use the word wise?) were gathered together to define new regulations to control corporate governance. This produced a regulation that, whilst not law, was orchestrated in such a way that if a corporation did not implement, they would be delisted from the stock market. No voting on that then!

Similarly, the government passes a lot of regulations that it does not want to bother Parliament with, to outside NGO’s, probably because they feel that we as voters, apart from being surplus to requirements, would be too confused by the issues to make a sensible decision. Of course the other way that the politicians can sidestep the due process of democracy is to take a leaf out of John Reid’s (the Home Secretary) book. He changed the way our legal system worked within twenty four hours by simply writing to the Judges and asking (so he says) that they stop imprisoning guilty criminals.

Finally, as if this wasn’t enough, we in the UK have another non-democratic “big brother” showering us with laws and regulations like confetti at a wedding. It is called the EU. In my view the European Union structure is an ideal place for politicians who are tired of allowing themselves to be subjected to the vagaries of democracy. They sit in their ivory towers constructing regulations about matters in which they have no knowledge nor have been asked to interfere with, and churn these out at the rate of knots. Of course no-one outside of the EUSS (European Union Secret Society) is asked for opinion or allowed to cast judgement. Thus suddenly us mere mortals find ourselves waking up in the morning to find that we cannot have milk in our coffee because the EU have deemed that milk should not be cream in colour or something stupid like that.

The moral of this of course is that there is always someone worse off than you 🙂

the Brit

Blair adding to prison crowding?

January 28, 2007

Hi Grit

Unfortunately, I do not think that Tony Blair will be thinking much about space or any other travel at the moment. Keeping his freedom may be more to the forefront of his mind right now.

You remember the cash for honours situation we talked about a few weeks back? Well, the police investigations have continued. As part of these they hacked into the Number 10 computer e-mail systems (Is that allowed?). There they found incriminating evidence that implicanted the Prime Minister’s office, and hand written notes from Blair himself. All this leads them to believe that he knew about the issue and condoned it at the very least.

The police are saying that, at the very least he may be called upon to give evidence in the criminal cases that develop. At present his future does not look that secure unless you count a prison cell in that vein.

the Brit

Another Olympics, another sign

January 28, 2007

Hi Brit,

Sorry, but I’ve got bad news for you.  It looks like Blair doesn’t have a ticket to the secret moon base, London 2012 ‘to be greenest ever’, else why waste all that effort?  Or, could this just be a ploy to divert attention from the coming global doom?  I wonder how many can squeeze in up there?

the Grit

Blair and Kyoto

January 28, 2007

Hi Grit

I will come back to the issue of Global warming in the next few days, as soon as I have extricated myself from the mountain of paperwork, facts and counterfacts that was forthcoming after the last one. However, the situation regarding Mr Blair’s speech needs to be looked at in a number of ways.

Firstly, one has to remember that he is within six months or so of stepping down from the position as Prime Minister. Thus, technically, nothing that he says at present has any influence upon government policy, nor does it commit his successor to a policy. If I were the cynical type (as if?), I could promote the view that his current round of speeches on important issues is a clever promotional campaign to improve his value on the “statesmen” speech circuit.

Secondly, his praise of Ms Merkel and the German presidency of Europe rings a bit hollow when you consider it in the same context as mentioned in the above paragraph.

Thirdly, the Koyoto agreement we have already mentioned previously and to me, bearing in mind that the developing countries such as India and China will cry foul if their continued development is to be halted, I do not see a prospect of a new more radical formula being agreed in the near future.

Oh why not just a brief mention of Global warming. Our Prince Charles, who cancelled a skiing trip to reduce his “carbon footprint” resulting from emissions, has now been criticised for taking 13 people on an official trip to Canada. I have not seen anyone complaining about the “emission” cost of 30 political parties travelling from their domestic countries to Switzerland, have you?

Hope that explains the Blair position.

the Brit

Taxation – the heart attack creator of the 21st Century

January 23, 2007

Hey Grit

You expect me to advise on the complexities of the US tax regulations when, according to a survey 66% of Americans haven’t a clue what they mean and, according to the American Bar Association,  a large number of the IRS employees don’t have a clue either. Covering over 2,300 sheets of paper, it is a wonder that any of you owe the IRS anything after paying the professionals to compute your liability.

However, we do not seem to fare much better in the UK. Here we have Income Tax, National Insurance Tax, Value Added Tax, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Stamp duty, Self employment Tax, Council Tax, Road Tax and Excise duties. (I am sure I have forgotten some!).

Our Finance (Tax) act is 517 pages. The Income Tax Act has more than 826 sections,  and on top of that there is about 18-20 other acts.

Why the heck do people want to immigrate to here?

the Brit

I just have to ask

December 27, 2006

Hi Brit,

I saw this, Blair’s Plane Overshoots Miami Runway, and, while I’m glad no one was hurt, I’d like to know why your Prime Minister was traveling on a commercial jet?  This must be one of those differences between our countries, that most people don’t know about.  I always assumed that the Prime Minister has duties much like our President, which would necessitate traveling with a huge entourage and massive amounts of communications gear.  So, what’s the story on this, and who’s running England while Blair is flying the friendly skies?

the Grit