A little while back the HMRC introduced the Raw Tobacco Scheme, and I as a keen gardener and law abiding citizen duly applied to register with them. Today a charming lady from HMRC gave me a call to discuss my application , despite my saying all communication in writing please but I forgive them.
The call mainly went over my application, why was I registering and such. Having established that I was registering purely as a gardener they wanted to know how many plants I have growing and how many of the annual variety I was planning to plant. When I mentioned growing several non-decorative varieties she was interested as to what size they grew to and what varieties though she’d never heard of Burley. She did then get further perplexed when I informed them that I mainly used the flowers for making wine ( recipe here ) and pesticide. The lady I was speaking to apparently had a small Nicotiana plant of some sort in her kitchen and was interested to know when it was fragrant as I’d mentioned my decorative varieties were also for fragrance, I suspect she obviously has a less fragrant variety.
Moving on from the pleasantries there were the normal verification of the details I’d provided. she also checked the following:
My ID requesting passport or driving license number
If it would be ok for someone from the HMRC to inspect my garden
If I was giving any of the leaves to anyone else
That it was just prunings and dead plants I was dealing with
What I’d be putting in the compost and what would be going in the council green bin
So really nothing to out of the ordinary, though as I’d mentioned I make wine from the flowers she did check if that was for personal consumption only. Which I assured her it was though probably just as well I didn’t mention that I bottled 145 gallons of homebrew last year. Really the only surprising thing was that they followed up my application at all and seem to be taking it if not seriously at least with a straight face. I of course immediately popped over to UK Tobacco Plants to make sure that the HMRC will have something to look at if they come round.
So long and short of it if you’ve applied to register the HMRC will be in touch, they will want to verify your ID against an official document, they may ask if it’ll be ok to visit and are going to double check that you’re actually going to do what you said you will in your application. So all in all just tediously bureaucratic. Further updates as and when things happen.
In this time of fake news and alternative facts you’d think the BBC ( especially given previous historic scandals ) might be careful about what those they give a platform to say in public. So as I have a slight interest in hunting and shooting I was interested as to how the BBC responded when challenged about false claims made by one of their presenters. In this case it was that darling of Birtish Wildlife programs Mr Christopher Packham. Mr Packham has been promoting his anti-shooting campaign claiming that Lapwings are being shot resulting in their numbers declining. He got called on this and a mere five hours later retrated the claim. The apology didn’t of course involve removing the tweets which were still being shared and used to drive people towards his government petition. His campaign to remove waders from the list of allowed game has included several foreign species, species that are already illegal to shoot and ignores the work done by the shooting campaign in conservation work for waders.
As Mr Packham has a bit of a track record for playing fast and lose with facts regarding British wildlife and various countryside interest groups some people thought that maybe it was time to contact the BBC and ask if this was appropriate behaviour for one of the presenters of a popular wildlife show. After all his appearance as an “expert” on the BBC does lend him a certain amount of gravitas and he’d not have the size of public platform he does with out it. The whole debacle garnered quite a bit of coverage, though not on the BBC whose news articles mainly talk about lapwings recovery. It will possibly come as little surprise to you that the BBC’s standard response was basically:
“Nothing to do with us guv, we only hire him and he can say what he likes elsewhere”
Or to be more precise:
Thank you for contacting us with your concerns regarding Chris Packham’s recent tweet about lapwings.
Chris’s association with the BBC is primarily for the Watches’ programmes, where he helps to explain the science of nature. This is separate from his work outside of and independent to the BBC.
Outside of his BBC commitments he is an independent broadcaster and a respected naturalist in his own right.
His personal Twitter account has no connection to the BBC or any of the Watches’ social media accounts and we remain confident that our audience is able to distinguish between Chris as a presenter on a BBC series and his personally expressed views as a naturalist.
We hope this explains our position and thank you for taking the time to contact us.
BBC Complaints Team
NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.
One can’t help but wonder that the BBC is so unconcerned about their “experts” spreading alternative facts and fake news, and how their “experts” make use of the platform the BBC give them to promote their other interests. As Mr Packham was using his alternative facts to drive people towards signing a parliamentary petition – it’s hard to escape the niggling feeling that the BBC are knowingly being party to the dissemination of fake news with the intent to influence democratic processes. Which I thought we were all against – you would have thought by now the BBC would have learnt it’s lesson and if not publicly admonishing Mr Packham at least be questioning their continued involvement with him. After all they’re not shy of taking action or at least making their position clear when some celebrity or other makes some off hand out of hours comment that someone takes offence to. It could make one suspect that the BBC was happy to support the use of alternative facts when it supports agendas they agree with.
A new president of the United States of America has just taken office, and this event seems to have caused some people to lose the plot. I can understand why many people are worried about the actions that President Trump may take and why many people don’t think him a terribly nice person. He’s not my president because I’m not an American so I’m also really not in much of a position to make judgement on his policies or anything else – so I’m not going to. I’ll wait and see what he actually does rather than what he said he’d do or what people thing he’ll do. On my social media I’ve seen many people who have previously complained about misinformation, fake-news and the like sharing easily debunked “news” stories and articles that are so low on information and so biased they can really only be called propaganda. Which is fine it’s their space they can share what they like, though I’ll maybe pay less attention next time they complain about other people doing the same thing. Likewise today many people have gone on women’s marches to protest against Donald Trump being president. Now if that makes them feel better it’s their time and they can do what they like, I’m not going to pretend that i think it’s effective or even worth while action though. The time to protest Trump was before he got elected, if the march was for Womens rights more generally there are better targets, why did it take a US president being elected and maybe perhaps threatening the rights of privileged* western women to cause people to get up and march, why aren’t there constant demonstrations outside the Saudi embassy for instance**? I’ve no intention of telling people what to do or how to protest but I reserve the right to draw conclusions about their revealed preferences from the actions they take.
This though is all rather by the by. What more concerns me is the violence seen in the US following the Presidential inauguration. People being blocked from attending the inauguration and people being attacked in an unprovoked manner because of their political beliefs. When this is is coming from and being cheered on by people that allegedly believe in love trumping hate and kinder gentler politics I do have to wonder what on earth they are thinking. I’ve seen people complaining that the right only gets upset when a member of the right gets attacked and ignore violence against other groups, which only makes me ask so what? Isn’t that what the people protesting expect from the right that they don’t care about others, but aren’t the people protesting meant to be better than that? Shouldn’t they be condemning any violence as they believe in peaceful protest and are better than the right? The think is though in terms of recent political events that I’ve both been at or seen reported in the news mass violence seems to be the exclusive preserve of the kinder gentler left. The right may have loud, hostile and threatening demos but actual violence is always from those that claim they oppose fascism and the right.
This opposition to other people political opinion by means of violence is troubling as history suggests it’s normally a precursor to totalitarian states. The people that allowed President Obama and other “good” people to get away with ignoring checks and balances and to give themselves more power were the ones that have given that power to President Trump, if President Obama hadn’t been quietly given the power President Trump wouldn’t have it now. As the trite meme goes the only way to stop people abusing power is to not to let them have it in the first place. Likewise the people “fighting fascism” with violence today are ensuring that fascism is what they’ll get. Either they’ll welcome it in, in the disguise of a saviour that will save them from all the bad people if only they give up their freedom, or the bad people will turn around and say “this violence is unacceptable and we can stop it”. Either way freedom is lost and a totalitarian state arrives. By constructing a bogeyman that doesn’t exist and fighting that rather than the real flawed individuals they face today they provide cover for the genuinely malevolent. When everyone is “literally Hitler” how can you recognize the real thing when it arrives?
I’m not saying stop protesting, I’ve no intention of telling you what you should or shouldn’t do – that as always is your choice. However I am saying I believe each and everyone of us can make a difference without suppressing other peoples points of views, without violence, without constructing bogeymen to fight. If you want to make a difference talk to people who hold different views to you find common points of ground, don’t condemn opposing view points with slurs – if all you have is slurs you have no argument and don’t lock yourself away in a bubble. If you really believe that our current leaders are “literally Hitler” then don’t give them the excuse of violence and don’t drive people to them by calling everyone a “Nazi”.
I don’t do enough to effect the change I want in the world, and it may not be the same change you want – but and this may be a shock to people most people just want to get by and generally want everyone else to be able to get by as well. So most of us have that common ground where we differ is in how we achieve this – which is a far better conversation to be having than hurling insults from inside cosy little echo chambers.Preventing discussions just allows resentment to fester and gives a breading ground for the genuinely less tolerant and the genuinely nasty. If we talk to each other, especially those with whom we seem at first to disagree then those poisons have left space to grow.
Not quite sure if I had a point there except maybe “be excellent to each other”.
* Compared to the rest of the world everyone in the west is privileged
** I’ve checked via Google and can find no report of a single mass women’s rights march outside a Saudi Embassy