Monday, 31 August 2015

Lying about lines

This widely-known experiment originally devised by Solomon Asch is usually presented as demonstrating the power of group conformity. A brief review of the experiment can be found here.

Does the experiment demonstrate conformity?

Yes but one could also turn it around and say it demonstrates the power of lying. Each experimental collaborator lied to the subject about how they perceived those line lengths. Lying about lines was crucial to the experimental design. So Asch’s experiment also demonstrated the dynamics of group lying, how certain situations may persuade some people to assent to the most obvious lie, in spite of the evidence of their own eyes.

Were the subjects lying to themselves as well as the rest of the group?

Afterwards the subjects were interviewed and those who made false responses gave various reasons for doing so. They presumably knew they were giving false responses even though they were participating in an experiment. For all they knew, their false responses might have ruined the experiment, but still they lied.

Did they really know they were giving false responses? If so what do we mean by “know”? What we observe is that in different circumstances these subjects exhibited different behaviour. In the interviews they admitted their responses were false – different circumstances, different behaviour. That’s all we observe.

So what would we say if the subjects had never been interviewed afterwards, if the different circumstances had never occurred? In a sense it doesn’t matter because what we are interested in is the behaviour, not hypothetical possibilities going on inside the subject’s head.

We are social animals and a group’s preferred modes of language and behaviour may exert a powerful hold on its members even to the extent of lying to the rest of the world. When we add in the endlessly subtle and deceptive resources language has to offer, how even the most blatant distortions can be obscured by evasive words and phrases, then it is easy enough to see how lying can become a feature of any group. Even those with a diffuse international membership.

EU referendum anyone?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Ill at ease

The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.
 Nathaniel Hawthorne - The House of the Seven Gables (1851)

I don’t see myself as ill at ease and I’m not big on onward impulses, but from a sample of one I hesitate to say Hawthorne was right. There is an itch to know more, explain more, read more and analyse more deeply in that futile pursuit of the ever elusive Answer.

Great swathes of popular culture seem designed to keep us not so much happy as reasonably contented. Presumably the political classes beyond the green baize door genuinely want us to be happy below stairs, almost as if they have quietly given up on merit now lots of useful stuff has been invented for them.

It’s enough to make a chap ill at ease.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

No black scorpion

But if you ask me what is the good of man, I cannot mention to you anything else than that it is a certain disposition of the will with respect to appearances. 

Many dreadful events unfolded in the nineteen thirties, events which changed the world, but something else was unfolding too, a certain pragmatic clarity of outlook with more subtle consequences. Or perhaps there were no consequences at all. Perhaps that’s the point.

No black scorpion.
In 1934 behaviourist B F Skinner attended a dinner where he sat next to philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. After Skinner had explained his work on behaviour to the great man, Whitehead remarked “Let me see you account for my behaviour as I sit here saying ‘no black scorpion is falling upon this table.’”

Next morning Skinner began work on his book Verbal Behavior, in his view his most important book. An account of language in terms of stimulus, response and reinforcement, it took him twenty years.

Language, Truth and Logic.
In 1936 philosopher A J Ayer published Language, Truth and Logic, a short and accessible philosophy book which rattled the teeth of the staid world of philosophy. In later years Ayer rejected much of it as wrong, yet for most of us it is near enough, a starting point, an engaging account of what makes sense and what doesn’t, what a personal philosophy can do for us and what it cannot do.

Skinner was 30 and Ayer 25. Young and keen as mustard. Both were empiricist in outlook, believing that what we know of the world is mainly derived from what is observable. Both were interested in the way we use language, knowing how deceptive it can be. Skinner was interested in how we use language to mould our personal and collective behaviour, Ayer in how we use it to deceive ourselves and others.

Unfortunately there is a problem with the essentially straightforward approaches used by both men to tackle the endless complexities of the human situation. Vested interests, hierarchies, the power of politics, authority, academia, status and money all benefit from otherwise pointless complexities.

There is another glass ceiling apart from the one we hear so much about these days. Cause and effect are all very well in their place, but allowing such ideas onto the hallowed ground of politics and power is a different matter. Everything would have to change. Everything would have to adapt, to accommodate the cold blue light of reason emanating from even the lowliest peasant, from even their children. Whatever next?

When Ayer and Skinner were young men, science, engineering money and optimism were helping to transform their world into what appeared to be a better place, not merely physically better but intellectually better too. The stultifying deference of centuries appeared to be crumbling away before an onslaught of merit, education, curiosity and cool reason.

Perhaps the onslaught still goes on at a slower pace, but the horrors of war intervened, diverted our attention into less useful directions. Other imperatives and influences choked off anything which might damage the status quo. The imbecilities of popular culture began to take hold. The mindless thump, thump of popular music, mawkish sentiment, idiot lyrics and faux rebellion.

The embarrassing crassness of celebrity culture grew and grew as mass communication grew and grew, as the technology of influence became cheaper and cheaper. An endless diet of dumb piped into almost every home via millions of radios and televisions.

Ayer and Skinner were revolutionaries in their way. If we had listened, if we’d absorbed the essence of their message then perhaps in time we’d have learned to control the world. But we didn’t. And we won’t because of the sheer weight of pressure to bend the metaphorical knee, swill the beer and dance round the maypole just as our medieval forebears did.

Democracy and mass education went nowhere because how could they go anywhere? The peasants would have to get up off their knees, throw aside the beer mug, burn the maypole and that would never do. So we have cheap wine instead of beer, cheap food, cheap jobs, expensive homes and mass voting instead of democracy. Maybe our suspicions should have been aroused as the franchise grew because surely a vote wasn’t worth anything if millions could have it for nowt.

As for education, no doubt it serves its purpose but we aren’t about to teach the radical stuff which so enthused Ayer and Skinner eighty years ago. We aren’t about to teach kids how to think clearly, how to slice through the mental shackles because in the end it still doesn’t suit the way we are, the way we seem content to remain.

Behavior used to be reinforced by great deprivation; if people weren't hungry, they wouldn't work. Now we are committed to feeding people whether they work or not. Nor is money as great a reinforcer as it once was. People no longer work for punitive reasons, yet our culture offers no new satisfactions.
B F Skinner

It seems that I have spent my entire time trying to make life more rational and that it was all wasted effort.
A J Ayer

Thursday, 27 August 2015

No greater bugbear


Strength is incomprehensible by weakness, and, therefore, the more terrible. There is no greater bugbear than a strong-willed relative in the circle of his own connections.

Nathaniel Hawthorne - The House of the Seven Gables (1851)

It's a common problem - strong-willed people who lack the capacity to be anything else, who cannot use their inflexibility for the common good. It isn’t merely relatives either.

Hawthorne presents the alternative as weakness which is harsh, but his was a harsh world and what else is it when we strip it bare? Somebody has to give way, be accommodating, turn the other cheek, adapt. Either that or move on, out of range.

A small percentage of such people cause havoc because they cannot be accommodated and without enormous disruption will not be ejected, sidelined or otherwise made safe for everyone else. More than a bugbear I'd say.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Who licks old china?

Only the simple and the humble were abroad at that early hour: purveyors of food, in cheerfully rattling carts, or hauling barrows with the help of grave and formidable dogs; washers and cleaners at the doors of highly-decorated villas, amiably performing their tasks while the mighty slept; fishermen and fat fisher-girls, industriously repairing endless brown nets on the other side of the parapet of the road; a postman and a little policeman; a porcelain mender, who practised his trade under the shadow of the wall...
Arnold Bennett – Sacred and Profane Love (1905)

The photo shows a porcelain coffee pot made in Bristol in the 1770s and as you see it is not quite in pristine condition. An old repair uses metal staples and wire inserted into holes drilled into the porcelain. Bennett’s Italian porcelain mender would have employed the same technique. 

I recall an expert telling us that the staples were inserted hot so that when they cooled they contracted and clamped the pieces together. A skilled job, especially when we consider that where staples were used in this piece, the holes were not drilled all the way through even though the porcelain is very thin.

Missing bits appear to have been filled with plaster which you may be able to see in the right hand image just below the lid. These old stapled repairs are quite common, especially for old Chinese porcelain. Presumably the owners still wished to display the piece even though its value would be much reduced. Was the servant responsible usually dismissed I wonder?

Today a restorer would take out the staples and begin all over again with modern adhesives and resins. The repair would not be easy to see without close inspection, as we discovered on a couple of occasions before we learned to be wary.

One way to tell is to lick suspect areas with the tip of the tongue which is sensitive enough to detect slight temperature or texture differences between porcelain and resin. The teeth are able to detect slight differences too. Any dealer will know what you are up to.

Monday, 24 August 2015


Dear Golden Roof Investor,

You may have heard that the Chinese stock market has undergone a minor bout of turbulence in recent days. This is to be expected in such an exciting, where-it’s-at market and is not a cause for alarm for anyone with the Golden Roof Investment Trust.

Although the whereabouts of our CEO Mr Wun Awei has been the subject of much scurrilous press comment, be assured that he is diligently seeking new opportunities. We intend to contact him in the very near future to discuss these opportunities plus a range of other options he may wish to consider.

Meanwhile, our advice for all investors in the Golden Roof Investment Trust is to sit tight while current disturbances are brought firmly under control by the Chinese authorities.

In addition to this exiting news, you may be interested in a new investment opportunity, the Platinum Roof Investment Trust for which you should already have a prospectus. Remember - you take the risk so we don't have to.

Yours sincerely

Richard Dastardly (Acting CEO)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Corbyn and the clowns


There appear to be two broad possibilities emerging as folk frantically try to predict the outcome of the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon. Two broad possibilities, disaster and blessing, each with a range of nuances:-

Unmitigated disaster.
Corbyn will be an unmitigated disaster for Labour, causing it to split into progressive and modernist factions leading to the rise of an alternative mainstream party.

Mitigated disaster.
Corbyn will be an electoral disaster for Labour in the 2020 general election but the party will make the best of it and will not split into progressive and modernist factions.

Mixed blessing.
Corbyn will be a mixed blessing for Labour, leading it to rediscover its core principles and reject the baggage of impure socialism left by Tony Blair.

Unmixed blessing.
Corbyn will be an unmixed blessing for Labour, leading it to rediscover its core principles, reject the baggage left by Tony Blair and triumph in the 2020 election as the only party of principle.

However things turn out, the only real pleasure in watching the political circus has always been the clowns. Jeremy Corbyn is a gift to jaded political palates. Whatever one thinks of him, he has surely exposed his leadership opponents as clowns merely by being straightforward.

What a brilliant wheeze eh? It’s all great fun too - they should do it more often.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Agents of chaos

There is a type of person, often a pleasant and likeable person, who sows chaos wherever they go. Not merely major outbreaks of chaos such as we see in banking circles from time to time, but minor outbreaks too, such as plans and schemes which never work and never could work because they exclude that essential element of stability - human adaptability.

At the very lowest end of the scale, agents of chaos are the kind of people who reach the front of a busy supermarket checkout only to find they have no credit card with them. Car drivers who cannot see the need to drive more slowly than usual in very heavy traffic, who cannot see why constantly switching lanes is pointless. You must have come across them, as I have. 

Further up the social scale agents of chaos sit in meetings making suggestions which may sound reasonable for a millisecond or two. Fatal flaws may become obvious to others quickly enough, but by then it is too late, discussion has moved into more dubious channels and isn't easily dragged back to the shores of sanity. Chaos branches out so smoothly and so rapidly into a veritable raft of chaotic possibilities.

So the meeting loses its way. The seeds of chaos are sown, pragmatic action blighted and there is nothing left but retrench and hope for better things in the future. Unfortunately new protocols, regulations and even laws are often the result and winding back has become virtually impossible.

Chaotic behaviour is a natural feature of the natural world, including the human world, its onset and its consequences being forever unpredictable. Here's the rub though - winding things back is usually unpredictable too. Consequences have emerged, vested interests have sprouted, people have adapted and tried to move on under the new regime. There is rarely any way back.

Moving still further up the scale, the pomp and fanfare of the political stage attracts agents of chaos like moths to a candle. Tony Blair was an agent of chaos in his handling of the Iraq war. Not the only one of course, but a significant player. Even without the Chilcot report and whatever else Blair may be, it is not easy to see him as the kind of person who if he could, would not roll back the bloody chaos he was instrumental in creating.

There is no common thread to agents of chaos other than their tendency to spin the next shambles from the most unlikely materials. At all but the lowest levels they seem to put far too high a value on their own minds, their ability to spin possibilities into probabilities. Those who would tread more carefully on more familiar paths are swept aside by a kind of madness, an insane faith that whatever happens things will turn out for the best because all has been foreseen.

In the corridors of power chaos seems to select its agents carefully. When they reach positions of power, that is the time to worry because corruption thrives on chaos and therein lies a powerful incentive to make a mess of things from the sidelines. 

So chaos will always be with us along with its agents - it pays.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Between a speech and a snore


Oftentimes they were asleep, but occasionally might be heard talking together, in voices between a speech and a snore, and with that lack of energy that distinguishes the occupants of alms-houses, and all other human beings who depend for subsistence on charity, on monopolized labour, or anything else but their own independent exertions.

Mighty was their fuss about little matters, and marvellous, sometimes, the obtuseness that allowed greater ones to slip between their fingers
Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter (1850)

Hawthorne was writing about the staff of the Salem Custom House where he worked for a while, but I wonder how many people reading those words have their own soporific memories. Interminable meetings, dull training courses or over-long speeches.

It is easy to caricature these things, as Hawthorne’s original description was no doubt something of a caricature. It certainly stirred up the citizens of Salem. In many ways, ours is the age of caricature and has been for several centuries at least. From Thomas Rowlandson to the present day, caricature has been used to ridicule social, political and moral mores in a uniquely pointed way.

Caricature works, often being far more powerful than all but the most inspired prose, analysis or trenchant argument. Caricature is fun too, especially when it shows up the venality and stupidities of those who seek to dominate our lives.

Caricature bites hard into the soft tissues of an inadequate elite. Within living memory the elite were largely hidden from view, known only to their family, peers, personal servants and senior underlings. To some extent they could evade caricature by staying out of the public eye, by influencing a comparatively small number of people controlling the press.

Those days have gone, perhaps temporarily, perhaps not. The elite are not special except in their privileges. Too often they are not especially ethical, intelligent, courageous, astute or profound. So they and the social absurdities they foist upon us are fair game.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Andy Burnham's eyebrows

A search of Google images suggests many folk are particularly interested in Andy Burnham's eyebrows. Hardly surprising in my view because these are not party leader's eyebrows, not inspiring eyebrows. 

These are gloomy eyebrows, sorrowful eyebrows, eyebrows where disaster is expected as a matter of course and success isn't. Of course they may be right.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Some richness of the spirit

Here's a quote which made me pause for a moment while reading a pile of Poirot short stories I never got round to before.

‘You seem,’ Poirot said, ‘to be well acquainted with the culture of the marrow?’

‘Seen gardeners doing it when I’ve been staying in the country. But seriously, Poirot, what a hobby! Compare that to’ – his voice sank to an appreciative purr – ‘an easy-chair in front of a wood fire in a long, low room lined with books – must be a long room – not a square one. Books all round one. A glass of port – and a book open in your hand. Time rolls back as you read:’ he quoted sonorously:

Μὴτ ὃ αὐτε xυβερνὴτης ἐνὶ οὶνοπι πόντῳ

νῆα θοὴν ιθύνει ἐρεχθομένην ὰνέμοισι

He translated:

“By skill again, the pilot on the wine-dark sea straightens

The swift ship buffeted by the winds.” *

Of course you can never really get the spirit of the original.’

For the moment, in his enthusiasm, he had forgotten Poirot. And Poirot, watching him, felt suddenly a doubt – an uncomfortable twinge. Was there, here, something that he had missed? Some richness of the spirit? Sadness crept over him.

Agatha Christie - The Labours of Hercules (1947)

* Iliad

Saturday, 15 August 2015


Depiction of harvesting in the August calendar page
 of the 
Queen Mary Psalter (fol. 78v), ca. 1310.

August is an unsatisfactory month. Summer at one end and strong hints of autumn at the other, it always feels a little half-hearted to me. The weather is often fine enough, so summer doesn't actually sneak off without saying anything, but memories of the fireside are in the air even though it feels far too early to inspect the logs.

Trees are a duller shade of green and faintly dusty, as if already prepared to dump their leaves. There are still plenty of flowers around, but these are the late arrivals, welcome enough but not really as fresh as spring flowers. The nights are drawing in too, and soon enough there are suggestions of autumnal dew in the early morning.

Not that there is anything fundamentally wrong with August, it is harvest time after all. Although the peasants in the Queen Mary Psalter don't seem to thrilled about that, but most of us don't do much in the way of harvesting these days.

However, in spite of August's deficiencies we shouldn't go all modern and urge the government to ban it. August isn't irredeemably crappy like February but I'm sure it could do better.

Friday, 14 August 2015

She wouldn't of done that


I always assumed that the use of would of instead of would have was a comparatively recent error, perhaps due to mishearing would've. In general I like colloquial language as an aid to understanding without pomposity, but I'll admit that errors such as would of do grate. To my surprise I recently encountered this in my holiday reading - a compilation of Poirot short stories.

Ever so fond of Mrs Oldfield Nurse was, and ever so distressed when she died, and Beatrice always said as how Nurse Harrison knew something about it because she turned right round against the doctor afterwards and she wouldn’t of done that unless there was something wrong, would she?’ 

Agatha Christie - The Lernean Hydra (1939)

So not recent after all. This is not Poirot speaking of course. Presumably it's Aggie's way of indicating an education not out of the top drawer.

Incidentally, I think David Suchet's moustache in the TV series is not quite as large or forbidding as it should be.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Corbyn is too old


Yes it's ageist to say so, but as the guy is very close to my age I may as well point it out - Jeremy Corbyn is too old to be Labour leader. He's sixty-six and for some that would not be too old, but for Corbyn it is.

We know all about his left-wing credentials, his eccentricity and professional radicalism. We know about his lack of government and business experience, but his age is an important aspect of all that. He has had plenty of time to achieve something, hasn't achieved it and now it is too late. 

The unexpected may happen, he may blossom, adapt and bring principles to modern politics, but the omens are not good. After careful examination of the entrails of a Norfolk crab and salmon tart, the runes suggest this is not likely to be the opportunity he has been waiting for all his life. 

As far as one can tell he hasn't been waiting for an opportunity anyway. The sidelines have been his métier and that's where he belongs. No doubt he knows it.

Monday, 10 August 2015



The family were watching television when the detectives came in, on a huge console model with a twenty-three inch screen;
John Buxton Hilton - Hangman's Tide (1975)

I'm not sure the test card was ever that interesting even on a huge console model. Better than Terry and June I suppose.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Close and too close

A while back Scrobs wrote a post on the issue of personal space and those who intrude on it, seemingly unaware of this particular social convention. We came across two examples today where personal space is really public space but often feels personal.

The first was on the bus to Cromer. There were only a few people on the bus with plenty of spare seats. An elderly chap occupied the seat in front of ours. The bus stopped about half way between Sheringham and Cromer, a grey-haired lady climbed aboard and without appearing to take any notice of spare seats just parked herself next to the chap in front.

There was no reason why she shouldn’t do this, but the chap in front looked vaguely startled and inched away in one of those making room gestures. He glanced furtively around the bus as if trying to work out why he’d suddenly acquired an unexpected companion. They didn’t know each other because there wasn’t the slightest hint of recognition.

The second occasion was in Cromer. My wife and I sat on a bench overlooking in the sea, reading our Kindles. Suddenly another elderly and rather large chap flopped down on the bench next to Mrs H. She only just had time to avoid losing her handbag as the chap’s vast behind descended.

I think the guy was just knackered, the heat and his weight being too much for him, a small patch of spare bench too inviting. We were about to leave in search of lunch anyway, so we did. We had crab salad.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Across a meadow

Charles Cotton's Fishing House

Yesterday we enjoyed a short walk through Biggin Dale, Wolfscote Dale and Beresford Dale where ravens soar and croak and grey wagtails flit around the waterfalls, where Beresford Hall used to be and Charles Cotton’s Fishing House still stands on the banks of the River Dove. 

The picture was taken near to the Hartington path, across a low-lying meadow full of mead wort or meadowsweet as the fishing house is on private land. For over three hundred years Cotton’s little place has watched the river amble past its door.

Charles Cotton (28 April 1630 – 16 February 1687) was an English poet and writer, best known for translating the work of Michel de Montaigne from the French, for his contributions to The Compleat Angler, and for the influential The Compleat Gamester[2] attributed to him.

Fishing hereabouts is still private as it presumably has been since Cotton’s day. So that’s a few centuries isn’t it? Yet the river and its beauties are probably all the better for a spot of privacy. Imagine how peaceful it must have been even in the seventeenth century far from all the strife and turmoil.

Yet for all his obvious love of peace and the attractions of nature, there are colourful aspects to Charles Cotton’s story. He wrote an epitaph for "M.H.", a prostitute he seems to have held in high regard, considering their relative positions so to speak. In a local antiques shop we saw a plain seventeenth century chest with the initials MH carved into the lid. Coincidence presumably, but I didn’t ask.

Epitaph upon M.H

In this cold Monument lies one,
That I know who has lain upon,
The happier He : her Sight would charm,
And Touch have kept King David warm.
Lovely, as is the dawning East ,
Was this Marble's frozen Guest ;
As soft, and Snowy, as that Down
Adorns the Blow-balls frizled Crown;
As straight and slender as the Crest,
Or Antlet of the one beam'd Beast;
Pleasant as th' odorous Month of May :
As glorious, and as light as Day .

Whom I admir'd, as soon as knew,
And now her Memory pursue
With such a superstitious Lust,
That I could fumble with her Dust.

She all Perfections had, and more,
Tempting, as if design'd a Whore ,
For so she was; and since there are
Such, I could wish them all as fair.

Pretty she was, and young, and wise,
And in her Calling so precise,
That Industry had made her prove
The sucking School-Mistress of Love :
And Death , ambitious to become
Her Pupil , left his Ghastly home,
And, seeing how we us'd her here,
The raw-bon'd Rascal ravisht her.

Who, pretty Soul, resign'd her Breath,
To seek new Letchery in Death.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Wayward Heath


Although the late Edward Heath has become yet another public figure accused of child abuse, I find this one less plausible than most. To me the man came across as remote, cold and supercilious. Somehow it doesn't quite chime with the sexual nature of the accusations, with a need to display his most intimate physical compulsions however private the arrangements.

On the other hand and as we have discovered in too many cases, one should not put much weight on a public persona. We know these people in only the most superficial and manipulated sense. In other words, we don't know them.

Monday, 3 August 2015

A thing


Sir Frederick Pollock was an interesting cove. From Wikipedia

Sir Frederick Pollock, 3rd Baronet PC was an English jurist best known for his History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, written with F.W. Maitland, and his lifelong correspondence with US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. He was a Cambridge Apostle...

...Together with his younger brother Walter Herries Pollock, he participated in the first English revival of historical fencing, originated by Alfred Hutton and his colleagues Egerton Castle, Captain Carl Thimm, Colonel Cyril Matthey, Captain Percy Rolt, Captain Ernest George Stenson Cooke, Captain Frank Herbert Whittow.

A man from a vanished era. 

Sir Frederick also found time to write book on the seventeenth century philosopher Baruch Spinoza. As one would expect, the book is thorough, erudite and much of it based on Pollock's personal perusal of original Latin texts rather than translations which he tended to distrust. The result is a formidable yet quite readable book with a number of interesting observations such as:-

A thing is a group of phenomena which persists. Herein is its individuality, its title to be counted apart from the surrounding medium.
Sir Frederick Pollock – Spinoza, His Life and Philosophy (1880)

This is Pollock’s modern take on an idea of Spinoza’s. Strict materialism doesn’t work because as Pollock says, a thing must have persistence to be counted as a thing. It must be a group of phenomena which persists. Otherwise it is no thing – nothing. If we take the material universe and try to purify it of all that is not material, if we try to shake out all the abstractions, then we run into difficulties.

The most ephemeral fundamental particle must have persistence to count as real, even if it only exists for a zillionth of a second. Otherwise it is merely theoretical and not quite real. In this sense, persistence seems to be as fundamental as physical reality without itself being physically real.

One could see it as one aspect of the problem of being both an observer and part of what is observed. We have to use abstractions, but we are part of the universe so the abstractions are too. We are in the universe and the universe is in us and we cannot stand to one side because there is nowhere to stand.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Corbyn - the losers' choice?


It is never easy to stir up much interest in the Labour party leadership contest, but Jeremy Corbyn has certainly managed to confound the expectations of the chattering classes. Perhaps they ought to raise their game or mute the chattering.

A short but interesting piece in by Keiran Pedley has this to say about the Corbyn phenomenon.

This week, a Labour supporting colleague that had seen my clip cornered me at work and said something that I thought was interesting:

“The thing you have to understand Keiran is that none of them can win anyway, so we might as well vote for Jeremy Corbyn”.

The Labour party has always seemed torn between the need to win elections and the sheer pleasure of letting its middle class malice and totalitarian silliness out of the bag. The days are long gone when it saw its role as promoting the interests of ordinary people. It never liked us much anyway.

Corbyn may not become leader of course, but the current situation is interesting and worth watching. Pedley goes on to make the point anyone with a modicum of foresight might make.

Labour cannot assume that because it got 30% of the vote in 2015 that the only way is up. Labour can lose votes too and the leader it chooses will be vital to whether things get better or worse.

Along with Pedley's colleague and no doubt quite a few others, I suspect the Labour leadership choice really is so dire that the party is past caring. Not so very different from the general election then.