Tuesday 31 December 2019

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all those who happen to find their way here and linger, if only for a while.

2019 has been a strange year but a year with 19 in it has always seemed odd to me, after spending so many decades where the year was always 19 something. 

Madness and sanity seem to ebb and flow and it isn't easy to tell which is likely to predominate. Maybe neither and the ebb and flow are business as usual.

Monday 30 December 2019

Demolition job

We are on holiday at the moment so limited blogging. As the New Year looms, here is a reminder of what we still haven't scraped off our political shoes.

Sunday 29 December 2019

People are resilient

A heartening piece in aljazeera highlights how resilient people can be even when their entire country appears to be falling apart.

Santa Marta, Colombia - Along the cobblestoned streets of the coastal city of Santa Marta, demand for bolivares from Venezuela is skyrocketing, but not for the bills' monetary value.

Instead of using his homeland's money to pay for daily essentials in his native country, Venezuelan immigrant Hector Cordero weaves the currency into wallets and purses, which he sells to tourists in Colombia. His artful crafts underscore the creative methods that Venezuelans are using to extract value from a currency that - amid skyrocketing inflation - many consider worthless...

He learned his technique by watching others in the streets of Caracas and by studying dozens of YouTube tutorials uploaded by fellow Venezuelans to teach people how to make what has become known as origami venezolano.

"When I run out of bolivares, my brother goes to Venezuela and brings more notes," Cordero said. "People have a lot of these notes and we buy them. We give them what they ask for."

Saturday 28 December 2019

Dork of the Year 2019

Inevitable really, but many thanks to those who passed on a veritable cascade of excellent suggestions - but of course that's the problem as we all know. This year there have been so many top class candidates for Dork of the Year that the committee had to seek regular counselling in the Dog and Tincture. In fact most of them are still at it.

Promising to ignore the result of a democratic referendum and using that wholly undemocratic promise as the rallying cry for a democratic election - well I'm afraid the committee just fell about laughing every time Jo Swinson was mentioned. Committee members falling off their chairs convulsed with mirth is not conducive to orderly procedure but quite understandable.

What else does one say about her when she didn't even manage to hang on to her own seat? In one sense she'll be missed because we need Parliamentary Plimsoll Lines to indicate when the whole place is at risk of sinking under an excessive load of dorkishness. It's an important function but we have plenty of reserves able to do the same job.

So congratulations to Ms Swinson - the award is so very well deserved.

Friday 27 December 2019

Snowflake alert

Snowflake alert shown just before an episode of Gideon's Way on Talking Pictures. Can't be too careful because snowflakes could be watching. It didn't trigger me but maybe I'm immune.

Thursday 26 December 2019

Yes Emily - it's called lying

Emily Thornberry admits Labour promised 'moon and stars' in its Corbyn-controlled manifesto

The Labour Party promised “the earth, moon and stars” in its manifesto without worrying about how to pay for it, Emily Thornberry has admitted.

The leadership candidate was scathing of Jeremy Corbyn’s administration as she set out her stall to replace him.

Writing for the website LabourList, Ms Thornberry said she had internally opposed the party’s uncosted spending commitments during the election campaign, but was overruled.

It's what politicians do of course, but in this case it was particularly blatant. As far as the voters knew Emily was fine with it - with the lying. It's a pity she is so obvious though - as Labour leader Lady Nugee would surely take the party down a few more notches.

Monday 23 December 2019

A badass person

It doesn't matter how cynical a chap is when it comes to explanations, something weird happens to  people when they become celebrities. For example, this from the climate jamboree a couple of weeks ago -

MADRID, Spain — Climate Depot Note: Climate skeptics are not being well received here at the UN summit in Madrid. Famed Canadian Environmentalist David Suzuki — who had just declared that “Capitalism is at the heart of what is driving” climate and “we’ve got to throw the system out” — refused a copy of my new Climate Talking Points report. Suzuki instead shouted at me on December 10: “You are an evil person.”

I responded: An evil person?

Suzuki: “Yes, you are. You are an evil person.”

Suzuki later added, “You are a badass person. And I am sure you are proud of that.”

According to this source David Suzuki's net worth is about $25 million. There is nothing wrong with that, but when he says “we’ve got to throw the system out”, what does he think he means? It's a slogan and he must surely know it's a slogan. Celebrity does things to people - badass things.

Sunday 22 December 2019

Labour pantomime season in full swing

Not likely to make it but another hint that the lights may be going out for Labour. The wrong end of a revolution perhaps - and how ironic that would be.  

Saturday 21 December 2019

Process-driven Labour

Towards the end of my working life, to describe a person as process-driven was to be critical of the way they approached problems. It suggested that such a person would tackle unexpected problems by endlessly tinkering with existing processes rather than look for new and more pragmatic solutions.

With this in mind I’ve been reading about Clive Lewis and a piece he wrote for the Guardian plugging his attempt to become the next leader of the Labour party. There is nothing more process-driven than Labour.

The truth is that despite his enormous achievements in inspiring a new generation of members, Jeremy Corbyn’s first promise as leader was never fulfilled. The party was never democratised on the scale or to the extent that members were led to expect – they were never empowered to campaign, select candidates or determine policy on the scale that was required. This must now change. We don’t need foot soldiers, we need an army of activists who think critically, treat each other with respect and have a serious democratic stake in the movement. I don’t want to manage the labour movement, I want to unleash it. That is the first route to victory.

Strewth - when did Labour party members treat each other with respect? That was one of the major Corbyn problems which went much wider than antisemitism. Where might the party go from here? Nowhere interesting or useful if Mr Lewis becomes leader, as his seems to be an exceedingly conventional political standpoint in the soft totalitarian mould. 

The truth is that after Jeremy became leader, we fought two elections on an electoral system that massively favours the Conservatives, and their voter base of propertied pensioners. A majority of the British public voted for parties of the left or the liberal centre. But this was in no way reflected in the election result. Labour should have committed itself to changing the voting system decades ago, and we have condemned some parts of our country to 40 years of decline by failing to do so.

Interestingly, in a single paragraph Mr Lewis manages to disparage a substantial part of the electorate as propertied pensioners and suggest that Labour is no longer able to win FPTP elections anyway. The whole piece is worth reading because it is quite odd. Take this appeal to antique politics of the past for example.

Two forces will shape our future, and the context of the next general election: the climate crisis and the ongoing technological revolution. Both can be sources either of despair or hope. We can hide behind platitudes and denial, or we can seize these crises as opportunities to renew our country as it has not been renewed since the 1940s.

How does a reference to the 1940s chime with younger voters? It's a strangely defeatist appeal, as if there are people within the Labour party who expect to become members of a fringe party and would even prefer things that way if only ideological purity can be sustained. 

Thursday 19 December 2019

Maybe it wasn’t all Corbyn

As we know, when a major political event occurs it is a good idea to look at it from as many sides as possible. For example, we could consider a possibility that the recent heavy general election defeat suffered by the Labour party might not have been down to Jeremy Corbyn and co. Unlikely but worth considering because political trends do not always advertise themselves with conveniently obvious clues.

Suppose there is something evolving within the internet, something slowly arising within social media and the fantastically complex brew of information and political viewpoints. Suppose that something is related to what we might loosely call political adulthood – voters growing up as the internet tells them the political facts of life. A seriously scary prospect for all political classes.

After decades of being patronised via a heavily manipulated democracy, voters may be slowly asserting their political individuality. This would not be the ludicrous notion of collective individuality as understood by the Labour party, woke activists and the political left generally, but something far less constrained and far more – erm - individual.

In the patronising/condescending corner we have –

The BBC, NHS, National Trust, EU, UN, Greenpeace, WWF, national charities, advertisers, Hollywood, mainstream media, numerous pundits, numerous celebrities, the entire climate change game, everything woke, the Harry n’Meghan project and so on. A more complete list could be vast.

In which case maybe the Labour party debacle was going to happen anyway because it is the party of the collective, not the individual and Labour folk make that all too plain. They can’t help themselves and that too is pretty obvious.

Brexit made things worse because this is also a hint that the wheels may be coming off the collective bandwagon. If individuality is flexing its muscles that does nothing for the EU which wets itself at the very notion of anything individual.

Maybe the Corbyn effect saved Labour from an even worse debacle – imagine Emily Thornberry running the show. If so then this would also be a reason why the Lib Dems performed so badly when votes were there for whoever listens to the evolving political imperative –

Don’t talk down to us – we’ve looked you up on the internet.

All this is merely political musing I know, but the election of Donald Trump lends some support because he most certainly is an individual, as is Boris Johnson. The anti-individual collectivists hate them both.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Know thyself

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has become the first MP to officially enter the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Writing in the Guardian, she said the next leader needed to have "the political nous and strategic vision to reunite our party".

Oh well - Guardian readers may just about swallow that but I have my doubts. Maybe one fine day the light will dawn, but I don't think so.

Tuesday 17 December 2019

When the answer is no

JOHN HUMPHRYS: It was crass to let Andrew Neil treat the Prime Minister as a naughty boy. But Boris Johnson's bullying makes me fear for the BBC

It's not that he could scrap the fee next week or next year, even if he had every MP in the House behind him. It's part of the Charter under which the BBC operates and it lasts for ten years. The present Charter was agreed in 2017, so there's quite a long time to run.

But what Johnson is threatening to do is 'decriminalise' non-payment of the licence fee.

At present, if you refuse to pay it you get fined, and if you refuse to pay the fine you go to jail. Without that sanction, many fear, the fee becomes less a legal requirement and more a voluntary agreement.

Add to that the massive threat the BBC is facing from its digital challengers, such as Netflix and Amazon, and the fact that vast numbers of young people much prefer their phones to the telly and you begin to see the soft underbelly of the organisation exposed.

But does it matter beyond the confines of the self-obsessed media world?

Does it matter beyond the confines of the self-obsessed media world? No.

Monday 16 December 2019

Dork of the Year - List 2

Blimey - suggestions in response to the previous post have extended the list into what is beginning to look like Team Dork.

Nicola Sturgeon

Emily Thornberry

Richard Burgon

Prince Andrew

Hugh Grant

Gary Lineker

Diane Abbott

Lily Allen

Archbishop Welby

Mark Carney

Pope Francis

Jo Swinson

Steve Coogan

Emma Thompson

John Bercow

Professor Sir Richard Evans

Sunday 15 December 2019

Dork of the Year candidates

As you may know, previous winners of the Dork of the Year (DotY) award have been

2018 The British Electorate
2017 Michael Heseltine
2016 Mark Carney
2015 Ed Miliband
2015 Naomi Klein

All worthy winners, but what about 2019? It may be worth repeating an observation originally from 2015, repeated in 2016, 2017, 2018 and unfortunately even more relevant today.

The huge number of candidates has made choosing Dork of the Year (DotY) even more difficult than usual this year. Not that the problem is new because each year there seem to be even more Qualifying Dorks than the year before.

However we have a preliminary list of Qualifying Dorks from which to choose.

Prince Harry obviously. The suggestion that Dork of the Year should be changed to Harry of the Year has been turned down, although the idea certainly has merit.

Jeremy Corbyn but not so much for losing the general election so spectacularly. Jeremy’s dorkworthy candidacy is down to his decades of trying to come across as an intellectual radical. The casual clothes, Lenin cap, Yasser Arafat keffiyeh, the erstwhile floppy hair and the beard. All very dorkworthy.

Theresa May obviously.

The BBC for clinging on to the TV licence scam long after it has become such an obvious embarrassment.

Sir David Attenborough for endorsing climate change dorkishness, a political movement so plainly based on pretend science that even Sir David should notice.

Emmanuel Macron for his transparently silly attempts to be the Big Man of Europe.

Jo Swinson for such an absurd general election policy as cancelling Brexit. To be so blatantly and stridently undemocratic in a democratic election is almost beyond dorkworthy.

There are many others. Possibly too many but suggestions are certainly welcome.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Through a glass crudely

The New York Times has a piece on the British general election and its implications for the 2020 US presidential campaign.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. conjured the prospect of headlines like, “Look what happens when the Labour Party moves so, so far to the left.” Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that “Jeremy Corbyn’s catastrophic showing in the U.K. is a clear warning.” And Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke of the need to “build a coalition and gather that majority.”...

David Axelrod, President Barack Obama’s former chief strategist who also advised Britain’s Labour Party in 2015, called Brexit “a unique circumstance” and Mr. Corbyn “a uniquely weak candidate.’’

“But there’s no doubt that he also was further to the left than Britain wanted to go,” Mr. Axelrod added. “This is an election, a campaign. People are going to make those comparisons that they think are helpful to them, and do think a lot of Democrats are going to look at what happened there with some concern.”

Mr Corbyn certainly was a uniquely weak candidate, but while assessing the result of the general election it is probably useful to look at the outcome in crudely personal terms too. Perceptions of a candidate's personality are important and whatever the rationale, perception is frequently the source of the rationale rather than vice versa. 

Perhaps Corbyn is further to the left than Britain wanted to go, but perhaps he is also widely perceived as old, humourless and ineffective. Three major personal disadvantages when running against an obviously astute and comparatively youthful optimist such as Boris Johnson. Even worse, there was nobody in Corbyn’s immediate political circle to offset that. John McDonnell comes across as old, flinty and humourless, Diane Abbott as scatterbrained and hypocritical.

Old pictures of a younger, floppy-haired Corbyn hobnobbing with Gerry Adams like a radical student agitator will not have helped either. Soft on terrorism may be the obvious perception, but those images may also suggest that Corbyn has never had a "proper job". He doesn't come across as "one of us" - never did. Boris does at least try - Corbyn rather conspicuously doesn't. 

These things matter but political analysis doesn’t really tell us how much they matter. The result tells us that. Some may blame the Labour stance on Brexit, but it is not likely that many people trust Johnson on this issue either and he still he won a resounding victory. The NYT piece goes on to say -

Progressives took different lessons from the results, rejecting the idea that they were a harbinger of trouble for more liberal candidates like Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said it was “a completely made-up narrative that there’s any similarity between this very unique U.K. election and the dynamics in this country.”

US progressives may wish to take different lessons from the results, but in so doing they may mislead themselves. As ever there is the determination to class Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as progressives, but as with Corbyn both have personal disadvantages. 

Let us go back to crude personal issues. Bernie Sander is 78, somewhat humourless and politically extreme. Elizabeth Warren is 70, a known liar and also politically extreme. Trump is old too, but his optimist and general demeanour go some way to offset that. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren don't have that advantage. These things matter.

Friday 13 December 2019

New Year trends – No 1

Trends to watch for 2020 and beyond. This is the first.

There are all kinds of things a chap could say about the recent general election, but one aspect tends to slip under the radar. Yet in an unobtrusive way the election has highlighted this aspect rather well and that is the modern lifestyle trend of going bonkers. It is popular, it is easy and we could see much more of it in 2020.

Perhaps it is a funny old world where we have a lifestyle option of going bonkers but with no genuine risk to our physical way of life. Bits of food are usually to be found in the fridge, the phone works, the car works, credit cards work and Tesco is generally open if something essential goes missing in the food or drink department.

Yet in the not so distant past a chap had to be an aristocrat to risk the bonkers lifestyle option. Even then there were pitfalls, some of them rather gruesome pitfalls such as having no money and finding out how temporary friendships could be.

Yet time moves on and today going bonkers does appear to have its attractions. For one thing the mental grind of understanding abstract ideas goes out of the window. For another, the pain of having to find something intelligent to say disappears completely.

One to watch in 2020 I think.

Should have been worse

Corbyn isn't fit to be in the House of Commons. Voters in a democracy should know that. Obviously too many don't.

Thursday 12 December 2019

Sometimes you have to laugh

There is a funny side to climate change, especially when Emma Thompson predicts that people will have to eat their pets for protein.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Fashionable theory – the real cloaking device

This post was prompted by Sam Vega's comment on the previous post.

I think it has something to do with the seductive power of a theory. Unlike real life, theories can be understood by plodders, and they can be used to justify stuff that excites the oddbods: control, intellectual superiority, in-groups, and murder.

There certainly is a seductive power to theory, especially fashionable theory. It is surprising how useful it can be to avoid thinking too hard and less surprising that fashionable theories tend to be easy on the brain. They allow any modestly articulate person to become fashionably articulate, putting them on the road to at least modest success in most areas of life. If our internal censor tells us not to think certain complex thoughts we don’t - we think fashionable simplifications instead and reap a range of advantages.

One advantage is that fashionable theories are a useful way to avoid those internal disturbances activists seem so fanatically keen to bypass. Maybe an important source of activist satisfaction is not having to think too hard. The other side of any argument has to do all the heavy lifting, only to be lightly dismissed with a cliché afterwards.

Politically and socially there appears to be a fundamental divide between those who accept complexity and those who avoid its social and political disadvantages. A diffuse divide to be sure, but still real enough as far as I can see. Stick with fashionable – you know it works and makes you feel better. What’s not to like about fashionable?

The problem in not confronting complexity is that it leaves a huge opening for charlatans to peddle seductively fashionable theories which don’t actually work. A further problem is that it is virtually impossible to demonstrate real world complexities to anyone hooked on fashionable simplicity. Fashionable but over-simplified theories are a perfect cloaking device, they render complexity completely invisible but it doesn’t seem to work the other way round.

It is odd, but some people seem to be interested in or even fascinated by complexity while others prefer the cloaking device of fashionable simplicity and it is not always clear why this should be so. With charlatans it is clear enough but apart from charlatans there are many people who are merely deceived by the cloaking device.

It does not appear to be a question of intelligence because intelligent people frequently give their allegiance to political or social theories which may be fashionable but are also grossly over-simplified, often to the point of being obviously untrue.

A problem which cannot be defeated perhaps - because it is complex.

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Corbyn, Labour and the Communists

Back in February Peter Whittle interviewed Giles Udy, author of Labour and the Gulag: Russia and the Seduction of the British Left. I haven't read it but the book is on my reading list and is discussed in the video from about 17:00. The book description alone is worth reading.

The Labour Party welcomed the Russian Revolution of October 1917. For the following two decades it enthusiastically supported the Soviet 'great experiment', excusing all its excesses, and prepared to bring about its own socialist revolution in Britain. In 1929, Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to labour camps in the Russian far north. There, in appalling conditions, thousands died. But when British protesters called on the Labour government to halt the import of timber cut by those slave labourers, it refused. In private, the Cabinet acknowledged the truth but blocked appeals for an inquiry. In public, it dismissed the protests as a stunt fabricated by the Tories. Eyewitness accounts were rejected, diplomatic despatches ignored, and Soviet denials repeated as fact. One Labour minister even called it 'a remarkable economic experiment' and declared that the Soviets should be left to pursue it 'without outside interference'.

So many middle class socialists seem to lose any semblance of a moral compass when it comes to enforcing their favoured political doctrines. More sociopath than socialist in some cases.

Monday 9 December 2019

Forked tongue racism

Seemingly endless accusations of antisemitic racism within a Corbyn-led Labour party have become embarrassing because it is so obvious that the accusations are not baseless. In which case what do we say about those who prefer to ignore the whole thing?

The BBC seems comfortable enough with Labour and its leader. It does not seem inclined to no-platform Mr Corbyn and his political colleagues, nor does it point out to viewers that Labour is now a party of the far right. That’s how it goes doesn’t it? Hard-line totalitarian and racist political parties are far right aren’t they?

Progressive celebrities seem to be comfortable enough with Corbyn’s leadership too, so presumably selective tolerance of racism is widespread within the woke celebrity population.

In the forthcoming general election millions of voters will vote for Corbyn so presumably selective tolerance of racism is widespread within the general population too.

Anyone who has ever felt even a slight twinge of unease about the diversity steamroller may well look at all this and think – racism is one more way to close down legitimate debates. Which we knew anyway.

Saturday 7 December 2019

Christmas present

As the season of goodwill approaches, perhaps we should remind ourselves about the history of Christmas. As we know, Christmas was invented by Charles Dickens who foolishly failed to take a patent out on it, but how did the modern version develop?

There are numerous strands to this story, but perhaps we should reflect for a moment on what goes on behind the scenes of our Christmas festivities The vast Chinese rubbish factories for example. As we do our Christmas shopping we tend to forget those great ships crossing the mighty oceans with ton upon ton of cheery Chinese garbage eventually destined to keep our landfill sites from lying idle.

What is that little group of coloured crystals dangling from a bit of wire? Does it matter? It’s Christmas so buy one and find out what it is for later. Buy two – they cost next to nothing. Or that tiny snowy house with a dear little robin on top which lights up and cheeps a tune if you download the app. That should raise a cheery smile after the turkey and Christmas pud.

Or that cute little reindeer with a big...

No I can’t carry on - I’m feeling queasy. Must be the scented candles in the shop. Or the fragrant oils filling the air with their delightful chemical miasma...

Or maybe I need a coffee...

Thursday 5 December 2019

Oh the cat's out the bag

At about 3:21 - "So then you go 'oh the cat's out the bag'"  

Interesting observation, one that many people are likely to agree with. Yes the cat is well and truly out the bag, so where does it go from here?

Hard not to smile

It's the Sun of course.


Day after mocking Trump at Nato, Macron’s France grinds to a standstill in biggest general strike for decades

FRANCE woke up to a Black Thursday of nationwide strikes and anti-government demonstrations today as the police braced themselves for violence.

It comes just a day after French President Emmanuel Macron was caught on a hot mic chatting about Donald Trump with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau at a Buckingham Palace gala.

The Sun does this kind of thing rather well. Long may it continue.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

The will for chaos

There was a new situation created, a new idea reigned. Even in the machine, there should be equality. No part should be subordinate to any other part: all should be equal. The instinct for chaos had entered. Mystic equality lies in abstraction, not in having or in doing, which are processes. In function and process, one man, one part, must of necessity be subordinate to another. It is a condition of being. But the desire for chaos had risen, and the idea of mechanical equality was the weapon of disruption which should execute the will of man, the will for chaos.

D.H. Lawrence – Women in Love (1920)

A strange idea - the will for chaos, yet very much what we observe today. There are numerous influential people who by their words and their actions seem to have it in abundance – the will for chaos. If so, then chaos is probably where we are headed.

Weird as it seems, there is a major political divide between those who try to contain chaos plus the potential for further chaos and those who do not even recognise it for what it is. The divide seems to have evolved far beyond the old distinction between conservatives and radicals.

As if prosperity has eaten away genuine opportunities to be radical and left us with only two options. Boring maintenance plus incremental improvements or the exciting, progressive worlds of social justice and equality - the weapon of disruption which should execute the will of man, the will for chaos.

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Woke narks

Not new but worth posting as the season of goodwill approaches.

Harry Miller, a former police officer from Humberside, was investigated by police over a poem that he posted on Twitter.

A “cohesion officer” from Humberside Police telephoned Harry and told him that, while his tweets had not broken any laws, he should not to engage in political debate on Twitter “because some people don’t like it”. The officer cited 30 ‘potentially offensive tweets’, but the police have so far refused to identify the tweets they deem to be offensive.

Although no crime was committed, sharing the poem online was recorded as a hate incident.

Many people who are awake rather than merely woke will have come across this issue many times. Apart from pushing the role of thought police in a supposedly free and democratic country we also have the issue of police informers to consider. 

Potentially    Woke = Nark

In any public place including social media, anyone who is aware of modern political trends must think about being overheard by a self-appointed informer when speaking of matters social or political. Has it come to this; that we have to be wary of police informers when no crime has been committed? Yes it has.

Pete and Dud on the election

What do you fink of this ‘ere election then Pete?

The forthcoming general election do you mean Dud?

Yeah, that and breakfast. What’s this breakfast they keep on about? It’s on the telly all day long – breakfast this, breakfast that.

You mean Brexit Dud.

Do I?

Yes Dud. You mean the result of our referendum about leaving the European Union or EU as it is usually called. Britain voted to leg it for the exit so it's called Brexit. 

Oh. I wondered how breakfast came into it cause nobody ever gets on to bacon and eggs and so on like a proper breakfast like my mum used to make. So what d’you reckon to the EU then Pete?

It’s a club Dud. The EU is a club where the British government has to pay an annual subscription to prevent it from leaving even if it wants to. A bit like the mafia but more expensive and not quite so violent.

Oh. So why did we have a referendum then Pete?

It was a mistake by David Cameron. He thought we’d paid in so much in subscriptions that people would vote to stay in the EU just on the off-chance that we might get something out of it one day. It’s a bit like the lottery. You have no chance of winning but you keep buying tickets just in case.

So –

Rather like your adventures with Valerie Peabody Dud. You couldn’t get away from her could you? Like quicksand she was wasn’t she? There should have been warning signs – Beware Valerie Peabody Danger Zone. Enter at your peril.

It was ‘orrible Pete. It still have nightmares about Valerie Peabody. I wake up in the night I do – I wake up sweating all over at the thought of it. I’m sweating a bit now Pete, just thinkin’ about it.

I know you are Dud - I can tell. Well the EU is a bit like that, a bit like Valerie Peabody but more expensive and less violent.

How 'orrible. So who do you fancy for this election then Pete?

Well I was watching that Jo Swinson on television –

She’s a big lady isn’t she Pete?

Yes Dud she is a big lady but we aren’t supposed to notice that kind of thing these days.

I do, I notice that kind of thing.

I know you do Dud.

So what did you notice Pete – about that Jo Swinson?

Well Dud as you say she’s big and –


Incredibly optimistic Dud.

Monday 2 December 2019

Sometimes the NHS is just crap

Invited by text to book a free shingles injection, I tried to ring the surgery for an appointment. After several layers of the usual “For an appointment press 1...” game, I entered the last option and the line went dead, Tried again checking that all options were valid, entered the last option and the line went dead again. Tried one last time but still the line went dead. Okay, system doesn’t work so I’ll try again some other time.

Mrs H has been unwell, is no better after a few days and clearly needs an appointment with a doctor but it is Sunday. No problem, the internet says there is a local NHS weekend service operated by a group of local surgeries. Just ring this number and -

- and the line goes dead. Try again – nope the line goes dead. Try again – nope the line goes dead.Try the surgeries which make up the weekend group –

Surgery 1 – closed. Surgery 2 – closed. Surgery 3 – closed. Surgery 4 – closed. Give up and wait until Monday.

Monday arrives and Mrs H tries to phone the surgery. Lines too busy to join the call queue. Call again – still too busy. After more than 30 calls Mrs H gets onto the queue and eventually gets her appointment and prescription, which is for an antibiotic which has been around for decades. We knew this would probably be the outcome. So would any pharmacist.

It’s the NHS. Can be okay, can be good, can be crap. It isn’t always money as apologists and political charlatans claim. Too often it is people, motives and incentives. As for the politics, the Labour party needs a mediocre NHS as an emotive stick with which to bash the Tories. So we have a mediocre NHS.

Sunday 1 December 2019

He's as sharp as Theresa

Jeremy Corbyn says convicted terrorists should 'not necessarily' have to serve all of their prison sentence as Boris Johnson vows to keep violent offenders in jail for longer
  • Jeremy Corbyn said release of terrorists from jail 'depends on circumstances'
  • Asked if terrorists should serve full terms Labour leader said 'no, not necessarily'
  • Meanwhile Boris Johnson has vowed to get tougher on terror if he is re-elected
  • PM said terrorists must serve full sentences - and some should never be released
  • Comes after convicted terrorist Usman Khan killed two in London Bridge attack
  • PM said 'probably about 74' people similar to Khan who have been let out early

Mildly interesting because it highlights Corbyn's habits of thought and the difficulty he has in adjusting to political views he does not share. He has his mantras and that is that. Again and again it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the man is simply obtuse.

Friday 29 November 2019

Well done Boris

It is enormously pleasing to see that Boris Johnson declined an invitation to debate climate change on a fourth rate TV channel called Channel 4. Good for him.

Downing Street and Channel 4 are at war this morning after Boris Johnson snubbed an election debate and the broadcaster decided to replace him with an ice sculpture.

The Tories sent Michael Gove, the minister for the Cabinet Office and a former environment secretary, to represent them but Channel 4 insisted the event was for party leaders only and turned him away...

Beforehand, Channel 4 news editor Ben de Pear said: 'These two ice sculptures represent the emergency on planet earth, not in any human form but are a visual metaphor for the Conservative & Brexit parties after their leaders declined our repeated invitations to attend tonight's vital climate debate.'

To put this into some kind of perspective, Channel 4 currently has only one entry in the top 50 programmes on TV based on the size of their total viewing audience over week 46, November 11 - 17. Source.

Thursday 28 November 2019

Does it matter?

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are offering "credible" spending plans ahead of the general election, an influential research group has said.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said it was "highly likely" the Tories would end up spending more than their manifesto pledges.

Labour, it warned, would be unable to deliver its spending increases as it has promised.

Does it matter though? St David of Attenborough and St Greta of Doomberg have reminded us often enough that we are doomed anyway. As the raging flames of climate conflagration are just around the corner, why not spend, spend spend? 

I am constantly surprised by the BBC. One would expect it to add some kind of standard caveat to such stories, pointing out that none of it matters because climate. Something both consistent and reassuring along these lines perhaps.

Readers should not worry about this issue as climate change will finish us off in the near future.

Obviously it could be shorter.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

At least Adam Adamant is still around

We seem to have a minor spate of well-known people popping their clogs. Gary Rhodes and Clive James appear to be the latest but at least Adam Adamant is still around.

I remember the Adam Adamant show quite well but it ran for less than a year between 1966 and 1967. Strange how impressions sometimes stay with a chap for decades because I didn't think much of it at the time.

Sunday 24 November 2019

Interviewed by a machine

L'Espresso has an interesting and somewhat chilling piece on using an AI system called HireVue to screen people for job interviews. The original piece is in Italian - quotes below are Google translations.

Do you want to work? Convince the computer. The algorithm selects the personnel selection
The large US and multinational companies that select managers increase through interactions with a computer that "spies" mimics and tone of voice. Thanks to an application created by a twenty year old...

HireVue is able to monitor about 15 thousand traits of a person, including the choice of language, eye movements, response speed and stress level. Furthermore, it is a program that "learns" and by coding the traits of the talents that are selected allows you to find them in future candidates. Every company in this way refines its database for finding the best candidate.

The advantages are obvious but so are the dangers. For example, according to promotional material the system is capable of treating diversity as a positive hiring parameter. Other biases are easily imagined, as are other uses.

In Great Britain Vodafone has examined 50 thousand candidacies for "junior" positions but now intends to make use of the same program also for the selection of senior managers. Unilever thanks to Artificial Intelligence has evaluated 275 thousand applications, of which about half were stopped at the first step due to a series of online "games" designed to measure concentration ability under pressure and short-term memory. And only a third of the remaining participants were invited to the final video interview (always with HireVue). Mike Clementi, Unilever America's vice-president for Human Resources is enthusiastic: "With a portfolio of more than 400 brands we could no longer continue to hire in a traditional way".

Saturday 23 November 2019

Beyond the motive

There is insanity in absolute badness, something motiveless, or something that reaches out, with a longing arrogance, beyond the motive: Iago lusted after Desdemona a little and hated Othello a great deal, but beyond those tiny passions was a lust to possess the evil deed as a thing worth having in itself, a flower, a jewel of the mind, a trophy of the intellect.

Hugh Walpole - The Cathedral (1922)

As we approach the season of goodwill, suppose we compare Lenin and Jeremy Corbyn. On the face of it the two men are not obviously similar. Lenin was intelligent, capable and charismatic. Corbyn isn’t. Yet if we use Walpole's trophy of the intellect analogy there is more similarity between Lenin and Corbyn than we might initially assume. For example, what was Lenin’s ultimate aim in driving through the Bolshevik revolution? Political altruism? Hardly.

Supposedly Lenin’s ultimate aim was a dictatorship of the proletariat but every move he made tells us that his real aim was a dictatorship of the Bolshevik party. However one looks at Lenin’s political career, it is not obvious that he had a clear and unambiguous altruistic goal in mind, one which would ultimately benefit the proletariat.

There is no great reason to suppose that Lenin cared anything about the proletariat anyway. Certainly there is nothing to suggest that he thought the Russian proletariat capable of forming a dictatorship, whatever that might mean and whatever Marxist theory might require.

In which case we might use Walpole’s trophy of the intellect analogy. As an analogy it suggests that Lenin merely saw the Bolshevik revolution as a jewel of the mind , a trophy of the intellect. Like an Olympic gold medal it was a trophy to aspire to with fanatical dedication but that is all. A political victory as opposed to an Olympic victory - I knew I could do it and I did it.

The analogy works well if we compare Lenin to Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Corbyn’s totalitarian political ethos seems to have no genuine altruism embedded in it, nothing which could usher in a better world for ordinary people. Just the opposite if historical experience is any guide and all that historical experience has been readily available to Mr Corbyn for the whole of his adult life.

Yet as with Lenin, Jeremy Corbyn seems to have no interest in the political, social and economic damage his political goals are likely to cause. As far as we can tell, and the clues are abundant, the trophy of the intellect is everything to him. We are nothing.

The trophy of the intellect is merely an analogy of course, but fascinating and surprisingly apt. It has wide application too. Many people with radical ideas do not come across as selflessly altruistic. It is not at all obvious that they are striving for a real improvement in the human condition. It is more competitive than that. More murky. More sinister.

Instead they come across as people pursuing a trophy of the intellect and like an Olympic medal the trophy is an end in itself. Job done. Goal achieved. Altruism doesn’t come into it.

Friday 22 November 2019

Maybe Victorians were smarter than we are

How did two people who had once filled each other's universe manage to hold together as the tide receded? Why, by the world-old compulsion of marriage, he supposed. Marriage was a trick, a sham, if you looked at it in one way; but it was the only means man had yet devised for defending himself from his own frivolity.

Edith Wharton - The Gods Arrive (1932)

It is worth remembering that by our standards almost all Victorians were poor simply because our general prosperity has increased so enormously over the past century or so. Victorian elites may have lived lives of pampered comfort but today, the majority of us live lives which are at least as comfortable as the most pampered duke or duchess.

This prosperity divide is important because it reminds us that Victorians were much closer to the edge than we are. Closer to infant mortality, childbirth mortality, hunger, disease, destitution, slums and a host of other horrors our prosperity and knowledge have mitigated or virtually removed.

Victorians were aware that life is uncertain and felt the precarious nature of life much more acutely than we generally feel it. Uncertainty was their lived experience. They knew nothing else and neither were they constantly persuaded that smoothing out life’s uncertainties ought to be some kind of human right.

In other words Victorians had an acute understanding of how important it was to defend themselves against a whole host of threats to their well-being. They understood why family life, thrift and hard work were the essential basis of an increasingly technical and urban population. From this it follows that they knew how vitally important it was to defend themselves, their families and their country against anything which threatened the basis of their existence.

Even by Edith Wharton’s time the threats were receding. Consequently social constraints were eroding as the consequences of frivolity became less appalling. Incompetence and a feckless life were less hazardous for a much greater number of people. But feckless is not smart.

Victorians understood how a sustainable culture remains sustainable, how it is defended and the compromises we have to make in defending it, how we have to sustain a restrictive bias towards our own culture because that is what sustains us now. In this respect yes - maybe Victorians were smarter than we are.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Like a week in the nut-house

“It’s all beautiful when you read it,” this man said disgustedly, “but when you write it down plain it’s like a week in the nut-house.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald - Financing Finnegan (1938)

The other day it struck me just how comical it is that Jeremy Corbyn’s elevation to Labour party leader was merely a horrible mistake. Comical that the party should do something so stupid. Even more comical that it should become so entangled in its own rules that it cannot unpick the situation.

The icing on the cake is that Labour supporters and the media have to pretend that everything is okay and having a major political party led by bunch of raving totalitarian loons – yes that’s perfectly fine.

Hmm –

Well it struck me as funny at the time, but now I’ve written it down...

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Christmas games – Piggy

As Christmas approaches we appear to lack a series of Animal Farm inspired family games to educate the little ones about politics. It would need to fit in with modern times without losing the overall Orwellian flavour so here is one tentative suggestion.

"Piggy" would be a topical family board game introduced in time for Christmas but the game also fits in well into the frenetic atmosphere of the UK General Election.

At the beginning of each game players are dealt various cards to determine the strategies they should adopt when playing Piggy. The basic aim for each player is to roll the dice, move their chosen board token and land on areas of the board which allow them to “hide” certain cards in their hand. In some situations a player with too many cards to “hide” may have the option of “emigrating” which allows him or her to leave the game and watch TV.

One player only will have been dealt the single Piggy card and this player must try to roll the dice, move around the board and appropriate as many cards as possible from the other players before they can “hide” them or “emigrate”. In which case the player with the Piggy card wins the game and claims Piggy!

The cards which players need to “hide” as quickly as possible are Pension Cards, Savings Cards, Job Cards, Free Speech Cards and Education Cards. Added interest comes when the holder of the Piggy card also draws the “Green” card and is allowed to make up new rules on every throw of the dice.

Fun for all the family.

For a while.

Monday 18 November 2019


Test launch at Greenock - source

I recently stumbled across a reminder of how Hawker Hurricanes were used on a few merchant ships during WWII. My father alluded to it once or twice.

CAM ships were World War II-era British merchant ships used in convoys as an emergency stop-gap until sufficient escort carriers became available. CAM ship is an acronym for catapult aircraft merchant ship.

They were equipped with a rocket-propelled catapult launching a single Hawker Hurricane, dubbed a "Hurricat" or "Catafighter" to destroy or drive away an attacking bomber. Normally the Hurricane fighter would be lost when the pilot then bailed out or ditched in the ocean near the convoy. CAM ships continued to carry their normal cargoes after conversion...

In total, there were nine combat launches. Nine German aircraft were destroyed (four Condors, four Heinkels and a Junkers 88), one damaged and three chased away. Eight Hurricanes were ditched and only one pilot lost.

Somewhere in the Atlantic a Hurricane pilot climbs up the supporting superstructure and into the cockpit of his disposable hurricane. He is to be fired into the air by a rocket in order to attack an enemy bomber, knowing he will have to ditch the plane or parachute into the sea afterwards and hope for the best. Maybe we should pause for a moment and wonder what we have lost.

Sunday 17 November 2019

Harry and his declining popularity

The other day found Mrs H and I meandering around an antiques centre where they seem to think it a good idea to pipe radio programmes over the speaker system. Rather like walking round the Co-op with antiques instead of baked beans. 

I wouldn’t usually listen to radio folk pretending to be horribly enthusiastic about trivia, but a two-way discussion about Prince Harry caught my ear. Both interviewer and interviewee were agreed that Harry’s popularity has declined since his marriage and both were happy enough to claim that media intrusion must have something to do with it. 

They seemed to agree that Harry’s behaviour has something to do with it too but preferred to dance round that aspect of the problem rather than drag it out into the open. They didn't really want to suggest what this issue might be even though it must have been obvious to many listeners.

It's difficult for them. They could hardly point out that some people might see Harry as a woke wuss – at least not on air. They couldn’t even tone it down a little and suggest that Harry is showing himself to be a politically correct plonker under the thumb of a ghastly wife. 

That would have raised a storm of indignation from more than one direction. Yet if they had at least explored the perfectly legitimate plonker angle, maybe more people would actually listen to the radio.

Saturday 16 November 2019


Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, on the left, plants a small tree

The Conservative Party has said it will plant 30 million trees a year by 2025 if it wins the general election - as the Liberal Democrats pledged to plant twice as many trees in the same period.

The Tories' £640m fund would be used to plant trees and restore peatland.

Labour dismissed the scheme and said the prime minister had an "atrocious environmental record".

The Lib Dems would plant 60 million trees a year across the UK by 2025, leader Jo Swinson said.

What does Jeremy Corbyn have to offer in the tree planting competition? I suggest he doubles the Lib Dem offer and goes for 120 million. Then it is over to the Greens who must think in terms of 240 million a year at least. 

Friday 15 November 2019

Free for all

A revealing development I’m sure you’ll agree. 

“Diane Abbott tells me it will deliver at least eleventy six megapixies per second," John McDonnell replied when asked about the speed of his new broadband scheme. 

"That should be enough for a decent game of Space Invaders,” he added with a wintry smile.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

The smart metre

CountryLiving has some eco-tips for those who prefer their Christmas to be cosily sanctimonious. There are thirteen in all, beginning with an invitation to rent your Christmas tree.

1 Rent a Christmas tree

Real Christmas trees are much more sustainable than artificial alternatives. In fact, one study concluded you'd have to use your fake fir for 20 years for it to be greener. That said, seven million real trees will be dumped in January rather than recycled.

This year you could go one further by renting a real tree from a British farm.

Number five is an invitation to pay more for your Christmas nosh.

5 Buy your food from the right place

Use the annual gastronomic extravaganza as an opportunity to show your support for some brilliant ethical small-scale producers. Turkey and any other cuts of meat you plan to serve are a good place to start: you’ll use fewer food miles, less packaging and you can feel confident that you haven’t supported any intensive farming practices

However my favourite is number four.

4 Get a smart metre

Wow at last - a metre not restricted to the boring old non-woke limit of one hundred centimetres? Sadly no. It is merely a plug for smart meters. Oh well - Christmas was always disappointing in one way or another.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Abandoned Russian homestead

Fascinating video although it could do with more context - or maybe wanting some context is a tribute to the video. 

Just a guy with a video camera but the BBC couldn't do it. The BBC would add context but lose everything else by telling rather than showing. It would tell us about the poignancy instead of allowing us to feel it in our own way - or not feel it at all. The Beeb would probably add some music too - music it just doesn't need.

Monday 11 November 2019

When a picture paints few words

Luminaries from the world of nice pictures have decided that oil giant BP needs a little more money while people in Scotland need a little less art.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh has said it will no longer show the BP Portrait Award exhibition.

"We recognise the need to do all we can to address the climate emergency," National Galleries Scotland said.

The prize is run by London's National Portrait Gallery and has been sponsored by the oil giant for 30 years.

Maybe the whole thing is a piece of performance art.

Sunday 10 November 2019

Conway Stewart

The other day found me inspecting the wares of a dealer in antique writing implements. Not that I know anything about such things, but I was reminded of my schooldays and the first fountain pen I ever owned. A Conway Stewart it was with a gold plated nib - a present from my parents.

Of course I dropped it fairly early in its career. Naturally enough the thing obeyed Sod's Law. It hit the classroom floor nib downwards, bent the nib at right angles and even though I managed to straighten it the pen was never the same again.

I replaced it with a cheap pen purchased from the newsagent and as far as I remember never admitted the Conway Stewart accident. Fortunately we were eventually allowed to use ballpoint pens in school. I got on better with those.

Saturday 9 November 2019

The BBC - still sitting on its hands

The Express treats us to yet another piece on the increasing irrelevance of the BBC. Familiar stuff yet strangely fascinating - rather like watching the EU pootle along hoping for the best.

BBC in crisis: Broadcaster's future at risk over failure to adapt - ‘I won’t pay’
THE BBC may face a further funding blow next year if pensioners refuse to start paying to watch the national broadcaster, placing the future of the broadcaster at risk...

Mark Thompson, a former BBC director-general who is now chief executive at the New York Times, revealed in a speech last month that the average viewer of BBC One alone is now 61.

Tony Hall, the BBC’s director-general since 2013, is not too concerned about the changes.

He said in September: “I believe this is a huge opportunity for people like us.

“In this market, services that are distinctive and different will stand out.”

That last sentence sounds like the kiss of death to me. The BBC already provides a service that is distinctive and different because people can be dragged off to court and even jailed if they don't pay for its compulsory user licence. The trouble is, people notice.

Sit on your hands, apply political pressure whenever possible and hope for the best. It's the bureaucratic way.

Thursday 7 November 2019

Fried bread

Autumn Colour

Yesterday we headed off on one of our favourite moorland walks, knowing it wouldn’t be too boggy. Before setting off we popped into a popular cafe and treated ourselves to a traditional bacon and egg breakfast with most of the usual goodies – bacon, egg, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms and of course fried bread. A rare breakfast for us but most enjoyable, especially the fried bread.

I’m not sure why fried bread is so delicious. Really it is only a kind of fatty toast, but delicious it certainly is. I could have eaten more but nobly restricted myself to one slice.

The walk was fine in spite of the cold, low cloud and poor visibility. Very autumnal it was, with lots of colour still left on the trees. It rained continuously as we made our way back off the moor but that didn’t detract at all from the walk. It can be very atmospheric walking in the rain, especially after fried bread.

Wednesday 6 November 2019

We are routinely outplayed

There are many times when a chess player must admit that he or she has been outplayed. Lose gracefully, learn from the more obvious mistakes and live on to fight another day – that’s the only way to deal with it.

Similarly we the UK electorate have regularly been outplayed by the establishment. Political life and political choices are narrowing and moves which might favour the ordinary voter are not being made. Unfortunately we are unlikely to learn much from being outplayed even though Brexit showed us how crudely the establishment defends itself when taken by surprise. The establishment may not be particularly smart but it has the money, the time, the staff and the unimaginably vast networks of patronage.

It seems to be an unfortunate weakness of democracy that too many voters are too easily persuaded to cast votes which are obviously poor moves in the political game. Too many vote tribally, too many do little or no research into the people they vote for and too many opt for simple answers to deal with situations which are so fluid and so complex that there cannot possibly be simple answers. This much is frequently obvious but still we get the simple answers.

The great mass of voters do not spot and take advantage of collective political opportunities such as Brexit or the emergence of new and more dynamic political parties. Too often the same cross goes in the same box against the name of the same stooge, lunatic or crook.

Ours is no longer the culture which emerged victorious in two world wars. It is not sufficiently self-confident and adaptable to play realpolitik successfully. This is what winding down looks like from the inside. It’s our own fault.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Tipping point - when it all began to go wrong

The moment in modern civilisation equivalent to the fall of the Roman Empire was the First World War... most particularly almost exactly one hundred and three years ago the Battle of the Somme in 1916 when we threw away the flower of our manhood.

It's a point of view worth preserving because something clearly has gone wrong and something clearly was thrown away round about this time.